DyscultureD Epic-sode 61: iPhone & Google awesomeness debunked.

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This is an important one. I mix it up with guest host Heather Gold on issues of privacy and the dangers of Google. And on the lighter side, I destroy the iPhone worship in the room with just a couple of apps and features available on any unlocked S60 device.

Definitely worth a listen!

P.S. Here’s that piece by Thomas Purves putting Canada behind third world countries for mobile data.

Episode 61 – Next Month the Olympics, This Week Gold | DyscultureD.

iPhone Voice-Activated Search: Good for You, Bad for Everyone Else

God help us
Uh-oh...

The Web is all abuzz this morning with news that a voice-prompted search service is on the way to iPhone users courtesy of the clever folks at Google. All I can say is, god help us all…

I’m a big proponent of mobile manners and I’m not afraid to let someone know when they’re disturbing the peace by yakking too loudly into their handset. I’ve so far been very lucky to have only once had to endure the unholy abomination that is Push-to-Talk, with some asshat wandering my local supermarket like an army commander on the battlefield: “What kind of milk should I get, over… You want the 2%? You can’t handle the 2%!“, and so on.

And now, thanks to your lazy thumbs, I’m going to have to sit on the streetcar surrounded by morans pretending they’re Captain Picard: “iPhone, where is the nearest Apple Store?”, “iPhone, what is Steve Jobs wearing today?”, “iPhone, what’s the URL of Apple.com?”, etc.

If this sounds like sour grapes because such a thing isn’t yet available for my Nokia believe me, it’s not. I use GOOG-411 all the time, but you know what? If I’m in a public place I find a quiet corner away from other people, or at least cover my mouth while talking at an appropriate level.

Okay, so now that I’ve got you all riled up I’ll come clean: I am of course being unfair in singling out iPhone users for bad mobile behaviour — not respecting your environment is a sin committed on all types of mobiles by all types of inconsiderate people. Consider this my plea to you: If you really want me to covet that wondrous iPhone of yours you’ll do the right thing and use your fancy new voice-activated Google search only in appropriate situations. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility…

Nokia N95 Trial: 30 Seconds Over Tokyo with Nokia Maps 2.0

Today we take a look at Nokia Maps 2.0 for the N95 8GB. It’s availability hasn’t yet trickled down to my trusty E61i, but with only a month and a half before my trip to the Japan Wireless Expo I’m hoping for an update before I leave — here’s why…

Shibu-wha? on Flickr

In my review of Nokia Maps 1.0 I wrote that its killer feature over the ubiquitous Google Maps was the ability to store local map info on your handset. This is especially important for Canadian wireless customers who are being colossally ripped off for mobile data, and absolutely crucial for international travel with Fido, where such data costs 5 cents per kilobyte above and beyond the allowance of any data plan.

So far so good, but… Here’s all you see of my favourite Tokyo intersection with version 1 of Nokia Maps. I guess it’s partly because the naming conventions of the Japanese language don’t always translate what with the Prefectures and such, and also because there are actually many streets in the city without any names at all — whatever the case, there’s clearly no way I could use this software to find my way from Shibuya Station to my favourite hotel, even if it’s located directly across the street…

Shibuya by Satellite on Flickr

Fortunately Nokia Maps 2.0 comes with this handy satellite view! Click on the screen or here to see exactly where my hotel is.

These hi-res satellite images rival anything I’ve seen on Google Earth — on a small screen, anyway — and I can suck ’em all down to my compatible handset with Nokia’s Map Loader, or even more easily via my home WiFi connection.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the 5MB of satellite imagery I needed to figure out where Shibuya crossing was would have cost me a whopping $250 CAD at 5¢ per kb!!!

Oh, and that little icon bottom centre is to let you know that by pressing the centre key of your handset you’ll get a pop-up menu where you can, among other things, save what’s on your map as a favourite place.

Nokia Maps 2.0 is certainly one of my favourite S60 apps — or at least it would be if Nokia would only release it for the E61i…

Smartphones Get Smarter with GPS


(Nokia LD-4W, courtesy of e-series…)

Check out the Nokia LD-4W Bluetooth GPS module, a Christmas present for my E61i and a practical purchase for my upcoming visit to Egypt. I took it for a test run on a road trip to Markham and (of course) Pacific Mall yesterday and it works as advertised — there are no turn-by-turn directions like you’d get with a dedicated in-car system, but seeing yourself bomb down the highway in real time is still pretty cool.

