Jan 04

Xperia Mini Pro First Impressions

After three years of service I said goodbye to my Nokia 3500 Classic, which was almost falling apart anyway. Time to ‘go with the flow’ and get ourselves one of them fancy Android phones I thought. Settling for compactness and not wanting to spend a whole lot of money on the device I chose the Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro (Azerty version). There seems to be quite a bit of confusing posts about this phone, thank Sony for the similar naming of their phones for that. It’s the one with just one physical button (home) on the front of the phone.

So first of all, as I opened the box I noticed some thought was put into the design of the box. The phone sitting in a cradle with all other stuff (booklets, USB/socket charger and headphones) underneath.

Challenge numero uno: Getting the backcover off
As this is a brand new phone I didn’t want to break anything right from the start so I tried to take great care while doing this. The image and description in the manual didn’t speak to me as much as a Google search. The trick is to just slide your nails in between the cover and the phone when you’ve ‘clicked’ it open a bit thanks to the little plastic opening at the left side of the phone.

Secondly, using the (horrible) PC Companion I wanted to update the firmware. Windows 7 apparently couldn’t install the driver required, a quick Google search for ‘S1Boot Download Driver’ brought me to a website that had the driver available. After the manual install it worked flawlessly.

Now the phone was ready for a test drive so to speak. One thing I immediately noticed was the piles of bloatware that was added. Took some time to remove all of it, sadly not all of the apps can be removed without rooting (yes PopCap, I’m looking -angrily- at you).

I have to say, I was quite overwhelmed at first with the many options, screens and fanciness that bombarded me. I can imagine a non-tech savvy person being turned off by this (that or he just doesn’t pay attention to it at all). After spending a couple of hours checking out all the different settings and apps/widgets that I had gathered I’m quite happy with my current setup.

Switching the media player to PlayerPro, browser to Dolphin HD and the ‘launcher’ to GO Launcher EX improved quite a bit upon the default ‘skin’. I have also yet to discover the full potential of the Tasker application, which can do a ridiculous amount of customization. However, the application (app drawer) section is a complete mess when you install a handful of them. At this point I haven’t found a fast way to sort them in tidy groups of related apps (besides putting them in folders that is).

The hardware side of things is quite pleasant. The physical keyboard takes some getting used to but I prefer it to the onscreen one nonetheless. The battery is another story, having used ‘dumbphones’ for nearly 10 years with a standby time of over 5 days this is quite a disappointment. By messing around with it for a couple of hours I managed to drain the battery from 100% to less than 50%. And right now, while being used only a little bit and being idle I see the battery getting drained quite a bit (a lot less than WiFi was on though). I’m guessing a charge overnight is no excess luxury.

Using Android instead of Nokia S40 as an OS surely is a richer experience, however, at the expense of battery lifetime, but the functionality you get in return outweighs this by far.

Started using JuiceDefender, which can periodically turn on wifi for a minute to sync and turn it back off, saving a lot of battery because this way wifi doesn’t have to be on all the time when you’re not actively using the connection.

Update 2:
A few days ago I couldn’t get the phone to connect in MTP mode anymore (mass storage worked fine), for some reason Windows 7 ‘forgot’ the driver and tried reinstalling it, but that failed. I’ve Googled a bit and found the quick and easy solution to this problem:

Here is the solution. Right My Computer and select properties. Goto device manager. And locate MTP USB Device. Right click and choose select update driver. Select ‘browse my computer for drivers’ and then choose “Let me pick drivers to install”. You will get two options select the USB controllers and click OK and you are done.

May 19

The Songbird’s last song

Some time ago I talked about Songbird, the media player I used when I got tired of Winamp over a year ago. Everything was fine with Songbird up to version 1.4.2, it had its annoyances but worked good enough for my needs. However, since 1.4.3 the Ipod Device Support plugin got ditched and whenever I tried syncing my iPod Nano 3rd Gen only around 200 files would be copied onto it.

I’ve been looking for a good alternative, I tried foobar2000 as I read it was a lightweight and made by some former Winamp developers. The interface was a bit confusing, and it didn’t feel natural, when your application takes over 10min to configure to have it in a decent state, you’ve lost me. Everyone should go with Philips’ motto: “Sense and simplicity”.

Then I came across MediaMonkey, and boy was I glad I found this! I heard about it before and saw screenshots but they threw me off because it looked like the inteface was overly complicated as well. But last week I decided to give it a try because I became sick and tired of having to listen to the same music over and over on my iPod (and I refuse to use iTunes). The default settings of MM were great, a little tweaking here and there and I was ready to go. Unfortunately Songbird doesn’t save ratings into the metadata (don’t ask me why) so I exported my Songbird playlists (had to use a plugin, Songbird doesn’t have native support for it…) and imported the playlists into MediaMonkey.

Comparing the memory footprint and performance of Songbird and MediaMonkey I can conclude that MediaMonkey is the way to go. Where Songbird takes around 60 to 100mb ram, MediaMonkey only takes around 30 to 40mb. Browsing through a large playlist (or your entire library for that matter) is very smooth compared to SB, so is searching (they have great search filters by the way).

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you want ipod support or not, MediaMonkey is superior to Songbird in almost every way. The only addition I had to download was the MiniLyrics Embedded application so I had my song lyrics in the MM sidebar.

MediaMonkey ; Songbird