Archive for the ‘ Nexus 7 ’ Category

Google Nexus 7 and a Brave New World

So the fates threw another curve ball my way, and made the magic smoke come out of my SO’s game machine.  As luck would have it (for her) my recent Windows 7 game machine – and more recently a 64 Bit Debian Linux development machine – was identical in make and model, and quickly drafted as a replacement.  After extracting the hard drive, and a 122 mm fan from the hanger-queen – and retrofitting said parts into my old machine – she was back up and running her favorite games on a machine that had much better airflow(overheating had killed the the motherboard).  Love knows no bounds.

Unfortunately for me, this yet again put a kink in my previous new-year’s plans.  Then Google happened.  More precisely the Nexus 7 happened, and this happening which I was not cognizant of in my normal ‘antennae up’ manner – was fortunate in that its timing provided me the leverage needed to modify my plans from doing the sort of development I expected, to presenting an alternative.  So I bought one – the $250 model – that I quickly encased in a faux leather magnetic covering – a la SD Tabletwear Smart  Case for the Nexus 7 – and preceded to learn the ins-and-outs of.  I also managed to get a few books on Android development…and the rest, as they say, is history.   Or more accurately, ‘history in the making’.

In comparison to the iPAD, the Nexus 7 (built by ASUS) is much smaller and lighter than the iPAD.  Reading and using the device is a breeze – easy on the hands and arms in comparison to the iPAD over long periods of time.  The one drawback – 16GB of storage compared to 64GB on the iPAD – is made up by the snappy graphics processing of the integrated NVIDIA CPU/GPU sporting a Quad core CPU and 12 core GPU – and the fact that I found an old iPOD Nano laying around [daughter’s present, 5th generation circa 2009 – never opened – her loss] that I copied my music over to (I can actually walk around now, and listen to my music without having to lug the iPAD around).  The Nexus 7 is dedicated to running apps/games – and I really like the interface that it uses with the Android 4.1 Jellybean OS.

Comparing the two OS’s/interfaces, I would say there are some things better done by Apple, and some better done by Google.  For example, I like the way Apple handles process control – clear and absolute.   Shutting down applications on Android is somewhat labyrinthine  (until you figure out that you can use the settings widget to create a desktop shortcut to the apps control) always leaves me with an uneasy feeling – the question in my mind, ‘did that application really shut down?’  As I later learned, this is a feature of the Android development and runtime system: resources can be defined for an application – and will be run as requested by the app…hence the mysterious application services that mysteriously seem to appear in the process list.  From this perspective, I can see that it isn’t necessarily Android, as much as undisciplined developers.  My own efforts to create applications for Android will test this theory – so more to follow on that on future blogs.  Android does get some things interestingly right – such as interprocess communication, and the layering of applications and interface components such that you can clearly back out of something and return to what you were doing before without necessarily having to jump around so much (the ‘back’ button).

Overall – for my purposes, the Nexus 7 is the perfect form factor and functionality.  I do like the iPAD – but (there is always a but, isn’t there?) I think it is really geared for people who are into media and media creation.  You can’t do development on the iPAD (aside from some sand-boxed interpreters that are very limited – without access to the underlying resources), and external native development for distribution is limited and requires a $99 fee (at the time of this writing).  On the other hand, native applications on the Nexus 7 can be developed and distributed freely – and not only can you develop externally to the device, you can download the AIDE (Android Integrated Development Environment) and do development on the device itself.  Add a bluetooth keyboard, and you have the next best thing to a laptop.

Now remember: your mileage may vary.  Others might argue that the small screen size, the lack of storage space, and wifi-only networking are deal killers.  I don’t have issue with any of that – my old eyes are getting to the point where I have to wear glasses anyway to read any screen smaller than 17″ LCD, I moved the largest part of my stored items – the music – over to a more appropriate/mobile iPOD device, and I have a smartphone which already has mobile telephone data network capability for the rare times I really need it.

Don’t feel bad for my old iPAD – it will live on as a media device associated with my living room TV system (there is an app for that).  And if I get an Apple TV device – it might even have even more life breathed into it as a video streaming device as well.

Would Steve Jobs approve my choices?  Probably not – but time marches on – and I am nothing if not pragmatic, in a Bruce Lee sort of way.  To Steve’s credit, the vision to create this tablet/smartphone ecosystem allowed the Nexus 7 to exist – he made his mark through the company he lead and the products he championed – and the world is better for it imho.

It is certainly a brave new computing world for all of us.

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