Posted by: jjarmasz | December 11, 2011

Delaware Street Festival (better late than never)

Well this is so overdue that it’s almost embarrassing… but I wanted to post a few things about my hyper-local (as in, happening outside my front door) street festival that took place way back in September:

Poster for the Delaware Street Festival 2011

For some reason the last weeks of September seem to be the designated times for local street festivals in Toronto, perhaps because many get sponsorship from the Car Free Day (Sept 22nd this year), as was the case for the Delaware festival. So the festival is not unique, but it’s a lovely way for people like me who are new to the neighbourhood to start feeling like part of the community.

I don’t know how long this festival has been going for, but it was the second one I’ve been to. It had a great vibe. Lots of live music and kids activities, but also tie-ins to local groups and initiatives.

Live music at the Delaware Street Festival 2011

Live music at the Delaware Street Festival 2011

I particularly liked the hay bale and flower arrangements someone set up:

Hay bales and flowers

Hay bales and flowers

For history geeks like me, there were historical maps of the street and surrounding area:

Historic map of what is now Dovercourt Village (1884).

Historic map of what is now Dovercourt Village (1884). Note that Delaware Ave. was Cumberland, and the current Concord Ave. was called Lancaster.

The festival happened weeks before the provincial election. Thankfully the place was not crawling with politicians (I wonder how that happened!), but our local federal MP and erstwhile punk rocker, Andrew Cash, played an acoustic set (mostly labour songs). Political preferences aside, I like the fact that I am represented in Parliament by someone who can hold a tune!

Local Federal MP Andrew Cash.

Local Federal MP Andrew Cash singing at the Delaware Street Festival 2011.

The festival went well into the night, with a potluck under the stars and more live music.

Potluck on the street.

Potluck on the street, under the stars.

The music went on into the night.

The music went on into the night.

All in all, a very friendly and welcoming event. I look forward to the next one — and maybe I’ll even help get involved with the organizing committee!

Posted by: jjarmasz | October 21, 2011

So apparently this thing is real…

So apparently, according to Mobilesyrup.com, this ugly new BlackBerry is actually real:

Behold RIM's new BackBerry "Knight" -- egads! (Source: mobilesyrup.com)

To me, it looks a lot like this “educational” toy I had in the 1980s:

Dataman, antediluvian educational toy

Dataman, "educational" toy from my youth

Ah yes, Dataman, a toy that let me drill my basic arithmetic skills all while leaving me pining for some real video game action. Kinda sad, really.

Oh well, nice to know RIM is going back to the future for their design choices! Hope whoever buys this fugly piece of phone finds it more entertaining than Dataman was.

So it’s been roughly a week since I sent back the Nokia E7 that WOMWorld had graciously loaned me for a two week trial and review. I’ve waited a bit to write up my final thoughts on it, partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly because I wanted to wait a bit to see if it had that elusive X factor – did I miss it when it was gone?

Short answer: not really, almost not at all in fact! That is, not until I need to write a long-ish email or start collecting thoughts for a blog post. Then… I start looking at prices of E7’s and other physical qwerty-keyboard equipped smartphones on eBay.

Here’s a somewhat longer answer:
Like I said before, my main phone is another Nokia, the N8. Same OS (Symbian), so the main differences are the N8’s smaller screen size (3.5” compared to 4”), its superlative and much-beloved full-focus 12 MP camera (whereas the E7 only has an 8 MP EDoF or “full focus” camera), and the E7’s fantastic keyboard. I have to admit that I was somewhat prejudiced going into the two-week trial with the E7: I assumed that, in day-to-day stuff, I would much prefer the E7’s large screen and physical keyboard to the N8’s smaller, touch-screen-only form factor, but would be sorely disappointed by the E7’s camera when I tried to take pictures. And I was wondering which factor – keyboard vs camera – would win out in my mind.

Things didn’t quite turn out that way, though…

Much to my surprise, I found the E7’s camera to be more respectable than I imagined. There is not a shadow of a doubt that it is not as good as the N8’s masterpiece. But for casual snaps and photoblogging on the move (e.g., uploading pics to twitter), it was more than adequate. Yes, it fails in low light, and yes, it can’t take good close-ups. But the fact is that even the N8 can’t fully compete with a good single-lens reflex camera under those conditions (comes close, though). And the E7’s digital zoom on the camera does compensate – to a degree – for the poor close-up performance, as you can see on these shots:

On the ferry

Attempted close-up with the E7.

