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Archive for the ‘Industry Commentary’ Category

iPhone and Web 2.0 Apps

Posted on: June 19th, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 17 Comments

Please note the date on this post. Read our more recent posts on the iPhone for more up-to-date information.


Device review: HP Travel Companion

Posted on: May 18th, 2007 by Michelle Stramel No Comments

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a GPS device, Jim VanDuzer shares his experience with the HP Travel Companion, a GPS device that runs the Windows Mobile-based Pocket PC OS, in his regular column at Christian Computing Magazine (links to PDF).

If you know someone who is in the market for their first PDA device, we suggest another article by Jim, What are you looking for? (links to PDF). Here he discusses the big picture of a PDA purchase, rather than a specific device.

Why I Uninstalled AIM

Posted on: March 14th, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 4 Comments

This question really has a simple answer: Because it wouldn’t shut up.

I’m not a huge fan of instant messaging. You’d think I would be, what with my fascination with high-tech doodads. But frankly instant messaging is disruptive. It’s not like text messaging, where I can ignore the message while I finish a phone call or some other activity. No, IMs jump to the foreground, in some cases capturing whatever keystrokes you were entering into another app. Even if you disable this stupid feature, you still have to deal with the IM in order to get your task bar to hide (assuming you use that feature of the task bar).

There are times I think IM’s are appropriate. The other night around 10:30 PM I was working on a project and needed to use a little tool one of the programmers here created. I checked Yahoo Messenger and saw that his status was “online” so I sent him a quick message to get a link to the documentation for the program. Since we all work from home, I didn’t want to call and wake everyone up. IM worked great for that.

There are other times when IM’s are inappropriate. Anything that could’ve been said in an email shouldn’t be said in an IM. And anything that is important enough for an IM is probably important enough for a phone call. It’s quicker and more information is exchanged per unit of time than an IM.

But the thing that finally crossed the line with AIM were their Flash ads. I don’t mind the ads in general — the app is free so they have to generate revenue somehow — but lately AOL has been serving up ads that include sound. It started with a short 4-note melody that apparently was just supposed to get my attention. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but eventually discovered that if I told AIM to never play any sounds at all for any reason, it quit making that noise.

But yesterday AIM started serving me an ad for some hip-hop gangsta ringtones. I’m just sitting here and all of a sudden I’m treated to some rap crap full volume over my speakers. Turns out AIM was inviting me to download ringtones.

That was enough of that. I did some searching through the options to figure out how to turn off sounds (again) but I didn’t come up with anything. So goodbye AIM.

I still use MSN Messenger and Yahoo Messenger. So far they haven’t annoyed me enough to uninstall them. But AIM is gone.

Microsoft: Evil Empire or Benevolent Dictatorship?

Posted on: February 26th, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 1 Comment

Now that Iowa ambulance-chaser Roxanne Conlin has come to terms with Microsoft in the last remaining Microsoft antitrust case, I feel free to disclose that I was one of a half-dozen or so Iowans asked to testify on behalf of Microsoft. Had the trial continued, I would’ve been on the stand sometime in April.

This all started when I heard about this class-action suit and chose to opt out of the class. Apparently about 1500 Iowans felt strongly enough about this that they sent a postcard or email to Conlin’s office requesting to opt out. Microsoft’s lawyers got ahold of this list and started making phone calls.

Among the 1500 they found the usual mix of crazies, curmudgeons, and the simply confused. But in there they also found a handful like me — the pearls among the swine (an apt metaphor given the locale). So I was invited to testify.


Windows Mobile 6

Posted on: February 9th, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 4 Comments

ZDNet reports that Windows Mobile 6 is on the way. We most likely won’t see devices using the new OS until late this year.

ZDNet writes, “Because it uses the same core–Windows CE 5–the new mobile operating system is expected to work with nearly all the existing Windows Mobile 5 applications.” That’s of course good news for everyone, though we’ll see if they can pull it off.

