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Old 07-06-2011, 12:59 AM   #1
muranternet
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Got my Woot PE, some impressions

It showed up today and appears to be new, not refurbished. I plugged it in and started charging it while I did some errands, including an absurd trip to Microcenter for a keyboard. For anyone who's ever been there, Microcenter is sort of a cheap geek's paradise, stacked up with Newegg-priced bare OEM hard drives, no-name accessories, stacks of tower cases, etc. It's the only place in the area that actually stocks mini keyboards to test for feel. It's also comically difficult to get to. This is my fourth trip, third with the wife, and every time we get more and more lost on the way. It's one of those stores that you can see from the highway, but cannot for the life of you figure out how to get to. After forty five minutes of floating in a Sargasso of suburban housing and strip malls that time forgot, we finally took the one exit that gets there. But I digress.

Updating to Ermine was completely straightforward. Rooting was also no problem. I was excited when I saw the SD card in the ystem properties at 16GB (the size of the uSDHC I stuck in there), but no there was no fix in Ermine. It's still seen as extSDcard. I'll mess with that in time. Such a terrible design decision.

The thing I hate the most about the PE is the LCD screen. I knew it was resistive, but between the underclocked processor and the laggy sensor it's very difficult to navigate to anything. Trying to go through a list of apps in Titanium Backup is an exercise in hitting the back button over and over again as every single entry gets accidentally activated. Scrolling a web page seems to stop about one-third of the time to either click on an ad or randomly zoom the screen. And trying to multiselect files in ES File Explorer? Hilarious, As I've recently rooted a Nook Color from Froyo to Gingerbread and used both versions on the same device, I get the feeling this is more of a Froyo problem, as the NC has many of the same problem on stock 2.2. Seriously, I'd like to start a collection for a Gingerbread ROM for this thing. There's no reason it couldn't be supported. (BTW the 1GHz CPU requirement cited as a reason it can't work is bunk. The Droid 1 was also underclocked to 800MHz and it works perfectly.)

Titanium doesn't recognize any of my ported backups. I thought it was a bug until I realized that my phone is on Gingerbread. I'll back up the ROM later and load a Froyo build to get GApps working.

I bought the cheapest mini USB keyboard available for it, the $10 inland. It's actually exactly the same as the Gear Head model, but is worse packaging. I don't have too much of a problem typing on it, except for the ever-so-slightly smaller layout and the Home key that's right next to the backspace. I thought I was running into browser crashes until I realized what was going on. I may open it up and disable the Home key at some point, as I don't use it anyway. Docs to Go works fine; I just wish I could hotkey-map formatting to the usual ctrl-I, etc. Instead of having to deal with screen taps. I am fat-fingering a bit more than I normally do on the mini keyboard but still type pretty quickly, quickly enough to outpace the buffer most of the time.

I don't think the stylus is very useful. For one thing, annotation on the e-ink side is pretty wonky with full text there, and I haven't managed to save any of it yet. The stylus is also microscopic. If I get more used to it, I might pick up one of the $35 Motion Computing pend. With the stylus, the LCD is a little easier to deal with, but it leaves marks on the surface. I'll have to play with a Zagg shield at some point to see if that works well.

The eInk side is all right, although the contrast on Vizplex screens is noticeably worse than Pearl (Kindle 3, recent Sonys, Nook Simple Touch). I much prefer the Kindle for long term reading just because of contrast and resolution. Still, it's better than reading on LCD.

The battery life really does seem horrible for a device that originally sold for $400. I've been using it for about two hours and the battery is more than half gone. I plan to charge/discharge it a few times to work in the battery memory. There must be some phantom processes draining things unnecessarily in there. Again, a custom 2.3 ROM would probably help, let alone a kernel modification for lower idle clock/lower voltage. The kernel should be available as open source, but Entourage seems to have gone out of their way to drive off independent developer involvement, to say nothing of violating the terms of various licenses that apply to the kernel and the OS. Some manufacturers do this when they think they need to protect some "proprietary" part of their code, like the eInk integration section, but all it does is reduce interest in the product (as no one is developing for it) and get the attention of FSF lawyers.

