Joel is old

I almost feel bad about this, but it seems like this sacred cow is more like Shambo.

sometimes the elders are right, and the youngsters really are too young to know the history of the idea they think that they’ve just invented.

Unfortunately for Joel, QR codes have been around for over a decade and work very, very well (they’re most well-known in Japan where they appear on virtually every item you can buy, but when British tabloid newspapers like The Sun are starting to run them, you know they’re making inroads in the UK too).The QR code for this blog

Given that he’s talking about mobile phones, and that he says typing URLs is not hard, I can only imagine that he’s never actually done it. Typing URLs on a mobile phone keyboard is an awful, awful experience. If it’s anything other than a simple you may as well not even bother, because you’ll probably make a typo anyway. Why do you think there are so many “text us this word on this number and we’ll send you the URL” services?

Unluckily for the consumers who are expected to install new software on their phones line, he also doesn’t seem to realise that some phones do now come with QR code readers built in. Oh dear.

From my point of view, where I’ve been watching QR codes for about seven years, they’ve always seemed like a good idea, but the mobile technology in the West has just been too poor to be able to use them. Now that every man and his dog has a phone which incorporates a 2MP camera and a fully-featured web browser (none of this WAP rubbish) it’s easy to see them becoming more and more popular.

This blogger thinks that Joel should stick to commenting on software, and leave the mobile tech world well alone.

You can generate your own QR codes on

Listening to podcasts

I do not listen to many podcasts. This is mainly because I used to have trouble syncing a subscription list across multiple PCs. Now I have a Nokia N95 I use that as my primary client. It works well and I have started adding some feeds.

I don’t listen to music podcasts though – I’ve tried and they are almost always too long and players don’t allow me to add a bookmark a place in the hour-long mp3 where I actually liked a song and want to look it up later, or mark a point where someone mentions a URL or whatever.

Also the default media player won’t store information for submission to I also use Symbian OggPlay, an open source C++ app which I’m tempted to see if I build a binary from and add played items storage (although it might just be easier to write from from scratch in Python if all my podcasts are mp3s).

This means the core of my subscriptions are these:

The BBC’s new musc podcasts are all under 15 minutes (AFAIK), which makes them easily searchable and I’ve subscribed to these:

I just about manage to listen to all of these in a week, but I do feel like I’m missing out on some “new music revelation” by not having an adequate player for long music podcasts like those that Alf recommends. Is there anything out there?

Nokia N95 assessment

Jabber on my N95

I got a first-generation Nokia N95 two months ago. The Gadget Show rated it better than the iPhone in pure functionality. Ben Ward (and his commenters) have had some really serious problems, so I thought I’d give a hopefully more balanced view.

With that in mind, I’ve had a mobile phone for the last ten years and my favourites have all been Nokias which means that I’m very, very familiar with the Symbian OS. Thanks to JimH I was on the Early Access trial of Python for S60. All of this serves to show that I like to think I’m balanced but I’m probably not 🙂

Executive summary: The Nokia N95 is a great phone, but terribly terribly slow. If you get one, buy the newer Nokia N95 8GB which has a bigger screen, better battery life and obviously more memory.

I’ve now upgraded the firmware and the whole device is much, much snappier, including the previously ponderous camera

The good

The integrated WiFi means that I now use the podcasting support above texting, phonecalls, calendaring and taking photos. But it’s a poorly integrated application; for example the bundled WebKit-based browser supports RSS subscriptions but this list is separate from your podcast subscriptions and items are not interchangeable. This means it is very difficult to browse to a site which provides podcasts and then subscribe in a suitable application (the best route seems to be copy and paste of the URL). You can at least import and subscribe to an OPML file so you’re best off maintaining the list online somewhere, perhaps using something like and an rss2opml converter.

The TV-out is great and actually useful given the native mp4 support and free xvid player available.

Running Apache on your mobile phone is super-cool and would open some interesting possibilities if it didn’t murder your battery life.

Python support is good and getting better all the time. Most of the phone’s functions are available to scripts, making it quite straightforward to hack your phone, provided you can set up a decent develop/deploy/test cycle

My 3-branded X-Series N95 came with Skype and MS Live Messenger and a simple menu layout.

If you hurled it at someone hard enough, you could probably kill them.

The 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens is amazing but…

The bad

The 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens is amazing but slow beyond belief and pushes it very almost beyond utility.

As with most Nokia phones in the past five years they seem to have too many hardware designers. As Russ says, the dual-direction slide is a gimmick and the media buttons should be elsewhere. They would have had room for them if they hadn’t had so many redundant buttons on the existing design. When the slide is open for normal use and including the keypad, there are twenty-nine buttons available. Twenty-nine! I never even use one of the largest two (about which Russ says The “media key” is stupid and the media menu is stupid)! I say this every time, but Nokia need to drastically rethink their button strategy.

Connecting the phone to your PC via mini-USB does not charge it.

Some of Ben’s other criticisms are valid:

  • the “notes” app can’t be synced. The phone comes with no other text viewer or editor.
  • changing between profile and landscape views aren’t accelerometer based, despite there being one
  • the gallery application is a step backwards from the previous version found on devices like the 6630 (presumably because of the increased size per photo)

The indifferent

The GPS has been variable for me. Sometimes I get a fix within 30 seconds, othertimes it takes up to five minutes, which is clearly useless. Nevertheless, as a first-generation device with this functionality it makes a good first pass with excellent application support where the location will default back to that of the cell ID you’re connected to.

The iPhone has quite good overall usability, most other phones suck at usability and I’ve certainly got used to it.

Other criticisms seem to be unfounded:

  • text recipients can be chosen by typing their name in, you don’t have to browse
  • I can’t find a place outside of third-party apps where the number pad can’t be used for navigation
  • Each entry in the missed call list has an option “use number” which appears to reflect the number which called
  • the battery life is more or less what I’d expect from a handheld device running bluetooth, GPS, Wifi a digital camera and a phone.

There is a brand-new firmware release out today which claims to solve a number of these problems, but it requires you to completely wipe the internal memory and reinstall all your apps and reconfigure your phone. As one of the commenters on the AllAboutSymbian article says Imagine having to do a complete re-install every time Microsoft released a Service Pack. Eugh.