Sony Xperia X1 Review

So I’ve been after the Sony Xperia X1 ever since I first heard about it. It looked like it did everything I needed, push email, online vpn to the office with remote desktop, and a phone being the main ones. Our O2 account manager very kindly arranged a test set for me last week and I’ve been using it ever since. Unfortunately, I’ve been sorely disappointed with device in some of the really basic functions relating to email and user experience. At this point in time, it doesn’t look like it will be a runner to replace my trusty blackberry, and here is why.

Firstly, I approached this with an open mind. Despite what Obama thinks, most people useless don’t like change and prefer to keep doing the same thing, even if the new way is better. There useless needs to be that Killer App that once you use, you can no longer do without. Apple have done it very well with the iPhone by simply bolting a phone onto an iPod. Since a large number of people have a phone and an iPod, why not just get an iPhone which is one device instead of two?

Battery Life

The first thing I noticed when I got the device was how long it took to charge the device off the USB port when I first got it. Thinking that it may just be a slow first charge, I let it run away for a few hours and it still only charged just over half way. Installing the drivers did nothing to improve the situation either. If the device only needed to be charged every few days then I could probably live with it. (For the record, Blackberries always seem to charge in under an hour, nokias being the same.) The problem is that in my setup (1 Exchange account, 1 Gmail account, 1 IMAP account) that the device gets down to a low battery situation in less than 48 hours without any talk time.


I live in an area which has pretty bad signal indoors. I’ve learnt where to place my phones on the table and bed side locker that get signal. Some days I’ll get two bars, some days none. Phone calls always involve standing at the door or window. This is where the X1 falls down majorly for me. Times when my Blackberry would have two bars, it would have none or be stuck dropping in an out of signal. If you are using the device at the time this happens, then you get one of those oh so familiar popups saying the device is connecting. Honestly, the icon is enough for this and the popup is just an annoying interruption.

Email experience

This is my biggest disappointment with the device. I do understand that with Windows Mobile, email is just an application where as with Blackberry, email is THE application. The difference is striking however. Firstly, there is no actual push email. Call it what they might, it is just a quicker polling turn around. Even IMAP idle isn’t enabled for the IMAP accounts. Basically the ActiveSync application uses the same setup as Outlook over HTTPS and checks the webpage for new mail. When the server returns a tag notifying of a change on the poll, the device then starts a full sync of the folders it is watching. The more folders you are watching, the slower this gets.


ActiveSync is much faster than say the IMAP implementation as has ways of asking for only the changes. With IMAP the device has to do a full login, get folders, get headers, get first parts of the mail messages, disconnect. Open a mail and it just marks it for download on the next sync. You can set it to download the full mail during the sync which is the only workable way. Setting it to download the first 2kb of the mail allows you to open the mail, then click a link so you can download the rest on the next full sync. In comparison, Blackberries download the headers to list the mails, then as soon as you open the mailit automatically sends a request to grab some of the mail. As you scroll down it will automatically download more. Most of this is hidden from the users unless you have no coverage or bad coverage. Blackberry can do all this since their solution is hosted where as the MS one isn’t. MS could change things to be a step in the right direction such as loading messages and starting the requests automatically but they choose not to. Why I don’t know.

Ignoring that ActiveSync isn’t actually push for a minute, it does work quite well. Unlike the Blackberry view, it is like have a smaller Outlook on your device inn a far as the email view goes. There is some big advantages to this which I’m sure you can imagine.


The IMAP accounts could be sped up by getting IDLE to work. It wouldn’t cost anything and I’m told Nokias do support it although I’ve yet to try it on there. Even skipping the check for folder difference step could really help speed up things and save bandwidth and battery. Obviously there would need to be some error checking done or else removing a folder that is being checked would just cause the device to bork.

The other problem with the mail is the hard coded paths. Main one being with Sent Items. MS choose “Sent Items” as the folder where as Thunderbird choose “Sent” as do some other mail clients. A sym-link on the mail server will side step this but it is a bit annoying. Since there is a near full IMAP implementation on the device, it shouldn’t have been hard to give the option to change the paths. Blackberry do suffer from this problem too though so I guess MS are just following suit.

On the plus side, the html email rendering engine is way ahead of what the Blackberry one can do on my Pearl. May be due to additional screen size in some places but it does make a difference in usability and readability for the emails.

