Everyone will be happy so long as Snake really is part of this.
In fact, it’ll be worth buying really just for that.
Everyone will be happy so long as Snake really is part of this.
In fact, it’ll be worth buying really just for that.
Scientists have successfully detected gravity waves, 100 years after Einstein predicted them.
“It would have been wonderful to watch Einstein’s face had we been able to tell him.”
#science #gravity #future
My philosophy behind this review is not just to compare the phone directly with other Android or iOS handsets, but also to focus on what it offers, independently of those other platforms.
In other words, for what this phone and OS provide, how well do they do it..?
I ordered through ZTE’s UK-based ebay site. The phone was dispatched via the 48hr Royal Mail delivery service, which is where £5 of my £38.99 spend was allocated. This was pleasing and does confer a certain progressive philosophy of ZTE. It also means the handset + accessories cost only £33.99 including UK VAT (sales tax), which I find astonishing.
The packaging was robust and served its purpose. After removing the colourful box from its mail bag, and opening it up, there I was greeted with the phone in somewhat cheapish-looking celophane. Nevertheless, unwrapping indeed exposed the Open C as expected – not bright orange or blue, but dark and moody black – the way I like my phones!
Although I was expecting the handset to feel cheap, I was actually pleasantly surprised. For its price, it feels very reasonable. The materials – including the screen – naturally are plastic, but given the feel of the plastic one expects from a stock Samsung Galaxy S4 (that is, not premium!), the Open C had a feel to it more like that of a pebble, with its soft-touch almost rubberised plastic rear cover.
Attractive design features include the recessed ear speaker, which sits snuggly atop of the screen, and the subtle, angular curvature towards the base of the phone, which meets the centred microUSB socket smoothly and seamlessly. An iPhone 4 user I handed the device to commented on how nice in the hand it felt, and I must agree – it’s very comfortable to hold.
The compact charger and USB cable are standard fare, but the included earphones/headset are distinctly “cheap”. In this case, you get what you pay for, but this is a minor thing.
Taking the rear cover off the phone revealed the battery compartment, SIM slot and microSD slot. The battery was a very snug fit and the SIM slipped into the slot just fine. The microSD card slot wasn’t quite as reassuring, and I felt the need to double-check I’d inserted the card far enough. There are no spring-clip card slots on this phone; a clear cost-saver. But cover back on, this was no issue, and the cover feels integral to the phone once back in place.
The software set-up feature of the phone has been well covered elsewhere, so I won’t go into that here. One annoyance was that the phone couldn’t pick up my local time from any network I connected to, which I found unusual and slightly inconvenient. The UI to change date and time was slightly unintuitive but the task was soon accomplished.
Boot-up and running through this “wizard” was relatively quick and the phone was ready to use within a few minutes.
The ThunderSync Add-On for Thunderbird can export your addressbook as VCard files. Although on first attempt these files were not recognised to import into the phonebook, trying again – once the phone’s set-up process had completed – yielded success. 241 VCard contacts imported perfectly.
The Import from SIM card function worked perfectly, as did the Import from Facebook feature. I didn’t try the Import from GMail feature, as I don’t store contacts there.
Considering these features are what the phone offers, I would say that it manages these tasks reasonably well, although the out-of-the-box experience was not quite as smooth as possible. It is a shame that CardDAV support wasn’t baked in too, but at least this is work in progress.
A feature recognised by some Android users, and as a further plus, the Link Contacts feature allows you link an imported phonebook contact with a social media contact. In addition, the Find duplicate contacts feature allows you to easily scour the phonebook and delete or merge any identified duplicate contact records, as desired.
In fairly quick time, I was up and running with all my contacts in the address book.
Getting music, videos and photos on to the device is painless, thanks to its straightforward USB Mass Storage support. As an Android and Linux user, I was appalled when this transfer protocol was eschewed in favour of MTP on my Galaxy S4 – a “feature” of Jellybean+.
But back to the Open C. Controlling whether the phone’s memory or the storage card is exposed to the USB host (i.e. the connected computer) was achieved through the settings on the phone. Once connected, media transfers were effortless.
After disconnecting, simply opening up the Music player, Video player or Gallery displayed my media more or less as expected, although a 1080p mp4 video shot on the aforementioned S4 and transferred over, failed to materialise in the Video player’s file list.
Somewhat annoyingly, album art from transferred music also appears in the gallery, which seems a bit strange. To make matters worse, this same album art was not visible in the Music player for the albums to which it corresponded. Instead, I was greeted with placeholder patterns. I’m not sure how this problem is avoided, but it’s far from perfect.
In software development, an oft-accepted maxim is that your version 1 release is basically a proof of concept. Version 2 is where you throw in lots of features, but version 3 is where it all starts knitting together well.
