Related link: http://www.plazmic.com/en/download/index.shtml
You’ve been able to download new themes for your BlackBerry for a while now. The O2 theme is extra polished:
You can now download the Plazmic Content Developer’s Kit to create your own theme for your BlackBerry. You’ll also need the latest BlackBerry JDE.
Here’s an NHL theme that someone has created for the soon to be released 8700c.
The Plazmic kit also comes with a utility to transcode Macromedia Flash files into SVG for use on the BlackBerry.
Given the price of gas these days, I’m fortunate enough that I can take BART to my office. Last week, as the train passed through the downtown San Francisco area (Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery, and Embarcadero stations), I noticed that my phone finds a network and hooks up to it. The network has been around since AT&T Wireless built it in 2002, but it has never been available before. I suspect that T-Mobile must have just entered into a roaming agreement to use the antennas there. According to previous news stories, the signal is designed only to work on the platforms, but I’ve had reasonable luck getting weak signals in the tunnels between stations. Even though the train is too loud to use my phone for voice communication, it’s very handy for sending text messages. This morning, I fired up the GPRS connection. It took quite some time to establish, and the data throughput is much more sluggish than I’m used to. Even so, a trickle of data beats no data. Now, if only the network could get extended so that I had more than 6-8 minutes of coverage while passing through those four stations…
Asterisk 1.2 is now available for download. This is the second major release of Digium’s open source PBX and telephony platform since the 1.0 release in September 2004.
The latest release includes over 3,000 bugfixes and upgrades, including:
- Significant upgrades to the core architecture to improve system performance and scalability
- Support for DUNDI (distributed universal number discovery)
- Dialplan enhancements
- Improved external application interface (for building custom IVR and switching apps
- VoIP and ISDN protocol enhancements and improved interoperability
- Improved support for load balancing
- Upgraded music on hold with support for many different sound and stream formats
Related link: http://forums.tivo.com/pe/action/forums/displaypost?postID=10203607
I’m a bit late reporting the fix on this one, but TiVo’s new software version (7.2.1) fixes the with the Hughes HTL-HD and similar boxes. The most recent software update adds the old serial control protocol back; see see these instructions for configuration information.
Although I received the new software about a week ago, I was unable to set up serial control until I returned home from a trip and switched out the cables. Thankfully, my Xantech emitter is back in the storage bin where it belongs. It was a great short-term solution, but I’m glad to be back with the more reliable channel changing method.
Related link: http://www.greystripe.com
Here’s a really cool (and free) app for your BlackBerry. It’s called Caffeine Finder and as the name implies it helps you find the closest coffee shop given your current location.
The GPS version of the program automatically tells you the closest coffee shop given your current coordinates. With the non-GPS version you just enter your current address and zip code as the reference point.
It’s great to see more applications like this one and all the Magmic Games that really make excellent use of the BlackBerry API with an emphasis on BlackBerry usability. There is some nice eye candy that you’ll see as you scroll the trackwheel. For example, as you scroll through the list of closest coffee shops the map location changes colors highlighting the currently selected one. The rankings also change on another part of the screen accordingly.
The app also lets the users enter comments and rankings for coffee shops that are shared among all Caffeine Finder users.
It’s great to see a program with excellent usability that’s released with separate versions for GPS devices and non-GPS devices. I’ve got a feeling there will be more on the way.
Related link: http://www.gisuser.com/content/view/7265/28/
So, how does this product differ from the DWF Viewer? Simply put, TrueView enables users to work/view directly with DWG and DWF formatted design data. Unlike the DWF Viewer, users can use this tool to work with their CAD data in native Autodesk design format… but hold on… it enables users to push their data out and share it in DWF… sweet! Installation is a snap once you grab the free 109MB download! More abou this nifty free GIS/CAD viewer can be accessed here - http://www.gisuser.com/content/view/7265/28/
Would you find this viewer to be useful in your daily operations?
Related link: http://www.symbianone.com/content/view/2474/108/
The transformation of course is in reference to Nokia now turning a new page. Just several weeks ago the company was boasting of the E series of devices. Officially launched this week (as we have all heard by now) is the N Series – a lineup of products that is breaking new ground.
