ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

How to Lose $900m on Surface 2

11/16/2013 3:19:38 PM

Disclaimer: I have this paradox in my life – my Apple-equipped friends consider me a Microsoft shill, and my Microsofty friends think that I publicly whine about MSFTs problems too much. This is going to be one of these whiny posts, but I do it because I care and don’t know where to send it privately.

So we had these sweepstakes

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The main hook of this campaign was that we have launched it in early September, when neither Nokia nor Microsoft would even acknowledge that they have products with these names. So the contest is over now and we are ready to award the winner. Lumia 1520 is not widely available yet, so the obvious decision was to have Surface 2 as the main prize. I’ve checked MicrosoftStore.com and learned that the Irish store ships to Lithuania (where we are located), so I was calm that we can always ship it to ourselves first and then mail it to anywhere in the world.

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But we wanted to randomly pick the winner first and then, depending on his/her location, determine the best way to get the Surface to them. After all, if the stars aligned so that the winner was from US, it would be much easier to ship the prize directly to her. The winner has been selected, but not announced yet. <SPOILER ALERT>He is not from US or any other Surface 2 launch countries.</SPOILER ALERT>

So having this information we decided that the most logical approach would be to buy the Surface 2 in the Microsoft Store Ireland, ship it to Lithuania and then ship it to the winner.

And that’s where the problems started…

At this point I’ve spent at least 5-6 hours trying to order a fricking gadget from an online store.

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I just went to MicrosoftStore.com, switched to United Kingdom, added Surface 2 to my cart and proceeded to checkout. There I selected Lithuania in the list of Shipping destinations and fill out the form. When I clicked Next I was presented with this “Include postcode” error. I’m absolutely sure this is the right postcode. Sometimes people include LT or LT- in front of it, so I tried that – no luck. Tried to enter some real UK postal code (just to check) – still nothing. So I went into the help section to try to figure out what’s going on. And there it said:

Where we ship:

Microsoft Store United Kingdom can only ship to United Kingdom locations at this time.

Hmm… OK. So why exactly do you have Lithuania in the shipping country dropdown? And it’s not like they have all the countries in the world in it. There are like 20 European countries in that dropdown.

While I was looking at the screen puzzled, a popup appeared asking if I’d like to chat to a live support person. Sure! So I started to chat to a person who was really trying to be helpful while I was trying to do something to that form. Unfortunately I did something that forced the page to refresh and my chat window disappeared. The funny thing is, that day I wasn’t able to find how to start this support chat again. Another person confirmed to me that chat button appears and disappears pretty much randomly. Seriously :)

The next day I remembered that I’ve seen that Irish version of the store ships to all European countries. So I went there and … hit the same “Include postcode” error again. What does a geek do when he sees a validation error like that? Hits F12, of course. This is obviously beyond what a normal person would do to pay someone money, but anyway…

So after some research and trial and error, I figured out that the form expected Lithuanian postcode to be a 4 digit number. This would even be correct… if it was like 1997. Anyway, I presume that local post, FedEx or whoever would be handling shipping could figure out the real postcode without the first zero, so that’s what I did. “Yay, I’ve hacked the system!”, I thought. “Not so fast!”, said a voice from above.

Next step was to enter my credit card information. I did just that, hit Purchase and was presented with a message that there were some technical problems and I should contact technical support. I’ve tried that a couple of times and all the times the site was able to successfully reserve 1 Euro in my account, but not sell me the damn tablet.

OK, so let’s try to contact technical support and order the thing via phone or email. Here’s how support page of the Irish store looks:

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Notice this nice 800 number? It’s great that Microsoft have a free sales line, but have you tried calling it from outside of Ireland? Right, you can’t.

By that time I was already pretty upset (as you can guess) so I started venting on Twitter. @MicrosoftStore on twitter really tried to help and gave me an idea that maybe I should call a Lithuanian support line, not Irish. OK, let’s try that… Unfortunately, Lithuanian Microsoft Store doesn’t sell Surfaces and they weren’t able to help me with my issue.

I was hoping that I can send all the info to some support email and consequently avoid this post altogether, but @MicrosoftStore informed me that there’s no email support. Huh?

