* Posts by JS Greenwood

26 posts • joined 30 Oct 2008

Apple patents touch-sensitive controls for MacBook

JS Greenwood

Good luck with that...

Let me know how your dinner date with prior art goes, Apple... I seem to (OK, "very clearly") remember my Toshiba Libretto with its mouse track-stick mounted on the lid to the right of the screen. And the mouse buttons. And the power button.

Texas man charged in multimillion-dollar Bitcoin Ponzi scheme

JS Greenwood

Right idea, wrong execution

I've not seen the chap behind this's sales pitch - or if he came up with some credible real-world marketing outside of his "pirate" moniker online, etc, but there is an investment pitch to be made here that /can/ sound credible.

I.e. there are arbitrage opportunities of >5% at any given point between the different BitCoin exchanges. You can easily demonstrate how these can be leveraged to buy on one whilst selling on another and making a 5%+ margin each time.

To anyone who knows enough to be dangerous but not enough to be competent, I can see how they get suckered in by the promise of fools gold.

The reality is that by the time you've paid your fee on the exchanges, and had to do IBAN transfers from one exchange into your account back into another exchange, and (if he wasn't a merkin) to and from Yen with skewed exchange rates and FX fees, etc. each time assuming Mt.Gox is part of the loop... you realise that you're losing 5%+ of your money to the middlemen. And you're left with... ummm.... nothing.

The irony being that If "real money" were as easy and free to move around globally as Bitcoin, there'd be genuine margins here. ...And also no real need for Bitcoin. ...And also equivalent exchange rates.

As someone who's been involved in digital currencies since the start, but from a banking industry background, here's my 0.000338 BTC:

- They do serve a purpose and solve a real problem. Therefore they do have an innate value

- The problem is, the majority of that purpose and value is in illicit trade; moving money across borders, avoiding sanctions and AML screening, etc.

- Like many currencies and artefacts, their purpose as an instrument for financial speculation should never be underestimated. Not just because it has such fluctuation, but also because:

1. It's an easily manipulated market, and you DO get a lot of market manipulation of it by less salubrious types

2. It's a proxy for the rise of a digital economy, and so there are reasons others would want "a piece of the action"

3. It's an easy route into the equivalent of a "tech stock" that feels earlier in the cycle... for all those who wished they'd been angel investors to the dot-com startups and missed out on the pump and dump there

The flip side:

- An attempt at regulation will happen. And this will destabilise something that's already unstable... Realistically, I imagine it'll be the big exchanges that'll have their accounts frozen, making cash-in / cash-out problematic, removing many of the currencies secondary uses, and limiting it to being more a local currency kept within certain (illegal) circles

- Something else will come along and be the successor to BitCoin. It has innate problems that will need solving, an exchange between BTC and that will need creating. Watching out for this successor (and I don't mean "the next CNC / FTC / YAC clone of BTC") could be profitable

- The influx of public interest will die without profits / further pumping of the value / interesting news stories to fuel the hype. And without that public interest and the changing supply/demand ratio it creates, I can see a slide in the value... in the absence of other events occurring

- It's always the pick axe salesmen that get rich in a gold rush. Watching what happens with Butterfly Labs and the like will also be interesting

Seven snazzy smartphones for seven sorts of shoppers

JS Greenwood

It's always going to be a subjective list...

...but the categories and omissions are interesting.

I have to admit to owning an iPhone. And a Blackberry. And an Android phone. And not a single Windows Phone since the self-harming 6.x days. But, I'm surprised that a Lumia 520 didn't appear as an option under "value" at 20% of the cost of an iPhone, and less than half the price of a Nexus 4. Or the Lumia 925 under camera, rather than the 920. or even any of the Lumias under Ease of Use.

Which leaves the missing category where iPhone is a potential winner: app availability, or some hybrid "immersive device/experience/lifestyle statement" category, rather than any one thing.

If nothing else, this article has made me think seriously about jumping to Windows Phone once I've done a rummage to see if all the apps I need are there. Who'd have thought it...

