Software patents are anti-competitive – wake up !

•July 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

This has been going on for too long – when will software patents and their misuse finally be abolished?

– android mobile phone customers pay $5 per mobile phone to microsoft because of software patents they bought. Microsoft has their own windows mobile system and has contributed NOTHING to the android infrastructure, yet we have to pay them when we decide against their product?
– microsoft was at least temporarily stopped from selling microsoft word because of XML patents. XML is an industry standard. How could you possibly punish them for finally using standards instead of proprietary methods that keep competitors out more?
– patent cartell buys nortels patents for billions of dollars, smaller competitors that are not in on the cartel will suffer. What does the SEC have to say about that? Apparantly nothing. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nortel-announces-the-winning-bidder-of-its-patent-portfolio-for-a-purchase-price-of-us45-billion-2011-06-30
– study shows that software patents are detrimental to the industry as a whole. What a surprise.
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1868979#%23 with similar results already expected in 2008: http://researchoninnovation.org/dopatentswork/

And still I get ‘software patents are necessary to incentivice innovation’. No, they are just a means to keep smaller inventors from succeeding and feed a multi billion dollar litigation and cartel building machine. Software patents need to be abolished.

t-mobile G2 review – first impressions

•October 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

 

G2 has arrived

 

The good:

– super fast delivery from t-mobile. I ordered it on the 4th and was able to select it for a plan upgrade. It arrived on the evening of the 5th. This time t-mobile got the launch process right, perfect user experience.

– compared to the G1 its very fast – feels like the Nexus One, but with a physical keyboard.

– android 2.2 with gmail supporting more than one google account is a plus, but a nicer mail app comparable to what apple does could be better…

– H instead of 3G is noticably faster. According to speedtest.net I get about 2Mbps download, and 1Mbps upload on average. That is more than my $40/month AT&T DSL… mhm… maybe I’ll cancel AT&T’s DSL, add a line to keep using my G1 as a phone and leave the G2 at home as an internet hotspot? But I’d miss the speed on the road then…

– did I already say it was fast? 🙂 So not just from a network standpoint, but also from a cpu standpoint, working with the web browser, firing up navigation etc does no longer invoke a half a minute wait as on the G1…

picture quality is actually better than I first thought! See photo below…

The bad:

– keyboard does not have number row and stuff in non-qwerty places, and so it is a lot more cumbersome to type on that the G1 that had a real qwerty keyboard.

– While it is real cool that the gallery on the phone now includes photos from picasa and other sources (I really like that actually) it also appears to be much slower to bring up a picture in full resolution than expected?

The ugly:

– in-call volume is very low. I was able to make phone calls directly from the handset with the G1 that I cannot make anymore with the G2, i.e. from a bus or car… with the speaker it is fine.

I’ll post more as I use it more 🙂

Zweisprachigkeit – forking to blogspot.com

•September 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Time to try out something new, and looking back, I have used this blog mostly for technical posts rather than my original intent of professional and personal expression… so here I go and fork my blog out to http://mrmichaelwill.blogspot.com/ to perform a new experiment…

…posting everything in german and in english. Because I noticed that being fully immersed in an english speaking country, I mostly think and formulate my posts in english. But that is not my mother tongue. And as I now make the extra effort to also translate to german I refine what I meant to say and translate that back to english. So my experiment will be to alternate in languages. One post will be formulated in english and translated to german, whereas the following will be formulated in german and translated to english. While I blur it a bit by refining both as I translate, I think reading it later will be interesting as it shows how the origin of language might make a difference in writing styles…

…and maybe it will only serve somebody to refine their english / german skills, which already might be a success 🙂

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Michael

One year macbook pro – issues after upgrade to 500G travelstar hitachi drive – solved

•March 28, 2010 • 21 Comments

I was happily surprised to find that the 500G hitachi travelstar 7200rpm / 16M cache costs only $99 at amazon.com. Since I had been wasting too much time deleting old stuff on my 250G drive to make room for new photos and videos, I tried to upgrade.

For that I did some google research first, and most people recommended an extra (free) software called superduper that allows to clone out the existing installation onto the (external USB chassis assumed) new harddisk before swapping the two out for each other. This was a good tip, as it made sure the cloned disk was also bootable. The process took about 5 hours, using an external usb drive bay device which I picked up for $25 over lunch at Frys.

