Posted by: patdavila | December 27, 2010

Archos 101 Internet Tablet Review: Part 1 – hardware

Archos 101
The Archos 101 Android based internet tablet is now available for $299 in the U.S.. I’ve had mine for about a week now and have some initial likes and dislikes. First I want to discuss the hardware. Can a sub $300 device compare well with an Apple i-Pad or Samsung Galaxy Tab? Surprisingly yes. Archos has been in the media player business for some time now and in general their devices are well thought out and ergonomic.

Hardware likes:

  • Device is not too heavy. It’s much lighter than similar sized devices
  • The screen is nice and bright and has a nice resolution
  • has a full sized usb port on it
  • has a mini hdmi connection to connect to an HDTV
  • internal 8GB storage, microSD slot for up to 32GB added storage
  • front facing camera for video chat
  • kickstand to stand up the tablet on your desktop. Brilliant. Why no one other tablet has one is pretty puzzling. Perfect for using it as a digital picture frame when not active
  • stereo speakers are nice and loud
  • Hardware dislikes:

  • the screen is an absolute fingerprint magnet. On a smaller device it’s not as noticeable. Any lcd screen cleaner should work nicely to fix that.
  • the front facing camera is not the greatest quality. It’s ok for video chat but not for taking pictures
  • some kind of trackball or pointer would of been nice. Will go into detail when I talk about software and day to day tasks
  • device is mostly plastic though it seems pretty sturdy. There is a metal border around the screen.
  • to charge the device it has to be initially turned on
  • For the price I think the Archos 101 measures up pretty favorably to other devices in this form factor. The Viewsonic gTablet is roughly $100 more expensive. In my next post I’ll get into my likes and dislikes regarding Archos’ Android implementation and how the software side of things stacks up.

    Posted by: patdavila | December 13, 2010

    An Android based internet tablet for us mere mortals

    As the previous owner of a Nokia N800 internet tablet I can appreciate what a MID (mobile internet device) brings to the table. There are a ton uses for it: e-reader, email, web browsing, youtube, gaming, etc.. While the Apple iPad has made the Pavlovian dog brigade wet themselves we freedom loving geeks have been biding our time for an Android based device to deliver us to the promised land. The 7 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab was released and I can say it is a great device. It’s well built, has a beautiful display, it’s fast and comes with Android 2.2. It’s biggest weakness is the price tag. $599 without a contract, $399 with a 2 year contract on one of the mobile carriers. Yikes. The last thing I want with an internet tablet is being locked into a cell contract for the next 2 years. Why the hell did Samsung not release a cheaper wifi only version?! There are other options. Archos is releasing the Archos 101. And Viewsonic has released the Viewsonic G Tablet

    The early word on the street is that Viewsonic’s implementation of Android leaves quite a bit to be desired. The good news is since this is Android it’s pretty damn hackable & modable. There are already numerous custom ROMS running on this device including Cyanogenmod 6.1 beta.

    Both of these devices are in the $300-$350 price range. Much more reasonable than the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

    In the 7 inch form factor Archos has released the Archos 70 for $279. Also the Barnes & Noble Nookcolor Android based e-book reader has been rooted. So it’s only a matter of time till this $249 device gets one of the previously mentioned ROMS ported over to it.

    It’s about damn time that these devices are finally shipping. Even if the manufacturers screw up the software implementation it’s only a matter of time till the community provides an alternative implementation. Android being Open Source software is a great thing indeed.

    Posted by: patdavila | November 7, 2010

    Installed Fedora 14 on my laptop

    It’s been a while since I posted last and figured it was time for an update. This past week I installed the newly released 64 bit version of Fedora 14 on my Dell XPS 1330 laptop. I’ve had it running for a few days now and I have to say I’m liking it. It boots up pretty quick. Yum (the package manager) is much improved (speed and amount of software packages in their repositories). Everything seems quite stable and everything worked out of the box with no issues. The only negative with Fedora in general is they do not include any “non Free” software by default. This mean you have to go find a repository that contains these packages. Stuff to enable mp3, h264, wma/wmv and flash playback along with DVD decryption and closed hardware drivers. A bit of a pain but not a huge deal. It’s well documented how to get this stuff installed and its not a major chore. For now Fedora 14 stays on the laptop. It’s been a long time since I ran Fedora/Red Hat on one of my machines. Red Hat does a great service to the Linux community by providing a completely Free distribution of Linux for anyone to download and install on their computers. I recommend everyone check it out.

