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Hard and Fast


Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 27-Mar-2013 20:32

A little while ago I finally surrendered to the inevitable and severed my ties to the mobile world of old. It was a forced parting, a changing of the circumstances, a focus on the new, supporting of the desire to show the mass market another way. Like my mighty Nokia E65 - for which there is still no adequate replacement - it was time for another favoured friend to be given a chance to rest, and be no more.
2007 called and asked for it's technology back. My BlackBerry was forcibly retired.
For those who sneer at BlackBerry and it's users, dismissing them as relics of an age gone by, all I can say is Ignoramus. No-one who has ever used BlackBerry in anger would dismiss other users for being relics or diehards. Just like the Psion 3 and 5, which surrendered to the PDA in 2001, which eventually was surpassed by the connected smartphone before the age of the iPhone, it was a product of it's time and reflected that age.
But boy, did it do it with a style that no-one has replicated well. The pretenders to the throne have gotten close in building a mobile email capability for corporates. They have not built an elegant, easy to use, well integrated communications app that extends the desktop to a mobile device, so well optimised and polished out of the box that using it becomes second nature.
I could compose an email without ever looking at the device. I knew exactly where the keys were, the right sequence, how to drive the address book from within an email, compose and send.
Without ever looking at the screen, like an experienced touch typist on a QWERTY keyboard. And it worked.
I found managing via this device just worked. One handed operation - sorted. The User Interface was massively intuitive and instinctive, the functions were driven to operate as real humans think, and not the technologists.
Oddly enough, Windows Phone 8 is starting to approach the levels of capability that BlackBerry offers. But it's not there yet. The iPhone is good... But it's not there yet. And so on.
So I've been spoiled. Blackberry did what it was supposed to. The voice quality - for those who go old school and actually talk to people - was absolutely sublime compared to current widgets, and the battery life was good.  Of course, it didn't keep up with the best that the others could offer, and then RIM got horribly confused about who the competition was and what strategy they were executing to. Looking back I find it amusing Microsoft focused on RIM as the king to be taken down, when the real usurper Apple was toiling away to lead the revolution - which no-one ever believed possible (I first started getting notice of an Apple phone around 2003 while at O2). And of course, away in their secret volcano lair the Google minions created the monster that is Android, repeating the messy experience of Microsoft Windows (many vendors, inconsistent experiences, underpowered phones)
All offer 'corporate mobile email'. And ALL have a compromised experience - it's there, but none comes close to being anywhere near the ease of RIM, and therein is the rub. If mobile email is only passable, will mobile email be used?
It's pleasing to see large preorders for the new Blackberry 10 range - long overdue - and I sincerely hope this will put pressure on the device vendors to improve their onboard applications in the way only they can. I also hope they will focus on what made their solution so very powerful - excellent corporate IT management tools, the real secret jewel in a world of identical smartphones.
Ok, perhaps it is a little bit of a whinge from a spoiled ex-user. I do like my smartphones and what they offer, but they aren't for emailing anything other than 3 word answers - just unusable.
So I've gone back to a much, much more powerful way of communicating. I know it's radical, and it might just catch on.
I call it MAKING A PHONE CALL AND TALKING TO PEOPLE. No read receipts are required. You always know whether the other end got the message, but like everything in life not whether they understood it.



iOS6. Why the noise?

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 22-Sep-2012 19:35

For anyone who follows the Apple industry, the noise around iOS6 and the relative 'yawns' it has introduced compared to previous releases, is odd.

I agree with many observers that the onboard maps app is utter rubbish compared to Google - I'm guessing the USA has got a nice service but the rest of the world? I'm stunned the NZ maps look like low-res ones circa 2004. Good potential there I guess, but shameful. The shot of my place looks like there is dirt on the lens.

But as for the everything else? well, I rather like it. Allow me to explain.

My Ipad2 has been deteriorating over the last 6 months, getting slower and slower, as if an app had a memory leak somewhere. I've always been suspicious of devices which have non-volatile ram in them, as my experience has been that they get slower over time and less responsive. Indeed, I managed to utterly destroy an early Nokia 7650 when I pushed it's onboard email to the limit, filling the memory and killing any opportunity to perform a hard restore - at a time when I worked for O2 and they had the Nokia tools to reflash the phone.

So, I downloaded iOS6 direct to widget - took 4 attempts as the download kept stalling because the huge demand globally had a huge impact on Apples' akamai feeds - but 2GB later it was installing merrily away. And my iPad was restored to factory fresh performance, but with all my content onboard safe. Not one dropped file, not one misconfigured app. This is backup and restore as it should be.

