T-Mobile G2 Review

Having realized it’s been 4 years since I purchased a new cell phone, and having long since finished my obligitory 2-year contract I felt, with a baby on the way, that it was time for an upgrade. My phone of choice was a T-Mobile G2. Made by HTC and licensed to T-mobile exclusively in the US it’s also know as the HTC Desire Z internationally.

It’s one of T-Mobile’s first 4G phones and is capable of some serious speeds. Having wondered into a 4G area only once so far, it’s been running mainly in 3G for most of my experience so far. I can’t wait for the network to expand so more people can really take advantage of the increased bandwidth.

Design wise, it’s nearly an identical size and weight to an iPhone 3G, with the one major difference being the slide-out keyboard underneath. Having used a SideKick for numerous years, I have to say I was amazed by the fluid motion of the keyboard. I didn’t think anything “hinge” wise could really stack up to the SideKick, but this far exceeded my expectations. In general I think the phone is exceptionally well built and should stand up to all but the most severe handling.

Software wise it’s 99% stock Android. Froyo to be exact. T-Mobile added a plethora of apps to get the basic user started, perhaps even too many. All the Google apps are installed, including some lesser known ones like Latitude, Goggles and Sky. The downside is that since they’re all factory installed, they can’t be deleted. I’m not sure when I would ever use Google Sky to look at constellations, but I’m pretty sure I’d like the option to uninstall it if I wanted to. Others like Google Shopping, Maps, Gmail, etc are all fine and come in very handy. I could almost see them being locked in, but there’s just no excuse for some of the random stuff. You can always delete the shortcut/icon to the apps, but they’re still on the phone taking up room.

Also, it should be noted that in order to get the full experience on this phone, you really need to have a solid Google account already established. The very first thing the phone asks you to do is sign in or create a new Google account. Your contacts are synced and backed up within Gmail, you can access you voicemail using Google Voice, you can chat with Gtalk, you buy things from the Marketplace with Google Checkout, etc. It’s all tied into your Google Account. This is both a pro and a con (if you’re keeping score). While it’s VERY handy to have a cloud backup of everything, you also have to have a Google account that’s fairly junk free. Having my own domain, I use gmail addresses 99% of the time to block spam. I have several. Every time I sign up for a new website, I use my gmail address. It keeps my normal inbox nice and tidy.

Initially this caused me a couple problems. I’ve had to “clean” a gmail account for specific use on this phone. Sure, I could have just used my normal email address, but since everything is tied together, I didn’t want my Google Checkout purchased mixed in with my Threadless T-Shirt promo newletters. I also didn’t want to get all that garbage on my phone either. So, I cleaned up an account and unsubscribed from everything that was coming in and so far it’s been very trouble free.

The other interesting bit involves contacts. Your phone contacts are synced with your Gmail contacts. You change one, it changes both. Kind of a pain if you’re importing phone contacts and you already have the same person as an email contact. It’s not terribly accurate with assigning phone numbers to email addresses and vice-versa. The upside is that you can also manage the entire mess IN Gmail. About 15 minutes worth of work and I had everyone’s phone numbers and email addresses lined up where they should be. The changes were instant, so as soon as I picked up my phone, the changes had been made. Again, this is also great for backup purposes. If I ever misplace the phone, or it dies somehow, all the contacts are ready to be restored right from Gmail.

I also wanted to point out some of the cooler features of the phone. If you have (or have seen) an iPhone, you’ll be familiar with most of these features, so this is mostly a good explanation of the differences between the two platforms.

Lock Screen:

I really liked the options for the lock screen right off the bat. You can choose from 4 styles of locking. The first is a “slide” unlock, similar to the iphone, with no security options. Next there is the alpha-numeric password/code unlock. Third is a “pin” unlock (again, similar to the iphone, 4 numbers to input). Lastly is the pattern unlock, which is my favorite. You can draw a pattern through points on the screen to create your own unique pattern, which you repeat to unlock the phone.

