Random Leakage #6

Time for another post of mixed subjects…. Random Leakage begins… NOW!

Nokia E71
Nokia E71

As with Kapgar, I also received a Nokia E71 for review from WOM World. Here are my thoughts on the two weeks that I’ve used this device.

It’s been sometime since I last used a Nokia phone. I was with AT&T then [before they became Cingular and morphed back into the AT&T they are now]. The phone used the older TDMA protocol and I was all excited about being able to text and send an actual email message from it. That was over five years ago. For the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve been using a Treo smartphone. So sending email and texting is kids play now. But one of my biggest complaints about my phone is the size, specifically the thickness of the phone. The Nokia E71 is not thick at all. It’s very svelte and it lives by the statement “Thin Is In!”

Nokia E71
Thin and Shiny…. very nice.

I enjoyed carrying around the E71 and it felt good in my hands. Call clarity was great as was the ease of use in making calls and accessing my list of contacts on my AT&T prepaid SIM card. Data-wise, it was very nice to have a phone that was 3G capable. Even nicer was to have a phone that also had WiFi on it. After connecting up to the free wireless access at Starbucks [I get 2 hours a month before getting charged], I was able to browse the web at nice broadband speeds. Typing on the tactile keyboard was very comfortable, with only a few mistyped words – even when texting at fast speeds. The keys felt good on my fingers and it wasn’t awkward at all.

Battery life was very good. I could go almost three days on a charge. The charger that came with the phone was European, so I had to use an adapter to plug into the 120V U.S. plugs. Charging took under 4 hours, which is about average. The screen was set to dim every minute or so, requiring a key press to bring it back to life. After a few minutes of no use, the keys would lock, which is nice if you have the phone without a case in your pocket, not accidently calling someone while you are walking around.

There were some beefs I had with the phone. The biggest and most glaring is not being able to charge it from USB. I am a firm believer that any phone that is made today needs to be able to charge when it’s plugged into a USB port. I can’t tell you how many times over the years that phone chargers got left behind in the hotel room. On the usability side, the browser was awkward to use, taking me several times to remember where the GO TO URL setting was. Bookmarking a site was also a bit cumbersome, but I got to know that route after several sites.

Overall, I liked the phone and it was made very well, had great voice quality, speedy data on both 3G and WiFi and the keyboard was very adaptable. All Nokia needs to do is add USB charging and update some of the usability of it’s web browser and they’ve got a winner on their hands. Thanks to WOM World for allowing me to test and use this phone. I hope to have a Nokia N97 to use sometime in the near future. [very BIG hint]

Chinese Democracy
Chinese Democracy

When a band takes 17 years to release an album of new material, you are expecting some sort of masterpiece to hit the stores and every single man, woman and child will flock en masse to plunk down their $13 to experience this astonishing work of brilliance. Instead, we were given an album of 14 new tracks that vaguely sound like the Guns N’ Roses we knew from 1991, with some over-produced melodies and tongue-in-cheek references by the lead vocalist in his struggles to release a new album.

If it wasn’t out of pure curiosity, I would have given up on this after the last four promises of a release date. But thanks to my curious musical mindset, I wanted to hear what this had to offer. First, I had to erase any expectation of hearing the riffs of Slash. Slash has left the building. Instead, we have multiple guitarists [Richard Fortus, Bumblefoot, Buckethead, Robin Finck] filling in with their axe work to help make this epic album something worth listening to. And to be perfectly honest, the work is noticed. And it’s not bad, almost expert in execution. Even if over-production took over, so be it. Musically, this album isn’t bad. Vocally, it’s lacking and sometimes in a big way.

Now Axl Rose has a very distinctive voice. It’s one of those voices and styles that stand out. But as with Slash on guitar, don’t be expecting the vocals that made Appetite for Destruction the debut smash it was. Oh, this is Axl… there’s no mistaking that. But his vocals are beyond raw. They are trying to do different things that shouldn’t have been done. Don’t expect to hear “Night Train” Instead, expect a few train wrecks like “Catcher In The Rye”, “Scrapped” and “Madagascar”, just to name a few. Embarrassing is the best way to define these over-produced messes of music.

Not all is lost. There are some bright moments mixed in here: the title track, “Better” “Street Of Dreams”, “There Was A Time” and “I.R.S” sound good and well put together. Axl and his collection of randomly put-togethers figured out how to make some decent tracks.

I’m not saying I hate this album. I actually think it may grow on me over time, but after the first ten spins, it’s still not grabbing me the way their original efforts did. If you are curious in the least bit, go out and give Axl and Geffen some money. Otherwise, spend it on another artist.

Sirius and XM: Together
Sirius XM

I’ve been a Sirius subscriber for almost three years now. My wife bought me a radio and gave it to me before Christmas in 2005, making sure I was ready for Howard Stern when he moved from restrictions of terrestrial radio to the uncensored airwaves of satellite radio. XM wasn’t even an option for me.

Fast forward to present day. Sirius and XM have merged together, creating a single company [still operating on two different satellite systems] with almost 20 million subscribers. As was to be expected, there’s some duplication in programming. You know this is going to change stuff. And it did, with both good and bad results.

The Good

Most of the Sirius channels didn’t change their names. Familiar still are channels like Classic Vinyl, Classic Rewind, 1st Wave, Alt Nation and Hair Nation. This was good because I never understood the XM channel names. Ethyl, Fred and Lucy were confusing to know what kind of music they played. I’m glad they did not make the cut [sorry loyal XM fans]. Some channels did get renamed and it works very well. Channels 4-9 are what I call the decade channels. 40’s on 4, 50’s on 5, 60’s on 6, 70’s on 7, 80’s on 8 and 90’s on 9 are all great efforts in covering six decades of music. I changed my presets to start at 40’s on 4 and then added another preset for Classic Vinyl, so I can channel surf my way through rock and alternative stations while driving. This is a nice change.

The Bad

There’s not too much bad, in my opinion. First on the list is the heavy metal channel on Sirius that was called Hard Attack. It took on the XM name of Liquid Metal. A cheesy name, but at least you know what kind of music you are going to hear. Then there’s all of these specialty channels that got lumped together on different channels. Sirius had the AC/DC and Led Zeppelin channels, which are not bad, but they replaced the Punk channel, which I hope makes a return soon. XM brought over Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, which are ok, but you can hear most of their music on the Classic Vinyl channel. Then there was Left of Center, which was Sirius’ independent artist channel. It took on an XM merged name and is now called Sirius XM U. If you didn’t already know what kind of music they played, this would be a station I would have skipped over. It’s the same music as Left of Center and the same DJs, so at least they didn’t fuck with that. But I still think the name is odd.

Howard Stern

Howard is still at channels 100 and 101. Playboy Radio moved from channel 198 to 98, which actually is nice that it’s one over from Howard 100. [there is no channel 99] Sirius subscribers can get the Best of XM, which includes The Virus [Opie and Anthony] Oprah, Bob Edwards and other channels. XM subscribers can get the Best of Sirius, which includes Martha Steward, NFL, NBA and other channels. Howard 100 and 101 are $6.99 a month extra on XM. Ouch! A bit much, but if you only have XM and you like Howard Stern, then you get a lot of programming for that $7 a month.

I am remaining a Sirius subscriber for the long haul, mostly because I enjoy the commercial-free music and the Howard Stern channels. I pay by the year for two radios, which comes out to be around $220. That’s a lot if you compare it to free radio you get on the FM dial, but I think it’s worth it to pay for all of the programming you get.

This Is The End….

… of another edition of Random Leakage. Thanks for visiting and we’ll see you all next time.

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