Proctele apps in the App Store

Proctele apps in the App Store
Click the picture to see Proctele apps in Apple's App Store

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eurovision Song Contest (ESC)

To my non-european readers, here's a short explanation of a European phenomenon. 

The ESC is a three hour TV-program, which is broadcast once a year. It's arranged by the EBU, which is a club of European public service broadcasters, the former TV-monopoly broadcasters.
The region of Europe has grown considerably since communism was defeated in 1989. There used to be some 15-20 contesting countries in the ESC, but now there are many more who would like to take part. There are so many countries in Europe now that their contributions can no longer be fitted within the three hour TV-show. That's why they must qualify for the 25- country final. Due to the qualifying rounds, called semi-finals, four hours have been added to the show, and the broadcast now covers three evenings.
The show is taken more or less seriously in different countries. Some countries sometimes just select some singer and a song behind the closed doors of its national broadcaster. That has been proven to be a good recipe for a disastrous result in the ESC. 
In Sweden we take the ESC very seriously and our scores are among the best in ESC history. We really try to select the best tune. This is done by having our own national competition well ahead of the big European show. Some 40 songs compete in about five qualifying rounds, followed by semi-finals and a final in the national sports arena in Stockholm, our capital. Those who get to the final are guaranteed considerable media coverage and the competition has created many artistic careers.
The songs competing in the ESC have changed a lot in recent years. Back in the 70's winners often came from France or Italy, with typically latin songs. This no longer happens. Recent winners are hard rockers from Finland and I can't really summarize the winning contributions. It seems any genre, except the traditional ones, can win.
The big final ends with the voting. This is the exciting part! Even those who hate the songs may actually enjoy the voting. All the competing countries are allowed to vote through a national jury. A videophone link is established between the program leaders on stage and a national jury representative. The voting part is always held in English and French, and has been the subject of many jokes through the years. There is a certain tension during voting. One reason is of course that the final result is unknowable. Another reason is that sometimes the link is weak and there are miscommunications, misunderstandings and blunders, causing some nervous tension in the program leaders. Everything still ends well and all is forgiven and forgotten.
Then there's corrupt voting or political voting. The existence of this is debated. Does Denmark score well in Sweden, because they're our neighbors or because we like their songs. Do the Greeks really think that Cyprus deserves their top score each and every time? And vice versa. It could be due to cultural similarities. Will we ever know?
At any rate, arranging next year's final goes to this year's winner. This is considered a great honor and an opportunity to promote the country. The TV audience is huge and stretches outside of Europe. The scene look more costly each year. The ESC is growing by any measure.
It has even been remarked that wherever the ESC stretches, the EU soon follows. That has often happened. However Israel, Azerbadjan or Russia seem unlikely ever to join the EU.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pretty Windows 8

Windows 8 is now available in a "Consumer Preview" version. To stay nice and safe, Microsoft warns that this version isn't actually for everyone.
The Windows 8 screen looks much like the screen of a Nokia Windows phone. It begs to be touched, but it works fine with mouse and keyboard too. Touch is not new for Windows 8. It was already there in Windows 7 though I guess few knew about it. It didn't look like a touch operating system, as Apple has defined it for us. There weren't many notebook PCs that offered touch either, since touch isn't a notebook feature. It requires the screen to be right under your fingers and not  several inches away, like it is on a notebook. Windows 8 is an invitation to PC-producers to enter the pad-market.
Windows 8 is all about apps. The Windows Store is Microsoft's equivalent of Apple's App Store. The buttons on the screen are apps. The document-centric approach to operating systems is out! I couldn't agree more. Interacting with a document has to be a nice experience. The user must not be scared away by a minimalist user interface, or an over-done user interface. It should be up to the user to choose how he wants to create or interact with a document. He can do so by choosing an app he finds attractive. The move away from document-centricity is a major step forwards for user friendly IT.
The Cloud is part of Windows 8, or perhaps rather: Windows has entered The Cloud. That's good and I guess Microsoft's hope is that Windows is finally moving on to more user friendly computing devices than the PC, which never really became friendly enough to users. I hope it succeeds, because I do want to have a choice between at least two equally attractive devices the next time I buy a mobile phone. iPhone shouldn't be allowed to be the single most attractive mobile device, and neither should the iPad.
Rumor has it that Windows 8 will be released in Q4 of this year. I hope upgrading from Windows 7 will be made an attractive choice.

Monday, May 7, 2012

New app: Reverse Talk

The new app is now in the App Store.

The name is Reverse Talk and it's quite entertaining. You push the big red record button, talk or make some noise, and then listen to it. You can play it either forwards or backwards.
Playing something backwards really sounds quite different. Those of us who tried to find hidden messages in Stairway to Heaven and other masterpieces, will know what backward talk sounds like. It sounds weird, usually so weird that it's quite funny or perhaps even scary.
You can choose to record for a fixed amount of time, which is 2.5 seconds, or you can record for as long as the device's memory lasts. If the recording is less than about 10 minutes, you can email it to your friends, or to yourself to save it.

The localized app names are as follows:
EN: Reverse talk
SV: Backsnack
NL: Achteruit praten
DE: Rückwärts reden
FR: Inverser parler

Hope you'll buy it and enjoy it. Here is the app's page in App Store.

Update: We have discovered that babies have no need for the Reverse Talk app, because babies already know how to speak in reverse. See 
Their parents, however, might well want to use the app to better understand their babies' reverse speak.
Note: Proctele and are NOT affiliated

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sony PS3 games

My kids bought a Sony Playstation 3 last week-end and two games for it: Call of Duty MW3 and Lego Batman. The graphics is very good, but more importantly, the user interface is good too. The so-called game controller is a handsome piece and I think that's what makes PS3 games better than the online PC games. Those use the keyboard's cursor keys and thereby kill much of the joy of playing. Many of the online games have such excellent graphics that I fail to see what more the PS3 has to offer.
That brings me to my favorite game thesis that games are not about graphics. True gaming joy comes from a good intrigue and the satisfaction of using a good user interface. A beautiful backdrop is fine, but adds very little to the gaming experience. A racing game with simple graphics, but with a steering wheel and pedals, is great fun. Pac Man played with a joystick is great. Frogger, Missile Command, Centipede, Tetris are all good games with no remarkable graphics.
How can this be? Once you've started playing, the backdrop just vanishes and all you see is the game character or car or whatever. There isn't enough time for admiring the fantastic landscapes that someone meticulously crafted for the game. You are trying to stay alive and score points. Who cares what color the mountain or the grass is? If you do start thinking about it, your character is probably finished within short. Be concentrated, stay alert, never mind the backdrop, prepare for the next assault. It's about attention. You can't score points and watch graphics. It's either-or.
Finally, games are about scoring well or winning. Graphics is for the photo album.