Email profiles

By this I mean different alert settings for different accounts in the email client. On my Blackberry, in the default profile two accounts vibrates when an email comes in, one doesn’t. If I’m working from a different location, I can easily change to all notify or none do if in a meeting. Even better with the blackberry is it has profiles for in and out of the holster so setting it to do nothing other than change the light is a great way not to disturb meetings but still watch for that important email. The X1 has options for turning on the light on which would replicate part of this, but it has yet to work for me on any of the three accounts.


I really would have thought that MS would have known by now that Search is the big thing. It needs to be done right and you need to be able to find what you need.

The MS way is a single search field that searches all of the device. This is similar to what others such as Apple or Amazon do an is usually a great idea. My MS missed is that both give the option to do a more detailed search. For Amazon you can specify the department to search within. Too many results is a useless result set. It is all about the ranking and this is why Google is currently the best search engine.

Search has an even bigger flaw in that it doesn’t always find everything. Since I’ve only a few days email on it, there is some very small result sets which I can test with. For the first day or two, search was coming back with nothing on these but eventually kicked in and began finding some stuff. So far it seems it will only find emails in the inbox and can’t be restricted to individual accounts. Even more annoying is the fact that you can’t search for unread emails.  This is actually something I do quite often as I regularly have to jump between mail leaving some unread when I haven’t time to deal with it because I’m on another issue.

Maybe MS are going to fix the search stuff in the upcoming Mobile 7 release but I’m not holding my breath.

Physical Device

The physical device itself is very nice. Brushed medal covers with a very nice touch screen above the sliding keyboard. It is a tiny be heavier than I’d like but not where close to being too heavy for the purpose.


The keyboard is easily enough to use although the top row of keys takes a bit of getting used to due to available space.


The stylus is incredibly useful, especially for the remote desktop application which I’ve been after. It is also super simple to use with the on screen keyboard, even in portrait mode.

Device Setup

The first and most important thing I’ll say is to do the initial setup using the stylus. It doesn’t say to do it that way but using your finger will work… until you require the use of the stylus.

The email setup is much more difficult than with a Blackberry too. There is a few settings and to get just an Exchange account working, it could be explain to an non technical personal over the phone with some work. The directory doesn’t work as you would expect and would require some training. It is a big change from the Blackberry, enter your email and this password and hit active method. I also really like the way I can change my physical Blackberry device by just plugging the new one into my Laptop and hitting yes to the device pin change. The BIS option is just a matter of turning the device on, then going the the BIS webpage. The BES server also does a very cool continuous backup meaning the new device is at exactly the same point as your old one, ring tones, alarms, backgrounds all included. That’s the difference between a closed, hosted solution though. Strange that Microsoft actually has the more open implementation for once.


If Blackberry came out with an identical device that supported remote desktop (BES already does auto vpn), then it would be something I’d have to have. The device feels nice to hold and to use. The interface is overall pretty nice too outside of the few niggly bits above. Obviously there is only so much that Sony can do to skin the device but it is done to an acceptable standard. The downfalls are mostly really due to MS in my opinion. Some more effort on the email client is the main area they need to go after. Perhaps even some sort of hosted server for additional accounts on the device to speed things up if required.

Sony could do with working on the battery life in low signal situations. If there is full signal, the device will last a bit longer, but then so do every other mobile device. I do have Bluetooth and Wireless disabled too and haven’t tried with them enabled.

Would I buy one? Not for every day usage but possibly if I was going away somewhere where taking an EeePC is too big.

Outlook 2007 – ctrl+enter to send mail warning box

The debate on having this shortcut is long on going so I’m not going to get into that. But I use it and it saves me loads of time. When it gets disabled it is a right pain. Personally I like the warning box to pop up too which is not possible to restore unless you edit the registry.

It took some diff’ing of the registry but the key you want to undo either clicking never show the box again, or changing the settings in the Advanced E-Mail Options, is under

Delete the CtrlEnterSends key and it’ll bring back the warning box when you restart outlook.

Windows Hyper-V VM Failed To Start

So today while trying to reboot a server in Hyper-V I came across a lovely little problem. The machine shut down fine. I changed the network settings to give it a static mac address. Hit start and wam. VM failed to start.

A quick check showed that there was enough memory available. There should have been since I just shut down the machine anyway. The event log gave nothing useful. An error code of 0xC0000142 got nothing useful in Google (at time of writing). and the error in Hyper-V gave a more details of Vm failed to start then the machine ID. Way to go Microsoft on that error message.

Anyway after getting nowhere on google for about 10 minutes, I tried to restart the machine and it just started. Nothing changed either. Since this VM isn’t in production yet, the outage didn’t really matter, but 10 minutes is a hell of a long time for “something” to happen in the background so you can restart a VM. Hopefully R2 will fix these issues.

