Books, BUSINESS, CREATIVE, WORDS, Writing

Working My Way To the Top (of the page)

covers4

Bottom, bottom, bottom…

I forget which short story collection I was working on and discussing with a friend, but he posed an interesting question as we were chatting:

Why is your name always at the bottom of your covers?  Shouldn’t it be on the top?

While I may not completely produce my own covers anymore (for the better, as you can likely tell) I do place the text atop the artwork.  The decision to de-emphasize myself was a conscious one and I did it for a very simple reason:

Nobody knows who I am.

It’s a harsh thing to admit, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less true. If I put “Eduardo Soliz” on the top of a cover, a potential reader might think that the book is about a guy with that name, or they might even think it’s in Spanish.  Either way, my name (right now, at least) is not a very big selling point.

Stephen King and James Patterson and those guys, yeah, they can put their names up top because people will recognize then as authors who’s work they enjoy so they’ll be more inclined to pick up a book with their name on top and buy it.

Someday, I’ll be ‘big enough’ to have the nerve to put my name at the top of the page, but until then, I’ll have to play second fiddle to the books themselves.

Then again, maybe that’s how it should be!

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45 Things I Noticed During Fiesta Equestria 2015

#42 Hope you got  your badge back!

#8/41-Hope you got your button back!

This past weekend was my first-ever My Little Pony con (bronycon?) Fiesta Equestria!  By now you have probably heard about ‘Bronies,’ or adults that like the show. If not, would you like to know more?

  1. BEFORE THE CON : As much as I don’t like to ding a show before it starts, they seem to be a bit unorganized based on their website/schedule issues
  2. No, brony friends, just because I have apples at the dinner table doesn’t mean I’m razzing you
  3. Minor drama even before the show started, oy
  4. FRIDAY : The closer I get to Houston the worse the drivers seem to get
  5. My GPS was set to ignore toll roads. I forgot I have a TXTag now /facehoof
  6. DQ down the road from the hotel? AW YEAH
  7. The hotel seems to have good WiFi, w00t
  8. A press pass! I feel special
  9. I liked the little Canterlot Times newspaper thingie
  10. Except for my badge, I have no pony stuff.  I’m always the weirdo at these things
  11. If your job is to check badges, it might help to take off your sunglasses, dude
  12. Note to self: You don’t like heights, stay out of the clear elevators
  13. Furry 101 went well, had a good crowd out!
  14. Maybe a little too well, I blasted through my material in 30 min
  15. I kinda don’t want to go anywhere and lose my AWESOMELY CLOSE PARKING SPOT
  16. It’s a little strange how formal dances have become a thing at cons now.
  17. Thing I said in the elevator: “Yes, I’m here for the cartoon thing”
  18. SATURDAY : The day to day schedule thing isn’t that great if you’re a panelist.
  19. HOUSTON HAS WAFFLE HOUSE YES
  20. There’s a charity? Need to work on that advertising, guys!
  21. Sombrero covered with foil; what Mexican conspiracy theorists wear.
  22. Except for the whole ‘dudes carrying plush ponies’ thing this isn’t THAT weird.
  23. Thing I forgot: Writing panel handouts. Thank you business center!
  24. It wasn’t into today that I realized I should probably turn off my YOU’VE GOT *ING MAIL message sound. Oops
  25. A friend was all GET ME SOMETHING WITH THIS PONY ON IT, and I had to look up what she looked like.
  26. I have to say, the hotel is in a really good spot, plenty of places to eat around and even some within walking distance.
  27. Wore my red Wreck-It Ralph short on Saturday and realized if I let my hair grow out I’ll kinda look like the Steven Universe kid. YAY LAZY COSPLAY IDEA
  28. Not sure how I feel about the whole ‘paid lesson panel’ thing :/
  29. Saw another panelist who stood still in front of the audience and droned on and on.  Yeah, I think I’m Doing It Right
  30. Selling is always a crapshoot, Thom Zahler didn’t have any copies of Love and Capes on him, guess I’ll check it out online! Long Distance was very charming, be interesting to see where it goes.
  31. I am a mite disappointed in the hotel, the early check in thingie in their app didn’t work and I put my ‘do not clean’ sign up at night and they did it anyway.
  32. Someone I may or may not have known in college recognized me. Whoa.
  33. E-book panel went well, too, I think I’m getting the hang of this!
  34. Question during panel: “Was DashCon or Sonic Con worse?” Me: “SonicCon…At least people went to DashCon.”
  35. Apparently my OC “Big Words” made everyone think of George W Bush…D’OH
  36. One elevator broke down, wasn’t too big of a deal, though