Have I got any other new capabilities? none that really drive me - but I have noticed the WIFI performance and responsiveness of the applications is more inline with the advertising. Visit a URL and it comes up pretty quickly - there is no lag between user action and device reaction. Of course TelstraClear Cable Internet helps.

If maps is important - don't upgrade.

But overall - I've seen nothing but upside in installation.

EDIT

Of course, the missing YouTube app leaves a LOT to be desired and smacks of the pettiness others have commented on regarding Apple vs Google. The app was actually rather good - and I have found nothing similar yet for an iPad that replicates it.


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Apple Airport Express v2

By Antonios Karantze, in , posted: 17-Jun-2012 14:41

Last week Apple launched the updated version of the Airport Express, updating the original model launched about 3-4 years ago. I've been waiting for this for a while now, and ordered one as soon as I could. Available immediately from Sydney, it shipped quickly but also was damaged in transit by TNT Couriers - which I only discovered because I hit the 'Track Shipment' button in the email I received confirming the order. One quick call to Apple - and a 5 minute wait - and the lovely girl in the contact centre not only dispatched another toot suite, but she also called me back 3 times to let me the replacement was coming, when it would arrive (which is important - I am not always the same place every day, so need to know when packages are arriving) and was I happy when it had arrived. Pretty cool - may not sound like much, or that every consumer company should do that. but the reality is they don't.

I use TelstraClear Cable Internet at home, and for a while have been using an Apple Airport Extreme, with a couple of Airport Express v1 range extenders, to try and provide some semblance of coverage in the house, to all the widgets that need it. This meant that there were more wires, more power bricks and more awkwardly placed devices in the house, all connected together using wireless bridging - which came at the cost of overall performance, and made wireless VOIP a bit more clunkier than it needed to be (the best experience for anything wireless is your device to the wireless router, then out to internet modem. Going device to wireless to wireless to internet modem means performance is affected - things run that much slower.

The new Airport Express is class - it looks like the older Airport Extreme model, except it's shrunk by about 40%, and has amazing range and performance compared to it's bigger brother. Admittedly the Extreme is an older model and has a poorer performing wireless chip, but even so the wider surface area of the older unit led me to reasonably expect it would have better performance. The aerial is bigger I thought - shows what I know. The new unit gives me the same range and performance that required the use of extenders on the older model.

20120616_152404

Picture one: Airport Express v2 just above the black Apple TV. The older Airport Express model is to the right of the Apple TV.
The Airport Extreme is the big unit to the left of everything, along with it's power brick

The new Express has a simple power cable, separate 10/100 WAN and LAN ports, simultaneous dual-band Wifi (up to 802.11n), a USB port for attaching a printer and a 3.5mm headphone jack for connection to a sound system, for streaming audio over AirPlay. I have no idea how much power it draws - but the Extreme draws 20w when running, whereas I suspect this new device draws about 6w, the same as Apple TV, about a quarter of an energy efficient lightbulb. It may not sound like much, but every little helps.

This unit perfectly suits the Cable Internet world and the forthcoming Ultra Fast Broadband network - both of those technologies supply an Ethernet connection into the home, so will plug straight into this great router. Those on DSL connections will need to bridge the router into their modems and do some jiggering around with DHCP settings - the Airport software is pretty good at leading you through what you need to do, but you do need to be familiar with the terminology it uses. This new device reportedly supports up to 50 connected devices - performance seems pretty good, although this sort of test is a bit misleading:

Speedtest

And that's as much as I've experienced so far. The lack of a Gigabit WAN port is interesting but not really that limiting for the next 3 years, and I do wish the Apple software would allow you to configure QOS and other Application level settings, but on the whole it looks good.

I'm still an ardent believer that wireless is the way to providing the better inhome and inpremises experience, and avoiding the need to haul wiring through the building, and as the turnover of WIFI chipsets continued to increase - the next round is 802.11ac, which eventually will be able to hit gigabit speeds - combined with improving aerial design mean that wireless really is a great way to go.

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antoniosk's profile

Antonios Karantze
Wellington
New Zealand


I'm a born and bred Wellingtonian, and have chosen IT and Telecommunications as my industry, as a Commercial Manager.

Credits include but are not limited to:
- The O2 Xda smartphone range, and O2's range of 3G Mobile Internet services
- Numerous TelstraClear Mobile and IP voice products

In my journey through the industry I have worked at
- Bellsouth NZ
- Telecom NZ
- ICO Global
- T-Mobile International (formerly One2One Communications)
- O2 Plc
- TelstraClear
- Vodafone NZ

I'm a fan of technology, and what it can do for people and business... and I enjoy bringing new things to market and seeing them grow. Enjoy the blog, take the time to think about what I write - it's not technology heavy, and is my reflection on life and the people around me.