Archos A101it on the road!
I am just back from a two week business trip and working two big shows: SHOT in Vegas (Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trades…the largest show for gunshops and outdoor retailers in the world) and the Space Coast Birding and Nature Festival in Titusville, Florida.
Of course I took my Archos along. You might remember that one of the primary reasons I bought the Archos tablet was to be able to quickly show folks images and video taken with our ZEISS products (in real life, I am the Birding and Observation Product Specialist for Carl Zeiss Sports Optics). I showed hundreds of people who were interested in photography through the spotting scopes, examples of stills and video at both shows, using Quickpic (which I highly recommend). Quickpic catalogs folders containing both stills and video. It displays thumbnails of the folders with example pics on them, and then, when you open a folder, a index of thumbnails for the contents. Touching one opens it in full screen, with tap to zoom for detailed looks. And it is fast! without the clutter (and, in my experience, instability) of the stock gallery app. It creates thumbnails for all your videos too, and, when you touch one, calls the video player to play it. All very slick. (Quickpics has had several updates, each of which has added new functionality, since I downloaded the first version…it just keeps getting better!) And the screen on the Archos is high enough resolution and of high enough quality to make an impression. I was just careful to make sure the screen was angled correctly for the audience. The Archos made demonstrating the photo capabilities of the spotting scopes both easy and fun!
The trip also gave me a chance to test the wifi capabilities of the A101it in the wild, away from my home router. It connected easily to any network I encountered, and worked amazingly well with my Virgin Mobile Mifi. The only difficulty I encountered was that, while it connected properly to the wifi routers at both hotels I stayed at, and showed a strong signal, neither Dolphin or the stock browser could resolve a url after connection. They called the authorization page, and allowed me to log in…then nothing. Strangely, while in this state, my email and twitter apps occasionally updated, and random web pages would resolve and partially load, so I know there was at least some internet access. I came to the conclusion that the name server the hotels were using was not Android friendly, and was somehow blocking or generating an error when an android device tried to access it. It is especially odd, since airport wifi, which uses a similar authorization scheme, worked just fine. [Ed Note: after another trip, it becomes ever more likely that the issue is the nameservers some hotels use. I was able to connect and browse in two different hotels in VA this past week, and had no problems with airport wifi at several different airports as well.]
I might mention that Archos released a firmware upgrade while I was traveling, and I had great adventures trying to install it over my Virgin Mobile Mifi…but eventually got it to work. Unfortunately I am among the as yet unknown minority who suffered USB host failure as a result of the upgrade. I have reinstalled the firmware, reset Android, and completely reformatted the A101 and installed firmware from scratch…but nothing has revived the USB host. I am waiting to hear from Archos as to whether they think this is a firmware issue or a hardware issue. Personally, I suspect the USB driver gets corrupted during the upgrade, and that it is not stored where a reformat wipes it (it could not be, since you need USB to reinstall your firmware after a reformat). At any rate, I am hoping Archos finds a fix for this asap…I don’t use my USB host port much, but I want it to work. [Ed Note: they issued an RMA for my A101 but I am reluctant to send it in as everything but the USB Host is working better than ever before.] Other than that the new firmware seems a genuine improvement, with the whole machine just seeming smoother and more responsive. (The upgrade broke downloads in Dolphin but Archos rushed out a new Firmware version, 2.1.04, released 1/2/2011 that fixes Dolphin and a handful of other apps that had problems under 2.1.03.)
My NewMP3Tech case with my stand modification, by the way, worked great. Of course I never dropped the Archos, but I felt safe and secure, and a touch elegant…and that’s half the battle!
After several weeks of intense use now, I am finding that I prefer to do social media stuff on the tablet over the iPhone, even when it means digging out my MiFi and booting it. TweetCaster Premium is an exceptionally fine Twitter client, and allows posting to Facebook as well, and I use the web interface in Dolphin for Facebook. And there is, of course, no comparison when browsing the web or googling essential info…with Dolphin HD as a browser, set to Desktop mode, the web becomes as accessible on the tablet as it is on my laptop…and flipping open the Archos in an airport is way easier than booting up the laptop! (And somehow more fun too.)
And yes, if I had a $ for everyone who asked if it was an iPad, I could buy another Archos 101 :)