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published by Eugenia on 2017-01-24 03:36:52 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

Some would be quick to say that the time to innovate in the social media industry has passed. It’s true that the operating system doors closed in 1995 when Microsoft released Windows 95, but I really believe that there is just one more step forward before we can say the same about social media.

Here’s how I imagine a post-instagram app. These features must be implemented from the get-go btw.

– Every text post also contains a picture (up to 2:3 size ratio) or up to 1 minute video, as on Instagram.
– Every post is repostable, like on Twitter or Tumblr — unless if it’s marked as private. Very important for artists, so friends of friends can then follow the original poster.
– All posts can be viewed under the Recent tab, or categorized, like on Pinterest.
– 1-1 chat, live video, and group chat abilities like on FB/Hangouts/Snapchat.
– Follow people, like posts, follow tags, view automatically curated tags.
– Some of the tags must be completed automatically via AI.
– To bring more people in: make it also a game: let people mark places based on GPS with provided graphics. The more places are marked, the more points a user gets, and the more his posts are exposed in curated lists, which gets him more followers.
– Individual posts can be marked private, shared with specific people or lists, and can be set as “artistic nudity” or not. Don’t flag a whole account as mature or not, but specific posts only. These posts should still show up, just blurred until clicked. Fully mature posts would still need to be removed.
– Tools to manage traffic, which guarantees more celebrity support (very important to get users).
– Each post can be a sellable product. 10% commission if payment is done via the app’s system, or a $3 flat fee if the shopping page is an external page. Like on fancy.com.
– To get users immediately, various OpenID systems can be used as additional email credentials. Login requires a cellphone number for extra security.
– Primarily a fast, sexy app, but also a web front end.

In truth, these aren’t so difficult that Instagram itself can’t implement, but the fact that they don’t already support re-posting is troubling.


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published by Eugenia on 2011-08-01 11:31:10 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

One of the top-3 features I check when I buy new laptops or smartphones is the availability and quality of their webcam. Every time I comment about it people keep telling me that they never really use their webcam and that I overreact about them.

Not so. I actually use the feature extensively. When I’m in the US, I Skype with my mom, and cousins in Greece & Germany extensively. Now that I’m in Greece, we actually still use this small Ubuntu netbook I had given my mom to video-chat with my cousins and their small kids who live on the other side of Greece. My uncle and aunt, who live close to us, visit us a few times a week, and then we call them in order for them to see their grand kids and chat.

Each session takes from 30 mins to 45 mins, and while they have a free call to each other via Vodafone, they much prefer the video chat, by far. It’s so nice to see them happy, and embrace the wonders of technology (especially since my cousins’ webcam is of higher quality and they’re crystal clear in our screen). My aunt is now considering of learning to use a computer and install an internet connection, just for the video chat (just like my mom did last year at the age of 55). I suggested the iPad 2. When my mom’s Linux netbook goes kaput, I will get her an iPad too. It’s a much more suitable option for her kind of usage (light browsing, email, facebook, video-chat).

I was considering myself the new Macbook Air, to replace my DELL ultra-portable laptop which has touchpad driver problems, but while all new Apple products got an HD webcam this year, the new Macbook Air didn’t (the quality difference between 720p HD and VGA Apple webcams was demonstrated on youtube and was significant). Since a webcam is a vital feature for me, I won’t get a Macbook Air. At least not this year’s model.


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published by Eugenia on 2011-05-06 00:43:34 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

The latest thing I strongly feel that I have to pick on is Android widgets. News-related widgets to be more precise. Like the Facebook, Twitter, and NYTimes widgets. They all suck. They’re completely and utterly useless.

Instead of showing actual text of updates/headlines/news, all there should have been there were pretty icons & numbers. For example:
- Facebook: A 1×1 widget showing the number of unread notifications & messages.
- Twitter: A 1×1 widget showing the number of unread replies and messages. I wrote about it last year, nothing came out of it.
- NYTimes: A 4×1 widget showing 10 “news category” icons (5×2 small icons at the same style as Android’s “power control” widget), with each having a number on them if there are unread articles under the said category. NYTimes has over 10 categories, so these can be customized by the user to fit in the matrix.

