WebTech news (august 2009)

I’ve started sending out a (maybe bi-)monthly “web technology news” mail at work, I’ll repost these here (excluding items/ remarks that are specific to my employee off course) hoping someone actually finds this useful.

1. The web wants to kill Internet Explorer 6, MS won’t

2. HTML5: the web is growing up (but not fast enough, see previous paragraph)

3. Misc

Hey IT; even my mobile phone has a better browser!

Apparently I’m not the only one at work who cares about the lousy browser we’re still supposed to work with. A colleague sent me this personalized Hey IT-poster (click to download as pdf);

heyit: mobile phone browser

I’m not entirely sure I would prefer mobile Safari on an iPhone over MSIE6 on PC, but that might have more to do with the screen size and the lack of a keyboard than anything else.
Anyway, this is a powerful slogan if you’re in telecom, so I’m printing 10 of these as we speak. I might even try to put one up against the wall of our CTO’s office. 🙂

Developing a mobile blogclient with Breeze

breeze similator with mloggerI’m one of those crazy gadget-loving freaks that are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Palm Pré. One of the reasons I’m that exited about that device is the development-stack. Applications are written on the Mojo-framework: html+css+js plus a great API to interface with the OS and hardware. But the Pré isn’t available yet and there’s nothing more to do then drooling over the specs, the pics and the vids. Or is there?
Actually there are more companies betting on html+css+js-stack as mobile application development platform; the mobile version of Google Gears allows you to download web-applications to run locally (which is a slightly different approach, but with approximately the same result). And another giant, Nokia, has its Web Runtime for S60 5th edition devices, which seems to follow the W3C widget-specs to some extend (they can be tested as Opera widgets).
The issue with both environments however, is the lack of an API to interface with the phone. And that is not the case for my latest crush; Cascada Mobile‘s Breeze. Breeze provides you with a simulator (or Eclipse-plugin) and a simple javascript API to access o.a. storage, contacts, camera, gps and network off course. It compiles your applications into J2ME midlets, which can then be distributed via breezeapps.com and installed on a whole bunch of J2ME handsets (Nokia, Blackberry, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, …).
I’ve played around with Breeze, building a prototype of a blogging-client (ugly and wordpress-only for now, source here) and it really is great fun to develop applications that way. And it works too; the first draft of this post was written using it on my Nokia E61i. How I love the smell of my own dogfood in the evening!
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Tomorrow’s phone, now!

palm preAs every boy could tell you, it’s our toys that keep us kind of young. Because of that and as I work for a telco, I can’t but regularly buy a new phone.  Over the years I’ve had a.o. a Nokia 7110, a Sony-Ericsson T68i, a Qtek 9100 and I currently own a secondhand Nokia E61i. But time flies and my E61i is aging fast (maybe if I wouldn’t drop it that often …), so in a few months time I’m buying a new smartphone. Time to start shopping for pics, specs and reviews!
Smetty recently asked for advice on this topic as well, she was thinking about the Nokia E71 as a cheaper alternative to the iPhone 3G. But I won’t be buying Apple’s must-have gadget any time soon; although it has some superb features (OS, browser and that multi-touch interface), it lacks a real keyboard, has not tethering and doesn’t allow applications running in the background. And last but not least; the platform is far too closed to appeal to an open standards and open source minded wannabe-geek like me. All Windows Mobile-based devices are banned from my shortlist as well; I really don’t like the OS and its GUI, it feels too much like Windows 3.11 to me.
I’ll probably end up buying either the Nokia E71, a HTC Dream (the Google-phone) or the Palm Pré. So let’s do a pro&con-list, comparison-tables are always fun, no?

Nokia E71HTC DreamPalm Pré
  • Symbian is a proven OS
  • Lots of great software
  • Great battery life (1500mAh battery and only QVGA)
  • Builds on Nokia’s experience with the E61(i)
  • It’s a bit smaller then my E61i (which is … biggish)
  • Has tethering
  • Google Android is a Linux based OS
  • Google is an important player, lots of companies will be releasing Android-based phones in the coming months
  • HTC is one of the greatest cellphone manufacturers, they have loads of experience. My Qtek 9100 was a HTC-device as well.
  • Higher screen resolution (HVGA)
  • Symbian feels old and is not always that reliable on my E61i (why does it soft-reset when the browser crashes?)
  • Lower screen resolution (QVGA)
  • Less readable then the E61i (same resolution but smaller screen)?
  • No tethering!
  • Battery life not that great (1150mAh battery combined with and thirsty HVGA)
  • It’s early days for Android, not sure if it’s mature enough
  • Not available through normal channels in Belgium, except for some obscure webshop where it’s already sold out
  • How about battery life (rumours claim 1150-1350 mAh, combined with power-hungry HVGA)?
  • Not available yet, no release date announced (not for USA, and certainly not for Europe)

The conclusion: although it still is vaporware, there’s some extreme chemistry going on between me and that darned Palm Pré. It’s the most exciting device by far and if it is for sale in Belgium, it’ll be hard to resist. The HTC Dream doesn’t seem to do it for me, no chemistry on one hand and not the “safe choice” either, as that award is easily claimed by Nokia E71. So Palm Pré if available in June/July, Nokia E71 otherwise?

Jakob Nielsen on mobile web usability

Using websites on a mobile phones is “a cringeworthy experience” according to recent user tests performed by Jakob Nielsens company. His advice:

Although devices will get better, the big advances must come from websites. Sites (including intranets) must develop specialized designs that optimize the mobile user experience. Today, few sites have mobile versions, and those that do are usually very poorly designed, without knowledge of the special guidelines for mobile usability.

Great article, a must-read for those working on mobile(-friendly) websites!

New powerful iPhone with Flash preinstalled in q4?

