Monthly Archives: October 2011

My Trip Amnesia

Sometimes I forget we’re going to Iceland next year. We booked the tickets in August, we have decided on a tour group to book the accommodation and car rental through and I am spending less time researching on Trip Advisor or reading Icelandic news articles.

Then Gizmodo posts a time lapse video someone just released from their trip in June and I get all sorts of excited again and wish that May would get here faster.

Midnight Sun | Iceland from SCIENTIFANTASTIC on Vimeo.

There is still a lot to take care of before we leave, and right now I’m looking into travel insurance, specifically trip cancellation. There has been a lot of seismic activity in Iceland this summer and with regards to an eruption from Katla it’s a matter of when, not if. It would be a really big disappointment if we couldn’t make our trip because of flight interruptions over Iceland but so far AMA and American Express Travel don’t have coverage for such events prior to departure.

There is no point booking travel insurance until we reserve the car and accommodation from our tour operator, but it’s good to know what insurance options there are.

I am also starting to see what conversion rates are for our credit cards. Most of Iceland accepts payment by plastic so it wouldn’t make sense to carry more than a few thousand Icelandic kr√≥na. My American Express, BMO and CIBC flavor of credit cards all have a foreign currency conversion of 2.5%, and if you live on the card for two weeks paying for gas, meals and souvenirs 2.5% could significantly add up.

Some Capital One cards do not have foreign currency conversion charges so it may be worth looking into one just for the sole purpose of vacationing.

Even though our airfare has been booked for several months now I still subscribe to daily emails from Kayak alerting me of airfare cost. When the amount increased over $200 what we paid I felt pretty confident in our decision to buy early, and then the cost decreased, and then it rose…and then it decreased again. I really should stop receiving these messages (photo link) but it’s like a surprise every morning to see if the cost is up or down.

My Thoughts on Wind and Android

I have been using Android for a few weeks now and feel pretty comfortable in it, but there are some habits from iOS I haven’t been able to shake, and surprisingly they are related to typing.

My first week with Android had ups and downs. After a few days of suffering with the atrocious battery life of the LG Optimus 2X I decided to install CyanogenMod and accidentally installed the wrong ROM version. I used “LG Optimus 2X” instead of “T-Mobile G2X” and the phone wouldn’t boot and I was not able to access the recovery console.

I struggled to resolve this on my Parallels installation of Windows through my MacBook Pro for the better part of a day. When I troubleshot the issue on a proper Windows machine I undid my mistake in less than 15 minutes and within 30 I had the correct version of CyanogenMod installed and was back to customizing and installing applications.

Wind Mobile sells the phone as a “LG Optimus 2X” but it’s actually a T-Mobile variety called the “G2X” and their software isn’t interchangeable. I came as close to making the phone as inoperable as I would like. With that mess behind me I am like a kid in an elevator pushing buttons with all of the customization tweaks available.

I used the stock Optimus 2X software for a few days, liked the ability to use Swype as my keyboard of choice but that is all I miss after upgrading to CyanogenMod. I signed up for the Swype beta and installed Swype within CM7 but ran into some issues switching the keyboard over. The application would force close and it would never launch properly. Like most things on Android, it is possible to install something, but it requires a bit of legwork that I have yet to look into yet. A week after experiencing my initial issue I tried installing it again and now everything is perfect and have no reason to ever return to the stock ROM that shipped on the phone.

Wind
I have not left the Edmonton or Sherwood Park Wind coverage region yet (photo link) so whenever I’ve looked at my phone I have had reception. Even in my basement I get reception, an area Rogers wasn’t able to adequately cover. I rarely download anything over the cell network but when I do it blazes (SpeedTest results (photo link)). For the few calls I have made call quality has been good and Gord reported it sounded better than when he spoke to me over my iPhone.

Thus far I have no complaints with Wind, but the moment I spend a weekend at Lac la Biche or visit Dad in Millet I’ll lament not having coverage but for $29 a month it’s a sacrifice I can make.

