Friday, March 27, 2009

New Life for old Pocket PC's

If you have an older HP IPAQ which comes with Windows Mobile 5, and if you have wifi built in, or have an older cell phone with gprs or something, or maybe even 3G who knows, and you hate the version of internet explorer that comes with it, as I do, then let me introduce you to a free (for non commercial use) pocket PC web browser.

The IRIS Browser for Pocket PC by Torch Mobile is optimized for small screens of those such as the Ipaq. It runs on most recent Windows Mobile platforms, and uses Webkit as its rendering engine. Webkit is the same engine used by Googles Chrome browser, and by Apple's Safari. And even by Nokia. It is fast, it is great, and far superior to the version of internet explorer on Pocket PC's.

Before I found this browser I mainly used my pocket PC with MobiPocket e-reader. I had assumed that once e-ink technology becomes affordable I would depart with my Pocket PC (Unless someone ports Google Android to it or something).. But now it has been reborn to do what it was originally designed for in the first place (if IE worked that is).

The Iris Browser offers zooming of windows. The implementation isn't perfect. I think having an onscreen + / - magnifying glass like the one in the latest version of the Google Maps Mobile application would be best. But it is cool to tap and zoom right to the perfect size to read the printed text. The browser offers mobile mode/desktop mode/and single column mode. I find myself looking at single column mode most. Perhaps an easier way to switch between the three would be an improvement. like a little box that changes shape depending on what mode you're in. Of course too many little onscreen icons would mar the precious viewspace, but its just an idea.

I do hate how you have to press a long time to launch a link. I'd rather just tap and go right away. It seems to have been done with thought to accidentally hitting a link when you just want to scroll using the touchpad. The touchpad scrolling is really fun to do, if you've used an iPhone its the same general concept. But even that is tricky to get the OS to register, and takes holding down your stylus or finger on the screen til it registers. I'm a very impatient person and find that the holdup bugs me.

Engadget had a review of an early preview that was lambasted by its users, but the version I had worked great. The only thing I couldn't figure out was how to get flash lite working. I still can't. I followed the FAQ on the torch mobile web page, and I installed it, but it just doesn't work. Ah well.

Now if only Rogers had better wireless 3G plans. I have a mobile internet stick, for my netbook (and while I'm on the subject, they should be selling netbooks at rogers with built in 3G already!) and while the flex rate plan works for me as I don't really use more than 500mb a month anyways, its still ridiculously overpriced. Once again Canadian media oligarchies have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Plus theres no flexibility. I have a phone, I have an internet stick. If I want to use the phone I have to pay to add the internet to the phone plan. Why? I'm already paying for the internet stick. Why can't I combine the two? Why can't I tether? What is wrong with those people. No common sense.

Anyways that was a bit of a rant there, whatever. I recommend the Iris browser to anyone with a pocket PC based phone or PDA. It is really really really .. really good. And it doesn't use a server somewhere to compress the data, it does everything locally. Unlike Skyfire, which is another browser being launched for windows mobile devices.

I hope Iris has a deal with Google to get ad revenue from their search page. It's what Mozilla does, and they make a good profit. And as I haven't paid anything for this browser, I hope they make some dough somehow. The company seems to be based in Canada, which is an added bonus, for me anyways. Toronto, sadly, but nobodies perfect.

Still, the best thing for me would be if someone ported Google Android to this device. I truly hate Windows Mobile as a platform. I will avoid it in the future. Maybe go back to palm. Or if Nokia comes out with something good. In the meantime though, thanks Torch Mobile! I mean, seriously, I figured it was only a matter of time before someone ported webkit to the pocket PC and wrote a browser for it.

Canada's Television Cartel

While newspaper Ad revenue is decreasing (because fewer people are reading newspapers, and the articles that make it into the newspaper are either completely uninteresting) The same thing has apparently happened to broadcast television. Now the Canadian television industry wants the right to get carriage fee's from cable broadcasters, and they want to be allowed to spend less on Canadian content, which is apparently unprofitable.

