Nokia Lumia 900 - Three Week Update

I picked up the Nokia Lumia 900 from AT&T on Easter. The AT&T company store near me was actually open on the holiday. The salesman said they had 5 of the cyan colored ones. I don't know how many black ones they had. While I was purchasing my black one I saw one other person getting a cyan one. My previous phone was an LG Quantum, also a Windows Phone so I already had my Live ID set up with my contacts, calendar, and Twitter information.  When I first turned on the Lumia 900 I entered my Live ID and all of my info synced down to the phone.  I still had to reinstall all of my apps manually.  The MyPhone website made installing the apps pretty easy by allowing my to see my purchase history and send apps to the my new phone.  I wish I could select multiple apps to send to the phone but the process was not that bad.

As for the hardware, the phone feels great in my hand.  The matte black case looks good and doesn't show fingerprints very much.  The large touchscreen looks really nice indoors and out.  It will show fingerprints but no worse than other touchscreen phones.  The camera takes good pictures, though not great.  I haven't had much use for the front camera for video calls yet.  My previous phone had a hardware keyboard but I find the large screen size of the Lumia 900 and great software keyboard make typing fairly easy.  I still think I would prefer a hardware keyboard for typing something as long as a blog post.  For texting and websites it's fine though.  The rest of the software is regular Windows Phone 7.5.  It runs smooth on the Lumia 900, only showing the slightest bit of lag if a lot of tasks are open.

There a couple of things I would like to see improves with the phone.  First, the vibration in silent mode is a little weak.  I have missed some notifications and calls by not felling the phone vibrate.  Second, the screen brightness adjusts too slowly.  When taking the phone from indoors to outside it takes several seconds for the screen to get brighter.  When it does you can see it slowly increase in several steps.  Third, the camera button does not wake the phone from sleep and launch the camera app consistently.  It always works from the lock screen though.

Finally I had one problem that required a hard reset.  Let me describe when the problem started.  I was playing a game with my Bluetooth head set connected to the phone.  While playing the game I received a test message.  The phone started to read the text message over the headset but then the phone completely restarted.  After that restart I started to have problems connecting to the LTE network.  If the phone dropped from LTE to 4G it would not reconnect back to LTE.  Only a restart or toggling airplane mode would allow the phone to reconnect to LTE again.  If I entered a weak signal area and the phone dropped back to 4G it would stay there again.  After searching online and not finding anybody with a similar problem I decided to backup and hard reset my phone.  After the hard reset I have not had the problem again.  Hopefully if was a one time issue.  I should note that I installed the first software update the day it was released and my problem happened over a week later.

Overall I am extremely happy with my Lumia 900.  The few minor problems I have are not bad enough to cause me to return the phone and might be able to be fixed with a software update.  Nokia's response to the first network issue and rapid update release gives me hope that more updates are on the way.  Even if that is not the case I plan on using my Lumia 900 for a while (at least until WP8 Apollo comes out).

I want Flickr on a Blu-ray player. Oh and, screw the MPAA!

The other day my LG Blu-ray player started acting up.  On some discs it doesn't load the menu or takes a really long to do so.  It has only just started to act this way so something is definitely wrong.  I started researching players.  At first I looked for a player that could access Flickr. Sharing online photo collections on your TV seems like a use case that many people would want.  Apparently not, because I couldn't find a single Blu-ray player that could access Flickr.  Oh well, on to the next spec.  I wanted a player that could be part of a DLNA network to make sharing media easy.  Luckily this is a common feature that most of the modern players have.  Lastly I wanted a player that could access Amazon.com streaming videos.  I already have an Xbox 360 that can access Netflix, YouTube, TV shows, movies, and music.  The only other streaming service that I might need is Amazon.  Again, access to Amazon streaming is pretty common now and the current players from Sony, Samsung, LG, and Panasonic all have the feature.  After doing all of this research I settled on the Panasonic DMP-BDT110 player.  Now is a great time to buy one because the 2011 lineup is getting discounted and the 2012 model players aren't that much of an upgrade.  Finally I remembered that I needed to check for component output (ie analog).  My entire home theater setup is hooked up by component because both my TV and receiver lack HDMI.  This isn't really a problem because I still get a full HD picture.  Here's where the MPAA sucks.  All Blu-ray players made in 2011 and later either have the component ports crippled or don't have the ports at all.  Everything needs to be hooked up by HDMI.  This means I can't get a new Blu-ray player until I get a new TV, and probably a new receiver too.  The reason for this switch away from analog outputs is supposedly to combat privacy.  The problem is, NOBODY PIRATES MOVES OVER ANALOG!!  This would involve playing the entire movie and recording it over the analog outputs.  Real pirates simply use software to break the copy protection on the disc and rip the movie. Removing analog outputs only hurts honest consumers, not movie pirates. I was planning on upgrading my home theater eventually but not right away.  If my Blu-ray player completely stops working I will be unable to watch my HD movies for a while.  That's why I say, screw the MPAA, and will somebody put Flickr in a Blu-ray player already!