See, in their current incarnations, these widgets just fit ONE single news item to show each time. Who in their right mind turns ON their device just to read a single item? And then the user must hit a very thin “next” arrow icon to get to the next item. Difficult to hit properly, and honestly, why bother? If all you want is to read all news items, just open the freaking app! It will be MUCH FASTER to just gaze through a vertical screen full of info, rather than having a 2-3 line overview of a single item each time.

Having icons and numbers instead (the way NewsRob does it), it is more visual, and so it’s way faster for the brain to find the right information. For example, by knowing that there are 6 unread “sports” news items at NYTimes, the user immediately can make a calculated decision as to if he must read them now, gaze through them now or later, or he should let more of these articles accumulate before he sits down and goes through them. In this situation, the widget helps him make decisions about how to use the main app, and when, and how much work that would be to do so approximately. The way things are now, we just click “next”, “next” “next”, often spending time reading headlines we don’t always care about. The information coming from Facebook or NYTimes is so much, that trying to fit it on a 4×1 or 4×2 widget is utterly ridiculous. Heck, there’s a reason why these kinds of apps are even more successful on a tablet than on a phone: too much information that requires more resolution. So their current widgets use a broken widget design. Instead, in this case, the widget must simply help us decide if it’s time to open the main app or not.

Is all this really too difficult to comprehend? Where are the usability designers in this day and age? Are they hiding somewhere? Or are the managers don’t listen to anyone anymore?


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published by Eugenia on 2011-03-29 09:09:44 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

Tonight Amazon announced its Cloud Player for Web & Android. They give 5 GB for free, upgraded to 20 GB for one year, if you buy any MP3 album. Any new album you buy and you add it to the Cloud service won’t eat out your storage allowance. All this is not a bad idea, I’m myself a supporter of streaming, when this is done right. The problem is that Amazon doesn’t do this right. RDIO, MOG, ThumbPlay, Real, Napster, Spotify, do. The problems I have with the Amazon deal are:

1. When you purchase a new album you can only add it EITHER on your cloud drive, or download it on your PC. If you must download to your PC (as I do), and later want to have it on your cloud drive as well, you have to manually upload it! This is stupid. Sure it makes sense from legal point of view (so Amazon doesn’t go on record selling you two copies), but it sucks from the user’s point of view. There is no other reason, apart the legalities, why Amazon couldn’t automatically link your purchase to your cloud account. It already does not use your storage to store new purchases, so the technical part of just “linking” music with accounts is obviously in place.

2. I have to upload manually my previously-bought Amazon music. I don’t see why Amazon shouldn’t automatically link my account with these past purchases too — apart the legal shite again.

3. There is no “offline” mode. If someone uses wifi or 3G to listen to music from the cloud he will find his smartphone’s battery go down within 2-3 hours. RDIO/MOG/etc offer the ability to sync up to about ~4 GB of your collection, and access it “offline”. Their servers create an encrypted blob of data that only their player can playback. This way you can listen everything from the cloud when you’re using a wall socket, and the checked items directly from the flash drive when you’re mobile. Perfect for travelers.

4. Ultimately, this service is not good enough. RDIO/MOG is a better deal at $10 per month with an ~unlimited music selection (not just your own library). Given that I spend about $80 a month on music (mostly from Amazon these days, since they’re considerably cheaper than iTunes), if I wanted to go subscription I’d just go with MOG or RDIO.

Sitting down and manually uploading gigabytes of files to Amazon’s servers is one thing I won’t do though. No way.


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published by Eugenia on 2011-02-16 02:20:39 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

And now Apple wants 30% cut of every subscription carried out through an iOS app. And apps are not allowed anymore to include a simple link to load a web browser page and let a new user subscribe through it either. In other words, if you need to sign-up new users, and your service is not free, you either have to have existing customers that don’t need to sign up, or pay Apple a 30% cut.

At first, this doesn’t sound that bad. I mean, apps can increase their prices so they can afford to pay up Apple. But there is a specific kind of app that it’s simply impractical to do that. See, there are some companies that serve their own content, and these can compensate. But there are other companies, who license the serving content, that can’t.

