Ahmed Eltawil's Blog

Archive for March 2008

What gets people’s attention in the beginning is the interface and the overall look and feel of any software (either a client or web application). But after that first impression, what comes next? Does the experience end there?

Currently most software development companies focus on a couple of areas which includes the application’s features and ease of use. But what’s unfortunate is that’s where the development ends. And once a user gets used to the software’s interface and features, the wow factor ends. So what’s missing here? How can the software development companies keep that wow factor and make users coming back for their products and not just that but also keep the company name in their minds?

What software lacks is the seamless and fluid interaction between the user and the software.

Applications needs to reflect what people experience in real life in order for the user to feel connected to it. For instance, when you change a view on a current window by clicking on a different tab, the window immediately changes and gives you the options available for tab selected without giving the user the feel that he/she are changing views. Now in real life, when a person wants to look at another direction he moves his head from one position to another. We need to implement what happens during that head movement into our software. Therefore, when changing views to another tab, for instance, we can slide the window from one side to another.

What we need is proper transitioning from any instance to another.

Windows Vista has added a couple of these transitions into the operating system (minimizing and restoring a window, tabbing or switching between open windows/applications, opening and closing windows/applications). But it still doesn’t cover all aspects of the operating system’s core functions especially when you open up certain options like the Display Properties or the Mouse Properties under the Control Panel.

When it comes to human interaction with computers, it deserves to pay a lot attention to what humans naturally want to see or experiencein real life.

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Installing applications on any Windows Mobile device is a breeze. You download or transfer a CAB file to your device, run the file, choose where to install the application (whether on the device’s memory or on a storage card), and simply follow the instructions on screen. There is absolutely nothing complicated about the process.

On the other hand, Apple made it impossible for iPhone users to install a single application (as of yet). But of course thanks to hackers there is always a way around this issue. But it won’t be easy. And it will be risky. Some users even ended up with a dead iPhone. That’s why all the tutorials online on this matter mention the following before the guide begins: "Do this at your own risk."

The workaround is called ‘jail breaking’ your iPhone. A simple Google search will give you the information you need. But be aware that each firmware might have a different jail break process. So make sure to check what firmware your iPhone is running prior to attempting anything.

After the jail break, you will be able to add an application called ‘Installer’ to your iPhone where it will give you access to hundreds of iPhone applications. But you will be facing another problem. The iPhone’s memory is split into two partitions. One holds 300Mb (used for system files) and the rest is for your media files (iTunes music, photos, etc).

In order not to run into problems, you need to configure your iPhone in a way that it installs the applications on the second partition. Again, a simple Google search on this matter will help.

I told you it won’t be easy. Luckily, you can get an unlocked and jail broken iPhone off ebay to save yourself a lot of pain and agony.

Now that Microsoft seems to have got its Windows Mobile team working again, it brings me pleasure to hear such great news as the added support for Silverlight and Adobe Flash. This definitely will enable developers to get a lot more creative in developing state of the art applications for Windows Mobile using Silverlight since the technology is cross-browser and cross-platform. And with Adobe Flash supported as well, bringing a more realistic desktop-like internet experience to a Windows Mobile device doesn’t sound far-fetched anymore.
 
But I think there is more up Microsoft’s sleeves behind this news than just for the sake of software development and better internet experience. I think it has to do with Windows Mobile’s successor. That’s right. Windows Mobile 7.
 
Now that everything is moving towards a touch based experience for mobile devices, the added support for Silverlight might be a clue of what to expect from the next version of Windows Mobile. And I don’t mean Windows Mobile 6.1 or 6.5, but instead an entirely overhauled operating system. After all, Silverlight is all about UI and Windows Mobile users all around the globe have been complaining and giving negative feedback on the OS’s not so user or finger friendly interface.
 
It will be interesting to see what the Windows Mobile team will be releasing in the upcoming months. You never know, maybe a new Windows Mobile version isn’t so far away as everyone seems to believe. But no matter how long it takes, I am sure it will be worth the wait.

I am not trying to write a review of the phone here since it’s been done all over the net (just Google ‘HTC Touch review’ and see for yourself). Instead, I am just pointing out my likes and dislikes of the device.

