Wednesday, 30 September 2009
I'm not sure who wins from the deal really. Alonso presumably will swallow down the bile that he 'lavished' on Ferrari in 2006 and hope that the team manages to deliver a more competitive car than this year.
Kimi will presumably take a massive payoff with him to Mclaren where it will ease the pain of being blown away by Lewis Hamilton.
Elsewhere it looks like Robert Kubica will be taking Alonso's seat at Renault whilst Barrichello and Rosberg are expected to swap seats at Brawn and Williams.
Final twist in the musical chairs game is Jensen Button who has yet to agree a deal with Brawn - there being some disagreement over the Champion Elect's value.
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Why was I reading a book as opposed to an ebook? That was down to the ebook publishers, who established a price way above the fiver that the book in question (Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol) was commanding in it's first week on sale.
I particularly liked the fact that Americans and Canadians were able to get hold of an electronic copy for much the same price as we were asked to pay for the physical book and between 50 and 66% less than UK electronic copies were costing.
Having returned to the 'proper book' fold (albeit briefly) I have no intention of going back there again.
So take heed book industry, the next time that you use your powers to rip off ebook readers I'll just not buy the book at all, electronic or otherwise.
Maybe I'll just seek out a classic from Project Gutenberg and read that instead. Infinitely cheaper and likely more satisfying too.
To an extent this has come to pass - the average smartphone can take the place of your phone, PDA, camera and even sat-nav.
Or can it?
Talking to a friend today we discussed his imminent purchase of a Sonim xP3 to complement his iPhone. This robust phone will take the place of his iPhone when out and about, walking the dog or at horse events with his daughter. I'm pretty sure he carries a serious digital camera to those events too.
Then we discussed the problems with the TomTom iPhone application and how they have prevented him from disposing of his standalone TomTom unit, much to his disappointment.
Worse still he also maintains an additional iPod Classic which is permanently mounted in the glove box of his car. So rather than replacing gadgets the smartphone has actually resulted in him having to carry more around. I'm sure there are plenty of other people having to choose between carrying more devices or compromising with what their smartphone has to offer.
This isn't a moan about the iPhone either, every other smartphone platform has it's issues and shortcomings, whether as a result of deficient hardware or software.
Smartphone makers need to start addressing the areas in which their smartphones are lacking and really work to make them the only device you need carry.
I think we're edging closer to the day when this will be true, but as all the component parts are available it's about time that someone put them all together to make the ultimate killer smartphone.
Sunday, 27 September 2009
Has this affected my buying decision for November? Well the 3GS is now (tentatively) on my shortlist. Something that hasn't previously been true...
Saturday, 26 September 2009
Why? A collection of reasons starting with speed: the iPhone is just sluggish against a modern day WinMo device and whilst some of that may been down to jailbreaking I couldn't go back to running one app at a time which the fix is requires.
The only area where the iPhone still excels is the onscreen keyboard which works well. Better in fact than the physical keyboards on some devices I could mention. However as a seriously expert user of WM's built-in handwriting recognition software (Transcriber) I can tell you that the pen is mightier than the sword, most physical keyboards and the on screen keyboard too.
For data entry purposes anyway...
Friday, 25 September 2009
Looks like Apple is also ahead with the legal side of things too, after the USB-IF group, responsible for USB issues rejected Palm's claim of standard misuse by Apple and suggested that the same could not necessarily be said about Palm. If they were to make a ruling against Palm the limits of their powers would be to force Palm to stop using the USB logo on it's products. The adverse publicity would probably be more of a problem for the company though.
The ruling only relates to hardware and doesn't cover any of the software issues raised by Palm.
The bigger picture around Apple's monopolistic use of the iTunes Music Store to promote the sales of the iPod is still to be investigated, however I think when it is Apple may regret it's actions in slapping down Palm.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Even so I was somewhat surprised by the events of last weekend. Only able to carry one device and needing an absolute guarantee of performance (GPS, email, web access and the like) with no leeway for problems or fussiness I abandoned Windows Mobile and grabbed my iPhone.
