| The Python
(second edition) by Alex
Anna Ravenscroft and David
Ascher, 2005, ISBN 0596007973, O'Reilly.
This is a collected set of recipes for doing all sorts of common (and
so common) tasks in Python. The recipes are grouped into task-specific
chapters, so you can often just glance down the list of chapters and
then skim the contents of one or two chapters to find what you are
looking for. The recipes are usually less than a page long, often short
enough to just type into the Python interpreter shell directly to play
with, and come with a write up that will cover what the recipe does and
go into details about any additional background material you might need
If you are a lone programmer who's looking
to get productive in Python fast, this is a good book to get. Its the
of thing where you could find a solution in this book in 5 minutes that
will save you a few hours of web searching and experimentation. If
got a few people at work who use Python, then at least get one copy for
the office, it'll pay for itself in one use.
15 will support Python as a scripting language
images of earth from NASA
- The SPOT
personal GPS tracker, a portable OnStar for the outdoor adventurer,
lets your next of kin know where to find your body... A new version is being released in fall 2009, with basic service at $99/year (with a few options like progress tracking at $49/yr) its not too pricey. An alternative to this is to get a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which is an international rescue service and does not require an annual subscription, but the devices cost considerably more than a SPOT (say about $600) and do not have the ability to send intermediate progress reports. In Canada the PLB needs to be registered at the National Search and Rescue Secretariat.
specializes in tearing
appart hi tech toys (phones, digi cams...) and documenting them
A really good little USB to general
analogue/digital IO project based on the PIC18F4550
Engadget's guide to combining
GPS data with satellite photos
rebel against journals, and about time too! Scientists
quit from the editorial board of a journal.. Nature
debates the issue of electronic access to scientific literature,
on Slashdot. Apparently the US Congress is considering having all government funded research
published in an open way. Mar'05 the IEEE wonders who will pay the costs of open access. Now some open access journals
are being funded by accepting a payment from the author for publication. The
Royal Society wants to keep papers off the web. The Association of American Publishers
to work against scientists publishing freely. The European
Commission may be providing some funding towards making a free
scientific library. Nature is going
to allow open online access to pre-publication works in Nature Proceedings, something similar to arXiv.org. The physics journal Physical Review may reconsider its position on copyright now that some scientists are writing to tell it that they are unhappy with the current restrictions that will be placed on republication of their works.
In Are Academic Journals Obsolete Slashdot discusses the journal issue - perhaps they are only useful for evaluation of professorial job performance? In Oct'08 the arXiv system reached 500,000 publications. Current science publishing methods are being called problematic. The MIT faculty have voted in favor of making all their publications open access. Perhaps the final solution to this problem would be to abolish copyright protection on academic works. Now the University of California faculty might boycott the publisher of Nature, seems to me all they would need to do is self-publish their own papers in a peer-reviewed section of Wikipedia. 
made from parts found at Radio Shack?
Fusion Fun with Collapsing Bubbles? Another take on it here.
I wonder if this will work with Champagne? Certainly sounds like the
return of "cold fusion", only time will tell.
data shows earth's temperature as rising 0.43C per decade recently
The big earthquake
of Dec 26, 2004. India seems to have been hit but news is sparse.
Scotland on Sunday.
The European Space Agency has some satelite
pictures of this. And there are some very good before/after
shows that most of the Indian east coast is 2000km from the epicentre,
while Shrilanka is about 1600-1800km away, so the potential for damage
along the Indian east coast is still very high. Here are some before/after
shots of a few points on the Indian coast. Locating
the earthquake by listening to sound waves in the ocean. In Aug'06
satellite data was used to see gravity
changes caused by this quake.
