Wednesday, July 28, 2010

DrS Gets a Smartphone: Droid Day One

When folks have occasion to look at the art that I create using digital tools, they often ask "How long did it take you to do that?"  The answer ranges from dozens to hundreds of hours - and there was the really complicated piece, well, I don't want to go there.  The point is that when it comes to learning about a digital tool - be it software or hardware - you often have to turn off the clock. 

Want to learn Photoshop?  Fine.  Pick a project you want to accomplish and keep plugging at it until you figure out how to make the tool do that. Don't count the hours - it will just depress you.  It is, I admit, an attitude at variance with our 24/7 world that wants everything done "right now!"  Still, it is an attitude I will try to maintain for at least a while as I explore this new tool.  There are a lot of issues to keep in mind.

As I said in the last post, one major concern is that I don't become - well, a Droid, a person who is merely an extension of a piece of technology that I carry around with me.  Second, and oppositional to the point just made, I do not want my intuitive "droid-reluctance" to prevent me from adding to my communicative skill set.

So, at least initially, I will try to turn off the clock, and learn my way around this tool. . .

My first major objective is to make sure that I can do everything on the Droid that I did with my old dumbphone: make calls and do minor texting.  I discovered that my old phone was just barely new enough to import my contacts from my old phone. Did that, but remain a touch confused because - being a Google phone - it also imported all my gmail contacts.  So now I have several dozen "contacts" with two cards, one for their phone numbers and another for their email addresses.  But there is no such thing as speed dial.  Various discussion groups define "really easy" work arounds - like, "get a dialer app and make a short cut and drag the icon to the main page."  Ah, yes.  "Can you grab the pebble, grasshopper?"  Think I'll come back to that later.

Texting was one of the highlights.  It turned out to be relatively easy once I had my phone contacts.  The issue is that, even though I have tiny hands, the virtual keyboard too small for my fingers.  Fortunately, the Droid has this nifty slideout physical qwerty keyboard.  The keys are still too small, but I discovered that you can work it fairly easily with the eraser end of a pencil.  I'm looking for a neat app I read about several months ago called Swype that could make using the virtual keyboard feasible.  Again the message boards were of limited assistance:  "It's still in beta, not officially released - but if you go here, you can download an elephant.  Take the elephant, and a sewing needle with a really large eye.  Push the elephant through the eye of the needle, and there you go man! Rock and roll!"  I think I'll come back to that later too.

The keyboard does present interesting issues that I may expand on later, but briefly, the keyboard environment is not conducive to reflective composition.  It is fine for pragmatic exchanges, but I do not see pulling out my droid and beginning, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times .  .  ."

Setting up email was both incredibly simple and basically impossible.  Again, remember that the Droid runs on Android software, made by Google, designed to be an iPhone killer.  My gmail accounts all came down even with out being asked. However, my university email is an IMAP account.  There are instructions for getting an IMAP account onto your Droid.  But after several hours with Verizon tech support, university tech support, and a personal consult with my ultimate guru, we couldn't shove that elephant through the eye of the needle either.  I ended up creating a gmail account to which I forward all the mail that comes to my university account. "Hah! Come on through Dumbo!"

So that's about it for today - more time than I wanted, but remember, sometimes you have to just turn off the clock.

Notice: this was not sent from my mobile device :-)

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