June 2006 Archives

Mon Jun 12 01:34:26 CDT 2006

new mobile phone, the Samsung t809

In the category of things i should have done a long time ago, i replaced the Nokia 6010 mobile phone i've been using since Dec. 2004. It was a fine minimal phone, with the glaring exception that i think people had trouble understanding what i was saying most of the time.

(I should note here that this is sort of a "for posterity" entry, in that i did a lot of work to figure a few things out about the t809, and i'm describing the work here in order to potentially spare someone else that work, if they can find this with google. :)

The new phone is a Samsung t809. It's a thin little slider-type phone -- most of the top of the phone slides up to reveal the keypad. Other notable features:

  • very pretty display
  • 1.3 megapixel camera
  • Bluetooth
  • MP3 player
  • video recording and playback
  • MicroSD memory card, expandable up to 512 MB or maybe even 1GB.
  • (tiny) stereo speakers
  • Speaker phone
  • USB connection
  • Alarm
  • Calendar

It was $200 from T-mobile with a new 1-year contract. (There are better deals for new customers via wirefly.com or letstalk.com)

I've had it 2.5 days now and i'm satisfied with it. Outgoing call sound quality seems good (based on reports from people i've talked to). I prefer the Nokia UI, i think. I miss my old Nokia 6010's ability to change the type (like mobile, work, home) of a number, without re-entering the number. I could do that with the 6010, but i couldn't find a way to do that with the t809. And given that i had about 100+ numbers all imported from the SIM card as type "Mobile" it took me a few hours to get everything re-organized. (It might have been a lot faster if i had a Windoze machine to run the management software from, but i don't do Windoze, and the software doesn't run on a Mac.)

Another annoyance, it would seem some DRM-evilness (Digital Rights Management) is afoot. It's a good example of why DRM is evil. I have about 200 compact discs, which i bought and paid for. (Well, i guess some of them were presents. But the point is i didn't mug high school students or shop lift them from Tower records. I paid, baby, i PAID.)

I've converted them to MP3s only for the sake of convenience, and that's how i listen to my music most of the time. Given that the t809's selection of ringtones was truly, abominably horrible, i decided to upload some sounds to it via the USB connection, and set a sample or short bit of music as my ring tone.

I plugged the t809 into my Mac with the included USB cable, and the phone's memory card showed up on my Mac's desktop, no problem. (The only annoyance here is that when you "Eject" the card from the desktop so as to properly unmount it, within 2 seconds, the t809 is remounted. I haven't had this problem with any other USB device and my Mac, so i assume it's a t809 oddity. This means you have to be ready to yank the USB cable out of the phone or Mac as soon as the icon disappears from the desktop, or things get messy. "Messy" means the Mac complains about things being unmounted dangerously, and in some situations, i had to reboot my Mac to get it to "see" the t809 again.

Errr... yes, i was going to talk about DRM. So, i copy foo.mp3 over to the t809, successfully disconnect it from the Mac, and then start trying to set foo.mp3 as my ringtone. But it won't take. In the appropriate menu, the uploaded mp3 can be listed and even played, but not selected as a ringtone. No explanation -- the menu item for "set as ringtone" is just grayed out. There are other MP3s that came with the phone that can be used as a ringtone, but not the one i sent over. Upon careful inspection, the MP3s that came with the phone have a funny little icon next to them, and the mp3 i copied over does not.

So welcome to the wonderful new world of DRM, where some bureaucratic wanker somewhere is going to decide when and where you can listen to the products you have paid for. And that wanker is going to make the most contraining and often cork-brained decisions for his or her corporate masters regarding products like cell phones, TVs, DVD players, etc., because that's what the owners of the media companies want -- the most restrictions, the most control. That way they can force you to buy ringtones even though you may have already bought the song! And they won't give a damn what you think about it, because the megacorporations presenting a united front in screwing their customers, so their customers can't even vote with their pocketbooks. And you? The person who bought the album? Well you're just going to be repeatedly screwed over and forced to pay for the same content again and again, so you might as well get used to it. Or contact your political representatives and try and get some pro-consumer legislation passed. Hoho. (It might help if you sent them a check for a few hundred thousand dollars. Oh.. wait... you don't have that? Then i guess Sony, BMG, Warner Bros., etc. will get to talk to your political rep all they want because they do have that kind of money to throw at politicians. So i suppose we just really are screwed!)

Anyway, i googled a bit, and found a solution on some forums: rename the "foo.mp3" file to "foo.3gp", but it didn't work. The phone complained "Not supported content." Maybe those people had earlier versions of the firmware in their phones that allowed that to work. I figured i might have a shot if i could convert the mp3 into a real 3gp file (not just rename it), and so i looked for a program to do this on my Mac. After some serious googling, i found a program for Mac OS X called Moviesformypod that works well. 3gp is really an audio and video format designed for cell phones and mobile devices, and Moviesformypod will convert MPEGs and MP3s and all sorts of other audio and video formats into 3GP files. This did, in fact work, and i was able to set Penguin Cafe Orchestra's "Telephone Rubber Band" as my "ringtone." though i noticed that the 3GP files are quite a bit smaller (<20% of the orignal size), which means they're lower quality. So the DRM bastards still win, in a sense.

