From HTC Wildfly to Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini

I bought my first smartphone (HTC Wildfire) in Dec 2010 and my second (Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini) in Jan 2015. So it’s roughly 4 years difference. The latter is a tad bigger (didn’t want too big anyway), display is much better (height from 320px to 800px), is significantly faster (HTC Wildfire was a sloth really :-)), is driven by newer Android (4.x compared to 2.x on HTC)… but I expected more. And as always – God/Devil is in the detail(s).

What does not work on new mobiles?

So what was wrong when I got together with my new Samsung pet? Many more things than I expected actually – and many of them would not come to me in the worst dreams:

  • No notification LED! Seriously. If you miss the call you find out only when you check it. It may vibrate when you pick it up, but no way to look at it and spot that something is missing. The same goes for weak battery or any other event that made HTC Wildfire blink its diode. Shame, really.
  • Funny ringtone starting quiet – reportedly this can be disabled on Galaxies with pocket ring option turned off, but this one is not available on my phone at all. Or you can get some app that resolves this, but only on rooted devices. Thank you…
  • Default Clock/Weather widget? Big and always goes to Weather. Every single person I asked would expect to go to alarm/stopwatch/timer application after touching time (EZ Weather widgets are nice replacement). After all these Android years maybe producers should do the things in similar fashion. This limited offering is a big (or rather large, with size 4×2) letdown rendering Samsung’s widget useless.
  • Lock button on the side is exposed a bit more than necessary – but if you accidently restart the phone in your pocket, you’ll get gentle vibration as a reminder. 🙂
  • Samsung Kies! Are you kidding me? Where is USB mass storage? At least for flash card. Later I found out that while phone does not appear as a drive on my Windows 8.1, it can be browsed from This PC. (Sometimes I think Samsung should really stop trying to develop any software. Smart TV? People don’t want them? Not because they wouldn’t like the features, but they don’t like the actual execution! Sadly, this is probably rather management/strategic flaw than incapable developers. Waste of money in any case.)
  • Lastly the minor point – compared to HTC it takes more touches to start a call. Gesture starting a call when you are on a contact is helping a bit. But on HTC I got my history right on the first screen of phone application and it was one more touch to repeat a recent call.

After all this time I’d expect general Android environments being a bit further. Sure HTC has good clock+weather widget – is it patented or what? Is it so difficult to copy the good ideas? Or is being “different” so important even when it means being plain stupid?

Good things

Power compared to old HTC. Here it’s not only about 4 years younger device, it is about HTC Wildfire being too limited even for 2.x Android. Galaxy S3 Mini is adequate and usable. It plays videos from youtube, no problem (not to mention the resolution).

Let’s do some bullets again (in no particular order):

  • I like widget to turn on/off led lamp (torch)! 🙂
  • I like options to use home key to answer the call and lock button to end it. Easy to set up and feels more natural than display touching.
  • Notification area and all the icons easily accessible (drag notification panel down, then click to the upper right corner). And battery status widget. I used some Settings application on HTC (from store) that worked after holding Home button for a while and also offered me all the options at a glance. This is here out of the box.
  • Compared to HTC you really can browse the internet here. Wildfire’s display was really coarse (320px high). I don’t use it that much because whatever I want to do on the internet I rather do on PC, but it is handy here and there.
  • The battery can still keep the phone alive for 6 days! (I was used to 7 with HTC.) Of course this is probably just me – other people who actually use their phone report 2 days top. I’m on 2G (GSM), wifi scheduled only for short times to sync with my account (Wifi Scheduler is cool app!) and I just call here and there. And no, I don’t turn it off for nights.