Home Screen:

Next thing you’ll see is a VERY stock Android home screen. So much so that even the famous “Android Clock” is missing (the one you see in nearly every TV commercial, the big “flip clock”). It can be easily added as a “widget”, but it’s up to the user. A curious choice by T-Mobile to omit, especially considering the additional software, but an easily forgiven oversight. Next you’ll see the normal array of icons. All the important applications (the default ones) are accessible from the the start. Gmail, regular Email, Text Messages, Web and Navigation are all on the first home screen. There’s also the Google-Bar, which serves as a search mechinism for everything. It can search for things on the phone, things in your email, things on the web, etc. It’s similar to Spotlight for the Mac. Also, towards the bottom of the screen are the 3 most used features. Phone (including Contacts), Apps and Web. At the very bottom, beyond the screen (on the phone itself) are also 4 buttons for navigation. Home, Menu, Back and Search. Menu is really the only one that needs claification, but only the the extent that it opens the menu inside each application you’re in. Similar to the Apple menu on a mac. The options change depending on what application you’re using, but the menu is always in the same place.

Email & Gmail:

Separate applications that access their respective mailboxes. Both designed differently, which is an odd choice aesthetically. The Mail app, which you configure with your own pop/imap/exchange email has a black background, light-gray text and generally looks more austere than it’s counterpart. The Gmail app by comparison has a white background with dark-gray text and generally looks more friendly. Both are full featured email clients, both use similar composition screens, etc. It’s just the general look and feel that’s different. Perhaps they chose that so that you’d always know what application you were using.

Text Messages:

So far everything about the phone has been great… but no we get to the Text Message app and we take a rather ugly turn. The TM app is broken and pathetic. Compared to my Motorola W490 (a simple flip phone), this app is a step backwards in design and technology. Perhaps the designers were assuming that you wouldn’t need to text any more since you can tweet or face-book-plant people or some such nonsense. You don’t have any option to select a contact for messaging. You either have to type in their full name or remember they phone number, area code first. Also, there’s no way to select more than one person to text in the first place. Since there’s only one “To:” field, you can only send it to one person. Technically, you can add a comma and type a second name, but you don’t get a menu to select the person from so you have to get it exactly as it appears in your contact list. Should you have gone through all that trouble and are trying to send it to more than a few people, apparently the app crashes (requiring a hard reset) if you enter more than 6. After all that trouble, the texts are stored as “conversations”, in a chat like hierarchy, but not with any organization.

Sadly, the default text app just doesn’t cut it. Given that I bought this phone to send out a massive “the baby is here” text/email when the time comes, that kinda screws me over. Thankfully, I’m not the first person to bitch about the lame text app and there are several replacements to choose from. I chose “Text Easy” for $0.99. Right off the bat it’s a vastly superior app. It’s technically a front end replacement that uses the send/receive functions of the built in app, but it opens into a list of contacts and lets you chose, via checkbox, who you want to message. You can also predefine “groups” back in Gmail and while the default client ignores them, Text Easy recognizes them and lets you send out texts to entire groups in your address book. Very handy, especially for me in this instance. Well worth the $0.99.

Camera / Gallery:

Another weird design choice was separating the camera from the picture viewer. The Camera app just takes photos. It does have a pretty wide feature set (for a phone) including exposure compensations and white balance options. Reviewing what you’ve shot lets you flick through them one at a time, but not organize or do anything with them. With Gallery, you can organize photos into collections and folders. Until you do, they’re floating in this sort of blurry ethereal space, which is kinda trippy, waiting for you drag them into folders. It’s from here that you can set things as wallpapers or contact icons. Kind of weird that they separated the two apps, but much more forgivable than the text message issue.

Additional Apps:

While we’re on the subject of other applications, there are a choice few that I’ve already installed that I’m enjoying quite a bit, and a couple preinstalled ones that I’m finding more useful that I thought I would.

Goggles – From Google (and preinstalled), it lets you take a picture of just about anything that’s an actual object (item that you might have purchased, not a person) and it’ll find it. Can recognize product logos, tags, barcodes, etc. Just from snapping pictures of things on my desk, it knows where to find more Mt. Dew, Sharpies and Compact Flash cards.

