New Laptop Frustration

Aug 17, 2010 / 0 comments

I've been talking about replacing my laptop since November. Now I've somewhat forced the issue by giving away my R200, leaving myself with just the EEE 901. I'm not planning to bring a desktop with me to California (well, I might ship bits for a media box, but probably not even a complete machine), so I've been looking more seriously at what my options are.

I like smaller laptops; the R200 is 12", I had a Compaq N200 previous which was 10". There seem to be a number of 13" options that are light, so I'm prepared to look at those.

This is going to be my main machine, so I need something with some grunt. A decent amount of RAM with a reasonable processor. I'm probably prepared to take the price hit in order to get SSD. Also a decent resolution screen along with built in wifi (does anything not have this these days?) + 3G would be nice too.

Of course, it turns out I can't have all of this. In particular the US market seems pretty dire for 3G support (no, something locked or that can't take a GSM SIM doesn't count. I expect to travel.) The UK market is a bit better, but there are still no perfect answers.

Lenovo X201s

(It's really hard for me to think of this as a Lenovo rather than an IBM Thinkpad.)

This comes in a 1440x900 resolution variant, which is nice for 12". I can have a touchpad too. What I can't have is 3G; with the 1440x900 screen there's apparently no space for the 3G antenna. Doh! Also Thinkpads are *ugly*.

Sony Vaio VPCZ12Z9E/X

I want this. Core i7, 1920x1080 screen, SSD, 3G (Gobi), sub 1.5Kg.

But. Sony. Ridiculously expensive. If it was half the price and made by Lenovo or Toshiba I'd have bought one by now. As it is there's no way I can reasonably expect it to last 3 years (and really I'd want 5 given the cost).

Toshiba R700-155

I've been extremely happy with my R200 and spent a long time eying the R500/R600. The -155 is a Core i7, 1366x768 screen, 13", 3G, sub 1.5Kg.

2 problems. One, I'd like a better resolution if I'm going to 13" - both the Lenovo and the Sony manage that. Secondly, and more of an issue, nowhere seems to have them in stock.

HP Elitebook 2540p

This has potential. Seems to be a little heavier than the other options, and it's only a 1280x800 screen (but in 12"). Available with Core i7, SSD & 3G. Oh, except once again stock is a problem.

Have I missed anything else out there? I can probably buy from the UK or US with equal ease.

Not my usual sort of keys

Aug 13, 2010 / 0 comments

In a week I'll be in California. I'm not packed, though I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure how exactly what I need to take, what I want to take, and what I really shouldn't take.

One item I've been uncertain about are keyboards. When Simon went to France for a year he took a UK keyboard with him, but then they have AZERTY which is substantially different. There are a number of US keyboards lying around the office so a few weeks ago I switched to one for work to see how it went. I think I'm bringing a stash of UK keyboards with me. Annoyances with the US keyboard:

  • Enter is too small. I have this problem on my EEE 901 as well. Usually this manifests as me typing lots of half written lines on IRC.
  • The " moving location is actually much more irritating than I expected. Likewise ~
  • And, the decider, PERSON RAISING BOTH HANDS IN CELEBRATION simply doesn't flow as easily. On a UK keyboard it's left, middle, right. On a US keyboard it's right, left, right.

California here I come

Jul 15, 2010 / 0 comments

On Thursday 19th August I will be leaving Northern Ireland and relocating to California. I'm keeping my current job with 3PAR (who I should point out are actively hiring in Belfast), just moving west by a few thousand miles. I'll be working in the Fremont office, but based on advice from most people I've talked to I plan to live in San Francisco.

I've got a few trips over to England planned between now and then which will give me an opportunity to see people before I go. Also I'll be at DebConf, where I hope to try and meet a least a few other Debian people from the Bay Area and pick their brains for advice about where to live & things to do.

This is something that's taken a lot longer to come together than I originally expected. I'm very glad it finally has, but obviously there's a degree of trepidation about the whole process. If I seem somewhat disconnected from reality for the next few months rest assured I'm sure I'll be back to normal soon enough once I've moved and found somewhere to live.

SPI 2010 AGM & Board Election

Jul 10, 2010 / 0 comments

As SPI secretary I announced that nominations for the SPI board were open at the start of the month. The nomination period closes this Tuesday (13th July) with voting opening up on Thursday 15th. This year over half the board is up for election - 5 seats (currently held by Luk Claes, Joshua D. Drake, Bdale Garbee, Joerg Jaspert & Martin Zobel-Helas). So far I've received only 2 nominations, though I'm aware these things are often left to the last minute, so hopefully more will appear in the next few days. All anyone who wants to stand needs to do is drop secretary@spi-inc.org a (preferably PGP signed) email nominating yourself and providing a position statement (which will all be published once the nomination period is over).

Oh, and if you're a contributing SPI member please do remember to vote once voting is open!

Linux on the mobile is the way forward

May 26, 2010 / 0 comments

I decided last night to upgrade the firmware on my G1. I've been fairly happy with my lightly hacked Android 1.6 (basically the stock T-Mobile image rooted and with a couple of apps added) but I'm interested in whether Froyo will bring performance improvements and the office is now full of Desire users so I figured I'd install 2.1 to see if it was any good, and prepare for 2.2. I went for CyanogenMod as it seems to be fairly sane ROM put together by someone with some clue.

Of course I decided to ignore some of the instructions; particularly the bit about doing a factory reset first. Most of my data is easily backed up, either to Google or locally, but I wanted to keep my SMS+MMS history. There's nothing really that interesting there, and the SMS stuff is backed up automatically via SMS Backup, but still. It was a challenge. What I ended up finding was that if I didn't do the data deletion then Contacts wouldn't work, but I'd keep the SMS/MMS. And if I did the data deletion everything worked fine but I didn't have the SMS/MMS history.

I fired up adb to have a look around the filesystem, to see if there was something obvious. And there was! I found /data/data/com.android.providers.telephony/databases/mmssms.db, which is actually an SQLite database of received messages. So I booted up with the old data present, logged in, tarred up all of /data, copied it across to my desktop, reset the phone and deleted all data, waited for it to boot, extracted mmssms.db from the tarball and put it back on the phone. Result! My message threads reappeared. Turns out that wasn't enough for MMS, but that was solved by copying the contents of /data/data/com.android.providers.telephony/app_parts/ across as well.

Yes, I accept this is kludgey and most end users aren't going to do it, but a couple of points:

  • I'm flashing an unsupported ROM. I expect things to potentially break and not be able to complain to anyone about it. I'm very happy that it's an option, having had issues in the past where an operator wouldn't release an updated Nokia ROM for months after its release even when it fixed major issues.
  • This is something I wouldn't have been able to do under WinMo or Symbian. I've had a world of pain in the past moving between phones, even when using Nokia's PC Suite to try and copy stuff from the old one to the new one. Being able to get a full shell on the phone is hugely useful for dealing with this stuff when it goes wrong or you want to do something slightly different.

While the above is Android specific I'm fairly sure WebOS on the Pre or Maemo on the N900 would offer me the same level of power and control. I think I've just convinced myself that alternative smartphone OSes are no longer viable options.

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