Thursday, July 29, 2010

Conspiracy For Good

At around 2pm today I received a hand delivered manila envelope. Inside was a Nokia X6 smartphone, and it rang the moment I removed it. Answering it, a female voice said hello Jon, warning me that the call may be monitored and asked me to watch a pre-recorded message on the phone. It was eerily like that scene in The Matrix when Neo was delivered his Nokia 8110 except no agents in black suits and sunglasses started chasing me out the window.

On the phone was a video message by Tim Kring, who urged me to join a resistance movement against the multinational corporation Blackwell Briggs by infiltrating their CCTV system on Saturday. Confused? Check out their website here and maybe even join me and others on Saturday.

I'll live tweeting so make sure you follow.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Nokia E72 mini-review

The E71 released two years ago was one of the best mobile winners of all time. It was classed as a business phone but looked sexy, was thin and productive. Naturally its successor, the E72 had plenty to do if it was to ever match it.

The E72 retains the same overall dimensions of the E71. The look has changed slightly. I still prefer the overall bold design of the E71, but grew to appreciate the more conservative look of the E72. The use of stainless steel in most parts are a huge welcomed and the E72 has the same robust feel as the E71 and N97 Mini. At 128g (including battery), the E72 is satisfyingly hefty.

Naturally the E72 is powered by Symbian OS 9.3 Series 60 Third Edition (with feature pack 2) interface. Say what you like about this now dated UI, it works well for a none touch phone. Name me one single none-touchscreen smartphone UI that works just as good as this? Everything felt fast and accessible within a couple of face buttons away.

If there is one regret with the E72's software, I wished Nokia had ported some of the new cool features from their other S60 phones like the new contact bar. This may be a business phone, but that does not mean it is only used by boring people. It also lacks any social media applications out of the box, which is frankly a shame in the year 2009 when it was released.

Inside the E72 runs a 600Mhz processor, far quicker than the one on the N97 Mini, which proves more than adequate for S60. I am able to run multiple applications concurrently with hardly any slowdowns. 71MB of RAM is made available on boot, about 25MB more than my E55. This should be enough for most serious multi-taskers.

Other hardware features include built-in GPS receiver (with Assisted technology), accelerometer, magnetometer, digital compass, active noise cancellation (this works extremely well at cancelling noise out based on my tests), WiFi 802.11b/g, HSDPA 10.2Mbps and a new 5 MP camera.

I can't say I liked the optical trackpad much. It was a nuisance to use on my old Samsung Omnia and on Blackberry devices, and it was a nuisance to use here. But then again I even find trackpads to be unusable on notebooks (I am more of a trackpoint kind of guy). Fortunately turning it off is easy and you can use it like any good normal d-pad. Mind you the trackpad does have its one great use, as a camera shutter button for focusing. It works great. Shame it doesn't work just as well on others.

The four row QWERTY keypad on the other hand is a joy to use. Tactile feedback is good enough and the keys are well spaced and sized. Naturally if you have larger fingers you may beg to differ, but it works well in my palm. I still dislike the unnatural method of accessing numbers and symbols, but there is only so much space available on the E72 that a compromise had to be made. Still it is easily one of the better keypads around, and one I actually enjoyed using far more than the one on the N97/N97 Mini and even the five row keypad on the Touch Pro 2.

The battery life was impressive on the E72, not surprising considering it is powered by Nokia's hero battery, the 1500mAh BP-4L. We got about 2-3 days of average use per charge or almost one full day with it connected continuously to 3.5G (Gravity in the background refreshing every couple of minutes).

The 5 Megapixel camera performs well when there is good light. The lens support both auto-focusing and macro and is light years ahead of the primitive 'EDoF' (fancy word for fixed focus) lens on my E55. The web browser is good but the lack of high resolution screen lets it down. It is best to install the free Opera Mini 5 or Mobile 10. Ovi Maps is free on the E72, but the GPS receiver isn't the most sensitive out there. Turn on A-GPS and it takes seconds to get a fix, turn it off and it takes tens of minutes! The music player on the other hand is as good as it gets on the E-series, that is it has great sonic output capable of replacing your average DAP.

All in all, we liked the E72. Jennifer has had it longer than me (I was happy with my E55), and she loved the compactness and speed of it far more than her Symbian touchscreen phone. S60 may be showing its age, but it is still a robust quick OS with plenty to offer. Sure it doesn't have eye candy icons or other silly stuff, but it works well. E71 users may find very little reasons to upgrade, but if you are in the market for a none-touchscreen QWERTY phone with a similar form factor to a classic Blackberry, the E72 may just be the phone for you.

Thanks to WOMWorld/Nokia for the trial.

