August 12th, 2010

Tux

Droid X-ed Out

Mornblade's Android phone that I mentioned the other day is the last generation of Motorola Droid.  This is partly why I'm jealous.  The new version, the Droid X, has the eFuse hardwired bootloader that will physically fry the phone if you try doing anything to it.  Under the terms of the GPL, you have the right to modify as you see fit.  People with the older Motorola Droids have overclocked them, added memory, and more.  It's the "more" part that I want to talk about here.

Thank you, Motorola, for proving to me that you don't have a fucking clue.

The first malware to target the Android platform has made it out into the wild.  Not that I'm worried.  Android is built on Linux, which means open source.  The longest I've heard of a flaw in Linux going unpatched is two weeks, and that only happened once.  The average is one day.  And things have gotten to the point where, if it takes longer than eight hours to fix the flaw, it is really unusual.

The reason I mention this is because, for the last generation of Android phones, Motorola stopped providing updates with the 1.6 version roughly six months ago.  People who want bug fixes and plugged exploits are rolling their own thanks to the beauty of open source and the GPL.  Now, the Droid X is out.  If Motorola suddenly stops updating the versions for it, and you try to update yourself as you have the right to, it will destroy the phone.  So you either run a flawed, outdated OS, or you risk destroying your machine.

Now, propellerheads are working feverishly on eFuse to see what makes it tick and how to circumvent it.  Please move quickly, my brothers.  I suspect we won't be able to count on Motorola to watch out for us for very long.  And if you are going to get an Android, either go last generation and roll your own fix or go with Samsung.
Tux

Oh, Yes, They Call It "The Streak"!

Today, pre-orders began on the Dell Streak for America (it's actually been out in Europe for about two months now).  You can see the cute little bastard on the right here.

For those who don't know, Dell is the first major PC manufacturer to try to take on the 500 lb. gorilla called the Apple iPad.  The Streak is a cell phone/tablet hybrid powered by Android, making it the biggest mass marketed device overtly powered by Linux since the Asus eeePC.

Not only do I not want one, it'll never sell.  This is going to be a massive flop.

What makes me say that?  Well, let's start with the OS.  We are going to pit the proposed specs of the Streak against Kylie, my IBM S10 netbook.  Kylie is running a full-blown Ubuntu Linux distro.  Literally, almost anything I can do on Darwin, my regular desktop computer, I can do on Kylie, including plugging in printers, scanners, whatever.  Part of the appeal of Linux is its adaptability.  Admittedly, Android does have procedure calls that would enable it to work on a regular computer as well as a cell phone.  But it's going to be tricky.  People expecting to do whatever are in for a rude awakening.

The rude awakening won't just be in the limitations of Android versus a regulation Linux distro.  The version of Android running on the Streak is a year old.  Dell says they will offer an over-the-air upgrade to 2.2 "later this year", but no firm date is set.

Next, practicality.  The screen you see there is 5 inches.  That makes it 0.7 inches bigger than the display of the Droid X.  It's bigger than the display on Apple iPhone (3.5"), but the resolution is actually worse.  The only thing it does better than the iPhone is the camera on the back is 5 megapixels, and there is a VGA camera on the front.  The size is a problem.  Try to use it like a phone, and it'll be like holding a paperback book to your face.  (Finally, people with first-gen Nokia N-Gages won't feel so silly.)

Next, price.  Scoring one will cost you $300 with a two-year AT&T contract.  Don't want that?  $550.  That makes it $50 more expensive than the cheapest iPad and $100 more than an iPod Touch.  People who just want a tablet PC can search and find Android tablets for $200 and just use Skype and a wifi signal.  Freescale Semiconductor still has no takers for its design, and it's far more solid and adaptable than the Streak.  People with the cash to burn will have no reason to pass up an iPad for the Streak.  The screen is too big for a smartphone but too small for a tablet.

I look forward to the day when Linux hardware is designed by people who actually know what the fuck they are doing.
Peter G

Aw, Why Can't It Be Blondie That's Going Away?

Cathy Guisewite is the creator of the comic strip Cathy (and I suspect she partly inspired Caroline In The City).  Now, I'm not much of a fan of the strip (go ahead, say it's because I'm not the target audience, I will fully admit to that), but I am a fan of Ms. Guisewite.  She has shown a remarkable sense of humor about things.  Other strips take shots at her.  Frank Cho did it a couple of times in Liberty Meadows.  Stephan Pastis also takes an occasional poke at her (shortly after the strips ran, they were both at a cartoonists' association meeting.  They posed for pictures together).  How can you not respect that?

Today, Guisewite announced that she is ending Cathy after 34 years.  She feels it's time to move on, although she isn't sure to what yet.

Good luck to you, Ms. Guisewite.  You've given voice to a lot of people.  That is no small accomplishment.