Desktop and Tablet user interface is converging and pretty fast …

Ok, I have to admit that the title of this post reads a bit sensational but it could have not be more clear to me after diving a bit more on the latest changes on software tools I am used to deal with everyday and getting surprised for its latest developments. I am normally pretty conservative in respect of technology adoption but always curious on what is happening on the edge of things I normally use. From time to time I get encouraged for the findings while reading respected reviews and blogs and fall into riding tools and operating systems that are a bit far from mature for the common developer and user.

My preferred desktop operating system is Ubuntu Linux which of course I am still running its “Lucyd Lynx – 10.04 LTS” version and patiently waiting for the next long term supported version. This time while browsing over topics related to “Ubuntu 11.10 (Oneiric Ocelot)” the most recent intermediate release, discussions about Canonical decision for pushing “Unity” user interface over the expected “GNOME Shell” just popped up big.  Wait, a bunch of techies are also complaining about Genome Shell and promptly finding their ways to enable GNOME2 like desktop, this is interesting. What is up with these Unity/GNOME Shell that is causing these much turmoil around early adopters of an ever changing Linux distribution.

Cool, it just happen that both user interfaces rely on GNOME3 platform but Unity and GNOME Shell designs are not only pretty constrained and less configurable than their predecessor GNOME2 desktop which might explain why early adopters are ranting. Behind these new user interfaces the keyword is “convergence” both user interfaces are now ready to support the Tablet world while still fully serving the Desktop computing needs. More important the environment is currently supporting hybrid touch systems such as workstations running touch panel displays, thin/net books touch display capable and Linux base tablets. Now everything is clear, the convergence point claims that the new user interface should be suitable for both sides the Desktop and the tablet so the design should be constrained to the middle point where desktop user’s would accept giving up flexibility and configure-ability for standardization around the gestures driven touch displays world while still fully supporting the always trusty keyboard and mouse.

As you can imagine this convergence can not be called a trend if it is only happening at the “Dark side” usually embraced by technology geeks rather than mainstream consumer world but for my surprise it only took me few keywords on Google to find out that Canonical is not alone.

 

Google’s Android ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) 4.0 release is the tip of the iceberg of mobile and desktop converge pushed from the ground.Android is poised not only to cover the mobile market (phones/tablets/net-books) with an unified interface. This operating system has been built mobile since it inception and slowly but surely penetrating  an unlimited amount of network connected devices and appliances staring with television sets and other consumer electronics.

 

 

Apple is also desperately narrowing down the breach between its iPads and iMac user experience by adding “Gestures” and “VoiceOver Gestures” to OS X Lion’s  Magic Trackpad/Mouse support. So next is to add touch screen to iMac’s and MacBooks which I sincerely do not understand why it has not happen already.

 

 

 

Microsoft is also betting on the “Convergence” topic with its so expected Windows 8 that claims to offer similar experience all across the board from Windows phone, tablets and all the way up to regular Desktop PCs. What is interesting from the Microsoft bet? Is the open support for ARM architecture mostly drove by Nokia agreement but a step forward to the big mobile world. A quote from Wikipedia: “In particular it adds support for ARM microprocessors in addition to the previously supported x86 microprocessors from Inteland AMD. A new Metro-style interface has been added that was designed for touchscreen input in addition to mouse, keyboard, and pen input.”

 

Trends are usually accompanied by business and financial support, this “convergence” trend is not the exception when for the first time a serious market analysis firm such as “canalys” challenged IDC, Gartner and others and decide to consolidate Mobile and Desktop computers into one “Personal Computer” market and posting numbers on Q4-2011 that places Apple as #1 PC maker surpassing Hewlett Packard for a considerable margin. The article titled: “Apple storms past HP to lead global PC market“.

 

 

 

So, there is only on thing to assess, either you decide go with the current or against but at the end we all will be push forward to follow a trend that seems un-avoidable now. Welcome Unity then!

 

what? No ice cream sandwich for my Nexus ONE …

Ok, Sadly news for Nexus ONE owners like me. It has been widely reported that Google’s Hugo Barra has announced that Nexus ONE would not get Android’s 4.0 upgrade due its hardware limitations. Nexus S which is actually invited to the “ice cream sandwich” party is not way more advance in terms of processing power or Memory actually is basically the same as Nexus ONE but it has a better GPU, huge screen and front facing camera which makes it more suitable to take advantage of new Android’s 4.0 goodies.

Why android’s 4.0 is important !!!

Basically “ice cream sandwich” code name for Android’s 4.0 release marks the all awaited convergence between Android based Smart phones and Tablets.

