Phone Choice Time!

It’s my favourite time of the year, and for once everything seems to have fallen into place for me. Yes, you might not have guessed it but its Contract renewal time on the mobile! For the last 5 years I’ve been using Windows Mobile smartphones on a variety of operators from Vodafone (who could barely hold a signal for me at home or work, and at the tim eoffered no sensible data plans) to T-Mobile (who were great on signal and had the innovative Flext tarrif that suited me for 3 years) and now I’m with Orange (again, excellent signal but slightly high call plans)
I’ve been with Orange for the past year really for one reason alone, my excellent HTC Touch HD. It was the only company offering it at the time and was also the only company that still had a sensible 12 month contract. Now I still love the phone but with the recent developments with Android and HTC announcing some fantastic new phones at the MWC it looks like my time with contract phones will have to end.
I’ve been considering four new phones really:
1. The SE Xperia X10 ~ Android
2. The HTC Bravo, now renamed the Desire (and the OEM version of the Nexus One, aka Google Phone) ~ Android
3. The HTC Legend (new version of the Hero) ~ Android
4. The HTC Touch HD2 ~ Windows Mobile, and rumoured to get WM7 Phone edition when released
You may have noticed three of them run Android. After about 7 years using WM devices for work I’ve decided that its time for a brief change. I’m not even considering an iPhone due to the contract lengths and the lock down on software, and tuth be told I’m getting a bit fed up with seeing interesting products being realsed for iPhone and Android with not even a mention of a WM release. So whilst it looks like an amazing phone unfortuntrly  the upgrade to a Touch HD2 won’t be happening. That leaves me with three to choose from, all Android:
Xperia X10
Was the first phone that made me really consider the move, its got a massive screen with loads of intersting widgets and frankly looks the business, especially in white. It has a customised UI, everything you’d expect in features and connectivity. The trouble is the realease date keeps moving and its being realesed with 1.6, although SE have promised to upgrade it as soon as possible. Looks like its also going to be £549 on release, which is a bit steep although could be subsidsed with a contract through T-Mobile who are rumoured to be taking it in the UK.
HTC Desire
Essentially looks like the Touch HD, amazingly fast, gourgeous massive AMOLED screen and riddled with every feature you could ask for. Coupled with the latest version of Android and the customised Sense UI from HTC it looks simply stunning, well actually it doesn’t it looks a bit bland for me and as I said far too much like my current phone! On pre order at £449 at Expansys
HTC Legend
Then comes the legend…. the Hero when it was realeased got me interested in Android phones, now theres not much more I can say about the Legend, its just got the lot for me. Looks sooooo good, got everything I need, latest Android, Sense UI, longer battery life than the Desire (but its got a smaller screen) and its cheaper, I guess mainly due to the slower processor, less storage space and smaller screen! Still for me its a hands down winner. Pre Order at Expansys at £399. The trouble is it looks like Vodafone have an exclusive for a while on it, and theres no way I’m going with Vodafone!. So it looks like a SIM free Legend wll set me back £399, but I’ll go onto a rolling 30 day SIM Only contract with T-Mobile for £20, giving me a massive amount of minutes, texts and unlimitied browing ~ its still a good deal and I can sell it when I want and move contracts as often as I need, and will cost me far less than the Touch HD has done over the year and an upgrade to the Touch HD2 will do.
Both Desire and Legend due out in the UK on the 12th April, so still time to change my mind and go for the Desire, but I doubt it will happen
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QR & MICROSOFT TAGS

So I’ve started to have a play around with QR Tags some time ago just for fun as it seemed they were appearing more and more in articles and magazines here, I even got one on a business card given to me. They make saving a contacts details bliss compared with entering all that text on a phone keypad or into Outlook to sync.

Then came along Microsofts more colourful version called Microsoft Tag which looks much more fun and can be customised into virtually any design as long as you have the imagination and keep the basic layout of the dots it produces. These however also come with the added benefit of being able to track the stats of how many hits your tag has generated. Say you place a tag on an article or a sticker, the MS website actually logs each time its scanned giving you instant stats on each tag.

Anyway for both types you’ll need software on your phone to decode

For MS Tag you can grab the software from here

For QR Codes there are a few alternatives, on my WM6 HTC Touch HD I use QuickMark , both are free and so is the creation of tags.

and now you can create MS Tags on your WM phone using LunaTagGEN from Luna Developments, from the couple I’ve tried it worked really well to create instantly distributable contact details.

Here are the two basic versions, the QR Code being in black and white and the MS Tag in colour, use the software above, scan the image and you’ll get instantly sent back to this site!

I’m going to try developing so custom image MS Tags in the next few weeks so I’ll update with some results later

Here’s a little video demonstration

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1Rr7MTE48w

HDD Failure!!

Well after two and half years of trouble free use my excellent Vista MediaCentre is starting to suffer some problems. About 4 weeks ago the DVD drive decided it was only a CD ROM, multiple cleans later and a firmware upgrade and its still a duffer so I was going to have to open the case anyway to upgrade that to a Blu Ray. Now yesterday I came to watch Match of the Day as it has always trustily recorded it on series link to find a strange, ‘failed to boot HDD’ message on the screen. A quick restart and I thought everything was well until I saw another dreaded Windows message, “Windows has detected that your Hard Drive is failing ~ backup now”, which is a handy message to give but gives no indication of why it thinks it is, there’s no clicking, random searching or excessive noise.