Stellarator is a new design for fusion reactors that aims to
improve the essential containment of plasma
The company Intellectual Weapons is going to try to patent fixes
to security holes in software
IBM is granting
universal and perpetual access to some of its intellectual property
that is necessary to implement standards designed to make software
The European Galileo GPS Satellite has been cracked
making access to its data available.
is a high altitude balloon that could be used to provide radio
(much like the failed low orbital projects). Of course it could also be
used for some pretty good surveillance given its so much closer to the
ground. A similar idea is to use airships
to provide this sort of service (and even better surveillance).
- The computers that control the GPS satellite system have finally been upgraded to (nearly obsolete) UNIX servers. What's interesting in this is that the GPS satellites are relatively simple, rather passive devices, essentially doing a precisely timed rebroadcast of signals that originate at this control center. 
inkjet printers tell you the ink is out when there is still a lot
The JavaService Wrapper project's documentation
states that during machine shutdown the Windows Service Manager
ignores the service dependency tree and tells all services to shut down
at the same time (not in the reverse of the order that they were
source planetarium software
- When you tell Firefox to check for phishing sites it sends the URLs to Google to test. 
- The book Beginning Game Development with Python and Pygame (by Will McGugan) is offering a preview by way of a free chapter on Artificial Intelligence. 
Wind Power in Cold Stores, this is really a case of intelligent
load averaging, and thus, swapping some conventional power requirements
for wind generated power. For one to really make the claim of "storing
power" one should be able to place energy into the storage device and
then return some of that energy back to its original form for later
use. That said, this is a good example of "low-hanging fruit", there
are probably plenty of power users that could be tailored to make use
of alternative power sources when those are abundant (for example
commercial green houses, swimming pool heating, ice rink cooling...).
A new method
to produce solar cells with an efficiency of 11-13% and at a cost
of about $1/Watt has been developed at Colorado State University by
Professor W.S. Sampath. This design applies a film of cadmium telluride
to a glass substrate and is well suited to a continuous production
- Intelligent Batteries
Inc. has a lot of replacement battery packs.
Spy tells all
is going to watch you blush, this way airport security can tell if
you are lying... 75% of the time.
in the sky the one strange case of hacking
satellite TV signals and the smart cards that enable an industry
Rise of Crowdsourcing, a look at tapping the mass-intellegence of
the world's web users
is offering a new service that messes with the web browser's agent
string; and hence, causes intelligent web sites to deliver full sized
web pages rather than more suitable scaled down pages.
- Beaming solar power from space in the form of microwaves has been talked about in the past for a long time, but now it seems to be getting more attention. The collection efficiency can be improved (versus land-based) because there are no losses due to clouds or atmospheric pollution and potentially a collector can be kept in full sunlight 24 hours a day (though this would mean it needs to transmit its output to different sites on earth as the world turns) the raw cost per watt would be less for space based collectors than ground based ones. Of course, that would get massively reversed once the cost of lifting the collectors into space is factored in.
The real drive behind this might be the need for power in the military (though that does not make a lot of sense as the power will be off during the night, and the batteries the military would need to store power for use overnight would likely be bigger than the oil fueled generators they replace). It might be the military sees this as a way to get a new weapon in the sky, consider their recent work with the "pain ray", a microwave gun that causes intense pain by stimulating the nerves of the skin, perhaps such satellites (which use microwaves to relay their collected power to the ground) could do double duty and be used to cover large areas of a battlefield with pain rays, thus, knocking enemy troops out of action prior to an attack. 
Hard disk data
Brown University actually runs a course, CS148:
Building Intelligent Robots, using Lego Robotics. What fun! USC
also has a course that
uses Lego Robotics in their lab.
- A review of the book: Programming Collective Intelligence by Toby Segaran, ISBN: 978-0596529321 which includes sections on similarity calculations, text search engines, optimization, neural networks, document classification and spam filtration, decision trees and genetic programming. 
Slashdot book review of Linux
Toys, a book that tells you how to do various Linux based projects
- The first satellite to ground power transmission may be in operation in 2012, though at $800M for only 1MW of power that's a lot more than ground based solar which can be had for $10/W (and perhaps as low as $1/W soon). 
