A little bit of history repeating itself.

Back in the late 90’s and early 00’s in the days before smartphones were really a thing I used to carry a PDA everywhere with me. Before the days of Palm, I had Psion. A Series 3a, and then a Series 5.

Psion had it nailed. The finest British innovation from Silicon Fen in Cambridgeshire, back before we became a nationalist hell-hole and decided that being an island suited us thankyouverymuch.

The beating heart of the Series 5 was a rather fancy ARM chip. In the 90’s ARM chips were so new that hardly any devices used them. Created by ARM holdings in the 80’s and debuted in the Acorn Archimedes around the time I was in 5th form at Comprehensive School, the ARM was mind-blowing. Destroying the Amiga and ST with 32 bit power in an era of 16 bit 68000 processors.

But I digress…

The form factor of the Series 3 and 5 was something I truly loved. Small, pocketable, and for such a small keyboard the one on the Series 5 is still legendary for being the best keyboard ever fitted on a pocket device.

Spin on to 2021… The third iteration of the Galaxy Z Fold arrives with us. The folding screen device has always intrigued me, but never been on my wish list for two reasons:

1. No IP rating

2. No S-pen

Enter, then, the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The first iteration with both of the above. Ok so the IP rating is IPx8 which means the dust ingress rating still isn’t there, but it has stylus support!

Mine arrived on Friday. Apparently demand for them has been stunningly high! It looks like everyone else has been waiting for the above to be a thing.

So, why did I refer to the Psion above?

Well I’m currently typing this post with mine in “flex” mode, half folded. It feels like I’m using a Series 3 again!

I’m in love with Samsung Gear again

I need to stop rush buying. I’m never happy. When I bought my Galaxy Watch it was an impulse buy. I saw it on display, the shop had them in stock, and I walked out with one.

The problem is, looking back, I walked out with the wrong one. They asked me if I’d like the 42mm or the 46mm size; I asked for the 46mm – they said it would take a few days to arrive in but they had the 42mm and like a fool and with no research I bought it.

It looked nice. The smaller size even fitted my wrist rather well – for a big lad I don’t have huge hands or feet and my wrists accordingly are quite slim.

I then spent 18 months regretting it.

Whilst there was nothing ultimately wrong with the device; it ran Tizen, it did everything the Galaxy Watch 46mm did; it wasn’t for me. The tiny battery and my lifestyle meant that at the end of every day I had to charge it. If I didn’t then I wouldn’t get through the next day.

I even bought a Garmin Venu back in September as I was really pissed off with Samsung gear in particular. My Galaxy Watch was really running like a dog and I lost faith in it after about 4 days in a row I was left at 10am with a rather expensive but incredibly useless bracelet with a flat battery.

The less said about Garmin’s platform the better, but let’s just say it’s not the place for me.

Earlier this month on the other hand I had the opportunity to upgrade to a Galaxy Watch 3. I took it, but it was an absolute insistence that I got the larger size; this time 45mm.

Yes it looks a bit bigger on my wrist, and yes it feels heavier to wear, but wow the battery anxiety is gone! I can finally use it as it is meant to be used without worrying that every single screen touch is 2% off the battery.

I also, again, opted for 4G as I can then leave my phone behind in an emergency or if I’m running really tight on space (have you ever tried to fit a Galaxy Note 20 into latex jeans, especially when there’s an event camera ban so it’s moot even carrying it?)

December will be magic again.

Even in these hard times we can all be assured that December will be a little change. I’ve noticed everyone is taking extra effort with their decorations this year to try and create a little Christmas spirit. Yes it’s going to be odd with the limited travel and the lack of parties (although I suspect some people will still have them anyway), and no gig on New Year’s Eve is certainly going to be strange.

I’ve really been quite well prepared this year, and in general we are very well prepared for the future. An impeding hard Brexit is not leaving me with an easy feeling as I am absolutely sure there will be trouble ahead if we do. We need a deal with the EU. A bad deal is better than no deal, but try telling that to the fuckwits in Parliament.

But I get into politics, and you don’t come here to read about politics.

My latest geeky purchase is a Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. I’ve upgraded my Galaxy Watch to it.

Note to self : you have tried Android Wear and you’ve tried Garmin and you didn’t like either.  Stick with Samsung.

The latest one is pretty much an iteration of the previous one but with extra features and slightly less weight, although I have had to sideload some of the features as they are not yet approved for use in Europe or the UK, and our regulators are still focused on COVID-19 vaccines (the first of which we already have now).

The first feature I gained is ECG. A very good tool for health monitoring, especially as I near 50. I’m already older than my dad was when he had his heart attack and keeping an eye on the electrical activity in my heart can be a good thing (although it does help if you can read an ECG rather than just relying on the software).

