Tag Archives: android


I have been using my Android-based tablet (review of the Iconia Tab, other Android-related topical postings) now for over a year and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to do a recap and go over that device again.

First of all, just a couple of months, I upgraded the tablet to the latest Android version (“Ice Cream Sandwich”, or ICS from now on): I personally think that Google sort of redeemed itself on several Android UI design choices. I generally didn’t care about Acer’s HoneyComb OEM changes and thought the choice of font was, ‘awkward’. With ICS, Google sort of forced manufacturers of Android tablets to take over some of the new Android UI elements.

Secondly, the Android App market has literally exploded: while the two App market places obviously still show that Apple still tops Google, you can safely say that most iOS apps are also available in Android flavours. And if not, surely there are Android alternatives available.

On the development side: after a year of Android use, I still believe that tablets will replace netbooks. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s no market for netbooks by 2013. Heck, I even find the Intel-based Ultrabooks sort of a dubious phenomenon, mainly because I’m not convinced that the current hardware specs (mobile slimmed down versions of i5s and i7s) are properly targeting these devices’ usage. A tablet for occasional browsing and communication? Sure. An Ultrabook for the very same? Not so much.

Which brings me back to my tablet’s daily usage: indeed I use it more for browsing, e-mailing, reading books and a variety of multi-media activities (listening music and or watching video). This is actually exactly what I used it for when I bought the tablet last year. As I mentioned in previous postings, the tablet has slowly replaced my main PCs (Linux/Windows) as the go-to device. To be honest, I’m still sort of surprised how the A500 has become (literally) the information center piece. This has some drawbacks and they are mostly, you guessed it, on the technical front. I will go into that in a later posting.

More of December and the same

I‘ve been mostly reading books these days: The Iconia I bought for my birthday (review) is the ideal reading device. Well, mind the glare then: I’m sure that future devices will have touchscreens sans gloss. What’s the point of having a tablet if you can’t use it outside?

Anyway: reading books. I was finally able to finish off a bunch of book series: I finished all of the Hunger Games books. I also finished off the ‘Sword of Truth’ set: while I liked it, I thought the writing quality had its ups and downs. I thought the Harry Potter books were pleasant: as with the movies, they did go from ‘light-hearted’ to mostly ‘dark’. Well, with the traditional happy end, because these are kids books, mostly. I have this feeling that JK Rowling will not produce anything of substance after finishing off HP.

I’ve kept track of most books on Twitter: sadly, Twitter is not the best media to store ‘historical’ data. Since I’m mostly using the Amazon Kindle reader, I was surprised to see that Amazon doesn’t really track which books I read. With envy I look at the Kobo reader, which has an excellent ‘social’ media ‘tie-in’ and ‘achievements’. I do find electronic books rather expensive. Oh well, back to reading my book

911 and Fall

Exactly a week ago, it was the 10th anniversary of 9-11: it looks like the (re)construction at the former Ground Zero has made substantial progress. To be honest, I’ve never followed the progress on the 9/11 memorial (official site) but personally, I like the idea of the water falls. The last week, we had our share of remembrances and that: I wasn’t planning to elaborate on my personal thoughts. Here, have a link to the Archive’s excellent TV News archive (link).

We had our first frost warnings of the years, which means that most likely Fall will be short. One of our maple trees got really hit during the last storm (Irene). Strange enough: I believe we went thru the worst part of hurricane season. That is, the last hurricane I’ve heard of was Maria (CBC news) which only hit Newfoundland earlier this week.

And last but not least, a pet peeve. Now that I’m using a tablet (Android based) I noticed that a lot of companies have mobile variants of their websites: By default it’s these mobile variants that are shown. I find this irritating, particularly knowing that most of the mobile browsers have no problems showing a full website.

Review: Acer Iconia Tablet A500

I read an article that discussed the latest statistics on wordwide tablet use. Its conclusion was that the Apple IPad is still reigning supreme: that is, even after this season’s release storm of Android-based tablets (Acer, Asus, Motorola) and others (like Blackberry’s Playbook and HP’s Touchpad).

So, 4 or 5 weeks ago, I decided to jump in the tablet market and got an Iconia Tablet myself, only a couple of weeks after my wife decided to get one. There was no doubt in my mind to go for an Android tablet. First of all, a Windows tablet (at the current stage) makes no sense: Windows 7 is just not ready for ‘touch devices’. Secondly, while I admit Apple makes excellent devices, I’m not so much happy with the way how the company has locked down the iPad (and IPhone/Ipod for that matter).

