The Gadget Hunger or Openness

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I have to admit something today: I suffer from what I would call “gadget hunger”. Even if a device really does what I want, I become bored pretty soon, and want a new device. And guess what, there is often plenty of nice new hardware though it´s often just the hardware – the software is so often locked down as hell, that the device suddenly becomes less interesting for me – that’s the only thing that helps me staying solvent, because there is not much that’s as bad software without even the option of community driven fixes.
So I love this mobile devices. Well, it isn´t just mobility (Example: Recently I learned that there are not only rollable computer keyboards, but rollable piano keyboards as well), but somehow it´s mostly mobile computing devices.
Computing is the possibly the keyword, or explanation why I want rather open devices. As long as you have to stick to one certain OS, you might not find the appropriate software for a certain usage case. Or just not the software you would prefer if everything would be possible. Let´s face it: There is no perfect OS. And another point: It´s fun to play with different software. It´s fun to see software evolving. The hardware might be very promising, but if I can´t even try the next version of the devices OS running on it (though it would technically work and even if it is just Windows Mobile), I will try to get rid of the device. This, just to name an example, happened to the Samsung i780 i once had, gorgeous hardware, much nicer than the Openmoko Freerunner that I just keep because it is so open.

So let´s talk about openess, or let´s call it flexibility. I believe that regarding mobile computing devices we have two kinds of flexibility. The one is hardware features, like device architecture (speed, number of different devices using similar hardware) or connectivity (3G, WLan, BT, USB (Host or Device)), the other is the software that runs on the device per default.
Let´s talk about the software, because it´s less self explinatory than the hardware part in my opinion. Why? Because it is not that obvious as it might seem. Knowing little about this openness thingie, you might e.g. believe that Linux devices are more open than those running Windows Mobile. But in many (or even most cases) it is not.

A good (but rather deprecated) example are Motorolas EZX phones. A team of able developers wanted to free these phones since they hit the market in late 2005. Still there is nothing like an open distribution for these devices – as the OpenEZX project is focussed on the kernel and the now nicely supported devices have become rather old (and boring). Now why did it take so long? First of all these devices had a 2.4 kernel, so porting was supposedly not that easy. But there is another problem, that makes it tough to port SHR or Android to devices like the LiMo running phones: bootloaders, plenty of them, requiring signed images. Often there is no easy way to install additional native (non-Java/J2ME) software and though this is changing (App Stores), you will not be able to easily install software that helps “openning” the devices. Recent LiMo Devices like the Samsung H1 and M1 for Vodafone´s 360 social media platform still have non writable partitions (using compressed filesystems like cramfs) containing the core OS.

Let´s compare this to the (dying) Windows Mobile platform: Maybe you heard of HaRET (Hardware Reverse Engineering Tool), which is a (not only) linux bootloader launched just like a Windows Mobile application, usually used to load a kernel and rootfs from SD – no changes to the actual hardware have to be done, no need to hack a variety of bootloaders (at the risk of bricking your device) as long as you have a HaRET version that supports your phones hardware platform.

Time to get back to the start, gadget hunger, or why i started to write this unreadable crap: Recently I spent some time looking for a cheap snapdragon device – and because I did so on ebay, because I ´ve got no problem with using used stuff, as long it is cheap, I ran into the Toshiba TG01 aka “Tsunagi“, the first Snapdragon phone, though one could call it Pocket PC, MID or slate as well, as it is a damn thin (9,9mm) 4,1 inch touchscreen device. And yes, I am tempted to buy one of these, even though there aren´t even “real” attempts to run Linux on the TG01 – there is hope, as it is ported to HTCs´ HD2 (HaRET) and because there are several Android devices out there using the Snapdragon platform as well. And it supports USB Host right of the box ;-)

Admittedly this post would fit linmob just as good or better, but I had to post something here. I really have to learn to write about things that are not gadgets or bad storys again.. ;-)

Schall und Wahn

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Es fällt mir schwer, ĂĽber Musik zu schreiben, ich habe keine Erfahrung darin – und meine musikalische Erziehung war auch nur durchschnittlich, mir fehlt also an vielen Stellen Vokabular, so dass ich nur EindrĂĽcke wiedergeben kann, nicht wirklich analysieren. Andererseits ist das hier nur Pop – keine Geheimwissenschaft, wenn man so will. Und ich muss ĂĽber diese neue CD von Tocotronic einfach schreiben.

Schall & Wahn heiĂźt der neue Tonträger der Band, die man dereinst in den 90er Jahren des vergangenen Jahrhunderts zur “Hamburger Schule” zählte. Hamburg ist aber nicht mehr der exklusive Ort der Band, das neue Album “Schall & Wahn”, das 9. Studioalbum Tocotronics vollendet die sogenannte Berlin-Triologie der Band, die 2006 mit “Pure Vernunft darf niemals siegen” begann und 2007 mit “Kapitulation” fortgesetzt worden war.