Still, for $120 I think this is a reasonable purchase. I have few problems with the USB host port for typing or drive mounting, and aside from the Screen response I can't complain much. I should have a better idea after a few battery rundowns and with a working market, once I downgrade my phone to get the necessary tarballs.
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Old 07-06-2011, 01:35 AM   #2
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Quick note on battery: When I checked battery usage after 2.5 hours at 33%, I saw that eDGe Idle was using 76%. I think this is wrong, as it probably should be the backight, but just in case I'm putting it into airplane mode and turning on WiFi manually. Somehow it would not surprise me one bit to discover that the PE wastes power trying to pull signal on a nonexistent 3G antenna.
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:12 PM   #3
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Market Update: I flashed my Droid to CM6.12 FroYo and grabbed all of the recommended apps via Titanium Backup and converting to user/system as per the XDA-Developers thread, using a dummy account so that if it worked I could just post the files. Unfortunately Market still did not work; you can browse and select, but the files never downloaded. Talk also gives a constant sync error. All of the other apps seem to work properly, however. I may give it another shot, simply grabbing every Google app that comes standard on the Droid build to see if something was missing. I know people have gotten this to work.

Swapping sdcard and extsdcard was simple; anyone who's ever fiddled with fstab shouldn't have a problem. However, getting link2SD to work has not been so easy. Part of the problem is I'm not at home, MiniTool Partition runs on an XP box right now, and XP boxes seem to always puke when trying to create/manipulate an ext3 partition. Eventually I grabbed an old img file for the Nook Color, deleted all but two partitions (including a 980MB ext3 is position 2), and resized the FAT32 partition out and inserted that. The device still refused to see any of it, so for now I'm just going to wipe it all back to FAT32 and put it in reverse mount (as sdcard). I may play with it this weekend if I feel like it, formatting the SDCard in Linux.

There's a limit as to how far I'm willing to experiment to get things working, however, and that more than anything really gets me annoyed with the attitude of Entourage on developers, especially Robot and jcase. I can spend days trying to do relatively simple things like moving apps to SD (something that should just work in 2.2), enable GApps, and get the filesystem to behave like, well, a filesystem. But I shouldn't have to, at this point. In this phase of a product's lifecycle I should be flashing into a community mod ROM and playing with voltage settings and power governors to extend the battery, with no worries about bricking as long as I'm a keypress away from ClockworkMod. And Entourage should be sitting in their offices reaping the benefits of a community ROM they don't even have to support.

Oh well.

I think I'm going to probably flash the OS back to ermine, or else just exploit all the Google stuff out of it for now (so it stops beeping at me and my Amazon apps stop asking for Market updates they can't get) and try to play with it as it is, and see how it works with only the barest minimum of modifications. Because I don't think there will be much more than the bare minimum without an SDK.
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Old 07-07-2011, 12:23 AM   #4
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I just got my pe from woot today too, as my first e-reader i'm actually impressed with the screen, though I wish you could set the font just a little smaller, and setup wasn't too much of a problem (other than the pe not liking one of my usb sticks to run the ermine update, but a different stick solved that) Installed the amazon appstore and a few choice apps that i wanted but haven't decided if i want to root or not.

Started re-reading an old book i bought on google's bookstore that i read when i was in 6th grade so hopefully this will finally be the motivation to get some regular reading on (after all, that's the point of these devices)
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Old 07-07-2011, 01:21 AM   #5
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Mine comes tomorrow.. The dual screens intrigued me, otherwise, I didn't need it. I'm hoping I find being able to highlight book phrases and write within margins of the books useful. It is a very intriguing device. You'd think others would have done something similar.. Courier was MS ticket but they seem to dumb to get that..
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Old 07-07-2011, 02:39 AM   #6
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Rhale: I like eInk a lot for long term reading. I'm not quite as taken with this one but I've used a number of dedicated e-readers. My personal favorite is the Kindle 3 for readability, form, resolution, contrast, and well just the nice feeling you get when the reading device goes away and the story is the thing. I haven't gotten that yet with the PE but I'll give it some time.

Synergi: Actually on mine there's sort of a dead spot along the margins. I'm not as crazy about the hand-annotation as I thought I would be, but others have had better experiences. A better pen might help (the one they give you is tiny, like a Nintendo DS stylus).

