There she is folks. The link you’ve all been waiting for. Well, I can’t really say that. I’m pretty sure most OS X users probably couldn’t give a donkey’s rat about a service pack update for Windows 7, but nevertheless that link up there has finally arrived for the rest of the world that still separates it’s hardware from its software. Speaking of which, the Service Pack offers up a lot of helpful stability fixes and specifically more reliability when connecting HDMI audio devices. Anyone who’s ever wanted to hook their laptop up at a friend’s house has felt the sting if they couldn’t get the HDMI audio out to work (Awkward!). What no one else has had that problem? Well it’ll probably also help the niche HTPC group too. Regardless of how you use your Windows 7 PC, this Service Pack is a must download as it includes bundled security updates as well as several so called “improvements” to existing Microsoft services. I’ll be updating later when I get to spend some time with it on both my 32-bit laptop and by 64-bit desktop. Enjoy the link till I repost!
Well, this is big news for any platform: a new version finally going final build. As exciting as the preview was, many developers I’m sure are pretty stoked to get their grubby little fingers all over this Honeycomb version of Android. All API’s are final (And cranked to 11!!! :O) and the whole kit and kaboodle can be downloaded right now. I know I’m not first to the scene, but I’ll be here to post an update later with my own personal impressions with the new SDK and experimenting with the AVD. For now you’ll just have to make do with my exposure to the preview.
If you’ve been following any of the news as of late, Android 3.0 is the next version of Android designed specifically for tablet devices. It is the first true competitor to the market the Apple iPad started about a year ago. Running Android 2.2 on 7″ devices may work for some, but it’s not a valid option to the tablet specific apps for the iPad. Windows 7 is too bloated to try and run on these devices and none of the Android tablets so far have had the necessary software enhancements to really make a stand against the plethora of tailor made tablet apps for the iPad. All that changes with this latest build.
I had a chance last week to sit down with the 3.0 SDK Preview build that was released on January 36th (better late than never). Needless to say I walked away from the experience very impressed and quite excited to see the next wave of tablets come crashing over the U.S. I didn’t take too much time to actually write any apps for 3.0 (API’s not being final keeps me away) but I did take a bit of time to get the AVD up and running for a Honeycomb device code named Zoom (hehe). As I recall, my device had 10″ scaled display with a 4gb sd card and 1024MB of RAM. I left it at the default resolution and DPI as well as not touching any of the other modules besides touch screen input. My first device build failed (not sure why) but the second time it finished and eventually booted up in about 5 minutes on my Win7 PC.
The differences between 3.0 and 2.2 on a tablet are huge, especially in the UI realm, but what I’d really like to compare it to is the iPad’s iOS UI scheme and how strikingly different they are approaching the same screen real estate. Instead of a row of docked icons at the bottom of the screen with rows of scrollable icons above, the Honeycomb build presents you with an System Bar across the bottom and instead of just icons, several widgets are seemingly floating above the wallpaper. Above the widgets on the homescreen you’ll find a Google Universal Search box in the top left and an icon to access your full list of apps on the top right. The bottom left of the screen contains three navigation buttons: Back, Home, and Menu. Adding widgets has a new 3D visual appeal as well as the widgets themselves scrolling through a three dimensional space. My 3.0 AVD build not being the quickest (I also blame bias against AMD processors) kind of killed a lot of the visual aesthetic, but I did at least get it to show the app launcher and the recent applications visual. The app launcher is pretty much the standard array of icons, but the recent apps brings a lot more to the table via the System Bar. Instead of having a row of icons popup for fast app switching in iOS 4.2 you’re treated to actual live snapshots of apps running in the background making it a lot less of a guessing game and a lot more of getting stuff done. Most of this has already been demoed and videoed dozens of times before, but I encourage you to take the next step and try it out for yourself. Sure, I’d already seen the launcher and the widgets and all that in multiple videos, but it’s an entirely different experience when you get to press the buttons for yourself and really feel how everything works.
