Sep 252012
 

Even though MobileFun’s advertising is currently focused on iPhone 5 cases, they nevertheless sent our reviewer Oliver W Leibenguth a sample of one of their styli. He has performed an accurate review – let’s see if the thing stacks up!

First we have to talk about the technical background behind all this:

In earlier days (the time before the first iPhone) all manufacturers used resistive Touchscreens in their PDAs and Smartphones. They offered a high resolution but had to be used with a stylus and lacked multitouch-capabilities.

Now we all use smartphones with capacitive Touchscreens: they offer multitouch capabilities and can be used with your fingers… or better said: they *have* to be used with your fingers. Stylus-Operation is, by design, not possible (Unless you own a Galaxy Note or a HTC Flyer that have that feature due to a modified digitizer and a special stylus). That means that you can’t do drawings or handwritten notes like you used to do – drawing and writing with your finger just doesn’t work right (unless you are a master with finger paint…)

But there are stylii available for capacitive Touchscreens: Most of them have big tips made out of a sponge-like material or rubber that simulate the user’s finger. The results are quite disillusioning: Ok, you’ve got a pen… that is exactly as inaccurate as your fingers are.

But now we’re looking at someting I’d like to call the „second generation of capacitive stylii“:
0 DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

Actually, this looks like an ordinary ballpoint-pen with a protective cap.
1 DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

But the tip looks totally different…
2 DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

Dagi has built a stylus with a sharp tip that has a transparent disc attached to it. The disc has the diameter needed for the touchscreen to register its touch – and you can actually see, where and what you are drawing.
The disc itself is attached with a small spring that lets you tilt the pen in almost every possible angle without loosing contact to the touchscreen.
3a DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review
3b DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

I’m not an artist but with this pen I can draw and write almost as I would do with a regular ballpoint-pen on paper. There are some issues with certain apps that make use of multitouch-features that can lead to unwanted effects when you rest your hand on the touchscreen while using the pen.
4a DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review
4b DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

What‘s in the box?
5 DAGi Capacitive Stylus   the review

- the stylus ;-)
- a replacement tip
- 5 replacement glide-pads that reduce the friction of the disc (one is already attached)
- a (very) small piece of paper with instructions on how to replace the tip

The pen (30 EUR) is quite pricey compared to those with rubber tips, but if you need a stylus that actually works, this pen is worth every cent. Thanks to mobilefun UK for supplying the sample used in this review.

Jul 272012
 

The C-Pen was provided to us cortesy of MobileFun. It is a stylus intended only for the Samsung Galaxy S3. Nevertheless, we tested it on both the Galaxy S2 and the WeTab.

The box opens onto the side. There is not much to see except for the blister packing:
samsung cpen review 1a Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review samsung cpen review 1b Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review samsung cpen review 1c Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review

The Stylus feels pretty comfortable in the hand. You can see the comparison pic below showing it next to some classic pens from Parker:
samsung cpen review 2a Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review

The most notable point of the stylus is the non retractable 3mm rubber tip on the front, used for writing on the capacitive screen.
samsung cpen review 3a Samsung Galaxy S3 C Pen review

We tested it on the Galaxy S2, where is works moderately well. the success we got was mainly on the tapping front, ie tapping the icons. But is is borderline impossible to use the same in the note taking application.

On the WePad, no different results were obtained. We tried to draw a line, and all that we got was a dashed line in place of a straight line. Of course, the Windows 8 text recognition failed to do anything with this entry.

We can not conclude its performance on the Galaxy S3. However, we can debunk one rumor: the C-Pen’s back does NOT include the special technology needed for the Galaxy Note!

We will update the review once we receive a Galaxy S3 in our labs. Until then, it is safe to conclude that the stylus works (as unreliable as) any other capacitive stylus – the price of 20 GBP is a bit high for what it offers.

Jun 152012
 

It takes but one look at modern handheld computers to be amazed by what is possible – a few years ago, dual core CPUs were rare beasts even on the desktop. This ever-rising amount of computational power has, of course, taken its toll on the mobile industry – resource-effective development is less important.
embedded front Making Embedded Systems   the review embedded rev Making Embedded Systems   the review

The book starts out by looking at what makes an embedded system, and at how embedded systems are built and brought up. This is continued in chapter five, which takes a look.at efficient ways to structure your embedded system.

In chapters four and six, the book takes a high level look.at how an embedded system interacts with its surroundings. Topics like ports, polling, etc are covered – please be aware that electrical engineering is not taught here.

Chapter number 7 is a bit of an oddball, as it loks at ways to update the software of a system which has already been deployed. This sounds weird at firszt, but can be highly useful.

