Little T in the Cog my blog

HP Cancels TouchPad


Well it turns out I was drunk - A few days after ordering the TouchPad HP announce that they're discontinuing the product, only 49 days after it was launched. I waited a few more days after that then decided to cancel my order with Amazon.

I'd still like one (I really like WebOS - finding it hard to believe that HP just signed it's death warrant) but I'm certainly not paying full price for one now. In the United States they've put it in a fire sale, giving them away at $99 each but Amazon doesn't have any cheaper than US$300 and here in NZ they're still up at the ridiculous price of NZ$679.

I still like the idea of using a tablet instead of a laptop as they're generally much smaller and lighter but I'm not sure which one to get now (the iPad is kinda expensive over here in NZ although I see there are lots of different SSH shells available for it so using it for work would pose no problem). Maybe I should just stick with the new MacBook Air...

HP TouchPad


Well I must be drunk because I just ordered an HP TouchPad over an iPad - I'm not even sure I *need* a tablet but I know watching movies while lying in bed is much nicer on an iPad than a laptop.

Why did I choose this over the iPad? Basically I still think WebOS is the best OS for mobile devices, a really good video app is available for it (no need to re-encode all my movies into .mp4) and it is also really nice and cheap (I've ordered mine from Amazon with a case and it still comes in cheaper than buying it in NZ, and that's already over NZ$150 cheaper than the iPad...). The final (and maybe most important reason) is WebOS Internals and the whole homebrew community, there is no other mobile phone/tablet out there with such open support for tweaking and improving the device.

I'm also hoping I can start to use it as my oncall device, replacing my now aging PowerBook as the machine I lug around in my bag with me. If I can get the VPN set up to connect to our Cisco firewall (apparently this is possible) then with the addition of a bluetooth keyboard I can have a nice light mobile workstation with 10+ hours battery life for when I'm on the road and a great "consuming" device for when I'm at home crashed out on the couch or in bed on Sunday morning :-)

Now I just need the damn thing to turn up - Amazon says delivery sometime in the next three weeks...

Firefox 5 Released


Well that was quick - Mozilla have released Firefox 5 already! Seems like I only just upgraded to 4 the other day...

Get it while it's hot!

Civilised Internet


Another excellent article by Thom Holwerda over at talking about the US, UK and France trying to make the internet more "civilised". As far as I can tell from my brief look at the plan the whole thing boils down to controlling copyright (and cracking down on infringers) and giving governments the ability to block websites that they don't want citizens having access to ("Think of the children!"). Of course we can completely trust the government to *only* block child porn web sites (and not wikileaks, the pirate bay etc, no they'd never do that!)...

All is not lost however as both countries and individuals (as well as some big companies like Google and Facebook) are fighting for Net Neutrality, basically an internet that isn't controlled by anyone but allowed to grow organically (with both the good and bad that such growth would bring).

With New Zealand signing up to the three strikes law (which is basically the film and music studios reaching past the police and getting policy into law that they should never be allowed to) I wonder how long it will be until we (New Zealand) sign up to this new civilised internet?

A Better Way to Communicate


I've never really thought about it, but I'm drowning in instant message clients. It used to be easy back in the old days - everyone used ICQ (as that was pretty much the only game in town), but then slowly a bunch of my friends started to use MSN messenger, I discovered IRC, then Skype came along so more of my friends and family started using that not just for voice but for chat too, still others started using google chat...

To keep in touch with all the various groups I now have open on my screen X-chat for IRC, iChat for google chat, messenger for MSN and Skype for the rest (and of course my email client). What makes it more annoying is some people are on more than one medium - conversations can span email, MSN and then finish on Skype depending on which device the other person is on at the time making following a "thread" difficult to say the least. It's nearly enough to make me sign up to Facebook... Nearly.

IE Wins Browser Shootout


It's official - the world is ending. Political upheaval is happening around the world, countries are flooding while others are on fire, earthquakes and tidal waves are wreaking havoc and Internet Explorer just won a browser shootout

We're all going to die...

Nokia and Windows Phone 7


I've just been reading up on the new Nokia/Microsoft deal and I can't decide if it's a good idea or not.

Nokia clearly needs to do something. They are huge, currently selling more phones than pretty much every one else combined but the problem is the phones they're selling lots of are cheap handsets with very low profit margins. Smartphones are where the money's at, and it's here that they're in trouble. Nokia sells loads of smartphones too but every year their market share erodes more and more and it looks like they have nothing that can stop this tide from going out - Android, iOS and BlackBerry are eating Nokia's lunch in this space.

One thing they do very well is hardware - Nokia phones are superbly put together and the smartphones have featured things like great cameras, GPS, bluetooth etc often years before competitors fitted such things to their phones. No, there's no problem with the hardware. The problem lies in the software. They've tried for several years to bring their own OS, Symbian, up to a modern level but haven't quite got there - the touch interface is clunky and the mess underneath sometimes shows through with things looking like they've been tacked on as afterthoughts and the whole experience being somewhat cumbersome.