(Now, if there was an 8" Windows tablet based on WinPh that "just worked" and was compatible with this so I didn't need two eco-systems)

Bitcoin briefly soars to record $147 high, driven by Cyprus bank flap

JS Greenwood

Re: Bitcoin

@Lee D I'm with you on most of the in/out transactions around it being mighty shady. But wire transfers in and out of Mt.Gox really are as simple as filling in half a dozen fields in your online banking Make a Payment page, and they really do turn up there, let you buy coins, let you sell, and cash-out simply, without horrific charges.

I was pretty nervous doing it the first time; are thousands of pounds going to vanish never to be seen again?? ...but they've always been absolutely fine*. They take 0.6% on transactions. I think that's pretty reasonable compared to PayPal/Western Union/etc.

*Until the first time it goes wrong, of course. As yesterday's hacking attempt showed, that can massively affect the currency's valuation, especially when 4 out of every 5 trades are done through that exchange. It's just down to your "risk appetite of that exchange" x "risk appetite of the currency"

JS Greenwood
Big Brother

Trading BitCoins

An idiots guide to buying and selling BitCoin:

It's actually really easy.

It's just not as easy as it would be if PayPal / credit cards were generally accepted.

The reason most such things aren't accepted is down to whether they trust you to buy a currency with a currency, issues around chargebacks vs. guarantees they have the funds, and so on.

The simplest way to buy and sell is via an exchange such as Mt.Gox (mtgox.com). This one, for instance, handles 80% of all BitCoin trades.

You can fund your account via a number of other virtual wallet accounts that make you want to self harm by the time you've got money into them. Or, much simpler, you can make a wire transfer from your bank account. I've transferred money in from my normal online banking to their account details in Japan before going to bed one night, and had it credited to my account and fully ready to spend by the time I've woken up.

You then just treat it as equities trading: there are buy and sell prices, and you put a bid and a quantity in.

So, if you wanted to just buy a few on the off-chance they end up being worth trillions, you can.

Caveat: if the exchange you're holding them in gets hacked, they could "disappear". So, the idea is that you keep them somewhere trust-worthy. How you can keep a set of numbers safe is an interesting one! (Printed out, in a safety deposit box??) You can "download" them to your computer (sorry - explanation of how to do this without the footprint still being at the exchange is too tedious to go into) - IF you trust yourself to manage them better.

Now, it gets more interesting: Different exchanges have different buy/sell rates, so there's some real arbitrage fun to be had buying on one and selling on another. And once your currency is in BitCoin, moving it between the exchanges is VERY easy - not like the initial wire transfer

As for selling them - Wire transfer back out.

One other option is "physical" purchases of them. You can trade duo-tone pictures of the Queen's head (or dead-pres's) for them with quite a few people. And there are sites for that, too. E.g: https://localbitcoins.com/location/GB/London/

Other ways of getting them: mine some. Although, that's getting to be a much more commercialised operation than ever before, so unless you have a server farm going spare, or a half dozen top end GPU-laden graphics cards to throw at it, not such a great idea. (For any large-scal sysadmins out there, having a screen-saver that coin-mines could reap large rewards).

And there are sites that'll give away tiny fractions of BTC for clicking links and the like if you just want to have some kind of [tiny] holding of them on the off-chance they become rarer than common sense in a currency bubble.

If you get into mining them, buying and selling for cash on the street, or link-clicking, you'll need a wallet to hold them in: http://bitcoin.org/en/choose-your-wallet

If you're just trading them on Mt.Gox, that's not necessary.

Living in the middle of a big city? Your broadband may still be crap

JS Greenwood
Paris Hilton


...is the highest I've ever seen. The other night it dipped to a new all-time-low of 512Kb for a couple of excrutiating hours.

Middle of the Pennines? Orkney? Underwater in the North Sea?

No. Canary Wharf. The ultra-modern financial hub of our country, replete with data centres, etc.

Dodgy old re-conned/untouched house/apartment, then?

No. New build swanky apartments.

Small JPEG of Paris, as trying to download video isn't going to happen...

The Oric-1 is 30

JS Greenwood

I really wanted to read this article...

...and I'm sure a lot of research and time went in to writing it and ensuring it was factually correct. However, could the author / editor of such articles PLEASE read them back to themselves before hitting the 'publish' button? The number of needless sub-clauses in obtusely constructed sentences was just painful. Sorry to gripe on style rather than substance, but a little shuffling of words into something that flows would do a great job of removing the need to maintain some kind of mental FILO stack.

