Monday, October 30, 2006

Skype (Windows Mobile version) on TyTN

I just installed Skype Mobile on my TyTN, and it works great, albeit with some limitations.

(I believe that everything I say below is correct for all Windows Mobile devices, although my experience is only with the TyTN.)

I've never used Skype before, so I first installed it on my PC, set up a user, and set up my contacts list with a few friends. All were Skype users so all calls are free. The setup on my PC took about 15 minutes, and it worked fine over cheap speakers and mike.

Then I installed the Skype Pocket PC edition onto my TyTN:

Interestingly they show a picture of the TyTN on that page, but don't list it as a supported device. But it is listed on the Skype developers list of supported devices. I installed it per instructions, the installation was very quick, and it worked fine the first time. (Caveats and details below)

The best thing about Skype is that I can leave my PC running, with Skype logged in, and also log into Skype on my TyTN over Wi-Fi. When a call comes in, it rings in both places, on the PC and on the TyTN, and whoever picks up gets the call. It's really beautiful, and makes the Skype work perfectly in a mobile fashion.

One caveat: Skype on the TyTN (and I think on all Windows Mobile devices) does not work over the USB sync cable, only over Wi-Fi or 3g connectivity. So it means that I can't really use the TyTN in place of a PC handset on a long-term basis, since I want to sync and recharge. But that's not a big drawback, the whole point of Skype on the TyTN is mobile use.

Another caveat: Skype on all Windows Mobile devices works only over the speaker and mic, not over the phone speaker and mic. In other words, Windows Mobile sees it as a PDA app but not a phone app. This means that Skype can be used as a speakerphone or with the wired handset/mic that comes with the TyTN (which is great for music too), but Skype cannot be used just like a regular phone call (with the TyTN held to the ear) and apparently not over a phone Bluetooth headset.

Lastly, I've only used Skype Mobile on the TyTN over Wi-Fi, not over 3g or other cellular data connectivity, so I can't report on quality over cell connectivity. Over Wi-Fi on my home network (ADSL) the quality was great, certainly as good as many cellphone calls. Hotspots may be worse. I'll post again when I've tried it in other settings.

Bottom line I'm very impressed. Installation was incredibly easy, and it meets my dream of working seamlessly in multiple locations as the TyTN moves.

More later.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Playing sound for alarms but not for phone

Someone on a mailing list asked about how to have the TyTN (or presumably other Windows Mobile devices, at least from HTC) play a sound for alarms but not for phone calls.

It's easy to do in settings: go into start menu settings, then select Sounds and Notifications, then the Notifications tab. You can then select "phone: incoming call" and unselect the play sound, and "reminders" and set the sound. I don't know of a way to seperate calendar alarms from the alarm clocks though.

Note that I don't know how this is effected by the ring/vibrate/none option when you click on the speaker at the top of the screen. What would be great is to be able to save a set of notifications settings as a profile in the Nokia sense, but I don't know of a way to do that either.

Note also that in the notifications list for incoming phone calls there are a lot of options that are not available in the comm manager or in the speaker icon pulldown menu, like vibrate then ring.

Friday, October 27, 2006

TyTN (and K-Jam) keyboard vs Nokia Communicator

For 6 years I've been using a Nokia 9110 Communicator, from back before anyone used the word "smartphone." Besides doing a lot of talking, I've written over 250 pages of professional material on the Nokia's keyboard.

Here's a picture showing how the two keyboards compare:

So after so much use of the bigger mobile keyboard, how do I find the TyTN's keyboard?

Answer: Fine.

Obviously it's not as big as the Communicator's, but the benefits far outweigh the benefit of the bigger keyboard. The TyTN's keyboard is very usable, although it takes learning to get the punctuation keys and the symbol-shift being different from regular shift. But the feel of the keys is great, and the backlighting is great.

Others have posted elsewhere comparing the TyTN's and K-JAM's keyboards to the Treo. While it's ultimately a matter of taste, the slide-out keyboard on the TyTN and K-JAM enables the keyboard to be wider while keeping the overall device size very usable.

