Category Archives: Devices

Keepon

“Keepon is a small creature-like robot designed to interact with children by directing attention and expressing emotion. Keepon’s minimal design makes its behaviors easy to understand, resulting in interactions that are enjoyable and comfortable”

My Keepon is the $40 version of this originally $30,000 experiment.

More info at BeatBot.

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Google Chrome & Mobile

Since reading the Google Chrome comic, the possibility of running a new class of (web) applications in this new browser is exciting, especially considering that it’d most likely be part of Android in the future. With this new browser from Google, it’s not only re-igniting the browser war (mostly with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer), but also a step towards OS-independent applications that can run either online or offline. It’s another strike at Microsoft’s OS market share (something that Adobe has been achieving with the Flash Platform, except this time, Google is making it with a larger footprint). Chrome is in effect an operating system in its own sandboxed world. Google Chrome

Here are some of the more interesting features of Chrome:

  • uses the open source WebKit – the browser engine used by Safari (Mac OS, iPhone/iPod Touch, Windows), Adobe AIR (Windows, Mac, Linux), S60 (e.g. Nokia browser) and many more
  • in return Google Chrome is also open source
  • a new JavaScript Virtual Machine (V8) that compiles JavaScript to native machine code when interpreted, with the goal to improve JavaScript speed for complex applications
  • separate process and sandbox for each tab
  • Google Gears is built-in (GeoLocation API would be especially useful for mobile devices)

One logical direction for Chrome is to have it run on devices. With Android devices coming out soon, it’d be interesting to see where and how new applications will be deployed and developed if Chrome takes off and becomes a relevant platform.

Download Google Chrome Beta (for Windows).

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New version of Opera for the Wii

Just finished updating to the latest version of Opera / Internet Channel for the Wii. Nice to see the option to hide the taskbar – now browser content can now go full screen.

A new set of preferences is also added to the browser (e.g. use Google or Yahoo for searching, show/auto-hide/manual hide the taskbar, proxy settings…etc.). One thing I find missing on that screen is an indicator to show up/down scrolling.

Parental control for the browser is also added, although I was expecting more than a general yes/no entry point to the browser. Hopefully some sort of content filtering will be implemented in the future.

Another improvement is easier scrolling using the B button with visual aid of the scroll direction.

Flash developers can now use the whole screen for their apps or games, although the user has the choice to show or hide the taskbar. The extra pixels will certainly be useful.

To get this latest release, make sure to first update the system software and then update Opera from the Shopping Channel. More information can be found in the letter sent to the Wii.

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My first Chumby widget (update)

The BBC News Reader widget I uploaded earlier has been updated. Something I noticed in the Virtual Chumby display: the pixel font text is blurred. Compared with the same file displayed in the standalone Flash Player 9, the text is not blurred (see below).

Virtual Chumby blur

Looks like the Virtual Chumby control panel or its loader is not lined up at exact .0 pixel. Can anyone confirm this?

What’s new: I added left and right manual advance to view the next or previous news item without delay. When a news item is displayed, press either the lower left or right side of the screen to advance/rewind. To start auto-advance again, press the Menu area to bring up the panel, press Go to view the same feed, or choose a new feed and press Go. News items are looped around at either end (i.e. advance from the last news item goes to the first, and vice versa for the other direction).

You can view the news reader from the original post.

P.S. I should mention that the widget running in the real Chumby does not have this problem.

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My first Chumby widget

Yesterday I received my Chumby! Thanks to the folks at Chumby Industries and FITC‘s Shawn Pucknell. I spent a few hours this evening creating my first Chumby widget – a BBC News reader.

A couple of notes on developing Flash Lite 2.1 for the Chumby:

– Chumby widgets are SWF files loaded by the Chumby control panel.

– Using setInterval() is not recommended because the control panel switches widgets and memory leak occurs if the interval ID is not cleared.

– The Chumby control panel is also a SWF, running at 12fps; so all loaded SWFs are running at the same fps. Therefore it is recommended to set the widget fps to 12.

– Widgets are loaded from chumby.com. Accessing external data requires the crossdomain.xml policy file be set up properly. Or use a server proxy script.

