2008-10-31

My view, your view

We watched the Rev's play to a 0-0 draw last night in the first leg of a home-away playoff against Chicago. The match was entertaining, and it was great to see the ref yellow-card Blanco for dissent.

My view at the stadium was partly obscured by a TV camera crane. Your view at home was a little better. (Thanks for the photo, Todd.)

2008-10-24

Fix ThinkPad T43 WiFi connection

My ThinkPad T43's wireless network connection stopped working. I'm not sure why, but I'm not the first person to have this kind of problem--Regular Joe had a similar problem. His solution didn't work for me, but he offered a good clue that ThinkVantage Access Connections was the culprit.

Here's how I fixed my problem. In Control Panel / Network Connections, click Change settings of this connection. In the Wireless Networks tab, check Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings. Windows immediately noticed that I was in range of my wireless network, and the rest was obvious.

After my first Windows XP reboot, ThinkVantage Access Connections tried to take over again. For good measure, I uninstalled it, and now everything is stable. I am not using ThinkVantage Access Connections any more, but my WiFi works, and that's all that matters.





2008-10-14

Remove ThinkPad Rescue and Recovery

My ThinkPad T43 went blue screen of death so frequently that I labeled it trash. After a while, I smartened up and read the blue screen before it disappeared. The clue: ibmfilter.sys. According to Lenovo support, old versions of ThinkPad Rescue and Recovery contain a broken ibmfilter.sys. I uninstalled Rescue and Recovery, and so far BSODs are less frequent.

2008-10-10

Boston Flash Lite Technology Day

I attended the Boston Flash Lite Technology Day today at the Nokia Research Center in Cambridge.

Breakfast
Developing Flash Content with Adobe Creative Suite (aka Flash Lite Overview)
  • Presented by James Talbot of Adobe
  • Advantage of Flash Lite: you can build app's more quickly than with other technologies
  • Demos: YouTube search & play; a game. When the demo doesn't work, "blame it on the network." -Alessandro
  • 800 million Flash devices shipped to date; 1 billion Flash devices projected for 2009
  • Flash Lite is a Flash player optimized for non-PC devices; pre-installed; app's, wallpapers, screensavers; has access to device state info; has video, audio, bitmap support; enables dynamic content,access to XML data (including an XML socket that stays open between player and server for faster request/response), access RSS feeds; 4 versions of Flash Lite
  • Versions: 1.1, 2.0, 2.1, 3.0. Upward compatible from 1.1 to 3.0. Makes it easy to play video from Flash Media Server.
  • No OTA distribution of Flash Lite player on Nokia devices. User must proactively find and download updates. (On BREW, Flash Lite is delivered OTA.) ~0.5mbytes for OTA delivery. Ideal: when end user downloads an app, thep player would come with it.
  • (It seems like everyone in the room is reading stock market news and looking at graphs of the stock market plunge. And that everyone has an iPhone.)
  • Nokia device support: 94 total; 49 S60 phones , 45 S40 phones
  • Use Adobe Creative Suite to build app's: PhotoShop, Fireworks, Illustrator -> Flash tool to create .swf file -> test in the Flash player and on emulated devices in Device Central (the Flash Lite dev and test tool for Creative Sutie) -> deploy in the wild.
  • Device Central includes numerous device profiles, which are easy to update.
  • Discussion about need for better UI and a developer community focused on tools and UI widgets.
I chatted with Anthony Hand, mobile UI designer and a friend from MobileCampBoston.

Flash Lite Tips and Tricks
  • Presented by Alessandro Pace, a Forum Nokia Champion
  • Nokia & Flash Lite content types: S60 (standalone, screensaver, browser), S40 (all those + wallpaper)
  • Do most of the work in the Flash IDE + Device Central emulator
  • Remote Device Access (RDA): S60/S40 Nokia device testing for free via a service like Device Anywhere. I got excited about this and spent most of the rest of this presentation trying it.
  • Optimize graphics to save memory.
  • To save memory, create a master SWF file that load other SWFs.
  • Use WURFL .
  • Use Nokia's tool for OMA DRM.
  • Use Flash video instead of the device's native video player so you can add UI elements and rotate the video.
David Brown of AgencyNet gave a demo of his company's Bacardi mobile app, implemented in Flash Lite, running on an N95. It included themes, animation, and video.

