Buyer Beware: Magellan Maestro 4040

If you buy this unit, you had better hope that you never need support for it from Magellan. Their phone support direct-dial number merely dumps you with a ‘call cannot be completed’ message every time you call. If you actually do get to a human, they really don’t care much about customer support.

My unit shipped with a defective mounting bracket. After numerous calls to support I finally talked to someone in support who promised to send replacement parts. Several calls later I find that the parts are suddenly on back order and won’t arrive on the promised date. The support supervisor told me ‘I am under no obligation to do anything further about it’. When I asked the ‘supervisor’ his name, he made up some Anglicized name through his heavy accent.

Hello, Magellan, be careful who you outsource your support to — how hard is it to find people who actually understand support? Or does it count against them to actually provide support versus doing the classing dump and run. Immediately after this phone conversation, I returned this defective unit and will buy a Garmin. I have owned several Garmin products in the past and I have never had support issues with. Ever.

I took a chance on Magellan because of price and learned once again that you get what you pay for. And, yes, Magellan, I have related my poor experience to others who also bought Garmin. Not that I expect any positive response from Magellan. Buyer Beware — Magellan support sucks.

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Initial Review: Nokia N75

With my aging Nokia 6620 beginning to give signs of giving up the ghost, I began looking for a replacement mobile phone. I was hoping that Cingular would finally get around to releasing the N73 but that was not to be. Cingular briefly teased the market with the on again off again release of the N75. A week later, they put the N75 back on their site, so I dove in and purchased one.

I didn’t spring for express service because deliveries usually show up within 2-3 days anyway. I didn’t realize that they were going to use a FedEx shipping method that would wind up sending the phone to within 40 miles of my home address, then 100 miles away so that it could then be put on a truck an delivered. Enough about shipping logistics, you probably want to hear about the phone.

First blush: the N75 is a very impressive phone, probably the best mobile I have owned. I typically don’t care for clamshell phones, but this one is very solid with a very usable display on the outer cover in addition to a gorgeous bright, clear main display inside the phone. The keypad layout is a bit different from the 6620, the biggest differences being in the tight layout of the utility keys and the addition of a music key to the right of the four-way keypad. The close proximity of the utility keys has caused me to accidentally press the Music key more than a few times. I also find it a bit awkward to highlight text for copy and paste due to the proximity of the ‘pencil’ key and the directional arrows.

Before talking about applications on the N75 it is worth noting that the phone ships with no external memory, only the built in RAM, of which around 40MB is available to the user. While Cingular and Nokia are more than happy to sell you a 2GB microSD card for nearly $200USD, you can get a SanDisk 2GB microSD for around $25USD from Amazon. I have the SanDisk 2GB and it works just fine with the N75.

There have been a few challenges in migrating some of my Symbian-based apps to the N75. My SlovoEd Spanish-English dictionary would not install until I upgraded to the S60 v3 version of the application. The problem is that the dictionary apparently takes a differently formatted license key than the one I have. As of yet, the vendor has not provided a resolution to the license issue. Profimail is the app that I depend on to keep up with my various POP and IMAP accounts while on the go. Profimail was a simple upgrade, but I ran into a hitch with the license key as well. A posting on their support forum yielded a response that an email to customer support should have an updated license key on the way. I use Papyrus as a more functional tool for keeping track of appointments on my mobile. The Papyrus install was straightforward after I worked out that the correct version to install was the ‘9.1’ version of the software and not the ‘6.1’ version — no license key issues with Papyrus. Apparently Nokia refers to the 9.1 version of the Symbian OS as ‘S60 v3’. Handy Weather upgraded and registered with no issues. Handy Weather lives up to its name, especially when I am traveling abroad and need to get an idea of the weather. I huge proponent of Java, I am happy to mention that the three Java-based apps that I use most frequently Google Maps, Google Mail and Opera Mini downloaded and installed with no issues at all. Sadly, my daughter’s favorite game Frozen Bubble, will not install on the N75. It was such a fun and simple game. I have yet to find another free (or otherwise) replacement for it.

Update 19 May 2007: Both Profimail and Papyrus have resolved their license key issues via email. Epocware, however, wants me to re-purchase the software minus a ‘loyalty discount’ — not very enlightened customer service.

Phone reception on the N75 I would rate as better than the 6620 as I tend to get more bars and better sounding audio with the N75 in the same places that the 6620 would struggle. The ringer is quite loud, owing to the two external ‘stereo’ speakers on the phone. I have not had an opportunity to tryout the speakerphone quality.

