Debconf10 group photo

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The rest of my DebConf10 photos are in my DebConf10 Flickr set. There will still be a few photos from today uploaded to that set tomorrow morning, but it is almost complete. Hint: it also contains a video of DPL pitch and video of MakerBot working.

Update: All photos are up and labelled now. Enjoy!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-02

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Debcamp 10 - the early days

After I finished an re-read my epic post describing my first day and a half at Debconf10 I suddenly realised that if I continue to describe the rest of 13 days here in such style and verbosity this would become a book, a boring one at that, so I decided to limit myself to 2 posts for Debcamp and then a post a day for the Debconf.

But about the first half of the Debcamp week there are things that are as usual and there are things that are not.

Let's start with the usual bits: more people arriving every day, evening parties are getting more and more fun and wild (or so people say) and the Internet and power at the hacklabs magically becomes more and more reliable day by day, the cabling mess grows organically trying to spread out evenly and not overload any individual socket, extension cords with non-local plugs appear and spread the load some more, people stress out, volunteer, crash out and repeat. All in all nothing can stop the freight train of few hundred Debian developers determined to have fun. With out own DFSG-free definition of fun. (But this year we appear to be running very close to the edge on volunteers - if we run out of those, there will be a train-wreck, so please volunteer!)

Now off to the unusual stuff.

The City is ... well ... it is cool and very, very impressive. It is not terribly different to me at least - I am used to such structure of the city: grid based layout of the downtown city (with some parks) and then branching out to separate, but different across-the-river districts and then sprawling out to slightly chaotic suburbs. Riga is very much like New York in the design. The difference is that New York is 10-20 times larger: the areas are 10 times larger, the buildings are 3-4 times higher on average, the streets are 2-3 times wider and yet have more traffic and there are far, far more shops, shows and restaurants. Also there is the subway. It is a great thing in that it hides the size of the city - take a bus downtown once, to find out what I mean - it takes ages to drive the distance that takes 20 minutes on the subway. I like this city, I am getting a feeling, that I could live here without much problem for me. So far I've only had this feeling in Riga and Berlin.

On the other hand this is USA. I've so far only encountered one bad thing about it, but it is a pretty big one - food. Basically all food that I've tried so far in the USA has been crap. It was tasty - salt, sugars and fat took care on my brain thinking it's food, but underneath that it was pretty crap: there was no texture, no content, no soul. The John Jay cafeteria where we are eating lunch and dinner is better than the most other options, because it is an all-you-can-eat buffet where you can choose your poison and it was also the place where I had the best piece of food in USA so far - a slice of pepperoni pizza, that had a bit of taste behind the fat. Also, surprisingly, the fast food options (McDonalds, Burger King, ...) are better than the equivalents in Europe, far better. In fact the fast food is cheap and in some cases tastes better than 'regular' food, so there is no wonder why people might prefer it in some situations. So it is easy to see how people just accept shoving bland fast food or bland all-you-can-eat food into their mouths and not think much about it and thus become fat and put undue stress on their health. I expect the average weight of Debian developers to increase by 5 kg by the end of the conference. If you want to prove me wrong, running with bubulle would help you a lot with that.

Events downtown. New York is a huge city with a lot of events going on every day, so everyone should be able to find something of interest for them. For me it was the free tickets for tapeings of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. I got into both of those and for me The Colbert Report was by far the better experience. For one you can not get into Daily Show without a ticket (some tickets show up on the web site on the morning of the shoot around 11am), while 18 people from the stand-by list at Colbert Report got in. At The Daily Show you stand in a live line with ticket holders in one line and stand-by line separate. If you have tickets and arrive around 3pm you should be fine - any later than that and you risk to be standing outside even with a ticket. You find that out around 4.30pm when they hand out physical tickets - you have one, you get in. If not you might rush over to Colbert Report where a more humane system is used - a staffer takes down your name and email on a numbered list and then you can walk around until 5.30pm then they let the ticket holders in and after that call the names of stand-by people that get in. The Colbert Report studio is brighter, more colourful and closer to the action, also it is very rare that cameras block the view from the audience (which is common on The Daily Show). It might have also been my luck when I got on the most boring The Daily Show episode I can remember, ever. The best joke was a woman asking John is she could get a ticket for her friend in August. The warm-up act and crowd control at The Colbert Report was also way better: Colbert staff was hyper, security was ever-present, warm-up was funnier and very engaging (he grilled me for several minutes and I replied making the audience laugh very hard explaining that Latvia was like India of Eastern Europe in regards to IT exports) and Colbert himself was very gracious talking to us out-of-character before the show for a good 10 minutes.