Since I had a fairly new macbook pro 15″, it was very simple to replace the existing drive, a 5 minute job.

The first impression after swapping out the two drives, was that I almost doubled my read speed, very impressive, however then also the problems started: hangs with the colorful beachball waiting for some timeout before the app would react again.

Especially using slideshows with iphoto now provokes the problem. A disk test with the diskutil claims the drive is fine.

Turning off the motion sensor that autoparks the drive via pmset was not the solution to the problem, so I turned it back on.

This is very annoying, and I have spent hours researching all the different speculations of people on what it could be. The root cause turns out to be that the EFI upgrade to allow 3Gbps SATA speeds that apple rolled out in support of their SSD’s does create this problem for normal SATA drives that support 3Gbps. Some people seem to be able to downgrade from EFI 1.7 to 1.6 to fix the issue, and some report it does not work for them.

Others mention ftool from hitachi’s support website, which allows to disable the 3Gbps / SCC support, which was turning out to be the fix that works for me. Of course the boot image you download is useless when booted on the intel mac, for some reason the keyboard is not working, and attaching an external keyboard did not help either.

The PDF with the documentation for ftool of course only talks about how to use the tools interactive menus, but I suspected there must be a way to use it with command line parameters instead.

So I ended up copying the iso-boot image to a linux machine, mounting it, using ‘strings’ on the ftool.exe executable to discover that the command line parameters I want are: ‘/ALL /SS LOW DISABLE’.

Since you can’t just mount the iso read-write and modify it, I had to use a different opendos boot floppy image that that fits into the floppy boot area of a cdrom, and then recreate the iso with mkisofs. This caused me quite some grief and after 2 hours of trial and error between trying to get real work done  and 4 coaster cdr’s later, I finally got it to work. Funny enough the keyboard works when booting that opendos image, but only until you start ftool, then the menus again are not navigable.

And after typing it in, it adjusted the drive firmware settings and it all works now !

A dd read/write of a 10GB file about in the middle of the platter performed with about 64MB/s write, 73.6MB/s read. Not too shabby, I think the 5400 rpm drive I had in earlier was reading with more like 40MB/s.

Finally live is nice again, iphoto presentations play without interruption, and I can stop worrying about it all.

I want a hardware refresh of the G1 (original google android phone)

•January 20, 2010 • 1 Comment

I see all those new android phones come out with faster hardware and better camera, but no real keyboard and other deficiencies…

After having lived with the shortcomings of the G1 and comparing to that for a while, I feel that I really just want a hardware-refresh of the existing G1 phone and not the new droid nor the N1.

I want to have the faster cpu, more RAM, better camera (led flash, light sensitivity) and faster USB read speed (12MB/s instead of 5MB/s) of the N1 but I do not want to give up the hardware keyboard of the G1, the hardware buttons of the G1 (accept call/home/back/hangup). I actually love the slide-out keyboard design, it allows me to switch to real typing mode real fast.

The droid hardware keyboard is a joke, it is worse than the on-screen keyboard in terms of accuracy.

I love htc’s special usb cable that allows me to connect any headphone as well as my car stereo to it, with a microphone on the connector plus a button that allows me to skip mp3 songs and accept calls mostly hands-free while driving.

The G1 is a pretty good smartphone, just the cpu and ram deficiency makes it painfully slow.

I even like the form-factor, fits well in my pocket.

Can I just get a hardware refresh instead of a new broken design please?

Michael

Review Nexus One (N1) comparison to G1 android phone

•January 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

What I like better on Nexus One (N1) compared to my G1

+ faster cpu and more RAM make web browser and switching between apps much more responsive. However, once you do your day to day things you will notice that some of the apps depend on remote resources and those will be as slow as the network, i.e. Where, so more CPU+RAM is NOT a cure-all for performance. It is now easier to open lots (15+) of web pages in the browser and leave them open in the background.
+ reading files (i.e. importing images from the phone) from SD now is 12MB/s instead of 5MB/s. Writing is the same 5MB/s.
+ battery life twice as long (not measured)
+ flash on camera actually works, it is finally possible to take pictures while clubbing. However whitebalance is expecting flash, so if you take without flash then the colors look off. As usual having more megapixel does not improve the picture quality which depends largely on other factors (light sensitiveness, sharpness, color truthfulnes)
+ android 2 features like facebook / contacts integration is nice
+ can take backside off and battery-out much easier than on G1
+ normal audiojack, but thats not only a plus, see below