- Perhaps the DCMA and the RIAA have pushed the youth of today too far, this article claims only 2 in 500 believe in IP, which could have significant impact in 10-20 years time - remember intellectual property is only protected by laws and laws can be changed quite easily once the population decides to have them changed. I will predict that by 2028 the standard copyright term will have been reduced to 25 years and patent protection will only be granted for 10 years. 
- Mercurial (also known as Hg) is a distributed revision control system. I started using this in late 2007 and its a nice change from CVS. You need to make some mental adaptations but it seems a lot more capable than CVS, especially in the branching and merging areas. Its also pretty easy to put anything under revision control, just do an hg init dirname on the directory you want to track the contents of and then do some hg add filename commands to tell it what to track. To add this to a Debian Linux box is as easy as apt-get install mercurial. 
- SportTracks is a replacement for Garmin's TrainingCenter software, it is thought by some to be much better (and after playing with it a bit, I would have to agree). It includes a view of your workout routes superimposed over Google street maps or satellite images and it has easy to use integration with Google Earth.  
- DirecTV is going to produce a PC satellite tuner box, apparently it has dual tuners and hooks up to your PC via USB (but it also has an ethernet jack, so maybe it can do more?). 
- One of the posters from CES'08, the porcupine girl, is a pretty funny way of getting the intellectual property protection message across.  
In C (and C++) one has been able to recast pointers to the start
of a structure to other types, now it appears that optimizing compilers
are unable to tell that these aliased pointers are to the same object
and this can lead to bugs, this article
explains how this can be a problem for Python.
Intelligence a new approach to solving scheduling problems
the GD Graphics
is an open source image library
The customer is always
wrong (as far as telling the software developer what he wants
built), this idea is pretty much the central pillar of the Extreme
Programming approach (where its stated: expect the customer to change
Code Jam 2004, Google's way of looking for star programmers, and
adverts that apparently point the way to a job site. Now with all
these very intelligent people will Google be capable of making products
simple enough for the rest of us to use?
- The SPOT Satellite Messenger is a GPS device crossed with emergency satellite communications. This looks like the first product version has some serious flaws, but could still be useful to a number of wilderness trekker types. 
- The Maha MH-C9000 WizardOne is an intelligent AA/AAA battery charger. This has four independent charging circuits, so different sizes and capacities can be charged at the same time. It also has a number of special cycles, including a discharge, a refresh (combined top-up, discharge, recharge) and a break-in cycle (for batteries that have lost their full capacity). It is reviewed here and here. In Calgary it is available at MemoryExpress.  
- A talk from PyCon 2008 by Alex Martelli called Callback Patterns and Idioms in Python is a good read on the sort of things that can be done with callbacks. 
How to build your own satellite
ground station (I seem to recall that Elektor magazine once (around
1980?) had a similar project)
The European Space Agency
is putting current
satellite pictures on the web, the MODIS
Rapid Response System from NASA is a similar thing
- Portelligent sells
tear-down and reverse engineering reports on various consumer electronic devices
- For a science project a German schoolboy, Nico Marquardt, has revised NASA's Apophis asteroid orbit figures to follow what changes might happen if the asteroid hits a satellite when it pases near earth in 2029. This might make the chances of an earth-impact in 2036 much higher, up to 1 in 450.  
sells third party replacements for a lot of camcorder and digital
camera lithium rechargeable batteries. For the Sony NP-F550
this is their replacement.
- The publishing and motion picture industry keeps working behind the scenes to make sure Canadian copyright policy is shaped to their taste, this time someone has canceled Howard Knopf's invitation to be a part of the Public Policy Forum Symposium on intellectual property reform.
- Intellectual Ventures is a think-tank type company that creates patents, discussed here on Slashdot. 
- A patent attorney talks about why we need to rethink intellectual property. 
