2

My experience using Windows Phone: An analysis, and why I left

After defending and justifying and praising and sighing for 3 years, I’ve finally let go.

I tried. I really did. From the first time I laid eyes on the Lumia 1020, I knew I needed one. I could live without apps, and did live without apps, for 2 and a half years.

I loved the Modern/Live tiles concept – Windows 8 was refreshing to me, as was Windows Phone 8. 8.1 on both platforms just polished off all the rough edges of 8. In fact, that is what kept me holding on for so long – I quite simply prefer the UX of Windows Phone over that of Android (and I won’t even mention the other one because I would sooner return to a 3310 than cross over).

What it ultimately came down to was, even though I was used to the “app gap” and quirks in the Windows Phone OS, it was the hardware in my phone which caused me to switch. I had this beautiful 41MP camera when Samsung was touting an 8MP camera on their flagship.

I would cringe when trying to use it, because with each subsequent OS/Lumia Camera app update, the camera would become even more unusable. More often than not, it would take about 5 seconds for the camera to spin up. That is an absolute age when trying to capture those “in-the-moment” photos.

The 3 second wait while the phone tried to save the photos was also unbearable. The OIS on my Nokia N8 was better than the OIS in my 1020. I put the blame for all of this on the previous gen dual core processor they jammed in there to power this beast of a camera.

It’s a crying shame. It’s also pathetic that of the apps that were available, one could see which ones were carefully thought through (Fitbit) and which ones were just thrown onto the platform without optimisation (Whatsapp).

When I saw the 950 series, I thought, maybe I can try again. I then realised that I no longer wish to be part of a dying breed.

1

I’m starting to think that being nice is overrated

I’ve always been “nice”. People would always regularly compliment my parents about how nice their daughters are, how polite etc etc.

My niceness, and natural shyness, along with my introverted personality, combined to give off a vibe of submissiveness – basically, I used to be a pushover. Certain people (I guess I would call them “haters”?) would “boss” me around, or say whatever they felt like saying about me (25% to my face, 75% behind my back), resting well in the fact that I would not retaliate. They were right.

Over the last 2 years, I’ve been changing. I’ve discovered that what I thought was a core part of my personality – my “niceness” – is not actually a natural part of it.

I still believe in being polite and respectful, but it works both ways. I could have saved myself a lot of grief during my teens by being a bit more assertive. My university experience would also have been a lot better, if instead of internalising everything, I actually expressed things to the people it needed to be expressed to. That expression could have been in the form of some assertive phrasing, or perhaps a more physical expression, who knows.

The point is, in the short time that I have not tolerated any nonsense, I have achieved much more, in a faster time period, than I would have if I had gone the “nice” route first. It’s sad, really.

I know that I will get a faster, personal response from FNB if I immediately tweet something snarky @RBJacobs, than if I wasted a lunch break by waiting quietly in line at a branch, only to not be helped.

I moaned about my defective/inadequate work laptop for over a year to my colleagues. Once I went to my manager and stated the facts (“The laptop is inadequate for my work, it is restricting my progress and not allowing me to complete tasks effectively”), a new laptop was ordered for me within that same week, according to the specs I wanted needed.

I asked my insurance broker why my car insurance did not cover the full retail value of my car, and she said it was not up to her to check those things. I immediately cancelled my contract with her company, did not entertain any requests to reconsider and changed to a different insurance company (who offered me R130 off my old premium, for the full value of my car).

When I go into a store, I make use of my RBF. I get quicker service that way. I am now embracing the fact that because the natural set of my face makes me look crabby all the time, people will just assume that I am that way, so I may as well act like it when it’s to my advantage.

0

This is the one: UPS edition (review)

I’ve been using a UPS on Tangytop and my router for a while now, so it’s about time I reviewed it.

I set up the UPS by completely ignoring the instructions and just putting plugs in. I didn’t bother making it neat either.

ups

That’s the router plug, power source for Tangytop and the phone line. Yes, I don’t think that looks safe either.

After taking out the CD to install the monitoring software, I remembered I didn’t build an optical drive into Tangytop because seriously, do I need to explain that?

To my chagrin, I had to Google how to access the optical drive in my laptop from the server. To my immense embarassment, it was as simple as sharing the DVD drive, like one would share any network drive. I just assumed it would be difficult, because Microsoft.

