I've found a very handy use for NFC tags. When I'm in my car I like to steam music from my phone to the car's stereo system using Bluetooth. Also it is handy to enable the Samsung "Driving mode" so I get a bit more information read out to me, e.g. if the phones beeps and it is a text message the phone will tell me who the message is from so I can decide whether I should park up and read it. Ideally I don't want WiFi on to cut power consumption. When I get out of the car I want to switch off Bluetooth (to save power), switch off Driving Mode and switch on Wifi. This all involves changing several settings on the phone everytime I get in and out of my car. Fortunately NFC tags can make this much easier.
I've been very happy with my Samsung S3 since the day I bought it. It's a great phone with a lot of features that make it good fun. However, lately I've been finding the TouchWiz launcher a bit slow to work with. It seems a bit laggy at times which isn't a good thing on such a powerful phone. So I experimented with a stock Android launcher and that was fast and responsive, but I still found it a bit slow to use. It was time to look for a more radical alternative.
A little while ago I was driving my car and a traffic report came on the radio. It gave some useful information but also a lot of information about roads I was not going to be using. As the report was trying to satisfy lots of people it ended up telling me lots of information I didn't need to know while missing out information that could be useful. I began thinking it would be great to have a personalised traffic report and given that my mobile has text to speech functionality and can connect to the Internet on the move maybe it could generate it (especially as I purchased the SVOX Victoria app which gives the mobile a rather charming accent). Digging around I found that the Highways Agency publishes some great RSS feeds for key roads so I thought I would have a go at building an app. To keep the development time for this experiment to a minimum I decided to use PhoneGap.
The Web Cube from Three is a bit of an odd idea to think about at first. It is a bit like the MiFi, a device used to get access to the Internet through the mobile phone network. Where it differs from the mobile, and most products offered by mobile phone companies is that it is not mobile. This is a device that needs to be plugged into the mains. However many homes have non mobile routers plugged into the mains to set them up with web access. The Web Cube is intended to be a replacement for that device, ending the need for ADSL and the fixed telephone line that always comes with it that many do not use anymore. The Web Cube is only available in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Leeds at the moment, but I've been taking one for a test drive in Milton Keynes.
The first thing you notice about the HTC (somewhat unfortunately named) Sensation XL is its sheer size. This phone is built around a 4.7" screen, the same size as Google's flagship Samsung Nexus Prime but this has a lower screen resolution. I was curious to try out an Android device with a larger screen as a few of these devices have started appearing on the market. Despite the large screen the phone is very slim and packs lots of features. After having the phone on trial for a couple of weeks I can only conclude that the large screen is a bit of a mixed blessing. It is great for some functions but gives the phone a bit of an inconvenient feel.
Three months have gone by since the release of the first version of the Scripting Layer for Android Tablet Remix. In that time quite a few changes have been made to the upstream version of the Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A) and I have had a few people asking me when these features are coming to the Tablet Remix. So just in time for Christmas I am pleased to announce that these changes have been imported into the source code for the Tablet Remix and it is now completely up to date with the latest SL4A features! Probably the most significant of these is the Full Screen UI.
Adobe's recent decision to retire support for their Flash Player on mobile devices attracted a lot of attention and maybe there is a risk that they might become better known for what they are not doing in the mobile space rather than what they are doing. This would be a shame as recently Adobe released a whole suite of apps for Android tablets (with support for Apple's alternative, the iPad, coming in 2012). What makes these apps so interesting is that they challenge the idea that tablets are only useful for the consumption of content. Instead these apps are targeted at people who want to be creative on their tablets including professional creatives such as web designers.
Three UK's third generation MiFi has slightly more refined looks than its predecessor, but it doesn't feature "go faster" stripes which is curious as the inclusion of HSPA+ technology promises a turbo boosted Internet connection with speeds theoretically up to 21 Mbps - enough to put many landline broadband connections to shame. I attended the launch event for the new MiFi (also known as the Huawei E586) and have been trying one out. How does it perform? How easy is it to use? Plus, with the increasing number of mobile phones that are capable of tethering (sharing their mobile broadband connection with another device through WiFi) is it still a compelling product?
The Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A) and the new SL4A Tablet Remix have a lot of powerful features and interestingly can be used to consume data from a variety of sources both online and offline. The ability to work with some data sources, such as simple relational databases is built in, but thanks to the ability to add additional code libraries to this environment we also get the opportunity to work with non-relational databases and even Linked Data. In this article I will quickly show you how to work with three different types of data source using Python in SL4A: a relational database in the form of a SQLite file, a non-relational database in the form of CouchDB and Linked Data generated from Wikipedia which we will interrogate using the SPARQL language.
*** UPDATE: The second version of this app has now been released. This page has been updated with the new version. *** A couple of days ago on the android-scripting Google group I was very pleased to announce the first release of the Scripting Layer for Android Tablet Remix also known as SL4A Tablet Remix. As the name implies this is a version of the Scripting Layer for Android that has been adapted for Android Honeycomb tablets, especially the Asus EEE Pad Transformer. There is still a lot of work to do on this app and a lot of improvements that can be made, but at last in is in a usable state and if you enjoy programming or want to learn about it this could be for you. The app builds on the fantastic work done by the contributors to the original SL4A project and extends functionality to being the Honeycomb look and feel to the app as well as extending the programming environment provided by SL4A to take advantage of some of the great features of the latest Android tablets.