Archive for category Software

Android’s Approach to NFC (part 2)

So a couple of days ago I wrote this post about Android and the crippled NFC support that it has. I just saw this

link to article

So apparently it is just the current iteration of Android that has limited support for NFC and the long term plan is to enable full access to the NFC controller. That is all great news but still I think that Google should have first finished their development and then released the support rather than releasing what I consider an Alpha version. I mean come one this is not even a feature complete implementation and while NFC is still a bit of vaporware Google should know better than this. Beta’s are acceptable for user space applications but you DO NOT release a work in progress SDK. Makes you wonder if this is not even feature complete release how much testing actually went into things like stability and security …

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Apple and the NFC race

There have been rumours about Apple including NFC capability in both iPad 2 and iPhone 5. Just to be clear about this, Apple has no choice in the matter if they are to sell a high end device. This is not at all the same as LTE. LTE is a network with is currently under consideration by most mobile operators and some have started running trials. Coverage is bad, the chips are still in their first generation meaning that if you want backwards compatibility you have to include a 2nd chip, and at the end of the day all you get with LTE currently is faster data speeds. That might be great for iPad but is hardly anything for the iPhone. Considering that the coverage is currently horrible and Apple revises hardware annually it is no wonder that LTE is not being considered for the upcoming iteration. Actually it probably won’t be considered for the next one either.

NFC however, has been around for many years. The problem was that noone seemed to care about NFC and various IC manufacturers had their own implementation. Well the smart card manufacturers (mostly of Europe) have come to an agreement and there is an NFC standard and an organization that does nothing but promotes the technology. Various pilots were completed and the response is overwhelmingly positive. Telcos and financial institutions are all onboard and have mostly come to an agreement as to the revenue split and all is about to explode. Apple has no choice other than to include NFC. The 2nd half of 2011 will be marked by multiple operators around the globe releasing NFC enabled SIM cards and devices simply have to be ready for them. The way NFC will go forward is with a SIM embedded NFC application that uses the antenna provided with your phone. Now that most likely does not mean the same antenna as the one you use to connect to the telco but the phone has to be NFC enable too. Apple sells premium devices and the NFC cards will first go to premium users so there is nothing to think about and Apple simply follows the needs of the market.

There is however one issue about NFC that is important. See you don’t have to use NFC only for payments. Yes it is a painfully slow connection and you will not be transferring files over it any time soon. However, cleverly designed applications can use NFC for some quite innovative and cool things. And if Apple wants to have the competitive advantage over Android, they simply have to allow developers full access to NFC. Unlike what Google would like you to believe, there is no issue with security. Payment applications are stored on the SIM itself. What that means is that the only way you can access that data is with the SDK that was used to program the SIM. Well I don’t know much but I know this, you can write SIM programs in a way that noone has access to their data and not only that but most of them are exactly like that. Also data out of the SIM for the payment applications would be encrypted and you cannot decrypt AES on the fly on any mobile that will be released in the next 10-15 years.

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Mac Gems – Part 2

So I wrote a post about Relationship a while ago. I’ve been using for some time now and it is a very good piece of software. I must admit for a free application it is an amazing iOS one. It is a bit slow on the start up but it does work very well.

I have been looking for an app that lets me scan business cards and sadly none work as well as they should. I ended up buying WorldCard only to find out that while it does support multiple languages it does not support multiple languages on the same side of a business card. Also I ended up facing the horrors on iOS contact management. Apparently when you decide to use contacts from a server and particularly from an exchange server, you open a huge bag of hurt. I cannot describe how much I hate exchange after the last 2 months. I have had my battery drained a couple of times due to exchange not being able to sync to the server, constant crashed when attempting to delete contacts that got synced to an exchange account and several other problems.

It turns out that iOS makes Exchange the default account even for your address book and unfortunately certain management tasks are not that easy to do in iOS.

