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 · Technology
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OnePlus One · What happened was, the teenager smashed his phone, so we did the usual shuffle-and-hand-me-down. My only real constraint was “No Nexus”; been doing that long enough. I was pretty interested in the waterproof Sony Z3, or maybe a small phone since I usually carry an N7 too, or maybe one of those lovely silken-metal HTC thingies. But neither the carrier nor Google had any very good deals, and the O+1 is a very good deal. So now I’m carrying one ...
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A Word on NFC · The Applepalooza today banged the payments drum pretty hard. I dunno, payments are difficult. I had a close-up view of Google’s struggles with Checkout and then Wallet, and Google has way more server-side culture and expertise; so I’m not holding my breath. But NFC could be a really big deal ...
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N5-Cam VII: Long Train Ride · On March 1st I went from Barcelona to London by train. It was amusing and relaxing; If you can spare a day and some money, I recommend it ...
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N5-cam VI: Spanish Vistas · Since phonecams have focal lengths that are fixed and low, they ought to be credible pocket-cam replacements for wide-angle shots. But you have to worry whether they can handle massed details. Let’s see ...
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MWC · That stands for Mobile World Congress; it happens in early spring in Barcelona, and it’s mammoth; something like 75,000 people show up to wheel and deal.They’re wheeling and dealing for big bucks; the mobile industry is huge and for four days almost everyone is here. I’ve got no inside information on the nature of the deals the telcos make, with handset makers and antenna engineers and backhaul builders. But here’s where they make ’em; almost every booth has “executive meeting rooms”, and one of the eight huge halls is nothing but hospitality suites and meetings ...
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N5-cam V: Barcelona Subway · I offer further research on the hypothesis that a decent modern phonecam (in this case a Nexus 5) means you don’t need a good pocket cam any more. In particular, how about “street” photography? Where by “street” I mean under the street not on it and color not B&W. Street is said to require discretion, responsiveness, and subtle tonal variations. Here’s the evidence ...
 
N5-cam IV: Lying Flowers · It’s traditional at this time of year that I run close-ups of the first few crocuses, earliest harbingers of spring. Hah! Another chance to test out the proposition that mobile-device cams mean you don’t need a serious camera any more ...
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N5-cam IV: Brighter Bridges · In the previous outings in this series, I’ve been torturing the poor little camera in my Nexus 5 with extreme low light, and I suppose it deserves better ...
 
N5-cam III: Toronto by Night · I visited my brother in Toronto and we went out to drink & talk & eat on a cold evening; I didn’t take an actual camera-as-such, but that didn’t keep good pictures from arriving in front of me, so I snapped away with the Nexus 5. Thus, another test of the hypothesis that a mobilecam can replace a “serious” pocketcam ...
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N5-cam II: Scrubbing Up · In my last N5-cam outing, Low Light, I suggested contradictory things. First, that I was going to investigate using this as a serious pocket camera, and second, that since this is Just A Phone, there’s no need for postprocessing ...
 
N5-cam I: Low Light · I hear that pocket cams are over because phonecams have eaten that space; so let’s see if my Nexus 5 can convince me one way or another ...
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N5-cam I: Low Light · I hear that pocket cams are over because phonecams have eaten that space; so let’s see if my Nexus 5 can convince me one way or another ...
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What Are Handsets For? · I got a Nexus 5 from Google for Christmas; it replaces an old Nexus S used as a dumbphone. But in some ways I was happier with the S, even though the 5 is way more capable. I’m thinking (once again) that Size Matters ...
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iPhone 5c and 5s · Don’t they look great? I might get one (no, really). They’re interesting... Let’s play Apple Pundit! ...
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Feature Phone · My Galaxy Nexus unfortunately Died The Death. It’ll boot and seem to work, but as soon as you try to open an email or whatever, kiss it goodbye. So I rummaged through the back of the closet and, well, it’s amazing how little you can get by with ...
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Good Internet Baseball · I was in OpenID meetings at Microsoft all day Tuesday, and started driving home to Vancouver at 4PM. This a fairly painful route at that time, but the Blue Jays and White Sox, via MLB on the Nexus 7, reduced the pain considerably ...
