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.

My last two years with technology

I’ve been quite busy lately – hence the pause in my blogging. My last post was very specific Java related article, today we’re going to do something lighter – a little whine about various devices, gizmos and maybe even software/services I’ve encountered during the last two years. While generally I love our age for the current level of technology, sometimes I’m desperate seeing unnecessary flaws, often just software ones – and these can seriously affect the final experience. However, today I decided to add a lot of good examples, too, and every case should be short (though I’m bad at keeping stuff short ;-)).

BTW: Now I see that this is actually sort of continuation of this post.

Phone case: HTC One V

I like Android phones in general. And I like both my Wildfire and One V – however they both have quite funny flaws. Wildfire’s display is unresponsive when I pull it out of my pocket while ringing (that’s why I call back my friends right after I can’t pick them up) and One V – for a change – is very quite in-call. In both cases those are quite crucial phone related issues – and in both cases many people observe the same (but not all). Other than that – on Wildfire (2.x Android) I liked that default HTC clock application showed time of the next alarm and this view was removed from newer OS. Of course One V is faster and better in overall, but still… 3 out of 5 stars. Both.

Partition case: EASEUS Partition Master Home Edition

I wanted some free legal replacement for Partition Magic – and I found this. It may not be all-powered tool for every thing around partitions, but it did anything I wanted and so far never failed. Partitions smaller or bigger? Merge partitions? (Here it actually needs enough space on the partition you are going to merge to for all the files from the other partition – but that’s rather a non-issue.) System copied to my new SSD disk? No problem. Using Windows repair process took much longer after that. 😉 5/5! For free? Yes!

Disc case: SSD drives (Crucial M4 in my case)

Talking about SSD – well, technically it is indeed non-disk, but you know how it goes. SSD generally is fast, of course, but also cheap enough nowadays – so to put there your system volume at least is a really good idea. I did so and my computer runs and starts programs much faster. This is currently probably the best boost you can get for your money. CPU or memory or GPU? Phew… SSD made my computer fleet-footed. I can’t say more really, I somehow decided one day, checked the prices, cross-referenced all the new names for me (like Crucial, never heard of them before!), reviews were good, so I bought this one. And I’m not even having SATA3 on my mobo. 5/5

Java case: Spring JdbcTemplate

When I can I program against standard APIs – like JPA2 instead of Hibernate. When I can. Sometimes you need to go through the select cursor-style and while I could use underlying Hibernate, I decided to go straight for JDBC. And I wrote all the code. With ifs and wheres and parameters. After a couple of hours, I was done, piece was tested and then it hit me! “Man, there is supposed to be that Spring class making it much easier!” JdbcTemplate made the job, I didn’t have to write my ifs twice (first to get the query, then the parameters again), all the exceptions were handled for me and there was even every case you could think about how to process the result set (in my case callback for every row of it). This is how I like stuff made. Documentation clear… actually I mostly just let IDEA to offer me the choices and I made them right there the right way thanks to proper names. Love that. 5/5

JavaScript case: File download plugin for jQuery

Check what this plugin is about – and also its demo. Users sometimes want silly things like “can you disable the button after I press download…” (sure I can!) “…and then after download enable it again?” (are you crazy?!) But you can do it with this plugin based on hidden iframe and a cookie. I had to adjust it a bit because I had a corner case (but quite common) that there were no data and no download, which is third case from user’s perspective in addition to success and (server) failure. I’m no JavaScript expert, on the contrary – but I fell in love with jQuery in the process. And however silly HTTP is for delivering applications, things like jQuery and this plugin make it more bearable (though HTML5 and things like WebSocket mend a lot of my 10-year old concerns). For this plugin and the whole idea – 5/5.

Command-line case: GNU tools for Windows – GnuWin

I never liked all that CygWin heavy-weighted stuff, but GnuWin packages made my day. I just installed them, added c:\Program Files (x86)\GnuWin\bin into my PATH (they all go to the same dir, luckily) and stared cmd just to enjoy grep (package grep), awk (gawk), ls (and many more in coreutils), zip/unzip/gzip/tar/bzip2 and of course sed! Mentioning typical Unix/Linux tools – you may also like (not related to GnuWin) vim, though I’m happy with notepad2 for most cases (read second half of this post). But you never know when you need vim’s macros. But yeah, these are not really command line tools in Windows. GnuWin packages definitely are and they deserve 5/5 for making my life easier.

