Head to Head: Motorola Droid v BlackBerry Storm 2
On a recent trip to the United States, I took an opportunity to compare two touch-screen smartphones that have recently hit the market across the pond. One of them, the BlackBerry Storm 2, is also available in other territories - including the UK. The Motorola Droid is currently only available in the States but will soon be released in Italy and Germany as the Motorola Milestone. There is no word on a UK release yet.
The first thing that is noticeable about the Droid phone is the size and clarity of the screen. It's large, around 9.4cm, with a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is larger than the iPhone's screen. The user interface, although a little complex, is quick to get used to.
As well as featuring a capacitive touch screen, the device also has haptic feedback - but if you don't want this feature, it can be turned off. It is multi-touch, but does not feature pinch-to-zoom gestures. We hear, however, that the European Milestone versions do allow this. Google, like other vendors, are trying to resolve some patent issues with Apple before introducing this feature more widely on Android.
But another advantage of this device is the real slider keyboard. Slider keyboards have been around for a while, but this slider is slimmer than most which makes the Droid less brick-like than similar devices. However, using the keyboard appears to be a bit of a chore, as the keys are not very responsive.
The device also features a 5 megapixel camera with flash for sharp pictures. With the bundled image editing software, it is a handy device to upload to social networking sites. Oh, and before we forget, you can send and receive email on this device.
Since Android has been developed and supported by Google, the company has been very keen for third party application developers to sell applications through its inbuilt application store. This is paying off as there are already thousands of applications available - with popular iPhone apps like Shazam, for example, already developed.
Naturally, with Google Maps an important application, geotagging, GPS and satellite navigation is complimentary.
BlackBerry Storm 2
The BlackBerry Storm 2, as the name implies, is the second iteration of a touch screen device from Research In Motion (RIM). Like its predecessor, it is a crisp capacitive screen with multi-touch technology with a twist. Whereas the Droid features haptic response feedback or the option of using a real keyboard, this device uses RIM's own Surepress technology, which gives the user a fast click feedback rather than vibrate like most haptic screens.
This is the most controversial aspect of the device. RIM has criticised touch-screen devices like the iPhone in the past for not being very accurate, but Surepress technology does not really solve this issue. Errors can be, and are, frequently made.
However, the new device does support multi-touch. But, like the Droid, it does not feature pinch-and-zoom feature - which is a shame. Also, the screen is slightly smaller with a 4:3 ratio that is approximately 8.4cm in diameter.
It also has a camera, but at 3.2 megapixels it lags the Droid in capability, but does have a flash and some image stabilisation capabilities. There are currently no image cropping tools bundled with the device.
BlackBerry's App World has so far not garnered as much interest from developers as Android or the iPhone, which outstrips all the competition for apps, but the company has been busy courting companies like Adobe and LinkedIn who plan to release Apps for the device. As BlackBerry is the best selling Smartphone in the US, the software support is likely to improve significantly. Like the Droid, this device also has GPS, geotagging capabilities and satellite navigation.
Both devices perform well - and it is good to see that the gap between the iPhone and smartphone rivals is closing. Between the two, the Droid performs marginally better for media-playing capabilities. The Storm 2 naturally wins out for emailing capabilities. But both Motorola and BlackBerry have to realise that haptic and Surepress technologies are red herrings. It would be better if they concentrated on providing a good touch experience.
The BlackBerry Storm 2 is available on contract with Vodafone. Availability of The Droid/Milestone in the UK has yet to be announced.
Running older programs in Windows 7
So you've taken the plunge and recently bought a new computer with Microsoft's latest operating system - which is a vast improvement on Vista. How could it not be?
Microsoft claims that most programs written for Windows Vista also work in their latest version, but some older programs written for Windows XP may not work properly or at all. You can choose to upgrade to the latest version of that software, but this is often a pricey option. Sometimes an upgrade supporting and certified to run on Windows 7 may not even exist.
Fear not, if a program written for an earlier version of Windows doesn't run correctly, you can try changing the compatibility settings for the program, either manually or by using the Windows 7 Program Compatibility troubleshooter.
To use the Program Compatibility troubleshooter, click the Start button and then click the Control Panel. In the search box, type 'troubleshooter', and then click Troubleshooting. Under Programs, click Run programs made for previous versions of Windows.
From here on it ought to be plain sailing and your made-for-XP software should start to perform, but occasionally it may still not work as it should.
If this doesn't work, we recommend that you visit the software vendor's website to see if there is an available patch which will allow it to function. Most likely, they will be aware of compatibility issues with Windows 7 and if a patch isn't available now, it they may be working on one.
In the meantime, there may be another way to get your software to function properly, but only if you have Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 7 Business Professional versions.
With these particular versions, you have the option of installing a Windows XP emulator that works within the Windows 7 environment. We've tried it and it works very well. What's more, you can still work between Windows environments. You can even cut and paste stuff between different programs running in different environments.
Unfortunately, this emulator is not available for the home SKUs of Windows 7. We think it ought to be - as this would earn Microsoft brownie points and ensure that many consumers will choose the migration path knowing that their existing software investment will still work.
The only other solution, which is less preferable, is to create a dual boot system where you have Windows XP also available on the hard drive. This is, unfortunately, the most cumbersome solution.
My laptop is supposed to have a hard drive capacity of 120GB, but when I check the size of the hard drive on my computer it is only 116.4GB. Why the discrepancy?
Paula Burlingame (by email)
Despite your hard drive being advertised as having a 120GB capacity, your operating system will only ever show 116.4GB capacity. The discrepancy is the result of the industry using two common methods for measuring storage capacity. Processing on computers are base 2 (binary) mathematical calculations and therefore a kilobyte of data is actually 1024 bytes because it is 2 to the 10th power.
However, as we know, the metric system defines a kilo as 1,000 and therefore a thousand bytes is often referred to as a kilobytes.
Adding to this confusion, in 1998 the International Electrotechnical Commission defined 1 gigabyte to equal 1 billion bytes. Hard disk manufacturers use the metric calculation, but your PC is still binary and always will be. In any case, it is a minor difference.
Monitor the situation
I only have one video port on my laptop, but I want to connect two monitors to it. What would you recommend?
T Smith (by email)
In order to connect two external monitors to your laptop, connect one to the external video port that is available on the back or the side of the device. In order to connect the second monitor, use a DisplayLink adapter. This type of adapter connects using one of your spare USB ports. Using this method you will be able to extend your desktop to multiple screens.
I have a laptop PC, which I have been using for three years and it is in perfect working condition, but it does not work with my video camera, which requires a Firewire port. It has USB 2.0. Can an adaptor be purchased to convert this to Firewire?
Leo McCulloch (by email)
I recommend that you purchase a Firewire adaptor PCMCIA card if you have a spare slot, which are available from a variety of vendors. These are typically combo cards that provide more than one Firewire (IEEE I394) slot. While USB 2.0 is much more common than FireWire in consumer gadgetry, FireWire is a better solution for things like transferring video.