While I haven't written as much on my TyTN in a month as on my Communicator in 6 years, I've used the TyTN traveling and for note-taking in dozens of meetings, and am very satisfied.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Article on camera-phone flash problems

Regarding my previous message about the TyTN's camera not being up to snuff at night, I came across the following article that discusses cellphone camera flashes being a general problem for all camera phones:

Monday, October 23, 2006

Minor Wi-Fi problem, and a few TyTN nitpicks

I've been having a strange Wi-Fi problem, where when I connect to a known wireless network (my home network) sometimes I'll see the connection established in the "network cards" list, and the icon at the top will stop moving and show itself as connected, but the connection doesn't work in e-mail or browser, and when I click on the connection icon I get the message showing it as disconnected (instead of the network name to which it's connected). Then I have to disconnect and connect again, and it works. I can't see a pattern in when this happens. Very strange.

Few nitpicks while I'm writing:

1. I wish the phone keypad buttons were bigger, they could make the auxiliary buttons smaller

2. Sometimes when I open a contact in contacts, then switch to something else, and go back to contacts, the contact is closed, very frustrating.

3. Contacts list view by company is very slow. (And there be other easy contact search options)

4. The Connections Manager should be able to switch the ringer to silent, not just ring and vibrate

That's all for now!

TyTN as camera (and MP3 player)

One of the plusses of theTyTN is that it can serve as a replacement digital camera and digital media player. After a month of use, my bottom line is this: it serves as an excellent always-there camera and MP3 player, but not truly as a replacement for a serious camera.

I tried getting through an outing with kids at an amusement park without my regular digital camera, a 4 mega-pixel camera from Nikon. Obviously the TyTN's camera is 2mp, but I find the quality of pictures taken outside during daylight to be very good. If you want pictures for digital use (e-mailing or sharing on-line) 2 megapixel will be fine for most people. The same is true of the TyTN's video clip capabilities.

But at night I found the TyTN's camera to be sub-standard. I basically couldn't take decent pictures at night, regardless of areas being lit up.

On a week-long business trip, I was able to use the TyTN well for on-the-spot pictures and video clips that I didn't expect to have to take, but liked taking with a camera that was already in my pocket.

So, bottom line:

a. if you want to print picture-quality blow-ups, you need more megapixels,
b. if you're going at night, you're going to want a real camera,

but for spontaneous and always-there use, and when you don't want to carry other devices, the camera has been very good.

While I'm writing, I find the TyTN very good as an MP3 player as well, although I'm not a heavy iPod user so I can't really compare the quality. With a 1gig card the TyTN can hold enough for me to listen to music and recorded lectures while driving 3 hours each day and flying overseas. But someone else will need to judge the quality, and of course you can't buy on iTunes.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

TyTN video e-mail -- easy!

I was curious how well the TyTN could send video e-mails, and it worked very well!

Just turned on the TyTN, started the camera, selected video mode, held it with the lens facing me, pushed the button again, and started recording my message. Pushed the button when done, then quit out of the camera. Entered "pictures and videos" and previewed the video, then clicked "send" to send it out. It was then sent the next time I did a "send and receive" when connected, and was received and viewed by a not-so-technical recipient.

This can also be done for still pictures, and for still pictures there is some rudimentary picture editing available (such as cropping). For video it's send-as-is, but it works well for what it is.

Very cute capability!

Traveling with TyTN Wi-fi

After traveling for a week and wanting to use my TyTN for connectivity, here are my experiences with it's Wi-Fi.

First, to be clear, setting up the TyTN's Wi-Fi with my home wireless network was a cinch. Easy. Piece o' cake.

But when I got to my first airport, I found that I couldn't connect my TyTN to a Wi-Fi network that my laptop was able to see and connect to. It took me a while to find the list of networks being attempted, you need to open "WLAN settings" from the menu in the connection manager, then "Network cards" menu from there. (Now tell me, is that intuitive?) The problem in the first airport was that my TyTN was set to require WEP security, which I use at home, and it wasn't able to connect to the open network at the airport. Opening up the network at the airport (single click on the network name) and de-selecting the checkbox to require WEP was enough to make the TyTN connect to that airport's wireless network.