- Hotsync 6.0.1 when running under Windows Vista may one day fail to finish transferring your calendar data. When this happened to me I did some searching and found that a common cause of this was that either one of the databases had become corrupt or that there were a large number of deleted items on the Palm (and as these get deleted once the hotsync is done, so the problem never clears up).
There is a tool called DbFixIt you can install and run on your Palm to check to see if you have any database errors. This will also report the number of deleted records in each database. The registered version of this tool will also fix common database errors. By the time you need this you might be in a Catch-22 position where you cannot hotsync but you need to hotsync to install the tool. So to install the tool you will need to configure your hotsync manager (on your computer) and tell it not to synchronize the applications that are causing it to hang (the calendar in my case). When I ran the tool it told me that all the databases were fine and there were no records to delete. Later I tried hot syncing on a Windows XP machine, and much to my amazement the hotsync finished, but it did report an error:
Some handheld records were not copied to your PC. Your computer may be full or you may have reached the maximum allowed records on the desktop. To correct this situation, delete some records and perform a HotSync operation again.
So my problem was that I had exceeded some fixed maximum number of records in the calendar. To test this theory I deleted a few records from the Palm's calendar and synced again, this time without incident. I then synced on the Windows Vista machine, and again, the sync ran without any issue.
Desktop = 6378, Handheld = 6375
So now the question is: is 6375 the maximum number of calendar records, and can this be changed? 
- A new generation of GPS satellites are starting development in 2008 which will feature higher transmission power, the most recent generation in use may have an accuracy of 3-5m. 
- Canada goes asteroid hunting: the NEOSSat is a mini satellite is being designed (total of 65kg) that will house a 6 inch telescope dedicated to searching out near Earth asteroids. 
- What could you do with an old satellite dish? I like the radio telescope idea. 
- Buying Vista but downgrading to XP is discussed here on Slashdot. A short summary of how to do this is given here, you install XP as usual fro an XP CDROM using an existing XP key, then when you get to the activation part you must call Microsoft over the phone and tell them you are doing a downgrade of Vista to XP and at this point you give them the Vista key. 
- First Solar is targeting solar panels with a cost of about $1/watt. These are made from cadmium telluride deposited on glass sheets. Their expected production for 2009 is 1GW worth of panels, which is about 1/6th of the total world production. Discussed here on Slashdot. 
- Google is getting serious about satellite maps, the new satellite GeoEye-1 will provide Google more imagery.
- Stellar Phoenix Photo Recovery is a program to recover photos that have been lost, due to deletion or formatting. Might be worth remembering in case you format a flash card by accident.  
- Using Google Earth to track satellites in real-time. 
- The Linksys WRT54GL is a Linux-based wireless router (the wireless section can be disabled if you just want a wired router) that is well supported by a number of open source projects:
Tomato the manual is here. This installs very easily over the original Linksys firmware, just download and unpack one file then go into the administration section of the interface and upload the new firmware.
A Botnet Worm has been identified that targets modems and MIPS-processor routers based on Linux (such as the OpenWRT, DD-WRT or Tomato firmware). Discussed here on Slashdot. It looks like power cycling the device will clean it, but then you should also change passwords and disable any administrative access from the WAN (which is how it gets infected - though presumably if you have WiFi enabled it could get infected from that network too). 
- A proposal for a fusion-powered, interstellar probe. 
- ATT is going live with the TerreStar sat phone service after July'09, this will cover the whole of North America and Mexico with satellite coverage and the phone will switch to an available GSM network to save costs. Might be just the ticket for an emergency phone for those who wander beyond standard GSM coverage. This satellite was successfully launched on July 1st (talk about Canada Day fireworks!) and will be activating soon, it appears that coverage will be limited because of line-of-sight from the ground to the satellite, so it might not work if you are on the wrong side of a mountain (or shielded by a nearby building). 
- Amazon has messed up on the Kindle's management of content a couple of times now, which is annoying some people. Amazon has apologized for how it handled the issue of forcing the return of copies of 1984. 
