16 December, 2011

Skype Android upgrade sucks

A while ago I accidently installed a new version of Skype for Windows. Its main disadvantage was that it did not provide an option to not automatically download future updates - a definite problem when you are using a download quota such as most 3G subscriptions. Fortunately, I had stored a copy of the previous version. Particularly as the update did not introduce anything much in the way of improvements but completely rearranged the onscreen presentation. A learning curve for no clear reason.

Now Skype have done it again, this time with the Android version. This time the download was voluntary, after all, it promised video which has been lacking.
BUT, the new version has discarded the online contacts list. Instead it wants to go through all the contacts on the phone, much like Viber does. In Skype's case, the reason is most probably to make it as easy as possible to dial phone numbers using Skype and so encourage users to buy Skype credit.
Anyway, I finally decided to let Skype snoop into my address book to find my contacts. The scan took over four hours and then it didn't find any contacts at all. It's just as well I didn't need to place any urgent Skype calls this afternoon!

30 November, 2011

D-Link DCS-930L wifi surveillance camera

My dealings with surveillance cameras go back to the days when an anologue camera on the end of a long thin coaxial cable connected to the sitting SCART socket on the family TV in the sitting room.
 Many years later I picked up a second-hand D-link DCS-5300G. A motorised wifi device enabling surveillance over the Internet, its features included the possibility of controlling it remotely. The downside was: it was a headache to set up and I eventually gave up.

Now this new machine, the D-Link DCS-930L,  is a doddle to set up. No need to know or care anything about routing ports, DHCP or whatever. The price has come down a lot too, at just €99. It can be used with the MyDLink system. Basically you just log into the MyDlink web site and you can watch (provided you have Java Runtime installed) what's going on back home.
There are MyDlink apps for both Android and IOS.
This camera is not motorised though. Nor does it have the snazzy features of the other machine I reviewed here a year ago, the Logitech Alert 750i, which had motion detection, could initiate email alerts in the event of intrusion and store images on a memory card.
In other words, it is a distant surveillance camera, full stop.

The Down side 

It's not compatible with my netbook which is Linux based. I contacted  DLink support about this. They told me to use a different computer!

The Android app installed without any difficulty on my ZTE Skate and worked straight away. But I still haven't managed to install it on a non-Google approved Android slate.

Finally, this device is really a monitoring camera rather than a surveillance camera. It doesn't work in low light levels, so it can't be used to monitor an appartement with the curtains or shutters closed while you are away  - unless you leave the lights on the whole time. It is fine for monitoring a baby's bedroom, but for burglary surveillance, the other camera I reviewed earlier is a far better bet, with motion detection, recording images and email alerts, but it then it costs three times as much. 

26 November, 2011

ZTE Skate android phone

I've just been given one of the new ZTE Skate phones to play with.
There are plenty of reviews on the net so I won't harp on about the basic specs. Suffice it to say that it has a large 4.3 inch screen, and sports Android 2.3.1. Rather, I will talk about some of the aspects that don't generally get into the reviews. Small, features that are not particularly expensive to implement, but which make a difference.

I really liked the possibility of disactivating data via mobile: seems really obvious. But I've come across many phones, including the earlier ZTE Blade,  that don't allow you to to this. I suppose the manufacturer's thinking is that the user wants to be always connected - even if it means paying exorbitant mobile data rates.Obvious, but I couldn't believe ít when I come accross  phones I've tested on.

Built -in SIP that links seamlessly to the phone: I was delighted when it registered in a jiffy after entering the ID, password and SIP host. But then when I tried to actually use it, the phone rebooted as soon as the person I called picked up the phone! I'll download another SIP app later on. Meanwhile, there's always Viber - when it works..

14 September, 2011

Samsung quietly drops its e-book reader

Samsung held its press show for this season's new products in Paris yesterday. Smartphones, wireless screen docks, fridges, notebook computers. And even tablets - something they're not doing in Germany right now! But one notable absent was their e-reader. The E-65 is still on sale at the full price of €299 in Paris stores (e.g. Surcouf). I spoke to the person at Samsung who had been in charge of e-Readers in France. He confirmed that Samsung had indeed pulled out of that particular market, giving the reason that Samsung do not control the e-ink technology and have to buy it in. Plus the fact that the bottom has gone out with the rise and rise of tablets - even though they are very different products addressing different sectors.

