I Am A Techie

NEW WINDOWS PHONE 8 ADDITIONS

Alongside the new video from The Verge, many have downloaded the “leaked” WP8 SDK to discover many of the new features available in Windows Phone 8, effectively putting it alongside iOS6 and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean in terms of features.

1) Most basic is the live tile sizes, which include small, medium, and large. Small is just an icon (no name) which displays some sort of counter to indicate the most basic of information, like new emails, messages, or updates. The medium size is the size we all know and love, which displays a bit more information, like name of the app, as well as pictures. It can slide to reveal a photo or flip over for additional information. Also, what has been announced is the ability for developers to introduce 9 mini-images flipping within the main tile, like the People hub tile. And finally, the large size, which displays the most information, takes up the most space, and indicates high priority. What is not known at this time is if the large tiles can slide or flip over.

2) The new lock screen notifications is also an awesome addition. There are 5 icons at the bottom, which in Windows Phone 7/7.5/7.8 are locked to calls, messaging, and 3 emails, in that order. In Windows Phone 8, you can set what the 5 icons will show: for example, any new game updates, like when its your turn on the upcoming Words With Friends. Also, you can set an app to show its “detailed status”. Currently, its locked to the calendar, but it can be changed to, say, a news apps, which will cycle through all the new articles.

3) Other features pertaining to the lock screen include the ability to set when the lock screen times out (it seems ~5 seconds is the default for Windows Phone 7).

4) More changes in the Settings include a color picker for theme (opposed to a list), the Battery Saver option automatically showing battery percentage (as opposed to having to open it up), a Tap+Send function (for NFC), a Phone Storage button that allows you to [presumably] manage your phone’s storage (and SD card), and a Backup function that allows you to backup everything besides app data. This includes IE settings, text messages, and media content, including quality of media that is backed up (good or great).

5) DataSense allows users to manage theri data by setting different types of data limits, such as how long the limit is (one time, monthly, or unlimited) and then how much data you can use during that limit (inputted by user, such as 512 MB or 3 GB).

6) There are now 20 total accent colors, which should help you further personalize your device.

7) In IE10, you can set the address bar button to switch between refresh/stop, favorites, or tabs now, allowing further control for the user.

8) Find on Page also returns in IE10.

9) The Camera has been substantially redesigned, much to my chagrin. 4 buttons now dominate the right side: apps, flash, front, and video. Apps obviously refers to the new Lenses function, which is basically app extensions. Flash cycles through various flash settings, and front and video are self explanatory. In the ellipsis menu, there are options for photo settings and video settings, which presumably lead to the settings for resolution, ISO, metering, etc. In my personal opinion, this new UI will actually detriment the user and is much less streamlined than the previous version, as well as less attractive. I hope Microsoft hasn’t settled on this design, as this is still an early version.

10) There is some wanted improvements to the Photos hub though, including multiple selection of pictures, which should help users when cleaning up clutter. There are also basic editing functions for pictures, such as crop, rotate, auto-fix, and aspect ratio.

11) Bing gets some massive improvements. Opening up the Bing app will show you the default Bing picture of the day, but swiping to the right will reveal more features, such as new movies in theaters, top videos, top headlines, and local deals, which looks to be an extension of the Local Scout feature. Local deals will utilize the Scoupon service.

12) Music+Video has obviously replaced Zune with Xbox Music and Xbox Video, which isn’t changing anything as its essentially a rebranding of Zune. You still get the same functionality, except now so does your Xbox. The new music marketplace however looks to be more generic Metro than the funky typographic style that I loved. Perfect example being that the old highlights section where a small thumbnail was accompanied by large text is now replaced with a generic green box. Hopefully, the music marketplace more closely resembles the current design, but one can only hope, as this is the SDK emulator, after all. Lots can change.

13) Custom audio alerts are finally here for Windows Phone users! You can set a specific tune for various contacts, emails, and other functions, so you know what exactly is bugging you during anytime in the day!