- Microsoft is letting some of its patents (that might apply to Linux) move to the Open Invention Network. That's probably a lot better than selling them to a patent troll like Intellectual Ventures. 
- Modern SATA hard drives are built to a set of standard block sizes which are available from a number of manufacturers. This generally makes replacing a failed drive in a RAID array (where the exact drive size must match) quite easy. However, some recent motherboard "features" may actually reserve some space on the hard drive to store a copy of the BIOS for backup purposes. When this happens the motherboard sends special commands to the hard drive to tell it to change its reported size so that regular operating system partitioning software will not see the reserved area (the so called Host Protected Area - HPA). This issue was discussed here when it showed up on some Gigabyte motherboards to do with their Virtual Dual BIOS. If you connect several drives to one of these motherboards you may find that only one of them gets its size changed (probably the one on the lowest numbered SATA port), so even identical drives may no longer be identical. 
- The WIPO may have some odd views of intellectual property rights. 
- Wind Mobile has just entered the Canadian cell phone market place. One thing they are offering is free calling between Wind phones within their "home zone" areas (which currently are just Calgary and Toronto). They also offer an unlimited data plan and are upfront about telling you that if you use more than 5GB a month they will throttle your connection (but won't shut you off or charge you more). 
- Intelliremote looks like a good package to make remote control of a HTPC somewhat more comfortable. 
- The Chuck Norris botnet is attacking weakly secured routers, DSL modems and even satellite TV receivers. Given that devices like DSL modems and cable modems are often only configured by the ISP there's a good chance for poor practices on the ISP's part (like using one user name and password on all of the modems it controls) to lead to massive hacks. Even though this attack is only against the router or modem, there is a nasty issue here in that a compromised router could be set to divert DNS look-ups to a bad DNS server which could serve up the wrong IPs for the some common internet services (like Facebook or some of the advertising suppliers) which could divert the user's browser to sites that try to install malware. 
- The presence of interstellar hydrogen may limit the maximum safe speed of space travel. 
- The Google Nexus One Phone does work on Virgin Mobile in Canada. As of 26-Mar-2010 I was able to successfully connect my (ATT/Rogers style) Nexus One to the Virgin Mobile network in Calgary, Canada. It runs fine and with the data plan activated it works over the 3G (HSDPA) network quite nicely. Getting connected was much more painful than it needed to be. Here's the story:
- It all started when I heard from a couple of friends that the unlocked Nexus One was now available to Canadians and that they had taken the plunge. So I did a bit more research and found that there were now two variants: one (the AWS version - for "3G on T-Mobile USA") would only work on the Wind network in Canada and the other ("compatible with 3G on ATT and Rogers Wireless") should work on Rogers, Fido, Telus, Bell and Virgin. I ordered the ATT/Rogers version because it offered me more carrier choices in Canada.
- After researching the various carrier offerings (and rediscovering that the thinly-disguised monopolistic cell phone price fixing conspiracy was still alive and well in Canada) I decided to stick with Virgin Mobile where I already had a pre-paid phone.
- I then called Virgin's support to see if they thought the Nexus One was compatible, they confirmed that the specifications were a match and stated that: as this was not a "supported phone" they could not guarantee data would work. They said when I got the phone to take it to one of their stores and get hooked up using their GSM SIM card.
- I then paid a visit to their North Hill mall booth (they don't really have "stores" just booths in Calgary) only to be told "they only do CDMA phones". Of course Virgin has only recently begun handling GSM/3G type phones, but you'd think their staff training would have mentioned the fact that now they are carrying the iPhone and offering SIM cards and that they had joined the GSM/3G service crowd (like the rest of the Virgin operations around the world). I also visited the Bell booth (Virgin runs on Bell's network in Canada and shares network towers with Telus, competing with Rogers and Fido) and they were ready to try right away.
- Undaunted I called Virgin service the next day, reconfirmed that the phone would work and that I would be able to port my pre-paid phone number and remaining balance to the new plan and then settled back to wait for DHL to deliver the phone.
