Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cr-48 Review: Part Two

After fully charging last night I fired up the Cr-48 at 0640am to see how it would fare in real world use. The first issue was the Verizon 3G, in that it didn't have any. I completed the online form, entered my credit card info for authentication, received the Verizon confirmation then I waited...and waited...and waited. No joy. I used the toll free number in the email and called customer service, had to reset the 3G modem with the use of a command line terminal and was shortly on my way. I asked the customer service rep if this was happening a lot and she was more than happy to tell me that the recent Cr-48 activations were not going so well. Especially after the string of information filled with forward slashes and numbers have to be followed verbatim over the phone; she sounded as if she had already repeated most of these steps at least a hundred times.

That was really the only drama on the way to getting up and running. Since my company email uses IMAP and a proper email client like Thunderbird, I cannot check email on my Cr-48. But I can do everything else like access DropBox, Twitter via the Seesmic app, Gmail, Google Reader, Documents, Salesforce, and the real web. I did try to view a short Hulu video and was reassured that while this machine is sleek and light, it is most certainly not a multi-media rig. So leave your Hulu shows to your PC or Apple TV/Roku box.

It is now 3:03pm and the battery is only at 47% with moderate use, in and out of standby. Keeping in mind that this is essentially the Chrome browser I did not do anything that I didn't already do on my other PC's. I got more use to the keyboard and the shortcut keys that are documented in the box as well as many of the same shortcuts in Chrome.

While it's fairly useful, I am struggling to understand who the target audience for this kind of device is. Those of us who willingly signed up for the Cr-48 prototypes were expecting the type of user experience we were in for but the average corporate/consumer PC user will not tolerate online only usage, an invisible filesystem, and doing without the occasional offline application or two. What they will like is the almost instant on/off capability, simplistic tabbed UI, and single focus use. If this ever makes it to the OEM's like Acer, Dell, and HP there will have to be some way to manage these unless they are true "netbooks" and just accessing webapps. So if they are lost, stolen, or destroyed all of the data still lives in the cloud and the user is simply just issued a new unit. No fuss no muss.

I recently sold my iPad in favor of a Samsung Galaxy Tab and I feel that the Cr-48 most closely resembles the former except with a keyboard. Like the iPad, the Cr-48 has a lot offer but it's still keeps feeling incomplete somehow. But even with obvious shortcomings, I applaud Google for making brave moves into the traditional OS space while at the same time, changing our ideas of what it means to compute.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cr-48 Review: Part One

I remember Google's announcements a few weeks ago for Android 2.3, Google Chrome OS, and the Cr-48 but I was not fully up to date on the latter. Last week I read a post where one could go onto Google's application page and request one. A full week has passed now and my Cr-48 showed up this evening.

After a full hour with Google's latest creation, the Cr-48, I am left wondering how and why Google decided to build this true "netbook". In the past two years I have owned everything from the first Asus EeePC 701, HP 1100 Tablet PC, to my current Acer netbook, and two full-size laptops by Dell and IBM respectively. And even though the netbook monikers were attached to the Asus and the Acer, they were actually miniature laptops computers, one with a crippled Xandros Linux experience and the other a woefully out of date Windows XP instance scaled down to size. But netbooks? Not really.

With only Google Chrome OS, the Cr-48 may just be the first real netbook in that there are no native applications, no visible file system, and no waiting to boot up or down. Upon boot the user is presented with a short introduction then, much like an Android phone, only one's Google username/password is needed to activate the unit.

So far the keyboard is straightforward mimicking a MacBook Pro's chiclets with a row of keys above the number row that gives direct commands like: volume up/down, fullscreen, brightness, power button, etc. The Cr goes in and out of standby just by opening and closing the lid. In fact, regaled in all flat black this looks like a leaner, meaner version of my Thinkpad T60 but without markings it is the geek version of a "blacked out" sports car built for stealth AND speed. The top and bottom has a rubberized feel as does the palm rest. The trackpad requires the biggest adjustment as it takes a two-finger touch to simulate a mouse right-click. But even this change is welcomed. Whoever Google teamed with to create this device left out all of the bling factor but by doing so, made it look better than most of the high-end laptops out in the market today. Did Google build this to actually push cloud computing or to simply go on the offensive for its browser market share? Maybe I'll ask them next time I'm out in Mountainview ;-)

With Google's Chrome Browser out for a while now, it is more of the same here. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. All of my Chrome apps, extensions, and settings were ported into my Cr-48 and were ready to use in about a minute.

I will post the second part of this review as soon as possible but so far the Cr-48 seems to be "nothing but Net".

