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Google Wave - how I use it

This is part two of a short series of essays I am writing on how I have been using Google Wave and my take on the system.
You can find the main article and index to the whole series here.

How I use it

Personally I’ve used it in different contexts and for different purposes (but always for collaboration, i.e. working with other people to achieve a specific goal) and so I am now able to have at least an idea of what does and doesn’t work for me, for example:

  • Messaging: For me this does not make any sense. People have “waved” me with the “Hey, you’re on wave too, great, let’s chat!” talk and, quite frankly, it feels like trying to kill a fly with the proverbial canon. You can do it, but you really shouldn’t as it is a waste of effort, resources and just plain silly. There are myriad instant messaging solutions out there and most of them do much better in that field than wave does. It is overkill, it is slow, it is just plain silly;

  • Exchanging longer messages: The “Dear Nuno, How have you been? I have been thinking about that party last week and…” kind of messages don’t appeal to me in the least bit either. Do you realize that in a wave (as it stands now, anyway) anyone can edit what anyone else has written? Have you really tried editing long prose on it’s current interface? This is the canonical use case for email, so just use email for that. If it’s not a “living” document, edited by more than one person, then it’s an email, not a wave;

  • Instant collaboration over a project: The ephemeral wave. A project comes up, people set up a wave and work on it collaboratively (and yes, they use it as a discussion medium instead of instant messaging in the context of that particular wave), work progresses until the point when the project is over and the wave looses it’s meaning and usefulness. It didn’t coalesce into a document, it was just a kind “white board” for people to work actively on. It has the history of the work done recorded in it, but apart from that it holds no value whatsoever for the future. This is a usage case that has worked quite well for me;

  • Planning: Two or more people collaborating on planning something like a trip, a podcast, or anything of the sort. I’ve used it on both the cases mentioned and, as it should be apparent, it is really well suited for that purpose. Even planing something slightly bigger, say the design and implementations of an open software project (I’ve done that too, and still am in fact) becomes very fruitful. All of these activities require a high degree of gardening, though, because otherwise the wave just turns into an unusable mess.

Things I’ve learned that work OK

As with any new tool, especially one that is as complex as this one, it takes time and experience for one to grok it. I’ve been using it for a while and I’ve already uncovered some patterns of usage that seem to crop up in most waves with different users. Here are a few examples:

  • Commenting on sections of a document: I sometimes start a wave as an outline of a document I want to collaborate on or maybe as a few paragraphs about the subject under discussion. And what do people do the first time they open the wave? They do what they’ve been doing for years on email: they reply to my ideas either on the top or at the bottom of the wave, usually on a different wavelet, either quoting my own words/section titles or simply by launching into the discussion without even stating what they’re replying to.
    But wave provides a far better way of doing this and after a while (and some experimenting) I find that people usually tend to drift to this way of doing things, which is to comment right there on the wavelet itself, creating a sub-wavelet that can even be collapsed if you just want to read the full text that’s being debated upon on this sub-wavelet. After a few rounds of this the document starts to look cluttered from all the sub-wavelets debating all the little pieces of text and so the need for curating arises. I will, on a later article, make some screenshots illustrating these items;

  • Curating the wave (think wiki gardening): When the document starts to look like one huge, chaotic mess (or better yet, before it comes to that) someone usually takes the time to read through the sub-wavelets pertaining to the section they’re most involved in, summarize it, change the “master wavelet” accordingly and then delete all of the sub-wavelets. This is a good thing to happen to a wave and not at all an attack on the sub-wavelet participants, as it ensures that the wave keeps fresh and usable. If the need arises for further discussion on a particular topic, people can just create a sub-wavelet and the cycle begins again. Also the history of what was said where by whom is still all there anyway.

  • Mind dumping: When an idea comes to me about a particular project/topic that I have a wave for (you know those “a-ha!” moments you usually have while on the shower or jogging) I usually go to the wave in question as fast as I can and I just write down whatever idea came into me head. This has too benefits for me: 1- I get it out of my head and into a written form. Doing this makes me organize my thoughts enough to write them down and may make some implications or problems immediately apparent; 2- It gives the other people I’, working with (the wave is about collaboration, after all) a chance to immediately start thinking about the issue/idea I’ve just got and I can get feedback really fast. I do this actively on some of the projects I’m waving about with people and it really works.

