Posts tagged: Ubergadget

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.

My 2011 Predictions

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By , December 28, 2010 9:03 pm

Well 2010 was certainly an eye opening ride for me, moving between institutions not of my own will and looking to a future that may or may not include academia. But for all that, it has provided me with yet another way of looking at technology and the way that it is used to educate us and help us tell our stories. So without too much extra reflection, here are my points from last year:

  • Augmented Reality – phones and other GPS enabled devices will add value to the world by being able to overlay data that incorporates real time updates, static content and, of course, social data.
  • Increased power of mobile – From payments (PayPal has apps out there now), to creation and management, increasingly you’ll have to be able to do it all mobile.
  • Privacy erosion – we’ll see just how fleeting privacy is, anything that gets transmitted is public, period. We should see much more this coming year, how and why this is the case. But at the same time, the value of the crowd being able to take a peek at what you do will gain value.
  • Decline of traditional transmission – I think (and hope) that cablecos will realize that PVR is the first step in enabling people to get content the way that they want – and that way is file based. I don’t know if the cablecos are going to make this move or if the content creators are, but it’s certainly coming. Fast pipes, big drives and cheap streamers make it very easy to set up one’s home to be able to download last night’s episode of whatever and watch it at a more reasonable time. Apple has some of this going through iTunes, but the system is overly restrictive and I don’t think people like the idea of paying for things twice.
  • Casual Gaming will explode – games on Facebook, Twitter, phones are going to grow and traditional games are going to stagnate… unless they have some social element.
  • Chrome – a non phone web based OS is going to make ripples, especially for those many billions out there who only really surf and turf on their machines. For those who need to handle media files, traditional machines will still be there, but the appeal of the “global roaming profile” will certainly appeal to many.
  • Short URLs – There is a reason why Google and Facebook have got into the game. I think brands are going to go to these to show approval or ownership.

So how did I do?

  • Augmented reality – we are certainly seeing what the increase in GPS capable devices has provided. The boom of location based services, while not really “augmented”, is certainly an enhancement.
  • Increased power of mobile – well mobile payment is increasing and the sudden rise of the iPad shows that mobile is certainly something people were waiting for, even if they didn’t know it or know where/how it would fit in their digital life
  • Privacy erosion – Facebook anyone? Check this Google News link.
  • Decline of traditional transmission – well TV and terrestrial radio didn’t die out, but YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Boxee and many more certainly went main stream.
  • Casual gaming – Hear about Zynga? I doubt Google would have bought in if it wasn’t going somewhere.
  • Chrome – well I missed on that one, ChromeOS test platforms only now started shipping.
  • Short URLs – and Pro anyone – I think I got this one on the mark.

So what are my thoughts for 2011?

  • More mobile – who really cares what the latest computer is? Everyone is buzzing about phones. Between the fast revisions, portability and dropping price, the promise of capable computing in your pocket (as opposed to the office/den) is appealing to everyone
  • Social everything – we’ve seen how powerful Facebook has become, and it’s not going to weaken anytime in the future. There might be some ripples with Diaspora or other new services, but if they don’t use existing services as a rooting point, they are not going anywhere. To make change, you’ll have to convince a planet wide mob.
  • Bandwidth battles – net neutrality will come to a head again and there is going to be more available, but the providers are going to find more ways to charge for it
  • Text will still rule – even though video and audio will be easier to capture and transmit, people will still post and communicate using letters.
  • Education might actually get the hint that social and mobile compute is something that should be given consideration – well I can hope

So not as many this year as in previous years, but things are moving through a bit of a bottleneck right now and maybe in 2011 something will blow things open, or we see things crystallize in the nxt 8-13 months and then some real changes arrive in 2012.

Are the telcos missing the point?

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By , May 4, 2010 8:22 am

In a story from The Guardian, it looks like UK telcos (and that means others world wide are likely watching) are preparing to launch their own app store. They want in on the cash that seems to be flowing to Apple and Google. But something tells me that they are missing the point – much like they are still concerned about minutes of voice communication – the telcos are a utility, not content creators (at least on this part of the equation). This would be like the water company wanting into the soup business as well as the sippy cup cartel because well; they deliver water for use in those applications don’t they?

I know Apple isn’t going to let it’s store go down without a fight, and Google likely doesn’t care – it will still have it’s stock OS that the power user can install and get access to the Google Market. Google even allows other markets already, so what is the big deal? The deal might be for developers – if they can submit to one clearing house that then feeds the various App Stores, then the telcos might have hit on something. They are still a utility, they don’t really get in the way and in some way, they take a cut… but then what happens to all those free apps?

This should be an interesting development to watch over the next few months.

