vdr ist ein sehr beliebter und sehr praktischer, linux-basierter digitaler Videorekorder für DVB-Fernsehen mit hohem WAF.

Das Team von e-tobi.net hat daraus eine an Debian angepasste Distribution gebacken, die in Deutschland auch als c’t vdr bekannt ist.

Die vdr-Pakete von Ubuntu sind grob von e-tobi abgeleitet, aber e-tobi ist aktiver, bietet mehr Pakete und häufigere Updates. Es lag also nahe, deren Pakete zu Ubuntu zu portieren.

Dank der geduldigen Hilfe von Tobias Grimm ist es nun so weit, dass die meisten e-tobi Quellpakete auch unter Ubuntu sauber compilieren. Auf geht’s:

  vdr is a very popular, linux-based digital video recorder software with lots of interesting features and a high WAF.

The e-tobi.net team has created a binary distribution for Debian that is known in Germany as c’t vdr.

Ubuntu comes with its own vdr binaries, some based on e-tobi, but the e-tobi team offers more packages and updates them more often. Obviously, I wanted their packages on my Ubuntu-based TV PC.

Thanks to Tobias Grimm’s help, most of the e-tobi sources can now be compiled for Ubuntu without additional patches. Here we go:

# /etc/apt/sources.list.d/vdr-etobi-hanno.list
deb http://www.hanno.de/vdr-experimental hardy base backports addons vdr-multipatch
deb http://packages.medibuntu.org/ hardy free non-free

# /etc/apt/preferences
Package: *
Pin: origin www.hanno.de
Pin-Priority: 1000

Noch ist das alles sehr, sehr beta. Ich habe wenig Erfahrung mit Debian-Repositories, möglicherweise wurden Pakete falsch übersetzt, möglicherweise sind für Ubuntu falsche Abhängigkeiten drin. Deshalb wären erste Tester hilfreich.

Bei mir ist diese vdr-Version mit ein paar wenigen Plugins (epgsearch, live, skinsoppalusikka) stabil im Einsatz, installiert auf einem Ubuntu Server-System ohne X mit einer Budget- und einer FF-DVB-Karte.

Herzlichen Dank für Tests und Rückmeldungen, gerne auch im vdr-portal.

Nachtrag: Die Pakete sind jetzt für i386 und amd64 verfügbar.

  This is still very very beta. I know little about creating debian repositories, some packages may be compiled with the wrong options, some may have broken dependencies. So please help beta-testing them.

This version of vdr is in use on my TV PC, running the Ubuntu server distribution without X with a budget dvb and a full-featured dvb card. With a few plugins (epgsearch, live, skinsoppalusikka), it has been stable so far.

Any help testing and improving these packages is very welcome. You’re also invited to join the (German) discussion on vdr-portal.

Update: Packages now available for i386 and amd64.

“Information does not want to be free. Information wants to be tied up and spanked.”
via

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Die Telekom in Altona hat sich also mit den Punks verbündet, die im Sommer jeden Tag genau vor diesem T-Punkt herumhängen und die Fußgängerzone mit ihrem Ghettoblaster beschallen.

Several requests for OGG in Internet Tablets, but no definitive answer why not.

Now there is an answer: According to Nokia, Ogg is “proprietary technology” and they fear that it is “encumbered”. The reasoning behind this appears to be “risk of submarine patents”.

Which is curious, since Nokia is one of the supporters of software patents in Europe. So do they like software patents or not? It’s not clear. This particular choice of OGG being risky is also curious, since Linux, Gnome and Mozilla and other software foundations of Maemo Internet Tablets are IMHO equally at risk of being plastered with submarine patents.

There are other companies happily selling OGG-capable hardware and software. Why is (e.g.) Samsung not afraid of the very risk that Apple and Nokia fear?

So, what is the problem with OGG? The whole explanation doesn’t add up. And the way we handle patents still sucks.

Yay, so finally there’s an a cappella song about Web 2.0.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi4fzvQ6I-o]

And who’s behind it? People who claim to be working at Pixar, Google and various startups…

via isotopp

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Raon almost didn’t deliver on time, but Dynamisn is a bunch of very punctual people. They managed to grab the device right off the first shipment from Korea and deliver the device one day before my holiday. Not only did I get it for a rebate thanks to umpcportal.com, Dynamism also added a free extended battery to the package. Thanks, guys!

The Device

It looks like an oversized PDA and it is heavier than you expect once you pick it up. Build quality is excellent, nothing on this device feels like a cheap compromise. For the detailed specs, please see Raon’s page.

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It comes with a ridicilous pouch, similar to the ugly sock that disgraced the Nokia 770. The pouch offers no adequate protection for this expensive device. With alternatives priced at 50+ $ that buyers need to order overseas, I’m beginning to get a real grudge about manufacturers that offer ultrarare mobile devices like this without at least providing a stuffed pouch that allows you not to worry about how to take it on the road.

