Just got a notice on my front door that UPS could not deliver this package because I was not home to sign for it. After checking the tracking route I was surprise to find that it originated from China. The estimated arrival of my iPhone7 was not until Sept 21 so I was quite surprise that Apple processed and delivered it so quickly and from China no less. Unfortunately UPS won't come back out on Saturday afternoon so I opted to pick it up from the main pickup point on Monday. Time to backup my iPhone6.
Andy Yip and Jane Zeng, creators of the iPhone app DaBus were featured on Yasmin Dar's Social Wire segment on KITV's morning show. Both Andy and Jane were part of CityCamp Honolulu and the CityCampHNL Hackathon. In fact they won top honors at the Hackathon. Since the Hackathon, they came up with a name for the app, polished it up and got it added to Apples iTunes App Store. The DaBus app takes the guess work out of catching the bus on the island of Oahu. It uses the near real-time GPS arrival information, courtesy of the Oahu Transit Services, to provide the best estimated time on when the next bus will arrive. This app also tracks the current location of the bus you are interested using the GPS device installed on many of the buses. In addition, it also provides options to explore different bus routes and take a virtual ride to better understand its route. DaBus app ver 1.1 is available in the iTunes App Store. Jerome Koehler, tech blogger at Non-Stop Honolulu also did a video review of DaBus and its application. Congratulations go out to Andy and Jane for the successful launch of DaBus.
Local tech company Oceanit and the Honolulu Hackerspace group HI Capacity are collaborating to help Japan with its radiation problems after the explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant this past March. They recently met up with Peiter Franken one of the co-founders of an organization called Safecast that is helping to map out the zones in Japan that are affected by the radiation fallout. Safecast's mission is to empower people with data, primarily by building a sensor network and enabling to both contribute and freely use the data. One of the main issues is that there aren't enough Geiger counters to survey all of Japan for radiation particles. Franken is working with grassroots programmer groups like the Hackerspace in Tokyo and LA to help build the necessary sensor tools. In Hawaii, Ian Kitajima, Marketing Director at Oceanit drove around central Oahu and Waikiki testing out one of the "bento box" Geigers called bGeigie built by the Tokyo Hackerspace. Kitajima told Bytemarks Cafe, "It is a multifaceted problem and Safecast is looking for a variety of ways to get this technology in the hands of the Japanese citizen." According to Franken, the Tokyo group built 15 of these bGeigie units and volunteer groups are driving around the affected region taking readings. They are also looking at both stationary and mobile sensors. The LA group Crashspace is building a geiger counter interface for the iPhone called the iGeigie. Back at home, Ryan Kanno said that the Honolulu Hackerspace group is looking at ways they can help aggregate the data into a central website. This would allow field workers to easily upload their data for instant analysis and visualization.
Anyone who has an Apple mobile device, be it iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad has one of these, the white USB to 30 pin docking cable that attaches your device to your computer or power plug. And if you are like me you might have several of them. Now if someone asked me to innovate on this product, the first thing I'd do is come up with color variations. It's not rocket science but what I do find quite amazing is that someone right here in Hawaii was the first to come up with this idea. Laurens Laudowicz calls his product Juicies and they come in an assortment of colors; pink, yellow, green, blue, purple, orange and gray. If you're an entrepreneur looking to start a business you might ask yourself, "Why didn't I think of that?" But what looks obvious now wasn't so 6 months ago. I spoke to Laudowicz by phone and he told me he wanted to get into business but it took him a lot of research to find the right niche. He was looking for a product what wasn't already "modified." Obviously cases and covers for the iPhone and iPad are already crowded and you can already get earbuds in all manner of color. But these 30 pin docking cables were only available in white (and sometimes black). So once you have the idea, it's all about timing and execution. In a matter of months, Laudowicz tested options to create his own color cables and settled on having an existing cable manufacturer produce them. He then set up a deal on Kickstarter to help fund his project. The nice part about the Kickstarter deal is that anyone helping to fund the project will get a Juicie in return. He also got the word out on Twitter and Facebook to let the world know that the Juicies are available. This all done before anyone else could get the jump on him. Today (April 22nd) is the debut of Juicies and one day does not make for a successful business. But as of this first day, Juicies has already gained 113 backers and achieved over 50% of the $5000 funding goal. As a small business owner and startup entrepreneur, this immediate feedback must be extremely gratifying. The Kickstarter deal will last for 30 days, until May 23rd so there is still plenty of time to back this project and get your Juicie. I will continue to follow the progression of this novel idea and report back on its development. You can also hear more about Juicies from Laurens Laudowicz on this week's (4/27) Bytemarks Cafe.