Windows Phone Mango improvements on my LG Quantum

This is just a quick list of some of the smaller changes I have noticed in Windows Phone Mango. The major changes like multitasking and the new browser have been covered extensively elsewhere. Some of these changes may be specific to my phone model, LG Quantum on AT&T. I will keep updating this list as I find more changes. 1.  Better people tile, better animations with the few contact pictures I have and it grabbed twitter contact pics. 2.  Autocorrection now works with the hardware keyboard. 3.  The camera sound is off if the phone ringer is off.  The camera will also take a picture when you touch the screen, this can be changed in the settings. 4.  Several apps had Mango updates but they weren't listed on the marketplace tile.  I only saw them when I searched for them in the marketplace. 5.  The volume numbers are larger and easier to read. 6.  Media player controls on the lock screen are larger.

7.  The picture tile is now animated.  The picture I have set as the picture tile is larger and now slowly scrolls vertically.

Windows Home Server 2011 Update

It has been over a month since I installed Windows Home Server 2011 and have been using it for my data storage and backup needs. Although I really like the new server OS it has not been without some problems. For one, there seems to be a problem with the client backup service on the server. It isn't always running and if it's not then backups of client computers won't happen. It appears that the service doesn't automatically start after a server restart. If I go into services and manually start it it keeps running and backups happen as they should. Another problem I have had but since solved is that the server was unable to clean the client backups. By default the server keeps 5 daily backups, 4 weekly backups and 6 monthly backups. There is a cleanup task for the client computer backups that is supposed to get rid of the extra backups. It seems that while Crashplan is trying to upload the server backups to the cloud the backup cleanup service can't run. If I pause Crashplan the cleanup task runs fine. I initially was going to have Crashplan pause while the cleanup task was scheduled to run but I may have to change that idea based on the following observation.

As I said on my previous posts about my new server, I am using Crashplan to backup my data to the cloud. I have created 2 sets in the Crashplan program. The first set, with the highest priority contains my photos and documents. The second set contains the video and client backup folders. The first set uploaded to the cloud just fine but there was a problem with the second set. I'm not sure about the file structure of the client computer backups but it seems like they are stored as several large files are changed when the server updates the backups every night. These changes are seen by Crashplan and it has to upload the large files every time they are changed. The incremental backups are taken care of on the server so it doesn't have to transfer a lot of data from the client computers but then the server consolidates the backups into larger files. This means that Crashplan can't efficiently use incremental backups because large files are being changed on the server, not just small ones. Because of my slow DSL connection Crashplan doesn’t have time to upload all of the large files to the cloud every night. I will probably end up adding a server backup drive to the system and then either use the built in server backup function or simply create a third backup set in Crashplan and have it copy the backup database the internal backup drive. I am finding that one of the most useful features of Crashplan is the ability to create multiple backup sets that can save different file selections to different locations.

