My worst business trip ever (Part II: Heading back to Athens)

A new day – Tuesday – had started and I had a nice feeling about it. I woke up early, had a nice breakfast at the hotel, took a warm shower and check out, heading back to the meeting place. This time the elevator was working. I had already checked in for both my Lufthansa flights from Berlin to Munich and from there to Athens in the previous afternoon, and I was supposed to leave the meeting at about 16.00 to head to the airport and catch my flight.

For some reason I did not have a good cellular signal at the meeting building and at some point after the lunch break, I received a call. It was a colleague of mine, who said that they have been trying to contact me for quite a long time to inform me that my Lufthansa flight was cancelled (WTF!!). The good news was that I was rebooked to a Swiss flight to Zurich and from there to Athens. The bad news was that the Swiss flight was one hour earlier than my Lufthansa one, so I had to rush to the airport – now!

(Lufthansa only informed me by SMS (not via email, which I checked regularly), but I had no signal at the time, so I received it rather late).

I quickly picked up all my stuff and rushed to the bus stop to take the airport bus so quickly that I did not have time to greet my colleagues at the meeting. In the meantime, I was on the phone with my agent, who offered to check me in as well, so that I would save some time – and I was glad she did. She also emailed me the boarding pass, just to be on the safe side.

My last photo before leaving Berlin; yes, it was snowing in the morning.

Thankfully, I arrived to the airport on time and went through the security checks pretty fast. I was one time and the flight of Swiss only had a slight delay so we made it on time in Zurich. However, the flight from Zurich to Athens was also delayed (by about 45 mins) and this only got worse by the fact that Swiss staff at the gate started asking passengers to hand over their oversized of second cabin item. As expected, no one was willing to hand over a luggage that they planned to take on board and this led to a confusion and contributed to the delay of the flight.

As a result of all this mess, I reached Athens more than 1 hour later than I expected, at about 01.45. I was on time in all occasions, but none of the airlines was. I reached home at about 02.30, went to bed at about 03.00. Next morning, I woke up at 06.30 to get to the office as usual 🙂

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My worst business trip ever (Part I: Heading to Berlin)

(Alternative title: A 150 Euro taxi ride to nowhere)

(Alternative title #2: Oh Lufthansa, where art thou?)

I have been traveling all over the world for business for the last 10 years – I even managed to get a Gold status with Aegean Airlines at some point, as a frequent flyer. In these 10 years I only once missed a flight (it was due to long security/passport controls in the U.S. but I was lucky enough to be rebooked to the next flight). I was lucky enough but also did my best to be always on time for my flights.

Last Sunday, I had to fly to Berlin through Frankfurt for business purposes with Lufthansa. I had the option of taking an earlier direct flight to Berlin, but I opted to spend some more time with my family on Sunday, who wouldn’t?

I arrived on time at the Athens airport but the flight was delayed by more than 1 hour minutes (I cannot recall exactly) “due to the plane arriving delayed in Athens”. To make a long story short (and this is a really long story!) we reached Frankfurt airport only to find out that the last flight to Berlin had just taken off on time, leaving the remaining passengers waiting at the airport. A helpful lady at the gate informed me about the good news and the bad news:

The good news were that I would get a hotel voucher, a couple of vouchers for the taxi (from and to the airport) and a 10EUR voucher for a snack, as the hotel kitchen would be closed by the time I reached it. I would also be re-booked on the early morning Lufthansa flight to Berlin – but I would have to be at the airport no later than 06.15.

The bad news: The hotel was about 90 km from the airport (!!), so something about 50 mins by taxi… and this is where all hell breaks loose:

