Website of the month, July 2014…

The website of the month for July 2014 is PressureNet.io, the website for an app that aims to use the atmospheric pressure sensors of Android devices (coupled with their location-awareness) to build the highest resolution weather data collection system in the world. Currently the data collected is only used for a few fun apps as well as research, but it is hoped that eventually it will help significantly with weather forecasting.

Cantapps…

There are a disproportionately large number of Android apps specific to Cambridge1 – if you live, work in, study in or studied in Cambridge, you may find some of the apps below, which I hereby recommend, useful. This is by no means a finite list – from time to time I may highlight more, so follow on Twitter, use the RSS feed or visit regularly.

Before I leave you to read about the apps, I’d like to point out this enlightening Cambridge-related website, tracking house prices in the city. Currently, it demonstrates the crippling situation for people who don’t already own property and/or who lack large sums of money – the prices and trends in Cambridge make property prices in the rest of the UK (in which it is still very difficult to buy property) look almost pleasant. I wish they’d sort out the supply problem both locally and nationally.

Finally, don’t forget The Boat Race next weekend!

Live Cambridge Poster

Some apps can be found by simply keeping your eyes open


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  1. The title is cheesy, isn’t it? A fusion of Cantab/Cantabits, apps and tap (as in the verb). I also wanted to get Camdroid (Cambridge + Android) in somewhere. Now I have, I suppose. []

Science and myth…

I’ve built up a number of interesting links and videos over the last few months that relate to some extent to science, myth or both. A range of these are briefly described and embedded or linked to in this post – I hope you enjoy!

The video below shows a pretty cool use of advanced 3D modelling and projection technology.

Tomorrow morning, NASA’s Curiosity Rover will attempt to land on Mars. This involves a range of technical challenges which must work correctly, during this first real test, for the rover to make it to the surface in a working state – the video below gives an exciting overview of the difficulties involved.

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HTC One X: two months on…

So, it has been just over two months since I reviewed the HTC One X and I thought it was time for an update now that I’ve been using it for some time. I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had much time to do much technical fiddling with it, so I’m impressed that it has not only slotted into my life so seamlessly but that it does help me all of the time in ways that my previous phones didn’t.

Super Software

On a general note, the One X’s software and hardware work together to make every experience with the device good. However, I want to highlight some hidden gems in the included software.

Back in the days of Windows Mobile, I was a big user of the tasks functionality to maintain a list of things I needed to do. However, as I moved to Android for the last few years, I gradually switched to solutions such as Post-it notes on things such as my desk. Now I’ve completely switched back to managing tasks on my mobile device again thanks to the excellent Tasks app on the One X.

The HTC One X's tasks app and widget

The number on the icon for the HTC One X’s tasks app indicates the number of tasks due to be completed today, and it’s very easy to add, edit, postpone and complete tasks

HTC Watch, mentioned again in a section below, provides a decent range of films available for purchase and renting – the latter is often very attractively priced!

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Website of the month, June 2012…

The website of the month for June 2012 is thou shalt not commit logical fallacies – a handy and good-looking website and creative commons licensed poster with quick explanations of a range of logical fallacies. Apologies for the slight lateness of this post – this month has been and will continue to be unusually busy for me. However, I have built up a larger than usual range of links to share and have enough time to do them all reasonable justice. 🙂

Dead Drops is an interesting anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network consisting of USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessible to anybody in public space. The size of the network seems to be increasing at a good pace too, so keep an eye on it if there are none near you currently!

You may have missed a few less-obvious bits of mobile news lately amongst the various announcements from Apple, HTC, Samsung, Sony and others. Here are some fascinating illustrations of which smartphone designers/manufacturers are making money today and how this has been changing over the last 5 or so years. This is an interesting insight into what those companies are cooking up for late 2012 and some of 2013. Hopefully we’ll see more software able to put the increasingly excessive power and speed to good use.

Google recently produced a friendly animation explaining the process of sending an email via Gmail – potentially insightful if you don’t know how a lot of the magic of the Internet happens. It features landline broadband with a Wi-Fi router on one end and a cellular (mobile) network on the other end, which leads me to a piece of information the companies above should find interesting: the HTC HD2 is one of the most popular Android phones according to one study (34th, if I’ve counted correctly), despite being shipped with a completely different operating system. Also, speaking of Android, you can now get USB sticks that run Android increasingly cheaply.

I have a few links on broader research this month too: researchers at the MIT Media Lab have been up to some pretty cool stuff with magnets, Monmouth (in Wales) has become the world’s first Wikipedia town, Starlite is a miracle material that could be lost forever, the Map of Life brings together in an easily-usable way all types of information about species distribution to support the understanding and protection of the world’s biodiversity.

In other news, Cambridge University Press, the world’s oldest printing and publishing company, is handing its printing business – it does make sense to print books closer to where they are needed, though there are many other other arguments for and against what is truly the end of an era. It was also nice to see the Olympic torch in Ireland, you can view an informative and historically accurate recreation of the great pyramids from your browser here and this website and the screensavers it hosts are good.

Finally, I leave you with two nice tracks from the recently released Madagascar 3 soundtrack and news that I hope to do one or two further posts this week, but will then be too busy to post for a few weeks again.