Once I had the software installed (Java based SMH), I opened it up. It uses a browser based interface, which is slightly irritating. I created a login and fiddled with the settings a bit, but I didn’t really change much (only turned the beeping noise off). The diagram indicated the UPS was at 6% load, which did seem a bit low, but I don’t have much going on in Tangytop, and the router doesn’t draw much power either. The screen is connected, but it’s off most of the time anyway.

Naturally, now that everything was set up, we didn’t have load shedding for another week. When the power went off, I eagerly went to check on my contraption, only to find it was completely dead. It just went off, taking my server and router with it. Some strong words crossed my mind as I brooded over the next 2 hours.

Fortunately (unfortunately?), load shedding hit again 2 days later, so I could my second test. Only the router was on at the time, and it lasted for the entire session. Annoyingly, because it had died completely the first time, it reset all the changes I made, so it beeped for 2 and a half hours. I didn’t care that much though, because INTERNET.

For the third test, I had Tangytop switched on as well. This time, the UPS lasted 1 hour 15 minutes. By my totally unscientific calculations (based on how long other people said their stuff lasted on this UPS), I figured that it should last the whole session with the server and the router on. Clearly, I was mistaken.

Again, I didn’t really care that much, because as long as the router can stay on and I can actually use the ADSL cap that I pay for, I’m happy. I also forgot the password I set for the monitoring software, so I’m going to have to reinstall that at some point. I don’t particularly want to, because Java hogs the CPU like it’s the only thing in the world. I’m just ignoring the beeping in the meantime.

3

Apps I’ve given up on: GroupMe, or DON’T TAKE AWAY ROOMS MICROSOFT

I’ve been ranting about apps on Windows Phone for a while, so I’ve decided to do a new series of posts about apps I’ve given up on. I really believe that I do not need more than a few apps beyond the native ones.

This first rant though, is directed at Microsoft. They announced that Room support would end on 31 March, but they carried on working. Instead, support will now end in June. I’ve mentioned before about how using Rooms has been an integral part of my daily phone usage.

I don’t want to go back to Whatsapp. All the alternatives – Line, WeChat, KakaoTalk, Telegram, Threema – all have something I don’t like. Cyber Dust appeared intriguing, and with a nice looking WP app, but honestly, I just don’t feel like it.

Microsoft’s suggestion is to use GroupMe. The problem is, the app is wack. I don’t like it. I honestly thought Microsoft would say “Hey guys, guess what, we’ve actually improved Skype for Phone since we’re trying to integrate back into the system, so use that instead!”

Sweet dreams are made of this…

 

So, when June arrives and the Room stops working, I’m not sure what the SO and I will do. Probably Whatsapp.

0

Buying a car in SA

Don’t.

With that out of the way, the truth is, one cannot survive without a car in a big city in SA. Or rather one can, but it would be a miserable existence, where one plays a game of Russian Roulette everyday: which form of public transport will malfunction today – train, bus or taxi? Which combination will get me to work alive, and in the shortest possible time, with all my possessions still within my ownership?

Pretty bleak stuff. All my life, my parents would take us where we needed to go – school, out, wherever, in the car. When I went to Stellenbosch, my parents were horrified that I would need to walk to the shops, and walk back from test venues late at night. I wasn’t jazzed about the idea either, but there was no alternative.

I survived, as millions of people do everyday. I now easily walk distances that I definitely would have considered as driveable only before. That’s not the point of this post though.

The other day, I found amongst all the lengthy contracts I signed for my car, a single page summarising the costs, the extras, and the total amount I would be repaying. Every month when I see that installment come off my account, I cringe a little, then sigh.

Seeing that total amount again reminded me that the day the bank gives me my deed, I will have paid back double the original price of the car. I got extremely furious at that thought, and remembered that the finance lady had originally tried to get me to sign for the car at a fluctuating interest rate.

When I reminded her of the email I had sent her indicating I wanted a fixed interest rate, she tried to convince me to keep it linked, as the paperwork was already drawn up, it was later afternoon, she would need to contact the Pretoria office to get new paperwork, and the interest rate is currently in a downward trajectory, wouldn’t I want my installments to fall accordingly?

I had my dad with me in case any shenanigans were attempted, and this was clearly a shenanigan. I told her again that I wanted a fixed interest rate. Within 15 minutes, we had the new paperwork. It made no difference to the installment, and the interest rate was hiked 2 cycles later.

I felt that I couldn’t trust buying a second-hand car in Cape Town. Being a Capetonian, and knowing how Capetonians drive, I didn’t want to go through that hassle. That, and the fact that second-hand cars in Cape Town are not that much cheaper than new cars, especially when they are being financed.