Given that this handset runs version 1.3, the FirefoxOS experience is acceptable. It won’t set the world on fire (no pun intended), but the key features are here – some better than others.
Coming from a Galaxy S4, I was pleased with how responsive the Open C is. On the Samsung, Touchwiz (the user interface layer on top of Android) does a wonderful job of slowing things down and adding a “treacle factor”, generally incurring an extra second or so for each major application switch.
Surprisingly, the Open C felt more nimble and less weighed-down than the S4 once I had opened 8-10 different apps on each. Granted, the apps on the S4 are more feature-rich, running on a more feature-rich operating system – and I do have quite a number of them. But it’s more powerful hardware, you always pay by way of a performance penalty for complexity in software.
On the Open C, swiping across from one home screen to another was fluid and unencumbered, and opening apps was reassuringly nippy too. Nothing felt laggy and the biggest challenge was getting used to not having a back button.
There have been many comparisons with Android here and elsewhere, but I would argue that this is a testament to the capability of FirefoxOS. The Settings area provides a reasonable number of options, from power-saving, to connectivity, SIM management and security.
Unlike Android, I didn’t feel as though options we so nested to the nth degree that I couldn’t find what I needed, quickly. This was refreshing and gave me pause for thought over just how large and burdened Android is now by its own capability. This is, after all, a phone and Mozilla have fundamentally recognised this.
Sadly, one omission is Firefox Sync. I was surprised that, being a FirefoxOS device, it doesn’t support Sync with Mozilla’s servers out-of-the-box. What a shame – this will be inconvenient to some, and argues in favour of using Firefox (the browser) on Android, instead.
Another lamentable omission is a file browser. I couldn’t see any way to browse the local file system. Hopefully this will arrive in version 2 or beyond.
Where it does pick up the bat somewhat is with the Notes app, which seemingly offers Evernote syncing. Although I’m not an Evernote fan, I know that many people are, and this may sway some opinions. Along with CalDAV calendar sync, it goes some way towards being “cloud-friendly”, which is a nice touch for a browser-based OS… 😉
The screen is where I have seen some criticism being levelled. Let’s clear this up: having become accustomed one of the highest-resolution (441dpi), most saturated colour displays (AMOLED) on the market, I am not offended at all by the Open C’s screen. In fact, quite the opposite. I was surprised how well text seemed to render on it and colour saturation seems average, which in my book is actually a good thing (not too saturated or too pale). At a claimed 233dpi, the resolution was workable, and the viewing angles from sides and from underneath were ok too. Viewing the screen from the phone’s top, downwards, was where it all went to hell though – everything neg’d out quite quickly.
An often-overlooked area of smartphones is sound quality, via the headphone jack. Having transferred a random selection of OGG music files, I selected John Williams’ Jurassic Park theme. During listening I was very surprised that the Open C managed to dig up elements of a double bass (string instrument) in the performance. By comparison, the S4 couldn’t dredge up this particular detail.
Unfortunately, the rest of the musical quality was middling at best – brass sounded honky, strings somewhat electric and the combination of these plus percussion was a bit brash and ringing. When listening to the same track on the S4, I was greeted with a much purer, deeper soundstage with individual instruments identifiable and well placed. Timbre on the S4 was markedly improved over the Open C and generally the listening experience was superior. But still, it didn’t give me that low bass…
Whether the Firefox OS’s codec is sufficiently different to Android or whether this is hardware is, unfortunately, guess work. For general listening, say on the train for an hour, the Open C will be plenty good enough. It’s just not the last word in subtlety.
The SIM I use for testing doesn’t have a data allowance, so I have switched off mobile data. This will have had a positive effect on battery life, but a negative effect on a fair test.
Still, despite not using the phone as heavily as normal in that regard, during testing and initial set up the screen has been on a fair bit, with WiFi connected at all times. I have seen nearly two days’ usage before needing its first re-charge, so that is encouraging. I was surprised, too, that after a night on flight-mode, the battery charge level had not shifted a dime, from 66%.
One minor issue though, is that at 10% battery remaining, the phone suddenly died and got stuck in a reboot cycle. This suggests the battery life/remaining isn’t possibly quite as accurate as it could be, although it could be argued that on its first charge, FirefoxOS hadn’t accumulated enough battery metrics to accurately predict exhaustion.
This is a tricky area to judge. This is a £34 phone. It’s difficult to buy a decent point-and-shoot camera for that price, so how does one judge this fairly?
The 3.2MP sensor is mounted on the back of the phone near the top, in the customary location. There is no flash or manual/autofocus, and video recording is a rather old-school 352×288@15fps (according to GSMArena). My testing seemed to concur with that. Photos are stored as JPEGs, unless edited (in which case, for some reason they are then stored as PNGs), and videos as 3GP files.
In low-light settings, you can only expect average quality at best. Still, to the naked eye, colour accuracy could have been a lot worse.