Although my experience thus far has been limited to the preview SDK for Android 3.0, it was nonetheless an experience that has left me highly anticipating getting me some Honeycomb action before too long. iOS had better really step up its UI for tablets with the iPad 2 because even my short time with Android 3.0 made me feel like my that extra real estate was being put to good use outside the gazillion apps. Ultimately the market decides, but Honeycomb has come in with it’s guns blazing and I’d encourage anyone of any OS to build yourself an SDK and start developing cause 2011 is gonna be a crazy ride!
I’m currently having something of a identity crisis with my computer. And I blame VMWare! Switching between OS’s isn’t something most people do on daily or weekly basis, let alone a couple times a day. Most stick with the one OS they have installed and if they switch to a friend’s computer then the possibilities change. But running 3 operating systems on one physical desktop? I can’t think of too many people I know that do that…
The main problem began when I was about 12 years old. My trusty custom built desktop with a 700mhz AMD Duron (blegh even the name screams cheap), 512MB SDRAM, Nvidia GeForce AGP graphics chip and a whopping 80GB hard drive had finally stopped booting Windows. Nothing was wrong with the hardware. I just thought it was getting cluttered so I reinstalled XP with the CD from my uncle. Yeah, turns out it only had that one license and he’d used it on another computer. Piracy out of the question, I began innocently poking my head around the Intertoobs for a free alternative. One kept coming up: Ubuntu Linux. Thus beginning my obsessive following of one of my favorite OS’s of all time. It was incredible all I could do to that OS. It was ridiculously faster than Windows XP on my system. I felt like I had a usable computer again! It was beautiful! I kept installing this on any computer I used throughout the years and always had a LiveCD of the latest version on me. Ubuntu 10.10 is the latest I have installed (Natty Narwhal is coming!!!) and it’s been running smooth since the day I got it. Improved included drivers have really made my life simple, but the “upgrade” to GRUB2 and Plymouth for the boot manager really put a stifle on some of my favorite customization options. I’m sure eventually something will come along, but for now I’m stuck with a semi-plain startup and login experience. Good thing the rest of the OS remains as flexible as ever with improved Compiz integration and the migration to Gnome 2. It’s kept me going for close to 9 years now.
Then came Windows 7. It actually drew me back to the Windows fold again my senior year in high school. Sure I’d been saddled with WinXP again at school for all the domain usage of course. And I was at home unfortunately forced into the Purgatory between Windows 7 and XP: Vista. I hated that OS with a burning passion. Although fairly excited when it first came out I was disappointed by its loathsome driver support and sluggish performance. Why did my first 700MHz Duron seem faster than my parent’s 1.6GHz Pentium D (Dual core) with 2GB DDR2-RAM? That OS is still an ugly scab Microsoft is trying to pick and is regrettably still chugging along on my parents computer. Thank God for Windows 7. It truly seemed like redemption for me. I’m sure that my parents computer would probably run Win7 just fine (plus the benefits of reinstalling Windows for the first time in 6 years). My personal desktop is currently in a dual boot with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.10. I believe it s 60/40 split with Windows the larger cause it needs it for all my games. The redesigned taskbar and the fixed UAC annoyances were soothing salve on the burn left by Windows Vista. Improved performance was a plus as well as increased and much better supported drivers. All my games ran perfectly in Win7 and my only real complaints so far have been with file transfers (Still dismally slow and inconsistent) and visual appeal. I guess I’ve just been spoiled with the other OS options out there.