And there are probably hundreds of new features that we don’t know about. Even amidst the leaking of the SDK, Microsoft still touts more features. Stay tuned!ch

What Windows Phone 8 Needs To Stay Relevant

While the Dev Summit has proven that the new Windows Phone 8 is quite the challenger to iOS6 and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, the latter of which is still being demonstrated at the Google I/O conference, there are a number of features that I feel Windows Phone 8 needs in order to wow the consumers and stay a priority in this race.

1) A notification tray is necessary. Sure, the whole idea of Live Tiles is to provide on-the-go notifications and information, but not everyone wants to have to pin everything to the home screen. Sure, the new tile sizes help, but it’s not a great fix. Sometimes, I might miss an alert for an app, but I won’t know unless I pin it, and with the new clutter that comes with the new home screen, I might want to cut down on that and not pin as much stuff. So, what I propose is that you swipe right from the home screen to reveal a notification tray, with all your notifications piled into one place, as well as…

2) …a task manager! I love the multitasking menu, for sure, but moving the Background Tasks option from the setting menu to a combined notification / task manager tray to the left of the home screen may be what Windows Phone needs to attract some extra geeks over. It would not only display all “active apps”, but any background tasks as well, so we can turn off certain tasks and close some apps.

3) Speaking of which, the multitasking menu needs some improvements as well. The app count needs to be raised; 8 sounds like a good number, but it might be more considering multi core processors are now supported. Apps need to be closed with a swipe, so one does not need to travel into the app to close it. Tabs should not have its own window, it should all be piled into the one Internet Explorer tab; or, if it should remain, then Internet Explorer tabs do not count as running applications, so while there may be 6 windows for Internet Explorer tabs, there can also be 4 more (if the current 5 app limit is used) windows open, because Internet Explorer tabs are NOT running apps.

3) Future versions of Windows Phone need to be backwards compatible. This is a more likely scenario since it is unlikely MIcrosoft will switch from the WinRT kernel anytime soon; WinCE was almost dead anyway. But to avoid another catastrophe, such as this one, ALL future versions must remain backwards compatible.

4) SmartGlass needs to be taken advantage of, and quickly. Imagine the possibilities: your Windows 8 tablet or Windows Phone can be used as a substitute Xbox 360 controller, or it may display additional information to the player. Halo Waypoint does something similar, since it displays live radar of the map in Halo: Reach. A true competitor to the Xperia play may be sought!

Other than that, Windows Phone 8 does a lot right, but it still

This won’t be a complete overview of features included in the recently announced Windows Phone 8, but rather some minor differences and quirks present within the build. After watching the Dev Summit, I’ve noticed a few things have changed since Windows Phone 7. Most obviously, the tiles are resizable and stretch from one end of the screen to the other. It also seems like that the battery info and connection signals (3G, 4G, WiMAX, etc.) may remain constant on the screen alongside the time.But, some questions were raised while viewing the presentation. Does the app drawer still exist? If so, how will its presence be known without the addition of empty space on the right-hand side? Or will the app drawer be removed entirely and every app installed instead appearing as a tile on the home screen? Also, what about multitasking? Sure, they talked about how multitasking will now include mapping and VoIP/video chat apps, and audiobook apps such as Audible will be able to played in the background, but has the actual mechanism changed? Do you still need to press and hold the back button? Is the limit still 5 apps or has it been increased?A few minor changes are present as well. For example, the battery indicator is now facing left inside of right as in the current WP7.5 build. Also, when apps are at the smallest size, the name disappears. Speaking of size, the medium size has been enlarged slightly so all tiles extend end to end. No mention of groups or folders has been mentioned today.Remember, today was just a sneak peak at what’s to come for the future of Windows Phone. More info will be released as the release date gets closer. Windows Phone 7 users have been given the middle finger with no upgrade path to 8, instead being given a similar, but not similar update of WP7.8, giving users the new start screen.Instead, we will be given more details on Windows Phone 8 later. Hopefully Microsoft can think of better compensation for those who stuck by WP7, especially those who bought the new Nokia Lumia 900, which was called Microsoft’s flagship phone.

