Sunday, May 31, 2009

Homeless on Twitter

Last year I mentioned how Google was offering free voice mail service to the homeless. The idea is to give people (think welfare officials, doctors, family) a way to leave messages for those who can be difficult to find and get in touch with.

Well that is sooooo 2008. I just read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how the homeless are getting on the internet. They are surfing the web, doing email, and even using social networking sites. It profiles Charles Pitts who says he has been on the street for two years and has accounts on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter (see @poetcharles).

In the United States we have been blessed with the freedom of speech since its founding. Only now however do we have the tools that enable all of us (regardless of economic class) to exercise that freedom on such a massive scale.

The fact that individuals from @poetcharles to @mpv to @APlusK can now communicate and publish their thoughts and experiences on identical platforms is mind blowing.

One day our kids will study these technologies as we did the printing press.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Java Store

A year and a half ago I noticed and joked about how Sun was advertising other products from within Java Update on the PC.

In a video blog posting today Sun's CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, discussed the success they had distributing Google toolbar via Java Update and announced that they will build on that success and extend it to become a full fledged / general purpose App Store!?

With an installation base of "approximately a billion users", he says, it "has the potential to deliver the world's largest audience".

As with other app stores, Sun will charge for distribution - but unlike other app stores, whose audiences are tiny, measured in the millions or tens of millions, ours will have what we estimate to be approximately a billion users. That's clearly a lot of traffic, and will position the Java App Store as having just about the world's largest audience.
Presumably it will work across all Java platforms. More details to come in a few weeks at JavaOne.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Zeemote JS1 for the Brits

The Zeemote JS1 is going to the UK. From one of the articles covering the announcement:

Sony Ericsson and Zeemote have announced a partnership to launch a console-style controller for a mobile handset for the first time in the UK.

The Sony Ericsson W705 Walkman will be available exclusively with T-Mobile and is to be bundled with the Zeemote JS1 Bluetooth Mobile Gaming Controller and pre-loaded with the Fast & Furious game.

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Zeemote JS1 with iPhone

Check out this video of the Zeemote JS1 being used with an iPhone game. Much better than having to tilt your screen around huh!



DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Size of the Universe

Take a look at this image to get an idea for the size of the universe. Incredible.

Most Expensive Photo Ever





I read an article today about the now infamous picture of Air Force One that cost tax payers an estimated $330,000 to capture.

While reading I started to wonder what the most expensive picture ever taken was. I searched around and couldn't find the answer to that exact question but I did find a list of the most expensive photos ever sold.

Currently topping the list is a photo called "99 Cent II Diptychon" which sold for $3.34 million at a Sotheby's auction in 2007. It depicts "an interior of a supermarket with numerous aisles depicting goods resulting in a colorful work".

What would you have paid for this?

Puma City



Last night I went to "Puma city" to celebrate a friend's birthday. What a unique venue that is. Here are some more pictures from inhabitat.com. Rather than attempt to explain it myself, below are some quotes from a boston.com article on Puma City:

a collection of 24 shipping containers, arranged into a multilevel retail store, bar, and event space, more closely resembles a set of giant building blocks than an actual metropolis.

set up at Fan Pier, close to the Institute of Contemporary Art, for three weeks as part of the Volvo Ocean Race - a nine-month yacht race around the globe. At each stop of the race, sponsors such as Puma set up a small village of temporary buildings for racers and their support crew.

There are also offices, changing rooms, and flat-screen televisions for watching live feeds of the race from the bar. On the third level, a cantilever deck reaches toward the ocean.

Boston is the only US location that Puma City will visit and only the second city where the structure has been assembled for the public.

The structure will stay in Boston through May 16. Before it moves on to its next destination in South Africa.

Kite Surfing

A few weeks ago while at the beach in Florida I saw two guys "Kite Surfing". I've never seen or even heard about this sport before. It is basically snowboarding on water with the power of a giant kite. It pulls you pretty hard and lets you do extremely high jumps.