And, no surprises, it did the job without a single hiccup.
Interesting that post-jailbreak I find the iPhone a touch slower and more prone to the occasional stall, yet the freedom afforded by jailbreaking is well worth that small price.
With the end of my current contract in sight I'm going to be facing an interesting dilemma - go for the 3GS despite my dislike for some of Apple's business practices; jump ship to Android or Palm; or go for one of the new WM6.5 devices due to land next month.
It appears that a mystery witness submitted evidence which implicated Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds directly leading to the pair recieving lengthy bans.
However if the evidence is to be believed it looks like the original idea for the crash came from Nelsinho himself, which should be enough to bury his career and would probably have resulted in a similar lifetime ban had he not been granted immunity by the FIA.
And if Nelson did propose the fix I don't believe the idea can have been his own - the Machiavellian nature of his father seems a much more likely source of this twisted plot.
I suspect we will never know the truth.
O2's announcement also lists pricing details and there are some interesting comparisons to draw with the iPhone 3GS - it's natural competiton.
On a like for like tariff the 16GB iPhone costs £90 more than the Pre, not a huge chunk of a difference given the iPhone's larger capacity and greater maturity.
I think Palm have been a little ambitious here with their pricing model. Unless the Pre is demonstrably superior to the 3GS AND it gets heavy backing with the sales staff in O2's stores I can't see it gaining Market traction. And that's without considering the impact of Android and Windows Mobile 6.5.
Monday, 21 September 2009
Mercedes used the IAA to make a number of new car announcements, but by far the most important was the B-Class F-Cell, which becomes the first Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle on sale in Europe later this year when Mercedes begins its limited (200 unit) production run. Hand in hand will come Hydrogen filling stations, primarily in Germany, marking, I believe the beginning of the end for the Petrol engine.
Hydrogen powered cars emit only water and if Mercedes and its partners have cracked the problem of manipulating this highly combustible gas (you might recall the infamous Hindenburg disaster) then we could a matter of a decade or so from widespread adoption.
There are many test fuel cell vehicles in use - mostly buses it has to be said - but Mercedes is the first to productionise and retail cars based on the technology.
The FIA's investigation reached the same conclusion as Renault's and as a result the company recieved a two year suspended ban. Which seems a fair result.
For Briatore and Symonds things haven't gone as well. The Italian has been banned from all FIA sanctioned events for life whilst Symonds will be banned for the next five years. Piquet was given immunity for his part in exposing the scam.
Friday, 18 September 2009
For everyone else I think we all know where to go for unofficial ROM releases.
Another OEM licensee lost to Microsoft, yet somehow I don't think that they shipped sufficient units to affect the current state of Windows Mobile.
Which is disappointing because it looks a pretty impressive device. Mac users will never find out though as the Zune software won't work on their machines - although I think it would probably work with iTunes if used as a mass storage device however that is still a sub-optimal solution.
Unless there are hidden legal issues I just can't see the sense in either restriction, especially given how much work Microsoft have to do to get even close to competing in this market...
Today's crazy bit of news is that two groups in America have demanded payment each time the 30 second sample extract of a song is played in iTunes.
Now let's consider this for just a few seconds. The sample is there to attempt to persuade people to purchase the full track. If there's a cost to the sample people are less likely to try and less likely to buy. Similarly if Apple removes the sample. So in effect the songwriters want people to buy less music. Like I said: Crazy.
The classic quote comes from Rick Carns, President of the Songwriter's Guild. He complains that songwriters make just $0.09 per sale and then revealed that he had recieved a cheque for 2¢. Which by my reckoning is one sale of a song for which he shares the songwriting credit with three others. And they made him President? Apple could have given him the whole $1.29 and he'd have been short for a cup of coffee.
Here's a clue for Rick and members of his Guild. Write songs people want to buy then your cheques will get a whole heap bigger. If you can't you ain't no songwriter - get over it and get a real job.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Most of Platini's ire has been directed at Manchester City and their Arabian owners who are currently making waves in football by outspending the established big clubs and buying up some of the sports biggest names.