  1. I couldn’t find where to use my snack voucher and wasted precious time (as I realized later on); in the end I found a place, where I got a couple of sandwiches just before it closed for the night.
  2. I went out in the freezing cold (-1 oC) waiting for a taxi – there was no queue, and taxi drivers came out of nowhere, picked up customers randomly and left
  3. I got myself a taxi but the taxi driver hardly spoke English and he did not know where the hotel was; his bloody GPS could not pick up a signal and I was trying to explain to him that since we had stopped under a bridge it would be hard to get a signal. After spending about 15 mins waiting for the GPS, he brought a second one from the trunk and it actually worked.
  4. In the meantime, I tried using my smartphones for the same purpose (actually, the taxi driver insisted on it); however, my Lumia was running out of battery (and later I realized that I had only downloaded the Berlin offline maps before leaving home) while my backup smartphone did not have any offline German maps at all.
  5. On the way to the hotel, the driver explained to me that there were no rooms in Frankfurt due to a large exhibition taking place during these days – lucky me!
  6. I had to be at the airport at 06.15 – the driver told me to get a taxi earlier than 05.00 from the hotel, as there could be heavy Monday traffic later on…
  7. When I finally reached the hotel, I realized that there were dozens of passengers facing the same issue as me; everyone had a pack of vouchers and they were all directed to the same hotel from the airport…a long queue before I could get my key for the room. At least I managed to book a taxi for 04.30 next morning.
  8. I only had about 4 hours available for sleep; however, I had to take a shower, eat my snacks, send a couple of urgent emails (e.g. informing the hotel at Berlin for my absence and let them know when I would check in) and re-arrange my stuff in my small wheeled backpack (the issues of traveling packed)
  9. I was so worried that I would not hear the alarm in the morning that I kept checking the clock every 15 mins. In the meantime, I could hear people leaving their rooms so I gave up and woke up at 03.50.
  10. I picked up my phones which I left charging overnight, only to realize that my main phone was not plugged properly, so charging had stopped at about 60% – not good enough for the long day ahead of me.
  11. There was no traffic, no long security queues, no nothing – so I found myself waiting at the gate at about 05.30; 45 mins before expected. On top of that the Lufthansa flight was for once more delayed (something like 30 minutes). This time it was the ground team to blame, as they did not start preparing the plane early enough…enough with pathetic excuses!
At first I thought I was hallucinating due to lack of sleep; however, it was just the interesting decoration of the hotel 🙂

I finally reached Berlin, found my way to the TXL bus and reached my hotel, which was almost next to the meeting place. I paid a visit to make sure that I still had a room (got no response to my email so far) and leave some of my stuff in the room. At the reception, I was informed that they did not receive my email and I should have called them instead to let them know of the situation! Bloody hell…

In the end they found me a room and also allowed me to use their fast WiFi connection at no cost (which I never did, as costs may incur out of nowhere in hotels). Went upstairs, left my stuff (clothes and wash bag) and headed to the meeting place. It took me 10 mins to find the entrance, as Google maps showed the main entrance of the building while the organizers had used a side door instead. Relieved, I entered the building, heading to the 5th floor, where the meeting was taking place (and I was already 1 hour late); lucky me – the elevator was out of order so I had to use the stairs, packed with my (still heavy) wheeled backpack!

I spent so much time at the airports that in the end I felt like Tom Hanks!

My presentation was the last one in the agenda, and by that time I could hardly keep  my eyes open – let alone delivering a decent presentation. Supported by several cups of coffee in the meantime, I managed to do a good job (as my friends in the audience told me later). However, I had to decline the offer for drinks and dinner right after the meeting, as I was really exhausted. I just went back to the hotel to get some decent sleep.

A hard day was over; but not the hellish trip… (to be continued)

Traveling light with my wheeled backpack: first impressions

It has been quite a long time since I last travelled abroad for business purposes. In the meantime, I made quite an extensive research on backpacks that can be used for short trips and I also did my research on how to pack (more) efficiently.

For a recent 2,5 days trip from Athens to Berlin (flying from Athens on Sunday afternoon and getting back home on Tuesday midnight), I decided to skip my typical cabin luggage and I instead opted for a more compact and wheeled backpack. It was a backpack that I “inherited” from my sister – I am still not sure how and when. On top of that, I am not sure about its brand and model, as it seems to be a “Turnip“-branded backpack (Highlander Continental 30), probably meant for company employees or as a gift to customers; who knows? I could not find any information on the Web about it.

Turnip_Highlander_backpack_closed

 

Main features

The specific backpack is not the most spacious cabin luggage available on the market, nor a really practical one: It has a main compartment with a padded pocket for laptops and a small, shallow zippered pocket in front of it, suitable for securely storing your wallet, passport/ID or anything valuable but small. In addition, it has three pretty small & shallow (apart from one) external pockets on its front (e.g. for cables, chargers and stationary), along with two side mesh pockets for e.g. a water bottle and an umbrella.

Turnip_Highlander_backpack_open

 

Due to its design, the backpack hardly stands on its own when fully packed, as it tends to lean in the front and fall. Its strong point though are its wheels; it is the only wheeled backpack I have, so I went for it, even though my aging Trust laptop backpack seems to be able to hold much more volume.

