Apple Wins, Everybody Else Loses

Microsoft is probably the big winner in Samsung’s defeat by Apple.  Well, Microsoft and Steve Job’s ghost.

Unless overturned on appeal, Apple now owns both tap to zoom and pinch to zoom.  I guess Android devices could be distributed with magnifying glasses.

When an issue is too complex to understand, I generally turn to a trusted expert to help me decide which side I should support.  In this case, Groklaw and EFF are the experts I turn to.  While neither side supports Samsung, they both oppose Apple.  The apologists for the fruity patent company will now have ammunition to further pollute discussion (as if we didn’t already have enough of that).

This isn’t an Apple v Android war.  This is an Apple v the future of mobile war.  While free and open will inevitably win in the end, there will be dark days until then.

Samsung has at least given the appearance of “protecting the record” which will make an appeal likely to succeed on at least some merits.  But unless the entire judgement can be vacated, it is indeed a somber day.

Update: The jury took 21 hours to answer 700 questions.  If they never yawned or stretched or got sidetracked, they spent just 1 minute 48 seconds on each question.  Some questions required math equations, these probably took longer…so some probably got less attention.  It will be interesting if any of the jurors go public just to hear the rationalization of how this meets due diligence.

Update 2: Groklaw is reporting: “The [jury] foreman told a court representative that the jurors had reached a decision without needing the instructions.”  If this turns out to be true, then we should get a ruling as a matter of law or a new trial.  A jury can not ignore the judge’s instructions.

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Kudos to the CyanogenMod Team

Just wanted to make this post as a public thank you and props to the team behind CyanogenMod, the Android customization and tweaking team.  I’ve had my Nexus One for going on two years and have never felt the need to root it or to install a custom ROM, of course I’ve known of CM and have admired them from afar…it’s just that with a google experience phone I haven’t felt the need to go the custom ROM route.  A few months ago, with the acquisition of a discontinued HP Touchpad tablet, I started paying more attention to what CM was up to.

There were a few groups working on porting Android to the Touchpad, but of course there was never any question about who would make it happen…Team CM.  A while back (a week or two) CM released their first release for the Touchpad, an alpha version of Gingerbread (Honeycomb is not opensource so it is off limits to the hacking community [bad google]).  My first instinct was to wait for the beta release, but the limits of WebOS became too much to bear and I decided to give it a shot.  First I had to make sure it was doable from Linux and thanks to HPs embracing of the mod community I soon confirmed that it was in fact doable.  I found some easy to follow instructions and set to work.  In less than an hour I had the Touchpad booted into Android complete with a functioning Android Market.

Two out of the three games that I’ve tried worked flawlessly and I’ve only had one other app not work (this of the 25 or so that I’ve installed).  My favorite Android keyboard is Swiftkey X, but they have a separate version for tablets and it is $5, a bit much for a utility in my opinion (I missed it being on sale at Amazon for $1.99), so after a bit of hunting I found a great alternative in Thumb Keyboard 4, it is $2.53 in the Android Market, I got a free copy some time back from Amazon.  It is amazingly customizable and quite serviceable.

The CM team had lots of caveats when they released this, it is called an Alpha release and is clearly labeled the “low expectations” release.  With that said, I am amazed how nice it is.  I have had a few app crashes but never the OS itself.  It is fast, faster than WebOS, and it supports most of the hardware contained in the Touchpad (everything that I use is supported).  The two biggest gotchas that I have noted is that wireless has to be cycled off and on to get it to connect after sleep and energy consumption leaves a lot to be desired.  The first issue I’ve read has already been fixed for the next release and the second is actively being worked on.  So, once again, a big public kudos to the CM Team.

Good Day to Be An Android User

Despite T-mobile being bought up by the shit hole AT&T, necessitating anyone who wants good service to find a new provider, despite that….

Amazon’s App Store is sure to be a hit (despite being currently blocked from AT&T phones).  With AT&T blocking them, and Apple suing them over the name, they are sure to be a hit–when 2 of the biggest creepiest companies in the USA line up against you, you can be sure that you are on the right path.  The free app daily is enough to make me go check it out on a regular basis.  Yesterday they offered Angry Birds, which is not my style of game, so I passed.  Today it is the World Series of Poker, a giant file but I am checking it out anyway.

I am sure that it is only a matter of time before Amazon puts out a budget tablet for the masses.  (At this point in time, only the wealthy can afford tablets…the fact that they are really good for very little, puts them out of most of our reaches.)

We all heard that Firefox finally got around to releasing version 4 of its best-of-class web browser.  What may have slipped under the radar was the release of Firefox 4 Mobile RC.  Holy cow, this browser has come a long ways and now rivals that built into Android.  Also of note was the release of Opera Mobile 11…choice is good.

