From time to time I like to runs polls on this site to gauge opinion about technical issues and to help me pick topics to write about that are going to be of interest to readers. One of the most interesting polls has just closed with two hundred votes cast. The question asked was “Which tablet do you own or are you wanting to buy?”. Obviously there are some restrictions to how seriously this poll should be taken, but I am hoping that the number of participants in the poll is big enough to give some meaningful data on the tablet battles. So the results are in and they are surprising – who are the winners and losers?
Recently my evenings seem to have been disappearing in the blink of an eye. It is funny that when you get really into a bit of computer programming time can seem to disappear quite quickly. It can be quite a fun and mentally challenging way to spend time, not to mention absorbing. So I am hoping the project I am working on will enable more people to join that fun by writing small programs on their tablets. I am working on a version of the Scripting Layer for Android ("SL4A" – which used to be known as the Android Scripting Environment) and adapting it for tablets, especially the EEE Pad Transformer. The aim is to make the package work well on tablets and to adjust the user interface to make the most of the screen and new features such as the Action Bar.
I read quite a lot of web pages on my Android tablet and it is useful to be able to save them to my Delicious account so that I can look at them again later. On desktop browsers it is possible to save items using a small bookmarklet that lives on a menu bar in the browser. This very handily gets the title and address of the current page and prepopulates the fields on the Delicious save form, it also shows suggested tags. Sadly on the tablet it is not possible to use bookmarklets* in the same way and the apps I found that shared to Delicious used the mobile version of the save page. So I went about converting the bookmarklet into a small app that would hook into Android's Share functionality. The app could easily be repurposed to use in the place of other bookmarklets too, so here is an explanation of how it works.
Summer is an odd time. With no ice hockey matches to attend our thoughts turn to other subjects, such as why does RefSignals sometimes repeat questions? I've been asked a few times about how to stop it doing this, so here is a solution. RefSignals is an Android app built with Google App Inventor for Android that quizzes you on the signals made by referees during ice hockey matches. In February I wrote about this app and published the source code so that people could take it and use it as the basis for their own quiz apps. The response was great and the app has been remixed for all sorts of subjects so I hope this will come in useful.
It is strange to think that it was only 2007 when the first Asus EEE PC came onto the market. This fun little machine turned heads and would often be the subject of curious questions. I think it was also a bit of a game changer, opening a world of ultra mobile computing to a whole new audience. It is also ancient ancestor of the Eee Pad Transformer. I've had mine for just over a week and have sometimes used it as a tablet, sometimes as a netbook depending how I'm feeling. It is feature packed and runs on Android 3.1 (since a recent update), Google's optimised operating system for tablets. There is also a possibility that a lot of people might find it is the only machine they need.
The HTC Desire seems a popular phone, I keep noticing it where ever I go. I've had one for nearly a year now and am very happy with it, apart from a few gripes, so it was interesting to receive a HTC Desire S on review to see what has changed in the new model. Unlike the Desire Z and Desire HD which offered different hardware options (a keyboard and a bigger screen respectively), the Desire S is designed as a successor to the original. It is about the same size and has the same 3.7” 800x480 resolution screen, but a lot about the phone has changed, and it has picked up a few new features..
Crossing the road towards the venue I was looking for I stopped at stared at the building in the distance. It was looking rather sorry for itself, broken windows, graffiti and a tired concrete look. Outside, a woman in a grey boiler suit directed me to the press/guest list queue. This rather odd venue is the “Old Sorting Office” in the heart of London and the location of Thursday's (March 31st) launch of Sony Ericsson’s much anticipated “Playstation phone” officially named the Xperia Play. Inside was a party venue that was a complete contrast to the outside of the building, a location inspired by computer games and the sights of the far east. It might have been a sorting office once, but for that day only it was the "Xperia Play Rooms". This was going to be an interesting evening.
*** Update! See: RefSignals: A quiz app built using App Inventor - how to stop repeated questions for an improved version of this app! ***
I've been going on quite a lot about Google's App Inventor for Android to anybody who will listen recently. An example application I show them is one I built as a result of a conversation I had with my friend Georgina Parsons while we were sat in an ice rink in Gothenburg, Sweden watching a great match between the Frölunda Indians (the local team) and HV71. Ice hockey is a shared interest of ours but normally we attend matches in England so following proceedings in Swedish could be tricky. Fortunately the referees have a series of standard signals they make to indicate which penalties they are calling and our conversation turned to how it would be great to have a mobile app to help us learn those signals.
Many organisations are offering rich Linked Data stores now that you can interrogate with the SPARQL language. This data might be interesting for the mobile app developer to work with so it would be great to be able to experiment with this data in Google App Inventor for Android applications. At the moment you cannot do this directly as App Inventor only offers quite limited functionality to interact with the web, however with the help of a server side "bridging script" we can close that divide and send a SPARQL query from inside the application and deal with the results we get back.