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, December 2, 2014

Cookies and Privacy

Wherever I go on the Internet, it seems every site is eager to inform me that they use cookies. The info comes as a (often) large banner with an Ok-button. If I click the Ok-button, the banner goes away and I get a lot more space on the screen. The next time I visit the site, it remembers it has shown me the cookie info. I can thank a cookie for that, the cookie that the site created on my device with the help of the browser.

A cookie is a text-file. That means it cannot be executed. It can only be created, read and modified by a site and that's all done by the browser on the site's request. A site can only interact with (create, read or modify) its own cookies. So cookies are quite innocent then and won't breach my privacy?

No, they are not innocent! There is a company called DoubleClick (a subsidiary of Google), and probably some others, that use cookies in a way that fundamentally changes their nature. It makes certain cookies global. Through mediation of DoubleClick a cookie can turn up on any site that allows it to.

Here's an example. I have a Facebook account and I usually don't click on advertizements. However a few weeks ago I did click on an advertizement in Facebook that I hadn't seen before. The click took me to the site of a well-established online-shop. Nothing sinister about that. However, since that click I've been seeing that same advertizement on Facebook, but also on some other favorite sites. That could only have happened by means of a global cookie. I don't quite like that, because it means someone can follow my web-surfing habits.

But what if you, as user, don't accept cookies at all? Sorry, doesn't work. A lot of sites wouldn't function without them and consequently you couldn't use them, so you need cookies. Removing them after every browsing session is a hassle, but it should help. Removing cookies when you switch from one site to another would probably make it difficult to follow you. However removing all cookies means you would have to give up convenience. E.g. you would become an unknown user for every site and would have to enter your login credentials at every visit to the sites where you have a login and need to login.

There's no viable or user friendly cure other than changed rules. Global cookies would have to be outlawed or somehow made impossible.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NumberWiz Solution: 265 with large numbers

In the last blogpost I challenged all you number-heads with this sum:

Add, subtract, multiply or divide the following six numbers 2 7 25 50 75 100 to get 265.

You notice that it contains all the big numbers and two small.

In an update I hinted that 5 was a key number in the solution. 
It's also worth noting that 265 = 250 + 15. 

Now watch the solution:

265 = (50 x 25 + 75) / (7 - 2) = ((50 x 25) / 5) + (75 / 5) = 250 + 15

Sunday, November 23, 2014

NumberWiz Sum: 265 with large numbers

Time for another NumberWiz sum. I might make an update with a tip later, because not a lot of people will find it easy.

Add, subtract, multiply or divide the following six numbers 2 7 25 50 75 100 to get 265.

Send an email or answer in a comment if you like.

Update: A key number in this sum is 5.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NumberWiz Sum 474: Solution

The problem was:

Add, subtract, multiply or divide the following six numbers 2 4 6 9 75 100 to get 474.

In an update I hinted that 474 is divisible by 6, hence a solution is:

474 = 6 x 79 = 6 x (75 + 4)

Another solution: 474 = 4 x 100 + (75 + 2 + 6 - 9)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

NumberWiz Sum 474

Here's a nice sum:

Add, subtract, multiply or divide the following six numbers 2 4 6 9 75 100 to get 474.

Send an email or answer in a comment if you like.


474 is divisible by 2, of course, and what's more, 474 / 2 = 237 is divisible by 3. 
That's a good help.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Apple Device's Positioning

We all know that GPS is a positioning system based on satellites and that it's American. But not everyone knows about GLONASS. It's a Russian satellite based positioning system. From iPhone 4S onwards, all Apple's mobile devices with GPS, also have GLONASS. The devices use both in parallel; they're on the same micro-chip. Having two systems gives better positioning than having one. Being Russian GLONASS works best in Russia, but since 2011 it's truly global, like GPS.

Another positioning method is iBeacon, which works over short distances. It can help smartphones determine their precise position or context. It uses low-power Bluetooth 4.0 and reaches anywhere between a few centimeters and 450 m / 1500 ft. All Apple Stores in the US have iBeacon devices.