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Originally written on Nov 11, 2009 @ 08:56
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Google Wave - what it is and isn’t

This is part one of a short series of essays on how I have been using Google Wave and my take on the system.
You can find the main article and index to the whole series here.

What it is

Google Wave is a product from Google which is, at the time of this writing, in a “technology preview” stage (what this means is that it is in a stage before beta, when things are out there for a few people to start using it and help the wave team find and fix the most prominent problems/bugs/misfeatures. It is not —yet— intended for generalized use and people should bear that in mind when using it and trusting their valuable information to it).
It has been touted by many as a “email killer” and an “instant messaging killer” by but I will argue that that is a gross misconception of what wave is and it’s potencial. Sure, it can be used in any of those ways, but as I’ll explain later on, there are nearly no benefits to be gained by doing so and there are some drawbacks to it.

What is is (in my view, at least) is a very powerful and useful collaboration tool and a way of replacing the abusive way in which people in large groups or corporations use email.
The best uses I’ve came upon so far involved things like planning events/trips, doing research on specific topics, producing requirement documents and planing development of software projects and I’ll expand on that on a future article.

What it’s not

Like I said before, people tend to think that once they get into the wave they’ll eventually stop using email and instant messaging as a means of communicating and connecting with other people. I don’t think this will happen —at least not with the current implementation of wave— and I’ll try to explain why.

Not Email

It is not a substitute for email, it is a substitute for the way people (especially in groups/corporations) abuse email.

Most people have been, at one time or another, involved in “the mail thread that never dies”. You know the one I’m talking about, where one person sends an email to a group about some subject that needs to be discussed in order to reach some kind of decision.
That first mail contains maybe a few points that the person considers important enough to be discussed by this group and elicits a few responses. And also, invariably, a forward or two to someone else that one of the recipients thought should be in on it. Now these responses also elicit other responses from the group and soon someone who wants to reply to item a) on the original email has to reply to a dozen mails, all of each talk about that particular item.
As the list of people receiving the email grows, so does the confusion, until it becomes nearly impossible to make head or tail of it. (And don’t even get me started on the subject of top posting in this context…)

If you work at a corporation that’s large enough this is part of your work setting, day in and day out. And then you’re probably also involved in document editing and revising via email. Yes, I’m talking about the “have you read my alterations to section 5.3.7 of the first draft? No not the one Mrs. A altered, I based my alterations on the version Mr. B did his alterations on” nightmare. (Yes, there are ways of alleviating this, but you just know sooner or latter this things will happen.)

And this is the kind of usage that is an abuse on email, but is just a perfect fit for something like wave.
Wave can substitute email as a distributed document editing platform and a fast discussion/brainstorming mechanism, but not as a document distribution/message sending one. Because documents in wave are always living things and you don’t have versions per se, so if you want to send someone “the final version of document X” you’re better off emailing it to them rather than granting them access to the wave that document is being created on (please note that “granting access” to a wave is not something you can do right now, I’ll talk about this in a future article).

Not instant messaging

It is also not a substitute for instant messaging. Even though it does provide a way of chatting in real time, this communication is only effective and useful in the context of the immediate document being collaborated on. Using it to chat up your buddies is not efficient or interesting.

Even in the context of the wave, sometimes things aren’t very easy as far as chatting goes (mostly due to the way the current interface shows other people writing in real time).
On the one hand this interface does give you the ability to use the system on a chat-like way when discussing what it is you’re doing on the document. On the other hand it is a) distracting and b) an open invitation to start answering whatever it is the other people is writing while she is still writing it, which is something we do all the time in real world physical conversations but that doesn’t work so well in written communication because of the lack of all the clues we get from context and body language. We often find ourselves answering a paragraph that the other people is still writing up, only to find that our question is answered a bit later. Oops, wasted effort and unnecessary noise.