Update: I spent some time in Docs to Go with the $10 keyboard. Most of the keys work; some so strange things, although I like the fact that F1 is the menu shortcut. However, while I was typing I suddenly got a SHUTTING DOWN message. Apparently some key combination actually shuts the PE down. WTH... as if it's not bad enough that the HOME key is right next to the Backspace, and actually takes you out of the Home screen! This was extremely frustrating. I haven't been able to reproduce it yet so I don't know how it happened.

On the SD card swap, I had a problem earlier when the SD card was just not recognized. I decided I'd had enough and rebuilt the fstab files (mount internal or whatever they're called, not just fstab). I figured this would stick the SDCard folder back into the EMM (internal) partition, while I figured out what was wrong with the card. When I rebooted, the SDCard was pointed back at the Inserted SDCard. Very very strange. I rebooted again in case this was a weird case of a mount option failing to register until two reboots, but it still seems to work. So while I still can't move applications to the card, at least I have 16GB default card storage instead of 3. Note: I think this happened after I used a setting option to move the library to the SDCard. The funny thing about this is when you execute the commsnd, the eInk side tells you that you are moving files and not to shut down, while the LCD tells you the device is shutting down. Someone really needed a human factors engineer.
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Old 07-07-2011, 02:45 AM   #7
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Synergi: Actually on mine there's sort of a dead spot along the margins. I'm not as crazy about the hand-annotation as I thought I would be, but others have had better experiences. A better pen might help (the one they give you is tiny, like a Nintendo DS stylus).
Muranternet, I'll let you know tomorrow. I have a Wacom Pen from my HP TC1100 very similar to the motion pens and I have a spare Wacom pen, so I will test them both against the stock pen that comes with it and let you know my findings.
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:11 AM   #8
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I suggest to watch the rom development section...
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Old 07-07-2011, 09:02 AM   #9
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Got mine yesterday, udated to 2.2. Note if you have problems updating try renameing your update zip file to just "update".

Got my bookmarks in the browser like I want them, set up three email accounts and made a spreadsheet file of my email addresses...converted it to a pdf.. put it in the documents internal storage so now I can transfer the pdf over to the reader and that gives me an address book to use when composing an email..works slick.

This thing works great, taking it one step at a time.
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Old 07-07-2011, 09:30 AM   #10
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Got mine yesterday, udated to 2.2. Note if you have problems updating try renameing your update zip file to just "update".

Got my bookmarks in the browser like I want them, set up three email accounts and made a spreadsheet file of my email addresses...converted it to a pdf.. put it in the documents internal storage so now I can transfer the pdf over to the reader and that gives me an address book to use when composing an email..works slick.

This thing works great, taking it one step at a time.
Sounds good, I can't wait to play with mine.
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Old 07-07-2011, 09:31 AM   #11
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I suggest to watch the rom development section...
Do you have a link? I'm not quite sure where to look for it.

Thanks..
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Old 07-07-2011, 09:52 AM   #12
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Do you have a link? I'm not quite sure where to look for it. Thanks..
Link.
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Old 07-07-2011, 11:07 AM   #13
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muranternet, have a look in the old edge forums - I remember there being a post about external kb key mappings posted not long before the edge forums were closed down.
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Old 07-07-2011, 11:26 AM   #14
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I just got my pe from woot today too, as my first e-reader i'm actually impressed with the screen, though I wish you could set the font just a little smaller . . . .
Hi Rhale, welcome to MobileRead!

Have you experimented with changing the font size under Reader Preferences in Settings? From the e-ink side you can get there by tapping Menu, then Edit, then Settings (on the pop-up menu) which will take you to Reader Preferences where you can change your defaults. Changing Reader Font Preferences will immediately change the font size on the reader so you can see what you're getting. I find I change the default from book to book sometimes.

Hope this helps!
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Old 07-07-2011, 07:18 PM   #15
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muranternet, have a look in the old edge forums - I remember there being a post about external kb key mappings posted not long before the edge forums were closed down.
No notes there about a shutdown key combination. I may just try to do some speed typing to see if I'm doing something strange like overflowing the keyboard buffer.
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