Lessee.. what else. I think i still prefer the Nokia UI, especially with regards to the Calendar. I can do everything i need, but the Samsung interface just seems a bit kludgier, like it was designed by a programmer.

I find sliding the phone open to "unlock" easier than pressing two keys (though you can unlock it that was as well). And it's sexy. It's a sleek, black beauty, to steal a line from one of the Car Talk guys. Some part of me desperately wants to set the noise the phone makes when slid open to the noise the original Star Trek communicator made when flipped open. But there are two problems with this. First, the phone has five settings for the sound, "off" and four insanely annoying tones. And second, even if i could figure out how to replace one of them, i'd probably get sick of my phone making noise every time i opened it after about 3.5 days, if that.

Photos in full light are reasonable, but bad in the dark. I don't think there's a flash, and the phone isn't as good as my Nikon coolpix 950 at compensating, though i haven't played with all of the camera settings yet.

The phone came with a plug-in set of earbuds and mic that work for both talking on the phone and listening to music. Bluetooth mono and stereo headsets are available, but i probably won't test these out for awhile because they cost $.

One significant annoyance was that phone numbers on the SIM card and in the phone's memory are BOTH listed, whether you like it or not, as far as i can tell. So if you are moving phone numbers over on the SIM, a troublesome sequence of events happens:

  1. The numbers copied to the SIM loose their "type" (home, mobile, work). This just seems to be a shortcoming of data formats on SIM cards. I've had this problem with Motorola and Nokia phones, too.
  2. So naturally, you will want to copy the numbers to the phone, so you can re-combine them back under one entity's name, and set the type. (Unless you use some other scheme to track this, like just having multiple entries per person with the type in the name. (E.g. "Mom-Home" and "ProbationOfficer-Work".) But my SIM would only hold 250 numbers, which is a bit low.)
  3. Now that you've copied everything from the SIM to the t809's memory, you now have two of every number, and i could not find a way to suppress one set on the t809 like i could with my Nokia 6010.
  4. I chose to delete everything on the SIM, and then i was prompted for a SIM security code. I don't recall ever setting a security code, and none of the "defaults" i tried worked. So i was forced to delete each of the 245 entries from the SIM, one at a time. Nice way to spend my Saturday. Times like that make me almost miss public transportation or watching my clothes at the Laundromat.

I guess that's all i have to say about the phone right now.

Posted by johan | Permanent link

Sat Jun 10 04:01:15 CDT 2006

At least i wasn't wearing them this time.

A few weeks ago, i took Capital Metro's shuttle to the airport to pick up my Mom's car that was in extended parking. The bus driver was loquacious, i was the only passenger most of the way, and so i learned a lot about his life history and plans.

When we arrived, i headed out the back door, but the driver, distracted by several foreigners boarding the bus through the front, didn't seem to notice that my body was still mostly in the bus as he closed the back doors. There was a distinct THWAK, and my vision got a lot worse. I found myself still in the bus, but my glass were mashed in between the now-closed back doors. Several reactions occurred to me, but in the end i just extracted my bent glasses from the door, and headed out the front to see if i could find one of the lenses that was no longer in the frame. To be honest, i didn't really want to confront the driver because i wasn't entirely sure i'd be able to remain calm, after having my head closed in a door. :)

The missing plastic lense was outside on the ground, next to the bus. So i picked it up, and walked over to the terminal to sit down and reconstruct the glasses i would need to drive home. Luckily, the frame was somewhat minimal in construction. The top and sides were metal, and the bottom was this sort of fishing line-like substance. After i striaghtened the metal, i was able to just pop the lense back in. And other than the mild adrenaline buzz i had from the experience, everything was just fine.

All done, or so i thought.

Friday, June the 9th, i was heading into work, wearing (corrective lense) sunglasses. They are a large, sport-ish variety that came with a large black pouch. When i wear the sunglasses, i put the normal glasses in the pouch. The pouch is rather large, so i usually clip it to a belt or belt loop, rather than stuff it in a pocket.

Well today, part two of Capital Metro's plan became apparent. As i rode into work, i took a left from 32nd St. on to Red River (Southbound). Unknown to me at the time, my glasses ejected from the pouch (Capital Metro is somehow behind this, obviously...). So when i arrived at work, and went to change glasses: nada.

I hopped back on my bike and retraced my route. There, at the Capital Metro bus stop on Red River and 32nd, were my glasses... in several pieces.

I'm figuring they were run over by at least one bus.

So the question remains, what doesn't (didn't?) Capital Metro want me to see?

Posted by johan | Permanent link