So what about Microsoft? They too had a smartphone OS, started in the mid-to-late 90's, which evolved to include touch input (but only with a stylus for many years) and was pretty popular on many devices. Lots of manufacturers built phones running Windows CE often skinning them to set them apart from the masses. But it suffered from the same problem as Symbian - it was incredibly clunky. Even in later versions where you could use your finger for touch input the user would often come up against menus and scrollbars which couldn't be used without a stylus making the whole experience frustrating, even more so when the poor user looked around at all the people using the iPhone and tapping away happily.

So Microsoft did what they had to do - created a brand new OS from scratch, built from the ground up for touch input using only fingers, designed for modern high resolution displays and incorporating all the current social networking technology such as Facebook and twitter feeds. This OS they've licensed to many handset manufacturers but they've learned from Apple: You are not allowed to skin the OS or put on operator branding, there are strict minimum hardware requirements so that the experience is always fluid and smooth. Windows Phone 7 is actually a really nice OS, although missing a few things which I consider normal in smartphone operating systems such as multitasking and cut 'n' paste (although this is coming in an update). They've dared to try something different with the UI, not simply followed what Apple has done with iOS like so many others.

So why am I unsure if Nokia using Windows 7 is a good idea? Surely well built hardware (Nokia) with a clean, fast modern OS (Windows Phone 7) is a match made in heaven? While I believe they would be a good match I'm worried that this signals the start of Nokia becoming a "me too" handset maker. There are many handset manufacturers using the same OS on similar hardware and at that point the manufacturer becomes less relevant. Nokia could simply fade into the mass that is Samsung, HTC, LG, Motorola, Sony Ericsson etc and fight it out in the low margin handset game, surviving on margins of less than 10 percent, probably closer to 5 percent. Nokia has one advantage that the other handset makers don't have and that is their deal with Microsoft allows them to have a say in the future direction of the OS and to customise it up to a point, something that can hopefully differentiate them enough so they can stand out from the crowd. Also licensing an OS off the shelf means they can save a lot of money on R&D of their own software.

We'll have to wait and see how it all pans out, but I can't help feeling a little bit sad at this news. The once great Nokia, a company that fought for years to not be another Microsoft licensee is now simply one of the mass producers and will have to duke it out with the powerhouses from Korea and China.

UPDATE: Just noticed that the Nokia stock price has dropped from around $11.50 to $9.50 on the back of this news so I guess a few others aren't sure if this is a good move or not...

Which Phone?


My girlfriend's cellphone drowned the other day when a can of Redbull got punctured in her handbag while the phone was in there. I tried to revive it by applying liberal amounts of IPA but to no avail - it hasn't powered on since.

So while she temporarily uses my old LG Arena (really nice hardware hobbled by terribly slow and buggy OS) I'm on the lookout for a new phone for her. Ideally she'd love something like an HTC Desire or iPhone but we don't want to spend any more than around $500 tops so that rules out a high end "super" phone. So we cast our eyes around some budget Android devices and I must admit I'm pretty impressed by what's out there.

One that stood out to me is the Ideos by Huawei - it is ridiculously cheap for what you get and is pretty feature packed. The other thing I really like about it is it's running vanilla Android (and is pretty current with 2.2) which in theory means it should receive updates pretty smartly. It's biggest two problems are it's screen resolution and it's processor speed - the former is only 240x320 which is a bit pokey even on a cheap device and the later is only 528MHz which makes things a bit laggy and jerky/stuttery when scrolling through menus etc.

So now it looks like we will probably go for the LG Optimus One (aka LG P500) - still budget (just under $400 or $450 with Ndrive navigation software with NZ maps and car cradle) but far more capable. Screen res is 320x480 which is the same as the iPhone 3GS or my Palm Pre and the processor is 600MHz (may not sound like much more than the Ideos but in practice makes a big difference), it is also running FroYo (Android 2.2) and LG have said they will release 2.3 for it. After using it in a store I'm impressed with how smooth it feels - a bit laggy compared to an iPhone but not jerky, and LG have managed to resist the temptation to skin the UI and keep things pretty standard. Of course it comes with all the usual Android goodies such as voice search and Google Goggles, not to mention a well stocked app store. The only reservations I have about it is I vowed I'd never buy another LG phone after my experience with the Arena (LG simply stopped releasing firmware updates for it and it was really buggy) but I figure if they're only supplying the hardware and leaving the software up to Google then things *should* be ok going forward. We'll see I guess...



I went to the Gorillaz final ever concert last night. One word - AWESOME!

Gorillaz live!

A blurry picture I know... but I challenge you to take a better one when being jostled in a crowd :-) All in all a great night!

Wireless data


I've been working the last few days without a proper internet connection. By proper I mean a port on a switch somewhere or even a DSL modem. Instead (at least until the internet connection is sorted out in my new office) I've been using my 3G cellular data connection through my phone.

I've been pleasantly surprised at how usable it actually is - I work a full 8 hour day using it and haven't actually used all that much data (mind you I haven't watched any youtube or anything like that, mostly remote consoles and email only) and some days there are two of us using the connection (my Palm Pre has a wireless hotspot app so up to 5 devices can use the same internet connection) and even then with some web browsing thrown in I've only used a few hundred meg.

The other thing it has given me is the freedom to work where I want to in the building, sit with people I normally wouldn't - if I'm at my desk I'd still be using that same connection over the phone so why not sit anywhere?