I was talking to a friend about it last night. Apparently you can take lessons and get rentals in Boston for a few hundred dollars. I have to try it this summer!

Check out this video:



Unfortunately, there have been a few terrible accidents. Check out this video of a guy being pulled out of the water and into the side of a building!

Promotional Codes

Ever buy something online and feel a bit cheated while checking out because you see an option to enter a coupon / promotional code but don't have one?

Use the power of Google!

This Mother's Day weekend Google saved me $10 by doing a quick search for "1800flowers promo code" before completing the check out.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Enhanced Featured Phone

At the 2009 Nokia Developer Summit, MySpace presented at a session in which they described their experience in mobile and the trends they see moving forward. During the talk the speaker mentioned a term they use internally that I'd never heard before: "Enhanced Featured Phone".

As soon as he said it I knew exactly what he meant. It's a class of phone that is a step up from your basic "Feature phone" but doesn't quite reach the "Smartphone" category. It has a much better browser and multimedia experience than feature phones but doesn't have the operating system or programming environment of the iPhone, S60, or Windows Mobile. The Samsung Instinct and the LG Dare immediately jump to mind.

There has never been a good definition for labeling the various phone categories and any attempt ultimately fails or proves useless anyway. By some people's definitions for example the iPhone shouldn't be considered a smartphone because of the closed nature the app store.

According to this article in wireless week, Gartner currently uses 4 phone categories of phones:

  • basic phone
  • enhanced phone
  • entry-level smartphone
  • feature smartphone

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Qt Cross Platform Demo Video

Since returning from the Nokia Developer Summit, Qt as weighed heavily on my mind as a potentially excellent C++ mobile cross platform development solution. I still need to better understand how well it will work in practice though and what the limitations of using it are.

I found the following demo video on the Qt website and I have to say it is quite impressive. It shows a set of Qt applications running (supposedly unchanged) across embedded Linux, Windows Mobile, and S60.

Nokia Developer Summit 2009

Last week I was lucky enough to attended the 2009 Nokia Developer Summit in beautiful Monte Carlo, Monaco. Not a bad destination to have to travel to huh. The conference was split into two tracks, Technology vs Business, and I attended the technical sessions.

I thought the overall theme was Nokia attempting to make the case that it is they who offer the most OPEN and developer friendly mobile platform today. They first acknowledged the difficulty of Symbian C++ as a programming environment and presented two new technologies to improve S60 development moving forward (and likely leaving Symbian C++ behind).

Web Runtime Widgets

The new S60 platform will support something called “Web Runtime widgets”. This will make it very easy for today’s web programmers to develop small applications for S60 using open tools and languages that they are already familiar with (HTML, CSS, JavaScript™, and AJAX). These can be “live” applications that are running on your main screen and don’t need to be manually launched. Imagine for example a news application continuously scrolling the latest headlines and sports scores across your screen.

As you may remember when the iPhone first launched this was the only method of programming for it. It appears that Palm’s WebOS (i.e. Palm Pre) will only support this model of development. Many (most?) applications today are being developed with these web technologies so it is great to see Nokia embracing that community.

To help make the point of how easy widgets are to create Nokia held a “hackathon” competition where by which developers competed to create cool and useful widgets over the two day show.

Qt

Qt (pronounced as "cute”) is a well known programming “toolkit” for developing cross platform C++ GUI applications. The idea is that you develop your application using Qt and (in theory) it should be able to run unchanged on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Developing cross platform C++ GUI applications has traditionally been an extremely difficult task to achieve. Google Earth is one well known product that uses it. There has been some controversy and resistance to this product though because of its non-free license. In June of 2008 Nokia acquired the company (called Trolltech) and immediately made the license completely free and announced that it would soon support S60. This means (again in theory) that one could easily develop a C++ GUI application that runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, S60 and Windows Mobile unchanged. Pretty damn cool. A developer asked about iPhone support and the speaker said that technically it is trivial to add support for but currently Apple’s terms and conditions forbid it (insert expletive here).

