Monday, April 12, 2010

Apple iAd for Apps

Apple have announced iAd animated advertising as part of version 4 of the operating system for iPhone and iPad touch mobile devices (presumably these will also work on iPads). Developers of Apps (applications) will receive 60 percent of the advertising revenue, making free to the customer applications possible. Perhaps more interesting is that the advertisements will make use of HTML 5 features for animation.

Flash has typically used for animation in advertisements. HTML 5 couldn't be used for general web ads as the advertiser could not be user that HTML 5 was installed on the viewer's computer, but they can be sure of this with the iPhone. It will be interesting to see if Google do something similar for the Android. While Google has had mobile ads for some time, they have not been very successful. Apple may be able to come up with a format for mobile ads which is popular with the advertisers and tolerated by the viewers.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Viewing a mobile web site

Some web sites automatically adjust for mobile devices. It is possible to see what these look like by using an add-on to a desktop web browser. Apart from previewing mobile pages, this can be useful for slow dial-up and wireless links and for netbooks as the mobile versions of web sites tend to be more compact.

In some cases you enter a different web address for the mobile version of a web site (as an example for the Australian Open). In most cases the same web address is used and a mobile device is detected automatically and different layout and content provided. To get the mobile version your web browser has to pretend to be a mobile device by sending a different user agent string This is described in detail in "How To Emulate A Mobile Web Browser In Firefox?"). The user agent switcher add-on for Firefox comes with an iPhone profile and I was easily able to add one for a Google Android phone.

It should be noted that the mobile pages will not necessarily display exactly the same as they will on a mobile. The version of HTML the browser uses may be different, the screen size is different and some plug-ins the phones have may be missing.

Some web sites provide the same content to the browser but offer a separate set of CSS style sheets intended for mobile phones. These use the CSS media type "handheld". Most desktop web browsers (and Apple iPhone) ignore the style sheets labelled as "handheld". The firefox "Web Developer" addon has option for manually activating it (you can also activate the "print" stylesheet if there is one). Opera has an option for this already built in. As an example, my home page has a handheld stylesheet which puts all the text in one column. Some web site have reduced image sizes and fewer images when using the handheld styles.

You need to be able to switch back to a web profile, as some mobile version of web sites leave out some functions. Some sites allow for this within the web site. As an example the mobile version of the Wikipedia leaves out the edit functions: you can view content but not change it (see the mobile Wikipedia entry for the Bauhaus for example). A footer offers the regular desktop version and also an option to permanently disable the mobile version.

There are specialist programs for emulating different models of mobile phone. But if you just want to see if there is a mobile version of a web site and what is in it, the switcher works okay.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

IT at the Australian Open Tennis

Greetings from the Australian Open in Melbourne. IBM have flown me down as part of their "Insight 10" (Twitter tag: #insight10 ) to show off the systems used for supporting the tennis.

This all started late last year when I had a phone call from Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide asking if I would like to be one of a small group of opinion makers. This sounded like a scam, or at best "cash for comment". It was explained that there would be no cash, which made it sound worse: why would I comment for free? However, I thought I would see what it was all about.

Some months later I got an invitation to the tennis. I don't actually like tennis, but was promised a look behind the scenes at the computer system used for the scoring and statistics, which sounded more interesting.

So here I am in the IBM corporate tent (an air-conditioned, carpeted tent). There is quite a buzz outside with people draped in Australian flags for Australia day.

We were all handed a HTC Android phone, running a the "IBM Seer" app. This is an augmented reality application which takes the image from the camera, the location from the GPS and the direction from the digital compass and overlays the scene with information about the venue. AT the tennis this shows things link which arena is which and where the toilets are. The application is a lot more usable than I expected, but has a few limitations. The HTC screen is not readable in the bright Melbourne sunshine. The text on the screen is too small for me to read.

At court side there are sensors and people with PDAs recording statistics on the tennis matches. I had assumed this would be just the score, but there is a radar system for recording the speed of the serves and people to enter the style of play. This data is transmitted to servers around the world, logged in a database and provided to the TV and web systems.

We then went down under the main courts where the public are not permitted. There in a room in the basement of the building, in a concrete lined room with a ziggurat ceiling (the underside of the stepped seating) was a room full of equipment with some very relaxed looking IBM technicians. I noticed the servers are mounted in SKB transportable shock mounted racks in stackable containers (as used for military IT systems). The people running the system travel around the world to different sporting events, taking the equipment with them.