I’ve been in and out of the Microsoft Store Ireland site and this time the “Live chat” button appeared. I’ve started chatting with one person, explained my problem, was transferred to another person who was really polite and tried to help me with all the suggestions from the guide book that I’ve already tried (obviously). After almost an hour of back and forth the person suggested that I shouldn’t chat to her but to someone from Irish support and provided me with a link to the Irish Microsoft Store. o_O Excuse me, but that’s exactly where I clicked that “Live chat” button! So I gave up on “Chat support”.

I’ve talked to some people from Microsoft (not Store related) and they suggested that I should definitely be able to order it via the phone (and apparently some people already did that). The trick is how to get to the phone sales when the number can’t be dialed? So I called that other phone “Questions about Microsoft products bought elsewhere”, got to the switchboard and asked them to connect me to the store. And it worked!

The sales rep was really nice and helpful and offered to call me back, so I don’t waste my precious Skype credits :) It took him a few seconds to confirm that he can sell Surface 2 to Lithuania. “Yes, we can definitely ship that Surface 2 to Lithuania!” Hooray!

So for the next 15 minutes we proceeded to try and enter Lithuanian street names, etc. over the phone. Not an easy task but we’ve managed…

- Hmm… it tells me that the postcode is not correct…
- Oh, really!? ;) You can try removing that first zero, I think it will be OK without it
- Yes, OK, we are good. How do you want to pay?
- Visa
… (confirmed CC number, etc.) …
- Hmm… Just a minute, please, while I try to figure a few things out

- Hmm… Just one more minute, please

- Let me call you back in 5 minutes, OK?
- OK, thank you very much!

… and he didn’t. And that’s where I’m at as I write this. The only reason I got to that point is that I really need that Surface 2 specifically. No sane person would go through all of this just to buy one of the hundreds of tablets that are available on the market.

In conclusion

When in 2010 Microsoft announced that they will only accept Windows Phone developers from about 30 countries, I was upset and whined about it, but at least I wasn’t given any false hope (which is always worse than hard truth). It was unambiguous. It was a strategic decision that I didn’t like, but it was clear.

Lithuania wasn’t a launch country on the consumer side of Windows Phone 7 either, but you could buy an HTC Windows Phone 7 through most of the local carriers (meaning it was officially available). Windows Phone 7 didn’t have a Lithuanian UI (which is not an uncommon thing here), but a crazier part is that it didn’t even have a Lithuanian keyboard. You just can’t release a consumer product like that.

When Surface 2 was announced, Lithuania, obviously, wasn’t one of the launch countries. And I’d be completely fine (not happy, but used to) not being able to purchase it through official channels. But then they decide that maybe we can hack a form together and sell it to 20 more countries without even trying to go through that form once with a real address. Hint: you can almost always find a Holiday Inn (or other chain hotel) in most places in the world and see that it has a 5-digit postcode in Lithuania for starters.

I wanted to end this with a Dilbert comic strip which shows a “company with strategy” that picks up a phone and just says “We don’t do this!”, but I couldn’t find it. (maybe it wasn’t Dilbert?) The point being, it’s a paradox, but Microsoft could’ve saved me almost a day by just saying that they can’t sell me the Surface directly.

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Why Kindle eBooks Often Cost More Than Hardcovers in Europe

7/23/2012 7:05:40 PM

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If you live in Europe and own a Kindle you probably find yourself depressed quite often when you see that a Kindle edition of some book is more expensive than even a hardcover. Like in the screenshot above. I don’t know what that book is. It’s just the first book on the first page that was shown to me when I went to the Kindle books section on Amazon. It’s 20%+ more expensive in digital form than in hardcover and 45% more expensive than a paperback. So WTF?

Here are several reasons for this. Let’s start with objective stuff and move to the real reasons later.

VAT on eBooks

There’s either no VAT or special (low) VAT rates on books in European Union, but eBooks aren’t considered books for some crazy reason. Apparently there were improvements in this area just recently:

The price that Amazon charges in all its EU stores (including the UK store) has dropped today to 3% from 15%.

This change is because Luxembourg has dropped the VAT rate it charges on eBooks down to 3%, the same rate it uses for printed books.

