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Archive for July, 2006

When is a Smartphone not a Smartphone?

Posted on: July 31st, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 7 Comments

We’re for the most part fans of Microsoft around here, but every once in a while they do some things to really irritate us.

The continuous rebranding of their PDA operating system is an ongoing problem. First it was Windows CE (the “CE” didn’t stand for anything, or so they said), then it was Pocket PC OS, then Windows Mobile. So now your Pocket PC is a “Microsoft Windows Mobile-Based Pocket PC” or some such nonsense.

One of the major points of confusion right now is the new smartphones like the Motorola Q and the Treo 700w. While these are similar looking devices, one (the Q) is a Windows Mobile Smartphone and the other (Treo) is a Windows Mobile Pocket PC. This is despite the fact that both claim to run Windows Mobile 5. The truth is that the Treo does and the Q does not. You can thank Microsoft and Verizon for that bizarre lapse of marketing oversight.

The easiest way to tell at this point is to check whether or not the phone has a touch-sensitive screen. At least to date, if it has a touch screen it’s a Pocket PC. If it doesn’t, it’s a Smartphone.

Microsoft claims that the two brands are merging. In the future you’ll buy Windows Mobile devices and won’t worry about whether it’s a Pocket PC or a Smartphone. This is fine — we’re all for simplification. The problem is that the marketing horse seems to have gotten ahead of the development cart. Until the two separate operating systems are actually one — so that software can be targetted at one operating system for any kind of Windows Mobile device — they need to do a better job keeping the two brands separate.

In the meantime, tap your screen. If something happens, buy PocketBible for Pocket PC. If you just hear the sound of fingernail on plastic, buy PocketBible for Windows Mobile Smartphone.

The Q and Me

Posted on: July 27th, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 8 Comments

So, Motorola has released its Moto Q and it is receiving generally favorable reviews. But just what is it? It is a super-thin Smartphone running Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0.

There is a lot to like about the Q. My favorite part of the phone is the gorgeous display. It is bright, clear and sharp. The processor seems fast enough for typical Smartphone tasks, such as running Laridian’s PocketBible for Smartphone Finally, it is indeed very thin, though its north & south dimensions are closer to a traditional Pocket PC than a phone.

Like most anything, however, there are some flaws. For example, no WiFi. This is to be expected, as the carriers (currently only Verizon) really want the consumer racking up the minutes. Just imagine all the revenue that would vanish if web access was possible via a wireless network. But my biggest non-technical objection to the device has to be that it doesn’t have a touch screen. The thing looks like a PDA and it just begs you to tap the screen. But no, it is just a humble phone and restricts your interaction to the Smartphone way of doing things. Of course, the QWERTY keyboard makes it much easier to input data than its Smartphone predecessors.

Oh, but that full keyboard, what problems it caused for us here at Laridian! Without getting bogged down in the technical details, let me give you an idea of what we faced. First, some background: Microsoft’s original vision for the Smartphone was device which excelled at accessing data, not data entry. To make it as easy on our customers to navigate through Bibles and search them, we offer guesses based on what you have input to this point. For instance, when the T9 input is enabled, typing an “A” in the Go To dialog leads the app to guess that you are perhaps intending to go the the book of Acts. The “guessing” which takes place in the search dialog is even specific to the Bible you are currently looking at, it only offers suggestions based on the words found in that particular Bible.

This seemed to be a nice feature, something liked by the Laridian staff who have a Smartphone and our customers. Then along comes the Q. Suddenly, there is no standard phone keyboard, no “ABC” on the 2 key. However, it is very easy to type an “A” using that snazzy QWERTY keyboard. Unfortunately, that input looks different from the previous Smartphone input for the letter “A”. But our app has no way of knowing what kind of keyboard the device has – you can thank our friends at Redmond for this! Here is where I skip over lots of technical information to tell you that it isn’t possible to do the suggestions on the Q like we do for all other Microsoft Smartphones.

So what is our solution? We can allow the user to just use the QWERTY keyboard. On the Moto Q that actually works well, since that device has a built in auto-complete facility which learns from your previous input, so that typing “Acts” once means that it will suggest that to you the next time you type an “A”. But even here, PocketBible runs into problems. As I mentioned earlier, we don’t know the type of keyboard the phone has, so we can’t know when it is appropriate to expect QWERTY input. What to do, what to do? We opted for defaulting to our normal helpful behavior of offering our suggestions. Owners of the Q will need to toggle through the input modes until they get the phone into “abc” input mode, which allows use of the QWERTY keyboard but without our suggestions. From now on, this edit box will remember this mode. This seems to us at Laridian to be as close to the best of both worlds that we can get, given the hardware and operating system limitations.

