Thursday, April 17, 2014

Goodbye, iPhone

Last weekend, I got a new smartphone.

I hadn't meant to swap up my phone so soon, had meant to replace it in June. I also hadn't made up my mind about what phone I wanted. Did I want to upgrade to the latest iPhone? Did I want to move over to Android? How about those Windows Phones?

I'm never tied to a brand. I am loyal to no corporation. I own a Windows PC and an iPad. My laptop is made by HP and I hook it up to an LG monitor. The TVs in my house are Insignia and Samsung. I shoot photos with my Nikon DSLR and my Canon compact cameras. My cars have been Pontiac, Chevy, Toyota, Datsun, Honda, and Ford.

I have coffee apps for Starbucks and Bridgehead.

The only issue I had with moving away from Apple for my smartphone was that I would lose some of the apps upon which I have come to rely. My favourite app for cycling, Cyclemeter, is available for Apple products only. Same goes for Tweetbot, which is what I use for mobile tweeting. HootSuite, which I also use (though, I really use it on my laptop), is only available for iPhone and Android.

In breaking with Apple, I thought it might be best to go with a Windows Phone because I feel it will be easier to integrate with my home computer. And while I'm not crazy about the tiles for Windows 8 on my laptop, I liked the ease of use on the smartphone.

The next major factor for choosing a new phone was the price. My provider was offering the Nokia Lumia 625, with Windows 8, for free, on a two-year contract (contracts don't bother me, especially since I was going to unlock my old iPhone). For an iPhone 5s, under the same contract, it would cost more than $400.

I went for the Windows Phone.

That is to say, I'm testing it. I understand that this is a pretty basic smartphone, but my needs are simple. I want to be less reliant on my device. I found that I couldn't walk away from my iPhone, that I was on it all the time. I was addicted. So far, with my new device, I've been on it only when I've been customizing it and restoring some of the apps that are still available (I almost freaked out when I learned that the Starbucks app is not supported, but settled down when I found the Bridgehead app).

I have 15 days to decide if I like it. And so far, there are things I like, other things I don't like. I like the ease of navigation. I'm not planning to load up the device with tons of apps; just the "essentials" (my social-media apps, communication apps, note-keeping tools, and photo-related apps). No games. I love how I can scroll to the tiles that I've set up and quickly access the apps I need.

I like the size of the screen. With my failing vision and my constant forgetting of my glasses, this screen is much easier to read than my iPhone.

I like how I don't have to deal with the controlling and un-intuitive iTunes for setting up my music. I'm still dealing with a learning curve with the Windows Phone app, which lets me quickly drag and drop the tunes I want, but I'm getting the hang of it and it's much faster.

I like the integration of many of my social-media tools, such that I can check Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail in one place. Awesome.

I like how the phone knows when I'm getting in my car or van, and the Bluetooth automatically syncs and shuts off all apps, except for the phone and text messages. And it will read my texts to me through the hands-free speakers. My old iPhone 4 didn't do that.

But I do have a make-or-break issue with the phone: the other day, when I plugged my Windows Phone into the USB port in my car, I expected it to sync and respond to the voice-command system of the car (my car's console runs on Microsoft, after all). But the car failed to detect the device through the USB connection (it did connect with the phone, through Bluetooth). When I wanted to listen to my music, it only played through Bluetooth, only played one song, and the sound quality was poor.

I love my music. When I'm not listening to CBC Radio while driving, I'm cranking my tunes. This is a deal-breaker.

I have reconfigured my music on the phone and will try it again. But I'm now doubtful.

Also, I listen to my music through my device when I'm at work. On my iPhone, I would use my noise-cancelling headphones. But, because of how the headphone jack is angled, I have to remove the phone from the protective case to get the jack all the way in. And some of the jack is exposed. 

I don't like that.

I don't know if I will keep the device. If I don't, I can try an Android phone. I'm eyeing the Samsung S4.


Update: in the time since I wrote and sent this post to publish, I have replaced the Windows Phone with an Android. I'm now test driving a Samsung Galaxy S4. I would still love to hear your thoughts on your smartphone pick.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blog Out Loud meets Writers Fest

I've always wanted to do a reading at the Ottawa International Writers Festival. For me, it would be a way to validate myself as a bona fide writer.

This year, I will be doing just that.

While I won't be reading from my novel, Songsaengnim: A Korea Diary, I will be reading one of my Brown Knowser blog posts. You see, the writers festival has teamed up with Blog Out Loud, the annual Ottawa event where local bloggers deliver a post orally. This will be my third time at the event and I can't wait to meet new bloggers and reacquaint myself with bloggers I haven't seen in a while.

Have you ever wanted to meet some of the Ottawa-area bloggers? Have you wanted to be a blogger yourself but haven't known where to start? Come out to Blog Out Loud for the best opportunity to do both. Ten bloggers will read their favourite post of the past year (or so). Come prepared to laugh, cry, and think. Photo bloggers will also display their favourite photographs.

The event is on Tuesday, April 29, at 6:30, at the Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar Street (at Elgin). And, best of all, it's FREE!

I hope to see you there.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Music Monday: Guttersnipe

I bought a new smartphone on the weekend.

It was a totally spontaneous act: I wasn't expecting to update my current phone for a couple of months, as I'm on a contract and it doesn't expire until mid-June. But I've been considering moving from an iPhone to either an Android device or a Windows phone, so I just went to see what was out there.

The salesperson at my cell-phone provider, upon looking at my account, told me he'd allow me to get out of my contract right away, with no penalty. I told him that I had intended to unlock my iPhone and give it to my daughter: she would get a basic monthly plan, with no data. I would then get a newer phone.

He said, "Let's do it." So, I did it.

My new phone is not an iPhone, so I'm starting over. While I was able to seamlessly transfer my contact information to the new phone and gain access to photos through the Cloud, I have to rebuild my music files.

And, because I could pick and choose new songs, get rid of ones I've grown tired of (and finally get rid of the ones I downloaded through the iCloud and didn't like, but could not delete), I had to think about what I wanted.

One of the songs that I acquired as a free iTunes download through Starbucks moved almost immediately to my new phone.

It's Guttersnipe, by Bhi Bhiman.

I like the steady acoustic guitar and driving vocals. The song is also driving, and it's no surprise to find that it's one of my favourite songs to play while I'm driving, especially at night.

Give it a listen.

Bhi Bhiman "Guttersnipe" from Bhi Bhiman on Vimeo.

Happy Monday!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Photo Friday: The Other Shot

When I took pictures of the Canadian Bank Note Company last weekend, in preparation for Where In Ottawa, I wondered if the crest would give it away.

It didn't.

The beaver is one of our national symbols and those flat-tailed critters can be found all over the city.

It was the first clue that gave it away, according to this month's winner, Joe Boughner.


The clue was simple: "Make a note of this place." But with that one clue, Joe was able to guess the Canadian Bank Note Company.

I think he lives in the area.

When I chose the closeup of the building's crest, I thought someone may have paid attention to it. But I almost used a different shot, one that shoes a clock that protrudes from the right-hand side of the building, as you face it.

It's not easily seen.

Which means that you would have had to rely on many clues to get the answer to the challenge.

How about you, Joe? Would the clue have helped you with the first clue? (Congratulations, by the way, buddy. I hope you enjoy your dinner at Mill Street.)

For next month, the gloves are off. The challenge will be the hardest yet. Are you ready? Also, I'm looking to see if any Ottawa-area business would like to offer a giveaway for the next Where In Ottawa. Any takers?

Happy Friday!