Now, like many of you, I support a smaller club (Sampdoria, since you asked) and if billionaire owners came in and started buying up the cream of the playing talent I would be over the moon. Failing that any team that comes from nowhere and breaks up the hegemony sounds good me.
The creation of the Champions League created a huge pot of money for Europe's top clubs to dip into and also established a huge divide in each country's national game. I wonder when the last time a top European league was won by a team not already competing in the Champions League?
In England it has never happened - since the Champions League was formed only three teams have won the Premier League. In fact if it hadn't have been for the arrival of Roman Abramovich and his billions of Russian petro-dollars it would only be two.
So having created a format that removes competition at a national level, creating an exclusive club that can only be broken into by spending huge amounts of money, UEFA are going to legislate to stop clubs like Manchester City doing just that.
Here's an idea Mr Platini... Why not abolish all teams outside the top four and just let them play each other every week.
I for one will be incredibly happy to see City push one of the Sky Four out of the Champions League qualifying places this season.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Version 5 packs tabbed browsing, bookmark folders and a refreshed UI making it a massively impressive piece of software.
There are still some niggles to iron out, it ignores the d-pad on Windows Mobile devices and doesn't constrain vertical scrolling for example, but these will no doubt be sorted in the next release.
Based on the beta version however I have to say that this could be the new benchmark mobile browser once its complete...
In a shocking statement on its website the Renault team announced that it would not contest the charges laid against them at the World Motor Sports Council on Monday. It also announced the departure of Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds and pleaded for clemency on behalf of Renault's 700 employees at Enstone and Paris.
The WMSC hearing will determine the punishment to be applied to the team however based on the punishments applied to Mclaren and Toyota for the only comparable transgressions ($100m and two year ban respectively) this has to be a biggie.
And that doesn't take into account the impact of this incident on the 2008 world championship. Felipe Massa and Ferrari were looking like easy winners in Singapore until the bungled safety car pitstop, a direct result of Piquet's accident. Had Massa's race not been interrupted in this manner and he had scored just one solitary point in Singapore he would have been Champion ahead of Hamilton.
Other losers are the millions of gamblers who bet on Massa to win in Singapore (I suspect the most likely result had the race run fairly) or to take the championship. I'd imagine seeking to fix a race to be an illegal action in Singapore, a country where spitting in the street can lead to imprisonment, so I wouldn't be surprised if there are further repercussions for Messrs. Briatore, Symonds and Piquet...
The logic behind this escapes me. The eBook version has saved the publisher printing, transport and storage fees. It doesn't have the raw material costs that a hardback book's cover price needs to support and for the consumer it is in every way a less valuable (and hence less valued) product.
Realistically at $10 I'm sure the publisher, author and his literary agent will be making as much money as they do from a hardback sale.
Its clear the content owners in publishing haven't understood the key reason for the success of Apple's App Store: an item priced cheaply enough to be an impulse buy will sell in incomprehensible numbers.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Symonds declines to deny the accusations and instead is very evasive in his answers. Not necessarily a sign of guilt but pretty incriminating none the less. The subsequent offer of immunity to Symonds by the FIA strongly suggests that Flavio Briatore is firmly in the frame for this one and will almost certainly play no further part in the F1 circus.
Transcripts of Renault's radio conversations at the time of the incident also make bad reading for the team. Briatore's almost comical outrage at Piquet's accident doesn't match the actions which followed: i.e. Signing the Brazilian for a second season.
Finally the evidence from telemetry pretty much proves the crash was deliberate, Piquet kept his foot hard down on the throttle all the way through the incident. As Symonds suggests that the offer of a deliberate crash was discussed and rejected the morning of the race one has to wonder why their immediate reaction wasn't to sack the driver and report him to the FIA? After all if their hands were clean then the FIA would have been unable to strip the team of victory for the single-handed actions of the driver.
