Saturday, February 5, 2011

"My Blackberry Is Not Working!"

Does your Blackberry freeze sometimes? Does your Apple need to be booted? This hilarious video might be for you!

"My Blackberry Is Not Working! - The One Ronnie, Preview - BBC One"
Watch "My Blackberry Is Not Working!" - The One Ronnie, Preview - BBC One" on YouTube

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mick Jagger, Businessman

Sometimes we forget that music, like anything else, is a business. Few people understand this as well as Mick Jagger. I can't say I'm a huge fan of his music (I like it but it's not at the top of my list) but I think he's got his head squarely on his shoulders in terms of the way he runs his business.

From the New York Times:
"Mick Without Moss" by Zoe Heller

I love this quote: "When he is on the road, he has been known to keep a map in his dressing room, indicating the city at which the tour will go into profit."

I also found this comment interesting. While some people lament the fact that online music sales and illegal music downloads cut into the profitability of a band, Jagger points out that, "There was a window in the 120 years of the record business where performers made loads and loads of money out of records. But it was a very small window — say, 15 years between 1975 and 1990." Jagger realizes that touring is where the money is and focuses his efforts accordingly.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Angry Birds and Facebook

Okay, by now everyone knows what Angry Birds is, right? But have you seen what they (and the pigs) have been posting on Facebook lately?

From Gamebook:
"5 Angry Birds Status Updates"

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

You've all heard of Bing by now, and how they are challenging Google Search. Did you ever wonder HOW they are trying to do that? Well, today we found out. They're cheating.

From Search Engine Land:
"Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results" by Danny Sullivan

Long story short: Microsoft Internet Explorer reports the results of Google searches back to Microsoft, and sometimes Bing uses those results as its own. Really.

From the article: "Google has run a sting operation that it says proves Bing has been watching what people search for on Google, the sites they select from Google’s results, then uses that information to improve Bing’s own search listings. Bing doesn’t deny this."

Here is one example, where Google generated a fabricated result from a random text string.

And the same search on Bing.  Isn't that funny, an exact match for the search result!

Sullivan has this opinion: "When Bing launched in 2009, the joke was that Bing stood for either 'Because It’s Not Google' or 'But It’s Not Google.' Mining Google’s searches makes me wonder if the joke should change to 'Bing Is Now Google.' I think Bing should develop its own search voice without using Google’s as a tuning fork."

Here is Google's description of the situation and what they did to prove that Microsoft was copying them. From The Official Google Blog:
"Microsoft’s Bing uses Google search results—and denies it"

Here's Microsoft's response. Try to keep from laughing out loud. If you can. From the Bing Search Blog:
"Thoughts on search quality"

"We use over 1,000 different signals and features in our ranking algorithm. A small piece of that is clickstream data we get from some of our customers, who opt-in to sharing anonymous data as they navigate the web in order to help us improve the experience for all users."

"It [the sting operation] was a creative tactic by a competitor, and we’ll take it as a back-handed compliment."
Okay, dudes. If you say so.

"From its inception, we have had what we believe is a distinct approach to search, and the features and innovation in Bing..."
Uh-huh. By copying Google. That's a distinct approach?

Finally, it appears that Microsoft has been doing this for years. From Business Insider:
"Yes, Bing Has Been Copying Google Search Results FOR YEARS" by Matt Rosoff

Oh, one more link, just because it has a cool graphic. From Downloadsquad:
"Bing caught copying search results from Google" by Sebastian Anthony

Colbert weighed in on this issue. Take a look at this. From the Colbert Report:
"Bing Gets Served"

Yes, Egypt, you can tweet

I love stuff like this. You realize, of course, that Egypt has cut off all Internet access. So how can people get the news out to the rest of the world? (Isn't that amazing, how quickly we take tweets and the like for granted???) So to get around this, some Google engineers put Speak2Tweet together. See the announcement on the official Google blog:

"Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service—the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection."

"We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to"

How's that for a weekend project? Again, stuff like this makes me proud to work for Google.

Don't forget to check the Google Transparency Report, by the way. This is a way to track Google activity around the world, and to see which countries are blocking Google at any point in time.