If you have any questions, please ask.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

School of Seven Bells at Scala London

If there is anything that proves that School of Seven Bell's brilliant and energetic debut Alpinisms was anything but a fluke, Disconnect from Desire further cements the Brooklyn trio as master craftspeople of modern shoegaze and dream pop genre. There isn't anything bad but songs like I L U, Windstorm and Bye Bye Bye due to their mesmerising and lucid melody. You could argue that Disconnect from Desire sounds even more mainstream than Alpinisms was and that isn't a bad thing as long as it sounds good. And it does.

While I would nominate Disconnect from Desire for the Mercury Prize (after burning their only-British rule), the same enthusiasm can't be said about their live performance. The setlist was solid if a bit safe, beginning with one of my Alpinisms favourite Half Asleep and going through songs like Windstorm, Dial, Bye Bye Bye, ILU and My Cabal. Unfortunately the band lacks one of the most important aspect in any great live performers - the interaction with the audience.

I've been to a couple of gigs this year and every band (including openers) were engaged with the audience. Tegan & Sara were always popular for their on-stage banters, Metric has this crazy performer you may have heard of also known as Emily Haines and Broken Social Scene... well nuff said there. While the gig in The Drop was memorable, if only because it was intimate, the one at Scala yesterday was utterly souless.

There was nothing technically wrong with their performance (though it does suffer from the usual stupid trend that is 'play it as loud possible till you can't hear the vocals' syndrome), but if I wanted to see Alejandra doing the same moves all the time, or Claudia not moving (at all) then I would rather just listen to the album on repeat at home.

Set list:

Half Asleep
Bye Bye Bye
Heart Is Strange
My Cabal

A couple more pictures on flickr

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Incoming review

Just so you know that this blog has not been abandoned and I've got a mobile phone review coming up. Have been slacking for far too long.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gaming night report

The idea for a #gamingnight was first mentioned a month ago at another meet when chatting with @idreamelectric and @laserlid. I waited and waited and was so happy when the e-mail invite from @laserlid arrived at my inbox a couple of weeks ago. I was like yay.

And that was that. #gamingnight was on.

#gamingnight was held at @1000heads incredibly swanky London office on 7 July (that's Wednesday). I remember it being hot and not much else. Arrived precisely at 7.30pm to find we weren't the first! Bah!

The World Cup semi final between Germany and Spain happened to clash with the meet, but a laptop and projector was set displaying the match. What was supposed to be a good match ended up being a dull one with only one goal over 90 minutes. Thankfully not much attention was paid to the match itself. I mean you put a bunch of social media gaming geeks in a room, what do you expect? There was plenty of chatting, networking and obviously gaming. Unfortunately @laserlid couldn't make it (a #gamingnight without @laserlid isn't right)...

I am glad to have met plenty of bloggers and tweeples who shares the same passion of video gaming. A Mario Kart Wii competition was held to great delights. I got first in the first round and last in the second round - a testament to my gaming crappiness.

In any case I really enjoyed #Gamingnight. A night of pizza, beer, cupcakes and gaming in the company of very friendly and likeable people - really, what's not to like? Here's a class photo:

L-R: @geekcomputer, @goonjm, @nicolaj88, @jonchoo, @tomscott, @chris_alexander, @mattcopp, @adonisdemon, @fauzg, @mseckington, @iamluca, @idreamelectric, @cbetta (photo by @hardij)

Yes, now that I've seen it I do feel stupid for doing that...

Friday, July 9, 2010

School of Seven Bells at The Drop London

The lovely School of Seven Bells (@sviib on twitter) played The Drop in Stoke Newington, London yesterday evening as part of a pre-order bonus for Pure Groove customers.

The set list is dominated by songs from the new album, Disconnect From Desire, due out next week. So I can't really blame the audience for being a bit too stoned, as most would not have heard the new album yet. I have but that's another matter ;) They played I L U and Bye Bye Bye, some of my favourites from the new album, though My Cabal was the highlight of the evening (duh).

In any case great short gig in a lovely basement bar. Looking forward to seeing them play again in Scala on 20 July.

Set list:

Bye Bye Bye
Heart Is Strange
My Cabal

A couple more pictures at flickr

Friday, July 2, 2010

Broken Social Scene at HMV Forum London

If there is one thing you can count on with a Broken Social Scene gig is that you'll be guaranteed to have a good time, even if you've not heard any of their materials (like half the crowd, for shame people!).

Opening with World Sick from their new album Forgiveness Rock Record, BSS sludged through a slew of new and old favourites including 7/4 (Shoreline), Fire Eye'd Boy, Sweetest Kill and my absolute favourite (and crowd pleaser) Superconnected.

Gutted that they didn't play KC Accidental, Almost Crimes, Shampoo Suicide and Major Label Debut, but there is only so much time for old materials. Lisa may not be held in highly like Emily, Amy or Leslie, but completely held her own with All to All. Also joining the core members of BSS were Andrew Whiteman of Apostle of Hustle and Charles Spearin.

An absolute epic gig.

More pictures here.