Like my new favorite OS X 10.6.4. Yes, I know 10.6.6 is out and is apparently a big deal but this is the latest version I’ve got to be at least 90% usable on my AMD hardware. I can’t tell you how much of a pain in the ass getting this thing to boot even in a virtual machine was. The good news is after a couple weeks of fevered forum hunting and various patch downloads I have a beautiful 1080×1920 Mac OS X 10.6.4 desktop running swiftly on my AMD X4 setup. With AMD’s hardware virtualization enabled my “Mac” has 2 cores at 3.4GHz and 1GB of 800MHz RAM. The RAM specs are inaccurate to what I have for the VM, but it’s not that big a deal (Supposed to be 2GB @ 1333MHz). I can’t express enough how much of a difference the smooth, visually integrated system integrated into OS X makes to your over all experience with the OS. Yes, there are some really powerful creative apps out there for Mac only (Garage Band being my most used) but the most impressive part to me is how unified the whole OS looks. All the menus, toggles, installers, icons, and especially the animations make me forget for a little bit that I’m using a computer. Sure, you can’t change a lot of it like in Ubuntu, but it provides a incredibly superior feel to the OS than Windows 7 does. I still feel like I’m trying to convince the computer of what I want to do in Windows. In OS X I just feel like I’m using a computer; it’s a natural extension of me into the computing realm. I’m really feeling OS X will get a lot more attention from me in the coming weeks, especially once I figure out how to transfer my VM setup to a bootable hard drive.
For now, however, it’s dual booting between Ubuntu 10.10 and Windows 7. Inside Win7 I’ve got my VMWare running OS X 10.6.4 fullscreen and it is commonly being used. Will my computer ever have true identity as only one of these fine OS’s? Odds are it probably won’t. That’s because I appreciate the beauty of choice we have. I don’t have to only run one! And I love it! But I’m sure it’s got my poor computer’s mind spinning…
Until next time, peace out!
P.S. Whichever OS is most popular will get its own in depth review first!
I’m starting this post because I’ve recently had a self goal of seeing exactly how many operating systems I can get stable and usable on my Lenovo laptop. This poor little thing has been through more reinstalls than Windows ME the different versions of Android on my phone. Eh, not quite. I will definitely be posting back when it gets done being reinstalled. Just for the record, I did have an earlier beta build installed on here and I did spend a substantial time with the OS before my girlfriend wrote a love note to my GRUB and MBR… but that’s another story. My personal time with the OS is the basis for this article, no outside influences are cited.
I’m also considering renaming this category to the “Google” category simply because a majority of Google’s services are very, very intertwined. Yes, this is a Droid blog, but being a Droid user I find it super convenient to use Google Chrome as my primary browser. I’d used FireFox for a long time, once I got past the Dark Ages of IE 6 and 7, and have just recently switched over to Chrome in the last year. Mostly prompted by my first Android powered device the Droid Eris, I started to explore the connections between Chrome and Google. Not necessarily Chrome by itself, but Gmail, my web and search history, and of course “Chrome to Phone”. “Chrome to Phone” ranks very highly on my list of “Things that Assure Me there is a God and He Does Love Me.” Along with the new Web Market (is there an official term? Noted…) this is one of those tings I can’t live without. Whenever I’m near my laptop or desktop and someone asks me where the nearest laundromat is or what time does the dollar store open I can have the map and the number both sent to my phone ready to go out the door in under 5 minutes. It’s phenomenal how such a little thing makes all the difference when integrated properly.
Which brings us back to the main point. Why all this talk about Chrome the browser? Because it’s the fundamental backbone to the Chrome OS. Everything is inside that browser.This concept sounded so supremely ridiculous when I first heard about it a little more than a year ago that I immediately declared it DOA.Then I started using Chrome as a browser and HTML5 became more of a standard for coding in general. Things changed dramatically and now I could easily do almost everything I normally do in the Chrome OS. I say almost because I tend to be kind of a power user. I use lots of different apps through the day and a lot of them are just too powerful to ever be used to the scope I use them. Video editing, application development, real Photoshop and the ever essential video games will never be able to be matched in browser based alternatives. Oh sure there are several options for light video and photo editing out there. And Google Docs is doing a bang up job of tempting me to never purchase another Micro$oft Office product. Video games too are becoming more powerful thanks to hardware acceleration support from HTML5 in Chrome OS. Having Quake being rendered in real time in a browser was laughable just a year ago and yet here we are.