In mid-January, CEO Jim Sink announced that Avatar Reality was going to cease development for Blue Mars on the PC and focus on iOS rollout. The much anticipated launch of Blue Mars over a browser interface was also suspended indefinitely. Obviously a great disappointment for all of us touting Blue Mars as the next generation (and successor) to Second Life. On Friday, Feb. 4th, Avatar Reality held true to its promise to rollout an iPhone/iPad app of Blue Mars. Like you, the first thought to cross my mind was, "that's fast". On closer examination, it is much less then what I had expected. The free Blue Mars app is more like a Hot or Not website for avatars. As in any virtual reality environment your avatar is who you are so why not have an app to rate your avatar. The app provides you with those avatars that are Top Rated and a Recent option to see what's newly submitted. In a company announcement:
...features for future updates include account registration, avatar customization, integration with social networking platforms, the ability to chat with other Blue Mars users, and integrated shopping for clothing and other items via Apple’s in-App purchase feature.In a effort to get a broader adoption of it's Blue Mars environment, this is a good first step in avatar familiarization. The question remains, will this help to grow the community on Blue Mars which has stalled because of PC hardware requirements. We'll have to wait and see what continues to be made available on mobile platforms.
These Android phones are coming out fast and furious. Late last year I got to touch a Motorola Droid. It was a little heavy compared to the iPhone and it had a built in keyboard that nobody liked. Next up, the Nexus One was sold by Google early this year with quite a bit of fanfare as the tech pundits predicted how Google was going to disrupt the cell carriers distribution model. Less than four months later Google pulls the plug on their online sales strategy. Despite all these fits and starts the Android phone, independent of manufacturer, is gaining fast on the iPhone. Obviously people are looking for an alternative and the competition is good for the smartphone marketplace. What I like about Android is how Google and the carriers are willing to try new models and offerings. Some things work, others don't, but innovation continues. In spite of its clunky keyboard, Verizon Wireless and Motorola are now pitching Droids for a special two for one sale. Over the past two weeks, Verizon Wireless loaned me a demo HTC Incredible to play around with. I will admit, I am a staunch iPhone fanboy but am a little infatuated with the Android operating system. Its Google app (Voice, Goggles, Maps, Gmail) integration and open architecture are enticing. And now, with HTC's streamline design I am about to come out of the closet. The HTC Incredible does not have a hardware keyboard making it a very light unit. Lighter in fact than the iPhone. Anybody used to typing on the screen will easily adapt to the Incredible. The 480x800 touch screen is very sharp. Some of my geek friends complaint about HTC Sense, the overlay UI (user interface) that connects you to Android, but I found it quite responsive. The power/lock button on the top of the unit is slight to the touch (compared to the iPhone) and I found myself putting the device in sleep mode inadvertently. I love the 8 megapixel camera that comes equipped with a flash. The addition of an FM tuner was also a nice treat. What I did not like about the HTC Incredible was the lack of Mac support for syncing. I connected the USB cable to my Mac Mini and the unit indicated it was recharging. Outside of that there, was no recognition by my Mac of the device. Others on the HTC Forums seem to have similar problems. One person suggested a third party application for syncing to the Mac but paying for an app that I think should be a basic feature with the phone goes against everything I believe in. All in all a nice job engineering the HTC Incredible in to a compact package but still lacking elements that make it ready for prime time. If HTC/Google fixes the syncing problem I might reconsider, but for now I am sticking with my iPhone. Update: 6/1/10 - I got a chance to talk to Verizon Wireless today and found a way to connect to the phone's disk drive. Forget what they say in the Quick Tips Guide. To get to the drive you need to plug the USB in and watch the top menu bar on the phone. You can drag that bar down to reveal additional options. One option is "Disk Drive". Once selected you can see the unit in Finder and it also automatically launchs iPhoto for picture downloads. Not too intuitive but it does work. My appreciation for this phone just went up a notch.
