It’s been a while since I last wrote about my usage pattern of the Pandora… and the last time I did I was using my Rebirth, since I did not have a 1Ghz at that time. You can read about my previous shared experience for reference. Since then, a number of things have changed and since I have been owning a Pandora for over 2 years now, I wanted to show you how I use my Pandora nowadays, and how it has changed.
First, it may sound very strange, but I almost do not use my Pandora as a gaming machine anymore. Before the crowd gather with their pitchforks crying What A Waste!, let me clarify that I still do play with my Pandora, sometimes, but by far I now use my Pandora to do actual stuff related to work or productivity than anything else. When I’m outside I use my phone to browse the web, but when I’m at home and not in front of my desktop PC, I use my Pandora over wifi to browse the sites I usually read, with QupZilla. Since I tend to be active (i.e. I like to post comments) on communities like Hacker News or on the Pandora boards, I cannot seriously restrict myself to using a Smartphone to type. That’s precisely why there is market for the Microsoft Surface as well: it’s way more of a productive device (because of its keyboard) than the iPad can ever hope to be, but in these days it’s not appropriate to say that Apple stuff is crap for doing X or Y, there are too many crazy Apple fanboys out there hungry for blood.
Anyway. One of the applications I use very frequently on Pandora is Task Warrior, to manage my ongoing to-do list. It’s not a secret, I have even written a mini-tutorial about it, but this has become a very efficient way to ensure I do stuff every day on my various projects, including my work on PandoraLive. It’s not just a to-do list manager, it can do so much more and completely manage your schedule. I like uPIM from Commander-beef very much (its GUI is great), but I find out that I work way faster with Task Warrior and it has more options and features that uPIM cannot handle (yet).
For the past 6 months or so, I have also used the Pandora as a media player, using the TV cable. I used to have a Raspberry Pi to do that, but this piece of crap keeps destroying/corrupting the SD Cards I throw at it regularly so I have stopped using the Raspberry Pi altogether – seriously this SD Card problem has been a killer issue for me. Anyway, the Pandora is always on and I can connect it to the TV in no time, so apart from its known shortcomings, i.e. that it does not play Super-Full-HD videos (I don’t care for most videos I watch) and that the output resolution is limited to analog S-VHS, it’s actually a very practical and decent enough solution. And I love the fact that I can adjust the sound with the volume wheel in no time without using a crappy remote control with digital buttons. By the way, we really lack a good video browsing application on the Pandora, like XBMC or something. We don’t need something as feature complete as XBMC, but having a very simple UI for videos would be an improvement over what we have currently. If there’s anybody listening… 🙂
Talking about listening, I now use a few times in the week my Pandora as an audio player connected to my big Amp in the living room. Not really to play local files from my SD Cards, but to connect to the Grooveshark service through its HTML5 interface (in QupZilla, again). It works brilliantly, and it lets you easily create a nice comfortable atmosphere at home following your mood, in just a couple of clicks and searches. I’d recommend that service anytime in combination with the excellent audio out of the Pandora.
I try to maximize the time I have in the public transports or during breaks by writing emails (if I have a really long ride) or simply blog posts for PandoraLive. At least in their draft form. For emails while I used to use ClawsMail, I have actually stopped using it because it just takes too much space on my SD-Card when it downloads all emails i have. I don’t really need a copy of my gigabytes of emails on Pandora, I can tether to my phone and connect to Gmail (using the HTML interface, preferably) to do the very same thing, and even better since I have access to my address book as well. For PandoraLive, I sometimes log in directly in the WordPress interface using QupZilla, but most of the time I simply use QTM from the repo since it can connect to the WordPress API and is much faster to write draft posts. If I’m really bored and have nothing to do, I log on IRC from where I am using Quassel, to check what’s happening on the #openpandora channel on Freenode. Usually not much :).
For the Alive & Kicking Coding Competition I have scripted a little tool called Courserian. While I did target the compo for its release, I wanted to have a portable Coursera solution on the go for a while and was itching to work on it for my own use. Since then, I have been using it a lot recently to follow and watch my courses wherever I am. By the way, I developed Courserian entirely on the Pandora, using Geany and ImageJ for the logo creation/edition, so you can count me among the crazy people like wb who actually code on the machine itself. But it was really the best way to create this program as it was made for the Pandora, and I could test it directly on the unit every time I wanted to check what was working or not. I also used my other application, HackerBooks, to check out some references for Bash/Shell commands I was not familiar with, since this is the first time I was writing a long Bash/shell program. I did learn a lot.
I have said that I did not use my Pandora for much gaming anymore, but there are some notable exceptions. A couple of weeks ago I was away from home and I brought my Rebirth and my 1Ghz together with the TV cable and a USB cable, and I ended up setting them up to play some 2-players PS1 games using MasterControl to link both Pandoras together. It worked very well and it was good fun. Recently I have been missing some great games to play at home, and I was checking what RPGs I had not completed on PS1. And I soon realized I had yet to play Lunar Silver Star Story, whose CD case was picking up dust in my bookshelf. I have been playing it with PCSX ReARMed over the past couple of weeks, and it’s been a real pleasure to play it on the go even for short sessions.
And PCSX ReARMed runs it just perfectly. A few months ago I did use DraStic a lot to play (and finish) Ghost Trick as well, which was in the end an excellent game. I’ll probably post something about that too someday, it’s worth an article in itself. Besides, while I was reading the Sensible Soccer book from Read-Only Memories a couple of months back, I went back playing Sensible World of Soccer on Amiga via UAE4ALL, and I had a lot of fun with it. But Lord, is that game tough to master!
One more thing, too: I was toying around with Boson-X before Christmas 2013, until I met with PtitSeb and his family at the end of December. His older kid showed me how to play this game and I just felt old all of a sudden – he could beat the hardest levels without blinking while I had been struggling to finish the average ones. Alright, I guess my old self better stick to strategy games and RPGs.
Talking about slower-paced games, I did spend quite a lot of time on Dune (the first one, from Cryo) using the excellent DosBox EX Ultimate from Commander-Beef. It brought back a lot of memories and the game still stands as a solid experience even today. It has some really interesting game mechanics that I’d like to see more often.
As you can see, I’m still getting a lot out of my Pandora on a daily basis. And there’s really nothing that can replace what it does, nothing – Smartphone and Tablets are really just for consuming contents and I need a computer with me, and that’s going to be the Pandora when I’m not at home.
Of course, like everyone else, I am excited about the DragonBox Pyra, however I can patiently wait because there’s no way I am going to stop using my Pandora anytime soon, and there are still many games on the PS1, PSP and Nintendo DS catalog I want to play or replay anyway.
So, ED, take your time and come up with something good, because the Pandora is going to be hard to replace.