Monday, December 8, 2008

Broadcasting your life with Nokia viNe

Nokia announced viNe sometime ago. Someone could call it as a modified SportsTracker that gives you the opportunity to share the route you have traveled, pictures and videos you have taken, or songs you have listened. ViNe records your journey using GPS when it is available. If it is not available, viNe will connect last and current position with the shortest possible line.
1. Starting point.

2. ViNe saves the music you've listened and pictures and videos you've taken.

3. After you've accomplished your route, you can add tags to your viNe.

I'm not sure what one should call it, in a way it is a modified SportsTracker but it is also a subset of SportsTracker because the application doesn't offer as much training information as SportsTracker. Maybe viNe is a SportsTracker for an everyday user who is not interested in all the possible training information? You cannot for example specify type of workout and see as much information about your journey/training but the upload is much more convenient and you can add tags. ViNe shares your information to everyone and you cannot restrict this in any way. In SportsTracker you were able to restrict your audience. I think this is something that some users will not like.

Few other differences between SportsTracker and viNe are that in viNe you are able to move in the map. It doesn't utilize the map information that Maps is using but it caches the map information so it works quite fine. When you are viNing, you cannot see any details of your route, e.g. distance and speed that you can see when you are using SportsTracker.

When you upload your viNe it will go to two different places, to viNe and to SportsTracker. ViNe will also replace your SportsTracker user ID with Nokia Account user ID. This means that you will get rid of one useless user ID. ViNe probably tells you about this, but I didn't notice this and had some difficulties accessing SportsTracker before I realized that my user ID had changed. I think that this was a really good idea from Nokia. I hope this trend continues because nobody likes too many user IDs.

4. Your viNes are published to viNe -service.

5. Same time your viNes are published to SportsTracker -service.

I don't know what is the main idea behing viNe, and I haven't seen any discussion about this, although I haven't been searching so much. One idea that came to my mind is that Nokia tries to use social networks for modeling the world's most interesting places. This would be different approach than Google's Drive. Do you have any other ideas?

I first thought that viNe would have been introduced through Nokia Beta Labs like SportsTracker, but apparently Nokia thinks it is a finalized product. I would like to disagree with this because at least I have had some difficulties with it, e.g. it crashes quite often with my N96. I just updated my N96 to version 12.043. I hope viNe works better with this new software version.

Here is a list of bugs and some features I would like to see in the future:
  • It tags only the first songs name and artist. (See picture 3.)
  • Sometimes it tags city (Helsinki) but not always. It could also tag parts of the city like Punavuori, Ullanlinna and Kamppi.
  • It could show album art of the listened music.

6. Album art is not shown.

  • ViNe's internet service's search should work better. At the moment it is difficult to find anything or anybody.
  • Could there be a way of following your friends?
  • Could there be a possibility to restrict your audience?
  • Could there be a possiblity to buy music that someone else has been listening in their viNes'?
  • ViNe should automatically upload pictures and videos to Share on Ovi.
  • Embedded widget could show only desired viNes, e.g. your own or your friends. Usually there are desired audience you want to share information with or follow.

7. Embedded viNe widget shows all the viNes.

  • Could viNe be combined with FriendView? You could see where your friend has been or is at the moment?
  • Could viNe updates be offered in RSS format?
  • Could you send your viNe to some of your friend, e.g. "look at my cool journey"? This could be also available in mobile format.
  • Could you provide more information during viNing, e.g. distance?
  • Could viNe show a dotted line in saved journey when GPS hasn't been available?
  • Could viNe use either cellular or WiFi positioning when GPS is not available?
  • Is Nokia doing any co-operation with different heart rate monitoring companies, e.g. Polar or Suunto? This kind of co-operation would provide all the necessary information that you need when working out.
All in all this application seems interesting and I think I'll continue using both viNe and SportsTracker. You have to remember that viNe and SportsTracker are almost identical; viNe is basically a SportsTracker with a facelift. If you want to follow my viNes, search for teppoj.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

AppStore vs. Download! - The good, the bad and the ugly

I'm not a great Apple fan, but I must say that I admire how they have been able to change people's way of using different mobile applications. There is a wide range of different mobile applications for S60 and other mobile devices, but still the usage is relatively low if you compare it with applications available for iPhone or iTouch. Kai Öistämö from Nokia mentioned in Symbian Smartphone Show that there are around 10.000 applications for S60. This is quite a big number of applications but the truth is that without a proper distribution channel and easy enough installation method nobody will use these applications.

Apple on the other hand have managed to introduce 10.000 applications through AppStore in a relatively short time. If I remember correctly AppStore was opened on around June 2008 which means 10.000 applications in less than 6 months. have created a tribute page which shows all the applications available in AppStore.