But apparently someone wasn’t happy about that:

The European Union's executive began legal action against France and Luxembourg on Tuesday for applying reduced tax rates on the sale of electronic books, something it said was incompatible with EU rules.

 

Wholesale prices on paper books

Amazon buys paper books in bulk at wholesale prices so they can sell them at whatever price point they want. But you can’t “stock” 10,000 copies of an ebook. So the same rules do not apply.

“Free” 3G

When Kindles with free 3G launched in US that was a feature. When they extended that offer worldwide it became an obligation. I own 2 WiFi-only Kindles and I’m pretty sure I’m paying for your free 3G with every book purchase.

Kindle is cheap for a reason

Amazon doesn’t care about making profits from Kindle hardware. They make their money from books and part of your book purchases goes to compensate for low margins on Kindle hardware. That’s why everyone who has ever tried to replace a broken Kindle was ecstatic about the quality of Amazon’s support. No questions asked. The worst thing that could happen is that you’ll stop buying books.

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What did I miss?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Kindle but every time I see a picture like the one above, I feel dumb and depressed. At the very least they could’ve stopped showing me prices for other editions. They know I haven’t bought a paper book in 3 years. Ignorance is a bliss, right?

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My Next PC

7/4/2012 6:40:21 PM

Most of my adult life I’ve been using desktop PCs. Then for some time I’ve switched to a laptop docked to the monitor, network, etc. I wasn’t traveling at all at that time, so this was mostly pointless and underpowered setup. That said, at times I needed to take my work with me I didn’t need to do anything. Just take the laptop and go.

Then I switched back to a desktop. Then I started travelling a little more and having a desktop and a laptop that was collecting dust 90% of the time wasn’t convenient. You either have to manage your laptop for no reason or it’s outdated, etc. when you need it. So I switched back to a laptop based desktop system. Here’s how my workplace looks at the moment.

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The keyboard and touchpad on the ultrabook just occupy the space most of the time. Plus all the ultrabooks on the market at the moment lack a dock option (as far as I know) so I’m plugging 4 cables each morning. But I like the idea that I don’t have to manage multiple computers and I have all my stuff with me whether I’m at work, at home or on the road. That said, even at home or when travelling I still don’t really need that laptop keyboard (it kind of sucks on the ASUS ZenBook, btw) unless I’m really doing serious work.

So here’s how I imagine my next PC setup should look (please pardon my graphic skills):

setup

Ideally I want a pretty powerful Intel (as in not ARM) based tablet with a dock and support for external monitors (preferably more than one). So when I go home I take the tablet with me and use it as a consumption/entertainment device at home and when I’m back at the office I just dock it and I’m back in business.

I’m not sure if top of the line Surface will fit the bill when it’s released. Will it be powerful enough? And I’m not sure they’ll have docks. And it seems that it will support only one external monitor. However those touch/type covers would definitely be handy.

So who’s going to build my next PC?

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Not in Love with Connected TV Idea Anymore

1/2/2012 6:46:07 PM

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In the spring of 2010 I’ve bought Samsung’s TV with Internet@TV feature. (read my review here). I loved it and I loved the fact that I have all the media playing and online stuff in one unit and don’t need to bother with all the wires and extra remotes. At the time I easily ignored the fact that 2009 models didn’t get the software update to the new system and stayed at the previous version.

Fast forward just one year and Samsung released new models with Smart TV feature (and they’ll probably announce a new generation at CES in just a few days). I’m not sure what’s the difference there, but it’s new and I’m not getting it on my TV (at least that’s what I’ve been told by a Samsung representative). My TV still works just fine, I still like it and I didn’t experience any problems with outdated software, codecs, etc… yet.

I’m not sure why Samsung abandons their TV customers even faster than their Android phone customers, but I’m pretty sure that even though I’m comfortable with upgrading my phone every 2 years, there’s no way in hell I’m upgrading my TV every 2 years. I don’t know maybe their end play is in changing mentality so people are comfortable upgrading TVs every 2 years, but I seriously doubt this is doable. They’ll have to make us walk in circles in the desert for 40 years until we all die and new generation accepts the idea.

