A few silent days with the Acer Stream

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I´ve been silent lately, because I took some unannounced blog & internet holidays. Before I am catching up, I want to describe my impressions with the Acer Stream, as I used the it all the time, I am able to share some more impressions.

When I first held the Acer Stream in my hands, I liked the physical “home” button, because it made it easier to distinguish this button from the capacitive back, search and menu buttons at the bottom of the Stream. Then, soon after, I felt different: You have to press the Home button, while you just need to touch the others – certainly an user experience issue. Now, after about 10 days with the Stream I must say, that while the touch/press thing certainly is an issue, overall use of the device would be much worse without the physical “home”-button for me, as it is easier to press for waking the “Stream” up than the power button, which is placed in a top position on the left side of the device.

Then we´ve got to discuss the music buttons – I don´t like them too much. While they work just as you would expect the buttons on a three button headset to work, you´ve got to be careful with taking the Acer Stream out of it´s pouch – if you hit one of the buttons and haven´t been careful with your Audio settings you might soon feel like you are living in a Dolby Mobile hell – while the sound is quite good for the speaker of a mobile computing device, it´s not that great, that everybody would simply start to dance and stop minding about the sudden noise.

Using a smartphone in public, people sometimes ask you what kind of device you´ve got there, especially if it is as rare as the Acer Stream. Those who didn´t notice the quite big Acer Logos where always asking whether my Stream was an HTC device – the others asked: When did Acer start to make smartphones? – often along with stories about their very own horrible mixed experience with Acer products and suppport. The fact that the Stream is being mistaken for an HTC is an indicator for nerdy design, as HTC´s designs haven´t been all too beautiful during the last years in comparison to what Apple or Samsung or even LG did, not to mention their european competitors, Sony Ericsson or Nokia. At least nobody asked whether this wasn´t a smartphone for females, which happened to me while showing of my Palm Pre (Plus) more than once.

All in all, the device is pleasant to use, as long as you don´t mess with the media buttons or simply disable them – even with a third party music app like Songbird you will find an option to do so. The soft touch back of the device enables you to hold the device easily – you may need big hands though to feel really at home with the Acer Stream, which is solid build.

The camera, as noted in the reviews I read before buying the device, is not bad – but it wants to convince you that the sky is violet, and lacks a (LED) flash. Using it with the lite version of “Camera360”, appliing some effects to the pictures tells me that the camera is at least good for fun shots – pictures are pretty sharp, though I ´ve got to mention that the results of this camera will not make you happy if you were using top level Nokia, Sony Erricson or Motorola phones or the Apple iPhone 4 before. In fact I used to take pictures of an entire trip to France. I really recommend Camera 360 after using it on that trip (I used the lite version, the full one must be even better) simply because of the variety of options of this software – the fact, that you can set up Camera360 in a way that all it takes to take picture touching the touchscreen (the Camera button on the Acer Stream is rather hard to press) and the use of the motion sensors with this camera application is enough to be worth a strong recommendation – be careful to set the picture resolution to maximum though.

Software is something that´s tough to comment on. Android 2.2 – Froyo – is available for the Acer Stream, while some may argue that a 2.6.29 kernel does not mean that you get a real Froyo here, performance in every day use and benchmarks is really ok. Being abroad lately, I had a few issues with roaming (sometimes the Stream was disconnected, while the network was available and I had to reconnect it manually) and I remember to be not too impressed with mobile network performance at home as well, but it´s not bad enough to break the deal – still I will write a mail to Acer Support whether Acer is going to improve the baseband software. Apart from that, you get, as mentioned before, good old Froyo (and thus Flash and many other goodies that are 2.2 up only). While it´s not Vanilla Android, it´s close to that – and I think that I would use what Acer build as their own UI if only the interface wasn´t performing that poor and the notification bar, which is normally at the top with Android wasn´t at the bottom – which is simply bad because of the weird look and the software keyboard, which sometimes interferes with the moved bar. Right now I am actually using ADW.Launcher, mostly because it´s so customizable, free and because I am used to it thanks to CyanogenMod, which I really loved on my T-Mobile G1 – I will try out GO Launcher EX soon though, as I hear that it´s even faster.