Capacity

All in all, I managed to pack my essentials for this business trip, which were:

1. An 11.6-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard
2. A pair of trousers
3. Two shirts, really carefully folded
4. 3 pairs of socks & underwear
5. My pajamas
6. The typical transparent plastic bag with all my liquids (toothpaste, perfume, foot balm, hand sanitizer) as this was a cabin luggage, and my electric toothbrush
7. Packs of gum, medicine, refreshing tissues
8. 2 chargers (for the tablet & the smartphone)
9. 10 x company leaflets of 10 pages each, about 20 pages of A4 sheets with printed material, as well as my thick paper notebook with pens, markers etc.
10. An external hard disk & a powerbank with their cables
11. A pair of gloves and my wooly cap (Berlin was expected to be chilly, -5 to 5 Celsius during my stay)

There was still some space to fit e.g. my slippers or a small bag, but since the backpack was already heavy enough (about 8 Kg, as weighted at the airport counter), I opted to keep it light. There is also the possibility of having to carry some additional stuff on the trip back home, so this space could prove valuable.

As soon as I reached my hotel room, I removed anything not related to the meeting, so that I would look professional enough 🙂 In any case, it was great being able to walk around without having to carry all this weight on my back & shoulders.

Impressions

What I liked:

  • Wheels: Grateful for being able to push and pull my luggage instead of having to carry it on my shoulders;
  • Enough capacity for a two-days business trip; if this was a casual weekend, I could squeeze even more stuff (or have more free space)
  • Various organizational options – not the best ones for organizing stuff my way, but still I appreciated the pockets available.
  • The main compartment opens quite wide, so I could easily organize my stuff inside (not exactly 180 degrees, but I could do the work)
  • Shoulder straps are well-padded and totally invisible when stored in their pocket at the back of the backpack.
  • The storage pocket of the straps can be used for storing thin items, too; I used this space mostly for storing the leaflets and my notepad.

What I did not like:

  • Hard to keep the backpack standing straight; it usually tends to lean to the front.
  • I would like a different layout; e.g. a way to keep things more organized in the main pocket and probably to keep personal items in a different compartment than the work/professional ones. In this trip, I was forced to use bags for separating clothes from other stuff;
  • It is rather narrow at the top, missing some extra storage space that could be used if needed;
  • When using the shoulder straps, their storage pocket stays open – which doesn’t look good;
  • It looks bulky and rather ugly, due to its external pockets which extend.

Conclusions

To sum up, it was a great way to put the weight down to the ground and pull it instead of carrying on my shoulders; at the same time, I would appreciate some more storage and a better organization of the available space. It may be more sporty than I would like so I would not want to be unfair – maybe I was not exactly using it the way it was meant to be used (i.e. not for business trips or for thorough organization of items)

I would definitely use the backpack again in the future, for similar short trips but I would also keep my eye on any alternatives I have.

Tech Air backpack: Getting along with it

I started using my Tech Air TAN-3711 backpack daily since January, after I realized that I should store my XD Design Bobby Compact for future use, when it would become more necessary. I decided to give the Tech Air another try, in order to better understand its features and see if I could live with it – and if so, for how long. In these two months, including a 4-days business trip, during which it was my daily gear for a 12-hour per day schedule, I admit that I started finding it closer to my needs and more practical than I initially thought:

 

Air Tech backpack full
The Tech Air backpack has more storage space than I initially thought.

 

Positive points

  • The internal organization of stuff is convenient; I found good use for the 5 pockets of the main compartment (picture with pockets), and since I do not always carry a laptop with me, I use the padded pocket (the backpack’s strong selling point) for storing my external hard disk, chargers and cereal bars while the last compartment is used for A4 papers and other printed material;
  • Depending on the use, its main compartment may be expanded to fit a water bottle and even a change of clothes (not too much though) or even a small-to-medium-size lunch box on the top (close to the zippers);
  • The backpack features a waterproof, durable material at its bottom (externally), so there is no way to get this soaked if left on wet surface;
  • The zippers work flawlessly, even though they do not seem to be the typical high-quality YKK;
  • Shoulder straps are comfortable and well-padded;
  • The backpack has an almost square form and it had pretty large dimensions (especially width) but it is still lean, thanks to lack of external pockets for water bottles and umbrellas. Two sets of compression straps minimize the width of the backpack when needed;
  • Overall it is a well-built backpack with sturdy material; it keeps its shape even when empty and looks like it is built to last.