I noticed I wasn’t receiving text messages on @gursky mentions via Twitter or SMS reminders for a Google Calendar event. I didn’t think much about this but under Mobile Setup for Google Calendar I noticed that Wind Mobile was missing from the drop down list (photo link). None of the other carriers listed would work so for the time being I am left without SMS alerts.

As the Wind Mobile network expands I can only hope that they become recognized and appear in the same drop down list as the big telecom companies in Canada.

Android
The learning curve is starting to plateau and while all touch operating systems probably behave the same way the naming convention and knowing what icons control what is something I’m still learning. If I read an article or a forum post explaining how to do something I won’t know where the person is referring to unless the explicitly explain each touch press they made to get there. Simply saying “edit the Application Drawer settings…” loses me.

It’s the small accomplishments where I understand the Android OS a little more that feel like the biggest gains. It was only a few days ago I learned how to precisely move the cursor when editing text. I would keep finger pressing the paragraph of text hoping to get the cursor into position when all I had to do was click and drag the indicator that appeared (photo link). With Apple I would hold down on the area of text I wanted to insert the cursor, wait for the Magnifying Glass (photo link) to appear, and then I would roll my finger left or right to place the cursor precisely. These are small accomplishments but slowly add up to being more comfortable with Android.

I think the biggest surprise I have encountered with Android is that if I don’t like how something operates I can modify the settings or install an alternate app that can achieve what I want. With the iPhone if I didn’t like the Calendar or Mail application I was at the mercy of Apple to release updates or venture into the Cydia aftermarket. In the Android Market the options are almost endless.

These infinite options have led to a few problems with the phone. Every application has a setting for notification and behavior, but those settings can be overridden elsewhere in Settings and figuring out which one is causing the application to not behave correctly can be a little annoying. Because I can have multiple applications for the same job I have found that this leads to the phone getting confused.

For instance, while listening to WinAmp I lock the phone but if I advance songs through the lock screen widget a different playlist begins playing and I have two songs going at the same time (and last.fm gets all sorts of confused (photo link)).

These will all be resolved in time, it’s just a matter of taking the effort to isolate the issue and remove the application. Android gives you the power to get into trouble but also allows you complete control to undo your mistake.

I miss the simplicity of iTunes and iPhone, I liked having a desktop application that I could control all information on my phone from. This was a nuisance if I wanted to sync my phone with a new album or add a new video and had to wait until I was back at my main computer. With Android if I want to add a new song I can do so from anywhere and it works. It’s really as simple and dragging the file onto the phone when it’s plugged into a computer (or set up wireless syncing if I was so inclined).

I never realized how used I got to “swipe horizontally to bring up a ‘delete’ toggle” (photo link) with iOS but I find myself doing that frequently with Android in Messaging or Email. It’s easy enough to delete something within Android but swiping across was such an elegant way of taking a shortcut to delete something. This wasn’t a feature I immediately noticed in iOS and it’s funny how those little features end up making the biggest difference.

I find myself missing badges on the application icon (photo link) that shows the number of outstanding/unread messages. This was necessary for games or emails and I really miss it. You can download notification applications for the Launcher of your choice but I have not found them to work reliably, and paying for something that feels like it should be available by default is a little backwards.

Plus, there isn’t a notification for all the applications I use so it would be a little wasted. The Android notification bar (photo link) at the top of the screen is nice, but with iOS 5 getting badges and their own notification bar I feel like I’m one step behind here as far as software is concerned.

Another gripe I have is that I wish there was a little consistency between applications. In iOS I would tap near the top and the application would scroll back up. I have found this to not be common in all Android equivalent applications. I hope this is something that will become available in the future because it was incredibly handy for browsing my Twitter stream or a long webpage.

Being able to send applications from the online marketplace to the device is a great feature. This is such a brilliant concept it makes locating and installing a lot of applications a breeze. Even if the phone isn’t physically connected to the computer it can still receive application installations (photo link), amazing!

Every few days I discover something else that I am missing from iOS and then I will Swype a message and forget all about it. I am surviving with Android and maybe in the distant future I’ll wonder how I ever survived without the little green robot.