Connecting the roots to the leaves – initial ideas for my PhD

By , April 16, 2010 9:11 am

Yesterday I met up with Terry Carson in Secondary Education and we went over some ideas and I’ve put them together and put them out there to see what everyone who cares to comment out there thinks. So here it is:

Problem that needs exploring:
How to get the rank and file of the University to feel that they are truly connected to the University Executive and to help the University Executive appreciate the triumphs and challenges of rank and file in a direct and ideally unfiltered manner. Currently the only vehicles that the two groups have to interact in this direct manner is through town halls and scheduled events. These events have participants who are self selected to attend and then further self selected to interact. This self selection is mediated by various factors ranging from personal to political that are fueled by power differentials. An individual’s perception of self efficacy plays a major role in determining how they attempt to address their peers and others in the more powerful or advantaged classes.

Social media has, to date, been shown to be a powerful democratizing tool and when powered by mobile technology that allows for ubiquitous access to the various streams of social media. Individuals often share through social media, thoughts and ideas that would otherwise be restrained by their position within the organization.

Using the Scholarship of Engagement as a framework and the Obama 2008 campaign as case study, an attempt will be made to understand the roots of the problem within higher education and suggest mechanisms for change.

Preliminary Title:
Connecting the roots to the leaves.

Preliminary Research Question:
“How can the emerging social media tools, driven by increasingly ubiquitous mobile technologies be used to connect executive leadership with rank and file individuals within an organization in a meaningful manner”

If I’m not working “for the man”, I might as well “work for mankind” and take this opportunity to do my PhD. I was planning to do it eventually and a few weeks ago I started poking around to see who I might work with. Now I’ve got a few names and I’m getting my application together. Strangely enough, if I hadn’t been laid off, I might very well never have been able to ask the question that I did in the town hall that was followed up by a candid conversation that identified this issue. So hopefully, in a few years, I’ll be able to look back at this and say that this was where it all started… great trees grow from a seed and fertilizer. It certainly seems that I’ve got the seed and the fertilizer, now let’s see what will grow.

Should we think of the ubergadget as a sensor instead?

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By , April 8, 2010 10:05 am

This interesting graphic brings to light a couple of really interesting points. The first is the fact that the key thing to remember about mobile is that you don’t need “everything”, you just need “enough”. That “enough” may be the ability to simply see content from an online source, other times you want to be able to edit or create that information when you are “out and about”. I think this is one of the ideas that was forgotten when the laptops first came out – they tried to do everything that the desktop system did and were not really successful for a while. One great thing the iPhone did was to break the paradigm of how people expected their mobile content to look. Apple made it “ok” to have a web version and a “full” version, but (and this is important), one that still looked good as opposed to the spartan wap versions that were available before iPhone brought webkit to the mobile environment.

The second thing this graphic reminds us about is that the phone is the best sensor/recorder that we have yet developed. It can collect the ambient data about just about anything and everything that we can detect with our own senses – and perhaps some we can’t. It does this well because it seems to be always with us (Google supposedly developed Latitude with the understanding that a phone is likely never -unless stolen or forgotten- more than a meter away from it’s user/owner). With that 1m radius, together with GPS, sensors that are not on the phone can relay information from other systems to the device, or that information can be cross referenced at a later date (making phone malware really quite dangerous).

So with these points, why is it again that education in North America seems to be ignoring mobile? Well, right now, I’m thinking it has something to do with the cost, but those costs are coming down (even in Canada) and usage is picking up as is speed, so the comfort level should also be on the upswing. Or is it that we haven’t really understood what the potential of this format is because we are trying to describe it in terms of other computing and communication devices rather than looking at is as a sensor.

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.

Facebook mobile dominates mobile web

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By , February 5, 2010 12:59 pm

According to the BBC, Facebook mobile dwarfed the rest of the mobile web in usage with 2.2 billion minutes and Google and Microsoft pulling in a combined 600 million minutes in December. If you look at this UK data combined with the PEW data from earlier in the week it really suggests that the 17-30 year old demographic is focusing it’s online activity on what it can do while mobile. When you think about why Facebook, the answer seems to be obvious. On the smaller screen, the “life portfolio” that is Facebook makes much more sense. When you are “out and about”, you don’t want to have to remember where your “mates'” blog is, you’d rather just put in his/her name and go there without having to worry about logins or the other elements that are common to the unwalled web, thus reducing the need/want to post or comment on traditional blogs.

My Android App List

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By , January 4, 2010 9:40 pm

Running 1.5, and not knowing when/if/how I’ll be getting 2.X via Telus and needing to have a phone that can do what a ‘berry does has taken some digging and I think I’ve almost got it. Here’s what it took to get my ‘droid to about the same place as my ‘berry – and further in some places.