Then there's WiFi, which we all think of simply as wireless Internet, and that's what it is. However WiFi routers have the potential to be used for positioning, if someone like Google cares to build a database of WiFi routers. Google has done that using its mapping cars who have passed many many routers on their endless journeys and taken notes.

Finally there's the compass, which all iOS products now contain. It's actually a very small magnetometer and it's coupled with an accelerometer. That coupling enables the device to know what direction it's pointing. Proctele's app TCompanion makes use of that to help map-challenged people like myself to find our way.

The inspiration for this blog entry is the wonderful device in the picture - iPad Air 2 - and the WiFi + 3G version has all the above positioning technologies:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

New and Classic

A new product category nearly always starts off with something that looks rather clunky. At least that's how we see it when we look back. Examples are radios, mobile music players and TVs.

I remember seeing radio receivers similar to these when I was younger. The one on the right is very similar to a radio my parents had. The one on the left resembles a radio my grandparents had. It had a mighty sound and took some time to warm up before there was any sound coming out of it.

A radio nowadays looks either similar or very different from those above. There seems to be a keen interest in old-style radios as well as new shapes like this one:

Then there are products that aren't radios, but speakers that you connect your iPhone to via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Here's a comfy one with built-in sub-woofer:

But what's a radio compared to a Smartphone. It's just one of a Smartphone's functions. Smartphone is what you use now to listen to music. They do have a problem though that doesn't seem to be going away. Gadget makers know that and are happy to oblige. A power pack or two, or three, is what we need:
Those are available in many shapes and colors. The red one is an Ironman suitcase power pack. Things aren't like they used to and when it comes to gadgets, I think 2014 easily beats, say 1964. Anyway there is a lot more to choose from nowadays.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Computers, computers and ... Apple Watch

Computers keep moving closer to our bodies. Think of the computer centers that used to house enormous computers run by specialists. Beginning in late 70's came the home computer like the Commodore/Vic-20. Those were the first computers in our homes. We kept them close to the TV, which served as their screen. Then came the PC/Mac desktop-PC. It had its own really fat screen, so we put it on a table in something like our home office. Then came the laptop-PC. We put it in the kitchen or just any room. Battery time was awful, so when using it we usually put it on some table close to a power outlet. 

In the meantime mobile computers in the form of mobile phones came to everyone's pocket. Many of us understood that it was actually a computer and started wondering why the screen was so small. In 2007 came the iPhone, but even before that the Blackberry, and a real computer came into our hand. We couldn't let it go. We would sometimes put it into our pocket, but within just a few minutes it would be back in our hand again. Very often social apps would be the agent, which made the computer bounce back from our pocket. We couldn't let go of it!

Next year computers will come even closer to us. Apple Watch is coming onto our wrists. A computer watch - a smart watch. Being first isn't always best, but being best is what it's all about. When Apple Watch arrives it's going to be the best smart watch in the world. We know Apple by now. They've done their homework. 

A computer on our wrist is a step closer to us than a computer in our hand is. We're going to be looking at our wrist for about as long, but even more often than we now look at the iPhone in the palm our hand. We're going to talk even less on the phone.

What they will have on offer is something we're already expecting, but can't quite formulate. Apple knows not only how to formulate our wishes, but how to turn them into products. When I'd seen the first 10 or 15 functions Apple Watch will have, I turned to my wife and told her Apple is about to revolutionize computing again.

One key thing about Apple Watch is zooming by touch. The screen is small, the icons are small, so you need to enlarge the touch area. That's one reason the iPhone had to precede the Apple Watch. The touch screen had to become really good and, not least, well known to all users, before using it in a smart watch. Everyone who has ever used an iPhone will know how to use the Apple Watch. 

I'm really looking forward to my first Apple Watch. It's going to change a lot in my world.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus ?

I took the pleasure of visiting the nearest Apple Store this afternoon to check out the new iPhones. Before the visit I had of course looked at the pictures and read the data, but hadn't quite made my mind up about which one I would buy. I was leaning towards the Plus.