Instant messaging is a means of communication that is well established and has been around long enough to be well understood by people. It is very useful and practical and there really is no justification for it to go away and be replaced by something that does a whole lot more and is —therefore— rather unieldy for that purpose.

Not a wiki

Wikis are also tools for collaboration and group editing/creation of documents, but they are very different in that they only allow one person to edit a section of the document at a time (otherwise you get conflicts that need to be resolved by the humans doing the editing), they have explicit versions of each page and they don’t have the fine grained structure that wave does, with the wavelets and blips (something I’ll go deeper into in yet another future article).

One thing that the wave has in common with a wiki is the apparent need for curation or gardening. This is something that seems to crop up in every kind of platform that enables collaborative editing of stuff —people start writing and replying to everything that’s going on in the document and soon enough the side-threads that led up to the “finished” document just become clutter.
Once again a wave, if properly used, makes this gardening far easier to do than on a wiki, as the discussions should be held on wavelets close to the point being discussed and can them be deleted as the “gardener” is refactoring and cleaning-up the document. On a wiki the discussion is (usually) right there on the document, together with the “real” content or else it happens on a side “chat” page, which is a separate entity altogether and forces you to switch between it and the document you’re working on at the time.

All in all, I find the wave much more similar to a wiki than to email, but it is not the same thing at all.

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Originally written on Nov 05, 2009 @ 18:30
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Google Wave - my take on it

This is a short series of essays on how I have been using Google Wave in the few weeks since I’ve got my invite and why I think it is a great tool for collaborating.
This started out as an idea for a single blog post, but as I began outlining it and fleshing out the sections I wanted to write, it soon became too big for a single article and so I decided to split it into a few different ones so as to make each part bite-sized, making the whole thing easier to read and spreading it out over time a bit.

I’ll use this first article to keep track of all the subsequent ones, so as to turn it into a kind of index of the whole series (look for it at the end of this post).

My feeling so far can be summed up in like this: I really like wave!
I’ve been wanting a product like this for a long, long time and I’ve been using things like Google Docs for some of the purposes I now use wave for, but some things have been lacking all along.
I always knew what I wanted out of such a product (I’ve worked on a prototype of a system loosely resembling part of what wave is many years ago, on my last years at university, and I’ve been pinning for something like this to show up ever since then) and now, after using wave for a while, I find that it fulfills my needs quite nicely.

It is still not all there, of course (and I will address this on an upcoming article,) but it is on the right track.

This, then, is why I love Google Wave and why I think it is a product with great, great potential.
In the rest of the series I’ll describe some of my best use cases, interesting ways I found to use it and what I still feel is lacking.

Hope you enjoy it! (And no, at this time I have no invites to hand out, sorry.) :-)

About this entry

Originally written on Nov 03, 2009 @ 22:30
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How to configure a ZTE MF636 3G modem on Fedora 11

Optimus is now offering a Kanguru-branded ZTE MF363 3G USB pen to it’s customers which does not work out of the box with a Linux Fedora 11 install.
The steps to get it working are, however, pretty straightforward to apply and this is a quick-and-dirty howto for the process.

Some degree of comfort using the command-line is required and please do bear in mind that these steps work on a Fedora 11 distro but other distros will surely require some adjustments. As usual, YMMV.

The steps to get your shiny new 3G modem working are as follow:

  1. As root do yum install usb_modeswitch

  2. Edit your /etc/usb_modeswitch.conf and add the following section:

    Update: It seems that the current (as of October 2009) distribution already has this section added to it, so you may simply edit the file and uncoment it.