So why the N Series? Putting the product announcements into context, Ollila described the company’s direction and how mobility is increasingly shaping our social interactions. Communication is now much easier and more affordable. A greater choice of devices and services are available and user experiences are being transformed by TV, video, and game playing which is enabled on mobile devices. Business too is increasingly mobilized with the enterprise user ever more dependant on access to email and corporate information. When you listen to Ollila you become increasingly more aware of how mobility is bringing us all closer. How mobile are we? Numbers tossed out in the welcome session indicate that we are well on our way to seeing some 3 billion mobile device users by the end of the decade. That number is expanding so fast that Nokia’s sales volumes are rising… this year, sales will be up 20% over last year to some 780 million units. For the consumer he boasts how ease of use and cost are still the main consideration and are responsible for driving uptake.
More on this report is availble here http://www.symbianone.com/content/view/2474/108/
Related link: http://www.symbianone.com/content/view/2483/108/
Recall… A popular part of Code Camp is the Orange Code Camp Contest
At Opio, the Orange Code Camp Contest was open to all attendees. Orange set the challenge: to develop the best and most compelling products for the Orange network, and submit by the end of the 72 hour event.
Recall.. the winners were as follows:
Best OVERALL Product of Orange Code Camp Opio
ASTRAWARE SUDOKU is a version of the worldwide puzzle craze for Palm OS® and Windows Mobile® devices. See also ttp://www.astraware.com/all/default/sudoku/
Most Compelling Use of an Operating System
MoDaCo Incident Manager is a Windows Mobile 5 for Pocket PC based system for handling employees in emergency situations, with a range of features designed to ensure employees are accounted for, and to automate mass communication tasks. See http://www.modaco.com
Best Entertainment Product
The RAZZ allows people to insert sounds into live conversations by pressing a number on the keypad. Limited only by your imagination, content might include famous movie lines, music clips or everyday sound effects. See http://www.phonebites.com/
More details about Code Camp Opio are available at
More information will be available soon, but if you are interested in attending this event, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with in the subject line ‘invite_me_to_Camp_2006′ and ORange Developer will let you know the minute registration opens.
I recently met up with Charlie Schick, a colleage of mine at Nokia. Over several pints of Chimay, we remarked that managers seem to prefer complex and convoluted solutions to problems over simpler, more economical alternatives. We wondered if this was the inverse of Occam’s Razor, which paraphrased states that the simplest explanation for a phenomenon is usually correct.
We coined the phrase Macco’s Sledgehammer to describe this tendency to make things more complicated than they have to be. Just putting this out there so people can add this to their Buzzword Bingo cards….
Related link: http://www.techworld.com/mobility/news/index.cfm?NewsID=4722&inkc=0
xG Technology of Florida made headlines recently for a low-power/long-range shot heard ’round the world, thanks to
this November 4 article in Techworld. The article is pretty sparse, apparently because the company is not disclosing much detail to avoid compromising their intellectual property. After reading the article, the technology seems clever, but there are also a few points that are still a bit sketchy:
The operating frequency (for range). The demonstration is running at 900 MHz, a much lower frequency than any of the technologies it’s compared against. Radio signal loss is higher at higher frequencies. The frequency-specific component of path loss is about twenty times the logarithm of the frequency in GHz. Simply running at 900 MHz instead of WiMax’s 2.3 or 3.5 GHz is a likely advantage of 8 and 12 dB, respectively. In the United States, both EV-DO and GSM run at 1.9 GHz, which gives the demonstration an advantage of about 6.5 dB in path loss. None of these numbers are huge, but they do give it a possible edge in range in the comparisons the company makes.
The frequency, part 2 (for power consumption). At lower frequencies, much less power is required to run the oscillators that make up a radio system, making it much easier to have favorable throughput per watt measurement. I’m not deep enough in to the electrical engineering to quantify this one. (As an aside, most TV stations have been assigned a UHF channel for digital broadcasting, but a few stations are using lower-frequency VHF channels to save on the electricity bill.)
