DigitalOutbox Episode 80

DigitalOutbox Episode 80
In this episode the team discuss Twitter threatening dev’s, IE9, iPad 2 and bye bye to the Zune.

Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

2:06 – Twitter – Don’t compete with our apps
– Twitter has taken some time today in their developer forum to talk a bit about the state of the ecosystem and give some guidance.
– Platform lead Ryan Sarver notes that Twitter views a “consistent user experience” as very important to them. And it’s something they’re going to hold third-party developers to a very high standard to maintain. But they don’t want them to mimic Twitter’s own experience with their native apps in order to do this. They’ve updated the API Terms of Service to reflect all of this.
– “Developers have told us that they’d like more guidance from us about the best opportunities to build on Twitter. More specifically, developers ask us if they should build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience. The answer is no,” Sarver writes very matter-of-factly.
“If you are an existing developer of client apps, you can continue to serve your user base, but we will be holding you to high standards to ensure you do not violate users’ privacy, that you provide consistency in the user experience, and that you rigorously adhere to all areas of our Terms of Service. We have spoken with the major client applications in the Twitter ecosystem about these needs on an ongoing basis, and will continue to ensure a high bar is maintained,”
– So if your a developer what are Twitter happy with you developing:
– Publisher tools. Companies such as SocialFlow help publishers optimize how they use Twitter, leading to increased user engagement and the production of the right tweet at the right time.
– Curation, Realtime data signals, Social CRM, entreprise clients, and brand insights, Value-added content and vertical experiences.
– This hasn’t gone down well – Craig Hockenberry points out what Iconfactory’s Twitterrific brought to the Twitter platform – – First use of tweet, first use of bird icon, first native mac client, first char count, first to support replies and conversations (with help from Twitter engineering), first native iPhone client
– Twitter killed my app –
– Some twitter stats to show you size (where’s identica?)
– It took 3 years, 2 months and 1 day from the first Tweet to get to the billionth Tweet. In a given week, users send a billion Tweets. Users are now sending 140 million Tweets, on average, per day, up from 50 million Tweets sent per day, a year ago. The all-time high in terms of Tweets sent per day was 177 million sent on March 11, 2011.
– In terms of Tweets per second, the all time high was 6,939 Tweets per second after midnight in Japan on New Year’s Day. This compares to the previous record of 456 Tweets per second when Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009.
– Twitter says that 572,000 accounts were created on March 12, 2011, with 460,000 new accounts per day over the last month on average. Mobile users are up 182 percent over the past year. And Twitter currently has 400 employees, up from 8 in January 2008.
10:25 – ISPs to Provide Better Traffic Management Info
– BSkyB, BT, O2, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media and Vodafone have all agreed to provide better information on traffic management, which should help customers understand why connection speeds vary.
– While such information is already available in many cases, in order for consumers to have a better handle on the data, the indicators must be understandable, accessible, comparable and verifiable. The info will therefore be published in a ‘Key Fact Indicator’ table that summarises the practices in a standardised format. These will be available on the ISPs’ websites by the end of June.
– The tables can be accessed directly by the consumer, but also used by price comparison websites and the like to inform potential customers of the best options available to them.
– Antony Walker, head of the Broadband Stakeholder Group, which facilitated the move, reckons it “will not only help to ensure consumers are better informed about the services they buy and use, but will also provide a clearer picture for policy makers of the way in which traffic management is actually used in the UK market”.
14:00 – Facebook Comment Box Plugin
– Facebook updates it’s comments box plugin – comment via Facebook account or Yahoo
– Forces people to use real name – deter spamming?
– Improved moderation tools
– Can send comments to wall, get notifications when others comment – fine on low traffic sites – comment on Techcrunch though and boom – spam tastic
– No Google or Twitter sign in available but it was rumoured