At the store I quickly came to realize that the Plus is rather big. It doesn't fit in the breast-pocket on any of my shirts, and that's the litmus test for me. I couldn't use the Plus as a phone because of its size, but I might buy it for another reason, which is app-development. iPhone 6 Plus is a mix between an iPad and an iPhone when it comes to screen layout of some key apps. One of those is the Mail-app, another is the Settings-app. On the Plus - held in landscape mode - those apps look like compact versions of their iPad counterparts, which means the table part is on the left and the content part is on the right. In fact for this kind of app the Plus behaves like an iPhone in portrait mode, but like an iPad in landscape mode. Clever!

The colors are the same as the iPhone 5s, except the color, say gold, covers nearly all of the back-side of the device. To me that looks better than on the iPhone 5s. See the pictures below.

Both iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are really thin devices. I came to think of the iPod touch when holding them. The iPod touch is still thinner at 6.1 millimeters, iPhone 6 is 6.9 millimeters. Both the new iPhones feel very light, 172 grams and 129 grams. BTW while I'm mentioning iPod touch, I note that it's come down in price, putting it far below iPad mini. I should be put in charge of Apple's pricing, because I blogged earlier about pricing the iPod touch so close to the iPad mini (non-retina version). Now Apple has corrected that.

I didn't buy a phone today after all, but having held both options in my hand, I'm going to be able to make a more informed choice. I'll wait a couple of days.
iPhone 5s
iPhone 6

Sunday, August 24, 2014

NumberWiz Sums Solution 356 and 781

Last blog post presented two NumberWiz sums, one rather difficult, the other a lot less convoluted.

1. (the difficult)
Add, subtract, multiply or divide the following six numbers 2 5 9 9 50 100 to get 356.

Solution: (50 - (9 + 2)) * 9 + 5 = 39 * 9 + 5 = 351 + 5


Add, subtract, multiply or divide the following six numbers 1 6 9 25 75 100 to get 781.

Solution: 75 * 9 + 100 + 6

Another solution: (9 - 1) * 100 - (25 - 6) = 800 - 19 = 781

Thursday, August 21, 2014

NumberWiz Examples 356 and 781

NumberWiz was updated recently, and that's a good enough reason to try new sums.

Here it is, and it's fairly difficult:
Add, subtract, multiply or divide the following six numbers 2 5 9 9 50 100 to get 356.

Here's a less difficult one:
Add, subtract, multiply or divide the following six numbers 1 6 9 25 75 100 to get 781.

Send an email or answer in a comment if you like.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

iPhone6 speculation

One thing most pundits agree on, and would have agreed on even six months ago, is that iPhone6 will get a larger screen. It now seems there will be two screen sizes, 4.7" and 5.5".

The step from iPhone4's 3.5" to iPhone5's 4.0" I think added a lot to the user experience. The home screen offers one full row of icons and web browsing improved greatly. At the same time iPhone remained a device you can use with one hand. That's quite important to a lot of people. I often use just one hand, but when writing I most often use both hands. A thinner design also helps keeping iPhones one-hand devices.

I've seen several smashed iPhone screens although iPhones have durable and damage resistant Corning Gorilla Glass. With sapphire crystal glass, smashed or scratched screens should be driven into no-existence. Furthermore it means your iPhone can join the keys and coins in your pocket without being scratched - well the screen at least - but the backside might still be vulnerable. 

There are rumors about a protruding rear camera. I think that's unlikely, because it's not elegant enough and the device will easily wiggle on a plain surface.

iPhone6 will be presented on September 9th and probably be available to consumers on the 19th. A lot of us are looking forward to the event. I like those Apple events.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What's the Difference Between a Smartphone and a PC?

There's a fundamental difference between iPhones and Android phones. iPhone software and hardware is controlled solely by Apple. Android software is in Google's hands and the hardware running Android software is in multiple hands. Apple's model generates enormous profits, while the Android model is a low margin one, at least for the hardware makers.

