Thursday, 4 May 2017

Fulfillment: Tigerlily arrives, and is set up

Wow, I haven't put out a blog post for six days! Some must think I have died in my sleep, and will only be found - mummified, presumably - months hence, by accident.

No, rest assured that it would never happen like that. I'd be discovered pretty quickly. Local chums would get concerned; and Jackie next door would let herself in with the set of keys I have given her. I'd probably still be warm to the touch, possibly not beyond revival, who knows.

Here's the reality: my 'radio silence' is partly down to a busy social life, and mainly on account of getting my new smartphone up and running in short order. Together these things have crowded out the best opportunities for post-writing. But today's different, and it's time to catch up. I have several topics ready to write about, but it seems sensible to follow-on from the last post, and get the 'phone report' out of the way.

Some will be dismayed by this infatuation with tech, and ready to skip it all until I get on to such things as fashion, or relationship issues, or where else I went on holiday. Others will be eager to know what my first few days with Tigerlily have been like. Is the honeymoon going well, or are we already sundered hearts? Read on, and discover the true story - exclusively on this blog, nowhere else.

So, that's my hand, and I was holding Tigerlily, my new Samsung Galaxy S8+ phone late on the afternoon of her delivery, which was last Friday, 28th April 2017. As you can see, she had already acquired the red custom lock-screen that my old phone, Demelza (an S5 from 2014) had sported. And she was at this point charged up and Internet-capable - though still without telephonic abilities, as her nanoSIM was not yet active. (That was changed before the 28th April was over)

Though billed by over-reactive big-girls-blouse tech journalists as a phone of terrifying size, you can see that's it's really only the screen area that's impressively big. True, Tigerlily is taller than Demelza; but still about the same width. So she's easy to hold securely. The short fingers on my own diminuitive left hand can curl around her side edges without the slightest difficulty. (I honestly don't know why these tech journalists make such a fuss. They exaggerate for no good reason at all, simply to sex up their articles with overblown language)

In fact, my S8+ is smaller than the photo suggests, because she is nestling inside her Tech21 case, which of course adds a little girth.

Here now are some pictures, showing how the size of my phones has increased over time.

I first bought a mobile phone in 2001. It was a horrible-to-use plasticky thing by Sagem, but it was only to make rare voice calls with. Then in 2003 I got a more-capable (but only slightly less horrible-to-use) phone by Philips. Thankfully in 2004 I turned to Nokia, using a succession of identical basic models that were still cheap, and still rather plasticky, but oh-so-much nicer to use. And you could quite easily text with them, too. (I discovered the joys of that, although there was almost nobody except M--- to text)

The first picture shows the type of Nokia I used for the five years from 2004 alongside Demelza, bought in 2014. They are from different universes.

Even my first smartphone, a Nokia E71 bought in 2009, was extra-terrestrial. What, a colour screen? The Internet as on the desktop PC? Emails? A music player? Headphones?

And it had personality. The days of throwaway lumps of plastic were gone. This phone deserved a name. I called her Joanna.

By 2012 it was time for an ungrade. I still hadn't exploited the full potential and usefulness of a smartphone, but this time I could. I chose well. It was a Samsung Galaxy SII (or S2), which I named Eloise:

Note that faux-leather sleeve on the right. It did such a good job of preserving Eloise from knocks, scuffs and dust that I used the same sleeve with Demelza. And, although Tigerlily is way too big for it, I have now made - that is, cut and stitched-together by own my fair hand - a black leather sleeve for her, based on this design. More on that in a while.

Eloise was the second in Samsung's flagship Galaxy S series. She was a quantum leap forward from Joanna. A full-sized, beautifully sharp screen, so that all apps, and all photos, looked wonderful. And I could have maps!

I could also have Dropbox, card games, and many other new things.

Demelza, my next purchase in 2014, was still essentially an S2, and none the worse for it - but on steroids. She was supersized:

And this was Demelza compared for size with Eloise:

But now Tigerlily dwarfs them all. Here she is alongside Demelza:

Let's cut back to Tigerlily's delivery. It all went smoothly. As last Friday approached, I noticed things changing on the Vodafone website, as my account was incrementally amended. A good sign. Then I got an email from their courier, DPD, on Thursday evening, saying that they'd deliver next day as originally hoped for. (My goodness, what kind of gigantic logistical effort must have been going on in the background!) Next morning, a delivery update from DPD, with a time slot quoted: 1.00pm to 2.00pm. The courier arrived at 1.35pm. Absolutely bang on time. It was the same chap who had delivered the Tech 21 case on Thursday.

Here's an unpacking sequence:

She was definitely a lilac shade of grey! This was sans the Tech21 case, of course. Let's continue. The box contained other things:

The flat tear-drop shaped bit of metal was the handle of the pin needed to open the card tray.

Waiting in the wings were (a) the blank new nanoSIM I'd already ordered; (b) another in the box (which I used instead); and (c) the Tech 21 case. The case was nicely packaged, and looked very good:

But three other things first. One: what was the state of the battery? I switched Tigerlily on:

Well over half-charged. Right, next step then. I saw that I could carry out what Samsung termed a Smart Switch. All you did was to link old and new device with the supplied USB cable, plus adaptor, select on Tigerlily's screen which things you wanted to transfer, then tap the 'do it' button on her screen. Simples.

And so successful! All apps and files that were compatible with Tigerlily's Android 7.0 (Nougat OS) crossed over intact, settings and all. Wow. What a time-saver. She was at this point 80 to 90% set up. Three apps didn't make it. One was my Cribbage game app, a pity. But no doubt the developer would fix the problem soon. (I could still play the identical Windows 10 version on Verity, my laptop) One was Days Since, a simple app that told me how many days had passed since various events had taken place. I could easily live without it.

