Motorola v400: Took It Back

Since my vintage Treo 180 has been a bit sketchy lately – randomly shutting itself off or freezing up – I decided it was time to get myself a more modern phone that wouldn’t fail me, at least not as much.

That phone was not to be the Motorola v400.

My first impression was that this was a very cool little compact phone. It featured all the usual suspects: GPRS, camera, phonebook, text and MMS messaging. Plus it had a calendar app, and Apple claimed it would work with iSync. Yea. So I gave this thing a whirl.

First of all, the phone operating system itself left much to be desired. I found some of the commands to be not terribly intuitive, and sometimes spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find out how to do something that should have been simple. Reading the manual was little help, and didn’t cover things that I needed. Settings for mywirelesswindow.com were hard to find – I should say, I never was able to find exactly what I needed, the interface provided few clues, and setup never happened in the long run. It shouldn’t have been that complicated.

The camera itself wasn’t too bad. The 640×480 resolution seemed decent enough on the phone’s screen and made some nice desktops. But alas, we’ll never know how those pictures really look on a computer screen or embedded in a web page because despite two calls to Cingular support we could never get MMS to work.

Finally, syncing via iSync was an outright failure. Despite my best efforts, I could never get iSync to recognize this phone. I don’t know if the overpriced USB cable was the culprit or if it was the phone’s port itself, but at this point I was turned off enough that it didn’t matter. This stuff is supposed to work out of the box, and I don’t have a ton of time to troubleshoot every damn feature that the device ships with. At some point, something just has to work the way you expect them to the first time, and the v400 was not meeting any of my expectations by now. Even if I had managed to achieve a synchronization, from what I learned on message boards about this turd is that getting your photos off the device and onto your Mac required emailing each individual photo as an attachment to yourself. It has a USB cable, so WTF not? And since internet messaging setup was a failure anyway, the point was moot.

Now that I’ve sent the thing back to the Cingular store, I’ve had time to evaluate what I really want in my next phone:

  • First of all, I have decided that I really want Bluetooth. My PowerBook has it, ready and waiting, so why bother with the hassle of a USB cable anymore? I want to set up a bridge via BlueTooth to my PowerBook so I can have a GPRS modem without having to take my phone out of my bag. (The 12″ PowerBook G4 lacks a PCMCIA card slot, so the option to put a GPRS card in there isn’t available.)
  • Next, I want to be able to pull down my images from my camera-enabled phone directly to my computer. I don’t want to have to deal with sending one message for each photo. This is a must.
  • Regarding that camera – surely I can do better than 640×480 pixels. I will probably seek out the maximum resolution I can get away with for my next device. As a designer, I will use this feature frequently.
  • Stereo headphone jack. Or better yet, stereo bluetooth headset option. Even better: noise-canceling stereo bluetooth headset. There – that oughtta do it..
  • The device itself needs to be stable and sturdy. No flimsy moveable parts. Flip phones do not interest me as much as a more solid body casing. I have a three year old son who likes to pick up shiny objects that might be lying around, push all the buttons, and perform quantum mechanics experiments by smashing said device against hard objects to see what particles fly off.
  • Finally, everything needs to just work. I don’t want to spend anything more than a minimal amount of time setting this thing up. If the software sucks or it isn’t interoperable with whatever else I’m using, I will return it.

I realize that this might seem a bit picky. But the Treo 600 costs upwards of $600. I can find PCs for cheaper than that. It better work, dammit!

I hear rumors that a Treo successor may be in the works, that sports the one thing missing from this device that I want: Bluetooth. If we see Bluetooth in the next rev, I may upgrade. The only thing about the Treo 600 is that it’s still just a bit bulky. When I compared my friend’s Treo 600 to my 180, the dimensions were about the same.

Electoral Sham

Hong Kong democrats miss / Advocates fail in election to overcome Beijing’s edge in legislature

Someone had a lot of fun making up these crazy rules:

Pollsters estimated that 60 to 67 percent of voters had cast ballots for pro-democracy candidates, possibly setting a record for the camp. But the showing was not enough to overcome an electoral system designed to keep allies of the Chinese government in control of the legislature.

Special constituencies of businesses, industry associations and professions such as doctors or engineers choose half of the territory’s 60 lawmakers, and most of them firmly favor Beijing. Eleven pro-government candidates were elected without opposition, and democracy advocates struggled to hold onto the five seats they won in 2000.

The democrats fared much better in the 30 seats filled by direct elections, but electoral rules diluted their showing in that voting, too. Hong Kong is divided into five large, multiseat districts, and a complex system of proportional representation negotiated by the Chinese with the British before the handover in 1997 all but guarantees pro-Beijing parties a substantial share of seats.