Work for beer, Neil Gaiman's wife tells musicians

JS Greenwood
Paris Hilton

Re: Enough snark already

I think the problems are these:

1/ People paid her a LOT of money to produce the music. Then they're likely to be paying again between seeing the show and buying the merchandise. Yet despite having paid once/twice/more already, they're still getting absolutely no guarantee of quality. Maybe one city will have rubbish volunteers. Or nobody will turn up to volunteer at all.

2/ She clearly can afford to pay for this. She used $250k of the money to pay off her personal debts, admitted there was over $100k left in slush before charging anything for the concerts, and the events themselves - if sold out (as is allegedly often the case) - will also generate money.

3/ She's admitting that "unpaid" isn't as good as "paid" by then spending money in certain big cities where there are more likely to be critics and the like. Why the differentiated treatment of fans?

4/ This devalues professional musicians dangerously. If you look at most not-for-profit / volunteering schemes, they're usually very careful around not doing things that would see people who would otherwise have earned an income out of pocket. As someone who's been a struggling musician herself, she should realise that this is damaging to those on the bottom rungs of the ladder. Not least when she's not even promised to give them any promotion - publishing who they are, what they do, links to their work, etc.. Also, there's using volunteers to do something for charity as a whole, and there's asking people to work for you for free so you can line your own pockets. Again, there are generally a lot of codes-of-practice around this that are generally accepted as being "good things".

5/ The fans have spoken. There's been a huge amount of feedback to her - including from people who've opened for her and played with her in the past, and those who contributed to Kickstarter - stating that this isn't acceptable behaviour. She's ignoring this rather than addressing it, despite continually claims of how in touch with her fanbase she is and how she's "one of them".

6/ She uses particularly inappropriate comparisons to try to justify her actions rather than just being far more open. Nowhere does she say 'sorry' to her fans - those who've made her career possible by *trusting* in her and paying in to Kickstarter. She should at the very least apologise that she didn't have the foresight to budget properly, and that now they goods/services they've pre-paid for may well be substandard as she's first and foremost funneled the money into paying off her own personal debt.

Paris, because she's never short of a string of volunteers with horns.

Hacker uses Kindle as Raspberry Pi screen

JS Greenwood

Re: Impressive

I'm thinking something akin to a Pi, running a decent GUI, eInk or composite (touchscreen) screen, clamshell design, little keyboard... and you've got a Psion for the 21st Century. I'll take 2, please.

£CHING: ICANN bags $357m from 1,930 dot-word domains

JS Greenwood

Re: As somebody...


I proposed we do just this - set up a specific gtld[at]large-corporate-entity.com email address. Apparently, that was a little too difficult to achieve.

Their actually publishing them is ridiculous, though - they'll either be real and therefore spammed, or a largely unmonitored account... which makes all their notifications about problems with submissions, changes in status, etc. lost to the electronic trash can. Ho hum.

Back to my archery practice... =/

JS Greenwood

As somebody...

...who is the named contact for a GTLD application, I can confirm that within 24hrs of the 'unveiling' of applications, I am already suffering inbox meltdown from TLD-pseudo-spam. Many, many companies offering domain related services, consulting, etc. And requests for interviews on the submission.

I'd like to say "I ICANNot believe they put peoples emails addresses up for all and sundry to harvest". But, given the way the rest of the process is being handled, sadly, ICANN. *groan*

Barclaycard slaps pay-by-bonk plasters on mobes

JS Greenwood

Re: How is this sticker beter

Re 'This is what shops pay for banks to process transactions on average'... This misses the fact that your average cash transaction size is very small compared to your average credit card transaction size. And the credit card costs are to a large degree based on the insurance provided around misuse, etc.

So, even if the ~3% fee charging is roughly the same, it's 3% of a lot less. And it'll end up being a lot less than 3% as fraud concerns around ~£10 are a lot less than ~£10,000.

Plus, there's cost-from-bank and total-cost-to-store, which are different things. Handling cash in a store has a cost - loss, theft, etc. from staff. Moody £10 notes. Incorrect change given and the aftermath of that each time. And - possibly most importantly to many stores such as McD's - customer throughout. Knocking off the ~20-30 seconds per transaction of coin and paper handling adds up quite a bit.