– Facebook marches on
– Techcrunch – less quantity, better quality
– Less anonymity = less trolls
20:06 – Google – Hide sites directly in search
– Similar to Chrome plugin launched a few weeks ago
– Click on block site to remove site from your search results
– Saved to your Google account so follows you around
20:52 – Google Maps Navigation now routes around traffic
– Google Maps Navigation has added traffic re-routing to it’s Android app
– Will take account of current and historic traffic levels when calculating best route
– Free!
– Traffic data is crowd sourced from other users to try and work out best available route
24:00 – Adobe Launches Wallaby
– Wallaby, a system it is launching today to convert basic Flash files — such as animations and banner ads — into code that will work on iOS.
– an AIR program that allows you to drag and drop a Flash file into it, at which point the system analyzes the file and outputs a sequence of HTML-friendly files that produce the same effect. By using HTML, CSS and SVG, the company says most simple Flash files can be recreated in ways that will work on Apple mobile products.
– I spoke to Adobe’s Tom Barclay about the launch, who said that the project had a specific purpose — to make Apple’s Flash ban less painful for developers — but pointed out that it was still very much experimental.
“There’s still room for improvement, but I think we’ve addressed a very specific use case for banner ads on iOS,” he told me.
– While it can port over simple animations and transitions, there’s a lot of information that it can’t handle: notably ActionScript instructions (which are used to program inside Flash) don’t convert, although Barclay suggested that they may come into the picture further down the line. Similarly, some of Flash’s higher-end features — such as filters and blend modes — aren’t being ported through Wallaby yet. And it doesn’t convert audio and video because HTML5 has its own dedicated tags for those.
26:29 – Conde Nast UK invests in iPad publishing
– Wired UK will release monthly app editions for iPad starting with its May issue, with British GQ making its tablet debut on the App Store with its July issue. Meanwhile, Vogue UK is to receive more “special edition” iPad issues throughout the year.
– For now, the publisher is focusing on iPad and iPhone only, although its thoughts are turning to other devices such as the raft of Android tablets about to go on sale, and RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook.
– For now, the pricing model will remain one-off purchases, too. Apple’s recently introduced subscription billing system is also on Condé Nast’s agenda, but only if the terms are right, according to Read. “We’re in discussions with Apple in the US about how we might reach a subs arrangement that suits both sides.”
– The publisher will also launch 21 iPhone apps across seven of its magazine brands this year, including GQ, Glamour, Vogue and Wired.
29:52 – Apple Updates
– iOS 4.3
– iTunes 10.2.1
– Safari 5.0.4
– XCode 4 – Released – free for developers who pay $99 yearly or $4.99 on app store for non developers
– Benchmarks for iPad2 are very impressive –
– Online backlog – 4-5 weeks now for delivery, physical stores sold out
– One More Thing
– Jon Bon Jovi
– Kids today have missed the whole experience of putting the headphones on, turning it up to 10, holding the jacket, closing their eyes and getting lost in an album; and the beauty of taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like, and looking at a couple of still pictures and imagining it..
– God, it was a magical, magical time…I hate to sound like an old man now, but I am, and you mark my words, in a generation from now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.
38:54 – App Updates
– Flipboard – faster, instagram support
– Instapaper – faster, more social in that you can find liked reads from your twitter connections, can share to more places including Pinboard, can now search sync’d content – one of my fav apps just got better
41:14 – IE9 now released to mainstream
– Ars calling it the “most modern browser there is”
– Doesn’t work on anything before Vista.
– I’ve not had a chance to use yet. Speed graphs look good. Standards support looks much improved. Certainly a good thing. And with IE trying hard to now kill off IE6 – fingers crossed, those will move straight up to the latest version and save lots of development headaches!
44:09 – Kinect is record breaker
– Kinect officially fastest selling consumer electronic device ever… Guinness certified.
– “Fastest selling consumer electronics device in 60 days…”
45:38 – Zune Player is no more
– End of hardware. Software and service still live.