  • Baby Puzzle (Better)
  • Google Sky Map (Better)
  • ShopSavvy (Better)
  • chompSMS (Better)
  • eBuddy (Equal – increasing the number of IM services)
  • Car Mode (Equal – speakerphone)
  • WeatherEye (Equal – there are loads of weather apps already, but this gives some important details like sunrise, sunset and weather alerts)
  • SmsFixTimes (Equal – Androids on Rogers have a time stamp issue)
  • Ringdroid (Better)
  • AK Notepad (Equal)
  • Layar (Better – AR app)
  • Bloo (Equal – almost… better than the official Facebook app as it provides notifications that the official one doesn’t)
  • AttachEmail (Equal – lets me attach any file to GMail or any other “sending app”)
  • Toddler Lock (Better – interactive lock for Bug)
  • ShakeIt (Better – activates speakerphone on shake)
  • Share Ringtone (Better – lets me send ringtones)
  • Seesmic (Equal)
  • FlyScreen (Better)
  • List Master (Better)
  • Shazam (Equal)
  • App List (Better…. there is no way to list apps on the BB)
  • Bubbles (Better, another baby game)
  • Jewels (Equal – no Texas Hold’em but, a distraction at least)
  • Decepticons Theme for Flyscreen (Better – helps hide functional icons on Flyscreen)
  • 2G-3G OnOff (Better)
  • Rundroid+ (Better – lets me see my Nike+ stats)
  • Key Ring (Better – Wallet works, but this can be scanned)
  • Evernote (Equal, but a better app)
  • iCalManager TRIAL (Equal, almost – needed to get ics invites into the calendar, but only on the device, not out to Google)
  • Run+ (Better – another Nike+ app)
  • Dolphin Browser (Better, better than Bolt)
  • AndExplorer (Better – a file explorer)
  • Facebook (Equal, almost, still can’t send “mail/inbox messages” natively, it defaults to the mobile site)
  • Compass (Better – helps augment maps)
  • Account at to listen to voicemail over email

So if you want your new ‘droid to be almost to a ‘berry or iPhone, you’ll need to do some dling, hopefully this list helps.

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.

Primary gateway IP:
Username: wapuser1
Password: wap

Username: guest
Password: guest

MMS Settings:
Username: media
Password: mda01

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.

It’s about the apps…

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By , November 30, 2009 11:07 am

Many people have been noticing for a while now that the mobile telcos have been promoting the apps that run on their phones as opposed to the OS, or even the specific device. I have no doubt, this was inspired by Apple, and the App Store, but it seems to have spread rather handily to non iPhone carriers as well. With this in mind, I think we have started to see an age of mobile computing that really doesn’t care about the OS that is running the phone as long as there are a collection of apps that will allow the user to get the work that they consider “mission critical” to get done, done. People also don’t want to have to bother with the OS at all when they are using a phone. Form factor also comes into play, as some people like the keyboard and others don’t, but the long and the short of it is that if you want to be able to get to your Facebook on the go in addition to being able to use star charts, you have X number of choices. As you increase the length of the wish list, the number of devices that you would find acceptable drop, assuming you are equally comfortable in any environment.

This last point is important, as if you are not comfortable in the the interface presented on say the Blackberry, and prefer the iPhone app, well then you are likely going to pick an iPhone (or iPod) when it comes time to get a phone. If one of the compromises that you are not willing to make when mobile is the use of physical keys, then you might be forced back the ‘berry, but you might then also consider one of the Android or Symbian phones out there. These sorts of compromises are expected when looking at the smaller form factors, but as the form factor gets larger, people are willing to compromise less and arguably, the definition of mission critical application also changes.

Moving into the netbook space and beyond, you might start looking at being able to do more than initiate and respond to messages. You might want to be able to create and edit, with some degree of sophistication, content. Both MacOS and Windows based laptops provide this functionality, but with different amount of babysitting on the part of the user. The MacOS and Win7 provide “just works” level of operation, while XP, Vista and *nix systems will suffer some with respect to usability. This need to babysit the OS detracts from being able to use the apps that one wants to be able to get to for their work. As the machine gets bigger, physical and connectivity compromises change, but there will always be the need to give and take with respect to something.

Nothing I’ve said here should be rocket science to anyone, so why take the time to write this up? Well, this weekend I got thinking about ChromeOS and what it will take for it to really take off with the non geek crowd. It will be the apps. There are already ‘net based versions of Photoshop and Office and I can’t imagine that with those two suites moving to online offerings, that others won’t follow. Right now, those apps will work on a range of browsers, making compromises for all manner of browser based issues. But if that ‘net app is accessed through Chrome, some of those compromises will likely be mitigated as they would be able to have access to many more resources than they currently can. So if Chrome rolls out with a suite of apps from Microsoft, Adobe and Apple (I really hope Apple is thinking about doing something with respect to a ‘net based Aperture for Chrome), things might just take off, solving another problem users of netbooks and larger systems. That being what the heck should they buy?

This question is what crystallized this post for me yesterday while watching the game with my brothers. Apple has really helped users simplify the purchasing process by presenting the basics – size and price (and charging a pretty penny for this simplification). Windows systems on the other hand are just as complex a buying experience as ever, in large part due to the selection that serves to drive prices down to loss leading levels. So how should someone looking to buy a computer make the choice these days? It should not matter what the hardware is or what the OS is. Google’s move into the OS market might help this out however. If ChromeBooks start coming out next year, the hardware will really become irrelevant. It won’t matter if you get one built by Acer, Asus or AnyOneElse. With Chromium, it won’t even matter if the hardware is Apple, once you boot and login, you have access to what really matters, the apps that you use to get things done.

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