Back at the VIP tent we were shown the tennis home page, which is only available in English (there is also an iPhone app available in multiple languages). One internal applications shown was the one used for scheduling the matches. This was refreshingly simple, with no graphics: just a grid of text, emulating a whiteboard. One problem with this is that to indicate a player is about to go on their name changes from blue to green. This needed to be changed to give some other indication for those who are colour-blind.

There was also a screen showing how much energy the system was using. I would have liked to see more of this, but my fellow Insight10s got very excited by another display analysing the online response to the event. This display scans blogs, tweets and other material online which mention the Australian Open and assess what is said. This .looks at what sponsors are mentioned and if the sentiment is positive or negative. This seems t be why I am here, with the aim of having me blog something which ends up in the positive category.

After lunch there was an entertaining tennis quiz, using "clickers" (hand held feedback devices, as used for quizzes in schools). There there were questions and answers by John Fitzgerald (ex-professional tennis player).

Last official part of the day before watching tennis was question and answer with the people from the IBM Atlanta Innovation Centre who look after the sporting application. They said I could ask anything so I asked if the Australian Open home page complied with Australian accessibility law. The last time I was involved with an IBM supplied sport system was the Sydney Olympics, where I testified in the Human Rights Commission that the web site was not accessible to the blind. The IBM people took this rather heavy question quite well. They said that the site was designed against IBM's own internal guidelines as well as other accessibility guidelines. The major difficulty for a sport such as tennis is complex multidimensional tables which update in real time. The answer to this is to provide micro updates. This reduces the bandwidth required for all users. Fir those with a disability it is possible to provide a text based running commentary and which s much like the scoring you hear on the TV broadband of the tennis. There is also a mobile version of the site, which we tried on an iPhone and which looked good.

ps: While IBM don't provide it there is also a system with eight cameras tracking the ball for enhanced display on TV.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Google Nexus One Phone

Nexus One Google Phone Front and sideGoogle have announced the Nexus One, a touch screen smart phone with the Google Android operating system. The significance of this is that the phone is sold by Google directly, not by an existing phone maker, as with previous Android phones. The phone is made by HTC and does not differ greatly from previous HTC branded Android phones. The phone will be sole unbundled and on plans. The phone is not currently available in Australia.
Power and battery

Removable 1400 mAH battery
Charges at 480mA from USB, at 980mA from supplied charger

Talk time
Up to 10 hours on 2G
Up to 7 hours on 3G

Standby time
Up to 290 hours on 2G Up to 250 hours on 3G

Internet use
Up to 5 hours on 3G
Up to 6.5 hours on Wi-Fi

Video playback
Up to 7 hours

Audio playback
Up to 20 hours

Qualcomm QSD 8250 1 GHz

Operating system
Android Mobile Technology Platform 2.1 (Eclair)

512MB Flash
4GB Micro SD Card (Expandable to 32 GB)

Assisted global positioning system (AGPS) receiver
Cell tower and Wi-Fi positioning
Digital compass

Size and weight
Height 119mm
Width 59.8mm
Depth 11.5mm
Weight 130 grams w/battery 100g w/o battery

3.7-inch (diagonal) widescreen WVGA AMOLED touchscreen
800 x 480 pixels
100,000:1 typical contrast ratio
1ms typical response rate

Camera & Flash
5 megapixels
Autofocus from 6cm to infinity
2X digital zoom
LED flash
User can include location of photos from phone’s AGPS receiver
Video captured at 720x480 pixels at 20 frames per second or higher, depending on lighting conditions

Cellular & Wireless
UMTS Band 1/4/8 (2100/AWS/900)
HSDPA 7.2Mbps
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n)
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
A2DP stereo Bluetooth

Buttons, connectors and controls
  1. Nexus One Google Phone ControlsFront / Top: Power
  2. 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
  3. Charging and notification indicator
  4. Illuminated capacitive soft keys: Back, Home, Menu, and Search
  5. Tri-color clickable trackbal
  6. Back / Bottom: Camera
  7. Camera flash
  8. Speaker
  9. Dock pin connectors
  10. Micro USB port
  11. Microphone
  12. Left side: Volume Control
Additional features
  • Haptic feedback
  • Teflon™ coated back
  • Second microphone for active noise cancellation
  • SIM card slot
  • Micro SD slot
  • Proximity sensor
  • Light sensor
Graphics, video and audio

