Category Archives: mobile

making your blog go mobile

Mobile! It’s the latest and greatest of the buzzes isn’t it? But it’s damn right too, because more and more people are starting to use their mobile devices to reach out into the fabulous and marvellous inter-webs to do all sorts of productive things like using twitter, visiting reddit, tumbler and 4chan or read interesting articles on websites and blogs (probably being posted in their twitter stream) about kittens.

So let it be known that in the year 2010 A.D. you better bloody well have a mobile version of your website online or you’re going to miss out. Well, maybe not miss out, but you won’t be one of the cool kids (see photo) for sure! So how do you join the club of the hip and mobile-ready web sites?

Lot’s and lot’s of programming, l33t CSS skills and plenty of testing on all sorts of devices will get you there.

Or if you’re running a WordPress blog, you can also check out these two plugins which basically turn your old fashion 2009 blog into a futuristic mobile-touch-screen-enabled piece of awesomeness!

  • WpTouch: turns your blog into it’s touch-friendly html self and allows people with iPhones and Android devices (among others) to easily tap and click around with their greasy thumbs.
  • WordPress Mobile Edition: the name sort of gives it away doesn’t it? This baby enables those poor sobs who still have and oldskool smartphone without a touch-screen to use your site as well.

You can run them both to make sure you aren’t missing a single mobile hit on your site.
Very 2010.
Very hip.

Photo by Kid Paparazzi, cc-licensed.

will windows phone 7 cut it?

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A few weeks ago I was in the lion’s den at Schiphol watching a presentation of the new to come Microsoft Windows Phone 7. It was supposed to be Windows Phone development thing, but it turned out to be more of a marketing rant than a geeky app development preview. Bummer.

But hey, since we where there, we might as well get a glance of that sexy (or so they want us to believe) new phone the MS guys came up with right? Well, apparently the phone’s hardware is going to be almost completely fixed. No matter what brand you’re getting the GPU, CPU, amount of RAM, OLED display (including resolution) and Windows buttons (like the Android buttons) are fixed. If it doesn’t that the specs set my MS, it’s not going to be a WinPhone. Manufactures do get to play with the design, a potential hardware keyboard and the on board camera which has to be at least 5 mega pixels. Apparently that’s what the manufacturers want. When it comes to competing it’ll be all about making a pretty phone then I guess.

That the hardware is fixed also makes it easier to to maintain the OS and the device drivers. Both of these will be in the hands of the Redmond lads which is interesting. Microsoft will be the one to blame when the phone doesn’t work as expected and not Motorola, HTC, Samsung or whoever built the damn thing. This could be a good thing for quality and could avoid issues like on Android phones where one brand of phone gets it’s OS updates a lot faster than the other.

When it comes to the OS features it’s what you expect and know of the competing phones. It has a native IE, searches using Bing and integrates as expected with a bunch of online Microsoft services like Live/Hotmail, XBox Live (if available in your country) and the Zune for music (if available in your country). This sort of makes me think about iTunes lock-in on the iPhone. It was to be expected MS wasn’t going to shy away from some vendor lock-in mechanism’s here and there right. This phone is going to integrate nicely with your Windows Media Player and your Windows 7 or Vista OS of course. Oh yeah and they support Flash. They made sure that was clear.

So what about apps? Well, they are mainly taking the iPhone route there. There’s going to be an app-store and they are going to approve every app published on it. All under the guise of quality assurance they are training a bunch of developers in India to routinely approve each submitted app before it gets unleashed on their phones. In fact, they are going to sign each app with a Microsoft certificate after it’s approved. This means that as an app developer you have to submit your source code as well. Creepy. Releasing apps through the Marketplace¬† isn’t going to be cheap either. 99$ a year. You then get 5 apps “free” and for each additional app you have to pay an extra 20$. So watch out how you version those apps I’d say. 99$ is the same cost as for access to the the iPhone app store. Google’s Android store is cheaper with only a 25$ to pay.

Developing the apps is done with Visual Studio. You can use the freely downloadable (but crippled) Visual Studio Express editions to develop a WP7 (WordPress 7? No! Windows Phone 7!) app using C# (or any other .NET language I suppose) and a WPF-like XAML for the user interface. For developers working in .NET this will make app development a breeze using their trusty and known toolkit. Integration with a bunch of online Microsoft services to make your apps location aware, do searches using Bing and use apps in the Azure cloud are also available. Interesting to see if these idea’s are going to give this phone the edge it’ll need to drag people away from their Android devices and iPhones.

