Category: Toys

C64->Wintel->Mac = BB->Android->iOS

By , January 17, 2011 10:34 am

Well, I finally did what many people thought I would do a couple years ago. I got an iPhone. Why? Well, we’ll get to that, but first, I want to share just how struck I’ve been with my personal progression on the desk/laptop computing arena is mirrored by my mobile progression.

My computing story started in ernest on the C64 after a short time on the Vic20. It was certainly the king of the ring when it came out and for what an elementary kid back then knew or cared about computers, it was certainly doing enough. But it was eclipsed by MSDOS based machines for many reasons that I didn’t understand at the time. All I knew was it wasn’t possible to get the things that I wanted to get done (games) on the C64 and increasingly things were happening on MSDOS computers.

I stayed on MSDOS/Windows for many years, learning all manner of things about how to get things done in spite of limitations and upping my geek cred as I went along. This was the case until my B.Ed., when I had to “get things done” on the computer. These things included multi media projects as well as surf and turf. At the time I was anti-Mac, and had a serious bias against the platform. But then as I started to use it and understand that I didn’t have to work around limitations (only OS9 bombs), MacOS started to grow on me. So when it came time to get my first machine with completely my own money, it was a Mac. That was over 10 years ago and I haven’t looked back since. Now I get my things done and don’t worry about managing my technology, only my work. Though, I am thankful for my time in Win/DOS land as it gave me enough of a background to understand issues when they do pop up on the Mac. The timeline for this adventure… I’d say about 25 years.

So how does this match up to my mobile experience? Well, my first smartphone was a Nokia S60 device that could do some cool things, including use the mobile GMail app to get email (within the then massive 5MB data bucket). I still remember the look that a clerk gave me when I used my screen to show her a confirmation email. That was quickly eclipsed by my Blackberry experience. But after learning the basics of what a smartphone could do, I noticed it just wasn’t keeping up to the upstart iPhone and the mythical Android. RIM, the parent of the Blackberry was also seeming to loose it’s way as it tried to be both a consumer and business device, looking at the hardware more than the experience. I then had an opportunity to jump to Android as I had an opportunity to take advantage of a low entry cost into the system. On Android, I certainly learned lots about mobile computing, understanding all manner of limitations and finding work arounds (sound familiar?). Android is (and was for me) certainly very useable, but with more time spent trying to manage all manner of elements to stay up to date, it began to feel like a chore. All the while through this experience, the mobile Apple platforms have been in my life – iPods and the iPad. As regular readers know, I haven’t been very generous with the iOS plaform for various reasons, but in this year of change, I no longer wanted to have to deal with the little things, but rather focus on the experience and getting things done. This is something that after some testing on the iPad, I was sure that the iPhone would be able to deliver and after only a few days on the iPhone, I can say that I am happy to be here and I don’ think I’ll be jumping ship for quite a while. Apple has focused on the experience, and for the vast majority of people who aren’t so geeky as to have custom setups for XYZ system, the iOS platform makes everyone feel empowered. But for those of us who are a bit geeky, a couple of workarounds are not a big deal. For me, the only workaround that I’ve had to do is for contacts/calendar and mail… sounds like a deal breaker right? Not really.

Since I use Gmail and Google Apps for all my mail/contact/calendars, I could have used the Gmail or Exchange setups to make things work just as Apple believes it should. But I needed, scratch that, I’m addicted to the way that Android was able to use Gmail in the same way that the web interface does, so I needed a fix and it is amazingly easy.

Some quick Googling showed that iOS supports comma separated “From” addresses. While you can’t insert the commas when you setup the account, it is certainly easy enough to edit the account after it has been saved the first time and use copy and paste (now the most elegant solution to the problem I’ve seen) to add the linked accounts with my GMail to the address field. I can now send mail the same way that I was able to on Android. Apparently this works only on IMAP mail accounts, so I’ve lost some of the push elements for mail, but that isn’t a deal breaker now. I use the Exchange setup to pull over my contacts (2 way sync) and I use CalDAV to pull in my calendars (also 2 way sync). With these minor hacks, I’m up and running on my iPhone the same way I was on Android, but with several advantages. The first being true freedom from carrier based updates (with the potential exception of mobile hotspot in iOS 4.3), the second being using the dominant developer platform and finally, not having to worry about the umpteen varieties of hardware and software combinations that are out there. Much like like on the Mac. The interesting part here? This progression has been over barely 5 years.