Secondly I gain a blood pressure monitor. Now this is definitely useful, as someone who can’t actually remember the last time I had my blood pressure taken it is a good idea to monitor it.

My readings show it is slightly elevated, but not a concern provided I keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t rise too much. Anything over 140/90 is considered high blood pressure.

However when I’m relaxed it has been as low as 115/73 so I’m not too concerned.

I suppose the thing raising my blood pressure is this…

Yeah I finally got my PVC tie! A friend on Instagram pointed me at them. It’s from a company in the Netherlands called Mr Riegillo. ( https://mr-riegillio.com/ )

I did have to give it a covering of latex polish before I could actually tie it though. It really doesn’t slide, even though PVC looks as smooth as hell it does actually grab against itself.

Anyhow, that’s my little update. Have fun.

A few days with the Nexdock

So I’ve had the Nexdock a few days now, and I suppose you’re all gagging to know what I think of it?

Well first things first – it is very important to remember that the Nexdock does not have an OS as such. If you are buying one because you think it’s a laptop then you’re going to be very disappointed. You have to connect some form of device to the Dock for it to do anything at all.

After the initial “oooh” moment I have now had chance to remove my rose tinted glasses and actually use it, and I’ve discovered a few things which may or may not be helpful.

Software

DeX, whilst a really good idea still needs work. A lot of programmes really don’t like it at all. BBC iplayer was one of my biggest disappointments! Also Google Apps really aren’t actually optimised for the DeX layout, although thankfully Microsoft have pulled their finger out and the android versions of their office suite work beautifully.

The wide screen, whilst at first appearing advantageous is actually not good for most Android apps. Running them in Landscape format is awkward and most of them end up with a very poor user experience. Thankfully apps can be resized and a tall thin window emulating the aspect ratio of a phone looks good. Apps that do adapt to the layout well, though, look stunning.

I tried a little Google Stadia on it. You would think the dock was made for Stadia! The sound is solid and bass, and the screen works beautifully with games such as Little Nightmares.

Browsing feels really natural, although I’ve actually found Samsung’s own browser to be a better performer than Chrome. The tabbed browsing feels like a PC browser and it renders windows much truer to a PC format rather than trying to render them to a tablet view.

I would like to add that the software limitations above are nothing to do with the Nexdock and are brought about by DeX.

Hardware

As for the hardware itself, well it’s certainly a very solid device! It feels heavy and substantial. Yes it fails the one hand opening test for laptops but I’m not too bothered about that personally.

The keyboard is a good if slightly springy one, with a good layout. I ditched the silicon skin in the end though as it was grippy and annoying, and so now I’m using a US layout. It’s not a major problem for me though as I used to use Acorn archimedes computers back in the 80’s and they always had the “odd” American quotes position.

One thing I did find is the proximity of the touch pad to the space bar does cause occasional nuisance touches, but the touch pad can be turned off easily with Nex & Escape key combination. I haven’t found this documented, but it’s good to know.

The screen is OK. It’s nice and bright, and the definition is very sharp but a cycling white @ colours test screens shows where compromises have been made. Mine has two blotches where the brightness is irregular. It’s a fairly standard panel though so I’m sure replacing it with a better quality panel wouldn’t be a massive deal.

The final thing to bear in mind is that the charger is a PD (power delivery) charger so you won’t be able to charge the device using your normal phone charger. I have two PD chargers. Both worked fine and charged it.

Final thoughts

Honestly it’s amazing.

A business usage scenario I see is staff are provided with a Galaxy S/Note smartphone and a Nexdock in place of a laptop. Desks in the business have monitor and keyboard setups with the original Dex docks. This means nobody needs a laptop, thin client isn’t required, and upgrading phones also upgrades the laptop simultaneously.

A forward thinking organisation should be heading down this route if, as per most businesses, they don’t actually use Windows and most of their software is browser based. My business is certainly going down this route with PC’s only being supplied to those who actually need them.

It reduces laptop theft, and because with a good administrative background Android is a robust business platform, you can increase device security to a very high level.

Nexdock Touch Arrived

After receiving the notification last week about my Nexdock being shipped and then it actually sitting in a warehouse for a few days (which I was fairly patient about to be honest), I had a notification on Monday that indeed it had shipped and it was in transit.

In what appeared to be no time at all it shipped across Europe, and arrived in the UK overnight. This afternoon at just after 12 o’clock it was delivered! (along with a customs email asking me to pay the VAT on it).