I listed some of the good, bad and ugly in Apple's and Nokia's way of offering applications and installing them. After these lists, there are multiple screenshots illustrating the user experience of finding and installing an application.


The good (positive):

  • Offers wide range of applications.

  • Search works really well. This is important when you have lots of applications.

  • Fast. iPhone doesn't ask too many questions when using AppStore.

  • Really easy to use. Just browse to an application that you like, click install and installation process starts.

  • Updates. AppStore informs the user about possible updates.

  • Easy payment process. Uses iTunes payment methods.

The bad (negative):

  • The only place for finding applications.

  • Applications don't have a test period, at least I haven't noticed this.

  • iTunes id is needed for installing even free applications.

  • iTunes is the only payment method.

The ugly (improvements and thoughts):

  • Suggestions. AppStore could suggest applications that other users have installed, just like e.g. AppStore through iTunes does this.

  • What happens to compatibility if Apple introduces more devices?


The good (positive):

  • Not the only place for finding applications because you can find applications anywhere from the Internet.

  • Most of the applications offer trial period possibilities.

  • You can use any credit card for paying.

The bad (negative):
  • Only limited number of applications.

  • Search doesn't work well enough.

  • Somebody can find it difficult to use because device asks quite many questions, e.g. used internet connection and where to install the application.

  • Relatively slow when updating content in different folders.

The ugly (improvements and thoughts):

  • Usability should be much better.

  • Updating different folders should be more seamless, not asking question from the user all the time.

  • Number of available applications should be much higher.

Screenshots of installing an application from the AppStore:

1. You can find AppStore from the main menu. AppStore also informs the user about possible updates (red 1 in AppStore's top-right corner).

2. AppStore advertises recent applications.

3. Applications are divided to Paid and Free sections.

4. There is also an application Top list.

5. Searching for Facebook application.

6. Search results.

7. More information about the application.

8. Free button toggles to Install button when you press it. After pressing Install, the installation starts.

9. You need to use iTunes' credentials to be able to install applications.

10. Installation process ongoing.

11. Installation finished. You can find installed application from the main menu.

Screenshots of installing an application from Download!:

1. You'll find Download! from the main menu.

2. Download! asks used connection really often, although phone should be able to choose desired connection.

3. Search possibilities after choosing Options - Search and about to search Facebook -application.

4. One search result but it is not shown on the first page.

5. You have to scroll down to see all the results.

6. The search result.

7. After choosing Details - Get, phone shows information about the application.

8. Choosing where to install the application.

9. After installation application can be found from Applications folder.

10. Most of the applications have trial possibilities like ForecaWeather.

11. You can also use multiple credit cards for paying.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Experimenting with media streaming

Inspired by Nokia Home Media we tried out media streaming between various devices. The setup included two PCs with Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux, a Playstation 3 and a Nokia N96.

First we tried streaming video from Linux to N96. We faced our first obstacle when starting Home Media in N96. The software tried to use previously defined WLAN access point and didn't offer the available ones. The access point had to be specifically selected from the settings. If the previously defined access point is not available it would be logical to show the ones at hand.

Setting up a media server on Linux is pretty easy using the Mediatomb software. Basically you just select the files to be shared with a browser user interface and that's it. The problems start when trying to view the files with N96 though. You can see the shared files just fine but playback of music or video won't start. We simply were not able to get this work in spite of several attempts.

After this we tried streaming files from Linux to PS3. Mediatomb was easily found under the Video menu in PS3. Also streaming of videos worked but some of the video files didn't work automatically. Mediatomb is able to transcode videos on the fly to a supported format but we actually skipped that part for now. How about music? Ok, we navigated to music folder of the shared PC files, and none of the files were found. After a moment of confusion we realized that you actually have to select the media server under the Music menu in able to see and play music. This seems pretty silly because you still can see the whole shared file hiearchy. Anyway, after this streaming music worked ok.

There is a Windows counterpart for Mediatomb called TVersity which is free and has streaming and transcoding capabilities. For some reason TVersity couldn't be seen at all from N96 though.

What about streaming from N96 to PS3? First it was pretty difficult to see the N96 media server in PS3. We had to toggle share content/hide phone/show phone a couple of times to see the device in the PS3 list. Browsing files worked fine but selecting something to play didn't seem to make anything happen. After a while we noticed that it was actually just some buffering delay that took about 10 seconds. All in all everything worked and the quality was fine but the buffering was a bit annoying. Videos didn't work but this was to be expected as PS3 is a little picky about video formats.

Trying Play via home network from N96 didn't however work at all. This is because PS3 expects itself to be the controlling point and is just a media viewer and not a media renderer. This is quite a common problem with several home entertainment devices.