Well, and that’s all! 🙂 I didn’t get so many nice surprises, but I didn’t expect to anyway. Mobile works, sound is reasonably good, no quiet earpiece (HTC One V) or “can’t answer the call after pulling phone from pocket” (HTC Wildfire). I’m in no mood to return the Galaxy S3 Mini. Not that I love it – but hey, it’s just a phone. 😉

Losing control

The first negative surprise with Samsung came actually soon after it booted the very first time. It asked for Wifi connection in the process and even though I provided it (and it worked) Galaxy decided to use mobile data without bothering to ask (HTC Wildfire was much better behaved in this aspect and asked kindly first and I could suppress mobile data). My provider sent me SMS informing me that I’ll be charged for one day of internet (up to some limit) 50 eurocents. This was actually pretty good because I could act – god knows when I would realize that Samsung uses mobile data otherwise. Very bad default indeed – especially for people who are not used to mobile data and turn them off once and for all.

This is my general observation lately – things get simplified (let’s face it, often plain dumbed down), streamlined – in any way (good or bad). Many products are now offered for free, but they push forward things we’re not interested in. Sometimes “we” may be minority, maybe even just “me”, but I’m pretty sure in many cases it is majority of people who don’t like the change (unless they don’t care at all of course). I don’t want to talk about some human freedoms here, how we yield our control to bad corporations or what… but I really don’t understand why we can’t turn off many services we don’t want in our mobile phones. HTC always restarted some Stock service I never wanted so it always ate memory where RAM was just 384 MiB. Samsung is no better obviously.

So better or worse?

Obviously, newer Samsung is better. It’s cheaper and gives me more than HTC 4 years ago. HTC Wildfire felt more solid in hand, also its surface was nicer than plastic Galaxy S3 Mini, but these are minor things. I’ve been excited about technology for many years actually – we take it for granted now, but these are all small miracles. I just wish software was better, maybe more evolutionary than revolutionary, because it’s mostly more buggy and unfinished than new.

Would I recommend Samsung S3 Mini? No. 🙂 It’s not sold anymore anyway so it seems.

I generally like Samsung, their design, menu on their TVs feels always familiar… But next time I’ll try some China mobile with better parameters (on paper) and even lower price. I’m no newest/hottest freak and just as I decided not to try HTC anymore, I’ll probably skip Samsung as well. If I’m surprised by omission of totally expected features (notification LED?!) then let it not bear name Samsung.

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Crippling IT revolutions

Long time ago computers were slow, UI was primitive (say Windows) and there was a lot to learn. Now all is about the end of PC era, tablets and absolute disregard for the voice of users. And still you have to learn a lot as a user. What I miss quite a lot in technology is evolutionary design, something getting just better and better. Refined. I’m not a Mac user, maybe the situation there is different… I don’t know. Maybe it’s market pressure.

It’s not all bad. I’m personally done with HTC Android phones (because of revolutionary bugs), but my wife’s Samsung (cheaper than both HTCs) seems OK. And Nexus tablet isn’t bad either. But then there are simple things I believe should work and they don’t.

Online too many times at once

For instance, you log in to your Google account on the tablet, then your wife uses it with her account and week later a friend of yours asks you why you never answer him on Skype even though you are green all the time. Skype? Online all the time?! No way… and then you get it. Skype installed on Android tablet where you are not actually active for a week. Where are any reasonable defaults? Where are all the years of experience with these communication programs, chats and all?

You may argue I should set it all properly – but… It’s extremely complicated to manage various communication accounts. Their settings and policies change all the time, UI even more so. Something is in the cloud, something in your local settings. Different on each computer. And something is somehow combined. Products come and go. Some communication options are out of your control – on my HTC Wildfire I cannot disable Google Talk when I want to use Google account (there are actually way too many things that can’t be disabled for such a slow phone). But I never want to chat on a phone!

Remember me… really!

Talking about Google – I’m logged in all the time, yet it forgets my prefered language every couple of weeks, or days even (forces me to use my native Slovak, while I prefer English for professional reasons). Every time I set it properly in their settings and after a while it’s gone. How can we set things properly with products like this? Every second day (or more often) they ask me about Cookies. I’m OK with Cookies on trusted services (well… trusted… I just feel unimportant enough not to care about NSA’s knowledge about me :-)). Why I have to confirm this more than once in a… week? Month would be OK, a year ideal.

