I first read about the Pandora at a time when I was doing a lot of traveling. I didn’t have a need for a personal laptop, since I had access to some provided by my employer for work related tasks. I was, however lugging around my own, with its additional weight and taking up space. The work related laptops were running Windows, and we weren’t supposed to install unauthorized software, so my personal laptop filled a very cumbersome need for the time when I wasn’t working.
[ Note: This is a guest article from rygD from the Open Pandora Board. ]
By this time I was a strong proponent of free and open source software and operating systems. Since the Pandora was designed for games and had a keyboard, a key component I felt was missing from similar open source handhelds I discussed with coworkers, and the Nintendo DS I was using for homebrew and emulators. While I would have still carried my DS with me if I had been able to get a Pandora that day, I could have left my laptop behind, and the DS and Pandora would both fit into the old Game Boy case I was using. I was uncomfortable with the idea of preordering at the time since I felt the project might still fail, and I decided to wait a few months to see how things developed.
As most of the readers already know, there were many delays with getting a Pandora into the hands of everyone that preordered in a timely manner, but the progress was inspirational to me. I checked in from time to time and read about the rough start of the Pandora. I felt bad for those that did preorder, because without them it would not exist, but I felt confident that I had made the right choice. There were a several times when I wished I had a Pandora, since my laptop and DS choice wasn’t working out so well and I prefer to travel light. At the time I wasn’t aware of some of the limitations related to web browsing and via wifi, which was what usually led me to think of how things would have been different with the Pandora, so I resorted to Internet cafes. I still felt the Pandora project could go either way, and I forgot about it for a while, somehow coming across it again around the time the Rebirth units were released. I finally wanted to buy, however I no longer had the disposable income I did a couple years earlier.
So I was aware of the Pandora for a long time, and still wanted one, but without the money to buy one, and lacking the justification in my mind of conserving space and weight while constantly traveling, I had to skip it again for a while. I started taking classes with a heavy emphasis on VMs and Cisco networking. I felt that a new laptop would be a good choice. All of the ones I owned at the time were not quite usable when running some of the VMs I was expected to use. I also wanted to skip the USB to serial adapter for interacting with Cisco hardware, as it was something else to break or lose, and not all adapters worked properly. All of the laptops in my range were either old and not powerful enough for the VMs, or they lacked a serial port. I decided to get a bit creative for configuring Cisco devices, and came across a very inexpensive HP 100LX and Entelechy environmental case. Even if it didn’t see much use after the classes it was a welcome addition to my computer collection, and the case is awesome. While looking around for more things to do with my 100LX I came across Hermocom, and the Pandora that I had long considered was presented to me again. It wouldn’t work for the x86 software and VMs I needed, but it looked like some of the security tools I needed should be usable, along with a lot of the general Linux related stuff. This wasn’t what I was after, so I kept looking around for a laptop.
A few weeks later I was about ready to buy a laptop, but the Pandora was still on my mind. I mentioned it to the instructor for some of my Linux, security, and networking classes, and she recommended I just get it instead of thinking about it. I had to skip the laptop, so many assignments would need to be completed in class. I figured I would at least get some leisure use out of my Pandora, along with some playing around that could lead to more serious use.
So now to the point of this. Sort of.
Unlike some, my use of the Pandora isn’t the same from day to day. I use it for a variety of tasks, and these include a lot of experimenting and figuring out how to do certain things. I was mostly wrong about the leisure use and games with my Pandora up to this point. This is a bit odd to me, as this is what originally attracted me to it. I do occasionally play games on it, but this is currently limited to every week or two, and is not very extensive. I download new games and updates regularly, but pretty much stick to just testing it out for functionality and to decide if it is something I enjoy and want to keep.
Over the last year the hours per week spent on games has dwindled. I figured I would spend most of my gaming time with the Pandora using emulators. I have probably only spent about 12 hours doing this since I got my Pandora. Some of this is because I prefer to play on the original consoles, but it is largely due to the quantity of other stuff that has been ported or made for the Pandora. Once a month or so, when I want to spend a bit more time playing games I will spend a couple hours playing some FPSs or delving into some of the deeper games. I am sure I could waste a lot of time on playing games with the Pandora.
I do use my Pandora for some leisure tasks fairly frequently. It took me several months to get around to adding some of my music collection to one of the SD cards I keep in my Pandora. I moved a bunch of my ROMs that I planned on using with the emulators to make space, and would use it to listen to music while I was driving, working on things, or while trying to fall asleep or getting ready in the mornings. I love my music, but I am not one of those that is concerned about having the highest quality possible for audio output. The headphone jack sounds good enough to me, and is much better than on some of the dedicated music devices I have owned. Unfortunately one of my family cars had a mechanical failure late last year, and we are currently down to just one. I also lost the headphones I was using for years and bought a headset that are supposedly more durable and have better sound quality. This headset is not wired properly for use with the Pandora, and I have to hold down the button to get full sound. Because of these two problems my use of the Pandora for music has been greatly reduced, but it seems like I won’t have a problem with the headset when I get a Pyra.
