Sunday, February 13, 2011

SizzleTEXT : Using SMS short codes to access internet information

Ok, I have to admit that I created the iPhone app called 'SizzleTEXT'. Use it to access internet based information using SMS short codes instead of using your browser or an app. Update Twitter, check your bank account balance, get a weather forecast, look up a stock quote, using only SMS Text messages. For example text "pizza 97208" to 466452 to find a pizza place in your zip code.

Sometimes I'm in a low connectivity environment and want a simple and fast way to do some common things. That is why I created this app, to give me "options" when I'm traveling. SMS messages will often work even when you can't get a data connection to work on your mobile device.

One of my friends pointed out that for newer iPhone users, they have capped data plans, so being able to use SMS instead of your data allotment might get you out of a jam every now and then.

There is a very large pool of short codes you can draw from to request common information that you access on a regular basis. From Google alone, their SMS short code search service gives you a ton of options that you can set up in SizzleTEXT.

Use the pre-canned short codes as a starting point, but add to the list with your own codes, delete the ones you don't need.

There is also an undocumented feature where you can just add a regular phone number as the short code number. So you could add the number of someone you regularly text, and SizzleTEXT becomes a 'short cut' for finding that number as a starting point for sending a SMS message.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Motorola Atrix “is” the future of laptop-netbook-smartphone computing.

Out of all the gadgets at CES the one that really stood out for me was the Motorola Atrix. It is basically a full featured smartphone that can be docked into a laptop-netbook shell. When docked into the shell, the smartphone helps power a full size netbook screen and traditional netbook keyboard.

In the near future, why would you need a powerful smartphone, and a separate laptop which has its own CPU, memory, and disk? Why can’t it be just the same device where the laptop shell acts like a UI extension to the phone? All of your data would just be on one device, no data sync needed. When docked into the laptop shell, the device would still be able to leverage wireless networks with all the same connectivity benefits of a traditional laptop. The docked smartphone would simply become the main CPU, memory, and disk for the laptop shell.That is what I see when I look at the Motorola Atrix.

The same concept would also work for a tablet user experience. You would take your smartphone and attach it to the back of a tablet shell. The full tablet LCD would light up with the expanded user experience from your smartphone. The tablet would not have CPU, memory, or storage, all of that would be provided by your smartphone.

This has got to be the near future, no other model really makes sense. Of course for certain professions there will always be a need for a high end desktop computer or full powered laptop. But for the majority of us business users that only need email, browser, and local utility apps, why do we really need our laptop to be another standalone computer? In most cases an “expanded” smartphone experience would be perfect when we wanted a larger screen and keyboard.

And what if the docking connection from your smartphone to the laptop shell was a “standardized” connection so that your smartphone could be docked to “any” laptop shell? You would just take your smartphone with you and could plug it into any shell that you had available at home or work. The docking shell would just be a commodity, and not proprietary to a specific device manufacturer. You would buy the shell as a completely separate purchase from the smartphone and could pick the size, color, style, etc.

All of the operators have been pushing laptop data plans using usb modules in order to expand mobile network usage, but the Atrix concept is a shift in the opposite direction. It is basically promoting the “one device” model where the larger LCD and keyboard are just peripherals off of your smartphone.

The “Atrix” represents “The One” just like in the “Matrix”.

Monday, October 4, 2010

G2 stumbles coming out of the gate.

On the heels of the recent iPhone 4 debacle, "Don't hold it like that!" (antenna-gate) we have another PR problem in the works for T-Mobile with the release of the much anticipated G2. It appears there is much confusion between customers and T-Mobile support regarding the specs of the handset that was sent to pre-order customers.

The official launch date was supposed to be this week, but existing customers were allowed to pre-order the handset, and those actually were delivered on Friday 10/1/10. Even this seems to be a point of confusion since new owners have been calling into T-Mobile customer support, and some are reporting that the support folks were not expecting any handsets to be delivered until the official launch day, which hasn't happened yet.

Owners who have received the handsets (including myself) are reporting two problems. First the slide out keyboard seems to have weak springs. If you horizontally hold the top part of the handset containing the LCD, but not touch the lower half containing the keypad, the whole lower half of the device "droops" down and separates from the upper portion of the device. This has already been well documented on the internet with pictures showing the problem.

No big deal, "Don't hold it like that!".........This issue is more of an anomaly instead of a serious problem since it doesn't really impact the use of the device. If you hold it exactly a certain way, gravity pulls the keyboard out.

