Nexus One in 2017

I’ve been using my old Nexus One (running Android 2.3) for the past week, while a replacement Nexus 5X has been in transit. Observations:

Nexus One screenshot

  • I forgot how bad the screen was. Basically invisible in bright sunlight, even at full brightness and shaded.
  • How do I communicate? Talk is dying, Allo and Hangouts aren't supported. Using an old enough apk of Hangouts that can be installed gives a modal "please upgrade" popup on start.
  • The browser isn't horrible, but there's apparently some cross-site SSL feature it doesn't support, because I get warnings about buttflare certs being bad pretty much everywhere.
  • Twitter works! Crazy!
  • Maps works too!
  • Signal supposedly supports 2.3 but I got strange errors every time I tried to install it.
  • I forgot how slow HSPA was.
  • Gmail works, but for some reason it doesn't seem to sync quite right. I very rarely can see the emails in my Inbox, even when Gmail says they're there. Inbox isn't supported, sadly. The browser-based Gmail is better, but no notifications obviously. Some HTML glitches too, but nothing horrible.
  • It's seems like a bad thing that an OS released a little more than SIX years ago would be so unsupported. The Gmail/Hangouts/Signal/Allo situation is sad. To be fair, though, Ice Cream Sandwich (8 months newer) was a big departure and it seems like a lot of apps use that as their oldest supported version.
  • The vibrate is INTENSE.
  • The ringtones are horrible. The alarm tones are worse.
  • The camera isn't actually so bad, but the 80db shutter sound is surprising every time.
  • I miss the trackball (especially trackball notifications).
  • Having to unlock to see/swipe notifications is surprisingly painful.
  • The calendar widget only shows your next event, not your agenda for the day. How is that useful?
  • I actually don't hate the small form factor as much as I thought I would

Upgrading a 8-year-old TV

In 2008, when my parents sold the house I grew up in and started cruising the world in an RV, they gave me their flatscreen television for safe keeping. The expectation was that they’d do the On The Road thing for a couple of years and then take it back when they settled down. They’re still doing it, and the TV is now hilariously out of date. And a couple of weeks ago, the antenna connection stopped working, meaning it was time to upgrade.

The main requirements were: about 40 inches, wide viewing angle, at least 3 HDMI inputs, and never ever ever a Samsung. I was hoping I could also purchase it from a local brick-and-mortar store (instead of online) for an insignificant premium. We don’t need a 4k screen (at that size, and with our couch 11ft away from the screen, it wasn’t necessary. I spent lots of time reading Wirecutter, Rtings, and

The Wirecutter recommended TV (Vizio M43-C1) was very very close to what I needed, but it didn’t have a great viewing angle. I ended up deciding on a 43-inch Sony X830C. Great viewing angle and plenty of HDMI. Rtings felt the contrast wasn’t great and the surface was too reflective, but didn’t really agree and general picture quality wasn’t super high on our list – I was sure it would be better than our old free screen.

Anyhow, it’s on the wall now. Six inches larger than the old screen, but covers up less wall. Definitely good. More detailed thoughts coming after I get more time to watch it.

UPDATE: After using the TV for the past two months, I’m definitely a fan. The reflectivity is not a problem, and the colors and viewing angle are excellent. We almost never use our Roku box anymore, which isn’t its fault, it’s just that our TV does everything we used it for. Android TV is pretty good, I think our TV has only crash-rebooted a couple of times (which is a weird concept). The UI could be a bit faster, but whatever. It’s nice having the Guide be accurate even though we only use an antenna (however our old TV used to get its guide had stopped working years ago). The biggest complaint I have is that the remote is sort of a disaster.

Apple's Font Rendering and high DPI displays

The release of a beta of Apple’s Safari for Windows earlier this week has resulted in an interesting flurry of activity in web designer circles. Nevermind the instant security bugs and the quick release of fixes from Apple. I’m talking about typography.

The day that the beta came out, Jeff Atwood asked “What’s wrong with Apple’s font rendering?" He pointed out that others had discussed this before, but it wasn’t until the difference was visible side-by-side on the exact same machine with the exact same fonts (and with presumably the exact same font libraries) that it became truly surprising. Joel Spolsky responded with the answer: Apple and Microsoft have very different priorities when it comes to font rendering, and at current screen sizes and resolutions, Apple’s total respect for the letter shapes can mean blurriness. Their diligence becomes especially impressive when you consider the work that Apple must have had to go through to get Safari to run on Microsoft’s home turf but render fonts the way it would on Mac OS X.