I’m talking about the music streaming subscription services, like MOG, RDIO, Rhapsody, Napster 2.0, Thumbplay, Spotify etc. And then there’s Netflix, Kindle too. These apps already pay a heavy price to RIAA or studios, so their margins are very small, in the already competitive market of entertainment. It’s very possible that these companies don’t make more than 10% per song streamed, maybe much less! And now Apple wants 30% off of a $10 subscription? How could these companies survive?

Increase prices from $10 to $15, you say? How are they gonna stay competitive when iTunes Streaming is coming this year for possibly no more than $10? Yes, it IS coming, it’s the natural evolution of the music market and gadgetry/networks. This is clearly anti-competitive, because Apple will be able to offer the same service for less, by squeezing the other guys out with mafia tricks. There are anti-trust issues, as WSJ noted.

AAPL, just like RIAA and MPAA (all the AAs, it seems), are dictators. And they all take decisions that only benefit their shareholders in the very short term. Because, I can tell you right here right now, that developers will be forced to give Apple the finger, and move to Android — even if they might not like Android as much as iOS.

Talk about Apple shooting its own foot. I think this great documentary, on Netflix Instant, asks the right question to corporations: “how much is enough money, where would you stop?” A highly recommended documentary.

Sometimes I keep thinking of Apple, particularly of Steve Jobs, and how he keeps making the same mistakes over and over. Mistake in the ’80s with the Mac clones and an open ecosystem, and exact same mistakes now. Some people never learn. Either that, or he finds the eventual minuscule market share, “cozy”.


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published by Eugenia on 2010-12-27 01:33:33 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

I came across Edubuntu tonight, a Linux distro focused on education. Their goal is to create a distro that official education organizations can use to deploy to students.

As much as I hate my country for all its shortcomings, I do love my country just as much (if not more) for the things that it does well. And it’s because of this love why sometimes I envision how things should happen in order to bring Greece to become again all that it used to be. But it all starts with education. It’s the No 1 building block for a future.

So I’d love to see cheap netbooks given/sold to students, netbooks running an open platform, with each school having a WiFi network that can access certain web sites (e.g. Wikipedia), lets the kids to use Skype to video-chat, and with administrative tools to keep unwanted fiddling out. Most of this can be done today with Edubuntu. But the biggest feature on this laptop should be the access to interactive curriculum, and this is where Edubuntu falls short.

I’m not talking about Edubuntu providing the curriculum of course, that would be impossible as education is very different depending on the country/area/school. But what I am talking about is a PLATFORM where each country/area/school can use it to DEPLOY their curriculum. A sort of an “App Store”-type application where the kids can download books, exercises, even applications that have heavy graphics to teach them Geometry or Math. Virtual books that have annotations, comments, and clipboard support. No need to carry 8 kilos of books every day on your back (I had to endure that when I was at school), no need to learn math the old way that it’s so wrong (check the embedded videos for more), no need to buy books anymore (as it’s common in some countries). There could be even exercises carried through by team of students at the same time, kind of like collaborative word processors work, to endorse team spirit. The possibilities on how you educate kids using modern methods are endless once you go digital.

But for a government or private school to go digital, the said platform must exist. The tools they need, and the special file formats, and special apps they need to do all that, must first exist. All they must have to do is provide the CONTENT. But the infrastructure must exist, must be cohesive, must make sense. And this is the biggest feature these Linux education distros must provide. Locking down a student user account and limiting internet access (that can currently be done) should only be an afterthought to the whole education thing. What governments need first and foremost is the infrastructure to deploy content — limiting users is secondary.

Even OLPC falls short in that front. I wrote in the past that I was against a custom OS interface for educational purposes, but that’s a small misstep compared to the fact that even OLPC doesn’t get it, and never provided the said platform for deployment. Instead, they developed some useless butt-ugly tools, and expected the educators to learn Squeak or some shit like that, and write useless apps like “eToys”. No wonder OLPC went nowhere either.

Sure, OLPC’s main attraction was its supposed $100 price tag, but you see, you will have to be realistic and logical here, even if that doesn’t always mean “humanistic”. See, when a country like Greece, Italy, Spain still don’t have what I suggest above, do you think that Uganda can afford OLPC — even at its lower price tag? The answer is “no”. As cruel as this may sound, the digitization of education must start from the richer countries (heck, even USA is lacking!), and move to the poorer countries as both hardware becomes cheaper, and these countries get *the rest* of the infrastructure (e.g. server rooms, hordes of devs, country-wide internet) to run such a big project. Trying to sell OLPCs to poor countries, is like trying to sell a FORD car to some tribal leader that lives 10 Khm from the nearest paved road. You can’t force progress, sorry. It has to happen in stages.

