in which the Pre unsuprisingly continues to suck

My Palm Pre was killed by a forced over the air WebOS upgrade. You can't avoid those upgrades, even if you are sure they'll be bad news. The previous WebOS upgrade spared my Debian partition, but lost all other customizations (including Palm Pre privacy fixes), and wasted hours. When I went to use my phone and it didn't even boot, and displayed only "http://palm.com/rom", I knew that was the last straw.

(Shouldn't forcing an upgrade that breaks a working phone to the point that it can't even call 911 be well, illegal?)

switching cell providers in the US: suprisingly doable

I thought about ditching the smart phone and using VOIP, but I seem to have gotten addicted. So I got a Droid. That meant switching cell phone companies.

I've heard a lot about how horrible the US cell phone company contracts are. My experience has me wondering if all that is well... not overblown, but oversimplified. I was half a year into a two year contract. Today I got my closing statement, and I really got out of it with no early termination fee.

The trick seems to be, switch to a different cell phone company. They'll be happy to get you out of your old contract, salivating at the chance of locking you in to a new one. They probably have a script to use when calling to cancel. Or "know a guy". Or claim to know a guy, then just use a script, and get lucky. Given the hard sells and vague promises they tried on me, I assume that these places are where all the car salesmen ended up. Trust == 0. But it worked.

If you're good on the phone, and are looking for a new business idea: Start a business of getting people out of their cell phone contracts, for a reasonable fee and no other obligation. Use loopholes like rate changes. As long as the cell phone companies can raise their monthly rate 2 cents, and 99.9999% of their users accept it, and they make untold millions of dollars, for free, they seem to not care if the remaining fraction use a loophole to get out. Especially if they're able to take advantage of other comanies loopholes to switch over users. So there seems to be a niche there in which one could prosper.

droid first impressions

So now I have a slightly larger lump in my pocket and the Pre is on a shelf, and will either be used for future development and testing of Debian piggyback ideas, or donated to someone like Lennart who can make good use of it.

Compared with the Pre, the droid's hardware is all superior. The keyboard, especially, is great, with arrow keys, and all the symbols I need. At the same time, the phone is bigger, and oddly clunky. But in an endearing way. Only thing I really dislike about the hardware is the "back" button is easy to accidentially swipe while typing on the keyboard.

Compared with WebOS, the Android UI has some clunkiness and non-obvious things. Like the status bar at the top not doing anything when you click on it. And there being no way to close an app. Especially annoying is that this means opening the web browser returns to whatever page I was on last, which is never what I want. The UI is however much, much snappier.

I don't use the Google email, etc services so can't comment on them; I assume the amount of info Google is gathering about me went up by a few percentage points; I've blocked their analytics on my network to knock it back down. (PS: DuckDuckGo now avoids logging IP addresses at all.)

The best thing is the ConnectBot application, which is a very usable shell and ssh client. It's a terminal, in my pocket, which I can easily use for an hour without feeling like my interactions are feeding through a stifling soda straw. Between the keyboard and the app, the Pre has nothing at all that compares.

Under the hood, Android annoys me terribly, with its lack of busybox, its kernel that does not even have the ext filesystem, its hard-partitioned storage, and its general lack of every single thing I like in a Linux system. Compare this with the Pre, which has a package manager, a userspace based on busybox with a full standard Linux stack (all the way up to PulseAudio) and a kernel with lots of standard filesystems, and even LVM. Sigh. It's amazing that WebOS and Android have found such broadly different* ways to suck.

There is significant interest and activity around running a Debian chroot on the Droid. The best tries so far put it on a loop mounted ext2 filesystem (which means you need to get ahold of a matching ext2.ko somehow), living on the FAT formatted SSD. And there are apparently some bad problems with IO to that starving/locking the system, so I have not tried it.

Maemo?

Did you consider going with the Maemo-based N900? If so, any particular reason you didn't?

The N900 already has a Debian chroot available, as well as dual-boot with Debian and other interesting alternatives like Mer. And the standard Maemo environment has a lot more Linux in it than Android or Pre do.

Comment by joshtriplett [myopenid.com]
CyanogenMod
For a community build of Android with ext* support (and lots of other goodies I think you'll appreciate), consider trying http://www.cyanogenmod.com/
Comment by mdzlog [alcor.net]
Google traffic

Hi Joey,

Could you please provide details about what you blocked?

I have noticed Google asking for "anonymous location data" after a factory reset.

I noticed in 1.6 there is "Share with Google" option in "Security & Location". In my modded NexusOne 2.1 device, I don't have this option in the "Location & Security" menu item.

The reason why I am worried, is because I received a crazy roaming bill and I now very suspicious about what traffic Android sends out. In my case the network was not properly working, but my device seemed to create 10s of megs of network traffic. I assume it was re-trying again and again since it's requests were not being met.

So next I want to somehow work out exactly what Android is requesting.

Android already shocked me when their power control sync button does not actually stop Applications&sync->"Background data" from being sent and received. Sigh ...

Comment by hendry [iki.fi]
comment 5
@hendry, I was referring to having blocked google analytics on my home network, not anything to do with android
Comment by joey [kitenet.net]