Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cool BlackBerry App World Feature

I wanted to use HootSuite on my new Torch (which, to my delight I'm really enjoying).  I went to the HootSuite website from my phone as I didn't know if there was an app or not. Instead of getting some ill-defined mobile rendered version, I got an "Do you want to install this app?" screen. Now that's cool. My iPhone makes me hunt through the app store to get what I want. It's extrememly timely to have the website that I'm using be able to automatically download their BlackBerry app when I visit their web page.
Maybe Apple can do that, but I've never seen it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Busted: FTL neutrinos have a measurement error

If you read my original blog about neutrinos going faster than light, you'll see that I was a little skeptical.  Just like the actual researchers, who suspected they'd done something wrong and were asking the scientific community to help find their error.

I don't want to gloat or anything, but it looks like the measurement error culprit may be my proposal #2, which accounts for a 64ns error in measuring GPS time due to referential frame dragging:

Okay, I'll gloat.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Zipper Knife

I'm in Nagoya right now, preparing for the QNX Auto Summit 2011 in Japan.  I'll be blogging about that soon, but over on our new QNX Team Auto blog.

You might know if you're a regular reader that I'm a sucker for butchered foreign translations.  To be clear: I'm not poking fun. Any arbitrarily selected foreign person speaks my language far better than I speak theirs.  Also to be fair, most companies have figured this out by now, and have native speakers take care of translations instead of dictionaries or Google translate (or whatever other machinations might be used).  But I just love the completely unexpected jangle of words you get when you attempt translating dramatically different idioms and diametrically opposed grammatical constructs into English.  It's almost like reading e.e.cummings poetry.  You immediately get the sense of it, but there's this delightful whimsy about hearing words coming at you that a native speaker would never naturally string together.

Hence, this week's exhibit: Zipper Knife.

Now Zipper Knife is totally cool, partially because it's so darn tiny.  I was one squeak away from being the proud owner of a Zipper Knife, and if I hadn't just last week bought a new Gerber key chain knife, I would be.  But Zipper Knife's real deal-sealers are the benefits.  Just in case you can't read the tiny print, here's what Zipper Knife can do for you:

  • Sometimes, you can use this tool to improve your nails.
  • You can put it to key ring.
  • This tool is very convenient to open an envelope for you.
  • It is so cool if you use this item for necklace.
All excellent benefits, for sure.  However, they save the best for last.
  • It looks so small body. But it has true functions for your life.

CCC and MirrorLink, part 2

For the continuation of my CCC observations, take a trip over to our new team QNX auto blog:

On the Road with QNX Software Systems: Connected Car Consortium (CCC) MirrorLink meeting, Chicago, September 29, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Connected Car Consortium (CCC) and MirrorLink

I'm in Chicago right now, blogging from my PlayBook.  I'll have a lot to say after I compose my thoughts, but with most of the day behind me, I'll just share some of the key themes I've sussed out of the days events.

  • Mobile makers (Nokia, LGE, and Samsung, at least) see MirrorLink as the way to get apps into the car
  • Nokia sees MirrorLink as a way to become relevant again
  • OEMs see the upside for new opportunities to connect with customers, but seem to somewhat be in denial that this will also decimate their existing revenue streams
  • MirrorLink has come a long way, but still has a ways to go in certification and safety concerns
And although there have been some great presentations (best one was the simplest PPT), I have to give my vote for the best slide so far:

I'll be back with more...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Makin' wine

My girlfriend is pursuing her sommelier certification, and as a side-effect, we donated some time this last weekend picking some grapes for a little winery called Lift Haus in Prince Edward County.  Yeah, they haven't picked the best name.  (Lift Haus doesn't make German wine, and as far as German alcohol goes, I'm a much bigger fan of their beer!)  It's a very small scale family run operation that makes half-way decent wines, and they really need help.  So we helped.

The experience of crouching down in the field all day, picking grapes in the hot sun, made me truly appreciate a glass of wine, and all the hard work and love that goes into each one.  Between the two of us, I calculated that we picked about 60 bottles of wine's worth of grapes--all day's work for a single row of vines.  What a lot of back-breaking work it was!

Just in case I forget, remind me the next time I open a bottle that it took hours of labour and love to bring that wine to my lips.  I've got a new appreciation!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Faster Than Light? Everybody please just settle down.