One final point about my WHS 2011 usage. Last week, Microsoft released the RC of Windows Home Server 2011 Windows Phone 7 Connector (nice long Microsoft name). I downloaded it as soon as I could. Two parts are required, an add-in for WHS 2011 and an app for the phone. To install the add-in I just copied it to the desktop of a client computer on my home network and double clicked it. This was the first add-in I have installed using the new install method (as opposed to copying it to the add-in folder on the server) and it worked fine. I was prompted to enter the server password, accept the EULA, and click Install Add-in. That was all that was required for the server add-in. I then installed the app on the phone. I had to enter a web address on the phone because the app isn't publically published in the marketplace yet. The installed app is called My Home Server. I launched it and selected 'add an account'. I entered my server web address and was then prompted to enter a user name and password and if I wanted administrator access or not . You can also change these options each time the app launches. I chose to not have the app remember the password and not to allow administrator access. When the app launches the first thing you see are any alerts on your server. The panorama contains three pivots, 'alerts', 'media', and 'account'. Swiping to the right of the panorama shows 'media' with music, pictures, and videos listed. The first time I used the app nothing appeared when I selected any of the media categories. I had to restart the server and then items appeared as they were supposed to. Under the 'media' part of the app I can view all of the pictures on my server and save them to the phone if I want. I can also stream any of my music, but it looks like streaming playlists is not an option. In theory I should be able to stream my videos but it only seems to work for some files. This could be due to a codec issue or it may be due to my slow upload speed and lack of patience. The final part of the app panorama is 'account' where you can change settings (currently the only setting is to turn on the live tile). Under 'account' you can also logout and see the about screen for the app. I have activated the live tile and pinned the app to my start screen. The tile shows a pie chart of your used and free server space. It also shows any warnings or critical alerts on your server. Even though I don't have the app remember my password, the live tile updates almost instantly with any changes to warnings or alerts. I have also noticed additional integration with the phone. For instance when looking at photos stored on the phone and selecting the 'share' option there is an 'upload to My Home Server' option. Selecting this option opens the My Home Server app. After entering my password the photo is automatically uploaded to the server. The picture is uploaded to a folder called 'LG-C900 Mobile Uploads'. I wasn't given a choice of which folder to upload the picture to.

Overall I am really enjoying Windows Home Server 2011 and the integration with Windows Phone 7. There are times when accessing data remotely from the server, either from the web or phone app, where it is a bit slow. I think I am running into the limits of my DSL upload speed. This is mainly going to be a problem for people trying to access video from their home server.

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments feel free to contact me.

By the way, I wrote most of this post using the OneNote Web App with Skydrive and on OneNote in Windows Phone 7. Both worked great.

Upgrading to WHS 2011 (Part 2)

I started off by removing one of my 1TB hard drives using the remove hard drive tool. This took a lot longer than I thought it would, several hours. After it was finished I removed all of the drives from the system. I kept the WHS v1 and other 1 TB drive with my data just in case I needed to go back to my original server.

I installed one of the new 160 GB laptop drives into the dual driver cage and put the cage in my case. Next, I booted up the system with the WHS 2011 disc in the DVD drive and proceeded with the install. The complete install took about 2 hours on my system and involved several automatic reboots. After the OS was installed I had 3 partitions on the hard drive. The OS was on the C: partition and the shared folders were on the D: partition. There was also a 100MB System partition. I turned off the server and installed the 1 Tb drive that I had previously removed the data from. The server saw the drive and I added it to the system. I then used the move folder tool to move the shared folders from the D: drive to the new G: drive. I couldn't figure out how to select all of the folders to move so I did it one at a time. Now it was time to put some data on the server. I plugged in the external drive to which I had performed a server backup. I then manually copied the files over to the new shared folders. I had more folders than the default WHS 2011 setup so after copying them I had to add them with the "Add a folder" tool. After adding the folders they showed up in the Server Folders tab.

Next I needed to protect my server from a crash of the OS drive. I installed a second 160GB laptop drive in the dual cage with the first OS drive. To set up the mirror of the OS drive I used the built in software RAID in the OS. To get to the disk partition tool go to Start and type "create and". The first thing in the menu should be called "Create and format hard disk partitions". Select this option to get to Disk Management. Under Disk Management I could see the 3 partitions on the OC drive and the 1TB storage drive. The second 160GB drive was also shown. I right clicked on the 100MB partition on the OS drive and selected "Add Mirror". The system then said that the drives would have to be converted from "basic" to "dynamic". I selected OK and the mirror was added. I did the same for the OS partition (C:) and it worked fine and = only took a few minutes. For some reason I am not able to do the same thing with the empty D: drive. When I roght click on it, the option to "Add mirror" is not available. This isn't critical since the D: drive is empty but I don't know why it won't let me set up a mirror of it.

