evil geeza

Switching from iPhone to Android - Part 3 - Music play back (2)

I gave up on waiting for Media Monkey to index my music collection. It looks like the way to go in the long run, but I wanted to get my music on there before I went to sleep. So I dragged and dropped music files from iTunes, which worked surprisingly well.

The beauty of Android is that it is a lot more 'open' than iPhone. So you can just drop MP3s into the right directory (it's called 'MP3', you can't miss) and when you unmount your phone, it'll index them and away you go. So now it was time for the 'listening to music on the way to work' test.

The iPhone is great when playing music because:

  1. you can easily switch tracks whilst using other applications

  2. you can easily switch tracks whilst the phone is locked

  3. when you take the headphone jack out, it stops playing rather than playing on the phone's external speaker (handy when you need to stop for a coffee and actually speak to someone)

  4. the sound quality is good

So these were the main things that I was looking for in Android. I believe the player I was using was by HTC rather than the default Android one. Here's how it fared:

  1. Switching tracks whilst using any other app was very easy. Just pull your finger down from the top of the phone to get the notification list. It shows what's playing. Clicking on that takes you to the player were you can then skip tracks. Then a hit of the back button and you're back to whatever app you were playing with at the time

  2. By default, on the lock screen there are player controls. Result! A minor gripe is that if you're in the Underground, occasionally I'd get a 'Limited Service' message instead that seemed to get in the way of the player controls. Something I will have to find and kill

  3. Pulling the jack worked as I hoped

  4. Things sounded nice. (Although I have yet to do a proper side by side comparison of some music on both phones

So, as a music player, I'd say that the transition was easy as things worked in the way I would have expected, with Android maybe having the slight edge for me as if you have the last.fm app installed, it'll automatically 'scrobble' what you're listening to in a way that the iPod feature on the iPhone probably never will.

Where there is a little moment of fail (and I can understand why) is that if you leave your phone USBed to your machine to upload a ton of music and then go to sleep, while your phone is in USB mode, none of the apps on it can write to the microSD card. Thus, this morning when I went to work, no feeds were downloaded. But more on apps in the next post...
evil geeza

Switching from iPhone to Android - Part 3 - Music play back (1)

Now this is something that I hope to be pleasantly surprised about, but expect not to be. Apple have the portable mp3 market pretty much taped in the same way that Sony had with the Walkman and cassettes back in the 80s. My first ever iPod was a MkII and I've had one other since. (Plus a Shuffle for the gym.) I really like the music playback interface on the iPhone and I like that I can simply press the button in the middle of the phone twice while a track is playing to bring up a little ipod box so that you can quickly skip tracks or rewind them. This paird with the iTunes software makes the iPhone a pretty sweet piece of music playing equipment.

iPhone + iTunes syncing set up is about as plug and play as you can get. Install iTunes. Plug in the iPhone. You're in business. Unless, like me, your primary OS at home in Linux. There are more drivers for it these days, but when I first got my iPhone, linux just would not see that it existed. (Frotunatly I have a Windows XP box as well, so thats been my primary music box. For the benefit of a fair comparison, I'm going to try to sync things to the same XP box)

So, first things first, I plugged the phone into my computer. By default it seemed to go into charge mode only so I had to tell it to mount itself as a drive. This is slightly annoying default behaviour, but I'll bet there's a config option somewhere to stop that.

The first thing I notice is that there's some HTC Sync software on the phone. So I decide to install it to see what it's about. Maybe that'll help me get music on there. It installs (after telling me to turn off any virus checkers I might have running (eek)) and runs. I'm barking up the wrong tree here. This is only for syncing contacts it seems. Not very useful, so I decide to Google for music syncing for Android. The result of which is an install of the doubleTwist software.

It seems really cool if you use iTunes (which I will continue to do on account of there being three iPods of various description in the house). It inspects your iTunes library and uses that to work as a sort of iTunes for Android. Cool!