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Us 2.0

After re-reading this post about Joshua Topolsky's pitch for a "Continuous Client" and the with recent developments of Google's announcements of Chrome OS and Android 2.3/3.0, I believe we are just on the edge of Convergence Overlook. Google is creating two branches of computing platforms simultaneously: Android and Chrome OS. Even in Beta forms, there is no other company making the level of noise around pure online applications like Google has. Even in the beginning, when the first G1 came out in 2008, there were precious applications available in the Android Market because of the lofty visions of browser-based apps akin to Steve Jobs' claim in 2007, for the iPhone. Fast forward to the eve of 2011, and Android applications like Google's Chrome to Phone, Gmail, Talk, Voice, Maps, and even Skype now keep me connected from my PC, Android phone, and my Galaxy Tab.

It is not a coincidence that all of the above services are developed by Google with one exception, Skype. Along with Google, Skype has realized it's not the device or even the UI that matters, it's the connectivity and quality of service (QoS). If the QoS is usable and helps productivity, then users will flock to applications that keep them connected seamlessly.

In fact, I believe the OS of the future will be the Browser. Not in its current form however, but with AJAX, HTMLx, RIA, and yes even Adobe products like Air/Flash, the Web will be The computing platform carved into personal and corporate niches using various security permissions. Think about Facebook and Twitter for a moment, online communication is becoming as important and even more so than face to face as a medium that requires almost constant feeding and watering. And we are all complicit given this latest Forrester report that says Americans spend just as much time online as we do watching television.

All of this is making us a more mobile society but also more fragmented personally while being more connected socially. So with this new convergence and a possible blur between our real and online personas, which will you choose? It is already a balancing act for those of us who try to nurture both and I contend that the Continuous Client will not help us any better in the Future. The versions of You and Me and effectively "Us 2.o" still depend on who we really are and who we project ourselves to be.

So is the Continuous Client a computer interface or me and you?

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Best of Christmas

This morning my wife and I were discussing the gifts that we recently purchased, and are in the process or purchasing for our five children. The youngest is seven with the oldest being twenty-two.

With so many children, we strive to spread out the quantity and cost of gifts equally. There are so many things out there that we would to purchase to make our children feel like they are having a "good" Christmas.

We have done the Black Fridays and the Cyber Mondays. We have shiny new metallic objects that makes us feel as if we are arriving as well as some new threads to show off in 2011.

But the most wonderful gift that we can give this year is the re-channeling of Christ's love and then demonstrate that love to my family and others.

It has become a cliche but after the boxes and wrapping paper are tossed out with the refuse we cannot let those things represent the Christmas holiday. I fear that commercialism is wringing the life out of days we hold sacred now because of door busters and close-out sales, but this cannot be.

This is my responsibility this season.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Android, FTW

Last night as we wrapped our weekly AndroidGuys podcast I was reminded why I prefer Google's Android OS and methodology to anything else.

Back in 2005, I was deeply entrenched in Microsoft's Live strategy, anything BlackBerry, and Microsoft Windows XP. Until 2006, that is when I started working for a small open source middleware company named JBoss based out of Atlanta, GA. My experiences at JBoss then Red Hat, showed me what open source is. Then how it goes about changing development and business models for consumers and enterprises. The main draw for me though was choice. Choice to use software or not use software, choice to sometimes pay or not pay for something as a customer decides where the value is for his specific needs.

Then I heard that Google had purchased Andy Rubin's Android OS and was said to create a mobile OS. The Apple iPhone had just appeared on the scene and it looked like a non-starter to me because its lack of ability, the seemingly closed development, and the perception that "there is no happy partner" when it comes to Apple. Oh well, I marched on with my BlackBerry and all was well until I heard that T-Mobile was going to develop an Android phone with Google to release in the U.S. I started reading all of the blogs on Android that I could find, around ten back in 2007 (AndroidGuys.com was one of those early ones), and looked forward to the big day.

Fast forward to October, 2008 when I got my first HTC G1. By then Apple had changed the mobile landscape with the AppStore and Android had followed suit with the ingeniously named, Android Market. While the G1 was subpar hardware by comparison, the physical device was not my goal but Android 1.0. No, to me it was a mobile computer running Linux that created an almost instant modder community and fan base.

Now after owning many Android devices they sit alongside a few Apple and Microsoft ones in my collection but without being a "hater" of the others I still see the value of choice in Android. Whether Google ever decides to change the OS and/or their way of developing and delivering the software, I do not know. But until then I will indeed be an Android Guy.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mobile Ramblings

Wow! I read the Engadget review of the newest iPhone and I have to say that I am duly impressed. Apple, once again, has raised the bar for all comers and will continue to do so. But as an Android Guy I am even more happy in that it will continue to be the standard to which all other mobile smartphones will be compared.

