Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fedora 14 on a Lenovo Thinkpad T510

by Jemimus, on Flickr
Another brand new toy. After my last trip to the UK for bikesoup I decided that it was about time to get a proper laptop.
So far I only have a netbook, which is very convenient when size and weight matter. But for getting work done it is just to small, the main problem is the screen size and resolution.
I had a look around for good full sized laptops and the only brands producing something with the quality I had in mind were Apple and Lenovo. The advantages of the Apple over Lenovo are better built quality, battery life and easy to buy locally. I choose the Lenovo, because you can order it with more gadgets, swappable batteries and mostly because it isn't an Apple as I despise where the company is going and I already had bad experiences with Linux and iPods.
This is the configuration I finally got.
  • Intel Core i7-620M
  • 15.6" FHD Display  1920x1080
  • 4 GB
  • UltraNav (TrackPoint and TouchPad) with Fingerprint Reader
  • 500 GB Hard Disk Drive, 7200rpm
  • Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 (3x3 AGN)
  • Integrated Mobile Broadband (Gobi 2000 3G with GPS) 
First thing I did was to install Fedora 14 on it. I used the install option to shrink the Windows partition to 50G and used the rest for Linux. I am probably going to replace the hard-disk with a SSD in the future, but it was a bit too expensive for now.
The install was amazingly boring. I was expecting all kind of problems with the hardware, but everything just worked. Even the fingerprint reader allows you to login after configuring it with a nice tool.
The only tweaks I needed so far, are these:
  • The UMTS card needs a firmware and loader, I used these instructions from the CentOS list.  I don't really need it, because mobile broadband via bluetooth is also very easy to set up and works just as fast.
  • I haven't tried the GPS yet, but I seem to be inside of buildings most of the time anyway
  • if you enable VT-D (whatever that is) in the BIOS, hibernate / suspend to disk won't work
  • for some reason some of the preferences don't work for the touchpad, but you can enable those and more with the synclient tool. For example "synclient VertTwoFingerScroll=1"
Battery time is a bit disappointing, with either a 6 or 9 cell battery. Some of it seems to be the fault of the Linux software, but PC hardware always seems to be rubbish in that department.
The build quality is also not on the level of a MacBook pro, but much better than any Dell, Asus or whatever they are called.

I will comment on this post in case I make any new discoveries.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Kindle and ebooks

I was planning to buy an ebook reader for a while. I mean it is 2010 and if we don't have flying cars at least everyone should have a robot and not read from dead trees.

It took me a while because I wasn't able to decide on a brand and when I decided on Amazon I couldn't decide on which Kindle to get. My girlfriend took the decision off me by giving me a Kindle 3G+Wifi for my birthday. So here is a quick review.

Once you open the packaging you already notice the difference to any other display device you have ever used. The screen already shows something, even though the device is switched off. In this case it shows the instructions to switch it on and plug it in. Whenever the device is switched off it displays a random picture.

The Kindle is about the size of a normal paperback novel, it is not too heavy and it is very easy to hold with one hand. The large "turn page"-button on both sides of the screen allow reading without moving your hands.

With the the 3G or Wifi you can access the Amazon store, which allows you to buy books or directly download one of the many free books from Amazon. Once you try this you might notice one of the disadvantages: a lot of books are not available for European buyers, this even includes some of the free books. The free books seem mostly be from project gutenberg, so I don't understand the reasoning for this. You can just download them from there. A lot of paper books, especially older ones are not available at all.

So first thing I bought The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy obviously. But I know that one already, so I also bought The Last Run: A Queen & Country Novel, which is a kind of James Bond story with a British female agent and the last art of a series which I already followed.
The book cost me $18.74, and there is already the first problem, I think it is too much. It does cost less for US customers and the hardcover is only $17.16. Now everyone is saying that it isn't the paper that is making the price, but something is clearly wrong here. With an Amazon ebook I am also loosing my right to lend the book to other people or to sell it again once I read it, there should be some compensation for this.
The reading experience on the other hand was very nice. I also had the feeling that I read quicker on the reader compared to a paper book, maybe because of the smaller page size or the quicker page turns. This is was the Kindle is made for, reading novels is a very nice experience.

Now the bad stuff: reading pdfs or technical books on the 6" Kindle is not nice, it is just too small. The lack of colour is also a problem for these and comics.
The organization of books on the Kindle sucks, there should be a view with the book covers (which are also not always provided by the books), the collection system is also rubbish.
Navigation is also clumsy, a touch screen would be the obvious solution but this adds weight, size, reduces battery live and quality of the display. But even without touch this could be a lot smoother.
And finally: how can Amazon with one of the best, if not the best on-line shop produce a shop on the kindle that is so useless. Unless you are not near a computer it is always easier to switch on your desktop and do the shopping on and then send it to the Kindle. Heck, even if you are not around a computer it might be faster to take a cab to the next internet cafe and do the shopping there.

To summarize: I am happy with the device for the reading I use it for. I am also glad that I don't have carry around kilos of books the next time I read the Hitchhiker, Red/Green/Blue Mars or Lord of the Rings again. And the project gutenberg is finally useful to me too, with lots of classics and older books like the Origin of Species available for free.

And in the future I will get another ereader for PDFs, technical books and comics. But only if available with a colour display in the same quality as the Kindle