Dell overheating problems, Windows Search and Acronis restore

So it seems that Dell or more so nVidea have some over heating problems with some of the gpus. My D630c had been running really hot for quite a while and the fan was going a bit nuts during windows startup until last weekend… when the system decided to put random characters onscreen and die. As with all things, the laptop booted up fine on the Tuesday when I called Dell however running the system diags did reproduce the problem. While testing further, a hard drive problem popped up so they agreed to change the disk. When I mentioned about the heat problem, I was quickly put on hold for a few minutes, then they came back and said they were replacing the motherboard and fans. A quick Google did show up a few things about the failling GPUs.

Anyway, Dell did replace everything and things are working fine since. The replacement harddisk is a bit louder than the last one but it works so I’m finally getting back to normal. It has taken nearly a week to get everything restored, mostly due to Acronis being unable to restore large files individually. It kept getting stuck about 1.8G into the large files in my laptop. Doing a full disk restore worked fine.

The other annoying issue is Windows search stops working in Outlook after installing Exchange Administrator. Easy fix however. Close Outlook, Run System32\fixmapi.exe. Open Outlook. Let the search reindex everything. You may have to open the Windows Search options, select Outlook, then hit rebuild on the index.

Giant SCR 1

Firstly I will say that this is my first road bike. My last bike was a GT aggressor which is a hard-tail mountain bike. It has road mtb tyres so not too bad to ride long distances although hell on a hill. So all that means I’ll probably be talking about different things than your average roadie person.

Anyway the bike came from wiggle and arrived in a huge box (ToDo: picture). I will give it to wiggle, they are great. I did order some shoes which took a while to get processed but some of that was my fault in ordering something out of stock. That topped with the sterling rate when I ordered meant I got the bike for less than half of what it costs locally. The bike also came with a Giant bottle and bottle cage however the cage is nearly useless in holding a bottle in place. It also came with reflectors for the wheels as well as front and back ones. Wiggle kindly safed me the hassle and just left them in the box. (Disclaimer: I don’t recommend riding without reflectors.) Surprisingly the bike came with toe clip pedals as well. Definitely a nice touch although I’ll be fitting my shimano clipless pedals shortly.

First thing I noticed is the gearing is nice and tight. Moving between gears doesn’t give the usual jump that I was used to on the top gears on my old mountain bike. Next would be the speed. I’m sure everyone already knew road bikes were quicker but I was quite surprised at the difference.  Even the commute into work had higher speeds with the full pannier rack on the back of the bike. The weekend training run should show just how much of a difference.

The bike itself is quite responsive. A little more than I’d like but I’m sure I’ll adapt. Even with the pannier rack the bike isn’t as stable as my old hard tail. I guess stable is the wrong word. It can be a bit wobbly but nothing that you wouldn’t expect too much.

Broken Wheels?

The few months of riding have resulted in a number of problems with the back wheel. I will say that most if not all is down to me being over 100Kg when I started cycling and also the pannier bags on the back. Oh and in no small part, the huge pot holes that developed on my commute home. Hitting a half a foot deep one one evening popped a nipple of a spoke. Since then, there was no end of problems with loose spokes (I did reconnect and retrue the wheel after). It all culminated in another spoke spanning while out last weekend.

I ended up dropping the wheel in to Duffy Cyclines in Omni Park Santy. Honestly I wasn’t super keen about going here as I’ve had a bad experience last year with them but they are a Giant reseller shop. The guy had the wheel for a few hours, replaced the spoke, and then retrued it and I have to say I’m quite happy. There is a small radial alignment problem but only noticeable if you watch the wheel spin quickly and closely, nothing while cycling.

In Summary

Well I’m quite happy with the bike. Having done nearly 1000km in the two and half months I’ve had it, it has definitely helped things along.  For anyone needing a bike to take for weekend spins and also get them comformtably to work, I’d highly recommend this or well now one of the new range since this is all sold out. The new bikes are prettier too.

Dell Keyboard layouts – why do they change them

It used to just be a case where certain models didn’t have a keyboard I liked but others would, but now looking at the Dell site, none of the laptops have a keyboard I like. And it isn’t like I’m after some crazy combination. All I want is a machine with the normal Irish keyboard. Even Wikipedia agrees with the format. Same as my D630c.

