Monday, December 06, 2010

The iPod Touch/Android Shakedown!

I bit the bullet and got an Android smartphone a while back, and figured I'd use this page to sort out what I like and don't like about it, as compared to my old iPod Touch.

The Prices

My Android is a Samsung Intercept. I got it for around $200, and a 300 minute/month, unlimited data plan for $25/month from Virgin Mobile. My iPT was around $200, and last I looked, Apple wanted around $200 for an iPhone, then $70/month at a minimum for the cheapest voice and data plan (through AT&T, was it?). Yeah, in this case, Virgin Mobile spanks AT&T, especially considering how little I use the voice side of my phone. Heck, AT&T's data alone was $40/month. Sheesh. So yeah, base price is about even, but Android plus Virgin Mobile beats the iPhone pretty easily.

The Actual Phone

The unfair comparison here is that the iPT doesn't have a phone. Android wins! (Wait, what?) Well, the Android let me combine two devices into one, and let me stop carrying my plain old phone. And that's been very nice.

OTOH, my old phone, low-tech as it was, was quicker to dial. Unlock the keypad, punch a couple of buttons (for speed dial) or the actual phone number, and you're talking. With Android, you unlock the screen, start the phone app, scroll around to find what you want, it's clunky. In that way, I kinda miss my old phone, but I doubt the iPhone would be much easier than Android, at least from seeing others with their iPhones.

Other Unfair Comparisons

My Android has a GPS and camera. My iPT is an older generation model that doesn't have either. Android wins! (Hey, stop that!) Actually, I've used the camera maybe two or three times, and until I feel like pretending that I'm a photographer again (it happens every two or three years), I don't really seem to be messing with it much.

The Android GPS is tolerable, I guess, but the software leaves something to be desired, (i.e. I can scroll the map to look around, but can't select a point on the map as a new destination), and it's not hard just in driving around to get it to give obviously bad driving directions. (I'm getting a stand-alone GPS for Christmas; we'll see how much better that is.)

The Hardware

Here's where Apple shines, and the fanboys can gloat. (Hi, Andre!) The Intercept has a smaller screen and thicker body, while the iPT is noticeably larger. +1 for Apple.

Also, not sure whether it's the Intercept's processor or touch screen or what, but where the iPT may be slow or pause on 1 out of 20 interactions, the Intercept is sluggish maybe half of the time. I was playing with my iPT for the first time since I got my Android, and it was VERY nice not having it lag on just about everything. While that's probably not Android's fault, Apple gets another +1 for homogeneous hardware that just works.

But the Intercept gets kudos for having a keyboard. If you're reading stuff on the iPT, it's nice, but putting input INTO one is a bit tedious. I've sent maybe a dozen emails from it in the couple of years that I've had it. I've sent that many via the Intercept in the last couple of weeks, as well as had SMS conversations with folks, and it's just NICE! +1 Intercept!

And while usually Apple just GETS hardware, my Intercept came with a wall plug USB adapter. +1 Samsung, (even though I'm actually only using the wall plug on my bedstand to keep my iPT charged).

The O/S

This gets subjective. In a nutshell, iOS is simple, Android is more powerful. And as a geek, I often like powerful over simple. But not always.

Okay, some particulars. With Android, I can connect to a machine on my network via SMB, pull an MP3 file down and have it show up instantly in Android's music player. It takes a little geekery (I probably lost some of you when I said SMB), but it's possible. It's also possible to see exactly what's on my SD card, and move things around if I want.

Neither thing is possible with iOS. With iOS, you load songs via iTunes, which doesn't run on Linux. So I need to borrow Wife's Mac to put things on or take things off of my iPT. Silly, but simple. Apple assumes A) you aren't running Linux, and B) you'll be plugging your iPT into your main computer regularly. Wrong, and wrong. I've never plugged my Android into a non-Linux computer, and only once have I actually used my Android as a USB drive. (It's not exactly simple to do, +1 Apple.) But the point is, I don't need to. The thing is wireless, why would I need to plug it into a computer?! +2 or +3 Android.

But then I sit down with my iPT, and all my apps are right there, and they're simple and they just work. Hrm. What's a geek to do?

