All posts by George Ou

Currently the Policy Director at Digital Society, George Ou was a Senior Analyst at ITIF.org. Before that, he was Technical Director and Editor at Large at ZDNet.com and wrote one of their most popular blogs “Real World IT“. Before journalism, Mr. Ou was a network engineer. He built and designed wired network, wireless network, Internet, storage, security, and server infrastructure for various fortune 100 companies. George Ou is also a Certified Informations Systems Security Professional. CISSP #109250.

Nook Color ten times better rooted

Just make sure you follow these instructions carefully.

Why is this cool?

  • Everything is way faster!  Well to be specific, it’s mainly the soft keyboard that’s way faster.  The old keyboard was somewhat laggy and annoying.
  • Full Android market
  • Should be easy to restore factory restore on 8 failed boot attempts
  • Already used apps like Wyse Remote Desktop and Angry Birds
  • Replaced launcher with free edition of LauncherPro.  So much nicer than the default launcher.
  • The iPhone showed that people want native applications (apps) instead of running everything through a web browser

How is Nook Color different from Samsung Galaxy Tablet?

  • Nook Color has superior 8-bit IPS LCD panel with better color and viewing angles.  Galaxy is a 6-bit TN LCD panel.
  • Galaxy Tablet has built-in 3G, Wi-Fi, and BlueTooth.  No 3G on the Nook Color and the BlueTooth hardware isn’t currently supported yet.  3G is not a problem for people with one of those portable MiFi hotspots which support multiple devices.
  • Nook Color has no cameras.  Galaxy has both front and rear video camera.
  • Galaxy is slightly lighter.
  • Galaxy is more than twice the price of the Nook Color.

How is Nook Color different from iPad?

  • With a microSDHC slot, you don’t get robbed on flash memory
  • Unless your name is Yao Ming, you’re not going to palm an iPad.  The 7″ form factor fits in a large pocket and it’s much easier to operate standing up or hand held.
  • Less than half the price.
  • Nook Color runs Google Android, iPad runs Apple iOS.

Update – The pigs have taken the eggs, but the kids got my Nook Color and won’t give it back.

When I get it back, will need to test the new Kindle App (Barnes & Nobles have to be rolling in their graves).  Already tested the Google Books app and it seems to work fine and it comes with a huge free library.

Issues so far -

  • I had to create a new Google account even though my YouTube account was already linked to my Gmail account.
  • YouTube App was working great initially but refuses to stay launched now.  I’ve noticed this problem on some other apps I installed.
  • Not sure why the Android Calendar and Contacts app won’t sync with my Gmail Calendar and Contacts.
  • Google Earth crashes on the splash screen and requires a forced close.

Here’s a short video of the device in action.

More observations and issues:

  • I absolutely love the 7″ device form factor.
  • I love the ISP display panel.  I mostly use it with minimal brightness and 50% brightness at most.
  • Android seems to suffer bit rot and needs to be rebooted twice a day.  The touch display gets laggy or worse, it starts clicking things all on its own.  Everything is fixed with a reboot, but it’s shocking how unstable Android is.
  • I also had to download a task manager to kill processes.  I also tried a startup manager (think of it as MSCONFIG for Android) to prevent crapware from starting up.  Problem is that the startup manager automatically kills processes I don’t want killed, like the browser so I’ve had to uninstall it.  It also doesn’t seem to prevent those processes from launching, just kills them after they startup.
  • Cut/paste doesn’t work for shit.  Copying text is a nightmare, and most input fields don’t give you a paste option.  Simple tasks like copying a URL to bit.ly and then inserting that shortened URL to the twitter app just don’t seem possible, and I can’t find a good cut/paste app for Android.
  • A lot of applications and pages in Android don’t come with a previous-page button.  You really need a physical button for previous-page on Android OS.  The physical home button is a must though a lot of devices are shunning that.
  • Despite all these problems, I still love the device.  I just wished Android wasn’t so damn buggy.
  • Can’t wait till they update the Nook Color to Android 2.2.

Rooted Nook Color with full Android here I go

Looks like the rooted Nook Color with Android 2.2 (it’s not 2.2 yet, that requires a different hack) is the way to go.  I mean where else can you get hardware equivalent to the Samsung Galaxy Tablet for $250 unlocked?  Unlocked Galaxy is $802 on Amazon!  Here’s the specs that excite me for this price.

  • 7″ 1024×600 IPS panel (178° viewing angle like iPad)
  • Capacitive multitouch
  • ARM Cortex A8-based Ti OMAP 3621 @ 800 MHz (same processor as Droid 2 and Droid X)
  • MicroSDHC slot
  • Wi-Fi and theoretically BlueTooth capability if unlocked
  • No mobile radio for HSPA or CDMA 3G, but that’s what my MiFi portable hotspot is for.

Full specs here.

Since it’s the Nook Color, it should have some fairly good continuing community support for future software upgrades. I’m going to pick one up tomorrow to play with, and Auto Nooter 2.12.15 here I go!

The limited custom Android 2.1 OS that the Nook Color came with is meant to keep you on their platform since they don’t look like they’re making much margin (if any) on the hardware.  This is some really awesome hardware for the price considering the fact that half the hardware in a smartphone would cost twice as much these days.  This is like four 3.5″ screens joined together and it’s small enough to go in a coat inside pocket.

