06 September 2012

There is a New Tablet in Town: Nexus 7 and Apps

When the first iPad arrived, I thought that this will be another gadget for media consumption. A real "Must NOT have". Of course I had an eye on the upcoming apps, but I found no real appetizers which would change my mind.

Time went by and I programmed some little apps with the Android system. I was delighted. It has a comparable philosophy as the Mac Os: Develop once and use it in all other applications: User Interace, communication, basic editing, ... When you start programming nearly everything is on your fingertips.The only draw-back: You have to find the right modules. You can concentrate your efforts on your problem which you want to solve.

So I stayed with this system and used it for my mobile phone. But slowly interesting apps (Ham radio and music development) emerged over the horizon. But the tablets where too expensive and all mask the original Android user interface with some proprietary overlays which made updates to new versions of the OS a pain or were impossible when the manufacturer did not want to help.

Then there was the announcement from Google, that they would sell an Android tablet of their own. That was the point, when my interest arouse again.

I looked for apps which would interest me (sound construction, midi control, musical notation software) and I found a lot which seemed to cover my future playground.

When the Nexus 7 was available in Germany I ordered it. Two days later it arrived and I must confess, that it is really a pleasure to work with the bigger screen. No problem with the synchronization of my various programs I used. Working wih Chrome was not different than on the laptop. And there was a gift coupon over 20 Euro for the Google Play market. When you are used to normal software prizes you will be astonished what you get for your money. A lot of the software is free and for the rest - sometimes full blown applications you pay some cents or 2-4 Euro. Most of the software you can try with no costs attached. When you want all the bells and whistles ... see above.

So the first days I was trying various programs and how I could connect them. Most of the programs worked as promised but it took some time to find the short comings for my goals. But I found them. Now I can write a traditional score with my fingers, export it as a midi file, control it in a sequenzer, play it back and merge it in a DAW with the output of a mighty synthesizer.

But my appetit was growing. In the last weeks I came back to my former programming language Prolog.  As you propably know, I started to write a SOLF-Simulator. (Beside that, I abandoned this project due to the lack of interest in the community.) But I discovered, that I could use Prolog for my migration of the Johann Sebastian Bach Database with over 5000 incipts. I started to migrate but discovered that I had to refresh my memory . So I was back writing some standard routines for list manipulation,... That was when I noticed that there was a runtime version of a Prolog interpreter from Jekejeke for the Android system.

I loaded it to the Nexus an it worked. It semed to be a nice environment to test my logical capabilities. But that was when my next trouble began. They android keyboard works well if you just type standard letters.But when it comes to special braces, control characters, up and down arrows you will get nervous: You have to constantly change the keyboard layout - No Fun Indeed.

So first I looked for a better editor and found two: Jota+ for normal texts and DroidEdit for Software. And there was also a solution for getting access to all the other characters which are important: Hacker's Keyboard. But there is alway a drawback - Isn't it? And Emacs on the Android systems only runs well with a bluetooth keyboard. When looking for such a device I found the solution.

You have to get used to the tiny keyboard, but it works after some time. (This text was written with this keyboard.) If you don't need it, you can put it away and work with my fingers. And the whole system is not much bigger than the original Nexus 7 and you get an additional cover when carrying the tablet around.

But that is not the end of the story. Since 7-8 years I have my own "Zettelkasten" (slip box), a database which holds all my texts, notes, ideas, pictures. I run it on all my computers. It is a Lamp (Xamp) system hosting a Mediawiki. Additionally I back up my blogger texts in a Wordpress version running on the same system. And a computer without my all my personal notes is nothing.

But to make a long story short: I found an app running a web server, with a PHP system and  a Mysql database for 3 $.  So I made a fresh install of phpMyAdmin, Mediawiki and Wordpress, made a dump of my other databases and imported the files. The tablet is running all day long. So within my local wifi net, the Nexus 7 serves as a full blown webserver with all my data. Two weeks go I would never have thought, that this is possible.

Of course not everything worked with the first go. The main problem: I did not want to root the Nexus. So I had sometimes to find my way around without digging in the OS. We will see if I can avoid rooting the system.

All in all: A real little computer which can do more than playing music and videos.

To make your life a little bit easier when you should have comparable interests, here is a list of apps I use (in the moment)




And now some music.

Stay Tuned!