The included software does allow some recolouring to help adjust pictures, and the Aviary app is easy to download and install, for more comprehensive off-line photo editing.
Finally, the buttons themselves. In general use they don’t feel flimsy and give sufficient feedback. But I do question the positioning of the volume rocker and wonder if it is on the wrong side? I tend to be ambidextrous when using my phone – it goes to either ear indiscriminately. I suppose the volume rocker has to be on one side – the right hand side it is!
Considering this is a £34 phone…
Comparing to flagship smartphones is unwarranted. It is not a flagship but an entry-level phone – so comparisons should be with Android phones at same price!
I was pleasantly surprised by the Open C. The phone hardware, at this price, is exceptionally good value. No, unless you’re incredibly limber it will not allow you to post selfies to Facebook (with no front-facing camera present), but is this a major thing?
Likewise, it’s a fairly “lightweight” experience all round: apps are less functional than their Android or iOS brethren, and the OS is less “tweakable”. But as a result, it’s swift and responsive in use, and the vast majority of software included is stable and acceptable.
As an entry-level smartphone, for £34 + £5 p&p, I find it hard to fault. If it weren’t for the stellar camera on my S4, I might consider switching to it.
You probably got here because you Googled. I did 😉
As an eclipse user, occasionally you get greeted with error messages which are tricky to resolve. The error, “Resource ‘X’ is out of sync with file system” made me scratch my head for a little while – as far as I could tell, it wasn’t!
There can be a few causes of this:
To prevent this dialog appearing, as far as possible, visit Window > Preferences > General > Workspace and select:
The combination of ensuring tight controls on renaming files and directories, together with automating detection of this as much as possible, will lead to a smoother experience with this great integrated development environment.
I opted to do this. My partitions were set up thus:
$ sudo lvs LV VG Attr LSize home t420 -wi-ao-- 438.10g root t420 -wi-ao-- 332.00m swap_1 t420 -wi-ao-- 15.50g <-- way too big! tmp t420 -wi-ao-- 369.00m <-- way too small! usr t420 -wi-ao-- 8.38g var t420 -wi-ao-- 2.79g
This was not working for me. Doing backups using the easy backintime was proving difficult, as backintime relied on more /tmp space than I had.
As I rarely touched swap space, I figured that 15.5G was probably a bit large for my needs. Thankfully, nabbing swap space and reusing it for the filesystem is easy as pie – and all achieved with no downtime.
Here’s the sequence I typed into a terminal. First, turn off swap:
$ sudo swapoff -a
Then resize the swap volume:
$ sudo lvresize -L 8GB /dev/t420/swap_1
Now re-format the swap partition before using it again:
$ sudo mkswap /dev/t420/swap_1
Then turn swap availability back on:
$ sudo swapon -a
And finally, resize the /tmp partition on-the-fly:
$ sudo lvextend -L +1G -r -v /dev/t420/tmp
Because the LVM tools have semi-awareness with respect to filesystems, the resizing of /tmp (using the -r switch) was achieved on-line – no need to log out, reboot or anything else. The verbose (-v) switch allowed me to see everything that was happening.
The new partition sizing is:
LV VG Attr LSize home t420 -wi-ao-- 438.10g root t420 -wi-ao-- 332.00m swap_1 t420 -wi-ao-- 8.00g tmp t420 -wi-ao-- 1.37g usr t420 -wi-ao-- 8.38g var t420 -wi-ao-- 2.79g
I also have 6.5G spare on the hard drive now, in case it’s needed by another logical volume.
LVM rocks for easy filesystem management! Try it out!
I have a Thinkpad T420 – now 2 years, 6 months old. Started to notice the fan seemed a bit noisier than normal and the CPU was reporting a temperature of around 60deg C, even when the machine wasn’t doing very much.
As suspected, 30 months of usage without a clean is a little bit too long. Cleaning a laptop fan can be fairly straightforward – this took just two screw removals. Of course, always seek advice and YouTube videos if you need help to do yours! 😉
After the procedure, my laptop runs about 10-15deg C cooler and is much quieter.
(Warning, images are grotesque scenes of mostly human skin. Some microscopic lifeforms may have been “damaged” during the making of these images…)
Naughtyware. No, not that sort.
It looks like some app development may be taking a dark turn. Since ebay has released a new version of its app, the old version no longer works on my phone.
I start it, it crashes and then it kindly notifies me that a new version of the app is available.
The new version requires the location privilege, where the old location did not, and now to use ebay on my phone I have little choice but to install it and switch off location services while I use it.
Is it me… or is there an inordinate number of Google ads – I mean "posts", in the stream currently? Wow.
“Fun” with Windows 7
So.. been having lots of fun with Windows 7 this morning. Got hold of a refurb PC for doing some client system testing.