24 May, 2011

Sarko's Internet show - e-G8 Paris Summit

At least Sarko (French President Nicolas Sarkozy, just in case you don't know) learnt his lesson after his earlier foray into international Internet events. His presence at Web 3 in December 2006, when he was a presidential candidate, did not go down at all well. Most of the audience just didn't know what he was there for! This time, he staged his own event, paid for by industrialists - with whom he has good relations. It does rather remind one of the wealthy amateur singer who hired a concert hall to show off her talents. This time, Sarko's speech was at least relevant. And he even took a small handful of questions - admittedly rather tame ones which gave him the opportunity to expound some more. Perhaps that was why press accreditation did not allow entry into the inaugural speech. But as has been widely pointed out, Sarko's actions related to the Internet since he came to power have not been uncontroversial.

The programme for the rest of the event looks very interesting. It's played out in video on www.eg8forum.com

22 January, 2011

Samsung E-65 and Amazon Kindle 3 e-readers compared

My partner was delighted with the Amazon Kindle 3 she had for her birthday a couple of months back, but then she reads a lot. So it was exactly what she wanted. Light, easy on the eyes etc. An excellent reader and not at all a "sub I-pad". You know the arguments.

At the end of the year, I took advantage of the sales to buy a competing Samsung E-65 for myself. At 100 pounds it was less than half the original price, making it just a tad cheaper than the Kindle. There have been reports that Samsung is pulling out of the e-reader market. I'll try and find out. In the meantime, they've brought out a French version with AZERTY keyboard, for €299. It'll be interesting to see how well it does.Amazon only sell Kindle in France via their US web site, along with a hefty shipping fee. Travellers to the UK can now pick  up a Kindle for £111 (reflecting the recent increase in value added tax) over the counter at PC World, Curry's, John Lewis, etc.

Quick comparison

Screen: same size and resolution. The Kindle has better contrast.
Weight: much the same. 251 g for the Samsung and 225 g  for the Kindle.
Power: the Kindle claims 1 month and seems to live up to it. The Samsung power gauge shows low after a few days. But at least you can replace the Samsung battery yourself if it dies. It's the same battery used in the Samsung B7620 phone so is fairly cheap and easy to come by. Replacing the Kindle battery is officially a workshop job, although there are some web sites that offer to sell replacement batteries and show how to dismantle the Kindle to install them.
Wifi Connectivity: Both devices sport wifi. But the Samsung wifi can apparently only be used to shop from the Adobe store - which I couldn't get to actually work. The Kindle sports a rudimentary web browser. The Kindle was the version without 3G and the Samsung doesn't have 3G.
Document transfer: I liked the fact that you can move documents to the Kindle  by wifi. The Samsung needs to be connected to a computer by USB. The Samsung also comes with printer simulation software - you can "print" a document on your PC for transferring it to the reader. Unfortunately, it's Windows only, so I haven't go round to trying it yet.
Memory: The Kindle has 4GB, with no possibility of expansion. The Samsung has 2GB but can be take micro SD cards up to 16 GB.
Ergonomics: Both readers are easy to hold and great for reading on an overcrowded underground train. The Kindle page-turn button is easier for one-handed operation. I liked the Samsung touch screen for quick navigation. I haven't tried it for note-taking yet.
Other features:  The Samsung sports agenda and planner functions.
Oh, and in case it matters to you, the Kindle handles Greek characters without any problem, while the Samsung displayed some of them as question marks. I haven't tried any other alphabets though. 

Update: the Samsung a big no-no

After a couple of months, I finally decided the Samsung was too infuriating and put it on Ebay.
My main gripes:
1) The web browser can ONLY be used for shopping at WH Smith. Just imagine the frustration of having a built-in web browser and wifi access and not being able to do any basic surfing. Not even read the day's paper or look something up on Wikipedia.
2) DRM locked to WH Smith. According to the manual, you can buy ebooks from any online store with Adobe DRM, but I couldn't get it to work on this device. Reflashing the firmware could possibly solve this.
3) The really biggest gripe is Samsung's very fine font. The Kindle really is a lot easier to read.A pity, as it would cost almost nothing to fix. But I won't hold my breath for a firmware update.