All this is of course a big job to take on for a few volunteers, and honestly, I think this is where UN or some other organization (maybe UNESCO?), should put money where their mouth is, and help out the Edubuntu volunteers by providing R&D, engineers, and education ideas to create that server-client software platform discussed above. There is no need for custom hardware, there is no need for custom interfaces, there is no need to unearth useless programming languages. Instead, there is a need for a management and deployment solution, along interactive and [complex] apps that explain the sciences in a very visual way. All that should run on a NORMAL Linux distro (e.g. Edubuntu) and hardware (e.g. Atom netbooks), instead of the incompatible wet-dream like OLPC was. I hope UN/UNESCO takes the bite, otherwise I don’t see us going anywhere on that front…

BTW, if you made it through this article, make sure you watch the videos. They explain how educational software must go further than traditional teaching methods.


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published by Eugenia on 2009-12-14 11:01:59 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

I’ve been playing with my HTC Hero the last few days. I installed a lot of popular Android apps (about 80 of them), and tried to see how they feel compared to my iPhone’s.

Basically, the iPhone apps are more mature/stable. Developers seem to be spending less time testing for their Android ports, and more for their iPhone’s. However, on the other hand, Android has more free apps than the iPhone. If you can have a bit of patience with them, you will save money. Basically, it depends if your time is worth money or not.


The iPhone is not perfect though. Here are my three major gripes with the iPhone. All these features are supported on Android (#3 is done via 3rd party apps):

1. Background apps. From Twitter, to IM and VoIP apps (that are simply impractical to use with just PUSH), background apps are a must have. If anything, create an Android-like security system and services’ server that keeps control of misbehaving services.

2. Let the device operate as a USB-based device so we can drop files in there. Then, make some sort of file access/management accessible to third party apps. For example, what if I want to just copy a few random-format VGA videos on my iPhone, and there’s an app like VLC that can read these files while the iPhone video viewer can’t? I don’t want to transcode to h.264/AAC, I just want to play them as is via an app that can understand these formats. And that’s just a multimedia example. The same kind of example can exist for office or other documents too. And recently, I became aware that the first real video editor for the iPhone, ReelDirector, has no way to add music to the videos because Apple doesn’t offer access to the iPod music, or to a storage facility like the one suggested above.

3. AVRCP/PAN/LAP/Obex Bluetooth support. I need to be able to send a picture, or other kind of whatever-format file (see #4) to someone else’s phone (not DRM’ed files of course). Even dumbphones have support for these Bluetooth profiles.

4. Some kinds of apps are missing exactly because of #1 and #2. If Apple listens and fixes these two issues, we will see *useful* utilities and complex apps entering the AppStore, as opposed to yet another game or unit converter.

5. Just under the search box, I’d like to see a list-view with various app/phone notifications. Something between Android’s and Palm Pre’s, but with Apple’s touch. Again, for that we’d need #1, since PUSH won’t cut it in all cases. Originally I thought that a widget system for that empty space under the search box would be nice, but I think that a well-designed notification list view, makes more sense in that limited space.


On the other hand, the Android ecosystem is missing more stuff:

1. Not as good of overall usability/ergonomics as in the iPhone. Apps are more stable, beautiful, and with more features on the iPhone. On Android they feel like patchworks. Especially games, which is a shock!

2. I’d like a media player that makes sense and is a joy to use. The current media player sucks goats compared to the iPod Touch usability. Oh well, at least it can read all album art (Nokia phones, and even Sandisk players can’t).

3. AppleTV/iTunes Remote (TunesRemote on Android doesn’t work with my AppleTV, which is our main audio server in our home — we don’t use our AppleTV for video).

4. Skype via Wifi. Currently, Android’s Skype only works via GSM on the Android, because it was released around a time where not all VoIP-assisting APIs were completed on Android. Version 1.6 of Android does have the necessary APIs completed, but and I don’t see Skype getting fixed, since the company even removed their Android web page! Here’s hope they will wake up and add WiFi support.

