Mobile Phone Apps: Qik

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Qik (pronounced Quick) is a video serving website like YouTube, but with client software that installs on your cellphone and allows you to stream ‘live’ video from anywhere. At the moment, Symbian S60 phones (like the ones made by Nokia) are supported, and data is sent even over WiFi or your 3G data network.

I just got in on the alpha test program tonight (you can sign up at qik.com), and so far it’s been working great. There’s a delay of about 5-10 seconds, but that’s really ok. The video appears ready for playback on Qik’s website almost immediately, in a Flash player much like the ones used by YouTube, GameTrailers, and so on. Once the recording stops, the streaming video is replaced by a recorded copy stored on Qik’s servers, which can then be replayed at any time.

I’ve also found competing products by ComVu and Flixwagon (also in alpha). ComVu’s PocketCaster software has been selected for use by Reuters, and appears to add even more features like GPS location mapping. It appears to have been in beta testing for awhile but hasn’t made much of a splash. Charges will probably come into effect after the product is finished. ComVu and Flixwagon both allow you to tag and name your videos straight from the phone, something Qik requires you to do on the website.

Qik’s lack of features (which common-folk users will correctly interpret as simplicity), and catchier name will probably lead to it being the standard for live mobile-to-web videocasting. It’s happened before with products like the Flip Video camcorder and Nintendo DS. Either way, mobile data plans are becoming cheaper and more popular than ever, and I predict we’ll be seeing a lot more street journalism beyond cellphone camera snaps and lifecasting like iJustine in 2008.

Whoops! – The Fountain (DVD)

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Whoops! – The Fountain (DVD), originally uploaded by sangsara.

“A great quote about the movie here!” – John Doe, The Critic

It’s hard to believe nobody noticed the boilerplate movie quote on the back of this DVD box before it was sent out for printing.

Also see the misspelt title at the bottom for “The Constant Gardner”. Ah, these crazy Asia-Pacific offices.

Macworld 2008 impressions

Here’s what I thought of Macworld 2008:

Firstly, I had a great time. Well, I always do because it’s hard not to get excited over what is essentially Christmas for tech and gadget lovers. It’s a big door opening just a little crack to show you the kind, and calibre, of announcements the coming year will bring. Last night’s big thing was the Macbook Air, which wasn’t as big as the iPhone announcement of course, but still one hell of a product. After following the keynote over Ars Technica’s IRC channel and photos from Gizmodo, I found a link to the video stream before it hit the apple.com front page, and watched the whole damned thing for another few hours, thankfully before everyone else overloaded it this morning.
How much of it mattered, really?
The part that came after the initial euphoria was a realization that most of last night meant nothing to most of us. For all the time Apple engineers spent on innovations like movie rentals, spreading rentals across devices, the new AppleTV software, and the iPod touch’s PAID UPGRADE, their international impact hardly corresponds. In the end it was just “Do you want the world’s thinnest notebook?” Yeah, I’d love one for working out at Starbucks, but that’s about it. I’m actually very intrigued by the Asus EEE PC right now and might pick up one of those in a few weeks for writing on the go.
Now and then I hear people asking if the iTunes store is ever coming here. I’m going to go out on a limb and say No. I don’t think we’re getting one because the market here is small and unproven. How will that work out if the iPhone comes and users will need accounts to get new apps installed? I don’t know. It’s hard to imagine Apple letting the iPhone ecosystem be crippled in that way, akin to having it launch here without the Visual Voicemail support, and yet it may just happen because rollout across Asia’s many countries is going to be a lot more chaotic than it was in Europe. Maybe the plan was never to bring it past China, Japan and Australia at all. And we all know plans for China aren’t looking so good now. What chance does Singapore have?
The iPod update as farce
The iPod touch upgrade costing early adopters USD$20 is just Apple screwing its loyalists again. New iPods get it free, iPhones get their features free, and AppleTVs get a whole new level of functionality – free. Existing customers get the shaft, and only those in countries with iTunes stores get to pay for the privilege. That means all the iPod touches sold here since October are probably never going to get the new apps sold yesterday. And when the SDK release in February brings sanctioned 3rd-party apps, it’s most likely that they’ll be sold over iTunes as well.
So last night my hand was forced, and I jailbroke my iPod touch. I’d been willing to hold out. Keep it kosher and trust Apple to do the right thing. I was happy not having add-ons and extra apps until they said it was time. Fuck that now, at anytime I choose, I can have Mail, Notes, Google Maps, Weather/Stocks widgets and any of a hundred other games and apps on my iPod for absolutely nothing. If Apple legally had to charge for new features, as they did with 802.11n wireless before, they could have made it $0.99. Asking twenty dollars is just the stupidest kind of greed.

