iPhone 5 design: where’s the intimacy ?

Smart phones are one of the most intimate devices we own. We take them with us so many places throughout the day, be it in a pocket, bag or purse. We hold them so many times during the day. And at night we often take them to bed with us, usually leaving them on the bedside table. These are computers that have become companion devices, smart devices. Yet in a world of wireless technologies, devices of old still require to be plugged in regularly. Rather than adopt new wireless charging integration, the iPhone 5 designers came up with a new plug design, meaning you’ll have to continually watch your battery life and remember to plug it in: in essence you’ll have to continue to change it’s nappies. It’s infantile.


If you look at the intimacy we have with our smart phones, you’ll probably notice we are often slaves to battery life. Yes it really is like toilet training the phone, trying to pre-empt when it’ll need its next visit to the outlet. Wireless charging changes that. When you put your phone down by your bed it’s charging. Put the phone in your car’s console: it’s charging. Put the phone on your desk or on the table at a coffee shop or airport lounge: it’s charging. No cables, no plugs, no adapters, no having to constantly monitor and remember when to change the nappy.


iPhone 5 doesn’t have this. It is an epic fail. The new “lightning” plug adds to the epic fail.

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Apple and Neil Armstrong

Last week Neil Armstrong passed away. He was part of an era in which innovation truly thrived. Profoundly back in 1969 he said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” . The space race drove innovation and invention. There were so many spin-offs, especially in technology.

Fast forward more than forty years later, we have a jury of nine, ruling pinch to zoom, and icons in a grid are the invention of Apple. Sad.

What a sad sad week  for mankind.

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Nokia adds vcard support to Windows Phone 7.5

Recently Nokia rolled out a couple of updates for Lumia owners including an OS update that provides tethering support for Lumia 800’s, and some cool camera extras that provides a great group photo merge.  Nokia also released a “Contacts Share” application that provides vcard support for sharing contacts.

Install Nokia’s Contact Share, and next time someone sends you a vcard attachment you can simply open it and select to add it to your contacts. There’s other contacting sharing apps out there, but this is the first one I’ve seen that adds vcard attachment support. The app doesn’t integrate completely into the People hub, but it’s the next best thing.

You might have trouble locating the app in the windows phone market place: it was released in June. Here’s the direct link:

http://windowsphone.com/s?appid=feb55f4c-1e2d-497e-b1ee-fce04a9a11ae

 

Enjoy Smile

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Outlook 2013 preview and @live accounts

In the Office 2013 preview, Outlook doesn’t automatically setup @Live email accounts.  I’m guessing this is just an oversight in the preview. To work around this you need to set up the account manually and specify the server as m.hotmail.com

In the Add Account screen select “Manual ….

image

 

In the next screen select Exchange ActiveSync :

image 

Next when adding your account information, specify the server as m.hotmail.com

image

 

Enjoy.

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Why isn’t Windows Phone 8 an update for Nokia Lumia’s ?

Yesterday’s announcement of Windows Phone 8 not being an upgrade for the latest Nokia phones, including Lumia 800, 900 et al, has been met understandably with both disappointment and anger from many existing handset owners. I’ve also seen some articles/comments that suggest it is needed for the greater good; articles which clearly missed what WP8 potentially brings, and clearly missed the point that existing handset owners clearly like what WP8 has to offer: hence their angst.

First of, the question of hardware. Existing Nokia Lumia’s use Snapdragon ARM (v7) processors also known as system on a chip (SOC). The new version of Windows Phone will also run Snapdragon ARM chips, also currently ARM V7.  Where’s the massive hardware incompatibility? There’s been silly comments about the NFC chips, but no, the real hardware issue is most likely the graphics drivers. For a closer look, read the Windows 8 team blog on building for ARM.  You’ll see that the Windows 8 team actually did a lot of their early development on existing phones !!  It doesn’t look like it is a hardware issue, rather it’s a question of the investment into updating drivers for existing graphics chips Surprised smile

Secondly, there’s the misnomer that having the new start screen will make Windows Phones 7.5 just like Windows Phone 8. Wrong. WP8 brings with it some very important changes, two of which are native code, and drivers. Drivers will open up a world of possibilities with both existing hardware such as printers and scanners, external drives, external video etc. WP8 will start the era of new connectivity for devices.

Native code will change the games and apps we see for Windows Phone.  Many of the apps Windows Phone users have been waiting to be ported over from the iPhone or Android will be written in native C++ and hence never be seen on the existing devices. New immersive games with stunning graphics also won’t be available for existing devices as long as they are stuck on Windows Phone 7.X

Even the fate of web browsing on the phone is looking bad. With the existing share of Windows Phones being such a small market segment, if the phone doesn’t get the newest IE and HTML 5 support there’s an increasing chance over time that web sites won’t even consider the existing devices and their rendering capabilities a viable target.

Thirdly, the lack of an upgrade for existing phones is going to do severe damage to the Windows Phone market whilst the market waits for WP8 capable devices. This sounds like it is still months and months away. After the recent hype and marketing push for the Nokia Lumia’s this is a massive back step.  Will Microsoft and Nokia be buying back existing devices retailers feel they are stuck with or giving massive rebates (remember the Microsoft Kin anyone?). The real cost to the market is going to be huge.

This black hole of no devices available that will be upgradable to windows 8 is going to strike at the confidence the market place has with Microsoft. It was only three years ago Microsoft abandoned Windows Mobile 6.5 for Windows Phone 7. Now they are abandoning it again. The upgrade policy announced yesterday is for only 18 months (although expect that to be challenged legally in Australia at least where telco’s are required to guarantee products for the minimal term of the contract which is usually 24 months). This adds to the recent history of abandoning Zune devices and phones such as the Microsoft Kin.