Dave Shea piped in with his own opinion and a caveat: I like Mac’s look better, but I think Microsoft’s is a better choice for the medium. But more importantly, he points out that as soon as higher-DPI screens are available, the whole question will be moot. Microsoft’s deference to the pixel grid will be essentially meaningless. Which brings us back to what Jeff Atwood does best: a big post with research and quotes and numbers showing how far screens have come since the release of the PC AT and Macintosh. Not far. The sad realization:

Short of some kind of miraculous technological breakthrough, I can't see computer displays reaching 200 DPI in "a few years". It's unlikely we'll even get there in ten years. I'd love to be proven wrong, but all the evidence of history-- not to mention typical consumer "bigger is better" behavior-- is overwhelming.

Can e-ink or OLED be the miraculous technological breakthrough we need? Possibly, but neither of them are yet ready to replace CRTs or LCDs.

[1] The always brilliant Joel ends with a great metaphor about how people usually prefer what’s familiar. He doesn’t say it, but I think he was implying that this is a big contributor to entrenchment in computing holywars: Mac vs. PC, vi vs. emacs, KNF vs. OTBS.

I Don't Get It

Would I be embarrassing myself if I admitted I didn’t get the notorious xkcd make me a sandwich comic? (Now being made into a t-shirt, due to its popularity.) As I read it, there are a number of possible explanations for the punchline, but the ambiguity is (I think) what’s contributing to my lack-of-getting-it.

  1. The seated character (lets call her Alice) uses sudo to make the request as root. Bob follows the request, since, well, you always listen to root. So does this mean that Bob is an executable? In that case, his first response of "make it yourself" seems out of place; something simpler, like "no" would have been more accurate. I think that this is the most likely explanation, but the first line is what throws me off.
  2. The comic leaves off a "-u bob" argument from Alice's sudo command. In this case, at the end, Bob thinks he's making a sandwich for himself. Alice plans some sort of future sandwich-stealing action. Maybe she hopes chown will be as effective.
  3. Alice is telling Bob to use the sudo command to make her a sandwich. (In this case, "sudo" is an adverb that modifies "make". Replace it with the word "quickly", and you'll get what I mean.) Bob realizes that with different permissions, he'll be able to make any number of sandwiches and escape responsibility for purchasing more jelly. Bob's wily, and Alice's laziness backfires.

Like I said, it’s probably #1, but Bob’s first response is poorly composed. Part of the allure of xkcd is the off-the-cuff style, evident in the stick figures, but in this case, I think spending a few more minutes considering the dialogue would have been worth it.

Where will the Wiis be?

For those following the same strategy as me this fall – “If I can’t walk into a store and find a Wii, I wasn’t meant to have one.” – there’s some good news. Target’s allocation information was leaked to the Internet the other day, and since then, several Google Maps mashups have sprung up. For instance, this Wii Locator.

USB cable nastiness

I am in need of a product that I am virtually sure exists.  I can’t, for the life of me, seem to find a place that sells this product — although I suspect that’s just a difficulty with putting my thoughts into search terms.  I also am even having a difficulty envisioning what it might look like.  So I ask for your help.  I need some way to easily keep all of my different USB cables (iPod, Palm, phone, camera, video camera, et al) as easily accessible and not-ugly as possible.  Requirements:

  • A hub, or at least some way to not have to reach around my tower to get the right cable plugged in.  I only have six USB ports, and including my keyboard, mouse, and printer, I have far more devices, so there currently ends up being a lot of juggling.
  • Some sort of cable hiding solution.  Cable ugliness is the number one cause of premature death, followed closely by the goddamn Nihilanth.
  • The cables should be easy to remove, so that I don't have to spend fifteen minutes pulling one out just to bring it to a friend's house.
Just a simple USB hub that I can plug things into solves the biggest part of the problem: the pain of juggling.  But I still have to keep the cables neatly tucked away in a little bin next to the desk.  Is there a better solution that I'm missing?  I can't be the only person with this problem.

How I got a new DSL modem

MetaFilter — or more accurately AskMetaFilter — is a thing of beauty. Last week, after about a month of noticable deterioration, my DSL stopped functioning almost entirely. I spent three hours on the phone with five different AT&T helpdesk people until they finally decided to send out an engineer. He showed up, plugged something into the wall, mumbled “your modem is broken” and left. They wanted $100 to replace it, which I considered (information super-)highway robbery.

EBay has hundreds of DSL modems listed for a lot less, and I decided I’d get one there. But I didn’t know what to look for. There are a lot of acronyms and whatnot, and I wasn’t really interested in doing hard research and studying for a twenty-dollar piece of equipment that I only need for a few months. So I asked MetaFilter. I got better answers than I expected. Two people offered me free modems. One lived in New Haven and I met him last night.

It works like a charm. The Internet is a wonderful place. Thank you, horsemuth.

