Xen Dolev is hosting this week’s Carnival of the Mobilists. If you are interested in the mobile Internet, it is the
ressource to find out what people are thinking and in which direction
the technology is moving. Have fun!
Once upon a day, GSM authentication and encryption was quite easy. A key, a random number, a little algorithm and off you go. Seems that was too easy for some people so they came up with a new authentication and encryption system called Milenage. Very hard to find information about this written for the ‘non cryptanalyst’. Fortunately, I’ve finally found an exception. Take a look here. Enjoy!
Every day, mobile phones and the Internet come closer together. Recently, Nokia R&D have announced that they’ve ported Apache and Python to the S60 OS. They envisage to use the mobile web server to create new services for people on the net depending on the location of the owner. Indeed, interesting thoughts. I say let’s turn the stick around for a moment and think about what a web server embedded in a mobile phone can do for the owner.
A web server in a mobile phone combined with Wifi can also be a powerful personal platform, i.e. serving mainly the owner of the device. We are not far away, Nokia has already announced Wifi support in the Nokia N80 which should be on the market very soon. Here are some applications for a combination of Apache, Python and Wifi in a mobile phone:
- While you are at home, the mobile phone is part of your network via Wifi. Instead of using the small phone keyboard for many things like writing text messages or to change settings, you can use a web browser which communicates with the personal web server on the mobile phone.
- Today I use Yahoo! Go for synchronizing my calendar and address book with the web. This way, I can edit my contacts and my calendar via a web browser while at home or at work and synchronize back and forth between the desktop and the mobile phone. With a personal web server in the phone, no synchronization is necessary anymore. Everything is always in the phone. Of course there should be a function in the phone that automatically sends a backup of all data to a server while I am at home.
- If you are away from home and in the office, you can still use the web browser instead of the mobile phone as the web server can also be accessed via the cellular network.
These are just a few example of what the combination of web server, programming language and Wifi will enable people to do with a mobile phone in the future. Not to speak of all the other things Wifi on it’s own will bring like Voice over IP in the Wifi network at home and in the office, storage of all your music and videos on the phone and distribution to devices like the TV and stereo set at home, personal file server.
Almost everything is in place, now a couple of people just have to take the next step.
So here it is, my brand new notebooks with all the bells and whistles I’ve been missing with ‘that other old notebook’ while traveling. The last area in which I expected problems during installation was the wireless LAN card, Centrino label on it and all.
Yes, I still do believe in the message of some advertisements 🙂 The WLAN card worked at first for simple web page downloads and other things but failed whenever I tried to do some more advanced stuff like Skype or video streaming. So o.k. maybe it doesn’t like my access point. No big deal, got a second one for testing purposes. With that one it was even worse, lost connection every couple of seconds. Next I looked at the driver version for the Intel 2200BG driver (802.11b/g) and saw that it was from 2004… No wonder it doesn’t work… Next, I went to the notebook manufacturer’s homepage. Surprise, surprise, they still offer that same driver for download. O.k., been there before, so I downloaded the original driver from Intel, it’s just 80 MB (no kidding…). That one is from 2005. After installation, the WLAN works just fine.
Intel, wake up! Manufacturers that put your Centrino logo on a notebook should be forced to put recent drivers on the device. Lucky me I knew what I was doing. What about all those ‘ordinary users’ out there that can’t fix such a problem? They should not even have it!
For some time now, Nokia has used the Symbian S60 OS for it’s smartphones / high end mobile phones. The guys over that S60.com are quite happy with recent sales figures and see their OS becoming more and more popular. Today, however, I got a call from a friend of mine telling me that he’s reconsidering his current plan to wait for the Nokia N80 and instead go for the Nokia 6280 which uses, according to the Nokia website, the S40 OS (see a Nokia video of the phone). Tough times ahead for S60?
The 6280 seems to be a nice, slick UMTS phone with a crisp QVGA screen (320×240 pixel), 2 Megapixel camera, active standby screen and very compact dimensions (99,9 x 46 x 21 mm, 91 cm³). It’s only 21 mm thick, quite impressive for a UMTS phone. Even more impressive after seeing the video was the fact that Nokia says on it’s web page that this is a S40 phone!? O.k., I said to my friend, but it doesn’t have a number of things which make it worthwhile to wait for the N80:
- Built in WLAN
- 3 Megapixel camera
- Direct File system support over USB without drivers
- All the cool S60 applications I use like Liveblog, Opera, Office programs, Custom MP-3 player, RSS Reader, etc.