Lunch
Introduction to Forum Nokia (aka Partership Opportunities)
  • Presented by Ganesh Sivaraman, Internet and Web 2.0 Business Development Manager
  • Over half of smartphone owners have used or purchased a download app.
Flash Lite Video on Nokia Devices
  • Presented by James Talbot
  • Two ways of delivering : device video player or Flash video files (FLVs, rendered directly by the video codec--Sorenson or On2).
  • Availabe in Flash Lite 2 or better.
  • System.Capabilites object has properties decribing the capabilities of the device: hasEmbeddedVideo, hasStreamingVideo, videoMIMETypes
  • ActionScript video class allows play, pause, stop, resume, close
  • video.play("file.3pg")
  • video.play("http://example.com/file.3pg")
  • Flash Media Server can detect network and device capabilities and stream the right video to the device. (True?)
  • Use Adobe Media encoder to produce videos in the codec you want.
  • You can host your video as an HTTP progressive download, but it won't scale well. For good performance, use streaming video and the Flash Media Server. Video starts playing faster. Streaming uses less device memory. Video can be secured. Better network usage. Automatically detect bandwidth. Track, log, and report on video use.
  • Flash Lite limitations: only one way communication from the server to the client; only supports RTMP; cannot record video;
  • Use lower frame rate for mobile devices due to bandwidth and CPU limitations.
I pulled an espresso from Nokia's Starbucks Barista. Yum!

Programming Advanced Nokia Features with Flash Lite
  • Presented by Scott Janousek, a Forum Nokia Champion
  • Founder/Tech Director at Hooken Mobile
  • Home brewer
  • Flash Lite strengths; media capabliites, cross platform/portability across devices, extensive toolset (Adobe CS4, adobe Device Central)
  • Weaknesses; performanc eon low end devices, fragmentation
  • On S60, Flash Lite offers advanced features without much developer experience required.
  • Flash Lite + 3rd party software extender: answer to native Symbian development challenges
  • 3rd party products: KuneryLite, SWF2go, Janus, Flyer
  • Extending Flash Lite pros: additional functionality, access to low level device APis, don't have to learn Symbian S60 programming, saves dev time. Cons: fragmentation outside of S60, etc.
  • KuneriLite: a rapid application development toolkit for Flash Lite
  • Flash Lite <--> Kuneri Lite <--> S60
  • Fast, powerful, transparent to end user, 12 plug ins, easy packaging as .sis file, good device emulator, nice dev wizard takes you step by step through building an app.
  • Plug-ins: accelerometer, camera, connect (text/binary via Bluetooth), DTMF, file, GPS, protect (SWF security protection), ringtone, rotate, system (launch app's from your app), timer (for expiring use free trials), upload/download (via HTTP)
  • 3 licenses; free dev version, pro (non commercial), commercial ($99 per app)
  • Nokia to add extensions: camera, messaging, landmarks, location, contacts, calendar, logging, application manager, system info, sensors, etc.
Flash Lite and Widget programming
  • Presented by Rob Toole , Fidelity Investments
  • Why widgets? Native web browser isn't usable enough. Make it easy to find most relevant content quickly. One click access--no scrolling or typing.
  • Package as .wgz file, a zip file, for distribution and installation.
  • Distribution: Upload your app to MOSH for instant distribution.

Between session chat: DeviceAtlas is a cleaned up WURFL.