 

I initially underestimated the internal organization options of the backpack; found these pockets really useful now.

 

Negative points

  • As mentioned in my review, there are no small zippered pockets for smaller items like USB sticks, memory cards, paperclips etc. I still find this annoying and a big drawback
  • The back side is comfortable but does not feature a breathable design; haven’t used the backpack during a typical Greek hot summer yet, but I would expect an unpleasant experience (and lots of sweat stains) on the back;
  • Lack of side water bottles: A leak-proof water bottle could be stored in the main compartment, but this would minimize available space;
  • The backpack seems to be a bit on the heavy side; this is due to its relatively thick material and padding. However, taking into consideration the materials used, it is lighter than I would expect by looking at it.

The more I use the Airtech backpack, the more I understand that in contrast with the current all-purpose backpacks, it was made for business / professional use. Not for commuters (e.g. lack of water bottle pocket), nor for school (no way to fit all these school books or organize your stationary), or for casual weekends away from home (e.g. hardly fits a couple of t-shirts). It is a streamlined business backpack, with interesting (but not always practical) organization options.

A small experiment – going back to my Sentio?

I did an experiment the other day: I tried migrating all the stuff I have in my Tech Air to my old favorite Sentio Sporty. There were many items accumulated in the backpack since then, so this was a challenge. Since the Sentio has all its pockets in the front side (thus the unbalancing issue), I tried to put several heavy items (e.g. hard disk, powerbank, documents etc.) in the internal laptop sleeve and some others in the large main compartment. However, when I finished loading it with all my stuff, it still looked like a sack of potatoes, having a hard time balancing the weight… I had no other choice but to transfer all my stuff back to the Tech Air, which seems to be a champion in holding its shape despite the load; and this is something I really love.

To sum up: Even though I planned to start using my (lighter) Sentio backpack, I will have to stick with the Air Tech for the time being. I may switch to the Bobby Compact in the future, which is a great alternative, too, thanks to its excellent weight balance.

Canon Selphy CP1200: First impressions

Canon Selphy CP1200: First impressions

I have been in search for a photo printer for quite a long time, as I wanted to make prints out of selected photos – mostly for sharing with my parents and parents-in-law who appreciate prints more than digital versions. Printing at a dedicated photo store was usually expensive, time consuming and required preparation of photos, copies to digital media etc.

At first, I was looking for a Fujifilm Instax Mini camera (which supports Polaroid-like instant printing) but I was put-off by the lack of LCD screen, the small size of the printing paper and large size of the camera (making it hard to carry around with me).

Then I was attracted by the Canon Selphy CP1200, a compact photo printer with good reviews and relatively low cost of prints (about €0,30/print). Maximum print size is approximately 10x15cm and its consumables come in packs (photo paper and cartridge) which are supposed to last for the same amount of prints (so no wasted paper or ink – in fact there’s no ink as it is dye sublimation technology). After several months of price-watching, I found the printer at a discount, bundled with a pack of consumables for 108 prints; it was an offer that I could not resist. I considered it as a belated Christmas gift to myself (and family, who kept asking for prints for quite a long time!)

Canon_Selphy_CP1200

Connection

Printing from an Android phone was easy; I just had to download the dedicated Canon PRINT Inkjet/SELPHY app, connect the printer to the home wireless network and connect the smartphone to the same network. Then, it was only up to adjusting some basic settings and prints were on their way.

Canon Selphy CP1200_specs

Then I tried connecting it to my Windows 10 laptop wirelessly; this was not possible as the laptop could not initialize connection with the printer. I had to manually download the drivers from Canon’s website, connect the printer through USB cable first and this also allowed the installation of the wireless drivers. Then I was able to print wirelessly from my laptop.

Printing from my Lumia 735 Windows phone was not possible at all; this is an issue, as most of my photos are taken by my Lumia and stored in its microSD card.

Printing takes about 1 min, which is totally fine with me, and I didn’t notice major differences between wireless and wired printing.

Photo input

Apart from WiFi and USB printing, Selphy CP1200 also supports printing from USB sticks and SD cards. Navigation is made easy through the printer’s tilt-up 2.7-inch LCD screen. The printer does not support printing via Bluetooth.

Print quality

I am not an expert and surely not a detail-freak. To me, the prints are equally nice to the one I got from the photo store. In most cases, I believe that the quality bottleneck is the image quality (e.g. dirty lens of the camera, low light conditions) and not the print itself. There are various options for glossy or semi-glossy finish of the photos.