How Samsung, LG and HTC would love to be like Apple! They'd love to have their own sleek hardware running their own fantastic software. However they've chosen to let their smartphones run Android, which they don't own and don't control. They chose this path because they don't think there's room for more than two platforms. That's the general consensus.

I think there's an even simpler reason. They know they can't come up with both hardware and software that can beat Apple's. Going it alone is much more difficult than choosing either hardware or software, but it pays handsomely - if you're successful.

So why did I choose the headline about smartphones and pc's? It's because PC history is repeating itself in the smartphone market. In the PC arena you have those trying to make attractive PC's and the sole software maker Microsoft. The hardware makers barely survive while Microsoft reaps all the profits. This is a striking similarity.

What can we expect then in the Android market? We can expect to see low prices and dull smartphones. Consumers will prioritize price over anything else when they buy Android devices. There will be some rather nice smartphones too, but not many. Those willing to pay premium price for a nice device will go for iPhones, as they already do.

I think hardware and software must always be controlled or owned by the same company, if truly great results are to be achieved. It would be interesting to know if any economists have studied the subject.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nokia Squared

There's a new Nokia and it's called Nokia X2. Perhaps the proper name is "Nokia Squared" or "Nokia multiplied by 2". At any rate, it does have that distinguished ice-block Nokia look.
This device is for those of us who like the rectangular form. The box is rectangular and the buttons on the screen are big squares:
I think it's very good looking! To me it's a true Nokia design: uncomplicated and clean.

The most astounding about it is that it's NOT a Windows phone, but an Android phone. The first Android phone from Microsoft since Nokia became 100% Microsoft owned.

Here's some key data: 4.3" screen, 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU, dual-SIM.

I love all those beautifully designed shiny smartphones, whether it's from Apple or Nokia or Samsung. Great designs, but, they wouldn't survive long in my breast pocket, if it weren't for those anti-slip covers I always use. There are some great covers for sale, but they all defeat the phone designs! What is the point of a perfect design that is always covered up in some kind of case? I suggest Apple go for an anti-slip phone a.s.a.p. I suspect the solution may not be so much a design feature as a material feature. I wonder if it's possible to make a material that shines, but doesn't slip.


Monday, May 19, 2014

Chromecast is Fun

Chromecast is a thumb-sized media player that you plug into an HDMI connector on the TV. 
You also need to connect power to it, either from a power outlet or from a USB-port on the TV. That's because the HDMI-port can't feed enough power to it.

Chromecast's wow-factor is that it can show the same content on the TV-screen as what you have on your iPad or iPhone. That doesn't mean you have to keep the iPad's screen on while watching. In fact you can press the home button or even turn the iPad off. I'm saying this so you get a feeling for how it works. You might say it turns your iPad/iPhone into a remote control. Needless to say I hope, Chromecast being Google's baby, you can use Android pads and phones too.

I use it to watch YouTube. With Chromecast you have exactly the same user interface as you have when watching YouTube videos on your iPad, including pause/play! That's the key feature of the device.  A TV that offers a YouTube-button comes nowhere near the user friendliness of Chromecast. 

You need a Chromecast enabled app running on the iPad/iPhone to use Chromecast. Video services and TV-companies all over the world are working hard to become Chromecast enabled. Netflix already has an app and so have these services HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, Google Play TV & Movies, Google Play Music, Avia, Plex, and many more.

The YouTube app enables you to create a play queue. All you have to do is decide whether you want to play a clip immediately or later. In the first case you press the play button, else you press the queue button.

If there's more than one iPad connected to the Chromecast you can take turns in selecting clips, but you can also enjoy fighting over who is the Chromecast master :-) We tried it here and had a great time.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Ubuntu + XBMC = Great viewing

As I said in the previous post I've been experimenting with the Linux-distribution Ubuntu on the family PC, the one with the family photos and videos. Using XBMC for viewing photos and videos is absolutely great, because it works so well and is so visually attractive.

