Thursday, October 30, 2008

Android OTA Upgrade

It's pretty late but I just got the notification that my G1 wanted an update. Early adopter is early adopter so I let it go.

It's a pretty slick updater, completely hand free and wireless. One nice thing about the G1 vs the iphone is the degree of independence. The iphone is essentially a teathered device. You can't get all data off without syncing with itunes. Unless you fork over for mobile me. At least gmail and gcal are free.

I really hope they maintain a good update velocity. I can think of a dozen features that I'd love to see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Android Stuff

Well it's been a week since I started using my G1. Overall, this is a great device, and I won't be switching back to my iPhone original flavor. So here is my new list of things I really love about this device:

  1. 3G speed - 800 kbps in tests. EDGE can come in at up to 200 kbps too!
  2. GPS - the 50' accuracy rules!
  3. IM - It's great to be able to instant message on the device.
  4. MMS - picture messages, they are just so handy when you need them.
  5. Push Gmail - this is just outstanding.
  6. Gmail interface - finally a compelling email application for a mobile device. If you are a heavy Gmail user, this is worth the price of admission.
  7. Auto-sync contacts and calendar. Don't worry about losing this device!
  8. Full text keyboard is fast and awesome.
  9. Scroll ball is surprisingly useful - it's great for navigating tiny links on webpages.
  10. Notification system and swipe-down status bar is surprisingly awesome and usable!
Now, on to some things that need improving:

  1. Regular email app is substandard.
  2. Surprisingly: I miss the portrait virtual keyboard of the iPhone. Flicking open the keyboard all the time for quick SMSes isn't always handy. I'm in luck though: this feature is on the short-term Android roadmap!
  3. Android Market - needs more apps. Needs the incentive of pay-apps to up the overall platform quality.
  4. Apps in general - you need to cache more (on the SD card?) and avoid using the network.
  5. Battery life... This is probably the darkest note here. Battery life can be dismal. I've heard of people getting more life as the battery gets calibrated.
The G1 is a definate buy. If you have the 3G iPhone and are happy with AT&T you probably won't benefit from the move. But if you hate AT&T or are unwilling to buy into the iPhone phenonema, consider the G1. This is also a great device for programmers - you can code apps up quickly and without Apple's approval. I cannot emphasize this enough, since I am dealing with a multi-week iPhone dev-sign up flow right now and it is so annoying.

Now, on to photos... The G1 has a very respectable 3 megapixel camera, but it won't be causing me to leave my Canon 5D at home anytime soon. Here is a sample photo:

Safety island, market and 2nd

Nighttime photos are tricky, but no more so than under the iPhone. Bonus: it you are tricky with the physical button you can take candid shots.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Android review

Well the Android arrived today. First off, I noticed that someone at Google is taking box design cues from Apple. As soon as you open it up, there is a little spot for the phone and you can yank it right out. Check it out:

The tmobile g1 box

This was a nice touch, and I'm glad someone was paying attention. The phone is not featured because it is taking the photo itself!

Setting up was a breeze. I moved my tmo sim from my old iPhone to the Android device, then it asked me to enter my Google address. A few minutes later and it was all done. Next step is syncing my address book entries (from the iPhone), I'll let you know how that goes.

Instead of a big blob of blog text, I'm going to list the things I really love so far about the Android:

  • Physical buttons = maximizing of screen real estate.
  • Unlock screen is cool and fun.
  • The GPS is really awesome and really accurate when you drive around.
  • The notification system with the slide-down status bar is a fantastic UI system
  • Push GMail rules
  • Oh the GMail client is as great as the web client
  • Instant Messaging - it's as integrated as SMS
  • MMS again - that was tiresome iPhone
One interesting thing about the Android OS is they are trying to break down the wall between applications and move towards activities/screens. For example, in the maps application you can change some system settings (GPS receiver on/off) - but instead of opening up the settings app, it looks seamless and when you hit the 'back' button you end where you were. In the iPhone you would have to remember to switch back to the maps application after changing the setting.

Overall, the Android is not as shiny-slick as the iPhone, but it is slick in it's own way, and very very fast which is a huge plus. It also feels like using a portable computer again, not just a pre-defined gadget (the iPhone).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Android... it's alive!

Well I finally got an updated shipment status from UPS:

android ship status

Looks like my previous hope/assumption that UPS had the item but wasn't scanning it just wasn't true. For some reason T-Mobile send the shipping number to UPS 3 days prior to its actual shipping.

What is really interesting is how the package went from Kentucky to California in just 5 hours. The tracking says 'Mather, CA' which Google maps puts on the junction of several forestry roads. Ok, so poorly named tracking point, since Sacramento's airport is called "Sacramento Mather Airport." Air freight from Kentucky to California. I only hope that UPS doesn't dilly dally over the package until Tuesday because that is when it is due. I've seen them do things like that before.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Android shipping update...

Er... there is no update! Since I last posted breathlessly that the Androids have started to ship, nothing has happened for my specific android. UPS still reports "billing information received." I guess I won't have a new phone on Friday.

Next week it is. In the mean time, there are a bunch of reviews hitting the street. Personally I want to see how much faster the 3G network is - AT&T's 3G iPhone network appears to be a speedy 2x over the slow EDGE network. Go go power 200 kbits/sec.

It's hard to tell exactly how fast the G1 will be on 3G, but some people think it will have HSDPA which should give it nearly megabit speeds. This all remains to to be seen.

