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Archive for April 2010

Skyfire browser for Android review

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Skyfire is an Android browser built on Android’s Webkit core. The functionality and interface of the browser is pretty typical. The interface exposes some often used browser buttons without hiding them behind a menu, but Skyfire does it in a clean and minimalist way. But Skyfire offers one great feature over all the rest: flash video conversion. For a more general review, Engadget’s video is pretty good.

First question: Is the video conversion done through a proxy or on the phone? The logical answer would be to do it through a proxy, which means there may be privacy issues.

Let’s look at their Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Thus your requests are processed through Skyfire servers and activity will live on Skyfire servers during your session.

Their privacy policy states that your browser may be uniquely identified. Before using Skyfire, you should know that your browsing history may be uniquely identified and exposed to Skyfire and they may be required to provide it if subpoenaed.

Second question: Is just video proxied, or normal browsing as well?

I browsed to, and the IP showed my Verizon Wireless IP and CMU’s IP when I was connected on wifi. So normal browsing is likely not proxied. You can be reasonably safe of entering your Google account passwords here.

Third question: What sites work?

I tried Liveleak and it worked. I tried Hulu and it didn’t work. The error message was from Hulu and it said “platform unsupported,” even though I was on the Desktop user agent. My guess is Hulu is blocking the proxied user-agent. Even if it didn’t block, I would bet that it wouldn’t work anyways because of Hulu’s DRM.

Sadly, Robot Unicorn does not work.

EDIT (2010/05/05): Hulu, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report works now, if you use the Desktop user agent. Totally awesome! Skyfire is unbelievable.

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Written by notatypewriter

2010 April 29 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Nerding out

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Free association with New York Times headlines

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Written by notatypewriter

2010 April 28 at 2:36 am

Posted in Thoughts

Google’s wifi MAC address map not a big deal

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From The Register, news that Google Street View cars log wifi networks and their MAC addresses as they drive along. This is pretty scary, but I don’t think it’s as freaky as everybody thinks it is.

The wifi MAC addresses are typically the MAC address of the wireless router, not the internet modem. On the wider Internet, your packets would contain your IP and your modem MAC address. So Google doesn’t have a direct IP to geolocation map.

But their map requires that a device (such as a phone) submit the MAC address of the access point it’s on in order to get the geolocation up to couple hundred feet accuracy.

Written by notatypewriter

2010 April 23 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Nerding out

Tagged with ,

I wish I had a Mac

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From CrunchGear, an article comparing Apple trackpads to PC trackpads and an article comparing smartphone touchscreens. While I’ve heard that the actual touchscreen tests were slightly flawed, I completely agree with the trackpad article. The Apple trackpads have been the largest that I’ve ever used and thus least aggravating. One thing I hate about it though is the lack of an actual button. Without the visual or tactile division that a physical button would provide, its hard to tell where is the place to depress in order to trigger a button press.

In any case, I think much of Apple’s success comes from their attention to detail in every aspect of the user experience. You can tell it in the little things like the magnetic charging cable and minor details they put into the iPhone OS. These kinds of things aren’t directly measurable on a spec sheet, but they do help Apple justify its high price for relatively weak hardware, and most importantly, these details generate repeat customers and converts for the Cult of Mac.

I’m not sure why PC manufacturers don’t have the same attention to detail as Apple. I suspect that PC manufacturers have a large number of products and a limited number of product designers with more stringent deadlines (Windows release dates or holiday shopping seasons). One commenter in the CrunchGear article brought up patents. Apple does patent a lot of stuff and some of the things I mentioned are probably covered, but it doesn’t excuse the complete lack of innovation from the PC manufacturers.

I think a large reason is that PC manufacturers come at it from a PC angle, that is comparing spec sheets. Most PC manufacturers (Dell, HP, IBM) entered the laptop market after designing desktops. Desktops are largely the same and consumers typically choose the peripheral they want to use to interact with the desktop, so consumers typically chose one desktop over another based on a spec sheet. For example, consumers loved to choose processors with the higher clock speed because it is admittedly a easy comparator, fueling the AMD-Intel gigahertz wars of the P4/Athlon era. So the OEMs apply this same thinking to laptops. They assume consumers will look at a spec sheet for laptops the same way they did so for desktops.

But that’s not entirely true. Mobile devices are integrated much more with our mobile lives, so we use them more. These little aggravations add up. We want the device to conform to us, not the other way around. I see it all too often. Smart people turn into absolute idiots when they get near a computer because they view it as a powerful tool that they are untrained in using, so they become fearful. Apple gives them a way out of that fear.

Written by notatypewriter

2010 April 19 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Nerding out

Testing twitterfeed

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Written by notatypewriter

2010 April 14 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Thoughts

Quiznos on Craig Math Fail #fb

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I was at the Quiznos near CMU on Craig St today and noticed their 2 for $5 deal. For $5, you get to choose two items from their list of 20 items, which includes 7 salads, 5 Bullets, 4 Sammies, and 4 soups. From this menu, Quiznos says you can make over 250 combinations. But they’re wrong!

Over 250 combinations

The actual number of combinations is {20 \choose 2} + 20 = 210. {20 \choose 2} is for the number of combinations of distinct items and the final 20 is for the number of choices where you get two of the same item.

I think I know why they say 250 though. The official Quiznos menu has 23 items, for a total of 253 combinations. Quiznos franchises must source promotional material from Quiznos corporate, which prints everything up and assumes the 23 items.

This isn’t as satisfying as catching Quiznos in a fail-moment, but it serves to prove that math is useful!

Thanks to Alan and Kevin for some math help. (Alan uses pirates and gold, but I like my reasoning better.)

Written by notatypewriter

2010 April 7 at 5:49 pm

iPad in medicine

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From the LA Times, doctors love the iPad.

The scenario sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie — the doctor pulls out her touch-screen tablet computer from the drawer of instruments. She calls up the patient’s chart with a few taps and proceeds to add a note to the page with her latest diagnosis. A visualization pops up, and she flips the screen over to give the patient an idea of what ails him.

Medicine is a great use case for the iPad and other devices like it. It’s large enough and powerful enough to enable amazing 3D visualizations. Imagine a doctor flying through a CT scan of your body to see what’s wrong. They could look up pictures of various ailments and compare it in person to your illness to help identify the exact ailment and its severity and the solution used in other cases.

And they will need great programmers to write these applications. Cha-ching!

I wonder why this type of thing never took off with tablets. Was it the expense? Lots of PC tablets have discrete GPUs, so processing power wasn’t the problem. They also ran Windows, which is clearly not a terrible platform to develop on. Maybe the touch interfaces were lacking? Maybe doctors’ handwriting was impossible to parse with pen based input. 🙂

Written by notatypewriter

2010 April 3 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Nerding out

Tagged with , ,

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