Failing the arrival of new evidence ahead of Monday's hearing my feeling (nauseating though it my be) is that Renault are guilty of race fixing and should be punished with the sort of fine and ban which makes Mclaren's 2007 punishment look like a slap on the wrist. Of course none of the evidence we've seen so far amounts to anything like enough to convict individuals or the team. However should Symonds seek to take advantage of the immunity offer and provide that evidence Renault's future in the sport is sealed.
Monday, 14 September 2009
Things may be about to change though as Engadget has uncovered evidence of an ecommerce enabled version of the store looking just about ready to go.
With the European launch of WebOS imminent that's very good news for Palm's bottom line and Pre users everywhere.
Now it just remains to be seen if thirs party developers are going to deliver the applications to fill the store.
Sunday, 13 September 2009
Yesterday's game between Man City and Arsenal was Adebayor's chance to give some back. A chance he grabbed with both hands.
Two incidents stand out, the stamping of Robin Van Persie and the incredible goal celebration. The former is less than dear cut - if it was deliberate then it was a disgusting way for any player to behave and should be punished appropriately.
The latter incident was nothing more than a storm in a tea cup and I can't see why the press is making such fuss about it. Adebayor had been the victim of some pretty unpleasant chanting from the travelling Arsenal support. Having scored what looked to be the decisive goal it was then entirely appropriate for him to find the Arsenal find the Arsenal section and enjoy his moment of rubbing it in...
If there are any punishments to be dealt out then they should be for the appalling behaviour of the Arsenal supporters who surged forward trying to get on to the pitch and were throwing missiles - one of which hit a steward knocking him unconscious.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
With Android becoming the standard across many manufacturers and networks its hard to see how it can fail to succeed now. Handsets are appearing at the lower end of the market and functionality has overtaken most of its rivals. We now are reaching the point where Google's baby will have reached critical mass and begin to sweep all before it. Improved enterprise integration and a big marketing push appear to be all that stand between Android and domination of the smartphone market, shoving Symbian, RIM, iPhone and Windows Mobile to one side.
Unfortunately a post on SE's official Xperia blog has categorically denied that the X1 will ever see an official 6.5 release whilst also acknowledging that third parties have all the tools necessary to provide an unofficial release. Not exactly rocket science given that XDA Developers website is stuffed full of unofficial 6.5 ROMs
One popular policy is whole device encryption, ensuring that a device cannot be accessed if found/stolen and hopefully making it more likely to be returned by someone without a technical leaning. Since release the iPhone has been telling Exchange servers that the encryption policy had been applied when it hadn't. Something that has been corrected on OS3.1. Unfortunately this means that users syncing with servers that enforce that policy are now no longer able to sync at all. Apple's advice? Buy a 3GS, which conveniently supports the policy.
Now that's a perfect example of 'bait and switch' and incredibly insulting to iPhone owners who are stuck in a hole without email. What implications this has for Apple in litigation happy America I'm not sure, but if I was a business whose data had been put at risk by Apple's deceit I think I'd be looking for some redress.
With T-Mobile and Orange having the Touch Pro 2 and TG01 respectively it looks like O2 will be the only major operator without a WM6.5 phone when it launches in October. Whether that remains the case and the company looks to the iPhone and Pre to boost its Christmas sales or whether they plan to announce a WM6.5 XDA in the meantime remains to be seen.
I'm just wondering how long it will be before HTC release an update for the TP2...
Friday, 11 September 2009
Palm's app store is a bit younger but already Palm are showing how it should be done. Earlier this week the company rejected the NaNplayer MP3 application. It was able to give a solid and understandable reason why this was the case (use of function calls to an API which is undocumented and will change in a future WebOS update, breaking the software). For most people this would already be an improvement over how Apple deals with things, but as Frank Carson used to say: wait, there's more. Palm have allowed the software to remain available through the homebrew store and will support the developer in migrating to legal APIs to provide the required functionality.
Are you listening in Cupertino (and Redmond too): this is how it should be done. Take heed.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Nelson alleges that he was ordered to crash by the team, with detailed instruction on the lap and corner that would ensure the right result. He agreed to go along with the plan because it would secure his drive in 2009.