About a week ago, friends over at Archinoetics asked if I wanted to be a beta tester for their new iPhone app called Epic Tracker. I had heard about Epic Tracker from following Roz Savage's row across the Pacific on her "epic" solo row. The program's first iteration was called Roz Tracker and on her recent leg from Kiribati to Australia, I noticed it had evolved to Epic Tracker. Now, I am not about to row across the Pacific or scale the heights of Mt. Everest and chances are the only epic treks I will go on are those in my own mind. Nevertheless, I love the idea that you can embark on a journey and mark your course along the way. As it turns out, I had the perfect excursion to field test out Epic Tracker. On the day of the LOST series finale, my friend Ryan Ozawa organized an outing at Kualoa Ranch to visit some of the notable filming spots. It was great timing and the perfect epic trek I can handle. With iPhone in hand, it was quite simple to capture a spot with a photo and sending to to Epic Tracker. The input screen allows you to title, provide a description, tag and select your multimedia content of choice, photo, video or audio. Since I like the point and shoot immediacy of photos that's the route I took. As for GPS, I selected automatic GPS since I was not prepared to manually input GPS coordinates. Once you've assembled all your content, you click Submit Post and away it goes. I felt there should be some validation before hitting send but that might be due to the newness of the application and my not wanting to lose data. I've noticed with the iPhone GPS, you can never be too sure about your location accuracy. This is the result of cell phone tower triangulation which is problematic in remote locations, but then again, I have been in urban Honolulu locations with sketchy results. Once I completed my trek submissions, it wasn't until I got back on my desktop computer that I could see my completed trip. Not surprisingly several locations were way off. It was a bit of a challenge to relocate those spots since the Epic Tracker did not provide a way to move your map point. I ended up going into Google Maps and approximating where the location was and got lats and longs from there. That got edited back into Epic Tracker for a more accurate display of the LOST sites we visited. I later found out that by tapping the GPS Signal indicator on the screen, you would get a display of your map location. But you still couldn't adjust it. I suppose if you were on a real epic journey you would have a GPS device that you could manually input coordinates into Epic Tracker. The social media features allow you to send out your posts to Twitter and/or Facebook. I was blasting my ET posts to Twitter and getting updates from Ryan when he saw them. As you can see, the message starts off with a hashtag for EpicTracker. The title is the only user generated message. I could have probably been more informative but at the time I thought my description was also going to be included. The rest of the tweet is an Epictracker url. An obvious suggestion would be to use a url shortener. Maybe they can work something out with Turkey and get Epic.tr. Back on the website, more work needs to be done to add a social element. I can see a lot of my friends using this service and I would like to follow their travels. Right now there doesn't seem be that feature. The website also seems to be split into two parallel views, one HTML and the other Flash. Once in the Flash view you aren't able to one-click back into HTML view. You need to type the entire url. There are other idiosyncrasies but I will chock it up to being early beta. In all fairness, I can't be too critical since this version of Epic Tracker is not publicly available. My role at this time is to kick the tires and report back. So far I like what I see and if some of these improvements are made for the public release I am sure you will like it to. I'll keep you posted.