    Posted by: patdavila | September 4, 2010

    Angry Birds for Android released

    The Angry Birds game has been released on Android. I’ve played it a bit today and it’s an extremely addicting game in a Frozen Bubble kind of way. Android Central has a nice writeup on it along with links to the game:

    Posted by: patdavila | June 30, 2010

    My late Southeast Linux Fest roundup

    Sorry for the late posting on my experiences at the second annual Southeast Linuxfest but here it goes. I was planning on getting up at 3:00 AM and driving down to Dan Frey’s and then swinging down near Philly to pick up the lastknowngod. Unfortunately I overslept but eventually got out of my house by 5:00 AM and were on our way. The drive down to South Carolina was mostly uneventful. We hit the usual traffic near Washington DC but eventually made it to Spartanburg around 4:00 PM. We checked into our rooms and went down to hotel bar where Dann Washko and Chad Wollenberg had a huge head start on everyone else. Eventually we decided to head over to the sushi bar across the street. On the way out the door of the hotel we ran into Claudio Miranda and his buddy Julio who drove up from Miami. The sushi bar was a lot of fun as we got to catch up with some old friends. A bit later myself and Dann Washko headed over to the speaker dinner. I had a chance to eat dinner with Maddog Hall, a couple of the Digium guys, Tarus Balog from OpenNMS and Keith from the Open Invention Network. The conversation was excellent and my steak dinner was delicious. Next up was the pre-party. I was shocked at the very decent selection of beer at the pre-party. I didn’t get too crazy but it was still a great time nonetheless. Saturday rolled around and we setup our table in a far off corner of a far off hallway away from the main corridor. I wasn’t too crazy of the location but it wasn’t the end of the world either. I was able to catch a couple of talks and they were quite enjoyable. Many people came by our table to chat with us. We were quite busy the whole day selling t-shirts and giving raffle tickets away for our big drawing at the end of the day. In the afternoon I headed to hotel bar to watch the USA vs England World Cup match which ended up in a 1-1 draw. I was surprised at how many Linux geeks blew off the conference to come watch the game. After the keynote on Saturday about 20 of us headed over to Carolina BBQ for some dinner. I had the “3 meat fatman special” of pulled pork, chopped chicken and spare ribs. All were absolutely delicious. Saturday night I took it easy as I was speaking the next day. On Sunday it seemed the attendance was much lower than Saturday which was a shame because there were some great talks. My talk was at 2:00 PM and it went off very well. I thought I would of run out of gas since it was scheduled to be 2 hours long. Surprisingly time just flew by up there and the audience was great. All of the talks were recorded and will be available for viewing/listening at some point. Immediately after my talk we left and I made it into my bed at 4:00 AM after a very long and tiring drive home. I think the organizers overall did a fantastic job. Big props to Dave Yates, Jeremy Sands and the entire crew. In the future I think they should scale it back a bit. Having so many great speakers to choose from in five simultaneous tracks is a bit daunting. Maybe they should go to three tracks instead? Regardless SELF is a fantastic event and I highly recommend it to noobies and experienced Linux people alike. There’s so much goodness to choose from it’s insane. It was great to have the TLLTS crew in one place again and see so many old and new friends in person. Good times.

    Posted by: patdavila | May 27, 2010

    Ubuntu One Disappointment

    Unlike some people in the F/OSS community I was actually excited when I heard Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) was going to have an online music store. I love the Magnatune and Jamendo music stores but honestly sometimes I do want to purchase music from big name mainstream artists. Having more choice is a good thing. The more the merrier. I decided to try it out for the first time a couple weeks ago. In Rhythmbox you can browse and listen to music clips and then purchase them. What’s suppose to happen next is that the music will automatically get moved into your Ubuntu One shared folder and sych to your desktop folder. Well that did not happen. The only way to access my newly purchased music was to log into Ubuntu One via a web browser and download each track separately. Why did Canonical roll out this service with such a glaring bug was present? Were they so hard up for cash that they decided to start selling no matter what? This is a glaring failure in my opinion. Why not hold off for a month or two to work out all the bugs then roll out the service when it was 100% functional? A bad first experience like this will stay in people’s memories and possibly mean diminished sales in the future. Not smart. I became even more disappointed with Canonical when I learned that their first smartphone client for the Ubuntu One service was going to be for the iPhone. How can they justify catering to one of the most closed source products/companies in the world ahead of open source competitors? I’m very disappointed in you Canonical.

