Archive for the ‘Open Source’ Category
I bought a Barnes and Noble Nook Color e-book reader and ripped out the Nook software, replacing it with the CyanogenMod distribution of the Android OS. It’s really, really nice hardware, and CyanogenMod (CM) is really, really nice software. I love them both, and my regular readers will remember that I’m not a gadget guy. Read on for more.
I never thought I’d get a tablet, until my phone died and I got a Droid 2 as a replacement. With all those gadgets, I just started to find myself using my phone for reading my RSS feeds and so on — but hating how small the screen was. I started to think again about a tablet after experiencing how handy the smartphone’s extra features are.
The Nook Color Hardware
The Nook Color is a medium-sized Android tablet with a screen that’s the same size as the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It’s a perfect size for carrying around — much better than iPads and Xooms and so on, which are just too big for my taste. This device literally fits in the pocket of my jeans (specs).
The screen is amazing. It’s super sharp. But the Nook Color doesn’t have a microphone or a camera, and it doesn’t have any phone service. This is fine. I don’t want these items. I want a tablet to use primarily at home for consuming content such as blogs, books, newspapers, music, movies, and so on.
The best parts: 1) it’s way cheaper than a Galaxy Tab or similar tablets. It’s $250 at the store. And 2) it’s really easy to take off the stripped-down version of Android that comes with it, and put something better on it. Which brings me to my next point.
When you unpack the box, the Nook has a pretty nice little e-reader installed, with a simplified Android interface. It has limited functionality, which is fine. It does have a web browser and a couple other things, and BN recently added their own application store. But it’s really kind of lame. You can only get a small fraction of the apps that you could get through the Android Market.
I updated to CyanogenMod in two stages. First, I simply rooted the device and made it possible to install arbitrary apps from the Android Market. There’s a nice, easy process to do this. It’s called Manual Nooter. I tried this first instead of just going to CyanogenMod because I wanted to see what it was like. It was okay, but it was really obvious that it was a sort of layer on top of the underlying Nook. Pressing the Home button, for example, brought up a prompt to use the Nook home screen or the hijacked home screen for the new software. I tinkered around with this for a while, enough to determine that I didn’t like the patched look and feel. At the same time, I learned that the applications I wanted would work just fine.
So I moved on to CyanogenMod. Early reviews I’d read of this said it wasn’t ready for prime time on the Nook, but the newer updates seemed to be well received. So I backed up everything and took the plunge.
It’s really ridiculously easy to install CyanogenMod on the Nook, even easier if you don’t first update your Nook operating system. It took me longer to burn a bootable ROM on a MicroSD card than anything else. Full instructions can be found beginning at this page.
The result is just brilliant. I’ve now installed my preferred apps, stripped down the interface by removing some stuff I don’t want, such as multiple desktops (CyanogenMod is jammed with features), and I have a simple, elegant, perfectly functioning Android tablet. And I really mean it — there are no rough edges or crashes or anything you might expect from a third-party OS on your tablet. In fact, one of the things I like the most is that it doesn’t come with pre-installed adware, as my Droid did (and the stuff on the Droid can’t be uninstalled without rooting it and voiding the warranty, which is not something I’m going to do on my work phone).
If you want a small, light, thin tablet with WiFi that you can hold in one hand for reading books and newspapers and so on, which is easy to put in a pocket or purse and carry with you, and doesn’t cost much, then consider the Nook Color. If you want to turn it into something much more full-featured, then consider ripping out the Nook software and replacing it with CyanogenMod. The result is really superb.
I split my time last week between the IOUG’s Collaborate conference in Orlando, Florida and O’Reilly’s MySQL Conference & Expo in California. The contrast was stark. For me as a MySQLer, Collaborate was a dud. On the other hand, the MySQL conference O’Reilly puts on is superb. It is vital to MySQL as a project and as a community, and it follows that it’s vital to MySQL’s business success. Oracle needs to participate to make it a success in the future.
MySQL at Collaborate had good speakers and content, but no one there is interested in MySQL. MySQL is just from a different world — it is a curiosity at an Oracle conference. Also, as a speaker, sponsor, and attendee, Collaborate was a giant frustration. I can’t recommend it to anyone. (These comments do not reflect on the work that MySQL community members did in recruiting and organizing the MySQL content at the Collaborate conference.) In particular, the experience of submitting talks was so disrespectful of my time and efforts that I have no desire to repeat it. I will spare you the many details, but I’m not alone. Many people I know echoed my sentiments and said they are not willing to present there again.
On the other coast, a lot of people were planning to fly east to Collaborate midweek, but upon arriving to California, I overheard many of them discussing the distasteful experiences MySQLers in Orlando were having, and canceling their eastbound flights to stay in California. This was wise.
The O’Reilly conference was much the same as in past years, with two notable differences. One, there was a lot of content about other open-source databases. This was good, although I wish that the whole conference could have grown to include them, rather than shrinking MySQL to make room for others. Two, the expo hall was downsized from previous years, a very worrisome sign indeed. I think it’s obvious to everyone who’s been around a few years that the lack of sponsorship from MySQL themselves is probably the biggest factor in play here. In years past, MySQL made a large contribution to the conference not only as a sponsor, but in publicizing the event and getting exhibitors, sponsors, and attendees there.
I can’t read Oracle’s mind and I have no insider knowledge to share, but from what I understand, Oracle’s well-intentioned strategy was to have the MySQL conference-goers find a new home in tracks annexed to events such as Collaborate and Kaleidoscope, where Oracle would be interacting with an organization they were familiar with. Now that we’ve seen this in action a few times, it’s crystal clear that it won’t work. The open-source mindset is stifled in those events, and I predict that self-respecting speakers won’t submit any proposals in the future. As a result, the business environment that’s built up around MySQL will dry up and blow away if the strategy doesn’t change. That’s why I think it is mandatory for Oracle to come to the table with O’Reilly and make their MySQL conference continue to happen. I would not be surprised if the people making the decisions at Oracle are simply unaware of the unique atmosphere at the MySQL conference, and how important it has been for MySQL in the past. Without this event, I think Oracle’s investments in MySQL could go to waste.
On the bright side, I think that if Oracle puts their shoulders to the MySQL conference’s wagon wheel, it could not only return to its previous vigor, but grow far beyond that. And if Oracle wants it to be focused on MySQL instead of including all sorts of other databases, I would not mind that at all. Any talk whose title made it clear that it wasn’t about MySQL was rather poorly attended, so although I thought it was nice to have a diversity of databases there, in truth it wasn’t all that different from jamming MySQL into Collaborate.
Update: Someone I respect indicated that the discussion in the comments was causing more trouble than it was solving, so I am sorry, but I think it’s best that we honor this request. I’ve disabled comments on this post.
If you’ve used OpenOffice.org Impress to run a slideshow with your laptop plugged into an external monitor or projector, you’ve probably noticed that it prefers to switch the primary and secondary display, showing you the slideshow while it shows your audience the notes and preview of your next slide! This is exactly the reverse of what you want, which is to show your audience the slideshow and let you see notes, the countdown timer, and so on.
This is annoying, but it’s easy to fix. You’ll need to plug your computer into your external monitor, though. It turns out that this setting is embedded in the slideshow itself — it is not a preference in OpenOffice.org — and it is only activated when multiple monitors are detected. Go to the Slide Show/Settings menu…
… and at the bottom of the dialog, under Multiple Displays, choose the correct display for the slideshow to appear on. I don’t have my laptop plugged into an external display, so the choice is grayed out for me: