I Like Android, But I Have A Gripe…

I’ve been a long time Android user – approximately four years now since moving off of a feature phone, and using an iPod touch for my media consumption and apps. I’ve been mostly happy with Android, especially the latest revisions (Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, and Kit Kat). So maybe this is less to do with Android itself, and more how Android devices are handled by carriers (and manufacturers)…
android-robot-logo-give-me-my-codeYes, I know I can root my phone, etc, to upgrade to a later version of code, but this is something that tech savvy people are likely to do. When I think of everyday users, these folks are not likely to do this, so they are stuck with whatever code their carrier has qualified. While new features are nice, what concerns me more are folks getting access to security updates.

I am reminded of this every time Apple releases an update to iOS. Just yesterday, iOS 7.0.6 was advertised to my son’s iPod Touch and my wife’s iPhone to fix a security issue, which I promptly installed for them. When Apple releases a code patch, it is available to the end user at that time. With Android, the user must wait weeks or months for the update to make it to their device, based on what testing is done at the carrier (assuming the device is not rooted, and the user has loaded their own version). My Nexus 7 (a wifi only tablet) is running 4.4.2, but yet my Galaxy Nexus phone is currently stuck on 4.2.2. While there is a 4.3 based code available for the Galaxy Nexus, Verizon has yet to release it to their customer base. (I’m not addressing Windows phone here since I have no experience with it, and honestly don’t know how updates are handled for these devices.)

So let’s think about it… Does my ISP (Comcast) dictate when and what patches or OS upgrades I can do to my home systems? Of course not – the idea sounds absurd, doesn’t it? So why are carriers essentially acting as the change control agent?

I hope this changes. Updates should be available to consumers at the time of their general availability.

Let The Truck Be A Truck

Let The Truck Be A Truck

A few posts back I made reference to “tabletizing” the desktop/laptop OS. Since that post, Linux Mint has remained at the top position on Distrowatch, followed by Mageia, then Ubuntu. Distrowatch may not be the “be all end all” of distro ratings, but seems to be one of the best indicators of at least interest of a particular distro.

Linux Mint’s main offering of their latest version (13, an LTS or Long Term Support release) comes in two main different desktops: Cinnamon, and MATE. Cinnamon is an offering to make the Gnome 3 desktop a more traditional desktop, while MATE is a Gnome 2 fork for those that really want to stay with that experience. Mint also offers an xfce and KDE edition. I am currently running the xfce variant of Linux Mint 13 on my Linux box.

I have not followed Mageia closely, but understand it to be a community fork of Mandriva that came about when Mandriva fell on some difficult times financially. They have a default environment of KDE, but also offers Gnome 3, xfce, lxde, and a couple of others.

From various places I’ve read around the net, folks seem to be still critical of Unity (the default Ubuntu desktop environment), as well as the desktop formerly known as Metro for Windows 8. Of course there are some folks that seem to like those interfaces, but to my unscientific observations, there seem to be more folks critical of these “tablet oriented” interfaces on the desktop/laptop than those embracing it.

My take, and it seems there are others who may agree, is when a tablet experience is all I need, then I will reach for my tablet. When I am on a desktop or laptop though, it’s because I need it to do something more. Something the tablet either cannot do, or do as well or efficiently as a laptop or desktop.

The late Steve Jobs made the analogy that personal computers are like trucks. At one time, when the US was much more of a farming nation, most folks had trucks. As that trend changed though to less farming and into other occupations, less trucks were used in favor of cars. Of course, trucks never went away, and similarly, I don’t see personal computers completely going away anytime soon.

So why “tabletize” the experience of a personal computer? I know in the case of Windows 8, I can click on the “Desktop” tile to get to a more traditional, Windows 7-like experience, or do some registry hack. When looking at the case with Ubuntu, I can install a different evironment.

But I shouldn’t have to.

Why take the truck (in this example, let’s assume the standard pickup), and cut 6 feet off of the 8 foot bed, taking a key function of the truck and reducing it to a significantly less function? It seems to me that the truck functions as a truck when, well, we let it remain a truck.