This won’t be a complete overview of features included in the recently announced Windows Phone 8, but rather some minor differences and quirks present within the build. After watching the Dev Summit, I’ve noticed a few things have changed since Windows Phone 7. Most obviously, the tiles are resizable and stretch from one end of the screen to the other. It also seems like that the battery info and connection signals (3G, 4G, WiMAX, etc.) may remain constant on the screen alongside the time.

But, some questions were raised while viewing the presentation. Does the app drawer still exist? If so, how will its presence be known without the addition of empty space on the right-hand side? Or will the app drawer be removed entirely and every app installed instead appearing as a tile on the home screen? Also, what about multitasking? Sure, they talked about how multitasking will now include mapping and VoIP/video chat apps, and audiobook apps such as Audible will be able to played in the background, but has the actual mechanism changed? Do you still need to press and hold the back button? Is the limit still 5 apps or has it been increased?

A few minor changes are present as well. For example, the battery indicator is now facing left inside of right as in the current WP7.5 build. Also, when apps are at the smallest size, the name disappears. Speaking of size, the medium size has been enlarged slightly so all tiles extend end to end. No mention of groups or folders has been mentioned today.

Remember, today was just a sneak peak at what’s to come for the future of Windows Phone. More info will be released as the release date gets closer. Windows Phone 7 users have been given the middle finger with no upgrade path to 8, instead being given a similar, but not similar update of WP7.8, giving users the new start screen.

Instead, we will be given more details on Windows Phone 8 later. Hopefully Microsoft can think of better compensation for those who stuck by WP7, especially those who bought the new Nokia Lumia 900, which was called Microsoft’s flagship phone.

Camera performance review of the HTC 7575 (Arrive)

The sensor on the HTC Arrive can be called, without a doubt, one of the worst to grace a smartphone ever. Getting down to the basics, it has an oversharpening problem, where high contrast areas result in the oversharpening of edges.

Not only that, but low light performance is terrible at best. When dealing with few sources of light, the sensor stutters the framerate, causing many blurry nighttime images. The noise count is EXTREMELY high, causing grain to be present in nearly all situations, except the most well lit.

Color reproduction is okay; indoor shots look flat, but outdoor ones gain a bit of depth to it. However, when enriching the colors of the photo, it is still easy to spot the flatness of the image.

Options are limited, but standard, of smartphones. While the current crop of smartphone cameras allow the user to set the ISO, resolution, brightness, contrast, metering, etc., the camera on the Arrive only allows for changes in resolution, metering, scenes, and filters, something the most basic of dumbphones offer.

Four stops of zoom are provided, of the digital variety, and boy does the quality suffer when zoomed. It is advised to NEVER use the zoom feature. Also, the camera seems to lag when taking a picture when the memory is full; before, when the phone is devoid of content, the pictures are taken snappily, but when the phone is nearly full, a few second delay can occur.

Autofocusing is absolutely terrible for this sensor. When moving around slightly, or standing completely still, the sensor still darts around to achieve AF, which is completely unacceptable. It can only lock in on the center, and even then, sometimes it can’t find a proper surface to focus on, even though it is directly in front of the camera.

Overall, a terrible sensor, I’d say. Perfect for random shots, but trying to work some quality into it requires quite an apt understanding of how it works and some patience.

Score: 5.25 / 10

The morality of Far Cry 2

I used to be an avid gamer, playing every new hit that came out on the Xbox 360. However, one of the hidden gems caught my eye: Far Cry 2. From the promised adaptive AI to the stunning visuals to the open world setting, something about this game attracted me. And while it was by no means perfect, it actually had a lot going for it, had it been implemented correctly.

Far Cry 2 bases itself off as a game of choices. Everything you do is ultimately up to you. How do you approach the camp? Which weapons do you choose? A daytime frontal assault or a nighttime trek through the base? Walk, drive, or swim there? Everything is ultimately up to you.