Location, location, location. The talk rooms and event rooms and hacklabs are spread out across multiple buildings and there is a lot of other activities going on in those buildings besides Debconf, so moving between place might be confusing for the first day or two. Also the rooms are quite dark - that might cause a noise problem for me and the video team as we'll have to up the sensitivity settings on our gear. The video team is working on fixing that by throwing a bit more light on to the speakers. Elevators are wicked fast, but can also be confusing, because the ground floor is on a different number for different buildings - it can be G, 1 or even 4. Usually on campus there is a star next to the level with the exit.

The dorms. I am in the Carman building and it looks like its interior has not been updated since it was built - large ceramic bricks with very visible gaps (for the interior walls), raise-to-open windows, huge aircon fans that take up the whole bottom of the window, plumbing from the 60ies (at least). The security is weird - on one hand you have to give your room card to the guard when entering the building, but on the other hand the room cleaning crew can simply forget to close your door after they are done. Like this Thursday I returned to the dorm just before lunch only to find the door of my room open. No one was around and nothing was missing, but it's still worrying.

In any case I am steadily uploading photos from Debconf 10 to my Flickr page and new stuff should show up every day.

Debconf 10 - arrival and first days

I had planned long for this Debconf and with the experience from the previous times I did all I could to reach one goal - minimise stress. I think I got it right this time.

First of all I got my company (Accenture) pay for the whole thing, so I did not have to worry about sponsorship queue (but instead I must gather and deliver them back some knowledge gained from the conference - should be easy). I also managed to get a direct flight - there is a weekly flight Tashkent-Riga-New York on Sundays and I got a ticket for that both ways. This took many hours off the travel time and reduced the stress a ton. Then I also did all the prudent travelling things: mostly reading the New York page on Wikitravel. This told me (among other things) what metro line to take to get the best view of the city. And for luggage I took a backpack (for the laptop and walking around) and a roller (for the clothes). I learned a lot from the "Up in the air" movie, it really teaches one how to take stress out of travel.

This went very well in the beginning - I took a bus to the airport early, checked in, breezed trough security and then waited and waited. The boarding only started half an hour after we were scheduled to depart. But I can not complain, because the flight attendant called my name (among a few others) just before boarding and changed my ticket - I was bumped up to business class :). It has been many years since I've flown a regular (non-budget) airline and now first time ever in the business class! We got regular class meals, but at least we got to sit in the big chairs with lots of leg room. It was great! I bought a paper book (from Charles Stross) to read during the flight, because that is the only thing you can do during take-off and landing and I had some stuff to listen to in my iPhone. I tried sleeping and I think I managed to kill a couple hours that way too. It sure helped combat jet lag later on.

When I arrived, I had my immigration and customs forms filled out. Latvia is on the USA Visa Waiver program, so I just had to fill out a form online prior to the trip to get a permission to enter USA. I only had one printout of the Waiver confirmation page and my airline took that before giving me a boarding pass, so I had no paper copy to give to the guy at the USA border, but he did not even ask for it - he only took the two forms I filled out, scanned my passport, took my fingerprints (all fingers) and a photo. Then he gave me back the customs for (stamped) and I could go get my luggage. After that it was just a matter of walking trough customs and giving the customs official the pre-filled and stamped customs form. I was not stopped further.