First of all, I have to admit that I like the device’s form factor. Small and thin enough to fit in your pocket and at the same time the screen is big enough to view and take pictures as well as read the latest news using your preferred RSS reader (I use and recommend Viigo).

The HTC Touch rubberized body gives it a nice feel and gives it a lot more grip. I didn’t find it hard using the device for calling with one hand, although it did get a bit tricky when trying to type a message or a web address with the built in virtual keyboard using only your finger. That’s when the stylus comes handy.

It comes with a loud speaker which can be used as a speakerphone during a call as well as listening to music. The one major disadvantage is the memory. The phone seems to always complain about low program memory. I guess that’s why HTC had to make a second generation HTC Touch with improved application memory capacity.

Nevertheless, the phone is sleek and practical for daily use with a great battery life.

Besides, the phone comes with a nice good quality pouch to protect the screen and the body from any bumps and accidental drops (something the Apple people should have considered including with their precious and ever so popular iPhone).

 

My boss and I decided to exchange cell phones for the long weekend. So I got the HTC Touch and he got the iPhone. I have previously owned a Windows Mobile 6 Professional device (HTC Advantage 7501) so I know my way around the operating system, the only addition is HTC’s TouchFLO. Honestly, it’s one of the many missing pieces that Windows Mobile desperately needs which is some way to make the interface intuitive and a lot more finger friendly. But once you get out of the TouchFLO experience, it’s back to good old Windows Mobile again. And even though Windows Mobile allows running multiple applications, the HTC Touch can’t seem to handle it because of its small memory.

The thing that is totally noticeable about the iPhone is the simplicity. All tasks are simple, straightforward, and without a single complexity. Even if you have never used a cell phone before there is no doubt that you will immediately get the hang of it. Honestly, a freakin’ monkey would certainly know his way around it in a jiffy. There is barely any advanced options. You can only use one application at a time. Everything is so strictly imprisoned by the Apple people and any change to the system files (which can only be accessed through SSH on a jail broken iPhone) would pretty much either crash the OS or permanently lock it for ever and ever.

In other words, it’s certainly not intended for power users such as myself.  Apple wants you to be a good boy and only use what you see on screen. Period.

But the truth has to be told. There is no phone that does those simple tasks as well as the iPhone. Windows Mobile cannot be compared (it’s way off the chart). Nokia’s Symbian OS is also generations behind. And, from the looks of it, Google’s Android still lacks the finger friendly and intuitive UI.

So if you’re someone who is only interested in a phone that sends & receives calls & messages, as well as a built in iPod, and an internet mobile device for surfing (not chatting…yet), then by all means get yourself a glossy shiny iPhone. Oh and don’t forget to get yourself a case for it since it doesn’t come with one. Oh and a small cloth to clean the screen after every use. Oh and a screen protector. Oh and a pair of gloves so you don’t get it smudged. Oh and…no I think that is pretty much it.

 

This doesn’t happen all the time, but I thought I would mention it anyway.

Today, I clicked on the iTunes icon on my iPhone to check out the top 10 in numerous genres. I noticed the album arts are not loading. I kept going back and forth and flipping between genres but that didn’t seem to solve the issue. And since there isn’t a refresh button I decided to quit the application and start it up again. Still, that didn’t do the trick. Some genres seem to display the album art with no trouble but some don’t. So what’s the deal here?

So I left my iPhone for a while after turning OFF wifi. When I came back to it after a couple of hours, turned wifi ON, and sparked up iTunes, the album art now seems to be showing fine.

So was this an issue on the iTunes server side or was it an iPhone bug? Or was it a connection issue from my side?

We may never know. But still, it’s a strange issue that I thought was worth mentioning. After all, it has something to do with the iPhone.

 

Before I slept last night I plugged in my iPhone to get it recharged. I woke up today morning and pressed the home button to check for any messages and the phone wouldn’t wake up. Nothing seem to respond.

After searching for answers on the net I found out that a quite number of users had the same problem and some of them posted a workaround.

What I had to do is download and install and application called ZiPhone and connect it to my iPhone while it’s in recovery mode and click on Normal Mode (which is located under Advanced Features).

That pretty much did the trick. I just hope that I don’t have to keep doing this often.

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@AhmedEltawil

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