I expect my TV to “last” for at least 5 years. And there are no signs I will miss anything in it for that period except advancements in those internet connectivity/media playing areas.

I assume the problem is not only the greed of electronics manufacturers but also the fact that processing power, storage, etc. are secondary functions of the TV and they can’t afford to make future proof hardware in the competitive market.

At the same time I can’t afford to upgrade $1000+ TV to get upgrade to the feature perfectly performed by a sub-$100 device. I’d rather throw away that $100 thing when it becomes outdated and buy a new one. And connect it to the same 2 year old TV.

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Another option is to buy a “gaming” console like Xbox 360 or PS3. Or probably wait for the next generation and then buy them. These are more expensive but, unlike TVs, they can (and actually have to) afford to invest in 5-7 years future-proof hardware.

In any case, unless the situation changes, I’ve lost my love for the connected TV idea and think that until the industry gets to that boring stagnation phase, the concept doesn’t make sense. Unless Apple manages to take the idea and make it sexy somehow.

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3 Weeks with LG Optimus 7 and Windows Phone 7

12/16/2010 2:35:27 PM

imageI’ve had my LG Optimus 7 Windows Phone for more than 3 weeks now. The short story – I love it. It’s by no means perfect and Windows Phone 7 as an OS is in it’s infancy. So to be honest every WP7 fan must admit that if you need the most powerful, customizable, etc. smartphone today you will be better off with top of the line Android device or an iPhone.

But Windows Phone is getting there in big steps and I believe it won’t take long before there’s no obvious gap between Android, iOS and Windows Phone in terms of features and app availability. Keeping that in mind I can say that I like WP7 Metro UI. All those fake 3D elements, shadows, glass effects of the other platforms look so 2008 compared to clean digital UI of WP7.

There are tons of WP7 reviews on the web and I don’t have anything substantial to add to that. So I’ll just point why I chose LG Optimus 7 as my WP7 device:

Physical hardware buttons

All other currently available WP7 devices have capacitive touch sensitive buttons for the 3 mandatory WP7 hardware buttons. I hate that. Almost every review of a dynamic game in marketplace comes with owners of Samsungs and HTCs whining about accidentally brushing over a hardware button and dropping out of the game. Optimus 7 (currently) is the only phone that has real physical hardware buttons. And guess what, I’ve never accidentally press them, because you really have to press them for it to register.

Build quality

I was pleasantly surprised with build quality of my LG. It’s very solid with metal back, rugged plastic top and bottom. It sits very nicely in hand. It’s a little heavier than I expected and even taller than HTC HD7 but I can’t say it’s a bad thing.

Actually when I decided that I want Optimus 7 I thought that it’s looks are a sacrifice I’m making for other features I wanted. But ever since I got it in my hands for the first time I started liking it. It’s a rare case when a product looks better in reality than on promotional pictures (I’m looking at you, McDonald’s!)

16GB of storage

All other phones on European market (as far as I remember) come with 8gb of storage. Some of them have SD card slots but using that slot is currently tricky. Optimus 7 doesn’t have such a slot but has 16gb right away and I think it’ll do for me for a couple of years.

PlayTo DLNA app

LG has included an exclusive DLNA streaming app called PlayTo. This app let’s you stream photos, music and videos from your phone directly to your DLNA enabled TV (or computer). Here’s my video review/demonstration of this feature (sorry for my English and video quality ;):

Now I have no doubts that this feature will be built-in into the OS itself at some point in the future and probably Samsung will add their “AllShare” app to their WP7 phones even earlier than that. But for now you have to have LG handset to get this awesome feature.

SAMOLED is not a feature ©

I’ve coined this phrase as a response to the people who want to get Samsung Omnia 7 (or Focus in US) solely because it has a Super AMOLED screen. My wife has a Samsung Galaxy S with SAMOLED. Yes, the blacks are super deep and colors are super vivid. That’s awesome for a display stand in the store but in reality the colors are too warm for my taste and my wife complained that Angry Birds on her coworkers SE Xperia X10 looked better to her taste (she doesn’t know or care for buzzwords). You may also want to check this video which demonstrates an interesting glitch in SAMOLED equipped Samsung Omnia 7.