But Far Cry 2 goes even deeper than that. The game is also about morality; what kind of person are you? The story itself is not very strong, but the choices you make along the way is what makes it significant.

Far Cry 2 employs a buddy system: you systematically befriend a wide cast of fellow mercenaries also deployed in the country; nothing is given of them on their background aside from a little snippet on their character screen, but the work you do for them (oftentimes hours upon hours of doing subvertive objectives to accomplish a goal easier) makes it easier to connect. And on top of that, once they die, they’re gone for good. Unlike other central characters in other games, they are perishable. Whereas Sgt. Johnson won’t die until the very end, your buddies are capable of dying in combat. Should they fall, you have three basic choices: either you walk away, attempt to revive them, or execute them.

Depending on your action, it determines what kind of person you are. Walking away, leaving their fate to be determined, shows you are weak and would rather not interfere with nature’s upbringings. Reviving them is the classic good guy posture, and most would choose this one. Executing shows you have no mercy for your comrades and are evil. Now, while the animation for reviving shows you’re using the syrettes in your stash, it actually doesn’t use any up, so executing or walk away can be considered pure evil. The basic buddy system also predictably brings out certain emotions. The first time a buddy falls, he can be revived. The second time, not so lucky. The first time you revive a buddy, you keep injecting him over and over again, your emotions at one with the character’s, desperate to keep him or her alive. And then, when his body stops moving and his eyes go glassy, you begin to sink into reality as the man you’ve been through so much with, has died. The first time I lost my buddy, I refused to believe it, and attempted to reload the save to find a way to save him, but nada. Every attempt ended in the same result.

And it is because of these emotions that Far Cry 2 is powerful. While other games generally do not evoke emotions from me (sorry GTAIV, but that was a rather sorry attempt), Far Cry 2 hits me in the soft spot.

It also gets me to think a lot about my personality. Oftentimes, when I have to assault a hideout, base, or camp to interrogate an individual, I kill everyone. After the interrogation, I kill him too. I maintain a “no survivors” rule, and recently, I began thinking, I must be a sociopath for that kind of mindset to settle in.

I am methodical as well, taking my time with the game, more time than I really should. One instance, the objective had me infiltrating a compound to retrieve some papers. I spent all day scouting out the patrols and points of interest. Considering the in-game clock, that totals to about a few hours real time. Then I move back to my safe house to retrieve my specialized arsenal: a silenced submachine gun, a silent dart gun, and a silenced handgun. I make my way back slowly, under the cover of darkness, and wait for the perfect moment to strike. I target one with the dart gun, two, three, and I move in. Using my SMG, I take down one guard, and I move up, hugging the wall, peering around the corner for a second. Three guards in the courtyard. I make my way around; there’s more cover this way. One patrol, back toward me, is in this hallway. One shot from the pistol to the temple silences him. I grab the documents and then plant some IEDs near the explosives in the courtyard. After putting a fair amount of distance between me and the compound, I blow up the IEDs, the guards, and the rest of the compound. Total time? About a few hours in the real world.

Methodical, ruthless, and merciless. I also noticed my anger issues. After losing another buddy in the second stage, I had one last objective to complete: storm the prison. Grabbing my automatic grenade launcher, light machine gun, and machine pistol, I opt for a frontal assault, a suicidal option, might I add. I plow through the heavy defenses thanks to my heavy weaponry, and leave a trail of destruction where I passed; vegetation had decayed from the flames ignited from explosions, dead bodies litter the trail, and quite a bit of ammunition expent to achieve this result. All to reach one man.

In the end, in a twist, the supposed bad man you’ve been chasing after actually was helping the civilians of the country escape while the two warring factions duel it out. You can either choose to deliver the diamonds or rearm the bomb; one goes for the diamonds and the other the bomb. However, whoever goes for the bomb dies. It is your choice: shall you be selfless and let this man live, who had saved an entire country of refugees, or be selfish and let yourself live, after only helping either faction only to kill.

