Browse Month: May 2009

Blackberry Storm From Verizon

Blackberry Storm and TyTN II - Small Business Blog Last few weeks I was diving into a few gadgets I was missing on before. The place where I sit throughout the day has the worst possible reception spot for AT&T network – my AT&T Tilt (TyTN II) drops to GPRS in the middle of downtown Manhattan. A dozen steps towards any window improves the situation, but it’s not always possible. I asked people around, but since mostly they’re wielding iPhones with bad enough reception already, there was no way of knowing what would work. Testing with regular phones as well as Samsung Blackjack showed that the problem persists to the spot, rather than device (especially since I had flashed an updated version of radio). Recalling my previously very much decent experience with Verizon, I went to the closest store and bought Blackberry Storm.

Now, usually I would go for Windows Mobile device, but I wanted to explore a bit into realms of other mobile OSes. I was mostly interested in Blackberry, since it has, by far, one of the biggest markets. Besides, it just look different from anything RIM had produced before.

My overall impression is mostly positive. The phone is a tad smaller, significantly thinner and definitely weights a lot less than TyTN II. Storm has a 3.5mm headphones jack – something that’s been missing from a lot of HTC devices. I also liked the screen and the idea behind the different approach to touch (honestly, I love it). The cellular service was a lot better in my spot and I was almost sold to keep the phone. Although, after couple of weeks of light use I figured a few things that prevented me from staying with the phone – at least for now.

Continue Reading

Living On The Edge With Windows 7 and Office 2010

In preparation to release of beta of Visual Studio 10 and .Net framework 4 (due out this Tuesday for MSDN and Thursday for general public) I have installed Windows 7 x64 and MS Office 2010 Technical Preview on my Lenovo ThinkPad X61s laptop. It has Core2 Duo L7700 CPU, 3GB RAM and 30GB OCZ SSD hard drive. So far it has been a great mobile workhorse for Windows XP, and since I can’t risk my main workstation’s setup I decided to test the combo on X61s. It still feels a little like living on the edge, even though this isn’t my primary work tool.

First culprit I hit was that Google Chrome wasn’t working under 64-bit Windows 7 version. No matter what I did it was just displaying a blank page. Turns out the issue is already fixed in Developer channel build. For others, adding a –in-process-plugins to a shortcut should do the trick. Alternatively, if other shortcuts are still giving you headaches, here’s the fix I have found (from quite a few sources) to be working:

The registry keys to change:

* HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications\chrome.exe\shell\open\command
* HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command
* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Applications\chrome.exe\shell\open\command
* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command

Each key needs to be changed from looking like
…\chrome.exe” — “%1″
…\chrome.exe”–in-process-plugins — “%1”

Next stop – Lenovo’s Vista drivers don’t always work for Windows 7, despite Microsoft’s assurances that whatever works in Vista will work in Win7. As of right now the two biggest problems that remain are the power gauge (still shows about an hour of charge right before going to hibernation) and trackpoint driver, that only works in classic Windows applications. Even though the trackpoint works in Firefox, both Safari and Chrome ignore the scrolling feature making the ThinkPad’s trackpoint effectively useless.

Windows XP virtual machine worked fine, although Windows 7 only allocates 256MB of memory for it, which is nearly not enough. Pitching it up to 1024MB made it work just right, although increases the VM’s startup time, if only by half a minute.

Another thing that came as a surprise (since I haven’t used Vista heavily) was that telnet application is missing. For some reason you have to go to Control Panel ->Programs and Features -> Turn Windows Features On and Off and pick Telnet (as well as old trivial FTP, while you’re at it) to get installed. Thankfully, you won’t need an installation DVD for that.

Also, you will have to adjust the CPU’s power settings to make sure your applications as well as virtual environment aren’t bogged down by them. For some unknown reason Win7 sets something around 5% CPU power for laptop running on battery. Therefore – anytime you plan on watching those YouTube videos on the couch the performance would be so low that you will be pushed to fetch that power cord. Alternatively – drum up CPU power in advanced power settings.

Since power setting in Windows 7 are a bit more granular than those you had before, you will have more control over how fast your battery is depleting. Given that, your mileage may and will vary, although I’ve noticed that under WinXP the same battery lasted about an hour longer. My perception is that this is mainly due to me being more active (since I install and tweak stuff heavily rather than use the laptop for average browsing or writing stuff) and that I tend to run screen brighter in Win7 than I did in XP.