New York City Surprise

Rescue Stefano

HTC One X Review…

HTC One X front view

The HTC One X

Like the HTC Touch, the HTC Touch Diamond, the HTC HD2 and the HTC Sensation before it, the HTC One X is a generational leap beyond its predecessors. It features a “4-PLUS-1” architecture commonly marketed more simply as quad-core and a 4.7-inch 720p HD Super LCD 2 display wrapped by a single piece of polycarbonate into which the necessary small holes for sound from speakers have been drilled. But are the camera and music really as amazing and authentic as claimed? Does Tegra 3 deliver both the speed and power efficiency promised? And does everything come together in real-life situations to make the near £500 cost worth paying? Over the extended Easter weekend I put my One X through its paces, so read on to find out…

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Website of the month, April 2012…

The website of the month for April 2012 is Google, for unveiling today a range of revolutionary new features, that build on their existing wide range of services in innovative ways…
Actually, it’s only Google’s April Fools’ Day efforts that I am making website(s) of the month:

Gmail Tap

Chrome Multitask Mode

The YouTube Collection

In other (but related) news, here is a nice short video about Colossus, the world’s first electronic programmable computer, made by Google:

Here is an interesting table that gives an idea of where Colossus sits in terms of capabilities amongst the world’s earliest computers, including EDSAC (the world’s first “complete and fully operational regular electronic digital stored program computer” which was made at the University of Cambridge Computer Lab or, as it was known then, Mathematical Lab). On a related note, did you know that the Leper Chapel on Newmarket Road is the oldest complete surviving building in Cambridge?

This month some creative uses of technology caught my eye. Microsoft recently released a tool to create cliplets. Don’t know what they are? Neither did I before watching the video, but I think they look cool and will be giving the tool a try.

Another interesting item is Miselu’s Neiru keyboard – an interesting musical Android device that could potentially be handy for scoring on the go. Finally, at the University of Cambridge a Lego Mindstorms kit is being used in an interesting way:

While on the subject of interesting science, there’s a fascinating video showing ocean surface currents here, a cool Moho boundary map here and a fantastic image of the Milky Way here.

Finally, below is a good short film written and directed by Graham Linehan, creator of Father Ted and The IT Crowd. Called Hello Friend, it features the arrival of an increasingly uncooperative and sinister Internet-related device into someone’s life. Personally, I find the instruction manual quite amusing.

Coming up on this blog later this month (hopefully) will be a review of the HTC One X that I’ve been asked to do, as I’m finally upgrading to the One X from the amazing, but now ageing (approx. 2.5 year old), HTC HD2.

Website of the month, March 2012…

The website of the month for March 2012 is SocketCoder.com which hosts, amongst other things, a few sample applications (and source code) that are both useful to use and useful as example code for interfacing with various APIs. Personally, I’ve found this P2P video and voice chat system to be a quick and useful solution to having a video chat with someone on the same network such that the Internet is avoided.

In other news, here is an interesting article about a monument created in Ireland at an impressive speed by a local developer and others in protest against the Irish government. This article examines the growing economic gaps between cities in the UK, choosing Cambridge as its example of a city doing well. 🙂

It also looks like I may have finally found my HD3 – the HTC One X. One of the main reasons I prefer the One X to the One S (previously known as the HTC Ville) is that, like the HD2, it doesn’t have much of a bezel around the screen. The finishes used on the One S sound amazing though both devices are slightly worryingly large. It has been a long while since HTC has gone all-out like this, though I do find the non-replaceable battery and fixed amount of memory a little annoying – as nice as the free included 25GB of Dropbox storage sounds, typical data allowances (in the British Isles, at least) are only a fraction of this, rendering it unusable when Wi-Fi is unavailable. Some of the other phones announced at Mobile World Congress such as the LG Optimus 4X HD and Huawei Ascend D Quad are also tempting, but I suspect that the One X will prove to be a more complete package in full reviews (I hope to revert to doing little fiddling my main personal phone, keeping my HD2 as my development device and perhaps updating it separately someday). Anyway, below is a video of the One X – the first truly exciting and reasonably-priced phone for a long while.

Finally, below are two videos worth watching – the first a cool time-lapse starscape called “Temporal Distortion” (similar to the last video in my previous post, if you liked that), and the second a nice short animation called “No Robots”.

Temporal Distortion

No Robots

HTC Ville revealed and ICS for the HD2…

I had reasonable suspicion in a previous post that we had not seen what the HTC Ville would look like. Well now, courtesy of PocketNow (which has a history of leaking renders of this nature), we can. Overall, I like the look, with minimal thickness, a good amount of metal, lots of screen and a fair amount of rounding (including towards the edges of the black area around the screen – convex like the Nokia Lumia 800 rather than concave like the HTC Sensation). Unfortunately though, it seems to have a single LED flash – either HTC has changed its idea of what people want, or the LED flash used is superior to those they previously used. The brightness of the LEDs on my HD2 has never been substantially surpassed by a non-xenon flash in my experience though, so I fear the former is the case. My search for a new phone continues…

Fortunately, in a way that only xda-developers can manage, the still-popular HD2 is being kept more up-to-date than nearly all true Android phones updated only via official methods, with Android 4.0 ported to the device very quickly.