    #41-Not Pictured: Fun

    #42-Not Pictured: FUN

  37. Got a letter from a Derpy cosplayer addressed to ‘Someone Special’. ITS SO CUTE I DON’T WANT TO OPEN IT
  38. A musician got their tail in a knot because there were DJs in a musician panel.  Oy.
  39. No conbooks, a bit odd considering all the art/fiction this fandom produces.
  40. If the point of the speakers in the flowers were to annoy the bleep put of me, Fission Mucking Accomplished, hotel.
  41. SUNDAY : Found a button on Friday and turned it in to lost and found on Sunday, I didn’t want it to become my “tell tale tie”
  42. I didn’t think AJ was going to remember the ‘No Fun Zone” thing he mentioned in our podcast, but there it was!
  43. Note to self: Always take pictures of cosplayers because likely YOU WILL NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN even if it is a small con.
  44. I didn’t want to leave early Sunday, but life had other plans. Stupid life.
  45. Almost made it all the way home on the same tank of gas, thank you Honda CR-V!
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myPhone

technology2There are a number of things that I don’t mind, but at the same time it’s sometimes fun to wave my metaphorical Cranky Old Man cane at the durn kids with their newfangled doohickeys and double-you-step music.

Case in point: Apple.  I don’t mind them.  I own a 2009 iMac and an original iPad mini.  Both are quite good at what they do, and I continue to use them.  Despite that, I like to thumb my nose at the ‘Apple guy’ in the office (there’s always one) and have back-and-forths with him about why I feel Microsoft is better.  As if in retaliation, my original iPad mini has been slowly inching towards obsolescence with each iOS update.  Recently, I was frustrated at not being able to play the neato new Fallout Shelter game for more than a few minutes without the poor thing crashing.

While the thought of getting a new iPad has crossed my mind, the thought of dropping a few hundred bucks on another one is not a pleasant one, especially since my Windows 8 tablet has proven to be quite capable, Microsoft Office notwithstanding.

Because of its creaky performance, I have been using the iPad mini as a hotspot more than anything else as of late.  I would use my cell phone as a hotspot, but Cricket Wireless has internet sharing disabled on my Lumia 530.  Jerks.  So I send a few bucks to Verizon, turn on the iPad’s hotspot feature, set it down, and then use my Windows laptop or tablet to get things done.

Which brings me to my next point.  I am, for better or for worse, married to Microsoft Windows as well as their ecosystem.  Windows 8.1, Word, OneDrive and OneNote have all served me well over the years and I have no reason to stop using them.

In spite of that, I have decided to get an iPhone for my next phone.  As I am not on a contract, I can make the jump whenever it pleases me, but more practical concerns such as home and vehicle maintenance take precedence. Nevertheless, whenever I am financially ready to make the jump I will be more than happy to for the following reasons:

  1. Apple makes pretty good hardware – My iMac and iPad have been pretty durable and dependable over the years.  I’ll likely have to get a case for an iPhone, but I’m pretty careful with my phones; I’ve never cracked a single screen over the years.
  2. Apps apps everywhere – This is the Achilles’s Heel of Windows Phone; the limited app selection wouldn’t be so bad if Microsoft would keep their own apps up to date.  The iPad version of Word blows the Windows Phone one out of the water, too.
  3. Accessories – Because I often get cheaper (or Windows) phones, cases and accessories are rare or nonexistent.  Stores seem to have three sections for phone accessories: Apple, Samsung, and one with a big sign above it for everyone else that says EFF-YOU.
  4. Microsoft is on board – The fact that I can get Microsoft Word on iOS and Android means no more Brand X Office apps.
  5. Hotspot! – I travel, and it would be nice to be able to fall back on my phone as a hotspot instead having to carry another device to do so.
  6. Android = suck, WinPhone = bleh, iPhone = ? Android devices have been craptacular for me over the years and Windows Phone trips at the finish line despite its nice interface.  I have never owned an iPhone so who’s to say I won’t like it?
  7. Get rid of iPad – I still only have my iPad mini for two reasons: to use as a hotspot and for work.  If I get an iPhone I can do without it completely.
  8. Updates for all! – With Android and Windows Phone, you are at the tender mercies of your carrier for updates unless you buy an unlocked device.  My Windows Phone is one update behind because of this.  iPhones, on the other hand, usually get all updates.

