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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Wireless number portability

Today marks the first time mobile phone numbers are portable in Canada. However, this is not implemented in all of Canada today. According to the Canadian government’s CRTC website:

By March 14, 2007 Bell Mobility, Rogers Wireless and the mobility division of TELUS Communications Inc. will be required to provide WNP to their customers in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Québec. This means that customers in any of these provinces will be able to switch to any service provider in that province (wireline or wireless) and keep their phone number.

Throughout Canada, all wireless carriers will, by the same date, be required to release a phone number to another carrier (port-out customers) and by no later than September 12, 2007, to accept a phone number from another carrier (port-in customers).

It’s about time. I know some people are holding off switching wireless carriers until this day. This is likely to open up more competition among carriers – good for consumers.

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What a refreshing site!

bascule.co.jp

I love innovative work like this.

While cleaning up some old posts from 2003, I noticed a translation of an old page I wrote on inheritance (back in Flash 5 days) by the folks at Bascule in Japan. Revisiting their site was a nice surprise.

Although the page took awhile to load, the result is worth the wait.

The long page is all Flash with nice sound effects. As one scrolls down the page, different sections are activated when they come into view. Love how they did the video guides from three different locations to their office (wait for loading to finish next to the map), and the “matrix effect” when the guides meet. There are many little surprises along the way – just scroll and explore.

At the bottom of the page, click on the “genie” to literally wrap up the visit. Amazing work!

Check out the Bascule site. I think it’s time to visit Japan again!

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Programmer Personality Test

According to the Programmer Personality Test, I’m of the type DHSB.

“You’re a Doer.
You are very quick at getting tasks done. You believe the outcome is the most important part of a task and the faster you can reach that outcome the better. After all, time is money.

You like coding at a High level.
The world is made up of objects and components, you should create your programs in the same way.

You work best in a Solo situation.
The best way to program is by yourself. There’s no communication problems, you know every part of the code allowing you to write the best programs possible.

You are a liBeral programmer.
Programming is a complex task and you should use white space and comments as freely as possible to help simplify the task. We’re not writing on paper anymore so we can take up as much room as we need.”

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Microsoft Photosynth

Photosynth

Coming out of Microsoft Research, the tech preview of Photosynth is now available to the public. Photosynth puts together photos taken from different angles (and most likely by different people at different time) into a 3D viewing environment.

The experience is different than viewing 360 degree panoramas. Because each photo is faded in and out, and the random nature of the time and angles makes it more like putting a puzzle together than being virtually at the location.

To view the demo, a plug-in (~5.5MB) is required.

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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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Adobe MAX Seoul

Today is the first day of the Adobe MAX conference in Seoul. It’s great to talk to local mobile developers, and checking out some local mobile devices.

For example, Samsung has a Windows Mobile slider phone, which has a touch screen and a tiny antenna that receives digital satellite TV. The video quality is really good as it is all digital signal. It runs on the standard Windows Mobile system, so Flash Lite 2.1 is also available. I was told it is free to watch TV on the mobile phone.

Samsung phone with satellite TV

It’s great to be back in Asia. Getting to hang out with the usual crowd and meeting new people are always good reasons for going to these conferences. I think there are over 1000 attendees, coming for the two-day event.

My presentation on “Connecting to External Data Services” (for Flash Lite) is on tomorrow. There’s a speaker dinner tonight, and I’m looking forward to the traditional Korea dinner.

Last night, a couple of speakers went out for a late dinner at a nearby Japanese restaurant. The food was really good!

Dinner
Geoff Lillemon, Jared Tarbell, Rob Chiu, Craig Swann, Mario Klingemann

Dinner
Erik Natzke, Tobey, Geoff Lillemon, Jared Tarbell

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