Now, even the CBC is suffering, so I'm not going to say they're making up this problem, but most of them made their own beds. Canwest-Global owns a ton of specialty channels, which are apparently profitable enough. Same with Bell and Rogers. Heck, CBC owns a few specialty channels as well. So they create all this glut in the market, and go into debt to do so, and now that ad revenue has fallen (and who knows, it could be temporary) they're crying "woe is me, how did this happen? How did my source of steady revenue all of a sudden dry up? Will I be forced to actually produce content people might want to watch?" No of course they didn't. They went crying to the federal government for bailouts, crying that the CRTC is picking on them, making them follow through on their contract with the Canadian people. The OTA (Over the air) Spectrum serves a purpose in Canada. Emergency needs, promotion of Canadian culture, all that kind of stuff. Of course, we still don't have any DIGITAL OVER THE AIR BROADCAST in Winnipeg. Meanwhile the entire united states has already basically switched. Except for the one channel we might receieve in winnipeg, the fox affiliate KNRR, which isn't broadcasting at full power yet, sadly.

Media companies are suffering because they didn't adapt fast enough, and they got greedy. We wouldn't have this problem if we simply opened up ownership of Canadian media to the world, instead of these few media cartels that have been allowed to bully their way into repackaging American entertainment into Canada all these years. If all we're going to get is American shows, then why don't we just let NBC buy Global, CBS buy CTV, and ABC can buy CITY TV or A channel or whatever else there is. They can call it NBC Canada, and they'd still be on the hook to produce Canadian and/or local television, but at least they'd probably do it, unlike the canadian media companies perpetually crying poverty.

Plus then we'd probably be able to watch Hulu on the internet without getting those ridiculous messages about not being in the USA.

Get rid of this collusion in the marketplace. Open up media ownership. Who cares who owns it, so long as they provide some Canadian content. Clearly, Canadian owners won't.

I bitch about the CBC A LOT, but I would hate to see it shut down. I think if they didn't allow such biased reporting they would be in a far better position currently, but luckily for them I don't hate the concept of the CBC. They serve a purpose, and that purpose should be focused on more than creating ridiculous shows that appeal to 30/40 something women. I'm glad they cancelled the inside track on CBC Radio, who cares about minor sports? Nobody. Screw the olympics.

Man this article would be so much better if I proofread before I submitted it. AH WELL.

** UPDATE **

It's EASY TO LIE when you own the media. Digital Home Canada article mentions that RECORD PROFITS for CANWEST GLOBAL AND CTV GLOBE MEDIA. Amazing that they're crying poor about OTA. Clear evidence they manufactured this whole thing. Unfortunately, this is the reason the CBC is a necessary evil.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Green Lantern Movie (Why not 3D?)

This is old news, but they're making a Green Lantern movie. They're filming in Australia, which is incredibly perplexing to me as Green Lantern as a character generally is based out of California, which is where Hollywood and the like are based. I mean, I understand about tax credits and such, and GL is a character that travels in space a lot, so Australia might have a lot of outer space style locales, but it just bugs me.

Apparently every actor who ever played a starship captain in a sci-fi TV series is up for the role of Hal Jordan. Nathan Fillion, Chris Pine. I say go with Patrick Stewart with a bad wig. He'd do a great job. I'm not a Hal Jordan fan anyways. I like Guy Gardner and John Stewart more. And Kyle Rayner is more entertaining than Hal. But Hal was first (STFU Alan Scott fans) so they should start with him.

The biggest beef I have is WHY ISN'T WB MAKING THIS MOVIE IN 3D? Green Lantern creates solid green light constructs using his force of will through his ring. Imagine what it might feel like to have that in 3D. Giant Green Hammers, giant green aliens, giant green hands, force fields. All in 3D. How much harder would that be? It's being computer generated anyways. Hal Jordan in a jet fighter flying right at you. Imagine being in outer space with Green Lantern for the first time and you feel like you're there with him in 3D from the perspective. This superhero movie begs to be made in 3D. Heck, George Lucas wants to go back and add 3D to Star Wars, he knows it'd be awesome. But it was never designed to be in 3D so it will feel like it was added on after the fact. But with Green Lantern, imagine the main character being thrown through the sky and you feel the perspective of that action. It seems a no-brainer.

