Thursday, November 30, 2006

Canola Meets Chaos

So Canola, the long awaited media center application for the Nokia 770 launched yesterday. There were some minor issues that were quickly fixed by the Canola development team. My installation of the application was met with disastrous results as I ended up having to re-flash the 770 because of an Application Manager error that was unresolvable by any other means. Needless to say, this did not make me happy, as all my saved passwords, and installed applications were reset in the process. After that, the installation went perfect.

This brings up some concerns I'm sure have been addressed before, but have yet to be resolved. First off, I don't fault Canola for any of the issues I ran into during the installation, because this problem has cropped up in other application installations through the Application Manager. The problem seems to lie with the Application Manager itself, and I fear that it may be the major obstacle in the path of the Internet Tablet's success. In order to install an application, you need to go through way too much hassle to do so. And when something goes wrong, it goes really wrong. The solution to issues also become even more non-trivial as time progresses.

There needs to be an easier way to aggregate and install applications on the 770. Installed applications shouldn't be able to affect the installation of other applications, people shouldn't have to add repository information in order to get the program they desire, and the Application Manager should be stable enough to not require a reboot much less a re-flashing of the device. So enough with the nagging, let's get into how I feel about Canola.

This is an excellent application, and is easily the most well thought out I've seen on the 770 to date. Even the configuration interface just makes sense and works. The team has done a really great job with this amazing application. This single app has effectively replaced the default audio, video, and image applications while adding the functionality of the Media Streamer application. Finally, a single application for the 770 that has earned the "Complete Media Solution" award from me. This will definitely be an inspiration for future development of programs for the Maemo platform.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

This Just In...

Engadget snagged some more spy photos of the new Nokia Internet Tablet slated to be the successor to the 770. There's slightly darker news accompanying this brighter look at the new table as Thoughtfix has discovered the device may not be available until at least Spring 2007.

Better Biometrics

OKI Introduces Japan's First Iris Recognition for Camera-equipped Mobile Phones
Is just a matter of time now, before devices not only use this technology for authentication for the device's access, but for other purposes as well. I'm not quite sure what other mobile applications this technology might hold, but I have a feeling this will be one of those features we'll see a lot more of in the future.
Gizmodo | SlashPhone

Sheriff's Office Eyes Iris Scans For Kids
Penobscot County Sheriff's Department (Maine) is the first in the state to adopt iris scanning technology to build the Children’s Identification and Location Database (CHILD) project, which is intended to aid in locating and identifying missing children. It will be interesting to see how people will react to this type of "safety" measure as it begins to spread to other areas. I think it should be up to the parents to decide if they want to let their children to be entered into the new database. Some might think of it as a privacy violation, but I see it as just another method of identification that happens to be more precise.
Engadget | Bangor Daily News

Net Traffic Jam

So yesterday was probably the worst time to surf the web as lots of people continue their cyber shopping for the holidays. Never the less, I found a couple interesting links on the web that were still "alive" (at least at the time). The first being Linutop, the super small Linux-based computer. This thing looks to me like the desktop equivalent of the Nokia 770, but at this point there's no pricing or purchasing info for it yet.

The second bit of news is that NFlick 0.3.0 is now available for the Nokia 770, and it works quite well for viewing Flickr photos when connected to the web. Apparently, this version fixes some issues with Flickr photosets among other improvements.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mobile Future: Part 3

"Smarter Tech Breeds Smarter Criminals"

Continued discussion from "Everyone Is A Bounty Hunter"

Now let's go back to the story about Leeroy for a moment and clarify some points that may be of interest. We won't worry about Leeroy's reasons for turning in the criminal, but how about what the criminal actually did the week the fiber optic network went dark at Wachovia bank on 5th street? The criminal, let's call him George, had made the first bank robbery in Chicago in several years by disabling the very technology that made the bank so secure. By detonating an EMP device, the primary and redundant power supply to the bank was knocked off line for about 3 minutes. More than enough time to bypass the active network security system and apply device shielded from the EMP which would intercept various parts of the reboot sequence of the banks network. This of course allowed George enough paths to access the specific information he wanted - the armored truck routes and schedules for the next six weeks.