ShopSavvy – Nearly the same idea as Goggles but for scanning barcodes and finding deals. Scan a barcode and it’ll tell you where you can find it nearby (or online) and for how much.

Car Home – Turns the phone into a Sat-Nav/Car Phone. Six big buttons replace the entire interface and can let you make handsfree calls, navigation and directions or listen to music. Especially cool is the speech recognition part, where you just hit the button and tell it where you want to go. Worked really well in my somewhat noisy car when I tried it out. Got the address correct on all three attempts.

ScoreCenter – From ESPN, essential for getting sports scores. Simple and to the point. However, in a related subject, I was fairly disappointed to find out that there was a fantasy football app, but not a baseball one. For shame ESPN, gimme my fantasy baseball! Maybe Nagle can work on that.

Banks – That’s not that name of the app, I just wanted to point out that nearly every major bank has an android app, which all seem to work similarly and are all fairly handy. Beats having to text “#bal” to my bank in the past.

DropBox – The always popular cloud app on the go.

– Since I signed up for Amazon Prime, I order things from Amazon all the time. The app is just a shortcut to my addiction. Free two day shipping and “Insta-Buy” at the touch of a button, yes please!

Kindle – Since I have an actual Kindle, the app seemed kinda silly until I realized that since my Kindle doesn’t have 3G, but my phone does, I could buy books on my phone and they’d appear on the Kindle when I got home. I can also organize my library and set things to download on the go. Sure, you could actually use it to read, but I’ve got the real thing for that. I just like it from an account management stand point.

WordPress – Do I really need to mention that one? lol. Awesome as always.

SnapTax – Here’s a weird one. From Intuit, makers of TurboTax. Since my kiddo isn’t here yet, and I have a pretty strait forward return, I usually file a 1040 or 1040EZ. I did my taxes, on my phone, in under 10 minutes. You can TAKE A PHOTO of your W2 and it imports all the data. No joke. It actually worked. App was free, but it’s $14 to file, which is still cheaper than the $20 TurboTax Basic.


Lastly, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my experience with a slight hardware malfunction when I received the phone. When you get it, the 8G SD card comes preinstalled. It’s located under the battery, in the back of the camera in this tiny, spring loaded hatch/frame thing. One of the first things I did was plug the phone into a computer and tried to transfer some wallpapers and music to the phone (music to use as ringtones – PS: Jason, you’re ringtone is Teenage Bottlerockets, lol). Apparently this threw the phone for a loop. There are specific places where things go and, since there are no instructions on doing any of this, I apparently got one wrong. This bricked the SD card. On the phone itself it kept giving me an error that the SD card was “unmounted”.

So, I called tech support. They told me to “remove and then reinsert” the SD card because that would “reset it”. One, flash memory doesn’t “reset” by being removed and reinserted, but that’s neither here nor there. Second, that tiny spring loaded housing that actually holds the card would not budge. At all. It was stuck. The tech suggested I take it to my local T-Mobile store and they could help me there. I decided to Google it instead.

As much as I love T-Mobile’s service, I can stand to walk into a store. Not only are the people completely dim, but the customers are either angry black ladies with attitudes or clueless middle-managers wanting the CSR to transfer all 5000 of their contacts. I can’t deal with being in line behind either of those two groups.

Luckily, the internet is a sea of information and it turns out that the specific latch with which I was doing battle is a known design flaw. It doesn’t open about 50% of the time. The real solution to the problem was to remove the files I added to the card and start over. I didn’t even have to reformat the card. I just moved the files to a different location. Apparently, the Gallery app wants to control your photos, but wants nothing to do with them if they’re in the directory called “Photos”, go figure.

I realize it might be a stretch to fully support the adding of various type of media to a phone, but simple instructions should probably be given in the damn manual. Otherwise, thick people such as myself might actually think that the “audio” folder is where music goes and the “photos” folder is where pictures go. Or, alternatively, just as a suggestion, don’t name important system folders at the root level things like “photos”. Just a thought.

