Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gizmodo, your Thrive review doesn't Jive...

Gizmodo has a so-called "review" of the Thrive here:

The central argument seems to be that it's not an iPad. This is, not surprisingly for an Android tablet, absolutely true. I shall now mock the reviewer's mockery in my best tongue-in-cheek, yet still righteously indignant, satirical prose. Caveat lector!

For example, the widescreen tablet is chided for "somehow" being at once wider and shorter (in landscape orientation) than a 4:3 aspect ratio iPad. The abject horror is completely overwhelming. Perhaps all video content is formatted for the average 1950s-era TV, and this widescreen fad is about to die out. Somehow, said inherent widescreen-ness also makes it completely untenable to use the tablet in portrait orientation, where the usability is vastly superior than a 3:4 screen for most e-books, any 8.5x11 PDF pages, and even certain webpages (*cough*, like Gizmodo, *cough*) that assume that people stopped buying monitors in 1999 because 4:3 CRTs running at 800x600 are the flippin' bees knees. But, I digress... Oh, yeah, because it's narrower in portrait mode, thumb-typing is easier. That is, if you choose not to just use Swype, which is also included...

Port ability vs. portability?
The principal argument against the ports is that their presence renders the tablet "more like a PC".  As in, there's an HDMI output that allows you to plug it into your HDTV and play your movies without the need for a $100 peripheral (I'm looking at you, Apple TV). Better yet, you can plug it into your friends' TVs without having to bring along your $100 peripheral...  

Or perhaps, the criticism is levied specifically against the USB host port. After all, consider the following choice quote:
"I just know that in my entire history as a tablet-owner, I've not once cursed the gods at my lack of a USB port. Because tablets aren't laptops."

Insight at its finest, right? That USB port would enable you to plug in a USB thumb drive where your buddy has an MP3 or a photo that they want to share. It must be so much nicer to plug the drive into your computer, and use iTunes to copy onto your tablet instead of just plugging in the USB key and accessing the content -- especially when you're out and about. Definitely not the kind of thing that has any utility...

Similarly, since the SD card slot is built in, you can carry a metric arse-load of content spread across multiple easy-to-pack cards. The alternative of carrying a computer, firing up iTunes, and downloading different content to the device certainly seems more "magical" and "revolutionary", doesn't it. You're right, Brian, tablets are not laptops.  But, methinks that you shouldn't have to carry both if you want to access more content than fits on the devices's internal storage. 

Or maybe, like me, you take the occasional photograph. If you shoot on SD cards, you can just plug in your SD/SDHC/SDXC card and start browsing away -- swipe, pinch to zoom, etc. If you shoot on CF, your USB card reader can be attached just as easily. Damn, that sounds horrible, doesn't it.  I'd totally much rather sync everything into iPhoto before I can even look at it on the large high-res screen on my tablet. Oh, sorry, I forgot about that adapter kit thingy -- it looks way more convenient. I mean, who wouldn't want one of them 'donks hanging out of their dock port just so that they could read an SD card or attach the camera directly to the USB port? Samsung aped Apple in this regard, so the Galaxy tab must be awesome; oh, wait, I forgot -- it's widescreen. Game, set, and match to the iPad, for a certainty!

Convenient oversights?
In the amazingly insightful claim that the ports make it thick, the "reviewer" also completely misses the fact that a portion of the thickness can be attributed to the design decision that allows the back cover to be removed. Doing so reveals the battery which can also be -- horror of all horrors -- removed and swapped. Nobody could possibly imagine a scenario where a dock connector wouldn't present itself to recharge the battery, could they? I'll give you a hint. They could, and they have, and fairly often.

The rear-facing camera is mentioned, but not the front-facing camera.  The fact that Google Talk is fully video-enabled and enables communication with far more people than the narrow demographic that has access to "FaceTime". Heck, even those crazy open source/Linux people can use the Google Talk! The name isn't nearly as catchy, though. 

Docked for docking?
The reviewer somewhat implicitly mocks the concept of using a USB keyboard with a tablet; but last time I checked, $20 USB keyboards were more affordable than $60 bluetooth ones (which also work, including the Apple one) or proprietary $70 solutions. I mean, nobody would ever consider having their tablet docked and using a keyboard to enable things like composing a long e-mail without having to resort to the on-screen keyboard, right?

Double standards make fine double-edged swords!
While I am also not a fan of built-in apps that I can't uninstall (apart from rooting), there is no small amount of irony in criticizing Toshiba for providing their own AppVendor and BookVendor (which, by the way, are among the many available alternatives you can use, including the Android Market, Amazon, and a host of others). After all, Apple certainly doesn't -- in any way -- encourage you to purchase any content from their first-party stores. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that the iBooks and AppStore links are almost impossible to find, and can be easily removed from an iPad.

Postscript: Back to that widescreen-a-phobia thing...
I could fit three Gizmodos in one browser window! Gotta love that scrolling action, even if you ditch their crap-tacular default view in favor of the "blog" view...
Giz <3 whitespace!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sync, then add new MP3s from a folder to iTunes

The "Sitch":
Like many "advanced" users, I reluctantly use iTunes because it's the most straightforward way to load my iPod. However, less than 0.01%* of my content was purchased from the iTunes store, and there is absolutely no way that I will ever allow iTunes to organize obliterate my folder and file structure. When I rip a disc, buy a $5 album from Amazon MP3, download free tracks, etc., the files get stored on a NAS, where the collection is archived.

For a while, I've been rsynching the master collection on the NAS to a local folder on the living room PC, because iTunes has exhibited poor behavior with both remote libraries (supported by my NAS) and libraries on network shares -- particularly if said share is accessed from multiple computers. (I won't go into the details, but the past issues in both of these options made a local copy highly desirable... Maybe Apple fixed all the issues I ever encountered. Maybe not. I simply don't feel like finding out.)

The Hitch:
Unlike practically every other media player in the universe, iTunes isn't programmed to fulfill the simple task of identifying that files have been added to a given folder and then importing said files into its precious little library. This meant opening iTunes and running Add to Library from its menu. There were two options: remember what you just rsynched and pick the appropriate sub-folder(s) or re-add the whole top-level folder and trust that duplicates won't be added (which generally worked.) Either way, it was manual and therefore bogus...

The Fix (for this Son of a *itch):
Enter Automator. As you can see in the top part of the (rather wide) screen snippets below, it takes a massive two steps to A.) find brand-spanking new music files in a specified folder structure and then B.) add said files to the iTunes Library. Why this has to be done with an extravagant macro-type concoction is beyond me, but the fact that is literally this trivial to accomplish was refreshing, as I haven't really messed with Automator nearly enough...

Music being synchronized to a local folder, then being added to iTunes automagically. Dogs and cats, living together! The apocalypse is nigh!!! 
After adding those two tasks to a "Workflow" in Automator, I saved it as an Application so that I could just run the bugger without opening Automator every time. The other benefit of saving as an app is that I could just add another line at the end of my rsync script and make it run by itself. That's what that little open command at the end of the script snippet above does. Note that the rsync line excludes the meta-files that are created by various OSes when the master copy on the NAS is accessed directly, and that it doesn't perform any deletions.

*: This isn't hyperbole! I have over 10k files, and exactly one track in the archived collection was purchased from the iTunes store.