One of the things we’ve all come to know and love about Microsoft is their constant rebranding of these devices. Bless their hearts, they do not disappoint: “Microsoft has changed the names of the two types this go-around. Pocket PC Phone Edition, for touch screens, becomes Windows Mobile Professional, while Smartphone edition, for non touch screens, becomes Windows Mobile Standard. A third version, Windows Mobile Classic, is designed for PDAs without phone capabilities….” Got it? Your Pocket PC is now running Windows Mobile Classic, unless it also has a phone transceiver, then it’s Windows Mobile Professional. Except when the phone doesn’t have a touchscreen, then it’s Windows Mobile Standard. I guarantee you we’ll see devices with phones running the Windows Mobile Classic OS, and someone will come out with a touch-screen phone that runs Windows Mobile Standard.

Finally, a tempting little nugget for the programmers: “In the longer term, Microsoft will still try to unify its historically separate Pocket PC and Smartphone code bases. The next version of Windows Mobile, expected to be based on Windows CE 6, aims to create a common code base, potentially simplifying the process for application developers.” You can tell you’re reading a professional tech journalist when they use “Microsoft”, “Windows Mobile” and “simplifying the process for application developers” in the same sentence. :-)

iPhone: The Next Big Thing Or Just Another Smart Phone?

Posted on: January 10th, 2007 by Craig Rairdin 58 Comments

Please note the date on this post. Read our more recent posts on the iPhone for more up-to-date information.


Google, YouTube, MySpace, and Growing Old

Posted on: October 10th, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 15 Comments

The Google acquisition of YouTube has me reflecting on the seemingly never-ending stream of fads, fashions, and favorites that come and go like waves pounding against the shore. What strikes me as odd is that despite the fact that one wave follows the next with the predictability of time itself moving forward, there seems to be an endless supply of investors, pundits, and egomaniacal corporate executives who are sure that this wave is the one. (more…)

Procrastinators: Now is the time to buy a Pocket PC

Posted on: August 22nd, 2006 by Michelle Stramel 2 Comments

If you’re in the market for a new Pocket PC device, be sure to check out Craig Rairdin’s article on this subject published in the latest edition of Christian Computing Magazine (links to PDF file). He offers some tips on getting a good deal on used Pocket PCs on eBay.

Is your ISP censoring your email?

Posted on: August 10th, 2006 by Michelle Stramel No Comments

One of the issues that we frequently run into with customers is that some customers are not receiving the emails we send to them. Here are a couple of examples:

1. Suzie orders new software. At the completion of the order we state that an email has been sent with instructions. Suzie checks her email. No email from Laridian. She doesn’t have the instructions nor does she have a receipt for her records.

2. Suzie forgot her password. She goes to the Login page and clicks the link for “Have You Forgotten Your Password?”. She enters the email address that is in her Laridian account. She clicks the send button. It states “We’ve sent your Customer ID and Password to you at [susie’s email address]”. This indicates that Suzie has entered a valid email address that matches our records. Suzie checks her email. No email from Laridian. She tries again (and again, and again), same thing. Suzie gets frustrated and calls or sends us an email asking why we aren’t responding to her request.

In both of these circumstances our automated system has immediately sent out the email. So why isn’t Suzie receiving them?

The most common cause is due to a spam filter.

Now if Suzie is running a spam filter that has blocked us, that’s ok. Suzie may determine what email messages she does and does not want to receive. Once Suzie recognizes that Laridian is being blocked as a result of her settings, the local spam filter can be adjusted to allow Laridian email. Suzie can add us to her email address book or “Safe List” to ensure that our messages are received in the future. The following link is one that I’ve recently run into that provides good information on doing this with several of the major email providers.

But what if Suzie isn’t running a spam filter or Laridian has been added to her safe list and she still doesn’t get our messages? The next most likely cause is that Suzie’s ISP (Internet Service Provider) is blocking our messages to her. This is like Suzie’s mailman going through her mail and deciding what Suzie does and does not want. It’s a form of censorship. If you don’t want your postal service to do that then why would you want your ISP to do this?