First Start

The Everun is ready to go, with all drivers installed. The pre-installed English XP is criminally out of date, XP’s update process is deactivated and once you start it, it installs more than 90 critical updates. It took me several hours to get the OS to a current state.

The Keyboard

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The tiny buttons are located at the right of the screen. A tilt sensor will rotate the screen as needed, in all four directions. In rotated portrait mode, it’s comfortable to type with two thumbs, in standard landscape mode it’s enough to type short URLs or passwords with your right thumb. A light sensor will turn on the backlight if you’re typing in the dark.

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As an exercise, this very review was written directly on the Everun during my subway commute. The keyboard is better than expected, but of course, the keys are tiny. Shift, Ctrl, Alt and FN are located on the side – twice, so that you can use them in landscape and portrait modes.

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Due to the Everun’s weight, two-thumb typing in portrait mode is quite a strain on your hands, balancing the device’s centre of gravity above your fingers.

There are no dedicated media keys except a volume control, but with the full set of QWERTY on the side, you have lots of keys to configure for your favourite media player software.

Mouse & Pointing, Screen

The optical trackpointer is a clever idea, it works like a reversed optical mouse, scanning your finger movements. You have several ways to click – push the trackpointer, use the pen or use the two mouse buttons left to the screen. The scrollwheel is emulated by two dedicated buttons or by moving the trackpointer while pressing FN. FN also makes pen clicks or trackpointer presses a right mouseclick. There are so many alternatives for clicking and moving the mousepointer that you’ll probably find one that suits you.

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The touchscreen is ok, but compared to the N800, it is quite disappointing: Its non-glare coating gives it a “cloudy” look’ known from lowcost laptops. It is a soft-touch digitizer, so that you can use your fingertip, but the pen is more exact.

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Using the pen can be frustrating at times. When touching the screen, I often seem to touch-and-then-move the pen’s tip on the screen surface, so that I don’t click an icon, but move it. (This is an effect usually experienced by novice mouse users who still learn how to click without moving the mouse at the same time.)

This doesn’t happen with any other touchscreen device I use (and I tried lots), so Raon might want to finetune the threshold on when the touchscreen digitizer reacts to clicks. By direct comparison, the N800’s slightly smaller touchscreen of same resolution feels more exact and I don’t experience the touch-and-move effect there.

800×480 with XP is quite a pain. Many default system settings don’t fit in either landscape or portrait mode, the WLAN hotspot list or the display properties being prominent examples. The resolution is great to surf the web and watch a video, but way too little for a traditional three-panel-display mail app such as Thunderbird. Portrait mode doesn’t help here: Writing an email with your average 72-character width leaves you with the choice of a 6-pixel width font. Screen resolution is also too little to read a full-page PDF in portrait mode.

Disk

This Everun has one 6GB-SSD and one 60GB harddisk. I didn’t make any formal tests about battery drain or i/o-speed. I didn’t notice any speed advanages with SSD at all.

A mini-USB port allows to access the primary drive as an external USB drive, making the Everun one big portable hard drive with an x86 computer attached to it. Or not, as the primary drive on my Everun is the 6G-SSD system disk. The 60GB data disk (where you want to carry volatile files) isn’t available through the USB connector, making Raon’s really clever idea rather pointless: You still need to buy a laplink cable to transfer lots of data fast.

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WLAN

I used the Everun during a long holiday trip, visiting several hotels with different WLAN setups. Connectivity was often poor and the device dropped connections a lot, even if signal strength was high. At home, close to my router’s access point, WLAN is very reliable.

Status Indicators

There are a lot of status leds, some are really odd. The charging indicator shows orange for quick charging and blue for slow charging which kicks in once the battery is almost full. No LED light indicates a full battery or no battery at all. Why not use a more logical red-yellow-green cycle for empty, half-charged and full battery?

Why show WLAN activity on a prominently located, bright LED? And then there’s the CPU indicator that blinks at different patterns to show the processor’s speed. Utterly useless information that you don’t understand without the manual. Half of these blinkenlights could be removed without being missed.

Speed

It’s odd to experience the Everun’s speed. On the one hand, GUI feedback is often several moments later than a click, you’re often unsure wether the device is slow or if you just mis-clicked and need to click again. On the other hand, notorious bloatware such as OpenOffice is comfortable to use. Skype audio calls work fine (you can even use the internal speakers and internal microphone, making the Everun act as a speakerphone), I didn’t try to use video calls.

Firefox and Thunderbird are a pleasure to use, Flash and Youtube bog down the system unless you switch to low quality in Flash.

To summarize, speed is adequate for productivity applications and some multimedia.

Multimedia

Raon pre-installed GOMPlayer which makes the Everun a fine all-purpose PMP. MP3 is no problem even in throttled powersave mode. DivX decodes fine and fullscreen video is a pleasure to watch, but a raw DVD movie or high-bandwidth DVB-T skips. (This is a major disappointment, since watching DVD on the go is my personal killer feature. For the Everun, you still have to transcode your movie.)