Now that my server was up and running I went to the client PCs and uninstalled the old WHS connector software. I then went to "http://whserver/connect" to install the new connecter software and set up the backups. I was worried at first when the first backup took a couple of hours but then I remembered that all of the data had to be transferred, the subsequent backups only transferred the changed data and took only a few minutes.

I have been running WHS 2011 for a couple of weeks now. So far I really like it. The new connector software allows me to quickly start backups and view any alerts. I have had a couple of problems with the backup service on the server stopping which causes my backups to fail. When this happens I have to remote in to the server and manually start the service, then backups work fine again. I don’t know why this is happening, whether it’s a bug or a conflict with some other software I have running on the server. I have installed APC PowerChute to manage my UPS, Crashplan to continuously backup my shared folders online, and DynDNS updater. The backup service problem is the only issue I have had with the system. I have logged in to my server from my Windows Phone 7 and it is great that there is automatically a mobile formatted website. It was very easy to download photos from my server to my phone. I am looking forward to the WP7 add-in and app to get even more functionality between the 2 devices (perhaps remote management and streaming).

I do have one final thing to configure on my Windows Home Server 2011 box. Once I am fully convinced that the new OS is working fine for me and all of my files are again backed up off-site, I will add my second 1TB drive and use it as a mirror of the G: drive which contains my shared folders. I'm waiting to do this because I will have to wipe out my 1TB drive and that will make it impossible to go back to WHS v1 with my data intact. I will probably do this in a month or two and it will provide a complete backup solution for my data. I will have both the server OS and data on mirrored drives in the same tower. I will also have all of the data backed up off site with Crashplan.

Again if you have any comments or questions please feel free to leave them and I will do my best to get back to you.

Upgrading to Windows Home Server 2011 (Part 1)

I currently use Windows Home Server and I love it. Microsoft released the 2011 edition a few weeks ago and I am starting to figure out my upgrade path. Currently I don't have a massive amount of storage requirements. I keep all of my music, photos, and documents on my server. All of the data on my server, including PC backups totals about 500Gb. I have 3 hard drives in my system right now, one 200Gb Samsung drive for the OS and two 1Tb WD Green drives for the storage pool. I have most of the folders in my storage pool set to be duplicated so really I can only store about 1Tb of data. I use folder duplication as my primary means of data protection in case of a single drive failure.

In preparation for my upgrade to WHS 2011 I purchased an additional 1Tb hard drive and an external dock. I set WHS v1 to perform a server backup to the external drive. Once the server backup was complete I sent the backup folder to the cloud using Crashplan. I chose Crashplan because they offer truly unlimited online backup for a very reasonable price. I got an even more reasonable price by purchasing 4 years of backup and using a coupon. Here is where the first minor problem arose. Because of the slow upload speed of my DSL it took 45 days to complete the offsite backup. Luckily I started this project about 2 months before the RTM version of WHS 2011 was released so I had plenty of time for the upload.

I am going to reuse the two WD 1Tb drives for storage for the WHS 2011 installation. Initially I will set them up as mirrored drives. This will replace folder duplication which was a feature of Drive Extender and is no longer included in WHS. I also purchased two 160Gb WD laptop drives to use for the OS installation. I will also set up these drives as mirrored and will install them in a 3.5" to 2 X 2.5" drive enclosure I purchased form Newegg. (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816215198&T). This will protect me against a failure of the OS drive, which is protection I currently do not have in my WHS v1 system.

Planning ahead about the order in which I install the drives will go a long way in helping me create an organized server. I will start with one of the 160Gb OS drives and one of the 1Tb storage drives. After WHS 2011 is installed I will use the "move folder" tool to move all of the shared folders to the 1Tb drive. Next I will install the second 160Gb drive and configure it as the mirror for the OS drive. Then I will install the second 1Tb drive and set up is a mirror of the storage drive. Finally I will connect my external hard drive and copy all of the data back to the shared folders. So that’s the plan, hopefully everything will go smoothly. If anybody has any ideas, suggestions, or questions please feel free to leave a comment.