But the information has been triple encrypted and the encryption keys are stored at separate remote and secure locations known and accessible only by the bank managers of each branch in the city. George knows one of the managers and has convinced him no one would know about his part in the deal should something happen and he would make it worth his while to help him. The manager has seen George get away with worse agrees to break the encryption. After all, there would be no record of him accessing the the routes and schedules info, just the encryption keys. Little did they know, George had been spotted walking to the manager's by Leeroy only moments earlier...

You see, information is worth a whole lot more these days, and had George put that information to use this would likely turn out much differently. However, we wouldn't have any of the above information about George's story without the multiple sources from eyewitnesses like Leeroy that led up to the arrest. As for how much information is worth, for whatever reasons, that depends on how much the community decides it's worth. It also could be decided by the community what the appropriate punishment for George should be. Brings a whole new meaning to "Social Security", don't you think?

In Related News...
YouTube Video Triggers FBI Probe Of L.A. Arrest - These are the type of cases you'll likely see a lot more of in the future. A lot more people will have ready access to mobile devices with integrated cameras, it will become easier to upload video to hosting/streaming sites such as YouTube and Google Video, and the masses will debate on and possibly decide on the best consequence matches the act. Remember, we'll be watching the government as the government watch us.

Also, the usage of social community sites like Digg to help solve problems will continue to escalate. For instance, it has been used to look for missing people, solve complex math equations, and provide multiple perspectives on subjects that require them. These tools and resources will only get better, more efficient, and reliable as more people use them.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Clipcomm BS-T100V converts VoIP to your mobile via Bluetooth - An interesting idea I'd expect to have seen emerge long before now. I look forward to seeing a WiMAX via WiFi/Bluetooth solution for what we will, in the near future, refer to as "older wireless devices" that are not equipped with newer wireless standards.

UK schools pull the plug on WiFi for alleged health reasons - This is the kind of backwards thinking that really gets my goat. Expect to see more of your taxpayer money waisted on research to determine if WiFi radio frequency radiation is hazardous. Then expect to see more waisted on implementation of a bio-hazard rating system for the varying levels of radiation found to be emitting from cellular communication towers, power lines, WiMAX, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc. Not to mention the laws that will pop up making carrying mobile devices with wireless antennas built in restricted. You'll either need a license to carry such devices, or it could eventually become flat out illegal to enter "No Wireless" zones. But of course all of this will be just as weakly enforced as "No Smoking" areas are to this very day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

First Album Made On A Mobile

Israeli musician Omri Levy sets a new stage for how feasible recording music has become with his "about:blank" album release, which was recorded entirely on a Nokia N80, using Alon MP3 dictaphone software. The album is available for download under a Creative Commons Music Sharing License. It's awesome uses of technology such as this that makes the world all the more interesting, while creating new genres of art at the same time.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mobile Future: Part 2

"Biometrics And Broadband"

Imagine an inconspicuous device that you could wear that connects you, in a reasonably seamless way, to the rest of the world. A device which allows you to be mobile and was still powerful enough for any mortal human. It's a fact that the mobile phones you know today are becoming more and more like mobile computers that specialize in the areas of communication. With each generation bringing better network coverage, integrated cameras for higher resolution images and video, and faster Internet speeds, all wrapped into a small more usable device. With the advent of wireless and nano technologies, it is now time to start thinking about the possibilities of enabling more obvious integration of our mobile tools into our everyday lifestyles.

Sunshades that also host embedded displays, jewelry that provide microphones or speakers, wristwatches that double as network attached storage drives, and so on. Not only can these devices connect via wireless, but they could also be powered over wireless technology. I imagine at some point you'd need only be in wireless and wireless powered hotspot with just your shades as a network terminal and connect to the expansive web without batteries, "local storage", or central processor. You would connect to your other networked items you left at home and could work on whatever documents you needed to.

But wait, what about input methods? Well, not only could your glasses serve as the display, but could also incorporate some form of retinal input. Not feeling good about that idea or would rather have more traditional input methods? How about having your wearable terminal map a virtual keyboard and mouse on a table, wall, or other viable surface at a moments notice? It would solve a lot of privacy concerns in public places like cafes and restaurants, as you would be the only one to see the layout. At a time when biometrics becomes more prevalent in our society, you could pay for your coffee through a variety of biometrics options at the counter. Plus, the increased availability and decreased cost of Internet access combined with all these great new technologies will be nice to have. All so seamless that we'll sometimes forget they're even there.