The first problem is the size of my collection. I have 21,000+ tracks in my collection. The inital scan of the iTunes files takes about 4 hours. The next problem (and some would argue a more fundamental one) is that it totally fails to detect my plugged in phone. It appears to have created a .doubleTwist directory on the phone, but that's it. It still says that it can't see the phone. I'm a couple of beers into the evening and getting a little annoyed at this point. Things shouldn't be this hard. I am reminded on Linux vs Windows. Linux is a much better OS, but WIndows will always be more popular because (even with all this bugs) 'works' with not too much hassle. Time for plan B... Media Monkey.

I'm hoping that Media Monkey is to Windows what Amarok is to Linux. I am make the switch away from iTunes if this tunes out to be a closer fit for my needs. It can sync to Apple gear. At this point I thought I would take a break as I left Media Monkey to index my entire music collection...
evil geeza

Switching from iPhone to Android - Part 2 - Initial install

I was initially impressed by the install process. Turning the phone on for the first time I was presented with a quick tutorial on how the keyboard worked and given the option to set up my Google, Facebook and Flickr accounts.

Things may have changed with later revisions of the iPhone, but I don't remember it giving me any help or assistance to begin with (That was 2 years ago, so things may have changed or the process was so underwhelming that I forgot about it). You just turned it on and it would stare back at you.

Setting up my Google Apps account (as you might expect from an OS created by Google) was very simple. A lot simpler that the iPhone, where you have to discover for yourself that you can sync things like your contacts over the interwebs instead of via the USB cable.

But, here's where I encountered my first two annoyances:

  1. You can set up multiple Google accounts, but it will only sync the calendar from one.

  2. It thinks its syncing my email, but it doesn't appear to be

On the iPhone, you can import multiple calendars to be viewed in its one calendar application, thus you can have a few Google Apps accounts and even subscribe to other people's caldav accounts. Maybe I'm a 'power calendar user', but as it stands, there seems to be no way to get both my home and work Apps account calendars onto the one phone. It just simply removes the option to sync the second one. This is a major annoyance as the sum total of things that I do in a day are both work and play. This for me is a spectacular fail as the main reason I bought a smart phone was to keep myself organised. Maybe there's another way of doing this or an App that will allow this to happen. (I have deliberately not gone near the Marketplace yet). But as it stands, I'm less than impressed.

As for the email syncing. It would seem that this is a bug. It thinks its syncing, but it's not. (I will be talking to O2 customer support about this tonight). I could set up my Apps email accounts via IMAP, but I shouldn't have to. Again, this for me is a really big flaw.

I tried doing a full factory reset (as I have nothing to loose at this point) and try the install again, but this did not correct the problem. Searching the internet has thus far not provided any insight into what is happening and how to fix it.

Once the install was done. I had a "Now what?" moment. It took me a good few minutes to wrap my head around the new OS as I did all the mundane things such as changing the default background and ringtone. I noticed that there didn't seem to be a way to choose an mp3 ringtone, but maybe the phone knows that I've not put any mp3s on yet and is only giving me options for things that I can actually do.

I'm finding that the buttons are taking a little getting used to. On the iPhone, there are two buttons that will make the screen spring into life (on the top and on the front). I keep finding myself pressing the round button in the middle of the phone to get the screen to show. It only responds to the top button.

Getting used to the 'menu' button being context sensitive also took a little getting used to.

So, my initial thoughts are:

  • Nice initial install screens help you get up to speed quickly

  • If the Google Apps integration worked correctly (email syncing) and your a Gmail or Apps user, then this OS would win hands down on the set up.

  • Seeming inability to have more than one calendar may be enough for me to send this phone back and stick with my iPhone 3g

  • Googling for any advice on problems results in a LOT of links to the Google support forum. Thus far, none of it has been relevant or useful

  • Google Apps contact syncing 'just worked' and within minutes to setting up the phone, I had a full address book, complete with everyone's pictures from Facebook

I'm going to spend a bit of time trying to get the two show stoppers working for me before I start installing anything else, as currently I have nothing to loose by wiping things and starting again.

