My first days with a Chromebook

The evening before my final exams1 I bought a Samsung Chromebook, to be precise the 303C12 A012. It was one of these eBay bids which you do when you are nervous and try to get your mind of things – 210€ for a Chromebook, which retails for 299€ in Germany3 is what I consider quite a deal. But that’s not so important.

What do I think of the device? It is a great little laptop. Keyboard, Display and Touchpad seem better to me than the ones of my Lenovo Thinkpad Edge E320, which wasn’t exactly super expensive either, but still, this is impressive. Then there is the software, which is beautiful, but not too feature rich. Chromebook still lacks a few apps for me, but it is pretty much ok, and I knew before that it would be difficult to do the switch. And then, there is always the option to Crouton and have “a real OS” like Ubuntu.

What is disappointing though is the following:

  • that Google Docs isn’t enabling offline mode per default on your Chromebook
  • that offline GMail is strangely broken on my unstable dev-version of ChromeOS ;)
  • that I couldn’t find a way yet to get a decent frontend for Feedly (I strongly dislike their website), which is for now my feed reader of choice (and which is great via Reeder on my iPad)4
  • that I couldn’t figure out yet how to use Evernote offline
  • that I couldn’t figure out yet how to use WordPress offline

Maybe I will upgrade to the 3G version, but even with Germanys 2nd best mobile network, Vodafone, you face some offline time here and there. So many of the problems described may remain.

Still, it’s a good first impression with plenty more to figure out and even more to try out.

  1. which btw went really well []
  2. the non-3G one []
  3. which btw is grotesquely high compared to the US pricing… []
  4. I use the iPhone version with FullForce on my jailbroken iPad2. []

iPad 2. First Impressions

So I got myself an iPad 2, to be precise the one with integrated 3G, in order to be connected everywhere.

Why, you may ask, did I do that? Why didn’t you buy a nice honeycomb tablet?
Or a MeeGo tablet, like that good old WeTab? Well, first of all, I have been noticing that I have noticed that I have become real picky about bad usability, and Honeycomb IMHO isn’t that great in terms of that – and as I felt like I would need 3G for my use case, the otherwise o.k. HP TouchPad didn’t seem exactly suitable.
Besides, I am now in the media business and at least as far as the German market is concerned, the iPad is currently THE content platform – almost the only.

When I unboxed it, I became very excited, after having installed iOS 5 on this device, I knew I had entered the often mentioned reality distortion field, that Apple devices are known to impose on their users.

Right now, as I am writing this, I am less than overwhelmed, as I stumbled on a few annoyances, despite those that I expected anyway (iTunes, being forced to spend money in the App Store to have an usable device after all, there isn’t even a voice recorder preinstalled), and so on. The most annoying thing I stumbled upon: if an app (or media file in iTunes) is larger than 20 MB, you will be forced to download this over WiFi, which simply doesn’t make any sense to me at all. I can’t understand why this is so, as downloads in the browser work nicely without any hassle, no matter how large the requested files are – while a warning would certainly be nice to those with a very limited data plan, being forced to find a hotspot near you is a real PITA.

On the other hand, everything is really smooth. I had a few apps that didn’t work too well (itself or in combination with that new split keyboard), some even crashed, but that maybe related to the new features and thus changes Apple introduced with iOS 5. In general, everything’s smooth, and those Music and painting apps are something I’ve been longing for for quite a long time, so I really enjoy that.

But then, there are those mixed feelings again, because of all these limitations, the fact, that I miss certain open source apps and know that it’s virtually impossible to ever use them on this device (more unlikely than it would be on Android, whether it would even be easily doable on the HP TouchPad using the homebrew software Xecutah) – I don’ t really know whether I will actually keep this tablet, which doesn’t lead the tablet market for no reason.

I will keep you updated about me and my iPad – don’t worry, it won’t be more often then, say, monthly.

Acer Stream – Unboxing and first impressions

So I bought myself an Acer Stream, a Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 powered device with an 3.7” WVGA AMOLED screen – sounds similar to the HTC Desire and Nexus One – and well, how shall I put this, it is, but it is cheaper – I was able to buy it for about 220 Euro incl. shipping.

This low pricing comes as no surprise if you look at facts like the number of forum posts about the Acer Stream – it didn´t sell that well, most likely a lot worse than Acers previous device, the Acer Liquid. This maybe happened due to the design of the very device, which is unlike its predecessor not sleek and almost a classic – but different, not ugly but.. well – i don´t know how to put it. What comes to your mind when you look at it is that it is pretty huge compared to devices that feature a similar screen – it´s about 4mm wider than the Nexus One and weighs 140 grams – which is 10 grams more than the Google phone – but that´s it. The overall hardware feels good, but I can´t tell whether the touchscreens surface is made of glass or plastic – I think it´s plastic like the rest of the hardware.

