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Well, my first post in a while… and want to know what it’s about? Yeah; technology.
While the iPhone has been stealing headlines of late, I’ve been quietly keeping my opinions on the down-low. Generally, I have a lot of opinions about it… and this is not gong to be another rant about the iPhone. Rather it’s about my device of choice; the Cingular 8525 / HTC TyTN.
Well, so what have I been doing to my poor little device now? Well, actually in order to stay somewhat on the leading edge, I decided during lunch today to flash it to Windows Mobile 6. It shipped with WM5, but I knew WM5 had a number of annoying limitations that made me want to upgrade. Contrary to popular belief, the WM6 upgrade is more than just cosmetic.
So at lunchtime, I booted my Windows XP virtual machine in Parallels, set up ActiveSync and sync’ed everything to Outlook 2003. Sure, I could’ve done all of it with Missing Sync, but it appears MS 3 doesn’t support WM6. Typical… and as usual for Mark/Space they’re going to charge for a version that does. Again… figures. I love the Mac, but this “screwing of the customer base” that a lot of Mac software vendors seem to partake in is rather annoying. I’d abandon Mark/Space and just sync to Outlook if it weren’t for the fact that I adore Entourage (the Mac equivalent) far more than Outlook.
Anyway, I decided to proceed regardless and do the upgrade. To be honest, with the information available from the Hermes Wiki (FYI, Hermes is another name for the TyTN) the upgrade was pretty painless. I downloaded the AT&T “Official” ROM for the 8525 (it’s hacked for more available storage space and a few other things) and HardSPL.
I started by installing HardSPL which gave me a new bootloader. This is not required, but will provide a failback in the event the flashing fails. Call it a safety net 🙂 Anyway, two reboots later I had the app installed and tested OK. No problems. Now the big one; the WM6 install itself.
Again, painless. About 5 minutes to flash, plus another 5 minutes or so clicking the screen to go through all the initial setup wizards on the device… voila; WM6. Of course, then came the fun part; reinstalling all my applications.
Thankfully, I’d thought ahead, and made a list of the apps I used. While my VM was happily flashing WM6 onto my phone, I was downloading the files to install all those applications back onto my device… and all was good with the world.
Well, not entirely. At first, I had some difficulty finding out how to get my Mac to use the 3G Internet connection again. In WM5, there was a “Bluetooth Modem” function, which literally emulated a modem. It required a connect script and acted just like a modem… even in the process of dialing. This worked great, but no such option exists for WM6.
I did see an option called “Internet Sharing”, but I could find no information on how to use this with a Mac. Really frustrating. Finally, I figured it out when I was browsing around Bluetooth options; I noticed that a “Bluetooth PAN” (Personal Area Network) was shown as an option when I re-paired my device. Hmm…
OK… I fired up Internet Sharing, clicked “Bluetooth” and then hit “Connect”. OK… easy enough. Just out of curiosity I used my Internet Explorer on my TyTN to try to get to a few websites. Works like a champ. OK… next up, my Mac.
Here’s where I feel the Mac lacks; documentation. While most things are relatively straightforward, there’s a dearth of documentation on more complex things… and even relatively simple things (in theory) like tethering a cellphone for connectivity. There seems to be an assumption that anything the average user needs to do should be simple enough to be obvious, and generally this is true. However, there also seems to be an assumption that beyond a certain “level” those functions should be hidden away so as not to confuse the user. However, this coupled with a lack of really solid documentation on the Mac interface means that those people who actually need those functions need to go digging for them. Not much fun most of the time.
Thankfully, this one was easy. Under the “Bluetooth” menu was an option I’d never seen before when I had my WM5 device; “Join Network”. Hmm… so I did so. Nothing appeared to happen, but I popped up Safari anyway and voila; one Apple homepage.
A quick perusal of the network properties panel and I saw I had an IP address on the “Bluetooth PAN” interface. Note that I had enabled this interface a long time ago on my Mac and to-date never used it.
Now the down-side; the IP address given to me was “192.168.0.51”. This is great; it means that the Internet Sharing app is acting as a NAT gateway, sort of like a home router. It’s providing a private IP address range internally and a different one externally… theoretically allowing connections from multiple machines. While surfing in Safari, I could also surf in IE on the device… something I could never do before.
What’s the down side? Well, that happens to be on the same IP subnet range as my home network. I often use a VPN connection to get into my home network, and with this IP address range also being used by my phone, I can’t connect to any of my home systems. So that renders my VPN useless through this connection.
It’s not a REALLY big deal; the VPN is a nicety, not a necessity. I can still do what I need to do on my home network through other methods, but this is going to crimp on my work a little.
Still, generally the new Internet Sharing is a lot simpler and a lot nicer to set up than the old Bluetooth Modem setup. It allows me 3G access with no problems, allows me to do what I need to do and with minimal fuss and bother. My phone also doesn’t seem to heat up near as much with this as it did with the wireless modem. Still haven’t tested to see if an incoming phone call will disconnect me… hope not. That was one thing that always annoyed me before with the BT Modem…
The one bad part is really only something that affects me directly. As a result, I’ll whine about it a little but it doesn’t stop me being really impressed with WM6 in general. It’s slicker and looks nicer. Being able to read HTML emails on my device now is nice, and the fonts throughout the system are clearer and easier to read. The interface as a whole seems less “bogged down” than the old one was, but I’ll be the first to admit some of that could easily be the cruft stripped out of the ROM. I’ve also got a lot more available storage space than I ever remember having before; this image is a lot more frugal.
B+… rating would’ve been higher without my whine. Keep it up, Microsoft… keep improving your OS like this and I may never buy an iPhone 😀