Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Great HTC vs. iPhone debate

The question of "iPhone or HTC?" is much like the question of "Imperial Star Destroyer or Millennium Falcon?"

The Star Destroyer is bigger, sleeker, faster, stronger, more pant-wettingly beweaponed and has the overwhelming backing of the establishment. The Millennium Falcon is slow, clunky, jerry-rigged, weakly weaponised and overshadowed by an enormous, all-encompassing Empire.

Of course, the Millennium Falcon is where any self-respecting geek would head without hesitation. It's infinitely more customisable, making it easier to express your own individuality. There's also the aspect that, even though it's not quite up to facing the competition in terms of blueprint specifications, it's a brilliant showcase of the user being the biggest aspect of any battle, regardless of the tools at his or her* disposal.

Any manufacturer that wishes to compete with the iPhone must also compete with what the iPhone can do. Now, I'm a champion of underdogs. I'm a fan of the background and the shadows (largely because this is where I habitually reside, and there are all sorts of interesting things and people to be found there). I shy away from the iPhone partly because it's too cool***, but also because the competition (and I'm talking about Android, specifically with relevance to my HTC, here) does what it does so well, in most cases, whilst managing to be cheaper and have less of a we're-not-going-to-let-you-have-these-settings-'cause-you'll-break-it attitude.

But the iPhone** defined, and is continuing to define, what a 'smart phone' is capable of doing. Maps, with location awareness, checking your email, social networking - oh, and making phone calls and sending text messages - check. HTC can do all that pretty well (and some of it better than the iPhone, in my opinion. But what the iPhone excels at, is built around, is being a personal media player as well as all the rest.

And this is where HTC (I can't talk about other smart phone brands, though I know they're there) is shockingly poor.

Trying to get my computer to recognise my HTC phone in order to synchronise things is a chore at its most cooperative****. Luckily, most of what I want synchronising- contact details and calendar items- are done wirelessly via 'The Cloud'******. Unfortunately, though, getting my music onto my phone is beyond a chore. Whilst my iPod and iPad plug into my computer and synchronise without complaint so that I can get on with my day, my HTC (and, as I understand it, most HTC phones) suffers from the following problems:

  • Built-in storage space is pitifully small, so you have to buy an extra storage card. This isn't too bad as the combined cost was (for me) less than that of an iPhone.
  • HTC-Sync, as a piece of software, is almost entirely pointless, in that it struggles to notice that my phone is plugged in, and so won't synchronise with it.
  •  On the rare occasions that the stars are aligned so as to enable HTC-Sync to accept my phone's presence, it denies the existence of the installed 32GB SD card and so refuses to copy any music to it (my computer has no problems seeing it, and I can root around on the SD card to my heart's content using Windows explorer).
Yes, I can manually copy my music over, but with my iProducts, iTunes just does it all for me each time, automatically updating only those things which have changed since last time. This is so much more user-friendly. There are products available which claim to synchronise your music between your PC-based player of choice and your HTC phone, but I'm yet to find one which, if it does it at all, does it any better than appallingly badly: I haven't yet found an option which is more convenient than just doing it myself.

This, it seems to me, is an area which could prove a deciding factor for a lot of people in the market for a new smartphone (given that most of the other stuff is pretty much up to scratch), and it feels to me like HTC aren't even trying. Yes, they've introduced iTunes sync support to their latest update of HTC-Sync, but if the software itself can't find my SD card, or even my phone most of the time, then what's the point in that?

* Leia plays her part, even if it is arguably overshadowed by a spot of incest.
** Did you notice that gear change from metaphor to literal exposition? The engine barely leapt out from under the bonnet and spread bits of itself over all four carriageways at all.
*** I could be a hipster, but I'm not skinny enough and I don't own any corduroy.
**** At its least, it's an impossibility.
***** A concept, incidentally, that Apple have only just caught on to.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello, 2012!