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Living in the Future · The other day I got a Roku and some Plex software; now everything in the house is connected to everything, and to the Net, and remotely-controllable from our mobiles. It feels pretty magic ...
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How Many Devices? · Does it make sense to carry around two, three, or more portable computing devices? Select from: ...
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Handset Love · The press loves tablets. New-media theorists love tablets. The hardware makers love tablets. Tablets might become the default “Personal Computers”. But in 2012, my heart is still with handsets ...
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High Speed Packet Access · This is my personal favorite mobile technology that’s not an Android product in, well, forever. Popularly known as HSPA or HSDPA or HSPA+, it’s what you’re using when your Android phone shows a little “H” up by the signal-bars readout ...
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Network App Macroeconomics · A friend of mine is working on a complicated publishing app; the data is XML, perfectly appropriate when your objects are documents. She told me they were thinking about automating some of the work by running XSLT transformations out there in the client with libxslt. I said “Well yeah, as long as the client’s a PC not a tablet”. The category of “things you can do on a PC but not a tablet” is interesting ...
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Size Still Matters · I have to carry two phones; one for G-stuff, which is often unreleased software running on unreleased hardware, and another for my personal life. For the last few months, the G-phone has been a Galaxy Nexus and the Tim-phone a Nexus S ...
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Newsworthy Tablet Launches · I glanced at my newsreader yesterday and gave up almost instantly because it was full of irrelevant fluff from CES. Particularly irritating was a post over at The Verge announcing breathlessly that a vendor not worth mentioning here was... wait for it... planning to release a tablet in 2012! I twitterbitched: Dear Verge: “X plans to launch a tablet in 2012” is not a news story for ANY value of X. Which was clearly wrong; many people tweeted back values of X for which it would be newsworthy: Cracker Barrel, Macdonalds, NASA, Vladimir Putin, a lost Amazonian tribe, the US Government, Pfizer, and God via Moses. Any others?
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Wallpaper Candidates · I have a nice photo on my Mac desktop, but I never see it because it’s always covered with windows. I see my Android-device wallpaper all the time though, because I’m always hitting the “Home” button. I think this pattern is general and thus mobile is more interesting than desktop on the wallpaper front ...
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4G Performance Silliness · I was scanning the mobile-tech news and saw a story on a performance shootout between the LTE implementations from Verizon and AT&T; I skipped by the link and can’t find it now, but that’s OK because I’m here to debunk it ...
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Aspect Ratios · On one side of the aisle, this fall will bring a new iPhone & iPad; on the other there’s a steady flow of Android handsets and tablets and in-betweens ...
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Telus Android Island Internet Win · For Net access from our cottage on Keats Island, we checked alternatives and ended up getting a Internet stick from Telus Mobility, plugging it into my old BlackBook, and having that broadcast WiFi. It worked, but not brilliantly, with big latency and regular outages ...
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On Input · I can’t replace my computer with an Android handset or tablet, and the reason isn’t power or speed or screen size or battery life. The big problem is input: getting my ideas, mostly in the form of text, into the device and onto the Net. I expect rapid progress on this front; herewith a short survey and my own proposal ...
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Phones and Soldiers · I found myself nodding my head reading Jon Oltsik’s Apple and Google Make the Department of Defense Jump Through Hoops for Mobile Device Security, a story that broke Thursday. Summary: US spies and soldiers, just like everyone else, want to carry iPhones and Androids. The Department of Defense (DoD) wants them to be secure. But DoD is frustrated because they’re having trouble getting Apple and Google to prioritize their needs ...
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Tab In My Pocket · Friday afternoon, September 9th, Fedex brought me my Samsung Galaxy Tab, and from here on in let’s just say “Tab”, which I predict everyone will too, and may represent mad product-naming skillz from Samsung. Since then it’s been in my pocket and living room ...
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Ten Theses on Tablets · As of now, I’ve been carrying the Samsung Galaxy Tab for a month, using it every day; this has included two major road trips. I suppose there are a few other humans who’ve had this much hands-on with a 7" form-factor tablet, but I don’t know of any others with a blog and a free hand to write what they think ...
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On Books · Until this month, I’d never even glanced at an e-book. Now I’ve read three and can’t stop thinking about where this is going ...