Anyway, I’m not trying to say that SAMOLED is bad or even worse than plain LCD in Optimus 7. I’m just saying that having a SAMOLED doesn’t change anything in the way you use your phone. That’s why I’m declaring it as “not a feature”.

Few grains of salt

Obviously not everything is perfect in Optimus 7. The on/off button could’ve been a little bigger and, IMHO, it should be on the left of the phones top (not on the right).

My biggest complaint is the location of micro-USB port. Whoever is responsible for placing it on the side of the phone (or actually any location other than bottom) should be severely punished. This kills the possibility of having a normal desk or car dock for the phone, makes it uncomfortable to use while plugged, etc. No engineering needs can justify that in my book.

That’s all I had to say for now.

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Samsung C650 TV Review

4/15/2010 6:18:00 PM

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Preface/Buying decision.

This is not the right place for this review imageand I’m not a TV reviewer but I have bought a LE40C653 Samsung TV a couple of weeks ago and there were absolutely no reviews for it at that moment. Hell, it wasn’t even listed on any of the Samsung’s sites 2 weeks ago (and I’ve checked like 15 of their localized sites). So, I decided to write this here to put some opinionated info about it on the net.

I’ve left screen size, localization (first 2 letters of the model number) and last digit (which denotes design related specifics as far as I understand) from the title since I’m going to primarily write about the internal hardware/firmware related features for the most part of this review and all these specifics don’t matter here. That said I find C653, C654 and C670 modifications to be incredibly beautiful and C650-652 – not so much. I’m just a sucker for rectangular TV shape and all the “sticking” elements turn me off. BTW, C stands for 2010 model year, B – 2009, A – 2008.

We bought this TV semi-accidentally. We’ve decided to buy a new TV since our old CRT LG started showing signs of near death and investing in it’s repair didn’t seem as a good idea to me.

The size of the TV was basically dictated by features/price formula. I figured that I don’t really want to sacrifice size for going LED, 3D or some scientific picture quality improvements and I don’t want to sacrifice features (which are actually 90% of my joy from this purchase) just to get a big-ass dumb/ugly/oldish TV. So having 800-900 Euro budget (~$1000-1100) I’ve settled comfortably in 40”-42” category.

I did my research on the internet and narrowed my choices down to 3 TVs: Sony Bravia KDL-40EX500, Samsung LE40B650 and LG 42LH5000. All of them had ups & downs judging by specification. Sony had a limited media file format support and only one USB (more on this later), LG had no network connectivity. Samsung looked the best on paper. But I could’ve lived with any of these.

Next step was taking my wife to a physical store to say her final word based solely on the looks. I was generally indifferent to the design aspect but even I wasn’t impressed. LG had some lame backlit pimple around it’s power button (or whatever that was), Samsung had triangular bottom which looked kind of cheap and already dated, Sony actually looked quite good but very basic. Wife urged me to go to another store. I almost yelled at her. After all I did my research on the internet. There are no other TVs compatible with my requirements and budget in the universe! But since the other store was just across the street I gave in just to be over with this argument.

We went into that store and there it was – awesomely beautiful and (almost) within our budget. The only problem was that I haven’t seen anything on the internet about these mysterious Cxxx models. I went back home and started my research all over again. Samsung.lt, .co.uk, .ie, .de, .ru – nothing. Google – only few pages on some random obscure sites. I had to get official specification through “my secret channels”. Never thought I’d need to do that for a TV.

So, the specs looked good. Basically they are the same as for B650 models. No major changes as far as I remember. I decided to act while under the influence (not a generally good idea), went to that store and bought it.

Since this was my first TV of this size I was concerned if I could fit it into my car and carry it home from car without help. I’ve called 2 of my friends who had 37” TVs and they both assured me that it most likely wont fit into my car (midsize sedan) and I’ll definitely won’t be able to carry it alone. The sales guy in the store said absolutely the opposite. Apparently there were some EU regulations in recent years forcing manufacturers to minimize packaging materials, so the boxes became smaller. And the guy was right. It fit easily and I (average size nerd with back problems) was able to carry it alone without any problems.

