Archive for October, 2006

Monday, October 30th, 2006

XML Annoyances is returning

Watch this week: the XML Annoyances column is returning, and not a moment too soon it seems. -m

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Softbank Mobile victim of own popularity

So, the question I posed here was what effect Number Portability would have on #3 carrier Softbank Mobile customers in Japan. Would they leave for greener pastures, or would lower prices and free Yahoo! content (not to mention a bit of advertising) attract new subscribers? Yep, file this under good problems to have. -m

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Letting the Sushi out of the bag

ZDNet Asia offers a rare glimpse inside Yahoo! Mobile, including the code name for a current project I’m involved with. Read on to get an idea why I keep saying to expect big things soon in this space. -m

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Opera Mini for Treo

Opera just released a version of their Mini browser for Treo. Here’s what the download and install process looks like.

  • point your existing Blazer browser at
  • the page detects your device (a Treo 650 in this case) and offers a download link
  • clicking the link starts a 100k download
  • the phone offers to store the download in the “applications” area
  • hunt through the ultra-confusing menu system that Palm has inflicted on users. Categories are “All”, “Games”, “Good”, “Main”, “Multimedia”, “System”, “Utilities”, Wireless Apps”, and “Unfiled”.
  • finally I find it under “Unfiled”. Click.
  • Error message “Missing IBM Java VM”: “Please ensure that IBM’s WebSphere Micro Environment Java WM is installed.”

In summary: Opera is great software, judging by the glowing reports all over the web. But installing mobile apps is a major pain spot. See also Daniel Raffel’s take on the confusing state of mobile development.

Hard to develop. Hard to install. We need to fix this asap. -m

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Number portability arrives in Japan

A brief nod to the east: now Japanese mobile users have the option to switch carriers while keeping their existing number. This development is triggering a new round of competition among the carriers and bringing in a new era of free content, something we take for granted in the U.S. -m

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Yahoo! Answers Mobile

Just ran into this. Nice! Mobile mashups are getting some serious momentum.

To elaborate on my previous comments a bit, the concept of what people find usable differs between sitting at a desktop and sitting/standing/running/driving with mobile in hand. Desktop sites aren’t optimized for these kinds of use patterns. Ergo, fertile ground for lots of mashups. You were getting tired of the Maps API + X formula anyway, right? ;-) -m

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Experts: Don’t try to copy Web 2.0 on phones

Link. My comment: “duh”. In fact, don’t even try to copy Web 1.0 on phones. Even the concept of what’s uable differs on the small screen. -m

Friday, October 13th, 2006

More Job Opportunities

Lots more going on at Yahoo! Come join the fun! We’re specifically looking for PHP, SQL, DHTML, XML, and JavaScript folks. And if you have some knowledge of video codecs, definitely get in touch. -m

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

Whoops, the feedback email address for the XForms Validator was down after my last round of changes. Fixed. -m

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Unplug phones to save power

One other thing that caught my eye recently: a report from a mobile industry task force led by Nokia that extolls the virtues of unplugging your phone after it’s charged. The report claims that if 10 percent of mobile phone owners would unplug their phones when done charging…

it would reduce energy consumption by an amount equivalent to that used by 60,000 European homes per year.

Something about that seemed a little strange to me, so I did an experiment and some math. There are now 2 billion mobile phones used worldwide. Using a device called a Kill-A-Watt, I measured the power consumption of two different phones I had handy: a Samsung (3 watts charging) and a Treo 650 (4 watts charging). Both, however rounded off to 0 watts once the batteries were topped off.

Older power “bricks” feel like they have a hunk of solid iron inside because, well, they do. A transformer takes continuous current through its primary coil, quite independent from the device attached, if any. Newer power bricks–the lighter ones that feel almost hollow–use switching power supplies that are far more efficient.

Half a watt, say for an extra 8 hours a day, times (10% of 2 billion = ) 200 million phones is 800 megawatt-hours. Over a year, that’s 292 gigawatt-hours. Those billions add up fast.