One of the biggest problems using these above mentioned media servers with N96 was that the devices didn't see each other straight away. This was an interesting geeky experiment but can't be recommended for serious use. Streaming from PC to PS3 works well with different platforms but if you want to use Nokia Home Media enabled devices the best option is to use Simple Center. Unlike the other media servers, Simple Center also works as a media renderer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

First impressions on Ovi Suite - no thanks

I thought that I'll explore Nokia's relatively new Ovi Suite and start using it with my Nokia N96. After all Ovi Suite should be designed for NSeries phones. How wrong could I have been?

I'm not going to go through all the features Ovi Suite has because it has lots of those. Maybe best way of describing Ovi Suite is to say: "Ovi Suite tries to be your 'home entertainment center' that has everything, from music to maps and from videos to software updater and phone backups."

My first impression was that it is just a big mess and it is difficult to find or do anything. I don't know the reason for this because, for example, I think Nokia's phones, especially S60 phones are easy to use and I can find all the features easily. If I compare Ovi Suite to iTunes, iTunes was much easier to use in the beginning. I think the reason for this is a little similar to the fact some say that iPhone is much easier to use than S60 phones. After all with only few features it is easy to make usable product. This is a really big challenge for Nokia because they want to do all the possible things with their Ovi concept.

I have to be honest and say that I haven't used Ovi Suite enough to make a final decision, but it didn't impress me in the beginning. I'm for example getting "runtime error" when I've chosen "Yes, show me what's new" and try to resize the window.

This is something that you shouldn't get in this kind of product.

I'm a big fan of PC Suite and use it daily at work for synchronising calendar and contacts and sending SMSs using my PC. It seems that Ovi Suite is missing all these features; at least I didn't find them.

If I understood correctly, Nokia remade everything from scratch when they created Ovi Suite, and might eventually stop supporting PC Suite. I would like to say that this will not happen any time soon.

I think I'll try to reserve some time on weekend and explore Ovi Suite more, maybe my thoughts will change...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Should you be scared of mobile viruses?

I attended to a quite big party recently and noticed that someone was trying to send me something via bluetooth. As you can guess, it was a mobile virus.

I did two things that you should never do. Firstly I had switched on bluetooth and secondly I answered yes to every possible question. I received a virus to my phone, but it refused to install. The reason for this was platform diverseness. Virus was from a S60 2nd edition phone and my phone (N96) was 3rd edition Feature Pack 2.

Now you might ask why did I do these things? The reason for this is work. I'm working with different kind of technologies and security is also part of it. The second reason is that I'm just interested in these things.

To answer the question in the title, I would say "No, not yet". There are a few mobile viruses, but at the moment there isn't any business case for virus writers / criminals. I have received a virus via bluetooth 5 times in 3 years or so. Here is a simple list how to avoid mobile viruses:

  1. Switch off bluetooth. Bluetooth is a really common way to distribute viruses because usually operators filter viruses that are included in MMSes.

  2. Don't install any programs if you haven't initiated the installation process. Viruses don't install themselves, usually the user needs to answer "yes" multiple times. It is also good to remember that cracked software can contain viruses, so don't use cracked software.

  3. Don't give your phone to anyone you don't trust. At the moment there are some keyloggers for phones and software that records your phone calls, but if you don't allow anyone to install these, you are safe.

  4. Install Anti-Virus software. If you want to be 100-percent sure, install Anti-Virus software. They work pretty well nowadays and don't slow down other processes in your phone.

Cute updates from Trolltech Qt Software

Did you know that Qt is a spelling for cute? You do now if you didn't already. Anyway, there has been some interesting updates related to Qt technologies lately.

First of all Qt is going S60 and there is a technology preview available already. There is also a webcast about making Qt work in your S60 phone behind the link. The full release is scheduled for mid 2009. This is of course old news by now but what does this really mean? Well, first of all, Qt is going to reach millions of S60 phones. Secondly, developing cross-platform applications for S60, Windows CE and embedded Linux becomes available. Sounds great.

Another update from Qt Software (formerly Trolltech) is a Qt 4.5 technology preview. Most notable updates of the new version are runtime performance improvements, integration of latest WebKit that enables Netscape plugins and Flash, and 64-bit support for Mac OS X Leopard.

Finally, there is also a preview release of Qt Creator IDE. You can find a presentation video on the site as well. The final release is scheduled for early 2009. Qt Creator integrates an code editor, Qt Designer, graphical debugger front end and a cross-platform build tool. I have mentioned Qt Designer before. Qt Creator doesn't support mobile platforms yet but those are on the roadmap. The features supporting this include remote compilation and debugging as well as device deployment solutions.

