Sunday, October 04, 2009

HTC Hero Review

I've had my Hero since the week they came out in the UK, but I've been waiting until the new firmware (v2.7) was available to do a review and I'm glad I did. Initially I was somewhat disappointed with the lag on flipping through the home screens and the feeling that the hardware was struggling to cope with all the fairydust HTC have sprinkled on the UI, but the new firmware is like night and day. After the update everything is slick and speedy. Believe me, if you have a Hero or are planning on getting one make the next thing you do to upgrade the firmware. Similarly if you were thinking about picking one up but were put off by the pasting some reviewers gave it for being slow then give it a second look.


Internally the Hero has the same memory and processor as the HTC G1 and G2, but externally it's a far tidier more professional package and makes the earlier phones look like the development prototypes that they essentially are. Unlike the version due to be released in the US it still has the chin which a lot of people don't seem to like however it does have the effect of holding the touch screen out of contact with the contents of your pocket which is a plus.

The phone also boasts a 3.5mm jack and an impressive 5MP camera.

The battery life is pretty reasonable although you will probably want
to charge it overnight. I generally leave the Wi-Fi on all the time and
even when spending the day listening to music and synchronising
hundreds of megs of music over Wi-Fi with Spotify it didn't give out on me.

One black mark is the non standard USB jack, What's that all about? The Mini B exists, why reinvent the wheel?


This is a review of the Hero rather than the Android phone OS so I'm going to concentrate on the changes HTC have made. The most significant updates are the addition of multi-touch for photos and web browsing which I couldn't imagine doing without and the excellent social network integration which links your contacts to their Facebook profiles and provides you with a rather nifty Twitter widget. In addition to that you get some useful buttons which let you turn Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on and off with one click and lots of UI sugar sprinkled all over the place.

One thing which I love is the ability to have your contacts pulled in from google meaning no painful exporting from SIM or syncing with some rubbish bit of software (I'm looking at you PC suite)

I guess if you are reading this the question you want to know the answer to is should I buy this phone rather than any of the other mobiles on the market?

In the course of my job I've played with a stack of mobile phones so I'll offer a couple of thoughts on the subject.

Hero vs Other Android Phones

The most obvious competitors for the Hero are the existing Android handsets on the market having played with the two previous HTC devices I would say there is no competition. The Hero is much slicker device and you would be missing out on the 3.5mm, camera and sense UI improvements. If you must have a hardware keyboard then you may want to hold out for the Samsung Galaxy or the Moto Cliq neither of which I have tried.

Hero vs The Old Guard

First up the Hero is a pretty pricey phone and if all you really want to do is make a few calls and write some text messages then my vote would be for an inexpensive Samsung slider especially as an iPod touch is only £150 and makes up for most of what you would be missing out on, but if a smart phone is where it's at there is nothing on the market that can compete with Android outside of the iPhone.

Having tried a variety of Symbian phones they range from the mediocre to appalling but all seem like they belong to a previous generation. The same goes for the dreadful WinMo. e-mail junkies love their Blackberries, but they really are more oriented to business and the consumer focused ones don't do much for me. Maemo phones and the Pre both look good, but they aren't available in this country yet which just leaves the iPhone.

Hero vs iPhone

Before going any further I want to make the point that there isn't nor is there going to be an "iPhone killer". Apple are far too good at being Apple for anyone to beat them at their own game. That said the Hero offers some advantages and disadvantages compared to the iPhone which will push you in one direction or the other depending on your requirements:

Hero Wins

  • Better Integration with Google services: If you are a heavy user of Google services then you won't find a better device for using Gmail, Greader, Contacts, etc

  • Synch with multiple machines: Unlike the iPhone Android devices will let you copy music back and forth with as many machines as you want without Apples artificial restrictions

  • Apps Run In The Background: This is a huge advantage when it comes to apps like Spotify which allow you to web browse and write texts while listening to tunes something that you can't do on the iPhone version. 

  • App store apps tend to be free and less apps get rejected: I have always found apps I'm looking for on the store without having to resort to paying and you can get your hands on naughty apps Apple don't want you to have like Google voice.

  • You Don't Have To Use iTunes: Not an issue for Mac users but it's not available to Linux users such as my self and I find all Apples software for Windows utterly hateful.

  • Notification Bar and Widgets: I love the dockable widgets and the nifty notification bar on Android its far more tweakable than the regimented look of the iPhone

  • Develop Software Without an intel Mac: Only of interest to software developers, but important to me

  • Flash support in the browser: Not 100% compatible with all sites but a rarity in the mobile world

iPhone Wins

  • Much Better Mac Integration: If you are a Mac user there is really only one choice

  • It's an iPhone: And is therefore much cooler and more desirable if you are that way inclined.