Of course, there is some bad with the good:

  1. Increased Cost – I am currently not on contract with Cricket Wireless and its been pretty sweet: $35 a month for 2.5GB of high speed data and unlimited minutes and texts.  To get an iPhone I’ll either have to pay a few hundred for the device up front or go on a contract again.  Either way that means more money.
  2. Durability – It is out of sheer luck that my Lumia doesn’t have a cracked screen given all the times I’ve dropped it (thank you Nokia).  I will definitely have to get a case to ensure my iPhone doesn’t meet an unfortunate fate.  It will remain to be seen if the iPhone is ‘Eduardo-proof’
  3. Apple EVERYWHERE? – Despite having an iMac and iPad, I am barely invested in Apple’s ecosystem.  Except for backing up my iPad I don’t use iCloud for anything.  That should stay the same with an iPhone…I hope.

I was on the fence about getting iPhone before writing this blog, but now that I’ve jotted down all the ups and downs, I’m all but certain I’m going to pull the trigger on one…eventually.  $35 a month for cell service is going to be really hard to give up, though!

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A Touch of Office

windowsI purchased a Windows 8 tablet (ASUS VivoTab 8) back in January with the intention of using it as a laptop replacement.  On paper, it sounded perfect:

  • Touchscreen that Windows 8 can work well in
  • Full Windows 8 (none of this RT malarkey)
  • Improved Intel Atom CPU and better battery life compared to a laptop
  • Increased portability
  • Only $150!
  • Free Office 365 for a year

Let’s run down the list:

  • Windows 8 on a touchscreen is pretty good.  Heck, its actually great once you learn all of its little tricks.
  • A full version of Windows 8 means I can install some of my favorite (read: ancient) apps I use like WinAmp 2.9 and Microsoft Money 2000.
  • Remember Netbooks?  Those used the first Intel Atom CPUs and they were dog slow.  The newer one in the VivoTab is good for basic tasks and battery life has been in the 7-8 hour range which is what I wanted.
  • Even with a case, the VivoTab is remarkably portable.  Like my iPad mini, a 7-8″ tablet is the perfect size to carry around.
  • The price was definitely right!

And now we get to the device’s biggest problem:  Microsoft Office.  Because the VivoTab is capable of running the desktop version of Microsoft Office, that’s what you get.  That would be pretty neat, but Office is not optimized for touch on an 8″ screen.  Thus, I end up wasting time mashing its teeny icons with my sausage-fingers and fighting the interface instead of doing work.  Styluses are no help either, they make me feel like I’m trying to draw on the screen with a fuzzing crayon.  I bought a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard so I can get around Office more efficiently, but carrying them around and setting them up sucks some of that wonderful ‘portability’ out of the tablet.

Finally, Office 365 sucks horribly on this device.  It had a terrible habit of slowing down to the point where I could see letters being placed on the screen one…at…a…time every few seconds.  I would type out a full sentence and then wait for the poor thing to catch up before doing the next one because I didn’t want it to crash and potentially lose my work.  I got into the habit of saving very frequently for a few frustrating weeks before removing the craptacular Office 365 and installing my copy of Office 2010.  Needless to say, I have no intention of paying for Office 365 when the trial year runs out.

I really like my VivoTab 8, and if Microsoft could get around to making a version of Office that was suitable for smaller tablets, I would like it a whole lot more.

Oh wait, they already made one…it’s on my iPad mini!  /facepalm

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70 Things I Noticed During PAX South

conventionsPAX South took place this past weekend in San Antonio, and I dropped in on behalf of originalgamer.com to help out with Video Game Jeopardy! and play some games.

