Living with the Nokia Lumia 800

If you call in at Black Marble you’ll see Nokia’s everywhere. They’re talking over the place. It takes me back… I remember when almost everybody I knew had some kind of Nokia or another. I started with the 5.1 on Orange, followed by a sequence of progressively smaller phones. Then came Series 60 and I walked away – I never liked the interface. I swapped to Sony Ericsson and the P800, P900 and P910. I moved to Windows Mobile for time, until I could stand it no more and swapped to an iPhone (much to the grumbling of folk round here!).

I liked my iPhone – it was reliable, flexible and did what I wanted, when I wanted it to (until the last IOS revision, sadly). Windows Phone was tempting – the interface looked great and felt great, but the handsets just weren’t there. I tried an LG and hated it, and the HTCs are just too darned big.

When the Lumia was announced I signed up on the Orange site well before release and I picked mine up on day 1. Now the iPhone is gathering dust (I thought I’d still use it for TomTom but even that has been usurped) and I can’t say I miss it.

Overall I can heartily recommend the Lumia. There’s lots to like. There are some niggles but none that drive me crazy. Over the past two months it’s been reliable, usable and flexible – just like my iPhone was.

The Good

  • Size. Just right, actually. Marginally smaller than my iPhone 3GS, although perhaps a little fatter. Nicely contoured and fits well in the hand.
  • Screen. Great. The AMOLED display is really crisp and clear. Sure, the iPhone 4 has a higher resolution but the standard 800×480 Windows Phone resolution is just fine thanks.
  • Construction. The polycarbonate body feels nice in the hand. The phone is well put together – nothing rattles or wiggles where it shouldn’t and the curved gorilla glass front looks and feels the business.
  • Camera. The Lumia takes better pics than my 3GS did. The LED flash is staggeringly bright when it goes off. I like the various modes that are available, such as night and sunset, and they have been useful more than once. I’d like to be able to use the camera app directly to take Hipstamatic-type pics without needing to post process in an app, though.
  • Speed. It’s a pokey little thing. Apps run smoothly and quickly.

The Bad

  • Charging. Battery life is on a par with the iPhone, so no complaints there, but if the battery runs completely flat I can only use the Nokia charger to revive it, and even then once or twice I’ve had to use the 10-second power button press reset to force the thing to charge. No issue with battery life though – the much discussed problem has never materialised for me.
  • Touch. For the most part it’s great, but every now and then the touch screen can be a little over sensitive, or not sensitive enough – take your pick. This could be a calibration issue or something to do with the gorilla glass thickness, I don’t know. It doesn’t stop me using the phone but occasionally it niggles me when in a game.
  • USB Port Cover. This is another one that’s been debated elsewhere. I like the overall design and that the port is protected, but frankly, it makes plugging the thing in a fiddly process. For somebody that has grown used to simply plonking his iPhone onto the dock connector of a raft of household electrical appliances it’s a bit irritating.

The Apps

  • Nokia Drive. I like this, although in it’s current incarnation it’s no TomTom. I miss the lane guidance and I particularly miss the traffic updates. Supposedly the latter will arrive in an update, and it’s hard to complain when it’s free. Overall it works well and gets me where I need to go.
  • XBOX Live. This is becoming a bit addictive. I have an XBOX (two, thanks to Orange and the Lumia offer) but I never used to pay so much attention to Achievements as I do now. XBOX Companion is funky; Halo Reach is handy and being able to see my gamer friends is great. There are some really good games available, and many of the most addictive I’ve found are free! I didn’t use the iPhone for gaming half as much as I do on the Nokia.
  • Bing Get Me There. I had a number of London Underground and similar apps on the iPhone but they pale in comparison to Bing Get Me There. It’s fabulous, fully featured and free! I go to London regularly, but not regularly enough to be an old lag when it comes to navigating the tube. This is a great app!
  • Missing in action… I had a raft of apps on the iPhone that I used regularly. Some have an equivalent on Windows Phone, but not all. I really miss Hipstamatic, and there are no apps that are its equal for Windows Phone. Others have third party apps but not first party, such as TripIt, which I find really helpful (Trip Hub steps up there). It’s getting better all the time, but it’s not yet at a point where I can match the variety of small but useful apps that I had on the iPhone.

Configuring ActiveSync on Windows Mobile for Exchange Push

I’m not certain how many of you will find this useful, but I had a question about configuring the Touch Diamond to talk to Exchange which I regrettably failed to notice.

It’s an interesting point of debate, now I come to think of it. When I got my Diamond the first thing I did was confgigure ActiveSync directly on the device. Whilst I do connect to my laptop from time to time, I don’t actually have any real sync going on between the two, other than possible for OneNote and Notes. How many people out there still use Outlook to sync their phone information if Exchange Push is available?

Anyway, back to the plot. To get this all going without using Windows Mobile Device Center or ActiveSync, grab your phone and go to Programs via the Start menu.