That little snafu aside, the phone has been a pleasure so far. Even little things like the charger are actually well thought out. The charger consists of a USB cable (normal to mini) and a small wall-outlet plug that you can plug the cable into. No more proprietary cables! Yay! I’m actually changing the phone using my Kindle cable as we speak. That also means that the massive collection of USB cables I already have can actually be useful. I have one at the office, one at home on my nightstand, one in my laptop bag, etc. It’s nice when companies actually realize that proprietary plugs and cables just makes things I giant pain in the ass.

In the end, I’m very pleased with the phone so far. The hardware is solid (almost too solid), it has a nice feel in my hand, the apps are snappy and responsive. The OS is quick and full featured. It’s stock Android so it’s easily upgradable later. The app store is full of interesting stuff, usually for fair reasonable prices. I’ve only purchased two apps so far, both have been well worth the $0.99.

Final Score 8.5/10.

A few minor glitches here and there but otherwise the best phone I’ve had in a long time.



So, I’ve been recently considering building a darknet machine with spare parts I have sitting around. I’ve come to realize that the plethora of media I have is so large, and normal P2P channels so inherently dangerous, that a subversive way to share it all with friends and family is really the way of the future. What if each of us puts together a mighty collection, a massive underground library, and then we all link up and share all that information. That would be beneficial to everyone.

The real question is how.

There’s always the old alternatives. Direct Connect has been around for years and you can still find DC hub and client software. That would probably offer the least overhead. We’d simply need a machine to be left on as a hub and then each person could connect at their leisure.

An old school WASTE network is another possibility, but that would involve sharing public keys to gain access, which is tiresome.

A small Hamachi (or Hamachi2) network would operate in a similar fashion, as would an OpenVPN. In those instances however, the user would all need client software and would have to add predetermined “friends” or friendly IP addresses.

Freenet would offer a step up from that in terms of content management since we’d be creating our own mini-internet.

Beyond that we’re talking about setting up home web and FTP servers. That might be a little more complicated (especially if I’m doing it) than I’m willing to get.

This is actually something I’d like to do. I have a perfectly usable AMD Athlon generation PC sitting under my desk at home not doing anything and a 20mbps fiber connection at the house. The trick would be finding huge IDE hard drives. Or, finding the money to upgrade to SATA. Originally I had wanted to use the box as a HTPC, but given that I don’t have anything worth streaming to my TV and that my TV tuner card died, that seems like more of a hassle than it’s worth.

Anyone have any ideas as far as setting up a network would be concerned? Anyone even interested in sharing their music/game/tv show collections? Thoughts?

WordPress 3 Menus

This week I found myself in need of upgrading a WordPress theme I was working on from the old “list_pages” style of menus to the newer, WordPress 3.0 custom menus. I ran into the problem of a serious lack of documentation, not for the new menus themselves, but what to actually change in order to make the upgrade possible.

Luckily, I figured it out. Starting from here, which is a fairly well written tutorial on what the new code is, and working backwards from the theme I was working with, I was able to piece together the specifics. I figured I’d share, just on the off chance someone might find this useful.

First step is to take a look at the theme you’re using, or planning to use and get familiar with how and where the current menu is being called from. Since we’ll be replacing it shortly, it’s probably handy to know where to start.

In this example, I’m using the theme Twicet by Kriesi which I purchased from ThemeForest a while back and has yet to be upgraded by the author.

The first thing we’ll be changing is the functions.php file. Some themes call multiple functions files and may even be in separate directories. So you’ll have to find your primary one and make the changes there.

Since the new WP3 style menus are a completely new function, we have to add it and register it, so that WordPress knows what to do with it.

In your functions.php file, add the following:

add_action( 'init', 'register_my_menu' );

function register_my_menu() {

register_nav_menu( 'primary-menu', __( 'Primary Menu' ) ); }

Now that’s we’ve added the function, we might as well do something with it. In your WordPress 3 dashboard, under ‘Appearance’, there should now be a new link called “Menus”. If your previous theme didn’t support dynamic menus, this option would have been hidden. Since we just added the function to our function.php, it’s now visible!

