Windows Mobile Weekly Roundup

by Todd Ogasawara

The Digital Slowness Paradox
The biggest complaint from most people in the early days of consumer digital cameras was the lag between the time the camera shutter button was pushed and when the photo was actually captured. That problem hasn’t completely disappeared yet (except in higher end models and DSLRs) . This seemed odd to most people (esp. non-techies) who expected all things digital to be better-faster than things-analog.

Unsurprisingly, digital slowness is apparent in all kinds of devices now. Some smartphones seem to take forever to fire up and enter a ready-to-use state. My Dash, for example, has a multi-second delay between the time I push the power button to the time it actually starts to boot (something visible on the screen). And, it takes, perhaps, a full minute before the phone is actually ready to make a phone call. The Pocket PC doesn’t appear to have this problem for most users because it is usually in suspend mode and not actually off. But, if you perform a soft reset, you’ll probably need to wait a bit before you can use the Pocket PC again.

The most annoying sources of digital slowness for me, however (aside from Windows XP/Vista’s booting speed) is television related. My digital cable TV box seems to take forever to change channels. The old TVs with channel dials (back when VHF channels were limited to 2 through 13) were instant in changing channels. Digital cable boxes have a noticeable lag. And, the current generation of HD TVs seem to take many seconds to turn off or on. Shades of vacuum tube TVs. I think the TV manufacturers should add the old tube shrink-expand look to let us know when they are going on or off.

And, then , of course, there are Windows XP and Windows Vista. Their login account model that launches all kinds of applications after the user login process (including all kinds of security software) means that it might be several minutes before various processes settle down to the point the user can actually use the system. UNIX, Linux, and Mac OS X (really a BSD UNIX variant) fire up most processes before any login takes place. So, from the end-user point of view, it seems they take less time before you can use them.

Let’s hope we never get digital flashlights or fire extinguishers where instant-on should really be instant.

Use Windows Mobile Internet Explorer with Care
I think I’ve suggested manually clearing the Windows Mobile Internet Explorer browser cache once a week or so to help prevent what might otherwise be mysterious system-wide slowdowns on a Pocket PC or Smartphone. However, today I got another reminder of why I spend more time using Ilium’s NewsBreak RSS client on Windows Mobile than the IE browser.

When using IE directly, I am pretty careful to stick to mobile-friendly websites in my Favorites list. However, I clicked on a Reuters link in their RSS feed after reading a brief summary in NewsBreak which launched IE (this normal). This turned out to be a bad idea because the feed link led to Reuters normal website formatted for desktop PCs. WiMo IE couldn’t deal with what appears to me to be a decently designed web page for the desktop and froze my entire phone. I couldn’t even turn it off and had to pull the battery to reset my Dash. Upon rebooting, the Dash came up very slowly… more slowly than normal. So, I went to IE’s options menu and manually cleared the browser cache (about 2.5MB, large but not huge). This returned my phone to normal.

In comparison, I just brought up on my iPod touch Safari web browser. And, while it seemed to navigate that site much slower than other sites (there must be some Javascript whackiness going on there), the site didn’t blow up the browser or lock the iPod touch.

Stylus vs. Finger
The old Windows CE Handheld PCs had large (by today’s thumb keyboard standards) physical keyboards and a touch screen. They never caught on (even though I really enjoyed using them :-) . The problem was that the touch screen were really just a substitute for a mouse and the need to pick up a stylus in between typing was annoying.

Following the lead of the Palm Pilot, Microsoft moved on to the Palm-size/Pocket PC and dropped the physical keyboard completely. Then RIMM’s Blackberry and Palm’s Treo showed that a physical keyboard was indeed a good thing but needed to be sized and designed correctly. Many current generation Windows Mobile Pocket PCs (Professional Edition) and Smartphones (Standard Edition) have physical thumb keyboards too. And, many of them are well designed (I particularly like the Dash’s and TyTyn’s).

Recently, Apple went retro and introduced the iPhone and iPod touch with touch screens that don’t need (or work) with a stylus and dropped the physical keyboard in favor of a graphical tactile-less one. On one hand, the finger gestures for viewing photos and navigating web pages works much better than stylus based Pocket PCs or keyboard based Smartphones. On the other hand, I guess I’m just one of those fumble-fingered people who prefers tactile feedback when typing (even thumb typing). I do think it is great that I don’t have to reach for a stylus to use the iPod touch. But, I really wish I had some kind of option (Bluetooth keyboard for example) for the iPod touch.

I was originally going to comment on the relative granularity differences between finger touch screens and stylus touch screens. But, I need to think that through a bit more. It just occurred to me that one of the original applications categories for the Pocket PC were little mini-PhotoShop type drawing apps. Yet, those never did become very popular. And, we don’t see that category heavily pushed or sold these days. Part of the issue may be the relatively small processing power on mobile devices (compared to desktops). But, I wonder if the digitization errors inherent in any touch screen might have something to do with this too. More later…

Do You Feel Phantom Vibrations?
Do you sometimes feel phantom vibrations from the area where you phone sits on your body even when your phone is not on you? Apparently you are not alone (I think I’ve felt this too). Check out this article on CNN…

Phantom vibrations shake crackberry addicts

Apple Web Apps List for iPhone and touch WebApps
No third party binary applications for the Apple iPhone or iPod touch yet. However, Apple created a list of web apps for these devices. You can find it linked below.

Apple Web Apps

I was surprised to see so many (relatively speaking) web apps designed specifically for the iPhone/touch (215 as of Oct. 11, 2007). It will be interesting to see if this part of the iPod eco-system continues to grow.

Senuti 0.50 Beta 2: Copy Media Files from an iPod to a Mac
Just an quick blog item this evening. I posted an item over on my Freeware and Free & Open Source Software blog (OgasaWalrus) about a Mac OS X freeware that lets you copy media files from an iPod to a Mac.

Senuti 0.50 Beta 2: Copy Media Files from an iPod to a Mac

In my case, this is a backup plan in case I can’t restore the backup of my now dead Mac mini (the backup is on an external Firewire drive) to whatever replaces my Mac mini.