For the past week or so I've had the pleasure of using a Motorola Droid courtesy of Verizon Wireless. It's a loaner so I have to return it shortly. As these are my first impressions, I am going to make the obvious comparisons to the iPhone 3GS which I will admit I am in love with. The first question I have is without an iTunes like interface, how does one sync all the content to the Droid? At first take it is not intuitively obvious. Neither is it on second take. I thought I might be able to drop content into the Droid if I plug it into my laptop but Finder on my MacMini did not see any Droid device or storage. The Droid did recognize the Mac as a power source, though. So loading music and podcasts will have to wait. The next thing I did was search for applications. The Droid menu includes something called a Market launchable from an icon that looks like a little briefcase. Clicking that brings up the Android marketplace. From here you can search and select from thousands of Android apps. The big difference from the iPhone is Google is not restricting any apps from being made available for the Droid. The vetting process that Apple subjects all the apps getting into the iTunes Store is a big sore point for many developers. As will all things there is a plus side and a downside. For Google Android it is open to anyone wanting to develop for their Droid phones. The downside is that there exists the possibility for some nefarious applications to be downloaded to your phone. In the Apple case, they control access but with the promise that it will be a user friendly environment. Once you find an application you like in Market you just click on it and Install. The app gets downloaded directly to your phone from the Verizon 3G network. I tried a few of the popular titles like Seesmic for Twitter access, Yelp for restaurants and ShopSavvy for barcode reading. All worked fine except Yelp did not have the augmented reality feature as found on the iPhone version. I did like the Google Goggles app just announced last week. With it you can snap a picture of a book, a product, a landmark, even a face. Goggles will then scan the image and return search information based on your image. Very cool. The Motorola Droid phone is solid, even a bit heavier than the iPhone 3GS. I've heard a lot of people complain about the physical keyboard but people complained about the iPhone screen keyboard when it first came out. My only comment is since the Droid has a screen keyboard, it could do away with the physical keyboard and reduce some weigh and complexity. The screen for the Droid is very crisp making for clear images. I also like the Voice activation capabilities with the Droid. I must also mention, last week there was an upgrade to the Android operating system to 2.0.1. The phone automatically prompted me of the update and proceeded to download it. Quite seamless. All in all a very nice phone. One that will be a major player in the smartphone market. Right now though IMHO, the Droid is more suited for the early geek adopter. The true test is the Mom test. Moms are more incline to get immediate benefit from the iPhone before the Droid. I'll update this post as I get more information. Unfortunately I will have to return this phone shortly. Stay tuned to the Dec. 30 edition of Bytemarks Cafe where we will have a couple of gadget geeks on to talk about their impression of the Droid.
There are some interesting developments in the local iPhone application community. Granted iPhone app development here is nothing new. I recall in the beginning of this year when Russel Cheng over at Oceanit announced their iFu Kung Fu app. It was all the rage and quite novel at the time. Now iPhone apps are popping up in the most interesting places. We recently had a Bytemarks Lunch at Mini Garden where Michal Anne Rogondino showed us her new ShakyGlobe app. If you look closely you can see the DC comics logo. It's an interesting concept with some licensing potential. There are globes for a variety of places each one having unique digital assets. Michal Anne tells me that this is just a precursor to something bigger. So I will keep in touch to find out. Don't mind my crispy gau chee mein in the background. That was my lunch. Also released this week was HMSA's iPhone app. (Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I did have a hand in this.) But any recognition goes to Kevin Lohman of Logic High Software, who did all the development and an excellent job managing this project. I was looking for something simple and came up with a basic mobile portal. We went through a couple of iterations, with a pre-release beta that used graphics that I cobbled together. This first release is very clean in appearance and functional. The app points to a variety of HMSA resources on the web like homepage, news links, Twitter accounts and Youtube videos. The free app is available in the iTunes App Store. We did it to show the potential of mobile apps and to solicit feedback on what might be of most interest in an HMSA iPhone app. You can post your comments here or send me an email. You will find me at the Contact Us tab. Coincidentally, we covered an event on Bytemarks Cafe about an upcoming iPhone Developers Meetup coordinated by Dan Leuck from Tech Hui happening on Wed. Dec. 2nd at 6:00pm over at the Manoa Innovation Center. Bruce Kim, who I have known from Innovaware came on the show to talk about the event. It was news to me that Bruce was involved with mobile app development but his new company Userlink is focused on this. He is a good resource and has the experience to prove it. This is the second meetup for the developer group. If you are interested in mobile apps this looks like an exciting sector to keep an eye on. It is definitely building in momentum.