Next week we'll return to answer some questions about the story in Mobile Future: Part 1.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mobile Future: Part 1

"Everyone Is A Bounty Hunter"

Leeroy Thomas, age 23, is walking to his apartment in the heart of Chicago, Illinois at about 6:25 p.m. "Damn watch never worked right since that idiot set off that EMP grenade last week at the bank." he whispers to himself, as he peers through his Nokia branded, light adjusting sunglasses at his watch, in disgust. Leeroy takes a glance across the street before turning to enter the lobby of his building and notices a guy he thinks he recognizes. He flips a small switch on his shades as he's walking upstairs to his apartment on the fourth floor (Leeroy never the trusted elevator here).

"Google Crime Search, scan all images taken since 6:00 p.m." The display embedded in his glasses flips through a few hundred images within seconds and shows Leeroy the search results with info about the man across the street in bold red text. "I knew it! Report results and location of that fool to the authorities," says Leeroy, as he opens his door and enters his small apartment. "Oh, and make sure they know I'm the guy who's watch was screwed up in that mess he caused last week."

Moments later, Leeroy gets an audible message from his headset - "Suspect apprehended." The display in Leeroy's glasses outputs a list of stats showing his increase in Google Search points, digg's 'Nice Digging' points from auto-submitting the story, and the Chicago 'Good Citizen' ranking among dozens of other stats. "Good" Leeroy says simply as he lays back on his bed and closes his eyes to the scrolling of stats of the readout. He also receives a reward deposit directly into his PayPal account from the city for his efforts and of course he gets sent a new watch identical to the one that was damaged. You see, everyone can be a bounty hunter these days.

Aside from people still using wrist watches in the future, there's a lot to be said about how the technology being built today will likely influence the world of tomorrow. From stylish and comfortable mobile computers that serve multiple purposes while being more powerful than today's supercomputers, to search engines that provide vital information to the masses to solve any conceivable problem, to social network driven security forces that help fight crime on a global scale. Part of that technology is here and the other part is just around the corner.

For a subject that can span several posts, I'll be tackling some of the various ideas I have about where the future looks to be heading as it pertains to mobile technology. Please feel free to join us at any time in discussion about these radical perspectives on our path to the future, and stay tunned for more.

Friday, November 17, 2006

It's A Holiday Thing

Okay, I'll make this quick. As a part time IT consultant, I'm obviously going to be in high demand over the next few weeks. I'll be redirecting and focusing a large amount of my available time to my current clients and potential prospects with everything from massive "Let's get ready for the New Year" tech upgrades to "What cool tech gifts would my family like?" suggestions. I'll also be spending more time with family, and we all know how hard the IT person of the family works this time of year. This is likely going to leave some lengthy gaps between posts during that time, but I'll do my best to make sure those gaps aren't too huge.

Mark Your Calendars:
- Canola, the new media manager app for the 770 is set to launch November 29th.
- I've been working on something new for NET9 as we get closer to its first birthday, December 10th.
- I don't have any solid info on it yet, but look for more info on the new tablet from Nokia to emerge soon. Okay, that was quicker than I expected. Check out the new info about the new tablet here and here.

Happy Holidays from NET9!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Maemo Working On A New Look

Although it's not quite complete, the new design looks a lot cleaner than the current version. The new version Application Catalog looks to have a Single-click install feature that would make adding programs a lot less complicated for 770 users. I look forward to using the new version of the site. It looks great so far. Check out the comparison shots for changes.

In Other News...
TinyTube: YouTube For Mobile Devices
Could There Be A Subsidized Mobile Phone In Your Future?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Giving Credit Where It's Due

So Ari Jaaksi's got a blog post about the new Hacks and Apps Gallery on the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet site, and it just so happens to have my name as the developer of the VNC Viewer application in the gallery. I'd like to get the whole story behind this great app told, and spread the recognition for its development across the other two people that had/have a hand in the foundation and continued improvement of VNC Viewer for the 770.