5. Google Voice currently doesn’t work via VoIP/WiFi. Therefore, it’s completely useless for me right now since I need it to call my mom in Greece, and I only have a PayAsYouGo AT&T account.

6. No video editor is possible for Android (even if it doesn’t have iPhone’s file-system limitations) because not all needed media APIs exist (AFAIK). Plus, I’ve yet to see a single Android phone that shoots better video than the iPhone 3Gs anyway.

7. While there’s a task killer available, I want to also control apps to not automatically load on the background when the phone starts. Surely, that’s something that the app itself should offer me in its settings as a preference, however, very few implement it. So I’m now faced with apps that eat my RAM and I don’t want to be loaded (but I do want installed, e.g. Google Finance). That extra utility should be Google’s job, as it was Microsoft’s when they wrote msconfig.exe to carry out the function. If Apple adds the ability of background apps, they should implement this too (along a task killer).


And some things that both platforms need to implement. Who knew! They have something in common!

1. Get their shitz together with audio/video on multi-IM/VoIP. How more should we wait for A/V chats via WiFi? It’s 2010 already God damn it. I’m not even asking overloading 3G towers, I just want it via WiFi!

2. Adobe Flash 10.1. With GPU acceleration please. Android’s getting it according to Adobe, but until I see Vimeo working with it at 30 fps (VGA, non-HD videos), it has to stay in this list.

3. UPnP support. Both as a server and a client.


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published by Eugenia on 2009-10-22 09:54:06 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

Lightroom 3.0-beta1 was released last night for free, so I downloaded it and had a look at it. A 64-bit version is available too in the .zip file. App will work until April 2010.

I never tried that app before, since JBQ seems to dislike it. However, upon trying it, I really, really liked it. It’s like iMovie for pictures. It doesn’t do everything that Photoshop does, but it does enough to bring life or a more artistic look to your pictures. I only wish it had masking and an HDR mode. Look below my before and after images.


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published by Eugenia on 2009-07-14 05:16:29 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

Users who export in web-sized MP4 h.264/AAC, primarily from Sony Vegas, create MP4 files that are not streamable via Flash (Flash has had MP4 decoding support for over a year now, but it requires the format to be tweaked, to be “streaming”). Vegas has no such option in their two h.264 encoders it carries. This means that if your MP4 is not streamable, it will have to completely download to the user’s browser cache before it can start playing back. And that can take a long time, aggravating your viewers…

A user over at HV20.com found a freeware utility that will allow users to load their stock MP4 files in it, and make them streamable in an instant. You just chuck your mp4 files in there, and off you go. You can then use them in conjunction to a Flash player application that supports h.264, to stream and playback on your web site (in case you don’t want to use Vimeo/YouTube for some reason).


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published by Eugenia on 2009-07-12 00:24:48 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

The following guide will show you how to smoothly playback h.264 on almost any PC. With this method, I can playback CABAC “High Profile” full 1080p h.264 files without dropping a single frame on my 4+ years old Pentium 4 at 3Ghz! Where Quicktime or VLC are able to display about ~10 fps, the following solution goes the full 30.

1. Install the Mplayer Classic from here. Pick the latest version (not the “win9x” version).

2. Install the latest “generic build” of FFDshow at the “SVN builds by clsid” section. Make sure you’re downloading from clsid’s section.

3. Buy and install the CoreAVC Pro ($15) version from here (or try the 14-day trial first).

4. Let’s configure the Mplayer Classic application to use the CoreAVC decoder by default now, instructions as originally described here.
a. Open the “View/Options” window in media player classic (by pressing ‘o’, or through right click menu).
b. Go to the “External filters” option. Now in the right side of the window select “Add Filter”.
c. You will get an elaborate window with a plethora of options. Select there the “CoreAVC Video decoder” codec and press “Ok”, and then do the same once more for the “CoreAVC Audio decoder”.
d. Select the “CoreAVC Video Decoder” entry in the “External Filters” window and press the “Up” button to move the decoder to the top of the list. Do the same for the “CoreAVC Audio Decoder”, move it second in the list.