On the ferry

Using the E7's digital zoom to fake a close-up

So I found the camera to be less of a negative than I expected. And the keyboard and screen were just great, as I mentioned in my previous post about the E7. What really disappointed me about the E7, as I also said before, were the weight of the device, and the poor battery performance. Put together, they actually made me feel a little uncomfortable being out of the house or the office with it, away from a power supply and back-up phones. I almost felt like I had to hold it very gingerly when it was out of my pocket, perhaps because of its large size (I don’t have huge hands), even though it is built like a tank.

Going back to the N8 this past week, I also found that the larger screen and physical keyboard of the E7, while providing a great experience, were not better to the point that they outweighed the N8’s advantages. For my typical daily activities, the screen on the N8 is just fine, the device feels perfect in the hand or pocket, and its virtual landscape keyboard is quite adequate for my needs (in fact it’s one of my favourite virtual keyboards on a phone – and yes, I have tried the iPhone’s keyboard). So, day-to-day, and somewhat to my surprise, I have not missed the E7 at all since I sent it back.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a great device, and if an E7 were to magically find its way into my possession, I would happily use it, maybe even as a main device (maybe). But here is the thing about the E7: setting aside the whole issue of whether you should even buy a Symbian device now (I say it depends on your use case, but that’s another discussion), I think the E7 is actually done a disservice by its superb build quality and form factor. What do I mean? I mean that, when you pick up this hefty, rock-solid, unibody aluminum device with its glistening “Clear Black Display” screen, and you look at its hefty price tag, you really expect a device with a battery that will last for ever, with a super-powerful processor that will best anything in the industry, with a top-notch camera, and with masses of internal storage (either built-in or expandable). And the E7 doesn’t really have any of these. For a device commanding a high price tag, you expect something you know you will be happy with for a long, long time – 12 months at least! – and I am not convinced the E7 would provide that for anyone other than die-hard Symbian fans.

I think Nokia should have gone one of 2 ways with the E7 (or maybe both?) I think it should have either made it into more of a budget phone, at a lower price point, where its failings would have been easier to forgive (and maybe, with cheaper plastic materials, it might have been lighter too). Or it should have really been Nokia’s flagship phone, with the N8’s camera, expandable memory, and maybe an overclocked CPU. I can assure you that in either case I would have been scrambling to scrape up the cash and ordering the E7 from overseas (I live in that mobile phone wasteland that is Canada, after all). As it is, the E7, while a pleasantly solid performer in my case, still left me feeling a bit ‘meh…’

That said, every couple of days I feel like sending a long-ish email, or collecting some thoughts about a topic, maybe starting a blog post – and I am stopped by the fact that I refuse to do that on a touch-screen phone. And because of my workplace’s IT policies, I can’t typically do these from my work computer either. That’s when I start eyeing the auctions for E7’s on eBay and looking at the unlocked Androids with full size keyboards like the HTC Desire Z or the Motorola Milestone 3… which both have their issues as well. And to be honest all the slab-like phones coming out now are just boring. We need more keyboards, dang it!! And I know I am not alone (more proof) in thinking that.

So I am going to end my review of the E7 with this plea: Nokia – or any one else for that matter – please, please PLEASE get your act together, and keep this slide-out/tilt-up large screen form factor going! It’s a great form factor and it would be a home-run with the right internals and a kick-ass, modern operating system. Like that N950 you kinda-sorta released… but that also is a story for another time. Hopefully we will see more phones from Nokia with the E7 form factor, with Windows Phone or or whatever other OS they end up being, and similar designs from other manufacturers. Because the mobile world needs more variety!

And, before I go, I want to again express my deep thanks to the team at WOMWorld/Nokia for providing devices to ordinary folks like me who aren’t professional, or even just regular, tech bloggers. It’s nice to be able to have some close-up experiences with devices we would probably only ever see in shops or on the web. It’s a great way to reach out to the wider community, and I hope they keep doing it with whatever devices Nokia produces in the future.

