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  • BlackBerry Storm no iPhone Competitor, but maybe Palm webOS and Google G1

    Posted on January 27th, 2009 Shawn No comments

    iPhone 3GI think there is a simple recipe to call something an iPhone competitor, or as many like to call “the iPhone killer”. After using the BlackBerry Storm for more than two months, and analyzing the mobile device market, I can say the Storm is not an iPhone killer.

    The simple determination is about how RIM designed the software for the device. They adapted the tried and true BlackBerry OS for touchscreen and keyboard-less environments. That in itself makes the Storm out of contention for the iPhone killer title. To be a real iPhone competitor, a software/OS developer has to do what Apple did. They need to start from scratch and build an OS for the device. Apple did it, RIM did not. It doesn’t make the Storm bad, it just does not make it an iPhone competitor.
    Now, Palm’s upcoming webOS (on the Palm Pre) as well as Google’s Android (on the G1) have the potential of being iPhone BlackBerry Stormcompetitors. Simply, because Google and Palm did what Apple did, they built a mobile OS from scratch focusing on new hardware and new touchscreen capabilities.

    As of now, the G1 still has a way to go, but has potential. Palm’s webOS is not yet in the hands of the public, but looks to be a direct rip-off of Apple’s iPhone OS.

    This story will continue, but we can close the door on the iPhone OS and the Storm OS being competitors. There is no competition here. iPhone OS was built for capacitive touchscreens and other newer hardware. The Storm’s OS is adapted for the same types of technologies, but is not a rewrite. Case closed.

  • First Impression of Leaked BlackBerry Storm Update (

    Posted on January 22nd, 2009 Shawn No comments

    BlackBerry StormAfter spending a whopping five hours with the new leaked OS, I’m ready to drop a bullet list of first impressions. I installed the leaked Storm OS update this morning, on top of the previously leaked OS ( My first impression is based on features that I didn’t see in earlier releases. See other posts for my feedback on earlier releases.

    First Impression of Leaked BlackBerry Storm Update (
    * Application Center. Old icon is back, replacing the new icon in previous OS updates.
    * MySpace Application. Added to the Application Center. I’m not a MySpace user, so doesn’t excite me much.
    * QWERTY keyboard now available in portrait mode. The keyboard has not been vetted with the entire OS, as the setup screen still only offers SureType and MultiTap. Also, the new portrait QWERTY keyboard, has some characters that run off the keys. Looks a little bizarre. Though, I’m glad to see a QWERTY option for portrait. It is a nice add-on feature.
    * Landscape QWERTY Keyboard. Displays larger letters on each key. Keys remain the same size, just larger letters.
    * Home Screen. Larger text on icons, only on home screen in portrait.
    * Icons. Scroll smoother than earlier releases.
    * Camera / Video Recorder. UI is transparent, showing more of the image on screen. This was in the last update, but I only confirmed today that the Video Recorder had the UI update. Camera appears to take quicker photos.
    * LED. No more issues with LED after disconnecting Bluetooth. This issue arose in the previous OS update.
    * Phone. Test throughout the Phone application is larger. The larger text may be nice for some users, though in some areas there is text overlap. Text overlaps specifically during a call where the display says, “My Number”. The text and my phone number slightly overlap.
    * Pictures (Media Player). First load took about 20 seconds to load. After first load, all was fine.
    * Videos (Media Player). Does not play over A2DP (Bluetooth Stereo) headset. This issue has been in all recent OS updates, and is quite disappointing. It existed in earlier OS releases and have been gone for three recent updates.
    * Music (Media Player). Long podcasts, over 1.5 hours, can not pause/skip past the 35 minute mark. If paused/skipped after 35 minutes, the podcast restarts. This happens in the Music player, as well as 3rd party PodTrapper.
    * Voice Notes Recorder. Still does not save voice notes. They record, and appear to save. Though, when you go back to view the list of recorded notes, there is nothing. This has been around for several OS updates.

    Stability seems fine, so far. The big update is the portrait QWERTY keyboard. It’s a nice first attempt, and could you a little fine tuning. The biggest negatives lie in the Media area, which is unfortunate for a potential great media device. No Bluetooth for videos, Voice Notes not saving, and Music player still missing some key features (bookmarks, skip buttons, long podcast capability).

