DnD 4e Compendium – to go!

This has been a long time coming.  I was home sick (a bit) this weekend so I picked up a project that I’ve been putting off for months: I wrote an Android frontend to the Wizards DnD compendium.  Took a relatively short time: about 6 hours, most of which was searching on how to do the next thing that I didn’t know how to do.

It’s very basic but it gets the job done.  Lots more work to be done but hey, it’s my first Android Market application.

http://market.android.com/details?id=com.ryatziv&feature=search_result

Megapixels shmegapixels

I’ve been saying for years that megapixels don’t necessarily translate to picture quality.  John Walton over at droiddog.com demonstrates the Epic’s 5MP camera versus the Evo’s 8 MP camera.  Check it out:

http://www.droiddog.com/android-blog/2010/09/epic-vs-evo-the-cameras/

Pentile – the downfall of Galaxy S?

I’ve been trying to decide for months now whether I want to get the HTC Evo or Samsung Epic. One of the biggest factors, the screen, is carrying me in the opposite way from what most would expect.  The Epic’s screen is being described as: “knockout”1, “Colors are as crisp as can be” 2, and “most important characteristics”3.  One really has to research more deeply before this term comes up: “Pentile”.

The rest of this editorial is a rehashing and commentary on the Ars Technica article on the topic.

If you examine the Evo and Epic screens side-by-side, particularly displaying text, you might notice that the Evo looks a little better.  The lines are straight and sharper; the Epic has an odd fuzziness at the edges.  It’s almost like you’re looking at one shadow-mask screen and the other one aperture-grille (I know it’s not a great comparison because of pixel technology, but it’s the best visualization I can come up with).

It turns out that while the Evo’s screen is made of the standard array RGB pixels, the Epic’s screen is made of an array of pixels, alternating between a double-width red with green and double-width blue with green.  What this comes down to is that some colors can’t be achieved within just one pixel and have to use two.  This is why letters don’t look as sharp.

So, while the Epic’s screen is great for playing games and watching movies.  For text-based activities, I think the Evo’s is the better screen.

http://reviews.cnet.com/smartphones/samsung-epic-4g-review/

http://www.androidcentral.com/sprint-epic-4g-review

http://www.engadget.com/2010/08/16/epic-4g-review/

Swype – saving grace of the touchscreen smartphone

Swype

Swype

I’ve been doing this smartphone thing for over 7 years now… in smartphone years, that’s ancient history.  And I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about an application than I am right now, about Swype.  I know it’s cliché, but I truly believe that Swype is not an evolutionary software keyboard, but rather a revolutionary one.

I’m going to do a lengthy lead-in to the review, so just skip the next couple paragraphs if you don’t care.

Let me describe to you my smartphone history.  I started out on the Palm spectrum (may they rest in peace).  Being a texter, rather than an a talker, I immediately appreciated the nice thumb keyboard they provided.  I used several Palm models before hopping over to Blackberry, again, because of their fantastic keyboards.  Also, I’ve used a few Windows Mobile phones, including the Moto Q (series) and the Samsung Epix, all known for their spacious hardware keyboards.  I like me a nice keyboard.

The first time I agreed to try to use a software-only keyboard was on the iPhone.  I had convinced myself that it was going to be ok, and for the most part it was… for 3 months.  That’s all I could take.  I then tried the iPhone 3G.  I thought maybe they improved… nope.

I’ve had two problems with software keyboards I’ve tried:

1) I find it difficult or impossible to type with two thumbs.  I don’t remember if the original iPhone had a multi-touch keyboard, but even if it did I had a heck of a time learning how to use it.  My fingers wouldn’t know where to go, since I couldn’t see the letters (thumbs were covering them), I ended up typing with just my index finger.

2) I’ve tried landscape mode to remedy the whole “can’t see letters” problem, but having the keyboard cover up half the screen is not a good alternative.

Enter Swype.

This thing about lifting your fingers for letters?  Don’t bother.  Occasionally miss a letter because you’re going too fast?  No worries!1 Shifted an entire word a little to the left?  You’re covered.

This thing has me back on gTalk on my phone, because now I can enter text in a speed approaching that needed for real-time conversation.  There are some options relating to speed of entry and accuracy, but for the most part the thing runs itself.  It will show you the path your finger has taken (if you allow it), and I’ve noticed that many times, even if I entirely omit a letter or two, it correctly presents me with my desired word in one of the pop-up options.  It is not, of course flawless: I’ve been using it for several weeks now, and at my desired setting (I asked it to think less and execute faster), I have about an 80% hit rate.  That’s just my perception and is not scientific, so don’t bother dissecting it.  My one complaint is that I don’t know whether I’ve confused it until I’ve swyped the entire word, and then I have to reswype the entire thing.

For more information, visit www.swypeinc.com.

1 I must admit both the iPhone and the latest offerings from HTC solve this pretty well too.

image: http://onlygizmos.com/content/2009/11/swype.jpg

Thank you, Apple, for making my point!

This is my first experience as a blogger of Apple making a point for me, and now I’m all giddy!