Okay, a week after CERN researchers have published a paper about a possible faster than light neutrino, the Internet seems to be awash with pseudo-science, worm-holes, and FTL drives.  Hey, I love science fiction as much as the next geek, but the CERN scientists, are first asking the scientific community to examine their work for flaws. I suspect that something will be found.

There are an awful lot of very smart people who have participated (all 174 of them, as listed on the research paper), but clearly they don't believe it either, which is why they are asking for more eyes.  Yes, Einstein could be wrong.  His work is based on application of very clever thought experiments, and although it's matched extremely well to reality thus far, it isn't impossible to be overturned.  Although he has been proven right time and time again in every experimental test to date, uncovering discrepancies in existing theories is what drives forward scientific knowledge.  Maybe this result will prove or disprove one of the various flavors of string theory!

On the other hand, it's probably quite likely that it will again be upheld.  Just for fun, I read through the entire published paper that is the actual starting point for all the uproar.  I'm only an amateur scientist, not a real one, but I did identify a couple areas that are definite assumptions to be double-checked.
(This diagram is from the original paper.)

In a nutshell: they make neutrinos at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland aimed at a detection facility called OPERA in Gran Sasso, Italy.  They compute the neutrino velocity by computing the travel time divided by the distance, and to make the claims they do, they must be exceedingly accurate in measuring both.  It's not like you can drop a flag, let a neutrino and photon race, and then hit a time clock.  The event happens so fast and the sites are 730 km apart, the way they measure the neutrino speed is by computing an absolute time on neutrino strength waveforms from the generator and detector, and doing computation after-the-fact to synchronize the waveforms and subtract the timestamps.  They then divide the time difference by the distance difference to arrive at the speed.

The devil is in the details, as they say.  Here are several thoughts that occurred to me while reading the paper on what could explain how this faster-than-light measurement isn't actually real.

1) The generation and measurement systems uses hundreds of components, requiring measurement of each length of cable and computing in all the factors that add to delay--the methodology is really quite impressive.  However, with all the pieces involved, there are clearly places that errors could be introduced.  They've worked for years refining the measurements of each portion.  Having spent my embedded career measuring milliseconds and microseconds, it's easy for me to imagine an unanticipated error of 60 nanoseconds creeping into the measurement.  One single missed or miscalculated factor could account for the difference.

2) The absolute timestamps in both location must be completely in sync.  They are using GPS satellites to compute time.  Having done GPS timestamp work for time servers before, I have a hard time believing each is 100% identical, even after all the error correction and refinement is added.  Even if, there still is the matter of Einstein's special theory of relativity itself that compounds things.  Time is not absolute--it changes depending on both the pull of gravity on, and the speed of, the observer.  I don't know if the two time locations account for their relative circular motion of the planet spinning, or if the gravitational field differs, for example.  Maybe the difference is inconsequential, but all you need to account for is 60 billionths of a second.

3) The distance between the two sites must be precisely measured, and it is computed as line-of-sight travel through the earth.  There's no way to send a photon on the same trip--it's through solid rock.  So you have to know the straight line distance exactly.  But the earth is not a sphere--it's slightly pear shaped, and varies from place to place.  As far as I can figure, it takes takes a distance of 17 meters to account for 60 nanoseconds difference in the measurement.  Knowing a latitude, longitude and altitude exactly does not let you precisely position your location.  The study does use the latest very precise geodesic measurements, but an error of 17 meters between 720 kilometers seems within the realm of possibility.

4) Both the locations and the times are dependent on GPS satellite measurements.  GPS was originally designed for military use.  Remember years ago when the US government reduced the fudge factor on measurements to allow civilian use to improve accuracy?  I think there could there be an unaccounted dependency between the two.

I'm sure that this research has been done to a level of perfection and detail that I can't imagine.  Who am I to argue with 174 PhD's?  But when it comes to laying bets, I'm going to put my money on Einstein and the decades of experimental validation he's got behind him.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pics from Yokohama

I couldn't stay asleep last night, so I got up at 5am.  Here's the reward: a beautiful view of  Shin-Yokohama from the 19th floor of my hotel.  Dawn has just broke, and rain clouds cover the city.