One thing that adds quite a lot of wow is that XBMC has its own http interface. Assuming you have a wireless network at home and an iPad or iPhone say, you can use that device as a remote control when viewing pictures and videos with XBMC. All you have to do is enter the address (and bookmark it) in the browser of your iPhone and you'll see this:

That's a remote control with arrow buttons, enter/ok, back and home button. There are volume control buttons, play/pause/stop and some more.

Ubuntu + XBMC is very attractive visually and works perfectly!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Linux for your home PC?

There are two very good operating systems (OS) for the desktop or laptop people use at home: Microsoft Windows and Apple's Mac. They are both very good; they don't require you to be a computer expert to get something done, they look good, they present your photos and videos in the best possible way, you can connect them to your TV, they have easy Internet access, they don't crash on you, they don't destroy your data. So why look for an alternative? I do because I'm interested in computers and some other reasons, like keeping old PCs alive. Installing a new Windows version on an old PC means you usually have to install more RAM and a bigger hard disk. One major reason to look for alternatives was that WinXP is no longer updated, and my homePC runs WinXP.

There are alternatives to the above mentioned big favorites: the different Linux distributions. They all look a bit different and they're made for different uses. I think Ubuntu and Debian are the most popular and easiest to use for the home PC. I've been looking at Ubuntu for a few weeks now and I think it may be good enough and easy enough to use for non-experts. Well almost. Finding the best applications will take some time for Linux beginners. Installing them is very simple now, but used to be a major problem until quite recently.
Peripherals used to be a major problem for Linux users. There were no drivers for the devices you had or they were difficult to find or to install. That problem seems to have been addressed by Linux distributions lately and it gave me no problems, although I must stress that I haven't tried many devices. One problem I ran into was when connecting the PC via HDMI to my TV. I had an overscan problem, which means all edges of the desktop were off screen. Very irritating and unusable. However I googled and found a utility that magically solved it. My desktop is quite pretty even on the TV.

I'm jumping ahead a little, because I actually installed Ubuntu first on my EeePC-900. It had its own Linux called Xandros. In a totally static world it would have been fine, but new things keep being invented and existing products improved. The EeePC had Safari browser version 2. That is not acceptable. With such an old browser there are things you just can't do, like banking. Banks want safe browsers and an old browser isn't safe. I therefore decided to get rid of Xandros completely and chose Ubuntu. I browsed some other Linux distros, like Debian, but in the end I chose Ubuntu. I think its simple and attractive user interface won me over. It runs very well on both my PCs.

Finding a replacement for Picasa, the photo/video management program I knew from Windows took some time. The replacement is called XBMC and originates from Xbox. It really looks beautiful on my TV. What I miss in XBMC is simple photo enhancement, like red-eye removal, rotation and cropping. XBMC has an enormous number of add ons, like streaming services. I'd be happy if it had simple photo enhancements too. There are other applications that you can use as a compliment to XBMC, like the Shotwell photo manager, the gThumb or F-Spot.

If you decide to try a Linux, be sure to create a double-boot, so at start-up you can choose either Windows or Linux. That way you still have Windows to go back to.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


CarPlay is a new system that makes it easier to use your iPhone in the car. An iPhone is thus required to make it work, iPhone 5 that is.

CarPlay will make some of your app-icons visible on the car's infotainment screen and when you touch the infotainment's screen, the iPhone will be informed, and react. Some obvious apps for CarPlay will be the usual infotainment apps like navigation, handsfree phone use and media player. There will also be email, sms and twitter apps. I would expect driver's journals to be a killer app for CarPlay use, because the driving data will be so much more reliable thanks to CarPlay.

Since it's for cars where hands will usually be on the steering wheel, Siri will play a big part in CarPlay. You'll catch Siri's attention through the voice command button on your steering wheel. Perhaps they'll call it the Siri-button.

CarPlay is likely to give Apple a bigger part in their users' lives. That means a lot more user data to collect, which will further improve Apple's products, particularly maps I guess. At any rate it will increase the iOS eco-system.

The first lucky car brands to get CarPlay will be Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo, closely followed by Honda, Hyundai and Jaguar.

