In this little article I’ll describe my Pandora usage during a typical working day. So I won’t talk about how the Pandora can transform a long, exhausting day of traveling into a fun day with many hours of gaming while standing in queue for airport security and passport control, waiting at the gate for boarding to start, sitting in a cramped economy class seat, and so on. And I won’t talk about how the Pandora saved me from boredom on that day when I made the mistake to agree to join my girlfriend to the shopping mall. Or how I used it as an emergency flashlight when the power went out for a couple of hours in an old hotel in Budapest. No, I’ll talk about a typical, normal day.
I take a train to work; it often gets delayed, so I end up spending quite some time just waiting for the train to arrive. Waiting is not a big deal if you have a Pandora, though: a few quick games of Super Geometry Dust or OpenTyrian and there’s the train already. The train ride takes about half an hour, which is just about the right amount of time for me to implement a small feature in Microbes or fix some bug. I wrote both System Info and Microbes completely on the Pandora itself, mostly on the train.
In the DOS-days, I became quite attached to the legendary Norton Commander. When I switched to GNU/Linux in the mid-nineties, I was happy to find out that there was a clone of NC, called Midnight Commander. I still use it for nearly everything, including file management, text editing, and coding. Of course it’s available on the Pandora too. Back in the day, I spent most of my time in textmode – both in DOS and in GNU/Linux, but of course the latter had the huge benefit of having multiple virtual consoles with real multitasking and fancy features like tab completion. Although graphical interfaces were available (MS-Windows and X11), textmode felt much snappier, and it also helped to reduce memory usage, which was quite important because most computers in those days had only 8 or 16 megabytes of RAM. In textmode, you typically had 80×25 characters on a screen, as that was the default textmode for VGA. On the Pandora, when I pick a font size as small as possible while still being comfortable to my eyes, I can fit up to 99×28 characters on my screen – more than enough as far as I’m concerned. I never liked graphical IDEs for coding, they introduce too much clutter in my opinion. When I’m coding, I want to see the code, and nothing but the code. Anyway, back to the train.
If I’m feeling too lazy to code, emulated games like Final Fantasy VII in PCSX ReARMed or New Super Mario Bros in DraStic can also keep me occupied for quite a while. Or I just listen to some music. There are plenty of good music players for the Pandora. My current favorite is DeaDBeeF, but Audacious and Rockbox are also excellent choices. On the train I use cheap simple earbuds (because they don’t take up any significant space), but when I’m more seriously listening to music, I use the same headphones I use with my digital piano. The sound quality is perfect as far as I can tell.
At work I usually don’t use my Pandora (at least not for my office work; a big screen and a big keyboard still has its advantages), but I keep it near me at all times. You never know when you’ll need it. During a coffee break, I’ll use it to show some pictures and movies of my now one-year-old daughter to my colleagues. In a meeting, I use it to take notes with LibreOffice (so I can easily insert some tables or charts when needed), and to check some facts on the internet (typically with Arora, Firefox, or simply Links). At lunch time, there is a long queue in front of the sandwich bar. Waiting in line is boring, but not if you have a Pandora to entertain you.
Back home, I usually switch to my laptop since there’s almost nothing a Pandora can do that a laptop cannot do faster (e.g. run out of battery juice!), except of course if you need game controls. I use my Pandora mostly in situations where a laptop would be too big or impractical: e.g. while taking a bath. It’s quite relaxing to chat a bit in the #openpandora IRC channel or draw some doodles in MyPaint while taking a nice hot bath. And apparently I’m not the only one who likes to use the Pandora while taking a bath ;).
The battery life of the Pandora is great. On many occasions I left home without bringing a charger and with only 10% or so of the battery charge left. With an ordinary laptop, that would be a big problem. With the Pandora, it’s not a big deal. Ten percent is still about two hours of normal use. A full battery gives me well over 20 hours of continuous use (a bit less if I’m doing CPU-intense stuff). With the lid closed, power consumption is so low that I never bother to power down, not even overnight.
Excellent battery life thanks to a huge battery and a very low-power design (well under 1 Watt total!). Looks like my battery can even be charged more than the advertized 4.2 Ah.
Basically I use the Pandora as an ultra-portable laptop, which has a number of bonus properties over normal laptops or netbooks (besides the already mentioned battery life): great built-in game controls, dual SD slots, great audio, and an accurate touch screen. I have a Pandora for almost a year now, and I can’t really imagine anymore how I could do without it…