Apple/Yahoo’s Flashback from 11th Century

Yahoo weather on iPhone: Tartu is still called Yuryev?!
This is an actual screenshot of an attempt to get a weather report for Tartu, Estonia on my iPhone, using the standard Weather app, powered by Yahoo data.
What’s the joke?
Yes, the city of Tartu used to be called Yuryev at some point. Namely between 1030 and 1061 when Prince of Kiev, Yaroslav I the Wise burnt down the wooden fortification dating back to 7th century and built his own.
Just checked, Yahoo! Weather on the web has the up-to-date name. So apparently it takes a tunnel through Apple to get medieval.


Skype for Your Mobile is here

It used to be that you had to be lucky enough to live in one of the eight countries of Hutchinson’s 3 network to use the “official” version of Skype on a 3 Skypephone handset.

That option is still there, but the world has gotten smaller again for those of us elsewhere, say in Elbonia. If you are a Skype user and have one of these 50 mobile handset models (more on the way), just go and download a client now. Presence, chat, Skype to Skype and SkypeOut calls — the works — land in your pocket.

I usally don’t replicate the official product announcements from Skype’s blog, but this specific one is definitely in the Top3 things my friends have asked for over the past years. So, please enjoy.


Me-too Moments: iPhone

I just checked, it has been 14 months since my enthusiastic post on the iPhone announcement and a liminal devices rant. Operator locking pushed me back from actually getting an iPhone for over a year. Will I get thrown out of the true gadget geek directory now?

And now there I am, the last me-too kid on the block with the cool running shoes. Can’t help but share some comments. As the whole internet is full of reviews already, I’ll stick to just a few personal notes.

  • I was a bit afraid that the visual fancyness of the UI will get on my nerves. You know how the last thing you need is an animation when you need to place a quick call or send an SMS? iPhone is extremely well balanced between flashy effects and functionality. When a deleted e-mail folds itself into the trashcan or icons ready for rearrangement rattle on their spots, it feels very natural and intuitive. So do most of the input gestures, except for some isolated cases of double-tapping or tap-and-hold which I actually had to look up from new user guide.

  • How come it takes an Apple on a tiny gadget to be the first to do the mobile network connectivity right, with all those much more powerful pieces of hardware and software we carry around calling notebooks? Getting EDGE data going on a roaming network, discovering and setting up wifi hotspots and connecting over bluetooth to my car’s handsfree (with the best audio quality I’ve had in the car!) did not take a single setting or split second more than absolutely necessary. Instead of the half-hour efforts I’m used to from setting up any previous devices I’ve had.

  • Safari (and the fact that Mail relies on the same rendering engine) are the best mobile internet experience I’ve had, period. I have moved my personal GMail box reading over from my Blackberry (which I still keep for corporate e-mail and calendaring) if not for anything else then the joy of reading the Daily Dilbert strips again, as the java-based GMail client did not support even inline images. Google Reader looks so good on an iPhone as if it were a native local app.

  • That said, why on earth does iPhone Safari lack ultrabasic features like storing passwords for web pages you frequently visit or saving images from the web to the gigabytes of local storage available?

  • iPhone camera is utter crap. Just see an example of the noise it can store. And don’t even mention the low resolution and lack of auto-focus. This step back is truly painful after mo-blogging some 800 images from my trusty K800.

  • The screen, on the other hand, with its high DPI, colour depth and contrast is a modern piece of art.

  • The on-screen keyboard is no competition to physical keys, even in the most cluttered layout like on a BlackBerry. Forget one-handed usage while driving. Even when walking around the office, you have to stop and concentrate to reply a quick “ok” to an incoming SMS. Especially error-prone with my big thumbs, I terribly miss a way to jump back to any place in typed text when you see a mistake too late (there is only backspace!) and copy-paste functionality.

  • iTunes syncing works like a charm for all media involved, including contacts from Outlook. (Before you get there – if connecting to iTunes causes you a blue screen like my first experience was, blame Logitech webcam drivers.)

To summarize: iPhone brings a great all-around experience with occasional saddening surprises in some very basic features. The good news is that most of the room for improvement can be filled with software updates, and Apple has already released a number of those. The only truly broken part that would make you want to rather wait for the next-gen hardware version is the camera.