  1. In Programs, find ActiveSync.
  2. In ActiveSync, select Menu and then choose Configure Server
  3. In Server address, enter the name of your Exchange server. This is the same as the hostname you use for OWA (e.g. mail.mycompany.com)
  4. If your server needs https rather than http, tick the option monikered ‘this server requires an encrypted (SSL) connection)’
  5. Tap Next and you will be asked to provide login information – username, password and the name of your Active Directory domain. Make sure ‘Save password’ is ticked or the automatic sync won’t work and you’ll have to enter your password each time you trigger a manual sync.
  6. Tap Next once more and you will be able to select what gets synchronised. I have an unlimited data plan and I hate losing stuff, so I tick every box – Contacts, Calendar, E-mail and Tasks.
  7. If you’re being clever at this point, tapping Menu will allow you to get to the advanced options, where you can configure how conflicts are handled and what connection to use (normally this should be ‘Internet’)
  8. Tap Finish and the phone should sync.

To make sure Push is enabled, where new items get sent to your device as they arrive you need to alter the Schedule,  which is an option on the main Menu in ActiveSync. Pick your options to suit your preferences. I would stongly suggest that you make sure ‘use the above settings when roaming’ is NOT ticked unless you have deep pockets!

As ever, I hope this helps somebody out there.

SharePoint Website Schematic

I find myself drawing the same diagram over and over again in meetings to explain how SharePoint sites relate to IIS web sites, how managed paths and alternate access mappings fit and why you need to extend the SharePoint web application if you want more than one authentication provider.

After some of my colleagues pestered me to draw it again, I decided to create an electronic version, and since everybody seems to find it so useful I thought I’d post it here as well.

Rather than talk about it, I’m going to post it ‘blind’ and invite comments from you, my enthusiastic audience as to how easy it is to understand and any errors or omissions there may be.

With a little luck, somebody will find it useful!

SharePoint Website Architecture

Life with a Diamond: nearly two weeks on

I said I’d post again once I’d had the Diamond a little while. It’s now been two weeks and I can honestly say I’m completely happy with it. Battery life for me is fine – I charge it about every three days and it chugs along with exchange push pretty much constantly. I am quite comfortable with the soft keyboard and I can honestly say I haven’t noticed any issues with the speed of the device either.

I don’t usually go for silly little apps on my phone, but I couldn’t resist this one. It shows just what you can do with the accelerometer. The force is strong in this one!

Touch Diamond Battery Life

In my last post about the Diamond I said I would let you know what the battery life is. I therefore carefully refrained from giving it any charge over the weekend, even when connected to my PC.

That means that it received no power from 5.30pm on Friday until it died (which it did, eventually).

After that time, exchange push carried on notifying me of email immediately on arrival until 8pm, after which it downshifted to checking every hour and continued like that for the rest of the weekend.

Weather updates are whatever the phone does as default. I think that’s every four hours or so.

Over the weekend I received a few calls and made a few. None were particularly long – a few minutes each. I also played a few games of teeter, and spent a good hour or so ‘playing’ with Live Search and Diarist, writing a blog post whilst I was at it. I also spent a good thirty minutes with GPS enabled whilst I showed off Google Maps and Live Search, and browsed the web for maybe ten minutes in total.

All in all, it was more or less my usual pattern of use for the weekend. To give you a frame of reference, my TYTN would go on charge every night. It would make it through the weekend, just about, but only if I charged it on Friday night.

The Diamond died sometime overnight Sunday/Monday. When I picked it up this morning the battery was flat. It was alive at 11pm on Sunday, and I checked it at 8am this morning. Whilst that kind of life isn’t great, it’s not bad. It’s certainly on a par with my TYTN, which I have used happily for the past eighteen months. I’ve not yet spent a day away from the office, but I have two such days this week and I will let you know how I get on.

blogging on the move: redux

Richard’s little mobile blogging app is nice, but he isn’t that responsive to user requests (ie, mine!) so I thought I would see if anything else was out there.
Sadly, the answer appears to be ‘not really’
However, I did come across Diarist, from Kevin Daly. Perhaps not surprisingly I am using it now. I must say that two thumb typing on the diamond keyboard is not bad, although nowhere near as fast as the real keyboard on the tytn.
So is diarist better than blogwriter? Well, it’s easier to add links and images… Still no real formatting support though, which is a shame.
Try it for yourself.

My Orange Diamond is… err… black

That might sound like a strange thing to say, but when my shiny new Touch Diamond, which I picked up from Orange this week, has no Orange branding or customisation of the UI. I hadn’t really noticed that until I went into the manual, where the screenshots are totally different from my phone. I was beginning to wonder if something had gone wrong with the setup process, when I saw this thread at XDA-Developers.

Given that the phone shipped the day before the iPhone, I suspect the comments in that thread are close to the money – not enough time to test the customisations.

Personally, I’m much happier with a generic HTC phone. For one thing, I always turn off the Orange stuff anyway if I can, and for another, it should mean that I can apply HTC updates to my device without having to wait for Orange to release them (if ever!)