The iPad and the Internet of Things

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By , December 13, 2010 1:34 pm

I guess I should really start to reconsider my islate tag now, especially in light of all the slates now being unified under iOS. But that is some admin for me and not really the topic of the post today. The idea that I want to get out there is about the iPad and how, over the last few months, it has really changed the way that my family and I look at media within the house, especially since the 4.2 update and the addition of Air Play.

For the last several months, my wife and I have been talking about what we use and don’t use around the house. One of them certainly seems to be all the extra channels on cable. Yeah, maybe once a month we’ll watch hockey or I’ll have the news on in the morning, but outside of that, all we watch is Treehouse (a children’s channel). That combined with the fact that we have the majority of the other content that we watch on some manner of media or another, suggests that we could cut broadcast out and not really notice that it is missing. So that is exactly what we have done for the past few weeks. The result? Nobody has noticed anything different. The biggest enabler for this seamless transition? The iPad. It is the hub for our streaming radio, and last night after finding the Global TV app and finally installing Air Play Server on my old G5, it can now also be the hub for our video consumption as well. It is still one of the things that Bug loves, and now that the sound can be put through the house speakers, I’m sure her Baby Piano melodies are only going to become that much more engaging.

iOS, and the iPad in particular, has connected the data rich environment that was once limited to the den or office to the rest of the home, and done so in a manner that the entire family can access. Granted, this is all still at the consumption side of the spectrum when it comes to working with computers and devices. But what it does do (or at least suggest) for my daughter, is that data and connectivity can be connected to the greater environment. Being 1, she doesn’t appreciate that, but by the time she’s old enough to see how the entire system is working, hopefully she won’t have to as she will have had truly grown up with an Internet of Things with the iPad (or similar device) being the enabling gateway. And before you leap from your desk, or bed or wherever you are, remember that early computing started as a predominantly consumption driven paradigm.

The more you Kno

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By , November 9, 2010 12:47 pm

Well, it seems that we have a price on the Kno tablet now. $599 for the single screen and $899 for the clam shell dual screen. As I tweeted before, don’t think of this as sticker shock… yet. That price is the cost of about three textbooks, and if there is any chance that the publishers are going to offer discounted rates for the Kno version of their material, a student will make up the cost for the hardware many times over a typical undergraduate degree. This could really be big. But then again, Apple could do the same with iBooks and then students would have a choice and maybe finally catch a break.

Fabian Hemmert on grasping digital content

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By , September 23, 2010 10:41 am

Take these ideas (and others like these):


Together with these ones:


I think you will have something that could really send us down the rabbit hole in terms of augmented reality. Haptic feedback systems are nothing new – afterall, phones have been rumbling for a long time as have other controllers. Lights flash different colors to alert people to different events. But if the device can somehow be interacted with and deliver contextual information, then things might get either really cool, or really scary (this is after all the 50th anniversary of the term cyborg).

I can take screenshots!

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By , April 6, 2010 11:23 am

After a bit of digging, I have found a way to take screenshots of my phone! Granted this one isn’t anything special, but as I continue my exploration of mLearning, informal learning and the rest, this is going to be an important tool.

Another member of the digital addiction food group – the iPhone

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By , March 9, 2010 2:06 pm

People have long talked about their Crackberry, and many iPhone users have known that a similar addictions to the “insta-stim” data stream that can be provided by their device, but now there is proof. Respondents used their device to replace their watches, they reported that they were more likely to forget their wallet than their iPhone and they called the devices “doorways to the world”. Personally, I have been a Crackberry user and now I’m ‘droid – never leaving home without my brain, but regardless of the platform, the ability to have your information in one location combined with the ability to get more information is certainly addicting in this information based world. But the thought of bringing into the educational sphere something that is addicting is somewhat problematic – do we really want your students to become addicted to gathering, storing and making use of information in a context specific manner? I don’t know, but I’m sure someone will tell me one day.