The second problem seems to be more serious. The specs of the G2 state that the internal storage of the device is 4 gigs, yet all of the early receivers of the device are reporting a much smaller number showing on the settings screen that details available storage. Here is the screen from my own device:

Instead of seeing something close to 4 gigs, instead there is a number of 1.23. Now the OS and pre-loaded apps all take up space but the difference between the two numbers is enormous and this launched an avalanche of speculation on what is going on.

Did they only ship a 2 gig version? Is the extra space hidden in some way reserved for special use? Is there a problem with Android 2.2 in that it can't report memory sizes larger than 2 gig? And on and on and on.

To date, T-Mobile has made a few errors in the handling of the situation:

1) People received devices on Friday. That meant that no one is around to handle any type of problem that might have came up over the week-end. Social Media has allowed the speculation to mushroom into gigantic proportions between Friday and now (Sunday).

2) There has been no "official" statement on the internet from T-Mobile regarding this issue. On Facebook they have what appears to be an unofficial statement made by the moderators saying what users are seeing is correct, yet there is no explanation on why. In effect they are saying "Don't hold it like that" similar to the way Apple was in denial about publicly admitting or providing information regarding the antenna problem of the iPhone 4.

3) There appears to me at least, to be some type of information suppression going on regarding the issue as it is being documented on the T-Mobile support forums. If you Google search for "t-mobile 1.23 memory", the first link in the search results is a pointer to the T-Mobile support forums and the post title seems to be "How much internal memory space is showing out of the box? Yet when you click on that link, you are taken to a screen inside of the T-Mobile forums that reads "The topic you are trying to access is not available". Guess what, it was 'available' on Friday.

And so it looks like the G2 has its own "Memory-gate" unfolding on the days right before the official launch of the device.

All of the escalating comments, speculation, and criticism could have been totally put at bay with a simple "official" statement from T-Mobile like the following:

"We have heard from a number of you asking about the memory configuration of the G2 that you just received in the last few days. We are investigating the questions and will provide a detailed response early next week."

That would have been all that was needed, and everyone would have remained calm until the official explanation was given. Somewhere along the line it looks like T-Mobile and Apple both underestimated the the immense power of communication provided by current day social media technology.

No response or a delayed response is a disaster. Now it could be that everything is fine with the G2 and the memory is just being used in some way not clearly described in the settings on the device. Or it could be there is a problem and in the worst case the devices need to be swapped out. The outcome is not really important at this point, the G2 already has a damaged reputation on the eve of its launch, and it all could have been avoided with a few lines of text.

It is a great example of how the balance of power has shifted from the manufacturer of products to the consumer. The new rules of the "Social Media Economy" state that is is better for creators of products to "come clean" or "respond quickly" rather than deny or provide a delayed response. What has happened to the G2 is a prime example of this phenomenon.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Sizzle" the Greyhound

Download now or watch on posterous
IMG_0011.MOV (5150 KB)

First video of Sizzle, our first Grey "Stormy" died last August.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

R.I.P. "Stormy the Greyhound" 2002-2009

Stormy passed away Tuesday morning. Over the last month he was slowly deteriorating, and we finally learned he had a form of cancer that couldn't be treated. He was still "functioning", but he was no longer eating, and he didn't have much strength left. So we decided it was best to do the right thing before he experienced a lot of pain, or could no longer stand or walk.

This is one of the recent pictures I took of him with my mobile phone a few weeks ago. He was sick, but his natural easy-going self still did shine through. This is how I want to remember him.

I could write a book about him and Greyhound behavior, but for now, I just want to recount two days in the time he was with us.

The first day we brought Stormy home, the realization of what it meant to have a Greyhound became apparent. Stormy went from the race track, to the Greyhound shelter kennel, to our home. He had never been in a house before! He didn't even understand what it meant to walk up a small set of stairs. It was like he was a dog from another planet. A lot of Greyhounds are like this and need extra help learning the basics when they first come to live with you.

Anyway, we finally got him to come into the front door onto the shoe mat inside our house, but then the next problem. We wouldn't step off the mat onto our hardwood floors. He had never walked inside a house before and didn't understand the texture of a smooth floor and how to place his feet on it. He would try to walk on his "nails", but would just slip. So that first night he stayed on the little carpet by our front door. We put some other blankets down so he had a larger spot to move around on, but he wouldn't venture out into the rest of the house. That night he finally lay down and relaxed near the door mat. And so he wouldn't be alone on the first night in our house, I slept on the floor next him. Hopefully that was the first time he understood I was his friend.