However in the mean time, the 3G network has been switched on here in San Francisco. I'll let you know how it goes as soon as it hits my hands.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This just in - Androids start to ship!

I've been anxiously awaiting my Android, so to my pure JOY and excitement I am proud to say that my particular Android, pre-ordered from T-Mobile, SHIPPED today!

Photographic evidence:

android ships

Monday, October 13, 2008

Now I have two things to wait for

On the heels of the much-anticipated Android launch is another amazing product launch. This one already had it's press moment, and you probably missed it.

What you missed is Canon's next revision of the 5d, the Mark II. The original 5D (which I have) is a 12 megapixel wonder, with a full frame sensor, allowing you to get the full wide range out of your lenses.

Rewind a bit... Full frame sensor? Why is this important? Well in Canon's (and Nikon's) camera system (known as EOS) the lenses were built with a 35mm piece of film in mind. Since building sensors (which are essentially large slabs of silicon) at the full size of 24×36 mm was impracticable, camera manufacturers would cut some corners (literally!) and use a smaller size. This size is generally known as APS-sized.

What happens is the camera only uses a square in the middle of the available light from the lens. This is known as the cropping factor, and it effectively makes your lenses appear "longer" - that is the field of view is narrower as if the focal length was larger. If you take a film negative and chop off the edges, that is the equivalent effect as demonstrated by this blog post.

So your beautiful 50mm lenses become a less practical 80mm. If you want ultra-wide lenses, well you are out of luck, because an amazing 17mm is actually a boring 27mm lens. Lower numbers mean wider field of view - think those amazing panoramics.

The 5D was one of the first affordable full-frame sensor, allowing you to extract the maximum wide end of your lenses. Due to the large sensor size, the 5D had an amazingly smooth image, with great low light performance. Most digital cameras have a totally unusable 1600 ISO setting (higher settings offer better low light performance at the expense of a noisier photo). The 5D is noisy at 1600 ISO but it is both "good looking" noise and fairly reasonable. The original 5D was a winner.

But the new and improved 5D Mark II is going to be even bigger. Canon has brought it's 21 megapixel full frame sensor from the 1Ds Mark III to the 5D. Hugely expanded ISO range of up to 6400 ISO standard, or up to 25k ISO in "expanded" mode. It remains to be seen how good 25k looks, but if you need it, you'll have it. Live LCD view - yep, finally the 5D gets the feature every cheapo point and shoot has.

Another nice feature is the anti-dust feature. Dedicated 5D shooters know it as a very dusty camera. I have hundreds of photos nearly ruined by endless dust on the sensor. A combination of substandard environmental sealing and frequent in-the-field lens changes really did a number to the internal bits. Well the new revision has a long overdue feature that helps you minimize sensor-dust and lets you measure and compensate for it in-camera.

But what is even more amazing is the 5D's ability to capture 1080p high definition video! A photographer in New York managed to crank out an amazing video in a weekend with a pre-production unit. Sadly due to the FAT32 limitation, video sizes are limited to 4 GB or 12 minutes at the highest resolution. Choose your scenes carefully!

Most point and shoot video cameras have a video mode, but they are usually crippled by an extremely low resolution - you get 640x480 on the top end models. This might be good enough for some vacation videos, but it's nothing ultra impressive.

However, this new video mode of the Canon 5D Mark II is really pushing up against the highest end pro digital video systems. The 5D's sensor has 10x the pixels of 1080p HD video (which is slightly above 2 megapixels) and by downscaling, the quality of the output should improve. Combined with excellent lenses - the 24-105 L zoom is particularly great - a whole new generation of videographers should be kicking out some awesome HD content with a kit priced at under $4,000!

The 5D has a launch date in November sometime, and some online shops are allowing preorders. Canon is probably still tweaking their production line, so I figure we won't hear anything until the end of the month.

In the mean time, the original 5D is no slouch. Here is a spur-of-the-moment photo at Twin Peaks. I didn't have a tripod so the stone ledge was my impromptu tripod.

Downdown from Twin Peaks

Photo Filler

While we all wait for Android updates, here is a picture from San Francisco:

The World's most recognizable bridge

Welcome to Ryan 2.0

Instead of doing a post about my bio, I just jump in to it.

The following two things are holding my fancy right now. The first is the new season of the Sarah Silverman show. The opening episode started out strong, easily one of the best of the whole series. One of the strong elements is the depiction of mild drug use - pot smoking to be specific. Generally standards and practices don't really allow the demonstration of pot smoking as anything but negative. A classic example is "That 70s Show" which had to cut out the consequence-free drug-doing as the show got more popular. It's just a breath of fresh air to see things displayed in a truthful manner - the truth being that millions enjoy recreational use of pot with little or no consequences, except for more frequent trips to 7-11 of course.

The second thing is the upcoming T-Mobile G1 launch. I ordered the G1 on the first pre-order date. I am keeping an eye out on UPS's ship track website... Doubly so since the original promise was an arrival date of October 22nd, which is fast approaching. The double part is the upcoming Thursday 9pm event with The Raconteurs. This suggests perhaps an early ship date for the 1.5 million of us who preordered.

Finally, keep an eye out on Tuesday for new Apple notebooks. Rumours are heavy that a new single metal piece manufacturing technique and casing are to be on display. I am happy with my new Mac Book Pro from work, so I won't be buying any new hardware myself.