The iPad – not a netbook, not an iPhone, not a…

By , January 27, 2010 12:56 pm

Well not anything other than a big hand held game console. Apple had tried before with the Pippin, but for the life of me, and without productivity apps, this is a consumption device. Granted, productivity apps can come through the cloud, but right now, this device is just a client. You might be able to manipulate some content, but not really create it.

Sure it’s also an eBook reader, but I don’t think people are going to pay $1000 for that (I don’t know the price on the device right now, the keynote is in the background), I don’t know if people are going to pay that much for a “take it anywhere” game console.

Sure it’s cool, but I don’t think I’m really sold yet. Now if it is less than the KindleDX, then I might certainly go for it (not having to pay for the 3G connection will help the price). But I guess I’ll have to see it myself to make the call.


I guess I spoke too soon, there is iWork for the iPad.

The price starts at $499 for a wifi version (plus $150 if you want a 3G) – So it’s not that bad, better value than a Kindle right now. Maybe this is the dawn of the smartbook.

HTC Hero running unlocked on Rogers

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By , December 30, 2009 10:36 pm

Well let’s deal with the problems first…

First, Android 1.5 doesn’t play nicely with ics files, so invites over email don’t work. Even if you use the browser(s), it seems that you can’t accept the invite via that method either. So even though the calendar updates like greased lightening to Google Calendar, you have to add meetings you are invited to manually (for now) and you can’t use the calendar app to invite others. If you want to do that you have to use the web interface.

Second, Android chews data like there is no tomorrow. Granted the 150+MB that I’ve used in the last 24h is as much due to grabbing apps, playing with YouTube and otherwise populating the device. This device is going to certainly push me through the 250-300MB/month that I was pushing on the Bold, so I’m glad I have been able to “slide” my data plan over, according to two Rogers agents, there is no difference in BB and regular data. This is a nice seque into the good.

The good… just about everything. I purchased the device 24h second hand off Kijiji and the guy I got it from basically had done what I was planning on doing – Buy the $450 Hero (vs the $600 Magic), unlock it and get it ready to roll on Rogers by updating the APN and other settings.

APN: internet.com
Primary gateway IP: 172.25.0.107
Username: wapuser1
Password: wap

APN: internet.com
Username: guest
Password: guest

MMS Settings:
MMSC: http://mms.gprs.rogers.com
APN: media.com
Username: media
Password: mda01
Server: 172.25.0.107

So a quick SIM card swap and a quick boot later (way faster than BB!) I was up and running.

In my first 24h I’ve played with Layar and this is really where things are going to go in my opinion. AR will give data a home in our world, not just on screens in an office, lab or class. I’ve played with Google Sky and been blown away by this “ancient AR” app. I’ve had to grab the Smsfixtimes app to deal with the SMS timestamp issue, but that opened the world to the modular nature of the phone. Don’t like the default client for “X”, find another one and try it out and more often than not, it works (except it seems for games that seem to really suck right now).

I’ve grabbed chompsms as my SMS client now, I use Dolphin as a secondary browser (for one essential feature – saving YouTube videos… ’cause you never know when Bug’s going to want/need a silly song) and I’ve grabbed Ringdroid to chop mp3s into ringtones easily. All this is Android stuff, but where this device really shines is via the Sense UI.

Ubergadets are all about data and HTC has figured out that data is only useful when it is presented at the right time. So HTC has cooked up Scenes that let you choose how to display data. I thought this was a gimmick at first, but as I build the Scenes, they are making more and more sense. Some of the widgets are GPS enabled, so the update based on location, other apps help with usability in certain conditions – like driving. So until Eclair hits (I’m hoping I’ll be able to do the update even though I’m not with Telus) I can build my own car mode.

I’m just starting to scratch the surface and if I were to characterize the experience that I’ve had so far when it comes to smartphones – WinMo is your ‘rents phone… it’s a computer that got misplaced to make calls, the iPhone is for those who want everything neat and tidy, BB is for those who want a bit more customization, but want to have a solid base underneath, Android is the wild west with things coming and going – pretty good most of the time, but there are some rough spots that really give it character.

