• Hello Google Pixel

    For the past two years I’ve, mostly, being happily using a Google Nexus 6 as my phone. In the past six months or so I’ve started to notice that it hasn’t been quite as good as it was. The main problem, for me, was that the camera was starting to play out. The issues were the ones that I’ve seen reported elsewhere: use of the camera would quickly make the phone laggy, very slow response times on pressing the shutter, occasional failure to save an image, etc. This was generally frustrating and, even more so, because I’d got back into photoblogging.

    Meanwhile… I’ve been lusting over the Google Pixel ever since it was originally shown off. I was some way off my phone contract renewal and the price of a new Pixel was something I just couldn’t justify. Last week though an offer cropped up that meant I could renew early and get a Pixel (including a free Daydream headset thrown in).

    Fast forward to Monday just gone and…

    My new Pixel

    So far I’m liking it rather a lot. It is odd that it’s smaller in my hand than the Nexus 6 was (the XL wasn’t an available option and I was also starting to think it was time to drop down in size a little again) but I’m also finding it a little easier to work with; it’s also nice that it fits in trouser pockets as well as jacket pockets.

    It feels very fast (although every Android phone and tablet I’ve ever had have felt fast to start with) and smooth to use. I especially like the default feedback vibration – it’s a lot smoother yet also more reassuring than any I’ve felt before.

    The Google Assistant is proving to be very handy. I’m sort of used to it anyway thanks to having owned an Android Wear watch for a couple of years but having it on the phone like this seems like a natural next step.

    Another thing I’m getting very used to very quickly, and really liking a lot, is fingerprint recognition. I didn’t think I needed it but now I’m wondering how I ever managed without it. Combined with the notification pull-down gesture that the recognition area supports it seems like a perfect way to open the get going with a phone.

    There’s a couple of niggles with it, of course. The main one for me is the lack of wireless charging. That was something I really liked about the Nexus 6: I could be sat at my desk and have the phone sat on top of a charging pad, staying topped up. No such handy setup with the Pixel. The other thing is the lack of water resistance. To be fair: it’s not something I’ve ever really felt I needed with other phones and I’m not in the habit of sticking them under water; but knowing that it doesn’t matter too much if it gets exposed to rain would be nice.

    Other than that… there’s not much else to say right now. It works and works well, the move from the N6 to it was pretty smooth and the Pixel has fallen perfectly into my normal routine.

  • Seen by davep (the return)

    A few years back, not long after I got my first smartphone (a HTC Magic), I started maintaining a photoblog that was based around photos I took on that phone. The blog itself was very important to me as it covered a pretty difficult time in my life – many of the images on it contained and conveyed feelings and emotions that seem a world away now, but which I never want to totally forget.

    It served as a visual diary, a note to future me.

    And, hopefully, it provided some entertainment for those who viewed it.

    Sadly the company who hosted it closed down and the whole thing was lost, except for a hasty (and only partially successful) backup to a Wordpress blog.

    After the blog died I sort of lost interest in trying to maintain one and, to some degree, lost interest in active photography in general. Between the blog disappearing and another disappointing event relating to photography I sort of lost confidence in myself and my ability to dare to publish photos online.

    This year, despite how shitty it’s been for the world in general, has been a really good one for me. Lots of positive changes have happened and continue to happen and I noticed that I was starting to do the phone-based photoblog thing again, albeit only via twitter.

    From up the hill

    Finally, this week, I’ve cracked and decided to make it “official”. My old “Seen by davep” blog is reborn, with new content and the same old purpose. You can find it here: seenbydavep.blogspot.com

    The blog itself is still driven by twitter and the posts will still appear on twitter. In the background I have an IFTTT process running, watching for any tweet of mine with the #photoblog tag and creating a post on the blog from it.

    As for how often and what the content will be… simple: it’ll be when I see something that I need to capture.

  • A bit of a backlog at the Apple store

    Over the past couple or so weeks my Macbook air has started to develop a minor, but irritating, hardware problem. Simply put, the left shift key fails now and again. I can press it and it does nothing. It’s irritating because it messes with the flow of typing (especially when writing code) and the key also feels like it’s sticking or clicking in a way that’s different from all the other keys.

    Macbook Keyboard

    Given that I pass through Edinburgh on a pretty regular basis I thought I’d drop in and have a quick chat with someone about it. While I didn’t expect a fix there and then (although finding out it was a trivial issue would have been nice) I was hoping someone could take a quick look and let me know what might be going on.

    So, this morning, on the way to Waverley Station, I dropped in to the Apple store on Princes Street.

    I walked in and looked for a member of staff, all seemed to be busy to start with but one soon noticed that I looked a little lost and asked me if they could help. I explained the issue and she said I needed to pop upstairs to chat with the staff up there.

    So far so good.