- Once the phone arrived I returned to the Virgin booth, this time it was staffed by someone who did know that they did more than CDMA, so we got set to the task of hooking up. After about 15 minutes of credit check, verifying that the phone's IMEI number was listed in their database as compatible (for the 3rd time!) we got to the part where they scan in the SIM card's number and associate the phone by its IMEI number. At this point we got a rather odd error from their system saying something like "the SIM card is incompatible with the selected plan". The salesman called his support line and they got the same error and after a few minutes they just gave up. The salesman gave it another shot (this time starting as if I did not have an existing account, in case the pre-paid legacy account was messing things up) and even used a different SIM, but still got the same error. As I was running late, I just called it a day and left.
- The next morning I called Virgin support and told them what had happened, they went through the same registration process (again checking the IMEI for compatibility) and ran into the same error (using a SIM card on their end as I had been unable to purchase one). This time support called their support, and after a few minutes on hold, they returned to say they had got around the error and we could proceed, but that I would have to now buy a SIM card from one of their stores. However, all the account stuff had been done and I had a new (non-working) phone number and once I had the SIM I was to call back and they could complete the process.
- So at lunch time I went SIM shopping, its just a little $5 card that all the Virgin retailers carry and there are several a short ways from my office, so I checked stock levels at The Source (as the Virgin Booth is further away) and walked over. On my way I passed "The Telephone Booth" which had a big Virgin Mobile display at the front of their store, so I went in and asked for a SIM, they wanted $42 for it (unless I registered through them) so I resumed my search for The Source.
- At The Source they said no problem, they had the SIMs but needed to check the phone first, so they checked the IMEI against the database and then got out their "test SIM" (which was from Bell), popped it into the phone and declared it good. So then they proceeded to sell me the Virgin SIM, but at some point in the checkout process they have to have a Virgin Account number (to sell the SIM against), so they wanted to go through the registration process (again!). I told them this had already been started and it was on hold pending purchase of the SIM. They called Virgin, and after about 10 minutes of back and forth (and another IMEI check, credit card check and photo ID recheck) they got the account number out of Virgin and were able to complete the sale. All in all, about 25 minutes to make a $5 sale - how do these guys stay in business?
- Later that day, SIM in phone, I call Virgin back again to resume the process. After about 10 minutes on hold I get an operator and after a brief description of what I need to do she decides another department needs to handle the call, so back on hold. After about 30 minutes more on hold I hang up and call back to the support line again, this time I get through and after about 5 minutes we have completed the next step. The SIM and the IMEI are now associated! So now I have to power off the phone, pull out the SIM, reinsert it, power up the phone and then wait for 2 hours for the phone and network to connect up and then call them back to finish the data configuration step.
- After 2 hours I check the phone and the it appears to be on the GSM network (I don't see any 3G indicator), I can make a phone call with it and I have received two text messages from Virgin welcoming me to the party. Things are looking good, so I call them up, wait for about 15 minutes, talk to someone in support who curtly tells me the phone is not supported by them so 3G ain't going to work, your phone's only going to do what its doing now, goodbye. I hope Virgin reviews their call recordings on that one... Muttering to myself I dig through my accumulated net-searches on Virgin 3G lore and find this helpful article where the author reports the same sort of grief. He mentions that the solution is actually documented on Virgin's site (note: Virgin has since removed this page from their site and when I pointed it out to them they denied it even existed, you can get the information you need from Bell's site, since Virgin just resells Bell's service) in a cunningly concealed section of the page on their SIM cards. I found that following the setup (under the misleading heading "What Do I Get?") for the iPhone 3G/3GS eventually worked just fine. These are the settings that worked for me, there are some other settings that I didn't enter anything for.
To get to the data entry page on your Nexus One go into the Settings menu, then "Wireless & networks", then "Mobile networks", then "Access Point Names", then (for me) it says "virgin pda.bell.ca", I click on this and it gets to the "Edit access point" menu.