In any case, the movie will be released in 2010, probably in the summer, which is only a year away and they haven't done any filming yet. Hopefully it'l be good.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Google Ads

Did you know that if you click on google ads, the person makes like, I dunno, 25 cents? Seriously. Imagine if 4 million people clicked on my google ads. I'd make a million dollars! There's probably a catch though.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I deleted Linpus linux lite from my Acer Aspire One finally. I installed the latest version of Italian linux distribution Linux4One, an Ubuntu derived distro. It is much better out of the box than most other distros, even including Linpus, which was designed for this PC.

What I like about it is that it is really well configured, it comes with the Ubuntu Netbook Remix interface, and its surprisingly well thought out and useable. I don't even miss the taskbar. I like how everything is combined into the top toolbar.

The default colours, like Ubuntu itself, are a hideous Orange, but it wasn't difficult to change those settings in the preferences menu, now its a blue-ish black theme (though oddly enough it took a reboot for the changes to register).

Firefox, unlike with Linpus, is Firefox 3.1. Much better, and it even had Flash installed by default like Linpus, which was a bonus.

Wireless didn't work after first boot installation, for some reason, but after a reboot it did work. I haven't been able to get my Novatel USB MC950D 3G modem working yet either, but I don't really know what the problem is with it. Still, it didn't really work on Linpus either, and at least theres a chance a future update of this distro will improve the 3G modem support (It's based on an older version of Ubuntu, unfortunately, so it doesn't have Jaunty's awesome 3G support in its wireless network manager. But I've only been using this for less than a day and already my experience is better than it ever was with Linpus. Plus it boots surprisingly fast, almost as fast as Linpus.

All of the special keys work, even the key to disable wireless, increase volume, etc.

Originally the SD slot on the right hand side didn't detect my 16GB SDHC card, but on a later bootup, it did. And it has since then.

If my 3G modem worked, I'd be completely content, as it is, I'm mostly content.

It comes with VLC by default, which is better than what came with Linpus, but all the same, I wish they had a few more files in their file repository. Like a good version of Mplayer, and some KDE programs would be nice too. Konversation and Amarok perhaps, but there aren't any irc programs in the repository for Linux4One. I assume you can simply install from the Ubuntu repositories, or even debian, but a few more programs would be nice. Also a few more games. Solitaire for example, and Minesweeper. I haven't used Windows in years personally, but they're the type of mindless game you can fire up to kill some time, same with Tetris perhaps. Linpus had more games by default, though not the best ones. Also Gimp or Krita. There is a dearth of default applications in this distro, but the basics are there and the configuration is top notch.

Also Compiz doesn't seem to be available. It's probably not necessary, but Linpus had it.

But other than that, I really like it. It's one or two revisions away from being perfect. Also the install felt like it took forever. Nothing to do while it was happening, like playing a game of solitaire or something.

** UPDATE #1 **

Some more observations.

I noticed Linux4One uses Ext3 by default. I wonder if that is the best choice for a SSD based distro. I believe Linpus used Ext2. I disabled all logging in the bootup settings, so that should minimize some disk writes, but all the same, thats a concern that imediately popped into mind. I wonder if theres a filesystem for Linux that uses SSD's more efficiently.

I added a show/hide desktop to the top taskbar, along with the weather and on the far left next to the firefox button, I added the Ubuntu start button. It is wholly unnecessary, completely superfluous, but I feel it adds something.

Fonts, by default don't appear anti-aliased. Smaller screen might benefit with having anti-aliased fonts (or perhaps a prompt)

Wine. Wine is missing, which I occasionally use for pokerstars under Linux. It's not a huge deal, but again it shows the lack of applications in the repository that most Linux users take for granted until faced with a lack of packages for them. I don't want to frankenstein up this distro more than is necessary, and by no means should wine be a default application included in the install, but this distro could use with a few "extras" such as wine, some games, some kde apps, etc.

And I really like this system now that I changed the theme to a blue-ish theme/background. The startup logo is also nice, and Linux4One has some otherwise good choices, but that orange theme really should go.