One of the parts of Office 2010 that I was mainly interested in is Outlook. So far this is the most valuable tool in the whole suite, since I don’t use Excel macros heavily. I do, however, track a lot of things in Outlook, keep contact information and their history, e-mails, tasks and notes. Additionally, contacts, tasks and notes are easily synchronize with heavily customized Windows Mobile phone that I use. However, much to my disappointment, the only major change in Outlook was the ribbon menu that became even less intuitive and more cryptic. Since this is a Technology Preview version I can’t complain about all the images and icons that are missing, but overall I was definitely struggling to complete tasks I got used to doing in Office 2007. Since I’ve only spent about half a day tweaking things around, I guess I will have to make a separate post about other parts of the Office 2010. So far the IMAP accounts work fine, although I missed the new setting Outlook uses for SMTP server (it’s 587 now). Luckily I noticed it early enough to tweak my server to run exim on port 587. Also, csd+lfd had to be told that it’s okay if someone tries to use this port for inbound connection (outbound was already there). But these are minor nuissances that you only get to encounter once. Oh, and for those of us who were hoping – no, you can’t export e-mail account settings (including username and password) from Outlook 2010. Not in this version anyway.

Subjectively, Win7 x64 “feels” a little more sluggish on this setup that Win7 x86 felt on the same laptop with 120GB WD Scorpio on 5400 RPM. There’s a noticeable “drag” on things, but as I’ve said – this is just my subjective impression. Now I’m just going to wait couple of more days for betas of Visual Studio 10 and .Net 4.0 to see how things will work then.

Is Crisis Over? Gyms Think So

Last week the Crunch gym that was conveniently located downstairs in the same building where I work suddenly moved. E-mail came in on Tuesday stating that starting Tuesday the gym is located within 15 minutes from the previous place, everybody’s welcome. Now, that’s what I call a good customer service (note: this is the case of heavy use of irony).

Crunch offered 3 months of free membership while at the same time upgrading the existing members of that location to all-locations membership at the previous discounted rate. However, a 20 minute travel eats out of workout time, not work time. I got concerned and started visiting other nearby gyms – to see if I have any alternative.

The closest one was NY Health & Racquet Club. Conveniently located within 3 minutes of walking time, it was an obvious choice. The drawbacks were a bit messy appearance, a bit too crowded cardio floor and narrow staircases between gym floors. However, nice sales reps, swimming pool with jacuzzi and attendants in the locker rooms made up for it.

Next on my list was the other Crunch location (where they actually moved to). I figured if I could work out after hours, it might be still better, plus I got a bit lower rate. However, lack of the pool, just the same amount of mess and cardio machines packed a little too tight made that a “NO”. Additionally, there was no guarantee that this new gym would not go yet another place overnight again.

Another one, within about 5 – 6 minute walking distance, was NYSC – New York’s sub-network of of a larger network of sports clubs. Being regarded as “Manhattan’s Bally’s” the gym truly stood out – in a bad way. I’ve spent about 10 minutes waiting for someone to come up to me and at least greet a potential client. Cleaning lady seemed to be the friendliest person to be found, as she was asking if I needed anything to dry out (I came in from the rainy outside without an umbrella). Ten minutes later the sales rep appeared, but figuring I am coming from corporate account he’s got nothing to sell me, he quickly vanished again, saying that another guy will take care of me and show me around. That another guy was, actually, a nice person, but having waited for him yet another 10 minutes while he was finishing the conversation with his colleague was in no way fun. I don’t know how traders react (the gym is located right on Wall Street), but I had enough patience to actually wait out till the end. He showed me around briefly, but I already disliked the place – because of the customer service. I don’t ask for much, but a simple courtesy of not wasting my 20 minutes on just waiting – that’s too much. Also, sales reps were boasting about having a pool as being a privilege of off-the-work gyms, rather than ones that are in the city. Too bad, as a sales person is such a dense area you should know your competition better. It really doesn’t cost a cent to send someone down the Broadway to check out three other gyms on the street. Takes one person less then 2 hours.

So there I was, left pretty much with only one choice on the list – New York Health & Racquet Club. The gym won without really trying, with their old-fashioned approach when sales woman talks to the guy and sales guy talks to female client definitely had added more positive influence (I liked that sweet girl that showed me around), the gym with the pool in Downtown Manhattan is definitely a plus and it’s the closest one I have found.

Now why all the trouble if I could’ve just went to NYHRC and not waste my time on gym visits? Well, for one – I am serious about my workout and I really do put a lot of time and effort into it. So I want a place where I would want to go to, with good atmosphere. Second – I workout during the day, so I need to spend on “other stuff” (like waiting for showers, equipment, lockers, etc.) as less time as possible, maximizing the workout time – this ruled out new Crunch location. Third – I want nice people around me. Most gyms in Manhattan keep a certain level of professionalism, where they treat the client as a decent human being. I haven’t seen that at NYSC.

Overall, I spent less than 2 hours on all three gyms, did my homework and made the best decision I could – based on what people who wanted to sell me a membership had showed me. What does your sales person actually show to your prospective clients?