    I’ll use this leak for the next week, and make updates to the post as needed.

  • Another BlackBerry Storm OS ( Leaked

    Posted on January 22nd, 2009 Shawn No comments

    Just leaked late Thursday night is the latest in an ongoing series of leaked OS updates for the BlackBerry Storm. I have downloaded each and will continue to do so. Each update brings improvements to the device, but also introduces new issues.

    NOTE: The new leak has a version for the 9500 and 9530 Storm.

    None of the OS’s (excepting and have been officially released by RIM or Verizon. That said, I do not recommend you load any of the leaked OS’ onto your Storm.

    I haven’t used it yet, but here’s some early feedback from CrackBerry:

    With that, I’m going to get it now, with an update later.
    Link for 9530 leak.
    Link for 9500 leak.

    Check back.

    UPDATE: There are a couple things I have immediately heard that I need to let you in on.
    * There is now a landscape QWERTY keyboard. This is huge news.
    * People are talking about camera issues, and Capture It not working.

  • Slacker on the Storm!

    Posted on January 14th, 2009 Shawn No comments

    Slacker Mobile is on the BlackBerry. See earlier posts for details. Though, at release last week, they announce it was not available for the Storm. Wrong, it works on the Storm

    Default Slacker works on Storm…
    No need to wait for official supported version.

    Go direct to OTA install:

    – disable compatibility mode
    – if you get IP error, just register via PC
    – allow ALL firewall access requests

  • Storm Update

    Posted on January 13th, 2009 Shawn No comments

    I’ve spent some quality time with the leaked OS update ( for the Storm. See earlier post for details.

    Here’s my quick take on it so far. There’s good and there is bad:
    * Camera: Takes photos much faster, still it’s not fast enough. The UI is now transparent, which is different from all previous installs. Looks real slick.
    * Voice Notes: They record, but they don’t save. I’ve done a couple soft resets and they are not showing up. I’ve also removed/reinstalled my media card. So, this feature has been broken for the last two builds as far as I have seen.
    * Music: When searching for music, my search returns nothing. Though, after I remove/reinstall my media card and it scans…and my music is searchable. This problem existed in the previous two OS versions and still remains.
    * Bluetooth video: No Bluetooth audio (A2DP) for videos. This vanished after the offical .75 release and is a real disappointment.
    * Browser: The browser appears to be snappier. Displays pages and images faster.
    * Keyboard: It’s still laggy on the browser. I type and I will be 5 letter ahead of what’s displaying on the keyboard. This makes it tough to type quickly.
    * Media Card: I no longer see the “Media Card Installed” error which would force a battery pull. That’s a great fix.

    Overall, this build looks to improve slightly on the .85 build. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but I will stick with it.

  • BlackBerry Storm New OS Leaked,

    Posted on January 12th, 2009 Shawn 1 comment

    BlackBerry StormQuick update. If you are a junky of “hot off the press” software that isn’t even listed yet as beta, get your Storm ready. Late last night an updated Storm OS hit the intertubes,

    WARNING: Do this at your own risk! I don’t condone running this software. But I am an addict, so I have done it, and my Storm did not crap it’s pants...yet.

    Here’s the two minute update.
    * I was on a clean install of the leaked .85 OS.
    * I downloaded the .86 release from the
    * I did a backup with Desktop Manager (DM), did not wipe.
    * Ran the install and walked away from the desk. When I returned, I had to OK the Update on my Storm. Other than that, All ran as expected via DM.
    * I’m now on .86, and have only tested for about 2 minutes. All looks to have restored fine. I’ll report more.

    If you got it, let us know what you think. Check back for updates.

  • Hello PodTrapper, Goodbye iTunes

    Posted on January 2nd, 2009 Shawn No comments

    It feels so good to say goodbye to iTunes. I’m not an iPod (or iPhone) user. I don’t buy music from iTunes. “So” you ask, “why, prey tell do you use iTunes?” Well, you see, I’m a podcast junky. Everything I obsess about on this blog, I scour the Earth to find podcasts about. Generally, iTunes has always been an easy to use, single repository to find podcasts and easily download them.