In den knapp 17 Jahren, die zwischen dem Debut “Digital ist Besser” und “Schall & Wahn” verstrichen sind, hat sich die Band mehrfach gewandelt – begann man mit Schrammelsound und plakativen Botschaften Ă  la “Ich möchte Teil einer Jugendbewegung sein” und meist ellenlangen Songtiteln, stellte das 2002 erschienene “weiĂźe Album” mit dem Titel Tocotronic eher Pop mit verkĂĽnstlerten Texten dar (etwa “In den Adern des Holzes seh ich Gesichter” (Textstelle aus “Free Hospital”)) – wie man sich denken kann, war manch ein “Fanatiker” von dieser Wandlung nicht zwingend begeistert.

Mit “Pure Vernunft darf niemals siegen” (insbesondere dem Titel “Aber Hier Leben, Nein Danke!”) schlugen die “Tocos” dann eine BrĂĽcke zwischen eher rockigen Botschaften und KĂĽnstelei, ein Weg, den auch Kapitulation bestritt – und der nun mit “Schall & Wahn” weitergefĂĽhrt wird.

Wochen vergehen, denn ich kann nicht weiterschreiben. Bei jedem Satz, den ich schreibe, ĂĽberkommen mich Zweifel an seiner Richtigkeit. Es könnte falsch sein, und das will man nicht. Und ist so eine Einordnung in den Werkkontext ĂĽberhaupt nötig? Oder sinnvoll? Währenddessen schieĂźt das Album auf Platz eins der deutschen Albencharts – aber wer sich mit Musikmanagement befasst, weiĂź, dass das nicht mehr viel bedeutet. Dennoch, ein Achtungserfolg. Und ich lese weder Feuilltonbesprechungen noch den Artikel in der Spex, die ich extra deswegen erwarb. Was bleibt: Es ist ein gutes Album. Eines der besten von Tocotronic. Ob es mein Lieblingsalbum wird? Das zeigt die Zeit allein.

February.

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brimborium is already one month old. It took a long time until I started this website, and still I don’t think that I write enough – I’ve got a lot to do, as university examinations come closer and closer. To write more, I will switch to WordPress – I prefer Habari, but as WordPress offers better (and more) plugins, and now there is an official WordPress App for Android, WordPress has become even more attractive.

The look of the site will not change too much, though I am working on something that one could call artwork and some new layout features – but as I didn’t start the layout work yet, I can’t promise anything but more content.

Let’s have a nice february!

More on the iPad.

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iPad

What I have been reading during the last hour, was a lot of criticism, lots of people seem to be disappointed of the iPad.
Well, that´s pretty much normal, afair – take a look at all these latest launches of Apple products. All these rumored features in the time before whispered by tons of experts and “experts” are too much to be delivered at one launch – and no one would expect any other company to bring that much innovation to the markets in single products.

Of course it is dissapointing that the iPad does not support Videochat, does not support Flash (I do not believe that Flash is the best technology for flash video, anyway), is unable to beam you to the Maledives – oh, wait, that wasn´ t rumored? I am so sorry.

The dissapointment is the lack of multitasking – but I do believe, that Apple will add that, once they have it worked out in a way that is appropriate for such a tablet device. But still, even though I do not love Apple: This is the best tablet to date, and it will most likely be the best tablet when it will be available. Of course, the hardware is not perfect, a flat bottom would be better for on table use, iPad is a bit heavy, or think of a second dock connector for keyboard use in landscape mode (which was much more laptop like). And the screen will (compared to PixelQi solutions) suck at outdoor use I bet. Or more video out options, like Display Port or HDMI. I don´ t have to mention that I would love USB Host on a device of that size, do I?

All nice to have, but not that necessary – because it has Apples software on it, which is just impressive and has huge competitive advantages like all the iPhone Apps and iTunes. No other company will (ever?) be able to offer those.

And let´s not forget one other thing: This is a home entertainment device rather than a mobile companion device – battery life, the screen – all this makes it a device for at home use, particulary when you are on holiday and stay in a cabin or so. A leisure device with some sunday work features. Maybe I am wrong here, and I believe future iPads will be different, better.

Let´s be realistic: This is Apples´ first torpedo to sink netbooks (meaning: the devices between notebooks and sub 4 inch devices. Not perfect, it will most certainly miss its target, the ship will not sink. But better be scared of the next one. The iPhone 3GS was the one that sold best until now – I believe a 3rd generation iPad will be similar. If Apple just listens a little bit to the complaints of the people, this generation will sell more than O.K. and future iterations will be .. just fantastic, at least as far as sales figures go.

iPad. First thoughts.

