Category Archives: Sufficiently Advanced Technology

HTC One (M8) Review

Tl/dr: I like this phone. I’ve had this phone for about two months and it has met or exceeded my expectations in just about every respect.

I got the HTC One (M8) instead of the Samsung S5 primarily because my carrier — which I didn’t particularly want to change — offered a 32GB version of the phone, and only a 16GB version of the S5. Having hit the 2GB limit of my previous phone early and often, I didn’t want that to happen again. Also the S5 was reputed to have more phone junk on it; not that the M8 has none, but it’s easy to ignore. The other major advantage of the S5, a superior camera, wasn’t as important to me, although it might be to some people.

Here’s what I wanted from the phone:

First, it has to be a world phone (check).

Second, it has to be a good at making phone calls, with decent range (no problem so far, although I probably haven’t stressed it), and very good sound quality. The M8′s sound quality as a phone is good, certainly good enough, but I wouldn’t call it excellent. Oddly, the speakerphone is substantially better than the regular phone: it is excellent. Indeed its ability to play music and videos (neither of which is or was a requirement for me) is amazing. In fact, however, I mostly use earphones when I listen to podcasts.

Third, my phone has to have an SD card slot (very check: this one takes up to 128G cards!) so I can store my podcasts on it.

Fourth, I want lots of memory so I can download lots of apps. I haven’t historically played games on my phone, but I like calendaring and note-taking apps in particular, and productivity apps and weather and travel-related apps in general. Travel is the main time I’m likely to be far from a proper computer, so I need good substitutes.

Fifth, I’d like it to be fast, because I’m impatient. This phone feels fast.

Sixth, I wanted enough battery to get me through the day. On wifi the battery does great and on days when I’m primarily in areas with wifi I can end the day with over 50% of the charge left. Days that involve a lot of moving around off wifi chew more juice. How much varies. I have yet to actually run out of battery in a day, but I did come close once. The battery is not removable, which is not ideal. It does charge quickly though. Keep in mind that while I might use the phone’s apps a fair amount, I’m not playing videos which perhaps might drain battery on a different pattern.

Seventh, I don’t want a bad camera, but I don’t need state of the art. Check.

Lastly, I don’t have a Mac, and am used to Androids, so I pretty much ignored the iPhone options.

That’s it. Everything else is bonus.

For example, the phone’s voice recognition is dog-on-hind-legs good, which is to say a bit erratic. But the android ecosystem is coming up with interesting apps to take advantage of it, notably Commandr.

Google Now has promise, although I don’t make use of most of it’s features because I turned off most of the tracking and personalization.

Skype over wifi is of surprisingly good voice and image quality – much better than my old phone which basically couldn’t do it.

I do have two small complaints. First, the headphone jack is on the bottom of the phone, which I find awkward when I carry it in my shirt pocket, and at other times too. Second, due to a bug in the Android operating system, I can only connect to secure wireless when the lock screen is on. Neither of these is major.

I did have a temporary problem that I thought might be a deal killer: for a while I had a flashing bar at the bottom of my screen. It turned out to be caused by a misbehaving alternate keyboard app I had downloaded. HTC customer support helped me diagnose the problem by telling that I had to reboot the phone after erasing suspect apps, just deleting them would not be enough. (In contrast, the folks at Verizon gave me only bad advice as to how to solve the problem, suggesting I should do a factory reset as my first option.)

And, the phone’s generous screen size (although it is thinnish and light for its size) is a mixed blessing, although one it shares with its close competitors. The screen is very vivid and the real estate is nice to have. But it’s a handful, and so for most things that require interaction the phone can’t be operated with just one hand. Plus it sticks out of my shirt pocket a bit, which I was told is not an ideal fashion statement — advice I admit I ignored.

I killed the Blinkfeed screen within minutes of turning on the phone. This much-touted method of combining news, social media and updates never had any appeal for me. It seemed like a great way to run down the battery, though.

And of course the phone, like most modern smart phones, is a privacy disaster and a security issue waiting to happen. I would never put any banking or financial app or info on it. And it’s appalling how many apps feel entitled to trawl my address book, or record my location. Maybe my next phone will be a Blackphone.

Still, it’s useful, it’s fast, the screen is pretty, if you get the 32GB version it has a ton of memory plus the ability to expand a lot more with a micro SD card, and it works well as a phone. Plus I got a deal. So I like it.

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 2 Comments

A Nightmare Scenario

The coming rise of predatory, parasitic spambooks — Charlie Stross via Cory Doctorow.

In the future, readers will not go in search of books to read. Feral books will stalk readers, sneak into their ebook libraries, and leap out to ambush them. Readers will have to beat books off with a baseball bat; hold them at bay with a flaming torch: refuse to interact: and in extreme cases, feign dyslexia, blindness or locked-in syndrome to avoid being subjected to literature.

Code implodes into text, and it is only a matter of time before we see books that incorporate software for collaborative reading. Not only will your ebook save your bookmarks and annotations; it’ll let you share bookmarks and annotations with other readers. It’s only logical, no? And the next step is to let readers start discussions with one another, with some sort of tagging mechanism to link the discussions to books, or chapters, or individual scenes, or a named character or footnote.

