Monday, July 30, 2012

Blogger ate my post, Google Search gave it back

I am a writer at heart. Just look at the number of blogs I contribute to (listed as the Techsplatter network at the bottom of this page). So I prefer Blogger over Word press because it takes care of a lot of details and hassle of running a blog. Don't get me wrong. I've setup Joomla systems and know my way around httpd.conf. But like all racing car drivers and chefs, sometimes you just want drive and cook and not worry about the car or whether the fridge is fully stocked.
Well, I blog everywhere and I used to use Springpad to capture thoughts and snippets that I would include later in my blogs. But then Springpad decided to be more Pinterst-like and that messed up the way I take notes by simply making it harder (it's gotten better since then). It drove me nuts and I sought out and found the Blogger app from Google. I had tried it earlier and it was in a rough shape then. But any other app I tried didn't work all that well.
So I installed it and with the caveat that the post would be typed in html in mind I started using it. I didn't care about formatting because I just wanted to write and have it ready for final editing on Blogger web itself. Well it turns out that the posts can be formatted when you start off. After the first save, it gets wonky and decides to dump you in this mode where you could put in html markup but you really can't see what Blogger will put in. I didn't care because I just wanted to write. And for that, it served me well. I could start a post in the phone and pick up later at home. As you can see in the archive of the blogs, the number of posts have picked up. And because I was out of a job and had tons of free time.
In the end, I thought that I had it licked and was working well within the confines of the app. Then I found out it had one more dark 'feature'.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

10 things Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer should do and shouldn't do

There are two overarching themes to Yahoo. First that it wants to be about content when it comes to consumers and second it has a strong presence in the small business segment. With that in mind here are some ideas for new CEO Marissa Mayer.

Make a play for VEVO. They are not happy with Google and YouTube. Maybe Yahoo Music can be the place people go for music and music videos. Instead of being the place people come from before going to YouTube for their music. By the way, improve video service on Yahoo. It takes too long to load, if it can at all. Pressing Refresh refreshes the browser, does the opposite to the user.

Don't be a social network. Yahoo is about content, right? Be social and make current content readily available and shared by Facebook and Google+ users. Yes, there is Facebook integration on Yahoo. But why is Yahoo driving users to them instead of using Facebook to drive users to your content?
Also make it easy for your users to share existing content. For example, make e-mail messages sharable if consented to by the sender and recipient. Or anybody else who is quoted within. The basic tech to do that is there. Key thing is to make more Yahoo content more readily linkable from Google+ or Facebook. Work with Pintrest so that Yahoo content looks good on Pintrest. Use other social media to drive users to your content.

Comment filtering on comment forums needs to be better.  Make it so that people blocked on one article are automatically blocked or their comments hid on other articles. This way, your users don't need to be bothered by people whom they already disagree with. Yahoo comments forums are becoming loud, crass and where everyone gets to do a Bill O'Reilly impression. People want news and opinions, just not everybody's else's. Engagement would go up if people can customize their experience. Another suggestion: float comments by Facebook friends to the top. We value what our friends think.

Do the news for MSN. Tell Microsoft that Yahoo will take care of the news for MSN so that they can focus on Windows 8, Window RT, Surface tablets and the fallout that will follow. Yahoo have content with their ties-up with ABC. Feed all that through to MSN. Remember that they are thee social network and Yahoo is about content.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Google glasses' first privacy challenge: the restaurant test and what we should be talking about

...and it's not even out yet. I read Brian Brushwood's post on someone being attacked for wearing digital eye glasses and the accompany link to the story from the victim with some concern. While I have joked on this, this incident is much more serious. I will let other people talk about the incident itself. I'd like to touch on  the issue of privacy from public spaces.
While it can be argued that there is no privacy in a public space, the issue of privacy in public spaces have been up to now limited participant within that space itself. It means that if we participate in a public space, we can expect there would be no privacy from the immediate people within the public space. But what about from those not within the public space. Does it mean that we forgo all privacy when we walk in public? That we have to be individually identified for the right to be in public? This has been tested by Google themselves when they started gathering images for their StreetView technology. Google now blurs people's faces out and hides facilities based on request. They've even launched a feature that can automatically blurs people's faces in YouTube. Privacy enforcement on the internet is easy to do when there is only one entity involved. But what do you do when people with Google glasses are walking the streets everywhere?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

PIKOM PC Fair 2012

The PIKOM PC Fair 2012 (II) at KLCC Convention Center this time around isn't very much different from the past. The second PC Fair is usually smaller and the number of participating companies is less than the last PC Fair. Changes in layout resulted in less dealing with stairs to visit each exhibition hall. The addition of Hall 6, while in the back hall Hall 5, gives visitors a comfortable space without exhausting them with a trek through KLCC Convention Center. It also avoid making the fair from being a cramp-fest.