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Mobile in Mainz · That would be MobileTech, a conference earlier this month in Mainz, a city near Frankfurt, famous for the Gutenberg legacy and not much else ...
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Nexus One PUK Unlock · Unless you found this article using a search engine, which means you’re probably having the same problem I did, you’re very unlikely to be interested in its solution, so you can stop reading now and get on with your life ...
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Tethering · I travel quite a bit, and I have found that the “tethering & portable hotspot” facility in Android 2.2 is just absolutely wonderful. It has saved me considerable money and got me reasonably-good connectivity in places I wouldn’t otherwise have had it; I’m looking at you, big-name US hotel chains ...
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Late Summer Tech Tab Sweep · Some of these puppies have been keeping a browser tab open since April. No theme; ranging on the geekiness scale from extreme to mostly-sociology ...
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Upcoming Gig — JAOO · I don’t know what the acronym stands for, but JAOO 2010 is in Aarhus, a place I’ve never been to in Denmark; Oct 4-6. It’s a popular event and I’m honored to be among the speakers. What happened was, before I started at Google, they invited me to come and talk about my Doing It Wrong piece, which I regard as summing up my years at Sun. After I joined Google, I wrote back and asked “Can I talk about Android too?” so I’ll be speaking twice on successive days ...
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Upcoming Gig — GDD Tokyo · GDD stands for Google Developer Day; since not everyone can come to Google I/O, we take I/O on the road to various points in several continents and both hemispheres. GDD Tokyo, on September 28th, is 2010’s first; I’ll be helping out there talking Android in the keynote. I assume the Tokyo Googlers will find something else useful to do while I’m there. Regular readers here know that I have a special relationship with Tokyo — can’t wait to be back.
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Upcoming Gig — Mobile Tech · That’s MobileTech Conference in full, a new conference in Mainz, about which I know nothing except for it’s near Frankfurt. It’s by the same people who do the well-known “JAX” conference series all over Germany. September 6-8; notable for being my first keynote appearance on behalf of my new Android day job.
 
The Great Game · Is it VHS vs Betamax, Mac vs PC, or Coke vs Pepsi? The current multibillion-dollar mobile-market war is a confusing tangle of software makers, hardware makers, and network operators. This isn’t what a theorists would call a perfect or even very clean competitive market, but it does seem to be delivering a regular flow of better, faster, more usable products to the people of Earth. It’s a privilege to be in it ...
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How To Sell Apps? · I’ve been interested recently in Android Market; it, and its peers such as the Apple App Store and Ovi and (in a slightly different flavor) the Google Apps Marketplace are all recent arrivals, trying to do a new thing. And I don’t think any of them are doing it very well ...
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Cheap Unlocked Phones · I have an unlocked Nexus One with a pre-release of Android 2.2 “Froyo”, and I have a T-Mobile mobile data plan from Google; I imagine that, like most big companies, we get a pretty good deal on it. As of now, I’m never paying for Internet in a hotel or airport again ...
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Dots Per Inch · I thought maybe the most interesting single thing about the new iPhone 4 was its display, not so much the 960 vertical dots but the 326DPI, in the cleverly-named Retina Display. Which leads me to wonder, how much does this matter? ...
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Starting To Be Wrong · Everybody knows that designing for the Web is not like designing for print: The shape is fluid not fixed, the font selection is limited, and there aren’t enough dots-per-inch to do proper typography anyhow; the effect is that you have to give up fine control over layout. Which was true until 2010 ...
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The Infancy of Mobile Video · I was having lunch with Andre and Brian from Nitobi, who work on PhoneGap (a really nice piece of technology) and we found ourselves laughing over our phone feature cravings ...
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Bump! · One of the nice things about this job is that I’m meeting lots of interesting startups who are doing mobile apps. My fave so far is Bump ...
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What’s New in Tablets · Sorry, I don’t want this to become an all-tablet-all-the-time space.; but how often do we get a new computer form factor? Anyhow, yesterday I got my hands on an iPad, and suddenly I find myself disagreeing with the world about what’s important ...
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Memory Matters · Being a study of trade-offs in the design of mobile devices, with a view to avoiding dystopias and promoting creativity ...