  1. Rainy and cold on Friday. Did the weather follow the Penny-Arcade guys down here?
  2. First time I’ve ever seen people scalping tickets at a con.
  3. Weird con idea: Coat check-in
  4. Found it hilarious that OG forgot his battery pack and his phone died. Seriously, dude?
  5. Dafuq with all the Seahawks jerseys? I thought these were supposed to be nerds?
  6. Nice line for Video Game Jeopardy, hope my voice holds up
  7. Men’s room was out of soap, hopefully that means people are using it 
  8. Actually, I didn’t use any. Sorry, guys, I was in a hurry
  9. We’ve been doing Video Game Jeopardy for years and of course I goof up in front of our biggest audience by pulling up an answer when the contestant had it wrong
  10. The guy won easily, no harm done there. *whew*
  11. Despite all the Seahawks jerseys, ‘Cover Athletes’ was easily the most-hated Video Game Jeopardy! category
  12. Somebody actually knew the obscure Atari 2600-related answer (Pele’s Soccer) Impressive.
  13. The risk of picking random people for Video Game Jeopardy is that we may get folks that know little or know it all, we got two of the first and one of the second.
  14. Had a case of mistaken identity after Video Game Jeopardy, hadn’t had that happen in a while.
  15. Sorry, I have never worked at GameStop, though like many gamers, I’ve spent enough time at them for it to seem that way.
  16. Thought someone was giving away bean bags until I realized it was a chill area.  Derp.
  17. Saturday-If you don’t mind walking a few blocks there’s a $2.50 per day parking lot under the freeway at E. Houston St.
  18. Forgot to bring my 3DS on Friday, not making that mistake again!
  19. I always bring a box of Rice Krispies Treats in my backpack.  Just the thing to hold one over till the next meal.
  20. Nerds love em too, which is good for sharing
  21. Seriously.  Anime, comic, furry, video game, whatever-con. Nerds flip for Rice Krispies Treats.
  22. Left my gloves at a friend’s house a few weeks ago, sure would have come in handy today!
  23. Random guy came up and offered me a Saturday badge because he was looking for a guy ‘with a red shirt and a fist on it.’  Lucky for him I’m honest.
  24. Weird thing: He apparently didn’t notice I was already wearing a badge.  Hope he found who he was looking for.
  25. Saturday con day breakfast: Breakfast on a Bun with sausauge.  If you don’t know what that is, have breakfast at Whataburger the next time you see one.
  26. Oh, they do have a coat check here.  Cool.
  27. So one hall is to hold the line to get into the other one? I am a little disappoint.
  28. Remember when arcades weren’t just fighting games? Pepperidge Farm remembers
  29. Maybe its because I’ve been to E3 but my initial reaction to PAX was slightly underwhelmed
  30. What was there was cool, but in terms of volume, other cons have more stuff.  Quality vs. quantity, I suppose.
  31. Also, I’m also not a OMG HARDCORE GAMER so I’m not exactly the ‘target audience.’
  32. Plenty of signal, no data, thanks Cricket/AT&T!
  33. Crisis:  3DS battery light turns red OH NOES I’LL MISS ALL THE STREETPASSES
  34. Nintendo: Y U NO USE USB?
  35. Good idea: Arriving half an hour early for a panel. Bad idea: Standing in line for about a half-hour waiting to get in
  36. I own an iPad mini, a Windows 8 tablet, a smartphone and still ended up using paper and pen to take my notes.  Yay for dead trees!
  37. Weird moment: Sitting at the lower level of the Rivercenter food court eating, looking to my left, and seeing people’s feet.
  38. They had shoes on, so it wasn’t that bad
  39. Weirder moment: Seeing a Starbucks gift card next to said feet
  40. Weirdest moment: Asking the owners of the feet if they had dropped it
  41. The card wasn’t theirs and I was too honest to take it. Oh well!
  42. Thought I saw the paleta man but it just a bicycle-rickshaw thing BOO
  43. Scott Kurtz was the only celebrity I knew of, so I said hi, told him I enjoyed PvP and went on my merry way.
  44. I probably weirded the dude out. Sorry man, couldn’t think of anything clever.
  45. Booth observations:  No demo, no write up.
  46. I also don’t think my editor is interested in Kickstarter projects.
  47. Saw one booth that looked like a T-shirt company-cum-game developer…huh?
  48. I tended to ignore booths that had ‘just another’ shooter/platformer/adventure game.  Yes, I’m jaded
  49. No interest in mobile games, either. Sorry, guys /shrug
  50. Loneliest booth was probably Gamechurch.com
  51. Sitting across from an empty seat resting my feet and some gal just sits in it.  I guess being pretty means not having manners.
  52. The next gal that showed up after Ms. Thing left asked if the seat was taken.  Go fig.
  53. Not interested in swag, but Astronaut ice cream?  Yes, please!
  54. I have no idea why they had Astronaut ice cream.
  55. Rest time = Streetpass harvest time!
  56. Losing weight is good. Having to constantly pull up my jeans is annoying, made me like a bleeping teenager
  57. I referred to the jean-tugs as the ‘reverse Picard maneuver’
  58. Lots of compliments on my ‘I can wreck it!’ shirt again, woo!
  59. Realized after the fact that I overpacked and should have left my Bluetooth mouse/keyboard at home.
  60. Observation from OG: There were no volunteers barking at attendees like at other cons
  61. Wonder if it’s because the attendees seem to be a mite older here?
  62. Regardless, perhaps other cons need to jazz up their marketing and call their volunteers something else to add prestige and respect to what is a very thankless job.  “Volunteer?”  Boring.  “Enforcers?”  Oooh.
  63. Not sure what I’m going to do for Sunday.  I pretty much saw all the booths yesterday
  64. Made darn sure to charge my 3DS last night
  65. Also remembered to fill my water bottle before leaving the house this time.  Mmm, home water.
  66. The weather was so nice I almost forgot my coat when I left
  67. Now that the event is over, I can finally delete all those ‘PLEASE COME SEE OUR STUFF’ emails from devs.
  68. Great, now they’re finding me on my Twitter
  69. Obligatory work item: My legs should not be this sore after the fact, need a gig where I *don’t* sit on my tail all day
  70. PAX South is probably the best fan-run gaming convention around and I can see why folks love it so.  Its not really my thing; if I go next year it’ll just be for a day.  Plenty of my friends had a blast, though!
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Change of Screenery