Win7 install completes and there are 3 updates to do. Start the update process and two modal windows open up behind the update window, waiting for me to do something. Have to click on task bar’s flashing icon to bring windows to the front. On Windows. Windows.
Anyway, I give the “OK” for Microsoft Security Essentials to install and it does, then starts to run an update within itself (!). Due (perhaps) to the length of time of this process on this ageing P4, the main MS software updater kicks out another window saying “The application Microsoft Essentials may not have installed correctly.”
I’m sorry. “May“??
Choices are “That’s ok, it installed correctly” or “Reinstall this application”. Except the application is installed and already running an update. Err…? So.. how do I know it has installed correctly? Because it’s running…(?!) (Does the computer not know??!)
With 20 minutes of Windows use this morning, I can’t believe just how bad things are on the other side of the fence. Someone fresh to Windows will see all this flashing icons, hidden windows, alerts, worries… and not have the first clue what to do.
Someone close to me was one of those unfortunate souls. She’d persisted for about a year with her Win7 machine and was constantly anxious with its scaremongering. Hardly a productive environment.
Enough was enough. I rocked and rolled along with one mainstream distribution after another, since I started using GNU/Linux in 2000. It was time for something else. Something that wasn’t trying to be everything.
Even I was slightly surprised then that, knowing so little about it, I chose Slackware Linux as my next distribution.
Here are some rough-and-ready notes from my installation, in case they’re of help to anyone else.
To install on an encrypted drive, I followed Juan Valencia’s blog:
Apart from the natural modifications expected, i.e. kernel versions, the instructions were completely sound and the installation proceeded without issue.
One LILO was installed, and the system rebooted, I had two issues:
To resolve these issues, I found the “IT Debris” blog (amusingly sub-titled: “Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect”):
To the command line (mkinitrd -c -k 3.2.7 -f ext4 -r /dev/vgl01/lvroot -m usb-storage:ehci-hcd:usbhid:jbd2:mbcache:ext4 -C /dev/sda2 -L -u -o /boot/initrd.gz) I added the flag “-l uk”, which loaded the UK keymap by default into the initial ramdisk.
Not forgetting to run lilo afterwards!
LILO’s keymap was also set to US. I decided to take a look at this. While the documentation is pretty comprehensive, the instructions for this particular issue were met with a slight problem – the file locations and names had changed in the 13 years since the documentation was written.
keytab-lilo is the recommended tool for updating LILO’s keyboard mapping.
keytab-lilo expects a US map and the other map (in your language, that you want to use) in order to create a mapping between them.
According to the docs, as referenced in /usr/share/doc/LILO…/doc/README’s web link, keytab-lilo expected keyboard mappigns in /usr/lib/kbd. This directoty doesn’t exist, so I did this:
mkdir usr/lib/kbd mkdir /usr/lib/kbd/keytables
cp /usr/share/kbd/keymaps/i386/qwerty/uk.map.gz . cp /usr/share/kbd/keymaps/i386/qwerty/us.map.gz . gunzip uk.map.gz gunzip us.map.gz
mv us.map us.kmap mv uk.map uk.kmap
keytab-lilo uk > /boot/uk.ktl
.. FINALLY, edit /etc/lilo.conf in your favourite editor:
emacs -nw /etc/lilo.conf
boot = /dev/sda keytable = /boot/uk.ktl
NOTE: the remapping doesn’t seem perfect. The hash (“pound” in en_US) symbol (#) is mapped to two keys and the UK pound (£) symbol is not mapped to number 3 at all, but in the main this is a usable UK mapping for me.
AND.. THE SYSTEM KEYMAP!
Edit /etc/profile.d/lang.sh, adjusting from en_US to en_GB
After this, there were a couple of issues which I wanted to resolve. When using Ubuntu, I recall there was an issue with using a ThinkPad T420 (my machine) and possibly other ThinkPads with audio output via the docking station‘s analogue port. The issue was also addressed in a Ubuntu forum post.
I created /etc/modprobe.d/t420.conf and added the following:
options snd-hda-intel model=thinkpad
options iwlcore led_mode=1
.. then rebooted. Perfect – audio came up as expected. The flashing LED still appears to be flashing, though, so this requires further investigation.
INSTALL GOOGLE CHROME
(+ hangouts plugin): http://slackblogs.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/videovoice-chat-works-in-slackware.html
TERMINAL – modifying the prompt
A long trip arouind the documentation and understanding how bash is invoked made me realise that the easiest thing to do is go into XFCE’s Terminal preferences, and tick the box that says “Run Command as login shell”. Then I get my nice prompt with my login, hostname and path instead of just “sh-4.20$”.
These are my first steps at installing and configuring Slackware Linux. So far, so good. And not a single crash, which is what I expect from a sensible GNU/Linux distribution.