Posted by: jjarmasz | August 11, 2011

One week with the Nokia E7: Some quick thoughts

So it’s been a week with the E7 from WOMWorld/Nokia and I thought I would share some quick impressions. As I am quite familiar with Symbian (my main phone is a Nokia N8) I will focus mostly on hardware here. I will post a more complete evaluation, including my thoughts on the “should you get this device” question, then.

The things I am really liking so far:
-The 4 inch, Clear Black Display screen. Even though it’s the standard Symbian 640 x 360 resolution, the bigger size really makes a difference compared to the N8, which seems tiny by comparison now. I’m finding I can use smaller fonts and cram more onto the screen quite comfortably, and the visibility under all light conditions is great. The screen also seems somewhat immune to finger prints — maybe it’s oleophobic? And it feels like the screen makes up a proportionally larger area of the “face” of the device than the N8 – it feels like you have more screen, so to speak.

-The keyboard is superb, it really does live up to expectations. Great key spacing, layout, tactile feedback, few mis-types, and it provides some extra functions that make life easier sometimes while writing messages or web browsing, like the ctrl- key functions (e.g. cut-and-paste). I love using it. I’m again writing this post on the E7. Typing for a prolonged time is not a problem with this thing.

-The flip-up screen form factor is great. It makes holding the device in landscape orientation to watch videos or browse the web quite convenient. When I put it down on my desk, the screen is propped up at a good angle, making pecking away at the screen to scroll a page quite nice. I know some people found the hinge stiff, but I’m able to flip the screen open one-handed as I used to do with my N97 – you just have to push down on the edge of the screen as you push it out! I also found the flip-up screen to be nice for game. I don’t play many games, but playing Angry Birds with the screen flipped up is surprisingly confortable.

-Sounds quality: I’m kind of picky with sound quality, and I was impressed by the quality of the music through headphones without resorting to equalizer adjustments (which is harder to do in the “new” Symbian anyway – but that’s a story for another time.) The speaker is quite loud and clear, great for listening to podcasts at home.

Things that are headscratchers but that haven’t been a problem for me:
-The camera: yes, surprisingly perhaps for an N8 owner, I haven’t been too bothered by the E7’s camera’s EDoF optics. But that’s because I haven’t needed to take any macro or low-light shots yet. For most common situations, the E7 does relatively well. And the video capture is great. So not too many complaints so far. It’s something I could maybe live with – maybe…

-The sliding volume button: it’s… different. It took some time to get used to it coming from the more standard volume rocker. It’s easier to use if you have fairly long nails. I found it better than the rocker in one respect: when recording video, it lets you zoom in and out without making the device shake up and down.

-Lack of expandable storage: this device really should have a removable micro SD card. I know the internal 16Gb mass memory will be enough for me on this trial, but normally I would want more space for podcasts, videos and photos. Fortunately, for getting files onto the device, I like to use bluetooth transfer, or a nice cross-platform app called Dukto that lets you transfer files between devices (including desktops) over your home wifi (the Symbian version is available on the Ovi store).

-I miss the FM transmitter from my N97 and N8, for beaming podcasts to my kitchen radio, but the built-in speaker is good enough that I haven’t misssed the transmitter too much.

Things that annoy me:

-The device feels quite heavy and a bit unwieldy in the hand. At least in my small hands. I haven’t had trouble reaching areas of the screen as I thought I might, but the device’s overall heft and weight constantly make me feel like I have to be careful how I hold it. I like the feel of my N8 in the hand better, partly because of the weight and size, but also partly beacuse of the extra straight edges (like at the camera island). I actually find holding the E7 up to my ear for long phone calls a bit uncomfortable.

-I am quite disappointed with the battery life on this phone. I charge it every night and I still have had to top it up at least once before returning home from work, and sometimes a second time before the evening is done if I’ve had to make a few phone calls. I usually have email going all day, listen to some music or a podcast during my commute, browse the web and check twitter a few times a day, a usage pattern that usually sees me through to the evening with my N8. I realize this pattern is not uncommon for smartphones with screens this size, but I don’t like it, and on a device this large and heavy and which suggests so much power with its luxurious build quality, I find this quite unsatisfactory. Nokia should have really found a way to include a bigger battery.

The two points above almost made me put my SIM back into my N8 for the first couple of days with this device! But I stuck it out, and now I am finding that the other features of the device are really growing on me. It is quite a nice device, the hardware and build quality are great, and as I said before, Symbian works for me so I have no complaints to voice about the software at this stage. I am really enjoying the E7 so far – but would I keep it if I could, or buy one? Or recommend one to friends?