technology2I have owned a iMac for five years now.  At the time, I figured that if nothing else, the improved hardware would be worth the expense.  It has been a pleasant experience for the most part…mainly because I installed Windows 7 onto it.  Thus, I don’t have to deal with OS X unless I really have to…like when I’m publishing an e-book to the iBookstore.

OS X is nice, but when I need to Get Things Done, I find myself gravitating back to Windows.  I also own a Windows laptop and thanks to The Cloud (or OneDrive to be more precise), I can easily keep my files in sync between my various devices instead of relying on the ol’ ‘sneaker-net’ like I used to back in my netbook days.

I will concede that the Mac is good at certain things, like organizing pictures and iTunes and all that good ‘not-computery’ stuff.  I also like that Time Machine keeps a full backup of my system in the event that something awful happens.  While I (fortunately) haven’t put it to the test yet, I have faith that it will work as advertised.  Sadly, my lack of being in OS X means I’ve accumulated quite a few pictures that I haven’t file away yet for safe keeping or kept very well organized, for that matter.

And so I have decided to start using my Mac, as, well, a Mac.  My 12″ laptop will serve as my ‘desktop PC’ and so I will be able to finally get all my pictures organized and keep all of my music in one place for what that’s worth.  Of course, when there’s Serious Work to be done, I’ll be booting back into Windows 7.  I’ve even gone as far to consider buying a new Windows desktop for the first time in a number of years.

Windows 8 makes that proposition a little trickier than it should be, but not for the reason you might suspect.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t mind Windows 8; the 8.1 update has made it much more usable with a keyboard and mouse (TIP: On the Start Screen, click the arrow pointing down to easily find all of your programs).

My issue is that I kinda want a touch screen.  The Metro/Modern user interface is made for touch and having (literally!) poked at Windows 8 on Windows tablets I’ve grown to appreciate it for what it is.  The issue is that touchscreen monitors are expensive and ‘all in one’ computers generally don’t have as much horsepower as a tower.  While I am not a big gamer, when I’m rendering a video it would be nice to not have to wait a half hour for it to finish.  There’s also something about having some  BIG IRON sitting under my desk chugging away at Important Stuff.