Email

Android has a native GMail app. Yay, Android! But that app only does GMail, and you need another to check an IMAP server, while iPT has one mail client that tolerably does both. Yay, iPT! (But, as I mentioned, my Intercept has a keyboard. Yay!)

Web Browser

Android's web browser is clunky; Safari on the iPT is smooth. In particular, bookmarks on Android are weird, and I'm still trying to figure out if I can do tabs. Safari just works. +1 iPT, if only for being easier to figure out.

The Stores

Both devices have their stores to get apps. Again, Apple does simple, while Android does functional. I'm not on Mac or Windows, so none of the links to apps take me to iTunes, so simple breaks. But the Android store and web presence in general isn't as smooth, somehow. I think in both cases, I'm a bit spoiled by the search awesomeness of google.com, and hate not getting that in the device stores. But the availability of apps hasn't been a problem on either device; no clear winner.

One other thing, though. I can develop my own app on Linux, and put it onto my Android, if I want to. I can't do that with iPT. Now, to be honest, I'll probably never actually do that, so I can't factor that into a score, but the geek in me loves that I can. So there.

Twitter & Facebook

Both services have clients for both devices. I realized that I prefer Twitter's mobile clients on either device to their web client, as it's more obvious when I get replies. (Insert twitter grumbling here). Facebook's clients seem equally tolerable on either. No winner here.

YouTube

Both devices have YouTube clients, and both are frustrating in that they won't let you search for a channel or user. The Android client will let you pull up your subscriptions, but the larger ones seem to go into some other mode that just shows activity on the account, which is weird, and is not what I want. But the Android client can also do playlists, so you can go to the web site, setup a playlist, and watch in on the Android, which I've never found a way to do with the iPT. +1 Android.

Other Apps

I love GoodReader on iPT, and hate that they don't have an Android client. Adobe has an Android version of Reader, which is kinda cool, but not as easy to use. Dropbox exists on both, and OMG you can edit text files on the Android! +2 or +3 Android! And they sync back to the server (since it's Dropbox)! +2 more for being so awesome! Weather Channel exists on both, but they have real estate issues on the Android (some screens have not quite half of the already small screen being scrollable; come on!) Google Reader has an app on Android; haven't looked on iPT, but it's nicer than the mobile web app. ESPN is on both, and equally clunky on either.

Bottom line is that, for the apps I use, the two are about equal.

Other Annoyances

I've already beat up Apple for making me use iTunes for way too much with the iPT, no need to belabor that here. Intercept has its problems with the interface, and I'm also still trying to get Android to notify me exactly when and how I want. Having a separate phone was easier in that regard, as I never got email on my phone, just SMS, which I did want it to wake me for. To date, I don't keep my Android on the bedstand, which means I can miss SMS's that I'd rather not miss, but I'm still working on figuring that out.

Conclusions

So I'm actually going to punt, and not declare a solid winner here. I like them both, for different purposes, and they each have their strengths. I'm finding that for being on the go, in my car, waiting in line, etc., I'd much rather have my Android. For laying in bed and reading web pages or watching videos, it's kind of a toss up, but I like my iPT, and plan to keep using it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Drink Recipes

Dave's Fuzzy Comfortini

I think this is my own creation; I've had a few too many to recall. But don't blame me if you like it too much. Equal parts:

* Vodka
* Peach Schnapps
* Southern Comfort

Shake over ice and consume, slowly.

Snowtini

This one's simplified from a Sandra Lee Food Network video:

Equal parts:

* vanilla vodka
* chocolate liqueur (i.e. Creme de Cacao)
* Baileys Irish cream liqueur

Shake over ice and serve in a martini glass.

Lola's Margaritas

* 1 can frozen Minutemaid Limeade Mix
* 2 cans water
* 1 cup tequila (or more if you want to taste the tequila)
* 1/4 cup triple sec or cointreau (orange liqueur)

I prefer Sauza Gold but Jose Cuervo is OK too. I'm not a fan of most white (the clear) tequilas. And of course the 1800 and other top shelves are always better but VERY expensive. Hope this helps...Lola

Monday, April 05, 2010

Dell Fail

This is a gripe post, about Dell. The short of it: I'm not going to buy anything from Dell again.