The AirTrain was a bit confusing - you just get on the AirTrain and go where you need to go, you actually pay at the place where AirTrain connects to metro, so when you are coming from the airport you are actually paying ($5) when you are exiting the AirTrain system. There are plenty of AirTrain people that will give you an AirTrain ticked for $5 cash right there or you can use a machine to get it (where you can also pay with a card). The machines also take AmEx, but you must know the PIN code, if your don't know the PIN of you AmEx card (like I don't know the PIN of my corporate AmEx) you can only buy MetroCards at news stands, but there you will not find the unlimited ride tickets - only 5 or 10 ride tickets are available.

Next I screwed up a bit and thus got a bit lost in the New York metro system. The Wikitravel recommends to take the AirTrain to Jamaica station and from there take J or Z line into the city for the best views. I went to Jamaica and got into the first metro train that came on to the platform. Unfortunately, that was the E line train and it does not cross with J or Z lines after that, so I was stuck. To complicate the situation E line is under repair, so after a few stops the trains diverted to the F line and I had to scramble to figure out where to get out to get to the 1 line where Columbia University is. I ended up spending more than an hour in the metro, but I got there in the end.

So I emerge from the 116th street metro station directly in front of the campus entrance gate and ... it starts raining. A thunderstorm swept across New York as soon as I stepped outside the metro station, so I took shelter a the side of the building. It kept raining. After a few minutes decided that I don't want to wait any more, so I put all my electronics into my backpack and went towards the dorm where my room was. The rain was warm, people around me were playing and running around in the wet grass, it was fun.

The guard showed me where to go to check in. It was really simple - sign here, here is you magnetic stripe key, have fun. And the room was just as spartan - bed, desk, chair, closet, bathroom and a large fan under the window. The first night I did not know that I could actually turn that fan down, so I slept to the sound of full fan blasting, much like on the airplane. The dorm looks ancient - it looks like it was build in the 60s and never changed since then. I mean, I've lived in worse places, but people would at least change wall sockets or faucets or ceiling paint every other decade or so. The newest things here were the magnetic locks on the doors and a TV and a mini fridge in the hallway.

After dropping my things I went off to the Mudd building across the campus to check in with people in the hacklab. It was just starting to take shape, but many great and familiar people were already there. It was like walking into a family home - same warm welcome smiles and that great feel of belonging to the group.

After I quick chat I went off downtown. The plan was that I left my old Canon 400D camera back at home and that I would buy a new Canon 550D here in New York on arrival. Unfortunately I underestimated the travel time on subway and by the time I got back downtown most shops where already closed. I got to checking out a Best Buy and was told there that they don't have 550D in stock. Next morning I went for a full scale search - B&H Photo Video store, J&R Express, another BestBuy - none of them had the Canon 550D (aka T2i) in stock in a body-only configuration. BestBuy had a few sets with the kit lens, but I did not want paying 100$ extra for something I already have. The last option was Adorama and I got lucky - I nabbed the last 550D they had and it was body-only.

Now I was back, with a camera in my hands and the Debconf10 could really begin!

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-26

  • Accenture meklē: C++ programmerus, Java dizainerus, Sun un Unix sysadminus un biznesa analītiķus. Dod ziņu ja ir interese! #

  • Tiko parakstīju visus līgumus. Tagad tikai Zemesgrāmatas apstiprinājumus un man piederēs dzīvoklis Rīgā. 3 stundās visi papīri nokārtoti. #

  • Shirley Sherrod story in the US has only one conclusion: some people still think Fox News is news. Silly people :P #

  • Mans Canon 400D ir vēl joprojām pārdošanā pa 220Ls, sestdien spec akcija - 200 Ls! (body only, 50mm/f1.8 vai kit lēca + 60 Ls) #

  • RT @whedonesque: If you missed the big Comic-Con news from yesterday, Joss Whedon officially confirmed that he is directing The Avengers. #

  • Epic win idea - Achievements in Ubuntu: #

  • Liels, liels melns mākonis nāk uz Rīgas pusi - #

  • Ārā laiks kārtīgi iespārda - lietuns un pērkons ar zibeņiem :) #

  • Gatavojos divu nedēļu komandējumam uz New York - jāpako drēbes un elektronika, jāplāno ko un kad darīt un cik naudas un no kurienes tērēt :) #