Initially it did not seem to do anything, but after a few minutes I thought "what if my phone's too smart, perhaps when it is connected via WiFi it does not display the 3G indicator?". So I shut down my WiFi connection and the 3G icon popped into view, a quick test confirmed that data was flowing through 3G and all was well!
- APN: pda.bell.ca
- Proxy: web.wireless.bell.ca
- Port: 80
- MMSC http://mms.bell.ca/mms/wapenc
- MMS Proxy: web.wireless.bell.ca:80
- MCC: 302
- Well that should have been the end of the story, only the next day I realized that in all of this Virgin never actually shut down the old account and ported the number, so I had to call them again (20 minute hold) and go through the number porting process. This required another SIM remove/replace and wait an hour or two cycle, but now things appear to be working.
- I just have to wait a few days and check that their accounting department did move the unused balance from my pre-paid phone to the new monthly (one month term contract) plan. Oh joy, another half hour of hold time ahead. And yes, they did transfer the remaining balance from the pre-paid plan, so nothing was lost there.
- Thoughts after a couple of weeks. I have owned a Google Nexus One for a couple of weeks now and I thought it would be a good time to record some first impressions. In a word BETA. Yes, in keeping with Google's fine tradition of apparently never finishing anything, this is most certainly a beta product. Now given the intended audience (geeks) of the Nexus One this is not a particularly bad thing, but Android is being billed as a mass-market phone (and appliance) operating system and I am finding the smart phone platform is falling short of what a consumer would need, want or expect.
The hardware is quite good, the device looks and feels nice. The screen is very nice, except in bright sunlight. The digitizer generally works quite well, it certainly feels like the iPhones I have played with. The sound quality is good for both phone and media functions. The battery life is good for this sort of device, I'm getting about two days of use out of it by which time the battery level is at about 30%, but I don't do many calls and maybe log about an hour of web surfing, an hour or two of MP3 playback and about 2.5 hours of GPS use in that time. I leave the WiFi and Bluetooth radios on all the time. The fastest drain is when I use the GPS (using Google's Latitude and the MyTracks route tracker applications). I like the fact the battery is user-swapable and there is a microSD card slot.
The only issues I have with the hardware so far are:
The software, this is the part of the phone that's really beta. I have not had any real problems with the underlying OS, I have not had to reboot the phone to get it to function properly or anything like that. My gripe is with the included applications. One of the things I wanted from this phone was a unification of the functions of my old phone plus my old Palm Tungsten T3 PDA, so that I would be able to replace two devices with one and have more functionality at hand too (like the GPS and browsing on the go). So far the places I find that fail are with the basic PDA functions. Here's how I see it:
- The ringer volume (as is mentioned here along with other issues) is too low
- the back cover is rather hard to remove, they could fix this quite easily by including a ridge or slot to get a grip on, or better yet a small latch.
- I would prefer that the microSD card slot was exposed (i.e. externally accessible on one side) so one could change cards without having to power down the phone, remove the back cover and battery and the reassemble everything. My little Samsung flip phone did this quite well. Perhaps there should be two slots, an internal one that is used as fixed storage and an external one that is intended for user-swapping?
- the dock connector appears to only provide a power connection, any other connection must be either through the USB port (which is limited) or via Bluetooth or WiFi radio. This may be a good thing, but at the moment it limits what other things the unit can be used for. Perhaps someone will make a WiFi player dock for it so that the device can be used to play video to an external monitor or TV.
- For a few cents more why didn't they put an infrared transmitter/receiver on this so that it could also be used as a programmable remote control?
- The GMail client is pretty good, its an effective way of doing email triage on the road (train) and the unification of your email into the Google GMail cloud is very well done. You do something on either the GMail web client (at home or at the office or where ever) or on the phone and it's auto-synchronized in a seamless fashion. For anyone who needs to deal with email while on trips this would be worth it alone.