First, Aaron L. was first to port VNC Viewer to the Maemo platform (2005 version), but wasn't able to make much time to continue its development. This is where I took up the challenge and ported Aaron's version over to the 2006 OS and continued for a short while to make further improvements, but I too, came to a point where I was unable to dedicate much time to work on the program. Then came Detlef Schmicker to continue further development and even added some much needed functionality to VNC Viewer. As of this post, Detlef's version is the most complete and fully functional, but anyone that wishes to improve on the application has only to grab the source from either of us three and go for it.

Of course there are the other great applications in the gallery and even more can be found in the Maemo Application Catalog. Finally, I'd like to thank Nokia for recognizing the many efforts of the community that help make the Maemo platform such a great mobile experience.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Here Comes The Competition

First up is FIC's Linux-based FIC-GTA001 Smartphone. FIC is releasing the device along with a software development kit which will allow users to build their own applications and continue to improve the overall functionality of the device. Sound familiar? It should, Nokia's 770 Internet Tablet has been using this "community grown" idea for a while now. It will be interesting how this device and it's platform develops over time compared to other Open Source community driven projects of similar nature.

Some Preliminary Specs:
- 2.8-inch 480x640 TFT display
Touch panel with multi-touch gesture recognition
Mesh file sharing over USB
- Full GSM features
- Built-in GPS
- 128MB RAM
- Samsung ARM9-based processor
- Dedicated emergency paging button
iPod-quality mp3 player

Gizmodo | Engadget | SlashGear | FIC

Next up is DrewTech's DashDAQ Data Acquisition System. Labeled as "a cross between a data acquisition system, diagnostic tool, automotive gage display, and a handheld computer", the DashDAQ is another Linux-based device like the Nokia 770 that plans to carve out its own genre of mobile devices. It appears targeted to cater to automotive aficionados and other performance tracking junkies out there that have to have the latest and greatest tools for the job. I'm still not sure how flexible the platform is for developers, but the device itself looks promising.

Some Device Specs:
- 4-inch Full color QWVGA 480x272 TFT display
- Touch screen user interface
- 64MB RAM
- 200MHz ARM processor
- Up to 8GB MMC/SD storage expansion
- USB 2.0 connectivity with host capability
- 802.11b/g, Bluetooth, cellular modem (optional)
- Tools available to write custom software

Engadget | DrewTech

As more and more devices join the Open Source driven product game, we'll begin comparing them to each other and determine which devices are suited best for the various use cases out there these days. There will be new questions that come about from this new age of end-user/community grown platform concept. The ones on my mind now and going forward are, will there be enough of the community to go around to with all the new and different devices popping up or will we come to a point where only a few platforms rise to the top of the bunch? These questions and more will be answered soon enough.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Where's My Pitchfork And Torch?

Mike Cane continues his search for signs of competence in Nokia after the somewhat disastrous reception of the recent to the Internet Tablet 2006 OS for the Nokia 770. There's been a lot of cases, from what I've heard around the Internet Tablet Talk forums, of 770 users having a range of problems with the new updated software, and some even regretting administering the upgrade due to lack of long requested features, fixes, etc. Although I had a flawless upgrade to the new version, I have to stand by my fellow 770 users and say that some major issues need to be resolved with the process of updating our Internet Tablets.

If Nokia plans on the next Internet Tablet hardware to be successful, they are really going to have to make upgrading these devices less "hit or miss" than what we've got right now. I only hope the good people at Nokia are competent enough to come up with a solution to this problem quickly, or they may see a lot less sales of their new tablet than expected.

Prepare To Be Liberated
FON Buys GSpace and will add network attached storage capabilities to a future wireless router dubbed the FON Liberator. The device is slated for a Febuary 2007 launch and will allow users to attach external storage via USB and will also have a BitTorrent client and other interesting features built in.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

News 11.05.2006

New Canola Media Player Footage - Not sure what the official name of this beautiful app for the 770 is yet, but I definitely like it. I hope it's released soon.

Meebo Gets A Huge Update

Gamoku has launched. It's the new free flash-based game site built to work well with wireless enabled mobile devices such as PDAs, certain cell phones, and and other small-screened devices with a web browser and flash player. The size of the game area for each game is a bit small on the 770's screen, but with a little digging you can find the source for just the .swf locations to make for a more useful view. Here are some of the games from the site that I found to be somewhat enjoyable:

- Rotation
- Snake
- Blackjack
- Air Hockey
- Freecell Solitaire
- Bomb Squad
- Drop
- Table Soccer

Check out the site for other games as well.

