Archive for March, 2006

Want a cheap Linux smartphone?

I found for purchase a Linux/Qt phone from Motorola, the quad-band/EDGE A780. The phone was originally destined only for Asia, but now Geeks brought it to US with the best price of any Linux phone I have ever seen: $295. Which is a very good price considering that you are getting a PDA/phone with Opera, Real Player, Document Viewers with an updated firmware from late 2005.

If you are not convinced that this is a bargain, consider that the brand new and VERY similar in software/specs Motorola Ming A1200 Linux phone costs $700 here in US.

Its software is almost identical to my E680i Linux phone, so expect the same lag in the UI and in the video/camera application. The A780 phone is better than my E680i in every respect, except in three points: it doesn’t support A2DP, it doesn’t have an FM radio and it uses Transflash instead of SD (so you are limited to 1 GB instead of 4 GBs of removable storage). Other than that, it’s a really cool phone and the BEST Linux purchase you can make today, if you are a Linux geek or a prorfessional who needs PDA functions on an affordable phone device.

If only Motorola was to freely release the SDK though so devs could port apps. That’s the only limiting factor from calling all Motorola Linux phones “true” smartphones. 🙁

BTW, at the bottom of the Geeks.com page it says that the phone doesn’t seem to work with Cingular’s GPRS, but this is not true. This phone DOES work with GPRS/EDGE with both T-Mobile and Cingular.

Foresight Linux, the champion of bugs

My friend Thom is jumping up and down for Foresight Linux usually, and so I decided to have a second look yesterday, downloading a VMWare image of their latest 0.9.4 ‘stable’ release that included Gnome 2.14 in it.

I found about 30 bugs in about one hour of using the system. Some of them are usability bugs, some are just personal irks, but about 15 of them are real hardcore bugs.

In fact, I am a proud finder of a huge security hole that I discovered on Gnome’s fast-user-switch 2.14.0 applet. This is the first security bug I ever found, IIRC. Anyways, I emailed James who is the maintainer of the applet, he replied soon enough and he will possibly look into this (I’ll be watching).

But what really bugs me is that Foresight Linux’s bugs I found are easily detectable with a simple SMOKETESTING. Don’t these people care about their project? Don’t they see these reproducible errors, crashes, freezes, whatever? I have to state the following in capitals, I am sorry:

IF A PIECE OF SOFTWARE DOESN’T PASS SMOKETESTING, DON’T BLOODY RELEASE IT.

No matter if your software is marketed as “bleeding edge” or not, there is a difference between having some bugs here and there and not pass smoketesting. This is the difference between a Beta/RC version and an eternal Alpha. Who wants to use Alpha software? Surely not someone who respects him/herself.

Apple now loves SPEC?

I have an Apple developer account and I received today an email from Apple asking devs to become “ADC Select” members and get a Macbook discount. Well, here’s the thing. It really surprised me that they had this fine print on their email: “*Based on estimated results of industry-standard SPECint and SPECfp rate tests. SPEC® is a registered trademark of Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC).”

You see, when Apple was in the PPC architecture, they were avoiding publishing SPEC benchmarks just like the ‘devil avoids the holy water’ (this is a Greek saying btw). Apple would just not release SPEC results, even if ALL other CPU and machine manufacturers would. But now that they are on the Intel platform, they don’t mind doing so and mentioning SPEC.

This exposes Apple as huge liers to the public when they were saying back in the day via ads that the G3 is faster than the PII or that the G4 was faster than the P4. In reality, especially the G3, it was even slower than a PII-Celeron at the same clock. Internally at Motorola, the G3 was never meant for a high performance CPU in fact, but Apple had no choice but to use that CPU for their Mac line or they would have been out of business.

Of course, Intel is not much better in that regard when they were saying that the PentiumII would make your internet connection… faster. Or AMD’s claims over some of Intel’s models. Everyone lies. Pick your poison. It’s just that I don’t think that anyone has lied as much as Apple has the past few years regarding CPU speeds.

Burning down the house

Remember my adventures with my Powerbook’s connector? Well, it seems that the Magsafe is not really that safe either…

The PocketPC that is not

Being the geek that I am, I had wet dreams for Nokia’s N80/N92 the past few months. But their lack of a qwerty keyboard or touchscreen really kills them for me. Why is it so hard to come up with a phone that has all the hardware/software features that most people need to replace laptops when travelling? Personally, I don’t really require that much from a smartphone that one would call it “modern”: QVGA web browsing on selected mobile-enabled sites, email client with Gmail and preferrably Hotmail support, IM for all 5 popular protocols, VoIP with Skype and Gizmo/SIP support, mp3 player with A2DP/AVRCP support, enough main memory/RAM and an 1.3 MP camera that actually has a protection cap and a flashlight .

All these features are doable easily on a Windows Mobile 5 PocketPC smartphone, but the reality is that there is not a single model out there that does all that well. For example, check the upcoming HTC “Hermes” PocketPC here. It has unecessary “decorations” that makes it look bulky (haven’t they learned from Apple’s iPod that SIMPLE is BETTER?), and its new style of qwerty keyboard is much worse than their previous version: all keys are glued next to each other making them really hard to press the right key and not only that, but they don’t even use all the available surface to make key-pressing easier. WHAT IS HTC SMOKING??

Yes, the currently available HTC front runner called “Wizard” (sold by T-Mobile, QTek and i-Mate) has a better keyboard but it doesn’t do it for me because it only has a 200 Mhz CPU which can’t encode on-the-fly for A2DP and so their AKU2 software update has completely removed A2DP support from the ROM. Sucky!