Anyway back to the business card issue. It is nice that you can scan cards with a picture but you should be warned. It works best on iPhone 4 (more resolution) and under a very well lit conditions. The OCR algorithm that WorldCard uses is good however it cannot deal with tilted letters so you have to have your camera as parallel to the business card as possible. Once you get the hang of it, and if you have no contacts problems, it all works well. Plus there is a desktop application that you can sync to (other than Address Book). Still, the solution is very far from what I would like it to be so I am still looking for a better one. I really would like to not spend £100+ on a business card scanner but it might be the best solution given the state of affairs.

[EDIT:] Ok so apparently I was having a problem with some of the Address Book preference files. Had to export the library, delete the /Home/Library files and then restore. All in all syncing is back to normal and the business cards are a heck of a lot more useful now. Still the auto OCR is not perfect but at least my computer setup is working now. In all honesty should’ve known that something was wrong when the add button in Address Book for some of the categories disappeared …

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Google TV dead on arival

ABC and CBS have announced that they are blocking Google TV devices from accessing their free online streaming service. The reason is alleged security concerns however, you can read between the lines. A colleague of mine recently published a press release saying the he believe Apple TV is doomed because of Google’s competition but I really like to see his face when he find out about the ban. What surprises me is that Google has taken this college student approach to product design and decided to go over the heads of TV studio executives. Plus if studios are refusing a $1 per episode watching fee than why on Earth would they ever let anyone watch the programming for free? Also Google seems to forget that the way you make money online most of the time is through advertising. This is exactly what is keeping them afloat. Yes you can still advertise with a flash streaming service but just go to any US TV website and count the number of adverts that come up …

 

Unless Google really steps up Sony is about to loose a huge amount of money and all the rest of the TV manufacturers sitting on the fence will never touch a google tv device. A move like that could even hurt Android so Google it’s your move now …

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Guess who joined the HTML5 party

So you know how there is this company Adobe that keeps insisting that the only way to enjoy the *full* web is by having  Flash Player installed on your computer? Well they just announced that they are releasing a guess what … HTML5 player … picking up jaw from the floor and slowly composing myself … did monkeys just fly out of my ass or what? I guess they are indeed not going to just roll over and all that crap about Flash was just them buying time so that the developers would be able to write something before it gets announced. And since Adobe is creating an HTML5 web player all I can say is the king (Flash) is dead long live the king (HTML5). And good riddance actually. Even with the latest and greatest “optimised” version of Flash using it under OS X puts a decent amount of strain on my MBP and quite a bit of heat on my lap. Oh and that is with an i5 CPU inside …

Anyway Adobe truly has my respect for this move. Now how about all those developers that still use Flash banners? Wake up it’s not 2000 any more. In fact it hasn’t been 2000 for 10 years now.

Oh wait come to think about it, our new company site has an absolutely atrocious flash banner on top. It serves no purpose whatsoever yet this self proclaimed marketing specialist likes it a lot so it’s there. Anyway, if you are indeed thinking about doing something similar DON’T! It is a bad idea on so many levels and it does not make your site more attractive, especially if it’s a business one.

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On OS X App Store

TUAW has contacted several developers for comments on the new App Store and the replies are quite interesting. It is worth mentioning that all of the contacted developers are small and their products while good are not something that everyone will have. So in a way those are exactly the developers that should benefit from the App Store exposure. Only while Apple did not say anything about the problems of the App Store as a market place, a lot of the developers seem to be very aware of some of the major issues. There is a mention of the demo problem, the approval time, the fact that you are putting yourself in Apple’s hands and you are trusting them with the distribution of livelihood, the possibility of having to maintain two separate version of the program, etc.

http://www.tuaw.com/2010/10/21/developer-reactions-to-the-mac-app-store/

There is a mention of the fact that desktop software is indeed a lot more complicated than a one trick pony app for an iPhone which is basically why the practice of demo versions exist. Also desktop software tends to cost folds more than apps and I believe that Apple would find it very hard convincing people to part with their money given the current very limited state of the store. You will either have to allow upload of screen casts for what the software would do and/or a sample user guide or simply allow demo version of the software or refunds. There is simply no way around it if Apple wants to be kept in the loop. Also it seems very much un-Apple to not listen to their developers.