My New Nook

I hope the New Year is treating everyone well. As you can tell, I sort of took the Holidays off from blogging. For Christmas, my wife got me the Barnes & Noble Nook Wi-Fi, and I am enjoying it thoroughly.  I like e-ink as it is easier on the eyes than a backlit LCD display, especially since I do the majority of reading at night, usually just before bed. I charged it up for the first time Christmas night, and I have yet to need a full charge – it’s at about 80% currently. I will say I have hooked it to my computer a couple of times to transfer some pdf files. So in these cases, it did have a few minutes of charging while transferring, probably about 15 minutes total. Navigation is done by what I found to be an intuitive color touchscreen below the e-ink screen.

The first book I read on it was Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which is free as a “NookBook”. The next one, that I am currently still reading, is Exercises in Wood-Working by Ivin Sickels (this is the F+W Media/Popular Woodworking release of this title). Also, as I noted above, I connected it to my computer to transfer some pdf based documentation. The formatting of these pdf files stayed intact, and embedded links worked without issue. I did edit the metadata for the pdf files since I found this is how the Nook will display this information in the My Documents display (some of the pdfs had differing or no metadata). For this, I used a free utility called Calibre, which also gives a nice option to copy to the device. If you don’t need to edit metadata, it’s easy enough to copy files from your computer to the mounted drive for the Nook, typically to the My Documents folder.

Below is a picure of the Nook booting.

And this picture below shows the Nook open to the Exercises in Wood-Working book. You can also see in this pic how the size compares, thickness-wise with the hard cover copy of Benjamin Franklin, by Walter Isaacson (just short of 600 pages, including index)

Now back to some reading… 🙂

Droid X: Some Things Are Worth Waiting For

I promised to post my thoughts on my new Droid X. One reason it’s taken me so long to post is that the first unit I received was actually defective. It had a problem where the touchscreen had intermittent responsiveness, and I often would not be able to tap to do anything. Long story short, Verizon was very good about quickly putting in for a replacement. Unfortunately, due to lack of stock on hand, I had to wait a week to receive the new unit (I received it on 7/26).

The other reason I haven’t posted until now is that, simply, I haven’t put the phone down long enough to post! I really am enjoying this phone. This is the first Android device I’ve had, and second true smartphone (the first was a few years ago – The Motorola Q).

I wasn’t crazy about the screen protector from Verizon. While it covered the functional area of the screen, it did not fully cover to the outside edges. Also, since it was anti-glare, it gave the screen a grainy look. The silicon case I also ordered from them was okay, but i did cut away the button area so that I could see the buttons light up in a dark area.

I had a discount code for Zagg.com, so I ordered their Invisible Shield Easy Body Install shield for the phone. It went on fairly easily, but noticed after a few days – long enough to allow for any defects to work out, that the screen protector showed very annoying vertical lines that almost made it look as though the screen was scratched. I did some further research, and found some useful user review, especially from one person who has info on YouTube videos here. Because it was reviewed to have a good feel, and the fact they give you two shields in the package, I ordered the Bodyguardz for the Droid X. This has pieces for each section of the phone. Not difficult to install, just a bit time consuming – probably 45-60 minutes for the whole thing. So far, I like the results better – much better screen quality (no vertical lines) and a nice smooth feel, with less of the so called “orange peel” effect.

My goal in getting the phone itself was to replace my old phone, an LG evTouch, and my Gen 1 iPod Touch. This easily handles both tasks. I did try the app Doubletwist to sync music with the phone, but this kept failing, and took too long to act as if it was syncing before failing. So far, the easiest solution thus far I found was to simply put the phone in USB Mass Storage mode, and drag and drop the music files to the phone.

The main thing I did though with my iPod was to listen to podcasts and audio books – a great way to pass my one hour commute to work and back. It’s nice to actually be able to manage the podcasts directly from the phone. For this I’ve been using Doggcatcher – well worth the $7. For audio books, Audible.com now has a full release version of their Android client. I had been using their beta prior to the release without issue, and just upgraded to the full release. One thing that is nice about having my media player and phone in the same device is that if I receive a call, it will pause the media, and resume once the call is ended.

I could keep going and going, but I should save some stuff for other posts. But let’s just say I’m very happy with what the Android world has to offer.

Droid X Is On Order…

I’ll be sure to post my thoughts, comments, etc…