– Recently used to do my blog post on Android OS. It’s a desktop java app that can output your Android screen in a window! Fantastic! OK, you have to jump through a few hoops. You need to have the Android SDK and also the debug USB driver, but once that’s all up and running, you just load the .jar file and off you go.
– Used in conjunction with Camtasia/Jing you can then record the window.
– FPS is an issue – 30fps is fastest it offers and that’s not to say that you get 30 updates of the screen every second! It’s jerky at best but as a way of showing how Android works, I couldn’t find a better option out there at the moment.
– It’s also delightfully geeky!
– Magazine app for the iPad
– Displays content based on twitter followers, google reader and what you read as you use the app
– Like the front end, slower than Flipboard but not a dealbreaker

iPhone to Android Part 3: Operation

I’ve been using the Google Nexus S for a few weeks now. It comes with Andriod 2.3 (Gingerbread) but as I’ve never used the Android operating system before, I have no idea how much of a leap 2.3 is above what has gone before.

The first thing you realise when you get to using the phone is that there are some additional concepts to get used to over and above what you’re used to on iOS. Firstly, the screen you are presented with is different on Android than it is in iOS. On iOS, your initial screen has the now familiar grid of application icons. Press on an app, and it launches. Get more apps than there is space on a page and you get to create more pages. However, Android adds a layer of customisation over the top of the apps screen. You can access your apps by clicking on a small grid icon that stays at the bottom of the screen when not in an application.

Android’s home screens are available for you to customise as you see fit. In practice, this means that you can “pin” shortcuts to your favorite apps to the screen, but you also have the option to pin “widgets” to the screen as well. These widgets are generated by applications and enable you to add live functionality to your screens. It’s probably easier to explain this with a few examples. And for this example, I’ll use Twitter.

When you install the app, it appears in your app screen, but it’s also possible to pin the icon for the app onto your home-screen. But you also have the option to add twitter as a live widget to the screen. This live widget shows the latest tweets in your stream right on the home-screen, without the need to launch the app. This home-screen idea is really nice in reality – it a little less obvious for a new user. It makes it possible for you to get quick updates without the need to load up applications.

The other major concept that’s different on Android, is the addition of more buttons! OK, so these buttons are only soft-buttons on the Nexus S, but you get a back button, a menu button, a search button and a home button. These are contextual, and apps may use them for what ever makes sense within the app. So, the back button in the browser will take you back through your history. If you open a dialogue box, it offers a way to close that dialogue without having to submit etc. The menu hides away customisable features of apps in a nice consistent place. You don’t have to go back to global settings like you do on iOS and the added flexibility that these simple 4 buttons adds is refreshing – even if it does take a short while to get used to their availability!

The Android OS has the concept of multi-tasking built right in. In fact, it’s the hardest to grasp concept that’s introduced. When you have ultimate multi-tasking flexibility, it means that everything gets just that bit more difficult to feel in control of. Apps will routinely set themselves up a background process that can be exceptionally useful, and powerful. However, it also gives you the feeling that you don’t really have a say in what’s running and what’s not. I can completely understand why Apple were so reluctant to offer this ability and why, when they did, they did it in a restrictive way. However, once you learn how to kill running tasks, the additional multitasking ability of the handset is great. I’ll be looking at useful applications in a future article, but there will certainly be a task killer as one of those applications!

Notifications in Android are also very flexible. All notifications appear at the very top of the screen. You get an audio cue every time a notification takes place and these can take on any number of forms. Essentially, it’s up to the applications to define notifications. In practice, you’ll receive messages for text messages, missed calls, voicemail, email and the like. If you turn on push notifications in apps, then you’ll receive these as well. However, this is something that I quickly disabled – for two reasons. Firstly, it gets manic! I was finding too much going on with a bong every time that you get an email, tweet mention etc. It’s distracting. Secondly, turning off push notifications also means that you save on your battery life! With notifications on, it seems that the constant chatter between your phone and the network sucks the phone dry. Not unsurprising really as the network radios are probably the most expensive as far as power goes. With notifications on, battery life was around the day that I was used to on my old 3GS. Accidentally not charge it and you’d be in trouble the following day. However, with notifications off, I have found the battery life to be excellent. Perhaps 3 days of light use 4-5 days if not really pushing things too much.

