Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Flappy Bird on the ZX81 #

Bob’s Stuff has a rather interesting release:

Everybody seems to be going crazy over Flappy Bird at the moment, and a lot of clones have instantly appeared on the market – so why not one for the ZX81?

Written in an afternoon to captialise on the media frenzy, it’s got all the gameplay of the original, but none of the in-app adverts which have been making the author so much money recently – but you can always use the Donate button on the home and download pages to make me rich!

Looking at the screenshots, I suspect that only really rich ZX81 users with the 16 KB RAM Pack will be able to play this…

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

The board game with economic theory, land development, and cute little buildings #

The New Yorker profiles Klaus Teuber, the man behind Settlers of Catan:

Teuber himself is more sanguine. “I do not see that Catan will kill Monopoly,” he said. “But I hope that Catan will become a permanent classic game beside Monopoly.” In Catan, one player’s success can benefit others, and if you simply form a monopoly on one resource you’ll never win, since you have to have a combination of different elements to get anywhere on the island.

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Hastags for Dinner? #

Birds Eye go all Web 2.0 with Mashtags, the new potato shapes for your dinner. Featuring the ‘@’ symbol, the  ’hashtag’ marker, two different smiley faces, and… an ‘asterisk’

I think they were struggling to reach the quota of five cookable web symbols.

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Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Jolla open sources the Sailfish OS browser #

I continue to be impressed by the commitment that Jolla is making to the Sailfish OS platform and hardware. That continues this week with the open sourcing of their web browser application:

By now it’s a widely known fact that the browser is based on the Gecko engine which is developed by Mozilla corp. and is used in their Firefox browser and Firefox OS. For some reason it’s not that known that the Sailfish browser is built upon the EmbedLite embedding API (also known as IPCLiteAPI) for Gecko.

This embedding API started as a research project in Nokia by Oleg Romashin and Andrey Petrov at the times when Nokia was still developing the Maemo platform. Currently the project is maintained by Tatiana Meshkova.

It would help us a lot if the API made its way to the main Gecko repository and became a part of the engine.

I’ve moved one of my regular SIM cards into the Jolla handset I picked up before Christmas. It;s still a rough OS with quite a few things that need to be done just as the designer intended, but it’s competent, and I’ve kinda missed the buzz that I used to get when carrying the early Psion PDA’s that felt the start of something new.

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Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Keylogging Android by design #

Samsung are working on a service that allows application ‘a’ to receive the keystrokes from application ‘b’, ‘c’, ‘d’, etc (reports The Verge) so that application ‘a’ can be more contextually aware and deliver better search results and improved experiences. Automatically.

I can’t see an issue with that at all. I’m sure everyone will be more than happy that Android will allow data to flow to apps, to servers outside of the handset, and be analysed and recorded, with nothing more than a security pop up at install. Nobody would ever leverage that for evil…

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Flappy Bird disappears, but Google’s mobile advertising inventory will grow #

Now that everyone on the planet knows that Flappy Bird was earning the author $50,000 a day (that’s set in stone, no matter what the numbers say), every developer is going to try and replicate that success. Not the big boys, but the bedroom coders and the hobbyists will think that ‘the next title’ will be the one to make it big.

And they’ll carry on churning out countless ad-supported games that bring in maybe $100 in total for a ridiculously low per hour rate for the developer.

In the meantime , Google slices a significant percentage off the top of every single banner space. For them it’s not a $100 game, it’s an aggregation game for ad inventory on mobile. The next million or seven will be distributed around millions of developers, while Google reaps the rewards of a ‘success myth’ that sound remarkably like the old ‘record label / new talent’ days.

Coding really is the new Rock and Roll.

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Another commentator notes the ‘Normandy’ name and the hidden message to Microsoft from Nokia #

Charles Arthur at The Guardian pitches an interesting idea to Microsoft’s new CEO. Drop Windows Phone and fork Android.

Windows Phone was a wonderful project, but it was too late; the benefits of integration across handset, tablet and desktop simply haven’t appeared. The vast majority of people who use a desktop PC don’t use a Windows smartphone, and there’s no chance of that changing any time soon – or ever, actually.