    So, I headed up to the first floor and caught the attention of another member of staff. Having explained the exact same thing to them I was told I needed to speak with yet another staff member. The chap I needed to speak to had a queue (yes, a physical queue of people) waiting to speak to him.

    I joined the queue.

    About five minutes later I got to speak with him. I, again, explained the problem and was told that looking at it would be no problem and they could do so at around 4pm. This was at about 10am. Having gone through 3 people and spent 10 minutes doing so I found out that there was a six hour queue to have someone actually take a quick look at the issue.

    By that time I wouldn’t even be in the same country, let alone the same city. So I had to say thanks but no thanks.

    So now it looks like I have to make an appointment for some point in the future and make a special trip into Edinburgh just so someone can check out a sticky key on my Macbook.

    Remind me again how the nice thing with Apple gear is that it “just works”…

  • Virgin East Coast 21

    Yesterday I got the call about the Virgin East Coast Ticket Wallet app that I was promised last week (well, actually, promised a couple of months back). It didn’t go well.

    Well, I say “didn’t go well”, the conversation itself went very well, the chap I spoke to was polite and apologetic and helpful, but the outcome wasn’t really very brilliant.

    It didn’t get off to a brilliant start when I was first told that the solution to my problem was that I needed to uninstall and then reinstall the app (something I’ve done more than once while trying to get to the bottom of the problem). I asked if that was really necessary and I was informed that it was the only way to fix the problem of the tickets not showing. Problem is… that wasn’t my problem. So I then had to explain the exact nature of the fault I was experiencing (and also explained my guess as to what the cause of the problem was).

    After that, much of the content of the conversation involved vaguely confidential information (nothing too terrible or that big a secret – just stuff that isn’t generally known yet) which I’m not going to repeat here. The upshot of the chat though is this: they can’t do anything for me.

    Simply put: they acknowledge there’s a problem with the app, the problem is at their end, it’s a problem that needs to be fixed and there’s nothing they can do to fix it any time soon.

    The causes of this will sound familiar to anyone with experience of large companies who outsource much of their development and get involved in areas that they might not have much experience with.

    I also found out the cause of some of the delay in actually getting back to me: the person who was supposed to originally call me went on maternity leave just after they’d first tried to call and, it seems, nobody thought to pick up their workload. This left me in the bizarre position of trying to call someone who was off work for an extended period of time, and whose phone wasn’t being answered in any way.

    Of course, it doesn’t explain why that person’s boss, who I was promised a call from a short while after, never bothered to call.

    So, I think, to some degree, that’s the end of this silly saga. Their software is buggy, they can’t fix it any time soon, and I’m out of luck.

    As for the extra free tickets I was promised a couple of weeks back now… they’ve still not appeared. Time for me to chase that up again.

  • Evernote's confusing menu

    The other day I stumbled on a tip about Evernote. It was a snippet of information in a bigger post on the Evernote blog so I saved it to Evernote (obviously) to take a look at later.

    The tip was that Ctrl-Cmd-B in Evernote (on the Mac) will format a body of text as source code. While I’m not in the habit of using Evernote to store code, not even snippets of code (that’s something far better served by Gist), it seemed like something worth committing to memory.

    This morning, while finally in front of a suitable machine, I took a look. Sure enough, there’s the menu option.

    Code formatting menu option

    Handy! So I created a test note with some code in it so that I could see how it formatted it. I was curious to see if it just did simple fixed text or if it offered options to highlight various languages (I didn’t hold out much hope for the latter, but it was worth a look).

    That’s when it got odd.

    After I created a note and went to format some code, the menu option disappeared!

    Lack of code formatting menu option

    From what I can tell, once it’s gone, there’s no way to get it back. At least, not until you actually close down Evernote and start it up again.

    Frustratingly, none of this is the case in the Windows version. While the key combination is different there, the menu option is available and stays available.

    The version of Evernote I have (on my iMac and my Macbook) is 6.9.2. The version number on Windows is 6.4.2 (after checking for updates – I’m going to guess that the Mac and Windows version numbers don’t match on purpose).

    Goodness knows what’s going on here. All I can imagine is that it has something to do with a thread I found on Evernote’s support forum that suggests that code block formatting is some sort of test/beta feature and can only be enabled via a settings option that isn’t available via the version downloaded from the Apple App Store.

    So, at some point, I guess I’m going to have to uninstall Evernote from the Macbook and the iMac, reinstall from the Evernote website itself, and try this again. All of which seems a bit silly when the menu option is there and visible when I run Evernote up!


    Edit to add: Sure enough, removing the App Store version and installing the version from Evernote’s own website, and then going into preferences and enabling the option, sorted it. It’s still really odd they’d promote the facility via the blog and not mention it, and also very odd that the option would always show until the first time you’re in a position to use it, and then it’d disappear.

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