Sony dash unboxing

I picked up a Sony dash at Best Buy today.  I’ve been waiting for this to come out since I heard about it from CES.  I have posted a few pictures of unboxing it below.  When I first plugged it in it showed an intro video which I proceeded to skip.  It then searched for wireless networks and after finding mine it asked for the security key.  After connecting it said there was a software update available.  It updated the software from version 1.0 to 1.7.  After it restarted I started browsing the apps from the dash.  When I tried to select one to add it said I had to go to sony.com/mydash to register first.  I went online to set up an account.  The dash gave me a 4 digit code that I used on the website to register my device.  Once that was completed I could add apps from the website or from the dash itself.

So far I really like it.  I have it set up to show my friends flickr photos but it seems to only show a few of them on repeat.  I also have to see if I can get the flickr app to stay active.  It keeps cycling through the apps I have on the device.  I think it is going to take me a while to figure out all of the features.  It came with very minimal documentation so I have a lot of exploring to do.

 

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Free Zune Pass tracks (Nov)

I think I let my credits from last month expire!  I have set up a monthly reminder now so hopefully I won’t forget again.  This month I used the credits on the new Julian Casablancas album Phrazes For The Young.  That used up 8 of the credits so I used the last two on a couple of songs by Bit Shifter, Antenna and Double Density.  I first heard of Bit Shifter on the Engadget Show.  They’re pretty cool but unfortunately they only have a few songs in the Zune Marketplace.

Really HP?!

I get a tablet PC from you that dies just after the 1 year warranty.  I find that thousands or other HP tablet PC owners have had the same problem.  When I ask you about it you say that you’ve never heard of the problem and that it will cost $400 for a repair that probably won’t last.  Then you have the balls to send me this email.

HP email

Sure HP, you can help me.  Why don’t you give me a hand putting my new Lenovo in my car.  Thanks a lot.

Movado Kenny Scharf watch unboxing.

On our last trip to San Francisco my wife and I bought ourselves Movado watches.  She got ‘Blurple Time’ and I got ‘Universal Time’.  Here are some pictures of the packaging.  There are plenty of good pictures around of the watches themselves so I’ll focus on the packaging.

 

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The outer cardboard has the number of the watch.  (There are only 125 of each design.)

 

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When you slide out the inside box it is made of a thick cardboard printed with the watch design.

 

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Lifting the lid of the inner box reveals the watch box, certificate of authenticity, and envelope with extras.

 

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Close up of the certificate of authenticity.  It has the number of the watch filled in by hand.

 

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The envelope contains an extra watch band.  (Purple for this watch.  Universal time comes with a tan band and the extra one is black.)  It also contains a warranty card and instruction manual.

 

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Close up of the watch box.

 

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The watch box open with ‘Blurple Time’ inside.

New Zune ‘Now Playing’ Screen

I was just listening to the new The Mars Volta album with the Zune software.  When the ‘screensaver’ came on it was the new Zune now playing screen that I have seen in videos of the Zune HD.  It shows pictures of the artist and text with the sing title, number of plays and other information.  This is the first time I have seen this with the current Zune software.  Usually the software shows a rotating background of album covers from my music collection.

Free Zune Pass tracks (June-August)

In June I started off by getting the album Konk, by the Kooks.  In July I got the rest of that album and then tracks 1-7 from To Lose My Life, by White Lies.  In August I completed To Lose My Life and started to get Best. Concert. Ever. by Jonathan Coulton.  I’ll be working on this album for September and October because there are 20 songs on the full album.  This past Friday I saw The Airborne Toxic Event at the Del Mar races.  They played a couple of new songs which sounded great and I’m looking forward to their next album (no word on when to expect it).  Continuing the ‘music’ theme, I saw some video of the Zune HD at the GDGT launch party in SF.  It looks great and I might pick one up, depending on the storage capacity.  Microsoft is building one of their first stores about 40 miles north of me.  Maybe I’ll be able to pick up a new Zune HD at a new Microsoft store.

