Secret Asian Man comic strip

Secret Asian Man comic strip

Spotted in my Comics.com newsletter:

Please welcome Tak Toyoshima, whose new strip, Secret Asian Man, is the first nationally syndicated comic strip featuring an Asian American as the lead character. The strip centers around Osamu “SAM” Takahashi—a struggling comic strip artist with dreams of hitting the big time—his wife Marie and son Shintaro. Through humour and wit, the strip tackles some of the unresolved issues regarding race, gender, and orientation. Secret Asian Man joined the Comics.com and United Feature Syndicate family on July 16th, 2007.

It’s awfully good too. I think I’ll be reading that every day alongside Dilbert.

One thing that has just occurred to me, however, while trying to decide what alt attribute text to include for the cartoon above is that users who rely on alt attribute text (such as those who use screen-reader software or braille displays) completely miss out on the humour in these cartoons.

The alt text for today’s Dilbert cartoon, for example, says “Today’s Comic”. I even tried tapping ‘888’ but didn’t get any cartoon subtitles.

It looks like we’ve a long way to go before the Web is completely accessible.

Upgrading my O2 Xda Orbit to Windows Mobile 6

Windows Mobile 5 compared with Window Mobile 6
Before and after: Windows Mobile 5 (left) vs. Windows Mobile 6 (right)

I’d read a few days ago that O2 would be offering a free upgrade to Windows Mobile 6 so yesterday I went in search of such delights, and lo! as it says in the good book: seek and ye will find: software update for O2 Xda Orbit only

Browser caveat

Except, it doesn’t warn you in the Bible that if you’re trying to download the Windows Mobile 6 upgrade from the O2 website you can’t use Mozilla Firefox, it has to be Internet Explorer (or, oddly, Opera).

I spent ages entering my Xda Orbit’s serial number again and again only to be told that the serial number was wrong. I tried it again a little later in IE7 and got straight through to this page: O2 Xda upgrade page on HTC website, where I was able to download the 44.7 MB upgrade file.

Installation preparations

Installation was thankfully very simple and straight-forward. Here’s what I did to prepare for the upgrade:

NOTE: I’ve updated the link to the download as it doesn’t appear to be available anymore; I hope that helps (and that it’s the right file as I now no longer have my Orbit) — 8 October 2011.

  1. Download the software upgrade (Zip, 89 MB) for O2 Xda Orbit only
  2. Deactivated Co-Pilot 6 using these instructions (PDF, 28 KB)
  3. Connect the O2 Xda Orbit to my PC and synchronize with Outlook using Windows ActiveSync 4.5 (for Windows XP or earlier — Windows Vista does its own thing).
  4. Run the installation file, which is called RUU_Artemis_O2_UK_3.4.206.2_4.1.13.28_02.67.90_Ship.exe

Here’s a walk-through of the installation screens while upgrading from Windows Mobile 5 to Windows Mobile 6.

Step 1: Welcome

Welcome to the ROM upgrade utility

Not exactly a quiz this screen: just understand that this installation will wipe clean the Xda Orbit’s memory (but NOT any MicroSD card that you may have installed). That’s why it was important to sync with Outlook before the installation.

Tick the box to say that yes you want the software to purge the phone/PDA of all its sins, then click Next.

Step 2: Instructions

Follow the instructions

Aha! Instructions:

  1. Connect the PDA Phone to the USB cable.
  2. Establish an ActiveSync connection with your PDA Phone.
  3. Disable the standby and hibernation modes on the host PC.
  4. Make sure Main Battery has a charge greater than 50%.

If you’ve completed those steps then tick the box. The third instruction is quite important: the last thing you want to do is have your PC go into standby or hibernation midway through the upgrade.

Tick the box, click Next.

Step 3: Current ROM version

Current information about your PDA ROM

The application then checks the Xda Orbit and gives feedback on the Operating System ROM version found.

On my machine, running Windows Mobile 5 it found:

Image version: 1.25.206.2

Click the Update button

Step 4: New ROM version

New ROM version

Next the application tells you what OS ROM version it will upgrade you to:

Image version: 3.4.206.2

Click Next.

Step 5: Confirmation required

Confirm you are ready to update

After all that information, you are now finally ready to update your Xda Orbit’s OS to Windows Mobile 6. This screen simply tells you what to expect:

  • The PDA Phone is prepared for the update process.
  • The progress bar is displayed on the host PC and on the PDA Phone.
  • The completion screen is displayed on the host PC.

If that all sounds fine click on Next.

Step 6: Update in progress

Progress bar

The dialog window is now replaced with a non-closable progress bar window. (I tried to capture the shot at 45% but it was just too quick for me.) As indicated, the progress bar also appears on the Xda Orbit.

Step 7: Update complete

Congratulations! Your ROM update is now complete.

After a few moments the dialog window appears again indicating that the planets have aligned, there is once more a star over Bethlehem leading wise men from the east and the update to your PDA Phone’s OS has completed successfully.