All Android’s based smart phones got stagnant running “Ginger Bread” Android’s 2.3 OS while All Android’s based Tablets came up running “Honey Comb” Android’s 3.0 which was designed for maximizing the use of the bigger displays and eliminating the need for too many hardware controlled buttons.

With “ice cream sandwich” both types of devices and I would say any Android based device in the future would not be tight to hardware control elements such as “Back”, “Menu”,”Home” & “Search” buttons that most smart phones  has implemented in hardware. Well, “ON/OFF” and “Volume” controls are common between smart phones and tablets but with Android’s 4.0 all these controls are available over the screen and of course they can be also routed via hardware elements as well.

Hey, Android’s 4.0 arrival is a good thing but for some of us who acquired a Nexus ONE at full price or even for the few getting it subsidized by T-Mobile with way lees than two years of its first launch. The main motivation was to get a phone that will always receive latest upgrades directly from Google and the availability to run pure and clean Android’s OS without any bloated add-ins from your wireless carrier. Well, that might not be true for Nexus ONE owners anymore and if this is the actual case I am not so sure anymore that that will be also a valid assumption for Galaxy Nexus or any other Google’s device.

A Claim for GOOGLE!!!

I am pretty sure you can stick to your promises or at least promptly release Android’s 4.0 source code so we can provide support on our own. We are still waiting for Android’s 3.0 source code to be released.

Hey Mr. Hugo Barra,  at this point the minimum expected from your Google’s corporate fellows would be actually thinking of accepting Nexus ONE phones back for a hearty credit towards getting a brand new Galaxy Nexus this Christmas!! Please release that announcement soon so we can plan for getting it by this black Friday!!!

 

App Inventor @ MIT

App Inventor moving at MIT. In case you missed the original Press Release you can read that. This might not be news for super serious Android developers but the official announcement from MIT about picking up “App Inventor” to move it from Google Labs to MIT media Lab  backed services is great news for us expecting this piece of technology to grow up.

The MIT Center for mobile learning is actually asking for collaborators so leave your contact information here.

The new App Inventor Edu site is already up and running. It is not only that App Inventor will continue as web base service to create Android’s apps but it also open its source code to the development community so it can be extended at will by the always embracing community. Details on App Inventor transition and FAQ here but basically Google’s App Inventor is providing a way to export all your projects down to your computer that you will be able to upload back up into App Inventor Edu site but hurry up since deadline for Google’s app Inventor site is due this December 31st, 2011.

If you cannot wait for App Inventor Edu to allow public access to continue developing or teaching, you can always install your own App Inventor Engine to host your very own development and publishing environment but you will need to wait for Google to release App Inventor source code and App Engine setup instructions. App Inventor Announcement forum is the place to keep an eye on!

 

myShorcuts a very simple Android’s app …

I had got Android’s app inventor installed and posted a blog about it. At this point a just want to browse and understand how capable or limited this development tool might be so for now a very simple application would be just enough to do the trick.

This blog entry is not intended to be a full tutorial by any means but just a way to show what I have found so far including personal comments about the steps along the way. Any software development follows a chosen development life cycle even when one is not consciously chosen.

Application development cycle

In the case below a typical water fall type of “SDLC” would do, of course in a very small scale.

What is the problem (analysis).

Well, after using my Nexus One for some time now I found myself always looking into a number of websites using the phone’s built in web browser. It takes me three clicks to get to reach any of them under “Bookmarks” screen. There is always a way to create a shortcut to those “URLs” that will allow me reach them with only one click but in my case I do not want to clutter my home page with too many icons.

I think if I can have a very simple application to list my websites in a form of a list that I can get access through only one icon placed at my home screen that would offer me a less cluttered home page and a two clicks way to get my web pages.

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Installing Google’s App Inventor SDK…

Have you ever come back home on a Friday night and after spending a great afternoon with your family, having a hearty dinner and finishing up washing dishes, got to have some extra energy to do something you have been neglecting for quite a few months?

Well, today it was one of those for me and decidedly got to install Google’s “App Inventor” software development kit in my trusty Ubuntu box. So here you are the summary and early comments about the tool installation experience.

First, I opened up an email from “App Inventor Team” which I had been letting accumulate electronic dust at the bottom of my “gmail” account. Yeap, having a Google’s account ID is a mandatory step to get access to any Google’s application and this one is not an exception. In my case I am using my gmail’s account which does the trick for me.

the email highlights Just three easy steps to have “App Inventor” SDK installed and be ready to start using it to create Android applications and run them directly over your phone or emulator in a snap, or at least that is Google’s promise.

I am not going to reproduce what it looks like a very straight forward and clear step by step instructions, I will provide few comments and screen shots from what I did experienced tonight .

