Computer Games Gaming Mobile

Phones & Dragons

Janrien, My Dragon Age Character
Janrien, My Dragon Age Character
So, I’ve spent quite a while over the last few months playing Dragon Age. Less recently, because I hit another “I’ve screwed this up” bit, and I’m in the process of working up the grit to go back and redo it.

Photo by 37prime on Flickr

Also, the 11th is exactly 18 months since the launch of the iPhone 3G, which is the phone I have been using since that date. (I have, incidentally, been really happy with the phone. I haven’t even felt the need to jailbreak it, though I keep considering it)

What connects those two pieces of information?

Yesterday, two interesting announcements happened between my leaving work for the pub and getting home. The bit relating to the first is that the new expansion for Dragon Age has been announced, and looks Really Quite Shiny, but the second is that yesterday Google announced the Nexus One, google’s newest version of the Google Phone, where they’ve taken a more apple-style control of the presentation than before. Looking at the specs and the video, it looks like this is likely to be my next phone.

People have been wondering at the release date, and why they didn’t just wait until the next major event (Probably CES), and the answer is above. All the people who bought the 3G on spec? Their contracts run out on monday. Guess what they’re in the market for then?

Of course, It’s entirely useless to me, unless I decide to pay the full unsubsidised $550 to get one shipped to the UK. Apparently Vodafone in the UK will have it in “spring”, so it looks like I’m stuck with the iPhone until then, or something neater comes along. I hear Apple will have this new thing…

Imported From Epistula Mobile trutap

Trutap Two

Today, I went to the Future of Mobile conferency thing in Kensington. This happens to be the very first industry thing I’ve been to where the company I work for has had a major showing, and a major showing we made today. Not only with CEO Doug Richards going on a freeform odysssy of not only the future of mobile but its present also, up to Tom Hume of Future Platforms presented a talk on how designing multiple interfaces for each phone isn’t something that scales effort very well, and scaling very well is precisely the solution to the problem. FP are the people who build the TT App.

On top of that, CTO Carl did a panel at the end, Product Manager Luke’s on the spot for a workshop tomorrow (I think) and, generally, we were Visible.

I arrived a little late, but wasn’t too fussed about missing the first subjective five hours of the Phone Operating Systems panel, and instead only sitting though the final subjective two hours. There was a running theme of “The world would be better if the Operating Systems worked together” which was to be implemented as “You should work with us”, a theme that continued though the day, with Adobe’s Open Screen thing announcement starting off with “Do you know what sucks? The fact that everyone’s solution to the ‘There are too many platforms’ problem being to create a new platform.” I actually honestly hoped they had worked out a solution to this, and indeed they have. They have created a new platform. But it’s based on Flash, so that’s all right then.

Currently there are three main problems with developing mobile applications. They are these:

  1. The phone operating systems
  2. The operators
  1. The install base.

    1 & 2 are classic problems. There are a wide range of operating systems for phones, few of which allow for things to run on more than one of them, and the desire for Operators to not become merely another data pipe (as the land-line phone companies did before them as the Web spread) but to retain a measure of control over their users (be it by refusing to allow non-signed apps to be installed as in the US, or by limiting data use by screwing around with socket access and web proxies as in Europe. Three have even started inserting HTML into pages in mid-flight, a-la 1990s Geocities).

    The third problem is the elephant in the room that none of the proposed solutions cover. It’s all very well for the iPhone interface to be cool, for Android and new Symbian installs to allow access to the phone’s data, for the Open Screen faffery to allow porting an application from phone to browser to desktop to mind-link by redefining the interface specification, but none of those are of any use to anyone who bought a phone before 2006.

    You can’t just pull a new standard out of your arse, say “I solved it!” and entirely ignore the billions of handsets and users that are simply not using “smart” level handsets. Like the rise of CSS in the last few years, but on a much larger scale, it’s not enough to declare that everyone else is doing it wrong simply because the early adopters now have something that does it right, you can’t just stop supporting them yet. We’re not even in the transition phase, where we have something to migrate to.

    It’s getting better. Back when I was working for Internet Designers, we were working on Java-based games for some of the very first mobiles to support it. At that point, one of the phones was so strapped for memory that Nokia had sliced out the portions of Java that allowed for network connectivity. You could access the internet, or you could run a Java app, but you couldn’t do both at the same time. As functionality increases, compatibility increases, and as more companies rely on full support of the VM, it gets slowly better with phone releases. Sometimes it gets worse.