I’m tempted to build a new PC from scratch, but part of me says ‘I don’t have the time’ and the cost savings isn’t quite as dramatic as it used to be.  In the end, I may end up going to Ye Olde Eletronics Store to plunk down a few c-notes for a tower.  While I may lose nerd points for that, I’m pretty sure I don’t have many left after buying that iMac in the first place. 😉

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RANDOM REVIEW: Nokia Lumia 520 / Windows Phone 8

My God, its full of squares!

My God, its full of squares!

THERE AND BACK AGAIN

It was only a matter of time before I cracked and ended my ‘dumbphone’ experiment.  But what to get next?  I had already owned two Android phones in the past, both of which became progressively crappier as they got older, so Android was a no-go.  I have no desire to own an iPhone, despite owning an iPad mini that I am happy with.  Thus, I thought I would give the ‘other’ mobile OS a try: Windows Phone.  I went to Ye Olde Electronics Store, picked up a Nokia Lumia 520 AT&T GoPhone, signed up for a $60 a month unlimited talk/text plan with 2GB of data, and hoped for the best.

This is actually my second exposure to a Microsoft mobile operating system.  My first smartphone was a T-Mobile Dash (aka HTC Excalibur) back in the dark days of Windows Mobile 6.  While it was not a bad device, Windows Mobile 6 was an odd duck and I switched from it to Android once I had the chance.  So, I’m back to where I started, as far as smartphones go.

This review is based on my having owned the phone for three weeks, with my last phone being an Acatel 871A.

HARDWARE

In terms of hardware, the Lumia 520 is basic: a 4-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 800×480, a 5MP camera on the back with no flash, and WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS.  On the top left is a standard 3.5″ headphone jack, on the bottom center is a micro-USB charge/transfer port, and volume/power/camera buttons adorn the right side of the unit.  Back, Start and Search buttons sit below the screen.  (Side note: I really wish Search buttons on phones would go away, bring back the Menu button!)  The phone uses a micro-SIM, and comes with 8GB of built-in memory that can be expanded using a microSD card.  I like having the power button on the right center, though it took just a little bit of getting used to.  The back has a rubbery finish, which I actually prefer, and I believe the screen is glass.  The phone is solid without feeling too cheap.  The only thing missing in terms of hardware is a front-facing camera and a status LED of some sort: my last phone (Motorola Photon) had a status LED which enabled me to quickly look at it and identify what the last notification was or charge status by its color.

Call quality has been good and I was able to successfully sync the phone with my vehicle via Bluetooth for hands-free operation.  The phone’s speaker is quite loud; I don’t believe I have missed any calls yet for not being able to hear the ringtone, a problem I have had with other phones in the past.

I do have a few gripes with the hardware, the screen seems to love finger oils and gets dirty very quickly, so much so that I’m considering investing in a screen protector.  While Nokia and Microsoft like to tout the Lumias’ super-sensitive screen, it is a bit too sensitive for me, but it can be adjusted.  This is my first exposure to AT&T’s LTE service, and while its speeds have not been as awesome as I have become accustomed to on my Verizon iPad mini it is fast enough to do what I need and even video has worked well.

WINDOWS PHONE

I’m sure many of you reflexively said ‘WINDOWS, EWW,” upon reading the title of this post, but I like Windows, and thank you for continuing to read.  I have used Windows for years, it lets me do whatever I want to with it, and I know how to burrow into it and get my hands dirty if need be.  Sure, Windows 8 does leave a bit to be desired, but I’ll take even that over OS X or Linux any day.  While Windows is a great big negative for many people, (especially in the mobile world) it is a plus for me.

So, Windows Phone, then.  The biggest difference between Windows Phone and its competition is the Start Screen and its use of ‘live tiles,’ instead of icons.  Live Tiles display information in real-time, such as the number of emails you have waiting or random pictures of folks in the People tile.  The system is pretty flexible in terms of letting you arrange them.  One of the first things I did was remove of most of them, particularly the AT&T apps, most of which require monthly fees.  I guess $60 a month isn’t enough.