The N75’s camera has been something of a mixed bag. I was looking forward to having a decent (2 MegaPixel) camera on the phone, but it seems a bit quirky. One annoying behavior is that when you click the button to take a photo it presents you with a still frame of the image you think you are capturing. However, the actual image isn’t taken until a second or two later. For me, this has resulted in several pictures of blurs because the actual photo takes as I am bringing the camera back to have a look at the image. I guess it just takes a bit of patience and getting used to.

The Nokia N-Series site advertises that the phone can upload photos directly to Flickr [can’t link because of annoying flash-only site]. Great, I thought, I have been a Flickr participant for a few years now. However, it appears that Cingular has chosen to disable this feature out of the box on the N75 (shock!). A quick troll through the NSeries forum on Flickr reveals that you can download the configuration file to your N75 via Bluetooth that will re-enable this feature.

Another initial frustration that was soon alleviated was that neither Apple nor Nokia provides an iSync profile for the N75 to work with OS X. It only took a few days for one to surface — the only unfortunate thing is that it is hosted on the hateful file sharing site rapidshare [no link]. I have considered hosting it on my site, but have not had time to work out the logistics.

This is as far as I have gotten with the N75 with very little time to explore it’s options. Hopefully, I will have more time to explore (photos, video, mp3 player, included apps, and more) and report in the coming days and weeks.

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Osborne Effect Of The iPhone?

Not sure I completely buy the premise of this post: ‘Is iPhone Anticipation slowing Cingular Smartphone Sales?‘. Sounds like the Osborne Effect, applied to mobile phones. While I am confident that there is a lot of interest in the coming iPhone — I, for one, would have bought a Nokia N75 last Friday (though I prefer the N73) if Cingular was able to keep it up on their site for more than a few hours before pulling it for some undisclosed reason.

The iPhone is slick looking, but how well does it work as a phone? And when will the closed nature of the iPhone be addressed? Nokia has always delivered a solid product that never loses site of the fact that it is a phone first.

I look forward to moving my existing apps on my aging but still functional Nokia 6620 over to an N-series phone once they become available. The extensibility of the Symbian platform used by Nokia is a big plus for me and one that Apple is going to need to match if they want my business.

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Turn Your Head

home logo

You might remember the old optical illusion that could be seen as either the profile of a face or the silhouette of a vase or urn. Now there is a company called Turn Your Head that is offering you the real word equivalent of this illusion:

At Turn Your Head, we fill the space between two opposing profiles of your face. By spinning that space into a three dimensional “visage” that follows the outlined silhouettes of your two profiles, we create the “Pirolette”.

Place the “Pirolette” to your face and it will match your profile. Locate it near a wall and the shadow of the “Pirolette” will be your silhouette.

All you need to do is provide an appropriately composed photo of the subject and fork over some cash and your own personal pirolette can be yours.

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Apple Newton Still Better Than Windoze (UMPC) Devices

Considering my previous rants posts regarding the Newton, this article on cnet UK is all the more vindicating. The gist of the article is that a new ‘innovative’ MS-based Samsung portable computer can’t compare to the capabilities of a ten year old Newton. In fact, the article goes on to point out numerous times how the Samsung appears to be a very close copy of the Newton on several features.

I can only imagine the hotness that was the Newton tuned up with a high res color screen, built in Wi-Fi, and all the other modern conveniences in my hand today.

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Shake It Up, iPod

Here is a random thought that I had driving into work the other day: what if Apple were to combine the sudden motion sensor technology that they have in the MacBook with the iPod? Then, on the iPod, if you wanted to ‘shuffle’ songs you could simply shake your iPod in a certain way, an viola!, tunes are shuffled. This could even be used to advance or replay a song.

Obviously this would need to have some sort of a button or some other ‘release’ that would allow this to work. Otherwise, the simple act of walking around or jogging would be forever activating this feature.

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Samsung Portable DirecTV Reciever

Gizmodo has a brief piece on a new Portable DirecTV Receiver that has been introduced by Samsung. The unit appears to be about the size of a portable DVD player, but no word on whether it even has the capabilty to run on batteries (I would guess not). One thing that is really not clear from the writeup is how you actually get the satelite signal — is there some external antenna? do you still need clear southern exposure? The answers to those last questions might make it a bit less ‘portable’.

Just think, you could combine this with some built in Tivo-like PVR capability and you have a pretty powerful combination.

Arrives in March of 2006 with a $499 price tag.

