For a two day trip I decided to test using my Android tablet instead of
also taking a laptop, and it worked out okay for the most part.
I was booked to go to Red Hat HQ in Raleigh, NC at the start of August for a
two-day business trip, well more accurately two-days in the office and another
two-days of travelling. I'd usually take my trusty ThinkPad x201 on the trip
with me, it's small and light, but it's battery life isn't so great anymore.
Earlier this year I'd bought an Android tablet, an ASUS Transformer Prime which
with a long battery life would be perfect for movies, but could it replace my
ThinkPad completely and save me travelling with two devices? I worked through
my requirements and it seemed plausible in theory, so here is how it stacked up
- Connectivity. In the UK you can only buy the Prime with the keyboard
dock, the keyboard dock is great. The in-built wifi was okay for the airport,
hotel, and office. I carry a USB network adapter anyway just in case the hotel
has a physical connection. The wifi signal on the Prime is terrible compared to
other things (like a phone) though, so be prepared to walk around a bit to the
best signal. Partial Win.
- In flight entertainment.
I wanted something to watch movies (as US Airways transatlantic don't yet have
seat-back video, really!).
The large internal memory meant I could store a
few films in decent quality to watch and battery life wasn't a problem. I'd used
the tablet continously (without wifi) with the keyboard connected for 6
hours and wasn't even down to 50% battery. Although hardware decoding of videos
was a bit hit-and-miss, and after trying a dozen apps only "BS Player" seemed to
do a reasonable job. A couple of the movies I'd brought had low audio and I
couldn't figure out a way to boost it enough to hear over the noise of the plane,
even with decent in-ear noise blocking headphones. Having the keyboard dock
helped considerably as with the tablet on the tray-table I could set a decent
angle to watch a movie. Win.
- Reading material. I had a few papers and magazines to read which I'd
preloaded onto the tablet in PDF format. The Adobe PDF viewer is
acceptable, but it seems a little sluggish for something running on a
quad-core processor, and the screen resolution isn't really good enough
for magazines. The new Transformer Infinity would help here. Partial Win.
- Keeping in touch with home. The standard Android GMail app and Facebook
app are okay, and I was able to use GMail talk to have video chats with
my family from both the hotel and office. Win.
- Working. With just a couple days away I figured all that was needed was
the ability to read and send email and browse intranet internal web pages. The
standard VPN client on the Prime worked perfectly, and along with the Firefox
beta app gave me perfect access to internal sites. For email I prefer
command-line text-window clients anyway, so I just needed to be able to connect
to a work machine. "Connectbot" on Android works well enough for ssh, and there
are a few forked versions you can get that work with the Prime keyboard. The
AndChat app works for irc. Win.
- Presentations. I was giving a presentation at a meeting, but fortunately
they had a laptop set up with the projector and I didn't need to worry about
taking a HDMI lead and hoping it was a recent projector. Unexpectedly I needed
to edit an existing OpenOffice presentation to remove a couple of slides and
then convert to PDF to send to another company. I had to ask a colleague to do
it for me. There are apps that can view OpenOffice files, but no native
OpenOffice suite for android. I'd probably make sure I had access to a VNC
server in the future and use a VNC client for anything like this. Fail.
- Privacy. My thinkpad has full-disk encryption but I didn't bother for
Android as I wasn't going to be storing anything sensitive on the machine. My
thinkpad has a 3M privacy filter, which is great for airplanes and airports to
stop people either side and behind you looking at your screen. The same filters
do exist for Android, but are not as straightforward (it of couse only works in
one orientation and attaches like a screen protector, so isn't the easiest thing
to continuously take on and off, and forces you to use your screen in portrait
mode for everything). Fail.
- Printing a boarding card. When it was time to return home I was able to
use Firefox to check in online, and printing my boarding passes gave me a PDF
file. I didn't have any printer apps set up, but it was easy enough to email a
PDF to a colleague to print for me. Partial Win.