This last pic is just for fun. Its not Engrish (of which, I've seen a couple awesome examples), but I had to laugh at the audacity of the little packet, telling it like it is--Japan-style. After my instant coffee with creamy powder, I took a nice quiet run while the city was waking up, cooled off with gentle sprinkles.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Driver Distraction meeting in Kyoto

Although driver distraction is a serious topic, who said it has to be devoid of any humor? I'm currently representing QNX at the ITU-T Focus Group for Driver Distraction in Kyoto. Despite my jetlag, I've been hanging in there at full attention during all the discussion and debate, even when it came to the drawn out interchange about world wide standards bodies that relate to, intersect with, provide input , or receive output from our work here. That particular conversation was brutal.

That's why I especially appreciated having started the day out with the following picture:
It gave a good chuckle to the crowd of twenty or so representatives from industry, standards bodies, academics, and government agencies present, including myself.  This came from a presentation from Dr. Motoyuki Akamatsu from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), the picture itself being from an earlier 1990 Driver Study.  After that little bit of levity, we went back to the remainder of Dr. Akamatsu's presentation regarding distraction measurement with periodic   occlusion techniques, a slightly more studious topic.

After two days, we've had a lot of great contributions and participation, and I think we've made some good progress.

Why I Love My PlayBook

The more that I use it, the more that I truly appreciate just how incredibly useful a device my PlayBook is.

I'm currently travelling on business.  I edited my presentation back at the hotel and copied the Powerpoint onto the PlayBook, along with various other backup PPT, PPTx, PDFs and PNGs, so I'm prepared for absolutely any question that might come up.  I can present directly from my PlayBook using a little HDMI cable stuffed in my suitcoat, and look at the speaker notes on my tablet while the audience just sees the slides.  I love knowing I can have all my backup material pre-loaded and ready to go, and with a swipe get to what I need.  Now I take all my meeting notes with the PlayBook in Word To Go, so not only do I not have to try to transcribe my notebook scribbles, I can format them and highlight important parts so they're ready for emailing to my colleagues when the meeting is over.  And maybe I'm just a bit sensitive to it, but I always hated a table full of laptop "shields".  Now I don't have a big obtrusive laptop screen hiding me from my customers.

All I need to bring is this one conveniently small tablet, and instead of lugging around my laptop bag from train to taxi, it stays at my hotel.  While I'm waiting for the next meeting to start or on public transport, I have an easy way to kill time by catching up on news, surfing the web, or playing games.  I've downloaded close to a hundred different interesting apps, which gives me lots of variety when I get bored.  (Since I've tried quite a few apps, I should really start blogging about the best PlayBook apps to download...)

With moving around so much, I am so very thankful for carrying one pound instead of twenty! (Disclaimer: I never actually weighed my massive laptop backpack, so that's just a guess.  That eff-ing bag!)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Google buys Motorola and RIM's fortune's improve

Watching investor analysis about RIM fluctuate all over is both entertaining and frustrating.  The latest surprise being Google's buying Motorola Mobility causing RIM stock to go up.  The primary logic appears to be "if Google is buying up Motorola, patents must be worth something--RIM has way more patents, and they have more phones in the market place, so they're probably not as bad off as we thought."

Of course, nothing has changed for RIM except investor attitude, which caused the lift.  Not everyone is so uplifting, thinking that RIM will do badly because they don't have a dance partner. (What about HP? )

Good to see that there's a more positive RIM blush these days!

Monday, July 18, 2011

PlayBook screen capture: what's right and what's not

If you don't know about it, you can capture a screen shot on the PlayBook by pressing the volume up and down buttons at the same time.  It's a very cool feature, and it lets you grab snapshots from games, websites, apps, etc, and it stores the pictures along with your photos.

You get a very nice little camera shutter click sound when you do it, giving you positive feedback that you got the shot you want.  So far so good.

Here's the problem.  If you try this when BlackBerry Bridge is enabled, it doesn't work.  This does make  sense.  For security reasons, the PlayBook won't let you capture screen shots from email, contacts, attached docs or pdfs when you're connected to your BlackBerry.  That keeps your enterprise content safe.  The problem isn't that the screen shot doesn't work with Bridge.  What's broken is the absolute lack of feedback to the user when the feature is disabled.

I was using my PlayBook to pay a parking ticket online.  I tried to capture the official government receipt, just in case I had to prove that I'd just paid it.  I don't do screenshots terribly often, but I have done it before.  I clicked the volume up and down buttons and nothing happened.  Nothing at all, no sound, no anything.  I switched to the picture app, and no picture.  Hmmm.  I went back to the browser and tried again.  No sound, no picture.

