Get a new smartphone or get a tablet? Yes, get an Origami!

Sep 28 2010

As the V.P. of Emerging Technologies at Funambol, I always have an eye out on the future of Mobile Technology. In my previous post I talked about how 4G will affect your home Internet connection and in this first of two articles,  I’m looking at a next generation phone, the Origami. While the Origami is a concept phone,   something I thought up  rather than something you can go to the store and buy or that  is being built,  there is nothing in the design that will stop innovative manufacturers from creating a similar phone by late 2011.

Looks like a Standard Android Phone?

At first glance, the Origami looks like a standard Android phone, but what are these things in the back on the phone?

It Opens up to Two Panels

Yes, you can open the panel that’s behind the Origami and now you have double the space to display your map. But wait, there’s still something in the back of the phone.

Opens up Again to Four Panels

Yep, you now see the phone in it’s full glory. All four panels open, no additional panels in the back.

And the View of the Back

Here’s the view of the phone from the back when it’s closed. Since we have both a camera and a display panel on the back, we can use it for video conferencing. No need to have an additional front facing camera.

How does it unfold?

This animation clip shows the details of the unfolding of the panels.

Specs

Screen:

  • Single panel: 3.8 inch screen with a resolution of 480X800
  • Double panel: 5.4 inch screen with a resolution of 960X800
  • Quad panel: 7.7 inch screen with a resolution of 960X1600

Connectivity: 4G, 3G, Wifi Capacity: Up to 64GB via SD card

Camera: 8MP Carl Zeiss with Dual LED flash

Additional Details

In my next post, I’ll go through the process that I went through to come up with the Origami, and what I learned about3D modeling and some of  the conceptual challenges I ran into .

All the 3D modeling was done by Kasun from The Design Crew who was patient with me, when I changed my mind a couple of times during the process or added details pretty late in the game.

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Like your Landline, Your Internet Connection is Going Away

Sep 07 2010

Landlines Are Dying

A year ago I killed my landline. Between local service, and long distance, I was paying close to $50 a month for a service that I wasn’t using that much. This  shows that you can milk a customer for a while, but at some point they’re going to rebel. AT&T was charging me more than $8 per month just for the privilege of having caller-id, seeing the phone number of the person calling me. So rebel I did, but I still wanted to have the old phone number available for people to call the family. We all have our cell phones, but there are plenty of people that are used to calling our main number.

So I paid $200 for Ooma,  and now I have free VOIP. Check it out, it’s good stuff. Landline use is on decline, and young people who move into a new dwelling don’t take the step that seemed crucial only twenty years ago of ordering a landline. This means that in another twenty years, landlines will be pretty much dead.

With 4G You Will Not Need a Home Internet Connection

Now, though, a much younger technology, your Internet connection at home seems to be in the same danger as your landline. It’s pretty obvious why you don’t need your landline: you have your cell phone with you at all times, including when you’re at home. Why have separate numbers for when you’re at home and when you’re on the go? Additionally, when calling the cell phone, you reach the specific person you were looking for. True, landline voice quality is better, but we’re willing to sacrifice some of the quality of the connection in exchange for the convenience that cell phones bring in. With the arrival of 4G and the policy changes that cell phone providers are making it looks like all the same reasoning will apply to your home Internet connection.

4G,   in theory provides download speeds of 100Mbit. Sprint is already offering 4G, WiMAX, connections in more than 30 metros and keeps adding more every quarter. The other 3 providers in the US are not far behind, deploying 4G solutions based on LTE. Juniper Report is talking about 300 million mobile subscribers by 2015 but the focus is on mobile subscribers. There’s very little attention to the implication of 4G deployments on your home Internet connection.

In the short term, there’s not going to be much attention paid to this arena either by providers or by consumers for several reasons.
* It’s going to take a while for 4G to get deployed and be available in large parts of the country.
* As any new technology, it’s going to take a while to figure out the level of reliability of the service. Just as it took a while for consumers to feel comfortable enough withe reliability of their mobile phone service to drop landlines, we’ll want to make sure that 4G is stable enough and we’re not going to be without Internet service for days.

And Do You Really Need Cable?