Apple isn't alone of course in entering the cars. There is the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) headed by Google and the operating system is indeed Android. The founding members of the Open Automotive Alliance are Audi, General Motors, Google, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidia.

Put the pieces together i.e. CarPlay and self-driving cars, and you'll soon visualize the future of driving: lay back, enjoy the scenery and listen to some nice music. Like flying first class.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Vision of iPhone

I found a beautiful picture a few days ago here. It's a "photoshopped" iPhone without any buttons (but to be overly stringent, I notice the Home-button still seems to be there). You can see the side buttons are virtual (on-screen) buttons.

Fig1: Buttonless iPhone

This creation isn't possible with today's screen and touch technology. The screen seems folded, but folding isn't possible now for a reasonable price. The virtual buttons aren't possible either. The problem is that the phone has to be able to distinguish between an intended touch and an un-intended. Ok it can to a certain extent already, but it has to do it much better for this wonderful thing to work.

As I've said earlier, when it comes to smartphones, we ain't seen nothing yet. This is a field of constant innovation and occasional technological breakthroughs. So why aren't batteries improving? They are, but we don't get more time between charging, because the electronics get more powerful and constantly tax away the improvements in battery capacity. To get out of this loop we need a substantial step in technology. Don't worry, it'll come.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

I'm a pad-slinger

There may be times when you feel a bit like James Bond. At such times you should consider wearing some Bondy gadgets from your drawer, or perhaps buy a new one. Here's a new candidate gadget: 
Fig. 1: Techslinger

It's called Techslinger and it will keep your pad and phone and some other nice gadgets safe, hidden behind your smart Bond suit. Depending on size, it'll cost you US$40-70. 

Hadoro are a luxury brand that specialize in gold plating for custom iPhones, iPods and iPads. For people with costly tastes they have the golden iPhone 5S. 

Fig 2: 18K Gold iPhone5S

Yes, it's real 18K gold, about 125 grams = 4.409 oz. However, to enjoy this piece of luxury you'll have to fork out 55,000 € = 74,000 US$. But you're worth it! 
It's available in plain yellow gold, but also in red gold in the Collette Store in Paris. Buy it quickly, because they'll only make 50 pieces! 200 hours were spent polishing it to make it that extra bit attractive.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Open Document Formats

Proprietary document formats have earned Microsoft and other companies lots of money for a long time, and still do. Open document formats could be called the opposites of those formats.

An open document format is well defined, non-secret and for anyone to use. That means any company can get the specification of the format and write an application that can read the format and save documents in that format. It doesn't necessarily mean the format may be used without license payments, but sometimes it does.

Proprietary formats are an effective way of locking-in customers. Let's say you have used a very nice application to create lots of documents in a certain format owned by company A. Now you hear of an application from company B, which allows you to create even nicer documents and is so much easier to handle. It also costs much less. You consider buying the new application, but there's a big problem. All those documents you created with the application from company A can't be used by the application from company B. Company A have also updated their application, but it's not quite what you want and they want you to pay for an upgrade. This is a lock-in example.

Open document formats prevent lock-in. They make it possible for the user to choose the application that's best suited for his needs and share the output with others who may be using other applications. The OpenDocument format (ODF) was accepted as a standard by OASIS in May 2005, and by ISO in November 2006, as standard ISO/IEC 26300:2006. OASIS is an organization of companies, i.e. a consortium. ISO is a standardization organization. 

Governments and companies who now spend fortunes on applications with lock-in are the greatest beneficiaries of open document formats. The EU has for several years recommended the use of open document formats and the idea is spreading. ODF is mandatory standard for all documents created within NATO.

There are great benefits for everyone in standardized formats. Just think of the JPEG picture format, which is used almost everywhere. You can take pictures with any camera or you can make pictures in Photoshop and save them as JPEGs and view them on any computer or smartphone. 

There are winners and losers when things are standardized. The losers are companies who own the formats. Everyone else is the winner. Losers don't have to lose everything though, because often they can still charge others for the use of their formats.