Reinvent payphones

Via this Habrahabr post (in Russian), I’ve learned about a Reinvent payphones initiative, which I think is pretty cool.  According to the article, the contract for provision of payphone services for the New York City expires in 2014.  So the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has started the initiative to figure out what would be the best use for such a vast infrastructure (around 11,000 booths throughout the city).  Some of the ideas are really cool, for example:

  • Free WiFi hotspot
  • Power socket for recharging mobile devices
  • Weather and air quality censors
  • Location and other information (“you are here”, places around, etc)
  • Ad-supported free services

Here are some of the project suggestions: beacon, NYFi, smart sidewalks.  Also, read more here.

Skype 4.0 for Linux – a present or not?

Slashdot points to the release of Skype 4.0 for Linux, a much delayed update:

Anyone who uses Skype on Linux will be happy to hear that a new version has been made available today, bringing with it a host of essential updates and new features. Skype 4.0, codenamed “Four Rooms for Improvement,” is long overdue, and Marco Cimmino makes a point of thanking Linux users for their patience on the Skype blog. The main improvements Skype is delivering include much improved audio call quality, better video support, and improved chat synchronization. For video specifically, Skype has spent time implementing support for a much wider range of webcams, so if your camera didn’t work before today you might be surprised to find it does in Skype 4.0. Visually, Skype has received a new Conversations View, which brings all chats into a single, unified window (you can revert to the old view if you prefer). There’s also a new Call View, presence and emoticons have been redesigned, and you can now store and view numbers within each Skype profile.

Until recently, Linux users were limited to Skype version 2, which, while worked, was way behind the Skype experience on Windows.  It’s been a really long time since the last release.  Even Skype got itself acquired by Microsoft in that time.  So, now, the question arises why the sudden interest?  Slashdot comments, as always, point to the right direction, to one of the earlier Skype related news:

Skype will be introducing a new ‘feature’ into calls for users don’t have subscriptions or credit. Giant ads. They are actually calling them ‘Conversation ads’ because they hope the ads (as large as the picture of the person to whom you are speaking) will ‘spark additional topics of conversation that are relevant to Skype users and highlight unique and local brand experiences.’ The ads, of course, are tailored to each individual user, though there is an opt-out for that.

All of a sudden, the news of the version 4.0 aren’t as exciting anymore.  Should I upgrade?  Or should I stick to the old version, in hopes that it won’t support the giant ads? Or should I maybe look for an alternative to Skype?

It’s not 00, it’s a +

I am getting tired complaining and explaining the difference between 00 and a + in the telephone and fax numbers.  It’s quite simple actually and I wonder why the mistake is so frequent.  So, here it goes in written form, so that I won’t have to explain it anymore – just provide a URL.

If you are writing phone number as 0035799513109, you are doing it wrong. It works for some, but not for everyone.  00 in this case is international dialing code.  Many countries are using 00 for international dialing code, but not all of them, by far.  For example, in Russia, the international dialing code is 810.  So the phone number should be 81035799513109, not 0035799513109. See?

So, how are you supposed to know all these codes for each country and how are you supposed to provide your phone number so that anyone in any country can dial it and get where they are supposed to?  The answer is simple: use ‘+’ for the international dialing code, followed up by the country code, and then the rest of the number.  Each telephone company in every country will replace the plus in the beginning of the phone number with the appropriate international dialing code.  Write the phone number as +35799513109. This will always work.  And where it won’t, the person will at least know what to do with the number.

New phone : Sony Ericsson G900

A couple of weeks ago my beloved Sony Ericsson P910 died.  It got dropped one too many times.  A rather large semi-lequid patch appeared in its left bottom corner and touch screen stopped working.  Since the keyboard died a long time ago, I was left with no way to input or navigate the phone.  Being an exceptionally smart individual I decided that a reboot might cure this, and, obviously, that left me at the “Enter your PIN” prompt with no hope what so ever.

Next morning I rushed to the mobile shop.  The first two on my way were closed, since that was too early in the morning, but gladly I remembered that there is a Germanos branch in Debenhams, which opens pretty early.  Like 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning.  And indeed it was open.

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Android is coming along smoothly

Today is the last day of The Mobile World Congress which takes place in Barcelona.  Makers of everything mobile (as in phones, not as in real estates opposite) are showing off their stuff at this event.  Also, there are many announcements, news, and releases tied to the dates of the congress.

It seems like a good time to revisit the Android story.  Is it moving it all?  What’s happening there?  Will we see any of it any time soon?

It appears that the Android is moving along as planned.  There were a few pre-production prototypes at The Mobile World Congress, and people were pretty much impressed with them.

The biggest surprise of the demos was how well Android runs on slow devices.

In other news, Google released a new version of Android SDK.  This new version brought a few major changes and improvements, fixed many things that developers complained about.

The upgrade also takes to heart developer complaints about the software and includes several major but less visible upgrades: in addition to easier development of layouts, any app can now translate addresses to map coordinates and back. Audio formats such as MIDI and OGG are now also built-in, according to Google.

The same source suggests that we will indeed see some phones in the second half of 2008, as it was planned and announced last year.

Android’s upgrade brings the Linux-based platform much closer to production quality for its expected release, which should start with handsets in the second half of the year from companies such as HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung. Most of these devices are understood to focus heavily on Internet access and are expected to include some models with GPS and touchscreens.