July 2, 2007

My Pokemans – Let Me Show You Them

I call this: gaming — Posted by KP @ 10:56 pm

Somebody help me, I just bought a Pokemon game today.

It started a few weeks ago during a performance of Singin’ in the Rain. One of our followspot operators, Nick, is a fellow lover of the Nintendo DS, and he had told me he had just purchased a Pokemon game. While I have a general knowledge of what Pokemon are, I had never actually played one of the games.

Over the course of the next few performances, I would sometimes hear exclamations from Nick on headset like, “Yes!! My Pokemon evolved!” We have several gamers on the crew, and our off-topic conversations on headset sometimes revolve around games we’re playing. So occasionally I would ask a question about exactly how the game worked. One day he had his DS with him down on the ground, and I watched a little bit of the gameplay and asked more questions. Having gotten bored of Animal Crossing for a while, I decided this might be something I should check out. He warned me that it would consume my life, but that would be nothing new. It couldn’t possibly be more demanding than Animal Crossing, which punishes you for not playing often enough. I asked exactly which version he had, which was Diamond. I had heard of it, and had a general idea that it was one of the newer titles.

So today I stopped into the local GameStop while waiting for my laundry, and they happened to have a used copy. It started out slow with all the setup of the story and training-type exercises, but yeah, it’s kind of addictive so far.

Treo 700p and my first time touching an iPhone

I call this: phones — Posted by KP @ 8:19 pm

As you may know, for the last several months I’ve had my eye on the Treo 755p, which came out for Sprint in May, and has been reportedly on its way to Verizon by July. Well despite rumors of a July 4 release, there’s been no word on it, and today I read this post on TreoCentral claiming it failed its testing and will suffer further delays. My Treo 650’s talk time is now down under 3 minutes from a full charge, and I’m getting sick of how out of date it is, especially since everyone’s complaining about how slow the iPhone’s data connection is, while it’s several times faster than my Treo. In order to remind myself why I don’t have an iPhone, I must have a device that is faster. So I weighed my options (everything from getting an iPhone just to spite Verizon, to a Windows Mobile device, to a $40 battery for the 650.) I decided to suck it up and do the logical thing — get the 700p, which is exactly the same as the 755p except without the slick new form factor. I even get to keep my current SD card instead of having to buy a Mini-SD.

So I called up a nearby Verizon store and had them hold one for me. It took over an hour to get it, as they were quite crowded, and then they had some problems activating it. Unbeknownst to me, the long-awaited 700p maintenance release (read: Palm released a buggy phone a year ago and has just gotten around to patching it) just came out for Verizon yesterday. I hadn’t heard anything about it on the internet, which really surprised me when the technician came out and explained that he had just installed the patch on all the Treos in their stock and it had probably patched badly or something. After some time he got one working and I went home.

I also decided to go ahead with the purchase because I actually wanted to renew my contract with the Evil Empire. My current plan is very expensive ($124/mo.), and I wanted to scale it down and add basic text messaging. I didn’t realize until I got there and talked to the rep that in the two years I’ve had my plan they’ve actually come up with a cheaper one (imagine that!), because there’s a phone+data plan now, which saves you $5. At the time I last renewed there was no such combo package. So I saved $5 on the combo (which I promptly spent on the TXT plan), and I also reduced from 900 minutes to 450. I will have to keep an eye on that to make sure it’s enough. When I’m really busy my usage can get up to 500, so I’ll have to be smart about it. Ever since my parents got Macs and broadband, we use iChat instead of the phone, so that has probably reduced my usage by 100-200 minutes alone.

I feel like a cassette tape user describing to you the wonders of the CD player, so I’m not going to go into any details about what’s special about the 700p, at least until I’ve used it some more. To me it’s a nice upgrade, though.

While I was waiting for my turn to have my phone activated, I had a lot of time to kill in the store, so I played with all the other smartphones that I had considered getting. To cut to the chase, all of them sucked. No question, I didn’t want any of them, and once I tried them, I had no regrets about going with the 700p. I’ve never owned a Windows Mobile device, and have always wondered if perhaps I was missing something. When a friend will let me play with their phone I try to get a feel for it, but there’s little you can mess around with without screwing up your friend’s phone. A store display model is much easier to work with. I’m sure there are ways of customizing them, but neither the Blackberry or WinMobile UIs appealed to me at all. I’m sick to death of Palm OS, but I didn’t find the others very usable.

When I arrived at the mall, I thought, “Oh cool, when I’m done I can go to the Apple Store and look at the iPhone.” Then I decided perhaps it would be a better idea to look at the iPhone before buying the Treo, just in case the Apple Reality Distortion Field really was that strong. Well, obviously I made it out of the store, but I can’t say I did it with confidence. I think I was shaking a little. God, it’s pretty. If it wasn’t for my strong distrust of AT&T, I’d have overlooked all the phone’s other flaws and walked out of the store with one.

In brief, I found the touchscreen to be a little difficult. Every device responds best to a different amount of pressure, I’ve learned this from all my years with Palm, so maybe it was just that adjustment, but I found it sometimes didn’t respond right away, or in exactly the way I touched it. When viewing web pages I sometimes had to poke at it multiple times to get it to click on a link. Everyone is saying “trust the keyboard.” I found this to be true. When using it in portrait, I made quite a few mistakes, but the software correctly predicted what I was trying to type. I’ve heard in landscape mode it’s more accurate because the keyboard is a little bigger. I didn’t spend much time trying it that way. Overall, I agree with the general consensus online, it’s an amazing piece of work. The screen is beautiful, and the design makes you just want to keep using it. I am more than ever looking forward to seeing what the next version can do.