On the other hand Pat Symonds alleges that Nelson came to the team and offered to crash to guarantee the right result.
Now it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the latter story is so incredible as to be beyond credibility itself. Given that the team admit that the conversation happened then its clear that the former scenario is far more likely.
If the World Motor Sports Council agrees then I suspect that the FIA will need to deliver the sort of penalty that makes headlines on the front pages of the newspapers. The closest comparitive incident I can think of involves the Toyota WRC team in the eighties who modified turbocharger wastegates in order to gain rally winning performance. In that instance Toyota were banned for two years, an appropriate sentence for Renault's crime I feel.
The worry for the FIA must be the danger that Renault will pull the plug on its team if found guilty making any ban worthless.
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Every activity which the BBC involves itself in is exceptionally well done, from the news service though programme making and the BBC website. The Cbeebies channel ensures that our children can enjoy the educational benefits of television without being brainwashed by the constant bombardment of advertising on the commercial channels.
I'd quite happily see the license fee doubled if it means we see more quality BBC activities and avoid the corporation being forced to mimic the garbage that is satellite TV.
The biggest news was the return of Steve Jobs, looking painfully thin and not very well at all, unsurprising after the major surgery of a liver transplant.
He'll probably want to know why this event was upstaged by Palm's Pixi announcement though. Someone in Cupertino will be clearing their desk tonight, that's for sure...
Seems like Android is fuelling a smartphone race to the bottom in terms of pricing, following on from the very promising looking T-Mobile Pulse, Vodafone and HTC have announced the Tattoo (the smartphone formerly known as Click) to compete at the low end of the market.
Whilst the Pulse manages to retain a fairly standard Android specification HTC have chopped two major lumps out of the Tattoo which are going to make it somewhat less appealling to anyone who knows their smartphone onions.
Hello is that HTC? 2007 is calling and they want their screen back. Yes, HTC are actually going to deploy a new device with a QVGA screen. And, given the resolution and small (2.8") size, they've also decided on a resistive touchscreen. Which is fine on a Windows Mobile device, designed for stylus use and skinned to be finger friendly, but I'm not altogether sure that an OS designed to be run on a HVGA screen with capacative inputs is going to work quite so well.
Price is also going to be an interesting challenge for Vodafone. The very nicely specced Pulse is currently £179, on Windows Mobile the much better specified XDA Zest can be had for under £190 and the Symbian-powered Nokia 5800 runs to £160. As HTC are saying that the unlocked cost for the Tattoo will be €320 that's a pretty hefty subsidy for the operator to find before its anywhere close to competitive.
Then, another Italian (by birth at least) arrived at Ferrari for the Italian GP as a replacement for an injured driver. That was Mario Andretti, replacing Didier Pironi who had suffered terrible leg injuries in an accident in the rain at Hockenheim when it seemed that he was going to walk away with the world championship.
In the aftermath it seemed like no-one wanted to win the title and despite missing in more than a third of the races Pironi only lost the championship by three points. Parallels to Button and peers being unable to stamp their authority on the championship?
On a similar note we saw 11 different drivers from 7 different teams win races - a mixed up season without compare. That year there were 18 teams and 43 drivers took part, meaning that 25% of drivers and 38% of teams won races, this year those figures (so far) have been 25% and 36%.
Final bizarre piece of coincidence... 27 years seperate the two championships - the number carried by Ferrari legend the late Gilles Villeneuve at the start of the season.
So how did Andretti do having flown in from America to help out the home team? Well he stuck his 126C2 on pole and finished third, helping to clinch the constructors title for Ferrari. I suspect Giancarlo will be very pleased to achieve a similar result
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
That's going to create some interesting challenges for the company as the two UK operations occupy very different market positions. T-Mobile being data friendly and offering quite simple plans. Orange with a bizarre array of animal-themed packages and a less smartphone friendly attitude.