Hackintoshes are kinda legal

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By , December 2, 2009 10:39 am

Well it seems after settling with Pystar, it seems that Apple is not really that annoyed with geeks who would want to try to install OSX on their own onto machines that are not from Apple. Afterall, the company did start in a garage, so it would only make sense that efforts to maintain good karma would allow tinkering geeks to continue to install as they desire. But we all know that this is likely not the case as it might be easier to go after individual “violators”. But that being said, it does suggest, as Salon reads between the lines:

It looks like it wouldn’t necessarily stop Psystar from selling its Mac clones. Instead, the company would be limited to selling its “Open” line of computers without OS X preinstalled, and that responsibility would lie instead with customers. Apparently that’s a compromise Apple is willing to live with, and with good reason, since the Mac maker would have to go after many other clone makers if it wasn’t.

So if you have the time to dig through config files to get your dream machine Mac together, it looks like it has got a little easier. But If you don’t have the time and appreciate the design, buying a genuine Mac might very well be the way to go.

Netbooks – Future or folly…

By , November 16, 2009 9:14 am

Over the past few days, I’ve been putting an Asus 1005 HA through it’s paces and I must say that I’m impressed with it – with a few caveats. When I got it, the first thing I did was ditch XP Home for Win7 Enterprise. Yes, a 1Ghz Atom with 1GB RAM ran the big Win7 really well. Well enough to make me ignore the fact that I was using Windows. Sure on my Mac-centric network, there were a few hiccups on convenience elements (VNC would not connect across the network, but I have a hunch about that), but almost everything that would be required for “work” just clicked. SMB functioned great and the battery life was a real winner. So what is the one thing that didn’t quite “work”… the keyboard.

The smaller, or cheaper the computer, the greater the compromises that must be made. Netbooks, even with technology improving all the time, still require these trades. Some of these considerations are dealt with through software. Asus for example ships a suite of apps on it’s netbooks to help thinks along and provide some extra value. Those same apps might have helped the keyboard issue. I found that on Win7, the cursor was very jumpy. I don’t know if that was an issue with the OS or the hardware, but I’m suspecting the former. In addition to the cursor, many of the fn-X key combos also died off after the update. I’ve got a hunch that there is a way to get the keyboard functionality back, but the cursor might be another matter. This part of the equation will almost certainly be remedied with future Win7 updates and certainly it’s going to be interesting to see what it going to happen with ChromeOS hitting the interwebs by the end of the month.

So what is my overall impression? I will certainly be getting one, as soon as I can find one with HDMI out (I know the Dell mini 10v is out there, but then I’d be getting a Dell 🙁 ). Why HDMI out? Well, that way, I can hook it up to a TV and use it as a streamer, or hide it away and through Bluetooth keyboards let the kids play their games and watch their Silly Songs on YouTube.

Now would I get these for a classroom, a lab or similar environment? Certainly. The cost has them being less than some textbooks in higher ed (a quick survey through the student areas on campus last week saw netbooks:Macs:PCs at about 6:2:1) In K-12, they are tough, and the keyboards are sized well for smaller hands. As to the applications that can run on them? Well, there is a reason they are called netbooks. With 802.11n and greater connectivity most apps will run just fine from the cloud, so the power sipping Atom is more than up to the task. But what about the screen? Well I think the first netbook with a built in pico projector should be showing up within a year, That screen could certainly be more than 1024*600 – project that only a popup screen on the table, that limitation is gone as well. In addition to the pico projector, it would be good if more netbooks offered alternative interfaces (we’ve got a tablet netbook in the office to try as well), eliminating the cramped keyboard issue for those with larger hands (or the need for an external keyboard).

All tolled, these devices are certainly the future. Between smartphones and netbooks, the future of computing is going to be able to fit in your pant pocket (moving from the jacket today), likely within a few years. I think it would be folly for those involved with school computing and labs not to start looking at these “high powered OLPCs” not for rollout over the next few years. It it also folly for a certain fruit company to continue to ignore this form factor.

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