Prē only – Days 3 & 4

Short update: I get more and more used to the Prē – it’s funny how you get used to mechanism that are different to those you’ve been used to before.
Then I managed to connect to my University’s Cisco VPN network – by simply installing “vpnc” pre packaged for nslu2. The only thing you should watch carefully is your “/etc/resolv.conf”.

Only issue so far is the “not that well working” (ding-dong) touchstone charger and the battery life – but as I am a heavy homebrew user, this is probably my fault.

Prē only – Days 1 & 2

Soon after my “Further Imprēssions” post I felt like I should give the Prē another chance and try to use it all day for at least a week (without using my G1 in the meantime). In fact I plan to do so for at least two weeks, and I will try to blog some tips and tricks regarding the Prē, and I’ll try to do so frequently.

Before I actually started to use the Prē again I re-read the instructions manual. Probably I should have done so earlier, but as I was self concious that would find out how to use this device just by actually using it, I just had had a short glimpse at it before. No I read it really carefully while actually trying out all the described features and gestures which aren’t to self explanatory. Then I went on, sat down at my PC to watch some videos about webOS.

In the first video on webOS I watched (after quite a long time), a very important term that was mentionned: “Concious design decision”. Actually this didn´ t really get me overexited (like I was when I saw the announcement video stream of the Palm Pre), but it enabled me to finally get rid of my Android glasses and see the Pre without having certain expectations. I decided to stop missing the “menu” button.

This actually didn’t kill all the points I criticised about the Prē, but it already sort of killed my “landscape mode” point because I suddenly was able to imagine that Palm did this with having something in their mind, and while I was browsing the web I understood that Palm tried to make landscape mode a “better readable” mode, which is not the worst idea I ever saw.

Soon after that I realized, that the slider is a lot less annoying when you don’t use it that often. In fact, when you sit down to have some nice, hot coffee, and want to use the Pre to surf the web while sipping that coffee in a casual way, it´s really comfortable to keep the slider slided out, and hold the pre one handed at the bottom. And it’s fast, this Pre on steroids (Überkernel), compared to my good old G1 – and multitabbing becomes multicarding on the Pre.

Preware (which I had installed before, but hadn’t really looked at is another great thing. Whenever there is something lacking (talking of the default apps), I simply check Preware whether there isn’t a patch.

The first patch I want to talk about, is a rather simple one called “Read/Delete All Email”. It extends webOS’s mail client by offering two extra buttons, one to delete all mail (which I don’t use at all), the other to mark all mails as read, which is handy when dealing with mailing lists and ebay reminders as a person that get’s distracted when a device claims that there is mail waiting to be read.

Another one which turned out to be pretty nice is “Alarm Daily Options” which extends the otherwise too basic (Alarm) Clock, rendering it useful – I will not describe what it does here, it’s too obvious.

More Prē/webOS observations / wishes soon.

Tab Candy

Browsers have been improving quite a lot during the last years, at least compared to other software, eg. word processors. From the very beginning I’ve been a Firefox user, but switched to Chrome recently, as it’s faster and crashes less – the only thing I miss from time to time are the great extensions Firefox has – but hey, it’s still installed as an option (and for testing, of course).

Now the Mozilla guys came up with a new feature that might convince me to switch use good old Firefox again. It might very well solve an issue, that I as a heavy multi tabber know too well.

Now I better stop blathering. Just enjoy the video demo:

An Introduction to Firefox’s Tab Candy from Aza Raskin on Vimeo.

VIA: TechCrunch

SOURCE: Aza Raskin’s Blog

Further Imprēssions

As I haven‘t sold my Palm Prē yet (which is in a way unfortunate, as there has been a huge price drop recently) I feel like sharing my opinions on the Prē.

I have used it quite a bit, though not as much as I could have, because I use my G1 most of the time: I am afraid of scratching the Prē. While the form factor is nice (though there might be people that prefer a slightly bigger screen (which would result in a larger device) at less thickness), the Prē‘s surface is made of glossy plastic. If you ever handled glossy plastic, you might have noticed that it catches scratches easily. Besides this, there are some more hardware issues: The keyboard, which I don‘t really like, as it is pretty small. And there is no soft keyboard, besides a hacked-in one on PreWare which unfortunately doesn‘t quite do what you would expect from a decent soft keyboard: come up automagically whenever there is something to be typed – in fact this experience reminds me of the soft keyboard Android 1.0 on the OpenMoko had.