Hey! Hong Kong’s electoral democracy is even more screwed up than what we have here! But that’s not to say that our system of electing a president isn’t just completely messed up. The American Electoral College gives a ridiculous amount of weight on votes to sparsely-populated heavily Republican states. For example, there are only 165,000 votes per elector in Wyoming, whereas here in California over 600,000 voters are allocated for each elector. That means that a vote from a Californian is worth about 28% of a vote from someone from Wyoming. This is not fair to the individual citizens of this country. We are told time and time again that “my vote counts”, and yet in reality it counts much more for some people than for others. To further illustrate the point, Al Gore would have won the 2000 election by 543,895 votes! This is not that small of a number – almost half a million! And yet Bush still was declared the winner due to the screwed up electoral system that heavily favors Republicans. This looks to me like a flaw in the system.

Electoral reform is needed badly in this country. I don’t think most people here realize how screwed up this really is. We don’t need this contrived 18th century electoral system in this modern age when everyone has the ability to vote and have their votes counted. Comparing our system to the skewed Hong Kong democracy reveals a striking similarity in how the systems have a built-in bias towards a particular party.

My Favorite Mac OS X Apps

What are your favorite/essential apps? This game keeps coming around every so often, and now’s a good time to play since I’m ludicrously busy with multiple design projects and am making full use of every scrap of the 1.25 GB of RAM my PowerBook has. I even saw my first low memory alert yesterday.

Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004

This version of Dreamweaver features full Unicode support, excellent standards support for technologies such as XHTML and CSS, and has excellent server behaviors built in to speed up database-driven website development. My favorite all-around productivity tool for writing code for the web.

CSSEdit

This little app has proven itself very handy when having to edit existing complex CSS stylesheets to fit a certain theme. I usually use Dreamweaver to code CSS from scratch, but CSSEdit is awesome for showing a huge array of existing style previews and letting you make quick modifications with ease. I have this program set as my default CSS editor in Dreamweaver.

BBEdit 8

Since it’s all about the code, BBEdit is an essential tool for any web developer. While Dreamweaver has a great coding environment, sometimes you need that fine-grained control and text manipulation power that only BBEdit provides. BBEdit integrates beautifully with Dreamweaver, Interarchy, and MacSFTP.

Interarchy

Interarchy is the name of what used to be called Anarchie, which was a popular FTP tool for the earlier Mac operating system versions. When the program first got it’s name change and Mac OS X compatibility, it left much to be desired. But as time went on and feedback poured in, these guys have turned it into an awesome FTP and SFTP client. The tool features a very Mac OS X interface complete with column view. The FTP/SFTP disk feature lets you mount a local mirror version of a remote directory and it keeps itself in sync – a real productivity enhancement if you find Dreamweaver’s FTP capabilities to be a bit slow and you need to keep working.

MacSFTP

MacSFTP is a no-frills graphic SSH client for Mac OS X. It just works and works fast.

Firefox

A better web browser. Well mostly. I haven’t made the switch to it from Safari yet, but it makes a great second browser. Additionally, I’ve found some of the tools for Firefox to be indispensable, such as the Web Developer extension.

Microsoft Entourage X 2004

The new version of Entourage from Microsoft features S/MIME support. The overall tool itself is the best way I know how to keep track of my messages, tasks, appointments, and contacts. I had flirted with switching to Mail/iCal for a while, but that setup just isn’t quite as sophisticated as what I need to manage my web design business.

NetNewsWire Lite

This is still my favorite RSS subscription manager.

Macromedia Contribute 3

I use this tool more and more often lately to provide content management functionality to my web design clients without letting them break my design. The Mac version works with .Mac subscriptions.

Macromedia Fireworks MX 2004

This program is the best tool for the task of editing graphics for the web.

Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign

These are essentials for graphic design. I find Illustrator to be my favorite vector graphics program. Photoshop has helped me sort through hundreds of scans of old and deteriorating negative film shots to make beautiful pictures. And I have long abandoned QuarkXPress for Adobe InDesign as my page layout tool of choice.

MYOB AccountEdge

I do all my business accounting through this thing. It has a nice time billing feature with a stop clock so I can bill my clients to the minute with ease.

PGP

Don’t send your emails as postcards where anyone can read ’em. Stick ’em in an envelope. PGP makes that envelope out of solid forged steel that is six meters thick.

Harmony Assistant

I love that this music scoring application is only $70. It is quite good when compared to Sibelius and Finale, at a fraction of the price. Sibelius is quite good too, if you can afford it.

Typography Meets Politics

Daily Kos :: TANG Typewriter Follies; Wingnuts Wrong

I love typography. I find the histories of certain fonts and trends in font design to be really fascinating. Since the invention of the Gutenberg Press, typography has been a core element of the human experience, and font development since then has been part science, mostly art, and always an interesting field. I am therefore especially intrigued when I see anything of this magnitude hit the headlines and get absorbed by the Blogosphere. The case of typography has the pundits of the right and the left barking over the infinitesimal intricacies of whether or not Bush’s military records are authentic.

Which of course is all nonsense. These records shouldn’t even be a campaign issue, because if it isn’t obvious to you by now that Bush has been the worst U.S. President in history, then you have not been paying attention to the daily news reports of the mess in Iraq, the failed economy, and continual favoritism towards religious wingnuts and corporate greed over the average American citizen or global stability.