To estimate how much power homes would use, let’s pick an easy figure of continuous average of 1kw. In a year that’s 24 x 365 = 8.75 megawatt-hours, and for 60,000 homes, it would be 525 gigawatt-hours.

So the numbers are at least in a similar ballpark. But statistics are tricky. To put it in perspective, my Dremel tool (with a transformer) consumes about six times as much power when fully charged. So if only 10% of mobile users would unplug their Dremels, it would conserve the power of 360,000 homes. Turning off one light for an extra hour a day: 1.5 million homes. If you really want to save energy, start with the bigger things. (But that doesn’t seem like a message likely to come from a group led by a handset maker. :-)

Is my math right? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. Not to be totally cynical, the task force is doing good things, including getting manufacturers to use less toxic heavy metals and nasty phthalates. -n

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Mobile Interaction with the Real World

Another great confererence I missed. Who wouldn’t want a trip to Espoo, Finland? Proceedings (link directly to large PDF). Looks like an interesting mix of theoretical and practical stuff. -m

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

How PHP can be annoying

On a PHP 4 project, I need to use XSLT, but the interfaces seem far more complicated than they should be. Check out this declaration for the function to run an XSLT:

mixed xslt_process ( resource xh, string xmlcontainer, string xslcontainer [, string resultcontainer [, array arguments [, array parameters]]] )

Wow, it returns a “mixed”, that’s some helpful documentation worth looking up. And all I have to do is pass in an “xmlcontainer” and “xslcontainer”. In practice, you end up with hard-to-read code like this:

$arguments = array('/_xml' => $xml, '/_xsl' => $xsl);
$xslproc = $xslt_create();
$result = xslt_process($xslproc, 'arg:/_xml', 'arg:/_xsl', NULL, $arguments);

Too bad I have already-parsed objects. And then there’s this:

Warning: As of PHP 4.0.6, this function no longer takes XML strings in xmlcontainer or xslcontainer. Passing a string containing XML to either of these parameters will result in a segmentation fault in Sablotron versions up to and including version 0.95.

Whatever. In fairness, this falls mainly to the XSLT engine and not the language and the PHP 5 interfaces are much different and much improved. But still.. -m

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

s/pretexting/identity fraud/

Just a little FYI. Anyone use uses the word “pretexting” in a conversation with me is likely to get on my bad side. At least have the decency to call it identity fraud or even good old fashioned “lying”. -m

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

DRM backlash proceeds

Check out this site from Dreamhost: Files Forever. All files are DRM-free and can be re-downloaded at any time. Expect to see more of this from an unhealthy market that wants to break free from artificial constraints. Currenly in beta and open only to Dreamhost customers. -m

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

Mobile data at risk?

The little one just turned a month old. Since I have a spare moment, time for some blog catch-up. A C|Net puff piece survey reports

More than two-thirds of respondents said that their data was most vulnerable on laptop PCs, while 40% chose “other mobile devices” (i.e. PDAs, mobile phones, wireless devices)

Mind you, this is just a survey of how repondents felt, not reporting any specific security issues.

Is data accessible through mobile devices at risk? Absolutely. What are you doing to secure your data? -m

Sunday, October 1st, 2006

Yahoo! + SoftBank: watch this space

Today Softbank Mobile launched a new mobile service, delivering tons of Yahoo! Japan content, powered by Yahoo! US technology, to Softbank Mobile phones. This is notable for a few reasons:

  • In the past, content of this caliber been inside paid walled gardens in Japan. Opening this up could be the tipping point for a shake-up in one of the most amazing mobile markets.
  • This is the first time a carrier has been in so close with a content provider. If this works out (and leading signs are very good), it could be a model for the rest of the world.
  • I’ve seen some of the new hardware from SoftBank Mobile. The phones are great and–through tight Y! integration–go a long way toward solving longstanding UI problems related to the mobile web.
  • Number portability is coming to Japan, I believe beginning today on October 24. Once this gets momentum, user bases could shift rapidly. Today is the ideal time to be playing a strong card.
  • Apple rumors continue to swirl around SoftBank. I’m giddy at the thought of iPods accessing the web through my code. :-)

So, watch this space. More good things are coming. -m