Well after a few hours of use I can tell you I am very impressed with it! The entire thing feels solid, with a nice substantial weight to it. The screen borders are very slim – pretty much rivalling my wife’s Dell laptop; the screen is crisp and bright with good colour rendering too.

Sound is acceptable. Not stunning, but very acceptable. The USB port works just as expected, and everything I’ve plugged into it so far was read fine by my phone.

It charges my phone whilst it’s plugged in, using it’s own battery to do so. The phone charges a little slowly, but at least it does charge.

As for the touchpad, well I’ve had to turn off multi touch gestures, apparently this was also a problem on the earlier Nexdocks too where the palm would trick the touchpad and the app you were running would close.

So what are the downsides? Well, only one really. It’s not a UK keyboard layout and the manufacturers have supplied a silicon overlay. It’s acceptable, but I’m not sure if I’ll stick with it. It feels grabby and clingy. I’ve given it a squirt of my latex clothing polish (I’m currently on BeGloss). It seems to have removed the cling a little. I should keep the membrane on as it is actually a work device and the membrane will keep the keyboard clean.

The other flaw with the overlay membrane is it does reduce the effectiveness of the backlighting.

Other than that little flaw I’m very impressed so far. It’ll be interesting to give it a spin out in the field, but I can honestly see it being my daily driver along with my phone.

Galaxy Watch back

Having had a Garmin watch for the best part of 4 weeks I’ve finally got my Samsung Galaxy Watch back from the warranty repair. The battery had failed quite spectacularly – draining from 100% to 0% in under 30 minutes, often getting very warm in the process. When I charged it, it would often get to 100% charge but the light on the charger would stay red.

Anyway, it’s now back and to be honest it feels nice. The Garmin was OK, but rather limited, especially the notifications section which would often deliver the same notifications repeatedly.

Yeah the battery life is the killer on the Samsung – a day at most, and the weight difference is rather noticeable with the Galaxy Watch being somewhat heavier than the Garmin, but to it’s credit I can charge it from the powershare feature on my phone.

I’m still going to keep the Garmin for a while, and I’ll see how it goes for the next few weeks before I decide whether to sell it.

It has to be said though, Samsung have the nicest platform. I still can’t get on with Android Wear.

The Galaxy Note 20. The first few days.

I didn’t make it totally obvious but I got a new phone on Tuesday. A Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.

Initial reactions?

The most obvious change from the Note 10 is the total 180 flip of the design. The buttons move from the left hand side of the chassis across to the right hand side. It didn’t take much getting used to and actually feels more natural. They aren’t as easy to catch for a start.

The s-pen moving to the left on the other hand is a really awkward change. As a right handed person I want to grab my pen with my right hand, but I have to twist awkwardly to do this. I’m sure I’ll adapt, but bad Samsung. Lefties will be loving it though.

One UI 2.5 is sweet. I never had much love for Samsung’s old UI (Touchwiz) but I adore how smooth One UI is, and with 2.5 we gain some really nice improvements. Samsung have stopped loading it down with useless clutter and now make meaningful changes to how it works.

Wireless DeX seems interesting. I’ve played with it a couple of times (I do use DeX a hell of a lot) and whilst it’s not great on our TV as the lag is about half a second (a 2014 Samsung model) it works much better on my Microsoft wireless display adaptor and has hardly any delay. I think it’ll come in most useful for my presentations. If I ever do any again with the current situation!

Now let’s get to the camera.

With COVID I’m not traveling and photographing in the same way so I’ve not really had chance to do much with the camera, but it does seem better than the old one. I did take a photo of woods yesterday with the 108mp mode turned on and it was “interesting”. From a distance the level of detail looks really good, but not amazing.

Zoomed in however the software has turned it into something slightly trippy and as if Google Dream has had a bit of influence.

I’m going to have a few more tries with the 108mp mode but I’m not exactly blown away with it.

On the other hand the general photography has yielded good results in both good and poor light.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts.

The final issue that a few people have noticed is battery life. I don’t have many anxieties myself, but I am a very battery anxious person. I keep my life on my phone and if the battery runs low I panic.

That said, the Note 20 even with the Exynos processor isn’t faring too badly. I know you could say we don’t get a good a deal in Europe as the USA gets, but we do get a base storage of 256 gig in place of the 128 base the USA gets.

The phone definitely runs warmer, and on my initial setup the phone wouldn’t charge because the processor was fully throttled up – the charger merely maintained the battery percentage – but other than that I haven’t really noticed much difference between the Note 10 and Note 20 in real world use.

So final thoughts?

Well it’s a nice little upgrade, and certainly with the cameras feels less iterative, but if you don’t care for the cameras and you like your note 10, stay where you are.