Archive for October 28th, 2006

Mobile MPD

For the last few days I am toying with the idea of creating a web-based MPD front-end for cellphones and PDAs. This is one case of a user interface where frames are absolutely needed (example). Aside of the problem that some devices won’t support in-browsing mp3 playback (in the best case they might launch the device’s media player), the frames are an even bigger problem, because half of these browsers don’t support frames at all and the other half don’t respect the frame’s requested size and so the “music control” frame just won’t render correctly.

This is a good example of a web-based non-Ajax interface that simply can’t be translated into a good mobile browser experience today.

I guess compromises could be made, e.g. to select the playlists/albums before starting the player and then only have the ability to play these pre-determined songs and only be able to forward 1 or 2 songs each time from the playlist window (no frames). It won’t be as satisfactory as a real full-featured MPD client, but on some browsers and some mobile platforms it might just make the cut. IE on PocketPC, Opera Mobile (not Opera Mini), and WebKit on Symbian S60 might be the best candidates for compatibility. Not sure if Netfront/Blazer would work — depends how it was configured for each of its ports. I wouldn’t hold my breath for all the rest of the mobile browsers/platforms.

Update: It would have to look something like this:

Mobile MPD mockup

The cellphone of the future

It is a device that straps on your wrist like a wrist watch, but it’s much larger and it has an additional strap to your middle finger (so it doesn’t shift around your arm). It has all the required buttons on it, a microphone, a video-call camera and a speakerphone. It has a very small LCD display for basic notifications (e.g. Caller ID) and a hologram engine for normal usage. During a call, the user can either enable the speakerphone, or click to his/her Bluetooth handsfree device to accept the call. If this is a video-call, the hologram engine kicks in, creating a bright high-resolution screen out of thin air where the participants can enjoy their communication. For faster text input, speech recognition is supported along with T9 on the onboard keyboard and an additional small, mobile Bluetooth qwerty keyboard.

Here you are, my first patent application. ;-)

Mobilization of web sites: unlawful?

There is some talk recently (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) on some blogs about sites like the Google Wireless Transcoder, Skweezer and other similar services that take as an input a URL and they output a more mobile-friendly version of that site so it can be rendered faster and easier by a mobile browser. There are a lot of site owners who are very pissed about this because they say that these services are messing up with their copyrights and their financials because the ads are removed in the process.

IMO there is no such issue and the site owners should just shut it. If you try to download a 50 KB (Flash or not) ad on a cellphone, the rest of the page won’t load because the phone would run out of memory sooner or later. And if your ad has video in it, it will never load no matter if the user used a mobile Transcoder service or not. Besides, most carriers today ALREADY have such transcoding ability via their proxy servers (e.g. portalmmm, very popular in Germany)! So if you use one of their locked cellphones, there is a good chance that you will get a re-layout of the page you want to view, no matter the browser’s abilities.

Also, why is it fair use to use a web browser to access your site and not a Transcoder? Why is it fair use to use BeOS’ NetPositive or Linux’s Dillo to browse your site that don’t support javascript at all (and hense they won’t display any ads) and it’s not fair use to use a Transcoder? If these site owners don’t want Google to offer this service (which is a very useful one to many people), they should sit their ass down and write a mobile site themselves. And if they don’t want to, then they should hard code their site to only work with IE/Firefox/Safari and desktop Opera only and display a blank page to any other “user agent” (and sue Skweezer for using a Windows IE user agent so it can’t be detected). But they don’t do that because they DO want people to access their site. The site owners want the cake and they want to eat it too. It’s like that these site owners want to enforce DRM to their users on HOW they are supposed to view their pages. Do they have this right? IMO, no. If they want to enforce DRM, then they should make their site non-public and accessible via login/password only.

The ONLY annoyance that exists right now is that these transcoding services also transcode mobile sites, like OSNews.com and WinkSite, and so they make them look uglier than they have to be. I believe that a new law must introduced that allows transcoders to do their job by default, BUT, they must “listen” to robots.txt and if a site owner doesn’t want them to use his site, they should respect that and drive away. This means that Skweezer must also change its user agent (I am not happy at all about them posing as IE while originally they were reporting their own unique user agent). This should make happy both the services and the owners.

And these site owners who said that they want to sue Del.icio.us because it wants to add ads on their RSS feeds, should get a life too. Del.icio.us offers a service that it’s very useful to the community and personal grudges should not get in the way for the progress of the society. The whole point of the RSS feeds is that they link back to the original article. What these site owners must do is what we do at osnews (and other sites do too): Only offer via RSS the first paragraph of your news item and then link to the original article back at your site. If the reader is interested in reading more he/she will have to click through to your page and see your ads. This way, Del.icio.us offers a useful service and gets paid for it via ads, the RSS owner gets the links-though he deserves to have and also gets paid via ads on his site. Why make things more complicated than they have to be?

The shape of things to come

Many think that DRM itself is the worst that it can happen between the media companies and consumers, but it’s not. IMO, this case right here is even worse. From one side the studios asked the Browncoats (in english: Firefly/Serenity fans) to promote the movie via the Internet in any way possible, and now that the movie is in a dead end with no follow-ups planned, they are suing these fans.

What’s next? Humming a song under your lips get you sued? Including the lyrics of a song on your homepage get you sued? Printing a t-shirt with an album cover get you sued? Recording from an FM radio get you sued? Snapshotting your own TV while CSI:Miami is broadcasting get you sued?

Believe it or not, all these ARE copyright infringements and they CAN get you sued. While DRM might become easier to swallow by having both RIAA/MPAA endorsing and requiring a single DRM standard for their licensees, the rest of the entertainment business is going to become worse and go after the consumers — worldwide. It will feel that we are under Policed Nations. Just like in some futuristic movies like “Equilibrium” or “1984″ but instead of having the governments enforcing all that, it would be the Entertainment Industry.

IMHO, you can’t stop the Entertainment Industry for trying to enforce their copyrights and the rest of their rights — it would be unlawful if they don’t. What needs to be done is a rework of the copyright law in general and a broader “fair use” law.

Stuff…

I am not looking forward for Vista. Apparently it requires lots of RAM and it has a gazillion of different versions that confuse me. I think MS will lose market share with Vista (mostly to OSX), and that would be all their fault, not Apple’s.

Regarding South Park’s parodies, I always enjoyed them. But this week’s Irwin parody was simply out of place. Not because of any respect reasons (I was never a huge Irwin fan), but because it was cheap and not funny. If at least was funny, I would say “oh, well, ok”, but it just wasn’t funny or had any particular purpose.

I am swamped with review items. Over 10 items I want to review in the next 2 weeks for TuxTops (only one will be published on OSNews). Two of these items are terrible. They are going to receive 3/10 or so.

Why Madonna gets so much hate from the media and the local groups for her adoption of a Malawi kid? I don’t get it. I mean, what’s the big deal about it? And why the local groups don’t want westerners to adopt these African children? Is it better to have them dead sooner or later from malaria? What the hell?

Both “Lost” and “Heroes” rock the world! Best shows on TV currently. For some reason I can’t watch normal social dramas. Yuck. Give me spaceship battles!