Audio decoders
AAC LC/LTP, HE-AACv1 (AAC+), HE-AACv2 (enhanced AAC+) Mono/Stereo standard bit rates up to 160 kbps and sampling rates from 8 to 48kHz, AMR-NB 4.75 to 12.2 kbps sampled @ 8kHz, AMR-WB 9 rates from 6.60 kbit/s to 23.85 kbit/s sampled @ 16kHz., MP3 Mono/Stereo 8-320Kbps constant (CBR) or variable bit-rate (VBR), MIDI SMF (Type 0 and 1), DLS Version 1 and 2, XMF/Mobile XMF, RTTTL/RTX, OTA, iMelody, Ogg Vorbis, WAVE (8-bit and 16-bit PCM)

JPEG (encode and decode), GIF, PNG, BMP
H.263 (encode and decode) MPEG-4 SP (encode and decode) H.264 AVC (decode)
Audio encoders
AMR-NB 4.75 to 12.2 kbps sampled @ 8kHz

Language support

English (U.S), French (France), German, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil), Korean, Japanese, Russian,

English (U.S), French (France), German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese (Brazil).

From: Nexus One Phone - Feature overview & Technical specifications, Google, 2009

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Android and Moodle for m-learning

The School of Industrial Management (Escuela de Organización Industrial EOI) in Madrid is issuing students with 3G Android mobile phones and using the Moodle learning management system (English translation and Spanish original). This looks a good combination. I found that my Moodle course notes for a Green ICT Course worked fine on a Google Android. This was because I made use of the Moodle "Book" module, for
the course content. This produces plain web pages, which render well on the small screen of smart phones. Of course if you used very large and complex PDF, Powerpoint, Microsoft Word or other formats, it would not look so good.

There could even be some problems with ordinary HTML (I am trying to convince one of my fellow course designers not to use very large complex tables in course notes. These tables are hard to read at the best of times, but make accessibility and mobile access very difficult.

While I didn't try it, podcasts should also work well. Obviously typing a 2,000 word essay on a smartphone would not be a good idea, but participation in forums should be feasible. Some changes to the Moodle user interface would be useful, as it does use HTML Table statements for some layout, which does not adapt well to a small screen.

I was handed the Android at Google's Sydney office, when giving a talk on my Green ICT e-learning course and only had it to try for a few minutes, so this was not an exhaustive test. Also it was running a beta version of the operating system.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Acer Google Android Netbook on sale in Australia

The Acer AOD250 10.1 Inch Netbook is on sale in Australia at Office Works for $AU527. The unit features both Microsoft Windows 7 and the Google Android (Linux) operating systems. The logic behind this seems to be that Android provides a quick way to do casual email and web browsing, but the reviews of the implementation on the Acer are not that positive.

Office works also have the Hewlett Packard (HP) CQ2350AN Desktop PC & 18.5" Wide LCD for $AU599. This could be considered a "NetTop" as it has the same Intel Atom N230 processor as many netbooks. But it comes with a larger case than the average NetTop, including a DVD burner. Performance of this PC would not be spectacular and it comes with Microsoft Windows XP.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Google Technology User Group Sydney second meeting

Greetings from the Sydney Google Technology User Group (Sydney-GTUG) meeting in the Google building at Google Sydney. This is only the second ever meeting, with about 30 people (half were at the first meeting).

Pamela Fox gave a quick demonstration of the Chrome Frame plugin for Internet Explorer (for people who are required to use the IE browser). She mentioned iUI provides a code library for creating applications which look like native iPhone applications.

October 14, from 6pm to 9pm Google will host a mashing session for people interested in putting in an entry in the Government Web 2.0 "MashupAustralia Competition".

There was then a demonstration of "Tracklet" created for the ADC2 Android Developer Challenge. Some comments provided on Android phone application development:
  • Easy to start, but hard to get working well.
  • Memory limitations on manipulating images.
  • Treads cause problems with the user interface.
  • They used a graphing library called Flot.
There was then a demonstration, using the Android emulator. The UI looks like a set of posit notes with photos of the good on them. The notes can be moved around the screen. There is a Google map interface with purchases marked.

At question time I asked if they were redoing the application they would just use the Android for the user interface and run the application and store the data in the cloud. The developers commented that they looked at offloading processing of image data, but wanted data stored and processed locally to speed up the application. They said they would add an upload/data synchronisation facility.

This is a discussion I have been having with developers for decades, but I suggest if they instead used ordinary web pages for the interface and ran the application elsewhere, it would be reasonably fast. This would have the bonus of providing access from any desktop browner and not requiring synchronisation. There would be a cost in terms of data transfer, but if the interface was carefullydesign the communications overhead need not be large.