Feel free to experiment with it and get used to it. It’s probably best to add a couple pages/links to your menu so that after we complete the next step, something will actually appear on your site. If you haven’t made a menu and you continue on, you won’t see anything until you do.

Next we’ll replace the old method of listing pages in your navigation with the new one. Normally this can be found in your header.php file. You’re looking for a line that reads something along the lines of…

<?php wp_list_pages( );   ?>

That’s the old way of listing pages in a navigation, it was literally a “list” of the pages, in order, with some styling applied.

Replace that line with the following:

<?php wp_nav_menu(); ?>

This is the most basic call of the function. You can read more about adding additional menus (if your theme uses more than one) and what’s required for that by reading the tutorial I had mentioned at the top of this post.

So, now we’ve added the function AND called the function into action. We may as well make it look like something.

In my theme I knew I needed to style the menus in a certain way. I added two divs around it, one as a wrapper, in order to get the effect I was looking for. Each div is then styled in my CSS, which I’ll get to in a second. From here on out, these examples apply to the Twicet theme I had mentioned before, but the principles can be applied just about anywhere.

So, in my header, my code looks like this:

<div class="navwrap">
<ul id="menu">
<?php wp_nav_menu(); ?>

I have the “navwrap” div, then a “menu” div, then my menu.

The “navwrap” serves to display the background image for my menu, and the “menu” div is the text styling of the links themselves.

Also, since my theme uses two separate CSS files, I had to adjust both of them.

My first CSS file, style.css, is used primarily for positioning. My second file, style5.css is used for colors and text styles.


right: 5px;


.menu ul{
list-style-image: none;

.menu a{
padding:0 21px;

.menu li:hover ul ul, .menu li:hover ul ul ul,.menu li:hover ul ul ul ul{

.menu li:hover ul, .menu li li:hover ul, .menu li li li:hover ul{

That basically tells both the “navwrap” and the “menu” where to be, but doesn’t really style the text any. At this point the menu is mostly likely just basic text with bullets. Make sure you add the following if they’re showing up as a bullet-list:

#menu li{ list-style-type:none; list-style-image: none; }
#menu ul{ list-style-type:none; list-style-image: none; }

Now we need to style the text of the menu. Since “menu” is the name of the div I’ve put everything inside of, it’s what I’ll be styling. If you marked it as something different, use the appropriate class names.

In my style5.css, I have the following:

background:transparent url(../images5/menu.png) no-repeat scroll right bottom;
.menu a{
color: #9f9f9f;
.menu ul {
border:1px solid #DFDFDF;
.menu li ul a{
border-bottom:1px solid #fff;
border-top:1px solid #DFDFDF;
.menu ul a, .menu ul li{
.menu ul a:hover, .menu ul a:focus {
background-color: #3b5987;
.menu a:hover, .menu a:focus {
color: #fff;
background:transparent url(../images5/menu.png) left top no-repeat;

The background images might not be specific to your needs, but for me, I have one long menu image, cut into two piece, and using the “left top” and “right bottom” CSS tricks, I’m able to display both sides of it to make a complete menu. This is the reason I have two divs in my header instead of just one.

So, in the end, it’s really pretty easy to upgrade your menus to the new system. There’s just a couple steps:

  1. Add the new functions to functions.php
  2. Change list_pages to the new nav_menu tag in your header.php
  3. Enclose your new menu with a basic div
  4. Update style.css with new styles for your new menu div

That’s it. Good luck with your upgrade!

Windows 7: Part 2

I just wanted to let everyone know what finally ended up happening with my Windows 7 install last week.

I ended up ripping out nearly every piece of hardware from the machine and installing it with only the single hard drive it was going onto and the DVD drive it was coming from in the box. Sure enough, as soon as I did that it started up like a champ. It installed in about 20 minutes and another 10 after that and I had updated everything through Windows Update. After that I started adding hardware back in and it found, recognized and configured everything correctly, without issue. After doing some more digging and prodding people on the technet forums it turns out that Windows 7 (and partially Vista as well) has a real nasty issue with multiple hard drives, especially those with different interfaces and formats.