Design.

As I said, the TV is beautiful. After seeing it I went from design indifferent to totally drooling over it. Basically it’s an LCD screen beveled with black plastic inside of glass cover. Plus there’s a hardly visible brushed metal bar behind that glass at the bottom with sensor controls on it. That’s it. I was actually surprised with this minimalism coming from Korean manufacturer. My stereotypical vision of both LG and Samsung is that they can’t resist placing some fancy but tasteless element on their appliances. But this is not the case here.

Picture Quality

I’m not a picture analyst. I don’t care about levels of black and or white in test conditions. All I have to say is that picture is awesome enough for my layman eyes. The only odd effect I’ve seen so far is that higher quality movies look kind of like filmed with HD handy-cams. I mean there’s no that artificial film effect/blurriness I’m used too. Not sure if this is in any way related to this particular TV model and/or technology.

Update: the "handy-cam" effect is caused by Motion Plus feature. Turned it off and movies look like movies now. Not sure what effect that will cause on motion scenes, etc.

Television.

Actually one of the less than perfect experience with this TV comes from actually watching and managing TV channels :) Sounds like the story with smartphones. Most of them tend to forget about their primary feature of being a phone. Something like this happens here.

I’ve never had a TV with built-in digital TV tuners before so maybe there are some unsolvable technological problems here. If so, I apologize for what comes next.

It looks like channel management for digital and analog channels was written by 2 completely different teams who didn’t even know that the other team existed. Then those 2 pieces were assembled into one system by some third team using duct tape. I don’t know why you can have two #1 channels (one digital, one analog) and to this day I don’t know for sure how to switch specifically to digital #1 or analogue #1 using numeric keypad. There’s nothing about this in a pretty thorough user manual either. You can change channel numbers for digital channels but you can only move analog channels around. And you can’t mix digital with analogue. I guess I’ll just move digital channels to 100+ numbers and leave analog below 100 ( there can only be 99 analogue channels).

Maybe that’s just a specific situation here and now. I understand that analog TV is going away and no one invests too much thought into it these days. But I have a cable provider who feeds me something like 50 analog channels. In addition to that they feed me like 20-30 digital channels with some of them being just a digital version of those analog channels. I can subscribe to a more expensive package that will cover my analog range with digital versions. The problem is that those are for the most part of the same SD 4:3 picture quality just sent via different technology. The only upside is that some of them have digital TV guide. And I’m not very interested in paying extra for that.

What I would like to have is a way to place digital versions of channels in place of analog and intermix them with other analog channels. But I can’t and I guess this will resolve automatically in a couple of years when analog goes away completely.

Network Connectivity

The TV comes with LAN (Ethernet) port. Wired network connection is basically setup-free and worked immediately. The problem is that I was dumb enough 6 years ago when reconstructing my place not to envision the need for Ethernet socket next to my TV. Fortunately TV supports Samsung‘s proprietary USB Wi-Fi dongle. While making only their own dongles supported kind of makes sense (drivers and stuff), pricing of said dongle doesn’t. List price is something like $75+shipping.

Somehow I imagined these things would have to be pre-ordered and overpriced in local stores (forgot to ask when I was buying the TV) and ordered one on eBay, just to find out a couple days later that it was easily available and even cheaper in the local store. Anyway, the dongle arrived, I’ve plugged it in and again it worked seamlessly and very smoothly (just had to enter my router’s pass phrase).

It’s a great thing Samsung has 2 USB ports. Sony had only one. So I can have my USB wi-fi dongle and USB HDD/stick plugged in at the same time.

I have 802.11g router and the dongle supports 802.11n so I was contemplating upgrading my router in case there are some noticeable speed problems. To my surprise I was able to play 1080p (obviously compressed) MKV over the 802.11g connection absolutely smoothly for like 2 hours without a single glitch. So I’m not upgrading my router for now.

Media Player

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I was totally surprised when media player in my TV (which is obviously a secondary feature) put to shame WDTV I have in the other room. WDTV is good, but it can’t decode DTS sound (for example) and this TV can.