Windows On ARM (WOA) which is the shared core for Windows RT (Windows 8 on ARM tablets) and Windows Phone 8 will most likely at last bring a stability to the core for devices. But this is the same OS core that we have to regularly update, virtually every month. A support guarantee for 18 months only isn’t going to really cut it.

Lastly, but certainly not least-ly,  many of the people who have bought Windows Phones have done so knowing the devices won’t upgrade in terms of hardware, but they expected the software to be updated and new applications to be available to them.  Microsoft’s rush to get windows Phone 7 out left it without many features, features people expected to be updated/upgraded over time. The lack of some big name apps was something people thought would be fixed with time as more people bought the Windows Phone. People bought into Windows Phone on a promise of things to come, and did so knowing that the more that bought the phones the more likely we would be to see new apps on the phone.

They bought into trust and faith that things were going to get better. And it might, but not for those who backed Windows Phone 7.

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Windows 8, actually.

The North American TechEd videos are online now. The keynote from Day 2 is about Windows 8 and is worth watching.

Actually, whilst watching the day 2 keynote see if you can count the times “actually” is used, actually Winking smile       I guess it’s better than “So…”

Biggest moment of irony in the video is when the desktop is demo’ed with windows docked to 50% of the screen. It’s a real pity you can’t window a Windows RT app to do the same.

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Windows 8 mail app

My first impressions of the windows 8 mail application …

Accounts :

The mail app seemed to work straight away with my @live account, and looks like it will offer good synchronisation with multiple accounts however I am unable to get the “accounts” charm to stay open when running in a VMWare VM, so haven’t tested multiple accounts. The @Live account seemed to cause synchronisation issues for Outlook on another machine which was only resolved by deleting the local ost file.

Likes:

  • Live tiles indicating how many unread emails.
  • Has a clean look

Dislikes:

  • No apparent security: internet pictures are automatically downloaded, and you can’t set it to read html mails in text mode etc.
       
  • Navigation when docked is difficult.  It’s not intuitive to navigate from store, to list of items to an actual email item. Could really do with some breadcrumb or similar to show you where you are
       
  • Can’t display two emails side by side (no “windows”).
        
  • No rules. The ability to automatically move emails from different people isn’t there. This alone is probably the real deal breaker for me, and the number one reason why I won’t be using the mail app.
       
  • Can’t change font or font size. Unbelievable in this day and age that the user can’t decide to change settings such as font size. I don’t believe any app that is truly interested in accessibility would leave this functionality out. Shameful Sad smile
      
  • When composing a new email the formatting toolbar is now at the bottom of the screen. This might make sense if you are using the onscreen keyboard, and hence is okay for tablet use, but for keyboard and mouse input it’s in the wrong place. This epitomizes my major issues with the Windows 8 design: they continually favour tablet touch input design at the cost of mouse and keyboard input design. The ergonomics of having the formatting toolbar at the bottom of the screen are terrible. The only time it should appear there is when you use the on screen keyboard.

Conclusion: I wouldn’t consider this a real email client. Security needs to be addressed before recommending to even the most casual of users. It needs rules. And the way it works in a desktop environment really needs to be re-thought.

Steven Sinofsky posted to the windows 8 team blog on their design for the mail app. Sadly I don’t see these issues addressed there .

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Why a little bit of VB is a bad bad thing

Scott Hanselman posted about VB6 and showed a snippet of code :


Public Function Fib(ByVal n As Integer) As Integer
    Fib = IIf (n < 2, n, Fib(n-1) + Fib(n-2))
End Function


What Scott probably didn’t realize that the IIF function in VB (both VB6 and later) is a Function not an operator. That means all arguments passed to the function are evaluated.


Can you see the adverse side effect Scott’s code would have ?


 


NB. In VB.NET if you wrote the same code as Scott posted, and you have Strict On, the compiler will give you a type casting error because the IIF function is not generic.  So that might help with the unintended bad usage. The better news is VB.NET has an If operator (ternary operator) So the above code is written as :


 


Public Function Fib(ByVal n As Integer) As Integer
     Fib = If (n < 2, n, Fib(n-1) + Fib(n-2))
End Function

 


Generally IIF should be avoided regardless of what version of VB you use.


 

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Lightswitch suddenly becomes relevant

The LightSwitch team announced that LightSwitch will render to HTML5 + javascript. This is huge in expanding and liberating the client requirements including mobile devices !!

see the LightSwitch team blog for more details ..

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What I’d really like in a phone

The software a phone runs is important but the hardware is even more so. My current day to day phone is the Lumia 800, and the previous one was a HTC mozart. To me the difference is massive. The lumia has a much better display, better reception (which is really important to me), and better battery life. Like I said the difference is massive to *me*.

So whilst thinking/talking hardware, here’s some of the updates I’d like to see:

  1. No more charge cables !  I’m sick of plugging in my phone to charge it. Sure there’s those adapters with pins and charge pads, but I’d really like some like inductive charging. If it’s good enough for my toothbrush I’m sure they can make it work for phones Smile
     
  2. NFC. Yes many phones already have this, enabling secure payment. Unlike a credit card you can remotely lock a phone if it lost/stolen. Plus it’s one less thing I have to carry if all cash transactions can be done with the phone

     
  3. Smart key integration. I’m sick of keys. It’d be nice if my phone could replace all my keys, starting with the car keys first.

     
  4. More wireless communications. Apple has some of this, but it would be nice if it was all open standards. I’d like to be able to post my phone screen to the television; wirelessly print and general wireless device communications. We’re very close on this …

  5. Tougher gorilla glass.

Most of those things are about less clutter, less cables. It’d be nice if I didn’t have to worry about keys, wallet, phone, pager, instead just had to grab one device to do it all Smile  First on my list is get rid of the daily grind of charging it !!!

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