Out of the Box Review – The Blackberry Curve (8300)

About three weeks ago when all the hype was going on I did something a little crazy. Maybe it was all the hype about the iPhone and what it could do, but I ended up getting myself a new cell phone. I was very happy with my Blackberry Pearl (8100) that I got at the end of November, and was getting use to not having the full qwerty keyboard and just trusting the phone software. Deep down I still wished for a full keyboard. I looked at the Blackberry 8800 but it didn’t have the multimedia features or the camera that I wanted (not that I really cared about the camera though).

In May of 2007 RIM released a new device, the Blackberry Curve (8300). It has all the same features that the Pearl has (MultiMedia, Camera, Mail etc) but also features a full qwerty keyboard. It is a little larger than the Pearl but is still smaller than the older Blackberry devices. It does not have the GPS that the 8800 does but I have a Bluetooth GPS receiver that works fine with both Blackberry Maps and Google Maps.

When my wife’s Motorola finally gave up the ghost and stopped charging, I looked on EBay and found a Curve that was selling for the same price as an upgrade for my wife’s plan would cost. I purchased the phone and anxiously awaited the Canada Post delivery.

The new phone was here by the end of the week. I pulled my SIM card from the Pearl and put my wife’s in it. Put my SIM card in the Curve and charged it up. I also added a 2 GB Micro SD card which allows me to store data and multimedia to the card. One thing that is similar to the Pearl is that the Micro SD card slot is located under the battery, so if you have a need to change cards frequently it is a little bit of a pain.

While the phone was charging, I went into my Blackberry Enterprise Server on my SBS 2003 server and reset the enterprise activation password for my account. Once the phone was charged all I had to do was on the Curve, go to Enterprise activation, put in my email address and the activation password and let the phone sync up. In a few minutes all of the data from my profile and email was all synced up.

I also use the Blackberry Internet Service on this phone for a couple of other email accounts. This is a service that is free that polls a pop3 email account and forwards messages to the device. Yes you can use both services (BES and BIS) at the same time. I set up the new pin in the BIS service website and resent the service books, bang the mail was forwarding to the new device.

I have now used the phone for about three weeks and have been very happy with it! The screen is very bright and can be seen in all types of light. It even automatically adjusts based on the light you are looking at it on. I have downloaded a couple of podcasts to the phone (converted with the included Roxio Media Manager) and it performs very well for displaying video, although the screen is small.

Voice quality and reception has been good, although due to my back injury I have not had a chance to try this in lots of places. The phone has a built in speaker phone and another unique feature is that the phone will adjust volume based on the ambient noise that it picks up around you. It is kind of weird the first time as the volume will go up without touching the controls. Voice dialing as in the Pearl is very good, you can either say a name or say a phone number, the phone will confirm and dial for you. I really like this feature and is something I am using constantly with my Bluetooth headset. I can make calls while the phone is securely clipped to the case on my belt.

Another feature that has been finally added to this Blackberry is a spell check. Yes no more misspelled words in your emails! As for typing, while the keys for the keyboard are actually a little small even, with my large fingers I have no problems typing as they have enough space between the keys. Something like sending a long email on my Pearl was a little trying, it has been an absolute breeze with the Curve.

Battery life- I have had some pretty good battery life from this device. Typically with my usage which includes web surfing, email, phone use taking pictures and Bluetooth I get about two to three days of use.

Camera – The phone features a 2 Megapixel camera with flash. With a Micro SD card you can store all of your photos to the card. There is also a 5X digital zoom. While the camera is okay in bright light pictures using the flash or taken in low light without the flash tend to be a bit noisy. The camera is fine if you want to snap a quick photo but I would consider using it for taking vacation photos!

One thing that I wish this phone has is WiFi so that I could connect to the internet wirelessly at home and save on downloading files via the slower edge connection.

One of the nice things about the Blackberry platform is that there are a fair number of third party applications for the phone. I have 4 already loaded up on the phone that I use on a regular basis. I have loaded a program called Mforms from http://www.skysoftsystems.com which allows you to build your own databases for the phone. For example I have created my own mileage tracking application for the BB and I can fill out the form and send it to my main email address for import into an Excel spreadsheet. I have installed the new audible air player which allows me to play my audio books on the device and actually download parts of my books from audible for listening. Another application is Jaikuberry which allows me to open and post to my Jaiku Presence Feed http://sysguy.jaiku.com. But I think the application I am looking most forward to hasn’t been released yet. The makers of Documents to Go, Dataviz will soon be releasing a Blackberry version of their software. http://www.dataviz.com/products/documentstogo/blackberry/index.html This will allow you to edit attachments on the Blackberry and gives the device a whole new use! Of course pricing is to be determined and I hope it is not as expensive as the other Office Application for the Blackberry.