So is Android tablet-ready? From the use I got out of the Iconia, I’d say yes. The Iconia is easy to use and comes with plenty of apps available on the Android Marketplace: while most of the apps aren’t ready yet for tablet use, the Android marketplace feels more mature than people say it is. The device itself suffers from design issues tho: while the metal back makes the tablet look sturdy, the seams (between metal and plastic) feel flaky. There are other parts (mostly the plastic) that make the device look cheaply produced: the Micro SD slot is one of them. The same is true for some of the slots on the sides: While the full-size USB and mini-hdmi slots look fairly solid, the proprietary mini USB slot (for synching data) looks like it could break anytime.

Note that I’ve hardly used the mini-USB slot: Android devices are properly detected as external drives on Linux and Windows. You can literally copy files over Windows sharing (nee Samba) using any of the (free) Explorer apps available on the Android market. This brings me to some of the included software: the quality of the Google applications is perfect. Google mail applications (Gmail and regular mail) are excellent and so are some of the niche tools, like Maps and Latitude. The Webkit based browser (which reminds of Chrome but is definitely NOT Chrome) is good but not stable: While Flash is supported, I can imagine why Steve Jobs does not like it. Light Flash apps work good: don’t expect to be able to run the average Facebook app. Most Flash apps are not even ‘touch ready’ yet. Video play works as promised and some of the typical (included) Tegra games show promising graphics. To be honest, I didn’t buy the tablet for playing games. I’m also not sure if there’s a future for Android games, but I might be wrong.

So, the question is ‘should you get an Android tablet or IPad?’. This is literally up to how you plan to use it. While the Ipad has a lower resolution it has definitely that ‘designed’ feeling, which this Iconia has not. However, it’s open: if you ever hated itunes and Apple’s closed up platform, you’ll enjoy using this tablet. Downloading zip files (right on your tablet) from the Internet or your other computers and then copying them to your tablet’s music folder is magic. It works perfect and flawless and you just can’t do this on your Ipad.

Maybe the right question is ‘do you really need a tablet device’. Lets say it this way: if you wanted to buy yourself a netbook, you may just as well consider getting a tablet. Android or Apple: that is just a personal choice or flavour.

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I noticed that Google has released their Android SDK, which is an attempt to break open the cellphone market. There are a couple of exciting things to mention but the most important is that Google has adopted Webkit, you know the main engine used by Safari, which originally came from KDE’s KHTML. Additionally, there’s built-in support for OpenGL:ES (Embedded Systems).

It comes as no surprise that Google has opted for Java as the main language for Android development (application development video). There are mixed messages about which version of Java Google is using: it appears that their engineers came up with their own Java Pcode compiler. Most Android-specific Java libraries appear to be wrappers around the C libraries (see the software stack video).

It’s going to be interesting how this will playout against the other platforms of other software companies, most notably, Windows Mobile for Devices (.Net/CF) and Apple’s portable OS X. Since I’m familiar with writing Windows Mobile applications:if I have time later this week, I may be able to look into Android and see for myself what the buzz is about.


I was able to play around with a beta of the upcoming Firefox 3 (which is scheduled for release this year, according to the roadmap) and was a bit underwhelmed mostly because it drags. I was an early adopter of the Gecko-engine: that was back in 1998, 1999 when the project was still in its infancy and called Phoenix. I chose for it because of the program’s small footprint (on several occassions, Alfons afterwards provided me with hand-compiled versions, distributed via his dyndns account). On the other hand, if you compare Firefox to Internet Explorer, at least FireFox obviously tops IE7 standards-wise (Related: LifeHacker’s preview of FireFox 3, Firefox visual refresh).

Then I was asked about my opinion about ‘Android’, or the Open Handset Alliance, an initiative led by (your favourite searchengine) Google. I think this video (or direct link at YouTube) is overly cute but then there is that: I haven’t really used a cell phone in the last past years. When Alfons visited me a month ago, I was startled to see his phone being capable to connect to our local Rogers Network, a feat I wasn’t able to do with my Nokia (company) cellphone when I came over here the first time in 1999 (that is, my provider suggested me to buy a different phone and switch SIM cards). But back to Android: it’s software for the cellphone (or mobile petgadget) and comes with an operating system, middleware and ‘key mobile applications’.

Talking about Google: I was alerted of the fact that my Gmail now sports a new interface. At first I didn’t notice the difference and just now, I found out that I still don’t get what exactly changed (except for slight rounded corners at some spots). I assume that the ‘new thing’ is that Google has finally ported all generic HTML components to their own ‘webkit’ components, a kit which you can find around here (open-sourced).