Then of course there's the rationalisation on the already beleaguered High St. I can't see the new operation supporting multiple branded shops and some of Britain's city centres can ill-afford more retail closures.
What will the new operation trade as? Personally I like the concept of Orange-T but I'm guessing we'll see a rebrand under a new name and logo not unlike O2's creation from Cellnet and Genie some years ago.
Turns out that it comes with the newer version of IE installed and I have to say its surprisingly good. It still has its weaknesses, speed and zoom control primarily, but in terms of actually delivering the full desktop experience, complete with Flash, its pretty much out there in front, all on its own.
Hopefully the version in WM6.5 will build on this and we'll once more be able to say that Windows Mobile leads the way in the mobile browser wars.
Sunday, 6 September 2009
For now its available either free but ad-supported; or for $3.99. Which seems a pretty good price either way. The ads are subtly integrated on the free version so no worries about going down that route.
Windows Mobile now has a good selection of Twitter clients - with Pocketwit, twikini, Twaddle and moTweets all being good enough to find permanent space on any users device.
Opening more than two applications is a recipe for disaster, as the iPhone bogs down and the background apps choke and die. Its worrying because Windows Mobile, Android and apparently the Palm Pre too; can all manage processes much better.
There doesn't seem to be any real impact on battery life through running apps like last.fm, Tweetdeck or Facebook in the background, despite Apple's claims to the contrary. Just so long as you don't try to do it all at once because the iPhone can't handle it. Probably as a result of poorly specified memory capacity.
By contrast the XDA Zest which I'm currently writing this on has Facebook, moTweet, Opera Mini (and consequently Java), file explorer and Windows Media Player (with Pocket Scrobbler) all happily running away in the background. And as I'm writing this in Transcriber that's running too.
I don't really see that I'm doing anything unusual either, just the sort of multitasking that a smartphone should be able to comfortably handle. It would be interesting to see if the iPhone 3GS is any better in this respect...
Friday, 4 September 2009
by the T-Mobile Pulse today, available on PAYG for £179 from October.
Before rushing out for one remember that data on T-Mobile's PAYG costs
£1 a day. Sign up for the monthly data add on costs £5 - a much
claims, Renault have been called before the World Motor Sports
Council to give evidence on September 21st.
Interestingly Felipe Massa claimed Renault fixed the race immediately
after seeing the incident - the consequences of which cost him the
Should Renault be found guilty I suspect that the punishment for all
involved will make the Mclaren spying punishment look generous.
That's absolutely justice and I hope that FIFA have the balls to stand up and refuse to entertain Chelsea's appeal. This sort of ruling is just the sort of protection that smaller clubs need to prevent the big boys stealing their talent away.
If upheld the ban has major implications for Chelsea, with the African Nations Cup likely to rob them of key players early next year. Hopes of a Premiership or Champions League title will be massively affected - some might say disproportionately so. I can't agree. If it sends a warning shot across the bows of the big clubs then its entirely justified.
And if there's one club that deserves to be on the end of such a punutive judgement well I think most independents would agree that would definitely be Chelsea.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
The second Windows Mobile handset from Sony-Ericsson got all official yesterday and looks like a small evolution of the existing X1.
Packing WM6.5 (or at least it will when it reaches the shelves) there are a couple of significant upgrades - the 8.1 megapixel camera for one - a new keyboard design, accelerometer and video out capability.
Software wise the Panels concept appears to have been updated adding a new 'snacking' interface which looks about as real-world useful as before, i.e. not at all...
As an upgrade its definitely progress and signals that Sony-Ericsson is serious about testing the waters across multiple platforms.
Enter Giancarlo Fisichella, with a five race deal and reserve driver contract for 2010. The latter part is obviously a banker for both Fisi and Ferrari in case Felipe Massa isn't able to recover from his Hungarian injuries.
To Monza then, where Ferrari (and Force India as well for that matter) should again benefit from the low downforce setup. Fisi to spring another surprise? Who knows, but I'm betting it will be next to impossible to pick up tickets on the back of a Ferrari win and an announcement of this magnitude.