We currently order Vostro 1510 machines as standard and this problem might have started when they messed up the keyboard having the whole bottom line in the wrong place but the current keyboard model is closer than anything you see on the website. Only difference is the left shift key is bigger, the right on is smaller, oh and the backslash (\) key is on the far right instead of the left. A completely useless layout for anyone who uses the keyboard all the time for coding or working on linux.

Worse than all this is the trend to make the Enter / Return key smaller like the american keyboards. For US people, fine, keep it small since they are used to it, but don’t go trying to force random keyboard changes on us. Hell even the XPS that is on my desk has another layout.

Edit: So the new Vostro 1520 has normal keyboard, or so it looks until you start typing. The bottom line suffers from a smaller than normal ctrl key meaning the left hand side keys (ctrl, fn, windows, alt) are slightly to the left. Not a huge problem and I’d take it over the older problem, but still a problem. Also the keyboards on this model as bouncy. Yes bouncy. Whole keyboard moves when you press the keys in the center.

Windows Virtual Server 2005 R2 Differencing disk size

I’ve been running Virtual Server 2005 R2 for a few months now stress testing it on a machine seeing where the limits were before real deployment. Machine is a P4 dual core with 4G of ram. It has 1 Windows 2003 server host and 6-8 XP hosts running at any one time. The main bottle neck seems to always be the harddisk. It just can’t keep up with things. When things are running the disk queue is a solid line across the top of perfmon. Before you say it, the VM’s aren’t running lots of disk actions and in fact if I reduced the number of VM’s and increased the ram, it’d probably drop the disk usage way down.

Anyway when setting up these VM’s for testing, differencing disks seemed to be the way to go. New VM’s took a matter of minutes to setup and getting running. Now that they are running for nearly three months, it is looking not so hot. Each VM has about 4G of space used inside their virtual disks but yet the master disk is around the 3G mark with the differencing disks being over 6G. Something really wasn’t adding up. Clearly a disk file should take up more space than the data on the disk.

Merging the differencing disk

First thing I tried was to merge the differencing disk. To do this, you inspect the disk, then under actions, merge the disk and choose a new file.

Compacting the disk

Once the disk was merged, it gave the option to compact the disk. Running this did nothing but waste time making the new disk no smaller than the original.`

The Solution

So after some googling and trial and error, the following steps seem to have worked and made the disks a lot smaller.

  1. Merge the differencing disk into a new disk.
  2. Mount the new disk to the VM.
  3. Boot the VM and defrag the disk using Windows Defrag.
  4. Mount the precompator vm tool in the VM. This tool is found in precompact.iso in the Virtual Machine Additions folder in your Virtual Server install directory. (Usually C:\Program Files\Microsoft Virtual Server\Virtual Machine Additions\Precompact.iso)
  5. Run the precompactor in the VM. (This does take a while to run)
  6. Shutdown the VM and compact the hard disk image as above.

All in all, I got near a 50% reduction in real space usage which brought it closer to what the VM’s are actually using.

Magpie RSS

So I’ve used MagpieRss for quite sometime. First used happened a few years back when I did a little work customising my own version of TorrentFlux. Someone back then introduced me to Magpie which proved much easier than using my own XML parser.

Anyway since then it has been used in quite a few places to auto update sections of sites. One of the recent “bugs” I’ve come across is where it displays the message below from time to time.

Notice:  Undefined property:  etag in on line 156

Anyway from the usual googling, there is more than one place that this type of message shows up. Annoying though is that this bug is fixed in the development version of Magpie and was actually fixed over two years ago.

Basic fix is to swap line 156

if( $rss and $rss->etag and $rss->last_modified) {


if ( $rss and (isset($rss->etag) and $rss->etag)
 and (isset($rss->last_modified) and $rss->last_modified) ) { 

On a side note, WordPress needs a nice way to handle code windows.

Garmin Edge 705

So being a long time Garmin fan (I’ve a Nuvi 670 in the car current, used to have a 350T before it got stolen, and have made numerous other people buy one, or two in the case of my parents), when it came time to get a new cycle computer and I found Garmin did them, it became an easy enough choice. Since I’ve a tendency to always buy the best one available, that only left the Edge 705 even though I know I’ll rarely use the maps on it. But maybe when the longer cycles start. The hardest thing to over come was the battery life. Honestly I don’t fancy having to take the computer off the bike and charge it but since it downloads to the pc, it’ll most likely get charged in work when it is downloading. I’ll report back on the battery life as I use it more but I can’t really see it matching my Cateye Tomo. Haven’t changed its batteries in years of use!

