Friday, July 26, 2013

So.cl and Google+


1.) I've edited this post to give more word about So.cl, or Socl, a social networking site operated by Microsoft FUSE Labs. I have been digging this immensely. Here is my Ed Luhrs profile -

http://www.so.cl/#/profile/Ed-Luhrs

You'll see a I made a series of collages and one video party so far. That's part of what you can do there. The collages in particular are a brilliant idea. Users collect a combination of photos, news, links, or videos into a collage and share it. Other users can view the collage and "riff" on it. For example, if one user makes a collage of local breweries, another user can respond with his or her own favorite kinds of beer.

You can sign in to the site via Facebook or a Microsoft e-mail account. Go try it - the more who join in, the more creative it gets. Unlike Tumblr, each of the collages and video parties has a comments section that allows readers to add some discussion. Posts can also be added to collections organized by topic.

2.) I am also starting to become fond of Google Plus (aka Google+).


Here is yet another Ed Luhrs profile -

https://plus.google.com/104862587275485346179/

Such a warm address. But I got to say the design of the site is really appealing now. I am trying to figure out what to use it for - maybe literary stuff, like sharing favorite poems every few days... or some of my own writing. Ukulele-related links aren't bad to share either. The profile has a tab for links to my YouTube uploads. Everything looks nice. If I do post more to Google+, I'll make a lot of the posts public.

So there it is, social networking. Facebook is still my main contact point with people I'm close with (and email and the phone too of course). All the rest of this is just cyber-sharing, which I suppose has its place. I use my angusdegraosta Twitter just to bookmark sites to share later on Facebook. Now I guess I can make Google+ something like my public Facebook profile. I don't know. Anyway, add me to your circles if you like.

3.) Microsoft and Google... the great battle between the two companies is still waging. Why take sides? Do what works for you. (But check out So.cl!)

Cheers,
Angus

Friday, July 19, 2013

Windows Phone and the Lumia 920


In the next few days I plan to add some random thoughts on Windows Phone 8 and the Nokia Lumia 920. Right now I'm doing laundry, getting ready to eat, having some decent wine. So I'll add more to this post later. Meanwhile, above is a photo of the lock screen and a colorful part of my start screen.

All right I'm back. Now here is a blue theme -


Two days passed, and you see I have notifications! This implies a rich and satisfying existence. Actually, I should be preparing; I'm performing at that Barn event tonight. Instead, I'm writing about Windows Phone (WP). I have a few things to say here.

If you don't like the design, use another platform. If you want to complain about its shortcomings, go Android. Go iPhone. For my part, I have been captivated with the design aesthetic of WP for quite some time now, first with the 900 and now with the 920.

Nokia builds tanks for phones. When the 920 came out, critics like Sam Biddle at Gizmodo were complaining about the weight. If you are worried about that, you should go buy a lighter phone. But you will also need to find a case. Many phones are fragile. You can hammer nails with a Nokia. For my part, I do not find the 920 bulky or heavy at all. Sturdy is the word. I got a thin black rubber Nokia case regardless, because it gives the phone good grip. It isn't noticeable - hardly changes the shape of the device.

Next, I give HUGE thumbs up to the dedicated camera button on all models of WP, including of course the awesome photo/video-taking 920. No one can find fault with a dedicated camera button. It is the single greatest feature of all, because who the hell wants to tap a touch screen to take a picture?

Obviously, tens of millions in the United States alone. Look on the NYC subways. iPhone iPhone iPhone Galaxy Droid iPhone. I have only met TWO people in the past few months who use WP.  

Several factors contribute to this. I don't care to talk about them. If you -



Sorry. Damn commercial breaks without warning. The price we pay. What was I saying about cultural indoctrination? Probably nothing. So where was I? Ah yes, US carrier support. It is downright disgusting. WP and Nokia have a harder time here than other parts of the world. Even so, I believe WP is gaining ground slowly and sustainably, despite the insistence of certain tech bloggers whose $$$ is funded by other platforms. 

Nokia has comprehensive, effective GPS navigation, and it is getting better. HERE Drive + is a gem with the recent updates.

Shortcomings? There are plenty. Big tiles imply simplicity, but the People Hub is convoluted (great Facebook and Twitter integration though). The volume control and vibrate are still weird. On the 920 the placement of the search button is annoying. Other observations can be found at Windows Phone Central and reddit.

Why should you buy WP? That is not for me to say. You are an adult: find what works for you. All I am saying is if you followed the crowd and got something else, and are now regretting it, think about that a little. 

Thomas Merton, who was a Cistercian monk but a damn good social critic, once said Americans wouldn't want to be caught dead using the wrong brand of toothpaste. He was criticizing corporate image and commercials and the sheepishness of the masses and all that goes with it. In smart phone world, you've got the same thing - people following the crowd. 

Some of the crowd follow the critics. Some critics still bitch about the amount of WP apps. Please... there are plenty. Great imaging apps, news feeds, social integration etc. You'll find what you need. 

I am glad WP isn't the only phone in the world. Diversity is good! If all phones had tiles, that would be boring. But check out how those tiles update. I dig that. That's my idea of notification. I am never bored with my own tiles. I find them fascinating... and they lead to visually stunning apps.

Photography? Here is a night photo of Avery Fisher Hall I took with the 920 -


And a video I took of a dance performance earlier that day -



In order to find how it all works for yourself, you need to pick up a Nokia or an HTC 8X (also a great device and thin and light). Make the Best Buy rep take one out of the box if the phones aren't on display (they often aren't, which Microsoft needs to address). Try the phones yourself. That is how I got hooked.

When I first began with the 900 I was wondering which Android to get next. I investigated the Lumia just for fun, because I liked Nokia. (Theirs was the second cell phone I ever got - great tiny black and white screened device back in the day.) Anyway, oddly enough the Lumia 900 was on display at Best Buy (which I have never seen since!!!), and within minutes of playing with it, I decided this is exactly what I want next - and that was 7.5, no where near as cool as 8 (and the 7.8 update for the 900.)

Now the 920 does what it does oh so well. Nokia is always on top of meaningful updates to their software. Battery life is easy to manage in settings. Very good navigation. Great pictures and awesome video. The Microsoft Office and SkyDrive integration? Out of this world. I use the Office app for my work at a community college and also at poetry readings if I don't have something printed on paper. 

I'd like more people using WP - ten, fifteen percent of the market sounds like a start. I think that most definitely can happen. There are shortcomings to the platform, yes. Some will be addressed by the 8.1 update in 2014. Knowing Microsoft, they will make very subtle changes. (Stuff like Rooms will get an update though. Golly... wow.) As it is now though, the OS is brilliant - with the Swiss graphic design concepts and all. There is plenty of room for growth here. The phone you get now will receive good updates, whatever the little grumbles I mention.

And Nokia? Nokia makes absolutely frigging great phones. I am sorry. There is no nicer way to say it.

Cheers,
Angus

P.S.: Here is a photo of Argyle Lake, Babylon I took with the Lumia 900 - similar to the kind of daytime photos the 920 would take -


P.P.S.: Dear AT&T, Please continue to improve LTE reception on Long Island, especially in the weaker spots along the south shore in Suffolk County. Thanks!

P.P.P.S.: I put a review on Amazon - go here and look for Ed Luhrs, who again is in fact Angus himself.