I’ll normally stick it on charge every other day now just to be safe if I need to nip off unexpectedly. The GPS also seems less power hungry in Android. It will happily take a couple of hours a day of use without really making a noticeable impact on battery life. Another lovely feature of the operating system is the ability to see exactly what has used your battery and for how long. Nice eh!

So, a summary then. My experience has been one of familiarity with basic concepts. They remain largely similar across iOS and Android. Pressing an app icon opens an app. Pressing home takes you have to your home screen. However, the additional flexibility of the Android OS means that there are a lot more settings hanging around that are your responsibility to look after. It takes time to feel like you control your phone and understand what it’s doing. However, with time, that feels more open, free and flexible. For a willing geek, it’s a great thing. For a retiring technophobe, it could be more than a little intimidating.

Next up in the series will be a look at applications on the Android OS – covering some great utilities that all Android owners should really have installed.

DigitalOutbox Episode 79

DigitalOutbox Episode 79
In this episode the team discuss the iPad 2 announcement.

Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

1:39 – Google Tweaking Search Algorithm
– in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.
– We can’t make a major improvement without affecting rankings for many sites. It has to be that some sites will go up and some will go down. Google depends on the high-quality content created by wonderful websites around the world, and we do have a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem. Therefore, it is important for high-quality sites to be rewarded, and that’s exactly what this change does.
– Doesn’t use Personal Blocklist chrome extension I picked last week
– If it reduces the content farms and spam sites it will be a welcome update
4:37 – GMail Outage
– Thousands lose all their e-mail
– Affected 0.02% of users but GMail has a LOT of users
– a storage software update that introduced the unexpected bug, which caused 0.02% of Gmail users to temporarily lose access to their email. When we discovered the problem, we immediately stopped the deployment of the new software and reverted to the old version.
– Google had to go to backup tapes to get the e-mail back
– Lesson – backup your data, even if it is on the cloud
– Have another way if accessing your mail – IMAP, forward mail onto another provider – dual access
6:18 – Google Uses Kill Switch on Android devices
– 58 malicious apps downloaded to 260,000 Android smartphones
– late Saturday night, Google remotely turned on its kill switch, which is able to remove those errant applications from the phones.
– The kill switch is actually software that’s downloaded onto an Android smartphone and installed automatically, removing the apps in question with no user action required
9:46 – Ofcom challenging broadband speeds
– Data released by Ofcom, the communications watchdog, shows that the average broadband speed is still less than half of the average advertised speed.
– The report, published on Wednesday, says that Britons get an average broadband speed of 6.2 megabits per second (Mbps) – less than half the average advertised speed of 13.8Mb.
– Ofcom is pushing for a change in the way internet providers, including BT, Sky and O2, advertise “up to” broadband speeds, which most customers are unable to receive.
– The only ISP delivering close to the maximum speed advertised, according to Ofcom, was Virgin Media, with the advantage of a relatively new cable network in many urban areas.
– The typical broadband speed received by customers was much closer to the advertised speed with fibre-optic cable packages, such as the those delivered by Virgin Media and BT’s Infinity package. However, only 22% of Britons have fibre-optic connections, with 77% of the population using copper-based DSL phone lines.
13:07 – Harper Collins introduces Library re-buy fee
– After 26 checkouts from libraries of an e-book, Harper Collins is forcing libraries to rebuy the e-book
– Their rational – physical books wear out and have to be rebought so that should apply to e-books as well…even though they don’t wear out or cost money to repair
– Oklahoma’s Pioneer Library system posted a video showing that for 5 random books that haven’t required a repair or replacement they would be forced to re-buy the e-book 12 times to cover the amount of loans