Finally, the last three chapters look at various methods for optimizing application code. The information in these is useful for all kinds of coding, and definitely good to know.
it should not be surprising that this is not an easy reading title. Nevertheless, the author has done her best – the book is well written.
Given the large range of topics covered,

In the end, Elecia White’s book makes for an interesting read. If you ever wondered about how code is written on the really small boxes, this is the place to go! The price of 34 USD is fine – sadly, electronics are not covered…

Oct 192011
 

One thing is constant among most countries: public broadcast annoying everyone who owns a TV, extorting a tax for their usually very mediocre produce. But why is this so?
front Comparing Media Systems   the review back Comparing Media Systems   the review

This book, published by the University of Cambridge, starts by looking at the media landscape of the past, breaking it into three distinct models.

Model number one is dubbed the “Polarized Pluralist Model”, and describes the media systems seen in mediterranean states such as Italy. Next up is the “Democratic Corporatist Model”, which is prevalent in most of continental Europe. Finally, the US “liberal” model is introduced.

After this introduction, the book moves on to differentiating the models in dimensions such as political influence, government subsidies and amount of unionization of staff. Even though these chapters do get a bit repetitive, they contain loads of interesting anecdotes which give extra food for thought.

A final chapter “rounds off” the tome by looking at what the future will hold for the various European media systems discussed.

From a text point of view, the book is – like most universitarian literature – too long for my taste. Nevertheless, it remains readable even for non-native speakers and contains quite a few interesting tables:
in Comparing Media Systems   the review

This book is ideal for all those who ever had to deal with public broadcasting and/or wonder how the news gets to their doorstep (and live in Canada, the USA or Western Europe) – the price of 30$ is ok.

P.S. The introduction is available in PDF form for free…

Oct 042011
 

In today’s mobile market, little is as important as a good user interface design. Unfortunately, most books on the topic tend to take one “way” and then ride it home – can Lukas Mathis’s book provide a broader overview of the GUI design field?
front Designed for Use   the review back Designed for Use   the review

Designed for Use is split up into three parts, which each are made up of chapters explaining techniques and ideas used to accomplish user interface design.

Part 1 starts out with the design of applications – topics covered here are not directly related to the layout of forms, but rather to things like deciding which features are needed and how they should be grouped.

Part 2 looks at the layout of the individual forms, and also covers “new-age” things like animation and the design of mobile user interfaces.

Finally, Part 3 looks at things to do after the first version of the app has been released. In this part of the book, expect coverage of concepts like dealing with customer requests, adding and removing features, and so on.

As with almost all O’Reilly-published books, a number of images are included to make the text easier to read and understand. Paper quality was high as always; a huge amount of web references makes “further reading” easy:
in Designed for Use   the review

In the end, it is hard not to like Designed for Use. The book presents a plethora of design methods which are sure to inspire everybody – the price of 30$ is more than justified.

May 152011
 

The UK retailer MobileFun is well known for selling all kinds of brand and self-sourced products at competitive prices. Their recent introduction of the StuckBuddy left more than one individual scratching his head…what’s the fuzz all about?

First of all, the usual. MobileFun’s products ship in a padded envelope from the UK:
stuckbuddy 1 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

The blister of the StuckBuddy got a nice beating during the mailing.
stuckbuddy 2 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

Nevertheless, the contents were a-OK:
stuckbuddy 3 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

The whole idea of the device is that you stick it onto the back of a phone or tablet – like our unfortunate Samsung Wave:
stuckbuddy 4 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

Then, the whole thing is turned around for a cradle-like effect:
stuckbuddy 5 MobileFun StuckBuddy review

In my tests, the sticking effect worked well on devices which had a ‘flat’ area on the back where the StuckBuddy can attach. The Samsung Wave is a bad example – if its removable battery cover is partially under the suction cup, the sticking effect ends after approximately two minutes…

This device clearly plays in the useless, but so adorable category. It obviously won’t replace a kick stand or cradle, but hey – its better than nothing. Given the price of 5 GBP (and the money back guarantee), I don’t know much more to write here…

Apr 022011
 

Capacitive screens have brought us all kinds of funny input tools for use in winter: in Korea, some users even resorted to sausages in order to keep in touch with their friends without freezing their hands. MobileFun now plans to help out with its Dot Gloves – can they stack up?

MobileFun’s products ship in well-padded envelopes from the UK. I haven’t had any issues with them so far, as the contents have always arrived safely so far:
 MobileFun Dot Gloves for capacitive screens   review

The gloves themselves ship in a small plastic bags. Mine were marked as Large – a size I almost never need with actual gloves:
 MobileFun Dot Gloves for capacitive screens   review

Nevertheless, the fit of the wool gloves was relatively tight:
 MobileFun Dot Gloves for capacitive screens   review

Finally, a look at the actual product. The gray tips on top of the three fingers are the active areas. You must use these to touch the screen – the black areas do not conduct:
 MobileFun Dot Gloves for capacitive screens   review

We performed tests on a variety of devices with a capacitive screen, and had no issue with any of them. The devices remain usable with your hands in the gloves – and this is all you need.