    ########################################################
    # ZTE MF628+ (tested version from Telia / Sweden)
    # ZTE MF626
    # ZTE MF636 (aka "Telstra / BigPond 7.2 Mobile Card")
    #
    # Contributor: Joakim Wennergren
    DefaultVendor= 0x19d2
    DefaultProduct= 0x2000
    TargetVendor= 0x19d2
    TargetProduct= 0x0031
    MessageEndpoint=0x01
    MessageContent="55534243123456782000000080000c85010101180101010101000000000000"
    
  3. Add a new rules file to udev’s conf (something like /etc/udev/rules.d/zte-pen.rules) with the following contents:

    SYSFS{idVendor}=="19d2", SYSFS{idProduct}=="2000", RUN+="/usr/bin/usb_modeswitch"
    
  4. Right-click your NetworkManager applet and select “Edit Connections

  5. Choose the “Mobile Broadband” tab and either create a new connection or edit the existing one as you please

  6. Ensure that the following options are as follow (for everything else you can just leave in the defaults):

    • Number: *99#
    • Username, Password, APN are all empty
    • PIN: your own PIN

From this point on you should be able to simply insert the pen and (after a few seconds for the device to settle) go in to your NetworkManager applet, select the newly found connection under the “Mobile Broadband” section and it should now connect.

If you wish to check it while connecting you can, as usual, tail the /var/log/messages log file, where you should see loads of (un)interesting stuff about the connection that is taking place.

About this entry

Originally written on Sep 21, 2009 @ 16:50
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Google taking over - now for the calendar and contacts

Trusting Google with an even bigger part of my on-line life.

The background

For quite some time now I’ve been slowly handing my life over to Google.
In 2005 I started by entrusting it with the access stats of my site.
Then in 2007 I made the big move of having it handle my mail by way of supporting my domain in Google Apps. This also meant that I automatically gained XMPP accounts (or Google Talk accounts if you prefer) for the accounts on my own domain.
By early 2008 I tried (without success) to have Google support my calendars and contacts and by late 2008 even my feed reading needs were taken over by the big G.

The old setup

Thus far I’d been using a system based on my own server at home which basically consisted of using MAC OS X’s iCal for the calendar and Address Book for the contact management.

One of the most obvious and important features I absolutely had to have was full two-way integration (i.e. synchronization) with my phone which, with my recent acquisition of the HTC smartphone, meant that I had to install a program that provided an ActiveSync interface to the MAC OS X sync service. I found that “The Missing Sync” by mark/space was ideally suited to this end and I was a happy user for quite some time.
Apple’s products work great and are more than sufficient for my needs, and I grew ever more fond of the features they provided and which Google Calendar and Gmail contacts’ support sorely lacked.

Time passes… And since I’m not eaten by a Grue I keep looking around for alternatives.
Not that I dislike my old setup all that much, but I’d rather have something that automatically synchronizes over-the-air (thus releasing me from the need to dock my phone at home and only then have it synched-up) and that would let me edit my appointments even if I can’t use my phone at that particular time and I’m not home (I grew fed up with running VNC over my home ADSL line, especially since it’s reliability is less than stellar). Also I’ve grown way too tired of managing my own infrastructure. Life’s too short to waste it managing servers, connections and stuff. I’m old, I want things to “just work”. Preferably by magic. Or something undistinguishable from it.

Are we there yet?

It has been apparent for some time now that Google is starting to pay much more attention to the needs of the “enterprise users”. Indeed it has been wooing the corporate folks with increasingly better features in it’s Google Apps offering, for example, and quite recently I came across news of it offering nice ways for the suit-and-tie crowd to connect their Outlook clients to Gmail’s servers (or something to that effect).
This got me thinking that it was high time that I went over to the admin pages of my Google Apps account and looked around for new stuff that might have popped up in the mean time.

And lo-and-behold, we now have the ability to sync up a mobile device both with Google Calendar and Gmail (for the contacts). This sync service is provided for a number of platforms which I already new about, but what struck me the most was that they provided an ActiveSync server for the users to sync up with.
Woha! The announcement of this feature must have slipped by me some time ago, but this means that I can now sync my phone effortlessly with Google’s services. Over the air. “Magically”.
This together with the fact that Google Calendar’s been getting pretty decent lately (feature- and stability-wise) and that Gmail’s handling of the contact’s information got a really nice bump (feature-wise) some time ago means that it was indeed high time I gave it another go. And a rather serious one at that. Even with all the warnings that Google plasters in our face when we go through all the hoops of activating the sync service. What can I say, I like to live dangerously.
Well… No, not really, I’m just rather lazy and I’d much rather the good folk at Google deal with supporting the servers than having to do it myself. :-)