  • More responsive and slicker UI: The Hero is great but the iPhone still pips it for slickness and feedback

  • Far more apps available on the app store: The app store has far more games including lots of big name commercial games.

  • Better iPlayer integration: No listen again radio on the Hero

  • Slicker music player: The iPhone is also an iPod and so has all the whizzy cover flow and genius stuff.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My New Band

I'm in a new band playing bass.
We are gigging all arround Suffolk so come and see us if you are in the area.
Band Site Here

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Nuclear Rifle

I was happily perusing a gallery of cold war dooms day weapons as one does when I noticed something called the M65 Atomic Cannon. Having done a bit of googling I have discovered that not only is this a mobile cannon which fires NUCLEAR FREAKING WARHEADS, but there is also a shoulder mounted variant.

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking of nuclear weapons as the stealth bomber carried final move the in the game of Mutually Assured Destruction which is scary enough, but this is something else again.

The idea of soldiers wandering about the battlefield with atomic rifles shows just how insane the cold war would have been had it become hot.

This rather terrifying video shows it in action.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Free Pocket Ubuntu Book

The excellent book Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference by Keir Thomas is available for free download from this link:

It's probably a little basic for a hardcore Nix head but if you are considering breathing new life into an old laptop or ditching Vista then I'm sure it will be a lot of help.

Kid playing the 'Why?' game outdone by science dad


DAD: Why does the soap grab the dirt?


DAD: Because soap is a surfactant.


DAD: Why is soap a surfactant?


DAD: That is an EXCELLENT question. Soap is a surfactant because it forms water-soluble micelles that trap the otherwise insoluble dirt and oil particles.


DAD: Why does soap form micelles?


DAD: Soap molecules are long chains with a polar, hydrophilic head and a non-polar, hydrophobic tail. Can you say ‘hydrophilic’?

and so it goes on...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Great Photo Blog

I've just spent the last couple of hours going through the pics on this great photo blog.

Be aware that some of them are NSFW!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The world is a Hologram

What was thought to be interference in a German gravitational wave detector could turn out to be proof that reality is in some sense a hologram.
While this is a fascinating discovery in its self it is a perfect example of one the things that makes me love science (Yes, I love science).

Every so often in the world of physics there is a theorist wondering how to find proof of their new idea while someone performing an experiment designed to measure something completely different sits scratching their heads at a set of results that seem to make no sense. It happened with Einstein predicting the Brownian Motion that baffled Robert Brown and with the discovery of cosmic background radiation which researchers initially thought was due to their antenna having a fault until they found out about some scientists at Princeton theorising that just such a signal should be found.

So to sum up:

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Take A Logic Test

A quiz to test your powers of logical reasoning.

I got 100% but then I did take a course on logic at university.

Don't forget that just because a premise isn't true doesn't mean the conclusion doesn't logically follow.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I don't normally do cute but I'll make an exception

"Two German children - aged five and six - have been stopped by police from eloping to Africa to tie the knot in the sun, reports say.

The budding lovebirds, identified as Mika and Anna-Lena, packed bathing costumes, sunglasses and a lilo and headed for the airport.

They even had the presence of mind to invite along an official witness - Anna-Lena's seven-year-old sister."

Read more at the BBC

Super Ubuntu

For those of you who fancy a go with Ubuntu, but don't want all the bother of having to install all the extra codecs and bits of useful software that can't be distributed with the main build then Super Ubuntu might be the thing for you wrapping it all up into one handy distro.

The BMA Debunk Medical Myths

The BMA have published a handy one stop shop to point people to when they insist on drivelling on about how you only use 10% of your brain, that you have to drink 8 glasses of water a day, that eating in the evening makes you fat, or that reading in low light makes you blind.

See also the nonsense of Detox:

Well done Science kids!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Windows 7 Looks Rather Good

After the numerous Vista bashing and pro Linux posts you will have seen me make you would be forgiven for thinking I was a raging MS hater, not so.

I've been reading up on Windows 7 and so far I'm quite impressed.
OS news have posted an interesting review here and the Microsoft Engineering Windows 7 blog has a really great article about the sensible sounding changes they have made to the taskbar.

Couple that with some rather promising looking benchmark results and I could even be persuaded to give it a try (Once SP1 comes out that is).