The next talk was about "The Patrick O'Brian Mapping Project" Patrick O'brien mapping project with Google maps and AdSense.

Google Earth plugin added to Google Maps. One point was that having static pages for the maps allows the search engines to find the data, whereas if it is hidden in a database it will not be found. This made the site well ranking. AdSense helps cover the hosting cost.

Another project was the "Timeline Project" with a WWII timeline project. This used a timeline updating a map of Europe in World War 2. As you move along the timeline, significant locations at that time are marked on the map. This could be applied to many historical battlefield material.To help enter data a request to the community was made. He is now working on a smart phone version with Google Maps.

Military organisations traditionally document battles in the battalion dairy. This timeline mapping technique could be used for an electronic diary. This week ABC Media Watch criticised the Australian Department of Defence for providing minimal information for the public about what is happening in Afghanistan. Perhaps as well as a war artist, there could be a war blogger, providng a timeline map of what is happening. I might mention this at the War 2.0 symposium in Canberra this week (the head of Defence PR will be there).

The last talk was about the Google Docs API Version 3.0. This now allows images to be OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to text. Documents can be translated into other languages. Documents can be converted between formats (such as MS-Word to PDF).

Google Sites was then demonstrated. This provides an alternative to SharePoint and Lotus Notes. This allows a web site to be edited live by a group of people, with the changes tracked.

The talks went until after 8pm. I think this is a bit too long. There were some yawns from the audience, despite the interesting content.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sydney Google Technology User Group Meeting on Tuesday

The Sydney Google Technology User Group (Sydney-GTUG) is having only its second meeting October 6th on "Android, Geo, Docs & Sites APIs". Details of who is speaking is limited, but it it is worth attending, just being able to see the Google bulding (I gave a talk there a few months ago).

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Friday, June 05, 2009

In car dash HTC Magic Google Android phone mount?

clipse AVN2210p CD receiver with detachable TomTom portable navigatorThere appear to be few accessories
HTC Magic Google Android phone, so far. This is to suggest a simple, low cost car dashboard mount. There are various holders for smart phones on car dashboard, but no one so far seems to have thought to build the mount into the dashboard. Like the Apple iPhone, the HTC Magic can be used in the landscape position. In this position, the screen is about the size and shape of a small entertainment/navigation screen in an upmarket car. Provide a low cost radio and amplifier with a socket for the phone to fit in the standard radio dashboard space and you could have a touch screen communications and entertainment system for under $US100 (not including the cost of the phone).

An example of this approach is the Eclipse AVN2210P: a dashboard media hub, with a removable TomTom navigation unit. This system got mixed reviews, some good and some bad. This is a large unit, so it will not fit some cars and it is designed to provide a CD and MP3 player, even without the TomTom installed and so is large and expensive. But a similar device, smaller and cheaper, could be made for a phone.

The HTC Magic is 113 x 55 x 13.65 mm ( slightly shorter and narrower, but deeper than the iPhone at 115×61×11.6 mm). This is 5mm taller than the standard slot in a car dashboard for a radio: 180 x 50 mm (the so called "DIN car radio size" DIN 75490 ISO 7736). The phone could be accommodated in a double DIN (180 x 100 mm panel) slot (as used by the Eclipse) or simply by having the phone protrude 5 mm outside the slot (the average car radio has a surround a few mm bigger). The unit could be made for a single DIN slot and be provided with spacers to fill a double DIN slot. The phone is 67 mm shorter than the DIN slot, leaving enough space for a volume control , digital display and some radio controls.

When the phone was not in place, the car would still have a working radio. With the phone plugged in there would be phone, MP3 and other functions provided via the touch screen. The car unit could be made at very low cost with simple analogue electronics, with all the sophisticated functions provided by the phone.

As the dashboard unit would only contain a minimum of electronics, it could be made about 5 mm deep and so could also be mounted on a flat surface or on a dashboard top mount, when a dashboard slot is not available. The unit could be made as a removable head, like some car radios. The same unit could then also be used as a desktop dock for the phone in the home or office, with some low cost speakers and a power supply attached.

See also:

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Google Android on netbooks

According to PC World ("Report: HP May Offer Android in Netbooks Over Windows" by Agam Shah, IDG News Service, 31 March 2009), HP may be planning to provide Google's "Android" operating system on netbooks. This is not as radical as it sounds, as Android is just Google's version of Linux. Other versions of Linux are already offered on netbooks and some of these come with Google software and services. However, it is significant in that Google is a well known brand. This would give customers the confidence to buy a computer which does not have Microsoft Windows installed.