I wasn't all that bothered by contactless as a user, until I realised that I was carrying it as a fallback rather than a preferred form of currency (~2% cashback on credit cards has been a great incentiviser for me!), and that contactless in drive-thrus, etc, actually does remove hassle. I hate to say it, but I'm kind of converted now. However, handing over my phone through a window into which it disappears while they scan it in a Starbucks drive-thru is still a little unnerving. Even found one where the staff weren't allowed to take them as they'd dropped & broken too many shiny iThings.

Desaia Beat Box Bluetooth speaker

JS Greenwood

Ummm.... Details?

Is the battery pack sealed or does it take rechargeable AAs or similar?

Does it charge over any standard USB connection, or is that port shown on the picture for something else?

How does the sound compare to similar speakers of this cost/size?

Does it come with any kind of carrying bag or similar to keep it from getting knocked about?

Exactly what variant of the Bluetooth spec does it comply to?

Any line-in socket?

Any line-out socket?

Really like the idea of geek-treat reviews... but if the first thing it makes me do is go and find a site that's *actually* reviewed it, rather than spent 2 minutes justifying a vendor freebie/similar, I think something's missing...

Apple iPhone 4S grabs back ground lost to Android

JS Greenwood

This article has misinterpreted what Nielsen have said... And what they said was based on a dubious enough measurement criteria to begin with - let's not make it worse, eh?

First problem: What Nielsen talk about is NEW HANDSET UPTAKE, not MARKET SHARE as you talk about. Android's overall market share has NOT dropped by 15%+ in 3 months - it's actually grown. Their number of handsets being sold has just not outstripped iPhones by as much. Suggest a Find and Replace on all the market share statements.

Second problem: This survey takes the 3 months following the launch of a new halo device. Of course it's going to create a rise in demand, as it'll be picking up customers who had been holding off for a new model. I don't think it'll come as any surprise when the first few months of increased sales tail off as the rumour mill begins on the iPhone 5 / 4S++ / etc. What would be useful would be comparing the increase in demand following the launch of the 4S to that of the 4 and 3GS.

Some real analysis to with the lightweight survey would have been luuuurverly, please thankyou.

Steve Jobs Flash rant put to the test

JS Greenwood


For once, I'd give Saint Steve the benefit of the doubt and go with this interpretation of it... Flash in Firefox suddenly turning the CPU into a 100% utilised, toasty hot l'il thing is an hourly occurrence. Guess that might come under the "buggy" heading, though.

As much as the desire not to let any new development platforms on iDevices that might have non-Jobsian revenue models attached to them irks the hell out of me, I'll happily support the torture and killing of Flash.

Apple bans iPhone hackers from App Store

JS Greenwood

The problem is throughout...

I won't deny that a *lot* of the jailbroken iPhones that you see are loaded up to the hilt with "unpaid for" applications. But measuring the impact of jailbreaking on this alone avoids a lot of the implications:

1. Yes, there may be some lost revenue in application sales. But the kind of people who are going to hack their iPhone purely to get free applications are very unlikely to have bought the applications anyway. All the "lost sales" and "stolen money" that is crowed about are generally very unrealistic figures. Having run a mobile software publishing business (consumer applications and games, so directly comparable) for well over a decade, the losses here are actually pretty minimal from every remotely realistic measure I've ever seen. From Apple's perspective, there's a fair chance they'd have lost the sale if the possibility of pirated software wasn't there for that individual, rather than them actively purchasing such applications. I think if even more of the applications moved to a freemium model or had trial/lite versions, the reality here would be even clearer once the benefit of "try before you buy" was factored out... especially given the amount of dross that is released and needs sifting through in the AppStore.

2. There is a small percentage of people who will download a pirated application, then go on to pay for it. Admittedly, this is a very small number of people, but it's certainly greater than zero. If you look at the REALLY long tail, that number rises - a number of the current iPhone games are ports of "classics". I know of quite a few people who pirated the original "back in the day" on the likes of the Amiga, and are now paying for the games on the iPhone as payback as much as nostalgia

3. Many of the people who jailbreak their iPhone are of the more technical variety. The kind of people who are often turned to by their acquaintances for which handset to purchase. I.e. one jailbroken handset sold to such a person could net several more unmolested handset sales. Which then drives more application sales. Conversely, if these people switch to an alternate platform, that's a number of potential sales and recurring revenue lost.