5. [Optional] If you are using a modern nVidia graphics card, CoreAVC will take advantage of it. This is a new feature (CoreAVC was the fastest decoder out there even without it). Open the “CoreAVC Configuration” panel (found on your Windows’ Start menu), and make sure Deinterlacing is set to “Hardware”, and “Preferred Decoder” & “CUDA Acceleration” are checked. If the CUDA option is disabled, it’s because your nVidia card doesn’t have that ability, tough luck. With CUDA acceleration I get just 6% of CPU utilization on a 1080p file from the Canon 5D-MarkII.

Now, throw at it any MP4 h.264 file, and do your tests against other players, like VLC or Quicktime, and enjoy the speedy and smooth decoding.

Note 1: To force CoreAVC to decode .MOV h.264 files on the Mplayer Classic player, you must rename these .mov files to to .hdmov. To decode Matroska MKV h.264 files, you must install the Haali Media Splitter first.

Note 2: If you don’t have the money or expertise to do all of the above, you can use VLC to decode h.264 files fast-enough, with a small trick. Load the latest version of VLC, go to its Tools/Preferences, select the “All settings” radio button on the bottom/left of that window, click “Input/Codecs”, “Other Codecs”, “FFmpeg”, and change the “Skip the loop filter for h.264 decoding” from “None” to “All”. Save the preferences. This will make h.264 decoding with VLC equally fast to CoreAVC’s performance, but with lower visual quality.


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published by Eugenia on 2009-07-07 05:36:00 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

The following guide will create for you an h.264/AAC 720p HD file in the MP4 container using KDEnLive. The file will be compatible with Vimeo HD, YouTube HD, the Sony PS3 and the XBOX360 among other devices. And if you modify the exporting method to be PAL, and bitrate at 4000 kbps, then it can be compatible with the AppleTV too. The article assumes you already have installed KDEnLive itself and its dependencies.

First, you need to install the full version of ffmpeg. Ubuntu and most other Linux distros do not include some of the codecs needed, for legal reasons. So, follow the tutorial here and install the full ffmpeg version. I chose the “B” method, which is the most official way of doing things. If you are not running Ubuntu, then you will have to literally hunt online for such an ffmpeg version. Google is your friend.

Then, load KDEnLive and setup the project properties, in a manner similar to the way shown below. You must select the right Profile. There are different profiles for full HD, HDV, 720p, progressive, interlaced etc. You must know what kind of properties your source footage has. If you don’t, you can be assisted by importing one such file on KDEnLive, right clicking on it, selecting “properties” and reading there its actual properties, although that dialog doesn’t give you all the info you need. Long story short, learn how your camera shoots as.

Then, edit as usual, and save often as KDEnLive is not known for its stability.

When you are done with editing, click the big “Render” button in the toolbar, give a name to the file, and make everything else look like this:

Use PAL if your camera is PAL, NTSC if your camera is an NTSC one, or, create a new profile using the + icon on the right if you want to export in 24p. Then, “Render to file”.


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published by Eugenia on 2009-06-20 01:37:58 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

The following “garbage” bug happens once every 20 alerts or so from AT&T after I hang up on a phone call (the bug could totally be AT&T’s of course, but I smell it’s the iPhone’s). It happens both with firmware 2.x and 3.x. I don’t remember it happening with firmware 1.x. English, French and Greek are enabled in the keyboard layouts — if that helps.


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published by Eugenia on 2009-06-04 18:48:44 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

As you might have heard, the Palm Pre can pose as an Apple product and fool iTunes that it’s an iPod. According to DVD Jon, Apple can very easily close that door for Palm with an iTunes update. The question I am asking here though, is if it’s morally right for Palm Pre to pose as an Apple product and fool an application.

Don’t beat yourself, there’s not an easy answer to it. Both sides have good arguments. Apple could argue that it’s unlawful to present a product as an Apple product (even if the user never sees that), and that iTunes is designed to be used with an iPod only and that might create support problems for Apple. Palm on the other side could argue that the iPod is a monopoly assisted by iTunes, and that originally iTunes was simply just an media player and it even had an SDK to add support for other devices (before Apple removed that ability to maintain their newly found iPod monopoly).