The only serious casualty was my vital To-do List app, which helped me organise my life. I'd need to find a substitute fast, and then drop everything while I set it up.

Well, I found one. A very good free app called Tasks To Do Pro. Here's two screenshots of the rest of today (it's now midday) and what's coming up tomorrow, to give you a flavour:

That's right. 303 tasks had to be set up! Essentially I had to devote part of Saturday and a lot of Sunday to it. But without a to-do list, I can't keep track of even weekly tasks, let alone the ones that crop up monthly or at longer intervals. So a to-do list app is very important to me. In fact, I've relied on electronic to-do lists ever since buying my first Palm organizer in 2000.

Why so many tasks? Well, a lot of them are connected with the intricacies of preparing and packing the caravan at holiday times. I don't want to leave anything important behind, and I want to configure the loading tasks so that things get done in the right order and on the right day. So an app that lets me categorise and prioritise, and set up repeats, is a jolly good and useful app. I love this one.

Back to Tigerlily's general setup.

I'd checked the state of the battery. I'd populated the device with almost every app and setting that Demelza had had. Now it was time to insert the SIM card (for telephony and mobile Internet from Vodafone) and the SD card (for my music and photos, and most of my mapping). These were very small cards: a nanoSIM and a microSD. You had to press them into a little tray, then push that into the device. First, though, you used that special pin to release the tray:

How very small and fiddly these cards had become!

Pressing them in was not quite as easy as it looked. But it was finally done, and I could reinsert the tray. Ah, the old 64GB microSD card was recognised! I had feared it wouldn't be. But all was cool.

Now the Tech 21 case could go on. I expected to remove it again only when fitting a larger-capacity microSD card, later on this year. Meanwhile, Tigerlily would be protected from damage, apart from her screen. (More on the solution to that in a moment) The case did somewhat mask her gorgeous finish - but better this than an accumulation of scratches and dents. She'd never now slip away from that pristine, mirror-like state:

It was getting late in the day. But the setting-up wasn't over yet!

Having established that every mp3 music track was on board and playable, the next job was to install Samsung's Music app (I didn't want to use Google's Play Music app) and configure the graphic equalizer in order to coax the best possible sound from Tigerlily's mono speaker. Out of the box this speaker sounded OK, certainly louder than one on Demelza; but once tweaked to suit my hearing it would sound a lot better! First, though, I tried a procedure in the Music app that required you select your age group, and then to listen to beeps at various sound frequencies. While doing so, you told the app whether you could hear the beep or not. The equalizer would end up configured to match your particular hearing perfectly - in theory. I thought the result for me was way too tinny.

It didn't matter. I would use the configuration that had sounded good on Demelza. I'd taken a screenshot of it, and transferred that to Verity. The new equalizer on Tigerlily wasn't identical, but it was still easy to move the sliders into the right position, using the screenshot for reference. Then I played a couple of tracks, to judge whether the speaker was sufficiently improved:

It didn't necessarily follow that a great sound from the earphones meant a great sound from the speaker, nor vice versa. The performance of the speaker was more important to me, as I did most of my music-listening in the bathroom while washing or showering. So getting the speaker to sound right was the priority.

Then I considered which earphones to use. The online reviews had praised the bundled AKG earphones. But I thought they were lacking in the bass department and, overall, didn't give the same nice well-rounded sound that the Samsung earphones supplied with Demelza had, even though those were now three years old and presumably nothing very special in the first place. But they were (to my hearing) unmistakably the better earphones. So I put away the AKGs, and stayed with the older set.

It really was getting late! I needed to eat. I went onto the Vodafone website and set the SIM Swap in motion, which would transfer all Vodafone's services on my existing phone number from the SIM in Demelza to the new one in Tigerlily. It was all done within the hour. Now Tigerlily was fully alive and kicking!

I still faced two tasks. One was to recreate all my tasks on the new to-do list app. That was for Sunday. The other was to make a sleeve to slip Tigerlily into when not actually being used, and, in particular, when she was in my bag. It had to be hand-made, because such things are no longer sold in phone shops. The sleeve would be of black leather. It would protect the entire device, but especially the screen. This would be my Saturday-afternoon job. I wanted it all done by the early evening, when I was eating out. I had two sources of black leather ready for cutting, trimming, fine shaping, and sewing together. Both had been waiting a long time for this moment.

Plan A was to recycle the leather sleeve I'd bought for my Sony tablet in 2012. The tablet itself had been junked in 2016. Its sleeve seemed very suitable for re-use:

But it didn't work. The lining was pinstripe cloth over a thin layer of foam plastic, and the 'leather' now seemed to be faux. It wasn't easy to sew close to the edge without tearing the alleged 'leather'. Huh. I thought the partly-finished result disappointing, and gave it up.

But I still had Plan B. I'd made an unwise boot purchase two years before. The boots didn't quite fit. However, they were made of quite nice genuine soft black leather, and so I put them away, knowing that one day I could cannibalise them for the sleeve I now wanted to make. Which I now did. And this, after two hours' effort, was the result:

As you can see, the new sleeve is very similar to the old one, only bigger. And now, after a few days use, it has settled down and is a flatter fit. I wouldn't get any prizes for the hand-stitching, of course - it's not even primary-school standard - let's say 4/10 - but hey, it absolutely does the job, and should last forever.

So that's the tale of Tigerlily's initial set up. The next post will deal with her photographic capabilities, which I think are impressive.

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