And there’s an even more interesting angle to all of this. I sold my first company DNAI to RCN a company that raised over $3B in the late 1990s on the premise that delivering phone, Intenet and cable TV on one wire will be a winning combination. The idea made a lot of sense and both cable companies like ComCast and phone companies like AT&T have been chasing this “triple play.”

They didn’t though anticipate the migration of TV and Movie viewing from cable TV to the Internet. Youtube, Hulu and Netflix got us used to viewing anddownloading movies over the Internet. So now, your 4G connection can become the new triple play, all over one connection!

OK, it’s not quite an apples to apples comparison. Youtube has short clips, Hulu has commercials, and you need to pay for Netflix. All three have a limited library, and if you want to view a specific movie or a specific TV show, you’ll often have a hard time finding it on one of these services. But Youtube and Hulu are free, and Netflix is very inexpensive compared to cable TV. Still, AT&T, ComCast and their peers should worry about following Blockbuster, the movie rental chain, that is going into bankruptcy. I’m guessing that they have 4-5 years before their revenues decre significantly.

But There Are Technical Challenges On the Way

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that this is all a slum dunk with no technical challenges. The biggest problem right now is that the carriers’ networks are already over-burdened with 3G, it’s just going to get worse with 4G. I’m not too concerned about the back-haul challenge, getting data to and from the cell phone towers. That’s a problem that’s similar to the one we had when DSL was first deployed and the solutions are well understood. The bigger challenge is getting the data from the consumer to the tower. We’ll need more towers, and antennas, but that’s only part of the problem. Right now, I use my 3G connection except when I’m at home or work where I use Wi-Fi. Well, if my home network uses my 4G connection, it doesn’t make sense to switch to it. Which means that the 4G network is going to get a lot more traffic than the 3G network does. So the carriers are going to need additional spectrum to carry all this new traffic. With the revenue potential from fixed as well as well as wireless they have major incentives to move in this direction.

What do you think?

Am I crazy to think that you’ll give up your DSL or Cable Internet for something as unreliable as 4G? Leave a comment below and let’s talk.

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Take a break or get hurt

Feb 07 2008

What do serious athletes, professional musicians and computer users have in common? They can all get hurt from doing the same motion again and again. Whether it’s holding and playing your instrument the same way, hitting the racket with a ball again and again, or typing at the keyboard, when you do the same motion again and again and again, you have a good chance of hurting yourself. The result is repetitive strain injury, RSI. If you think that you really need to finish this urgent job that you’re working on, and you’ll just ignore the pain, you’re making a big mistake. You might end up not being able to type for days and maybe weeks, and maybe even have surgery.

One way to mitigate RSI is to vary the motion. Try to switch keyboards, from a traditional flat keyboard to an ergonomic one and back every few days or few weeks. The change that I found most effective, though, is to use a program that reminds me to take a break from typing every so often.

Workrave to the rescue

Workrave is a free program that reminds you every so often to take a break. It has two types of breaks. A micro-pause of 30 seconds or so every 10 minutes
Micro-pause

Rest break

and a rest-break of 3-5 minutes every hour or so. During the first part of the rest-break, it walks you through some exercises.

I used to do these, but don’t lately.

At some point, I reduced the frequency of the breaks, and the pains came back. I reduced them and things are better. You can configure the duration and frequency of all the breaks.

All in all this is a great program that does what it’s supposed to. Everything works as advertised.

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Replacing Vmware with Virtualbox

Feb 01 2008

It’s still a Windows world. There’s no way to escape it. While I, for the most part, love running Linux rather than Windows on my laptop, there are still many things that I need Windows for. For one thing, I often need to see what things look like on IE, and there are still some programs that require IE to run (some people are still stuck in the 20th century).

I’ve been running Vmware, which lets me run Windows in a virtual machine under Linux,  for a few years and have been mostly happy with it. I recently made the mistake though of clicking on the “there’s a new version available” that’s been nagging in the program for a while. I installed the latest version of Vmware only to be informed that I don’t have a license for the most recent version. Sneaky. Fine. So I looked around and sure enough, there’s now a free program, Virtualboxk, that does the same thing that Vmware does.

I downloaded and installed it,. It worked out of the box, but then for some reason I couldn’t get it to go back and forth using NAT between my network card and my wireless card. I  played around with the networking a bit more and now it works like a charm.  Great program, feels more solid and faster than Vmware. I happily send 30 Euros to the company.