    One of the recurring themes when the tech-’bloggers’ (Still hate that damned phrase after ten years) took to the stage was that the fundamentals still have to be solved. There’s no point in developing the next wonder-app if nobody ‘normal’ will download it because they’re afraid they’ll get a bill for a thousand pounds in data charges. Comparison was made to the days before flat-rate dial-up, and for good reason. The concept of bill-shock has migrated to a new industry (Ironically, much less of a problem in places like India, where the phone is the primary network device (few people have PCs, so most access is net-café based, therefore public, therefore not used for Social Networking, both with and without capitals), because the data rate is much lower).

    It’s slow, and it’s frustrating, and I know this because I did it as a web developer, but just because the technology that makes all this so much cooler is so very close that we – the early-adopter ‘Mobipro’ capitalist westerners – can see it doesn’t mean we can leap to it yet.

    The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet. (William Gibson)

    On that note, and because I really should mention it, Trutap – who still pay my wages – launched the new Version Two app this week, with the brand new even cooler interface:

    The new application, which anyone can download for free, blends intuitive design with a range of interactive features that make finding and keeping in touch with friends really easy. Key features include: a personal newsfeed, ‘who’s online’, status & location, extended profile, searchable user directory, private messaging, email, SMS, blogging, photo-sharing and mobile IM.

    We haven’t released ports for every phone yet – there are various different versions, and they all need to be QA’d before they’re released. If you get V1 – or already use V1 – we aim to send you a trutap message soon when your phone gets the V2 version, so bare with us 🙂

    If you’ve got any problems with it, talk to nicholas@ or

Apple Imported From Epistula Mobile


Today, I got an iPhone.

This sounds deceptively simple, but really wasn’t, so here’s how it went. I had an 18 month contract with 02, ready to run out in September. But last month they phoned me up, and when I said I was waiting for the new iPhone, they recommended I switched to the Monthly Sim Only “Simplicity” contract, shaving three months off my contract (since Simplicity is a rolling monthly agreement) meaning I’d be able to get a new contract come July 11th.

This morning at 08:45 I was waiting outside Walthamstow’s O2 shop, on the reasonable basis that it would be quieter than Oxford Street, and there was a couple of dozen people queuing at the time. At 08:55, I moved to Carphone Warehouse on the basis that swapping being 24th in line for being 5th in line seemed sane. So I was the fifth person to get into Carphone Warehouse, the other people selling the iPhone today.

CPW had 24 iPhone 8 gigs, and two iPhone 16 gigs. The first four people wanted 16 gig ones, and it became a race against the (heavily overloaded) computer system as they went though the upgrade process. Two didn’t make it, and left the store. The other two were on hold for credit checks.

Switching to the simplicity tarrif was the wrong thing, because it meant I’d shifted from being a normal O2 contract user, to a non-trusted base-level user, meaning to get an upgrade I’d also have to pass a credit check. Which was fine, but O2 had apparently been recommending the Simplicity route for lots of people, and so the national queue for credit checks was loooooong.

At 10:20 – almost an hour and a half after I arrived – I left the shop to get to work, late but salvageable. Today was a deadline day.

At 11:30 CPW phoned me (I’d left a card) to say my check had gone though, and they had a phone for me, but I would have to collect it by 12:30. Since I’d got in at 10:50, I felt that leaving at 11:30 for my lunch hour was taking the piss slightly, but left dead on 12. Kings Cross to Walthamstow takes exactly 26 minutes, I have found, if there’s a train when you get to the platform and it’s the middle of the day (so stops at stations to exchange passengers are brief). I ran. I don’t run often, but I ran today to get an iPhone.

I got it. It’s shiny. I bought insurance for it after what happened to the one I borrowed.

This doesn’t end here, though.

First, my shoes were not built for running, because they dissolved by my running though the rain. By eight this evening (when I left the office) the soles were falling off.

Second was trying to migrate contacts.

One of the really cool features about OS X is the phone support. For 10.4 it supported the latest Ericcsons, and would bluetooth sync to them, and when they got a text message it would appear on your desktop. For the brief period I had a compatible phone (a few months, the on-call phone for Those Who Evolve was one) it was great. However, it’s not been updated to support any phone since then, so it falls to feisar who provide plugins for many phones.

My first attempt was to sync the old phone to the mac, then the iPhone to the mac. But for some reason whilst my old z310i would sync quite happily with the Feisar plugin, the newer one won’t (I suspect it’s because of the newer one’s Orange replacement firmware), and in attempting to fix this plugin (they’re all scriptable) I ran the unit test suite, which overwrote my entire phonebook.

I swore.

Nevermind, I thought, I’ve got backups. If nothing else, I’ve got all the contacts on my machine from the last fight with phone syncing at Christmas.

Er, no. Gone. No idea where. Fail.