First impressions

My first impressions of Windows Mobile 6 (WM6) are that it appears to be running a little faster and is more responsive and stable than WM5. It feels like Windows Vista’s ‘Mini Me’, with a more pearl-like Windows logo and some tasty Web 2.0-esque gradients.

Sadly the enhancements to Office Mobile don’t appear to have been in the areas that it could have most used them. For example, I still find the Tasks application unnecessarily complicated (for different views) and limited; Calendar still doesn’t have the flexibility of Pocket Informant or indeed of the Psion Agenda application from 1999!

One new-comer to Windows Mobile 6 is the inclusion of Windows Live, which now integrates with Windows Live Messenger. But be warned: if you don’t logout of Windows Live it will not shut down and will constantly attempt to connect to the Web via GPRS which could prove to be costly.

On the whole — niggles with Windows Live aside — I’m very impressed with Windows Mobile 6. I still don’t think that Office Mobile has a patch on the Psion EPOC R5 operating system applications (found in the Psion 5mx, Revo(Plus), Psion 7 or netBook) but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Recommended software

As it stands I’d say a newly upgraded Xda Orbit with Windows Mobile 6 is a pretty good mobile phone. But by adding a couple of commercial applications from SPB Software House it suddenly becomes an incredibly good one:

  • Spb Mobile Shell
  • Spb Phone Suite

Thanks to …

With considerable thanks to the folks at Xda Developer’s Forum for advice, and XDA-Orbit.com for just being there!

Metal reviews vs reality

Terrorizer cover
Cover of this month’s Terrorizer magazine, as shot by the talented Steve Brown

I remember growing up in the Scottish Borders in the 1980s how excited I was to get the next issue of Kerrang! magazine, or Raw! or Metal Hammer. I’d quickly turn to the album reviews and find out whether any of my favourite bands had any new albums out.

Occasionally there would be a flexible 7″ single sellotaped to the cover — I still have a few of those — what absolute bliss! Because even if the music was rubbish, it was still new music and it would help me to gauge the accuracy of what the magazine reviewers were writing and what I was listening to.

It was a frustrating exercise to read some glowing review, travel to Hawick (on the bus) to our local purveyor of quality metal (Spence’s music shop), spend my eagerly saved and hard-earned pocket-money on a new album (on cassette) only to get it home and discover that it was rubbish.

In some ways MP3s, cover-mounted CDs and the World Wide Web have stepped in to fill in that gap: now you can read the review, listen to the demo online, then buy the album.

For some, however, there is still the frustration of buying new albums based solely on reviews alone.

Letter

Here is a letter from Terrorizer magazine a couple of months back (as typed out again by my friend William).

I’ve edited it a little to censor the profanities — I didn’t remove them entirely as they add something quite special to the meaning and tone of the letter, as you’ll see:

Terrorizer is my only guide to what’s happening in the world concerning metal, without it, basically, I’d be f***ed. I like my dark/doom/goth/drone etc, as much as the next human time bomb and was surprised to see the new Sunno))) album on the shelves and I bought it right away based on your reviews.

Imagine my surprise/horror when I put it on and heard the absolute sp*zz-magnet that spewed forth from my speakers! I had to read the review again I was so confused, and I was gonna write in and complain, much like I’m doing now, but I said no, no Paddy, don’t be a c**t, don’t be like them other wee b*stards who write in and complain every time they don’t agree with something, so I didn’t.

Then, I bought Khanate’s new release, again based on your reviews and lo and behold another complete and utter pile of c*ck p**. I’m not saying your reviews were wrong, I’m not saying I disagree with your reviews, your reviews were spot-f***ing-on, but what f***s me off is all the things you casually fail to mention.

For instance if you’d ended the Sunno))) review with “PS there are no f***ing drums on this album whatsoever, and f**k all much else,” I wouldn’t have wasted twenty quid on it. If you’d ended the Khantate review with “It’s the same f***ing childlike riff for half a c**ting hour,” Again I could have wasted my cash on something else, drink/drugs/porn etc.

So finally I’ll get to my poxy question. Based on your reviews, I WAS going to buy the new Earth album “Hex…”. Now, in plain f***ing English, is it the same b*stard riff over and over again with little variation?

I don’t care how surreal is it, how cool or dark, I don’t want to know what it feels like to ‘have a glacier slide over me’ or what it feels like to be ‘trapped under a gradually cooling lava flow’. For f***’s sake!!! IS IT A PILE OF SH*TE OR NOT?!! ‘Cos if I waste another twenty b*stard quid on another j*bbyfest like the last two, I will kill myself and everyone within a 35 yard radius.

Jeez, yez work in a music mag, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Thank Christ for the free CD!

Editor’s reply

Here is what the editor replied:

Some might say that the Earth album could have been recorded by a depressed, dribbling village idiot with a memory span of five seconds for all the variation in the riffs played at a rate that would make a Sufi weep with boredom.

But we reckon it’s an equilibrium-inducing, edge-of-the-world-evoking elegy that feels like having the back of your retina burnt away by the last ever sunset.

On balance, I reckon you’ll love it.

Utter genius!!