Oh crap!  I'd dropped the PlayBook last week on the ground, and didn't notice any damage, but I must have broken the volume buttons!  I looked for physical damage, but didn't see any.  I clicked the buttons independently.  Volume up.  Worked.  Volume down.  Worked.  Hmmmmm.

At this point, I figured I misremembered the keystroke.  So I tried all other combinations--volume up + play, volume down + play, volume up + volume down + play.  None worked.

Maybe it's a synchronization thing?  I tried pressing them very quickly at the same time, to be sure that they were being simultaneously pressed.  Nope.  Tried this 10-12 times.  Nothing.  A bigger Hmmmm.

Finally I resorted to the internet.  Went back to the browser, and looked for "broken screenshot playbook" and several other terms.  I finally found the missing link--BRIDGE!  It was not at all obvious that this was related--I was doing nothing with Bridge, it just happened to be connected.

So let me provide some humble advice for the next PlayBook firmware update.


It's a design decision to disable the screen snapshot when Bridge is connected.  But when you press the buttons play a small raspberry, or a thunk, or something other than the camera shutter sound.  That way the user will at least know that the PlayBook is refusing to do what you ask, and not that you're going insane or that your PlayBook is broken.  You might not know if the PB memory is full, the  disk is exhausted or something else, but at least you'll know something is wrong.

Better yet, try playing a small wav file that says "Disabled due to BlackBerry Bridge".  Unfortunately that would need to be localized in each language, and it takes a little more flash space to store the message.  But you then would immediately explain to the user what the problem is, and how to fix it.  And leave your customers a lot less frustrated.

In today's marketplace, where Apple is the golden boy and RIM is everyone's favourite punching bag, it pays to make everything BlackBerry as perfect as possible.

Friday, July 15, 2011

RIM and the power of metaphor

I've been reading a lot about what analysts think of RIM these days.  I can't help it--I've a vested interest in the unfolding drama.  As a result, I'm also becoming even more keenly aware of the power of the word.

We all know one of the primary uses of language is a persuasive one.  Nowhere is this more apparent than today's media.  Blogs are going to be biased--that's part of their charm.  But articles in respected journals seem to have followed suit.  News used to be a lot less "flavourful", communicating the story without the bias of the reporter.  But media today doesn't seem to like it dry--everywhere are sprinkled metaphors that reveal the disposition of the author.  And if they aren't woven into the story themselves, the quotes that are chosen reveal enough of the preferred slant.

Here's two examples I grabbed from one article and analyst, who I'll leave unnamed.  I don't have the text in front of me, so I'm going to paraphrase.

I haven't seen a Phoenix rise from the ashes often; it happens, but it's rare.
The first thing I thought when I read this is that RIM isn't exactly yet a smouldering wreckage, but it sure makes it seem that way.  You imagine RIM as this vast wasteland, the fallout of a nuclear bomb, the post apocalyptic smoking ruin of a once burgeoning enterprise.  The view from over my cube wall is not quite so grim, thankfully to say.  The second thing I thought was that the metaphor is 100% incorrect.  Isn't it the definition of a Phoenix to rise from the ashes?

A soufflé doesn't rise twice.
Again, very doomsday.  Makes you think of a sad little pastry, sagging and over-browned in the oven.  The deflated soufflé almost makes it seem that it's impossible for RIM to do anything but collapse and burn.  Of course, it oversimplifies to the point of absurdity.  That burning, sagging mess is just a mix of flour and eggs.  Not an international company with tens of thousands of employees and billions in revenue.  The soufflé isn't full of talented people working tirelessly to build innovative products and restore lustre and fortunes.

I was trying to think of a cute way to combine these two metaphors into one, but I couldn't come up with anything witty.  But I do think the predictions of RIM's demise are slightly premature.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nuance corporate acquisition history

I'm sure most people aren't too surprised by last week's announcement of Nuance acquiring SVOX.  It makes a certain kind of sense, as SVOX was one of the last remaining SR vendors in the space.

This made me think about all the other speech acquisitions, where ScanSoft, or L&H or Nuance have made their mark by gobbling up other companies.  I spent a little time after breakfast this weekend researching all the speech companies that have been acquired by Nuance or a previous incarnation throughout the years.  I found it very interesting.  Hope you do too.

(NOTE: Click on the diagram to see the entire image.)