Bloglines and keyboard shortcuts

Am I the only one who doesn’t like keyboard shortcuts on websites? I find it far easier to navigate on the web by, I don’t know, clicking on things, than by remembering that “Y” means to archive, and shift-A means to reply-to-all-in-new-window. One of the things that stood in the back of my mind as not-too-nice about Google Reader was the fact that it forced these keyboard shortcuts upon you. Gmail is at least nice enough to default to shortcuts off.

And now Bloglines, thinking it needs to actually start (gasp) improving, took a look at Google Reader to see what they needed to do. Obviously, there was only one thing there they could learn from. Keyboard shortcuts! Don’t hit shift-A in Bloglines or you’ll end up marking all of your news items read. The “read all” feature itself is so ridiculous that even before they started “innovating”, I had wished I could remove the link that did that. It’s obnoxious — I end up with a page that’s several megabytes long. It’s dangerous — the only way I can undo it is by clicking “Mark all new” on every single feed’s header. And it’s totally unnecessary.

Google Reader

I’ve figured out what I don’t like about Google Reader, Google’s new RSS aggregation service. I keep having to think. I’m not used to doing that with a Google product. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid feed reader, but the navigation isn’t quite intuitive. “Down” should be at the bottom. There should be a way to scroll through the new posts without viewing them (or having to mark those you viewed as “keep unread”, which, by the way, is really far away). But one of the things I’d really like, in contrast to Bloglines, is the ability to see which feeds have new items at a glance (and sort by that criterion). In the “My subscriptions” view in Google Reader, I can’t tell what has new items nor can I even resort them as far as I can tell.

I have high hopes and I plan to keep coming back to it — it is the big G, after all, and they have a track record of improving services in response to user feedback — but I’m going to stick with Bloglines for now.

Slashdot's short memory

I’ve noticed an interesting pattern on Slashdot. They’re notorious for duplicate stories (although, in my opinion, they have improved over the last few years). But a couple weeks after posting an article about a new Google feature, someone independently discovers it and the Slashdot editors feel the need to discuss it again. I only point this out because they did it not one month ago with search by numbers (original).

Update 25 Jul: Look, two more in the past 24 hours!

Update 26 Aug 2006: Another pair about Google Trends.

Wasting paper

What’s the attraction behind printing things out? The new guy at work has printed at least a dozen emails this week, and also printed several of the documentation pages out and posted them in his cube. When I’m showing him something, I’m sure to say “This has a Wiki page. You can just copy and paste these commands I’m running, just like I’m doing right now.” But he has to write down every command I run on a big ol' pad of paper.

I’ve been trying to stay virtually paperless. I take notes on my PDA instead of dead trees. I do have a notebook handy in case I need to do something that requires it, like diagramming an application or environment, but I rarely have to use it. I kinda feel like the wasteful habits of my co-worker are invalidating my good intentions. Looking around me in the last week, I’ve seen a lot of desks covered in stacks of papers, and I’m finally realizing how common this is. Why do so many people need paper copies of everything, when they just end up being unused clutter?

Slashdot and CSS

A couple years ago, the great web zine A List Apart featured an article about rewriting the tech news site Slashdot with XHTML and CSS. Not only was it a neat exercise in a site rewrite while keeping the same design, but it also demonstrated the financial (yes, financial) advantages to using web standards. The article estimated that Slashdot would save thousands of dollars in bandwidth per year. (Calculating savings based on ease-of-maintenance wasn’t done, and would be very difficult to estimate).

Despite being perhaps the most well-known technology website, and a number of posts about web standards, it’s taken a while for Slashdot (or rather, Slashcode) to come around. Now, the work is going forward.

Bloglines and RSS

I switched from a big bookmark folder of blogs to using the great free website Bloglines only about 30 hours ago, but I can already see that it’s changing my surfing efficiency. Instead of repeatedly hitting blogs, hoping to catch an update, I can just keep bloglines open and it’ll tell me when there’s something new. I’m taking the bandwidth off of the little guy’s server.

But it’s got a downside, too. Now, like Jon Rentzsch, I want RSS feeds for everything.

Update Feb 15: Ask Metafilter gave some good suggestions.

Apple hoaxes and scams

In celebration of yesterday's announcement of the iPod shuffle and Mac mini, here's a quick list of notable Apple product hoaxes and scams from the past couple of years.

P-P-P-Powerbook - scam
An obviously fake Powerbook was constructed at the advice of the Something Awful forums, in order to scam an eBay scammer. This notorious reverse scam was documented in particular detail.