4. Just because somebody's iPhone is jailbroken doesn't mean that they don't also pay for AppStore apps. There *are* revenues from the AppStore from die-hard jailbreakers who would not have purchased a device if it could not have been jailbroken.

5. Many of the applications for sale on "alternative" application stores (e.g. Rock) are commercial. Some of them even with fairly high pricetags relative to normal applications. Take iBlacklist for example - a lot of what it offers should have been built in to the iPhone, it does nothing religiously offensive to the Church of Steve, and it costs a fair chunk of cash for such an app ($11.99, from memory). And these applications do earn revenue. I.e. jailbreaking REALLY isn't entirely about a free lunch. A more inclusive approach to the AppStore and a more open marketplace would see these apps both sell more, and Apple take more of the revenue. Well, unless an alternative AppStore started syphoning sales away from them with the promise of lower commission to developers...

6. A lot of future premium development - especially on "smaller" platforms comes from the early steps of a developer in a more homebrew nature. Being able to write your own iPhone apps and deploy them to your personal device without having to publish them via the AppStore helps build a long-term developer community, rather than set a bar to entry.

If they opened the model up more, they could come down a lot harder on those that flout the rules and play outside a fairer system... and gain more customers, more revenues, more of a developer community, and more support from the blogosphere in the process.

JS Greenwood
Thumb Down

Why not just COMPROMISE...

If I were Apple, I'd really re-think their current stance and model. They could really aid the growth of the platform whilst restricting piracy by taking a different stance here. One possibility:

1. Keep the current AppStore as is - the standard one that's installed on the iPhone, with the approvals process they want, and so on.

2. HOWEVER, don't stop third party applications from being installed on the iPhone via other means. DO make any vendors of these get a unique application ID for each app from Apple, though (much as Psion used to do for EPOC [Symbian] development). Have some decent security around these unique IDs such that anybody trying to pirate a "genuine" app and re-install it via other means on another device can have a look up against that ID, find no license purchased, and the app is killed. This would have to be built from the ground up in the OS to support this, attempts at fake app-launchers that mask IDs killed, etc, naturally. Hell, null-and-void the warranty if these "alternative" apps are installed. Use the same app-killing functionality to revoke licence IDs for ones that really do break any Ts & Cs (e.g. network unlocking or security-bypass apps)


Just allow MANY more types of applications to be approved in the AppStore. The only reason I went down the Jailbreak route: Wanting to have an icon on the statusbar for missed calls/texts/unread emails, and the ability to stop the lock screen from showing who's sent me a text message. Basic features that should be in the OS, frankly. Throw in backgrounding of tasks, allowing "legal" emulation/code execution once the AppStore has got to critical mass and that's not likely to be eroded (which I'd say it has already), and you've just won a whole load more friends through Flash, SCUMM, etc.

As it stands, they're just limiting their potential market - and that's not good for developers, customers, or shareholders in the long term. I'll be considering Android and WiPh7Sr (or whatever abbreviation of it the world settles on) when the contract's up on my 3GS: as much as I love the functionality it has today... I'm very fearful that it won't be long before the things that make it a functional device will be pulled from under me. If I couldn't have jailbroken it, I'd never have bought it. I've put a lot of money the AppStore's way since that purchase, and I know I'm not the only one with a jailbroken device that's in the same situation. Hell, I've even paid for apps on the Rock alternative store.

Long term, I see the iPhone's market share getting eroded as more open platforms deliver the same or better user experience, hardware quality, and so on but without the hurdles to jump for a lot of the "enthusiast" owners who drive a lot of additional sales. And that's kind of a shame, as it really is a lovely device (note I say "device", rather than "phone"!) ...and this is coming from somebody that was already publishing software for EPOC (Symbian) over a decade ago back when it was actually impressive on the Psion...

Is this the world's dirtiest PC?