What I don’t like on Nexus One (N1) compared to my G1

– some apps are not ready for it, i.e. commodore 64 emulators who would direclty benefit from faster cpu only use a small portion of the screen as their framebuffer size is hardcoded. (tested two of them). Moxier Mail (enterprise quality exchange email) just force-closes while authenticating and is not useable.
– no hardware keyboard. While the onscreen keyboard does work somewhat nice it still is a major drawback when trying to type larger amounts of text or while doing other things… it just consumes more percent of your attention to correctly enter text.
– voice dictation not a real substitute yet, integration into keyboard only available in some apps? Sometimes loses connection to servers while waiting to upload data for interpretation and aborts, does not work offline. Quality varies, between garbage and suprising accuracy.
– no hardware keys for phone pickup/hangup. You now actually have to navigate through the touchscreen keyboard to hangup a call when you navigated to say the contacts to look up or take down a new phonenumber.
– oversaturated colors
– new screen technology (better viewing angles) does not have as natural colors?
When comparing photos displayed on g1 and on n1 then the g1 ones look a bit desaturated and the ones on the n1 looks overly saturated in a bad way. Maybe I have a bad engineering sample, but if it is representative then I am less excited about it then everybody else.
– connector for charging now no longer standard micro USB, means you forget the special cable and you are out, but at least when you forget your special usb2audio cable you can now use it without the in-line microphone and accept/hangup/skipsong button from HTC.

Overall I am less excited than I thought I would be and will probably hang on to my G1 until I get something drastically better.

Mobile application development middleware?

•December 2, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I am the author of an ExtJS based cluster management web-application (Scyld IMF at Penguin Computing) that allows controlling a high performance compute cluster from any web-browser, be it from your desktop or from a mobile device. This works fairly well already even without writing a special view for the mobile devices as current smartphones (iphone, android) come essentially with a full blown javascript capable web-browsers and lots of processing power. However performance still could be better by having a native app that uses the same data sources / api as the full blown web-application (javascript app running on the browser being the client to the webservice-api on the server side), but implementing the view natively.

After hacking up a proof of concept for the iphone (thanks John for your awesome iphone JSON flickr tutorial and xcode example for download) and thinking of how to do the same for android without duplicating effort, I realized that it would be nice to be able to have some kind of middleware that allows me to create and populate native gui components without code duplication.

One such middleware is phonegap which requires you to write your application in javascript and html, and allows accessing phone specific features through javascript calling the middleware. It then is bundled as a native application that can be submitted to the app store for purchase and can run completely offline once downloaded, unless the programmer chooses to access remote resources. Their initial focus seems to have been allowing access to smartphone specific features like the address book, vibrate and sound, gps location and such, but there also is code in there to use native gui components as well.

I have two problems with the approach:

1. development of javascript – while palm pre developers might tout this as an advantage, I find javascript development and debugging rather tedious and would prefer writing my code in java or objective-c and be able to run it through a full control debugger on my desktop before deploying it to the simulator. I know about and am actively using firebug, the javascript debugger for firefox, but a lot of the bugs I had to deal with were incredibly hard to hunt down and rather than the debugger it was the forums and interacting with developers on #extjs chat, as well as using jslint and manually analyzing code, that helped me figure out a root-cause, workaround or fix.

2. performance – developers report that the phonegap version of their app appears to consume more resources rather than less compared to a remotely hosted javascript app, accessed through the mobile devices web-browser. Apart from the overhead of having to parse javascript at runtime, developers sometimes need platform specific knowledge and implement different than for a web-application, i.e. iphone onclick events being much slower from the touchscreen than ontouch events.

The advantage on the other hand appears to be that it is relatively easy to add new mobile platforms to phonegap. So far they appear to have iphone, android, blackberry and some nokia platforms covered, with palm pre being on the horizon to be added beginning of next year.

And according to phonegaps website, there are already several real-world phonegap powered apps in the marketplaces of both the iphone and android.

Thoughts?