Personally I’m hooked on Android. Both WP7 and iPhone reek of vendor lock-in to me which is enough to not even consider them. DRM’d Zune downloads and iTunes requirements annoy me, but since not everyone cares about these issues I’m sure there will be adopters for this as well.

If hipsters go for Apple phones and geeks go for Android phones, will mom and pop go for the Windows phones?

Photo by bitzcelt, cc-licensed.

mobile internet in belgium, who's the cheapest?

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Note for international readers: this post concerns data limits for Belgian mobile providers making this probably not very interesting if you don’t live in this small but lovely country. You are however free to brag in the comments on how cheap your data traffic is, as that will probably be the case.

Updated 28-8-2010 due to new Base surf-5 changes.

I’ve heard good things about Mobile Vikings lately. That they offer cheap data access for your smartphone for example. And they have a cool sounding name. I’m with the lads from Base myself and quite pleased with their service and pricing so far. But since the Mobile Vikings are actually using the Base network, I thought it was worth checking out who of the two is the cheapest and if it would be worth switching.

Comparing cellphone providers is always a bitch. So I’m keeping it simple here. I’m only looking at the costs for data traffic. Costs for text messages and phone calls are simply not included. If you feel like switching you’ll have to look into that as well to see if it’s still a good thing for your personal situation. For the iPad or netbooks some providers have specific formats which are also excluded.

There are basically two type of accounts:

  • The so-called “top-up account“, where you pay up front and get a fixed volume of bandwidth to spend. If all your megabytes are used up you fall back to a basic (and usually expensive) rate. The volume only lasts a month after which not spent but paid for megabytes are lost. Yes, they are clever like that.
  • The monthly fee is where you pay a fixed amount every month (hence the word “monthly”) and get a certain volume to spend on data. If you spend more, you are charged for the extra traffic on a fixed rate. This rate is usually more interesting than with the top-up accounts. Next month you start fresh again. Any bandwidth not spend is of course lost. Yes, they are also clever like that.

That roughly counts for most providers, but details may vary.

Now what did I compare?
What I wanted to know is: how much would I pay with each provider if I spend X megabyte a month.

So I slapped that in a grid calculating the price for each combination of volume in MB with each formula, going from 1 to 2500 MB.  Then I added some colours to make it a bit easier to spot where you get more surfing for your buck.

  • The cheapest ones shop up in green.
  • White is OK. It’s in between the cheap and expensive.
  • In orange you see numbers light up that are twice as high or bigger than the cheapest calculation for that volume. You have the right to feel screwed if you’re paying that much.

belgium mobile data costs

(Click for a bigger view, see links further to download the spreadsheet.)

What does this pretty coloured table show us?

  • What I see is that Mobile Vikings is indeed cheaper if you are a big spender (over 500 MB). Mobistar Max does well there too for volumes over 1 GB.
  • If you’re surfing at no more than 10 50 MB a month, Base is the winner. That however is extremely low for  a smartphone I’ve noticed. This is only good for very occasional use. Good for the occasional surf session.
  • Mobistar is the best below 150 MB apparently, with Telenet and Base as a close second.
  • You can also see that some formulas turn out crazy expensive at some point, so it’s better to steer away from those if you’re thinking about doing some serious surfing.
  • There is no clear winner. Depending on the volume, you can end up with the best or the worst.
  • Proximus is not a winner. Lot’s of orange over there.
  • One thing I see is that’s a good thing to stick to free WiFi, as these rates aren’t cheap at all.

Take a look for yourself to see what is the best option for you depending on your monthly spending rate.
You can take a more detailed look with this PDF, the original Open Office spreadsheet or this converted online Google Docs spreadsheet. Colour coding is missing there, as that doesn’t seem to convert.

Some notes on the spreadsheet:

  • The Mobile Vikings Jumbo pack isn’t in the table as it’s not interesting when looking at data only.
  • For the top-up account I assumed that as soon as the volume is spent, it’s topped up again using the same fee as before. So in this scenario you never pay the more expensive base rates charged per megabyte.
  • The lowest value is checked with a margin of 0.1 cent. That way Proximus doesn’t end up being the cheapest with their sneaky x,99 rates just by a single cent.
  • Pricing info came from the Base, Mobile Vikings, Telenet, Mobistar and Proximus websites of course.

Photo by svet, cc-licensed.