I had some issues with cropping (tops cropped) when printing directly from the smartphone, an issue I didn’t notice when printing from the laptop.

Tips

  1. I was quickly informed that each time the printer is switched on or off, the cartridge is slightly “consumed”. If this cycle was completed a number of times, then the number of prints was reduced, as papers lasted longer than the dye so users ended up with piles of unused photo papers (note: you cannot purchase photo papers or cartridges individually; they are only available as a pack). The trick is to insert the cartridge after switching the printer on and remove it before you switched it off. I have done so, just in case.
  2. I was looking for a cable to connect the printer to my laptop – the cable was not included in the pack. After some unsuccessful online attempts for getting more info on the cable type, I realized that it is a standard mini-USB one (like the one available in the first version of smartphones). I just used one from a USB charger and it worked like a charm!

Conclusions

So far I have printed about 50 photos (still on my 1st cartridge) and I am pretty pleased with my selection. I have the opportunity to print the photos I want, when I want them and share them on the fly (e.g. during gatherings with family and friends). The cost is relatively low and the quality is more than decent. I have the flexibility to use my smartphone (Android only), laptop or tablet as a source for the printer and make the necessary adjustments to bring the prints closer to my taste.

In the meantime, I bought a couple of 108-photo packs as an offer (2nd one 50% off), so print cost is down to about €0,27/print. I just hope that the printer will prove to be reliable and last longer than its consumables!

Printing from Windows Mobile? Not exactly…

Printing from Windows Mobile? Not exactly…

I recently purchased a Canon Selphy CP1200 for printing selected photos at home (review and rationale to follow soon). One of its advantages was the option to print directly from a smartphone through WiFi, so skipping the hassle of connecting to a laptop or even a PC.

Printing photos from an Android phone was as simple as installing the dedicated app from Canon; no need for drivers, complex setup etc. I only had to set the printing options, connect the printer to my home wireless network and voila: I got my first set of printed photos. However, my main smartphone is a Windows Mobile one… so would this be a problem?

I connected both my Lumia 735 and the printer to the same wireless network – nothing. I connected my Lumia directly to the printer (yes, it works as an access point) – nothing. I started looking for solutions online – nothing. As regards printing from Windows Mobile, Microsoft announced back in 2015 that it would support most of the available ones and in fact it referred to a list of about 1900 printers already supported through WiFi (no USB connection).

It seems that my printer, being a newer model than 2015, is not supported and will not be supported by Microsoft, as the Windows Mobile platform has been abandoned as a whole.

It is unfortunate that Canon did not develop a dedicated printing app for Windows Mobile, as manufacturers like Samsung and Xerox did; this would probably allow us to print from various Canon printers. At the same time, cheaper, entry-level models like the Epson XP-335 are natively supported and work fine with Windows Mobile.

Windows Phone dead_cross

The more time passes by, the more issues I face with my Lumia as my daily driver…

XD Design Bobby Compact review

(This review came later that I planned to, as I was struggling to find enough free time to put my thoughts in line. I planned a number of posts in the meantime but never had the time to complete them…)

To make a long story short, some time before Christmas 2017, I was among the lucky winners of one of the Vice.com online competitions/contests. I was informed by email that I should expect my Bobby backpack (no other details in the email) in the following weeks. I was in search of a new backpack (and in fact I was about to get one), so this was great news! The backpack finally arrived, brand new and well-packed, some time before Christmas, so it was early Christmas for me. As far as I remember it was the first time I ever won something in any of the numerous contests that I have taken part in, so I cordially thank Vice for that 🙂

The model I received was the Bobby Compact, so the smaller one of the two available backpacks, (and the more expensive one, to my surprise) fitting a 14-inch laptop among others. I am currently using a 10-inch tablet with a detachable keyboard as my travel and out-of-office work companion, so I didn’t mind that. It came in pastel blue color, which was less vibrant than the rest of the series (and I also didn’t mind, as I was to use it for commuting to work and back).

Both Bobby backpacks have been extensively reviewed by various experienced reviewers on the Web, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to replicate standard things. To make things more useful for everyone, I will focus on my personal experience and how my setup fit (or did not) the specific backpack.

Design & Quality

Not much to say about the design; it has been copied by so many different companies that it speaks for itself. Design focuses on two aspects (i) Anti-theft, so no external zippers exposed to others and (ii) comfort, so that all weight is balanced rather better than in other backpacks – indeed, the backpack embraces the back of the body and make it easy to carry loads of stuff.