I love Bella – I love driving her around, I love the features, I love that she doesn’t have that “tin can” feel that many other cars in the same bracket do. However, if I were to do it again, I would driven with the family to Worcester or George, and picked up a used car. Ultimately, the car only needs to get me through the 20 minute commute from home to week everyday.

1

I’ve really gotten into this writing thing

The other day, I sat in a local café and wrote blog posts. Yes, I made like a hipster, ordered a bottomless coffee, and wrote for three hours. It was amazing.

I put the tablet into flight mode because no way am I going to use public wifi without a VPN. I opened up all those draft posts I had stored with title and no content, and just wrote them.

Since I was very young, I read obsessively. My idea of fun was to go to the library to get more books. I would read the encyclopedia (that’s Wikipedia before the internet guys) if I didn’t have library books on hand. That’s why my general knowledge was always good, why I was captain of the General Knowledge team at primary school, and why I won a general knowledge competition on a community radio station in Grade 9 (crushing a dude in Matric in the process – he was not pleased).

I also entered the KTV writing competition thing when I was 10. The story was absolutely ridiculous, but surprisingly coherent, with a distinct structure and few grammar errors. In Grade 10, we were given an assignment for Computer Studies: take a children’s storybook, and present it as a Word document, making sure to include various breaks, layouts, wrapping and other Word techniques.

I took the Emily Strange character, and wrote a short story based on her life as the outcast adopted daughter of a group of adopted daughters (represented by Bratz dolls – it was a phase) of a rich couple who collected kids like a philatelist collects stamps (and this was the year before Brangelina became a thing).

The point of the assignment was to showcase the knowledge of Word obtained throughout the year, but that became the minor part for me. I never had any thoughts of becoming a writer though – it was always strictly a hobby.

That’s why when I play The Sims 2, I cannot allow things to “happen”. I must have a storyline in mind – what character each Sim is, what roles they play in the greater community, and what path their lives will take.

3

VLC for Windows Phone arrived the other day

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not interested in apps (read: games and stupid websites) really. That being said, I’m definitely into true apps i.e. apps which serve a purpose such as productivity, utility, media etc.

This is why the utter terribleness of Xbox Music has had me in a mood for a while now. I don’t use streaming music services; the internet does not allow me to do that. I also only tend to listen to music on my phone at night in flight mode – I like having the freedom to listen to my music when I want, and not be dependent on an internet connection.

So I was quite excited when the VLC beta was announced (and disappointed that I didn’t make the beta signup). When it was officially released the other day, I quickly downloaded it. After opening the app and playing with it a bit, I realised that it was clearly still the beta version, and a quick app update shortly afterward confirmed that.

However, what I have seen so far has been very pleasing. The UI adheres to Windows Phone design principles (mostly), it appears very smooth and fast, and the playlist/now playing interface is very nice. I’ve been using it to play my music all week now, and I am quite chuffed with it.

The only problem I have encountered is “can’t enable background audio”. Start buttoning out of the app effectively ends the music player. This is a bit odd, as it worked as normal when I first installed. It seems that the app update to include the word “beta” in the title also managed to break background audio. Again, because of the way I play music, this is not a dealbreaker for me. Seeing as it is a beta app though, I expect that this will be fixed shortly.

Now, onto the reason why I am writing this post: this post by Daniel over at Windows Central. It’s a pity that years of frustration about waiting too long for apps and “apps”, receiving beta apps which don’t get updates (Instagram, or so I’ve heard), and receiving “finished” apps which are ugly ports of Android apps where the devs have not bothered to even change the UI, has culminated in this ruckus.

Videolabs is wrong. Essentially, they are saying, “Hey, you there, WP owners. You should feel grateful that we have deigned to finally grace your ecosystem with our presence. Suck it up or we’re going!” WP owners are wrong as well. Why are we still getting so “OMW, like this is the best thing ever you guys, the popular crowd has finally noticed me!” about apps and “apps”? If a dev has decided to create an app for WP, especially the mainstream devs, it’s a business decision. They’ve seen that there’s a market for their product.

I agree with Daniel that no one wins in this scenario. I wouldn’t have even used VLC on my phone if Microsoft hadn’t screwed up Xbox Music. The same way that I wouldn’t use VLC/KMPlayer/MusicBee on my computer if Microsoft had made Windows Media Player better.