The unit comes with Android 2.1 (Eclair) preinstalled (2.2 (Froyo) Update is available at acer.com/mobile) , with a special interface developed by Acer. Some of you will think “noooo” now, but it isn´t too bad and if you really don´t like it, you can disable it in Settings -> Applications -> User interface. The result is something pretty similar to “vanilla Android”, there are a few differences, though: The Dialer and Contacts App are Acer made, the Music Player and eMail Camera App aren´t the AOSP ones, either.


More soon.

New Netbook (again). First impressions

After giving my old netbook (the VIA C7-M powered 7” Quanta IL-1 based One A120) to my mother so that she can surf the web while being in hospital for cancer treatment, I noticed that I do in fact need a netbook. So I got myself a new one, the Atom Pinetrail powered ASUS Eee PC 1001p.
It is a nice netbook, though I still run Windows XP on it, because I don´t have time right now to install and customize Linux, I just need this beast to work at university – preparing examinations isn´t fun. What I really like is the fact that it is pretty much non glossy – the mouse and power buttons are, the screen bezel is and that´s it, the case is matte and has a carbon like finish.. well, just take a look at it.Of course it lacks some features that were nice to have, e.g. a touchscreen was great, bluetooth not included (in case you need it) and in current distributions the WLan chip (a new Atheros one) is still unsupported – I don´t know whether the LAN is right now (will edit this if necessary). And than there is one more thing: The left shift key is pretty small, while the right one is just huge – as I do use the left one more often than the right one, this is an issue for me, but I feel like I am getting used too, so you most likely will as well. Another keyboard issue: It could be more silent, and it bends a little bit – the bend should be easy to fix, maybe the bend fix will make the keyboard more silent…

That´s it for now. More to follow, possibly.
Otherwise you might want to check out the unboxing video Balazs from nDevil.com [German] made (IMHO the black one I have is much more beautiful ;-) ).

Some more thoughts on G1

Yesterday the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) was finally released in Germany (and lots of other continental european countries) and of course I had to get my hands on it as soon as possible – so i did today.

Before doing so, I thought about how this device would feel in landscape mode, i was wondering how this keyboard would feel as there is this “big thing with buttons” on the left side of it, which is in fact quite unusual comparing the G1 to other QTWERTY keyboard equiped smartphones. I wondered whether I would like the camera at all, how the touchscreen would feel, how the device itself would feel, what about fingerprints and all this.

So I got up early in the morning, just to have a look at the device before university, because I feared that I couldn’t think of anything else after i discovered the day before that the G1 is available from about 300 euros without a plan – which is way lower than i expected, and that it is available with an unattractive plan for (considering not to use that plan at all) for about 270 euro – even less money, still considering to get a brand new device (i am not generally against the G1’s look, I am not one of those that say it looks old fashioned or bad – it is a little bit bulky and not that glossy, but if there is one thing i disliked on my Samsung SGH-i780 besides Windows Mobile, it was its glossyness.

The device I got hold of first, was a white one (I won´t get a white one, anyway ;) ), which seems to have a different surface than the black one – it is rather glossy. First impressions were quite positive, the browser is really OK (not as great as the iPhones one, but still great) the touchscreen is really very reactive (you could say capacitive ;-) ) – I thought that maybe panning down the top bar (those familiar to Android will know what I mean) would be difficult – it isn´t at all. Works really as it should. Unfortunately, the device was charging, so it was hard to get a good impression of the keyboard. But the impression i got is quite positive anyway – the “big thing with buttons” gives you a feeling of safety, i didn´t fear dropping it – even typing one handed (which is in fact difficult, anyway. What kind of dissapointed me (I guess you have to get used to it) was the trackball, which I couldn´t really use for navigation – using the touchscreen was a lot faster and more intuitive – I tend to believe that a touchpad (like on the Samsung SGH-i780) would have been a better solution.. but, as I said: I guess this just needs time to get adjusted to.

Later today I went to a big electronics store here in Kiel, and hey, they really had a G1 in black – and it wasn´t recharged. So I got a better impression of the handling, exspecially of the keyboard, and yes: It´s ok for me, even if the “big thing with buttons” disturbs a little bit – my thumbs are apparently big enough. First of all: The black one has different haptics, as it isn´t glossy. I have to say that I really prefer the black one, it just feels good. The browsing experience was the same, and I just started the Android Market and installed Opera Mini – which is the browser I´d use when using GPRS as I don´t use the net the much on the go that I´d need a data plan (I pay 24Ct/MB) (at least I don´t need a data plan until now, might change with the G1… ;-) ). Well, these are my first impressions.

I think I´ll get that device as soon as there is a hack to root it.