In other news, Apple is suing an Android porn store.  No longer content with their own puritanical views, Apple attempts to force them onto other platforms.  You can’t make shit like this up.  Apple thinks they own the word “app”.

Every day I thank the goddess that MS beat the totalitarian fucks into the ground in round 1.  As bad as Gates and Co is, they don’t hold a candle to the pure evil wafting out of Cupertino.

But hey!  It is a good day to use Android.

Android Gingerbread, Ho Hum…

As a Nexus One owner, I’ve been looking forward to the next iteration of Android, 2.3 “Gingerbread”.  What were the rumors?  Complete UI overhaul making SenseUI and Motoblur obsolete; new Market ala AppBrain; OTA music store; and those were the official rumors, most originating with Rubin as far back as the Eclair release.

Gingerbread brings some nice optimizations, but feature wise it is a dud.  But wait, I thought Froyo was the optimization release?  It was too, apparently Android was in such pitiful condition that it required multiple optimization releases after becoming (mostly) feature complete.  Now we are assured that it is fast…having been assured of the same with multiple releases, I guess I am supposed to believe them now.

And what is up with keeping the features secret until they can be announced at release with much fanfare and celebration (but no dancing monkeys)?  Android is touted as being open, but there is more to the concept of open than an after-the-fact code drop.  The lack of an open development process, even while meeting the base requirements of open source, does not an open platform make.  I offer Mozilla’s Firefox as an example of an open platform.

With that out of the way, what does Gingerbread offer?  Faster with better battery life, improved app management, a UI refresh, a new keyboard (meh..I just spent two bucks on one), better cut and paste (the crappy PITA way to do it now is barely usable), and a download manager with improved file management.

Of course there are new technologies for future phones/  Near Field Communication, SIP, a host of new sensors, large screen support, easier game development, and new codecs.

Google can (and apparently did) release 100 Youtube videos showing these changes in minute detail, but it remains an under-whelming release.

And I guess we can roll our expectations into version next (currently Honeycomb)…and start the whole process over again.  Google is acting increasingly Apple like in these releases.  It is lame when Apple does it, it is lamer for Google with their projections of “openness”.  Put an end to the dog and pony shows and put the effort into making Android a better product, you will get a more loyal user base in return.

Android Continues to Mature

With the recent release of Android 2.2, codename Froyo, Google has focused on usability and speed.  Showing its new-gained maturity, it is nice that Google can work on optimizations.

And the optimizations payed off….the phone is snappier and the browser is much faster.  Which is good as the N1 should have all the rocket juice a phone needs and it is a relief to see it living closer to its potential.

Flash works as expected.  The browser has a new setting to only use plugins upon user request, it works much like flash block on Firefox.  I played a couple of games on Kongregate and watched some video on CNN, worked just like the desktop (although a full screen option would be cool).  Hulu is blocked, but works if you modify your user agent.

The new Exchange functionality and enterprise features will put the bite on RIM, but means little to me.

The Market changes are an improvement, but more is needed.  Particularly missing is advanced filtering (or any useful filtering for that matter).  Allowing group updating of apps, along with auto-updating, is appreciated.  The token gesture of SD card app installation is also appreciated, but a more holistic approach is needed for Gingerbread.

The most useful update was what Google calls “Android Cloud to Device Messaging Service”.  This is basically push notifications on steroids.  It is supposed to work with all sorts of stuff, and I am sure that it will once developers start taking advantage of it.  Right now it pays off in a new extension for Chrome, Chrome to Phone, which basically lets  you send an open internet page (or video or map) to the phone.  It utilizes push technology to make it immediately available in the correct app.

The tethering/wifi hotspot capabilities are useful and appreciated, this gives Android a leg up over the competition (depending if the carriers allow it).

Fixing the Gallery was a no-brainer (I can’t believe it went live in Eclair looking the way it did) and the camera improvements are noted.  I liked the old layout for the car dock app, I am sure usability experts like the new layout better, but esthetically, the old one was better.

All in all, Android makes another stride forward.  And combined with HTC’s hot hardware, and Verizon’s marketing might, it is looking like a bright future.

Edit: Another feature for which I am grateful, although it pains me to admit that it had previously been MIA, is proper support for bluetooth voice dialing…finally a hands free device. With the improvements in Google’s voice recognition, this is a real boon to users.
Also of note is the minor changes to the keyboard, you can now swipe up on the keyboard to access punctuation and numbers. This feature is completely hidden, no visual clue what-so-ever. I don’t know what’s up with that, Google must be expecting folks to read about it somewhere. This new functionality, while seemingly trivial, will have a huge impact on my typing. No more tap and hold to access punctuation!! (tap and hold is a terrible modifier for typing input…it needs to be banished into oblivion, I offer up double tap as an alternative)