– The Chumby is supposed to be used as a desktop gadget, not something one would hold on to. Text size should (in most cases) be larger than normal mobile applications.

– This widget is designed to be used as a single application in the Chumby channel. Because of the nature of the news reader, having it run with other widgets wouldn’t be very useful as the Chumby control panel loads widgets in preset intervals from the selected channel. It would be difficult to use the menu when one doesn’t know when the widgets change. One can, however, create many channels.

I only spent a few hours on this as a first test, created the (really basic) UI from the same app I developed for mobile phones. Because there is no keyboard on the Chumby (it has a touch screen and some sensors), key events are unavailable. You can use the mouse to click and explore. The news feed is reloaded every 6 minutes once it starts. Each news item is displayed for 10 seconds. Please let me know if you find any bugs.

As a reminder, I’ll be speaking at FITC on Flash Lite and Mobile Development. Check out my previous post with a discount code if you’re interested.

P.S. Don’t worry about the bottom/right of the Chumby not visible. I don’t want to pop up another window or have it hanging over the sidebar.

Update: Added manual advance/rewind to the next and previous news item. Just press the lower left or right side of the screen while the news are auto-advancing. Press the left side of the screen to show the previous news item. Press the right side to view the next news item. News items loop at either end. To start auto-advance again, bring up the menu (top-right corner) and select Go (for the same news feed), or select another news feed and press Go.

Update 2: See issue regarding blurred text in this virutal chumby.

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FITC 2007 guest speaker + discount code

I’m glad to announce that I’ve invited Dongyub Lee from Seoul as a guest speaker at my FITC presentation on Flash Lite and Mobile Development.

Dongyub is the CEO of DnL Productions, with offices in Seoul and Toronto. He created the Flash Lite User Interface for the iRiver U10 and Viliv P1. We’ll be talking about the state of Flash Lite development, new devices and technologies, development process and looking at some code.

Here is the description of our presentation:

One reason people come to events such as FITC is to be inspired. Whether it is the design, ideas or code. The number of devices running Flash Lite is at a record high. It is a great time to get into mobile and Flash Lite development.

In this session, we’ll look at mobile platforms, devices, tools, data access, trends and cool new technologies that may spark new ideas for your own development. We’ll de-construct a Flash Lite 2 application and see how the UI, navigation, event handling and external data access are implemented for a mobile device.

To register at 10% off the regular price, use this discount code: QW888798.

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Apple iPhone

[Note: This post was originally published as “private” the day after the iPhone was announced at MacWorld. After writing it, I read many similar reactions from other sites. Nevertheless, it’s now open for the public. Please note that these are speculations based on initial Apple annoucement information (they are likely to change by the time the iPhone is launched).]

With all the fanfare and excitement over the Apple iPhone, I thought I’d post my thoughts on this first-generation phone from Apple Inc.

Even though I was excited to follow the launch of the iPhone, and seeing how the new UI works, I quickly felt that it isn’t as revolutionary as Steve Jobs claims. The iPhone as it is introduced lacks some important features, especially for a phone to be released in the middle of 2007 (and later outside of the U.S.). It is easier to criticize than create, and I’m sure Apple has put in a lot of R&D into the iPhone, but from a consumer perspective, the current information on the iPhone doesn’t interest me to the point of buying one right away (if they had it on sale).

Here is the list of what I think are lacking:

  • No 3G network access. I was hoping that the iPhone had HSDPA. 3G is almost a must for “smart” phones launched in 2007, especially at the iPhone price range (costs of US$499 and $599 require 2-year contract with Cingular). Steve Jobs did mention during his keynote that future iPhones will have 3G though.
  • No GPS. Many Pocket PCs and phones came out last year already had built-in GPS. Google Maps or applications using the Google Maps API are already available on many other devices with GPS access.
  • The iPhone is locked to Cingular. The whole world is moving to unlocked GSM phones. This move keeps many potential buyers away. First company to offer unlocking service for the iPhone will make a fortune.
  • According to David Pogue’s FAQ, the iPhone does not sync with Outlook. There goes a large potential market.
  • According to the same FAQ, Adobe Flash is not available.
  • Although the iPhone runs OSX (most likely a scaled down customized version), it is a closed system tightly controlled by Apple. They don’t want any third-party application to run on it. The rest of the mobile world is moving towards open systems. Third-party developers can write and sell applications for different phones, and they don’t bring down a wireless network.
  • Internal battery similar to iPods that is not designed to be user-replaceable. With that gorgeous screen, the battery life suffers. 5 hours on specs usually mean 3+ hours of actual / extended use. What’s the use of a phone without power after 3+ hours, or at the very best, 5 hours? Why can’t users buy extra batteries and swap them?
  • No memory slot. At 480×320 (landscape mode), how many feature length videos can be stored on 4GB or 8GB? Of course, nobody watches movies on phones right? What about music and photos? Or storing images from a digital camera to the iPhone while on the road?
  • Basic 2 megapixel camera with no flash or auto-focus, compared to 5+ megapixel camera phones with auto-focus and dedicated shutter button. Can you imagine taking pictures by pressing the screen?
  • No mention of video capture. Almost all camera phones can be used to capture video, with some models built specifically for that purpose. I’d imagine this would be a standard feature.
  • No face-to-face video call (well, without 3G it’s not going to be very useful). Many Nokia phones have front and back cameras – one for video call, the other for taking pictures or video recording.
  • No mention of VoIP phone software. Probably have something to do with Cingular. Wireless providers don’t like people talk for free. With Wi-Fi, it’d be a shame if Apple doesn’t offer any VoIP solution.
  • Size of the iPhone: The reason I don’t carry my Pocket PC phone (O2 XDA IIs) around much is because it’s bigger and heavier than the Nokia N73 (which fits inside any pocket easily). Although the iPhone is slim, the width and height make it rather bulky to fit inside a pocket comfortably.
  • Better get a screen protector, I can see the screen scratched easily from day one.
  • No mention of which CPU or if there is a dedicated 3D graphics chip. By judging from the live demos, the iPhone performance seems decent though.

Here is an article titled “In Japan, barely a ripple – Apple’s much-anticipated iPhone is ‘business as usual’ in a country where mobile features already are so advanced.

To me, the iPhone is interesting because it brings multi-touch technology to a mass market device. I don’t know if Apple’s 200+ iPhone patents include multi-touch, one thing for sure is that others have been doing it for sometime.

Keeping the iPhone a closed system makes it rather dull. Keeping it locked to specific wireless provider(s) is rather unfortunate.

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Flash Lite 2.1 now available for multiple platforms

Adobe released Flash Lite 2.1 (now free to download) for the following mobile platforms a few days ago:

Nokia Symbian S60 v3.0

Nokia Symbian S60 v2.0 FP2

Nokia Symbian S60 v2.0 FP3

Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0

Did I mention these are free and do not require an IMEI number locked to the phone?

Old news but worth mentioning: Flash Lite 2.1 was released for BREW some time ago. Also, Flash Player 7 for Pocket PC is still available.

For developers: Make sure you download the Flash Lite 2.1 updater for Flash Professional 8, and get all new device profiles.

More info can be found at the Adobe Mobile & Devices Developer Center.

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Flash Lite article on Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail

Recently I was interviewed by Canadian national newspaper Globe and Mail writer Denise Deveau on developing for mobile devices in Flash Lite, the article talks about the current status of mobile development, and why developers are moving to Flash Lite.

The article is a good read for the general public (it’s under the Business : Innovation section). Some key points to take away:

  • Flash Lite is likely to change the user experience on mobile devices, like it did to the webspace.
  • Flash Lite can change the look and feel of mobile user-interface, applications and games, making them more fun and easer to use.
  • It is a great channel to apply one’s creative spirit.
  • Unlike countries such as Japan where Flash on mobile is extremely common, it may take 18 to 24 months for Flash to be adopted significantly on mobile phones in North America.
  • Many developers are betting on Flash for mobile devices

As I was away on a trip in Asia (after speaking at the Adobe MAX conference in Seoul on mobile development), the interview was done over several email at around 1 am local time, and ended abruptly when I left the computer and went to sleep. Hope what I said makes sense!

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