Quality of the backpack is outstanding, in every detail. Water resistant and cut-proof material, no loose threads, no bad stiches. Perfect zippers, sturdy straps, everything is top notch. Looks like a backpack made to last.

Practicality

The backpack is practical, for sure. Nice internal organization for both a laptop (14-inch) and a smaller tablet or A4-sized documents, elastic band pockets for e.g. hard disks, water bottles (no external pocket for that) etc, a small zippered pocket for memory cards, adapters and other (really) small items, an open pocket on top of it for quick access items, an internal side pocket for a small power bank (however, most will not fit there) etc. There are also two really useful (but small) side zippered pockets for quick access items like smart phone and charger, cards etc. and another interesting safe zippered pocket at the center of the back of the backpack, for e.g. wallet, keys and other valuables – no one will be able to access this one, too.

Another practical detail is the rain cover, available at the hidden pocket at the bottom of the backpack, which looks well-thought and designed.

It is also useful, especially for the larger model, that the backpack can open flat when a couple of internal buttons are opened; this allows a suitcase-like layout that can help in arranging stuff inside the bag even more easily.

Overall, it is a practical backpack, with some interesting organization options.

Size

The backpack is smaller than its brother, but due to its design (e.g. side flaps) it looks bigger. Internally, things to be pretty packed since most of the pockets are internal and occupy the limited internal space.

I personally managed to fit my 10-inch tablet & Bluetooth keyboard, a pack of paper documents (A4 size), my external hard disk & a small paper notebook at the two band-pockets, a couple of USB sticks and other tiny stuff in the zippered pocket, some markers and my 10.000 mAh powerbank on the open pocket above it (it wouldn’t fit in the dedicated side pocket). In the remaining internal space I could fit a medium-sized lunch box (on its side), a couple of cereal bars, a small flashlight and a medium water bottle. Nothing more.

I used the two external side pockets for one smartphone and its charger, and my (pretty large) keyring with lanyard, along with a pack of tissues. The central safe zippered pocket was occupied by my small magic wallet, another smartphone (backup one) etc.

I never got to use the Bobby Mini, a foldable tote bag packed with the Bobby Compact only. It is really, really practical and of course can be used individually.

My personal point of view

I am not carrying much stuff around (ok, maybe slightly more than the average) but I found the Bobby Compact a tad smaller than I would like to. Since I am not currently using public means of transportation for commuting to work (I plan to do so in the future though), I am not making use of its anti-theft features.

The backpack was really comfortable to carry on my shoulders and extremely practical, as I could access my most frequently used stuff (e.g. wallet, smartphone and charger) without having to open the main compartment. I never got to use the external USB port for charging my phone, but it would also come handy when wandering around the city or an airport. At the same time, I missed some more zippered pockets for my numerous USB sticks, microSD cards and other tiny stuff I have with me. I found a workaround for that with a small organizer that could hold a couple of short cables and adapters, memory cards etc.

In the few weeks that I used the backpack on a daily basis, I started seeing some smudges in the front, leather-like panel which I could not quickly remove with a wet towel (and we are talking about taking the backpack from house to the car and from the car to the office (and back). I do not mind some minor cosmetic issues so I didn’t bother trying more to clean it.

For the time being, I replaced the Bobby Backpack Compact with my Tech Air backpack, to which I gave a second chance after taking some more time to check out its features and allocate my stuff inside. However, I plan to use the Bobby in the near future, especially if I go back to commuting by metro; it could also help me reduce the stuff I carry around with me to the minimum required 🙂

Using a Windows Phone in an Android / iPhone world

My main smartphone is a Nokia Lumia 735, a Windows Phone back then promoted as a selfie-phone (due to its nice front camera). It came as a replacement to my (still fully functional Lumia 720, which replaced my previous Windows Phone etc.).

I have been using Windows Phones for quite a long time now, back at the time when they were the only smartphones available on the market (the Windows Mobile 5.0 era). Back then, they were a great choice if you wanted a smartphone with a decent camera, a GPS with offline maps, ability to watch movies on the go (I still remember watching series episodes on my HTC Touch Cruise while commuting to work), using mobile versions of Office etc. Those were the days.

In the meantime, I gave Android a try with a ZTE Blade, when my HTC Polaris was stolen, but never got used to it so I quickly gave up and got myself a second-hand LG Optimus 7.