But then again adding features to the App Store is relatively easy if Apple should choose so. The recent addition of search suggestions happened pretty much overnight from a user perspective. So I’m hoping that Apple will get their act together and really listen to their users this time around and do so before the release of Lion.

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Digital Software Distribution

So yesterday Apple announced OS X 10.7 Lion and the availability of an OS X App Store. This all got me thinking and here are some things that Apple is not really saying. Sure the new App Store is not for every developer but it does have it’s appeal when you think about it. The obvious reasons for using it as a developer are:

*  lower piracy rate (if you choose to distribute only the AppStore version)

*  low advertising costs (if Apple does it’s job right)

*  a fully digital distribution channel with virtually no additional staff on your side

 

As far as the users go the reasons to use the App Store are:

*  easy way to search to tools

*  software is tested to work and not contain viruses

*  never have to go to store you have a one click purchasing option for every software available on the App Store.

*  all of your software practically updates itself

 

The problem is, that even if we overlook the minor details that Apple is conveniently forgetting to mention, the company still has a long way to go before they can fulfill the promise of a digital distribution channel. Oh first glance 30% of your revenues just so you can use the App Store is a lot. But is it really? If you ask Apple whey will probably point our that you won’t have to maintain any outbound logistics channels and they are correct to an extent. There is still outbound logistics only you are in a way selling to Apple rather than your end consumer. This in turn makes Apple a Tesco or a Walmart or a BestBuy. And why Apple would like you to believe that all they are doing is providing developers with a way to reach a new customer base, I think they are trying to do a lot more than that. In fact Apple is trying to be both a manufacturer of devices i.e. a creator of a market. And a retail chain for that same market. It is a brilliant idea if they manage to pull it off. However, Apple should thread lightly. There is a great chance of upsetting their longtime consumers and those are indeed the people behind the “Cult of Mac” and the ones that got the company through it’s darkest years.

Anyway, personal feeling aside I think that the best feature that Apple is overlooking is the fact that the App Store has an almost one click buy option. I say almost because if the implementation is the same as the one on iOS then you would be asked for a password every once in a while. Everything else that Apple said about the store is marketing hype. Yes you can update all your applications in one place but I can do that today with MacUpdate Desktop and it costs me only $20 a year. Ok I would get a lot more value if my girl friend or sister or any other member of my family would decide to switch to Mac but even as it is $20 a year is not that bad of a deal. Oh and none of the developers have to change their software in anyway. Even if you don’t care about a $20 a year solution, most of Apple’s software has some form of autoupdate option. Provided that you really do use the software on a regular basis and you have an internet connection then you will get updates on a regular basis. And quite frankly if you don’t really use the software or you don’t have internet (basically you are a modern day Robinson Crusoe) then who cares if your applications are not up to date.

So apple says that an App Store greatly reduces piracy. Really? How so? Your system is not locked in any particular way, you have access to all the files on it and therefore you can change the files. You know how jailbreaking works and how you can install apps for free on a jailbroken iOS device? Well it would take a very minor effort to do the same on an OS X computer. You won’t even have to jailbreak anything. All you would be required to do is patch the App Store. It’s possible that Apple has some grand plans of actually locking the App Store by using some trick but I know enough about software development to know the only reason why the iOS is protected is because you have no access to the files. There is no magic there. And no one is even thinking about locking the Mac because that would be plain stupid. You cannot stop piracy and for Apple to claim that the App Store would do that is silly. Also companies never price their products based on the piracy that they expect. Oh sorry almost never. Remember Microsoft? Well in certain countries you can actually get a free licence for MS software if you a from a certain type of organisation or get it at a very very low price otherwise.

And all this is just the top of the iceberg. Apple would have to fix the upgrade problem that they have with applications, figure out how to allow demo version, make the App Store an integral part of the OS, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that the App Store is the way of the future for software distribution but Apple has a very rocky road ahead of them. And why should there be a separate application to deal with software installations? I don’t want a package manager like every linux distribution out there. Be smart about it and integrate the App Store much like widgets and exposé are integrated into the system. I don’t mind change but I have just come to expect more from Apple than a half thought out 1/3 integrated system. But hey it’s possible that Lion brings that much wanted integration and more …

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