UPDATE: I have been researching the calendar problem and found the following thread. To paraphrase. multiple calendar support via Google Apps accounts will be possible when Android 2.2 comes out. (So I'm going to have to wait until the end of Q3 for this). I can live with that. In the mean time, I might be able to work around this by sharing my work calendar with my personal one for the time being. This I can live with. Still the lack of visible email to deal with. I've gone through the phone's storage and found that it has downloaded it. It just seems that it doesn't know it has it.

UPDATE: When is mail not mail? When it's Gmail! So it turns out that the default mail app is not the same thing as the gmail app that is being used to sync to my Apps account. I only found this by accident. It hits at something that I feel might be a re-occuring theme. Apple force you to use their core components, with Android, you can use anything. With great power comes great responsibility. There may be something to be said for the walled garden approach to certain things.
evil geeza

Switching from iPhone to Android - Part 1 - Introduction

I've just bought an HTC Desire. I am currently an iPhone user. I've decided to chronicle my switch from one platform to another as it may help others to make an informed decision as to whether they want to switch too. I am going to try to keep mainly to functional changes rather than 'this is more pretty' type comments as design is a very subjective thing. To start with, here's a little background to help you decide if what I have to say will be of any value to you. I have no idea what I'll find and have no pre-conceptions. All I have is a shiney new phone sitting on my desk.

I'm a programmer by trade. I am not an Apple fanboy (quite the opposite. I think they're a bad company). I have had an iPhone 3G for 2 years. What I look for in a smart phone are:

  1. Ability to make receive phone calls (I don't make very many myself, but it's nice to hear people's voice from time to time

  2. Ease of sending SMS messages. I send a few

  3. Good calendering software. This is the main reason I first bought an iPhone. I have my life stuffed into a Google Apps account

  4. Good music playback. I never leave the house without my headphones.

  5. A good RSS reader. It's nice to read things on the tube into work

  6. Err, that's it

I originally purchased an iPhone because all the above boxes were ticked. To be honest, they still are, but there are several reasons why I'm switching:

  1. The battery in my iPhone now lasts much less than a full day. I cannot replace it myself. I want a phone that I can switch the battery out of easily should it become old and unreliable

  2. I'm sick of Apple's 'walled garden' philosophy. I'll decide what's best for me, not them... And I have by switching. We'll see if I'm right or wrong

  3. I want proper multi-tasking. I'm jelous of my wife's old HTC Hero that can download RSS feeds in the background

  4. After installing iOs 4 on my iPhone it became more and more unreliable, locking up from time to time, to the point that it is often not possible for me to receive phone calls. If a phone can't do this, it's not a phone.

I was waiting for the iPhone 4. I figured that it'd be cool. Hearing about the ariel problems has put me right off that. Along with it not being very much of an upgrade.

So, I'm ready to take the plunge. More updates to follow...
evil geeza

Ice age

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/8447023.stm - As you can see, Britain has entered into a new ice age. (Hi-res photo here). It's no surprise that the Mail and Express have gone hell for leather to try to convince their gullable readership that because it's snowed in the windertime in Britain, well, that just means that global warming is obviously just made up, right?

Which is great, init?

Believing that global warming/climate change is all either made up or natural and man-kind has no infulence over it is so much easier than not. It means that I don't have to bother recycling. I can keep my central heating on all the time and the only consequences is a stupidly high utility bill. I can make loads of unnessasry trips in my car when public transport would have suficed. (Again, there's the issue of paying for the petrol, but you can't take away my right to whine about how expensive it all is!) In fact, I just don't have to care about the environment at all if I simply believe that I have no influence over it.

It's great! I'm going to sleep soundly tonight knowning that I totally wont have fucked things up for my kids.
evil geeza


http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7796663.stm - It truly is an all loving god that apparently gives people free will and then throws them into a pit of fire for all eternity for actually using it.

I have a suspicion that if there actually is a god, he/she/it isn't all that bad. He/she/it just gets a bad press because of the morans that follow. Given that 'god' obviously doesn't give a shit what goes on here, why should the people that follow it?