Unfortunately, this brings me to another bad point about the Acer Stream, which is probably the worst for some of you: There are virtually no Custom ROMs for the Acer Stream. But as rooting (z4root) is possible and there is the official Froyo update I mentioned 10 times before, this isn´t that much of a problem right now – Gingerbread is not that much of an improvement (though I totally love the look of it and miss the great Gingerbread text selection on the trackball lacking Acer Stream) and Ice Cream (or Honeycomb for smartphones) aren´t available yet, anyway.

This fact will most likely cause me to dump the Acer Stream again as soon as I can get another, similarily specced Android smartphone, preferably a landscape QWERTY slider – not that typing on the software keyboard was a problem (I am using the Gingerbread keyboard, btw), it´s just that you can´t see much text when using it in landscape – thus it´s not comfortable to do some real work – like writing lengthy blog posts like this one. Besides, for me updates are a must, the Stream is nice, but without tons of ROMs to try, Android is more boring than, say, webOS with its great homebrew community.

All in all, the Acer Stream is pretty much what one used to call high end smartphone in 2010, the hardware is ok, especially if I consider the 220€ price tag.

Rethinking my current computing line up (Part I)

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Let´s skip the introduction, here´s what I currently have (heavy usage leads to bold fonts):

  • HP Compaq 6715b (15.4 inch WSXGA+ AMD Turion64 X2 notebook)
  • Asus Eee PC 1001p (10.1 inch WSVGA Pine Trail netbook)
  • One A120 (7 inch VIA C7 netbook)
  • T-Mobile G1 / HTC Dream (3.2 inch HVGA smartphone)
  • Openmoko FreeRunner (2.8 inch VGA open source smartphone)

So why am I writing this? Actually I ask myself whether I really need all these devices. During the last weeks, I just used the HP 6715b just as a video playing device, meaning I used it to watch TV or DVDs, as it has a great screen and better than average speakers. I didn´t really use it as a computer besides for short websurfing sessions – since I´ve got my new netbook, or better since I am used to my netbooks keyboard, I ´ve found myself using the netbook for websurfing and office work – I really love that thing, especially since I managed to make Linux work on it just perfectly.
Yeah, I have to admit it: I am set to sell the HP 6715b again, which I bought used in december. While it is a nice device, I do not like the keyboard that much (it is ok, but worse than the keyboard of my previous notebook (HP Compaq nx6325) – and Linux does not run that well. While I managed to silence the roaring fans (I cleaned them and replaced the heat paste), I have no idea how to fix the really bad USB performance of the device – I don´ t think this is a hardware issue, as USB performance is ok in Vista (which I find horrible, otherwise).
So it is very likely that I will sell this notebook pretty soon. But what will I do then? Living without a notebook, just with my Eee PC as only computing device? Actually though I really like my 1001P, I doubt that I will do that, just because of the screen size: 10.1 inch is not the screen resolution you want to work with for several hours. Besides: I am not really sure whether the Atoms performance is really enough for me. It might very well be, but I have my doubts.

Then I´ve got this old, 2008 VIA powered netbook, which is, as you might imagine, pretty slow – and 7 inch is really small. I don´t know what to do with that one. I most likely won´t make much money by selling it, and as I kind of like it (and still have parts I wanted to solder into it once), I might finally apply the touchscreen mod and use it as music player (or even to create music using software synthesizers) or WLan router / home server.

While I really love my HTC Dream (even though it could be slimmer, have a better camera and .. well, it could be a Milestone, you know ;-) ), I don´ t know what to do with that Openmoko FreeRunner. It is a nice device, and I got to be able to try out the various flavours of mobile linux distributions (like Hackable:1, QtMoko, and SHR), and back then the Openmoko world was different, as GTA03/3D7K, meant as a follow up to the FreeRunner was not cancelled yet. Buying a broken FreeRunner to fix it was a start into the world of Free Software telephony – on an open device. Today I have to admit that I barely use the Freerunner. It feels nice and solid when you hold in your hand, but as standby times are short and phone calls work, but still could work better and standby battery life is rather dissapointing (I didn´t apply the #1024 bug fix yet) I rather use my Motorola A910 for my secondary SIM, which runs Linux as well (though the rest of the software is rather proprietary). If I really wanted to use this phone, I would have to sell my HTC Dream (without getting a “milestony” replacement) – because right now I have no real use case for that one besides trying out some distributions every quarter.

Now that is what I´ve got. What to change? (Suggestions welcome!) Part 2 will be about options.

100! … MWC!

