Wishing Stars a location based scavenger hunt on the iPhone you play at the theme parks.

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Well this is pretty fucking fantastic.

Since Mark doesn't speak English, I do alternate readings of books for him. So this little piece that Merlin writes is like coming in from playing touch football to watch a real game on TV. So good.

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Stuff of note while drinking my coffee this morning.

Josh Cagan is a funny guy, you can follow him on Twitter here. He co-wrote a movie called Bandslam that was marketed very poorly, but apparently (80% on Rotten Tomatoes) the reviews are pretty good. More on the lack of marketing can be read about here.

I guess the SXSW panels proposals are up today for voting. I don't go to SXSW anymore, but if I did I'd totally go to this one by Myles Grant. I forgot how much SXSW recharges the batteries. I definitely need a recharge these days.

John Gruber talks more about Android and iPhone. I've talked quite a bit about this subject with many friends over beer and coffee and in between meetings. Everyone seems pretty excited to discuss how Apple created this gigantic, seemingly unscalable mountain, and how even the most well funded attempts have fallen so very, very short. It's kind of amazing. It's even driven me to open up XCode for the first time in four months.

I'm the sort of person who is constantly looking for threads and patterns between seemingly unrelated subjects. I think these are all quite related.

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I cannot turn down a happy song with a fast beat. A few years ago Catbird Records released an album from a band called Hemstad who were from Sweden. It was so good! And then they sold out. The album, that is, I don't know what happened to the band. (What happened to the band?)

Well, the CD is back on sale so get it.

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I had switched to a Google G1 "Dream" phone for a month. I felt like writing about it.

I give up. I thought it'd be fun to see what life was like on a different platform but I think I've seen more than enough on this hardware. The device is definitely too slow to get anything done and I have found myself not going to the phone when in a situation where I used to check my mail and catch up on Twitter. I stood in line at the ATM and just didn't bother.

On Saturday my family was here to visit and I found myself reaching for the iPhone to check on a restaurant, map some directions, and to check on an order. Given a choice between the two I just could not keep flipping that thing open knowing there were other perfectly good computers nearby.

I took the G1 into work today but I came home knowing what I had to do. I switched the SIM back to the iPhone. I'm going to keep installing apps and carrying it with me, but the SIM stays in the iPhone. When I get my hands on a Hero I can really put Android to the test. I think the G1 was just not ready to be the hardware for Android. And I'm not ready to interact with people when presented with opportunities to tune them out.

Some Links And Other Items You Might Be Interested In

  • Alex Payne wrote something that just nails what drives me to want to see what else is out there. In 1999 I switched from Windows to Linux on my desktop for a year while I contracted. The fallout from that was horrendous. Lost files, corrupted Word docs, one dumb weekend where I worked in 640x480 because I hit "Okay" instead of "NO, NO, NO, GOD, NO" on an update and was clueless about how to fix it without wiping and re-installing. I switched to OS X in 2001.
  • Ed Chang wrote in and told me about TouchPal which does some really good stuff as a replacement keyboard. I used it for a bit while i searched for a podcast manager (BeyondPod seemed to be the best but did not actually work when I tried subscribing to feeds).
  • There is a Foursquare App for Android that looks very promising! I will definitely be testing it out.
  • Buzz writes from experience what it takes to ship a well polished app and why he does it. Coincidentally I bought Birdfeed on Sunday.

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I have switched to a Google G1 "Dream" phone for a month. I feel like writing about it.

My friend Omar pointed me to an excellent review of the iPhone and Android keyboards side-by-side. It's a great examination of the differences and the conclusion is spot on.

Because I find the Android virtual keyboard pretty useless I find myself switching to the physical keyboard which is almost as bad. On one hand I'm happy to see physical keyboards disappearing with the next HTC phones coming out, on the other hand Android really needs to fix their virtual keyboard to be as useful as the iPhone's. I'd say it's absolutely the most crucial thing for me to keep using this operating system.

Last night I did find some software that I actually liked. It's a todo list application called Astrid [review] and I was surprised to find out this morning that it's an open source project. I could see myself using this on the iPhone if I hadn't paid for Things.

Astrid has a feature that is not even possible on the iPhone. Using a Locale plugin, you can assign tags to task items that trigger alarms when you are in certain situations. For example, you can have a task to "buy batteries" and assign it a tag of "store". Then in Locale you connect the tag "store" with a situation in which you are near your local hardware store. Or simply maintain "home" and "work" task lists with reminders.

Here's a real example I am now using this for: I have a task called "buy muni pass" which is only available a few days before the end of the month and only from certain retailers. I walk by a place that sells them, but I always forget to buy them during the window and I usually remember when I'm nowhere near the store.

Finally, I think I've decided that many of the major problems I have with this phone (aside from the virtual keyboard) is the hardware. It's just too slow, it's too thick, and the need for a dongle to listen to music is ridiculous. There is only one reason why I have hope for Android and it's called the HTC Hero.

Tell me you don't want to just eat this phone. Still a shade too thick, and far too many buttons (both physical and on the display) asking for attention, but it's definitely getting there. Look at the virtual keyboard!

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I have switched to a Google G1 "Dream" phone for a month. I feel like writing about it.

One thing I didn't anticipate having with the G1 and Android was the ability to run arbitrary applications in the background. The iPhone runs a few select applications behind the scenes: email silently synchronizes, your calendars and contacts can synchronize with Mobile Me, and of course there's the new feature in 3.0 that allows applications to push data to your phone in the form of alerts. Really good stuff, but it would be nice if some of my most used iPhone applications didn't have to unpack their previous state every time I switched to the app.