The (hopefully not too) long of it: For Christmas, I bought two laptops. I ordered them from Dell, via their online sales chat interface. The salesman offered me a deal where if I got the two laptops, I'd get Windows 7 free for them, as an upgrade. I said okay, a couple of weeks later got the laptops, and went to the link to upgrade, where I was told that my laptops didn't qualify for the free upgrade.

I called Dell several times, talking to various support-folk and managers, and they basically all said "too bad, so sad, don't care, goodbye". (Except for the girl in sales that I talked to, who was much more friendly, and actually apologized that she couldn't be of more help.) That the original salesdude screwed up is understandable; it happens. That nobody could be bothered to look up the chat transcript (after repeated requests from me to do so) to see that it was promised, and make it right, is just a sad way to treat customers.

So yeah, no more Dell for me. Caveat Emptor.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Vase

So I'm playing with Blender some more. This time, I went through a beginners modeling tutorial I found at http://blender.org. (See below for the link.)



The tut had me shape the vase, then apply an image as texture to both the vase and the floor (for the floor, I used an image I found via Google Images). Then it gave a simple lighting setup, that I copied. A little ambient occlusion and anti-aliasing for good measure, and you get the image shown here.

Pretty neat thing, that I could follow everything the tutorial was doing (including the things that weren't where the tut said they'd be, due to 2.42/2.49 differences), without frustration. Part of that is due to it being a better tutorial than some I've tried, but part was both my growing experience with Blender, and a better, "lets just play" mindset to it.

Putting the time in, and it's all in how you look at it. Two lessons I'm learning these days.

Oh yeah, about the tutorial. The link at blender.org was broken, but Google found it at this address instead. And the tut was written for Blender 2.42, so there are changes. But anyway...

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Growing Digital Grass

Okay, this is a small thing, but I liked it, so I'm gonna talk about how I did it. Nyeh.

Wife wanted a grass border for her blog. I poked around in Gimp for a while, learned a bit about paths, thought I'd do a half-dozen blade-shaped paths, create brushes out of them, and stamp a grass border. Learning about paths took up my mental energy last night, and I quit and went to bed.

Tonight, I thought about using Blender, and googled "blender grass". I found this tutorial that shows how to grow grass using particles. I followed it, mostly, but found a couple of twists. One was that using a Spot lamp didn't do too well for my purposes, as I wanted to scale the image down and repeat it, and the color variations didn't match too well on the sides. Second was that just scaling the plane from side to side skewed the grass blades, and scaling it on X & Y thinned out the particles too much.

So I changed the lamp from Spot to Sun (I accidentally tried Hemi, which looked awful), and instead of scaling the plane, duped it, ending up with 3 planes side-by-side, which looked much better. Changed the background to white, rendered, and saved the JPEG.

Then loaded the JPEG into Gimp, scaled it down a good bit, widened the canvas, and grabbed a chunk of grass that I wanted to duplicate. As I rect-selected it and hit copy, I just happened to notice that a brush was created from that selection. Very cool! So I switched to pencil mode, and "stamped" a row of grass, cropped it down to wide and not-high dimensions, and put it up on her blog.

FWIW, I grabbed the daffodil image (with CC permission) from Flickr and used Gimp on it as well, to create the image border and title text.

Yeah, having fun with graphics!

[Edit: Oh yeah, the border! Assume a Creative Commons-BY-SA license. Gimme sec, I'll figure out how to add it to the image...]




Link

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Grrr, Apple fail!

Apple just released an upgrade to the iPod Touch's OS. While it's free for the iPhone, it's $10 for the iPod Touch. Minor annoyance, that, but I suppose I can cope. After all, I'm not paying $700+/year for phone service, so I'm still saving money. So I fire up the iTunes store on my iPod. Not there. Not anywhere. Gotta go to iTunes to get it.

A little background: I run Linux. Apple doesn't like Linux; no iTunes for me. So that's my first complaint from back when I got my iPT: can't use it without iTunes, can't iTune w/o Win or OS X. Grrr. So I borrowed the iMac at work, and got my iPT turned on. From then on, I get most of what I listen to (i.e. podcasts) via the iPT's wireless connection. Plus I loaded up on free apps from the app store (The Weather Channel, Last.FM, Twitterific, etc.)