If your mobile has the ability to run Java apps (and most do) you might be interested in the new Google Maps, which use data from cell phone towers to triangulate your position. Here’s a somewhat cheeky video demo, straight from the folks at Google:

Note that it’s not as accurate as true GPS, and more importantly you’ll be charged for data as the appropriate local maps are downloaded to your phone.

The Ultimate Website Mobilizer Smackdown!

AvantGo

In the beginning, before PDA and phone became one, there was AvantGo. It made use of your desktop computer’s internet connection to suck down just enough web content for you to consume during your idle moments on the go until your next HotSync.

It was really no more than a daily (weekly?) digest of your favourite websites, but it was the best that could be done. Of course, on cell phones of the day there was this thing called WAP, but near as I can tell nobody ever used it much.

AvantGo and WAP are still around. But a PDA’s (relatively) large screen is still best-suited to a single column of text, and many screens on the latest crop of 3rd-generation mobile phones are much smaller than that!

You can cross your fingers that your favourite site will have its own mobile edition — but if it doesn’t, what then?

Enter what I call the website mobilizer — sure you can pave the way for early-onset arthritis by pinching and flicking your way around the full-sized web on your iPhone‘s fancy screen, but I reckon that even iPhone users will quickly tire of long page loads when they can’t find a WiFi signal and are forced to use their carrier’s glacial 2G data connection…

Near as I can tell, website mobilizers come in two basic flavours, page-fetchers and RSS-grabbers.

Page-fetchers do exactly what you would expect them to — you input a website URL and get back the content, stripped of any unnecessary formatting (and often graphics). Example of page-fetchers include:

Skweezer

  • FeedM8 — a two-pronged service, offering a portal for popular sites like our very own BlogTO in addition to “roll-your-own” URLs.
  • This unnamed service from Google — with only one option, to block images or not.
  • IYHY.com“If you create a free account with us, it will save a link to every site that you visit through the IYHY.com homepage, so in the future you can just click on the sites you want to visit without having to type the urls.” — too bad the link to the signup page doesn’t work.
  • Mowser — a site mobilizer and search engine, along with a directory of news, politics & tech.
  • Skweezer (shown above) — popular with the BlackBerry crowd. Also gives you a directory of sites, plus the ability to save bookmarks if you sign up for an account.

I tested this very blog with each of these services, and the results were nearly identical. Mowser returned perhaps the best-looking mobilized page and Skweezer was kind enough to let me how many kilobytes of data had been stripped out, but ultimately the process of navigating to any of these sites and entering a URL by hand is a tedious affair at best.

Bloglines Mobile

RSS-grabbers have the ability to grab content from many disparate sources and present them in one unified block. The single best example of this is the mobile version of Bloglines. I deliberately use Bloglines instead of a desktop RSS reader so that my feeds are always updated wherever I go. And the best part is that rather than having to search somewhere for it most of what I want comes to me!

Bloglines is so good in fact that it’s earned the honour of homepage on my Nokia’s web browser. Its only drawback is that I can’t figure out how to strip out the images in my feeds, but I suppose that’s what these new cheap data plans are for…

We could really just stop here but there are a couple of other interesting RSS-grabbers you might want to know about. NewsGatorGo is definitely not one of them — why on Earth would anyone pay thirty bucks for what Bloglines gives you for free?!

Kaywa’s Feed2Mobile service will generate a QR Code which you can use in one of two ways:

  1. You can use your phonecam and built-in decoding software to grab the URL straight from your desktop computer’s screen, or…
  2. You can display the code on your very own page and have your readers do the same.

Facebook on Winksite

I opted for Winksite to generate the QR Code here at WordPress. The folks there go a step further than mobilizing a single page — sign up for an account with them like I did and you can get your very own micro-site, pulling in feeds from wherever you choose. Have a look at the screen grab above and you’ll quickly realize that you can now reap all the benefits of Facebook without even having to join!

Winksite is also doing its best to create a community of users around geographic locales (called “metros” for some reason) and tags. It’s a good idea but I’m not seeing any community love there as of yet… Maybe it’s my inflammatory remarks about the Grey Cup?

Hopefully all this will prove that the mobile web is still worth browsing even without a fancy big screen… So what are you waiting for? I need some Winksite friends, dagnabbit!