Archive for the ‘computers’ Category

Yesterday evening SwiftKey released a major update that adds new functionality giving more control of the keyboard layout to the user.  This functionality had been in beta for a little while which I decided not to join (the first beta run by them that I haven’t joined since the first one way back in 2010) because the new functionality is not something I would use.  I assumed that the addition of this new functionality would have no impact on my life.  I was wrong.

SwiftKey got a number of things wrong with this update because their basic assumptions were wrong.

  • They assumed that everyone changed the settings in the keyboard by using the shortcut on the keyboard and not via the app or the Android settings – wrong.
  • They assumed that everyone knew about the shortcut on the keyboard – wrong.
  • They assumed people would be OK to find that if they had modified the layout – within the constraints of what had been allowed in the previous version – that it would be OK to return some settings to default – wrong.

First of all I have never changed the layout of my keyboard since I set it up.  I have had no desire to and I can’t really understand why anyone would want to – a variable layout on a keyboard strikes me, personally, as very counter productive.  The few times I have wanted to tweak a setting (usually it’s the duration of the long press, to update the language packs, or to set up a new device) I have entered either through the app or the Android input settings – never through a keyboard shortcut that I didn’t even realize existed.  This is all from my own, personal, experience using mobile input devices including the iOS keyboard, the built in keyboards on multiple Android devices, Swype, SwiftKey and others.

SwiftKey with this one change ruined my user experience to the point where I will be looking at alternate keyboard solutions for both my devices.  And this could have been avoided simply by leaving access to the layout settings where they had been while adding access to the new feature.  It wouldn’t have required a lot more work and they would end up with fewer frustrated customers. What frustrated me even more was that I had to hunt through the FAQs on their site since this feature is not mentioned on the landing page.

SwiftKey has lost a customer who, up until now, was extremely happy and has often recommended their app.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’m not the only person dissatisfied with this update who goes to look for a new solution.  And all because of a few invalid assumptions.

Nobody talks of “fragmentation” in the windows world. No one talks about “fragmentation” in the Mac world. Yet for some reason no one talking about mobile neglects to talk about “fragmentation” in Android.

Yes there are multiple versions of the OS out there and running on handsets, so what? There are still people – albeit a very small fraction of total users – running Windows 98 or ME. There are still people that run Tiger or Panther or even older versions of MacOS, so what? They run this because that’s what works on the hardware that they have or they need an app that won’t work on a more modern version or because they just don’t want to upgrade.

Developers programming for a desktop (and by desktop I mean, non-mobile) environment are used to dealing with multiple screen resolutions, different OS versions and all the other issues that can arise because of the choices that users make. People who develop for Linux have even more issues – there are so many variations of Linux out there that there are bound to be issues because you wrote and tested your application on Ubuntu but not on Red Hat. This is a part of the development world.

Just because Apple in its infinite wisdom has decided to create a closed system in the mobile space where only certain screen resolutions are supported and everything is very neat and tidy doesn’t mean that this is the best thing for users – or for developers. The truth of the matter is that people like being able to choose what’s best for them. The Apple system is fine – it gives a good uniform user experience and makes life a little bit easier for developers because they know exactly what they are going to be seeing on the handset. With that, it’s not right for everyone.

Android – with all of its issues – gives the user the choice of how s/he wants the phone to look and behave. The control of exactly what OS version is running. The choice of a bigger screen or a higher resolution. Yes developers have to work a little bit harder to take these things into account and yes this can lead to having an app that doesn’t work on one phone or another. Most developers, when they run into a phone specific issue go out and fix them – and usually pretty quickly.

Android is not a fragmented system. Nor is MacOS, Windows or Linux. each offers different options and capabilities to users and developers. Enough already with the F-word. Start calling it what it is – choice for developers. Choice for handset manufacturers. Most importantly, it’s choice for users.

Steve Jobs as Willy Wonka telling us what we all know – there ain’t nothing special about Apple…

I went to the iDigital store today to get my iPod touch repaired.  I’ve had it about 7 months, most of the time it has spent in my pocket, in my hand, or next to the computer recharging.  For some reason, the seal on the screen was not made properly and some shmutz got under the glass (take a look at the picture to see what I’m getting at) and when I took it in to the genius bar I was told this is “unreasonable use”.  I’ve had experiences with the Apple stores in the US and I have friends who have had experience both here in Israel and in the US.  I gotta tell you – it’s not the same.  I don’t know whether the fault lies with Apple for giving so much latitude to its own employees or for not giving enough latitude to franchisees.  I am reasonably certain that, were I to have gone into a US Apple store, my iPod would have been replaced on the spot.  Here in Israel I’m told that I used it improperly and I can purchase a replacement – or have them send it to Apple who can make a final determination.  Apple got to where it is because of the high level of customer support and service that it gives to it’s customers.  There is no other major reason to pay such a high premium for Apple products over comparable equipment made by competitors – whether in the computer or consumer electronics fields – other than the support.  This is making me thing that the answer to the poll question I posted the other day might actually be – get a Dell.