– Old media strikes again
18:56 – Ford Sync coming to UK in 2012
– Sync finally coming to UK next year
– Ford sync is Fords in car entertainment system that takes advantage of your smart phone
– Hands free calling (Neuance voice recognition)
– Audible text messages
– Playback music, podcasts etc
– Traffic, maps etc
20:48 – IE6 countdown
– IE6 is still prevalent around the world especially in large companies
– MS have refused to target IE6 and actively help to kill it…until now
– Friends don’t let friends use Internet Explorer 6. And neither should acquaintances. Educate others about moving off of Internet Explorer 6
22:56 – Macbook Pro Updates
– Sandy Bridge, AMD Graphics and Thunderbolt
– Same design, lots of drive options
– Fast – outperforming last years Mac Pros
– Thunderbolt
– Thunderbolt’s a familiar-looking port, a brand-new chip, and a cord, which allows devices to pipe two data streams simultaneously — in both directions — over a single cable at up to 10 gigabits per second to start, primarily using PCI Express x4 for data and DisplayPort for video
– Will charge and daisy chain
– Lacie and Western Digital on board – Lacie drive later this summer
– 4 ½ gb – less than 15 seconds to copy file over Thunderbolt
– Playing 4 1080p streams at the one time
– Not an Apple exclusive but they have a headstart
27:47 – OS X Lion Preview
– Newest version of OS X, Lion will debut this summer but Apple on Feb 24th released a developer preview
– Released via App Store – sign of things to come?
– New details released – Auto Save, Versions, Resume, Mail version 5 (with a new threading feature called “Conversations”), AirDrop, and Lion Server (which itself has its own features).
– This is bringing the iOS features back to the mac – looking a good update
– What happened to NDA?
35:08 – iPad 2
– Steve Jobs presents – a big FU to National Enquirer
– We’ve been working on this project for a while, and I just didn’t want to miss this
– Thinner, faster, camera’s, same battery life, same price, white or black
– A5 chip – dual core – Performance twice as fast, graphics 9 times as fast
– Front and read camera’s – Touch not iPhone equivalent
– HDMI dongle – 1080p output, all apps, mirroring – very nice
– Enlarged speaker grille
– 33% thinner – thinner than iPhone 4, and a bit lighter
– Smart cover
– Multiple covers
– Plastic or leather
– attach to the iPad with a self-aligning magnetic hinge and can also be folded into a triangle and used as a stand
– they’ll automatically wake or put your iPad to sleep when you open or close the cover, and they even pack a microfiber lining that cleans your screen each time you flip it open
– iMovie and Garageband for iPad – both $4.99
– iMovie – precision editor, multitrack audio recording, new themes, Airplay support
– Garageband – touch instruments, guitar amps and effects, 8-track recording/mixing, 250 loops, compatible with Mac version
– March 11th US, March 25th UK
– £100 off current gen iPad – there goes the eBay prices 🙂
– First video’s – really fast now compared to iPad 1
– iOS 4.3 out March 11th
– Faster javascript engine
– iTunes Home Sharing – play content from desktop iTunes over wifi
– Airplay – Apps now support video
– Pick rotation lock or mute for side switch
– Personal hotspot
– Facetime and Photobooth
– Steve Jobs – This is worth repeating. It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology is not enough. It’s tech married with the liberal arts and the humanities. Nowhere is that more true than in the post-PC products. Our competitors are looking at this like it’s the next PC market. That is not the right approach to this. These are post-PC devices that need to be easier to use than a PC. More intuitive.
– Post pc products…that need a pc to work
58:27 – Xoom UK Pricing
– £500, out April 9th – Pc World – may have to take a trip in to test it
– £600 for 3G version form carphone version – available now, shipping 1st week April!?
1:00:30 – Galaxy Tab Rethink
– We will have to improve the parts that are inadequate,” Lee Don-joo, executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile division, told Yonhap News Agency. “Apple made it very thin.”
– pricing is cause for concern when Samsung releases a larger screen model.
“The 10-inch (tablet) was to be priced higher than the 7-inch (tablet) but we will have to think that over,” said Lee.
1:01:44 – Microsoft Tablet Strategy
– Windows 8 will be the platform
– Testing end of this year
– Release mid to end 2012
– 18 months to go

