Monthly Archives: September 2009

Best iPhone Apps According to First & 20

I stumbled onto a neat site today named First & 20, which lets you show people how you have your home screen on your iPhone configured. The neat thing about the site is that it keeps track of how many times different iPhone apps have been used on a home screen, which essentially is like users voting for the best iPhone apps. The site doesn’t put any restriction on what type of application you use on your home screen either, just that you think it warrants being on your home screen, paid or free – it doesn’t matter. While looking through the different configurations I’ve just found a raft of useful iPhone apps that I didn’t even knew existed – so that’ll help me out for sure when I finally get my hands on a new iPhone.

iPhones & Unicorns

After having my Samsung Blackjack for over two years, I’m out of contract and in the hunt for a new phone – and iPhone to be exact.

Last weekend I either called or physically over ten different shops on the Gold Coast looking for an iPhone to no avail. Initially I was calling different Vodafone stores over the Gold Coast and I got a consistent message – “we don’t have any but more stock is coming in constantly”. It wasn’t until I talked to Optus, 3, Crazy Johns, All Phones and more that I realised it was much worst than I had first thought. It appears a though every retailer is struggling to get any significant stock for the iPhone, having them delivered in dribs and drabs instead of by the carton or pallet.

I called the new Apple Store that has opened in the recently renovated Robina Town Centre and they had stock, which was great. Unfortunately it came with a caveat of sorts, I could have one right now if I bought it outright or I’d have to book in an appointment online for one of their iPhone specialists (read: standard phone consultant that knows the process of the major phone networks). I wanted to just walk in, like I would have to a Vodafone store and upgrade my phone but I couldn’t do that without buying it outright – which frustrated me.

While the Gold Coast iPhone stock is so low, I guess the iPhone is my unicorn.

Samsung Blackjack Mobile Phone Review

I’ve had my Samsung Blackjack i600v for over 2 years and it has been an excellent mobile phone. In that time I haven’t treated the mobile phone with any special care, other than to make sure I don’t put my car keys in the same pocket and as a by product – it looks nearly as good as when I bought it.

It was the first mobile phone I’ve owned by Samsung and also the first with a ‘large screen’. While it certainly isn’t a large screen by today’s standards, it was definitely sizable at the time and coupled with great colour reproduction – has been very easy to use. I was really worried about the screen when I first bought the Blackjack and was overly cautious with it. For the first few days, I was so paranoid I was going to buy a case for the Samsung mobile phone, however opted against it in the end as I thought it went against the slimness of the design. After two years of ownership, I’m pleased with the decision not to go with the case as with limited ‘special care’ – the screen has lasted through more than two years and is still in good condition.

Features of the Samsung Blackjack I liked:

  1. Windows Mobile 5
  2. Clean, consistent and fast navigation
  3. Predictive text
  4. Battery life
  5. Slim profile

The feature rich operating system on the Samsung Blackjack has been a joy to use, in this particular case it was Windows Mobile 5 – however I could upgraded to Windows Mobile 6 I think. The navigation throughout the phone is consistent and predictable, which I personally like and rate highly. All of the features that you use on a day to day basis are easy to get to and if you use some features of the phone that aren’t prominently placed in the navigation – you can setup shortcuts to make it as fast as factory fitted navigation.

Features of the Samsung Blackjack that I disliked or needed improvement:

  1. Sporadic crashes in Windows Mobile
  2. Unclear grouping of QUERTY keys into a standard mobile phone pad configuration
  3. Camera quality

In typical Microsoft style though, the Windows Mobile 5 operating system isn’t without its hiccups and from time to time (maybe 2-3 times per year) – the operating system crashes and becomes completely unresponsive – even the power button doesn’t work. As soon as I take the battery out, immediately put it back in – the phone reboots and it functions exactly as you’d expect for another 4-6 months without turning it off.

When I first got the Samsung Blackjack, I was unsure how the keys were going to function with the grouping of more than one key to form the ‘traditional’ number pad interface. After using it for a little while it made complete sense but even I don’t think that it is clear enough as from time to time I still find myself scanning the keyboard interface and additional markings for the button in question.

While one of the features I really liked about the Blackjack was Windows Mobile, it also is the reason for a small criticism as well. Settings in the phone that you use sporadically, normally require me to go hunting for, as I can never remember exactly which section of the phone configuration that specific setting lives under. I think a lot of that is just labelling or grouping of different settings within the control panel. After using Windows on the desktop for so long, you kind of assume everything functions the same way and when it doesn’t – it is slightly irritating. While it sounds as though it is a  harsh criticism, it’d normally take no more than 15-20 seconds at worst to find the setting I was chasing – so I suppose it is hardly worth complaining about.

I have been very impressed with the Samsung Blackjack; it is slim, light, feature rich and has been a very robust mobile phone.

Watchmen Movie Review

Over the weekend I watched the movie Watchmen and I’m really not sure what to think.

When it was still coming soon to the cinemas and I saw the Watchmen movie trailer, I immediately thought it wasn’t your garden variety superhero movie like Superman, no the superhero’s in the Watchmen movie have a dark side to their personalities that they are more than happy to let out from time to time.

