Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When a device simply works; TrekStor vibez

It's interesting to think whether a device is so simple that you just don't need any changes to it, and you have no relevant risks running proprietary software on the device. Take for example this TrekStor vibez 12GB I just bought. Its software is not free as in freedom, but related to freedoms it does play my FLAC and Ogg files just fine, in a gapless way and is really smooth to use. On the other hand, on my Nokia N800 I already feel constrained in some ways. And then again, I'm quite satisfied with my Panasonic camera.

After pondering for a while, I came to a conclusion that if the device is a) constantly holding my personal data and b) able to communicate via various wireless methods to the Internet and other devices, then I'm starting to (really) yearn for a completely free software.

Connected and non-connected devices

In the case of Vibez, it has the features I need, and I don't need to think about whether there is some proprietary software connecting to other devices or to the Internet - the only case where it is connected is when it acts as a USB mass storage device to my desktop computer.

(Of course, there are a _few_ small features I would like to add and share with others if I could, but it's not fatal not to have those.)

With the camera, it's quite similar. I take photos and before I actually do anything with the data, I've already transferred those off from the camera, and the camera surely does not share any of my photos with the surrounding device even by accident. When the cameras get integrated Bluetooth or WLAN connections, I probably would like the camera software to be libre, too.

(And of course, I also have a couple of UI issues with my camera, which I would like to fix already...)

But with eg. an Internet Tablet, I'm communicating with my friends, it saves my passwords, it has constantly an access to WLAN networks and my Bluetooth EDGE phone. There is a lot of proprietary software on the N800, including lots concerning the access to hardware and many base libraries. I cannot change them or access the source code for them. What I would like to do with the Internet Tablet would be to install eg. the latest ARM version of Debian with eg. an "n800"-task. Or just be provided a similar setup out-of-the-box, ie. so that there is no way a power-user or a developer could feel hindered because of the proprietary software components in the device, even if the default configuration would naturally be so that all that is hidden from the casual user.

Coming back to my previous comparison with the FIC's Neo GSM/GPS device, it _is_ build completely with OpenEmbedded/Ã…ngstrom, and it seems it will be a somewhat similar experience to the freedoms I'm enjoying on my desktops when using eg. Ubuntu, Debian and openSUSE. I can also give contributions to any software in it, if I want. And if I don't want, I can just use the (hopefully) quality software and be assured I can always check things if I want to.

Oh, the vibez itself

Aside from these thoughts, I really have to heartily recommend the TrekStor vibez to anyone in search of eg. a successor to the iAudio's M3/X5 devices, or anyone needing more than 4GB of storage and the playback ability of FLAC and Ogg Vorbis files. My previous player was a two-year old iAudio M3, and vibez has a remarkably smaller size, _very_ nice UI and other features. I hope that iAudio has some kind of a response in its mind, since iAudio 6, the rather comparable 4GB player from iAudio, is really lacking storage-wise if compared to vibez, and possibly in features too.