I am kind of siding with Palm on this. iTunes was originally a generic media app, and slowly but surely Apple locked up the app from other vendors and plugin creators. While iTunes belongs to Apple and they could do what they please with it, it’s simply unrealistic for any other vendor to compete anymore, given that iTunes has a development history of 10 years now, and that alternative solutions (e.g. Songbird) are buggy as hell. Then again, that’s not Apple’s fault…

It’s a tough situation, really. We will see how Apple will respond, because I have the feeling that they don’t quite like Palm a lot. First a big chunk of their iPhone engineers moved to Palm overnight leaving the iPhone team half-crippled at the time, then Palm allegedly infringed on the Apple multi-touch patents, and now there’s this iTunes stunt. Honestly, I smell a lawsuit, but maybe Palm has enough patents of its own to keep Apple in check. Only time will tell.


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published by Eugenia on 2009-06-01 01:50:21 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

Today, we had to upgrade to TwonkyMedia Server 5.x, because its 4.x versions were not serving .mp4 files to our XBOX360. There was a tip online to rename the .mp4 files to .m4v in order to fool the XBoX360, but apparently version 4.4.11 had a bug about .m4v files too. Only renaming them to .mov would force Xbox360 to play them but if I was to do that, then our Sony PS3 wouldn’t play these files.

So the upgrade to v5, fixed most of our problems. The XBoX360 now plays all my .mp4 files, .m4v (that it didn’t before), plus all the other formats that it was able to before (e.g. WMV). It also supports the .mov container, the MPEG4-SP (the kind of .mp4 found on cellphones), something that the PS3 doesn’t (although the PS3 supports AVCHD and HDV files, that the Xbox360 can’t). Both consoles can playback XViD/DiVX AVI files with the same success (so-so, that is). The XBoX360 can playback more kinds of WMV and WMA than the PS3 can (e.g. I had a WMV video here that its WMA audio wouldn’t work with the PS3, but it did with the XBoX360). The XBoX360 also supports streaming .mp4 videos (e.g. Youtube HD rips), and non-PSP .MP4 containers (e.g. the kinds of MP4 that Adobe CS4 exports by default) — the PS3 doesn’t support any of these kinds of MP4s (it only supports the ones that their container has some “PSP” extensions, usually it is the default exporting format on video editors, except for Adobe’s).

For the rest of the formats out there, e.g. Sorenson, MJPEG etc, I would need an AppleTV. Plus, the AppleTV would behave best with .mp3/aac audio files, something that the PS3 only does so-so (it seems to confuse album art), while the XBoX360’s AAC and mp3 compatibility was terrible (non-DRM AAC from iTunes wouldn’t work at all, even after installing the AAC plugin, while one of my mp3s was playing in slow-motion)!

There was also a specific .mp4 file that TwonkyMedia would think it was audio and would only serve it as audio (even if it’s video). Renaming that to .mov made it visible in the list while using the v4 server. But after upgrading to version 5, while version 5 fixed everything else, the file wouldn’t be visible again because it now seems that TwonkyMedia v5 looks inside the format rather than figuring out what’s what from the extension. But that’s just one file, and besides, TwonkyMedia is *the best* UPnP/DLNA server out there anyway. If they can’t get it right, probably no other piece of software can (everything else I have tried is buggy as hell).

In other words, if you don’t want to be setting up Linux PC media centers that will piss you off one way or another while configuring them, to play A/V files on your TV without having to transcode each time to the device’s supported formats, you need all three devices (with their firmwares upgraded): PS3, XBoX360 and AppleTV. And that doesn’t even give you OGG, Theora or MKV by default (which are only semi-working via third party addons on the AppleTV).


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published by Eugenia on 2009-05-28 16:22:32 in the "Software" category
Eugenia Loli-Queru

I just read the article over at TechCrunch about Google’s Wave platform. It looks very impressive, and it seems to be a Twitter killer, and maybe even a Facebook killer (since it brings people together in a more interactive & instant way than Facebook does). However, that doesn’t mean that the idea will catch on, since many good ideas never made good products. But this one might. My real question is, how this will integrate with GTalk and Gmail. Because if it won’t integrate well, it just might not catch on.

Update: How ironic. Twitter is “over capacity” again. These guys remind me of Vimeo: they never managed to optimize their platform.


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