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Shane O'Sullivan's technical blog… really ties the room together

Archive for October, 2009

CelText for the Palm Pre – Send texts for free

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on October 19, 2009

I’ve just released the first version of CelText, an application for the Palm Pre smartphone.  CelText enables users in Ireland to send text messages for free, using the free web texts available from their mobile provider, either O2, Meteor or Vodafone.

This version of CelText is completely free, and can be installed using the PreCentrals Homebrew installation process, described here – http://www.precentral.net/how-to-install-homebrew-apps .

You can get CelText from http://www.precentral.net/homebrew-apps/celtext .  I’ve just submitted it, so it may not be available for a day or so after this post (Oct 19th 2009).

If you have any issues with it, there is a discussion forum at http://forums.precentral.net/showthread.php?p=1985016 where you can let me know about any bugs that may be present.

For anyone interested in the technical aspects of how CelText is written, for the most part it uses Palms development tools, but I use the Dojo Ajax Toolkit for a number of tasks, including animations and Ajax calls.

Posted in Dojo, mobile | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Palm Pre from iPhone3g: first impressions

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on October 17, 2009

My iPhone 3G died a few weeks ago after rudely jumping out of my pocket and onto some gravel, so I took the opportunity to upgrade to the new Palm Pre smartphone.  My main reasons were mainly that it looks very cool, and writing applications for it is really, really easy if you know HTML and JavaScript.palmpre

I’ve now had it one whole day, so here are my initial impressions.

Pros

  1. Obvious I know, but the multitasking is fantastic.  I got used to using multiple applications at the same time, that I don’t know how I ever did without it on the iPhone.  For example, playing a radio app and browsing the web. On the iPhone, the music stops.  On the Pre, it doesn’t.
  2. Moving from application to application is much faster for me.  This includes loading new applications, and switching to new ones.  One of the reasons for this is the much publicised card metaphor WebOS uses, but just as useful is the task bar at the bottom that can be launched using the gesture area at the bottom.  Some reviewers have claimed that it’s just eye candy, since you can access the same controls by exiting out of an application into the “card view”.  However, using the gesture area, you don’t even have to exit an application to launch another.  It’ s just very quick and simple.
  3. Integration with Gmail and Facebook contacts is simple to set up and well implemented.
  4. The camera is better than the iPhone, and has a flash.  This doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.  Just better than the iPhone 3G.
  5. Bluetooth works better than the iPhone.  My Bluetooth headset, a Sony DR-BT140Q, worked with the iPhone, but couldn’t change the music track that was playing.  With the Pre, all the Bluetooth headseats functions work as they should.
  6. The keyboard is better than the iPhone onscreen keyboard.  While the keys are small and fiddly, I’m already typing more quickly that I could on the iPhone after a year of usage.
  7. Turning on and off the Wireless and Bluetooth is much easier and quicker in the Pre.
  8. The Pre can be used as a simple USB storage device.  The iPhone cannot.
  9. The biggest Pro for me by far is that applications are SOOOOOOOO easy to write.  I’ve already written a couple, and will write more.  Unlike with the iPhone, I don’t need to buy a Mac just to write an application for a bloody Phone.  Tying a phone to a single computer type and operating system for development is a sign of real arrogance on the part of Apple.  “They’re going to want to write apps so bad for our phone we can force them to fork out on a new computer“.  Palm don’t suffer from the same hubris, perhaps because they are playing catch up, but I don’t care.  You can write WebOS applications on Windows, Mac and Linux (yes, Linux!), using just HTML, JavaScript and a little CSS.  WebOS rocks. Update: My first application is now available for free, see http://wp.me/p15eg-5i

Cons

  1. The build quality of the Pre is not as good as the iPhone. As many reviewers have pointed it, it feels a bit plastic (ok a lot plastic).  The sliding mechanism could be better. It can be a bit awkward to slide open the phone when an application is live on the screen using just one hand, and the mechanism doesn’t give a good tactile feel when it slots into place.
  2. The keys are a bit awkward to use.  While I still prefer the keyboard to the iPhone, there is plenty of room for improvement.
  3. Getting music onto the phone was a bit of a nightmare.   It doesn’t currently work with iTunes, as I presume Apple have, in their postition of Microsoft V2, have blocked Palm from cheekily pretending to be an iPhone.  The unforgivable part of this is that Palm seem to have given no other option that enables you to put music on your phone! After some Choftering, I found a handly program called DoubleTwist, which can be used to manage the music on the Pre.  However, the simple fact that I need to use this is a massive fail for Palm.  There’s no excuse for them saying “You need another companys software to use our phone, and we’re not giving you even a less functional application to do the same”.
  4. The swipe motion to go “back” in an application is awkward with one hand.  You almost have to concentrate on NOT dropping the phone when doing it.  This is definitely a two-handed device.
  5. No native Facebook application.  Apparently it’s on the way, but that’s no good to me right now.  Get it sorted Palm! Facebook are a partner of Palm, what’s the hold up?
  6. The process for selecting text is very awkward, and I definitely prefer the iPhone’s method of selecting, copying and pasting text.
  7. When I got my iPhone, my girlfriends first impression was “Wow, it’s so cool!”.  Her first impression of the Pre, after 10 seconds, was disappointment.  No matter how much I tried to say “Look at the cool operating system, better camera etc”, you don’t get a second first impression.  I can definitely see a number of people not buying it if they simply pick it up in a shop without appreciating what’s inside.  Perhaps it’s the plastic feel, the screen that is slightly smaller than the iPhone (people don’t really care if it’s the same resolution), I don’t know.  But it’s undeniable.

Conclusion

I’m really happy with the Pre.  While the build quality could be much better, it’s all about the operating system for me.  I can’t wait to get more and more applications written for it.

Digg It

Posted in Technical | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

One more twit goes a-twittering

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on October 5, 2009

Ok, I gave in, I’m on Twitter – http://twitter.com/chofter , user @chofter.  I promised myself I wouldn’t join, because I didn’t see the point.  Hmpfh, well, there that goes.  I’ve now promised myself I’ll only write pertinent updates, not the inane crap people post about what kind of soup they had that morning.

If you’re interested in seeing how long this latest resolution lasts, or if you want to hear whatever craziness I have to impart on the tech world, dojo toolkit, or open source worlds, feel free to follow my posts (I refuse to say tweets. Damn, I just said tweets. Damn, said tweets again. Damn it…. etc)

Posted in Technical | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Dijit Tree now ultra-stylable

Posted by Shane O'Sullivan on October 1, 2009

The Dojo Tree has always been easy to make look just like you want, from changing the icons to changing the labels.

However there was always a limitation in that an entire row could not be styled.  Well, today I put through a fix for that, and you can now specify a CSS class and style for each row using the getRowClass and getRowStyle functions.

You can see a simple test of this at http://archive.dojotoolkit.org/dojo-2010-06-01/dojotoolkit/dijit/tests/tree/test_Tree_Styling.html , available from Oct 2nd 2009, and it’ll be included in version 1.4, which goes into beta any day now.  It shows how you can easily make the tree appear like an expandable, nestable list widget, with just a tiny bit of CSS.

I also plan on writing up a number of dojo.cookie articles over at dojocampus.org in the coming weeks on all the cool things you can do with the tree.

treeStyle

Posted in dijit, Dojo, Javascript, open source | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

 
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