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Mobile Ajax with Opera

Opera has released a beta of their Opera Platform SDK that allows developers to more easily create web applications for mobile phones. The big news here is the ability to create AJAX-style applications where the meat of the application can reside on a server rather than on the phone. I foresee this being a huge benefit as it will allow for the repurposing of existing web services for providing mobile services. Hopefully, this will translate into a flourishing of mobile apps for smartphones.

Along with this announcement, Opera has apparently synched all of the versions of its browser to make it easier to do cross application development. I updated the Opera Mobile browser on my Nokia 6620 to version 8.5 and noticed a bit of a performance increase, the welcome addition of a password manager and the ability to zoom web pages. It should be noted that the 8.5 browser release is different that the Platform described above.

I also have to wonder what Nokia’s reaction to this will be. They recently previewed some screen shots from their Apple webkit-based browser, but there was no mention of an SDK or framework to leverage AJAX-like development. Nokia’s new browser is also only compatible with their newest phones (many of which probably won’t see the light of day in the US market for upwards of a year). Perhaps this will serve as a wake up call to the largest mobile phone manufacturer in the world to help developers more easily create mobile apps (and leverage existing resources in the process).

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Google Maps Go Mobile

Earlier today Google released a version of Google Maps called local for mobile that runs on most Java-enabled mobile phones . I was able to easily download the app onto my Nokia 6620 and start making use of it. The experience was much more seamless when I finally found the setting in Nokia’s AppManager to not prompt me every time the app wanted to connect to the web (which was a lot).

One downside that I found is that there is no apparent way to ‘bookmark’ locations (say, your home, or place of business) to make it easier to zoom to places where you commonly find yourself. For that matter, bookmarking would make it easier to get directions though the service because you would commonly want directions to/from your home or place of work. Bookmarking would be a great addition, as I find that anything that keeps keying and mousing to a minimum on a mobile device makes that app/service all the more valuable.

I found the Google offering much snappier (speed-wise) than the previous app that I was using on my 6620 called MGMaps. MGMaps basically served the same function in delivering Google Maps to mobile devices. It may be that MGMaps may go away altogether now that Google has introduced its own mobile application.

Humor: The iSmack Nano has a hilarious take off on the Apple Nano.

“It seems like every time we release a new version of iPod, these stories about people being mugged for them come out of the woodwork,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said onstage at a special event Tuesday. “We’re out to change that.” Jobs then held up an iPod nano with brass knuckles attached.”

A Mobile Phone That Knows You

Perhaps inspired by the James Bond sniper rifle that can only be fired by Bond, researchers in Finland have created a method for you mobile device (a phone most likely) to ‘recognize’ you by the way that you walk.

In the method, sensors measure certain features in the person’s walk and these are compared to values stored in the memory of the device. If the values differ, the device requests an access code. In trials, the method has achieved a success rate of 90%. VTT is applying for a patent for the solution.

Incredible Vanishing Nokia 6682

For whatever reason, the long awaited Nokia 6682 is no longer available on Cingular’s web site. The 6682 is now ‘available’ on Amazon for $99 with a shipping date of ‘4 to 6 weeks’ (!?). Nokia thoughtfully has it available on their website for $599.

What is going on with Cingular and the 6682?

Update 2 October 2005: The 6682 is available once again on the Cingular site for $299; Amazon still has it on a 4 to 6 week delay.

Nokia 6682, Finally

It looks like Cingular has finally (and quietly) released the long awaited Nokia 6682 with a sticker price of $299. I still think that this a better all around phone than the hyped up ‘iTunes Phone’ (aka Motorola ROKR E1).

Considering that I have only had my 6620 since early July (and have been completely happy with it aside from the low resolution of the camera), I think I will wait a bit and see if Cingular drops the price (as they always do). No need in paying the first mover penalty as many people did with the Motorola RAZR when it first came out. Besides, getting my 6620 through Amazon and cashing in on the rebates at the time, I basically earned $25 dollars in buying the phone.

I just checked on Amazon, and they have the 6682 listed at $174.99 with a $150 rebate. Unfortunately, it is also listed as ‘not currently available’. As the phone was just released today, that will likely change in the next few days.

Mac: MenuMeters

In my estimation, MenuMeters has got to be one of the sweetest utilities for keeping track of what is going on on your Mac (running OS X).

The app doesn’t take up a huge amount of space in the menubar, but gives a load of information. It also cleverly links in to some of the Apple apps for more information. For example, if you click on the CPU display, you have the option of running Activity Monitor or Console.