Thursday, July 7, 2011

East Coast Android

The last 3 weeks I went back on the road for some family visits. I did manage to squeeze some tech in the form of my “new” Android phone.
[in this post, clicking a photo will take you to the full album]

I started by flying out to Montreal. I lucked out and got there while they were having one of those perfect summer weeks. I had an amazing day at the farmers market, and the park, watching a group of Brazilian drummers and an encounter with a raccoon who just didn’t take no for an answer.

From there, we drove down to NY, spent the night and continued to Stamford, CT for a big family gathering. I saw some relatives from all over the US I haven’t seen in years. Fun was had by all.

At that point in time I bought an Android phone on eBay. My small Comet was running through its battery to fast and it’s screen was a bit too small to get the full Android experience. I also became a bit disenfranchised with the virtual keyboard (even when it uses Swype – which is a step in the right direction) and started yearning for my Blackberry real keyboard days.

I therefore opted for the T-Mobile G2 (also known as the HTC Desire), that has both virtual and physical keyboards. It also supports the T-Mobile 4G network, that worked great for me throughout the trip. I got it for $220 and T-Mobile immediately unlocked it for me, so it can be used worldwide.
I actually left AT&T after being with them since 2004 because they wouldn’t unlock an Android phone and actually had some of the stock Android options (like applications source – needed for private and Amazon apps, and tethering) locked out in their ROM. I mean, if I buy a phone, I get to decide what it can or can’t do, not a network. So goodbye AT&T – call me back when you’ve bought a clue.

I’m glad to report the transfer was quick and painless – I got to keep my number, my Google Voice was oblivious to the change, and I even got a refund from AT&T – they sent me a check for $1.83 Smile.

So when I hit those hotels along the way with a verrrry slow internet connection (I’m talking to you, Hilton hotels – all of you in the US. The ones in London have such high speed, I’d like to live in them permanentlySmile), I pulled out my G2 and used it as a wireless hotspot (make sure you sign for the “unlimited” package first). Speed was 3-5Gbit, and I managed to watch Netflix files on the device as well.

The battery runs out fast when streaming and the solution I found was to spend $11 on a 3500mAh battery at DealExtreme (free shipping). Yes, it makes the phone more cumbersome, but at more than 2.5 times the original battery, you can do more and recharge your phone once every 3 days.

One pet peeve I have with Android’s way of treating batteries (other than the way it drains them quickly with all those needless services running in the background), is the power alerts. Android issues an alert at 20%, 10%, 15% and 5% of power, finally starting a shutdown at around 3%. The problem is: it does it by percentages, not actual left power. Case in point: with the original 1300 mAh battery, a 10% alert means you have less than 130 mAh left. But with the 3500 mAh one, you still have 350 mAh left, which is almost 30% of the original. And 3% of 3500 should still be enough for several more hours. Just one more way statistics are lying to us.

From Stamford we continued to a weekend in Boston. Sadly, we got rained in for most of it, but we did get to tour the Boston Commons and the downtown area. Since it was the day before the final Stanley Cup game between Boston and Vancouver, all the statues were dressed with Bruins jerseys.I wonder what would George Washington say about this Smile

From there we continued to Cambridge and got a tour of Harvard from an old friend who studies there. There’s a tradition kept by tourists, that if you touch the left shoe of John Harvard’s statue, you get accepted to Harvard.

This tradition, according to my host, has 3 main flows:
  1. John Harvard was not the founder of Harvard’s university – it existed several years before he arrived
  2. This statue is not of John Harvard – no one know what he looks like so the artists just improvised
  3. The fraternity kids tend to tank up on beer, piss on the left shoe of the statue and stand in the windows laughing their asses off as tourists touch the shoe
So all in all, another tourist trap – literally Smile.

From Boston, we continued back south to NY, with one night stop at Hartford (another slow networked Hilton – for shame). After a brief visit with my sister, I flew back to SFO, utilizing some of my Continental points to boot myself to first class on a United flight. This was one of those 3-class flights, so 1st just made me want to stay on the plane and continue to Australia.

And to end this post on a celebratory note, I attended the 4th of July concert at Shoreline Amphitheater for the 3rd year in a row. It was nice as always, this being the 100th year of the SF Symphony, who performed well. I took some shots of the fireworks and 2 videos, one of Jon Miller, the SF Giants anchor, performing the poem “Casey at the bat” and the other of the E.T. theme by John Williams. Several hours later I got an email from youtube notifying me I may be violating copyrights. So, hopefully the videos are still there.

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