    I typically sync podcasts to my mobile devices (Palm Treos, BlackBerry Storm) for listening when on the road. The downside to this is many. First, iTunes doesn’t play well with Palm Treo 650 or 700p (my old devices) and is not very usable at the moment with BlackBerry syncing. With years of syncing music to mobile devices, I have become very accustomed to using Windows Media Player to sync my music. It works quite well with any device that supports MTP, which both Palm’s and BlackBerry’s do well.

    Though, having to find podcasts in iTunes, download them in iTunes, sync Windows Media Player with my iTunes library, and then sync my BlackBerry (or Palm) to Windows Media Player…just blows, to put it frankly. I have gotten used to it, but don’t like it. I have always wanted a utility on my mobile device that would allow me to grab podcasts directly to my device, without needing my computer (plus iTunes and WMP) as the middleman. Now I have it!
    Enter, PodTrapper by Versatile Monkey, a fairly young application for the BlackBerry operating system. There have been a few reviews of PodTrapper on the intertubes recently, which is how I learned about it. Thanks to a 30-day trial, I was able to give it a go. I started the trial with PodTrapper 1.4, and thanks to a sale at bought it this week. It’s $9.99 regular price, but keep a watchful eye on 20% discounts (like I found at CrackBerry). Just yesterday, PodTrapper upgraded to version 1.5, which is the version that I’ll focus on.

    PodTrapper does several things right, and a few wrong. Let’s first talk about what’s right.

    * It works with the Storm. Since I have the all touchscreen Storm, it’s important that any app developed pre-Storm has been ported over. Version 1.5 works natively with the Storm, whereas version 1.4 required to you Disable Compatibility Mode.
    * Main screen and menu is easy to use, with options to add, edit, and delete podcasts; change global settings; view currently downloading casts; and more.
    * Settings allow you to configure when to download, like only over WiFi or desktop, to save on bandwidth; or only when recharging, to save on battery. I have set mine to download over cellular networks and/or desktop, and at any time. So, I know that battery will drain a bit while my casts are downloading. But downloading works great.
    * Adding a podcast, is good and bad. With version 1.4, it was just bad…forcing you to manually type in a URL to a podcast. That’s where iTunes was a champion, no URL’s needed. Though, in PodTrapper 1.5 things are getting better. You can browse a library of thousands of podcasts to download. This uses the BB internet browser and a menu item add-on titled “Subscribe to Podcast”. This Browse and Subscribe model takes me earily close to searching for podcasts in iTunes. I did notice a few of my favorites were not in the browse, such as X3F Fancast, Xbox Live’s Major Nelson Radio, and Pandora Presents… Though, many others were there, plus some new casts that I had not seen before. The Browse and Subscribe section was just introduced this week and is a good start. It needs to time add more casts, plus the “Subscribe to Podcast” menu item disappeared once and I had to do a battery pull to get it back. I’m very happy with it so far, and see Browse getting better. If you know the URL for a podcast, it’s a piece of cake to add that by typing in (or pasting) the URL.
    * The home screen using icons to alert you of newly downloaded casts, casts not yet downloaded, and casts that you have partially listened to, but not finished.
    * “Auto Bookmark” feature, is the best way to call this. PodTrapper is also a player for casts (and anything stored on your device). The biggest selling point was the ability to listen to part of a podcast, and finish listening later without having to start at the beginning. I call it “auto bookmarking”. You can have many casts partially listened too, and they will all retain where you left off. This is a major missing feature of the BlackBerry default Music player, and PodTrapper get’s it right.
    * It’s very configurable. Some I mentioned above, though you can have it download a certain number of casts at once to save battery and bandwidth, plus you can configure how many of a specific casts you want stored on your device to preserve memory.

    What could be improved:
    * Right now there is no support for Album Art. Since many podcasts supply static (and sometimes dynamic) album art, this should be added in the future.
    * The UI, although quite usable, looks like a 7th graders programming project. It’s not slick, as you’d expect an app on newer mobile devices to look. The UI needs some graphic love.
    * The browse feature (mentioned above), needs to have a library as extensive as iTunes. It’s good now, just needs to grow. Plus there is a bug in the “Subscribe to Podcast” menu item that needs to be fixed.
    * Some bugs. I tried to delete a podcast, but got a 0% complete dialog box. When I it the BB back key to close out, I got the BB clock logo and PodTrapper froze. I was able to use every other feature on the Storm, but PodTrapper would only display the frozen clock. My fix was a battery pull.
    * On screen player buttons could be more responsive.  On the Storm, I need to hit the play/pause button 3 times whenever I want to use it.