Having no software keyboard, you have to use its hardware sibling i already critisized, and this means, whenever you feel like typing something (or not, but you‘re required to) you have to switch to portrait mode. As a G1 user, which has a hardware keyboard which you use in landscape mode, this feels slightly inconvinient. In fact webOS feels much like you´d expect looking at Palm‘s device range: It‘s all portrait optimized (but I am used to landscape thanks to the G1’s keyboard). In fact you notice this when you get some notifications. Soon you will feel a little bit like watching a 2.35:1 movie on a 4:3 screen if you know what you mean. This, again, doesn‘t feel too great, so it‘s not as bad as turn to portait whenvever there is typing action thing. In fact I didn‘t manage to try out too many apps as I didn‘t want to throw money at Palm‘s App Catalog as I never felt like that the Prē would replace my G1 – after buying it. So all I tried out was actually for free (there are considerably less high quality free apps on webOS than on Android (though the homebrew/PreWare community came up with some nice ones) which is probably due to webOS proprietary nature) or inbuilt. And sorry to say so, but that‘s not it. I noticed a lack of creativity apps (like pianos, drum machines and alike), but there is one more point that annoyed me a lot more, being a heavy GMail user who follows mailing lists using GMail: No threaded mail in webOS mail client, and simple no way to mark tons of Mail as read. Really, webOS‘s inbuilt email client killed the experience. Not only it felt hard to write Mail (because of the keyboard issue), in addition to that it felt hard to manage my mails, or at least a lot more inconvenient than on Android. A simple GMail notification service linking to the mobile GMail web interface would do a lot better (sometimes I think so on Android as well).

While there might be further issues, which i didn‘t notice because I didn´ t dive deep enough into webOS, aside the mentionned ones which could be rouled out by another webOS update.

Conclusion: I have to say that webOS is a great platform with perfect mobile multitasking, which has nice animations rocking a beautiful interface (even great sounds) that is not that usable as it should be running on beautiful hardware which doesn‘t feel that solid or sturdy you would like it to. A platform that might be really great with a few new devices and a new software revision. I recommend to wait for webOS 2.0.

Regarding the Prē I have to say that it is overall a nice, rather speedy device which has a nice camera (image quality is more than ok and the shutter speed is the best I ever experienced on a smartphone (though I didn’t invest much in camera savvy smartphones). If there was a decent Android port (or a webOS without the issues I mentionned), it could be my number one smartphone.

Plastic bags

While I am preparing a (final?) write up regarding the Palm Pre (a lenghty and boring like/dislike story), I feel like promoting another blog. It’s the blog of ao2, whom I met when I was following the OpenEZX project, a project that aims to free Motorola’s EZX devices. Today I happened to run into a new blog post of him about a local Naples frozen food company’s logo which looks kind of familiar to anyone who is into the whole Linux thing. Whether there are legal issues or not (I don’t have the time to do lenghty investigations on this right now) Antonio also mentions that the Italian government, whose actions partly seem like a neverending soap opera (from what we hear in Germany) apparently cares a bit about the environment: In 2011 Italy will abandon plastic bags replacing them by biodegreeable ones.
In fact I am quite surprised, that the conservative italian government does something like this, even though it occurs that this is EU related, besides organisations like the UN are fighting plastic bags as well. I would have doubted that a conservative government like the italian one would start implementing and enforcing a law like this unless the whole Tyrrhenian Sea being a giant garbage patch.

Ubuntu 10.04 on the nc6400

A few days ago my new old laptop arrived, a HP Compaq nc6400, and since I upgraded the RAM to 4 gigabytes I am absolutely happy with it. Having Windows XP Professional preinstalled this laptop felt a lot like my good old beloved HP Compaq nx6325, only more widescreen and quite a bit faster. In fact this nc6400 must have been pretty damn expensive when it was new, even today its Core2Duo T7600 CPU is not that outdated performance wise.

Of course, even though Windows XP is not that bad considering its age, I had to try another, more modern OS on this machine. As I didn’t really feel like diving into Windows 7 and as I didn’t feel ready to give that hackintosh experiment a try, I decided to install a desktop optimized, end user friendly distribution: Ubuntu 10.04

Even though I will most likely move on to something different, like Slackware64 or Arch (I am a little bit fed up with Debian) I have to say that as long as your machine is fast enough, Ubuntu can be fun. Its instant messaging integration is a nice touch, and the preinstalled software is ok.

As always with Ubuntu, I had to customize the looks rather quickly. I never liked its Orange and Brown color themes, now they added in some purple and red, and there’s still some orange in it… if it was all purple, dark grey, light grey and white, I could like it, but as it is it feels like the designers weren’t sure which colors to use. Not that the colors don’t fit each other, they do, at least sort of, but it’s too much for minimalists like me. So I went trough the wide fields of the internet, looking for something that fits my aesthetic feelings better, and I ended up with elementary.

There is one more thing new with Ubuntu 10.04: The buttons to close, minimize and maximize a window were moved to the left (were they’ve always been on Apple’s operating systems. Whether this was a wise decision or not (I doubt it because the majority people that give Ubuntu a try are used to M$ Software), it made me installing global menu and a cairo-dock, to have some kind of Mac feeling. Unfortunately, this is a broken experience, as global menu only works with native Gnome/GTK+ applications (not with OpenOffice or Firefox), but still it`s a nice thing which reminds me of the 1990’s when I used a Mac. Feels great.