A couple of notes on the diagram:

  • BST stands for Berkley Speech Technologies, and L&H for Lernout & Hauspie.
  • The green boxes are where the acquiring company took the acquisition's name.  For example, when Visioneer acquired ScanSoft, they renamed the company ScanSoft.  Same thing when ScanSoft acquired Nuance--they took the better known name.
  • All of L&H's acquisition frenzy ended in L&H being hugely overvalued and going bankrupt.  So the "acquisition" by ScanSoft was actually ScanSoft picking through the ashes of the L&H dissolution.
  • Fonix as a speech company is still around, and they just announced this year they'll be spinning out Fonix Speech as a separate company to deal with speech in the gaming industry.  However, they also briefly had a stint in medical speech, where Fonix acquired Articulate Systems and  renamed that brand to Fonix HealthCare Solutions Group, which was then almost immediately sold off to L&H.
  • Dictaphone started as a company in 1923, but I chose to start the chart at 1971, since it wasn't at all clear when they made the move to start working on speech products.
  • The marks are only accurate to the year.  When two acquisition arrows are on the same year, the diagram may not show the exact chronological ordering within that year.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Telematics Update 2011

Telematics Update Detroit is usually quite a good show for us since it gives us a chance to meet with long time customers, friends throughout the industry, and continue to build new relationships. We probably had the biggest booth at the show this year.  Certainly the most visible--you could see our banner from the whole of the hall! Of course we had the reskinned Corvette, a real crowd pleaser. See our website for a description of the HMI reskinning project we did with Lixar.  Our VP Derek Kuhn gave a great keynote about the future of auto platforms--a TU keynote being a first for us this year.  (Here's your honesty in reporting: this is not exactly an unbiased viewpoint, since I significantly contributed to this wonderful trailblazing keynote's content :-)

What would be my one word summary for the show?  Validation.

  • QNX has arrived.  We're finally to the point where people realize who QNX is and that we play in telematics.  Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise, but it's so nice to have people come up to you who have sought you out because they know you're a trusted name in the industry.  I'm still used to the bad old days of having to spend the first 10 minutes explaining who we are and justifying my company's existence.
  • Videos actually work.  Several people at the show whom I've never met say "Oh, I've seen you in that video", or "I recognize you from somewhere, but I can't remember... Wait, it's your video!"  Okay, I'm not going all hollywood or anything, but it's good to know that the time and effort that me, our Marcoms, and our creative people put into producing these various pieces actually get watched! Of course YouTube views don't lie, but it's not about just who has the biggest number.  What's important is the context, and these weren't fluff conversations. (NOW WHERE'S THAT MAKEUP TRAILER?!)
  • GenIVI is irrelevant.  Yes, of course, everyone joined it as an insurance policy.  But fewer and fewer people are giving it any credit, especially since it's been two years since launch and very little to show for it, whereas we've come a long way in two years.  Having several customers give us unprompted confirmation really helps put the nail in the coffin AFAIAC.
  • HTML5 is the next pink.   Ask ten automakers what HMI technology they're using today, and you'll get twelve answers.  Ask them what they're going to use tomorrow, and you'll get one (maybe 1.5).  It isn't yet field proven,  it isn't a solidified spec, and there remain plenty of big picture issues to solve, and so I remain cautiously optimistic.  But the writing is on the wall.  And we'll be there with the big pink marker.
  • QNX CAR is making waves. I won't say much here, other than the fact that we had a lot of curious Blue Oval people getting a demo of our car.  'Nuff said.
One more plug alert: the bulk of this blog was written with my PlayBook over BlackBerry Bridge. (BTW,  despite what appears to be a common misconception, you can in fact get Internet tethering even if you don't have a BlackBerry.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Joys Of Travel

Business travel is so glamorous!  (At least that's what I'm told by people who don't regularly travel for their jobs, anyway.)

Here's a happy little example.  On my flight out to Telematics Update, I was standing in the line in Ottawa, waiting to check in.  A woman slides up right next to me (not behind me), as if she were my significant other or something.  I looked at her questioningly, but then went back to typing on my BlackBerry.