So Adobe is working with Apple and “hope[s] to have Flash installed on over a million shipped devices by the end of the year“?
If you consider that:

  1. The (ARM11-based) CPU in the current iPhone is said to lack the raw power to run CPU-intensive applications like Flash
  2. Adobe has teamed up with ARM to optimize Flash on their processors and especially on the new ARM Cortex (which has been confirmed to be the CPU in the Palm Pré, which seems a great iPhone-competitor)
  3. “shipped devices” seems to imply that Flash would come pre-installed
  4. Apple sells more than 1 million devices each month (based on the past 2 quarters)

So we can expect a new ARM Cortex-based iPhone in time for the EOY holiday sales?

Voorspellingen 2009: browser-oorlog, ook mobiel

ballmer vs jobs: mobile (and/or) browser war (from iphoneblog.com)Naar aanleiding van de publicatie van de voorspellingen van 20 online experts door Netlash, zijn dit enkele van mijn verwachtingen voor het web in 2009;

  • Uw job als (front-end) webdeveloper (of tester) wordt er door de grotere concurrentie tussen browsers niet eenvoudiger op. Ge zult niet alleen moeten ontwikkelen voor Internet Explorer (het nieuwe IE8, maar ook nog altijd voor het verwenste MSIE6 en voor versie 7 natuurlijk) en Firefox, maar ook voor Safari en Google Chrome. Samen zullen deze Webkit-gebaseerde browsers eind 2009 immers tot 15% van de browsermarkt pakken (nu al 9%), tegenover 25% voor Firefox (nu 21%) en pakweg 60% voor (MS)IE (nu nog 68%). Gelukkig zult ge wel iets meer kunnen terugvallen op standaarden (MSIE6 buiten beschouwing gelaten) en zullen componenten als JQuery, YUI of Dojo uw cross-browser inspanningen blijvend verlichten.
  • Bling-developers mogen die dure cursussen Silverlight en JavaFX annuleren, Adobe blijft immers oppermachtig met Flash en -ondanks de gigantische hype in 2008 in veel mindere mate- met het nauw verwante Flex. 2009 zal overigens niet het jaar van Flash op mobile zijn. Een volwaardige versie van Flash voor GSM’s zal immers pas op het einde van het jaar uitkomen en zal dan nog enkel vlot werken op smartphones met ARM Cortex gebaseerde processoren, die nu ook nog niet te koop zijn.
  • Webagencies staan voor een belangrijke uitdaging; “mobiel internet” groeit (mede dankzij krachtige Webkit-gebaseerde mobile browsers) zowel aan vraag- als aanbodkant en kosten-bewuste klanten zullen convergentie tussen hun mobiele en hun “gewone” website hoog op het verlanglijstje hebben staan. Mobiel web wordt dé groeipool, ge kunt dus maar beter mee zijn, zowel functioneel (“mobile usability“) als technisch (er is meer dan Mobile Safari, niet iedereen heeft een uitgebreid toetsenbord en device-dependant rendering is een moving target).

En voor een recessie tenslotte, heb ik in 2009 echt geen tijd. U ook niet, toch?

Twitterless Twaddle

Indien ik zou twitteren, dan had ik de afgelopen dagen misschien het volgende getetterd;

  • @blogologie: Skyfire doet flash zegt ge? Amper, probeer maar eens een flash-spelletje te spelen. En traag dat dat is!
  • Mensen die mijn naam googlen en zo op mijn blog terecht komen, zouden die aan het “researchen” zijn voor de RFP die ik uitstuurde?
  • @eskimokaka: Atheïsten zijn ook maar agnosten die geloven dat ze het beter weten.
  • Beseffen bloggers die hun commentsysteem vervangen door Typepad Connect of Disqus dat search crawlers dan helemaal geen commentaren meer zien?
  • @lvb: “Wordt Obama een Clinton of een Carter?” is een interessante titel, maar waarom gaat het artikel daar dan niet over?

Over Skyfire (eens kijken of ik een network sniffer kan vinden voor Symbian) en de social comment-hype heb ik het later nog wel eens, peins ik.

My Nokia e61i really isn’t just a phone

With all the continuous Iphone 3G and HTC Touch buzz, one would almost forget how much truly awesome software there’s out there for Symbian-based handsets.
Just look at my Nokia e61i: it’s not just a phone, but also;

To be completely honest; except for MfE and the browser I don’t use all of this on a daily basis, but I can assure you that just calling someone on the phone works swell as well 😉

My Mobile bookmarks

A quick list of the most frequently used sites on my mobile phone.

  1. gmail mobile: my “homepage”. attachments and images could be handled better, but still, a great mobile web-app.
  2. google reader mobile: too many blogs, too little time. reading up on my blogfeeds everywhere i can (and yes, that includes the loo)
  3. smartphone/pda version of bbc news; the beeb was one of the first to have a version for PDA’s and smartphone’s, still great stuff.
  4. deredactie mobile: I just love the mobile version of their awful “desktop-oriented” website. Guess they took a close look at the BBC’s mobile site, no? Anyway, it would be even greater if they added links to multimedia (i.e. not force-feed video as they do on their very-very-broadband-version) and if they optimized the color usage because the readability of the purple night-version is sub-optimal.
  5. facebook mobile: I never really liked Facebook, but I must admit I’ve found myself spending time on it on an almost daily basis. The mobile version is an important part of that usage pattern.

Less frequently used mobile sites include; Truvo’s yellow and white pages, Wapedia (as wikipedia doesn’t provide a mobile version, they should) and Linkedin mobile. And although the webkit-based nokia browser handles normal sites quite well, the only non-mobile-optimized site in my bookmarks is my blog’s dashboard.
And you, what sites do you visit on your IPhone, Blackberry or Nokia e71?