JS Greenwood
Paris Hilton

You ain't seen nuthin yet

Back in my college days, I used to work for a small IT company that had a sideline business in recycling and reconditioning old PCs. This was back in the day when smoking in the office was positively encouraged. Some of the horrors you'd find when you opened the case - it was as though one of the staff had removed a lung and inserted it between the IDE and VGA (ok, Hercules) cards. The fans had continually sucked the stuff into a pile for so long you could remove it as a solid block of exhaled cancer.

I'm sure somebody else from "back in the day" will be along with pictures.

Paris, because she can suck stuff into a pile for so long that.... Um... Never mind...

MS dual-screen tablet to arrive next year?

JS Greenwood

Microsoft hardware quality

Now, don't get me wrong - this thing could well be utter pish. It could be slow, bug-ridden, feature-bereft, or just plain vapourware. And from a hardware perspective it could have its very own red-ring-o-death(tm). But...

...Microsoft have made a lot of VERY good, robust, reliable hardware over the years. One of my servers still has an original ergonomic ("Natural") keyboard from 1995. 14 years on and having been used on several workstations for 10 hours a day, 5+ days a week, for years on end, and every last key is still faultless. I've got a couple of the original first-release optical mice still going strong after all these years, too, and load of other 10+ year old bits of white/beige plastic that're still in perfect order.

Depending on who's contracted to build it, whether they go for a premium (Sony/Apple) market segment, or whether they're trying to compete at the Netbook level (Acer/Asus/MSI/etc) will more likely dictate the hardware quality than anything else. TFT screens, x86 architecture, SSDs... these are all off-the-shelf enough to have something as reliable as you want it to be - or as you can get it to be for a given price. If they start venturing into combining newer areas - large scale OLED screens, wireless charging, etc. you can see the window for hardware faults widening.

I hope it's a phenomenal bit of kit that isn't rushed out prematurely, and is built to the standards of the Zune HD... just to stop Apple from thinking that anything they release will be another golden egg purely because of the fruity logo. The market needs innovation and competition - from all players. Ideally, I'd like it to use something with a bit more grunt than an Atom based platform. Possibly something ION based would be nice?

Note: I'm no fanboy of any vendor; I just like cool new toys that make my life more fun or easier... Writing this on a Windows machine, have an iPhone to the left of me, a Hackintosh Acer Aspire 1 to the right of me, and set of Linux servers in front of me.

Why teachers fear Callum, Chelsea, Connor and Crystal

JS Greenwood

@AC 12.41pm

"I think people can guess why the AC now !"

You are Gordon Brown and ICMFP.

Bletchley Park to restore 112-byte* '50s Brit nuke computer

JS Greenwood


...will it blend?

Microsoft to encircle Google and Apple with Windows Mobile split

JS Greenwood


Thankyou. :)

[Mobile strategy *is* my job - I'd happily accept a substantial cheque from MS for the few minutes it would take to write up the obvious into a badly animated PowerPoint...]

JS Greenwood
Jobs Horns

Mobile strategy - going free

It's depressing how, in the *general case*, as companies grow, their ability to come up with simple, cohesive strategies that might actually work disappears in the levels of middle management.

This one should be a fairly simple no-brainer for Microsoft.

If they want a short term stop gap: License all the Touch-Flo gubbins from HTC. Patch WinMo 6.x with that with immediate effect to avoid market erosion, and extend it to include some of the screens that it doesn't reach to yet.

Long term strategy:

* Something needs doing with the underlying OS to WinMo. The whole multi-tasking, real-time angle of it needs sorting. If only by patching it up such that the UI is always responsive with a decent queuing mechanism in the first instance. Set a team to sort that core platform now.

* The user-interface/application layer needs binning in its current form. Get a new platform for that sorted, based on Silverlight/WPF, with the right kind of touch-support. In terms of backwards compatibility, you've got abstraction to a degree with .NET CF apps, so lets keep compatibility for those, but a bit more gloss to the display of them through a framework point release. "Legacy" C++, etc. apps I'd not declare compatibility for. Trying to support a decade or more of history will kill any initiative and impetus here. Maybe have some "unofficial" support here; open sourcing of the libraries, emulation/sandboxing if required, etc. But I'd have that as something not allowed to impede the progress of the "new" platform.