 

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G.I.Joe movie premier

I just got back from a premier of G.I. Joe here in San Diego.  I’ve gone to a couple of these before but this was the most ‘movie premier’ like.  Two of the stars of the movie were there (Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans).  They also gave us free popcorn and drinks.  The movie itself was pretty good.  There is a lot of CG and it isn’t the best.  Some parts of the movie look like they actually used G.I.Joe toys as the vehicles.  I think if they wanted to make this movie look as good as they could it would doubled the budget.  Also, the science is TERRIBLE!  If you are a scientist then you need to turn off all scientific thought before watching this movie.  The action sequences are decent, there was one transition from an aerial battle to a sea battle that was really cool.  I was afraid it was going to have a lot of ‘USA is the best’ hype but it didn’t.  If you like action movies I would say it is worth the matinee price.

On a related note.  If you are at a movie, in a movie theater, DON’T TALK DURING THE MOVIE!!  Movie talkers are some of the rudest people in the World!  I think this is one of the reasons movie theaters are seeing a drop in attendance.  I don’t want to pay good money to see a movie on a big screen with great sound if every five minutes some jackass is distracting me with their blabbing.  This concludes the P.S.A.  Thank you.

Windows Home Server Update

     I almost have my home server where I want it.  I picked up a couple of 1Tb WD Green hard drives form Dell for $140.  The drives were delayed about 2 weeks from when I ordered them but it wasn’t too bad.  I installed them in my WHS with no problems and added them to the storage pool.  One of them is installed in a removable enclosure so I can take the drive out in case I have to leave the house in an emergency.  I have folder duplication turned on for all of the shared folders.  I haven’t copied all of my pictures and music to it yet but that’s the plan.  I also have the WHS set to back both my and my wife’s tablet PCs every night.  So far it seems to be working pretty well.  The WHS wakes up the tablets every night to perform the backups.  At first I kept getting an error when trying to back up my HP tx2051 tablet PC.  I ran chkdsk with both repair options selected and it found and repaired some bad sectors.  After the repair the WHS backup ran without any more issues.  My 120 day evaluation key for WHS will expire in about one month at which point I will have to purchase and reinstall the full version of WHS.  Once I do this I will copy all of my music and photos to the WHS where they will be duplicated across the two 1Tb drives to protect against a single drive failure.  Once that is done I will be able to mess with my Ubuntu server which is currently being used as my backup solution.  Right now I am thinking about installing the Windows 7 RC on it and using it as a media center PC with my Xbox 360 as an extender.

     On a separate note, since the internal wireless card on my tx2051 failed I have been using a USB Wi-Fi dingle and it is still working fine (knock on wood).

HP tx2000 problems

So I have started having problems with my HP tx2051.  All of a sudden the wireless adaptor stopped being recognized.  I contacted HP support and went through a few steps to try and fix the problem.  I reinstalled the most recent BIOS, reinstalled the wireless drivers, and finally removed and reseated the wireless card.  After physically removing and reinstalling the wireless card it came back to life for 1 boot.  After I rebooted it disappeared again and hasn’t come back.  HP support now wants me to do a complete system restore but I have a feeling the problem is hardware related not software.  There appears to be a build defect in the HP tx1000 and tx2000 notebooks that causes the nVidia chip to overheat and cause problems.  HP knows about the same problem in some of their other notebook models and has an extended warranty for them.  Unfortunately HP has so far failed to admit that the same problem occurs in the tx1000 and tx2000 series and they are not covered under the extended warranty.  The way to repair the problem is to replace the motherboard and since my tx2051 is 4 months out of warranty that will cost me over $300.  I am a little reluctant to pay for the repair and am hoping HP will add the tx2000 series to the extended warranty.  As a workaround I am using a USB wireless adaptor and it seems to be working OK.  From reading the forums (here and here) it seems like the problems with the notebook might get worse with time including display, rebooting, and not booting issues.  I have everything backed up and will keep using it as long as I can.