So, just as it seemed my daily use of the Pandora would be reduced to a few times a week we were given some wonderful new browser ports. I have a CC unit, and these are far more responsive and quick for me than other options for the Pandora, and they suit my browsing style better than the Android browsers I use. I currently get dropped off about an hour before the building where I attend my classes unlocks their doors. It is another hour before the lab that contains computers with most of the software I needs for assignments opens. I usually eat breakfast and catch up on recent posts on the Pandora boards at a local restaurant for the first hour.
I then walk over to the college and finish up with the boards, read some recommended news articles, and look into things related to some of my assignments. I feel it is important to note here that a lot of stuff discussed on the boards are directly related to both my education and personal and professional interests. Even if I did not own a Pandora the community is a wonderful place for me to be exposed to ideas and discussions, as well as new developments and news. It did take me buying a Pandora to become more than an occasional lurker for this community, and now I wish I had looked around more at discussions that weren’t directly related to the Pandora in the past.
Since shortly after I received my Pandora I was using LibreOffice and other software for reading and creating various documents. Right from the beginning I was heavily using it for things that I thought would be a minor use case. Initially this was because I was in a network design project class, which required making mock proposals to meet requirements for organizations in a variety of scenarios. I might be able to do some of these things with other pocket sized devices, but those all have keyboards with some major functionality missing, and since I have been using LibreOffice for a while it is nice being able to use the same software on desktops, laptops and my Pandora. Things might be a bit slow or cumbersome at times, but being able to do so much with something I have with me already is a huge time saver in the long run. The repo may be a bit small compared to some others out there, but it provides a variety of options that suit many tastes whenever I look for something. An example that comes to mind is when I needed to add screenshots to some of the documents I have created. I had never thought much about things like this before, but different people want to do things differently, so I found one that worked how I wanted, and made a few minor changes to settings.
The reason I needed to include screenshots is that it is frequently easier or required to include them as part of some of my assignments, especially those in my security related classes. Many of the tools used in my assignments are readily available, having been previously ported by others. I have used Wireshark in many assignments across several courses. I am sure if I took the time I could help port some software, and would like to give back to the community that has provided me with more than just the hardware and software I use to accomplish these tasks. Since I was a latecomer this may not be as necessary once the Pyra is released, but there is still a lot of software I would love to use on my Pandora now.
Many people that are new to Linux, or the command line in general, are a bit overwhelmed and it may take them some time to understand what they are doing. Because of this I help out during a some of the Linux classes since I spend about 11 hours around my college and only have class for a couple hours a day. Even during these times when I don’t have time to mess with my Pandora there have been a couple of occasions when I have used it to demonstrate how things are the same or different between distros. I am also trying to begin helping out with the Cisco networking lab to keep myself fresh with it, and because they have become high demand courses, and are now offered more frequently than they were in the past, possibly due to a somewhat high attrition rate and repeat students.
When I have sat in on these classes I have briefly tried to figure out how to use my Pandora to configure the equipment that includes mini-USB console ports. All of my previous experience with configuring such equipment, both in the workplace and in educational environments, has been using a standard console cable, or via telnet or SSH. While this isn’t something that would benefit me much at present it is something that I feel shows that the Pandora has exceeded my expectations. These classes are bit intense, and I didn’t have time to experiment with such things at the time I was taking them, but I consider the Pandora a likely tool for use for such tasks.
Over the last couple of months we have had typical winter weather in the area where I currently reside. This is very mild compared to other places I have lived, however it is enough to cause problems due to occasional snow or ice. Due to the long battery life I was keeping my battery fully charged so that I would still be able to work on assignments or play games should we lose electricity. I did have other weather related issues, but no power outages. I consider my Pandora to be more reliable and usable during such times since I tend to only get a few hours of use with a typical laptop, and about double that with my smartphone under real use, which I don’t feel are really useful to me for more than playing games or working on music. The Pandora battery usually outlasts my interest in sitting in one place and doing something. Although I didn’t need to rely on it for this, it would have worked fine for giving me a few hours a day for a few days until electricity was restored. I had forgotten that I had a spare battery, and with that I would have had plenty of time.
If I was still taking trips around the planet my Pandora would be a priority for plane trips, providing me the ability to work, and giving me entertainment, nearly everything I need for all of this in one small package, with a great battery life.