* Get somebody that REALLY understands usability to design a the UX layer to it. Not just another port of an outdated desktop interaction concept. And get a proper set of guidelines pulled together here for other developers to follow.

* Developing for WinMo is a mixed bag. The .NET piece gives a great programming model, but it'll need extending. The right kind of tooling for the UIs (i.e. add support in Expression), and the right kind of desktop emulation is critical. As is *giving away a full featured development environment* There also needs to be a much simpler way of writing "trivial" applications - widgets/applets/whatever you want to call them. Some kind of integrated "data" framework would be a nice touch that could plug into the usual lifestyle data feeds, etc. and have alerting capabilities.

* Devices. Building up a good community of partners building devices is all well and good, but it's (1) a bit confusing to users, (2) doesn't guarantee any must-have device. I'd keep it as an OS to run on many devices, but firstly get a LOT more rigid with testing and approval. WinMo hangs too often, plain and simple. Part of that's likely to be device-related (and a bigger part software related, admittedly). At least crack the first one. Secondly, I'd create a halo device. Get somebody that REALLY understands industrial design, and have the most beautiful, polished, non-committee-designed device created.

* Brand. Don't call it Windows whatever you do. I'm sure it's no coincidence that fingerprints and Windows never go well together. ;)

* Get the AppStore(TM) piece right. Have two areas of the AppStore - one for approved apps, one for "untested". Don't stop people installing untested/unapproved apps, but make sure there are a couple of hoops to jump through to put off an inexperienced user given there's more potential for causing device lock-ups, etc. For "tested" applications, keep the bar fairly high. Set some decent developer competitions up to get the community going. Make all the Tech Previews/Betas publicly available and a pre-certification process in place to get all the .NET CF apps tested to populate the AppStore in advance. In terms of charging mechanisms, provide both an "application purchase" and a "micro-purchase" mechanism. The latter being APIs developers can integrate with for ongoing payments (and an OS that supports this from the ground up). Have a "regular subscription" payment mechanism built into the app-store, too. I.e. give the developers and publishers models they can work with. Note that I'm advocating an Apple style, centralised AppStore here. I'd not stop people doing manual installs, but I'd provide this for the average consumer.

* Do the corporate piece right - make sure the business device angle is well and truly covered still - in terms of Exchange integration, device security and remote management, and support for custom-developed corporate applications. I'd do the corporate PR piece, too - getting a default reporting platform client with whizzy graphs and alerts on it. This is (scarily) enough to seed it from the exec level down in a lot of blue-chips.

* General: TAKE RISKS to innovate and take a lead in the market, rather than just playing catch-up. Albeit risks you can mitigate by having experts that really know what they're doing rather than large teams with lowest-common-denominator solutions to everything.

£10 says they don't do more than 1/4 of this. I'll be happy to be proved wrong and keep some competition and innovation in this space.

MPs lost for Word over creaking Microsoft packages

JS Greenwood
Paris Hilton

The Office Compatibility Pack...

... has been out for over a year. http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=941B3470-3AE9-4AEE-8F43-C6BB74CD1466&displaylang=en


Paris, because her orifice is compatible.

Nokia N96 16GB smartphone

JS Greenwood
Paris Hilton

A real review...

...from someone who's had one for a couple of months, and had an N95 previously, along with iPhones, etc...

The good:

- Screen is big and clear

- 16GB + SDHC gives it great storage potential

- The stand is quite neat for watching videos

- 3.5mm headphone socket is a blessing

- Speakers really quite good

- Streaming media support (Internet Radio) quite nice

- Made fairly solidly, and does look the part

- Good array of software built in, and the library of stuff available for S60 is great

- The pulsing keypad background when you've got a new message waiting is a nice touch

- The media buttons on the front face of the handset are a useful touch.

- The new keypad lock is a mixed blessing - it's a nice feature, but you can't help but feel it's a little compromised. It's a bit hard to catch it in time when you close the keypad before it automatically locks. So you sometimes unlock it rather than locking it. It's just a bit fiddly, and the stiff spring doesn't help. I'd be more tempted to have a 2-position switch to avoid this. But it's better to have it than not do. Menu-* no longer works for locking the keypad. :(

- The included headset is reasonable, and the mini charger is as lovely as ever (if a little fragile). The extra Nokia charger-converter is a welcome extra as with previous N-series phones, too.