True he said, but if the 6280 is on the market before the N80, he’ll go for it anyway, it’s just powerful enough for him… I guess that proves that S60 will have a hard time extending beyond the smartphone market down to lower ranks. S40 and others seem to be too strong already and already knock on the smartphone door. Together with new Java JSRs, such operating systems might even try to get a share of the smartphone market for themselves. Well, competition is good 🙂
P.S.: Looks like the movie above was made in the U.S. -> the phone however is only GSM/WCDMA 2100 so it will only work in Europen UMTS networks…
In the previous entry on how to read blogs on the go I described my motivation for mobile blog reading, discussed a Symbian Series 60 blog reader application, and shared my thoughts on features I would like to see in the future. In the meantime I discovered yet another blog reader application and have come up with some more thoughts how the experience can be improved in the somewhat more distant future.
The second Symbian Series 60 blog reader application I’ve tested is called ‘Newspaper‘. Compared to the RescoNews Application described earlier it features a desktop program which retrieve RSS feeds and puts the contents into a single file that can then be downloaded to the mobile device via Bluetooth or other means. Of course application on the mobile can download feeds via a wireless packet connection but due to the size of those feeds if one has more than a couple of blogs in the blogroll might be too expensive. I had some trouble to download my RSS feeds via Bluetooth as the file size was about 1.5 MB and my 6630 refused to properly start the application. Only when I manually copied the file to a memory card and started the application from there did I succeed. Two other things that can easily be improved in a future version make me lean heavily on the RescoNews Application as my favorite reader: Scrolling in the Newspaper application is very slow, for every click of the down button I just got 3/4 of a new line. Scrolling down a whole page just requires too many clicks. Further, the program has no option to sort all blog entries by date which I prefer to the by blog ordering on a mobile device. A promising application if the usability is somewhat improved.
In the last blog entry I was described some enhancements which would be easy to implement in a future mobile blog reader application. However, one problem remains that is unlikely to be solved in the short term: It happens often enough to me that a blog entry contains links to other blogs or web pages or that I would like to see the full blog entry if only partially contained in the RSS feed. On the mobile device I think twice before following such a link as those pages are usually not formatted for a mobile device. For the future I envision that web pages and especially blogging sites take a closer look at the browser string of a request and automatically reformat the blogs for a mobile device. As one can not expect this happening over night, how about a flag in the RSS feed that tells the reader if the corresponding blog entry can be view in a mobile optimized version? This wouldn’t solve the link issue but at least the issue with reading the full blog entry.
I enjoy surfing the mobile web with my phone while traveling. While I’ve bookmarked an assorted number web pages to keep me entertained and informed on the go, I’d also like to read the latest entries of the blogs in my blogroll. Most of us read blogs using an RSS aggregator, as surfing from one blog to the next with a web browser is not convenient when monitoring more then just a few. On the mobile phone it should basically be the same as the process is even more difficult due to the limited bandwidth, the processing power of the mobile, the small keyboard, and especially the small screen size.
While searching for the right solution for me, I’ve tried web based readers but found them too slow and too inflexible for my needs. Then I’ve found Resco News, an RSS feed reader application for Symbian S60 phones such as my Nokia 6680. It works like a PC feed reader and it is possible to import an already existing blog roll from the PC as the program supports OPML file imports which many RSS readers can generate. New blog entries can be shown either by feed (which I prefer on the PC) or all feeds together in a time ordered list. I prefer this to the per feed view on the phone as it is much easier and faster to navigate through on a small device. As it downloads and stores the content of the xml files, I can even read the blogs while out of network coverage (yes, there are still many blind spots in the Paris metro…). I really like the program, and I am more than willing to pay the $12.- for the full version.
Of course, there is always room for improvement 🙂 I think that one of the shortcomings is the huge amount of data that is downloaded to the mobile during every update. I’ve chosen to synch about 35 blogs to the mobile phone which results in about 1 MB of data transfer for every synch. This is an issue both cost wise (if you don’t have a large data subscription) and time wise as well, as the update of all blogs takes around 5 to 6 minutes. This can surely be improved in a future version of the program by requesting several rss feeds at once instead of one after another. Another nice thing to have in the future would be a kind of rss proxy server that knows which parts of xml feeds have already been sent to the mobile device and only forwards those parts of the xml file which have not yet been received by the mobile phone. This would substantially reduce the amount of data to transfer. And then, a synchronization method with my PC RSS aggregator would be nice as well so I don’t see the same blogs as "unread" on the PC when I get home which I’ve already browsed through on the mobile.
If you know of other ways to read blogs on the mobile phone while on the go, let me know!
In part 2 on this topic, I’ll describe yet another blog reader application and discuss some more ideas on how to improve the experience further on the long term
Stuart Mudie is hosting this week’s Carnival of the Mobilists. If you are interested in the mobile Internet, it is the ressource to find out what people are thinking and in which direction the technology is moving. This week’s edition does not only contain a great summary of blogs written by mobilists in the past week but also some links to mobilist gatherings during the 3GSMWorldCongress in Barcelona next month.