In the box, you get the phone, battery, a USB Sync Charge Cable, a travel charger, a stereo headset, manuals and software CD. Am I happy that I got this phone? Yes! If I had to do it all over again would I do it? Again I have to say yes!

Aloha – We are back!

You may or may not be aware that we were away for two weeks of relaxation in early January to the island of Maui. Maui continues to be our favorite place to go and unwind and we are still looking at ways of expanding Sysguy to the Valley Island! If you have never been there, I highly recommend a minimum 10 day visit, as anything else is too short! Whales and Dolphins were jumping and the whole family had a great times and there were some tears as we boarded our Westjet flight to return home! If you are interested in more of the trip, I will soon be posting more on my personal blog (the link is on this page) in the very near future as well as pictures on my photo gallery.

While I didn’t do a lot of “work” while I was away, I had the opportunity to have an extended test of some peripherals that I use on a regular basis to see how they worked out.

The first was my Linksys Wireless G Travel Router. This device is slightly bigger than a deck of cards, comes in it’s own case and has in internal AC adaptor. This little dvice is always in my bag and really has come in handy. It allows me to do a couple of things. The router works as most home routers do offering firewall and shared wireless access, but this router does a couple of things that other travel routers do not.

Firstly, the AC adaptor for the unit is built right into it. There is a little slide on the top of the device to side out the two prongs and plug the router into a wall outlet or extension cord. This makes it a little lighter and less bulky to travel with.

Another feature that I find is a bonus with this router is that there is 2 RJ45 ports on it. One for a hardwired Cable or DSL modem connection the other for laptops or even desktops and other devices. Most travel routers have one port that you can either plug into a cable modem and use the device as a router, or plug into your hardwired ethernet card on a machine and use it as a wireless client but you can’t do both. With the Linksys one port can be plugged into a cable router and the other can be used for a other devices. For example I used my Linksys Vonage phone adaptor on this port (but more about this later).

Something else I have used from time to time is the routers ability to connect to a wireless network (unsecured only) as it’s primary ethernet (internet) connection. I have used this often in hotels to connect to their wireless internet services and then boost that signal into my room or unit. Another scenario where this can come in handy is if you have a group of people working together, they can connect to a secured wireless network (your own from the Linksys) and share data back and forth and yet still have Internet access on theier own PC’s . This gives you an additional firewall between the PC’s and the hotel or providors Internet Connection.

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Sysguy’s New Partnership!

We are pleased to announce that we have Sysguy Consulting have joined in a new partnership with one of the world’s largest software companies, Computer Associates, for our home and small business clients. While we have been selling CA’s corporate products to our client (Etrust ITM, AV and more) we are pleased to be members of CA’s new Onsite Program.

The Onsite program allows our technicians while making house calls to use CA’s new onsite diagnostic scanner to detect viruses and spyware, possible PC problems and security holds and recommend software to correct these problems. As well our techs can immediately install trial or full versions of the software, and invoice our clients in the regular manner. We can celan up and protect your PCs immediately!

Contact us for your free diagnosic scan today!

Stephen

Intel Core 2 Duo Quick Review

One of the really cool things about doing what I do is that I get to play with new technologies before or just after they are released. Usually it may be something that I get for my self but in regards to processors and computers it usually someone elses that I am configuring.

I have just had the opportunity to work on my first Intel Core 2 Duo system. I attended an Intel product briefing session this past week and got some of the scoop on their new processors. Firstly the Pentium name is gone. In the new Core 2 Duos the entire internal architecture has changed and so that have removed the Pentium Brand name…

The first time I worked with a Duo Core (Pentium D) system I was lessed than impressed. In fact for gamers it was probably slower than the Pentium Ds or AMD single cores that they were using. Multiple Core systems excel at multi tasking and multi threaded applications.

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Interesting Day

I attended a couple of sessions today put on by one of my suppliers. One session was run by Intel and the second was on Mobility solutions. There were several vendors there showing off their products.

The Intel session was very informative and I learned a lot about their new line of Core 2 Duo processors and the architecture in them. Will blog some more about what I saw in the next little while.

MIcrosoft announces Vista Upgrades for new PC Buyers

Have no fear this holiday season. If you buy a new Vista Compatible PC between Oct 26th, 2006 and March 31, 2006 you will receive a free upgrade to Windows Vista. All the information is available here at the Microsoft Vista site

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/expressupgrade.mspx

Each Tier 1 manufacturer (Dell, IBM, HP, ACER) will have their own programs as well as system builders (like Sysguy).