So in summary I think I got away with it; having just the tablet didn't stop me
doing anything that had to be done on the trip and I'll definately do the same
thing again in the future for very short trips. For anything more than a couple
of days or where connectivity might be an issue I'd miss having a full-featured
I'm out on holiday soon to Arizona, so we've been looking for ways to geocode
the photos we'll be taking and get a record of our route. I use a Mio A701
phone which has built-in GPS, and this time we'll be using Tom Tom in the USA
rather than Mapopolis. The problem with Tom Tom Navigator is that it doesn't
keep a track log, and there doesn't seem to be any plugins to allow it to do so.
So here is the solution I've been experimenting with over the weekend.
- Make sure the GPS Intermediate Driver is enabled, on the MIO there
is a built-in "GPS Settings" utility where I have it set to COM4 and "Manage
- Use the GPS2Blue
utility. Make sure it's set to GPS on COM4, 4800 baud, with logging
only of GGA/GLL/RMC/VTG NMEA, and select 'Log processed raw data...'. You don't
need to enable the "2blue" bit, we're just using it to write the tracklog.
- Make sure your camera has a date and time that is close to the one being shown
by GPS2Blue from the satellites
- Start TomTom. Make sure it's also set to COM4, 4800 baud. This
will work because the GPS Intermediate Driver is opened by GPS2Blue. You
can't start TomTom first, but you can exit GPS2Blue and leave TomTom
- After finishing you end up with a NMEA track log with an hour of logging
taking up about 1.6Mb. Transfer it to your Fedora machine.
On my Fedora machine:
- Use gpsbabel to convert the NMEA
track log and clean it up a bit. I used:
gpsbabel -i nmea -f GPS_2008-03-03_122630.log -x discard,hdop=10,sat=5 -o gpx -F out.gpx
- Use gps2photo.pl to
add the geocoding to your images. This script looks at the time and date the
photo was taken and tries to match it up to an entry in the tracklog, so you
may need to play with the timeoffset to
deal with timezone differences. Although we have snow, being in the UK in the Winter has
it's advantages as we're UTC+0, so I just used:
gpsPhoto.pl --geoinfo=osm --dir ./ --gpsfile out.gpx --timeoffset 0 \
--city=auto --sublocation=auto --state auto --country auto --kml out.kml
The exif metadata inside each jpeg now contains the approximate co-ordinates
of where you were when you took the photo along with a guess of the location
(city, country, etc). You can load out.kml into GoogleEarth to see the
tracklog and photos on a map. If you've allowed Flickr to read the location data
from exif then uploading a geotagged photo will automatically place it on a
map. (Make sure you consider the consequences before enabling that option or
you may end up unintentionally leaking information like the location of your
friends houses or parties you've been to). Here's a quick pic taken in the snow today to test it out:
Nalin gave a great presentation in the last summit slot about single sign on. One of his slides read simply "Passwords Suck. More Passwords Suck More". I think this is a useful phrase that I am going to now subvert for a short rant:
American Airlines Experiences Suck
More American Airlines Experiences Suck More
First was the debacle which was a 7 hour delay getting to Nashville after a flight was cancelled. Now, at 9pm the day before my 6am flight from Nashville to London tommorrow they cancel my flight and are unable to get me to London in time for my Monday meeting. So I miss my meeting and total for the week I'll have had 18 hours of delays. Although perhaps I shouldn't blog this until I'm home as I'm still in Nashville and, nice that it is, don't want to spend another year here. So thats four out of my last six AA trips that have gone significantly wrong, and I only used AA this time because I wanted to upgrade and had miles left.
However, rant aside, this trip was all about the Red Hat Summit. I was pleasantly suprised by how smoothly it ran and how useful it was to have face-to-face meetings with some of the people I interact with daily by computer. There's a few cool things that the trip acted as a catalyst for, but you'll need to wait to find out ;) I tried to speak to many different attendees over breaks in the days, and consensus was positive with all the first-timers wishing to attend again in the future.
a few of my photos from the summit
Just back from my two presentations and I've uploaded the final versions (which replace the ones distributed on the conference CD).