Windows environment case: Rapid Environment Editor

After so many times heading into System, Advanced, bla-bla, setting the PATH in that super short line I realized “there must be a better way and someone must have already fixed this”. Yes, they have – with Rapid Environment Editor. Adding new paths with this tool is just so much better, it checks whether the path is valid – even with other variables you are referencing (if those are paths, like JAVA_HOME for instance). No more needs to be added: 5/5

Corporate tool case: Planview

For me Planview is just a tool to report my hours. I don’t use its powerful project management features. And every time I need some report out of it I don’t understand the language it is speaking to me. This tool one of those tools forgetting that they are not my only primary tools I use. Honestly, I openly hate it. Terms out of other world, a lot of misuses of the application (not only mine actually), tons of discussion how we should use it – and still we’re not using it the right way. Personally – I blame the tool. I can use Jira, Confluence and many other tools without any problem, but Planview is simply killing me. 1/5 (and yup, it’s IE only)

More-than-a-mail case: Lotus Notes

Lotus – I think this is love or hate thing, but however defended by people who like it, it is still viewed as pain by the vast majority of users. My Lotus for instance doesn’t display mouse cursor in mail editor when it’s not focused window, wrongly shows which tab is selected when two are opened at once, pastes Excel tables is as image by default and there are many other silly defaults. Date you see in trash is trash date, not the date of the message? You can’t reply to mail in your sent mail?! My contacts get often screwed by some cashing I don’t understand and don’t care at all. Not to mention it doesn’t look like normal Windows application (not that I’m a big fan of Windows, but still). Once a colleague closed Notes by accident and I just thought it funny to remark “see, stupid Lotus Notes” – just because whatever bad happens there is kinda Notes’ fault. I read people testifying how Notes rocks, etc. But these people live in the closed world of Lotus. Linux guys can hate Outlook, but it is really usable. Lotus? As a mail and calendar? Not a chance here… 2/5

Blu-ray case: Samsung BD-E6100

Recently I’ve got myself a blu-ray player (finally). I wanted Samsung, because my TV is Samsung, price was alright, I chose model with wi-fi, brought it home and after some initial scare (it didn’t play any disk first, I had to unplug it and after this kind of restart it was fine) I was happy about its performance, speed and everything, especially compared to our older DVD player (newer Philips luckily have remotes for common people too, not only for snipers). I managed to play content from computers (with Serviio installed, though SRT subtitles don’t work unexpectedly) and remote control provided four crucial buttons for TV (on/off, Source, volume up/down) – actually many of buttons from Samsung TV remote work as well (expected). After some time I decided to plug ethernet cable in though, because wi-fi often lost the connection to the router (our notebooks never have the problem, even from the same place). Even with ethernet most of the Smart HUB stuff is quite slow. In overall it was a big upgrade compared to DVD player and I was actually surprised how well it works and plays. And Smart stuff? They still might upgrade it somehow and I didn’t buy it for that anyway. 4/5
Edit 2014:
I’d lower the rating to 3/5 after thorough experience. Compared to previous DVD player it does not continue where it ended when turned on again. Actually it does for files, but not for discs. Actually sometimes yes… but nobody knows when and why as it is not even consistent with the same disc. And sometimes it makes funny noises and is very slow with blu-ray discs. With too many of them to be the disc fault.

Conclusion

Not once I was thinking about myself as a “toiletologist”, because I just think too much about every single flaw of toilets as well. I never could understand why we – mankind – are unable to develop total toilet that always flushes everything, why we again and again put urinals so close together that you can use only 2 of 3 in the end, why we put toilet cubicles with legs on shiny reflective floor, not to mention various silly ways how to screw with automation of flushing, washing, drying or whatever.

Sometimes I want to scream “how could you do such a silly mistake?” But then I realize: “Man, it’s just software, it’s meant to be buggy (not that I agree that much :-)), the whole computer science is so much younger compared to the building industry – and look what they are able to do in a silly way every now and then. Not only on toilets, but when these are still not ‘debugged’ after all those millennia then what should we expect from the software, hm?”

The more I am happy for technology that really helps and doesn’t “think” that it will be the only thing I need to pay attention to. I have my own real life beyond technology too, after all.