And the story goes like this …

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Getting “Ginger Bread” update on my Nexus One …

It is March already? wow, times goes by pretty fast lately or it is just me. Yes February is only 28 days and March will feel longer now that spring is approaching but the fact is, I did not posted any article in February which is pretty bad and need to catch up to meet my goal of at writing at least an article per month this year.

Today was an awesome day, it started slow and not looking too promising but at the end I got to complete few tasks I had been working on recently so it will make my week productive already and on top of that I got a present from my Google friends. Today I got the awaited message “System Update” after turning on my phone this morning. As you can imagine I resisted to apply it immediately and decided to wait until the end of the day so I had the chance to blog about it.

So here it is the sequence of updating to Android OS 2.3.3 “Ginger Bread” with pictures, hope you would enjoy it.

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Blogging from my nexus one …

Today I got the WordPress android app installed, well at least the one recommended by WordPress.org website.

Installation and initial setup was pretty straight forward.

Text editing options are not too extensive but good enough for a quick post. Options such as enhancing your text with bold, italics, underline and crossed.

Adding URL links is a brezze. Like this to ACM.ORG.

Inserting photos or videos from media gallery on the phone itself is also available.

Finally, specifying tags,  categories and publishing settings are pretty handy as well.

Certainly writing articles from my smart phone device is not the most exciting experience but it is good enough to get a story started and to finish it later on.

Comments over latest MobileMix report from Millennial Media …

I woke up this morning and after a slim breakfast, getting prepared to drive my daughter to school and finish cleaning up my email in-box, some six sense call me to open up financial news today, and there it was … a financial related article writing about Mobile industry with the title “New Leaders in mobile“. It did not surprise me at all to see Android OS being declared #1 “Application Platform” by revenue up to December 2010 which, in fact makes it pretty appealing for mobile application developers .

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Installing Android apps from “Unknown Sources” – Checked

This morning waking up early while still fighting Jet-lag symptoms and decided to find out a bit more about installing Android applications from “Unknown Sources”.

This Android feature is particular interesting since it allows Android developers and enthusiasts to try applications before they officially hit the “Android Market“. Most of the time this is necessary for validating the application on real HW before committing to release to the massive distribution channel and in particular it allows to run the so called “Beta programs“. Most mobile development platforms would allow you to do this some more restricted than others well, iPhone platform is an exception since there is not a lot of different HW options to try your application on anyways.

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USB Store/debugging on Nexus One – checked !!

I was about to title this post something like “I got a nexus one and now what?” but I have been doing a lot of things with my new smart phone even without trying to hack it that it would not make any sense so instead I am going to record today’s experience trying to figure out how to connect my Nexus One to my Ubuntu box and it possibilities.

Basic ingredients:

  • Need a nexus one smart phone (Any Android OS based phone will do but recipes may be slightly different)
  • USB cable/connector. (The one that came inside your phone box)
  • A PC with your favorite OS; Ubuntu Linux 64 Bits is good enough for me.

Note that ingredients described in list above would work just fine for any of the following recipies.

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My Nexus One ROCKS in mainland China

Three months ago my quest to get a rare Nexus One (the “ATT” 3G optimized version) came to an end. I had finally won an “eBay” bid not after several attempts and waiting 7 days for receiving the package as advertised by the seller. This was my very first “eBay” transaction and the only one so far (I may be also a rare not addicted for bidding kind of individual) but that was the only way to secure one of these now called Google development phones compatible with my network of preference. Yes you can get your Nexus One optimized for T-Mobile 3G bands directly from Google if you are registered as Android Developer. Ofcourse if you want to stick with TMobile as your wireless provider the newest Google development phone is the “Nexus S” based on Galaxy S family from Samsung.

As you may know already Google’s development phones are not subsidized therefore you will need to pay a considerable amount of money up front  to get the phone in your hands but that compared with freedom you get is northing.You get the latest updates of Android OS right at the minute it is released plus they come “Unlocked” which means you can use any SIM card compatible with GSM/HS-U-D-PA tri-bands pretty much the standard worldwide.

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Step 0.1; trying Android’s Hello World …

If you are reading this post and have not installed the Android’s Software development kit you may want to read Step 0.0 before continuing. If you are reading just for amusement go ahead without fear it will be fun.

Of course I am not planning to repeat what others have done just right. I found the official  “Hello World” tutorial from Android’s developers site very complete and helpful to get us started. There is even a complete website titled “Hello Android” dedicated to publish Android’s tutorials among other things. But what I am really exited about is to start reading and actually coding by following “Hello Android: Introducing Google’s mobile development platform” on its third edition by “The pragmatic bookshelf” folks.