So if iPhone is the bar then Competition has to do one better. Advantage: Us. We get to choose from Apple, Android, RIM, and WinMO platform devices according to what fits our own wants and needs.

Never mind for now how the hardware and software is developed and or much developers do/don't get paid (that's for another day and another post), but consider the end product. Apple has become THE design studio for all things mobile but as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The newest crop of HTC and Motorola phones are also very elegant and industrial in their respective devices like the HD2 and Droid 1.

What I am looking for in nextgen mobile is not a desktop experience on a 4" device but rather one that seamlessly fits into my life without compromising usability and does not force me to carry around middle devices like my iPad and a netbook. Flash and HTML5 will work themselves out by natural selection but I am still trying to figure out if apps, web, or both will win and how the Cloud will play in a new world of one and two GHz mobile processors.

I predict that local apps will prevail with data and authentication to live in the Cloud and the browser will get better audio/video capabilities. Once people get their Hulu and Netflix fixes satisfied on mobile then the great debate of mobile Flash will subside and will leave Farmville as the most played game out and about.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Too many toys?

At the risk of sounding materialistic, I really like, nay I love gadgets. In fact it is an internal struggle I have where I know all of this stuff doesn't matter, won't last, and can ultimately become a god or little gods if I'm not careful.

I can safely say that my faith is firmly rooted in God, my love is for my family, and my professional passion for open source and Ubuntu Linux specifically is still strong.

By the way, I heard that the new Verizon Droid X is coming out on July 2......

My new HD2

OK, so I took the plunge this past weekend as T-Mobile was running the "Father" of all sales to celebrate Father's Day weekend. All phones were free for new family plans and existing lines either had substantial discount or were free as well in exchange for two more years.

After admiring the HTC HD2 from afar, I finally made up my mind and called my local T-Mobile retail store and asked for them to set one aside for me "just in case" I had time to come in on Saturday. I had only seen one before and played with it briefly in the same store but was very impressed with the 4.3" screen and the build quality of the device. As far as I can tell, the iPhone 2, 3, and 4 have nothing on HTC when they set their mind to building an world class phone.

After signing the paperwork on Saturday it has been a few days and I am still glad I got it but it has a few flaws that have been well documented mostly blamed on Windows Mobile 6.5. The Sense UI is fine bPublish Postut I have had problems with the Opera browser, e-mail integration for Gmail and my work IMAP account, as well as the lack of Google integrated apps (but that's why I have five other Android phones, whatev).

I mainly use it as a portable WiFi router. Since T-Mobile is one of the last bastions along with Sprint for unlimited 3G data it works great as a mobile hotspot for my iPad and netbook. Since T-Mobile's coverage is really good in major metropolitan areas it usually is not an issue when traveling and you would be hard pressed to not find a McDonald's and Starbucks for free WiFi for ATT DSL customers like me.

Well there you have it, another toy but this one is highly useful and was definitely the right price ;-)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why iLike my new iPad

It has been a long time since my last post so just as a refresher on myself my day job consists of working for a leading Linux distribution and in my after-hours I write for an Android site. So I am not the typical Apple user much less a customer of a Version 1.0 device that obviously has little to no value, right? Please read on….

I will spare you countless user videos and multi-angle pictures since Google can find those for your viewing pleasure and just give an honest hands on review of my iPad after five days of use. From the moment I finally decided to get myself the iPad I had multiple conversations with myself about what I would do with such a middling device. I finally succumbed because I figured the worst I could do is end up returning it, pay the restocking fee, and get it out of my system and not look back. I showed up at the Apple store on a Friday afternoon and after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, received an arrival email Saturday morning (funny how something you never wanted or needed before suddenly becomes a must-have object of desire).

True to Apple’s process of putting you in a line to wait for your name to be called to be in another line, I was swept away by a very bubbly Apple rep and after going through the extended warranty pitch got my hands on my iPad. Again, true to Apple form, since this is not a “real” PC but an Apple peripheral device I did not even take it out of the box as it has to be activated by an iTunes account. Fine, I did that and powered it up for the first time.

