Friday, February 04, 2011

Technology Refresh

Everyone makes new year's resolutions right? Well, probably not everyone, if truth be known, and I don't as a rule either.

However, since the turn of the new year, I have effectively had a complete technology refresh, some of it planned, and some of it just because it needed to happen.

My first refresh was slightly ahead of the new year. I ordered a Nexus S Android handset online the morning it came out, and got it delivered next day. I love it, although you can tell as a Nexus S owner, you are pretty much the beta tester for new releases of Android. This is true with Gingerbread as well - from glitches with battery life in Maps 5.0, through occasional (once a week) weird radio issues, to ringtones that seem to reset if you have to restart the phone. I hear an update is coming and I look forward to it, although in truth I am pretty happy with the package in spite of the occasional irritations - the good outweighs the bad by a lot.

The next replacement was a casualty: my much loved but sadly much abused HP pavilion laptop. After a couple of years of pretty heavy duty, I managed to smack the screen after a presentation at a developer conference, and the screen developed a subtle but annoying glitch on the bottom of the screen. I took it in to a local repair place (ITM computing, by the way - they were highly rated on the internet, but they certainly screwed the pooch on my poor laptop - I would steer clear of them if I were you). Anyway, after they got finished with my laptop, the screen did actually work again, but now the bezel routinely separates from the rest of the screen. I no longer felt able to give it the same hard life it had before, so it was time for a new laptop as well.

Instead of doing what I normally do, looking around for the best deal I can find at the time, I went instead for listing out the specs that I really wanted in a laptop, which included a long (8 hour) battery life, the best processor I could find (settled for a top of the range core i5 - very impressive performance) and portability. What I ended up with was an Asus U43JC Bamboo - a wonderful laptop - the best I have ever owned, which will give me a real 7-8 hours on battery, runs Linux well, has the fast processor, and as a bonus is very slick looking (my macbook owning friends can no longer poo-poo it as ugly as they typically used to do with my previous laptops). It's green too - a strong focus on recyclable materials both in the laptop and the packaging (the bamboo is real - many of the panels are made from the sustainable plant, and look amazing as well as being an eco-friendly choice).

With amazon prime, I stumped up the extra three bucks to get it delivered next day (in time for the trip to the Codemash conference in Ohio). Total - $1003 - still about the same as the most affordable macbook you could get, and a much nicer spec as well as being a bit different.

My EEEPC continues to live on, I swear it is indestructible. Despite being my workhorse for close to 3 years, being hauled around in my bicycle pack, packed in hand luggage or thrown around in a suitcase for more trips than I can count, being used with one hand while help by another, picked up by its screen on numerous occasions and many other indignities suffered, just like a timex it takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'. That said, the EEEPC also received a technology refresh in the form of the excellent Jolicloud - an Ubuntu based operating system tailored for netbooks, with a nice integration between native Linux applications and web applications (strongly recommended if you are looking for a way to breath new life into your Netbook).

The most recent addition to the new stack is a Google Cr48 ChromeOS laptop which I picked up yesterday, and already I am amazed by the versatility of applications available for it that (of course) run on the web (or "in the cloud" if you want to be all trendy). For example, I can use teamviewer or VNC on the web to remote into my workstation, write "distraction free", even offline, watch videos, listen to music, play books, create presentations, etc. etc. I can even edit source code (anyone with the Chrome browser should check out SourceKit for a pretty neat solution to editing source code that works with Dropbox and uses Bespin from the Mozilla project for the source code editing). For a simple, on the go, just get online and do stuff device, it really is quite compelling. Long term I suspect I may go back to the EEEPC running Jolicloud, but for the time being it certainly is fun to experiment with.

Perhaps the nicest thing about my technology refresh is the way everything works so well together. The Nexus S, with T-mobile service, gives me both seamless USB tethering and a myfi (wireless hotspot). This works flawlessly and without setup with all of my devices. On Linux, I can plug in the phone via USB and get internet connection even while the phone is recharging. I can also go completely wireless with the myfi, and the kindle can connect that way as well. With a 2 hour train ride on the days I head in to the SF office, I can work the entire way, on the internet, listening to music and lost in the code. I am sure I could do this with a certain other technology stack, but it would also cost me about twice as much, for all the hardware and for the connection plan on the phone as well.