A note from above

To answer the brilliant nick hornby question of whether we listen to pop music because we’re sad or if we’re sad because we listen to pop music, my research indicates the latter. I’ve been pretty clean of the depressing stuff for a couple of years now (read: since i ‘grew up’), save for a little ryan adams, and have noticed being quite a bit more balanced, more than a little less broody.

This comes to me as i sit outside of a coffee bean with a goddamned latte, listening to old songs while writing this post on my new nokia n82, which it does at the same time. In the background, i’ve got a browser window open with feeds from a bunch of design and consumerist blogs, and i don’t know whether i should be hating myself or enjoying all of this. It seems you can buy happiness after all, it’s just called an unlimited data plan.

Undocumented facts about the Nokia N82

Edit: I’ve decided not to write a review because the guy at Gadgetnutz.com has done a really comprehensive job here. It’s got all of the points I wanted to make and far more insight into the tech. If you can hold out though, it seems Nokia will be releasing a touchscreen version of S60 in the first half of 2008. That might be one reason why Nokia made a candybar as appealing as the N82, with all the power of the flagship N95 and the first Xenon flash unit in the N-Series – it’s a swan song.
Here are some annoyances I’m noticing about my new phone, the kind that nobody tells you about before you buy it. Updated as I go along.
– As much as I love the idea of a WebKit-based browser on my mobile phone, Nokia’s built-in browser is a bit of a pain to use. The weak navikey/d-pad (see point below) doesn’t help either when you want to move the virtual mouse cursor around. Another glaring oversight is the lack of shortcut keys for page scrolling. I’ve installed Opera Mobile for S60 and the Opera Mini Java applet to make up for its inadequacies, and they are fantastic.
– The screen isn’t very bright or sharp compared to the N95, or even my old SE K800. Needs some glass.
– Camera shutter sound can’t be turned off.
– No volume control over Java apps. Powerful speakers mean every game will be played too loud.
– Once installed, you can’t move apps from the memory card to the phone or vice versa.
– The PC Map Loader software doesn’t let you remove maps once installed on the phone. You may only add new maps, or wipe them all and start over. Every map has to be downloaded before it can be installed, even if you’ve downloaded it before. This deters you from frequently wiping and loading new maps.
– The D-Pad is a little soft and fragile-feeling. Pressing to the right (if you’re right-handed) puts your thumb in a position to accidentally hit the Multimedia Menu button, which pauses what you’re doing.

Nokia’s N82 – Might not be shit

On New Year’s Eve, I blew a load of cash and got myself a Nokia N-Series device just two days after first thinking about it. Sure, I’d seen it around before, but I’d never paid much attention to the N82 because a) it’s kinda ugly, and b) I had a terrible experience with Nokia’s Symbian S60 UI once. You can read a little about why I hated the E65 here.

I don’t know whether I fell for the marketing again, or if Nokia has just finally built a solid, modern phone. It’s been 2 days, and I suspect the latter.
The feature-set is the most impressive of any candybar I’ve ever seen, Japanese models included. Sure it may not be much to look at, and it still uses the same Symbian OS I hated on the E65 (with some small tweaks in a new FeaturePack 1 update), but it’s hard to hate a phone that essentially packs all the power and features of the new N95-8GB into a slimmer, narrower form factor. The N82 has the same 128MB of operating RAM as the N95-8GB (twice that of th regular N95), which makes using the phone much less of a pain. Things happen snappily enough, and there’s little lag when switching between applications. It’s stupid that it took Nokia engineers this long to finally make an N-Series phone feel good in actual use.
I still don’t believe that it’s a phone for everybody, as some of the menus go quite deep and are thick with options. But for someone determined to have GPS, locally-stored maps, WiFi and HSDPA data connections, a standard 3.5mm headphone jack (whoohoo!), and the best damned 5-megapixel camera I’ve seen on any phone, even besting Sony-Ericsson’s new K850, then this is it in one package.
I must stress that as far as I know, the only two Nokia N-Series devices worth buying are the N95-8GB and the N82. The former has a larger, brighter screen, and the latter has a very bright xenon flash unit. The N95 is fat, and the N82 is acceptably sized. Everything else performs like junk. Have a look at what Om Malik thought of the N81 while you’re at it.
First impressions have been good, and so unless I fall out of love with it, I should be writing a proper review after a week or so.