Here are some interesting finds at the PIKOM PC Fair 2012 (11):

All the Rage / New: Android 4.0 9 "and 9.7 inch tablets. Beware when comparing prices! The 9" tablet has a 16:9 / 16:10 aspect ratio (rectangular) while the  9.7" (or conveniently rounded up to 10") tablet is more squarish.

Innovative: The Modeo KB32 Air keyboard with Chatting: It's a wireless micro keyboard-air mouse combo with jacks for headphones and mics.

Uniquely different: 13.3" PRO1301 Prolink Mobile LED Monitor.Plugs into HDMI, powered by USB. VGA cable extra.

The Still Trying Dept.: Aztech Power line (data over power) 200MBps (old) RM49 - Wireless-N (300MBps) RM129, pelbgai

Cheap-cheap: External Hard Disk 1TB Western Digital common types of RM319. Buffalo RM299.

Unexpected: Motorola Fire XT Android 2.3. In-between the ocean of various Samsung Galaxy models. And by the way, Samsung introduces a smaller model of the Galaxy phones.

Surprise: Sylvania / OSRAM M783GB- Android 4.0 7" tablet can also be used as a mobile phone RM699. 

Dumbest ad: "The Smallest 7" tablet". Never thought the 7" come in different sizes.

Tired: Dell laptops are still thick as books when other PC companies have long gone thin with their laptop. Sadly, Dell Laptops looks thicker than it was before.

Clever Ad tactic: Fujitsu puts their monthly easy payment installment in big letters because their prices are much more expensive than their competitors.

Strange: Luquipel offers to waterproof your smartphone. Just not yet. Pay to get an early bird discount. The process takes about 30 minutes, in a few weeks time.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Apple chooses design over the environment

Apple recently announced that it wasn't going to submit any more products to be certifies by EPEAT, a ratings agency that certifies electronic devices meet an environmentally-friendly standard. This means that Apple products aren't going to be certified as following a set of environmentally friendly rules. So why did Apple pull out it's products from EPEAT? Some of Apple's recent products do not comply to EPEAT's rules.

Apple has not only not stopped submitting products for certification, it is pulling out from EPEAT by pulling out it's products from EPEAT's ratings list. Some have pointed out that this is probably because they would rather not be seen at all than have some products certified and others not. While EPEAT does not certify smartphone and tablets, it seems odd that Apple decided to pull out after having the popular iPhone and iPad on the market for so long. So why make an announcement now ? Did they want to get in front of the message before someone else "leaked" it out and make it look like Apple was trying to hide something?

Apple didn't really have to hide anything until recently. EPEAT's standard is used with PCs and Laptops and is related to government purchasing. Agencies have policies preferring PCs that are EPEAT compliant. Apple's most recent products are glued together, have non-replaceable batteries and generally not serviceable. These fall foul of the regulations. Rather than failing the standards or raise questions as to why some their laptops are not compliant while others are, Apple decides to exit the process entirely.

Apples most recent laptops have these changes because of their ultra slim design. In that respect, Apple is highly respected. In an extensive documentary on design, a European design expert admitted through gritted teeth that no company is as dedicated to design as Apple. The fact that Apple's lead designer, Jonathan Ives, is British is not lost upon them. But few European companies would be willing to give Jonathan Ives the latitude that he has.

Most analyst and users are giving Apple a pass on this issue. They and Apple have pointed out other ways that Apple has been green. And they have done so through their design. Some Macbooks are the size of the hole cut out from the casing of iMacs and Apple displays. This is because the material cut out to make the hole is used to make the Macbook. This and other ways in the past have made Apple a darling of the hip and green set. But it is hard to see that their attitude towards Apple as a way of wanting to keep justifying using their products. Did Apple expect this from their users, especially their fanboys? Of course. What the users don't realize is that their attitude is feeding Apple's arrogance towards every body else. While users feel Apple could be relied on to act responsibly in the past (take the Foxconn incidents, for example), what would the users do when Apples decides to do otherwise? Has Apple done so with this move?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The 3D desktop and the dangers of unchallenged ideas