A 50,000 foot overview of the movie sees it set in an alternate reality in the mid 1980’s. In this alternative reality, superheroes exist and are integrated into the community. The superheroes are not active anymore and a number of them have ‘come out’ and let their previously secret identities become public knowledge. One of the superheroes is murdered, which sparks a number of other superheroes to start up their own investigation and in the process, uncover a much larger plot which they are pulled into.

The murder of the superhero happens quite quickly in the Watchmen movie – however then significant time is spent not doing a whole lot. There are sections of the movie that are quite excellent, a number of the fight scenes come to mind and their willingness to dispense unchecked violence on the bad guys is great. However, the movie goes for nearly two and a half hours but in my opinion – not enough is happening. I was sitting there watching the movie, constantly waiting for the next thing to happen and wondering if it ever would.

I love superhero movies, however if I were a reviewer – I don’t think I could give it more than 2-3 stars. While I was really looking forward to seeing it before it made it to the cinema, I’m really happy that I missed it in the cinema or I fear I would have left the theatre very disappointed in my value for money on the cost of the movie ticket.

While I didn’t personally rate the movie that highly, popular review site Rotten Tomatoes has it sitting at about 64% positive reviews. Reading through the comments, it appears that if you’re familiar with the graphic novel (read: comic book) – you’d absolutely love the movie as it was apparently quite true to form. Not having read or even cursorily being aware of the Watchmen background, I found it a little hard to really enjoy.

I’ve watched other superhero movies on DVD literally dozens of times, unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be putting the Watchmen DVD on my Christmas shortlist or be renting it from the movie store again.

Kingscliff Short Break

Hugo Lattimore splashing his feet in the water at Kingscliff beachClaire, Hugo and I recently had a weekend escape to Kingscliff on the Tweed Coast in Northern New South Wales. It takes between 30 and 40 minutes to get to Salt Village from the Gold Coast. Claire and I had been to Salt Village outside Kingscliff previously, however it’d been quite some time ago. We figured we could find our way there by nose, which mostly worked but we weren’t sure which road to take out of Kingscliff to get back to Salt Village.

We were booked into stay at Mantra on Salt Beach, one of three accommodation options available at Salt Village – the other two being Peppers Salt Resort & Spa and Peppers Bale Salt. When we arrived at the reception, we were also greeted by a friendly porter. I don’t recall a porter when we stayed at Peppers Salt Resort & Spa last time, however it was great to have one available at Mantra on Salt Beach on this stay. The best thing was he took care of the luggage, which meant it was no hassle for Claire & Hugo. The other benefit I liked was he was able to direct me where to park in the secure underground car park to be close to the lifts that were servicing the section of Mantra on Salt Beach we’d be staying in – nothing worst than going up a lift into the wrong section of a building.

Hugo Lattimore crawling toward the surf at Kingscliff beachThe room we had booked was a two bedroom ocean view apartment and we’d requested a portable cot for Hugo to sleep in as well. I was happy to find out when we arrived that the cot was already set up and it even came with a complete set of toiletries and linen – not bad for a little fella! It was setup in the master bedroom but Claire and I thought we’d move it into the second room. That proved a little harder than first thought as it didn’t fit through the doorways easily and I couldn’t manage to unpack it. A call to the reception and another staff member came up, unpacked, moved and set it up again in the other room in about 2 minutes flat – very efficient!

Hugo had his first real encounter with the beach, which was fantastic to watch unfold. Claire took Hugo down to the water to let the small waves roll over his legs and feet, which he took delight in – kicking and stamping in the water. It would have been great if the beach water wasn’t quite so cool, I think he would have really enjoyed the waves. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do in all the sand, so we put him down onto the firm sand to start with – which went without a hiccup and proceeded to move him into the soft, loose sand. He was fascinated by it, waving his hands furiously over the sand, hitting and knocking it everywhere and had an all round great time. After he had finished playing with the sand, he realised there was a big blue thing in front of him and took off towards it!

Hugo Lattimore enjoying playing in the soft sand at Kingscliff beachWhen Claire and I stayed at Peppers Salt Resort & Spa last time, we ventured into Kingscliff to have a mooch around and were happy to discover some great cafes and shops. The cafe we remembered had changed hands in that time, I tried a barramundi burger but I now realise that the error of my ways and will remember not to betray the beef gods next time. One shop we were excited to see was still operating was Boardwalk Books, a small book shop with good mix of mainstream reading and a fabulous range of eclectic books that you don’t see in other book shops. We couldn’t help ourselves and picked up a children’s book named Everybody Poos and a book by Ben Mezrich named Bringing Down The House – the true story behind the recent “21” movie featuring Kevin Spacey.

You can’t help but fall in love with Kingscliff, its small, quaint and is absolute beachside living. I think the Kingscliff Beach & Lawn Bowls Club must have the single greatest location of any bowls club in Australia – their backyard is the pristine Kingscliff beach. I imagine Kingscliff now is what the Gold Coast must have felt like back when it was still a tiny town growing up. Salt Village is also a really relaxing place to be, with the majority of the shops you’ll need to simply remove yourself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life to unwind.

I don’t know when we’ll be back to Kingscliff & Salt Village again next but I’m quite sure I’m going to enjoy it.