UPDATE 12/17/2010 – So far so good.  Got the unit last night, used it 4 hours and haven’t charged it overnight, and it still 59% of the battery remaining.  I have to keep it at minimum brightness in a dim room and half brightness seems to be good in a normal lit room.  Full brightness would probably be useful outdoors (excluding directly under sun) and room near bright window.  Web browser seems to operate reasonably smooth.  Have not rooted yet.

Acer’s superwide 4.8 inch smartphone is sexy

Acer has just announced a new Android Smartphone with a 4.8″ 1024×480 resolution super-wide, and it is one sexy beast of a phone.  This form factor is as narrow as a normal smartphone can be while fitting inside a pocket.  In fact, I suspect that it’s probably not much wider than an iPhone though it is likely an inch or so taller.

Some people are suggesting that this is too wide of a form factor since the 21×9 format doesn’t fit 16×9 video format, but movies are often 1.85 or 2.35 “CinemaScope” format and that fits this display’s aspect ratio perfectly.  Furthermore, the super-wide or super-long format is perfect for reading webpages and it should reduce the need to pan and zoom.  The 1024 wide resolution also allows you to terminal server into a server with most of the desktop visible, and just a little up/down panning would make the entire desktop visible.  I’m hoping the device won’t be too expensive, but I think it’s the perfect largest pocket sized form factor a person can get.

Stay away from Cruz e-Reader

Out of curiosity, I picked up a Cruz e-Reader from Fry’s for $160 this morning because it looked interesting with a 7″ 800×600 display running Android 2.0.  This device is apparently tied in with Borders bookstore and it doubles as a cheap Android tablet device.  After about 1 minute after I turned it on, I decided to seal it back up in the box so that it can be returned.

As a side note, the Black Friday sale at Fry’s Electronics stunk this year.  Nothing good in the processor memory section with no combo deals.

So what’s wrong with the device?  Well the chassis actually looked and felt nice with a rubbery non-slip surface in the back and it had an SDHC slot as well as decent speakers.  But it was completely ruined by the unresponsive performance of the user interface.  Tapping took forever to recognize and the scrolling was extremely choppy just about anywhere you went.  Yes I realize it’s positioned as an e-Reader, but I expect a bit more from a color device.  I didn’t even bother testing the video playback capability because the sluggish user interface was a nonstarter.

I’ve already got a 7″ Telechip 8902 based Android 2.1 tablet with 800×480 resolution being shipped to me and I expect a decent experience based on this video review (Telechips device form MP4nation.net was garbage, don’t bother).  Yes I realize it’s not nearly as nice as a Samsung Galaxy 7″ Tablet with 1024×600 resolution (which feels good in the hands and has a very responsive user interface), but the generic Telechip tablet is $430 cheaper and doesn’t require a data plan.  I’ve already got a MiFi for 5 Wi-Fi devices so I don’t want another data plan.

UPDATE 1/5/2011 - I ordered the Telechips based 7″ tablet from MP4nation.net and it took 6 weeks to get to me.  Then it came with a European AC power adapter which means I’ll have to buy another EU to US connector to use it.  The USB charging doesn’t work with any of the chargers I tried.

Biggest problem is that Android Market is broken on the device.

Device is far more sluggish than showed in the video and the resistive display requires a lot of pressure to make it work.  Screen surface doesn’t feel good rubbing, and the front edge feels too sharp that it is uncomfortable to hold.  It’s also a lot thicker than the Nook Color.  The back feels like cheap plastic instead of the rubbery grip on the Nook Color.

BlackFriday deals that you don’t have to wait overnight for

I’m going to be updating this post as I find more things that are interesting.

For the people who depend on mail order, NewEgg has some good stuff (via bfads.net).  Here’s a sampler.

The NewEgg Black Friday sale begins tomorrow (Wednesday – 11/24) at 1pm PST (4pm EST). A few high notes from the flyer:

Yes I know there are full blown 15.6″ laptops at Walmart for under $200, but you’ll likely have to camp out all night and risk getting trampled in the morning so I’m disinclined to recommend trying for those unless you’re a starving college student with more time than money.  $70 2TB hard drive and a $90 20″ display just seems too good to pass up if you’re looking for those things.

Kinect modified to capture true 3D video

Kinect modified to capture true 3D video
Oliver Kreylos has produced one of the most amazing demonstrations of true 3D video I’ve ever seen using an off-the-shelf Microsoft Kinect. This is not the cheesy stereoscopic tacky “3D” moniker being affixed to recent movie titles but actual video footage that you can rotate in three dimensional space.

Words can’t begin to express how impressed I am with this.  Just imagine a football game captured like this.  All live events should be captured like this even if it’s only one camera.

New 3TB hard drives run into 2.19 TB limit

This is an interesting post raising the issue with having greater than 2TB hard drives.  Normal MBR partitions (that you can boot 32 bit OSes and traditional BIOS) only support 2.19TB maximum.  This is another good reason to use an SSD for your boot drive in addition to the insanely enhanced boot and OS performance.  It also makes it simple to image your boot partition for rapid restore purposes.