A follow-up of sorts to my last post on my use of Gnome3 and the struggles overcoming it's user interface problems. After a few updates, Gnome3 "safe mode" has become usable. Workspace switching now works but the top and bottom panel stiil can't be modified, not easily anyway. But it is usable and familiar. In fact, I use it for about 90% of the time. Some things don't work all the time, though, like sftp integration. But that could be PCManFm's problem, the file manager. But since it's the default choice, Gnome therefore shoulders some blame.
This whole episode reminded me of something that happened to me in the late 90s. I was asked about what would be the next step be in terms of desktop interfaces. I had postulated that given the proliferation of graphic cards with 3D capabilities, the next step in desktop interfaces would take advantage of that. It was logical because Microsoft Windows tend to drive the hardware requirements up. By requiring that PCs running Windows have 3D capabilities, PC makers would then make it a standard. Which is in their interest because this would drive new PC sales. It happened before with CD-ROM drives so why not 3D graphic cards?
The design was based on the concept that the desktop would exist in a 3D world. Application windows would "float" in the air above a horizon. By moving within the 3D world, you would move and zoom in and out of the windows. For example, if you are working on a spreadsheet and you want to see a document  to verify some information, you would "move backward", making the spreadsheet window and it's contents smaller but still visible. Now you can open a document at the "normal" size. You would cut and paste in between them as you would normally do because you can still see the spreadsheet and use it even though it was smaller.
A horizon on the bottom of the screen would hint the idea of land. It would animate according to your movements within the world, giving the sense of movement when there are no windows opened. I think that it could also have features like hills and bodies of water to introduce the idea of unique areas. 
This would be useful when you create a workspace (in the semi-literal sense) by grouping windows together within an area of the 3D environment. By moving between the groups, you would be moving between workspaces. The different features of the horizon would help you remember where the groups are. To make movement easier, double-clicking on the horizon would bring up a "signpost" that would point to where those groups or windows are. You can move manually or click on the signs on the post to jump to the area.
Since the windows would exist in a 3D space, you would be able to scroll the "world" left and right.  Scrolling slightly to the side would eventually make the visible applications start to move off the screen. This is useful if you need to see only part of an application window while opening and working on another. Or you could stretch the window further to see more of the application. This would be useful for spreadsheets and graphical applications like painting or CAD application where you could want to open the windows into a space larger than the actual screen size.. 
So what's the point I'm trying to make here?

Monday, July 02, 2012

Ideas for Android tablet makers responding to the Google Nexus 7

It is easy to over-estimate the importance of the Kindle Fire. Most pundits look around and see the dominance of the Kindle Fire in the US and assume that it is the benchmark the hardware makers have to compete. While the Kindle Fire may dominate the Android tablet market in the US, it doesn't do so internationally, even where Amazon does do business, like Europe. 
Now, the tablet makers have a benchmark set for them internationally by the Google Nexus 7. It is both a benchmark and a response to the popularity of the Kindle Fire. The Nexus 7 is like the Nexus phones, is a demonstration by Google of what it expects the other vendors to improve on. Not to just imitate but build on. Memory is short in the smartphone market (insert your memory upgrade joke here). But just a few years ago, in 2010,  the Google Nexus One phone by HTC was the Android phone to have. Since then other phones have come out and have done better, especially the Samsung Galaxt series. It is 2012 and Google has done it again with the Nexus 7 by Asus.
It is now up to other tablet makers to respond. They have to come out with better tablets at competing prices or with tablets that are aimed for more focused markets like the corporate or education markets. They may also have to go beyond the device itself and start building a support infrastructure around their products. This does not just mean hardware, such as charging stations for the education market. Infrastructure also means software, like fleet management systems where settings, apps and data can be device independent within a fleet of devices. The ability to move the data from device to device easily means companies can keep their staff connected and productive even when the device fails or it taken back for maintenance. Blackberry already does this with their Blackberry Enterprise products and that is one of the reasons they are entrenched in the corporate market. Also the ability to read e-mail using one hand. Android phone makers, look into that.
Despite articles stating otherwise, other tablet makers don't have to worry about Google being dominant in the tablet market. They don't have to worry as long as they are willing to do one better. Improving on a Google example is a key success factor. Again, take a look at the Android phone market. The Google Nexus gave HTC a boost but Samsung responded. They came out with more products and features. The Samsung Galaxy range of phones cover the entry level all the way up to the premium Galaxy SIII. They even created their own category, the phablet with the Samsung Galaxy Note. In the tablet space, Samsung tablets are the only premium tablets with the ability to make and receive normal phone calls. Which is a big thing for Asian markets, despite the required bluetooth earpiece. Samsung chooses to be bold and innovate. In the end, it is up to the tablet makers to come with a better tablet than Google 
This is going to be hard considering that the Nexus 7 was sold at cost. But take a page from the other tablet maker and work with the supply chain to ensure the components are priced closer to the delivery date. This means as more tablets are sold and more orders come in, the prices for components fall. By pricing it further down the road, the cost price of the tablet drops the more they are sold. This in turn becomes an incentive for the tablet makers to sell more to push the cost price down. The component maker usually respond by offering the same components to other tablet makers to make up for the shortfall in margins. The entire process commoditizes the components and usually leads to more tablets having similar components. Which is not a bad thing because it reduces the android "fragmentation".

Recently Popular