- The contacts manager is also very good, again it pulls off a nice, seamless two way synchronization All you need to do to make this useful is to import your contacts into the GMail contacts lists. I had to do some work on this one because GMail does not have a direct import from Palm devices, you have to export to a CSV and then upload to GMail, which is ok, except GMail import does not understand a lot of the columns that the Palm export provides so it just tosses a lot of stuff into the "Notes" section.
- The todo (tasks) list is missing. Total fail, GMail has a todo list on the web, but to get at it from your Nexus One you must visit a web page! Todo lists have been standard on PDAs since the beginning, so why is this missing?
- The Note taking function is also missing. It seems obvious that this should have been implemented as something that interfaced with Google Docs on the web, in fact there is a third-party free application called GDocs that attempts to fill this void.
- While the device does have a media player that does a reasonable job of MP3 playback and video playback this is a very basic implementation. It lacks the glitter of what the world has come to expect from the iPhone, so it's just basic marketing that this needs to be improved. Note the video formats this can play appears to be pretty limited, so expect to transcode anything you want to view here. Given there are a lot of inexpensive media players that are based on Linux that do a great job of playing just about anything without using super powerful chips one wonders why this cannot be done on this phone?
The last issue is with accessing the microSD card over the USB cable to load or unload data. As a geek I can understand why they have done what they have done, but surely there must be a better way! Here is what the user sees:
In my view what should happen is that when you plug in the USB cable the phone should immediately do all the mounting, the fact it can detect the connection and then prompt you, tells me that there's no real reason why it could not have just done the mounting right away. The mounting attempt might fail if some phone application current was using the SD card (though I have not seen this happen yet), in which case it should notify you of the problem. Then Windows would have quickly opened the drive and you could get onto the important business of dragging over some more MP3s right away. Once you are done with the drive in Windows, you should just use the Windows eject function as normal. Then the phone would detect the end of the session (as it currently does) and instead of bothering you with some more UNIX voodoo it should just silently umount the drive and return it to the normal phone mode - only if there is a problem should it prompt you for anything. This would make the whole process plug and play, the only voodoo left is on the Windows box when ejecting the drive at the end, and that's now accepted as "normal".
- Upon connecting his Nexus One to a computer via the USB cable he gets a notification that says the USB was connected.
- He then drags open the notifications list and touches the USB notification.
- Then a dialog appears saying: "You have connected your phone to your computer via USB. Select "Mount" if you want to copy files between your computer and your phone's SD card." and it gives you two buttons: "Mount" and "Don't Mount". This simply reeks of geek, and not just any geek, we're talking about 50 year old UNIX geeks with massive beards that wear old hiking boots to work in case they need to climb things in the server room! Mount, don't talk to me about Mount! Steve Jobs must find this hilarious!
- Once you hit "mount" your microSD card becomes accessible from the computer and then you can use it until you use the Window's remove USB devices tool to eject it (in a way equally mysterious, but in this day of USB thumb drives something that most people know how to use).
- Once you do this the Nexus One gives you another notification titled: "Turn off USB storage", tapping this gets you another dialog that reads "Before turning off USB storage, make sure you have unmounted the USB host. Select "Turn Off" to turn off USB storage." and gives you to choices "Turn Off" and "Cancel". Again the mountains appear on the phone.
- Texas now has four times the wind power that California has, maybe it'll find a way to clean up the Gulf Coast oil spill with it? 
- A live map of the current location of all the trains in the London Underground has now been constructed - this is what I'd like to see on Calgary transit's LRT system. Then we will be able to watch drivers play "follow the leader" or "tag", where the lead train is the slowest at each station (as it has the most people getting on and off) and the trains behind it play "catch up" rather than staying back and keeping service evenly distributed. And don't tell me this doesn't happen, I see this very often as I walk past SAIT in the evening and see three or four trains head north within a period of less than 10 minutes - sometimes with only a single minute between trains.