Also being offered are low cost cross grades, for example XP Home to Vista Ultimate or XP Pro to Vista Ultimate.

Basically if you get a PC with XP Home you will get Vista Home Premium and if you are running XP Pro you will get Vista Business.

For more info visit the Vista info site for more info on system requirements and for tier one contacts.

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/expressupgrade.mspx

Stephen

Version of Windows Vista for Software Assurance Clients only

For Sysguy clients that have MIcrosoft Open License and Software Assurance on their Windows Xp systems. There is a version of Windows Vista that will be available exclusively for them.

This version contains all the features of Windows Vista Business in addition to BitLocker Hard Drive encryption, application compatibilty and multiple language support. This version is not available for retail purchase and will only be made available to clients with current Software Assurance on their XP Pro systems.

To find out more about this new version you can go to this blog
http://blogs.msdn.com/mssmallbiz/archive/2006/09/11/749695.aspx

To see the features of Windows Vista visit Microsoft here
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/features/default.mspx

To view the editions of Windows Vista visit this site
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/editions/default.mspx

Or contact Sysguy Consulting to learn about how you can get your machines enrolled in Software Assurance. If you have purchased a PC or Laptop since October of 2005 with Windows XP Pro you can be eligible to add SA to these machines!

Stephen

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005?

You may have seen in the various ads for computers now a days, that a lot of laptops and desktops are advertised as being installed with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. I get a few questions from clients on what Media Center Edition is.

Windows SP Media Center Edition 2005 is a version of Windows XP that Microsoft released in October 2004. Media Center was available previously, but only form Tier 1 system builders (HP, Dell, Compaq). In Oct 2004 the new version was released and it was made available via the standard OEM channels (yes you can get it with new hardware from most software vendors). We built our first MCE test PC within a few days of the release.

So what is Windows XP Media Center Edition (MCE)? It is an operating system built on Windows XP Professional , with some features disabled, that is designed to be an all in one entertainment center for your home. Depending on how the system is built it can, record and playback TV shows, be connected to a wide screen or standard tv, playback photos as slide shows, listen to radio, surf the web or watch DVDs and Videos! MCE is the base operating system on the Intel VIIV software platform. The Media Center application looks great on a PC and on a TV and can be operated using a MCE remote control unit.

I built my Media Center PC when the disk showed up in my October 2004 Microsoft Action Pack update. I had a brand new motherboard and processor from Intel (3 GHZ 775 processor and an Intel Micro ATX motherboard) so I used these for the PC. I added some memory (1 GB), a Hard Drive (200 GB SATA), a video card (Powercolor ATI X300 PCI-E with TV Out), and a Microsoft Approved TV Tuner (Avermedia 1500 MCE). I also picked up an OEM MS remote control set.

Putting the PC together and installing the software was the same as building any other PC. There is one extra CD to run (you get prompted) for it. A word of note if you plan on building your own, save the hassle and used MCE approved hardware only.

Once the PC is built I decided that I was going to hook it up to the gaming TV, a 32″ JVC that was moved when we got our Sony Wide Screen HD, to our living room and had the spare Shaw Digital box (DCT) and the three video game systems that we own. I hooked it up to the S-Video connector from the Video card out to the S-video in on the TV, hooked up a crt for set up to the dual display and started up the PC. I configured the video card to display to the TV and went through the MCE application set up. In a nutshell you set up the screen and the speakers you have, run through a set up of your video input source, set up the channel guide based on your source, test the IR blaster, arrange for storage and space and then away you go. The OEM MS remote comes with 2 IP Blaster cables that attach to the devices remoter IR ports and change channels just like the remote control.

I rebooted the PC and went tried to watch a TV program… Error No video, hmmm what did I do wrong? Restart, run set up again, still no video from the TV. Check the net.. Found out that I needed a DVD codec! The Cyberlink player software version that I had installed was not an MCE supported one. I purchased Nvidia’s decoder from their web site, installed the software, re ran the MCE setup, perfect I could watch live TV! I ran through the whole thing and was able to view a slide show of the sample pictures that came with the OS. Next it was testing the FM tuner built into the Capture board.. Yup it worked. Play a CD and a DVD yes!I checked out the TV guide and the recording function next. The guide is powered by Zap2it.com and I find is more accurate than Shaw’s own guide on their DCT boxes. To record a tv program I highlighted a program in the guide, pressed the red record button on the remote and that was it. It recorded the program successfully.

Over the last two years this machine has become the workouse PC in our home… It is on 7/24/365, and has gotten a few upgrades over the year…

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