Since then, Android came to the market and conquered it. Apple also managed to create a devoted ecosystem with its iPhones, Blackberry went out of the market etc. Windows Phones became a niche ecosystem of people who wanted the simplicity at their hands, increased security (compared to Android) and a set of familiar apps (Mobile Office). However, due to an awful strategy by Microsoft, things went pretty worse and now Windows Phones account for less than 0,5% of the global market.

What does this mean for a Windows Phone user like me?

I admit, I still get some security updates and some rare app updates. I am still able to use essential apps like Mobile Office, Facebook (awful; slow and laggy), Instagram, Foursquare, Here Maps and others. I am still able to use Continuum (through a hack), view my photos at some of the Smart TVs I’ve used, sync my files (and photos) through OneDrive and Dropbox.

At the same time I miss a lot. I cannot use mobile banking for any of the banks I am collaborating with, I do not have proper Google apps (Maps, YouTube, Google+, Drive etc.), some apps have reduced functionality (e.g. the one of my phone service provider is a basic one, compared to the full versions for Android and iOS). and I cannot use newer apps at all since developers do not bother with a Windows Phone version of their apps.

I have already got myself a pretty basic Android smartphone (a Samsung Galaxy A3 2016) – not only as a backup (I could use my Lumia 720 for this purpose), but mostly for being able to use the apps that I need but cannot find in the Windows store. I am still not ready for the transition to Android but I am preparing to do so., as my smartphone is a work tool for me and I need it to have all the functionalities I need for my work (ranging from managing business social media accounts to getting things done with Mobile Office – which btw works better in Android than it does in Windows Phones).

XD Design Bobby Compact – Πρώτες εντυπώσεις

Εδώ και ένα περίπου μήνα είμαι κάτοχος ενός XD Design Bobby Compact (το γνωστό anti-theft backpack), το οποίο μου ήρθε σαν δώρο από έναν online διαγωνισμό του Vice.com, στον οποίο είχα λάβει μέρος. Μου φάνηκε παράξενο, καθώς είναι ίσως η μοναδική φορά που κέρδισα κάτι σε διαγωνισμό, αλλά φαίνεται πως άξιζε η αναμονή!

XDDesign_Bobby_Compact_ext

Ακόμη δοκιμάζω το πόσο με βολεύει για καθημερινή χρήση (σπίτι-γραφείο) σε σχέση με τα άλλα σακίδια που έχω, γιατί έχω μάλλον κάποιες παραξενιές όσον αφορά στο τι μεταφέρω καθημερινά και στο τι περιμένω από ένα σακίδιο. Επίσης το σακίδιο ήρθε σε ένα μάλλον φωτεινό χρώμα, το οποίο δεν ταιριάζει ακριβώς με το στυλ μου, αλλά αυτό είναι κάτι που μπορώ να παραβλέψω 🙂

Οι πρώτες μου εντυπώσεις από το σακίδιο είναι οι εξής:

Θετικά
– Πραγματικά αντικλεπτική σχεδίαση (όλα τα φερμουάρ και οι τσέπες είναι προστατευμένα στην πλάτη μου)
– Αρκετός χώρος διαθέσιμος για ογκώδη αντικείμενα (π.χ. βιβλία, αδιάβροχο, κλπ).
– Πρακτική υποδοχή USB για φόρτιση του κινητού (με τη χρήση του δικού μου powerbank – δεν περιλαμβάνεται)
– Πρακτικές θήκες στην πλάτη (π.χ. για πορτοφόλι) και στα δύο πλαϊνά (σχετικά μικρές, π.χ. για κινητά, κλειδιά και άλλα που χρειάζεσαι άμεση πρόσβαση). Επιπλέον “σχισμές” χωρίς κλείσιμο στους ιμάντες για κάρτες, εισιτήρια κλπ. που θέλετε να χρησιμοποιήσετε άμεσα.
– Πραγματική διαφορά στην αίσθηση βάρους που μεταφέρει το σακίδιο (το βάρος πέφτει κυρίως στην πλάτη και φαίνεται λιγότερο σε σχέση με τα άλλα σακίδιά μου)
– Καλή ποιότητα κατασκευής και πρωτότυπος σχεδιασμός, διαφορετικός από τα υπόλοιπα που κυκλοφορούν. Κρατάει το σχήμα του ακόμη και άδειο και αντέχει στη βροχή (δεν το έχω δοκιμάσει στην πράξη, αλλά το υλικό φαίνεται όντως υδρόφοβο).
– Σε σχέση με το κλασικό, μεγαλύτερο Bobby, συνοδεύεται από αδιάβροχο κάλυμμα (στη βάση του σακιδίου) και το πολύ πρακτικό Bobby mini (μια τσάντα για ψώνια που δικπλώνει και αποθηκεύεται σε θήκη-πορτοφόλι – έρχεται στο ίδιο χρώμα με το σακίδιο).

