flwyd: (pensive goat)
Google just announced Android 4.0, code named Ice Cream Sandwich, and a new "this is what a good Ice Cream Sandwich phone is like" Galaxy Nexus. A couple of the new features really stand out for me:
Powerful voice input engine

Android 4.0 introduces a powerful new voice input engine that offers a continuous "open microphone" experience and streaming voice recognition. The new voice input engine lets users dictate the text they want, for as long as they want, using the language they want. Users can speak continously for a prolonged time, even pausing for intervals if needed, and dictate punctuation to create correct sentences. As the voice input engine enters text, it underlines possible dictation errors in gray. After dictating, users can tap the underlined words to quickly replace them from a list of suggestions.
The main reason I'm not a big fan of cell phones is that I'm a very writing-centric person and producing any quantity of words on a smart phone makes me want to bang my head with a Model M. But smooth dictation with easy correction might be enough for me to get a mobile data plan. Speaking of mobile data plans,
Control over network data

Mobile devices can make extensive use of network data for streaming content, synchronizing data, downloading apps, and more. To meet the needs of users with tiered or metered data plans, Android 4.0 adds new controls for managing network data usage.

In the Settings app, colorful charts show the total data usage on each network type (mobile or Wi-Fi), as well as amount of data used by each running application. Based on their data plans, users can optionally set warning levels or hard limits on data usage or disable mobile data altogether. Users can also manage the background data used by individual applications as needed.
One reason I haven't gotten my Android on a cell network is that T-Mobile prepaid data comes in two categories, "30 megabytes" and "unlimited." (In their contract plans, they've also got "Unlimited (200 MB)" and "Unlimited (2 GB).") How much data would I transfer in a month? I have no idea because the last time I cared about minimizing network bandwidth was 1998 when I was using a dialup modem. But if I can easily monitor and control bandwidth on cellular networks while transferring as much as needed over WiFi, I might be convinced to pay for the former.
Android Beam for NFC-based sharing

Android Beam is an innovative, convenient feature for sharing across two NFC-enabled devices, It lets people instantly exchange favorite apps, contacts, music, videos — almost anything. It’s incredibly simple and convenient to use — there’s no menu to open, application to launch, or pairing needed. Just touch one Android-powered phone to another, then tap to send.

Wi-Fi Direct and Bluetooth HDP

Support for Wi-Fi Direct lets users connect directly to nearby peer devices over Wi-Fi, for more reliable, higher-speed communication. No internet connection or tethering is needed. Through third-party apps, users can connect to compatible devices to take advantage of new features such as instant sharing of files, photos, or other media; streaming video or audio from another device; or connecting to compatible printers or other devices.
These two features sound like an opportunity for developers to create some awesome experiences. Imagine a game you play at a large party or gaming convention where people have different clues to a puzzle on their phones and when you meet someone you get closer to finding the solution. Or, in a world where music labels realize that giving away music to gain new fans makes sense, your friend says "Hey, check out this new band I've been digging," you tap phones together, and now you have a copy of the song too.

Oh yeah, you can also unlock your phone with facial recognition. Or, if you have a Richard Stallman approach to passwords, you can set your password to Guy Fawkes.

Phone Verification

Saturday, July 16th, 2011 12:33 am
flwyd: (xkcd don quixote)
Geuh. I'm not a fan of phone verification.

Really I'm not a fan of phones. I'd much rather deal with email than with phone calls. Telephones are so 20th Century; in the 21st Century I want to do all my communication over IP.

For a short while I had an assumed identity on Facebook. I don't want to use the service with my own information because I dislike their decision making process. But as a spokesperson and main online presence for an organization, I figured I'd do Facebook's users a favor and use the existing Group and Page for the organization. I was made an admin of the group and started answering questions, pointing to the official website that's associated with the group. After a few rounds of that, Facebook threw a speedbump at me, demanding a phone number or a photocopy of my ID. Screw that, I won't provide your users a service. Facebook: if you're developing a communication system that's better than email, why would I need a telephone to use it?

Now I'm in my hammock, about to go to sleep, trying to post our yard sale announcement to Craigslist. The post button sends an email. The email has a link to activate the post. But then I get asked for a phone number they can call or text. So I enter my Google Voice number and open Google Voice in a new tab. I wait a while. I hit the check status. I get a vague message that "Your phone number could not be verified. Please start over with another number." with a troubleshooting claim of "Some Voice over IP (VOIP) phone numbers (including Cricket, MetroPCS)." A little Googling found other Craigslist users that have found that Craigslist won't use Google Voice numbers for verification. Grrrrrrr. Edit: amusingly, after verifying that I have a frickin' phone number, I then get a CAPTCHA.

I really don't like it when a tool requires the use of a completely unrelated tool. I kinda want to go back to the old days when the only thing the Internet needed your telephone number for was a modem.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
I don't use the telephone very much. Partly because I feel awkward on the phone and prefer to write emails. Partly because I dislike all the phone companies in the U.S. I was considering switching from using a Virgin Mobile prepaid plan (20 cents a minute in bi- or tri-monthly $20 payments on a super-simple cellphone) to a T-Mobile prepaid plan (10 cents a minute in a yearly $100 payment so I can use my Android Nexus S as a phone and not just a wifi pocket computer). The big advantage of the Android-on-T-Mobile approach would be the ability to access the Internet when WiFi isn't available through their $1.50-for-24-hours "Web Day Pass."