The new (currently under evaluation, but looking rather good) setup

So now the time has come to finally switch over my calendar and contact management system to Google’s care.
I then proceeded to subscribe my external calendars on my Google Calendar, exported my own calendars from my server at home and imported them into my own calendar at Google, cleaned-out the mess that was my contacts list at my main Gmail account (and did so by nuking it entirely, a move which, in hind-sight, was not all that smart, as it forced me to re-request the authorization for every XMPP contact on my pidgin roster, but I digress), exported my contacts from my address book at home and imported them, nice and clean, into my Gmail account.
I then proceeded to zero out my phone (first sync is always a bitch if you have information on both sides, I’d rather not risk it. Well, that’s not entirely true, I did risk it and ended up with loads of duplicate information, so the second time-around I just nuked the phone’s data and was done with it) and sync it with my Google Apps accounts.

And I found…

Bliss!

So far I’m rather impressed with the result. I’ve been toying around with changing things on the phone and on the web interface and so far all is smooth sailing. What small differences I’ve noticed from my previous experience with data synching are easily overlooked for the benefits I get from this setup.

As it would happen, just this morning the “sync” link on my Google Calendar page stopped working (which got me worried about the possibility that the service might be pulled off the air), but then this afternoon the link returned and, with it, a new calendar emerged automatically on the “My Calendars” list —the “Tasks” calendar— together with the “Tasks NEW!” link on the top of the page.
Now Google Calendar’s documentation on synching (the link which disappeared temporarily) clearly states that Google’s sync service only supports calendar and contact data, not tasks, but maybe this is up-and-coming soon? Not that I care really, I never used tasks all that much and for the really important stuff I’m perfectly happy with using Hiveminder anyway.

So now I’ve taken the plunge and switched to using Google’s services to manage my contacts and calendars and I’ll force myself to keep at it for a few days until I reach a final decision on whether I should keep it up or drop it and roll back to my previous solution.
Please, please, let it work! I really want to drop the home server and this is a huge step in that direction!

Please note that I’ve enabled the testing of Beta(er?) features for my Google Apps, something that more sane (or less risk-inclined) people may not want to do and some of the stuff I described surely falls under this category.

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Originally written on Jun 17, 2009 @ 20:10
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Lifestream

The Lifestream concept is one that appeals to me in a really strong way.
I have (like most people) loads of content I produce on-line almost every single day of my life —of which this weblog is the least part, actually— and (if only for my own sake) I’d really like to have the possibility of reviewing it in a time-line and aggregate fashion. This is a need I’ve felt for a long, long time, since before the “Lifestream” term was even coined.

Now this concept has been gaining some attention from many people (as it obviously would) and a few services have appeared that address this need in different ways.

My own forays into using these services have been somewhat limited. I’ve been using my FriendFeed account as a kind of content aggregator which can produce a kind of lifestream (which powers the side-bar mini-lifestream gadget that I currently —as of this writing— have on the weblog pages) and that has been going well for the most part.

More recently, however, the concept has been gaining even more traction (as demonstrated by the amount of content generated on the lifestream blog) and a few services have surfaced which are even better suited to this end.
After having messed around briefly with a couple-three of them I seem to have settled —for now at least— on the Storytlr one and I must say I’m quite impressed.

The design is not all there yet (and knowing me it will be a long, long time before it is), but you can take a peek at it at http://lifestream.nunonunes.org/. Neat, heh?

Update on March 2, 2010: Storytlr has shut it’s servers down and discontinued the service. The lifestream links have been removed from my site today. Read more about this move here

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Originally written on Jun 16, 2009 @ 11:37
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AnyEvent goodness

AnyEvent and all of it’s associated modules are my new best friends. In particular AnyEvent::Mojo.

I’m running it over libev (by way of EV) and it seems pretty impressive so far.

There, I’ve blogged again. :-)

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Originally written on Jun 16, 2009 @ 11:24
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It’s the globalization. Or something…

I’ve recently been in the market for a new compact point-and-shoot camera so I did the rounds and decided that I should get Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500.