I would’ve preferred a continuation of this, but it appears Far Cry 3 will also feature a variety of choices, although not as free as Far Cry 2. Restrictions appear here and there for the sake of story, but it still remains with the notion of finding the monster in oneself.

ARMED! Review for Windows Phone

A turn-based strategy game, developed by indie studio “Sickhead Games”, this possibly can be one of the best [mobile] games I’ve ever played.

The entire objective of the game is to capture as many resource nodes as possible scattered throughout the map to upgrade your intake of resources to build yourself an army of both offensive units and defensive emplacements to destroy the enemy HQ. Pretty simple.

The game consists of 5 maps, 6 units, 6 structures, and 50+ upgrades for both units, structures, and special abilities. Quite a bit of replayability here, especially since there will be player vs. AI and player vs. player, both multiplayer and pass and play. Multiplayer also consists of both live (play with a timer) and casual (take as long as you want), as well as options for ranked matches and custom matches. It’s a rather fleshed out experience.

Each unit has its own pros and cons, and should be used relative to its use. For example, the Drone can (with proper upgrades) be invisible to any unit not directly adjacent to it, which combined with its scanning abilities can double as a UAV for your side. The game encourages a mixed army, with varying amounts of each unit to make up your army.

With the additions of upgrades, combat turns out to be a lot more interesting and more complex than you’d think. Rocket turrets can be used as SAM sites, or laser turrets can shoot down enemy projectiles. Multiple upgrade paths also ensure that combat remains fair, and that you can design your army the way you want.

Graphics are very good, considering the indie nature bore upon it. Some of the best in mobile gaming, actually. Fully 3D graphics, with shadows, detailed explosions and unit models, as well as highly rendered environments make this pleasing to look at. The cartoonish vibe does help to make up for some of its downfalls, but otherwise, is a very nice looking game. Even more impressive is how stable the game remains even after having 30+ units on the screen, all engaging in their own battle.

The menu system is rather spectacular, as is the music, and oftentimes reminds me of Portal, especially the design of the Mech.

Overall, quite an engaging package. Definitely worth the purchase, as it comes with hours of entertainment (especially since it isn’t as battery draining as some other games out there), and since it now sells for $1.99, I’d wholeheartedly recommend any gamer that is more serious than casual to pick this one up.

Believe it or not, Windows Phone and Nokia are MASSIVE threats

While market share indicates that Windows Phone is still quite unpopular amongst the masses, the philosophy behind recent decisions conclude otherwise. A timely example: when Apple integrated Twitter throughout its entire platform coincided with the announcement of Windows Phone’s integration of not only Twitter, but LinkedIn as well, as well as upgraded Facebook integration. Or perhaps Google’s choice to focus on their new font, Roboto, which behaves rather similarly to Segoe WP, during their I/O conference.

Or perhaps, more recently, Samsung’s announcement of the white and blue Samsung Galaxy SIII, as well as the recently released Samsung Focus S2. Why are they now providing rather colorful phone choices? I mean, more colors for the SIII are on the way.

I’ll tell you why, and it can be summed up in one word: Lumia. With the launch of the Lumia range in the US, colorful phones have been seen slipping their way into the pockets of consumers. The Lumias, especially the 800, and now 900, have become huge successes, relative to other Windows Phones, and even other Android and iDevices; AT&T has claimed that the Lumia 900 was one of their best-selling devices! Nokia is reintroducing color into a world of black.

And Samsung obviously sees this as a huge threat. Everyone recognizes the Microkia alliance as huge. One cannot deny the vast success that both can enjoy should their platform gain the upper hand. It seems unlikely, but only because that’s what they want you to think, so their success can be prevented. But silly them, thinking their success can be prevented. It can only be halted, but not prevented. Otherwise, Samsung would brush them off as a measly attempt. They wouldn’t take them seriously. But they are.