In related news, I was as surprised as Pocket PC Thoughts when I read the PCPro review of the Diamond. I’m not experiencing the speed issues of which they speak, and if you look around you will see a number of articles where they say that HTC acknowledged the speed problem in early devices and had made software updates to the retail devices to address them. My diamond spent yesterday connected to my PC and charging, but I will keep it away from the charger until it dies from this point forward to see how long I get. Remember that I hav exchange push chugging along all the time, so it’s never simply idle.

 Even if you are worried about battery life (which I must admit, I was), then Expansys will shortly have the answer in the form of the extended battery!

In short then, still impressed with my new gadget!

HTC Touch Diamond on Orange

Thanks to the advanced notice from Tracy and Matt’s blog, I picked up my HTC Touch Diamond yesterday from the Orange Store and it’s great!

‘But wait!’ I hear you cry, ‘didn’t he go on about the experia x1 and how he wanted one?’

Well, yes, I did. I admit it – I am fickle in my affections.Since I wrote that post, I have spent time considering what I want in a phone and size has become a significant factor. The Diamond is tiny, it really is. It’s not far from the size of my old Nokia 8910 and it’s lighter than that old warhorse.

I also did a fair amount of homework. My TYTN had a keyboard. Could I live without it? Almost as soon as the Diamond appeared, the soft keyboard turned up on the web, so I tried it. I found that I was happy with the turn of speed I could manage with the new soft keyboard and I was happy that I could live without the physical one.

I’m not going to write a review – there are plenty out there that go into more than enough detail. I will give you my opinions, though. I am a business user and the Diamond has to meet my needs as a connected business traveller. Does it do that?

Well, I’ve never had a phone that was so easy to get started with. Turn it on, run through the Windows Mobile setup and then configure my exchange server. In less than five minutes I had all my contacts, emails, calendar and tasks on the new phone. Smooth, easy, no issues whatsoever. Brilliant!

The new UI makes it easy to preview new mails and the design is so slick it’s a pleasurable experience. A few swipes of my thumb and I can spin through new mails before I tap on the one I want to read. So much faster and easier than the old Touch home screen which took me a good few taps just to get into my inbox.

The same is true for SMS messages – it’s so quick to view the new message. If I want to reply it drops me into the old-style Windows Mobile UI, but many of the messages I get don’t need a reply.

The screen is fabulous. The extra resolution is so nice to have – text is much smoother and more readable. Then you open Opera (which is fantastic) and browse to a web page. When pages open, Opera zooms the view out so you see the whole page. The experience is really good, but then you look again and realise that you can actually read the text!

I don’t have TomTom on the Diamond – I have a standalone TomTom and I don’t see the need to duplicate. However, the Diamond arrived with Google Maps installed so I did have a play. To be honest, the functionality offered will do what I need on my phone – where in the big city am I in relation to where I need to be.

One thing I find extremely useful – when I receive a call that’s not in my phone book, the Diamond asks me if I want to add the number to my contacts when I end the call. For somebody who gets regular calls from colleagues and customers whose numbers I want to quickly grab, that’s great!

Overall, I would have no hesitation in recommending this phone to anybody. The only area I would urge you to think about is the keyboard. If you absolutely, positively need a real keyboard, wait until September and pick up the Touch Pro. If you don’t, you really won’t regret picking up a Diamond.

Catching Up

I’ve been far too busy lately and whilst there have been lots of things I wanted to post about, time has not been on my side. Before I start to forget some of the points I thought a quick post was in order.

  • @media 2008 was great. Slides and audio are just filtering onto the blog now. A highlight for me was Indi Young‘s talk on Mental Models. I now have her book on my desk (waiting for having the time to read it) and I’m excited about how the technique might interface nicely with the User Stories we use for feeding requirements into our Scrum development process.
  • Also at @media, I managed to catch up with Nick, who was as insightful as ever. He’s on the lookout for a Cold Fusion developer, if anyone is interested.
  • On the food front, if you’re down on the South Bank try Giraffe. Also not bad was the food at Auberge, not far from the IMAX.
  • One interesting point is that there was a lot of talk about ‘agile methods’ from the presenters, but I wasn’t getting the impression that there was actually a great deal of understanding as to what they really entail. We use Scrum at Black Marble, albeit with some pragmatism as there are some things you just can’t do when you’re not working on time and materials. I find that the increased level of dialogue between team members that Scrum gives improves the execution of the project no end. If you want to know more about Scrum, Ken Schwaber‘s books are a good, quick read.
  • On the smartphone front, the iPhone 3G looks nice, but given my company infrastructure, the Touch Diamond looks more so. Also, the Diamond is nice and small which is something I’ve been searching for in a smartphone for a while. Big nod of respect to Opera – I have a beta of 9.5 on my TYTN right now and it’s a very nice mobile browser. I’m looking forward to seeing what the polished product is like on the Diamond.
  • I have yet to get chance to install it, but the beta Power Pack for Windows Home Server is available which addresses the data corruption bug. I have a single disk in mine right now and to be honest it’s not doing much other than backups, but I’d recommend one just for that – simple and straightforward image-based backups of all the PCs in the house. Great!