In practical terms Android would be most useful for low end netbooks with small screens and desktop Internet appliances designed for casual web browsing. Android was designed for smart phones and so has a simple "big button" interface. The line between smart phones and Internet appliances may well blur in the process. It should be possible to dock the new generation of smart phones and use them with an external screen and keyboard as a desktop computer replacement. Android could also be installed in TV sets to provide casual web browsing at low cost.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Google Android Phones for Australian MPs

HTC Magic smartphoneYesterday Senator Lundy talked about her experience trying a Blackberry smartphone as part of a trial for members of the Australian Parliament. She commented that this worked better than earlier phones issued but still had limitations. I suggested they look at the new Google Android phones, such as the HTC Magic . Vodafone will be initially selling it in Europe (not yet available in Australia, but I asked HTC for a test unit).

Google Android Running On Eee PC 701The Senator mentioned that with a workable smartphone she has much less need to turn on her laptop. One possibility is to run the same Android software on the laptop and the phone. Apart from the convenience of the user being able to use the same interface and applications, it would allow for very low power, low cost netbook and nettop computers to be used (under $300).

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Android Desktop Phone

NIMble Concept Desk PhoneProduct design company Touch Revolution has displayed the "NIMble Concept Desk Phone", a computer with a 7 inch touch screen running Google's Android. Similar to other Internet Appliances, such as the 3Com Ergo Audrey the NIMble is intended to be given away with a monthly phone contract. The unit is shown with no keyboard, relying on its touch screen, which Touch Revolution specialise in. Previous Internet appliances failed in the market, but NIMble might have more of a chance as it uses now well established Linux software and can use the brand recognition of Google's Android. However, the unit has a non-adjustable screen (dictated by the touch interface) and no keyboard and is likely to cost more that the numerous models of netbook computer.

Main Processor Minimum 600MHz StrongARM
Memory 128 MB DDR RAM, 512 MB NAND Flash
Expanded Storage SD Card Slot
OS Included Embedded Linux
Middleware Included Android Application Framework
Screen Type TFT LCD
Screen DIMENSIONS 4.3”, 7”, 10” Diagonal (Other custom sizes supported)
Resolution 480 x 272, 800 x 480 and higher
Touch Sensor Type Multi-Touch Projective Capacitive Glass Surface
Connectivity 802.11 b/g WiFi, Bluetooth, USB 1.0/2.0, Ethernet
Audio Stereo Speakers, Stereo Headset Jack, Directional Microphone,
Bluetooth™ 2.0/2.1 + EDR stereo (A2DP) range of 10 meters
Camera 2MP CMOS Camera, 15fps full resolution video, 30fps 1MP video

From: Platform Sheet, Touch Revolution, 4 January 2009

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dell Latitude On is a Smartphone in your PC

In "Digital Domain 30 Seconds to Boot Up?" (NY Times, 1 November 2008), Randall Stross writes: "... what I want is a machine that’s ready in about a second, just like my smartphone". But what the readers may not realize is the Dell Latitude On feature mentioned is essentially that: the same type of low power processor as used in a smartphone, installed inside the laptop.

What will be interesting is how many people find they can get along day-to-day with the low power mode. If ASUS "Eee Box" desktop is as market leading as their Netbook was, then low power, low cost desktops may become mainstream. But even smaller and cheaper computers are feasible.

If you, they can replace their expensive desktop computer with a $99 unit, which just has the same sort of processor and memory as a smart phone, in a cigarette packet size case . Such computers have been sold for years as "Thin Clients" but have been hampered by the perception they are not real computers. With "cloud computing" becoming fashionable, these may soon replace most computers .

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Android desktop PC

Assuming the Google sponsored Android software platform becomes popular, it might be feasable to use this for low cost netbook and netPCs. Android is based on the Linux kernel and has a language for developing applications. It is intended for smart phones, such as the T-Mobile_G1. It should therefore run very well on a small notebook or desktop compters. These would be much like a thin client computer and could in theory run other opertating systems and applications. But thin clients and small computers have not sold well, being seen as cut down limited function computers. If instead they are see as high performance versions of smart phones, they may be more popular. If the netPC included a VoIP interface for an analog telephone, it coulod replace the desktop computer in most offices.

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