Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three Days With The Motorola Droid

I've had my iPhone for almost 2 years. I was ready for a new device, but not an iPhone upgrade. For anyone that doesn't know, I stayed with the original 2G iPhone for the duration of my AT&T contract. When the 3G model was released, I opted to not spend $99 and upgrade the device.

I bought a Motorola Droid the other day, which means I'm now under Verizon Wireless. Wireless carriers need to simplify pricing. It's unnecessarily complicated right now. I just want to know how much it's going to cost me per month. I don't care about the breakdown.

Verizon was pretty nice to me in the store. I came in asking for a Droid and they asked me if I was switching from the iPhone. They were pleased that yet another customer was switching over to the Droid from the iPhone. They asked what I disliked about the iPhone and/or AT&T and what features of the Droid caused me to choose it over other smartphones. That was fun.

My contract with AT&T is not up until some time in January. I want to keep my cell number, but I won't be able to port it over until the contract is up unless I want to pay a $155 early termination fee. Verizon gave me a temporary number in the same area code, which was nice.

With AT&T, I get a discount on my monthly bill because I work at Red Hat. I mentioned this to Verizon when we were going through the complicated pricing options and they said, "Oh, we probably give you a discount too. What's your work email address?" They looked it up right there and it was in the system, so I get a discount at Verizon too. Nice.

So enough with Verizon, what about the device. What do I like about the Droid so far?
  • Physical as well as onscreen keyboard. I like having both. The physical keyboard isn't the greatest, but it's usable unless your fingers are too fat.
  • Sync with Google for phone data. I absolutely hated having to use iTunes to sync data to/from the iPhone. The Droid just pulls my info from Google. I keep my contacts current there and all is good.
  • Pulls OS updates over the air. Again, skip the iTunes step here to upgrade the phone.
  • The Droid works as a USB mass storage device, so plugging it in to a Linux system actually means you can do something with it.
  • Support for Ogg Vorbis as well as MP3 files. I just drag the music I want to a folder I create on the Droid and the music player finds the files.
  • Notification area. I like this Android feature. Running multiple apps at a time and each dumps info in the notification area. I like it.
  • Camera with a flash. Cameras on phones generally suck, but they added a flash, so pictures end up sucking just a little less.
  • Video recording capability. Apparently some phones have had this for ages, but this is the first phone I've had with video recording capability.
  • User-changeable microSD storage card. It comes with 16GB of storage on a little card about the size of an almond sliver, and the user can upgrade that to 32GB.
  • MMS support. Apple only enabled that for 3G iPhones, so my 2G hobo phone still couldn't do MMS.
  • A real headphone jack, as opposed to Apple's special narrow diameter countersunk headphone jack.
Is there anything I dislike about the Droid so far? Yes:
  • Some of the built-in apps on the iPhone I had gotten used to having and the Droid is missing a few. For example, there is no built-in app to track stocks. I can find one in the app market, but I don't want to go through the many available to find the one I like and that works reliably (anyone want to recommend a good free one?). Another I can't find on the Droid is the world clock and timer. The iPhone's clock program was a world clock, which was useful for me. The timer functionality is super simple, but was handy for things like laundry and whatever we just put in the oven.
  • No "Old Phone" ring tone. Stupid, but I liked that my iPhone rang like an old MaBell telephone.
  • The eBuddy IM app looked really cool at first because it sounded similar to Pidgin, which I use on Fedora. eBuddy does work, but it drains the battery like crazy. I want AIM capability, but not something that tanks the battery.
  • I liked the iPhone weather app for traveling. I just need to find one for the Droid, unless someone wants to recommend one.
  • The Droid doesn't actually come with headphones, so I guess I have to get those (or stick with the iPhone ones). Not that I want new headphones, I just think phones should come with some sort of hands free device to encourage people to be slightly less stupid with their phones while driving.
I would like to have sshd running on the Droid so I could scp things back and forth more easily.

And that's it for 3 days of having the Droid so far. I like it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

FUDCon Toronto 2009

I have not posted anything here in a while, so here are some comments about FUDCon Toronto.

Given that I live in Hawaii, getting to FUDCon can be a challenge. I have been able to make it to a fair number since I moved to Hawaii, mostly due to aligning personal trips to back up to work trips so that the cost of my travel is significantly lower than travelling from Hawaii. To date, the longest I've gone to make it to a FUDCon was travelling from Honolulu to Brno for FUDCon Brno in 2008. That was 28 hours of flying travel, an overnight in Vienna, then a train to Brno.

FUDCon Toronto was great. The facility was nice and there were a good number of talks across the board. I was able to go to a lot of sessions and number I wanted to go to but couldn't because of schedule conflicts was higher than it had been for me at previous FUDCons. I feel that FUDCon is starting to mature in terms of how things run and the information presented. Early on they were pretty disorganized, but things seem to work well this time.

The hackfest days were also productive for me, which is usually not the case for me at FUDCon. I think what worked well this time was that we all didn't try to do too much during the hackfests. Keep the scope down and just really work on the one or two things at the hackfest and it can be really productive. For me, I liked hashing out the plan for testing anaconda in the project. I'm looking forward to working on that.

With all FUDCons, there are areas for improvement. Both as a conference as well as what I can do to better prepare. Namely:
  • It should have been called FUDCon Vaughn. While I liked the facility for FUDCon, the location of the hotel left few options for people wanting to socialize after a day of work.
  • Better coordination from the airport to the hotel. A $45 cab ride is sort of a waste for one person. I could have done better trying to find people to share a cab with.
  • POWER STRIPS AND EXTENSION CORDS! This plagues every gathering of hackers with laptops, no one ever brings enough methods to distribute power. I will start bringing an extension cord and at least one power strip, thus doing my part to help the situation.
  • Hotel wifi was weak. Everyone at the hotel would jam up the connection and no one was able to use it. Worked fine if no one else was at the hotel. The wifi at the university was good over the weekend, but it was really hard to use on Monday.
In short, it was a great FUDCon and I was glad that I was able to make it. I am on my way home now. To make this trip cheaper for me, I backed up FUDCon to my Thanksgiving trip. My flight back home is scheduled for tomorrow from ATL. In the past 21 days I will have flown over 11000 miles (17,703 km) and passed through 6 different airports (HNL, LAX, ATL, RIC, JFK, YYZ) and 2 countries.

I'm ready to get back home. Anyone else up for FUDCon Honolulu next year?