From a recommendation (and because they were loads cheaper than everywhere else), I’ve purchased from I will say now that they were impossible to contact by anything but phone. The online support kept timing out after saying someone will be there soon. Leaving messages on it got no reply. Emailing through the site got no reply. And emailing through Google Checkout got no reply. When I talked to someone over the phone I was told they had actually changed their shipping company and that is why I couldn’t track the item. Actually it turned out it hadn’t even shipped although they told Google it had. So much for quick turnarounds. Even though they told me it wasn’t going to ship until the Monday and to ring back then for a tracking number, it showed up at my work on the Monday with the first half of my bike order.

So back to the topic at hand, the Garmin. I’ve chosen one with cadence and heart rate sensors since I do plan on doing some dedicated training with both cadence, and heart rate zones. Around where I live there is a lovely long flat section of road that is perfect for interval training.


The first major flaw that exists on this device is that you can’t turn it on in doors. Well you can but it’ll sit searching for satellites forever. None of my other Garmin’s have done this. Big problem with this is you can’t start adding in way-points or browsing features on the device. Obviously the use on a bike is a bit different than in a car but it’d still be nice to be able to turn on the device in doors and configure things up the way you want. The second major flaw is when charging from a pc. You don’t get a power/battery indicator. Where this has never been an issue with the models in the car (they have a power source there), on a bike you need full power. That would be an easy fix.

Edit: Seems if you wait long enough, the Garmin does come up with a menu to allow you to use it with GPS turned off. It’d be nice to get this menu up without waiting. You can hit menu and get into the device menu itself so I guess that it enough for average things.


The biggest annoyance we’ll call it is the maps. My device only came with base maps which I promptly changed to proper ones. (Garmin, if you are listening, please try make maps cheaper). Even with the new maps, it is a much different experience than you’ll be used to if you are a Garmin user. The screen isn’t full colour which isn’t really an issue, but the non 3D view is like an older Garmin and I do foresee if being confusing if and when I use this for navigation on the bike. Looking at it on the bike is detail free which is how you’d want it on a bike. When in a car you have more time to concentrate on the device where as on the bike there are more pressing things at hand.

To the actual device. It does seem better built for outside use however I have my doubts as to how rain-proof it actually is. The side buttons are sealed but the joy stick and two top buttons aren’t. There are also two open holes on the back where the speaker is. Now I don’t expect the device to be usable underwater, but since everyone who cycles in the rain knows that it isn’t what comes down that makes you wet, it is what comes up, putting open holes on the back can’t be a good thing. Saying that there isn’t many reports of problems from my searches so time will tell how it works out.

Edit: Seems that the stem blocks most of the dirt being thrown up. I do have mud guards but some is still making it and device is all ok. Still have to see what real rain will do.

Software Usability

Some software usability issues. Setting the units to metric doesn’t take effect everywhere. Workouts for example will display in km if you choose it, but the drop down menus still show in miles and then convert back. Again, something easily fixed with a software update.

Viewing the device while on the bike is hard enough although admittedly that could be due to be getting used to the riding position on the road bike. Basically the device while sitting on the stem is a bit behind my head position and looking straight down is hard enough. When in a relaxed position on top of the drops, it is easy enough to read although having the back-light timeout adjustable would be nice. I’ve read in a few places that there is a way to make the back-light stay on all the time which is something I’ll be looking into. I’d also like the device to remember my back-light settings. Basically you hit the power button then use the joy stick to change the back-light intensity. Works but turning the device on and off means it defaults back to completely off.

The heart rate monitor works well too. Comfy enough to wear and stays put when riding. Strangely enough it doesn’t always kick in when I first put it on but soon as I jump in the saddle, it doesn’t miss a beat. Cadence picked up nicely as well and all of it logged to the device handy enough. Very useful to see how bad my technique actually is!


I’m using SportTracks to log the information. It was recommended on a forum somewhere and has been working well for more than just logging details on the bike. The graphs and odometer are all handy features too. It did point out a few areas where the Garmin had the usual inaccuracies with logging data. As you can see from the image, it saw me drop down a huge amount and then back up again. Since these only seem to happen when I stop at corners, traffic lights etc, I can only assume the barometer is somehow open to the wind.

Loading the data into SportTracks is simple too, hit import and in it goes. Attach my main bike to the ones I cycle and it’ll add the distance to it so I know when parts are due to reach the end of life.

Anyway more will follow about the Garmin as I get some more usage on it. The virtual training partner is the big one that I want to try so hopefully sometime over the next week or two I’ll be out to race myself.

Strange words and thoughts