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Wrong About the iPad · Anybody who says they know how the tablet drama in general and iPad narrative in particular are going to play out is blowing smoke. Me, I’m inclined to think tablets will be a wonderful game platform, excellent for reading books, have a raft of vertical applications in hospitals and factories and airports and so on, and not be that big a player in the office setting. But hey, I could easily be wrong. Having said that, here’s somebody who’s wrong for sure: Marc Benioff ...
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Spy Phone · I was thinking for some reason of gangster movies and true-crime stories, where someone is “wearing a wire”. It dawned on me that any modern programmable phone is a “wire” in that sense. And everyone carries one; it wouldn’t look suspicious ...
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Nothing Creative · Compared to my laptop, the iPad lacks a keyboard, software development tools, writers’ tools, photographers’ tools, a Web server, a camera, a useful row of connectors for different sorts of wires, and the ability to run whatever software I choose. Compared to my Android phone, it lacks a phone, a camera, pocketability, and the ability to run whatever software I choose. Compared to the iPad, my phone lacks book-reading capability, performance, and screen real-estate. Compared to the iPad, my computer lacks a touch interface and suffers from excessive weight and bulk ...
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Green Phone · I’ve noticed that having an Android in my pocket makes me more likely to take public transit around town as opposed to driving. Yeah, it takes a little longer, but it’s not downtime; I can be catching up on email and admin work and so on. A huge amount of most people’s workload is manageable given anything with a decent email client and browser ...
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Android Splintering? · There’s this flood of new Android phones hitting the market; we’re starting to see some new form factors and hardware setups. I’m hearing concerns here and there about the market “splintering”, making the platform less attractive to developers. Only I don’t buy it. [Update: Yes, really.] ...
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Where’s the Mobile Biz? · I’m not sure there’s much chance of building a successful business selling through an App Store. And I know how hard it is to generate service revenue off a Web site, whether you’re aiming at mobile clients or not. So, I have a question: Is there really any money to be made in mobile apps? ...
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A.D. XIV: Switching Droids · [This is part of the Android Diary.] A commenter on that Tasty Words piece asked about the practicalities of switching one Android device for another. It’s a little more subtle than you’d think ...
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A.D. XIII: Tasty Words · [This is part of the Android Diary.] I sure hope they’re tasty, because I’m gonna have to eat some. Not too long ago, in Phone Keys, I wrote about how great it was to have a hardware keypad. Well, the Android I’m currently using doesn’t have one, and it’s not that bad ...
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A.D. XII: A Half-Year In · [This is part of the Android Diary.] To be precise, seven months in. I couldn’t live without an Internet phone now. I might be able to live without an Android, but on balance I’m very happy with my G1 ...
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Phone Keys · The issue is whether hardware keyboards on mobile phones are a good idea, and there’s a charming little prognosticate-off in progress. In this corner: John Gruber, who’s almost always right, saying (and I quote) “Normal people aren’t planning to do much typing on their new smartphone, and they’re probably right.” In the other corner, lots of people. Well, and me too ...
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Migration About Done · This is a report from the tail-end of the process of bringing our thousand-or-so CDs online; previous instalments have included Mass Music Migration and More Music Migration ...
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Cupcake · Which is to say, Android 1.5. I updated my G1 dev phone today, and hey, it’s pretty cool. Tons of little changes all over and an on-screen keyboard. Plus, now I’m a really bad videographer! ...
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AD XI: How To Use the GPS · [This is part of the Android Diary.] Some notes on how, as a programmer, you can get practical use out of the “Location Providers” on early Android devices ...
 
Experimental Engineering · I spent some time looking through the just-emerging web OS technical documentation, and it quickly became apparent that Palm’s approach is radically different from both Android’s and Apple’s. Since they’re all here at more or less the same time, running the same Web browser on roughly equivalent hardware, this represents an unprecedented experiment in competitive software-engineering approaches ...
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AD X: Grumbledroid · [This is part of the Android Diary.] There’s a pattern in this tribe where you put “droid” on the end of, well, everything. Thus this title; herewith another set of hands-on notes, this with a sort of grumbly tone ...