Damn You Auto Correct
– Very funny examples of auto correct letting it’s users down
Full Text RSS Feed
– A very handy tool for converting headline only or restricted feeds to full fat
– I do wish people would use full feeds, but this is great for when they don’t
Tiny Wings
– My current most played game on the iPhone
– Lovely graphics, simple gameplay mechanism but very addictive

Google Personal Blocklist

A common complaint when using Google or Bing is that search results are becoming increasing less reliable. Spam sites and content farms are scraping content from original sites and using SEO techniques to ensure their sites are being returned by Google, sometimes higher in the results page than the actual original content. It’s also frustrating when searching for anew product like a TV or tech gadget and finding spam sites returning ahead of the actual manufacturers pages.

To help combat this Google is adjusting it’s algorithms but has also released an extension for Chrome called Personal Blocklist.

Once installed the Blocklist is accessed via your Chrome toolbar via the icon highlighted above. This will show you the sites that you’ve blocked, and allow you to edit the URL or unblock a site. Blocking only takes place via Google search results. The extension adds a ‘block domain’ link to each search result.

Click on the link and the site will be added to your blocklist and results will be removed from your search results.

Personal Blocklist is a very simple but powerful way to filter out the noise in Google searches. At the moment Google will not include user’s blocklists as a weighting in it’s own algorithms but surely over time this will be a great way for them to improve the quality of results for everyone? I expect if they do start to use the findings we’ll see some legal action take place. So many businesses have relied on Google to drive their business model so there is a lot of money at stake.

Over time you will build up quite a list of sites but to get you started there’s a great list on of known content farms and spam sites. The list has been updated a few times and also links to a Google search for the site so it’s easy then to add the site to your own blocklist.

It’s extensions like Personal Blocklist that have made me switch to Chrome as my primary browser. Fast and stable and doesn’t chew up every available bit of ram unlike Safari.

iPad Stylus Round-Up

Ok, round-up is a bit of an exaggeration but over the last 10 months I’ve tried three different stylus solutions and one has come out as a definite favourite. The first one I tried was recommended almost everywhere after the iPad had come out – the Pogo Sketch from Ten One Design. It was fairly inexpensive at around £12 as I had it shipped from America.

The stylus felt good in the hand but I never felt comfortable with the nib. It was like a piece of polystyrene had been painted black and stuck on the end of a nice thin metal tube. The Sketch was accurate and was better at certain tasks than my fat fingers but I never enjoyed using it. The design really irked me.

So the next stylus I tried was the Boxwave iPad stylus. This was a much improved design and featured not only a clip so you could attach the stylus to an iPad case (worked well with the default iPad case) but also a small plastic attachment that fitted inside the 3.5mm headphone jack so the stylus could be attached to the iPad. Over time I found the headphone attachment got in the way but it’s easy to unclip from the stylus. The nib was also made os soft rubber which was a lot better than the Pogo Sketch. I really liked the weight of the Boxwave and it’s design but I had one issue. There were certain times that my inputs wouldn’t be recorded on screen. I’m not sure why but it would work 95% of the time and the other times I would draw a line, squiggle or text and when I lifted the stylus, the whole input disappeared. Very odd and quite annoying.

Still not happy I then tried another stylus and finally found one that worked accurately and also felt great in the hand due to it’s design an weight. The Just Mobile AluPen is far chunkier than the other two products I tried and features a soft rubber nib similar to the Boxwave.

I just love the look of AluPen and find it very comfortable in the hand. The weight is also just right and despite the angular design it never gets awkward. Despite the size the nib allows for fine control and drawing on the iPad and unlike the Boxwave it works every time. Joy. One point to watch though is that the price is higher than other similar solutions. The official website has the ALuPen and it’s colour variants priced at over ¢30 but I picked up the silver AluPen for £14.99 from Amazon. Colour versions were all higher priced – the red looks really good and reminds me of the Ironman colours.

So the AluPen has become my favourite stylus for the iPad and very handy for the times where I want some slightly better control than my finger offers.