Now, this isn’t a finished product, Google OS is still just a RC right now, but it holds a lot of promise. Never losing data due to its cloud based storage and supposed always-on data connection. Lots of apps are already coming in for the Chrome Web Store (my personal favorite time waster: Sinuous) and many look downright useful. There’s a certain market for netbooks and as netbooks are being replaced by tablets and ultraportables, Chrome OS is gonna be in a tough spot. Android 3.0 is shaping up to be a fantastic OS for tablets offering a much more touch friendly UI. Chrome OS is dedicated to laptops, but why would someone run this rather basic OS on this new crowd of “notbooks”. These new ultra-slim, but ultra-powerful laptops coming out would really waste power, in my opinion, on running anything but Windows 7. There’s going to be a niche market for this OS, just as there was for netbooks. I’m still not entirely sure there’s a place for Chrome OS, the netbook ship has sailed.
But there is hope. The ever expanding amount of apps as well as clever grass roots marketing by Google could get a Chrome OS fire burning in the world. Hardware compatibility for other laptops should help spread it among the geeks and having it as a quick boot option on a couple of key manufacturers laptops (no matter the size) could also help its mind share. This exceedingly ever more connected world really could use something like Chrome OS, but the real question is: will it?
Its always one thing after another with Google and Android. They keep coming up with stuff I didn’t know I needed and now I can’t live without! The lack of a desktop variant of the Android Market has bugged me for some time simply because the mobile one tends to feel a little bit cramped after a while. But no more!
The visually rich and immersive experience that is the Android Market online is eye catching and refined. They really hit the nail on the head design wise. There’s no wasted space, but it doesn’t feel gaudy or overwhelming. It keeps the simple green and white color scheme from the (default) Market on Android devices. As such, apps are also divided by paid or free sections, altough it consistently defaults to paid. Login is simple with your Gmail account and clicking any app on screen brings you to its page. The app’s icon is on the top left with all the basic info you were looking for available without scrolling all at a glance. Nice. All app purchases must be made through your Google Checkout account (credit card) so carrier billing is not available (yet!).
The most useful feature this new Market brings is OTA installs of apps. That’s Over The Air installs, as in, no-user-interaction-wireless-just-click-and-BOOM-its-already-installing-blow-your-socks-off simplicity. That’s seriously how my first experience was. I wondered if there was a WordPress app for Android. My previous process of going to androlib.com, scanning the link, going to the market, and then installing manually was gone. All I did was sign in to market.android.com, search WordPress and hit install. Being over WiFi and the app being only 880kb I barely even saw the “Downloading…” in my notifications bar. Now that’s magical (*cough* Apple *cough*).
I can currently find no real faults with the Web Market as it is. Its slick, intuitive and a downright delight to use. It even let’s you give your multiple Android devices nick names! Just in case you have so many you can’t remember them all… ha. I look forward to seeing how this full featured Web Market evolves in the future. Apple, your really gonna have to step it up with this one.
Welcome to A Droid Blog. My name is Wil Nelson. While obviously Android and my personal experience with the OG Motorola Droid (That’s Original Gangsta, yeah) will be the main focal point here, I have a lot else going on besides that such as: anything with PC’s (mostly hardware, but you’ll find I’m still a hardcore Linux fan), music (mostly alt rock), and my faith. You’ll see all these topics and more pop up over the course of time, but I look forward to filling up that little section of Cyberspace not yet used for something that hopefully turns out to make your day just a little bit better. Run on sentences are a bonus for my posts as well! =P
Anyways, welcome to my little patch of the Blagosphere, “A Droid Blog”. I hope you enjoy the visit!
Here’s a map to assist you:
That's "A Droid Blog" in the top left side.
P.S. Bonus points for the line count of the XKCD references.