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While this is the 100s post on this blog which I wanted to kill a few weeks ago in favour of brimborium.net, I will not fuss about why it is so great to have written 100 entries in bad english, but try to summarize what I like about all these new great MWC devices and announcements.

Let´s start with the latter. MeeGo. Nokia and Intel join their forces (Maemo and Moblin, respectively), to fight against Android reduce fragmentation and create a strong platform for mobile devices from smartphones to netbooks. Of course nobody knows how this will turn out, but anyway, Nokia and Intel both are pretty strong companys in their markets so this might become a strong platform. I believe it will, there have been some uttering that Nokia and Intel were rather late, but I don´t think that this is true, platforms (and markets in general) appear, evolve and become abandonned – there is nothing like an “end of history”, at least if there´s enough momentum behind a new player. BTW: The first MeeGo release will be what would have been Moblin 2.2.

That´s it with platforms, isn´t it? No, it´s not. I should mention Samsungs bada (meaning ocean in korean) and of course Windows Phone 7 Series, Microsofts new platform for mobile devices. Both are non-PC like operating system (as the old Windows Mobile was), but made for todays social smartphones, which are always connected to social networks – if you are interested in Windows Phone 7 Series, I recommend to read this engadget article. And bada? We know what it is, but we don’t really know what the software stack looks like. There might be a Linux kernel, but it might be RTOS, or whatever. The UI is likely to use some librarys used as well in a project which we know as “Enlightenment”, as Enlightenment’s lead Carsten “Rasterman” Haitzler has been working for Samsung lately. I said that we knew what bada is, but did not explain? Well, it is a part of Samsungs strategy to make smartphones more affordable, so one might think of it as an operating system that works on rather poor hardware, something like a “smartphone operating system for dumbphones”. But the hardware of Samsungs first bada phone, the Samsung Wave, tells a different story. Samsung is creating it’s own platform with an application market of it´s own, to monetize these smartphones even more – if you earn you money while the device is being used, you can sell it at lower price points, a simple equation that is, though I believe it is a mix of both strategies mentionned before, the Wave is just high end to get attention for the new platform. We will see how this will evolve, maybe Samsung will abandon some platforms as they have got Android, Windows Mobile and Symbian in their smartphone portfolio, but you never know. Let’s just hope that bada gets a bing widget (or application) ;)

Let’s talk about devices. I already mentioned the Wave, we are told that bada runs super fast and that the screen is pretty cool, apparently “Super AMOLED” has a fine daylight readability (AMOLED sucked at that), but the Samsung phone I would in fact prefer is the Android beamer phone called, guess it, Beam. The inbuilt beamer might be more of a fun feature, but as this beast has a huge battery, it might be interesting, even if you do not plan to use the beamer frequently. BTW, I personally will not get any Samsung phone in the near future, as the SGH-i780 was delightful in terms of build quality, but Samsung was lazy (and is e.g. with the Galaxy) with software updates.

HTC didn’t manage to get me surprised, they have announced the “Desire” which is, as Android hacker Cyanogen stated, a “Nexus One done right”. Ok, it has Sense (which I do not really like), but this thing is unlikely to sell bad. In addition to that there is one more Android phone, the “Hero” follow up “Legend”, which isn’t that legendary.
Of course all these were leaked before, the only thing we were missing were the names.

Motorola.. Did they announce anything really cool for the western markets? I guess they did not, and hey, the Droid/Milestone is still pretty cool and there is plenty of time to replace it later this year by another top offering.

Sony Ericsson announced more than one Android phone, having launched more than one new XPeria phone, the X10, X10mini and X10mini pro, which all run a customized UI on top of “Donut”. Still the form factor of the mini devices is definitely interesting.

That should be it for smartphones.. Oh no, I forgot the upcoming Intel Moorestown based MeeGo beasts, like the Aava Mobile x86 smartphone. Aava Mobile is stating to offer “The World’s First Open Mobile Device” – and while we know that this is not true, it is still a pretty cool thing.

Then: Loads of tablets, the first ION2 Netbook, and a device that is my favourite 2010 device until now: The Notion Ink Adam tablet. But this post is too long right now, so I will write about that later.

linmob weeky roundup (6 / week 12): few news, but at least some

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Another week has passed by and it is time for another round up of what happened.

Besides Android smartphone speculations and rumors (e.g. there will be a Samsung branded Android running smartphone as soon as Q3, but it will be just a Samsung branded HTC Sapphire / Magic device.. and Samsung Omnia HD might run Android, as well), there was really great news this week.