We will be releasing an update to PocketBible for Windows Mobile-based Smartphones soon which includes the changes to accommodate the Q, along with a few other enhancements.

I hope that if you have a Microsoft Smartphone, you will try PocketBible. I use it all the time and believe that, on the Q or other Smartphone, you’ll really like having the Bible with you.

On the Road with Pocket PC

Posted on: July 25th, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 4 Comments

I’m currently in Hungary on a short term missions trip. Craig asked me to talk a little bit about how I’m using technology during this trip.

It’s been a lot of fun actually.

I brought my PocketPC (iPAQ rx3715) with me along with the power cord, the appropriate outlet adapter (“B”) and my keyboard. The camp that I’m working at is WiFi equipped.

I’ve been able to keep in almost constant contact with our family, friends and other supporters while we’re here (about an hour east of Budapest in a small village).

I’ve been using “Messaging” (included on every PocketPC) to handle email. We have a group set up using Google to broadcast the emails and individual team members are also sending and receiving email from their families.

I’ve been using a program called AudioBay to post “podcasts” on the Internet right from my PocketPC. We use these to let our supporters hear some of the Hungarian praise and worship music and now and then I have the team members give audible reports.

I’ve also been using Skype to call my family. I had my Cingular phone unlocked so that I could buy a SIM card for it when I got here, but Skype works well enough and costs only two cents a minute (versus 99 cents plus the $6/ month for Cingular international).

Some of the other things that I’ve been doing with my PocketPC include watching movies on the plane (using DVDtoPocketPC), and translating words from the Hungarian students and learning basic phrases in Hungarian (programs from LingvoSoft). I even wrote and sent in my next article for Christian Computing Magazine. Of course I’ve been using PocketBible for devotions and devotional preparations. It’s great having multiple translations immediately available.

It’s pretty cool to be out in the middle of Hungary and still be connected to all this computing power using a device smaller than a paperback book (which reminds me…I’ve also used it to read some books that I bought in MS Reader format before I left).

Browsing with Firefox

Posted on: July 24th, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 9 Comments

I’m a pretty die-hard Internet Explorer fan. In fact, I’m what you’d call an IE bigot. I know there are a lot of problems with IE from a security standpoint, but I refuse to see it. (more…)

Laridian Titles Top Christian Computing Magazine’s Readers Poll

Posted on: July 21st, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 1 Comment

Christian Computing Magazine announced the results of their recent poll to find out the most popular Bible software for the desktop and PDA.

Laridian topped the PDA list, with 40% of the vote. OliveTree was close behind. eSword and QuickVerse were a distant third and fourth.

We’re always humbled by your appreciation of our efforts to help you better read and study the Bible. Thanks to all of you, and especially those who voted.

If you’re not receiving Christian Computing Magazine, subscriptions are free and are delivered each month by email. Each issue contains several articles on more effectively using technology in ministry. Check out the current issue at http://www.ccmag.com, where you can also subscribe.

Become a Famous Author!

Posted on: July 21st, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 4 Comments

Our BookBuilder program enables you to create your own electronic reference books for use in PocketBible and MyBible. We’ve been amazed at the huge number of you who have purchased BookBuilder Professional. We hope you’re enjoying the ability to add your own custom commentary and devotionals to your PDA.

We’d like to take this one step further: We’d like to invite you to submit your work to us for distribution through our site. We have a small number of user-created works but we can’t really justify creating a new area of our Web site when we only have a handful of titles to offer. We think once we have 25 or more titles, we can put something together.

You can give your books away or you can sell them. If you choose to put a price on them, we’ll keep a portion and send you the rest. We’ll help you come up with a price. Contact us at bookbuilder@laridian.com for more information.

What’s New at Laridian?

Posted on: July 21st, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 58 Comments

This blog is new. But rather than waste a bunch of words welcoming you to our new blog, let’s just get down to business and talk about some products that are going to be coming out soon.

Normally we don’t talk about what may or may not be under development, but I don’t think it will hurt anything to mention these. Don’t bother writing to ask when they’ll be released or what the status is. They’ll be released when they’re done. (more…)

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