- Data transfer over USB is nice and quick, and the mass-storage mode fully appreciated.

The bad:

- The battery life is still poor; it still needs a recharge every night, realistically. It certainly won't do two full days of reasonable usage. It does last till the evenings with a couple of notches rather than the last notch of the N95 with moderate texting and Internet browsing, at least. That is with bluetooth, 3G, and WiFi all disabled, though, relying solely on GPRS.

- The slide mechanism has become looser after 2 months usage. Not worryingly so, but its chances of surviving an 18 month contract of typical usage in a good state would be one I wouldn't bet on.

- The keyboard is noticeably harder to text on, and the "slits" between the keys are prone to attracting dirt over time. The central d-pad is gradually becoming noisier, too.

- Nokia has changed from the standard small USB connector on the bottom to an even narrower one - standard cables from all other devices now won't work.

- You can't charge it over a USB link, which means 2x cables while doing heavy PC-connected work (using it as a modem)/etc.

- The media playback of DIVXs is shocking - all that storage and drag-and-drop of desktop file formats still isn't an option

- It crashes. A LOT. Without any 3rd party software and being used as a "phone" it's not too bad - probably 1 random reset a day. But with any kind of 3rd party push-email service, it's every hour or two. Even Opera Mini which has been rock-solid on every other phone I've had it on crashes it consistently. The built in browser has become equally bad. It appears to be a bug in the network connectivity stack or similar.

- When it locks-up, it's really bad. A lot of the lock-ups need a battery-out reset. Only the back cover is a little trickier for those without nails to remove than most previous Nokias. And it does feel like it won't take too many remove/replace cycles. Why can't they add a reset button!?

- There is NO protection of the camera lens of the form found in many previous N-series phones - no sliding/rotating cover. And the "cover" is part of the main body, rather than the back-plate, so it's not changeable once covered in scratches.

- There's an utterly random new application-access function on pressing the silver button on the front. It's almost unusable and utterly pointless. Worse, the button doesn't seem to be reprogrammable. It's almost like a feature that never got finished.

- A lot of applications that integrate with the mail functionality on it won't work unless the piddly internal ram rather than the 16GB of flash is used for storing messages. Quite a disappointment.

- All games are now trial versions - no free version of Snake included, even. Disappointing for a flagship handset.

- Numerous applications that worked on an N95 don't work on this - remote desktop client software, etc.

- The music player STILL doesn't have proper support for adding tracks to "now playing"

Don't get me wrong - it's a really good handset overall - it packs a LOT of features in, is very capable at a whole raft of things, makes a good alternative to other media-internet-phones, with more of an applications-slant, etc. It's just not a step forward in so many areas that needed polishing - e.g. the battery life and persistent crashing (even after firmware updates). And, for that, I'd give it 72%. You're paying a lot for the privilege, and it just doesn't feel like you've got your money's worth in terms of 12-18 months of advancements over an N95 and the instability when you use it how it's designed to be used is unforgiveable. I'd also re-score most phones on El Reg down too, though.

Advice: if it's a free upgrade from an N95, go for it, it is a nicer phone to have and use (as long as texting isn't your primary function - the keypad is worse for that). If you've got to pay money, I'd consider looking elsewhere.

Paris, because I bet she runs a set of batteries down every night, too.


Ford to drive green motoring with 'leaves and vines' dashboard

JS Greenwood
Paris Hilton

Guff aside...

...letting drivers know how constantly braking/accelerating is costing them a fortune in fuel, and annoying me as the driver sat behind them is a good thing. Maybe the display should have my angry face on it, showing what various spike I want to impale them with or gunishment I want to inflict for their erratic driving. Or just a pound-sign-o-meter (or Chinese Renminbi for those in the US) showing how their inability to master basic foot-eye coordination is costing them.

But please, PLEASE Ford, stop spouting the superlative mouth-words that dilute this into plain eco-bilge. There's more toxicity in their marketing than most V8 engines...

Paris, because all driving there's erratic.


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