** UPDATE #2 **

While the kernel that comes with Linux4One doesn't seem to have a usbserial module that includes built in support for my 3G modem, the 2.6.24 kernel that Linux4One uses by default, oddly enough, does. Still, however, the network manager does not give the ability to configure the 3G modem, I had to add Ubuntu repositories and install KPPP, and set up the modem to use rogers wireless. While this does not really make things convenient, at the very least, If I'm on the road, I can always boot into that kernel and use it with my 3G modem to access the internet. Hopefully future revisions of this distro include the usbserial module. My theory is they use the same kernel as the one the kuki-linux project uses, available as linux-image-2.6.28sickboy-kuki_0.4_i386.deb on that website. I tried that kernel and it gives the same problem. Sadly, the Ubuntu kernel does not work with the wireless card, so if I want 3G, I have to use this kernel, if I want wireless, gotta reboot and use the other kernel. Ah well. Also grub uses a 1 second delay in Linux4One, which while it speeds up the boot process, I decided to change to 3 seconds in /boot/grub/menu.lst, cause this thing boots up fast enough that I don't really notice the two seconds, and when I need to select a kernel it does help.

Also recently (other than kuku-linux) noticed that theres another distribution of linux which makes an attempt to work with the aspire one out of the box, easy peasy linux. However it seems to be in the same boat as kuki and Linux4One, in that not everything yet works. I'll probably give it a try out when it reaches version 2 in the next month or so (same with kuki)

Even more Calvin and ... uhhh..

Oh Calvin.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Battery technology breakthrough. is reporting on a breakthrough in battery technology that will allow for near instantaneous charges of future battery packs. Imagine charging your laptop in a minute. Think of the uses.

Firstly, imagine the power is going out intermittently, you have two hours out, maybe a few minutes of power on. You will get a full charge on your batteries in the meantime, which will keep you running all the same.

Second, imagine if wireless base stations for charging peripherals takes off sooner or later. This will minimize the amount of time needed for the wireless charge to happen.

Third, it will probably increase battery life in some way as well. Imagine having a 2 day charge on your laptop with only a 5 minute recharge. It's not outside the realm of possibility.

I'm excited for the future of electrical storage. Plus, the article mentions electric automobiles as being huge beneficiaries of this technology, as the recharge time on the batteries is very miniscule with hybrids. This maximizes the electrical input into as short a time window as is necessary, maximizing efficiency. Also I imagine wind and solar power would make better use of batteries to store energy when both are unavailable (ie, the dark, or when its not windy)

I'm glad there are people out there finding out new stuff like this.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Some Calvin and Hobbesery

Just some pics that were on digg the other day and I thought were nice. I miss Calvin and Hobbes.

Though I think the second one would be better if it weren't part of a motivational poster thing. All the same, one does follow the other don't you agree? OOPS. Calvin and Susie shoulda used Condoms rather than their imagination.

Monday, March 02, 2009

More fun at Dollarama : Delicious creamy Vagoon!

Ah yes, Vagoon. You may remember rain poncho man, on a previous "fun at Dollarama" segment here at this very same blog. Rain poncho man wishes he could get his hands on some sweet creamy Vagoon. Imported by Dollarama Montreal, Vagoon contains 0% trans-fat, and 35% saturated fat. So if you're going to suck on some Vagoon make sure you have a gym membership. Ah Vagoon, what would we do without you? Your creamy insides and your chocolaty smooth outside.

Nothing whets my appitite like Vagoon. And you know the best Vagoon is imported from Montreal. Although I think the government of Canada should put a stop to it, no matter how much we all love Vagoon. People of all ages love Vagoon.

Ah if only urban dictionary had a crass terminology for the word Vagoon. But I doubt it. There is nothing they could do, no way they could twist such an innocent word into something evil and subversive.

Oh Vagoon, with your creamy hazelnut filling and your decadent crap flavoured chocolate outer-filling. You're like a twix bar, except horribly disgusting, and more like a chocolate covered wafery thing. Okay not that disgusting, you can learn to love sucking on vagoon, but all the same, its not for me. I choo-choo-choose you, vagoon, all 52 grams of you, for the dollarama train to confectionaries I shall never speak of again.