Here we go again, into yet another year. 2012 smells much like 2011 did so far, and I will admit to being disappointed that we didn't wake up to fire in the sky or a heavenly chorus, or announcements that the world's financial and health issues have finally been solved, or some other great marker of great and universal change. Or a smaller, local change in my own personal universe, such as a lottery win, would have been nice too.

But anyway, this is my post about my resolutions for 2012. Before I get started, I'd love to hear about yours, so please post them in the comments (or post a link to wherever you may have posted them on your own blog).

1. Lose weight.
This is less specific than last year, largely because I fluffed it. If I reach this time next year with a little bit less of me to share around then I'll be happy*.

2. Learn to count to 12 in 12 languages.
I've been using similar excuses for not learning to speak another language to those that other people use for not improving their own understanding of maths and science issues. These include but are not limited to I have a blind spot for them, I'm never going to need to use them, I'm not as clever as you are in that field and other people have learnt it so I don't need to. This resolution has two aims:

  1. I want to overcome my fear of learning things outside of my own experience base and comfort zone.
  2. I want to show you (meaning anyone who ever takes an interest in this particular goal) that the excuses in italics above are just that: excuses. They are not reasons. They are utter and complete codswallop and if I can stop using them to excuse myself from learning about other languages, then you can stop using them to excuse yourself from learning about maths and science. Come up with better reasons, by all means, but expect me to kill them with fire if they're stupid.
3. Continue to develop the relationships that mean most to me, and waste less time on people who don't matter.
Life is short, and thunders by at speeds well in excess of R17**. We waste so much time doing pointless things, and one of the most pointless expenditures of time that I can see is spending it in the company of people who aren't worth it. The absolute worst waste of time are the people you spend time with out of some sense of duty rather than because you want to. I have a small, scattered, motley bunch of friends who I care about immensely, and I'm going to concentrate on them.

4. Read more.
I've downloaded buckets o' books for my Kindle this season, I've been sent a popular science book to review, and I've been given books, as usual, for Christmas. I'm going to read all of the buggers because, damnit, that's something I enjoy doing. It's a resolution because it falls by the wayside (like so many things) because of work.

* I don't include losing body parts in that.
** R17 is not a fixed velocity, but it is clearly far too fast. [Extra points for knowing the franchise...]

Goodbye, 2011!

Here's my round-up of last year's resolution attemps:

1. Lose 2 stone in weight.
Failed. I managed to stay about level, with maybe a slight net loss, but I didn't get anywhere near the 2 stone mark.

2. Sort out my working life.
I'm going to chalk this one up as a 'pass' because whilst I haven't changed things as dramatically as I stated, I have at least quit my previous job and started teaching in a different school. They say that a change is as good as a rest (though don't ask me who 'they' are).

3. Keep up / re-start my hobbies.
I'm coding this one green although it's a work in progress rather than an outright pass. Work still takes up more time than I feel it should (I imagine that this is true for most people), but I am taking more time and effort to fit the things I enjoy around the daily trudge. I played a gig only last night (thanks to everyone at the Warren pub in Kettering who danced their feet off and made it a great new year's eve for the band!), I'm reading more (my Kindle's getting more of a work out) and I've been fairly good with updating Blogstronomy in fits and bursts. I can't recall having got my camera out much in the past year, and there have even been a few outings and holidays that I've forgotten to take it on. This is a shame.

As for spending quality time with friends, I have a quartet comprising the best friends I have ever had, and we spend a fair amount of time together (I think I see them more now than I did when I was working with them). I only hope this continues, and that the individual friendships I have within the group continue to thrive and develop.

4. Re-educate myself.
Again, this one's being highlighted green more through artistic license than through actually achieving it. I've been learning new things and re-learning old things, but these are mostly in the fields of physics and astronomy (and a bit of chemistry and biology), thanks largely to some of the wonderful, thought-provoking and probing questions I get at Blogstronomy, more than they are in mathematics. I have been expanding my mind, which is the main thing.

I'm going to think of some resolutions for 2012. I quite like @KnikiDavies's idea of 100 Things to Do in 2011 (I'm sure she'll post a similar list for this year).