The TV can play media over the network using DLNA protocol too. If you have Windows 7 on your PC this works right out of the box. For earlier versions of Windows there’s Samsung’s PC Share Manager software and a bunch of 3rd party software. Funny thing was that I couldn’t see any Matroskas over DLNA. I’ve googled the issue and found out that it can easily be solved by simply changing file extension from .mkv to .avi. Not very elegant but very simple.

But there’s a huge problem with playing media over DLNA. There’s basically no navigation in the file in DLNA mode. You can skip 20 seconds in a single button press but you can’t even chain these presses and it takes like 2 seconds for player to resume playing and only then you can skip another 20 seconds. So if you switched from the file you were viewing over the network there’s basically no reasonable way to get back to where you’ve left. This makes watching movies over DLNA practically unusable. This could be a problem with Windows implementation of DLNA but I’ve tried other 3rd party DLNA servers with the same results at best. So this must be either some stupid limitation in DLNA protocols or most likely implementation problem in Samsung’s player.

Update 2010-04-20:  I've installed Samsung's PC Share Manager and now I got chaptering and resuming over the network. Still no normal fast-forward/rewind but pretty usable already. And you don't have to rename .mkv to .avi either.

Another annoying issue with media player is that it’s very easy to pop out of it and it doesn’t save state. So if you were watching a movie and accidentally or on purpose switched to TV you’ll have to relaunch media player and manually navigate to the file you were watching. Fortunately it remembers previous location in that file in USB mode.

Overall I’m impressed with this media player but these 2 issues are very depressing. If anyone from Samsung is reading this, please, forward this to whoever is in charge and fix it. If you fix it I’ll love you eternally ;)

Internet@TV

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When I read something like YouTube, Twitter, etc. support in feature descriptions I had a little smirk on my face. Riiight, I thought. Like it could be usable. To my surprise it’s totally usable. Some apps more than other but in general color me stunningly impressed.

I’m very glad Samsung didn’t go the way of Nintendo on Wii. Including real browser in an appliance is wrong. Navigating such app is a total pain. Samsung went the other way. They just made an app ecosystem and an app store (coming to full speed in summer, 2010). The choice of apps is quite limited right now but there are apps for YouTube, Twitter, Picasa, Associated Press, AccuWeather, etc. And as far as I understand there are apps for Netflix and Pandora in USA and BBC iPlayer in UK (not sure, cause I can’t check them).

YouTube app is awesome. It plays videos smoothly both in a window and fullscreen and even searching for videos on a simple numeric remote is not a big problem thanks to autocompletion in search box. Very cool.

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Twitter app is surprisingly cool too. Sure, typing a tweet on a TV remote is not a simple exercise but it supports T9 so it’s not harder than typing an SMS on a mobile phone. I’ve managed to type one :) And reading your timeline is perfectly comfortable. The only problem is that you can’t follow the links (no real browser, remember?)

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Same goes for Picasa app. Simple + useful = awesome. I was able to start a slideshow of my photos form PicasaWeb in no time. And I guess it was even easier than watching photos from USB using media player.

Sure, there is a couple of things I didn’t like. From what I saw about 2009 Samsung models, most of the Internet@TV apps were sort of widgets. These widgets were displayed on top of regular TV broadcast (correct me if I’m wrong). Most of the apps on my TV are full-screen. This totally works for YouTube and Picasa, but I would really like to have a twitter widget with new tweets popping up while I watch TV. And switching away from TV just to check a full-screen weather forecast in AccuWeather doesn’t look like the best possible user experience.

I saw only one app that works in a widget mode – Associated Press. You watch TV and have a news reel running at the bottom of your screen. Pretty awesome if you ask me. And that proves that this kind of functionality is there. The only question is why it’s not utilized in, say, Twitter app?

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Conclusion

I’m very very very satisfied with my purchase so far and can easily recommend Samsung’s C650 or higher models to anyone. If you care about media play and internet apps make sure that you don’t go below 650 model cause it won’t be there (or be there only partially).

If anyone from Samsung is reading this, please, let media player team know about my issues above and if they can address them I’ll be extremely happy and grateful. Frankly, this TV is probably the most exciting home appliance I have ever owned.

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