New Gadgets

Written on 08 September 2008, 6 min read.

It’s been a while since I last acquired new gadgets but I think I’ve made up for lost time with my last weeks purchases.

You may remember that I’ve had my eye on the Openmoko phones since early 2007, but in between shifting across the world and starting a new job I never got around to purchasing one of the first versions. The second version, the “Freerunner”, was released in June this year and I placed an order with Pulster, a local distributor, shortly after. The phones have been in hot demand, so I only received my phone last week, a wait of of almost 2 months, and it turned up missing one of the cables that was meant to come with it. Still some distribution kinks to be worked out.

Distribution kinks are the least of Openmoko’s worries at the moment though. As advertised, the phone is definitely not ready for primetime distribution yet. I’ve tried three different software images on it: the original “stable” 2007.2 image, the current “devel” 2008.8 image and the latest completely rebuilt SHR release which is the most promising yet. With the SHR image I’ve been able to send and receive calls and text messages, although the interface is somewhat arcane. I’m most interested in the GPS which looks to be working reasonably well at this stage.

After almost a week with the phone I’m glad I purchased it, and I’m having fun hacking on it, but there is a huge way to go before I’ll be able to use it as my primary phone. So that’s gadget #1.

The second gadget is a new Digital SLR camera. I’ve been thinking about getting back into photography for a while (I last took photos seriously in high school) and when I saw how affordable digital SLRs had become I couldn’t resist. There isn’t much between Canon and Nikon when comparing mid-range SLRs these days, so after about a week of deliberation I decided on the Canon 450D, primarily because most of my workmates also have Canon SLRs!

I only got the camera on Friday, and spent half the weekend playing with the GPS on the phone (I want to set them up so I can geo tag all my photos), so I haven’t had quite as much time to play with it yet. I expect to spend plenty of quality time with it on our holiday in Malta next week. First impressions are favourable, although I’m fast discovering camera viewfinders were not really designed for people who wear glasses. I may have to consider wearing contacts again.

Once we get back from Malta I’d like to find a local (or online) photography club with some good weekly assignments to fire my creativity and motivate me to get the most out of my new toy.


Comment by Richard on 2008-09-09 10:52:21 +1200

Congratulations on the new toys/gadgets. I have a Canon Rebel XTi (also known as a 400) and am very happy with it. I also have just recently gotten back into photography after a long hiatus and am enjoying the Canon immensely. I am still looking at the professional full frame models but cannot justify, or afford, the price yet. I am now looking to increasing my selection of lenses for the camera with emphasis on lenses that will work with a full frame camera. I also got contacts just for photography with regular glasses for most other times. If you find an online photography club I would appreciate hearing about it since the idea of doing photography assignments, at least thse that interest me, is something that I really should do.

As for your Freerunner I was planning on purchasing one as well when they came out but ran across a situation where a faster lens, particularly the Canon EF 70 -200 f2.8L USM, was badly needed. I am going to need that lens for a number of things (shooting as ISO 1600 at 4.5-5.6, which was the fastest that the lens could do, and still not getting sufficient exposure times is not acceptable.) so it s still a higher priority. But as soon as I have the lens I am going to be looking at the camera. The builtin GPS will also help with Open Street Map mapping activities.

Waiting a little while will also allow me to take advantage of a little more development for having the complete Debian stack, hopefully Lenny by then although I would be very surprised if Lenny is not released by the new year, on the phone.

Have fun with the camera and the phone. Both are very worthy gadgets and should lead to plenty of interesting things. And the sooner that the Freerunner is suitable for the average consumer the better since it will mean that there is a truly open source phone available to everyone that does not lock in the user to a proprietary application stack. Have fun and good luck.

Comment by Carl on 2008-09-09 12:36:58 +1200

Congrats on the new tech! My only tip is to look for a flickr group in your area. My father does photography and there’s a group in his town that meets up fairly often. Model shoots, museums, old buildings, etc. If anything you’ll meet people who can point you to side jobs if you decide to get that serious about it. Good luck!

Comment by Enrico Zini on 2008-09-09 12:45:06 +1200

Try the last qtopia image: that gives you a decent enough working phone you can start to consider using as a primary phone.

Comment by cmot on 2008-09-09 18:32:24 +1200

Hmm. I’ve not worked with an EOS 400D/450D. Not sure if it’s just me or if it’s the camera — I use a 40D with glasses, without issues. (and if your correction isn’t too strong you can correct the viewfinder of the 40D)

While I’m not planning on investing heavily on lenses (although replacing the old unstabilised 100-300 4.5-5.6 with, maybe, the 70-300 IS is tempting because I usually don’t use tripods, and it would close the gap to the 17-85 lens. Oh, well, maybe resistance is not possible anymore once the 18-200 is out…) Looking at the L series long zooms is mouthwatering but only until I look at the price tag 😉 I couldn’t resist on the other end, though, and am very happy with the Tokina 11-16mm 2.8 lens.

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