Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gadgets Update

Its been a few weeks since I posted an update on my 5800 and Windows 7 so here goes...

5800 - It seems I am not the only one who finds Nokia's Download App broken. Of course, this being Symbian, I can just download and install apps without requiring jailbreaking or app store like approval, so its not a mjor issue - just an annoyance. Nokia has released a major firmware update (v20) to the 5800 - unfortunately, for some reason, the update is region locked - for some reason, its available in Europe and other regions but not available in India and some other parts of Asia. Unlike Apple, Nokia has literally dozens of product codes for the phone across different regions. This region code is how they control the accessibility of the update. There are methods to change the product code, unfortunately, they will all void your warranty. Still, the update doesnt add much - except Geotagging - so I am not too upset.

I have been finding websites and quite a few apps for the 5800, some of them really cool - especially the handwriting calculator. Unfortunately, they shut down wifi access for handheld devices at my office recently (due to security concerns) - so I have been thinking of sneaky ways of getting it back. One way seems to be using internet over bluetooth for the 5800. Unfortunately, this requires Windows Firewall/Internet Connection Sharing enabled and that doesnt seem to work on either my laptop or my desktop - I already tried that when I attempted to set up my Nintendo Wifi USB Adapter as a SoftAP. The other interesting thing is the inbuilt IM app which is present in most newer Nintendo phones - it seems it actually works after all (I havent yet gottent around to trying it though - I dislike trusting my Yahoo credentials to a third party website)

Windows 7 - I just upgraded the RAM on my home machine to 4GB. I can now confirm that Windows 7 x64 successfully shows the RAM as 4GB :) (a friend and I were discussing if Windows 7 x32 would show 4GB - alas I have no intention of installing the 32-bit version of Windows 7 just to test this out) Windows XP of course, shows 3.5 GB - which means that considering the 1GB ReadyBoost drive I have connected, Windows 7 has now, strangely, got more memory to play with than XP.

I have yet to get my TV Tuner working with Windows 7 - the process is a bit involved and requires a bit of research. Basically you end up enabling test signing mode in Windows 7 (which places a annoying message on all four corners of your screen). After that you add a certificate to your system's root certificates and then install a driver signed using that certificate. I am hesitant to do this - adding a publicly available certificate to my system's root certificates leaves it wide open to attack. Anyone can grab this certificate, sign an infected file with it or even execute a MiTM or phishing attack (although I dont actually use IE often enough to be really at risk)

So I have to download the unsigned driver, create and install my own root certificate, and then sign the driver with it - just to play my PS2 (thats all I do with my TV Tuner - use it as an upscaler for my PS2). Maybe I would do it if I had no other option, but with my XP installation fully functional, I doubt I will take the time to do this... BTW, did you know that Win 7 adds a lot of shortcuts to the Win key

iPod Touch - I already blogged about my iPod this week, but I just wanted to briefly mention more about using a mic with the iPod Touch. This is needed if you want to use the iPod Touch for VoIP (Fring etc). Apple sells some exorbitantly priced In-Ear headphones, although you can find cheaper, regular Apple Earphones with mic on Amazon. There are alternatives - the cheapest being Philips' Mic Adapter (Target, in-store only - no online orders) and Smarttalk from Griffin. None are available in India though :(

There's no update on redsn0w. I wish it would get released soon so I can finally try out all the cool jailbroken apps (although this will mostly void my warranty)

Ubuntu - Lastly, something interesting as I sign off: a friend recently brought a 320GB external hard disk (Seagate - yikes! bad decision) We decided to install Ubuntu 8.10 onto it. The process was surprisingly simple (the 8.04 instructions still work for 8.10) The only deivation from the process was how we partitioned the hard disk. Its generally better to have a separate 100 MB or so boot partition. I have installed Ubuntu onto a pen drive in the past - but seeing it install and run off a USB HDD so easily is really cool. Ubuntu is my favorite Linux dsitribution and it seems to be getting better and better.

Sadly, Kubuntu is drowning though - I cant tolerate KDE 4, and like many people, I am thinking of switching to Gnome rather than have it forced down my throat. Every single person in my office who uses KDE as his primary work environment (I use Windows XP) is planning to switch to Gnome rather than KDE 4, so if that is any indicator, the future looks really bleak for KDE in general.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Other App Store

Apple's App Store is an amazing success - the thousands of free and paid apps add lots of utility and entertainment value to the iPod Touch and iPhone. In the middle of all this, its easy to forget that the first iPhone shipped without any custom app capability at all - all your apps had to be webapps accessed via Safari. With the launch of the App Store and iPhone 3G, the earlier option of installing webapps has been largely forgotten, however, the capability and the webapp directory still exist. Upon installation, webapps look surprisingly similar to normal apps
iPod Touch Webapps
However, a webapp is essentially a bookmark - clicking it opens Safari and takes you to the relevant webpage. This works fine for certain types of apps - such as Google Talk and Remember The Milk which run perfectly well in a browser in the first place. What is interesting is when someone creates an entire game (with graphics and effects) entirely as a webapp - Gravity Swarm is a good example. The amount of interactivity this app achieves using only JavaScript is really impressive, also while essentially built on an old concept, the game has been customized to make the controls intuitive with a touch interface.

Apple certainly still seems to be supporting webapps - they even have a separate section for them in the Apple Design Awards. With the iPhone/iPod Tocuch browser supporting HTML 5, this is certainly a viable option for developers - as demonstrated by Google recently.

In other news, Apple is actively pushing the iPhone/iPod Touch as a gaming platform. Some of the paid apps are amazing - I recently bought Enigmo (only $0.99!) and am really impressed with the quality of the app. Traditional gaming sites are also taking notice of the device - I guess because a lot of their writers own the device and actively play games on it! I certainly use my iPod Touch a lot more than my DS - the iPod with its multiple capabilities rarely leaves my side, while the DS rarely leaves home... Whats missing on the App Store though is deeper games that require 20-30 hours to finish, let alone stuff like the Final Fantasy games which can give more than 50 hours of gameplay each. Apple needs to launch a App Store section with "premium" games by established publishers, with a minimum quality level, if they want to really unseat Nintendo from their handheld throne.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Launch Dead - SoundExchange Most Likely Cause

Launchcast is officially dead - well, not dead exactly, but effectively useless with the plus option gone. A lot of people on the official Yahoo Launchcast group are pretty upset about it - and understandably. Launch has shutdown taking people's years of ratings without giving them any way of getting them out.

Some comments by Yahoo staff on this group clearly point to SoundExchange being the root cause of the decision.

See this message:
"We considered just about every alternative, including raising the price of a subscription and making it a subscription-only service. The numbers just didn't add up. "

and this one:
"However, with royalty rates on the rise, we really couldn't afford to keep the service as-is"

So what options does someone wanting to discover new music have? Well first, I would suggest getting all your ratings out of Launch. Either using the LaunchScrobbler or using this tool to grab the data in CSV format. Then its off to or maybe Rhapsody. Pandora is region locked of course so no use in India :) If you have a lot of music in your iTunes library, you could always use this tool. Or maybe, if you just wont to kill some time, you could watch a movie or read a book :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Onion Reports New Sony Device

The Onion ... Straight out of the left field... and listen for the 800GB reference at the end!

(Warning - Extreme use of Foul Language)

Update - Embedded video does not seem to work. Here's a direct link...