Android does away with those work-arounds and simply lets applications hang out while you do other things. I think this contributes to the noticable battery drain, something I have never been concerned with on my iPhone.

But the benefits of this feature is up-to-date Twitter counts, switching to applications and seeing they maintained the state you left them in, and the best thing so far: an application called Locale.

In short, Locale checks what it calls "situations", and then changes settings according to rules you provide. Here are some of the screens to give you an idea about what you can do. I've set up two situations, "Home" and "Work" to adjust ring volume, brightness levels, and vibration. There is also a plug-in architecture so you can write your own settings or conditions to cause changes in your own applications, or even post information to services not on your phone.

I still need to tell Locale which applications I don't need running in the background all the time to help with battery life. But I will say, coming into work today and hearing my phone beep for attention after a full night of being quiet was pretty cool.

How awesome would that be on the iPhone? I KNOW!

Since I'm on the subject of applications, it is really obvious after installing a few apps and replacing my most used iPhone applications (Tweetie, Foursquare, Mail, Safari, iTunes, Things, this is from memory, I am sure I forgot something) that I miss the iPhone equivalents dearly.

The Twitter app to use on Android, I'm told, is Twidroid. It's okay but one of the benefits of using an application versus a browser is the ability to provide functionality you can't do on a web page. Twidroid is a little chunky when scrolling, offers lengthy menus you have to scroll through when the phone is turned sideways, and generally feels rough to me. There is a "delete" option for every tweet, not just my own, but every tweet. When you push that option you are told, "You may not delete another users (sic) status". They shipped that. Later tonight I'm going to file two bugs I found within a day of using the thing. Very obvious, repeatable bugs that I uncovered while riding the train into work.

That's not just a comment on Twidroid, that is nearly[1] every application I've used so far. The Android SDK needs an Apple HIG-style document. And like, uh, a review board. Uh. Yeah. Hmmm.

[1] I am being kind. I actually can't think of one application that works as well as the average iPhone app. I need to keep looking.

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I have switched to a Google G1 "Dream" phone for a month. I feel like writing about it.

Before the iPhone arrived I was a very happy Ericsson k750i user. It was fast, I was pretty good with the number pad, and Google Reader worked really well on it. The coolest thing it did was in-camera photo stitching (example 1, example 2) and the damn thing had a 2MP camera that also shot video. Oh and computer tethering worked right out of the box. This was early 2007.

To say the least, at that point in time I was very much a mobile phone enthusiast. I researched the latest phones. I bought unlocked phones from Amazon for hundreds of dollars just to have the latest and greatest. People laughed when I told them what I paid for my phone, but I didn't care because I was commuting by train and my phone was pretty much my computer for the hour or so it took to get to work.

Of course, we all know what happened in June of 2007. The iPhone arrived and it was wonderful. Sure, I had to lose Internet tethering, in-camera photo stitching, the 2MP camera, the video recording, the removable SD card slot, and the drag/drop mp3 loading, but the iPhone was just so good without any of those features most of all because it promised an experience that I was used to on my desktop: regular updates. And possibly, fingers crossed, an SDK.

The Ericsson software was woefully out of date. There was a patch you could load to get some new features, but it was at least a year old, and I had to jump through many hoops to get it installed (the least of which was get the phone to show up in Parallels as the updater was Windows only). When I finally did install it, I found newsreader software that seemed to be written by people who didn't really know what a newsreader was.

So I think, looking back, the thing that sold me on the iPhone was knowing the software in 2007 would be updated by 2008. That was a very big deal for me back then. More than the features I listed up above—regular updates and the promise of a reasonable syncing workflow (without installing conduits and drivers and god-awful phone PIMs) was so much more attractive than a removable battery and drag-and-drop mp3 playlists.

Now we're in 2009 and despite the CEO of Palm saying[1]: "PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in." The "PC guys" did just that. They walked right in and made some very cool devices you could (pretty much) install your own software on[2] and call your mom.

So it's only been two years but I've gone from absolutely loving Apple as gatekeeper to my device's software to just flat out hating it. The past few months have been a parade of sad stories of developers getting bit by app store policies, or us, the users, losing out on software that would have been great to have[3]. Google Voice, for example, has been something I've been eagerly waiting for every since I was invited to use the service.

Add in the $600 price tag for a new 3GS (I was told to check back in July 2010!) and I started wondering what my next phone would be. Somewhat randomly as this was going on I was given a new, unlocked, G1 developer phone which arrived at my office today. I decided to give it a month and see how it goes.

So far I have to admit to liking it a bit more than I thought I would.

The hardware itself is flexible in all the wrong places and almost nothing lines up like its supposed to. It reminds me of the predecessor to the k750i, the s710a. The Ericsson s710a was a swing-out phone that took massive (at the time) photos and had a large, pretty screen, but was a bit heavy and you could use it like a roll of quarters if you needed to punch someone.

I'll write about the software later. For now I can say I won't have a problem using it for 30 days. I am sure I'll miss a few games, but most of the apps I use are simply front-ends to web services like Twitter or Google Reader. Google Voice is EXCELLENT. The whole Google Account integration "just works". I launched maps for the first time and the system knew who I was and signed me into Google Latitude. Also, my calendar is updated and synced as are my contacts pulled over from Google Voice.

I think tomorrow I will write about my least favorite thing about this phone: the audio player and dongle.

[1] Seriously, I fucking love that quote so much.
[2] I realize Blackberrys existed at this time and many people used them, loved them, and wrote software for them, but they were just so comically huge! I still don't understand that device. I will never understand that device.
[3] I'll never jailbreak my phone. That road just leads to heartache and pain and I can't bring myself to do it.

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