This is not the first book I buy from “The Pragmatic Bookshelf” and I have to confess that I am a bit addicted to their books. I found their writting style and the way they organize their books very attractive and practical. If you are the kind of geek who learns by doing I would not be surprise that you will feel the same whenever you read books from this developer’s book shop.

This time the pragmatic programmer’s surprised me with a concept that I had not experienced before, well I have to confess that I did not read the first or second edition of this book so for me a section called “Fast-Forward” at the end of each chapter was pretty innovative. Basically if you need to get a grasp of what each topic is about and jump right into coding by just reading the target chapters this is what you need or even if you have already read the whole book but just happen that you want to refresh the concept before an intensive coding session “Fast-Forward” is what you want to go through to find out what you want to read again.

At the time of writing this article I had not finished reading the book so coding examples are still to come from my side, rather that showing silly code I would like to show a more hearty “Android’s Hello World” but for that I need to prepare few server side Restful interfaces to play with from my very first Android’s application. So this is the plan; I need to extend a web application to manage customers information and what a great first Android’s App such I can also manage my customer’s from a smart-phone.

Android’s Samsung and LG upcoming charge, now we are talking …

Someone can not take a couple of weeks of vacation without feeling like getting behind on this Android’s offerings race. It is not news that we all have been waiting for the Samsung Galaxy S family of smart-phones to show up at all four major wireless US carriers sporting very similar “hardware” so now is not about the phone itself or the OS but your carrier of choice that actually comes into play and this is good for consumers; yes competition is good and for us to compare the carriers with less of the hardware bias in mind. Samsung’s Fascinate (Verizon), Captative (AT&T), Epic 4g (sprint) and Vibrant (T-Mobile) are not only very similar but they all are very competitive at the mid-high end of the smart-phone device market.

LG’s a big name in the wireless phone industry is just coming up with a similar strategy proposing a family of smart-phone devices called “Optimus” sporting latest Android’s 2.2 “Froyo” way ahead of anyone else including Samsung so far. LG’s Optimus which may also will follow Samsung’s approach to be open to all US carriers with similar and competitive hardware options including Android’s based tablets as well.

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Android’s revolution has just started …

It is amazing but if anyone of us were told how big Android’s smart-phone offerings will explode in 2010 nobody would take it seriously. Just few weeks after iPhone4 spectacular announcement by Steve Jobs and company (of course the device is not still available until June 24th and only for those eager to make the big waiting lines) AT&T has readily available its brand new HTC Aria for 130 after rebate and has also announced that Samsung Captative is coming up preceding the Samsung big bang announcement at NY this Jun 29th! So what is interesting is that Android’s smart-phones ranges from many different sizes and vendors including a wide range of pricing which would suggest that they will be targeting a wider spread of potential customers as compared with the few willing or able to pay for prices at the high end of the spectrum.

Competition is good and seriously it is getting darn good! A list of Android’s devices is somewhat kept up to date at wikipedia. Besides HTC and Motorola that has been front runners so far but the big players in the low end of wireless devices such as LG and Samsung are emerging with very appealing and affordable options for the rest of us. On top of that PC maker’s such as ACER and DELL are also aggressive with their hybrids smart-phone/entry tablet devices…

At Verizon you can get an Android phone staring from 49.99 (LG Ally) up to HTC Droid incredible for 199.99. But as incredible as it sounds Verizon is already making space for the newest Motorola Droid X which is aiming to compete front to front with HTC EVO 4G and the so expected iPhone4. Thanks there are options and many of them. Similar offerings from other wireless carriers are coming as well, so an smart-phone for everyone seems likely the future to be.

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Step 0.0; get Android SDK installed …

To much writing and no signs of moving towards some coding action yet so its time for a step forward. There is no way to produce or even try any Android OS code before actually installing the so famous Android SDK which at the time of writing this article its offering the brand new Android 2.2 platform.  It is great that Android Developers site has this part fully covered so I will not attempt to create another “How To” piece here but just document my very own experience and perhaps be able to add some humble annotations and comments. I need also to disclose that this is my first time trying Android SDK or any similar smart-phone SDK so I do not have any particular expectation but having a fast, smooth and successful installation attempt.

Preparing the development environment is the first step

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Is Google TV one more reason to lean towards building Android Apps?

In a previous post I got some time to think about smart phone’s “apps” world of Software Development Kits. One of Google’s most recent announcements may shake the apps world up quite a bit. Google in partnership with Logitech may easily change anyones perspective’s around building apps. Google’s TV runs over Android OS and as commented by “Vincen Dureau” the geek behind Google’s TV on recent interview; they are aiming to have mobile apps running natively on your TV and later they will be adding some specific TV APIs into the mix but

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