There was a couple in front of us, and she turns to me and said "Oh, I guess I won't get there sooner" all jovial like. I smiled because I had no idea what she was talking about, but then every time the line moved and I moved, she slid up alongside me.  I finally said to her, "you do realize I was in line here, right?" She said, "yes! You're in your line and I'm in mine." I wasn't sure what she meant by that, so I said that there was just one line here.  She started arguing with me that because there are two tellers there are two lines, and if hers clears first, she gets to go first. I told her there was a single line and multiple tellers allowed them to clear it more quickly, explaining to her as calmly as I could that she wasn't really following normal protocol. 

She got all indignant with me and said "you think I'm going to stand here arguing about lines with you? You'll get there either way!" She stopped the conversation, and proceeded to slide along side me the whole way up, loudly humming an annoying repetitve song and occasionally muttering "idiot" and many other barely audible little words under her breath.

You know, if she had needed to go first or had lots of luggage or kids or any half-lame excuse at all, even if she'd just politely asked me, I would have been happy to give her my place in line.  But just assuming she can go in front?  I guess the milk of human kindness needs it's fair side too.

As it turned out, I got to go first, because she eventually had to fall in behind when we got to the front--the opening between the velvet ropes wasn't wide enough for two.  She did end up on my plane, of course.  Despite being seated far in back of me in the plane, she rushed up the aisle as soon as we landed and stood right beside my seat so that I was unable to get out into the aisle.  I caught a glimpse of her snide smile back at me as she passed me.

Well, she sure showed me!

P.S. Did I mention my flight out was cancelled?  Good times.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BlackBerry World postscript

Following my "tradition" of always blogging a few days late, let me give a brief synopsis of BlackBerry World this last week in Orlando.

The event was off-the-hook in terms of scale--free PlayBooks to everyone, free entrance to Universal Studios (RIM rented off the park for the night!), free concert with Dragonette and Paul Oakenfold. The magnitude and the logistical orchestration was very impressive.  RIM had dozens of strategically placed people holding BBWorld signs to answer anyone's questions or direct people where to go, so you always felt taken care of. The audience was an assortment of 6000 BlackBerry enthusiasts, enterprise customers, press and analysts and regular people.  The PlayBook was a main focus, and since QNX is the author of the PlayBook software, I was constantly busy with questions--talking the entire time I was on the show floor.

Happily, people were impressed.  Despite the poor reviews that the PlayBook or RIM have gotten from the press in the last couple weeks, all the real people I talked to were far more favorable and forgiving. Partly this could have been because the software is in a continual state of improvement--the early previews provided to the press were several weeks older, and those several weeks made a big difference in the last remaining touches.

But I also think that partly it was because the press is comparing numbers--for them it kept coming back to the apps.  "Apple has more apps."  Maybe true.  However, who needs 13 fart applications or 27 flashlights?  One will do.  Or maybe even zero.  The PlayBook has more applications on launch than any other device has had (either iPad or Android), and because of the universal application platform approach that QNX is using, we can embrace many different software development platforms, allowing Adobe AIR & Flash, HTML5 & WebWorks, straight C + OpenGL-ES, Qt, Python, and yes, even Android applications to run.  The development ecosystem for the PlayBook is broad, and that's going to enable application development in a big way.

The other thing that really impressed me was how well BlackBerry Bridge works.  This is  the functionality that tethers your PlayBook to the BB, allowing you to use the larger screen for entering/viewing email, contacts, calendar, notes, and messages.  The performance was very clean and natural, and it's definitely a feature I'll be using a lot.

All of this is good news for automotive too--much of the functionality we developed for the PlayBook will be moving back into QNX CAR (with appropriate reskinning and reformulation for an automotive context, of course).  And BlackBerry Bridge (or something very much like it) that serves up an HTML5 application from the phone is probably the best way to export a smartphone application to a car head unit.

It's going to be an exciting year!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Terminal mode & iPod out

My colleague Andrew Poliak has posted what I think is an insightful blog about Meego & Terminal mode.

Also, I'd like to point out Apple/BMW’s announcement for adding Facebook & Twitter as well as other apps to iPod out. The feature has to be added app by app, which might not matter.  Application developers will be the ones doing all the work, and if it’s the big  app developers, they’ll be motivated to get themselves into the car.  Because it’s Apple's I think it’s a serious competitor to Terminal Mode.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

QNX & Python email6

In a late breaking extension to my previous Python post, I just found out that QNX is going to be sponsoring R. David Murray in completing the work of porting email6 to Python 3.3.