Tomato Sauce (Or: Cooking)

Let´s be honest: I sort of hate cooking. There was a time when this was different, but I don´t want to tell one of these long boring stories of the past. Ok. I dislike cooking, but I hate spending much money on food when I eat all alone, you can´t eat canteen food all the time, you can´t eat doner kebab all the time as well and it´s the same with pizza. If you´d ask me what I like best, rice, noodles or potatoes, I would always say noodles. Noodles with some great italian sauce (or pesto) and parmigiano.

Being a lazy cooker, there is a problem: Cooking a great sauce takes time, requires some ingredients and isn´t that easy. So over the years I tried a bunch of ready made sauces. Many of them, pricy or not, were disappointing. Lately I stumbled upon Saclà´s Originale Napoletana. Wow. I can´t describe it, you have to give it a try. It was so good, that I write about this, even though they don´t pay me for that. And you know, my dear readers: The only thing I am lazier at than cooking is blogging ;-)

July. The Heat. The Summer!

Apologies first, I know that this is a stupid title. But as this entry won´t be on any particular topic, I just chose this headline, because the heat is almost annoying. Not that I wouldn´ t like sunny days, I do love them, but whenever the quicksilver shows more than 30 degrees and there is no cooling breeze, i start to wish it was winter: I simply hate sweating.
In fact all this summer wouldn´t be an issue. But at Kiel University (like most german universities) you´re supposed to pass some examinations in July, in the heat. So you have to feed your little clever brain with more or less nice theories, while it is hot outside or outside in the heat, and I have to mention air conditioning is very rare in german houses. Painful summer, painful books, painful heat, painful beach.

Of course, just feeding your brain with theories until you are close to throw them out again doesn´ t make a life. There´s more. While I won´ t start telling the boring stories of my private life, I spare you those, I will write about tech. Long ago I wrote some lines at linmob about notebooks or better that my old HP Compaq nx6325 was aging and that I replaced it with another HP Compaq notebook, its slightly younger sibling 6715b. While I love the screen of this notebook (WSXGA+, 1680*1050px) and its loudspeakers, I don´t quite love the rest of it. The keyboard isn´t great, its fans are loud, and it feels slow, on Linux and on Windows Vista. And 15.4″ is too big. That´ s why I am going to sell it where I got it: At eBay. The replacement will be another HP Compaq notebook. nc6400. Technically: Core2Duo T7600 + ATI X1300.
Old as hell, you may argue. Yes, definitely. But it´ s cheap, offers business quality and is (spec wise) supposed to be faster than my current one.

But this is not the only piece of tech that I am going to sell. Right now I am selling my Openmoko Neo FreeRunner at eBay and my broken digital camera (Kodak Z1085 IS), which was just about one year old when it died unexpectedly. Unfortunately, Kodak only offers 1 year warranty for their products (which is less than some of its competitors, btw). While it makes sense to sell a broken digital camera, you may wonder, why I do sell my FreeRunner. To put it bluntly: I did not use it recently. I never used it as a primary phone. And besides the platforms obvious shortcomings (just have a look at the specs (you just need some knowledge on ARM chips)) development seems to have slowed down – which makes perfect sense, as the FreeRunners successor didn´t make it to the market and the FreeRunner as a platform was technically abandoned by Openmoko (the company), which had to focus on surviving and thus moved on with WikiReader, a simpler product, cheaper to deploy. Did I mention competing platforms yet? Putting it bluntly again: Testing is boring when there is not much to test and there are more interesting platforms. My personal Openmoko era ends. I move on.

Moving on always requires a next waypoint. A target. One of these (the next one) is the iPad. Yes, with doing so I do something that I wouldn´t have expected. I still have my eyes on other tablets, like the Notion Ink Adam tablet which will feature the Tegra 2 chip and PixelQi´s great 3Qi display, but the iPad is the most interesting one right now. First I have a netbook and don´ t need a variety of connective options on a tablet that badly, second it´ s about software. Not that iOS would be so much better than competing solutions, but the pure number of great creative apps (and their usability because of Apple´s superior touchscreen technology) is more than convincing. This means I will abandon more than the Openmoko and my current notebook: I will as well sell this KORG microKORG i bought in 2006 which has been collecting dust most of the time since (it´s a great synthesizer to play, but recording, sampling and such need lots of additional, pricy equipment and rather difficult recording setups) – the iPad is supposed to take over as creative playground.

You may expect some more “First impressions of …” posts in the next months. I will now feed my brain a little bit using the agreeable temperatures of a mild summer night.

Service? Not in Germany.

I just received an email from my university’s library telling me that I forgot to bring in a book – again. They charge me € 2.50, which is not a huge amount of money and while it´s cheaper now than one or two years ago when they sent you a letter which made you pay an extra 55 cents for postage, it´s still dissapointing: Couldn´ t they send an email reminder a few days before this happens? I would even pay them some 10 to 50 cents for that service.
Or think of a widget on their website, which makes it easy to import that crucial date into your favourite online calendar solution like facebook or Google Calendar or does so automatically?
They could do it, but I bet they didn´ t even think about it.
What a fabulous service.