Monday night, August 17th, 2009, Stormy's last night on Earth.

We usually take a quick walk every night around 10-11pm. Since he has been sick, he had to go out even more often so we were out again closer to midnight. He did a quick (number one) and we turned back toward the house. He has been pretty low on energy, so his walking pace is very slow and labored.

When we got back near the front of the house on our lawn, he stopped walking and just stood still. I tried to prompt him to continue but he didn't budge. I gave him a pet on the head to make sure he was OK, and he seemed fine. It was really warm outside, a perfect day/night in Oregon. I got the idea of grabbing an old blanket we keep near the steps of the house and throwing that out on the grass in front of where we was standing to see if he wanted to lay down and rest. As soon as I laid it out he moved forward, did a few "dog spins" and laid down. So I just sat down by him. It was the middle of the night, dark, quiet, warm, we were alone.

At first he just sat there, looking around out into the darkness that surrounds our little neighborhood. There was a slight breeze and I could see he was sniffing the air. I pet him on his head and back. After a few minutes he laid over on his side, took a few deep breaths, and started his process of going to sleep for the night.

I quickly went back into our house, grabbed a few other blankets and my sleeping bag. When I came back out, I put a thicker blanket around him, unrolled my sleeping bag and crawled in. That is where we stayed for the rest of the night, in the grass, under the stars, just me and him. I didn't really sleep, but I just laid there watching him, and looking up at the stars.

Maybe in the way that animals do, he had a sense that his life-energy was draining away and he just wanted to spend some time outside closer to nature, take in the smells, feel the breeze, and be under the stars. I knew it was a special moment, since this is something he never seemed to want to do before. Greyhounds are "inside" dogs, and Stormy definitely liked the big soft sleeping spots he had in our house.

And so the night passed. He slept really well. I could tell because I had my arm laid underneath his blanket and resting on his side. When he dreams, his legs start to "twitch" like he is running in his sleep, and he lets out a low growl in between his breaths. He hadn't been sleeping well the last few nights, so I was glad to see he was relaxed out here in the yard. A couple of times he woke up, looked around and over at me, but then after a few minutes, put his head back down and continued to sleep. When he put his head back down, I lightly scratched behind his ears until I could tell he was asleep again.

The next morning we woke up, my wife and daughter found us outside, and they came out and sat with Stormy while I got everything ready to make the final trip to the Vet's office. When the time came, the girls said a tear filled "good-bye" to him, we loaded up in the car and drove off.

The "process" at the Vet's office went fine. I don't really want to remember those details, but I'll just say it was fast and humane. Within a few minutes he was gone. I wrapped him up in a blanket, had the Vet assistants help me load him up into our car, and I drove back home.

The day before, I dug a nice spot for him in our back yard. It is slightly elevated, and it looks out over the area of our yard where he liked to walk and sniff around.

I can't really explain why he didn't want to go back inside on that last night. Somehow "he knew" his time was short and maybe he just wanted to spend it in a way that allowed him to be closer to his wild ancestry. I'm happy I was able to be with him during this time, I'll never forget that night for the rest of my life. Stormy was my friend.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Perfect :: Oregon Coast

This picture about sums it all up. Taken from the top of Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City, Oregon. Nothing more needs to be said.

Silver Hair in a Black Coat

"Stormy" (retired Greyhound) is middle aged in dog years, but I can see that he is slowing down at little. As a retired Greyhound, he still likes to run and play, but the little things are what I notice. Our main vehicle for carrying the whole family is a SUV, so he has to "jump up" to get in. That part is no problem, but jumping down to get out is several feet. He is a big Greyhound at 85+ pounds, not fat, just tall, but a couple of times recently he seems gimpy after making the jump down from our truck. I think it is too much stress on his front legs and back.

Recently, I've been carrying him out of the truck instead of making him jump. He doesn't seem to mind if I put my arms around his chest and lift him out, but I'm a big guy.

What I really need is like a short "ramp" that can go from the floor of the truck down to the ground. Then he would just have to hop from the top of the seat to the top of the ramp to get out. I've never seen anything like this on the market. I was thinking about making my own by adapting something from a 4-wheeler loading ramp. It can't be heavy and it has to be easy to put away in the bed of the truck. If anyone knows of such a product please let me know.