I haven't been keeping track of the evolution of Python since I stopped coding, but I've been recently reading through the diffs between 2.7 and 3.x.  I have to admit that I'll miss print and %.  Even so, all the changes look like they're pretty good ones.  So I'm glad to see we're helping pull forward the language by getting crucial package support in the new Python flavour.

QNX at PyCon US 2011! Long live Python!

I'm excited to announce that QNX is a diamond sponsor of this year's PyCon 2011!  Excited because I've been a long-time fan of Python, and I'm very happy to see it and the community get the support it deserves.  And happy that I'll be personally involved in a geek gathering of this magnitude. I will be there along with some of my co-workers next week in Atlanta, spreading the Python joy.

(I'm about to go into a historical musing.  If I start sounding too much like Jerry Pournelle used to in his Byte column, going off onto long irrelevant tangents, please shoot me.)

I started using Python way back in 2002 when I worked at OnStar.  I was creating an "illegal" web site--illegal in the sense that ONLY EDS was allowed to do anything with our computers.  As engineers, we were only allowed to use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  Ugh.  I had to fight tooth and nail just to get admin privileges on my PC that would allow me to install software!  Dear God, it still makes me shiver.  So the fact that I was enabling huge efficiencies in the engineering department by creating a wiki for information sharing was just a little bit under the radar.  (For the record, I did actually ask EDS to set one up first, but they refused to.  So you can see, it wasn't really my fault :-)

I was looking for something that would allow us to organize our documents & share files in a very easy to maintain extension to an Apache server.  There were a few wiki packages that I found in Java, C++, Perl, PHP, and Python.  I had used Perl before while I was a consultant, and the customer absolutely required it.  But that language was so gruesome, it scarred me for life--talk about a read-only language!  (I had a co-worker come up to me today and ask me what Python was.  "Isn't that just like Perl?"  No, grasshopper.) PHP looked a little wonky--tons of HTML and script mixed together--and it really didn't look very pleasant to maintain.  I knew C++ pretty well, and felt that I would prefer to pick up a new skill.

So that left Java and Python based wikis. The Java wiki that I was looking at didn't have great file support, so I downloaded the Python one--Pylewiki if my memory serves.  After I got over the whole "white space matters" concept of Python, I found the language to be clean, elegant, and powerful.  I made a number of extensions to the base wiki, adding change notification emails, version tracking on files, ability to embed images into the wiki pages, adding support for our information lifecycle management, etc.

I'm going into this long drawn-out story to illustrate a couple of facts.  First is that I was able to pick up Python very quickly--it's a very cleanly designed language, which makes it pretty easy to get.  Second is that even as a novice Python programmer, I was able to extend the existing source base with some pretty sophisticated concepts.  The language is very powerful, and lets the developer do amazing things with pretty little work.  As much as you can with a programming language, I fell in love.

Since then, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Python, even though my career has taken me a ways away from day-to-day coding.  Go Python!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Consumer Telematics Seminar: Thilo Koslowski of Gartner

At the CTS show, the day before CES in Las Vegas.  Some brief notes from the first presenter Thilo, which was a great presentation and mirrors many of the findings that we have about the industry. These notes were typed in from my BlackBerry, so I apologize for the brevity.

App integration may not pay off short term Connectivity is here Dealers excited (including wireless updates) Controlled app portals are the solution everyone has converged on Nav is almost (soon) commodity

Infotainment architecture made up of: HMI, Content approach, Service apps, connectivity, Ecosystem. These are the differentiators.

Smartphones connectivity will dominate--actual "connected cars" are minority (not ever enough to influence carriers).

It's not a "connected car" but "connected driver" (90% single driver)

Dynamic apps: what are consumer prefs?
1)Wireless map updates
2)Real time traffic
4)Remote s/w download
5)Real-time news

What isn't top interest? Financial info, social networking, buying concert tix

Design criteria for content:
Content Develop, Content Access, Content Management

HMI preferences in order:
1) dedicated switches. (Consumer Reports complain about Sync lacking them is an example that mirrors customer surveys).
2) Natural language
3) Touch screen
4) Augmented reality HUD
5) guided voice
6) Touchpad OCR (europe),
7) clickwheel

Challenges for the market:
*cost--multiple options at different price points *app fatigue (overinflated expectations) *Not "is there an app" but "should there be"?
*Driver distraction.
*Smartphones as benchmark.

PNDs are contuining a decline in consumer preference. 2009 33% to 2010 15%