But the Prepaid Web Day Pass FAQ ends with this disturbing gem:
Why am I not able to view certain Web sites?
Web Guard is automatically active on Web Day Pass purchases and cannot be disabled. Some Web sites may be blocked due to the nature of the site, including but not limited to:
Abortion, Alcohol, Ammunition, Criminal Skills, Cults, Drugs, Firearms Accessories, Gambling, Guns, Hacking, Hate, Knives, Lifestyle, Martial Arts, Mature Content, Occult, Pornography, Suicide, Tobacco, Violence, Weapons.
Partially-restricted content includes the categories of Personals/Dating and Sex Education.
Seriously?!? I can't use T-Mobile's network to research abortion, but I can use it to call Planned Parenthood to make an appointment? I can't visit a website about tarot, but I can download a tarot app for my phone? I can't visit a site about marijuana, but I can call someone to invite them over for a trip? I can't watch a karate video, but I can watch a wrestling match? I can't access a site about guns and knives, but I can visit the Army recruiting site? And what exactly is blocked under "lifestyle?" Pages about asceticism?

There's no indication about how extensive the "may be blocked" criteria are, either. Can I access Wikipedia, which has pages about all of those things? Can I access a bar's website to find out when it's open? What if they also serve food?

Feh. It looks like I'll be continuing my avoid-accessing-mobile-phone-networks policy.

Update: According to the Web Guard FAQ, "The filter does not work with client server applications (such as the Opera Mini Browser)." So... does this only apply to T-Mobile's crappy web browser and is totally irrelevant on an Android? Of course, that page also uses the phrase "imbedded Web sites... within chat and text messaging," so I'm not sure it knows what it's talking about.
flwyd: (daemon tux hexley)
There's been a lot of noise in developer circles recently about Apple's new unusual iPhone developers agreement, particularly section 3.3.1. Briefly, Apple declared that you're not allowed to write iPhone/iPad/iPod software unless you use their tools to do it. Specifically, you're not allowed to write it using a level of abstraction that lets the application easily run on other devices like Androids, Windows Mobile phones, and BlackBerries.

A lot of people said this new change was targeted at Adobe, creators of Flash, a system for creating multimedia content that will work the same on any browser with their plugin installed. While the sorts of folks who comment loudly on this sort of thing have no love lost for Flash, being told how not to write software is a good way to rile up whole nests of developers.

Steve Jobs recently wrote an explanation of why he doesn't want Flash on the iPhone. He starts by painting Flash as a closed system -- Adobe controls the authoring tools and the play environment. He contrasts this with the open standards of HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript, the technologies at the front of most websites. The great thing about HTML is that anyone can create stuff in it and anyone can access it with a browser tailored to their device's peculiarities. So far, so good.

But then Jobs completely undermines his discussion of the openness of the web by saying the most important reason they don't want Flash is that they think the applications with the best user experiences were written to take advantage of everything the iPhone (or Mac or whatever) offers. He suggests that it's best for the users if all iPhone apps are developed using Apple's tools:
Our motivation is simple – we want to provide the most advanced and innovative platform to our deAvelopers, and we want them to stand directly on the shoulders of this platform and create the best apps the world has ever seen.
In other words, you can stand directly on Apple's shoulders, but you'd better not stand on the shoulders of someone standing on Apple's shoulders. If some clever company invents a new way of writing really great apps, the only way iPhone users will get the benefit of that innovation is if Apple deigns to adopt it.

Yet when you visit a website on the iPad, Apple doesn't stop you because the site's designers didn't adhere to Apple's user interface guidelines or because they used a tool like GWT to make the JavaScript work for all browsers. So if somebody wants to write an app that can run on iPhones, Androids, BlackBerries, and who knows what else, their choices are to write it twice: once for the iPhone and once for everything else. Or they can take Steve Jobs's advice and write it once for the web and bypass Apple's restricted platform. If they do the latter, they don't have to wait in App Store limbo, they can include porn if they want, and Apple doesn't take a cut of their profits. What's the down side?

So which is it, Steve? Are open standards the key to a good development environment and a good software ecosystem? Or is a single company controlling the platform the way to go?

Personally, I'm happy with my Android device which allows you to stand on as many shoulders as you like. It's shoulders all the way down.
flwyd: (Trevor shadow self portrait)
My new phone message. Call 303-980-5148 to be amused... or just to laugh at me.

Picture yourself on a phone with a Trevor
With tangerine rings and marmalade cats
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A boy with kaleidoscope hats

Telephone callers of yellow and green
Cell tower over your head
Look for the boy with the sun in his heart
And he's not home

Lucy on the phone leave a message...
flwyd: (rush counterparts album cover)
If you get home to a sexy and explicit message on your answering machine and it turns out it was a wrong number, it's time to call porn *69.
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