22 Dec. 2008
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RIKLReviewTM The BlackBerry Storm (Part 3)

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

QSL cards are typically 5-1/2" by 3-1/2 inches, are often very pretty, and occasionally are very dense in terms of fine print.  If you've been an amateur radio operator almost all your life, they are quite the burden to store and sort, since you will have acquired many thousands of them since the beginning of your ham career.  They are both irreplaceable and almost completely without monetary value, which makes them uninsurable as well.  A few years ago I got the notion that it would be nice to augment my fragile card collection with electronic copies, so that neither fire nor flood could obliterate them.  Only recently did I come upon the hardware necessary to do this efficiently and cheaply; a month later I had them electronically imaged.

Now what?  In addition to appending them to my "logbook," I thought it would be nice to carry the whole collection with me.  My capacious albeit small-screened iPod comfortably absorbed them along with my music, but the iPod didn't display them to great advantage.  So, I tried to load them into the Storm.

And succeeded.  Unlike the iPod, which has its own bizarre notion of how to "organize" things, the Storm followed my scheme, which I like, and which is mine.  (I title the card images with the station call letters, and put them in "folders" with the first letter of the country prefix, e.g., D for Germany or K for the USA, and then into subfolders with their country name.)  A lifetime's collection of these cards goes for about a Gigabyte, which easily fits on the 8GB media card that comes with the Storm.  At least it does if the card hasn't already been almost filled with music. Since I'm still experimenting, and the 16GB memory cards will surely come down in price, I just put a subset of cards on the Storm internal memory instead.  I can now show anyone a card from any country on earth except for North Korea.

(And the Confusing)

My experience in transferring the card images to the Storm was a bit confusing.  For whatever reason, using the Storm as a mass storage device is problematic.  The Storm appears on the PC as the device itself and the Media Card, each of which has an identically named group of sub-folders.  Sometimes they show up as two separate drive letters, sometimes one shows up as a drive and the other does not.  I have no idea why.  I finally gave up and used the BlackBerry Desktop Manager application that comes with the Storm and it allowed me to transfer the files without ambiguity.  This application includes the Roxio media manager, which purports to locate and sort media files and "synchronize" the Storm with the PC.  With iTunes and Roxio dueling over my "media," I frequently wish they'd both give up the fruitless task of synchronizing over a hundred GB of data with a much smaller handheld.  But they try so hard to be helpful that I've given up fighting and try to work around them. 

The good, of course, is that I was eventually able to get the pictures onto the Storm.  The beautiful is that the card images looked spectacular.  I've already mentioned how much I like the screen brightness and resolution.  Unfortunately, it's impossible to show you just how nice it looks.  That won't stop me from trying:

This is an actual photograph of the Storm screen displaying a card.

This is the back of the card.  The very fine print is legible, albeit only just.

Cards from the South Pacific are often spectacular!

I should emphasize that the photos of the screens were taken with an ordinary consumer camera in ordinary consumer hands.  At best, they can look only almost as good as the Storm itself.  If I've guessed correctly, they will be modestly larger than "actual size" (2" by 2-3/4") on your screen.  The Storm screen has a finer dot pitch than the typical monitor.

American or Western?

If you're thinking (as you might well be if you're not a ham yourself), "What is the purpose of archiving QSL cards instead of some nice family photos," I'll relate a brief episode.  This past summer I was on a bus tour.  The driver was from Samoa and one day as the group was straggling onto the bus after a brief photo stop, I asked him:  "American or Western?"  Yes, there isn't just one, there are samoa of them.  "Western" he said, with a bemused look.  I immediately scrolled to a QSL card from his homeland.  I don't think he made any extra effort to avoid me after that, but I suspect that he was at least a tiny bit surprised to see a card from his homeland on an iPod, which was what I was using at the time.  With the Storm, I'm sure he would still have been able to contain his bemusement, but the card would have looked a lot nicer.

The Bad

I've tried making brief videos with the Storm camera.  (Please note I've said nothing about the camera picture quality yet.  I'm still doing research.)  It would be fair to say that the video recorder is buggy.  In three tries, I had one work and another refuse to play back, claiming the "format" was wrong even though I had just recorded it on the same device.  The third, taken just this morning, crashed the Storm.  When I stopped recording, the screen froze.  At first I assumed that the video was in process of being stored in memory and there was just no hourglass icon or "Please Stand By" equivalent.  After a minute of inactivity, I tried to exit and found that the Storm was completely non-responsive.  Escalating my button pushing, I was unable to even turn it off.  The only thing that worked (of course!) was removing the battery.  When I restored power, it took several minutes to get going again.  As far as I know, nothing was corrupted, and the video actually played.  Even so, unlike the idiopathic "problems" I reported earlier, I am convinced that the video recording function is seriously buggy.

So What About the 3.2 Megapixels Already?


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