Given the price of 18 UK pounds, there is not much one can expect from the gloves. They will obviously not verse your leather gloves in terms of looks and workmanship, and they will probably also do a bad job at impressing possible mating partners. Nevertheless, they serve their purpose perfectly – if you are willing to trade wearing slightly weird-looking wool gloves for more work time (and have small hands), they are perfect.

Expect to see them on Austrian roads next year…

Mar 192011
 

Before the PlayBook tablet by Research in Motion, ActionScript was a language mainly used by Flash designers for adding a bit of “brains” to their animations. Unfortunately, the BlackBerry tablet changed that – ActionScript now is interesting for classic programmers, too. Can O’Reilly’s classic satisfy the needs of this clientele?
front Learning ActionScript 3.0   the review back Learning ActionScript 3.0   the review

The first chapters are best described as Programming for Dummies – not only do they show the syntax of AS, they also explain the concepts behind the idioms in painstaking detail. Seasoned IT vets will have issues not falling asleep here…

Part 2 focuses onh all things graphics: topics like pixel graphics, vector graphics and motion are explained in considerable detail. This treatise is very interesting, and contains many examples. However, it suffers from two weaknesses: first of all, it is focused on people programming games or graphic demos. The second and more significant weakness is the dependency on Flash CS – if you use Flash Builder, many of the examples can not be used.

Text, Sound and video get one chapter each. The same is valid for file IO and XML processing.

Our review is based on the second edition of the book. As usual for O’Reilly, it is well-written and contains loads of images. This time, the book is printed in color:
in Learning ActionScript 3.0   the review

All in all, the book provides a great overview of the possibilities of ActionScript. Unfortunately, it is not perfectly suited for PlayBook developers – it does not explain the QNX controls or the Flash Builder IDE. However, developers who need to create a PlayBook app ASAP should invest the 32$ the book costs at Amazon’s – there is no better way to get up to speed with ActionScript quickly…

Mar 142011
 

The guys at IHS iSuppli have torn down the iPad 2 (much like the iFixit guys) and arrived at a figure of US$326.60 as the BOM.

While the iPad and iPad2 are essentially the same apart from a few points here and there, the BOM is also the same, a few points here and there ;)

According to iSuppli, if manufacturing costs are added, the cost to produce the GSM/HSPA version rises to US$336.60, and the CDMA version lands to US$333.25.

As per digitimes:

The A5 processor in iPad 2 costs 75% more than the A4 processor in the iPad 1, based on improvements in performance and inherent design changes. The A5 processor, whether produced by Samsung or another foundry, is based on Apple’s own designs. Apple owns the intellectual property, and as such, whoever builds the A5 processor for them is doing so as more of a foundry service – like a contract manufacturer – which gives Apple a huge competitive cost edge on the piece price of these processors. At US$14, the A5 processor costs 75% more than the current A4 processor. The cost of this processor is expected to erode quickly over the course of the next year as Apple ramps production.

Want to have a peek at the detailed breakdown of the BOM? Head over to Digitimes and have a look for yourself…!!

Do let us know what you think about the BOM versus retail price factor…??

Nov 182010
 

Tons of books have been written on the topic of selling desktop apps – when it comes to mobile, the bookshelves remain mostly empty. O’Reilly’s latest work is focused on mobile apps in general and the App Store in specific – does it make sense?
appsavvy App Savvy   the review appsavvy 001 App Savvy   the review

Ken Yarmosh starts out by looking at the process for creating an app. For him, this starts out at processing the idea – and finding out whether pursuing it actually makes sense.

When the idea is workable, the next step involves design and UI. Even though the tools shown are focused on the iPhone, the lessons learned here are valid on all platforms.

The next chapter looks at managing the development process. If you do the development yourself, the value of that is limited – but one never knows when scaling up is due. The chapter after that looks at the publishing process in iTunes.

chapters eight and nine are very interesting. Chapter 8 looks at the marketing process, while Chapter 9 analyzes various ways to keep a product line alive after its initial launch.

Finally, one or two interviews with prominent iPhone developers are at the end of each chapter.

As usual for O’Reilly, the book is well written and is made up of decent quality paper. The only issue I had was the permanent cross-referencing to the marketing chapter at the end – it seriously disturbed reading flow for me.

In the end, a seasoned and experienced developer who is interested in PR will probably find little new in this book. Rookies, on the other hand, must buy this book irregardless of which platform they end up targeting. If you are inexperienced in handling the iTunes store, the book also is worth its price…