Another restart just to check and the message came back a quick backup of everything important and now I’m just waiting to see if the Samsung Spinpoint is actually on its way out or if its just an errounous error somewhere. Looks like its going to be upgrade time though with a Blu Ray, 1TB SATA HDD and while I’m there do I upgrade it to Windows 7 to get the new MediaCentre features?

Either way theres not going to be any recorded TV for a week or so!

ScanSnap S300 Review

Well after using the excellent evernote for a while and using a new Canon flatbed scanner to turn all my paper documents onto pdf’s it was getting a little tiresome waiting for the scanner to scan, turn the page over, etc for a stack of documents so I went looking for a better solution. I quickly found the simply amazing ScanSnap S300. Its a bit steep on the price at £160 from ebuyer (the cheapest I could find anywhere ) but its simply worth its weight in gold for the time saving, ease of use and quality of output!
Some info from the website :
It’s easy to digitize documents with the ScanSnap S300! Just press the “SCAN” button and the duplex scanner quickly captures both sides of documents, presenting images as they are meant to be seen.With its built in automatic image correction features, the S300 ensures great scanning results.
Simply load a stack of documents into the hopper and press the “SCAN” button. The S300 automatically recognizes the size of each document, detects and corrects for skew, and shows images in their proper orientation with blank pages removed.
The ScanSnap S300 automatically converts scanned data into searchable PDF files. Now you can quickly and easily locate your images and find information contained within your documents using keyword searches.
The ScanSnap S300 PDF scanner features double-sided multi-sheet feeding. The automatic document feeder holds up to 10 sheets of paper , and the scanner scans images at up to 8 pages per minute.
For added mobile convenience, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S300 can be powered though the PC’s USB port* when an AC power source is not available.
In addition to automatically recognizing document size, the ScanSnap S300 de-skews images, removes blank pages and shows them in their proper orientation. The ScanSnap S300 is also able to scan business cards and postcards that are thicker than normal

So far everything they claimed is true, I’ve never had a paper jam, even stuffing the sheet feeder with different type and shape of paper, its OCR is brilliant, and its fast even scanning duplex on USB power. Set on its default settings the documents it produces are crisp and very readable producing excellent prints when you need a bit of paper to take with you and most importantly they are compact, an average 4 page colour document being about 0.6mb.
The two features that make it for me are its portability, it fits in a laptop bag with a Dell Mini Projector and a Laptop easily &its powered off USB so no more power blocks and the software can can straight to evernote (see review) so they are all automatically filed, uploaded and synced ready to access on any computer.
The only drawback is the amount of paper thats now getting shredded and recycled, but thats better than stuffing it into envelopes and putting it in the loft where you’ll never be able to find it again!

Canon Pixmania MP560

Bit boring but set up our new Canon Pixmania MP560 last night. Bargain from Amazon especially as its wireless. Put it in a cupboard out of the way and 20 minutes later all 6 PCs and Laptops hooked up to print to it with no problems at all over the wireless link. So far very impressed with the print quality, especially on glossy paper and the borderless print is very cool. Its been a  while since I used an inkjet, but so far its five stars

Evernote Review

Well after using evernote as a free user for a couple of months I decided that it was time to upgrade to the premium service for a couple of reasons. Firstly I was so impressed with what it was doing with getting rid of letters, paper documents and other scraps of info in paper form or from the web that I decided that I should support them, and secondly I wanted to try out the premium features such as a bigger upload quota, upload of any file type and the SSL Encryption.
I started using evernote with my camera phone just uploading snaps of information I wanted to look at later, clips from websites to grab rather than adding them to my favourites but its turned out to be so much more useful. Using a flatbed scanner to scan receipts, bills, etc was getting to be a right pain and was actually stopping me doing most of it, that’s until I got a Fujitsu ScanSnap S300 (also reviewed) this sheet fed scanner turns even double sided documents around in seconds and can upload them straight to evernote. Now its just a case of 30 seconds every week rather than 30 minutes every other day to get everything I receive in a paper form as a nice searchable pdf, uploaded and synced to the web service, and my other 3 computers to access anywhere, even on my my phone (a WM6 Touch HD).
All the documents uploaded a searchable which is the killer feature for me. Taking a picture of a sign or a whiteboard from work and within minutes of being uploaded the evernote software has OCR’d everything and everything is searchable, even text within a photo, meaning even if something is misfiled its easy to track down, you can search for transactions within credit card statements and easily find receipts in a massive batch of uploads.
Just as everything was going so well the snag …. evernote for Windows Mobile just isn’t up to the task, iPhone and Android versions look brilliant with the iPhone even having offline storage. However, on WM6 you can view the images of documents brilliantly but you have to be online to do so, and good luck trying to open a pdf, it seems to open a browser window, login to the evernote site and then try to download the pdf, for me it just isn’t up to scratch and seems to be being overtaken by the iPhone and Android apps, presumably because of market share.
Support wise as a Premium user evernote have been fantastic, I’ve only asked them a question once but it was answered within a couple of hours and solved the problem, whilst the support forums are also an excellent source of quick answers.
All in all so far evernote is brilliant for me, its so much more than cloud storage like MS Mesh or Dropbox, and I’ll be happily renewing my Premium subscription in a year.