The OpenSource BlackBerry is great news, don’t you thengadget’s mobile OS shootout.ink so?

Ok, might be that interesting for everybody. iPhone OS 3.0 isn’t really Linux related, but as it is a competitor, it has to be mentionned. You should read engadget’s mobile OS shootout.

What are further findings of this week?

Well, you should definitely read Andreas Costantinous opinion about the LiMo platform. I believe that LiMo’s idea wasn’t the worst we’ve ever seen (damn it, I still have to write that article about LiMo…), but now that we have several Linux based platforms like Android, Palm’s WebOS and good old Maemo, that don’t use the benefits of the LiMo platform, and as LiMo-based ALP and Azingo missed their timelines, they should definitely re-think their approach. The market doesn’t wait.

Additionally I would like to link the Openmoko Community Update, but it isn’t ready yet…
Check out the latest OM Community Updates!

[UPDATE 03/22/2009]

I was a little bit lazy yesterday, so enjoy two mobile internet experience related things that might interest you:

Fennec 1.0 Beta
is out, and there is a webpage with two nice videos of the soon to come mobile firefox.

A french video (of the SFR HTC Magic) shows that there will be a new zooming mechanism on Android 1.5, circular zooming (via Android Smartphone).

One more thing: Koolu has some more, newer Android beta images, featuring a new installation process and faster boot-up. But as they aren’t officially announced (at least I couldn’t find an announcement on koolu.com), I would just recommend you to find them yourselves.. ;)

CeBIT 2k9: report of a short visit

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After I didn’t manage to get up early enough for a CeBIT visit on while going to my parents, I was up quite early on friday, so that I could be at the CeBIT gates at 9:30 a.m. after two hours of train journey.

I won’t write about all the halls I visited, as I guess that this doesn’t help anybody – and often I just walked through those halls without looking at lots of things. But I can tell you, that I stayed in hall 6 for the most time, as the OpenSource area and the so called Webciety are located there.

Webciety is rather boring, not that interesting, even good old T-Systems is among the companys that have a stand there.

Some of the talks there (pre:publica) were not at all uninteresting, but you have to say that it were often the same opinions you’ve heard before in podcasts or blogs – it is aimed at normal people, that don’t read blogs all day – I’d guess.

OpenSource Area was nice, no OpenMoko booth (or something like a booth for mobile Linux with OpenMoko, just desktop stuff, but hey, better than nothing. Even Linpus has just netbooks, last year they had a PDA like device, too.

In Hall 9, B39 I found the (probably) only OpenMoko devices at CeBIT, presented by some guys of the TFH Wildau, a technical university of applied sciences, located in Brandenburg. I showed them my keyboard and we had a short talk about Openmoko, the potentials and weaknesses of the platform.

The talk about LiMo i enjoyed more or accidentally than planned was great, as I finally understood what the LiMo Foundation really does: Just a middleware. Just a place to share patents. So you can’t really compare LiMo Foundation to OHA or Symbian Foundation from a user perspective, but you can do so from a business perspective. From the user perspective can compare LiMo compliant platforms like Access Linux Platform or Azingo’s platform to others like like Android, not LiMo itself, which is rather a place for companys to share knowledge.

I talked to Garmin officials about the garmin-asus nüviphone G60, which is confirmed to be Linux powered, but I couldn’t find out whether they use „Software we know“ – the officials didn’t know. From the looks it isn’t something I know, to say the least. Most likely a proprietary UI, like the one garmin runs on it’s navigation solutions, which did run well besides hickups which were to appear when you wanted to use the keyboard – at least that’s what I could observe. Start up time wasn’t very fast too. But the thing is about to be launched in september (or even later) so they’ll surely fix the issues until then, for those who really want the G60 (I wouldn’t buy it as WQVGA on 3,5“ isn’t looking great and is outdated in my opinion). And I was told (as others were told before) that we will probably see Android powered Garmin/Asus devices in the future.

Went to ASUS booth, guys over there (at least those i talked to) didn’t know more than the Garmin guys – to be honest this was no surprise to me.

Short talks to people at OS booths, just saying thanks for their great work, as I believe that this important.