Check out my next post, in about one week’s time, to find out…

Picture taken with the E7

Picture taken with the E7

Picture taken with the E7

Picture taken with the E7

Posted by: jjarmasz | August 4, 2011

So I’m reviewing a Nokia device again…

So call me crazy – but here I am trialing (and eventually reviewing) another Nokia device thanks to the good folks at WOMWorld/Nokia, this time the E7. In this post-“February 11th” (i.e., the switch from Symbian to Windows Phone) world where Nokia’s fortunes seem to have tanked and Android is on the rise, why am I reviewing a Symbian-powered Nokia device? Well, partly because I still find Symbian to be a functional and useful platform for me, but mostly because of the AWESOME KEYBOARD!

Perhaps more accurately, I love the tilt-out-screen form factor. You see, I’m one of those silly people who owns the much-maligned Nokia N97, and despite its well-documented problems, I loved using it. I don’t quite get along with virtual keyboards. I have tried them on most of the major mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Symbian) and while I can put up with them, I always wish I had a physical keyboard when I use them. Even though I own a Nokia N8 and use it as my main phone, I still prefer physical keys. And the tilt of the screen is great because (1) it puts your thumbs close to the screen AND the keyboard simulatneously and (2) it makes viewing videos, or even just glancing at the screen while you have the phone on your desk, so much nicer.

So thanks to WOMWorld/Nokia, I get to play with the E7 for two weeks and decide whether this “holistic experience” as Steve Litchfield of All About Symbian described it, can trump the E7’s known, um, “compromises” – most notably the “extended depth of field” (or EDoF) camera. Spoiled as I am by the N8’s camera, still considered to be the top phone camera, it’ll be a tall order! Check back here at my blog for a few more posts, or at my twitter feed at @jjarmasz for more frequent thoughts, amid all the other stuff I tweet about (you better be interested in Toronto & cycling!).

By the way I wrote and published this post from the E7 (thanks to this tutorial on blogging on WordPress with the E7 & Opera Mobile 11.1 browser over at http://www.i-symbian.com) – a bit painful, but it shows you how capable Symbian still it. Couldn’t have done it without the keyboard, especially the and arrow and ctrl- command keys. (To be fair, I had to add the hyperlinks from my computer at home — the E7 can’t do everything, sadly…)

The Nokia E7

The Nokia E7 seen from a Nokia N8

Posted by: jjarmasz | August 1, 2011

Where did that street go?

Delaware Av. continues one block north

Delaware Av. continues one block north - huh?

While nominally laid out on a grid, the streets of Toronto have so many exceptions to this regular structure that it does injury to the concept of a grid. Just walk around any Toronto neighbourhood or look on Google maps and you’ll notice a ton of streets that:

  • Disappear, then magically reappear one, two (or more!) blocks later with the same name, more-or-less in the correct alignment. Delaware Ave in my neighbourhood is one example, but some of the more spectacular ones are Keele St. north of St. Clair, which vanishes then reappears close to Eglinton, and St. Clair East, which disappears between Mount Pleasant and Scarborough.
  • Streets whose different blocks are utterly misaligned but somehow keep the same name on both sides. Ones in my ‘hood are Delaware (again), and Brock & Margueretta Aves. when they all cross Bloor St.
  • Perfectly aligned street blocks that somehow don’t keep the same name — think of the north-south streets in the Annex that cross Bloor, such as Howland/Borden and Walmer/Robert.
  • And finally, there are the major roads that snake through the city, making an utter mockery at all the other streets trying to fall in line with the grid. The major examples are Dundas St. and Davenport, of course.

