A few silent days with the Acer Stream

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.

Honeycomb on G1

I am – and I am not ashamed of that – still using my G1, which I have for a little more than 2 years now. Mine, if you care, is running Gingerbread, to be precise a mod called “GingerYoshi” which has some cyanogen in it.

The one in this video is running Honeycomb, which is ported over by the same team that´s behing the GingerYoshi stuff that runs so well on my device. Of course, it doesn´t run too great, but it´s a sensation that it´s running at all on a ARMv6, low memory (ram and flash), non-OpenGL ES 2.0, HVGA device. Eat this, you “Honeycomb will be dual core only” lamers!

VIA: engadget
SOURCE: xda-developers.com

Rethinking my current computing line up (Part I)

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.

Motorola Droid is USB OTG capable

While most mobile devices lovers are eagerly awaiting the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, I am happy because I read today that the
Motorola Droid is actually able to be a USB Host. Of course you need a special cable to use your Droid even more like a computer thanks to this feature – but hey, it´s great anyway, thanks to Chris Paget for the cable guide, and Mike Kershaw and Mike Baker, who are Kismet/OpenWRT hackers, for the hacking.
As soon as it is confirmed that the GSM-Droid, the Milestone is USB OTG capable as well, I will be tempted to replace my OpenMoko FreeRunner and T-Mobile G1 by a “Milestone”..

Saying hello again..

I was quite silent the last months, due to focussing on other things in life then linux on mobile devices —- and i didn´ t cover the Computex at all, just due to the fact I was just bored of all Android MIDs and netbooks or smartbooks as ARM wants to call the ones that run on their SoCs (in fact ARM just designs the cores, the chips are.. and so on, but I hope you know that, anyway) and prefered lying in the sun, drinking lots of beer, writing sad or weird poems from time to time and reading books by american novelists like Kerouac instead. Reading those books about a life of delirious journeys, partys and hitch hiking, I really thought “fuck those great devices I have, they were so useless on trips like that as their batterys don´ t last longer than two days at my use.” And I still try to figure out a way to be able to use my G1 on the first episode of my journey through europe (by foot), as I can only afford it sleeping outside sometimes. Guess I need some kind of solar charger.. as I don´ t want to use a paper notebook only because I suck at handwriting on the go – with the G1 I can talk and write and walk and have a beer in the other hand (tho’ that makes writing harder).

On the other hand, my FreeRunner was all that time “soon off to buzz fix”, right now it still is (it arrived at Golden Delicious on June 13th) and I have the feeling that the recent lay offs at openmoko really affected the community in a way, it does not look that vital anymore, think of FreeSmartphone.Org, no more releases since the good guys were, let´ s use honest words, fired.

And Android on G1.. well it ain´ t that interesting, just a bunch of Android ROMs (Hero, Rogers, Ion.. ) – that are all the same and aren´ t the same time – over at XDA Devs and the VPNC port to Android doesn´ t seem to become a comfortable app any time soon, at least right now I don´ t believe in it – and it is the app I await most.

Meanwhile the Palm Pre is on sale in the US, if it wasn´ t CDMA and if I had money for it and didn´t feel like “better save it for my trip”, I would get it immidiately, I don´ t love its glossy looks that much, but among the released sources there is, guess what, vpnc and it is said to be hackable as hell, Harald Welte kind of likes it – besides that it is faster than all the ARM Hardware I have here right now.

But stop dreaming, Peter, otherwise you´ ll be worried that you stuck on your G1 which isn´ t that bad after all….

That´ s it guys, for now. Follow my dents or follow me on twitter, were i still drop a line about this topic from time to time….

(Besides: I guess I won´ t be at LinuxTag though I planned to be there, because I will lie in the sun in a delirious way, my life is so fucked up right now already, and now there is this Kieler Woche – it´ ll kill (or kiel) me even more.)

linmob weeky roundup (5 / week 11): rumors and such

Another week has almost passed by, and as usual (looking at the last week) not that much has been happening – at least concerning really pocketable devices that run Linux.

First of all there have been several rumors about Android 1.5 coming to the G1 in april (at almost the same time the HTC Magic will find its ways to your favourite seller (as far as you live in Europe) – even if this would not happen official, it was very unlikely that there would be no Android 1.5 (Cupcake) for the G1 at all.
(In fact there are some builds to try out on various web pages, e.g. there – they lack the Google and closed source apps, but otherwise they aren´t bad at all.)

Over to Openmoko: No, still no GTA03/3D7K spyshots or something like that, but I strongly welcome Risto H. Kurppa’s efforts to start a browser comparison on the wiki which he announced in the community’s ML – browsers are one of the real weak points of the Openmoko platform right now – besides the browser on Android and possibly the browser of Qt Extended 4.4.x I haven’t tried yet (nor seen it on video), there is no satisfying solution (I have seen a promising screenshot on scap.linuxtogo.org some time ago, but nobody seems to know what it shows). And now, that telephony is at least close to be called reliable, it does not sound to absurd to work on that issue.