    For $9.99 (or $7.99 if you can find the discount), It’s worth it if you are a podcast junky. Though, I believe this should be a native application on the Storm or Bold since RIM is trying to market these devices to the media junky consumers, like me. Since these features are not built into the native BB Music player, this is a must have app for me. Now, I have already added all my favorite podcasts into PodTrapper (plus a few new ones thanks to the Browse feature), and have deleted all from iTunes. Now, the only time I need to sync is if I’m copying music from my harddrive to my Storm, which will be much less frequent thanks to all my podcasts.

    UPDATE: I just used PodTrapper to download my first video podcast. Some great, and not so greats here. First, the video’s can play directly from PodTrapper. GREAT. Video quality is superb, as this is really the first time I have used the Storm for video.  Looks beautiful.  GREAT. The Storm accelerometer allows the screen to rotate landscape/portrait. GREAT, sort of. In portrait it’s buggy and hows only a portion of the screen and a partial keyboard. NOT GREAT. I can’t figure out how to pause, stop, or mute a video while it’s playing. No volume control either. NOT GREAT at work. Fortunately, the BB Media Player immediately adds video podcasts to the list of Videos, so they can be played in the Bb Media Player with full control.  GREAT.  Unfortunately, they are named like “105_127” instead of the title of the video, making it tough decipher what the content is without opening it up. NOT GREAT. At first glance, I was uber-excited about the video feature, but it need a lot of work for primetime.

    For those of you interested in what podcasts I am listening too, here’s the list:
    * 2old2type Radio (found with the Browse feature)
    * BB Geeks
    * Podcast
    * donkey wrangler to the stars (found with the Browse feature)
    * Internet Storm Center Threat Update
    * Jay Severin Podcasts
    * Pandora Presents… the Musicology Show
    * Security Bites
    * The WordPress Community
    * X3F Fancast Defense Force Podcast
    * X3F TV (found with the Browse feature)
    * Xbox Live’s Major Nelson Radio

    Do you listen to podcasts while on the go? If so, how do you roll?

  • My Top Obsessions of 2008

    Posted on December 31st, 2008 Shawn 1 comment

    As we wind down 2008 and wind up 2009, let me recap on the obsessions that have kept me coming back to the blog. In looking over the past 12 months, I’ll highlight the top seven obsessions that have swallowed up all my free time this past year. I’ll also take a look at what obsessions might be cropping up for 2009.

    Here are the obsessions in order of importance to me.

    Picture the ball dropping, and countdown on…
    10, 9, 8…

    7. Death of My Treo Obsession.
    After four dedicated years to the Palm OS and the Treo lineup, and the blog formerly named My Treo Obsession, the obsession that started this blog has ended. I have handed my Treo to my 3 year old son as his new toy phone, and my Treo 700p to my 2 year old daughter for her new toy phone.

    6. New Xbox Experience.
    The Xbox 360 is my console of choice (though do use a Wii nearly as much) and the New Xbox Experience (NXE) was a fun obsession this year. We got to hear the rumors, leaks, and beta testing of a cool dashboard for the Xbox 360, which in November brought new life to the 3+ year old gaming system. I really haven’t played with NXE much since it came out, due to other obsessions taking up much of my time…also, my general rule when it comes to Xbox is, (1) turn it on (2) start Rock Band 2.

    5. Guns N’ Roses – Chinese Democracy.
    Well this is an obsession that has spanned a decade+, and finally came to fruition (well, sort of) in November 2008. Axl Rose, and an entirely new band, finally released Chinese Democracy. So, the hype was of course huge and the album…well, more of a let down to most. But, honestly, something that was hyped for about 14 years is guaranteed to never match expectations. I can say that I have only listened to the CD three times, which either means I don’t really love it, or maybe I just got old in the past 14 years. You decide. None the less, it was a very exciting past few months discussing GNR all over again. I felt like I was back in high school again.