Keyboard innovations?

And then there are new notebook trends, so let’s skip to HW for a while. I bought Lenovo G500 for my wife. It seemed OK. But then you learn things you’d never expect – like that F1-12 keys must be pressed with Fn key, because their default functions are inverted (Fn actions instead of F1-12) without any option to flip this stupid idea off! The same happened even on ThinkPad S531, but there you have an option to lock Fn key (press Fn+Esc). So you can use ThinkPad professionally, but G500 is just a silly toy really! Try to use IntelliJ IDEA or any IDE for that matter. Try to press Ctrl+Alt+Shift+F7… and add Fn to it. Not impossible, but really silly. Luckily external keyboard works just fine.

Let’s talk about ThinkPad S531 a bit more. It could have been great computer actually. I don’t like Fn in the corner, but hey – it’s ThinkPad, IBM started it, get used to it. But why I have to get used to the new touchpad without physical buttons? Maybe it would work with Mac, but on PC where you need even three buttons sometimes…? Most of the time I indeed use external mouse, but when I’m on the move, I still want to have reasonably good experience using the notebook as is. Here it is very limited. I’m more often than not unable to press right “button” without accidentally moving the cursor. This is no revolution or evolution – it’s plain step backwards.

Ergonomy of other keys could also be questioned. Actually I was extremely pleased with layout of PgUp/Dn, End, Home and the rest on HP ProBooks. And I’m far from HP lover. But having Page Up/Down in the upper right corner was easy to find and very easy to use. Lenovo put quite useless Explorer key there and Home/End are buried in the upper row. Talking about these keys… most of them can be redefined, but Lenovo put Screen Lock key just above numpad as well. Just in case you are dumb or what… what is wrong with Win+L? This can’t be redefined, because – so it seems – it is hardwired to Win+L! Bravo…

Rather delete me as you can’t really disable me

And then there is Windows 8. Point one actually. Screw Metro, we’ve all heard tons about it already. But then there are those small things. Try Narrator for instance! Just press Win+Enter out of curiosity. I felt like disabled (no offence) immediately – because I was not able to turn it off. I had to Google it. Mute shortcut came handy in the meantime. Many people obviously want to disable these accessibility features – but there is no easy way. No single switch. Microsoft! Hear us! (Maybe they need Narrator for our complaints too.) Solutions? Delete narrator.exe for instance. Or disable its executable in Registry. (All provided by StackOverflow, Microsoft offers no definitive solution.) You gotta be kidding me, right?

Get dumb with me

Everything seems to be dumbed-down lately – but in the most wrong way. More features that are hardly understood by my mum anyway – and too few options for professionals. Not talking only about programmers here, this must annoy most of power users of any kind. And then there are other Google searches I went through during my first two days with Windows 8. And many of them were very close at the top of the suggested list before I even started writing last words! Like “windows 8 touch keyboard” finished with “keeps coming back”, or “windows 8 wifi” with “forgets password” (suggested on 6th place). Why do we have to keep solving annoying stuff instead of doing our job?

Sure, some things may be caused by Lenovo drivers… so what?

Any positives compared to Windows 7? Maybe under cover (which is expected), but UI goes in the wrong way. Ugly, thick window borders that can’t be easily customized. And when you get happy that you can easily set the background for the welcome screen, you find out that there is also this uber-ugly login screen with the most ugly metro violet ever (Sun’s enterprise violet was so nice compared to this. :-))

Well, rant over, next time I’ll try to solve something with Docker and Wildfly – and that seems to be much more promising direction of evolution.

Not so Christmas technology whining

First of all – Merry Christmas (and eventually Happy New Year considering my last blogging pause) to you all. I’m sitting in my living room, son is ill and sleeping sooner than expected (mid-day) and wife is cooking something for the evening. And I decided to report about just a few technology problems I met recently – and I think it’s shame that I had to. Often I just ask “how this can happen in 21st century?” But it probably will again in 22nd too – in a way.

