Back in April I attended the launch of the Sony Xperia PLAY, the first Playstation Certified phone. At the event I got a bit of chance to have a quick go on the mobile, but now I have been able to explore it further thanks to being able to try out a review unit for two weeks. It is a rather unusual device, a smartphone running Android 2.3 with a crisp high resolution display with a slide out joypad that transforms the device into a mobile gaming experience – one that is both fun but maybe a little unpolished in places. This is a phone that will keep you entertained while dealing with some of the user interface frustrations that sometimes crop up in mobile gaming.
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.
In a recent poll on this site I asked "Do you have, or are you planning to learn, any skills related to Linked Data?". Interestingly 60% of respondents (there were 101 votes) said yes, so I thought I should finally get round to writing up a demonstration app that uses Linked Data to provide the information and jQuery Mobile to provide the looks (and more) for a mobile podcast by subject explorer. The site is written using PHP and was developed quite quickly. Again I will be using the Open University's Linked Data store, but the site could easily be adapted to use other stores, maybe even more than one store. Thanks to the use of jQuery Mobile it would even be possible to take the site and embed it in a thin app on the phone to make it look a bit like a native app. Of course the site is a bit rough and ready and I am sure there are thousands of ways to improve it, so experiment and let me know how you get on in the comments.
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.
Just a very quick post about how to get the Asus EEE Pad Transformer working with the Android SDK and Eclipse under Ubuntu 11.04. As the emulator for Android tablets can be a bit slow this could be a handy way to test out applications as you build them. The starting point is to follow the instructions under Using Hardware Devices page on the Android Developer website. Following these instructions I got the machine working on my machine so I thought I would share what I did here.
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The Asus Eee Pad Transformer might occasionally closely resemble a netbook, but in fact it is a very different machine that has a lot in common with mobile phones. The inclusion of a touchscreen, cameras and sensors such as GPS and a compass contribute to some interesting possibilities. The attitude towards software is different too, like a mobile its software ecosystem revolves around “apps” not “applications” so these are programmes designed to do one or two things well rather than providing a lot of functionality. With this in mind I thought it would be fun to compile a list of interesting apps (in no particular order) – software that shows off various aspects of the device (and similar devices) and some of the emerging ideas for functionality.
If you would like to take your first steps in mobile app development then a book worth a look is App Inventor for Android by Jason Tyler. It is aimed at people starting out in programming and those who want to know how to get the most out of Google's innovative app creation platform of the same name. The book takes you from the basics to some surprisingly advanced applications. For me it it is a significant book too as I worked on it as the Technical Editor, my first time in such a role.
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..