    4. Drumming Stuff.
    You may know that I’m a long time drummer. If it weren’t for Rock Band and all the other rhythm games out this year, I probably would have not talked much about drumming on the blog. But, thanks to Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero World Tour, Rock Revolution, and others, drumming was a big part of the year. From the new kits with the games, to the ION Drum Rocker, to me building (and temporarily failing) a custom Roland/Yamaha kit to work with Rock Band, it was a great year for electronic drumming. I can anticipate that in 2009, this obsession will likely continue. As my Rock Band drum kit recently died (red pad is a goner), and I plan to continue my soldering challenges of building a custom Roland/Yamaha kit to work with Rock Band, 2009 will be a big year for my drumming obsession.

    3. BlackBerry Storm.
    Although the Storm has been on the top of my blog posts lately, it tops out at #3 this year. The hype leading up to RIM’s for touchscreen device was just awesome. The release date flops and “not ready for prime time” OS that it released on, made for great posts and quite an obsession. Now it’s stabilizing, and 3rd party apps are cropping up everywhere. For me, I have enjoyed the Storm since I got it, and continue to love it more every day. Since this blog was founded on gadget obsessions, I’m sure the Storm and BB in general will play a big role in 2009 obsessions.
    2. Rock Band 2.
    This has taken a big part of my life in 2008. What a game! What a soundtrack! What a fun way to listen to music! On and on. I just love this game and everything about it. Rock Band (and Rock Band 2) has brought me back to gaming, has brought me back to drumming and singing, has brought me closer to friends and family (though my wife would disagree), has given me a way to stay close to people who are geographically far away. I get excited every Friday to hear about the new downloadable content (DLC), and rush home Tuesday nights to play with friends. In 2009, I see this genre remaining big on my obsession list, possibly with focus on new DLC or possibly the rumors of a Rock Band 3.

    1. You, the readers.
    Corny, I know. You may not know this, since I only blog about it once or twice a year, but I spend a lot of time watching statistics of the site. I love seeing what the sites visitors are reading, where in the world they live, and what keeps you coming back for more. As much as I started this blog for myself, it’s built up a few occasional writers (I’m always looking for more writers) and thousands of visitors. In the six months I’ve been using Google Analytics to follow site statistics, I’m happy too see over 5,000 visitors a month and steadily growing. My current target is 9,000 visitors a month by Summer. I’m happy to see some people taking advantage of the Store offerings we added this year (sponsored by Amazon, Best Buy, and Google), and just glad to see that people enjoy reading and discussing the same things that I obsess about. Thank you!

    With that, we’ve come to the end…

    Happy New Year!

    Please share your top obsessions in comments below.

  • BlackBerry Storm Tip: No Bluetooth Needed When Driving

    Posted on December 31st, 2008 Shawn No comments

    BlackBerry StormHere’s what I think is a huge handsfree feature of the Storm, especially for those using their Storm while in the car. Of course, many places have outlawed using any mobile device (phone, texting, etc) while driving, plus it’s not very safe to be fiddling with your phone while trying to focus on the road. So, many of us have turned to using Bluetooth devices while driving. For the majority, it’s a single-ear Bluetooth headset, for a few it’s the two-ear Stereo Bluetooth headset, for even fewer there is the Bluetooth speaker/handsfree device, and for those with newer (fancy schmancy cars) there is Bluetooth built into the car audio system.

    This post focuses on us without those new-fang dangled cars with built in Bluetooth, and it also focuses on people who don’t want to use up precious Storm battery life with the draining Bluetooth radio.

    The Storm comes with a standard 3.5mm headset jack, which is the key to this tip. That standard jack can be used for wired headsets, headphones, or any wired audio output. As long as your car stereo has either an axillary (AUX) in, or a cassette deck (I know a couple of you still have these) then this tip will work for you.
    1a) If you have an AUX jack on your car stereo, get a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm Stereo audio cable from your local store (Radio Shack, Wal-Mart, Target, etc).
    1b) If you have a cassette deck on your car stereo, get a cassette adapter from your local store (same stores as above).
    2) Plug the 3.5mm cable into your Storm headset jack, and either put the cassette adapter into your cassette deck or the other 3.5mm cable into your AUX jack.
    3) Make sure your car stereo is on to the correct output (i.e. cassette or AUX). You are almost done.

    Now, you have your Storm ready to send all audio (phone and music) to your car stereo. What’s even better (and the big part of this tip) is the Storm microphone is enhanced when using the headset jack to answer calls.