My advice to anyone (Chris) building a machine is that you put in a single hard drive, install Windows 7, then finish you build. Anything more than that and it could become a real pain in the ass.

On the flipside, Windows 7 is actually running great. I installed Steam, a couple older games, all my apps, and it’s really humming along. Direct X 10 seems to be doing great, all the games look good, no performance hits compared to XP (which was an issue with Vista). I’m actually liking it quite a bit.

So, I wish I could say that the install was painless, far from it, but at least the actual day to day operation of the OS seems to be pretty solid.

Windows 7

Yesterday I attended the Windows 7 launch party and developer seminars. The talks were rather interesting, the launch party was rather boring but the real meat and potatoes is that they gave everyone who came a full retail version of Windows 7 Ultimate. Happy I decided to go I left the event in the afternoon and hurried home with my copy of Microsofts newest operating system.

As far as I can tell, I had done everything right. I moved all important data off my C: drive. I backed up everything I wanted to save. I ran the Windows 7 “Upgrade Advisor” to see if there we any problems (which I didn’t list any). I downloaded all the latest Windows 7 drivers to the D: drive for easy installation after I was up and going. I felt I was ready. I put in the install DVD, restarted and booted from the DVD.

Instant BSOD.

I was obviously a little confused. This is a brand new OS, one that’s supposed to be low on resource usage, easy on hardware requirements and heavy on compatibility. Surely I had done something wrong. I restarted again.

Instant BSOD.

As soon as the Windows installer starts I get a bluescreen with the always awesome “IRQL Not Less or Equal” and the explination that nvstor.sys is causing the problem. Apparently nvstor.sys is a nVidia motherboard driver responsible for control over the SATA devices. It’s also been linked to graphics card problems, but I don’t think that’s the issue this time. Either way, it’s an nForce chipset problem. After searching nVidia’s website, they claim that it’s not their problem and that their latest chipset drivers are W7 ready. Microsoft doesn’t even acknowledge that the problem exists and various forums around the internet list it as anything from a RAM timing issue to motherboard features needing to be disabled to a general hardware problem that has no solution. Apparently the recommended process for troubleshooting is tearing your machine apart, removing everything except motherboard and hard drive and installing from there.

I fail to see how that is an acceptable solution. I’m of course going to try it, but it’s so ridiculous that I’d have to remove hardware to install an OS that it’s really beyond description. “I’m sorry sir, we’re going to need to take your engine out, your doors off and remove your stereo so we can rotate your tires”. WTF?!

I’m also going to try, but I don’t know why, to update my chipset drivers and bios. I also fail to see how updating drivers on a hard drive I’m about to format makes any sense at all, but what the hell, it’s worth a shot.

In case you’re interested, I started a thread on Microsoft’s Technet forums to try and get some input on the problem. I’m going to go home today and try updating the BIOS, just for giggles.

I have to say, this is actually kind of a huge disappointment. If I had purchased W7 right now, I would be outraged. Way to drop the ball again MS. Oh, and by the way, a “continental breakfast” at your events should probably include more than danish and burnt Starsucks coffee. Just sayin’.

Product Review – Keurig B60 Special Edition

For quite a while now I’ve been a fan of the concept of “single serve” coffee. I’ve had and used a whole variety of coffee makers. Everything from a Tassimo to my favorite Melita One-to-One to the high end Lavazza systems. Normally, I have two coffee makers as well. One, the single cup brewer for every day use and a larger 12-cup, full pot brewer for parties and holidays. After years of faithful service, both of ours decided to kick the bucket. As avid coffee drinkers, we had to find a replacement.

After doing our homework, we decided on the Keurig B60 Special Edition. We ended up getting one, on sale, with a 20% coupon on top of that. A $129.99 coffee maker only cost us about $75.