 

I’m debating which one I want – not that I’m necessarily gonna get either but… For general use (browsing, mail, web games, twitter) and maybe some light photo editing and video playback – which is more worth the money, the 11″ MacBook Air at $999 or the 13″ MacBook Pro for $1200?  Answer the poll and, please, tell me why with a comment.  Inquiring mind wants to know.

Download SMS Location

Download SMS Location

I just want to thank everyone who downloaded SMS Location – it’s passed the 500 download mark!  Now lets push it up past the 1,000 mark.  If you haven’t tried it yet you can get it at https://market.android.com/details?id=com.brassnet.smslocation or by scanning the QR code.

Just 4 more people need to download SMS Location to pass the next milestone and push it to 500-100 downloads!  If you haven’t downloaded it, try it!  If you have, rate it!  Thanks!

Wake Up Google

Posted: March 5, 2011 in computers
Tags: , , ,

 

While I know and appreciate that there are certain apps for Android that should only be released in certain countries, I find it hard to believe that Google feels that it’s own basic apps should be among them. As someone who lives in Israel, an app that helps me find the best pizza in New York does not appeal to me. A current version of Google Maps, GMail and the other Google apps for Android most certainly does.

On a recent trip to the US I was pleasantly surprised to see almost all of the Google apps on my phone that I couldn’t update at home – I think there were four – update almost as soon as I got off the plane.   While I’m not complaining about the update, I will say that it doesn’t make sense.  I’m using the same Google account (the same one in fact that on the Web based market shows “no device found”) and the same phone but because I landed in the US and was there for 15 minutes, now I had full access to these apps.

Dear Google – I am and Android early adopter.  I live on the bleeding edge.  I try everything I can for my Nexus One.  Don’t make me wait until I go abroad to be able to get the updates I want!  Please – be kind to the Android lovers around the world.  Don’t limit app availability for the basic Google Mobile apps and exclude us.

 

Well, I’ve had Gingerbread (Android 2.3.3 for those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about) on my Nexus One for the better part of a week now and I have to say that, overall, I’m very happy!  I’ve found it to be smoother, faster and less draining on my battery.  Here’s the breakdown.

The Good

It seems that the issue of it dropping off WPA encrypted WiFi access points was a bug that they resolved since I’m no longer seeing it.  It was extremely annoying to pick the phone up in the morning and see that it had dropped off the network – but that hasn’t happened even once since I installed the update.

The new notification bar did take a bit of getting used to – and I’m still not sure what it means when the connection icon is green or grey.  I like the smaller icons – I’m seeing the “more notifications” icon much less.

The battery life has improved to the point where I don’t think that on a normal day in the office I’ll need to plug it in at all.  I unplugged it this morning at 7:30 and 9 hours later I’m still at 77% with push mail, TweetDeck and a few other things running consistently in the background.

I have not seen any software broken by this update – that doesn’t mean there isn’t any, I just haven’t seen it yet.  The only thing that was “bent” was the launcher app I use – Launcher Pro (highly recommended) – was having problems with one setting on the app drawer – changed the setting and it was great.  In addition, my control widgets (by Widgetsoid) are now working much better.

The phone is running much smoother and – as of yet – I haven’t had the unlock screen freeze on me even once (when it would happen multiple times in the average day running FroYo).  Apps seem to run faster and, over all I find it to be much more responsive.

The Bad

I’ll be honest, I don’t have much to put here.  I have some features that I’d like to see Google put in but nothing major.  The only problem I really have has nothing to do with Gingerbread but with Google in general.  I understand that there are some apps that Google feels are necessary to put on the phone and that we can’t get rid of them, however I don’t think Twitter and Facebook should be among them.  The other thing is we should be able to mark these apps as never update in the market – I don’t want to waste storage on my phone (the only real drawback I’ve found on the hardware side) and I can’t get rid of them and every day I get an “updates available” notification for one of them.

The Wrap-up

As I said, I think this is a great version – if I wanted to I’m sure I could (and probably will in the future) find some nits to pick but I am very happy.  Good job Google and next time – give us the freedom to delete Twitter and Facebook!

I just want to give some advice to webmasters everywhere.

1. Not everyone uses Internet Explorer – check to make your site works with other browsers as well.  It’s very annoying to have to switch browsers to use your site – and unless there’s a real reason to use it, I probably won’t.

2. Flash doesn’t work on mobile devices – I can understand that you don’t want to have a special “mobile” website, but remember that in this day and age a lot of surfing is done from mobile devices.  Especially if your site is for a place that people might want to go to like a restaurant or a store, make sure there is a way to have your address and phone number accessible.

3. Google and other search engines only look at text – if you have a Flash only site, it’s not going to do well in search engines and you’ll end up spending a fortune to some SEO person to tell you this.

Thank you.