Met the „german netbook king“ (he was called so by Robert Scoble) Sascha Pallenberg (netbooknews.de). Talked about netbooks and stuff, then “mobile meetup” at 5pm at hall 6 5pm. It is a funny situation to sit there with lots of guys you’ve already read, heared on podcasts or seen on video reviews. Showed my Openmoko keyboard to Steven Paine (umpcportal.com), while 3 UMPCs are on the table, later 3 UMPCs vs. 3. netbooks…

Then I had a nice time at a party (Barcamp?) in the webciety area, taking most of the time to the guys that run ndevil.com before I had to leave in order to get the last train home – a good end for a day full of walking from one location to another.

After all I have to say, that I didn’t see lots of devices, I missed a hands-on on the Umid M1 and the Road handyPC S101 (I didn have it on my list, as it was announced in 2006) e.g., but like this CeBIT wasn’t like hell, it was more fun. I saw what I absolutely had to see (the garmin-asus G60 and the HTC Magic which might become a top seller, listened to a talk about LiMo which helped me to understand the LiMo platform a lot better than before – that’s it, basically. I tried to stay relaxed all the time, taking the time to talk to people, to look at some things – if I hurried, I could have seen more things, e.g. the Green IT area I missed too, but I believe that this wouldn’t have made the whole thing more awful.

Next year I will visit the CeBIT again, possibly for more than one day, even if it might be even less interesting considering mobile devices. And I might visit some more fairs… We’ll see.

(Pictures will follow tomorrow.)

Weekly linmob round up (2): Not much Android on MWC

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Time for another quick roundup of what happened this week in the world of mobile Linux – it wasn’t that much considering that this was the “Mobile World Congress” week.
The Android-powered phones being announced are easy to name, as they are few:
HTC Magic (likely to be T-Mobile G2 in US, will be sold by Vodafone in Europe)
General Mobile DSTL1 (glossy, WQVGA (resistive touch) Marvell PXA3xx powered dual-SIM)
..and then there was a chinese QVGA device running Android I saw on video this week, but I don’t find it right now.

Additionally (ex E-TEN) Acer (who reintroduced the Glofiish/gnufiish DX900) and Samsung announced to be working on Android devices to be launched this year, while presenting solutions running other mobile OSes.

Aside these Android running devices, there is still the LiMo foundation / platform – which I, to be honest, don’t like a lot, as it just appears to be interesting for the industry, which shares knowledge in it (like “how to take a way the power from the user” ;-) ), but not for the user who looks for a great, extendable platform – which announced to grow even more.

Astonishing: GSM variant of the Palm Pre wasn’t announced.

When you have a look at mobile Linux platforms, you have to have (at least when you are about to become a businessman one day, like i do) a look at the competitors on the markets. On the market for smart phones, which are about to feature a rich internet experience as well these are certainly the Symbian Foundation and Windows Mobile.

Besides adding new members, there were some rather nice Symbian handsets from Samsung (Omnia HD), Sony-Ericsson, LG and of course Nokia, who has made the Symbian Foundation possible – another hard competitor for Microsofts aged Windows Mobile, which is e.g. in my opinion really bad at multimedia and internet performance.

Of course Microsoft knows that their OS has its weaknesses, but as Windows Mobile 7 isn’t ready yet, the “being forced to do something to avoid a huge loss of market share” Microsoft guys announced Windows Mobile 6.5, which is at least an improvement – I wasn’t at MWC, but a friend of mine has a 6.5 rom on his good old HTC BlueAngel, so I’d say that I can talk about this. But I won’t do that now, maybe later, as it isn’t sensational anyway.

Besides this there has been a bunch of Microsoft powered new devices to be announced at MWC, of which I will mention the devices that actually were interesting, if they didn’t run Windows Mobile.

HTC, a smartphone maker gaining more and more market share, has announced the Touch Diamond2 and its keyboarded, more business aimed brother, the Touch Pro2 (which is in fact in my opinion a grandchild of the HTC Universal). Most interesting change you will notice while comparing them to their predecessors: They both got bigger screens – a 0.4” increase on the Diamond, and a 0.8” raise on the Pro (while adding 160×480 pixels in terms of resolution) – a fact I like, as bigger screens makes the devices more finger friendly.

The other manufacturer, who’s devices weren’t that hyped in press, which is quite new to the market, Acer, showed up some devices with bigger screens, too. Namely these are the F900 and its keyboarded brother M900, both featuring WVGA 3.8” screens – and the same SoC like the Openmoko GTA03 will most likely feature: Samsung S3C6410. So what about some more gnufiish?

Hope to see you again next week…