  • 6 minūtes no dušas līdz pilnīgi sausai ādai nelietojot dvieli. Ir tik karsts. #

  • Not sleeping tonight so that I can catch a snooze on the plane on my way to #debconf10 #

  • Overheard that Java and .Net are efficient and easy to read and that Python is hard because of whitespace #ShakingHead #

  • Izlidošana RIX - NYI tipa 9:10, bet vēl neviens pasažieris nav geitā iegājis. #

  • Still at gate for a 9:10 flight, but it looks like I got bumped to business class for some reason. #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-20

  • Tā iPhone 4 problēma ir pārspīlēta - ļoti precīzi jātur telefons, lai stabiņi krīt un arī ar 1 stabu var pazvanīt, ar veco - nē #

  • Ventilātors ir dieva dāvana! Kustina gaisu. Palīdz dzesēties. #

  • - AOTS rulez :) #

  • Rīgas nedēļas padoms: troleibusos ir kondicionieri, bet tramvajos - nē. (izņemot jauno tramvaju) #

  • - Old Spice reklāmas blitze, kas tas ir un kāpēc tas tik ļoti rullē sociālos mēdijus. #

  • Man ir #tikkarsts ka vakar izdzēru 7 litrus ūdens un nopirku ventilātoru pa 25 Ls. Un ko tu dari karstuma dēļ? #

  • Otrais vilnis ir klāt rīgai! #

  • rāda, ka būs trešais vilnis, vēl lielāks, un tas pieķers arī līdz Ogrei #

  • Mums vienā vietā ūdens līst iekšā pa šķirbu logā - acīmredzot logs ir pārkaltis karstumā un mazliet nosēdies. #

  • Visur, kur var būt plūdi Rīgā, pašlaik ir plūdi. Pie mūsu mājas parasti nav, bet tas nedraucē visai ielai izskatīties pēc upes tagad. #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-12

  • Learning about Flex and Flash Builder this week at work. Fun stuff, much like Glade+GTK #

  • Fenomenāli labs pērkona negaiss Rīgā - silts lietus, pērkons ar daudz zibeņiem, ilgi nepārstāj un arī vēsumu atnesa :D #

  • Starp citu, liels paldies Gandrs cilvekiem - viņi aizsūtīja ārzemnieku pie konkurentiem, kad pašiem nebija tā, ko cilvekam vajadzēja. Cool! #

  • Starp citu, liels paldies @Gandrs cilvekiem - viņi aizsūtīja ārzemnieku pie konkurentiem, kad pašiem nebija tā, ko cilvekam vajadzēja. #

  • True Blood is fantastic. S01E06 is nearly as powerful as Buffy S5E16. And the topics are just very diverse. #

  • Futbolā jāievieš "Bīstama spēle ar augsti paceltu kāju" jeb "highlegging" :) #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-05

  • Aiznesu iPhone uz LMT māju uz garantijas remontu. Iedeva 'dumbphone' uz laiku, solija nākošnedēļ atzvanīt. Pēc Līgo daudz remontu esot :) #

  • - Best video about .Net in a long while :D #

  • Kas man EVE nepatika ir tas, ka tu vari ielogoties un 10 minūšu laikā no tevis neatkarīgu apstākļu dēļ pazaudēt visu pagājušās nedēļas darbu #

  • dažiem cilvēkiem ir mazliet citi hardware requirements kā citiem #

  • I am a lost soul - I see a joke starting 'A priest enters the bar...' and instantly think: 'A shadow priest?' #

  • Forgot how grat dumbphones are - after 3 days of use this dumb Nokia only lost one bar of battery. #

  • Pleasantly surprised about iPhone warranty. Just got a call that they will issue me a brand new iPhone (of the same model and size). #

  • Todays work task: convince 40 old time .NET developers not to put all their eggs in Microsoft Azure cloud exclusively #

  • Tomorrows task: convince 20-30 open source guys that they don't need to commit suicide if forced to use an Exchange server #