I’m just listening to Christmas songs and I realized I started to like them recently – not sure if because I’m getting old or what – or because I sing them occasionally at a music school. Probably both. So let’s see my little stupid technical issues in random order:

Amazon restrictions (not only, and maybe Amazon is not to be blamed)

And we’re getting to the first problem I encountered lately – today actually. Amazon wrote me previously that I have some free credit to download some songs for my previous shopping. Nice, I grinned. Today I really wanted something – The Priests and their Little Drummer Boy. But Amazon said “sorry, but it’s not available in your country”. Yeah, no wonder, who would sell music here – to Slovakia where we still live on trees or what. Whatever. Of course I will listen to that song today. There are alternatives.

Skype is so annoying (no news here)

I wanted to download Skype client for my mom and was lead through Czech page (which was OK), but needed do log in on web before I could get the client itself. Never happened to me before, it’s annoying and stupid. I want direct download link! Is it really your mission to annoy your users recently? (Automagic ebay related toolbars and stuff, window open after start in Windows 7… what’s wrong with you guys?) Of course: “Just don’t use it!” The trouble is my family does.

I reported part of it via some Skype support form and after submitting I saw: “Thanks so much. We’ll learn a lot from that comment.” Well, I hope so. 🙂

Google Calendar sends notifications, Google Mail puts them into Spam

Title says it all! For this I missed my last football game with friends this Wednesday. It was different day than others Wednesdays and our son got fever too and in all that mess I forgot and there was nothing to remind me. My new HTC Wildfire wasn’t set with alarm yet… but back to the problem. Isn’t it ironic? Google sending emails from their service just to end up in Spam of Google mail? So you rather want to white-list notification address.

HTC Wildfire difficulties with answering calls

I carry my phones in pockets – actually as most people around me. Otherwise you have to have it in some bag or on your belt (I don’t wear belts). Soon I noticed that my new HTC Wildfire has real problems with answering calls very often. Googling revealed many other people have the same problem – and many others don’t believe them. 🙂 (“When I don’t have the problem, you can’t have it either… you’re stupid and don’t know how to use your phone.” Or similar.) In one thread there was that idea that it somehow relates to carrying the phone in one’s pocket. And indeed – it always happened when I pulled it from my jeans. It was easy to demonstrate it. Now I’m in talks with HTC support. I’m curious how will it end. (And for those curious – it’s vanilla HTC Wildfire, no branding, Andorid 2.2.)

I could go on with many other issues related to Android or this phone, but funny enough – I just like it enough to adjourn these for some other post. But as you probably agree answering calls is kinda essential feature. And “don’t carry it in your pocket” is not the right answer.

Another wannabe spammer – Kongregate

After 9 Dragons also Kongregate network showed how NOT to it. It’s funny that big corporations (where my subscriptions is much more important and often related to my profession) can live with direct unsubscribe links and obscure sites (I sometimes register to for whatever reason) starts sending their newsletters often after some longer time, I have no idea what the hell the site is about and I have to log in to fix the situation. But I think it’s fair to let them know. So I wrote them on their support form:

Please include Unsubscribe link from email that works without login. I had to renew my password after you started to send me emails after a few months. I can’t understand why some can’t do it properly. So often notifications start to pour from service I hadn’t hear about for months (often years) and when I need to stop them, I have to spend more time than I wished to to do so. Please, for the sake of other random users of your service, do it better.

And some positives?

There are many, we just don’t notice them so easily – because they don’t angry us, right? Not sure since when, but YouTube now allows for unlisted videos. Exactly what I wanted to share videos with my family. You can’t imagine how difficult it is to instruct mommy how to register and become my friend on YouTube. This made my day.

And as we started we will end: Merry Christmas however you like it. 🙂