Archive for August, 2006

Switched my email from Yahoo! to Google Apps

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

After over a year of using Yahoo! Mail Plus as for my Carsurvey email hosting, I’ve made the switch across to Google’s Apps for your Domain, and I’m very happy indeed.

First, let’s say some things about Yahoo Mail Plus

Good stuff:

  • They’ve always supported sending from your own domain, rather than the “user@gmail.com on behalf of user@domain” used by the standard Gmail service (not the Google Apps service that I’ve switched too)
  • They offer the ability to send SMS alerts to UK mobile phones based on certain criteria
  • They can query POP mail on other servers for you. Nice for mail aggregation if you can’t forward mails
  • The facility is offered to create temporary mailboxes to help avoid spam
  • I could download my archive of emails in a zip file, to take elsewhere

Not so good:

  • Their latest web interface doesn’t work on some browsers. Safari for example. So I was still using their old interface
  • I could never find an easy way to check my email on my mobile phone or PDA here in the UK
  • Their servers have gone down a few times, I’ve had people get bounce messages for my email
  • I was having to route my email through my web server, which mean that if that went down, I lost email too
  • The service cost £11.99 a year

Now for Google Apps

Good stuff:

  • Free – in fact I was given twenty five 2Gb accounts when I only asked for one. And while the service is still in Beta, anyone who signs up can expect that the basic service will stay free for them after it comes out of Beta
  • I was instantly approved for an account. No need to wait around for a few days
  • The interface is far more snappy than Yahoo! To be fair though, I’ve only been using the service a few days. I especially like the spellchecker (nicer than Yahoo!), and the way it automatically saves drafts for you as you work
  • Nice clean mobile interface
  • Email is routed to them via your DNS MX record, so there’s no need to route through another server. This should make things more reliable
  • I could load my old Yahoo! mail into Google. This took several hours using Google GMail Loader, and I got a few error messages, but I was pleased that it worked at all

Not so good:

  • Adverts, but these seem relevant and not too in your face
  • No option for UK SMS alerts. I never used this on Yahoo!, but I liked having the option available

More Mobile Phone Thoughts

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Following on from my post last week about my next mobile phone, details are appearing around another strong contender:

HTC Trinity

Basically this has all the good things I like about the HTC TyTN, minus the keyboard (not that big a deal for me), but with miniSD instead of microSD. miniSD only tops out at 2Gb at the moment, but you can already get 2Gb microSD cards, so surely a 4Gb miniSD can’t be too far away?

If I could get one of these on T-Mobile (UK), who seem to have the best 3G data tariffs at the moment, I’d be very tempted to lose the Dell Axim and go back to a single converged device.

Panic Over

Friday, August 25th, 2006

Right, the server is back, but the main reviews table wouldn’t mount back on the database. Thankfully, the “repair table” command from MySQL has fixed the problem and we don’t seem to have lost anything.

I’m going to spend some time checking over the site now. If anyone spots any problems, especially corrupt reviews or comments, please let me know.

I’ll be sending a complaint into my hosting company, as I’m not happy at all about how this has been handled. I’m willing to allow for some problems, but taking about five hours instead of one, getting the day of the change wrong, and corrupting the database are not acceptable. It’s a real shame, as I’ve been very happy with them up to now.

Server Update

Friday, August 25th, 2006

I’m not a happy bunny.

Not only has the disk replacement taken place a day too early (see my comment to the previous posting, but the rebuilding of the RAID array is taking way longer than intended. I was told the work would be completed in about 1/2 an hour, with one hour as the worst case. Not too big a deal on a Saturday morning. However, this is Friday, and after almost three hours of downtime, the rebuilding of the array is only about 50% complete!!!!

Sincere apologies to anyone wondering where Carsurvey.org etc have gone to. Unfortunately there’s little I can do other than wait for the rebuild to complete.

Server Downtime

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

In order to replace a faulty disk in the server that runs Carsurvey.org and related sites, the server will be down for up to an hour at around 0:00 and 1:00 PST on Saturday 26th August (08:00 – 09:00 BST). This is the quietest time of the week for the site. Fortunately the server has a mirrored RAID array, so there should be no data loss, and I’ll be taking additional backups shortly before the disk change just to be extra sure.

Apologies in advance for the loss of service during the outage period.

My Next Mobile Phone

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Now that all the major manufacturers have announced or released their major new mobile phones for this year, I’ve been having a look around to see what I should buy when my contract comes up for renewal at the start of November.