Interesting to see how Nokia's involvement shows in the different announcements. Apparently Qt development proceeds as planned but there are certainly also some new issues related to mobile development.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Some thoughts from Symbian Smartphone Show 2008

I had the opportunity to participate to Symbian Smartphone Show 2008 for the first time. It was work-related so I spent quite much time on S60's stand but still had free time for exploring the rest of the area. Now someone can ask why a Nordea employee would spend time on S60's stand? I'll answer to this question after a while.

I'm not going to give you a full coverage of the conference, just some miscellaneous thoughts:

I know that you've heard this before but Symbian is going open source. It will be interesting to see how this will affect Symbian development, smartphone market share and number of services.

User experience was seen extremely important. This is really good news, users are not interested in technology (well, some are), they want useful services.

Different kinds of widgets were popular topic. There are a number of companies that offer a widget platform, e.g. Microsoft, Apple, Nokia and Opera. MS and Apple weren't in the conference but they are also supporting widgets. It is interesting to see if widgets will keep their original purpose? I would say that companies will misuse widgets by thinking that it is the main thing now and everything users want is widgets. This shouldn't be the case, widgets are "small services" that provide you important information, not everything. A good example would be a financial widget that provides basic stock information, and when you want to sell or buy stock you are following you would open your desktop or mobile browser.

Be proactive, not reactive. Mobile users don't have multiple browser windows open for checking if something has happened. This why it is important to tell the user if there has happened something important. If I had to advertise Nordea's proactive products, I would mention account alert.

Nokia's Kai Öistämö mentioned in his keynote that Nokia offers an innovative platform to developers and they are not disdaining anyone. He actually mentioned Apple a few times and how they are behaving toward developers. I believe this kind of approach is really interesting and most probably there are lots of discussions internally when some service is competing with Nokia's own service. On the other hand, this keeps everyone awake and improving their services.

During the conference it was also mentioned that "Qt is going Symbian". Qt will be supported in S60 starting from S60 3rd edition Feature Pack 1. Qt offers real cross-platform support. Read benefits of Qt.

Overall Symbian Smartphone Show was worth participating and I can really recommend it to anyone who is working with / interested in Symbian / smartphones.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ovi - door to success?

I bet you've heard about Nokia's Ovi, but do you really know what is it about? If you know what it is about, do you know how Nokia will make money out of it?

The reason for these two questions is that one of my friends asked me recently: "That Nokia's Ovi, what is it? I would like to use it, but I don't know how and I don't know what I could do there." I explained to him shortly that Ovi is a place for accessing Nokia's different services. You can find maps, music, games, share pictures there and upload calendar, contacts and files. To be honest, this was a kind of lousy explanation. After this I started thinking a little more about Ovi.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Nokia's general idea is to offer a service where you find everything you need and you can access it with any device (pc, mac or phone). Maybe it could be described in a few words as "personalised multi-channel portal"? Personally I think that if something cannot be explained in a few sentences, it won't be a success among users.

This "personalised multi-channel portal" looks quite nice and if you synchronise your phone with Ovi, it can be an useful service.

I tried it once, just to check it out how it works with generic data and stopped using it. Reason for this is that I've have company confidential information in my phone and I really don't want to share it. I know Ovi should be safe, but still I don't want to take that risk. I believe this is a quite big question / threat for IT departments because syncrhonising is really easy.

I'm not saying that Ovi concept wouldn't become a success, but I must say there are still lots of work to be done. I've listed some of things that need to be improved before success.

  1. Too many user IDs and passwords. At the moment there isn't any general user ID and password for Ovi services, because it builds up from different services. Users won't use a service which need own credentials for Ovi (synchronisation), music, sharing pictures and games.

  2. Integration. Basically same as above, all services must be seamlessly integrated before it is usable. If I use a portal, I want to be able to use all services easily and smoothly.

  3. Common user-interface. I believe that a portal should have common user-interface because otherwise the usage of different services will be much more difficult.

  4. Logic. A service must be logical to use. I was really surprised when I went to, clicked Sign In and saw a page saying "contacts & calendar". My first thoughts were: "What did I do? I don't want to sign in to contacts & calendar, I want to sign in to Ovi".
  5. Useful services. Ask yourself why would someone create credentials and start using this service daily and suggest it to his/her friends? When Ovi is "fully personalised multi-channel portal", I believe this is possible.

Don't get me wrong, there are also good features already existing, for example easy syncrhonisation and your content from your Share on Ovi comes automatically to your Ovi portal. Atleast I don't remember giving any Share on Ovi credentials to Ovi, probably sharing is done by checking e-mail addresses.

A more difficult question is: "How Nokia will make money out of this?" If I would need to guess, I would mention three different approaches:

  1. Offer first free services, then start charging. This seems to be the case in the Maps for example. Most of the new handsets have a free license for a year, after this the user needs to purchase a license.