    Posted by: patdavila | May 26, 2010

    Flash 10.1 on Android 2.2 (Froyo)

    So I’ve had a couple days of using Android 2.2 and I’m still loving it. One of the most controversial technologies these days is Adobe’s Flash. Flash is very pervasive on the internet for both video content as well as casual gaming for both children and adults. I know about the children part as I’m the father of two young kids who love playing games on web sites geared towards them (Sesame Street, PBS kids, Nick Jr., Lego, etc.). Almost all of the games on said websites are flash based. A lot of people agree that Flash is a complete resource hog and should be purged out of existence. HTML5 shows a lot of promise but it still has some issues to work out. A bigger question is which video codec/framework will become the future defacto standard for the internet. Apple claims to be the champion for HTML5 but they want h264 to be the video codec of choice. Interestingly enough Apple has a vested interest in h264 so their motives are pretty clear. As part of this they’ve declared war on Adobe and vow to never allow flash on iPhones or iPads. As a result Adobe has allied itself with Google against Apple. A benefit of this alliance is that Flash 10.1 is now available on newer Android devices (Droid, Nexus One, Incredible, EVO) running Android 2.2. I’m pretty much in complete agreement with this article’s assessment of Flash 10.1 on Android. It’s a little slow to start up but works pretty well once it gets going. It doesn’t seem to suck the battery any worse than other applications playing video. It’s definitely a good initial release that should improve as time goes by. Being able to enjoy more video content on my mobile device is generally a good thing. I have to admit I felt pretty good after an iPhone owner I know said to me “is that flash video on Android?”. If it’s another thing to hold over the head of Apple Kool Aid drinkers than I’m all for it.

    Posted by: patdavila | May 23, 2010

    Android 2.2 is out and it’s rocking the world

    This past week at the Google IO conference the new version of Android 2.2 “Froyo” was introduced to the world for the first time. Lots of great new features were showed off: Massive speed boosts because of Dalvik JIT performance enhancements, wired & wireless tethering, flash 10.1, “update all” for package updates and APPS2SD (installing applications to the SDCard). The word was that Android 2.2 would be pushed out in the “coming weeks”. Well Saturday morning there were reports that Google was starting to push out the release to the Nexus One. Shortly thereafter on the XDA Developer forum people starting posting links to the new ROM image and how-to’s to manually upgrade. I downloaded the new ROM image (about 44 meg in size) and followed this simple How-To. About 5 minutes later Froyo was running on my Nexus One. The speed increase is very noticeable especially with games. Video with 3D acceleration seems much much smoother. The web browser seems quicker and more responsive. This enhancement alone makes upgrading worth it. Flash on Android works very well. I went to a bunch of different web sites with flash content and everything seemed to work without issue. Hulu was the lone exception but it has nothing to do with flash on Android. Appartently Hulu tries to block video streaming to any mobile device. This simple little hack tricks Hulu into thinking your phone is a desktop. You can now watch flash based videos on Hulu. In some perverse twist of fate I wound up watching a flash based video of the iPad on my Nexus One. I’m still trying out the new features and enhancements but it’s very obvious that Froyo is a very important update to Android. I can honestly say Android has now surpassed the OS used on the iPhone. I’ll be sure to follow up with my thoughts on some of the other new features in the coming days.

    Posted by: patdavila | May 14, 2010

    QNAP TS-419P NAS storage device review

    QNAP NAS

    For the last several years I’ve been using my old workstation as a storage/web server. It was an Ubuntu server setup that had a RAID1 array with 2 500 gig hard drives mirroring each other. While the setup worked fine I was looking for something that was much more low powered and flexible from a storage standpoint. I know a lot of people like Drobo boxes but I researched them a bit and talked to some of my Linux friends and the overall the consensus seems to be they are very proprietary and not that Linux friendly. I did however find a NAS product sold by a company called QNAP. QNAP is pretty open of the fact that they use an embedded form of Linux to run on their hardware. They appear to be abiding by the GPL by printing the GPL in their user manual as well as making the source code available to their firmware. You can also find documentation on their wiki on how to build the firmware with the source code. Setting up the NAS was pretty easy and they even include Linux specific instructions in their manual and quick start guide. I wound up buying a third 500 gig HD and going to a RAID5 setup. Basically it combines 2 drives as 1 TB disk with the third drive acting as a backup if one of the other two fail. In the future I can replace each disk to a larger hard drive and the file system is seamlessly migrated to the new disk without any data loss. Pretty impressive stuff. I can also migrate to a RAID6 setup simply by adding a fourth hard drive. Besides basic storage you can even install a bunch of different applications such as Asterisk, home video monitoring, online backup, bitorrent and a media server. QNAP has put together a really slick web based interface for administering their NAS products. In about 2 minutes I was able to setup a backup job to copy my files on a monthly basis to my Amazon S3 account. So far I’m very happy with the device. It compares very well against the Drobo products and the fact that it’s all Linux based makes it even more sweeter.

    People have asked me on more than one occasion what’s the best source of news related to Android on the internet? I tell them to go and read Planet Android. This site in an invaluable resource for anyone with an Android phone or is thinking of getting one. Tons of news tidbits come down the pipe every day. There are plenty of application reviews along with their related QR codes (which makes installing them a snap). Throw in some programming tips and opinions and you have a winning combination. Check them out.

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