The audio output has some static and crackles, this is not HiFi quality, but good enough for the subway commute.

Conclusion

There is one word to describe the Raon Everun: Clever. It’s a joy to realize how much thought the hardware designers put into this device. The keyboard, the mouse trackpointer, the scroll buttons, the autorotate, the automatic keyboard backlight – just clever. These designers love what they do.

The Everun has its flaws. My main complaint would not be the Everun hardware, but its software. 800×480 is the recommended screen resolution that Microsoft chose for UMPCs, yet the OS has menus that don’t fit. What good is the promise of being able to run standard software when the screen estate is too small for it? Thunderbird is one example that is just not usable in a sensible way with this screen, even if the device is fast enough. One has to carefully choose software that is usable with this limited screen resolution.

The screen could be better and higher resolution would be nice to read a full-page PDF. (And as usual, the Everun could be faster, lighter, and come with more memory.)

But you’ll forgive its flaws for its two killer features that make it a unique combination.

Size: This device is as small and light as possible, yet has a keyboard and is still usable.

Battery: The Everun literally runs forever. Other manufacturers shrink the battery with the subnotebook and then end up at the magic 3-hour-limit again. The Everun designers didn’t do that. It is tiny and goes on and on.

This is my first x86 device where battery time is not an issue and it is a whole new experience not to think about where to find the next power outlet. With the standard battery, it already runs longer than most laptops on the market, the extended battery makes it run for the length of one transatlantic flight and then some.

Summary

The good:

  • killer combination of an extremely small device that still offers very long battery time
  • clever! hardware design, no cheap compromises
  • very good cost/performance ratio on current market (though competition will increase in coming months)
  • fast enough for most productivity applications and some multimedia
  • full QWERTY keyboard that is actually useful for short typing
  • tilt sensor that automatically rotates the screen
  • lots of alternatives for GUI interaction: touchscreen, mouse & scroll buttons plus a very nice optical trackpointer

The bad:

  • usability of XP and standard software lacks on a screen resolution of 800×480
  • “external hard-disk” option via mini-USB connector useless for two-disk devices as it gives access to primary drive, only
  • SSD not a major advantage over harddisk
  • WiFi not very reliable
  • not fast enough for DVD or DVB video

The annoying:

  • pre-installed XP needed lots of updates
  • slow GUI feedback
  • fiddly touchscreen pointing
  • useless, distracting status indicator LEDs
  • static/crackles in audio output
  • useless pouch

Link recommendation: You will find lots of helpful information plus a crowded forum of Everun enthusiasts at umpcportal.com.

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If you have a table, this keyboard is really fine. But without a table…

The Nokia SU-8W keyboard has been here for several months now. It wasn’t much fun to use with the Nokia 770 internet tablet’s original operating system, which back then required inofficial drivers, but the Nokia N800’s OS supports this keyboard by default. Pairing is easy, yet a little confusing with the N800 sometimes, and typing in applications is straightforward. The keys have a very good feel and yes, you can comfortably touchtype with it. It has an integrated folding stand that is designed for cell phones which can hold the N800, as well.

The SU-8W runs forever on one set of 2 x AAA batteries and a reason other than its low power drain might be that I hardly ever use it. Let me explain why.

Originally I expected to use this keyboard for extensive typing while on the go. But Maemo isn’t made for keyboard use (if it is, this user didn’t see the clues needed to learn it), so the N800 needs to be in touch distance since you have to use the pen or a finger for GUI interaction every now and then.

The SU-8W folds in the middle. There is no lock, so if you try to quickly type a longer note while on the subway and just whip out the keyboard to write it down, this is the result:

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It’s no fun to use the SU-8W on the subway in a hurry.

Obviously, you can’t use the N800 with the keyboard while walking or standing. An absurd situation resulted when I once needed to send an important long message by email while at the train station. So I sat down cross-legged on the concrete floor, put the N800 on the floor in front of me, put a book on my lap and the keyboard on the book. That worked, but definitely wasn’t comfortable.

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Oh no, an FN-key, designed to drive me mad!

The keys have the near-perfect size for touchtyping, but the SU-8W has only three rows of keys, with the fourth row of numbers accessible through a green FN-key, which is inexplicably designed to act similar to caps-lock instead of shift.

You can pair the SU-8W with PCs (it works with the Everun). But the German SU-8W keyboard has non-standard label locations for some special characters such as @ or ß, so that you won’t easily find those while using XP. My wife called her attempt of writing a short email with that setup a “maddening experience” and I still haven’t gotten used to the the FN-key function, either.

That fourth row of keys is missing. There would have been enough space for a fourth row with non-square keys and the keys still would have been big enough. (Then again, having touchtyped on a Libretto 50ct, I may be more tolerant than others when it comes to key size.)

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