  2. Offer first free services, then start charging small amounts. Almost like previous, but with smaller amounts of money, e.g. a few euros (even cents?) per month.

  3. Bundle the price to handset. Nokia is trying this with Comes with Music and everyone is waiting for the results.

I suggest that you check Ovi out yourself and make your own decisions. So, go to Ovi with your desktop or mobile browser and explore it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tackling the mobile platform diverseness

With the emergence of new mobile platforms like iPhone and Android the diverseness of mobile platforms is greatly increasing. This brings some trouble for developers who try to target as many platforms and as wide audience as possible. Let's take a look at the platforms currently at hand.

First of all there is Series 40 which is Nokia proprietary platform that accepts only applications developed with Java ME, formerly known as J2ME. Also Flash Lite has been supported since S40 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 for stand-alone applications and content. There are tens of millions S40 devices out there which makes this platform one of the most widely used.

When we are talking about Symbian, we are actually talking about three different platforms: S60 and UIQ. "But that is only two?", you say. Yes, but there is a compatibility break between S60 2nd and 3rd edition which means I'm counting them as two separate platforms. All of this is to change, though, when the S60 and UIQ platforms will be merged into the open source Symbian Foundation code. The S60 platform sucks and even Nokia developers admit it. Coding for Symbian is simply harder than it really should be. However, S60 is not going to die, at least not very soon. This is because Nokia is making money with the platform right now and is porting Qt application framework to the platform too which is going to expand its lifetime.

The iPhone OS or OS X iPhone is the operating system used in iPhone and iPod Touch. Mac OS X applications cannot be run on an iPhone device. Applications need to be specifically written and compiled for the iPhone OS and ARM processor architecture. Authorized native third party applications are available for the phone through Apple's App Store. The software developement kit allows developers to make applications and test them in a simulator but loading an application onto the devices is only possible after paying a iPhone Developer Program fee. Java or Flash are not supported but Sun Microsystems and Adobe have their plans to release a third party Java virtual machine and Flash Lite player respectively.

Google's Android platform is written in Java running on top of a Linux kernel written in C. However, it is not Linux. There are also some apparently performance critical libraries written in C/C++ but the application framework is fully written in Java. Flash is not supported but there shouldn't be any technical obstacles for it. Some people have said that Android is actually what Java ME should have been or should have become. Obviously software written for Android can't be run on other Java enabled devices. On the other hand it should be possible to run software developed with Java ME in an Android device.

MicroSoft's offering to the mobile market is of course Windows Mobile. Managed applications can be developed with .NET Compact Framework using the C# language. Native applications can be developed with C++. Both Java ME and Flash Lite are also supported.

The problem with Linux is the number of distributions involved. There is Maemo that is used in Nokia Internet tablets, LiMo foundation founded by companies like Motorola, NTT DoCoMo, Panasonic and Samsung, Mobilinux by Montavista, Moblin sponsored by Intel, Ubuntu Mobile and OpenMoko. You could actually say there is probably as many mobile linux distributions as there are other mobile platforms together. There are no common SDKs nor tools for developers, no common distribution channels, and no common application directories for devices. Linux people are going to kill me when I say this but unless some company is strong enough to create an uniform platform, there might be not so bright future for mobile Linux, which is a great shame.

BlackBerry smartphones are built on a Java-based operating environment, which supports the development of custom Java ME applications. There is a BlackBerry plug-in for MicroSoft Visual Studio that lets developers working within a .NET programming environment use their development tool of choice.

With the platforms mentioned I have addressed the majority of mobile devices out there. As you can see its almost impossible to target all the platforms at once. In practice there aren't any natively running cross-platform applications. How should this be handled then?

The easiest way to target every device is web-based applications. That way you reach every device out there equipped with a internet browser. Web applications are limited though and not applicable to every problem or service.

The second easiest coverage comes probably with Java ME. It is supported pretty much on every phone except the iPhone. Using Java you get access to a lot more interfaces of the phone but are still more limited than using native code and native APIs. It also differs too much from usual Java so code reuse is not possible. Sometimes the Java slogan, "Write once, run everywhere", has been changed to "Write once, debug everywhere". This refers to the issue that even if you can run the same code platform independently, it still might behave differently on different environments.

Qt has some potential becoming a solution to some of the problems. It is already available in embedded Linux and Windows Mobile and will soon be in Symbian and Maemo. There are also Java bindings via Qt Jambi which, at least in theory, enables Qt in Android too. Qt/Mac won't enable Qt in iPhone but it adds another theoretical possibility. Qt Extended, formerly known as Qtopia, extends Qt application platform with additional functionality to embedded Linux. It might not be a silver bullet but it actually might make several developers' life a lot easier.