  • Yeah - I swing both ways :) #

  • Dabuju savu iPhone atpakaļ, iTunes nerestorē - softs par vecu. Jāreģistrē iTunes kā jauns telefons, jāupgreidu un tad var restorēt bekapu #

  • Pārfrāzejos 'Yes, minister' - 'Hours of *productive* work!' #

  • Un tagad iTunes aptuveni 40-70 minūtes (kā kuro reizi) kopēs telefonā 7 Gb mūzikas/audiogrāmatu. 3 Mb/s vidējais ātrums. Ko tik lēni? #

  • Oh I did not mean that @wikileaks looks like a smear, @ashe_lives_here - I meant the Cryptome, but I do think WL should have comments #

  • Gan Bei svinam @blondyimp otro koncertu un pirmo solo deju. #

  • Pēc twtter ziņām ieslēdzu futbolu un uzrez Spānim pa seju … žēl, ka neatkārto vārtus. #

  • - siekalas tek. Zinu, ka man tik nevajag, bet tomēr. #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-28

  • Galvenais @radio101lv prikols ir kreatīvo cilvēku brīvība. Tradicionāli DJjus ļoti strikti ierobežo komerccilvēki, kas traucē saturam. #

  • Nice, jau arī reklāmu ir izdevies @radio101lv pārdot, laba mūzika. Man patīk laba mūzika - vienalga no kādas ēras vai kādā stilā. #

  • Pēc Pūres dzīvas reklāmas, es uzreiz iedomājos, kā @radio101lv ēterā ienāk @TurKebab ar vakariņu dāvanu pirmajā ētera dienā #

  • Kaut kas mazliet sprakš no tā Dzels Vilks skaņas vadiem @radio101lv izklausās, ka no vokālista mikrafona #

  • pārklausījos - "Ļaunprātīga dienesta stāvokļa neizmantošana" :D #

  • Visu dienu klausos #Radio101 - lieliska mūzika, jauki viesi, labs izpildījums. Pāris sprakšķi nebojā iespaidu. Turpināt tā un labāk! #

  • Tikmēr fonā kačājās iPhone updeits - iOS 4.0 #

  • Pēc divus stundu intensīvas iPhone backupošanas, mana Windowze virtālājā datorā nokrešojās. Neredzēt man iOS 4.0 šodien #

  • Backups notika ar ātrumu 3 progress bāra pikseļi stundā. Tā kā uzkāries nekas nebija. USB un CPU strādāja ka prieks. iTunes sucks #

  • Ja iPhone backup ievelkās uz stundām, tad man palīdzeja Programmu setingi gan tad zūd! #

  • Ja dienā pa @radio101lv bija labas, nedzirdētas dziesmas, tad naktī katra dziesma ir kā labs sens draugs. Var taču Latvijā ;) #

  • iOS 4 broke Google - #

  • It is not wise doing maintenance on Google ActiveSync servers the night that iOS4 went live. Anyway - the Google is back up. All is right. #

  • Redzēju reklāmas plakātu 'Savējie' uz ielas. Likās, ka tā ir Tele2 vai Bites reklāma. Vieni no viņiem lepojās nesen, ka viņiem daudz savējo #

  • Esmu atpakaļ no Līgo ceļojuma uz Oslo - iPhone nomira otrās dienas rītā, vienkārši esot kabatā. iFail. Jānes uz remontu. #


  • Obama fails at "Twitters" #

  • Ja kāds vēl šaubās par evolūciju, jāskatās Discovery un NatGeo raidījumi, piemēram par dinozauriem. #

  • Šodien uzzināju, ka putniem ir ļoti daudz kopīga ar dinozauriem - ļoti iespējams, ka putni ir mazo dino pēcteči. #

  • Go Ghana! #

  • Mind the gap. Any gap. Especially in knowledge. Use your mid on it. #

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Phoning it in

Currently I own and use an iPhone 3G. I bought it almost two years ago, when the local phone provider LMT started offering the iPhone legally. I had a pretty good experience with it most of the time, but now it is showing its age:

