Mobile Predictions for 2008 - 2009

Increasing numbers of people accessing the Internet on their mobile phones.

There are many more mobile phones than there are PCs today. Over 50 percent of the world’s population now has a mobile phone, according to Banga — “this amounts to some three billion mobile phones. It is estimated that there are 1.1 billion PCs.” As the majority of new phones come with Internet access as standard, “we envisage that by Q3 2009, more people will access the Internet on their mobile than through a PC.”

Mobile advertising surges ahead.

Mobile advertising is “a huge opportunity with the potential to generate in excess of $10 billion in annual revenues by 2010,” Bango officials believe, adding the caveat that “there are a number of factors holding it back, mainly the lack of analytics so advertisers can verify the results of their campaigns. Once this is solved and there’s an independent auditing process then mainstream brands will dip more than a toe into mobile advertising.”

Shift from messaging to Internet for data usage on mobile phones.

We already see more Web browsing, as operators have introduced flat-rate charging in 2007 and moved from a portal model to a more open search-based model. The new model encourages search by including the search box prominently on the portal home page. Bango believes “mobile search will become more like the PC-Internet experience, but the quality of mobile search index needs to improve dramatically to achieve mass market adoption.”

Mobile commerce of physical goods will come of age.

Buying travel tickets and basic consumables via the mobile Web has been popular in Japan and Korea and soon this will move to Europe and the U.S. This is possible in the Far East, Bango says, because the operator payout rates to content providers approach that of a credit card, so people are paying for physical goods on their phone bills. “At the moment, payout rates in Europe and the U.S. are too low, but as they begin to increase, so will the purchase of physical goods.”

The PC and mobile will become closely linked.

The two separate worlds of the PC and the mobile phone will come together, Bango officials think. “People will be able to connect their PC life with their mobile life much more easily. Anyone on Myspace, Facebook  (News - Alert) or Twitter, for example, will be able to share content and information with mobile phone users.”

The Next-Gen Web: Browser Storage Support

lame_logo The next-gen web is starting to gather pace, as this week MySpace integrated Google Gears, Yahoo! announced their new BrowserPlus product and Google launched a browser-based edition of their 3D Earth product. Technologies and formats such as AIR, Silverlight, JavaFX, Gears, XUL, Web Applications 1.0 (DOM5, HTML5 etc.) allow developers to accelerate beyond AJAX and towards a new generation of web applications with better performance, more functionality and tighter desktop integration.

Developers and users are now presented with more web technology choice then ever before; “DLL hell” has been superseded by “plug-in hell”, as a variety of companies present their versions of what the next-gen web will look like. But on the web, such choice can come at a cost to both users and developers. More than a decade has passed since the first battle over web formats, back then it was Microsoft, Netscape, Apple, AOL and others laying different foundations in the form of browsers, scripting languages, web servers and more. The legacy of that battle is still being felt today, as Javascript developers rely on whole libraries to assist them in developing cross-browser code and CSS developers depend on a catalog of hacks so that their sites can look consistent across different browsers.

With the new rich web application technologies still in the development phase, there is an opportunity to not repeat the mistakes of the past and instead take a standards-based approach. Thankfully during the course of the previous decade companies such as Microsoft became more receptive to open standards, data portability and cross-platform support. Having broad support for open standards simplifies technology for both users and developers, but it is obvious that not all of the currently announced technologies, such as those listed above, will

Browser-based Local Storage

As web applications became more popular there was a general demand for an ability to run web-based applications offline. The first such solutions that could work without requiring a browser plugin or separate application were those that relied on the caching headers within HTTP to store objects within the browsers cache. Javascript libraries such as Dojo implemented support for offline web applications using the same principals, but applications were very limited in scope as there was no easy way to store structured data on the browser (Dojo now also abstracts a variety of other storage engines including Gears - tip: Dylan) .

In May of 2007, Google launched Google Gears, a browser plugin that allows web applications to synchronize data into a local data store and then allow web applications to function offline. At the launch of Gears, Google Reader was adapted to support it, and the emphasis of the pitch for Gears was about offline application access. What was less known is that Gears is a lot more than just offline access, as it provides three primary functions:

  • Caching of resources (HTML pages, images etc.)
  • Structured data storage in a database
  • Asynchronous background worker threads
The part of this we will focus on here is the local object and structured data storage. Gears provides these functions via a Javascript API, which can be accessed by any web application. The structured storage is provided by Sqlite, a popular lightweight RDBMS. With the local database, the developer can not only perform queries and inserts to record new data, but also more complex SQL like joining between tables etc. Although you can have multiple applications using Gears, each app runs in a sanboxed environment with a domain-based security model (similar to cookies and Ajax requests). Sqlite has been built into Firefox since version 2.0, but its API is only accessible from an add-on or a core Firefox component. The Gears plugin bridges that gap and makes it available within the client scripting environment.