Another problem with cross-platform development is that the screen resolutions, color depths, input devices and multimedia capabilities, just to name a few, are very different. A device could or could not have a keyboard or a touch screen and even the touch screen can be single touch or multi touch. Whether you are developing a web based service or a full blown native application these issues have to be taken into consideration. Moreover, using generic toolkits always is a trade-off between portability and utilizing the platform specific device capabilities. In most of the cases true cross-platform development is not feasible or sensible or even possible. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that cross-platform toolkits wouldn't have their place in the market.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Having fun with 2D barcodes before NFC arrives

I had some sparetime and thought to check out what one could do with 2D barcodes. The main idea is that when you see a 2D barcode you point your smartphone's camera to it and hold it there for a while. After this, something happens. This something depends on the content of the 2D barcode. It can be either a link, a phone number, an e-mail address or a business card. If you try the code below, you'll notice that it contains my work information (first name, last name, phone number, e-mail address).

In addition to camera phone, you also need barcode reader software. Some Nokia phones have the reader pre-installed but there are also numerous 3rd party softwares. For more information about 2D barcodes, you can check Nokia's site. You'll find also a tool for creating your own 2D barcodes.

I didn't do anything special with these codes, I just added barcode to back of my business card using a sticker paper which I found from my workplace.

Although 2D barcodes aren't too easy to use, they have some clear benefits: they are free to create and you can put them basically anywhere. I've seen them recently even in newspapers in some municipal elections ad.

With these two benefits, you would have the possibility to tackle the traditional chicken and egg problem. You can just add 2D barcodes anywhere and this way get more users, probably relatively slow, but still. With numerous 2D barcodes on the wild, I believe there would be more and more 2D barcode readers pre-installed in phones.

When users have learnt to "point-and-click" using 2D barcodes, transformation to NFC will be much easier. NFC is much more user-friendly than 2D barcode because you don't need to have an additional reader software installed and turned on. NFC is also much faster, "swiping" is usually enough for activating the session.

NFC has all the same use cases than 2D barcode plus a few more. You can pair devices, initiate proximity payments and exchange information between devices with it. Unfortunately NFC is not yet available widely but there are some different kinds of pilots around the world. Nokia is bringing their first NFC-capable phone, Nokia 6212 Classic, to the markets soon. (Yes, there is also Nokia 6131 NFC, but it hasn't hit the mass markets.)

So before NFC comes, you can play with 2D barcodes in the meantime. How would you utilise these 2D barcodes? What is the most weirdest place you've seen these?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

No more backups when updating - FOTA saves you

You've been able to update your S60 phone by yourself for a while, but the problem has been that you've first needed to backup your phone, then use Software Update and then restore your phone. This procedure has taken quite long, usually tens of minutes, if not hours.

Luckily there is a salvation near your. Just check if your phone has FOTA (Firmware Over The Air) feature. Some SonyEricssons have been having this possibility for some time, and now it has also come to Nokia phones. In Nokia phones, you can check this by entering *#0000# and choosing Options - Check for updates.

After choosing desired internet connection, (use WiFi if you need to be careful with your phone bill) download starts.

Phone suggests that you back it up before updating. I had to do this, mostly because I participated to a christening today (congrats to Juha, Njeri and Andre!) and there were some photos I didn't want to lose. After you have finished backing your phone up, you'll find update option from Device Manager.

Update process itself took something like 5-7 minutes. During this time the phone was unusable and there was a status bar showing the update status.

After the update the phone started normally and you had to enter your PIN code and lock code if you are using one.

I must say I was really positively suprised about the whole process. Everything went really smoothly and the phone had all the content that it had before the update. This way is much, much more convenient than using Software Update. I recommend you to try this out!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

MobileMonday - Crowdsourcing and ambient awareness

MobileMonday had an interesting topic: Social and Mobile. Here are some points / thoughts from Monday's event.

A company can use its customers for innovating but it doesn't need to stop there. It can use its customers in any process when creating a service / product. Two companies that were mentioned few times were Lego and Cisco. These companies have used social innovation successfully.

Most of the companies are not using social innovations because of their cultural background, not because they would be missing the tools. Companies, in spite of being big or small, should try things out more openly.

Crowdsourcing is coming / already here. The main idea is that individuals all over the world are connected and are doing small things to help someone. Few examples could be social journalism or publishing photos that others can use. The interesting part was that money is not the only motivation, but there are lots of other reasons, e.g. you get to be innovative and because it is fun.

It was also mentioned that mobile will be a really important channel in crowdsourcing, but not the only one. Mobile can be used for example initiating something and then finalizing the task in other channel / media.

