Offline Days

After spending a few days without much in terms of connectivity (or much interest in it, which is no surprise considering April 1st’s new denomination as “Internet Jackass Day”:Google:internet%20jackass%20day), I’ve come to a few conclusions.

For instance, that it’s been nine full years since I started working at Vodafone Portugal (née Telecel) and that I still like it there – even though, like many sprawling multinationals, it has its own little set of oddities, I like the people and what I’m doing now (i.e., that peculiar brew of high octane project management that we call Marketing).

Which is a nice counterpoint to my taking three weeks off to sort out a number of personal things and eschewing pretty much all kinds of connectivity. After all, no matter how nice your job is, my (intensely) private life is a lot more important, and I’d like to deal with that by myself, thank you very much.

For those in the know, everyone’s fine, the home renovation is running late and I barely have time to sit down to eat. Oh, and thanks for all the messages. Please understand that right now the contractor, the plasterer and the kitchen guys are a bit higher on my call-back list for the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, what little connectivity I’ve had has been the courtesy of my iPod Touch (where I’ve been keeping notes and writing this), an E90 and a K660i SonyEricsson phone – and that combination has, in turn, taken me to a few more conclusions.

Multimedia computers vs. decent phones (nil to one)

First off, Nokia needs to start “getting” video telephony.

Although VT has traditionally been one of the lowest-used 3G services (like videoconferencing, it is often inconvenient and fiddly – both socially and practically), ever since I had a V800 it has become obvious to me that SonyEricsson knows how to do it a lot better – audio and video are crisper, switching cameras is instant, and sharing something in your photo album during the VT call is trivial (all of which, I’ve found, are essential features for shopping for lampshades and discussing home renovations, amongst other things).

Doing VT on a Nokia device, on the other hand, is a chore. Switching between front and rear cameras is slow, video quality is OK but somehow not as crisp as on the SonyEricsson devices, and the E90, for all its might, could make the overall experience a lot easier.

Then comes photography and video recording, a topic that I traditionally find laughable when applied to any current mobile device but that I’m now forced to address given that most of my gear is currently unavailable to me and I have to make do with mobile phones.

I am one of those people who continuously complain about the E90’s utter inability to take a picture on the spot (its camera startup, menus and auto-focus are notoriously slow), and if it weren’t for its ability to record VGA quality video with decent audio (very useful to e-mail to contractors), the SonyEricsson would eat its proverbial lunch – and I suppose that if I had gotten a higher-end model it surely would.

I suppose that by the end of the year I will be doing that – it depends on whether SonyEricsson will release something with a sensible camera and a decent design.

Oh, wait, they did – but they stuck the Walkman moniker on it, which means it’s probably crammed with useless music features.

Anyway, enough about media. I now have 4GB of close-up photos and videos of plaster, misplaced power outlets and other niceties of non-computing life, so let’s move to browsing.

Now you read it, now you don’t

First off, the mobile interface to Google Reader is probably one of the least reliable mobile services I use right now: every few articles, I get an Internal Server Error message. That usually has three consequences:

  1. it confuses the hell out of Opera Mini 4 (and 4.1 beta, which was made public the other day with much fanfare), and throws up “Error in Gateway reply” in the native Symbian browser and the SE’s NetFront (which less knowledgeable people would probably assume to be their mobile operator’s fault).
  2. it marks the article I was trying to read as read, making it utterly impossible to get at again via the mobile UI.
  3. it annoys the hell out of me, since these days I am often without a computer, a working fixed broadband connection, or both.

This is especially off-putting when using an iPhone (or my iPod Touch), since the neat Ajax UI that Google concocted for those devices has no way whatsoever for me to simply hit “refresh” and try to get at that article again – I am sent back to the main page.

Also, besides the UI niggles I mentioned a while back, their services are showing a dangerous propensity for flakiness – I was absolutely livid when, without any warning (and in after three or four errors like the aforementioned) the entire web UI switched to Portuguese, despite my having the preferences set to English – I may live in Portugal, but I’ll be buggered if I am ever forced to have a “Portuguese view” of the Internet…

Yes, you can (almost) live without a computer

Anyway, besides the realization that Google is probably underestimating its users’ patience with eternally beta stuff and that they really should improve Reader for mobile, I have been able to keep abreast of news, read my personal e-mail and manage stuff with minimum hassle – albeit not with a single device (something I find unlikely to ever happen, despite what all the mobile junkies say).

The only gripe I still have (and one that will, I suppose, remain unsolved for many months) is the lack of a decent device for writing on the move. The iPod Touch is great for short notes (and this post was drafted in it by sections) but the N810 doesn’t cut it for me, and neither does the E90 – which isn’t exactly news, but bears remembering.

Maybe it’s time to start saving up for that MacBook Air. As soon as I finish paying for the renovations, of course.

On Feedback

Oh, and before I forget – since I won’t be paying very close attention to this site (or to most online endeavors) other than posting the odd link via my iPod, I’ll be experimenting with a per-post comment control feature that I tacked on to Yaki a while back – drop me an e-mail if you need to reach me for the next couple of weeks.