OEMs are now allying with Windows Phone, claiming the Apple domain must end. Windows Phone 8 is slated to be the next major update, expected to hit sometime October. HTC and Samsung, two of the biggest Androud manufacturers, are gearing up for their Windows Phone 8 debut devices. Samsung is even attempting to steal the crown from Nokia, releasing high-quality phones for those on a low budget, similar to Nokia’s strategy.

While Windows Phone itself was a hastily designed plan to stay relevant (Microsoft was planning to update Windows Mobile to version 7 before scrapping the whole idea and going for Windows Phone), it seems all the pieces are coming together for ultimate victory. So as long as Microsoft focuses on getting the software right, and Nokia getting the hardware right, the former will entice consumers to hop on board, and the latter will entice manufacturers and OEMs to jump.

Now all they need to do is hope that luck is enough.

I’m back!

I’ll begin regular posting beginning tomorrow.

Here is a video of low light performance on the 808 PureView. Pretty good color quality, frame rate seems a tad bit choppy, but that just might be my computer. Other than that, excellent quality!

Some sample photographs taken with the newly announced Nokia 808 PureView. Some rather stunning photography, especially considering it was taken with a mere smartphone. Well, a smartphone with a 41 MP CMOS sensor.

HOLY WOW! 41 MEGAPIXELS!!!
At Mobile World Congress, Nokia announced an astounding phone: the Nokia 808 PureView, a radical innovation in camera phones: it features a 41 MP camera! According to what I’ve read, while it is possible to shoot in the full 41 MP, it will be scaled down to 5 MP due to pixel oversampling: basically, depending on the resolution chosen, 5-8 pixels will account for each pixel when oversampled, thus allowing the photo to retain its quality without sacrificing too much memory. It also allows 3X zooming (I believe), due to the high resolution of the image, without sacrificing image quality. However, beyond that, the camera relies on digital zooming, so good luck with that!
It will also be able to record in full 1080p due to its image sensor (which is a f2.8 Carl Zeiss aperture, if I pronounced it correctly), however, some footage I’ve seen looks a bit choppy in low light conditions, but it performed better than expected! Much better than my Arrive, which arrives at 1 fps in low light conditions.
Other than that, it runs on a 1.3 GHz processor on the Symbian Belle (ugh) OS, with a 4” nHD (640x360 px) screen with ClearBlack technology and Gorilla Glass. I’m fairly sure everyone will buy it for the camera alone. However, it is a bit pricey, and will not arrive in the US due to Symbian’s unpopularity here. It IS hinted, however, that this imaging sensor will arrive on future flagship devices, aka there’s a Windows Phone equivalent in the pipeline. Can’t wait!

HOLY WOW! 41 MEGAPIXELS!!!

At Mobile World Congress, Nokia announced an astounding phone: the Nokia 808 PureView, a radical innovation in camera phones: it features a 41 MP camera! According to what I’ve read, while it is possible to shoot in the full 41 MP, it will be scaled down to 5 MP due to pixel oversampling: basically, depending on the resolution chosen, 5-8 pixels will account for each pixel when oversampled, thus allowing the photo to retain its quality without sacrificing too much memory. It also allows 3X zooming (I believe), due to the high resolution of the image, without sacrificing image quality. However, beyond that, the camera relies on digital zooming, so good luck with that!

It will also be able to record in full 1080p due to its image sensor (which is a f2.8 Carl Zeiss aperture, if I pronounced it correctly), however, some footage I’ve seen looks a bit choppy in low light conditions, but it performed better than expected! Much better than my Arrive, which arrives at 1 fps in low light conditions.

Other than that, it runs on a 1.3 GHz processor on the Symbian Belle (ugh) OS, with a 4” nHD (640x360 px) screen with ClearBlack technology and Gorilla Glass. I’m fairly sure everyone will buy it for the camera alone. However, it is a bit pricey, and will not arrive in the US due to Symbian’s unpopularity here. It IS hinted, however, that this imaging sensor will arrive on future flagship devices, aka there’s a Windows Phone equivalent in the pipeline. Can’t wait!