    4) When call comes in (or you place a call out) answer the phone with the green phone button (as you normally would). You may need to press the soft-button for “Headset” which will send the phone call to your car speakers instead of the Storm handset (or speakerphone). The microphone will pick up your voice even if you leave the phone in a cradle or cup holder. It will also filter out most of the engine noise.

    I have been doing this for over a month, and callers say my voice is clear and loud. No longer do I need to use a Bluetooth headset when in the car.

    To make it one step better, start using your Storm as your music player while driving. play your music with the BlackBerry Music player plugged into your stereo with the above setting. When a call comes in, your music will pause and your call will come through. Once the call is ended, the music will resume. Works like a charm.

    Try it, let me know what you think.

  • 12/29 Update: New Storm OS ( In the Wild

    Posted on December 29th, 2008 Shawn No comments

    BlackBerry StormThis is the 2nd unofficial OS update for the 9530 Storm (only for Verizon) within the past two weeks. The last leaked update, .83, had mixed reviews…most were positive. Though, I would not recommend the .83 update.  It made my Storm quite unstable, and the trade off of fixed features was not worth the issues it introduced.

    I’m now downloading the latest leaked OS, .85, and plan to install this afternoon. I’ll report back soon.

    Here’s the link if you want it: (thanks CrackBerry)

    If you install this on your Storm, leave comments below with your feedback.


    I just did the update.  Here’s where I’m at:

    * Ran JL_Cmdr first, which wipes the device.  I figured with four OS updates and several installed buggy apps, it was time for a full wipe.  Details here:
    * Then ran the install just like previous Storm OS updates.
    * After the install, Time Zone is set to Bogata, though I was expecting Eastern.
    * First impression, OS seems snappier out of the box.  Accelerometer is definitely faster.  We will see once I get some apps loaded and running again.


    * Visual Voice Mail was unusable in .75 and .83.  I called VZW on this last week, and they confirmed many open tickets on VVM.  They wouldn’t tell me if there was a workaround, they just said they’d call me back…and didn’t call me. With .85, I click the “Login” button, and nothing happens.  I then try by tapping the BB button and bring up the menu, then click “Login”.  That closes the VMM app and returns an error: Uncaught exception: java.lang.ClassCastException. So, no confirmation if VMM works or not in .85, but signs point to no.


    * After deleting (Options > Advanced Options > Applications) VVM, and re-installing from Application Center, I’m still not able to login to VMM.  This has existed since the official release of .75.  I’ll be contacting VZW on Monday to resolve or cancel.
    * Music player has several issues that were seen in .83 and continue. The Slider typically never moves when attempting to FF or Rew a track.
    * Also, there seems to be a file size limit causing an issue with FF.  I’ve noticed any long podcasts (>49 minutes) are not able to FF past the 49 minute mark. If attempted to FF after 49 minutes, the track starts over…though the timer on the Slider continues to count past 49 minutes. This problem also occurs if you pause and unpause a track after the 49 minute mark.  It also restarts.  Without any bookmarking feature (which is desperately needed for a multi-media device), this makes listening to podcasts quite difficult.


    * Where’s my LED? I have not seen the LED light up at all since upgrading to .85.
    * My email no longer gives me the options of “Delete in Mailbox & Handheld” etc. After looking at my Email settings (Setup > Email Settings > Edit) there is a greyed out checked box “Synchronization of deleted items is unavailable because Wireless Reconciliation is disabled on your device.”  How do I fix this?


    * LED was set to off (Options > Screen/Keyboard > LED coverage Indicator). Set it to on and LED is working as expected.
    * The screen dims/brightens based on lighting. I noticed it last night while sitting in the car.  The screen was dim, then I turned on the interior light of my car and the screen brightened up.  Very cool and possibly a power saver. This might have been in earlier builds, but I didn’t notice it until .85
    * Windows Media Player (WMP) loses all saved settings (via MTP) when I do OS updates.  I use WMP to sync my music/podcasts everyday. With each OS update, WMP loses the device details and I have to set it back up, then set up my sync preferences. It typically loses my previously synced history too and will duplicate synced songs. It’s not the end of the world, but I wish there was a way to retain the sync settings in WMP when an OS is updated.

    Check back for updates

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