Category Archives: android

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.

wicked android apps

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Since I dipped my feet into the Android pool I can now also start spewing out lists of those not to be missed Android apps. Well frankly most of the list I’ve seen are stuffed with things I don’t find that practical so I’m going to stick with stuff that’s actually useful. Or stuff that I’m using at least daily, or almost daily myself.

Here it is:

  1. The stock browser: That’s right. No fancy Dolphin stuff for me plz. I still find this one better because the Dolphin tabs take up too much space anyway. The bookmark feature with preview is also nice. Just one thing I’m missing here (and in other browsers), that’s being able to scroll left/right to another open window. Why didn’t anyone think of that?
  2. Stock energy manager. Clearly the fastest way to switch on/off wifi/bluetooth/screen brightness/etc straight from your browsers home screen. Plenty of apps for this in the market, but why bother installing anything else if the stock one is great.
  3. Catch.com notes. This is a note keeping app which syncs between your Android and the web. You can login on the website with your Google account (big plus) so it takes only a second to setup. It’s simple and fast to edit notes on the phone or from your desktop which makes this a very good in-the-cloud notepad app. The notes support you to add links and photo’s to them (taken straight from the phone’s cam) and let you set a reminder at a specific date and time in case you really shouldn’t forget something. Really handy.
  4. FBReader: an Open Source (bonus point) eBook reader supporting the most common formats. The simply UI (bonus point) is fast and reading is a breeze. I’ve seen fancy things with fake a bookshelf and all but that’s just memory hogging eye candy. Lot’s of tweak-able settings to make sure it behaves just the way you want it. Nice. Did I mention it’s Open Source goodness?
  5. Barcode scanner: this one is great if you see a QR code somewhere which contains the link to an app you want to try. Just point your cam at the screen and wham-bam, it scans it, reads it and gives you a nicely clickable link to download that super-app. Life couldn’t be easier. This thing also scans regular retail bar codes and allows you to look up the article and compare prices. Life has again never been easier.
  6. LED light. There are a few fake-flashlight apps out there that simply light up your phone’s screen. Lame isn’t it? This one is different. It takes advantage of your phone’s LED flashlight instead. If your phone has a LED flash, this is the way to go. With a Milestone for example (my phone btw, but you probably guessed that) you don’t really need a flashlight anymore if you have this app. Awesome. Might be a bloody expensive phone but it’s also a flashlight! Totally makes it worth it right?
  7. Advanced Task Killer Free: It kills your active tasks. Nice. Well, it is nice cause in a lot of cases you don’t even know what’s running on the phone and sucking up resources. I also set it to kill itself. Yes. I’m evil like that.
  8. Tweetdeck. This must the the best Twitter client for Android out there. I’ve tried the original one from Twitter one and the Frenchy Touiteur but Tweetdeck roshambo’s both of them hard. I don’t fancy the desktop version much but this twitter client simply pwnz. Also does Facebook btw. Meh.

So. Any totally awesome apps not in there that you’re using? Feel free to drop them in the comments!

Picture by Solo, cc-licensed.

will windows phone 7 cut it?

867-5309

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.

motorola milestone europe android 2.1 update

milestone

I got myself a totally bad-ass Motorola Milestone Android phone a while ago. I was excited about it cause it looks so damn awesome with the black shiny display and all, and it’s got frigging Android on it so it rocks with all the apps and geekness it offers. After a while however I noticed some things are kinda buggy on it too and I started looking for some answers online.

At first I wanted to figure out if I was having a broken phone (hardware issue) which I could simply return or if it was the OS/software which was the problem. After a long search online finding lots of people with the same issues on Motorola Droid & Milestone phones (and also on HTC actually) it turns out I was plagued by some Android 2.1 problems. The good thing is Motorola is currently sending out updates for these problems for Milestone mobiles all over, including Europe. The annoying thing is that it’s taking them a while and it’s unclear which countries will be next in line. First off, here’s the bugs that are to be fixed in that update. If you’re having any of these issues, that patch should fix it:

  • Improved Stability Prevents the phone from random power cycling (turning off and on), and minimizes force closes in certain applications.
  • Alarm Improvements Resolves issues with alarm functionality.
  • Music Player Functionality
  • Eliminates accidental starting of music.
  • Audio Quality Enhancements Eliminates instances of choppy audio experienced by some users.
  • PIN Lock Improvements Allows users more flexibility in setting the PIN Lock timer when using Exchange email.
  • Proximity Sensor Enhancement
  • Provides more accurate proximity sensing during phone calls.
  • Flight Mode Enhancement
  • Ensures phone service is restored after leaving air-plane mode.
  • “My Location” Improvements
  • Resolves the issue of Google Maps failing to find “My Location” when “Use Wireless Network” is enabled without using GPS.

Quit something isn’t it? Personally I find the random reboots the most annoying, the failing clock a perfect excuse for turning up late at work and the accidental start of music the best way to scare the crap out of your cat (or yourself when you’re checking your mail in the middle of the night).

The best place to track info on where the update will be launched next for Europe is at the Motorola Europe Facebook account apparently. I’ve looked all over for this kind of info, including various twitter accounts (@motomobile, @motodev), their own owner support forums (unchecked by Motorola it seems) and even direct emails to the guys where I got the phone from. That last one was pretty crazy as they contacted Motorola UK which claimed to not even know about the restart issues which I described in quite  some detail.

For the world-wide upgrade schedule + the schedule for other mobiles like the Backflip, Dext and Quench you can look here, although it doesn’t contain a lot of details.