Yahoo is providing a number of applications / services that help to produce ambient awareness. One example of this kind of service is OneConnect. The main idea is to aggregate needed information (e.g. phonebook and different social networks) and provide it to the user. This way user can publish content once, use multiple times. This would mean that phonebook would turn out to be proactive. You wouldn't need to call someone to ask where he was or what he was doing.

Marc Davis from Yahoo was also telling about Blueprint that should give a service provider opportunity to support multiple devices/platforms when they are developing services. He didn't go into details but mentioned that same content could be used in J2ME, S60, and different browsers.

Yahoo thinks that they can make money when users have more shared and more accurate data. This data is then being utilized for advertising. With a lots of data, advertising can be much more accurate and people are willing to pay for it.

When I was walking home from MobileMonday these things were in my mind:

  1. Social innovations would be worth trying out because that way you can get more brains working on the same issue. When the crowd grows, usually also the diversity grows and this brings good ideas and results.

  2. OneConnect seems interesting because I know that I'm not the only one who has real difficulties using multiple social networks. It would be really nice to connect my phonebook with all the relevant social information from the Web.

  3. Blueprint also sounds interesting, but will this really work? This is not the first time when I hear someone telling about "multi-channel". Usually it ends up being just a "channel".

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Nokia Comes With Music

A couple of days ago Nokia made a press release about launching the Comes With Music digital entertainment service that was announced a year ago. The bottom line of the deal is that Nokia will bring out mobile devices that can be used to listen to full music catalogs of some record companies like Universal Music Group and Sony BMG. You are entitled to download as many songs as you wish for free and after the one year contract you are still eligible to keep your downloaded material.

The concept sounds very interesting. The CD sales are continuously diminishing and at the same time sales of digital music have been doubling every year. The unpleasant truth is however that a lot of young people are used to download their music for free from P2P networks anyway. The new model offers music seemingly for free but is paid in the price of the device. It appears that Nokia and the record companies have realized that this could be the only way to attract people to actually have legally acquired music.

Like everything "free", this comes with a catch too. The service will be handicapped by DRM. You will be able to listen to your music with your Nokia device and your computer only. The content won't work in an iPod or any other device. Then again, if you actually bought a Nokia music device, why would you want to use an iPod? Also burning a CD or any tracks will require an upgrade purchase for each track. These limitations are something you probably can live with but maybe the biggest surprise comes when you want to renew your subscription. In order to regain access to music for another year you need to buy a new Nokia device.

Nokia is entering a new market a bit like Apple did a few years ago with the iPod and iTunes. Just like Apple, Nokia is having sceptical observers and a lot of critisism. However, everyone knows the success story behind iPod. It remains to be seen how well Nokia manages to market this new model.

The first setback at the launch of the service in the UK is that four big mobile operators, namely Vodafone, O2 , Orange and T-Mobile, are not planning to sell it. Nokia is likely to have to rely on the mobile phone retailer Carphone Warehouse and its own shops and website. Its still unclear how this will affect the sales as a lot of phones are being sold with operator deals in the UK. The first two phones featuring the service will be XpressMusic 5310 and N95. The first Nokia touch screen smarpthone, XpressMusic 5800, is not on the launch list since it will not go on sale until next year.

It could be useful to combine a Comes With Music enabled smartphone with Nokia Home Media. Essentially you could carry your music collection anywhere with your mobile phone and in addition be able to listen to it with your home stereo. You could just make your smartphone a media server and stream the content to your UPnP/DLNA enabled media center device like Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. Its a bit unclear if it would be possible to stream DRM protected content but I could imagine this as an attractive option if it would work.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Home Media - empty promises or useful software?

"Home Media connects you wirelessly to your home network's media files. All you need is a compatible Nokia Nseries multimedia computer, a wireless network solution and a compatible PC or a supported UPnP/DLNA media renderer or server, such as a television, home stereo system or a gaming console." (

I've read about Home Media sometime ago and to be honest my two first thoughts were a) it probably won't work, at least not easily b) luckily I don't have compatible phone.

Time went by and I got more and more curious, especially after getting a Nokia N96. So what did I do? I tried it out, of course.

Part I / Installation:
  1. Downloaded and installed SimpleCenter to MS Vista.

  2. Clicked OK couple of times until SC wanted me to register. I really wonder why this software required registering? Well, I registered which was simple task as long as you find proper username that is not taken.

  3. After installation HMS wanted to add the media from my computer. I just clicked OK-OK-...OK. Then I realized that HMS is about to add all our pictures, roughly 3000. Then everything stopped. No response, nothing at all. I had to kill the adding process and still my 2 cores are going at 100%. What about restarting the computer?