Flash Lite for Real App's
  • Presented by Ira Hochman, CTO of Untravel Media
  • The Flash player recognizes device rotation. It automatically rotates the UI and scales UI elements to the proper aspect.
  • Porting is easy.
  • Flash might not be a good target platform in the US because there aren't enough US Nokia users.
  • He believes Flash Lite solves device fragmentation.
A Flash Lite success story (not the actual title)
  • Presented by Rob Toole, Fidelity
My thoughts
Flash Lite is like Java ME, with some of the same characteristics and problems. Its fragmentation is or will be similar to Java's, and looks like it may exactly mimic Java's fragmentation as Nokia introduces custom APIs. The Adobe developer suite looks like a better dev tool set than Java's tools (although NetBeans seems vey good). It is not supported on as many devices as Java.

2008-10-09

Don't get cooked by your phone

Beware! You can get cooked by your phone! Of course it's true--haven't you seen the videos of people popping corn or cooking eggs using a few cell phones? If a mobile phone can pop corn or boil an egg, imagine what it's doing to your brain!

But can you really pop corn or boil an egg with mobile phones?

Here's a little thought experiment. My microwave oven at home is a Frigidaire PLMV168KC3. According to the label inside the cooking chamber, it emits 1.58 KW. When I put a single corn kernel on the cooking tray and run the oven at high power for 5 minutes, nothing happens to the kernel. When I put 4 kernels in a tea cup covered with a plate and run the oven at high power, one kernel pops in about 3 minutes.

Mobile phones and microwave ovens both operate in the microwave frequency spectrum. Phones transmit omnidirectionally because the cell tower could be in any direction; the magnetron in an oven only transmits toward the floor of the cooking chamber. Contemporary mobile phones transmit at a maximum of 2 W; my oven transmits at 1,580 W. If you could get 790 phones transmitting at 2 W simultaneously, place some corn kernels in an enclosed container in the center of them, and surround the system with a microwave reflector, you might be able to pop some corn in a few minutes. As long as the phones didn't absorb the microwave energy themselves. Which they would. So it's just not practical to cook with mobile phones.

(Please correct if I am abusing power units, misunderstanding transmission and absorption, or misunderstanding anything else.)

2008-10-02

W3C Mobile Web Best Practices

W3C recently published Mobile Web Best Practices, a set of guidelines for mobile web developers. Many of these guidelines are also applicable to downloadable mobile applications. Here are some key notes:
  • Test on as many real devices as possible. Testing in emulators is unacceptable.
  • Keep URIs short. It is difficult to type long URIs on a phone's 12-key keypad.
  • Make URI deliver similar content regardless of the browser.
  • Minimize the amount of navigation links at the top of a page. Use bottom navigation links instead. Screens are small, so don't waste it with navigation links instead of content. Data connections are slow, so don't make people wait for their content.
  • Try to keep content reachable within four request/response transactions.
  • If a link navigates to content that is large, let the user know before he clicks. Data connections are slow and screens are small--maybe the user doesn't want that content right now.
  • Don't auto-refresh a page unless the user can toggle it off.
  • Use server redirects instead of markup redirects. Data connections are slow, so don't make the mobile browser download a page only to be redirected to another page.
  • Keep total page size <= 10 to 20 kbytes for the Default Delivery Context.
  • It's OK for a page to scrool vertically or horizontally, but not both. The screen is small, and it's easy for the user to become disoriented with too much scrolling.
  • Use care with colors; devices often have crappy displays and it's difficult to distinguish colors.
  • Don't use frames. They might not be supported, or the might not be rendered where you expect them.
  • Avoid tables, and especially tables with fixed sizes that won't render well on different screen sizes.
  • Use ALT tags for images. Make pages usable in no-image mode.
  • Use style sheets for presentation control.
  • Don't send content the device can't render.
  • Don't rely on cookies.
  • Allow caching where possible.
  • Avoid text entry. Prefer multiple choice selection.
Also see W3C's Device Independence Principles for more good ideas.

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