AOSP offers Microsoft the chance to remake its mobile strategy so that it exploits all the strengths of its most bitter rival – it’s free, widely available – and grab mobile developer interest. An all-out war between Microsoft and Google using the Android platform would be absolutely fascinating; both would be pressed on their strengths and weaknesses. For Microsoft, presently a distant third in this race, it could be the answer it needs.

Sounds remarkably like one of my editorials last month at Forbes, arguing that Nokia’s leaked Normandy handset running a variant of the Android Open Source Project, should be seen to completion by Microsoft and tie in with the Windows Live account and cloud services.

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Will ‘The Black Angel’ unlock my holiday to Guernsey? #

Going to see ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ is one of my earliest memories of the cinema. While it is a touch hazy (I was five and a half) I know it was during a family holiday to Guernsey, and we all went in the afternoon. Afterwards, I got a colour changing lightsaber that could be blue, white, or red.

Which makes the discovery of ‘Black Angel’, the 25 minute B-feature that preceeded ‘Empire’ all the more intriguing. There’s every chance that this was screened before ‘Empire’ on the Channel Islands, which means it’s somewhere in my head. And it’s coming to the Edinburgh Filmhouse this year.

Part of me really hopes that half-way through the screening, my memory kicks in both about the film, but about more memories from that holiday. It’s the only holiday I had where my Grandad Beggs came with us, and I would love to have even a few more brief moments.

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

What does it take to build a smartphone in Russia? #

My interview with Vlad Martynov, CEO of Yota Devices – the company behind the smartphone with a regular screen on one side and an eInk display on the reverse – is up on Forbes:

“We asked ourselves what we liked and didn’t like with our current smartphones. While we loved the way it made us more productive and connected, there was one fundamental thing we all determined we didn’t like. Most of the time, the display is sleeping. It’s just a black box. While it’s sleeping, it’s useless. It has no value.

“So, we asked ourselves how to solve it. Interestingly enough, the solution was on the surface. I’m, of course, talking about battery-saving electronic paper displays. Technology that already existed and is used in e-readers. So where do we place it? Again the answer was right in front of our eyes. Or actually on the back of our smartphones — a surface that had no practical use until today. The backside of the smartphone is a dead space. We decided to give it life.”

“We turned this useless space into an always-on display.”

You can read the full interview here.

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Reviewing the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact #

Let’s put aside the point that a 4.3 inch screen is not a ‘small’ smartphone in the history of the smartphone, because Sony have actually done something I’ve been looking for in the last few years – a ‘small’ smartphone that has the same specs as the larger handsets. With a 2.2 GHz Quad core Snapdragon 800, 2GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, microSD, and a 4.3 inch TFT IPS screen, the Xperia Z1 Compact is a little bit of a pocket rocket.

Sony has supplied me with a review handset ahead of its general availability.

Sony’s research shows consumers asking for a powerful phone in a smaller size. I will be very interested to see if the demand seen in the survey matches the demand in stores and through online channels. I hope it does, because I am in the group that prefers the smaller form factor, and I want to see more options and competition.

But if I was recommending the Xperia Z1 Compact, I would not be focusing on just the size. The battery life on the Z1 Compact is immense for such a capable Android device. The smaller and more efficient screen, the extra volume allowing for more capacity than other ‘mini’ devices, and Sony’s aggressive yet functional battery software have created an Android device that can run smartly all day without having to worry if you’ll make it back home to your charger. This is one of the best performing Android devices for battery life of this generation of smartphones.

The full review is posted on Forbes.

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

On reaching 250 Eurovision podcasts #

This week I published my 250th podcast on The Eurovision Song Contest.

Given the show is a ‘weekly’ (with some notable exceptions during the year, such as the twice daily schedule in the few days before the Contest), 250 is as good a milestone as any to take note and remember where the podcast has taken me.

