Sep. 19th, 2016

starseerdrgn: Koboldrone (Default)

So, sitting next to my laptop is my new LG Fx0, a Firefox OS handset that can truly be called the flagship of the platform. Originally made for Japan's KDDI for their "au by KDDI" phone service, LG released the device worldwide online after Mozilla dropped the Firefox OS project for cell phones—a decision that came far too soon, in my opinion.

I bought it for $55 USD from Amazon.

With a translucent gold outer case ("au", the carrier's name, being the chemical symbol for gold), this device looks absolutely beautiful. It feels like cheap plastic at times, but once you get over the misconception of "it's a cheap phone", it doesn't matter at all. What matters is that it's lightweight, easy to keep a hold of, and can run well.

The screen is crystal clear, even with the stock International ROM (Firefox Os 2.1), but where it shines is with the original KDDI ROM (Firefox OS 2.0), which can be found on an Fx0 reddit at the moment. It takes some tweaking, and MMS doesn't work on AT&T (yet), but it works otherwise. I'm still tweaking the settings where I can, but this project may take a while.

The camera isn't the best, but it works quite well for what's considered a cheap phone. It's clear in proper lighting, and it can take 6 megapixel images at 3264x1836 (16:9 ratio), or 8 megapixels images at 3264x2448 (4:3 ratio), and records videos at 1080p (1920x1080). For a $60~ USD phone, I'd expect a lot less from it. It also has flash, which I rarely see in cheap phones here in the US.

Storage isn't really a big issue. It only has 16 GB of internal storage, but it also has a microSD card slot to add more storage when needed. Currently, I have a 32 GB card in my own handset, and I've barely used it. Larger microSD cards would likely give you more storage than even an iPhone, and of course, more than Google Photos since you can simply slot in a new card in place of a full one.

With 1.5 GB of memory,it doesn't really slow down at all with the KDDI ROM. The stock international ROM is a bit jerky, but I don't think LG optimized it at all. If you can, try to run your own build, or the KDDI ROM.

Now, I know you'll likely expect me to talk about the OS, but that's for another article, and another time. I've got a lot to say about that subject.

Overall, I highly recommend snagging an LG Fx0 if you can. They're cheap, and they work well. I'll likely try and get a second as a backup at some point, but for now, I'm happy with the one I have.

starseerdrgn: Koboldrone (Default)

Personally, I like the featureset of Discord, an IRC-like chat system designed to be better than TeamSpeak and Skype. Servers are private, and require an invite link. Server connections are persistent across multiple devices, and don't require multiple usernames for one person to connect with multiple devices at the same time. They also have their "roles" system, which gives a lot of fine-tuning to permissions—including allowing or denying access to entire chat rooms. It's useful!

But, there's a huge problem—or at least it's a huge problem in my view. They have a web app for their client, but nothing for mobile web. I mentioned this on Twitter, and the reply I got was kinda tonedeaf…

Now, as you'll notice, I specifically mentioned Firefox OS, which I'm using on my LG Fx0 (a very lovely phone, expect a review before too long). It's not Android or iOS, so promoting the apps does nothing for me. Either the person behind Discord's Twitter account didn't know what Firefox OS is (which wouldn't surprise me), or they really weren't paying attention.

Regardless, I kinda can't use Discord on my phone, all because of an arbitrary requirement for a platform-specific mobile app. And don't get me wrong, I've used their Android app...It kinda sucked compared to their iOS app, which one of my mates uses. They don't even have feature parity with their desktop web app, much less the native desktop apps. Something tells me they don't really care about mobile. It's effectively Skype once again.

Meanwhile, there's plenty of mobile web apps that support IRC (Internet Relay Chat), and even a few IRC apps for Firefox OS (which are packaged web apps themselves). They work perfectly for the most part—though Firesea IRC seems to take a while to connect.

IRC is one of those technologies that's been around for a while, works perfectly as intended, users aren't tied to a single client. I can use LimeChat, Chatzilla (my preferred client), Mibbit, KiwiIRC (my preferred web client)…There are many IRC clients to choose from across many platforms.

Then there's chat systems like Telegram and WhatsApp…Ugh…I like the idea behind them, but the fact that a chat client requires a mobile number to simply function is annoying as hell. Add the idea of automatically adding anyone who has your number to your contacts list without your permission, and it just makes using such a service completely unappealing to me.

That's why I like XMPP. To add someone, you need to know their Jabber ID (jid), and they have to not only authorize you, but do so knowingly. It's also far more secure, since login isn't based on a finite-length standardized numbering system (phone numbers) and a login code sent to a smartphone. With XMPP, you can implement secure single-factor authentication (Kerberos, key blobs (a la SSH), etc…) or multi-factor authentication (SMS, OAuth, OTP tools, etc…)

Hell, if given enough time, I could probably adapt XMPP with some extensions (in the XEP series), take a project like Jappix, and remake the features of Telegram on my own. It's completely possible…given the time and skill.

I dunno. Maybe I'm "too old" for modern chat, as a couple of people have told me. Honestly, I prefer to see it as be being spoiled by growing up when chat systems had useful features, rather than just aesthetic features. Custom emoticons are nice, but when I wanna be left alone, let me tell people as much.

starseerdrgn: Koboldrone (Default)

Okay, so I'm actually rather tired of trying to use Discord as a decent chat client. The UI is rather poorly designed for a chat app, and the thought that it was never meant for more than a voice chat system really shows in the desktop and web app UI.

For starters: The nicklist (user listing) and servlist (server listing) panes are completely static sizes, allowing them to completely overtake the chat area. No, I'm not exaggerating, you can completely obscure the chat area with a small enough viewport. You can't hide the nicklist or servlist, either.

For tablets where people need higher zoom levels—somewhat akin to lowering the resolution—this can make Discord completely unusable. The default should give the chat pane a minimum width (min-width), and auto-hide the nicklist and servlist if the viewport shrinks to a certain point. It's trivial to impliment this in CSS, or any programming language (C#, ObjC, C++, etc…)for that matter.

Then there's the whole "auto-load every old message in a very cluttered chat area" problem on loading a room. Yes, for a feature, having old messages is great, but apps that do this typically show some sort of clean break between old messages and new ones. Hell, they typically have much better spacing for the messages themselves.

There needs to be a clean break when you log in, and there needs to be more spacing between messages.

Now, don't get me wrong. Discord is a great service, and I'm all for seeing it grow. That's why I complain about these things. Unless I'm just utterly taking the piss out of something, I'm typically criticizing a product because I know it can be better. It's just like how I criticize Mozilla about some of the decisions that I think are bone-headed.

Personally, I'll still prefer IRC over Discord, but for a Skype replacement, it's one of the best options out there…outside of Mumble, which I endorse more simply because you can roll your own server. Most people won't use XMPP, even though you can do voice and video calls over it rather easily, so I don't try to push that too much.

And there ya go…

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