What greeted me was little changed from my 2G iPhone and my bought-and-sold iPod Touch’s BUT the iPad is simply stunning because of its screen. It is much more touch sensitive than either of the former devices yet not excessive, it just goes when you go and moves when you move. The swiping between screens is not just fast but FAST. This thing moves. I see the genius of Apple not letting their “iP-X” devices run multiple processes, because if they did they would get bogged down by threads, apps that access old data over and over, and what’s more – the dreaded battery live. As an Android guy I don’t completely agree, but I do understand it. iBooks is nice to show off but I am still testing to see if it is a real viable option to a physical book. I suspect this is the future of print and I need to just quit resisting. Also, my introduction to the device cannot be discussed if the battery life is left out. I did not charge the device initially and it lasted the advertised ten hours at least, so Apple has definitely cracked the code for an “all day” device.

I proceeded to download my standard apps: TweetDeck, Netflix, ABC player, various radio apps, Skype, an HD KJV Bible and they all work just like on my iPhone. The TweetDeck, Netflix, Bible, and ABC apps are optimized for the iPad, whereas the other ones are still iPhone ready. Which means they take up the same screen real estate as an actual iPhone. No real problem here as they will be come iPad-ized soon but the 2x function leaves them highly pixelated and unsightly, but functional. The only real problem I have had so far is a stuck pixel to the left of center but I’m going to have Apple look at it this week so we’ll see. This past week I have taken my iPad everywhere. After a hard reset the fist day, I finally got my Gmail and work e-mail working and it’s very useful to use out and about as I have a portable WiFi device with unlimted 3G, so no ATT 3G version needed.

I downloaded several movies onto it and they look very good, in fact, they look better on the iPad than my full size PC’s and is my primary reason for purchase. The Netflix app is essentially a mobile Safari browser plug-in and not native but it plays movies over WiFi very well and over 3G just okay. So I agree whole-heartedly that the iPad is not a device for creativity but for consumption. And if this is kept in mind by the user then it does actually what it’s made for and then some. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Apple iPad case. As you can see by the images above it is very slim and it folds back on itself to give a decent angle when typing on a table top and/or your lap, and it can double as a stand, but only on very flat and stable surfaces or else it will topple over as it’s top heavy.

All in all, I am very happy and surprised that I have come to use the iPad almost as a primary device. It has taken the place of one HP Tablet PC 1100, Dell Mini 9 and 10 netbooks, Asus Eee PC 900, Acer dual-boot netbook, Lenovo Thinkpad, built home desktop, you get the idea. I am doing 90% of my computing now from the Ipad and my Motorola Droid so my actions have spoken louder than my words.

(I purposely left out the argument against Apple’s walled garden approach to developing software as 99% of iPad customers will not care or know how they get their software, only that they do).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One more shot with the obligatory keyboard.....

But it's still all about the software....

Motorola Blur

While I don't usually write about particular devices (other than my G1), I feel like I would like to comment about Motorola's new Android interface called "Blur". The form factor is nice but certainly nothing new here to crow about. It's all about the UE, user experience.

This interface will be the portal to social networking apps such as Facebook and Twitter and will simultaneously update your contacts as your contacts update their information, picture, etc.

Even more than before will the internet be seen as a platform and the desitination at the same time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sync or swim

With apps in the cloud being all the rage right now just how feasible are applications that have zip codes in the ether? Very.

Especially, with the state of data connections, browser technology, and PC speeds. Web portals are the perfect clients for viewing and interacting with applications. And with FF3, Chrome, and Safari coming online with HTML5 and more sophisticated ways for Flash and AJAX to be viewed the time of the online application is here. Even more so with Google Gears making offline web applications possible, but I digress...

The browser is the only application that has to be opened if we could only use one for daily use. Can you get by without an e-mail client and/or an office suite? Of course. But try to go through one day without accessing any type of browser and you will quickly notice how important cloud/web/hosted apps are.

On the way to cloud nirvana like my son in the backseat always says, "Are we there yet?" Almost.....just a few more miles.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The force is strong with this one....

This morning my son's Nintendo DS displayed the wrong time. At this time I tried to change it but I didn't have the first clue about the interface. After I told him about it, in about three steps he had the time changed and everything.

And with my experience of Win, Linux, Android, etc. in installing, root'ing, and changing OS capabilities and I couldn't figure out his portable game console.

Like father like son.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Open source wins again

For what seems to be the hundredth time, I have been asked to "fix" one of my friend's computers. And each and every time it has more to do with the browser choice than the PC.

Since we are doing more on the internet with SaaS and cloud services our choice of internet browsers is more important than ever. This goes to show that browser functions are increasingly becoming more important than underlying OS capabilities.

By the way, FF is not better because it is free (so is IE 8), but because it is developed on open source frameworks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sent from my wireless device

I am seeing more and more e-mail sent from wirelessly but why must we announce this by adding these tacky status signatures? As more and more convergence becomes pervasive among more devices there will be no need for this.