Once there is code there will be parasites, viral, battening on the code. It’s how life works: around 75% of known species are parasitic organisms. A large chunk of the human genome consists of endogenous retroviruses, viruses that have learned to propagate themselves by splicing themselves into our chromosomes and lazily allowing the host cells to replicate themselves whenever they divide. Spammers will discover book-to-book discussion threads just as flies flock to shit.

But then it gets worse. Much worse.

Someone has an evil, evil imagination.

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It’s a Theory

Why I Believe Printers Were Sent From Hell To Make Us Miserable. Among the evidence:

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Almost the Ultimate Keyboard

Jeff Atwood designed the CODE Keyboard, which he says is the keyboard designed to satisfy the most discerning members of the keyboard cult.

Looks good. Love the layout (it’s a lot like the aging Logitech I’m typing on now). Not as sure I need the backlighting, could be good, though.

But, just one thing.

It’s not wireless.

Not being a gamer, and thus not worried about whatever little delay I might be adding to the keystrokes, I like having one less source of clutter on my keyboard. For $150, why couldn’t I have wireless?

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3TB of Storage for Under $150

Amazing. I would almost buy one just to have it. The truth is, though, I don’t need it: I’ve almost given up recording movies I’m not getting around to watch.

Specs: Fanless, USB3 external drive, $149.99, free shipping. Not tiny, not the fastest, but it has a 3 year warranty.

Still, three Terrabytes. I remember when 1.2M 3.5″ rigid “floppy disks” seemed a huge advance over 360K/640K floppy disks. In fact I still have some of each in a closet.

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 3 Comments

I’d Rather Own the Book

Every now and then I start to think it could be fun and even useful to buy a Kindle. Then I read stuff like Amazon remotely wipes woman’s Kindle, and come to my senses.

Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 1 Comment

Extreme Alert! (False Alarm) Shows Flaws in the System

So there I am at my computer, trying with some difficulty to set up two-factor authorization for my gmail account (the sticking point seems to be what I have to do to get it to work on my phone), when all of a sudden the phone makes a horrible loud noise, and a big scary popup appears warning me about an EXTREME ALERT.

Tornado Warning in this area til 10:15 PM EDT. Take shelter now. Check local media – NWS

Sounds serious. Even though it’s not even raining out at the moment. Tapping it, then asking for “more information” is not much more informative.

CMAE category: Met
Response type: Shelter
Severity: Extreme
Urgency: Immediate
Certainty: Observed

So naturally, not having a basement to hide in (this is South Florida, there are no basements) I turn to Google, searching for tornado and Miami-Dade, but I don’t find much at first. Eventually I get to a page at, of all places, the College of Dupage, which says it is located at 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn IL, and has has the text of an announcement from the National Weather Service, one for which I only later find the official site.

And it turns out that the tornado watch is real, but for areas well north of me:

TORNADO WARNING
FLC011-086-270215-
/O.NEW.KMFL.TO.W.0038.120827T0149Z-120827T0215Z/

BULLETIN – EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MIAMI FL
949 PM EDT SUN AUG 26 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIAMI HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR…
SOUTH CENTRAL BROWARD COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA…
THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF…PEMBROKE PINES…MIRAMAR…
NORTHEASTERN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA…
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF HIALEAH…

* UNTIL 1015 PM EDT

* AT 947 PM EDT…NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
STORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING A TORNADO NEAR OPA-LOCKA…MOVING
NORTHWEST AT 45 MPH. %%

* THE TORNADO WILL BE NEAR…
MIAMI LAKES…
MIAMI GARDENS…
MIRAMAR…
INTERSECTION U.S. 27 PINES BLVD…
WESTON…
AND SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

SEEK SHELTER INSIDE A STURDY BUILDING ON THE LOWEST FLOOR…AWAY FROM
EXTERIOR WALLS AND WINDOWS. GET UNDER A WORKBENCH OR OTHER PIECE OF
STURDY FURNITURE. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS TO COVER YOUR BODY.

TAKE COVER NOW IN A STURDY REINFORCED BUILDING. TORNADOES ARE
ESPECIALLY DANGEROUS AT NIGHT BECAUSE THEY ARE HARD TO SEE. IF YOU
WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE OR HEAR IT COMING…IT MAY BE TOO LATE TO GET TO A
SAFE PLACE! MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM OR HALLWAY ON THE LOWEST FLOOR.
LEAVE MOBILE HOMES AND VEHICLES FOR REINFORCED SHELTER. STAY AWAY
FROM WINDOWS.

REPORT SEVERE WEATHER OR DAMAGE TO THE NEAREST LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY
OR YOUR COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT. THEY WILL RELAY YOUR REPORT TO
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE FORECAST OFFICE IN MIAMI.

&&

LAT…LON 2599 8055 2612 8039 2590 8018 2581 8027
TIME…MOT…LOC 0148Z 136DEG 40KT 2588 8027

$$

BAXTER

I think this reveals two real flaws in the emergency warning system that is being pushed on to our phones (without opt-in by the way). First, if the alert-generating system can identify me by location as someone in the general area of the warning, why can’t it be more fine-grained and figure out that I’m actually several miles away from it? Second, I absolutely don’t see why the alert couldn’t have a hyperlink to the more detailed statement. Some day this is going to start a lot of unnecessary panic.

Posted in Miami, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 2 Comments