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Mobile Gold · Today I read Rob Scoble’s lucid and forceful Smartphone competition; it clarified a growing internal buzz I’ve been feeling as I experiment with Android and follow the news. We are, right now in early 2009, sliding into the golden age of mobile technology and business ...
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AD IX: Five Programmer’s Notes · [This is part of the Android Diary.] I’ve done a bunch more polishing on my little demo-ware Feed Mapper; it even handles errors. Plus I’ve started sketching in the other half, the thing that might turn it into more than a demo and drive some Cloud biz for my employer. Time for some more give-the-feel-of-Android dispatches from the coalface ...
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AD VII: Nine Programmer’s Notes · [This is part of the Android Diary.] Being a disorderly list of impressions taken away from a couple of weeks of development ...
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JMMMDD · That stands for Java Mobile, Media & Embedded Developer Days; it’s a conference we’re presenting week after next in Santa Clara. I’m obviously super-interested in mobile-device programming these days, and have always thought that JavaFX Mobile was the most interesting piece of the FX effort; I can’t wait to getting my hands on some hardware. Unfortunately I can’t make it to this one, but it looks like a good event.
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AD VIII: On Android Maps · [This is part of the Android Diary.] In particular, drawing and interacting on them. Herewith a very specialized set of notes that might be of interest to anyone programming to Android’s very attractive map API. I’ve learned a lot already, but I’ll try to keep this up-to-date as I become more conversant with the state of the art ...
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AD VI: How To Draw a Curved Line · [This is part of the Android Diary.] For my little piece of demo-ware, I wanted to draw curved lines between the circles representing entries in a geotagged feed. Android has a function for drawing arcs, but I had to do a little trigonometry to work out the arguments. This is by way of sharing the answer with any other Androiders who want to draw curved lines, and, well, I kind of enjoyed the math and who knows, maybe someone else will too ...
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AD V: Demo-Ware · [This is part of the Android Diary.] I’d had an unofficial goal that the little Android goober I’m working on should be demo-able by the end of 2008. I made it by half an hour. It draws clickable zoomable renditions of geotagged feeds (RSS or Atom) on Google maps. The look and feel are cool. As of now, I’m not actually sure it’s useful for anything, but I think that geotagged feeds are potentially very interesting in general, so a viewer couldn’t hurt. The short-term lessons are about Android, though ...
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AD IV: Programming Newbie · [This is part of the Android Diary.] As of late last night, I have a bit of nontrivial code actually running on the G1. I feel a bit reluctant to diarize since I’m a complete beginner, swimming in ignorance; but it occurs to me that for every expert out there, there are many n00bs like me, who might wonder what the experience is like ...
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A.D. III: Odds & Sods · [This is part of the Android Diary.] Pocket-escapism, batteries, and ssh ...
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A.D. II: The Back Button · [This is part of the Android Diary.] One reason the Web succeeded is the generally well-designed user interface of its browsers; good UI design being the exception not the rule. A key feature of that interface, and arguably one of the single biggest innovations in UI history, is the “Back” button. One of the nicest things about the Android phone is that it has one too ...
 
Android Diary I · Around noon today, I picked up my unlocked Android G1 dev phone, and as of now it’s my main phone, plus I’m trying to write an app for it. I suspect that my experiences are going to be shared by quite a few people in the not-too-distant future, so why not record them? ...
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First-Class PR · I was having a beer in the bar at SFO waiting for my flight home, sitting next to this thirtyish woman, extremely well-groomed and well-dressed. I saw on her boarding pass that she was traveling Executive Class to LA. We got to talking and it turned out she was in Public Relations. She mostly worked, and her current Bay Area trip was about, representing new iPhone apps. I started feeling cognitive dissonance; first of all, I thought that we were in the kind of economic situation where you wouldn’t want to fly your PR people around in first class, and anyhow, aren’t most iPhone apps being built by low-rent guerilla operations? So I asked a few questions, and it turned out that the apps she represented were mostly from big companies; their names were extremely Web2.0-ish gnarls of unlikely consonant combinations, and they did unsurprising things. It’s dawning on me that the mobile-app space is going to be different.
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Mobility Blues · These days, I’m gloomier and gloomier about the prospects for the mobile Internet; you know, the one you access through the sexy gizmo in your pocket, not the klunky old general-purpose computer on your desk ...