To that effect I went over to a FNAC store, on my lunch break yesterday, to see if they had it available for sale. It turns out they did not have it in the store, but there was another FNAC store nearby which had it in stock and they could transfer it to the store went to for my convenience. It would take 3 working days for the camera to get there and the price was X.

Fair enough, but I decided that maybe I should look around at some on-line stores and do some price comparison, so I took a peek at the usual suspects and ended up ordering it from Expansys.

The order was placed yesterday during the afternoon.

It took Expansys slightly over 18 hours to deliver the camera to me (all the way over from Marseille, France to Lisbon, Portugal) at slightly over two-thirds of the price that FNAC was asking for it.

Yes, it’s the globalization, I guess.

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Originally written on Apr 17, 2009 @ 12:42
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New hosting

For technical reasons regarding the server where this blog was hosted I had to have it offline for quite some time.
The fact that I wasn’t all that sure that I wanted to keep the site also helped extend the hiatus, of course.

Anyway now that the old server finally died out I had to get a move on and decided to get the site back up as it was and consider a platform change somewhere in the future, but not just now.
The move was done from a slimed-down backup I had and so it is expected that some things may be broken at this time (most notably images and videos from old blog entries). They will hopefully be restored when (if?) I can salvage the data from the old disk.

Then, in due time, I will probably upgrade the site’s software and things will break in much more interesting ways. It will be most fun, that’s for sure! :-)

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Originally written on Apr 07, 2009 @ 00:44
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HTC Touch Diamond

I’ve recently parted ways with my beloved Sony Ericsson k750i (due to it’s death by over-usage) and after a brief period of looking around to see what was out there (and what was available to me through my company), I’ve decided to get me an HTC Touch Diamond (a.k.a. HTC Touch p3700).

This is by no means a consensual —or easy— choice and many people said awful things about the phone, both from the hardware and from the software perspective (yes, it runs Windows Mobile 6. Oh the horror!)

So now that I’ve had it with me for a few weeks, I think I know it well enough to make a first appraisal of it and to evaluate the choice I made.
And the verdict so far is that I really like it.

It is small enough to fit in my trousers’ pocket (a must for me), but still has a big-enough screen (mainly because it is a touch-screen-only phone, with only a few physical buttons, but I’ll get to that,) and it works well enough, if you can tolerate the less-than-desirable response time of a few operations. Which I found out I can.

So what is not so good about it then?
Well, for starters the slow response I sometimes get from it when I try to do anything with it while it is “thinking” in the background. I got the hang of it, obviously, and by now I mostly know when the thing is going to take a while to pay me some attention and this is not such a bad thing for me, but if I where someone more of the short-tempered ilk, I’d sometimes go berserk with it, that’s for sure.
Another issue that I have with it is the God-awful quality of the camera, when in less-than-ideal lighting conditions. On a bright sunny day it works great, but take that shinny light away and the results are utterly disgusting. Which only compounds to the fact that actually getting to take a picture with it is not that easy.
Now I’ll grant you that I come from a phone which is brilliant as far as the camera functions go —I could get it out of my pocket and snap that picture within seconds, easily—, but on the Diamond this is just not possible, as I have to wade through menus to pull up the camera and get it working. Also, the shutter-button is positioned in a really awkward place, so taking pictures with it is not as easy as I’d like.
The camera is (or would be) a big deal for me so this phone is really a let-down on that department. Which means I’ll just have to stop procrastinating and get me a nice point-and-shoot to carry around with me, as I knew I should have done long ago anyway.
Other than that, I managed to crash the phone once already, but in all fairness I was testing out so much new software and pushed it so far (HSDPA on, GPS on, camera on, surfing the net, IM-ing with a multi-protocol client, all at the same time) that I really don’t blame it for freezing up on me.