  4. After restarting the computer and double-clicking Home Media Server, it opened normally and finished adding files.

  5. I believe now it is time to connect N96 to Home Media Server. Let's try it.

  6. Found Home Media from Menu - Tools - Connectivity - Home Media and opened it.

  7. Wizard started and after 9 OKs and some other clicks (device name, accesspoint, shared content, etc.) it finished.

  8. Does everything work now? No, it seems that I need to add device to Home Media Server by choosing Devices - Add device - Refresh and choose your phone. (N96's icon was N80 but maybe I can live with it. :)
Now I can see N96's content from Home Media Server but I cannot see Vista's files from N96. Maybe Vista's firewall is blocking the requests... No it didn't, it was just taking a while. Now I can see Home Media Server's content from N96.

Part II / Using HMS:

So, what you can do with this HMS? Let's check it out.

OK, most probably everyone knows that you can transfer pictures, videos, podcasts etc. easily from your phone to your computer or vice versa. Actually this is really easy, basically just click and the magic happens. One of the problems is that when I've been using PC Suite for transferring music, PC Suite had made another copy of each song and now HMS shows all these files. Probably this could be handled in Settings or then stop converting mp3's to AAC+, there are enough space in N96.

There are some other "flaws" like that you can see your music what you are about to transfer only by song title but luckily you can see more information using your phone. With a quick look, it seems that it is easier to transfer data from a computer to your phone by using your phone, but I'll find out about this after I've been using HMS for a while.

So you can easily transfer content between your two devices and you can also use your phone as a remote control for playing music, videos, etc. on your computer.

You can also define that pictures are automatically transferred from your phone to your computer when you come home. Now you won't lose your pictures so easily.

This means bye bye PC Suite and bye bye slow bluetooth connections when transferring files/music. Well, probably these aren't final good byes because standard HMS cannot convert files, e.g. movies to phone compatible form. There are also a premium version which has more features.

HMS really stands up to the exceptations and is worth trying out. It doesn't solve every problem but makes life again little easier, especially when transferring large files or multiple files where bluetooth/cable is slow. It won't replace PC Suite for good, because with PC Suite you can handle your PIM data.

Most probably you'll see another post about HMS after I've been using it for a while.

Quick thoughts about mobile marketing

You might have seen this talked quite widely:

“Timberland pays $7m to settle SMS spam lawsuit
Outdoor gear firm Timberland has agreed to pay $7m to settle a text message spam class-action lawsuit in the US.”
(via The Register)

Of course it is really important not to use SMSs for spamming because people are usually quite cautious when it comes to SMS marketing. You don’t want to spoil good opportunities by spamming.

The reason why this article came to my mind is that I received marketing SMS from a Finnish IT training house. I believe I have given my number to them because I’ve taken a course or two in their premises. The thing that “hurt” me was that they were advertising mobile stuff and there was also a link. The link took to normal web page which size was over 1.2 MB.

What’s the point? If you are advertising mobile stuff using SMSs, you should also make sure you are directing the reader to mobile compatible page. Remember also not to copy existing techniques. What works in Internet, it might not work in mobile environment.

Rapid GUI prototyping with Python and Qt

I have recently worked with Qt which is a cross-platform application framework. Applications and user interfaces created with Qt can be deployed on many desktop and embedded environments without the need to rewrite the source code.

Qt is most notably used in KDE (K Desktop Environment) which has been built on top of it. Qt is also used in such applications as Skype, Google Earth and Photoshop Elements. What makes Qt even more interesting for the embedded devices is that Nokia acquired Trolltech, the company behind Qt, at the beginning of 2008. But that is a whole another story.

I have also had a look at Python. Python is a high-level, interpreted, object-oriented programming language. Actually it supports imperative and functional paradigms as well but I wanted to mention object-oriented specifically. I was amazed at how easy it was to learn Python when you already know languages like C++ or Java.

Python is suitable for rapid application development because it has rapid spelled all over it:
  • very readable and simple core syntax
  • large and comprehensive standard library
  • fully dynamic type system
  • automatic memory management with garbage collection

"Great," you think, "that's all nice and dandy but what is it all good for?"

Here is where Python bindings for Qt come in. PyQt exposes much of the functionality of Qt to Python. It is also possible to generate Python code from GUI designs created with Qt Designer. This makes PyQt very useful as a rapid prototyping tool for applications that will eventually be implemented in C++ because the user interface designs can be re-used without modification. With Python you can setup your application within a minute. You also avoid the need to re-compile after each change you have made since Python is interpreted.

The best part about using PyQt and Qt Designer together is that you don't necessarily have to be a programmer to test these things out. You can create your GUI design in Qt Designer, convert your work into a Python script and just run it. It happens too often that the "prototype" ends up being the basis for the actual application. Breaking the GUI design further away from the actual implementation makes it easier to discard those prototypes.