If you are working you are working. Period. No matter the format of the platform. Let us all just send e-mail, blog, text and call from wherever no matter.

Full disclosure: I submitted this entry from my T-Mobile G1.

Sent from my wireless Android device. ;-)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jumping the shark

With this whole Web 2.0 noise I believe in the mobile computing space we have just leapfrogged 2.0 and have gone straight to v3. I am done waiting for Flash for Android/iPhone/WinMo. We just need to get over having this for a portable device where connectivity and battery power are paramount. HTML and other web technologies can give us more than we need in GWT to satisfy our web-app desires.

Mobile browsing is the only way that most people get on the web. And that will only go up as people stop buying land lines and personal computers and do more from their mobile internet device (MID).

Today's iPhones and similar devices are already pervasive...just imagine what the mobile computing market will look like in five years.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brave New World

This past week, I decided to take the plunge and buy another G1 to root and play with. After taking it home and carefully following the instructions I had a fully root'ed G1 with WiFi tethering that turns it into a wireless hotspot and an IPSEC VPN client.

The latter is what truly turned it to an enterprise phone along with the new Work E-mail app that gives Android native Exchange capabilities. Well after making short work of that G1 it was quickly sold to a friend of mine who is a TMO fan and just happened to need a new phone the next day. So being armed with my new knowledge of jailbroken G1's, I promptly bought a new white one from my local T-Mobile retail store.

Now it's fully rooted and I can now use it to its full potential. Android is quickly proving itself among the large WSP's that it is a force with which to be recokened. It will soon be pervasive on high-end and low-end handsets alike on ATT, Verizon, TMO, Sprint, and Verizon. While iPhone is going gangbusters at just one provider it is just a proprietary phone, not a software platform. After Moto releases their version the market should be flush with even more HTC's not to mention Samsung and LG variants.

To me personally, the mobile space is shaping up to be most interesting place for high technology and looks to continue to be the hotbed for new ideas.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My G1. Amen!

I was using my G1 (as usual) yesterday and I just wanted to testify what a great phone this has been. With my technology A.D.D. I find it very hard to keep one phone for long. I have owned a plethora of BlackBerries, the iPhone, WinMo devices, Palm Treo's, and many others. But I cannot seem to stop thinking about Android.

Now mind you, the G1 is certainly no beauty queen but Android is the reason I keep it. Had this device been running Windows Mobile or S60 I would not have even purchased it. I was reminded of this the other day when a friend of mine gave me his 1st-gen iPhone to modify and for a second I doubted myself for selling mine. Until, I tried to make a test call on it that is. After what seemed like forever I got a signal then I tried to type on it...no dice. I get my Apple fix with my iPod Touch running 3.0 and Skype and it makes calls much better than the iPhone.

But everytime I use my G1, even though I am aware of the hardware shortcomings and I am repeatedly amazed by the OS. From multi-tasking, smart RAM usage, and the interface it may be the phone of choice for me no matter the carrier. And to the people out there who are afraid of Google and their privacy issues while using a Google phone, get over it. Your information is already out in the ether and is only a "submit" click away.

So after eight months with T-Mobile's G1 the future is definitely bright for Android.

Evolution not Revolution

A while back I wrote on the browser becoming the OS of tomorrow. Well, with the new version of FF3.5 with HTML5 built in we are getting closer to than ever before. This technology is the genesis of making 3rd party extensions such as Adobe Flash and MS Silverlight obsolete in the way of making audio/video accessible native in the browser framework.

As always, we as users are the recipients of this goodness that is manifested out of the competition between MS IE, Safari, Chrome, FF, and Opera. They are all market leaders in their respective technologies and are bringing us closer to the Web as a true cloud service.

We are not in the era of Software-as-a-Service but Service-as-a-Service. When Twitter, FB, and other platforms are being accessed via phones, netbooks, PC's, Mac's, etc. these services are all hardware and religion agnostic. They just run in the browser or are presented in wrappers that interface with it.

Since the cloud is the new mainframe we should expect more applications to run within the framework of the browser, and more computers to simply become portals.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Movie popcorn = proprietary software

Today I read this great analogy that inspired the title of this entry. Why is this so? Once you enter the theater you are now part of a captive audience and are expected to part with your hard earned cash. Even in the days of BYOC (bring your own candy) to the movies you don't dare bring your own popcorn.

This is an example of how proprietary SW vendors get customers apart of their ecosystem and get them locked in. In the end it's a package deal. You can bring your own APIs and some tooling but the vast majority of the proprietary SW will be sold in the millions of dollars to customers who have bought their ticket at a theater near you.