And that’s the main point, I think, when it comes to this (and I’m sure most other pocket computers disguised as mobile phones): what we’re dealing with here is basically a computer, and a rather powerful one at that, so you have to make a choice as to how you’re going to treat it. If you decide to go all out, install every piece of software you can find for it and test it to the limits, it is going to crash on you. Probably a lot. That’s just to be expected. But if, on the other hand, you decide that this is, primarily, your phone and second a handy computer, then you should refrain from testing every bit of software that you can think of on it and, in that case, it actually works quite well, Windows and all. This is the view I’ve been getting from my friends which are already using WinMo-based smart-phones for a while and I, so far, concur with it.

That said, I was kind of fearful I would not get along well with a touch-screen-only phone and I was afraid I’d go nuts without at least the numerical keyboard, but I have to say I’m quite happy with the (virtual) full qwerty I have on it and not having physical buttons for most of the operations turned out not to be a problem at all. Note that I avoid the stylus like the plague and only use it on very specific situations and with certain programs. The “phone” functions work perfectly well with just my fingers, as it should. And so does the calendar, contact list and so on. The Touch-Flow 3D interface, for all it’s slowness, is really well thought out, even for big thumbed guys like me.

I have installed a few pieces of software on the phone, obviously, even if I was judicious about what to put in it, and I expect to write up on that shortly, so I’ll finish up this post with the re-iteration that, so far, I love my Diamond and I haven’t (yet) succumbed to any form of strange and evil disease just because I let a Windows-powered device in my house and in my life. :-)

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Originally written on Jan 31, 2009 @ 20:42
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Music All Around

I’ve been really quiet lately and because I intend this space to be a sort of record of my activities, here goes a review of what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks (/months) musically-wise.

First off, the fun’n’games part: I’ve become hooked on Guitar Hero. Specifically Guitar Hero World Tour.
I was never one for game consoles, but this time I ended up buying myself a full kit including a Nintendo Wii and the Guitar Hero World Tour single guitar pack. (The Wii came with a game which I’ve only touched two weeks after I got it and only that one time. It shows how much I care about video games. And about music.) ;-)
As with almost all activities that demand dexterity and extreme hand-eye coordination, I have to really work at it to become proficient (and it is a given that I’ll never achieve greatness) but the “work” that is involved is really, really fun.
So now I play both real and game instruments. Rawk On!

And I say that I now play real instruments because after quitting the saxophone lessons due to getting braces on my teeth, I decided it was high time I devoted some time to learning music a bit more in-depth and so I enrolled in (theoretical) music classes (my aim is learning enough to be able to write music, I really wanted to be able to express all my feelings, thoughts and even ideas through music). And while this could have meant the (temporary) end of instrument playing, the fact is that I have now turned my attention, once again, to the piano. It started out as a learning aid and I got hooked again. I’m too easy, I know. :-)
Someday I may even get good enough at playing it to loose my inhibitions and start playing for my friends and even other people. Crazy, crazy!

Other than that, things are moving along steadily in the musical realm, 2008 was a good year musically-wise (although not a great one), and I’m still absorbing some of the albums and new bands that showed up last year.
I’m also, as always, discovering and learning about stuff that’s been out there for a lot of time but to which I’d never devoted my attention. One of the latest “discoveries” I’ve made is Chico Buarque.
Yeah Gods, is he serious?!?”? Yes I am, both in the sense that I’ve started listening to a lot more Brazilian music (and by “a lot more” I actually mean “any at all”) and in the sense that I’ve come to enjoy both the music and the lyrics of a bunch os songs from Chico and a very few others.
In the case of Chico, not all of his songs appeal to me. In fact, given the size of his body of work, I’d say most of them don’t, but the ones that actually do something for me are really amazing.

Last.fm, Blip.fm and 8tracks.com are my current on-line hangouts as far as music is related.
Last.fm is da bomb, Blip.fm is an interesting concept which still has to grow up a bit and prove itself and 8tracks.com is a great ideia whose future I just don’t believe in, due to the difficulties the music industry will undoubtedly cause them (which is a shame as the “mix-tape” or playlist format is one that is particularly near and dear to my heart as far as sharing and enjoying music is concerned.)

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Originally written on Jan 31, 2009 @ 19:39
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