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I was expecting a lot of Apples new device. Having had read most of the rumors, I believed that it would have a 9.7″ capacitive multitouch screen (because there were these rumors of Apple having ordered large quantities of these), I believed the “own silicon” rumor (as Apple aquired P.A. Semi years ago), I did not believe in those Verizon CDMA rumors (simply because GSM is almost worldwide). So, I was pretty close to what Apple delivered announced today.

But still I am pretty impressed having I only seen text and pictures at gdgt.com. The only thing I can think of is “Well Done, Apple!” (And: “Goodbye JooJoo (the ex Crunchpad) and others!”).

Of course, yeah, Wacom like stylus input for handwriting (as we know it) was nice to have. Or voice recognition (which is most likely just a software matter, if iPad has a microphone). And Apple was apparently pretty silent about video, so most likely no 1080p like nVidia Tegra (II) powered solutions… besides: 4:3, not 16:9, so not that great for “mobile cinema”, anyway. And a personal issue: Openess.. (Free Software? Apple!? Rather not.)

But besides these few points, this is a great product. A impressive one. Just like the iPhone was. Just look at the accesoires – a keyboard dock, and a bag, which is a stand. The fact that they made productivity software for this device. They didn´t forget too much, did they?

(More might follow later.)

Just bought another CD.

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Schall & Wahn

Another one? Well, the first one this year to join my (considering the digital age) not too small collection.

Will write something about it as soon as I´ve got more to say then “Wow, nice package, awesome first song, impressive!”. And I will do so in german, as this is a new album by a german band with german texts…

Stay tuned.

CES – Aftermath?

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Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA is over and I am sitting here in snowy Kiel, Germany and don´ t know what to write – though (or because?) I spent the last week idling on twitter and my Google Reader for CES tech news.

Now what do I remember? Lots of tablets, many of them nVidia Tegra 2 powered, X86 smartphone prototypes based on Intel´s new Moorestown platform running Moblin, some netbooks, based on Tegra 2, Intel´s Atom N450, Freescale´s i.MX515 or Qualcomm´s Snapdragon, 3D TV devices, and some more stuff.
Let´s have a short list of devices, that I got exited about:

Freescale Smartbook/Tablet. I like its general approach (tablet+docking), though there are certainly some shortcomings about this reference design:
– the keyboard could be a little bit bigger without expense of the docking unit
– a touchpad or trackpoint would be nice, and as we just started dreaming: what about a foldable docking/keyboard (you know, like these old PDA keyboards)
– resistive touchscreens are nice, but capacitive ones are usually even nicer
– no active digitizer –> no real handwriting input

That´s it – still this is a nice design, if a device like this reference design would hit the market at $200, I would not hesitate too long buying it. Still, I would prefer a device that has the additional features mentionned above for $250 to $300.
Check out Sascha Pallenberg´s Hands On at netbooknews.com.

Next interesting device is another tablet: NotionInk´s “Adam” tablet, based on the nVidia Tegra 2, featuring a Pixel Qi 3Qi screen technology (which is power saving, has an e-ink like mode (good daylight readability), but is TFT based – a development based on the OLPC XO´s screen)

Check out Slashgear´s Hands On session – this is certainly an interesting device.

More? Well, I like the look of Lenovo latest additions to the Thinkpad line (Thinkpad Edge and X100e), but the specs do not sound too promising, as the battery life of the AMD powered offerings are unlikely to offer a satisfiying battery life – and the Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300… I would have prefered a Core i3 CPU, but that might be a matter of time. High end smartphones will run on ARMv7 and x86 SoCs in 2010 – we will see which kind will perform better.
Many interesting devices, but nothing really mind blowing for a person that follows tech trends all the time.

Maybe that Apple tablet… no, it won´t be that mind blowing, but surely its presentation will be awesome and whatever it will be, it is supposed to sell well ;-)

Being Concerned

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Sometimes I feel quite weird, because I do not understand myself – this happens on various occasions, but I will just discuss one today. It´s about tech. I am almost obsessed about tiny, mobile devices that are said to be helpful, particulary those that run Linux (or are able to run Linux). To put it in other words: I like everything from smartphones to netbooks, and you can guess that I am pretty exited about all the stuff that will be presented at CES in Las Vegas the next days.
Now you might ask: Ok, you´ re a nerd (or geek or whatever), but what´ s the problem? Well, I find that there is some kind of contradiction in my behaviour, it is not all logic, and I worry about that. “Now, what the h*** are you talking about, weirdo?” you might ask. Well, I am concerned about ecology, waste, and climate change. That whole Greenpeace stuff, if you want so. I really am. I even try to avoid producing waste, and I do so every day, every time I go to the supermarket. I am so concerned I stopped using the heater while the window is open. But I don´ t care, as soon it is about mobile computing – if there is a device I want to have and can afford, I will buy it – even if I don´ t really need it.

Knowing what I worry about, you may think: That´ s normal, one is acting irrational sometimes – just relax. And the likelihood is pretty high that you are right. So I guess I just have to let go.