First, some details of my past few phones:

Treo 600

  • Positives: Battery life, keyboard, integration of PDA and phone features, SD card
  • Negatives: PalmOS has become rather limiting these days, poor voice quality, low screen resolution, poor camera

iMate Jam

  • Positives: Lots of Windows Mobile software, SD card
  • Negatives: Not very stable, no keyboard, poor voice quality, battery life wasn’t great, poor camera

Samsung D600 (with a Dell Axim X50v as a PDA), my current solution

Positives:

  • Small
  • Good battery life
  • Good voice quality.
  • Like the slider design
  • Narrow (46.5mm – important when you also carry an additional PDA in the same pocket)
  • Has a joypad (which I much prefer over a joystick)
  • Good camera and great video quality
  • Plenty of memory, and expandable through microSD

Negatives:

  • Texting is poor – it doesn’t handle capitalisation changes well
  • Doesn’t sync easily with other devices – my Mac or my Axim for example
  • Not a smartphone or PDA. Would prefer to carry my Axim a little less

With 3G data finally becoming reasonably affordable here in the UK, I want my next phone/PDA combo to be 3G (which the D600 isn’t), and preferably have some more Smartphone functionality. I’ve been looking around, and unfortunately it appears that all the possible devices have some pretty major flaws as far as I am concerned.

One problem a lot of them have, is that I hate small 5-way joysticks with a passion. I briefly owned a Sony Ericsson W800 and found it horrible to use.

The Current Contenders

HTC MTeoR:

  • Positives: Windows Mobile OS (so lots of software)
  • Negatives: Joystick control, 1.3 megapixel camera (wake up HTC, this is 2006)

Sony Ericsson K800i:

  • Positives: Great camera, small (47mm wide)
  • Negatives: Tiny joystick, not a smartphone

HTC TyTN:

  • Positives: Full Pocket PC (Axim not needed), huge keyboard, HSDPA 3.5G compatible
  • Negatives: microSD (this matters a lot on a Pocket PC as microSD only goes up to 2Gb at the moment. I currently have 6Gb in my Axim), not convinced about how good a phone it would be, would miss the VGA screen from my Axim

Nokia E70:

  • Positives: Series 60 smartphone, high res screen, large fold out QWERTY keyboard
  • Negatives: Apparently very short of RAM, a little too wide (53mm), joystick

Nokia N73:

  • Positives: Very good camera, Series 60 smartphone, large screen
  • Negatives: Joystick

Nokia N80:

  • Positives: Joypad, high res screen, slider design, Series 60 smartphone
  • Negatives: Large (50mm wide and pretty thick), battery life is not great

Unfortunately none of the above devices quite work for me. An N73 with a joypad, a slightly smaller N80, or a TyTN with SD (not microSD) card support would probably be good enough to swing the decision, but alas, those products don’t exist.

When I finally make my decision, I’ll write a post explaining my decision. If any mobile phone manufacturers read this – please bring back joypads and SD card support, as your current joysticks and microSD cards are just too small.

Update on the Spelling and Grammar changes

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Over the last nine days, 176 approved visitor edits have been made to Carsurvey.org.

There have been a small number of malicious edit attempts, as I expected, but overall I’m very happy with how well things are working out. Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to use this new feature.

I’ve just made a number of small changes to this functionality, to make things work even better:

  • The “Fix spelling and grammar” link is replaced with an “Edit awaiting approval” statement when an edit has been submitted, but not approved. This is intended to provide feedback on where edits have been received
  • The “Thanks for improving the spelling and grammar” page you see when you finishing making an edit, now has a link that takes you back to the original review or comment

The next step is to add this functionality to the Members Area, so that spelling and grammar errors can be corrected before the reviews and comments are even published.

Spelling and Grammar on Carsurvey.org

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Whenever I see spelling or grammatical errors in a piece of writing, I find it rather uncomfortable to read. The same is true for writing that is not broken up into reasonably sized sentences and paragraphs.

To date, I’ve tried to help contributors to Carsurvey.org by providing some advice during the submission process, and spell checking of any contributions before they’re submitted.

I also do quite a lot of manual editing, to fix spelling and grammar errors that I personally notice. This unfortunately is limited by a problem that I like to describe as “Steven doesn’t scale”. There’s only so much time in the day that I can spend doing that sort of work.

I’ve now added a new feature to the site (inspired by the Wikipedia). Now anyone can edit a review or comment on the site (using “Fix the spelling and grammar of this review/comment” links), and then I get check out the changes they’ve made. Reviewing these changes will be much faster than actually making them myself.

Changes to spelling and grammar are what I’m looking for, but sensibly breaking up long sentences and paragraphs is also encouraged. Anything that changes the review or comment in other ways (additions or deletions for example) will be rejected. Adding a comment or submitting a deletion request are the appropriate tools to use in those situations.

Thanks in advance, to anyone who uses this feature to improve the quality of the site.