Unlike Android and iOS, which arrange their home screens horizontally, Windows Phone does things vertically: instead of swiping right and left, you swipe up and down to navigate the Start Screen.  Swiping from right to left pulls over a full list of apps ordered alphabetically, and tapping a letter in a list brings up a screen with the alphabet so you can quickly find things.  I like the Modern/Metro user interface; one thing that I greatly appreciate is that text is actually readable.  One beef I’ve had with previous smartphones is how darn tiny text is often displayed, so having big letters I can easily read is great.

ppl

Raccoons are people too!

While there is a minor learning curve with Windows Phone, the biggest adjustment I had to make is that Windows Phone does not have a ‘phonebook’ or ‘contacts’ app.  Instead, your contacts are stored in an app named ‘People’ that can be synced to include your contacts from Facebook, Google, Hotmail or even Twitter.  The integration with other services and social media websites is very impressive:  When you pull up a person’s information in the People app you can see their latest status update and in addition to the usual ‘call’ and ‘send text’ options you can send emails, post to their Facebook walls, or even mention them on Twitter.  Windows Phone does its best to sync your contacts with social media profiles, if it doesn’t catch one, you can actually specify which profile to match up to a contact. Very nice!

Another thing that has impressed me about Windows Phone is how quickly push notifications come: I will be chatting with a friend on Facebook on another device and my phone will beep within seconds of receiving a chat reply.  It becomes mildly annoying but is a small price to pay for expediency.

One of the problems I had with Android phones is the lack of system updates: unless you buy a Google-branded phone or a super-pricey one you could expect one or maybe two updates at best, then either the manufacturer calls it a day or the carrier decides to be a jerk and not push any new updates through in the hope you’ll get a new phone.  One thing I quickly noticed about Windows Phone is that I could not specify a custom ringtone for app notifications or e-mails.  I did a little research and learned that Microsoft had pushed out an update that fixed the problem.  I checked for updates, but none were to be found.  Crap.  Time will tell if that will change, but for now custom notification sounds are a no-go (you can assign specific ringtones to people, though).  This is an annoyance, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to survive without my phone telling me “You’ve Got F-ing Mail.” 😉

APPS

And now we get to the elephant in the room: Apps.  You may have heard that the Windows Store does not have as many apps as the other guys and yes, that is very true.  I myself use very few apps (which made it easier to stop using a smartphone in the first place) but even then, there are some notable ones missing, such as Dropbox.  Dropbox is a pretty significant omission, but Microsoft is more than happy to provide built-in SkyDrive support as well as a Microsoft Office app.

I like that there is an official genuine Office app included, even if it is a bit stripped down.  Microsoft Office alternatives, in my experience, have ranged from ‘pretty good’ to ‘ick.’  So while it is a bit inconvenient to have to migrate my stuff over to SkyDrive from Dropbox, I think it will be worth it in the long run.  If you are considering making the jump to Windows Phone and you are an app junkie, it would definitely behoove you to double-check and make sure your favorites are available on Windows Phone.  The included apps do their jobs well, but the included HERE Drive + navigation app did get a little squirrelly during a recent trip.

The 520 is responsive, though I will occasionally see a “Resuming…” screen for a few seconds when switching from app to app (Quick tip: holding the ‘Back’ key brings up your currently open apps) but otherwise the phone performs well.  I should note that I do not play games on my phone so I can’t vouch for its performance there.

CONCLUSION

I have been happy with my Nokia Lumia 520 and Windows Phone thus far.  There was a bit of a learning curve involved with Windows Phone but now that I know my way around, it is a pleasure to use.  While there are a few minor annoyances, my overall experience with the 520 has been positive.  The Nokia Lumia 520 is a basic, but quality device that is priced right at $100.  That it is a no-contract phone is icing on the cake; unless you are constantly streaming music and/or video, 2GB is enough data for most people.

That said, Windows Phone is not for everybody.  If you like customizing your phone, get an Android.  If you are highly invested in Apple’s ecosystem or have an iOS device that you already love, get an iPhone.  If you are new to smartphones, actually like Microsoft and their services (Hotmail, SkyDrive, etc) I say that Windows Phone is definitely worth a try.

Nokia Lumia 520 gets 4 out of 5 Live Tiles.

The author received no compensation for this review.

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