Saturday, June 06, 2009

Phone Phollies Or The Machine That Goes "Bing!"

Since the Friday before Memorial Day we’ve been on “Summer Hours” at work, which basically means we get to leave at 3 on Fridays. I’m not complaining, as every little bit helps, but I really only gain an hour out of it.
Still, I’d intended to put that extra hour to good use yesterday by taking a nap. That plan was interrupted by some old lady trying to call the pharmacy and not understanding how it was possible that a. I wasn’t the pharmacy and b. if I really was not the pharmacy, as I so obviously dishonestly claimed not to be, how she could have possibly reached me when she clearly dialed the correct number.
After that I decided to abandon the nap idea and started messing around with my cell phone.
I started out by flashing the ROM, which is to say that I installed an update to the phone’s operating system provided by HTC, the phone’s manufacturer.
This wiped out everything I had saved on the phone, which was mostly just my contacts and my calendar, as I keep most everything else on the storage card, though I did have a few installed apps that got wiped. Of course, I knew that everything was going to get wiped, so I had back-ups of all of the app installers, and of my contacts. I didn’t have my calendar backed up, or at least, not the most current version of my calendar, on anything accessible at home, but I’ll regain it all on Monday morning – which will arrive all-too quickly – when I sync my phone with my work computer.
In any case, after flashing the ROM I reinstalled the apps, synched my phone with that Microsoft “My Phone” service to regain my contacts, and then installed a theme dealie to give my phone a “flip” clock.
The theme changed the look of the applications strip on the bottom of the phone, though, and I didn’t much care for it, so I went online to look for a replacement.
The proprietary touch-screen interface that HTC puts on the phone is called TouchFlo 3D, and recently, on their newer phones, they released a newer version of it. There’s an active community of people online who create themes, modifications, apps, and “cooked” ROMs – basically customized versions of the factory-installed operating systems – and some of them have modified versions of the new TouchFlo 3D interface to work on phones like mine, so I installed one of those.
Unfortunately it didn’t really work very well. On start-up it would crash, then have to make multiple attempts at reloading before finally managing to start, and then it would crash if you went to the Weather app and tried to add a location, or if you tried to change the time settings (for some reason it defaulted to Bogota, Columbia, for the time zone).
I didn’t see any way to actually remove it and revert back to the other version - aesthetic complaints about the custom version I’d installed with that theme, at least it actually worked – so I decided to do a “hard reset,” which would get the phone back to the way it had been right after I flashed the ROM to the new official version.
This would mean that I’d have to re-install my apps and sync up my contacts once again.
However, my phone, even after the ROM flashing, is running Windows Mobile 6.1, and there are some “cookers” out there who have made cooked ROMs for my phone that incorporate Windows Mobile 6.5, so If I was going to go through the trouble of doing a hard reset, why not just flash the ROM with one of the cooked WinMobile 6.5 versions?
So I downloaded one and started the flashing process, but couldn’t get it to actually install. From what I can determine, the reason that it wouldn’t install was that the ROM that had been cooked – despite having a later version of WinMobile – was based off of an older version of the ROM on my phone, and the flashing process wouldn’t let me downgrade.
So I just did the hard reset, reinstalled the apps, re-synched my contacts, installed the theme, and decided to learn to live with the new look of the application strip.
After all of that I checked out some of the new features added as part of the new ROM. Most of them are just bug fixes and performance enhancements, but there was also some new bloatware –useless applications that are pre-installed as trial versions in the hopes that someone will pay money to get the full versions – that I decided to check out.
One of them was this MusicID app that’s actually kind of cool in a “gee whiz” sort of way. Basically, while a song is playing – on the radio, on TV, or whatever – you launch the app, hold the phone up so that it can “hear” the song, and it will do some technical voodoo and then tell you the name of the song, the artist, and the name of the album it’s on.
It did a surprisingly good job of identifying even relatively obscure songs that I played at it, though unsurprisingly it was stumped by D.R.I. and Fight, the post-Judas Priest project that Rob Halford did back in the 90s.
Still, I can’t see actually paying for the thing.
In any case, I’ve basically been spending most of my time messing around with different apps for my phone.
If you’ve read any tech news this week, you’ve undoubtedly seen a lot of articles about Bing, Microsoft’s latest effort in its – pointless – war with Google.
I don’t really have any feelings one way or the other about Bing; I mean, it’s a search engine. It searches the Web and brings back results. Maybe that was exciting back in 1995, but in 2009? Meh. And calling it a “discovery decision engine” and giving it a silly name doesn’t really change anything.
However, as part of the Bing initiative, MS also released a pretty cool Live Search mobile app. I’m sure there are plenty of other apps that do the same kind of stuff, but so far I’m actually digging the app, which lets you quickly do location-based searches for businesses, movie listings, driving directions, and – and this is the part that I found really cool – gas prices. My one complaint is that on the movie listings front they only did half the job, as I don’t see any easy way to use the app to actually purchase tickets.
You can do that easily enough by just going to the mobile site for Fandango – so far Fandango only has an actual app for the iPhone – but it would be extremely useful to be able to buy tickets from within the Live Search app.
(Note: I was just messing around with the MusicID thing some more and it successfully identified that a song was by D.R.I. and which album it’s from, but got the song itself wrong. I guess the app is something of a fuddy-duddy that thinks that it all sounds the same. Just because it’s all cacophonous and largely indecipherable and unintelligible doesn’t mean that Couch Slouch is not distinct from Argument Then War. What do you want, MusicID, Pat Boone? )
As for activities not related to messing around with my phone, I got up this morning and headed out to pick up this week’s comics – Yay! My first week without Trinity in a year! – and do some grocery shopping. I also made up for yesterday’s missed nap by taking a two and a half hour one today.
Other than that there’s some TV-watching that’s been done, and more still waiting.

1 comment:

Merlin T Wizard said...

Yes, thank you. Some Pat Boone would be lovely. All this screeching and call that noise "music"? Bah!