Qt supports bindings to OpenGL, the standard 3D graphics API, so it is not hard to imagine game developers choosing this technology to create excellent cross platform games.

To help make the point of how easy Qt development is a presenter created a Qt C++ “web browser” application live on stage in 5 minutes. This is something that certainly couldn’t be done with Symbian C++.

Maemo

One question that remains unanswered is the future of “Maemo”. Maemo is an open source mobile platform based on Linux. Nokia uses it on the N810 “Internet Tablet”. It supports VoIP but it does not (currently) support traditional telephony technology. Based on Linux it already supports many of the open and standard technologies described above that S60 is trying to add. There has been speculation that perhaps Nokia is secretly planning to make it the smart phone platform of the future and either leave S60 behind OR relegate it to low / medium end devices. When asked about the Maemo vs S60 question the presenter essentially gave no answer.

Summary

Overall I thought the conference went very well. Personally I found it very heartening to see Nokia acknowledge weaknesses of their platform and present technologies that I do think could make a big difference moving forward. They are slow but I think moving in the right direction.

Video and slides from the event are available on the 2009 Nokia Developer Summit site.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

BlackBerries to Have Optical Trackballs?


Rumors are that the BlackBerry Curve 8520 (AKA Gemini) will sport an optical trackball.

Java ME Updates with S60 3rd FP2

I just read over the "What’s new in S60 3rdEdition, Feature Pack 2 devices" document from Nokia today. Lots of miscellaneous improvements and optimizations for Java development. Unfortunately, while many of the features are cool and powerful they are also mostly S60 specific so they can only be used on that platform. The two highlights for me:

  • Support for the embedded Standard Widget Toolkit (eSWT). eSWT is a UI toolkit for Java and is a subset of the desktop SWT (which is what Eclipse uses). Although I haven't used either it is presumably a much more powerful toolkit than LCDUI. One cool aspect of eSWT is that it runs in pretty much any java environment including the desktop.
  • Support for updating the VM on the S60 devices. Until now users needed to upgrade the entire OS to get a new VM but now it will possible to update it separately. In theory this should mean more frequent bug fixes / updates.
I did have to roll my eyes a bit when I saw the three supported "security policies" for S60 devices.
  • MSA policy (according to MSA specification)
  • S60 Java policy (more “relaxed”than MSA)
  • AT&T policy (for AT&T, operator)
It seems that almost every carrier in the world can live with one of the first two.

Lastly, I found one line in the document especially intriguing. One slide 6, titled "Virtual machine and operating system", it says:
Java Native Interface (JNI): MIDlets can invoke native services.
While JNI would be great I'm assuming for the moment that this is not something that is generally exposed. We'll see though.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lesson Learned: Feature Requests

Lets say you want or need a new feature in a software product. How do you go about getting it added?

Last week, for perhaps the first time in my life, I was actually able to achieve this feat! Here is my advice. First contact technical support to confirm that the feature does not already exist. Then forward the confirmation to sales and explain further what you need and why you need it. It will help if you say how much you love the product and that "unfortunately" you will need to switch to a competitor if said feature does not get added. It is worth noting that it is OK to contact sales even if you don't pay for it. Mine for example was a free web service.

In the past I've made the mistake of sending feature requests directly to technical support or engineering. Engineers like to think that engineers run the world but alas this is not the case. New features are driven from sales & marketing not engineering. You are often far better off lobbying sales directly for the feature than if you rely on technical support / engineering to lobby for it on your behalf.

Zeemote JS1 Video at 2009 GDC

Here is a video of the Zeemote JS1 being demoed at the 2009 Game Developer's Conference in the Nokia N-Gage booth. Fairly typical JS1 users I think. Unfortunately I did not get to attend this show.



DISCLAIMER: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.