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Playing with EC2

Feb 01 2008

I’m playing with EC2 a bit, and the firefox extension makes life a lot easier. I launched an Ubuntu AMI quite easily. One of the things that confused me was the whole issue of the key pairs and ssh.

Here’s the sequence.

  1. Generate a key pair in the “Key Pairs” tab. You’ll be prompted to put it in a file.
  2. Launch the AMI using this key-pair. Right click on the AMI, choose Launch ,a and from the option choose the key-pair from 1.
  3. SSH to the AMI using the public DNS address. In my case I did ssh -v -i ec2-keys/ubuntu1.pem root@ec2-72-44-44-15.z-2.compute-1.amazonaws.com where
    • ec2-keys/ubuntu1.pem is where I stored the private key
    • ec2-72-44-44-15.z-2.compute-1.amazonaws.com

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Backup using duplicity to S3

Jan 29 2008

Most of what’s needed to backup a linux box to S3 is covered in

http://www.brainonfire.net/2007/08/11/remote-encrypted-backup-duplicity-amazon-s3/

  • Install duplicity
  • Download boto from http://code.google.com/p/boto/

The good news:

  • Simple setup (see below)
  • Cheap backup
  • Encrypted backup. Even if someone manages to get to your data on s3, they still won’t be able to do anything with it.

Worked like a charm on my laptop, but I had many issues on my home server.

It took me quite a while to realize that the version of duplicity I had on ubuntu feisty doesn’t support s3 backup and I need to download the product from http://duplicity.nongnu.org/ rather than use the package.

The second issue is that I did the initial backup of the laptop at work where we have multiple T3s. At home I have a connection that’s 3M download 512K upload. That translates to 200M/hour 5Gig/Day backup, which means that the initial backup is going to be slow, and will slow down your connection to a crawl.

Also, duplicity doesn’t support a resume feature. So if your backup fails at some point, next time you run the script it’ll start from scratch and backup everything.

  #your pgp secret to encrypt your data
export PASSPHRASE=xxxxxxxxx

#S3 info
export AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID=xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
export AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY=xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

echo "backing up /etc"
duplicity /etc s3+http://drormata-e1705-etc

#Notice how you can exclude certain things
echo "backing up /home"
duplicity ---exclude=/home/dror/.mozilla/firefox/54y9nzlg.default/Cache --exclude=/home/dror/tmp --exclude=/home/dror/.opera --exclude=/home/dror/.thumbnails --exclude=/home/dror/download --exclu
de=/home/dror/apps /home/dror s3+http://yourbucket

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Bugmenot.com – login with these free web passwords to bypass compulsory registration

Jan 29 2008

On one hand, a nice way to avoid having to sign up with a site, on the other hand, these companies are offering a service, and the price you pay is offering to give them some of your info.

Bugmenot.com – login with these free web passwords to bypass compulsory registration

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Using gmail, Imap, Google Apps for Your domain

Jan 29 2008

As a die hard Unix/Linux user I have a real hard time using webmail. Gmail has some nice features, but even with it’s keyboard shortcuts, even with spidermonkey’s addon, there are still too many things you need the mouse for. I’m ten time more effective in mutt.
There are, however things that gmail is really good at. Probably the top two are spam filtering and searching.
So, I finally broke down when gmail started offering an imap interface and tried it out, and I’m happy to report that it works quite nicely.
Here’s my config.

———————————
set imap_user = ‘dror@zapatec.net’
set spoolfile =”imaps://imap.gmail.com:993/INBOX”
set folder =”imaps://imap.gmail.com:993″
set record=”imaps://imap.gmail.com/[Gmail]/Sent Mail”
#set postponed=”imaps://imap.gmail.com/[Gmail]/Drafts”]
set header_cache=”~/.mutt_header_cache”
set message_cachedir=”~/.mutt/msgcache/”
set imap_check_subscribed=”yes”
set imap_list_subscribed=”yes”
set imap_keepalive = 5
set use_domain = “yes”
set hostname = “zapatec.net”
———————————

The only issue I have is with doing searches in the headers in mutt. I can search “~C username” or “~s subject” but I can’t just do “user or subject” search since then it’ll start bringing in the bodies of all my messages.

Other than that, it works quite nicely.

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