The first audio tracks I recorded for Eurovision were from Moscow and the 2009 Contest – those downloads were three ‘alternative ‘commentary’ track so you could watch the show along with me. It was during the run up to Norway in 2010 that the podcasts started ‘for real’ (mostly because they had their own RSS feed) to deliver news updates, analysis, and round-table discussions.

After the 2010 Contest burned through far too much bandwidth on this site, I realised that a dedicated home was needed and ESC Insight was born. Since then, the Eurovision Song Contest has been really good to me personally and professionally. I have friends all over Europe and beyond. I’ve learned many new skills, broadcast documentaries and music shows on terrestrial radio, appeared on the BBC World Service, countless local radio stations, and vox-pops from around the world. I found a practical use for my puppetry skills. I’ve even been an ‘official’ Eurovision Commentator at Junior Eurovision last November.

Most of all, I’ve made more people smile in the world through the coverage I’ve helped create.

But the podcast is where it started, and it’s the podcast that everything else spins out of. So I’m really pleased to reach two hundred and fifty of them. And I hope you have enjoyed listening and participating with me. Right now I’m in Helsinki, ready to take the audio/video kit out to the Barona Arena to watch Finnish television choose their singer for Eurovision 2014. I’ll tell you all about it next week on the podcast…

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Thursday, January 30th, 2014

The Amazon Review Doctor Is Starting #

Gotta love Amazon. They put the Doctor Who Season 8 DVD up for pre-order while Peter Capaldi’s first season is still being filmed) to grab the orders and lock them in. And everyone starts to review the DVD that isn’t yet available:

Personally, I think that a lot of the excitement about this series is motivated by nostalgia, but I must admit it’s one of the best out of the second 50 years of Doctor Who history… Although the decision to replace Jenna-Louise Coleman mid-season with David Tennant playing the same role is still regarded as highly controversial, his performance is spot-on and it’s great that such a talented actor got a second chance at playing an actual good role in the programme he loved so much… but I don’t want to say too much! All in all, a wonderful ride you definitely need to see.

As of this post, 27 reviews, 22 five star, 4 four star, and 1 one star.

Friday, January 24th, 2014

iFixit and Cult of Mac win the ‘thirtieth anniversary blog post’ award #

iFixit tear down equipment to see how repairable they are. Cult of Mac are good friends. So the latter shipped the former an original Macintosh 128K to see what they would do with it. As CNN would say, the results will amuse you.

Join us as we live the time-traveler’s dream—the deep, lucid, Orwellian vision of hope, fear, and nostalgia that is 1984. Just in time for its 30th anniversary, we laid hands on an ’84 original: the Macintosh 128K. And, you guessed it—we’re tearing it down like it’s the Berlin Wall.

Today’s blast from the past is brought to you with some awesome help from Cult of Mac and The Vintage Mac Museum. Cult of Mac will have us note that no vintage Macinti were harmed in the making of this guide. Our 128K had already passed beyond the veil before its noble sacrifice.

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

“Sure as day follows night, sure as eggs is eggs, sure as every even-numbered Windows release is rubbish” #

Some time ago I pointed out that Windows 7 would be a ‘good’ release of Windows compared to the ‘poor’ versions that the OS seems to alternate through (Windows 98, Me, XP, Vista, 7). It’s a bit like the ‘odd numbered Star Trek movies are rubbish’ rule of thumb. What happens when you extend the pattern to the major branding today? XP good, Vista poor, 7 good, 8 poor, 9 good?

Is it any wonder that Microsoft are as keen as possible to get to the next major version of Windows, even if it just a significant iteration on Windows 8? Half the battle will be won simply by the tech press saying “it’s an odd-numbered release, it’ll be fine.’

Meanwhile HP’s big selling point for January is that devices ship with Windows 7 ‘back by popular demand.’

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Now King have trademarked ‘Candy’ in respect to gaming titles, can we expect freemium licensing? #

The good news is that they will likely licence it out, but you can only use it to compile five games every six hours, and if you want to distribute it in the app stores around the mobile world you’ll need to purchase a one-time ‘upload’ super candy.