The last two examples have the readiest explanations: the curving streets are typically ancient Native trails that followed natural features, and the streets that change name across major city roads likely were streets in separate villages that predate Toronto and that kept their names (at least I am almost certain that’s what happened in the Annex, whose southern boundary was in fact Bloor, a fact we often forget today). The partial disappearance of major roads is probably not that strange either. The major streets that define our “city blocks” were drawn up as “concession roads,” i.e. the subdivision grid started by Lord Simcoe when he started whipping southern Ontario into shape. So it probably makes sense that they would keep their name across major interruptions like ravines and rail lines, as long as they line up with the lines of the notional concession roads surveyed long ago. But the smaller streets that disappear, reappear, and somehow get shifted sideways as they cross other roads? Beats me. Maybe I’m just an urban nerd who should have gone into Urban Studies, but I’d really like to know…

Since they say I’m a human factors “specialist” (to which I say, who are “they” and when did they decide what I am?) I have been meaning to start a semi-regular feature on this blog about human factors and usability. Just things I notice working well or not well around me. And I had wanted to start with the automated ticket machines at the Toronto Islands ferry docks, which are an unholy human factors disaster.

As a frequent visitor to the islands with my son (check my Flickr stream!), I like the idea of bypassing the lineup at the ticket booths and getting my tickets quickly, without involving cash, at these dispensing machines. Unfortunately that’s just a fantasy for now. These machines are almost impossible to operate, and the instructions provided don’t match the actual device. Cue the growing line of disgruntled customers cursing the apparent “idiots” ahead of them who can’t work the thing, only to realize that in fact the machine is to blame. Unfortunately for this post (but perhaps fortunately for customers), the last time I went to use these they were covered up in plastic bags:

Islands ferry docks ticket machines

The unloved ticket machines -- about to be retired?

Were they temporarily malfunctioning? Did someone come to their senses and decide to take them out of their misery? Who knows. For all I know they might be back up in service today (July 1st, Canada Day — sure to be a high-volume day at the ferry docks). Anyway, this prevents me from showing you the mismatch between the instructions and the devices themselves (such as making reference to buttons that aren’t actually on the machines!) It also prevents me from doing what I was hoping would be a bit of public service by posting a little tutorial on how to operate these infernal things (step one — avoid them, if you need to use plastic proceed straight to the “credit/debit card” ticket booths that have finally  opened for the season.) Ah well.

Another funny thing: there are in fact more ticket machines than these at the docks.There are a couple that are actually past the ticket booths as well. These, while similar to the ones I am slagging here, actually have a different button layout! Not that you can tell from this pic:

More Ferry ticket machine

Ferry ticket machines inside the waiting area

I remember these as being easier to use, but I haven’t used them in a while. Unlike the ones outside the ticket booth area, I seem to remember you could buy more than one ticket at once at these — the ones outside force you pay for multiple tickets individually, inserting your card for each one separately. Terrible. Main point here: you have to operate each machine differently, so you can’t transfer what you learned on one machine to the other, despite the obvious similarities of design and purpose. Also terrible.

To conclude: now that the summer and the Canada Day long weekend are here in Toronto, go enjoy the Islands! They are fantastic. But STAY CLEAR OF THE TICKET MACHINES!

Posted by: jjarmasz | February 9, 2011

Two weeks with the Nokia N8 [updated AGAIN]

For the past two weeks I had the privilege to trial a Nokia N8 smartphone, courtesy of the kind folks at WOMWorld/Nokia. Today I had to pack it up to send it back to London. What a sad day!

Nokia N8

Trial Nokia N8 from WOMWorld

It’s been nice to pretend to be in the tech industry for a couple of weeks 🙂 I won’t spend time on a full review here, partly because there are so many already on the web (see this multipart review, or this shorter one), and partly because I wanted to write something quickly before spending some more time on some more serious musings.

So for now I will only make some quick points, starting with some disclosures:

  • My main smartphone for the past 10 months has been a Nokia N97, and before that a Nokia E61, so I am quite familiar with the Symbian mobile OS.
  • I also have been dabbling with Android (LG Optimus One, running 2.2), which I quite like; I have also spent some “quality time” with an iPhone 3GS, and use a BlackBerry at work, so I am familiar with other mobile OSes
  • I have a definite preferences for hardware keyboards, and for devices that have a “widgetized” homescreen system, like Android or Symbian.