Coverage versus capacity. Coverage can be an impressive engineering feat, but it does not necessarily make a technology more valuable. When a network gets popular, you need to shrink the size of each element’s coverage area to maintain a good user experience. In 1998, 802.11 access points cost $1,500. There were not many users (client cards were also $300), so the user density was low enough to make range the most important attribute of the system. In an 802.11 network today, many more users are present. The access points run at lower power to provide better service over a given area. For many wireless networks, the key metric isn’t Mbps per MHz per watt, but Mbps per unit area. Users don’t care about spectral efficiency (Mbps per MHz) or electrical efficiency (Mbps per watt), but it does matter to them how fast their network moves data.
Antenna height. Florida is flat. Anything that is 850 feet high will be able to shoot a long distance just by being so high above the terrain. A hilly area, like, say San Francisco, with its 47 named hills in 49 square miles, would not have anywhere near the range. It’s also important to note that lots of cities and states restrict the maximum tower height for aesthetic reasons, so it may not be possible to put up an 850-foot high tower in a populated area.
Digging in to the relationship between height and range, assume that there’s a linear relationship between range and height. (I don’t know what the exact relationship is; if you do, please leave a comment…) If an antenna mounted at 850 feet reaches 19 miles, then an antenna mounted a much more reasonable 100 feet (about four stories) will only reach 2.2 miles. Because area goes as the square of the radius, you might need 75 transmitters mounted at 100 feet instead of one unit mounted at 850 feet. Suddenly, the comparison to “90 WiMax base stations” does not look so bad. Sure, there’s a potential 15% improvement to the base station count, but 15% is an incremental, not revolutionary, improvement.
“Network infrastructure” does not include the client side. The demonstration uses on a client-side antenna designed by xG with a gain of 8 dBi. That’s much more gain than 802.11 devices have. For the comparison, see Trevor Marshall’s analysis of 802.11 PC card antennas from BYTE magazine in 2001.
One of the reasons that the switch-based architecture for 802.11 succeeded is that it only requires upgrading one side of the radio link. If you need to change both sides, it’s a lot more administrative work, and there tends to be much greater cost sensitivity on the client side. If you choose something that is not a standard, it may also be a big bet on the viability of your vendor.
In an accompanying article, Peter Judge notes that some colleagues will see the demonstration this Thursday. I hope that somebody will be asking hard questions about how much more power the system would draw if it were to operate at double the frequency, as well as the system’s range when the antenna is mounted at a much lower height.
Can you quantify how antenna height affects transmission range or how frequency affects power consumption?
Related link: href=”http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/digitalmedia/2005/11/02/myth…
The third installment of the MythTV series is on-line. It’s a bit of a detour off the path I’d intended to follow with the series. As built, the box was loud enough that I had to stop working on software configuration to do some hardware modification to improve the sound level. This installment is really about correcting a mistaken hardware specification, not so much the continuing evolution of the software.
When I first built the system, I was disappointed in the noise it made, especially when commercial flagging. Every time a program finished, the processor would ramp up to maximum speed and start generating enough heat that the CPU heat sink fan would noisily spin up. Although it was quiet for a computer, especially one with that level of computational power, it was still a bit too noisy for the living room. After changing out the AMD retail heat sink for a Zalman 7000, the system runs slightly cooler and much quieter. It is not completely silent, but it is very quiet from a few feet away.
Before starting this project, I always assumed it was difficult to build a CPU cooler to fit all the different motherboards on the market. After fitting the Zalman cooler on to my motherboard, I see nothing to dispel that assumption. The MSI motherboard that I use has its own CPU backplate glued on. I had a perverse choice about whether or not to pry the backplate off. I elected not to try, and had to find a way to tighten down the CPU cooler. Figure 5 in the article shows my solution. Rather than using the Zalman parts, I used screws that came with the motherboard to fasten on the cooler.
Related link: http://www.blackberry.com/developers/developerlabs/
If you’ve been looking to develop applications for the BlackBerry but are having trouble getting started, check out the Developer Labs available from the dev section of the BlackBerry web site. These labs walk you through more than just a simple “Hello World” demo (although they start you off with that obligatory example). You’ll find walkthroughs for actual useful techniques like storing persistent data and basic encryption and decryption on the device.
To do the demos you’ll need to install the BlackBerry JDE which has been recently updated to support the location based services of the GPS enabled BlackBerry devices.
You’ll find everything you need to get started developing cool apps for a great device.