  • The two year warranty will run out in September

  • The iOS 4 update left out most of the new features - my model cann't have multitasking or backgrounds or any of that new cool stuff that is exclusive to the new iPhone 4

  • The hardware itself is starting to wear - the speaker stopped working a few weeks ago (so I have to use the loudspeaker function or headphones) and also approximately around that time the phone stated to randomly lock up approximately one a week or two - it freezes and after a few minutes reboots and demads to be connected to iTunes and restored from backup

  • Also the battery does not last as long as it used to

I will try to send my iPhone in for repair hoping to extend its usefulness, but frankly it looks that I might have to get a new phone at or before Debconf.

So I am considering my options for a new phone and so far I have 3 main options each with some sub-options. The main options are: iPhone 4, MeeGo and Android. Each choice has its benefits and drawbacks and each also has several sub-options related either to specific phone models or to purchase methods.

What I need is a phone with: calling function, contact information synchronised to Google, support for Google Mail/Contacts/Calendar simultaneously with one Exchange account also providing mail/contacts/calendars, music, audiobooks - saving my place in the audio book and in the list of books, fully featured Twitter client with Twitpic and location support, encrypted password storage application (preferably open source), GPS with maps, ability to download maps for offline use, Geocaching support with offline cache info and logging, Skype client, ability to write in Latvian, English and Russian in all applications, reliable backup and restore of phones data including settings and data of installed apps. Optional features: streaming and reporting support, ebook applications with purchasable ebooks, high quality video and photo recording (for a phone), ability for me to write applications on the phone, ssh client, wireless data upload to the phone, ability to change the phones battery without loosing data in the phone (on the go), compass, physical keyboard, confidence in getting software upgrades and developer interest for the next 2 years.

I'll try to describe all of the options here to organise my thoughts and maybe also help someone else make the choice.

Option 1: iPhone 4

To get the iPhone 4 I have two options: LMT and unlocked.

The official arrival of iPhone 4 to Latvia is expected in September and it will likely be sold by LMT for the same prices as iPhone 3GS is now. If I choose this scenario, I will need to survive with my semi-broken iPhone for 2-3 more months. Total price over 2 years (LVL): 131 (purchase price) + 24 * 8 (surcharge) = 323 LVL.

Note: the surcharge is the extra cost of the iPhone call plan compared to a comparable regular plan (Vienādais 7 + Internets telefonā 5).

If I go and purchase an unlocked iPhone 4 in a country where such units are sold (UK is the most easily accessible choice, because a few of my workmates travel weekly to and from UK) then the total price over 2 years would be the purchase price: 499 GBP + 65 GBP (2 year warranty extension) = 505 LVL

Now lets go over the general benefits and downsides of the iPhone 4, first the positives:

  • It is a simple to use device that I am used to over the two years

  • The screen resolution is higher than any other option

  • It is smaller and lighter than Nokia N900 and the bigger Android devices

  • There is a huge number of free and paid apps as well as accessories for the iPhone - docks, headphones, chargers, ...

  • I know that it can do every thing that I need it to do (with apps) and most of the optional features too, except ... (see drawbacks)


  • The first thing that I hate about the iPhone is its umbilical cord like link to iTunes. iTunes is the sole purpose I still have a real Windows installation on my main computer (in a Sun VirtualBox, thankfully). iTunes is slow, clumsy and generally unusable piece of dog excrements. It can only do one thing at a time, mostly: if you are adding a folder to your library, you can't switch to another tab and see how the backup of your iPhone is going. The actions do happen in the background, but more often than not you cann't switch away from some actions. If you try to do multiple things in parallel, instead of resolving any process conflicts and queueing the actions iTunes will simply silently fails to do something, often leaving remains of the half-finished actions. It also does not bother to check if the backup or restore of the phone is complete before using it - in this way I have many time gotten into a situation where I connect the iPhone to the iTunes, it starts backing it up, then crashes and next time happily offers this half-done backup copy as a valid restore point. Or it crashes during restore and only writes some files and settings to the phone - other settings stay at their default values. It is also very cryptic, for example if you have a lot of music it can take hours to import it into iTunes (it spent 2 hours 'Analysing gapless playback information' of 5000 songs) and then you will be puzzled about how to put some of that on the iPhone. If you just tick the checkbox to sync your music you'll get an error stating that there is not enough free space, which is not very helpful. The magic combination was to check 'Manually manage music' and then go to music tab and choose 'Autofill' option. At that point iTunes will spend half an hour choosing which songs to put on the phone, before it even starts copying. And god forbid that you would use that AppStore application on the iPhone to actually install apps - sooner or later you will run into a 'backup bug' where creating or restoring a backup of your iPhone might take 2-3 hours instead of more normal 5-15 minutes. Only a factory reset of the phone followed by selective reinstallation of applications (loosing all their settings in the process) can work around this bug currently.

