Push, baby. Push!

It has been a while since my last proper geek post, so I just have to do one to balance the 'force'.

After the saga I had with getting Blackberry Connect to work with my E61, I was more or less given up on push email on my phone. I've been getting emails via POP and IMAP but the native email client on E61 sucks at dealing with lost connection/reconnection. Once it detects a data connection is lost, the automatic retrieval schedule will be switched off and requires to be switched on again manually. WTF?

But thanks to e-series.org blog, I've found Mail2Web last week. It's a free Exchange mail service and the best thing about it (apart from being free) is that they also expose the mobile synchronisation URL so once I installed Mail for Exchange on my E61, I was able to get push email on my phone. Moreover, Mail for Exchange works just fine with spotty connection. It will just reconnection, re-sync without any complaints. The only downside with it is that it drains battery slightly faster than the native clients since it is pretty 'chatty' with the Exchange server and thus uses a bit of juices. Not a big deal since I have chargers at home and at the office but it may be a big deal for some people.

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Newsnight as you go

Last week while I was browsing around iTunes Music Store, looking for new podcast to subscribe to, I decided to see how many new BBC podcasts had been added to iTunes since I last looked. So I typed in "BBC" in the search box and the list was pretty long. As I read down the list, I spotted the Newsnight video podcast. It is a short excerpt of the week's footage so it is a nice way to get the best digest of the program.

I didn't manage to watch the three episodes until late last night and a couple of minutes into the first one, I wondered what file format BBC is encoding the podcast. A quick check in iTunes showed that it is just plain mp4 video, and I then wondered further whether my Nokia E61 will play it.

So I dug out the USB data cable and connected the phone up. The memory card showed up as a disk on my Mac desktop and I just dragged the file into the disk. A few minutes later I had it on my phone and RealPlayer was playing the podcast in its fullscreen glory! The video quality is pretty good. I didn't notice any dropped frames and the sound from the speaker is adequate for a talking head program. Battery life, of course, suffers when you play video on the phone but that is to be expected.

Anyway, after that it was just a matter of entering the long URL for the podcast into the Nokia Podcasting app on the phone. Soon it was download the latest episode onto the phone via the Wi-Fi connection. This is especially cool for me because I can't play video on my 4G iPod (obviously) and I am waiting for the next generation before upgrading. Being able to play video on my phone means I have less of an excuse to buy the 6G iPod when it comes out.

So now I have even more content to keep me occupied as when I am stuck in a subway train. One thing still annoys me though. Why can't all audio and video podcasts on iTunes uses non-DRM, non-proprietary format like BBC. How about that Apple? Can I have iTunes New Music Tuesday in regular mp4 audio format, may be as an alternative to the special one you've been using? I don't care for the album arts and chapters, I just want to listen to the podcast on my phone!

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Screen protector

Since I got my Nokia E61 last month, I've been resisting the urge to put a screen protector on its screen. My logic is that since it does not has a touch screen, like the Treo 650, it is built much less flexible so subsequently requires less protection.

Well, that part is true but unfortunately things (read face and hand) still come into contact with the screen and leave oil and dirty on it. Keeping it clean almost becomes a ritual before and after every usage. So finally I gave up and ordered some screen protector last week. Originally I wanted to get some from BoxWave whose screen protector I used on my Treo and was impressed by it. Their screen protector is not the normal thin, very flexible, and very sticky type. Rather it is constructed with thicker than normal clear plastic, making it much stiffer and easier to apply to screen without any bubbles. Also it uses a mild adhesive that attracts almost no dust during the application process. Unfortunately BoxWave doesn't have one that fit the E61 yet but after some searching on forums I came across another company that makes similar screen protector called Martin Fields.

When I opened the package, I was relived that Martin Fields' screen protector is very similar to BoxWave's. After cleaning the E61 screen with screen cleaner, I applied the screen protector with ease and got no bubble or dust. The size is almost perfectly fitted to the actual screen so there is very little gap remains unprotected. Clarity-wise it is very good and unless one looks very closely it is almost undetectable.

So now I can use my phone without worrying about making the screen dirty.

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On Thursday night I pucked up the courage to flash my E61's firmware. Why? One of the thing that has bugged me since the beginning is the inability to set the name ordering in the Contacts application. Even though there are three choices, Last name First name, Last name, First name, and First name Last name, only the first one works whichever you choose. It was finally tracked down to the English-Chinese firmware that my E61 has and it makes sense because chinese names are always last name first.

Anyway, when I read a post at HowardForums on how to flash the firmware with clear and concise instruction, I was tempted. After downloading all the apps and patches required and installed them (there are a few), I finally took the plunge at around mid-night on Friday to flash my phone to the English-Netherland firmware.

The flashing took only about 10 minutes and it worked perfectly. Though I was definitely crossing my fingers the whole time, hoping my phone would still be working at the end. After the flashing was completed, I then spent another hour or so putting all my settings back and installed all the apps. Crucially, the name ordering settings now work so I have First name Last name showing in the Contacts list.

Now, Nokia just needs to release firmware updates to fix some of the other bugs…

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