Well, and as far as I didn´t miss too much, that´s all what I would consider interesting, as long as you are not interested in things like special Android offers or known devices appearing in various contrys under different brandings.

Ok, there is another Palm Pre webcast: The browser appears to be amazingly fast..

And then for those interested in netbooks or MIDs/UMPCs: VIA announced a new HD capable chipset, the VX855, which should be a fine companion to C7-M/Nano, eating even less Watts. But as there is no information on pricing and availability, this appears to be a Q4 thing – at best.

Oh, and I nearly forgot the best: OLPC XO2 news: It might be ARM based, which wasn´t unlikely as there is the strong aim to have XO2 to draw even less power than XO and AMD announced to discontinue their Geode processors.
There might be a certain point that makes you bang your head against the next wall, but nontheless I will link the PCWorld article.. Enjoy it ;)

Hope to see you again here soon .. ;)

Weekly linmob round up (3): 2 days late and not much to tell, anyway

The last week was – assuming that I didn’t miss all the interesting hot news – a rather silent week for those interested in Linux on mobile (meaning very mobile) devices. This wasn’t surprising, anyway, as it was the week between MWC and CeBIT, so much noise was pretty unlikely – but that it had to be so silent… the silence wouldn’t have been that bad, if it hadn’t been so boring.

Have a list of links:

There were some chipsets announced, additionally, but I think that it is better to wait for the actual devices using them, as this isn’t a blog aimed at hardware engineers.

BTW, Fennec/Firefox: I had a look at Fennec on my FreeRunner, and though the UI is nice, the most important experience was “slow”. This wasn’t unlikely considering the FreeRunners ARMv4T core and the fact that it doesn’t feature hardware accelerated graphics yet (Glamo and its bad NDA :( ), and I have to add, that I didn’t use a swap partition/swap file why using it. So to really have an opinion on “fennec on Freerunner” I need to have another, closer look at it – the upper are just some first impressions.

Additionally I should mention FSO MS 5.1, a bugfix release to MS 5, then a statement by a source we can believe in that Openmokos GTA03 won’t have NAND, but just a µSD instead – but I think that that’s it for last week, I am off to CeBIT on wednesday or thursday.

Stay tuned, hope to see you again next saturday!

T-Mobile G1 – Second and third impressions

24 hours ago I finally got it, my G1. I really like it and I feel that I am close to fanboyism, which makes me feel a need to critisize things.
But there isn’t much to critisize: It is a great device, it feels good to have it in your hand – comparing it to the defected Neo Freerunner I just received minutes ago (and which I hope is repairable), which isn’t much bigger, it feels a lot less bulky, not even bulky at all. Then there are lots of funny programs in the Android Market, which let you explore the capabilities of the device: It is fun to use it.

But besides the G1’s openness, there are more things to critize, e.g. the time the battery lasts: I had to charge the device twice yesterday. Sure, you can blame that to me, as I couldn’t take my hands of, and yes, lacking a data plan I used WLan a lot – but GPS was rarely used, just to name an example. Anyway: Android is great, it is probably the best software platform for mobile devices I have ever seen.

But it isn’t all like gold: Yesterday evening I was trying to use it without the touchscreen (as you might remember, there were non-touchscreen Android devices announced back on MWC 2008 (and we might see some on MWC 2009), I experienced some points I had to use the touchscreen, e.g. in 3rd party applications. Of course this is ok in an application like Steel, which is, for those who don’t know, a browser featuring a soft keyboard – it is an application aimed at touchscreen use. But while trying to find something in the market, I that problem, too, wasn’t to bad, touching the screen once helped me out. But anyway: This is an inconsistancy in my eyes, and we all don’t like them.

What I often forgot while playing around and trying this and that, was the “MENU”-key, which made me miss some options: I always had to remember that there is such a thing. That is not a great problem, as I will certainly get used to it, but it shows that Android isn’t perfectly intuitive. While most people will be able to do a lot with the device while holding it in their hands for the first time, you might tell them, that whenever they don’t find something they should try the menu button.

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you enjoy life as much as I do.. ;)

Android SDK 1.1 R1

As RC33 (which is the first US Android 1.1 release) for T-Mobile G1 was released recently for the US G1s and as the new G1s for continental europe have already been released with firmware 1.1, it was time for a new SDK.

Main improvement is a better german localization support and several bugfixes.

Check out the release notes and grab the SoftwareDevelopmentKit

BTW: I have been thinking recently about weekly a linux mobile roundup to make this blog more attractive. Guess I´ll do that from next saturday on.. so watch out!