Windows Phone 7… Catch It!

Over the last few weeks I have had plenty of opportunity to play with a number of Windows Phone 7 devices, and I am loving it!  Windows Phone 7 is as friendly and simple as any other Phone OS I have come across, and much moreso than the myriad Mobile 6, 6.1, and 6.5 devices I have gone through since making the transition from dumb phone to smart phone. 

The phone I am playing with currently is the Samsung Taylor, which is slightly larger (but slimmer) than my HTC Tilt 2, with the same size screen.  That is where the similarities end.  It’s multi-touch intuitive interface is extremely responsive and friendly… what many would call Sexy.  It is a prototype model that will not be available to the public, and will be replaced on November 8th by the Samsung Focus (http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/cell-phones/SGH-I917ZKAATT), which has some REALLY impressive features, including:

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 1GHz CPU
  • Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours
  • 480×800 pixels
  • Proximity sensor for auto turnoff
  • 512MB RAM/512MB ROM
  • 8GB internal storage
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 802.11 b/g/n
  • MicroUSB 2.0 port
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • 5MB camera (2592×1944)

…and so much more. 

What can I say about Windows Phone 7?  It is, in a nutshell, everything that Mobile 6.5 isn’t.  It is intuitive, friendly, and geared toward end-users, while still being completely business-friendly and centrally manageable.  It only took a few seconds to connect to my Exchange 2010 account, and its high-speed connections (you have the options of GSM, EDGE, HSPDA, Wifi, and more) ensured that my data came down FAST.

Web browsing is amazing… My blog (complete with Autumn Leaves theme) came down measurably quicker than it did on my Tilt 2 (which is still the best Mobile 6.5 device I have!) and even at full screen (not easily legible because of the size) it was extremely clear; but when I put to fingers on the screen and flicked it open, the instant zoom not only made the page clear and legible, but made me fall in love with the platform!

Of course all of the expected functionality is there… Live Messenger, Adobe Reader, Maps, and the Windows Phone 7 version of Office 2010 which is the only mobile platform that will allow you to natively edit .PPTX, .XLSX, and .DOCX files.

To test out PowerPoint I decided to e-mail two of my own decks to the phone because I not only wanted to see how fast 2.5MB came down, I also wanted to see how easily you could open an e-mailed document… and WOW was it simple (clicked on it, saw Slide 1, complete with 2010 theme!).  However that was the ‘101 level’ of the experience.  What came next made me stand and take notice!

My presentation (Installing and Configuring a Hyper-V environment on Windows Server 2008 R2) not only ran FAST, it ran BEAUTIFULLY.  I expected the first couple of ‘text & theme’ slides to behave well, but when I got to the slide ‘Installing Hyper-V’ – a slide with 15 different transitions between full-screen images and saw now well it presented – complete with all of my custom transitions with no speed difference as compared to my HP laptop with 8GB RAM and an i7 CPU – I was shocked, awed, impressed, and in a nutshell I WANT ONE!! 

As a Virtual Partner Technical Advisor for Microsoft Canada I spend a lot of time visiting partners and switching between demos on one laptop and PowerPoint on the other.  Imagine now I can connect my PHONE wirelessly to the overhead projector and BAM… I no longer need two laptops!  WOW!  I WANT ONE!

Of course it didn’t occur to me until after I had done playing that I hadn’t tried what was once the main purpose for these devices… I called my wife.  The call was clear, high quality, and no matter how I held it neither lost reception (as my Tilt 2 is prone to do) or disconnected (as I heard might happen with SOME competitive devices).  Another big win!

Overall I am definitely excited about the platform… my personal preference will be for a phone with a keyboard (I have really big hands) but even so the on-screen keyboard was easy to use, and whichever model I end up with I expect I will love it!

More to come… these devices are coming to Canada November 8th, which will be the dawn of a new era in mobility… don’t miss it!

