IE9 Beta renders blurry text

I’m just giving Internet Explorer 9 Beta a try, and my first impression is that the text in web pages looks blurry. See:

That’s the same web page viewed in 3 different browsers. Which one looks the worst to you?

Top – IE9

Middle – Chrome

Bottom – Firefox.

I also tried to create this post using wordpress.com’s post editor in IE9, but it didn’t work – I couldn’t change the cursor position using my mouse, and the image upload dialog box wouldn’t appear. Which is ironic since Microsoft is touting WordPress’s IE9 enhancements.

Update: Scott Hanselman has explained the IE9 blurry text issue.

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A world with free mobile calls

I haven’t posted here for a while because I just went on a month long holiday in India, which was quite an experience.

One interesting thing about India was that cellphones are everywhere and the calls are cheap. Like, real cheap. The standard rate is about 1 rupee (USD $0.02) per minute. But if you’re calling someone on the same mobile network as you, then calls are half a rupee (USD $0.01) per minute. This is cheap even for Indians – you can’t buy anything for 1 rupee in India. So it’s practically free to make a quick one minute call.

Interestingly, to send a text message is about the same price – 1 rupee. Suffice to say no one ever texts in India, since it’s quicker and easier to make a call.

So, what do you expect would happen in a world with practically free communication? Spam of course. People who’d been in India a while ignored their text messages, because the only people who ever send texts are companies spamming. Likewise, it was all too common to get calls from unknown numbers which would be a recorded advertisement.

Apparently you can request your number be added to a “do not call” list and it actually works.

Nokia N900

Only a couple of hours after posting my 2nd ever blog post here, my rant about the iPhone, some guy from WOMWorld Nokia in the UK contacted me, and asked if I’d like to try out their Nokia N900 for 2 weeks. Umm, OK!

I’ll be honest: I hadn’t heard of this phone before. I keep an eye on the tech blogs but I really only pay attention to iPhone, Android and Windows Mobile 7 news. But a quick glance at the Nokia UK website told me that the N900 is their top of the line smartphone.
N900

The Good

Like every other phone on the planet (bar one), it has an SMS length counter. Yay! It feels like a phone, with its removable battery. It has a physical QWERTY keyboard. You can run multiple apps at the same time. Its web browser is great, with accurate rendering of the sites I looked at and Flash support. Removable upgradeable microSD cards.
My brother had a play with it – he doesn’t have a smartphone, and he thought it was much easier to use than my iPhone.

The Bad

I didn’t like the build quality, it felt too plasticy. I didn’t like the resistive touchscreen, to me it felt like I had to thump it harder than I’d like to. And it wasn’t precise either, sometimes I’d click the wrong link while browsing web pages. It comes with a stylus but I kept forgetting to use that, and who wants to use a stylus anyway. The OS occasionally felt slow and not as snappy as the iPhone 3GS. It was stuck in landscape mode – no portrait mode here folks, except when making a call.
I couldn’t figure out the software suite for Windows at all. I wasn’t sure which package to download from the Nokia website, so I tried "Nokia PC suite", and that was crap. I couldn’t figure out how to load music onto the phone at all so I couldn’t try out its media abilities. The maps application was nowhere near as slick as Maps on the iPhone.

vs. the iPhone

A note about the keyboard: I always moan about the iPhone’s on screen keyboard so I thought I would love the N900s physical keyboard, but it seems like I must have gotten used to the iPhone’s keyboard because I can type twice as fast on the iPhone than on the N900.

So on paper, the N900 wins hands down – removable battery, physical keyboard, upgradeable storage, multitasking and Flash support. The iPhone is slimmer though which makes it better looking.
If you don’t already have an iPhone then the N900 is a real contender.

However, the iPhone, for all it’s weaknesses, offers a slicker overall experience, and looks way cooler even if every man and his dog has one these days. A phone has to look bling after all. And the iPhone wins because it is so much more snappy and responsive. I was happy to send the N900 back and go back to my iPhone.

Why the iPhone 3GS ain’t all that

People who know me tell me “Matt, you’re the only iPhone owner I know who hates the iPhone”.  Here’s why.

It’s a crap phone

As a phone, it’s a piece of crap. My main moan is about it’s uselessness in text messaging. You see dear reader, here in NZ calls are ridiculously expensive so text messaging is very important. I hardly ever call anyone since the plan I’m on for $40 per month only gives me 20 minutes of calls and 100 text messages per month. Now since I also only get 100 txts, I’m reluctant to write a long txt since that would eat into my 100 per month quota – but guess what – the iPhone 3GS doesn’t tell you how many characters your text message is! This basic functionality, which EVERY cellphone has, the iPhone does not.

There is a workaround – I had to download a separate 3rd party app called “SMS Counter”.

Update (May 2011): An SMS length counter was included in the iOS 4.0 update, released June 2010. It only took me 11 months to find it! (Settings -> Messages -> Character count)

The other problem that no one mentions is that the touch screen sucks for typing on. I can txt faster and easier on my Nokia with predictive texting. And the Nokia is much easier to txt while walking – “I’m on my way, see you in 10”. With the iPhone’s touch screen keyboard I always have to stop walking to txt.

It’s a crap mp3 player

It bugs me how Apple market the iPod Touch as “the best music player ever” when it doesn’t even have functionality that my 5 year old iPod does, and which I use every day – Shuffle Albums. All I do is press play on my iPod and it’ll pick a random album, play every track on that album in order, then when its finished it’ll pick another album at random and play every track on that album in order, etc. This is the only way I ever listen to my music. One button – boom, a random album, played in order. Guess what, the much newer, cooler iPod Touch (and the iPhone 3GS) doesn’t have this. Dammit, don’t make me think about what album I wanna listen to! Suck.

The rest is pretty good

OK, so the rest of the iPhone 3GS is pretty good. It’s nice and fast, and the web browser is OK (although it doesn’t have Flash support, which is a big deal).

So it’s still probably the best smartphone available, which is why I have it – I really just wanted to have wikipedia in my pocket. But as a phone, which is it’s core function after all, it sucks.