G5 iMac - hoax
This photo was strangely posted with no claims whatsoever, but the implication was that it was a new product, possibly the expected new iMac. Later in the forum thread, the poster admitted it was a 20" LaCie LCD screen in a 15" Powerbook box.

iPod flash - false mockup
Not a hoax per se, but I felt it belongs on this list. Based on insider descriptions of the flash-based iPod, made a 3d render mockup that ended up being pretty close to the real iPod shuffle.

iPhone - hoax
Someone modified a photo of an advertisement for the Sony Ericson T610/616 to look like what could be a rumored iTunes-compatible cell phone. The rumor mill says that Apple is working with Motorola to create such a phone, but no reliable photos have shown up, yet.

iHustle - scam
An NYU student was scammed into buying a fake Powerbook for $200 from a guy on the street. The scammer put a lot more effort into it than would be really necessary.

iHome - hoax
A series of photos of a cardboard box made to look like the rumored headless iMac. Wasn't too far off from the Mac mini, and since it was released only a couple of days in advance, there wasn't a lot of time for disproofs before it became moot.

New LCD speed record

For me, 2005 is going to be the Year of the LCD. I will finally be replacing my aging Sun 21" monitor this year. For a long time, LCDs screens weren’t really good enough for gaming, but in the last couple of years, pixel response time has broken the all-important 16ms (=60fps) barrier. And now, Philips has announced a new screen with an 8ms pixel response, or fast enough to run 125 fps.

Update 1-5: Although I can't connect it to my PC, and they're still way outside my price range, Apple has just cut the prices on their sexy 16ms cinema displays.

Honda Fuel-cell car

Honda’s fuel-cell car, the FCX, is now very close to large-scale commercialization. It’s got 272 Nm of torque, which is almost as much as the Subaru WRX. According to the article, the 55% “torque energy efficiency” is double that of a hybrid car and triple that of a gas-only car. I can’t wait for these to hit the US.

Free Sidekick II

Looking for a new cellphone, with lots of extra features and huge nerd cred? Don’t want to spend a lot of money? Well, if you buy a T-Mobile Sidekick II from Amazon before Nov 17 and sign up for a $40-a-month plan, it’ll be free, even including shipping. I kinda wish work didn’t give me a phone.

This post is a test of easy Amazon links and my new Amazon Associates account.


Between both cellphones and M’s Palm, we’ve got three things on my bureau charging every night. Woe is me, if only there was a simpler solution! There is: Splashpower. That is so damn cool.

Update 10-22: You know, this would be even cooler if there was a module for rechargable alkaline (or NiCD or NiMH) AA batteries. Then my GPS, GBA (non-SP), and even my Gamecube controllers could all recharge on a single mat.

Self-destructing DVDs

For the time being, let’s ignore the environmental implications of mass-marketed self-destructing DVDs. Let’s also ignore the fact that this is starting with some low-budget indie movies. Those things ignored, I think the business plan is a remarkably good idea.

Tell me, if you could get a 48-hour DVD of something like The Incredibles the day it comes out and watch it at home, would you do that instead of going to the movie theater? Call it hyperbole if you must, but I think this could revolutionize movie marketing.

On the other hand, piracy? Selling one DVD at $5 (or even at $10 or 20) instead of several nine-dollar tickets? The loss of snack bar profits for the theaters? If this ever happens on a wide scale, it won’t be for a long while.

Webpads at Engadget

Engadget is one of my newest daily links. They post several things a day about new cellphones, PDAs, hiptops, laptops, and other kinds of neat gadget-y hardware. This article about a new 7-inch Onepad webpad looks like it came straight out of my dreams. Although I would have wiped off the LCD first.

I passed.

I passed.

I've been spending a lot

I’ve been spending a lot of my time lately studying for the CCNA. In fact, almost all the time that I’m not in classes, I’ve been reading or testing myself, or rereading, or going through lame Exam Cram flash cards. I dream about RIP holddown timers and split horizon. I eat fragment-free switched sandwiches. I drive an IETF encapsulated car. It’s taking over my life.

And really, how useful is all of this? It seems like they took the basics of every single networking concept and crammed them into the CCNA. I won’t be able to really construct anything expertly, but I can administer everything adequately. Frame Relay? ISDN? I say WAN connectivity should be on a separate test altogether.

My school schedule is strange;

My school schedule is strange; my classes are concentrated into eight hours Monday, six hours Thursday, and two hours Wednesday evening. Martin Luther King Day gave me a six-day weekend, and then there’ll be another weekend right on its heels. Matt came to visit for days 1-3, and we had a Matthias'-home-brew inspired party, for which we purchased way too much beer. Days 3-5 are (and will be) spent in snowy Rochester, in the company of my beautiful bride-to-be.

Right now (day 4, 8:45 AM), I’m alone in a computer lab, working on a powder-blue G3 tower. M is at class, and I don’t know her password to the PC’s. This keyboard is too small and the hockey-puck mouse really IS annoying. Not just Macophobe FUD.

[Note: Yes, I am making an effort to post meaningless news more often.]