Tablets, No Thanks

iPad 3G and iPad Wi-FiCreative Commons License Yutaka Tsutano via Compfight

I still don’t own a tablet. Not an iPad or a Nexus 7 or anything in between. How can a tech savvy guy like me not own the shinny that is the modern tablet? I must be a techno Luddite. How can I live without apps and flat, thin  screens that beg for my fingers to caress them? Don’t I know that everyone who’s anyone has at least one tablet, if not more? What is wrong with me?

Nothing. I just don’t need one. Tablets are consumer candy for first world gadget nuts with more disposable money than common sense. But they are so cheap now, surely I can afford one. Oh yes, I can afford lots of tablets, even the Mac ones; but I prefer to use that money to pay down my mortgage or pay off my car faster. Unlike most people, I understand that we are in a depression and my budget reflects that.

But, don’t I think they are cool? Yes. Because, Star Trek. But do I actually need one to get my work done, or to make my life easier? Nope.

I have two consumer grade items that I use on a regular basis. A smart phone and a laptop. I use the phone for just about everything except producing content. It’s my portable, always connected to the internet entertainment device. I get to use my fingers to use apps, play games, read books, get information and news, be social, navigate my car, make phone calls, send email, take pictures, watch movies and listen to music. Aside from size, how is a tablet better than that?

My laptop gets used for content creation. It runs a modern, full sized operating system – Linux. I use it for writing books, programming, creating art and making ebooks. It’s light weight and the battery lasts longer than the usual time I have available to create anything. I can listen to streaming music, or watch a movie on it. It also has a great keyboard, and a clear, 13″ screen, perfect for long form writing.

I can go off to any location that has cell service and use the internet with my computer through my phone. So portability is a key feature. I can carry my light, laptop for a long time and not be burdened by it. My phone fits snugly in my pants pocket.

So tell me again why I need a tablet?

Galaxy Nexus In My Pocket

I’ve been using my new Galaxy Nexus phone for about a week now and thought I’d write some thoughts down for anyone who cares about such things. I chose this much delayed and horribly launched phone mainly because I’m on Verizon and I wanted to finally get my hands on a pure Google phone. While this phone is not as “pure Google” as its brethren, its all I have access to on Verizon.

I’m not a heavy phone user and I really don’t care about all the stats that phone geeks do. As long as it works and doesn’t frustrate me, I’m happy with it. I’ve lived for two years with a decrepit, Motorola Droid and probably could have lived longer with it. Even after having been dropped by my kids and being so far behind the curve that it couldn’t take newer versions of Android, I was pretty content with the device.

So when I have the lastest and greatest phone in my hands, it’s a little like trading a Model A Ford for a 2012 Mustang. It’s fast, beautiful and high tech, compared to my old Droid. The first thing you notice about it is the size. It’s freakishly large compared to most phones. But then you turn on that screen and your mouth falls open and stays there. It’s gorgeous. Of course what I always wonder is how great will it be in two year’s time? Will it no longer take upgrades? Will it seem puny and underpowered to the point of feeling like you’re holding an antique? Let you know in about that in 2013, I guess.

In the meantime, the latest version of Android is smooth and fast. I like. They finally have a camera that works and works great. I use my phone for taking pictures all the time and now that I have one that doesn’t have a busted lens, I’ll be taking even more pictures and HD videos with it.

The coolest app I’ve installed so far is Autodesk’s SketchBook Mobile, which I payed for. Yes, Virginia, Free Software advocates on Android will pay for apps.  The TWiT app is quite nice too and I anticipate listening to their podcasts to and from work in my car. The one or two glaring omissions so far have been a Hulu app and QuickOffice. It seems that bad karma is all this phone knows. I installed a speed app and found that I have no 4G access at my home. Good thing I payed a fortune for this phone with 4G capability!

* The lack of Hulu could be due to the 4G outages at Verizon and the lack of QuickOffice might be due to the lack of an ICS version.

Despite the lack of speed, the phone works pretty much as expected. I installed Skype and then it wanted me to choose between Skype and the regular phone app just to make a call. Really? Once I figured out how to default to the phone, that was solved.

The facial recognition only worked in ideal lighting and with perfect alignment. Turns out I don’t always want to pose to get access to my phone. How about voice activation? Much easier for a lazy user to talk than to pose for a picture. I turned it off after being amused that it didn’t recognize me with a hat on or dark sunglasses or even Mickey Mouse headphones.

I didn’t get any kind of a case with it and now I may have to relent on that and get something. The sides are too smooth for a decent grip on the large phone. Despite paying for decent insurance, I really don’t want to drop this nest egg.

Do I recommend the phone? Well, sure if you love tech, it’s probably fun for you. But if you just want a decent phone, there are much cheaper alternatives in the Android line and of course the iPhone. I only hope that Verizon gets its act together and starts supporting this phone better, because I’m hanging with it for the next two years.



Plastic Pals

Will AI brains need a teacher or a guide to living among humans or to even exist successfully in the universe? Can they figure out how to behave without a long period of learning like humans enjoy. I believe that they might actually require a longer period of learning. Simply because they have the capacity to learn quickly, does not mean they will use it right away. It takes humans longer than any other animal to fully mature. If you add walking and talking and socializing into the fold, it could be a while before a young AI could be let out in public.

In my short stories about androids who have been given awareness upgrades, I have them learning about their new condition through a teacher. Sometimes the teachers are humans other times they are other AI infused androids. What I don’t show is the long, tedious efforts to bring the AI up to speed on basic things like walking and interacting with humans on a basic level. That would be boring. Short stories are not a format for boring. So my stories move at a fast clip and usually expound upon a single idea.

I’m also interested in human and android relationships. If you had an android, would you be its friend or its owner? They say a dog is man’s best friend but what they mean is that the loyalty really only goes one way. Except for Payton in Silverado. This is not to say that humans don’t love their pets, but that is different than loving your best friend. Or is it? Would androids and humans ever be buddies? Now that would be an interesting character study. Note to self:  possible story about human/android buddies.

Look Ma, I’m an Android Developer

Well, not quite yet. But I do have the emulator going on my Linux boxen. I knew you wouldn’t believe me unless I had visual proof, so here’s a slide of the desktop. See!


I know those buttons on the left are driving you crazy. That’s why I leave them there you know? Me and the Ubuntu developers are the only ones who use them stock on the left. We’re close like that. All other Ubuntu users move them to the right, where God and everyone else intended them to be.

Hey, Google!

You can name your Nexus One phone after my self-aware androids, the Silicants. I won’t sue you, and I’d be very grateful for the exposure. ;-)  How about just Silicant or perhaps Silicant One.  Hell you can even name it after one of my Silicant characters, like Thirty-seven or Eighty-eight.  Just let me have a link on your phone page and you can do whatever you want with that name.

Ah well, it never hurts to offer.  Right?