So then I wanted to put some videos onto the iPT, and broke down and started running Win XP in a virtual machine to be able to run iTunes. That worked well enough, and using Handbrake let me rip my DVDs into a format that the iPT can play. So far, so good.

Now I want to upgrade my O/S. I go to iTunes, and it says it can't install the new O/S until I upgrade iTunes to 8.2. Grrr, again. Okay, I upgrade. And I reboot. (This is Windows, after all.) Now can I upgrade? Okay, it downloads the upgrade, announces that it's backing up my iPT, announces that it's upgrading my iPT, then gives an error message. Something about an unknown error, go to this web page for more details. The details say to reboot Windows. I do so.

And now Windows doesn't see my iPT. At all. Doing a lsusb in Linux shows that it's plugged in, but Windows doesn't see it. And the iPT gives the original "I need iTunes" display. I reboot Windows a couple more times, with no luck.

Okay, fine. Since I got my iPT, we got a MacBook for Wife. I figure that if it doesn't work on Win XP, I'll plug it into the MacBook. MacBook sees the iPT, sees that it's hosed, restores the old O/S (2.2.1, I think?), then sees that I've purchased the 3.0 upgrade, downloads it again w/o complaint, and installs it, leaving me with a pristine iPT running 3.0. Success, perhaps?

I take the iPT back to my Win box, where my backup resides, and plug it in. It sees the iPT now, and gives me the option to load it up from the backup. I'm getting hopeful. I restore, things are looking good. Well, sort of; it's missing a few of my apps, but they're the ones I never use (SSH, TV.com, etc.) I'll deal with that later.

But all of my podcasts are gone. Maybe 60 or 70 eps of various shows that I've downloaded. A much larger Grrrr! So I'm done with messing with this Win XP VM. I plug into the MacBook again. And...

It proceeds to erase all of my apps! WTH!? Why on earth would it remove my apps (and their configuration) without giving me the chance to either stop it or validate them or something?! This is seriously bogus! And when I quit cursing Uncle Steve's lineage, and go to restore them, it knows that I've "paid" for these free apps, and offers to let me download them again "without paying". If you knew they were legit, why the !@#$ did you erase them to begin with? (And yes, I had logged in on the same iTunes account on the MacBook as I had on the Win box.)

All of this seems to be in the interest of Apple not letting me copy stuff that I own to places that they don't think I should copy them. Or, to rephrase, all of this seems to be Apple assuming that I'm a criminal and taking steps to punish me before I can prove myself innocent.

Feh. I'm wondering more and more what Android devices are out there, or what the state of Linux on the iPT has gotten to. This is *NOT* what should happen to someone playing by the rules.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Computer Treadmill

I spent the afternoon getting a new treadmill, for the purpose of making us a computer treadmill combination. Turned out, it was dirt easy.

We bought a ProForm Crosswalk 480. At slow speeds, it has a nice, quiet motor, and at Sears, it was only $500 or so. Initially, I was looking for a model that we could take the display off of, but the more I looked at this model of ProForm, the more I realized that we could just do away with the vertical bars entirely. The 480 has a cable that comes out the back of the unit, and the display (once removed from the upright stand) lays flat on a shelf (see the picture below), making it ideal for what we're doing.

We've had an Ikea computer desk for a year or more, and I forget the name of it, although I couldn't really find it on their website, so they may not make it any longer. From their current catalog, it looks a lot like the Fredrik line, as far as being adjustable, with the smaller shelves and all.

So the short of it is that we assembled the treadmill without the upright bars, connected the cable coming out of the treadmill to the display panel without threading it through the upright bar, and just put it on the lower shelf. We adjusted the height of the desktop to suit Wife (and although it's probably not optimal, 8-yr-old Daughter can use it without complaint, as seen below), and we're off and running. Or rather, walking.

Oh yeah, and since we don't need any features on the treadmill itself besides having it let you walk, we got away with a much cheaper model. Big win all the way around. Especially when you consider that a "properly made" model, (like the Steelcase Walkstation, for instance) costs 7-8 TIMES as much.