August 20th, 2013
First things first: Flock 2013 was excellent, fantastic conference.
You may have noticed I started out tweetin’ and bloggin’ up a storm, and then disappeared for a while. This is because, after attending some useful and interesting (and sometimes even both!) presentations for a couple of days, I discovered the glory and magnificence that is Badges.
What is Badges? Badges is the way, the truth, and the light! Well, it’s a pretty awesome award system for Fedora, at least, with killer artwork and powered by some super-shiny technology. An earlier, blasphemous version of myself may have pooh-poohed it – perhaps on these very pages! – but once you see it in action, it’s such a neat little thing. And the silly little badge system encourages people to contribute to Fedora in all sorts of ways. It’s really an awesome setup.
So what I mostly did for the last two days of Flock was, well, hack on badges. I bugged Ralph Bean and David Gay and Luke Macken and Ian Weller and anyone else who didn’t stand still long enough about badges. I suggested a bunch of badges. I earned a bunch of badges. And most usefully, I more or less customized up this entire site for the Badges folks.
Badges has been pretty successful and lots of people were starting to suggest ideas, and the badges team were getting a bit snowed under. They were just throwing all the suggestions in a completely non-customized trac instance. So I tried to set up a bit better process for them, and put a nice pretty front end on it for users and people who want to contribute to badges. It’s where you can go and suggest an idea for a badge, or try to help flesh out existing badge ideas with names, descriptions, artwork ideas, and actual artwork and badge definitions if you’re able to do those things. There is (what I hope is) a simple but efficient setup to triage the status of badge suggestions and a whole wad of queries I worked up so you can find badges that need definitions, badges that need art, badges that need ideas, pretty much anything. So far it seems to be working out okay, and I’m glad I was actually able to contribute something!
I also filled more or less an entire notebook on the plane home with notes about issues that are going to crop up if Badges continues to be successful in the long term: I’m going to draft those up into something useful for the badges mailing list just as soon as I can find the time.
Hell, I even managed to write up some badge definitions myself, including Python queries(!!!), with lots of patient hand-holding by Ralph and Ian. It’s pretty awesome that a few of the badges already out there and in production were suggested and written by me and a couple of others, and the team of folks doing artwork has similarly expanded.
Aside from all the Badges fun, we managed to put together a super productive session on the last day. Someone – I think viking-ice – pointed out that we could simply run a ‘live QA meeting‘ (that’s a video link) as a hackfest, with most of the QA folks there, plus ARM and cloud people too, with IRC running for those not at Flock. So we did that, and it worked out really pretty great. We nailed down more or less exactly what we need process-wise to handle ARM and Cloud as first-class citizens for Fedora 20 (which they totally are going to be!), and I’ve been working to get all that put into production in the last few days.
I also told quite a few people at Flock that I like to imagine most of the people there (and pretty much everywhere else) walking around with a giant tentacle inserted into a major orifice and connected back to either Google or Apple HQ, depending. Makes life much more interesting. I also had a Peak+ on pre-order and was kinda interested to try out Firefox OS.
Well, I don’t any more. I found myself at a loose end the other day and decided to give the tentacle a trial run, and you know what, I know why everyone’s addicted to the damn tentacle. The tentacle brings such tentacle-y goodness. Google Now is actually really freaking useful. I can tell it to remind me about things and it does! It’s like some kind of demon magic. I figured out how to stick a shortcut on my home screen that immediately gives me transit directions home from wherever the hell I happen to be, saving the annoyance of opening maps and opening the directions screen and telling it where I want to go for the umpteenth time.
The other thing is that the Peak+ is pretty spectrum-impaired – it only runs HSPA on a couple of frequencies, and no LTE.
So I did a ton of research (quickly re-discovering the annoying side of Android use – all the goddamn hassle of figuring out how the hell to do anything more than buy a subsidised phone and use it locked to your carrier) and eventually figured out that what I really want is a Sony Xperia ZL C6506. Yeah, not a Moto X or a Nexus 4 or an HTC One or a Galaxy S4 or even the generally-preferred Xperia Z, I want that one specifically. For two reasons: 1) it’s relatively cheap (goes for under $400 for what’s basically a phone on the same level as the Z and S4 and One) and 2) it has I think the best frequency set of any phone in existence. It’s pentaband HSPA and quad-band LTE, which basically means you can pretty much use it frickin’ anywhere and get high-speed data. (The ‘C6506′ part is important: the C6502 has AWS HSPA but no LTE, and the C6503 has LTE but no AWS HSPA. And even the C6506′s bootloader unlockability varies depending on who you buy it from. Yeeeeesh.)
The Nexus 4, and T-Mobile versions of a few other phones, are pentaband HSPA, but usually don’t have LTE (at least officially). You can hack LTE into the Nexus 4, but you lose A-GPS if you do. And the ZL is definitely faster than the N4.
So, I bought one! And, so far, I love it. Except for one problem (well, two, but one big one): I can’t get the damn thing unlocked, yet. Either SIM unlocked or bootloader unlocked. Bootloader unlock is a no-go until someone figures out an exploit, but I’m still waiting to hear on SIM lock. I can live without an unlocked bootloader, as the stock firmware is surprisingly non-terrible; once you set up your loader and apps it’s actually a pretty nice experience and genuinely improves on Android in a few ways. But I really need it SIM unlocked, as I’m damn well not paying roaming rates to use it in the US or Hong Kong or Europe. So if I can’t get it SIM unlocked I’m going to have to unload it and buy another one. Siiiigh. I do wish all the manufacturers and carriers would just quit with all this freaking locking palaver.
So, yeah. Looks like the tentacle is going to be firmly ensconced at least for a while. If Mozilla can come up with something that’s got most of Google’s shiny I’m still up for switching, but current Firefox OS and Peak+ seem to be a bit too far behind I’m still resisting Google+ for as long as I can, though…