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Android · I’m having a little trouble understanding Android; the business side I mean, not the technology ...
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Flat Rate Considered Harmful · Lots of people, including for example my CEO, say that the hand-held mobile is going to be a crucial, maybe a dominant, way for people to experience the Net; particularly on the other side of what we now call the digital divide. Only there’s an economic problem ...
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ssh+iPhone · Oooh, check it out; is that cool or what? Up till now I didn’t really want an iPhone, but I’m slipping. Of course Apple will see this as a problem that must be patched, sigh.
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Erroneous Ministerial One · Herewith my occasional romp through the built-up browser tabs. Item (serious): In The ‘Next’ Java, Joe Gregorio says some Really Smart Things about languages in general and Java in articular. Item (serious): At Business Week, Stephen Baker’s Writing for an audience of one says something genuinely new (hard, these days) about blogging. Item (interesting): My new Samsung is a pretty cool phone, but there are a few irritants. It turns out that someone called RedIpS has fixed them. I just bought a flashing cable on EBay; I wonder if I’m going to be breaking any laws? Item (not serious): SOA Facts. Item (puzzling): Some guy named Tim Bray seems to be in trouble in China; this article provided the title above. I hope Mr. Bray gets out OK.
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Samsung, Ringtones, Fair Use · My cellphone expired, so I was poking around here and there on the net looking for something unlocked in a GSM flavor; but one of my key criteria is big buttons that I can see without my reading-glasses, and the Web just doesn’t help you there. I ended up at a local grey-market emporium where a friendly Russian sold me a Samsung SGH-D600; it definitely meets the no-reading-glasses criterion and seems like a pretty nice phone. This cute little slidey black goober lets you use any old MP3 as a ringtone. Given that most of us have tons o’ music on our computers, and it’s pretty easy to slice out a sub-ten-second clip and Bluetooth it over to the phone, I guess the ring-tones business is dead. It seems obvious to me that using music I’ve already paid for in this way is Fair Use, but I bet there’s a lawyer somewhere who’d disagree for a fee. So I sat up late one evening cackling fiendishly over the audio software, and my ringtones are: Mancini’s Peter Gunn theme (the classic Ray Anthony version of course), the opening sequences of Burning Spear’s Slavery Days and Deep Purple’s Highway Star (off Made in Japan), and the closing seconds of Runaway Horses from Phil Glass’ wonderful Mishima soundtrack. Now, whenever the phone rings, I smile.
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Why SavaJe? · A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my rather mixed initial experience of the SavaJe Jasper S20. I’m making progress, and I’m going to invest a bit more work in this device, because I think it’s important. In this fragment I explain why I think so, with a bit more hands-on narrative ...
 
Happy · Scoble observed that many blogs are cruddy on cell phones. Curious, I emailed him asking how ongoing does. He wrote back “Your site looks great. One of the best I've seen so far on the phone.” I am absurdly pleased.
 
Russell Explodes · A couple of days ago I ran a piece about my mobility needs. It got quite a bit of reaction: Jeremy Zawodny and Gary Potter both seemed to agree, and Geoff Arnold wants a little more than I do. But then Russell Beattie rose up in righteous wrath and consigned Jeremy and me to the fiery furnace reserved for unbelievers in the coming Golden Age of mobile phones. He’s saying, more or less: “Resistance is irrelevant. You will be assimilated,” but it’s a good piece, read it. The thing is, I have been reading Russell, and he goes on about video and I think OK, and Web browsing, and I think OK, and about mobile games, and I think OK, and about high-bandwidth flat-rate pervasive Internet connectivity and I think “Cowabunga! Get me some of that!” Maybe once I have some of those other capabilities, I’ll get excited. But up till now, I haven’t actually seen anybody doing anything with a cellphone that I particularly want to do, except talk.
 
My Mobility Needs · There’s a lot of action on the mobility front. I know a lot of Blackberry-tethered businesspeople, and Russ Beattie has some red-hot new phone every week, and today there’s the iPodPhoto. Most of this stuff totally doesn’t interest me; this note is to explain why, and what I do want, because I can’t be that far out of the mainstream ...
 
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