XDDesign_Bobby_Compact

Αρνητικά
– Δύσκολο άνοιγμα και κλείσιμο του φερμουάρ του σακίδιου – θέλει λίγη εξάσκηση και σίγουρα να “γυρίσεις” το κάλυμμα του φερμουάρ.
– Έλλειψη αριθμού εσωτερικών θηκών: Υπάρχει μία μικρή θήκη με φερμουάρ (π.χ. για USB sticks, SD cards και άλλα μικροαντικείμενα), μια “τσέπη” για μεγαλύτερα αντικείμενα (αλλά όχι μεγάλη και μάλλον εύκολο να αδειάσει) και δύο μεγάλα λάστιχα για π.χ. σκληρό δίσκο, παγούρι, ομπρέλα κλπ. Μαζί με τις δύο θήκες για laptop (μέχρι 14”) και tablet στην πλάτη στου σακιδίου και την υποδοχή για το powerbank είναι όλες οι θήκες. Αυτό σημαίνει ότι άλλα αντικείμενα όπως φορτιστές, καλώδια, γραφική ύλη, post-it, χαρτομάντηλα κλπ. είναι όλα χύμα στον κυρίως χώρο. Προσωπικά θα ήθελα περισσότερες θήκες με φερμουάρ εσωτερικά.
– Η “τσέπη” που είναι πάνω από τη θήκη με το φερμουάρ έχει ελαστικές θηλιές για στυλό (3-4) και νομίζω πως έχει ήδη αρχίσει να ξεχειλώνει από το βάρος (αν και δεν είναι πολύ σημαντικό).
– Θα ήθελα και ένα κρίκο για τα κλειδιά, που έχω συνηθίσει από άλλα σακίδια.

Γενικά

Πρόκειται για συμπαθητικό σακίδιο, με ορισμένα πολύ ιδιαίτερα και πρακτικά χαρακτηριστικά αλλά και περιορισμούς. Πιστεύω πως όσο το χρησιμοποιώ θα προσαρμοστώ στις δυνατότητές του και θα τις εκμεταλλευτώ καλύτερα. Αν ξέρει κανείς το τι να περιμένει από αυτό και έχει διάθεση να ασχοληθεί (η έλλειψη περισσότερων εσωτερικών θηκών αντιμετωπίζεται με τη χρήση π.χ. κασετίνας για τη γραφική ύλη, κουτιών για μικροαντικείμενα κλπ.), τότε αξίζει τα λεφτά του.

Σίγουρα είναι ένα σακίδιο που θα συνεχίσω να χρησιμοποιώ καθημερινά και φαίνεται ότι θα αντέξει άνετα την καθημερινή χρήση, λόγω ποιοτικής κατασκευής. Ίσως τελικά με καταφέρει να περιορίσω το τι μεταφέρω μαζί μου καθημερινά, να κάνω δηλαδή πιο minimal τον εξοπλισμό μου.

Windows Creators Fall Update & touchpad issue

A couple of days ago I installed the Windows Creators Fall Update on my only laptop, the decent Acer Aspire ES1-512. It started pretty late and took so long that I decided to leave the process unattended. When I woke up in the morning, I noticed that the laptop was stuck on a blue page (not the BSOD) so I had to power it off and reboot.

To make a long story short, I noticed that the touchpad (an ELAN model used by Acer) was not working at all! I plugged in a mouse and started investigating things. The touchpad was not listed as a device in the Device Manager and I could not find the ELAN tab on the mouse properties menu (as suggested in other cases). I also tried re-installing my laptop’s touchpad drivers from the Acer website a couple of times, rebooted, nothing.

Then I read on a forum that it may be the Serial I/O drivers that cause the problem after the update. So, I gave it a try and installed them as well. The installation finished and I was prompted to do a restart but even without that, the touchpad was fully operational again! 🙂

The device is listed in the device manager as “ELAN I2C Filter driver” and the driver was updated through the device manager to the latest version.