If you find that your ISP is blocking legitimate messages (for instance, if you’ve requested information from a company but never receive it), the best thing you can do is contact the ISP. Find out what can be done to let the messages through that you want to receive. Be ready with some type of proof that you are not getting all of your email. Examples like I provided above in not receiving confirmation emails from a specific company can help you.

To be fair to the ISPs, this problem is due to people like you and me complaining to their ISPs (or the government) about getting too much spam. As a result, some ISPs have been forced to add these measures to their system. Until a perfect system is found, these types of issues will continue to occur. Educating yourself on such issues can help you continue receiving the e-mail messages that are important to you.

The Hidden Complexity of the Cell Phone Market

Posted on: August 7th, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 11 Comments

In the latest PC Magazine, Michael Miller writes about the cool new things happening on mobile phones and opines that “consumers should be able to pick applications regardless of phone or carrier.” This is a wonderful idea, but is idealistic to such a degree as to be laughable.

This fact doesn’t escape Miller’s attention. He adds: “There are multiple impediments: a bunch of different platforms that developers write for, a bunch of different phone makers, and four big national wireless carriers that want to control the applications on your phone.”

But the scope of these impediments is wider than one might imagine. To illustrate, I looked at the only the phones offered by Nokia, and only those Nokia phones available in North America, then specifically only those offered in the United States.

Nokia phones come with one of three different operating systems. Each of these operating systems has had more than one edition. Some editions break compatibility with prior editions. That is, programs written for edition 2 may not run on edition 3. Between the three current major operating systems supported by Nokia (Series 40, 60, and 80) there are eight editions. Software written for one Series does not run on the other Series’. In some cases the programming languages supported on one Series are not supported on the other Series’.

Within a Series there are variations on the services available to programmers, and as I mentioned before, between editions there can be major changes that make it so programs written for one edition will not run on the next. This is equivalent to Microsoft making it so that no program written for Windows 98 would run on Windows XP. There are already enough apps that break for some reason even though Microsoft tries to maintain compatibility between versions. Imagine if they intentionally broke all apps when they released a new version. This is unimaginable on the desktop, yet it happens all the time on mobile phones.

Continuing with the Nokia illustration, Nokia offers 123 models of phone in the United States. They have a huge market share and hundreds of millions of customers. However, only about 1/4th of those phones are programmable. The vast majority offer limited capability for third-party additions beyond ringtones.

Of the 30 or so phones that are possible targets for programmers, half are running an older version of the Series 60 operating system that is incompatible with programs written for the latest version. And of the 15 models that are thus targetable for software developers, only one or two have been picked up by any carriers here in the US. As a result, even though hundreds of millions of people are carrying Nokia phones, only thousands are carrying phones that are potential targets for current developers.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m picking on Nokia. I’m just using them as an illustration. The rest of the industry is similar: There are thousands of models of phones each running some highly customized version of some proprietary operating system, making it impossible for the sharing of programs or even data beyond a very limited subset of particular models of phones.

So the dream of running any cell phone software on any cell phone is a long way off — unless Microsoft or Palm comes to dominate the cell phone market and establishes their OS as the standard. And furthermore, the dream of seeing a big uptick in a broad range of software applications for these devices is severely hampered by the inability of the cell phone manufacturers to adopt a standard operating system (or even two or three). Without that, it’s difficult for developers to commit resources to the mobile phone market.

This should not be interpreted as a position statement from Laridian with respect to the direction of its development. We were developing for Windows CE long before it had a measurable fraction of market share, and it could be argued that the BlackBerry is an inhospitable platform for Bible software because so many of them are controlled by corporate IT departments which restrict the installation of third-party apps on the devices. This is merely a commentary on the sad state of the mobile phone market from the perspective of independant software developers.

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