Notice that Egypt has been blocking Google for a few days now, since January 27th:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Android Keyboards

One of the best things about Android phones is that you can use alternate keyboards. The Android API allows app writers to create custom keyboards that improve on the stock keyboard. Some are quite innovative.

My goal with this post is not to advocate one keyboard over another, although I have my favorites. Rather, I want to show that an open platform like Android allows phone vendors and app writers to experiment with other input methods, and this rapidly improves the text input experience. Many people, myself included, have a problem tapping on a tiny software keyboard. There is a reason people love the Blackberry keyboard, and stick with it. But with these aftermarket alternatives, I can honestly say that I don't miss my old Blackberry.

Even if you don't choose an aftermarket keyboard, the stock Android keyboard has improved quite a bit from the early days. In fact, the first releases of Android, if you go back that far, did not even have a software keyboard. Yes, it seems like forever ago, but it was actually just a tad over two years ago.

I happen to be a big believer in Swype. This is a superior input method, in my opinion, where you slide your finger from letter to letter without lifting it up from the keyboard. Easier to use when holding a phone with one hand, and faster than tapping, too. I specifically limited my choices for my work cell phone to phones that had Swype pre-installed.

I am trying FlexT9 at the moment on one of my phones. I really like it. It seems to recognize words while tracing better than Swype does, and it doesn't suffer (as much) from Swype's main infuriating problems:
1. Swype insists NOT allowing making the actual letters you trace the default word choice (particularly bad when it inserts crap like "2moro" when you just wanted to type "2.")
2. Swype constantly adds misspelled words to your dictionary so you're likely to make more mistakes over time.

FlexT9 also adds very solid voice input (I haven't compared against Google's voice input, but others seem to think that it is as good or better) AND handwritten letter inputs, which is very handy in some situations. Very flexible.

Some feel that FlexT9 is better than Swype. From Internet2go:
"Nuance's FlexT9: Most Complete Android Keyboard Replacement" by Greg Sterling

"Best known for speech solutions, Nuance has introduced 'FlexT9.' It's an Android replacement keyboard that offers four diverse methods to input text: speech, 'trace,' write and 'tap' text prediction. The app costs $4.99 but is well worth the money. I've been using it for the past two weeks and find that it's highly accurate and provides more flexibility -- hence the name -- than other, competing keyboards.

"A novel feature of T9 is the capacity to draw letters or symbols directly on the touchscreen."

"The built-in Android keyboard is considerably weaker than these replacements and one of the major weaknesses of the user experience (vs. the iPhone for example). Going back to the native keyboard after using T9 (or SwiftKey, Swype) feels like a step backward. But replacing the keyboard dramatically improves the Android handset experience."

Swiftkey is another aftermarket keyboard, which is praised in the above article as better than FlexT9 at predictive capability when "tapping" input. I've not used it because I'm sold on the "trace" method of text input but I have heard others praise it.

How many of you had Palm Pilots back in the day? Remember the "Graffiti" text input that you used with those? If you do, you'll be happy to hear that there is a Graffiti app available for Android. You can use that method of input if you like!

Keypurr is a keyboard that is fairly conventional but uses some tricks to make the keys as large as possible. Keyboard layout is somewhat standard (letters are in the normal QWERTY keyboard layout) but some letters and symbols are combined on the same key. The software figures out which letter you wanted automatically based on subsequent letters you type and the possible words that develop. Or you can "flick" your finger in the direction of the raised letters to choose something other than the main letter for a given key.

Finally, there are text input methods that are really ... different. The promise of methods like this is that they will be easier to use once you figure them out and really memorize them. Once you do, you'll be able to compose messages without looking at your keyboard at all. These methods are called MessageEase and 8pen.

Of the two I think 8pen has more promise, but I admit that I haven't gotten comfortable with it yet. I'm just happy to see that Android is where the innovation is taking place. I look forward to the schemes people come up with in the future.



Any other keyboards that I need to try? Let me know, I'm sure I've missed some.

Quote of the Day: Kennedy on revolution

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - John F. Kennedy, in a speech at the White House, 1962

This quote seems particularly apropos given recent events in Egypt.