Product Review: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-Portable Drive (500GB)

I use a lot of external hard drives.  When I travel I generally carry three of them – two 500GBs and a 250GB.  I have gone through a lot of them over the years, including Maxtor, Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, and more, to say nothing of the drives I have put in enclosures.  Most of the ones I have are Western Digital for no good reason, but they have been reliable.  I have never thought to write about any of them, because they all do their job, and although some may be faster or slower than others none have really had features that have wowed me.  I should mention that I never use their proprietary software and I am sure if you like one or the other for backup or encryption then I am glad you are happy with it.

One of my clients handed me four 500GB Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-Portable Drives the other day for a project I am working on, and when I unpacked the first one today I was pleasantly surprised by a few features:

  1. The size is noticeably smaller than the drives I usually carry.  My WD drives (I love them, and always have at least two of them) measure 4 7/8” x 3” x .5”.  The GoFlex (minus the SATA adapter) is 4 3/8” x 3 1/8” x 3/8”, making it noticeably smaller in the hand (although it is 1/8” wider).
  2. The connections on the drive itself are standard SATA connections, meaning I have options in how to connect it.
  3. The SATA-USB adapter (which admittedly makes it much similar in size to the WD) is detachable, and can be exchanged with connectors for USB 3.0, eSATA, or Firewire 800.

It comes with a very solid-feeling 18” USB 2.0 cable.  When I plugged it into my laptop Windows 7 recognized it and installed the appropriate drivers automatically (the box claims that it is also compatible with Windows Vista and XP, as well as Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher).  The LED lights on the adapter are bright, and my only question is why they don’t change colours or flash for activity.

I was disappointed that the drive does not come with a case of any sort, but then the newer WDs don’t either, so that is not a mark in favour or against either drive.

Of course all of these features are meaningless if the drive doesn’t perform.  To put it to the test I put it up against a relatively new 500GB Western Digital drive that I have been using for a while.  I had an ISO file handy that weighs in at 11,376,840KB and did a straight copy – using the same sturdy USB cable.  I/O performance between the two drives was comparable with the Seagate coming in a little faster than the WD (7m05s to 7m30s) but it was more of an anecdotal test than scientific – The Seagate was cleanly formatted (NTFS) and the WD is a production drive, likely fragmented, and encrypted (BitLocker to Go).  With all of those factors considered I would assume the performance is near-identical.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not going out to replace all of my ultra-portable (2.5” external) drives with new Seagates – I replaced all of my smaller drives with 500GB drives just six months ago – but I will definitely give the Seagate a favourable BUY rating, and am glad that this project is ‘forcing’ me to use one :)

An interesting tidbit about BitLocker to Go

Now here’s a great feature!  I have grumbled in the past that encrypting a drive with BitLocker is a slow process, and although I do it so rarely, I was reminded yesterday that decrypting is equally time-consuming.  I have a 500GB external drive that I need to decrypt because it is being repurposed, and because the data that I am leaving on it is not confidential.

The Problems:

  • I started the VERY long process at 10pm last night, while I was working in my Server 2008R2 boot partition on my laptop (I love Windows 7, but I need Hyper-V!).
  • Before the decryption was half done I would have to leave the hotel – turning off the laptop.
  • Part of what I need to do today requires me to be in the Windows 7 boot partition on my laptop.

Fortunately as the drive decrypts you have the option to easily pause the operation, and I planned to do that before packing up the laptop.  My original plan was to work in Windows 7 in the cafe, at the airport, on the plane, and at home tonight… and when it was time to go to bed I would reboot into Windows Server 2008R2 and resume the decryption overnight.

I got to the airport lounge and plugged in the laptop, and after booting into Windows 7 I plugged in the wrong external drive – the one that I was in the process of decrypting.  How cool is this?  The BitLocker Drive Encryption window and continued the decryption from where it left off… no hiccoughs!  I can even access the data on it while it decrypts.

Another #WIN for #Windows7 and #BitLocker!