Check out their press release from July 2 (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2010/07/02appleletter.html), emphasis mine:

“To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars. This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones.”

Apparently Apple doesn’t even know what Android is!

Via SU: http://www.sprintusers.com/forum/showthread.php?t=209306

Sprint Evo: first impressions

I had a chance to briefly go one-on-one with the Evo. Here is what I learned:

- 4.3 inches (diagonally) is a lot of real estate. The phone nearly filled my field of vision.

- The phone is big. Too big to type with one finger, even when held vertically. However, I did a bit of two-handed typing in portrait mode and it was very pleasant. I’ve never been a landscape typer, so this was a neat find.

- The Evo is speedier than the Hero, obviously due to the processor and memory bump. Sadly, that doesn’t hold when actively using and switching between applications. In particular, I found that two of my pain points on the Hero – dialing and texting – are still painfully slow on the Evo. Much faster but not nearly instant like they should be. The dialer lag on HTC’s Sense interface is the primary reason I want a vanilla Android device.

- On the other hand, some activities that used to slow the Hero to a halt, like using Google Navigation, are now nice and speedy.

That’s all for now. If I get the Evo I’ll post a more thorough review.

“Droid” vs. “Android”

Android VS.  Droid

I’ve lost count of how many people have referred to “Android” the iPhone killer or that phone that runs “Droid,” and so here’s a quick disambiguation.

First, I have to congratulate Verizon for singlehandedly confusing the non-geek masses.  They wanted the name “Droid” so much that they went so far as to purchase the rights from George Lucas.

Android

Android: an operating system created by Google, runs on mobile phones and other devices.

Droid

Droid: a line of cellphones sold by Verizon Wireless.  They include the Droid (Motorola), Droid Eris (HTC, similar to the Hero on Sprint), and the Droid Incredible (similar to the EVO on Sprint).

To summarize, the HTC Hero does not run the Droid operating system, and there are currently over 40 phones running Android, not just the Droid.

Images:

First app: QuickVibrate

Thanks to KO_KJ who commented on my past post, I published my first ever mobile app on AndAppStore.com.  I was having some deployment issues last week, but I just did an online install and it seems to work. 

Also, I almost completed my Android Market registration (I actually paid and everything), but it turns out they want to keep your credit card on file.  I’m just not cool with that.  So for now, I’ll stick with AndAppStore, I’ll see if I get any takers at all.

Android Ringer App

Well I was about to publish my first Android app.  It was a simple gizmo that would toggle you between vibrate and normal.  You’d think someone would already have done that, but although there are dozens of apps and widgets that do approximately that, mine is the only one that I know of that does exactly that.  Anyway, I was about to publish and then it turns out that Google wants $25 to register with the market.  What?  To publish 5 lines of code?  (Yeah, 5 lines, go figure).

Anyway, just wanted to rant.  I was looking forward to displaying my work to the world, but looks like I’ll enjoy it in solitude for now.

- The Phone Critic

HTC Hero: 2 weeks in

After using the Moment for about a week, I’ve used the Hero for 2.  Given my hesitation, I’m pretty happy with that I’ve seen so far.  Here’s what I think:

Pros (as compared to the Moment):

  • The earpiece is much better.  Not as much raw loudness, but the sounds are louder and more vibrant.  Sound is fantastic, really. 
  • Screen sensitivity is much better.  A simple swipe is registered, as opposed to a hard press.
  • I personally prefer the trackball over the optical mouse.  It’s easier for me to control.  Especially when I have to go back one or two letters to correct a typo.
  • Access to 1x.  I can choose not to use 3G if I don’t want to, to save battery.  I couldn’t find this option on the Moment.
  • Keyboard accuracy and correction is far, far ahead of the standard Android keyboard.  It makes the device usable.
  • T9 on the dialer, for looking up contacts.  I know this is available through the Market, but it’s nice having it built-in.
  • Hardware keys and a dedicated search key.  ’nuff said.
  • So much smaller.  Again, preference.

Cons:

  • Dust under the screen.  It’s not as bad as I had dreaded, probably because I went through every device at Best Buy and found the one with the best looking build quality.  Some of the Heros in the cabinet looked like they were glued together by a kindergartener.
  • You never really hear the other side ring… it just says “dialing” and then they pick up.  It’s kind of weird.
  • Proximity sensor, or lack thereof.  I’ve been really self-conscious about this one.
  • The stock Android calendar is not available, and the HTC one doesn’t have a week view.  This is actually pretty serious for me.

Draw:

  • HTC Sense:  Personally, I don’t really find it useful, so I disable it.
  • Color depth:  I personally don’t particularly care.
  • Battery life: after conditioning, both devices lasted about 36 hours with moderate use.
  • Processor speed.  Really.  Boot-up admittedly takes a lot longer with the Hero… a lot longer.  But during usage, I found the speed difference to be negligible.
  • Reception: with all I read about the Moment having spotty reception and dropping 3G, I’m finding both phones to have about the same range of bars at home, and the same difficulty holding onto a 3G signal at work.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.