  • The closed nature of the iPhone means that I cann't install 'unapproved' software unless I jailbreak the phone and even then it is rather problematic to develop for the phone unless you have a Mac and shell out 99$ a year for participation in the developers program

  • The iPhone is a consumption device and not a productivity device. I would like to have a device on which I could be creative as a software developer as well

Option 2: Maemo/MeeGo

Some of my colleagues at work (in the Riga office of Accenture) have N900 phones and I have been exposed to people with raw enthusiasm towards the Maemo platform ever since the Debconf in Helsinki, where we saw the first N700 devices in the hands of some lucky Debian/Nokia people using it as an Internet tablet. N900 has been a strong leap forward for the platform, before its head was teleported sideways by the whole MeeGo merger/debackle.

Again I have two options here:

Get a N900 either here in Latvia for 325 LVL (that would be the total cost over 2 years) or get it from USA during Debconf for 399 USD (+129 USD for 2 year warranty) = 317 LVL. And additional option would be to wait until October/November and then buy the new Nokia MeeGo device, rumoured to be N9-00 and likely to be around the same price as N900 was when it was introduced (around 500 LVL).


  • A fully open and rooted Debian Linux based device with apt-get, X, pusleaudio, d-bus and Qt as core technologies

  • I can install software from anyone and can also write my own software either in Qt/C++ or even in Python

  • There is (or was) a significant hacker community that develops applications for N900

  • As far as I know most of the features that I need do work on N900, but I am unsure about:

    1. audiobook support - how easy it is to put a MP3 on the device and tell it is an audiobbok so that the device would remember position when playing the file and save it even if the player is stopped and the device is rebooted or backed up and restored from backup?

    2. can I have Google Mail, Contacts and Calendar and at the same time also have an Exchange account with mail and contacts and calendar active?

    3. how is the support - is there an app already that makes it easy to geocache while offline?

    4. Multilingual keyboards - I've seen people having to reimplement the on-screen keyboard in their programs, and naturally they do not bother to add support for all language. So support for multilingual keyboard input is an open one.


  • All the uncertainties above - while I could write all the above software, it would be better if I would not have to, so that I could focus on something more productive

  • Also the whole position of Nokia on the MeeGo support on the N900 is kinda ... backwards. I am now used to the Apple way that if I get a device, then it will get software updates for at least next two years and will get the new software features developed in the next two years at least. If Nokia would have said - "All phone-oriented MeeGo releases will have a version for N900 until at least the end of 2012." Then this drawback would not have been there, but currently it is a mayor sticking stone for me. I don't want to buy a device that will be on a dead-end software platform that will die before the end of this year.

  • N900 is the largest and heaviest of all the options

Option 3 - Android

After looking trough the options for Android phones, I've narrowed the selection to the ones that are either available from local carriers or can be easily gotten unlocked also the phones need to have announced plans to have at least Android 2.2 version. Currently the choice is limited to HTC Desire (from carrier or unlocked) and Samsung Galaxy S (unlocked). The prices over 2 years break down as follows:

HTC Desire (locked to LMT): 69 + 9*24 = 285 LVL
HTC Desire (locked to Bite): 199 + 2*24 = 247 LVL (Note: only 500Mb of data per month available)
HTC Desire (locked to Tele2): 179 + 6*24 = 323 LVL
Note: all the above options would also require me to pay a 45 LVL early termination fee on my current iPhone contract if I choose to do this before September.
HTC Desire (unlocked): 311 LVL
Samsung Galaxy S (unlocked): 350 LVL (import from Germany)


  • As far as I could find, the features I need are out there in one way or another - there usually is an app for that!