All this to say that I am quite comfortable with Symbian, but I am also well aware of its limitations, especially in its S60 5th ed. guise, and am not insensitive to the lures of other OSes. I have been dying to try the new Symbian^3 Nokia devices, but when the N8 came out I was concerned it would just be a camera strapped to a phone, as opposed to a strong smartphone able to also take some stunning pictures. Plus I did not know how I would take to the lack of a hardware keyboard. I generally dislike virtual keyboards, and no amount of time with the iPhone or touch-only Android devices has changed that. So in addition to wanting to try the N8, because love to take quality pictures with my phone, I have been eyeing up Nokia’s E7 with great interest, as well as the handful of Android devices with physical keyboards, most of which are NOT available in the mobile wasteland that is Canada…

Well, I have to say that much to my surprise, within minutes of turning on the device, I knew I REEEALLLY liked it. And this despite the fact that WOMWorld had sent me what I consider to be the ugliest of the N8s, the silver one! (Yes, I had my heart set on the lime green or orange one 🙂 But even that grew on me.

Of course I was blown away by the 12MP, xenon-flash equipped camera, that goes without saying (it took all the pictures I have posted so far on this blog except for the one of the N8 above). And the device just felt amazing in my hands, with its aluminum unibody build and its solid Gorilla glass AMOLED screen. But above all I discovered that I really like the “new” Symbian, and that it is a strong, very usable and sleek mobile operating system that doesn’t deserve (much of) the flak that it’s getting in most of the mobile press. I feel Symbian is more flexible and adaptable than people give it credit for, and that it could still have many more years of competitive life in it, if only Nokia could turn its smartphone strategy around (all the rumours to switches to other OSes not withstanding.) Yes, this is a device that made me seriously think that I could live without a physical keyboard! That’s how much I liked it.

Here are just a few highlights of my 2 weeks with the N8:

  • Despite claims to the contrary, the device is quite fast (when it slows down, it always has to do with the browser, or the web run-time applications which run on it; but that is an issue that has been done to death in the press). At some point I was playing Angry Birds while listening to a podcast – a device that can do that is NOT slow.
  • A bunch of things that I had always hoped would just work (like various apps, email, etc.) but didn’t on my old N97 JUST WORKED on the N8.
  • I loved the fact that it could take almost any video in any format I could throw at it, and it would play them back no problem.
  • It’s great to be able to do the full Nokia multitasking thing with no memory worries!
  • Despite the scorn poured on the N8’s virtual landscape QWERTY keyboard, I quite liked it. I enjoyed the haptic feedback and the cursor arrows for moving the cursor in the text entry box, something I haven’t seen on any other virtual device. So much better than stabbing the screen and hoping the cursor goes where you want it.
  • It was a joy to be able to finally try a bunch of the Qt-based apps I could never try on my Nokia N97 because I didn’t have enough free memory to install Qt.
  • The new Bubbles screen unlock app I downloaded from Nokia Beta Labs a few days before having to send it back was a great addition to the UI.
  • By the way, did I mention I loved the camera?

Don’t get me wrong, there are things I wasn’t so impressed with, and many of those have been discussed in depth elsewhere too. I will just mention a few here:

  • I didn’t find the much-vaunted battery to be that great. I often had to to a top-up charge once in the day, even with nightly charging. I suspect it was due to a particular app I was running (I’m looking at you Accuweather widget), and given that it was a review device that had been used (and charged) by many before, I can’t be sure that the battery wasn’t already suffering from wear-and-tear.
  • The proximity sensor doesn’t always kick in when you have the phone on your left ear during a call, unless you mash it against your face.
  • Accessing Gmail through the built-in email worked fine for me (though I do just use it as an regular IMAP account), but in replying to large emails the client often took an unexpectedly long time to open the reply editing screen.
  • Well yes as everyone knows the stock Nokia browser is just sad and needs fixing; I used Opera Mobile most of the time.
  • Some features I was used to on my older devices, like custom EQ in the music player, or the ActiveNotes app, were oddly missing.

That said, I really loved the N8 and sending it back is a hard thing to do! Would I buy it for myself? If my bank account allowed it, I would in a heartbeat, though I have to say I am still lusting after an E7… mmm, keyboards… Like many others, I would have preferred the E7 with the N8’s camera, but you can’t have it all! Granted, I am quite familiar with, and like, Symbian, so I am admittedly biased. But that’s not for lack of familiarity with the other platforms.

Would I recommend it to others? Yes, definitely, though as usual that depends on what your needs are. If you can’t live without all your Google cloud services, Android is definitely the way to go and no one should tell you otherwise. If your idea of a good time with a smartphone is connecting to iTunes and gazing at all your app icons, then get an iPhone 🙂 (I kid, iPhones are great devices too…) It all depends on your use case. And the N8 definitely fits the bill for a variety of smartphone use cases, not just Symbian-heads. It’s a great device for people who like to mix-and-match services rather than rely on a single ecosystem, people who like a phone with great media playback that can still fit in your pocket and be comfortable as a phone, and of course everyone who loves to photoblog on the move.

In a later post, I will try to give a more detailed account of the N8’s pros and cons, and where I think it has some “hidden strengths” relative to the other mobile platforms.

In closing, here is a cropped portion of a picture I took with the N8 of some of the classical-style details on a downtown Toronto office building, one of the few left here with such intricate stylings. The picture still has a lot of detail, which you can really see by clicking on it and zooming in.

Thanks again to WOMWorld for making this happen!

Architectural details

Architectural details on a building at the NE corner of King & Yonge Streets, Toronto. Taken with the N8.

UPDATE [11 Feb 2011]: Boy am I glad I am not an actual mobile blogger. After today’s announcement of the Nokia-Microsoft “strategic alliance,” I am not sure how I feel about finishing this post the way I said I would above. I am not sure how I feel about commenting publicly about Nokia, or any mobile devices anymore. It’s not that I dislike Windows Phone 7 — I don’t really know anything about it, I haven’t ever tried it out — but I like Symbian a lot and I think its effective killing by Nokia today is a disgrace and an act of corporate bean-counting cowardice. At the same time, I am embarrassed to even admit that I even care about this at all. To misquote something Steve Jobs was supposed to have said to a customer, “they are just phones, folks!” But still. I dunno, maybe I’ll decide to write a post about the folly of caring about mobile phone brands at all — the manufacturers and telecos are just OUT TO GET OUR MONEY after all. We’ll see…

UPDATE PART II [14 Feb 2011]: Now that the hubbub about the Nokia-Microsoft deal had died down… a bit, I’ve decided that in the end, regardless what happens with Nokia in the future, the N8 as a device stands on its own merits. With Symbian essentially on “life support” for the next 2 years, the current generation of Symbian devices, N8 included, will likely see some ongoing support for some time yet. So, my initial appraisal stands — I would still use this device if I had it (gladly so), and would still recommend it to others if it suited their use case. I will, eventually, get around to writing an actual review of the device as promised above. As for the “NokMsft” deal, well, it’s kind of wait-and-see for me, though I might just commit some thoughts to the interwebs about this too.

If you own and enjoy an N8 now — keep doing so!

Posted by: jjarmasz | February 9, 2011

That sinking feeling…

 

Sagging houses

Houses with some serious sagging issues.

 

These houses are on Shaw street just south of Hallam. I believe they have looked about this “crooked” for as long as I can remember, but for some reason their respective tilts really caught my eye a few weeks ago. I am pretty sure the sagging of their foundations is due to Garrison creek running nearby, maybe even right underneath the houses. Gotta wonder what let people to build here or the city to allow construction. Then again, you see many little oddities of the built environment in Toronto…

Posted by: jjarmasz | January 17, 2011

Look down!

Sidewalk concrete date

Oh if the sidewalks could speak...

I am endlessly fascinated with little details of our built environment, and Toronto has plenty of that. One of the things that catch my attention are the dates on the various concrete slabs that make up our sidewalks. In particular, the older, like this one. It’s not uncommon to see a few going back to the 1970s or even a few from the 1960s, but this must be the only one I have seen from the 50s. It’s on Delaware, just north of Bloor, across from the subway entrance. Given that it’s adjacent to a fairly new church (= recent construction  site), it’s amazing it’s survived this long. In fact there are slabs that date back to as recently as 2004 just next to it.
Other than its age, this slab is only marked “City.” Most (all?) sidewalks seem to have been poured by City of Toronto construction crews until about the mid-to-late 1980s. Then you get what appears like a wholesale switch to contractors. So this sidewalks is also a tiny window into City urban planning & infrastructure policy (plus a record of the hunger for outsourcing and contracting out that has gripped governments for the past 20-25 years…). I like the old “City” sidewalk stamps, they make me think of a city with a powerful public works department keeping the city running smoothly. We could definitely use some more of that nowadays.
So look down! You never know what you’re stepping on.

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