After a certian amount of faffery (including grepping my entire hard-drive for a known-saved number to see if Outlook, ActiveSync or something had left a backup somewhere. Incidentally, the XDA (from the previous article) still has all the numbers, but no longer charges) I remember the existence of…


O2 run a service called bluebook. Bluebook is part of their data network, and (once you’ve signed up) stores SMSs for you from the wire as they go to your phone. Which is Really Fucking Handy. But not as useful as its ability to look like a valid syncing service for contacts, which my phone has been merrily syncing away to since I signed up a few months ago, silently and automatically. A perfect backup.

It’s even smart enough to allow export of your entire contact list in a sane and rational format!

And from there I can import into Windows Address Book (I’m now at home), and from there into iTunes, and from there onto the iPhone, which now has all my contacts.

All for only… 70% of the time of typing them all in manually.

But I have an iPhone, and it’s shiny. Sorry, that’s as interesting as my life gets right now. You should talk to my brother, he’s being eaten alive by doomed crabs.

Imported From Epistula Mobile Ubuntu

Import ant

I have had it with Windows Mobile Devices.

My main phone has been a HTC Wizard, sold by O2 as the XDA Mini. I bought it because it has a nice screen, a built-in keyboard, and will run PuTTY, which is handy when I’m pretending to be a sysadmin. It’s useful, in that it’s a pretty good Internet Device – though one of the new Nokia tablets would be better – but it fails massivly on several important criteria. Like:

  • It’s too big. It’s not a device you can slip into your pocket and forget about, and it has an exposed screen so you have to remember not to put it where your keys or anything sharp is.
  • The touch-screen is too stupid, and occasional resets the time while in your pocket.
  • The battery life is annoying.
  • You can’t lock the display when the media-player is on.
  • The headphone jack is 2.5mm. Why? What is stopping them from using a standard jack?
  • Windows.
  • Mobile.
  • Sucks
  • Donkey
  • Balls.
  • Yes, that did need to be five or six points.

    So, my new solution is for the XDA to live in my bag and be Wifi and GPRS if I can be bothered to swap the sim around, and I have got hold of a Sony Eriksson z310g. One of the few Eriksson’s with the clamshell form factor I prefer, an Eriksson interface (which I prefer to most of the rest) MP3 ringtone support and, and this was no small part of my decision to buy it, support for trutap. If I’m going to work for a mobile application company, it would seem useful if the software works on my phone. (FTR, it installed quickly and easily, its failure to connect to start with was because the phone installed the new Internet settings for WAP but not Java connections, and the MSN IM networking stuff seems to work. I’m pleasantly surprised :-).

    Now the complicated bit. Getting my contacts off my XDA onto the 310 from a clean Windows install (without the supplied XDA drivers). Note: I do not have Office installed.

  • Install Microsoft Active Sync
  • Discover latest Active Sync will not sync to Windows’ built in address book like all previous versions would.
  • Discover that there is no way around this, searching on the internet for a while.
  • Decide to fuck this and try it in Linux. (Ubuntu, Feisty Fawn install)
  • Find a tutorial for this follow it religiously.
  • Everything installs fine, detects fine, all messages fine.
  • Click “Sync”
  • Nothing happens.
  • Tail all relevant logs, track USB connections, unplug USB, reboot, plug in, tracking all logs, viewing all messages, turning up debug.
  • Nothing happens.
  • Search internet for solutions to nothing happening.
  • Nothing continues to happen.
  • Decide to fuck this and go back to Windows
  • Find age-old version of Outlook 2002 that came with an older computer.
  • Install it.
  • Discover that latest version of Active Sync doesn’t support that either.
  • Wonder how Microsoft Internet Explorer is not allowed to be backwardly compatible with itself when ActiveSync is.
  • Wonder how the fuck we expect Microsoft to comply with other people’s data interoperability ideals when their own software is incompatible with itself.
  • Locate shady copy of Outlook 2007.
  • Install shady copy of Outlook 2007. Am surprised when I don’t have to reboot.
  • ActiveSync doesn’t find any copy of Outlook on this computer.
  • Reboot.
  • ActiveSync finds Outlook 2007.
  • The more things change.
  • Sync contacts to Outlook.
  • Install “Sony Ericsson PC Suite”
  • Allow PC Suite to sync with Outlook and Phone.
  • Get contacts on new phone.
  • Jump for joy.
  • Attempt to PURGE all traces of Outlook from my computer
  • Fail.
  • Book complete windows Reinstall for when I get back home from Christmas With Folks.
  • Sigh.
  • Go find Christmas Cake.
  • Yay Christmas Cake