| | 01-17-2009, 10:07 PM Thread Author #2
In part 1 of my crackberry inaugural account, I started my trip from Boston to DC and gave my initial impressions of VZ Navigator versus Garmin Mobile for the Blackberry Storm. In this installment I'll talk about tethering and my overall Storm experience in this, my first week of ownership.
For some unknown reason I had assumed that a train would have wifi available for computer users, but I was wrong. There doesn't seem to be any wifi on Amtrak (Free or otherwise), so in order to do any of my real work I needed some other solution. Luckily my Storm came with a free month of Verizon's BroadBand Access, and this was the perfect opportunity to try it.
My laptop is a new MacBook pro running both Mac OS 10.5.5, Windows XP under Bootcamp, and also Parallels virtual machines for ORacle ENterprise Linux and Windows XP if I so choose. I had installed Verizon's VZ Access Manager software only on my bootcamp partition, so I booted under XP to get up and running.
I initially connected my Storm to the laptop via the USB cable, but this resulted in the device not being recognized. That was odd, because it was recognized when I performed my device swap on the same system. However, I was able to pair the Storm wiht the laptop via bluetooth and use dial-up networking via VZ Access. It was really quite straightforward and simple.
Oh, and it worked. I was able to access my email from work, my email from my own domain, and I was even able to login and fool around a little in Warhammer Online with what seemed like acceptable performance. The latter shouldn't be taken as a testimonal, however, because my ability to do anythign was limited by not having room to use a mouse. The trackpad is not the ideal input device for MMOs.
So, I was pleasantly surprised by the broadband access. I don't think I would make use of it enough to justify the monthly fee, but if I was going to be in a situation where I thought I would need it (say, a long road trip in an RV) then I would probably feel comfortable adding it to my account. And it helped pass the time on this 8-hour train ride.
Another thing that helped pass the time was just typing away on my storm. I wrote all of part 1 on the Storm, and the typing was very usable. I could go back and forth between full QWERTY and SureType, and each is good for different situation. There are, however, some annoyances that I hope can get fixed. For example, I could be tying along and suddenly the cursor would jump back up a couple of paragraphs for no apparent reason. Also, in MemoPad if the cursor got out of position it was tricky to move it back because a touch didn't really have single-letter precision (cursor mode in Memopad would be a nice addition). Finally, there was this oddity where a letter would appear to be under the cursor, and be impossible to remove. I couldn't position the cursor to the right of the stray letter to delete it with a backspace.
My workaround for the latter case was to insert a whole bunch of blank lines at the end of whatever I was composing. THen, if a stray letter appeared or I needed to reposition the cursor, I could just tap somewhere in those blank lines, hit backspace a few times, and be where I wanted to go. Then insert a few carriage returns for good measure and off we go.
Of course typing on a Blackberry still can't approach keyboard speed; I've written this in about 1/10 the time it took to put together part 1 on my Storm. But, it's very usable. I really like the click screen, and would say that most of the early reviews criticizing the typing experience on the STorm were the result of people not taking time to get used to it. And by time I mean just an hour or so of typing to get a sense of finger placement relative to the touch screen keyboards.
I guess it's worth a very brief digression to mention the camera on the Storm. I'm not a huge user of cell phone cameras, but they have their place for those times when you want a quick photo and didn't bring a real camera. The camera on the STorm has the stats, (3.2 Megapixel, flash), and takes a decent picture. But, its shutter speed is so incredibly slow as to make it unusable for anything other than a posed portrait. I have read about shutter speed improvements in the leaked OS updates, and I really hope those are for real.
The final note for this day's trip is about the accelerometer in the storm. Yes, it's sluggish -- but I think I'm getting the hang of it. The main issue is that it responds much more to vertical motion than to horizontal motion. I found that it was much better at changing orientation it I was holding it at 45 degrees or better to vertical than if I rotated it horizontally. I still have to wonder how it can be so precise that somebody wrote a program to use it as a level, but relatively slow in switching orientations -- sounds like a software tolerance issue to me. I only had it flip at unwanted times perhaps 5-6 times all day, and for the amount I used it that seems pretty good.
A couple of additional GPS notes that I didn't put in part 1:
I also wanted to mention one quirk of VZ Navigator: it doesn't support SureType! In portrait mode you will get the SureType keyboard but it's in Multitap mode. There is no option in the menu to use SureType, either. This seems strang for an app that obviously has to have been customized for the Storm, but I had the sam eproblem on the Pearl. I call that lazy product development by Verizon and partners.
On the flip side, I also should have mentioned that I like Verizon's handling of preferences better than Garmin. Garmin didn't give me a choice of voice, for example (but its voice audio was better than any VZN). And, the VZ Navigator preferences are more accessible from various screens.
Anyway, so far, so good. I got to compare and contrast a couple of GPS packages, and I got to play with BroadBand Access for free. There's something cool about writing a post on the storm, then emailing it to myself using the storm as a broadband tethered modem. Sure, I could hst just transferred the file using bluetooth, but why not go overboard? The Storm is growing on me more every day. It has an excellent screen, I have no problems typing on it, and the Verizon network is simply the best where I need to be. More in the next day or so when I've had fun walking around in the crowds and trying to use the Storm as the mobile network gets brought to its knees by the influx of people.