  • Google looks poised to continue development at a rapid pace

  • There is an active hacker community and also an active commercial software community that offers cool applications for a few bucks

  • As far as I understand the phone backups onto itself - a backup of the phone is created onto a SD card in the phone and you can then copy that off the phone for permanent backup, it is a nice concept

  • There are literally thousands of sources for Android applications: from the official Market to Google Code to individual web pages and forums

  • The hardware looks solid, powerful and generic enough to last for a couple of years

  • It is likely that knowing how to program Android app will be useful for me at work

  • It is cheap and simple to start writing Android apps on Linux


  • Typical usability of Android apps is pretty low compared to iPhone

  • The Android environment is very unique and is not like anything else - it's not really much of a Linux system from an apps perspective

  • I would be relying on HTC to provide OS updates in a timely manner - it is quite likely that after a year or so the updates to new version will come slowly or even stop altogether and I will have to use hacked ROMs

  • I have a dislike for Java. I wish one could write fully featured Android apps in Python :(

Please correct me if I am wrong with something!!! And also it would be cool if you expressed your own opinions in the comments.

Currently I am very undecided about what I am going to do, but after completing this entry I am leaning towards an unlocked HTC Desire.

Olivier Crête shares a N900 vs. Nexus One experience

Edit 01-07-2010:

Handed my iPhone in for a warranty repair, got a dumbphone Nokia as a loaner during repairs. Very surprised about how long a battery can last on a low powered and cheap phone.

In the mean time from all the comments here and elsewhere I am starting to see that I am too annoyed with the iPhone platform (mostly iTunes) to stay there and that I am also not convinced in the direction MeeGo is going (a lot of community developers are annoyed and are jumping ship), so N900 is also out. I will need to see 2-3 MeeGo smartphones and also see how Nokia will treat their smartphone users and developers on this platform, in the long term, before I'll be ready to trust them with my money. Therefore, my choice is becoming pretty clear - look for the best Android phone (after my iPhone dies). We have this thing at Accenture, where we can get company phones at a discount and HTC Desire is on that list. If I can get that, it would slash 100 LVL (almost a third of the price!) off it, but to get there I either need to get a promotion (rather rare after just one year with the company) or prove the necessity of the phone for the needs of my project (kinda hard currently). Well, the situation will be a bit clearer next week when I get my iPhone back. (Apparently the Latvia's largest holiday - Midsummer Festivities or Jāņi/Līgo - with tons of traditional outdoor activities, caused a lot of phones to become broken and there is a backlog of warranty service :))

So at this point my plan is: get my iPhone repaired and get a promotion or a project where I can justify a company-paid HTC Desire and then hope that Nokia/Intel really get their stuff together and make MeeGo a great smartphone platform over the next year or two.

Update: Got my iPhone 3G back from the 'warranty'. It is in quotes because they just gave me a new iPhone 3G. The battery lasts for 3 days of minimal use and it has not crashed yet. The recovery process was a pain - again caused by iTunes: iTunes refused to restore my backup onto the new phone, because my backup was made on a iOS 4.0, while the new phone I got from the warranty has 3.1.3 on it. So I had to set this phone as a new phone, initialise it, make a backup, upgrade to 4.0, restore from the (empty) backup, then reset the phone to factory settings again and only then I could start restoring data from my original (pre-warranty) backup and start copying my data on to the device. All in all it took nearly 3 hours if iTunes doing something and almost a dozen reboots of the phone. Almost half of that time was spent doing completely unnecessary steps to work around the fact that iTunes is braindead.

I'll continue using my iPhone for now, keeping my eyes on the newest Android phones and also waiting for the long-promised first MeeGo phone from Nokia.