Sunday, 31 July 2011

a marvellous toy

I've been somewhat unproductive this last week, as I've been acquainting myself with my latest toy -- a Samsung Galaxy S II. I'm not an "early adopter" -- I waited a decade before getting a microwave oven, for example. I tend to follow the maxim
Be not the first by whom the new are tried,
Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
--- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, 1711

my new toy
However, I'm so dependent on email, and getting more dependent on a mobile calendar, that I decided the time had come to bite the bullet. I polled a few colleagues at work for their favourites, and ended up with the Galaxy (much to the disgust of the Apple brotherhood).

I've been playing with learning how to use it for the last week. First I had to get it talking to the home wifi. Which required getting the home wifi to advertise its presence a little more than it was doing. Work wifi connection required a quick trip to software support on my part, and for them to press two menu items on the phone (I think my mind "must be too highly trained" for that sort of thing). Now I've got my GMail, contacts, and Google calendar accounts synched. Bliss.

It seemed to take a while for the GPS to synch, so the weather map and other things thought I was in Waterbeach for a while. But after a few tries, it got my location correct, both at home and at work.

safe for carrying in a pocket
First peripheral: a slip case to carry it around in, so it doesn't get pocket-lintified. A quick Amazon search found something perfect. A subsequent search for a travel adaptor so that I can recharge the device in foreign parts, in order to use these facilities away from home/work, has opened up a whole new can of worms. I've ordered a couple of alternatives, and will test them out next week during my trip to France.

Then it was the apps. Google Sky Map, of course -- and MoonWidget.

Another colleague recommended Rail Planner Live, for all your UK rail trip needs. The download route I took for this required scanning a QR code, so I first downloaded QR Droid. The Rail planner app required actual money -- a whole £3.49! -- but it's definitely worth it.

Next, got my Dropbox account loaded -- piece of cake.

Then, I played around with the camera a bit more (more than merely scanning a barcode, that it). It's got autofocus (which I really need) and zoom, and auto-smile detect, and video, and ... more than I'll ever use, I suspect. The main reason for wanting a camera is as use as a "printing whiteboard" -- after a meeting, just snap the board, and email it to the participants -- a great productivity enhancer. (And I don't even need to photograph the board square on -- Paint Shop Pro has a nifty feature to square it up later.)

Of course, the first thing I wanted to photograph, so that I could blog about it, was the device itself. Ah, well, nothing's perfect! I suppose I could have employed a mirror, but I chose the route of using a separate camera.

I also want an simple sketching utility -- not some mini-CAD app that neatens up things into squared-off boxes and perfect circles -- and not something for the inner-artist (which I don't have) -- just something for simple line drawings that are part of the notes I take in meetings. I couldn't find anything -- but sketching on paper, then photographing, is a good substitute.

Games, of course -- Scrambled Net is frighteningly addictive. I also downloaded a few fractal and cellular automata apps, played with them for a few seconds, and then deleted them. I'm pretty sure I'll be writing the odd complex systems app at some point...

Oh, I believe the device also includes a phone. I haven't used that. Years ago I heard an advertising jingle: "You're never alone with a mobile phone" -- and interpreted it as a warning. Email is so much more civilised.

So, I'm not an early adopter, but after a week in its company, you'll get my new marvellous toy away from me when you prise it from my cold dead hands.

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