Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hello Andrea :-)

Today, I went out and bought an ASUS Eee Pad Transformer from the local Microcenter. It is very much like the ASUS EeePC, or at least the 1015PE I have been using since retiring Dixie. In point of fact, I am typing this up on my new Transformer! It took quite a while to charge up enough to get to the updating but it was a very simple, quick, and easy process to update from Android 3.0 to 3.2; one of the things to attract me to this device, has been that ASUS seems to be supporting it much better than most companies have been supporting their mobile phones.

Being so much like Alice, which is also an ASUS product, I have named this Android "Andrea". The Transformer has interested me since I learned of it's existence, but I didn't quite think I would be purchasing one so soon lol. I will admit, that the differences between an Atom N450 and a Tegra 2 interest me. As does the notion of pushing Android harder to its limits. What really makes it worth while how ever, is between the dock and the tablet, the battery life should be insane.

Compared to the EeePC 1015PE, it is very similar: most external differences are more cosmetic or a reflection of the change in internals; like the ports involved. Andrea has basically the same keyboard as Alice. Except the left Windows and Alt keyshave ben replaced by "Home" and "Search keys". Android doesn't understand function keys, so rather tha being Fn+F* combos, various operations are instead directly accessible via the top most row of keys. There is also no numpad to enable via Fn+F* key, not that I have ever used this on a mobile. Oddly, delete has been replaced with lock where as appropriately, escape was replaced with "Back". While docked the keyboard operates as you would expect, there are only a few noticable irregularities when coming from a PC. Mostly things like Control+Arrow-key or Control+Backspace are not working, although Control+A, Control+C, Control+X, Control+V combos working. Fair enough on a touch screen oriented OS I guess. Alt+Tab even works, more or less like long-pressing the home button on an Android 2.x phone. Using the cursor/tab keys to move around does not generally work as good as a PC user is used to, although such PC users are probably a dying breed. The touch pad however is very nice and useful. Very enjoyably you use left click/tap as on a phone and right click as an alias for the back button. Context menu is usually a soft button on the bottom or top side of the screen.

As a tablet, I personally would prefer a smaller screen like my mother's 7" Dell Streak. It just feels more managable in my hands. As Andrea is meant to be docked, I am quite happy to have a full 10.1" screen. The resolution is also one up from what Alice supports, which makes for an interesting experience! It is so much easier to use Android on a 10.1" at this resolution then my phones lowly ~3.2" HVGA display. Changes to apps like GMail and the like, generally seem to be improvements for having a tablet sized screen in Honeycomb; I am somewhat interested to see what happens in Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean.

I have the TF101-B1 version, so 32GB is a lot. Most stuff on my phone is on the MicroSD card, and I only maintain 35-50MB of space. Andrea came loaded with something like 200MB of space in use out of 28GB accessible, a pretty good deal. Especially since unlike my phone, it isn't loaded down with applications, even if the updates to 3.2 added more. Alice is only 11-13GB with a bunch of software installed on GNU/Linux, less than 4GB of which amounts to my home directory. So I am pretty sure that I don't need to wory much here! I can also use memory cards and USB devices for more stuff. ASUS preloads it with a bit of My* apps, including a form of ASUS Web Storage. I have tried it under Froyo and Windows XP, Dropbox is better, and has the advantage (unlike ASUS Web Sotrage) of being able to access stuff in app when you are disconnected. Android client is OK other than requiring Network access (or side stepping out of app) but the Window PC version just sucks, period. FWIW though the integration into MyCloud and the procing is very nice—but I will stick with Dropbox.

Honeycombs UI is very enjoyable for me, and I am kind of impressed by the bundled office app: Polaris Office. Haven't used it very much (just for documents) but it is nice. Something that really aces it for me, the Browser app is much more like Google Chrome than the Froyo version. Running off a 1Ghz dual core instead of a little 600Mhz single cored ARM, it is also fast enough that I don't need to reach for Opera Mobile.

So far, I'm lovin' it. Really the main lossage is a native X server. I would have to root Andrea and set things up using X/VNC. Except for a few things I do at work, I don't need X, as a decent shell environment or a SSH client to one, does most of what I need. Hehe. My only real complaint is that while Alice has a _long_ charging cord/adaptor, Andrea has a short one :-/.

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