But in the second airport, the TyTN was able to connect, but I wasn't allowed to access anything. I figured there must be a registration form, so I opened up a random URL (the first in my favorites) in the browser, but the browser showed nothing. It seems that the Web page that this airport's network was trying to show was too complex for the TyTN browser.

In later networks, such as t-mobile networks in America, I was able to follow this procedure and get to the t-mobile sign-in page in the browser. So the process works, it's just that one airport's Web page that's too complex. Unfortunately this was Newark airport, a common airport for me to fly through (I forget which terminal).

Elsewhere in the trip, when I found truly open public Wi-fi hotspots, I was able to connect with no problem, as long as WEP was set not to be required. In a hotel that required Web page login, with a simple Web page, the process worked with no problems.

Bottom line, after learning where to find the list of networks, learning to un-require WEP, and sometimes opening up a random URL in the browser to log into a network, I found that traveling with my TyTN and connecting in hotspots worked fairly well.

The only real catch was the complex page that couldn't open in the browser in one place, and of course that some hotspots weren't free. Other than that, it's "not perfect but very good."

Traveling with my TyTN (general points)

I spent last week on the road, Sunday night through Friday afternoon, and here are a few thoughts. Many of these are really comments on Windows Mobile 5.0 and not strictly speaking on the TyTN.

First, I crossed a lot of time zones, and the visiting time zone feature worked perfectly. I really thought it wouldn't, because I've had such trouble with Outlook time zones not handling meeting invitations properly, but bottom line, it worked like a charm. I received Outlook meeting invitations from people in other time zones, forwarded them from my work email to my Yahoo email (the Yahoo webmail interface didn't recognize them as meeting invitations), and then downloaded them to my TyTN, which did recognize them as invitations, and accepted them. It put them on my calendar in the correct absolute time. Then, on the plane when I set myself as visiting the new time zone, they shifted right into place. Yes, I know it's basic and I shouldn't be surprised that it works, but I am. But it works!

Second, battery life. Lots of people have been complaining of battery life. I recharged my TyTN before leaving, used it as a phone on the way to the airport, used Wi-Fi in the airport for a few minutes (more in this in another message), listened to MP3's for about 3 hours, then another hour of cellphone use and a few minutes of Wi-Fi use, then another hour of MP3 use on another plane, then an hour of phone use, and still had 40% battery left. The catch is that the phone is off on the plane, and I turn on Wi-Fi only when I need it. I guess I'd always rather it had more power, but it was sufficient for the amount that I wanted to use it during 23 hours in transit.

Third, international roaming, worked no problem. Each new city took 1-2 minutes to find the appropriate frequencies and carriers, but everything worked fine after that.

Note that I wasn't roaming with a data plan, just a voice plan and Wi-Fi, since I'm still in the process of upgrading my data plan.

Fourth, recharging all over was easy, just pick the necessary adaptors and plug in anywhere worldwide.

Fifth, I really tried to go paperless and access all my working documents, maps, schedules, etc on my TyTN. On the one hand, they all opened up fine, including PDFs. On the other hand, they were hard to use sometimes on the TyTN's screen, so some things are still worth printing on paper :-(

Last, playing music in the TyTN's headphones came out very well, IMVHO. But I haven't spent that much time with an iPod, so I'm not really comparing. Stereo music through the headset is much much better than over their speaker, so don't judge the TyTN's music playing by its speaker.

After a month of TyTN use and a week of travel

After a month of use of my TyTN, and an intense week of travel with it, I have enough to write that I'm going to break it into a few messages.

Bottom line, I'm very happy with the TyTN. I've been using the keyboard heavily during meetings, have used it heavily each day as an MP3 player, have taken kids to an amusement park without a camera and relied on the TyTN camera (mixed results), used the Wi-Fi connection in airports and in other offices when traveling, have sent video e-mails when traveling, and have used it to show video clips.

I'll talk about all these in individual messages over the next day or so.

One thing I haven't done yet is cellular data connectivity, because I'm still upgrading my phone plan.