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Little Faster, More Stable

Depending on who you ask, the new OS update for the 770 Internet Tablet that was announced yesterday was either full of much needed improvements and features or not worth the trouble of updating to. I probably come in closer to the "why bother" side of the group, but I'm also part of the group of users that have to test the latest software. That said, I updated and after some time working and testing some use cases that in the past caused the web browser to unexpectedly crash or the device to reboot, I noticed it never crashed once the whole time. I even turned the extended virtual memory feature off and everything was still just as fast until I had more than three windows open or surfed through a dozen sites.

The overall performance of the built-in software is definitely more stable than before as well. The release notes describe some other features that claim to have been improved such as WLAN and Bluetooth connectivity, but I couldn't really tell much of a difference. Probably the biggest addition is the capability to use 2GB memory. The hand-writing recognition is also a lot better than it used to be, but I never really used that feature much either.

For people who want the most out of the 770, no matter how small the improvements are, this update is nice to have. For people who are easily disappointed by small improvements that aren't very noticeable, this update may not be worth it. Personally, I think it's good to have, but I'm kind of disappointed that the flash player still hasn't been upgraded or that we still don't have Java running on this device. Oh well, maybe in the next update.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

This Just In...

Nokia 770 Gets An OS Update
Google Updates Mobile Services
YouTube downloads for mobile devices by 2007?
La Fonera Source Code Has Been Released

How Could I Forget?

I posted some reasons why the PDA is still alive and kicking [albeit not as hard] and realized that I had forgotten other reasons why it remains relevant to mobile users. According to research by In-Stat, 75% of SmartPhone users also carry a PDA. But it doesn't end here. They also say that 80% of cameraphone owners also carry a separate digital camera and more than 50% of users of multimedia phones also carry their MP3 players. So it sounds like the built-in functions of these multipurpose phones still don't quite reach the capabilities of their dedicated counterparts.

I also think that a lot of people already have a separate device when they purchase a new phone, and either want to continue to get the most use out of their gadget or they just have become so comfortable with using the older gadget and would rather not have to fumble around with learning how to use the feature on their newer phone.

Although it still may be true that most mobile users would rather not have to lug around so many different devices, it's more likely they will replace the older dedicated PDA, camera, and MP3 player with better, faster, and smaller dedicated devices within this group than buy or begin to use an all-in-one mobile device for these functions. Besides, with many of the separate devices gaining wireless connectivity, it's becoming that much easier to connect and continue using them without physically handling them.

I still believe we'll begin to use multifunction mobile devices down the road, and we'll continue to see manufacturers try new combinations of functionality going forward as well. It's just a matter of time before the recipe of making a mobile gadget is perfected, but with ingredients like cameras, multimedia, PDA functions, wireless, etc., it may take a while. And as we start to use all of these and newer functions in new and unique ways, there is sure to be that perfect device for any and everyone in the future.
Engadget Mobile | ZDNet | In-Stat

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What Has Come Of The Traditional PDA?

There was a time when you needed more than just a cell phone to operate on the go. During that time PDAs filled that void quite well, but my, how times have changed. Now just about every cell phone has the functions once only found in PDAs. Some devices, like smart phones, have even surpassed the abilities of the PDA altogether. The idea of the traditional PDA is fading fast, and some have been saying for some time that it's already dead. So in the age of feature packed mobile phones and computers you can easily carry in your pocket, why do people still buy traditional PDAs?

The answer, much like the PDA idea, is quite simple. Everyone doesn't need a cell phone or complicated pocket computer. A mobile phone requires one to pay monthly payments, which can become expensive over time and that isn't appealing to some people. Ultra mobile computers are still quite expensive, with the exception of a few devices, and are just as complicated to use as an ordinary PC. Again not the best solution for some people. There's still a surprisingly large number of people who just want to check and synchronize their email, calendar, and address book quickly and easily without paying a ton of money.

I think PDAs will stick around a little longer as there is still a need for them, but as being mobile becomes less expensive and can fill the needs of the PDA user, I'm sure there will be a proper funeral for the traditional PDA.