I have looked at *ALL* PocketPC phone models out there, none is doing things right, the way I need them to work. And Nokia doesn’t offer an S60 model with touchscreen and Qwerty (the E61 is nice, but no video/snapshot camera and touchscreen? come on!). And Sony Ericsson’s P990 is disgustingly expensive (over $1000) with no real application base (it has fewer than 30 applications that work on this phone model, compare that to 1000 Symbian apps and 20,000 Windows Mobile ones). And PalmOS 5 is a dead horse anyway, so the bulky, unstable Treos with their stupid external antenna doesn’t do it either for me.

What I need is a well-designed keyboard that uses all available space and slides out of a design that looks like this (this is my mockup). It is imperative that the device is very small and has a very thin bezel around it (just like the iPod video does) and yet it remains fully usable and easy to press buttons. It should have a VGA video call camera, quadband GSM and UMTS, two softkeys for Windows Mobile 5.1 AKU2, a Windows key to open the Start menu and an “ok” button to *close* applications (and so minimizing the need of using the touchscreen), it has a respectable 1.3 or 2 MP camera with a flashlight and protection cap, WiFi 802.11b, Bluetooth 1.2, 416 Mhz Intel XScale CPU, 128 MB of internal storage and 64 MB of RAM, a good 2.8″ QVGA touchscreen, a speakerphone, 2.5mm or 3.5mm audio jack, a normal SD/SDIO slot that can read SD disks up to 4 GBs, plus the software features I mentioned above. And if there’s space in the device’s internals, throw in an FM Radio too, they don’t cost more than $5 anyway. The phone should be able to deliver more than 5 hours on GSM continuous calls and have about 250 hours of stand-by (easily doable with a 1440 mAh battery and electronic parts that are not cheap ass crap like O2’s XDA Atom (which I reviewed a few weeks ago) and are instead low-power).

I would gladly pay up to $700 for such a device. And I am already offering too much considering how much the parts and software licenses really worth (manufacturing cost of such a device is way below $500 USD in reality). While R&D will be expensive for a brand new company to pull such a device through and bring it to market, it should be child’s play for someone like HP or HTC or even Quanta. So, why aren’t they doing things right?

Nathan in the edge of heaven

Actor Nathan Baesel emailed me earlier with a link of a glowing review he got from the very popular movie site AintItCoolNews. Needless to say that he is extremely happy. 😉

French look to open iTunes to other music players

France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker’s popular iPod player.

I liked these news. Now Apple will get a bit of the crazy European taste that Microsoft is getting from EU for its Media Player. They’re crazy, crazy I tell you! Run!

Box Office gains low, I hear?

For the past 1-2 years the major studios are bitching that the Box Office financial gains are very low, because people don’t go to the cinemas as much as they used to, they claim. They also claim that piracy has taken a toll on their business.

Honestly, that’s all bull. How do you expect me to go to the theater when their Top 10 movies this week (10 March 2006 results) has only a single “ok” movie among them?? Except the family movie “Eight Below”, the rest nine movies are CRAP (and that includes “Ultraviolet” for which I had better expectations from its director — readers of this blog have already read about my “Ultraviolet” expectations for months now).

If you sum up all the IMDb rating numbers of the top-10 movies currently on the Box Office, you will get the LOWEST overall rating number, EVER. While IMDb is not the most accurate way to evaluate a movie, its reader ratings are pretty damn close. The bulk of the current Top10 movies are not even worth the time and bandwidth to… pirate on. Let alone getting all dressed up, getting to the car, spending gas to drive 8+8km away in San Mateo, fighting for a parking spot, waiting in a long line for a ticket and finally sacrificing a goat to find a good seat.

If the studios want us, consumers, to visit theaters more, then they should stop releasing absolute crap.

Apple to complete Intel transition by August

“Citi expects Apple to complete its transition to Intel-based microprocessors in August with the introduction of a new, dual-core PowerMac, with Intel-based iBooks coming as early as April. The brokerage also expects Apple to release a new video iPod in April.”

This is correct. The x86 platform is a well-understood platform with many ready-made solutions so creating new PCs and testing them is a matter of a single month while it can be as long as 6 months when creating an equivelant PPC machine because Apple had to invent new things on their own each time.

On other news, I finally found the time to rip my favorite songs out of our 400 CDs we own (128kbps mp3 VBR). I still have 1.2 GB free space left on my 4 GB first-generation iPod Mini. I guess you can say that I am “difficult” with art… 😉

Update: Oh, my God, I got to blog about this! Good friend Thom (and I hope he stays so after this blog post 😉 has never heard of the The Scorpions! I am sure he has heard some of their songs though, he just doesn’t know it. Either that, or he is too young for me to hang out with. 😉

Aliens, Christians and Arrogance

Google landed me on this web page today. It is a Christian page, trying to answer the question of alien life and the universe. I don’t like the 4th paragraph more than anything else. It’s absolutely fine to not advocate that might or might not be aliens out there, but when you say that Earth and Humans have a central role in the fate of the whole universe is not only arrogant, but also stupid. Are Christians and all other religions that see Humans as the center of the universe really that blind? I mean, if scientific books are herretic, don’t they have Discovery or Science channel at least to try and educate themselves about the vastness of the universe? If an intelligent being created the universe, why only create life on Earth? It doesn’t make sense to create life only on a single planet, and yet, create so many planets around it that are nothing but rocks. If life was really so important, he would have planted it elsewhere too. But noooo, religions can’t lose their theocratic and one-sided arrogant explanation of the human existance. It would make them lose power. And that’s not good for their finances.