Oh hello there, KickAss here. When i was asked to write an article for Pandoralive.info, i got all excited about it immediately I hadn‘t noticed the site was so active and once i read who had written articles already i got even more excited. Now that i read most of Pandoralive and began to understand what an impact it might have I‘m sitting here with wet pants.
That being said, i‘ll have to apologize upfront: i‘m afraid this is not going to be a real “My Days With Pandora” style article. I must confess: I‘m not using it everyday. Yeah, shocking, i know. It gets even worse: I probably don‘t use the pandora very often.
(Uproar in the background – someone yelling “get out of here!”)
I guess I have always been a tech-savvy person, tinkering with all kinds of electronic devices. Not necessarily only computers. As i grew up with C64s and Amigas I played many of the games the Pandora emulates so well. I soon figured out there is more than Turrican and Yie Ar Kungfu. That kinda got me into BASIC. But at the time BASIC had serious restrictions and all the fun stuff had to be done with Assembler. Unfortunately Assembler was and still is way over my head (bringing my bright programmer‘s career to it‘s very end). Fiddling with Pascal, Delphi, Visual Basic, C++, Java, Objective C and most recently Python i never really got anywhere far up the road. But the inflamed curiosity and determined endeavor successful or not, to understand how a system is built and how it works do persist to the very day. And i believe these are invaluable qualities, not only to a computer/tech person.
Why would that be of any interest to you?
Well, if you manage to get along with the “weirder” parts of Linux on your Pandora or even develop stuff on your own, you‘re probably good at other stuff (as in not computer related stuff), too 🙂
So what‘s my Pandora story then?
Must have been in 2009 when i first read about the Pandora. I fell in love with the project right away, but didn‘t really dig into it all too deep, as i assumed it would take a lot more time to get it done (which turned out to be true in the end). I always wanted a pocket sized device that was powerful enough to be a laptop replacement and a mobile gaming console at the same time. In the 90‘s my PSION Series 3a was THE Shit and few years later Nokia‘s mobile phones worked well for me. In 2010 i spent half a year abroad at uni in Thessaloniki, Greece The dorm was so nasty i had to leave after two days and find myself some other place to stay. So i auditioned for a couple of rooms throughout the city and that‘s how i ended up living with Joris. Joris, an artificial intelligence student from the Netherlands one of the weirdest and most interesting people i had the pleasure to meet so far. Dude, if you read this, i kinda miss ya 🙂
Well long story short, he had a CC built Pandora! One nub was broken already (common issue at that time) but it was a real Pandora. I have to admit: at first I thought it was a DS. I didn‘t waste a single thought on the Pandora for over a year and then there it was. A couple of days later I ordered mine.
In 2012 Evil Dragon introduced the idea to equip the PCB with the DM3730 SoC, giving the device a huge performance boost. I wanted to support the project anyways, so I payed a little extra to get one of the 1 GHz prototype run units. I received it sometime august 2012 and so far it runs smooth like a Samsung style mass production appliance (I‘m quite fond of Samsung products).
I love my Pandora, but as I said before, I don‘t use it everyday. My kid, preparation for my final exam and my doctoral thesis got me all occupied. When I first got it, I played with it for like a month or so and then it started to collect dust. I just didn‘t know what to use it for!
Laptop replacement: Thumb-typing on a keyboard like that. No, thank you 🙂
eBook/Comics reader: My 10“ Tab does the job so much better.
Mobile gaming: Awesome, yes. But it turns out i WASN‘T much of a mobile gamer.
Clearly the Pandora is a niche product. Thanks to it‘s formidable gaming controls it excels in mobile gaming. It doesn’t get better than Ace Attorney / Doom / Grim Fandango on the train with my Pandora. But everything else seems to be a little tedious.
Over time, I slowly got used to the keyboard (it‘s awesome, actually) and i started coding on the go.
I love to take seemingly endless amounts of pictures of my little son on every possible occasion. I manage all my photos with iPhoto™ on my MacBook™. I do everything with my MacBook™. Not that it is a particularly superior computer or worth every penny of the fortune they sell it for, but it‘s elegant, robust, if you know what you‘re doing also versatile and therefor comfortably functional. It fits my active lifestyle, it accompanies me almost everywhere I go. There‘s just no need to have separate systems. At home it‘s placed vertically in a transparent stand (which actually is an IKEA™ napkin holder) on the desk, connected to a huge TFT display.
I share my pictures with my family using Google‘s Picasa. It hosts the files and offers some basic web album functionality with zero effort. Unfortunately downloading complete web albums only works with the Picasa software. Some of my family want to download and print the pictures but i do not want to force them to install the Picasa software just for that purpose. So i decided to fix them up with a little application that would easily download the web albums they wanted. Grabicasa was born. Thanks to Python porting it to the Pandora was easy as pie! Well, the PND system was giving me the creeps at first. But it‘s an awesome software deployment architecture, once you get the hang of it.
In my eyes that‘s the real deal with the Pandora: making the fully open system work for you. It‘s just so much fun to work with and it all works so very well.
The hardware is powerful enough and grants access to most of the peripherals you will ever need. The range of available software is enormous and keeps expanding. With outstanding contributions like Exophase‘s Drastic (a free(!) DS Emulator, Pandora exclusive before it will be released on Android), Notaz‘ PCSX ReARMed, Super Geometry Dust (also a Pandora exclusive) or Jon Sneyers‘ Pandora Microbes, to name but a few, this little machine can virtually do anything.
A couple of weeks ago i was at my brother‘s place. He tried to get his brand new Raspberry Pi set up. In medias res his computer failed and he went all sad eyes. Luckily i had my Pandora with me that day (one of the rare occasions :)). I downloaded the necessary files, downloaded them on a SD card in no time AND played Tekken 3 in between. After the initial setup was done I also did a little remote administration on the Raspberry Pi.
The Pandora truly is the one stop shop I have been waiting for.
If i do use it, what‘s my day with the Pandora like?
I‘ll wake up eventually and on my way to the living room I fire up RetroRadio so i can listen to some fine retro music while having breakfast. PNDManager offers some fresh updates and i download them. The bus ride to the library takes about 15 min. but they fly by like seconds as i play some Super Geometry Dust and then some Pandora NubNub. Before i start studying hard for hours I will listen to some of my favorite songs with Audacious.
Pretty much exactly 8 hours later i will check my email using Claws and browse Google News using Qupzilla. On my way home i am revising my latest code magic in Geany which features code highlighting. Back at home i will entertain my kid until bedtime. I know i should get some stuff done, but I‘ll rather revise some more code. Around 11 pm my girlfriend will rip the Pandora out of my hands, complaining about how I didn‘t listen to all she said earlier. Shame on me!