Before Gears was launched, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Workgroup (WHATWG) had begun work on its Web Applications 1.0 draft spec, which included structured data storage as part of HTML5. The current draft spec from the working group includes definitions for a Database object for accessing and querying a local data store. The details of the implementation are left up to the vendor, but the API is detailed in the spec. Firefox will be implementing parts of the same storage API from the WHATW spec in version 3.0 of the browser, which is currently available as a preview release. The key components of the WHATWG spec are:
  • ApplicationCache - for storing objects in the local browser cache (and checking them)
  • navigator.onLine - check if the browser is online or not (and use cache plus local data store if required)
  • Storage interface and events - used for storing name and value pairs via the sessionStorage DOM attribute.
  • Database interface - used for connecting to the local database. Supports SQL (or a subset thereof, depending on the server used), versioning, error events via callback
  • Threading and Callbacks - so that multiple requests can be sent to the local data store asynchronously.
Implementing local storage, caching and offline access are relatively easy. The application can first check to see if these functions are supported, and then setup the local cache by synchronizing the users data in background processes. While a thread is running, either uploading or downloading, you can query it to check on its status to provide the user with feedback (eg. a progress bar). Once the data is local, by running database queries on the local machine developers are able to drastically improve performance. Currently many web applications use the browser as only a presentation layer, for eg. a spreadsheet application may do a round-trip back to the server to work out even elementary calculations such as =1+1. By utilizing the local data store and client-side code, the developer is able to offload processing and storage to the client and provide a much smoother, desktop-like experience at the same time.

Current And Future Support

The issue is that the majority of the WHATW specification was written after Gears was released, so the Database and LocalServer objects used in Gears are not compatible with WHATW - for now. The good news is that Google have come out and fully backed the storage portions of the WHATWG HTML5 spec, so developers with apps running on Firefox 3 with Gears installed will have a choice to use either the native implementation, or the Google implementation. Google go on to say that they will likely offer extra features as an incentive for developers to continue to target Gears over-and-above the HTML5 implementation (features such as desktop shortcuts, etc.).

Other alternatives for local data storage, such as Flash local storage, are completely incompatible with the WHATW specification. The developers at WebKit were very quick to announce that they have started implementing the storage portions of the HTML5 spec also. It is currently available in nightly builds, so in the near future we will see support in both Konquror and Safari. Opera have also announced similar plans and they are actually leading everybody when it comes to implementing HTML5 and Web Forms. Yahoo! BrowserPlus was only announced yesterday, and it is currently unclear wether their local storage support is compatible with the specification as laid out by the working group.

Local storage is a major new feature of the new web API, and developers will not only have consistent support across browsers but will also have the option of Google Gears (which is already available) as well as Yahoo! BrowserPlus (depending on how it works). There is just one browser maker missing in this discussion so far and that is Microsoft. Microsoft have released an early preview of IE8 and announced a raft of new features, a lot of which are based on open standards such as better CSS and Javascript support (with a more standardized object model). The big question is wether we will see consistent local storage support from IE8 following the same spec as the other browser vendors. The IE team have announced that IE8 will support DOM Storage, but that is only part of the overall local storage spec (ie the Storage object described above only).

Overview of Current And Future Support









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Windows Mobile On Track For 50% Growth

Will sell 20 million units this year

Microsoft said today that it estimates its Windows Mobile software to grow at least 50 percent annually through fiscal years 2008 and 2009.

"Fifty percent growth is the minimum," said Eddie Wu, Microsoft's managing director for embedded devices in Asia, in an interview with Reuters.

Wu said Microsoft expects to sell 20 million units in the current fiscal year that ends in June. It sold more than 11 million units of its Windows Mobile software in the previous fiscal year.

"We're actually still seeing very good growth (for our mobile software) in markets like Europe and the United States," said Wu. He said the fastest growth of Windows Mobile is in Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Brazil, Russia and India.

Microsoft faces strong competition from Apple, Blackberry manufacturer Research in Motion and Palm Inc.

"Even if Microsoft is growing at a rate of 50-60 percent, it doesn't mean they can gain that much share since Microsoft and Apple's mobile operating system is still much smaller compared to the Symbian system," said Citigroup analyst Kevin Chang.

"But they (Microsoft) are one of the few players which are offering touchscreen platforms so that is helping them grow," said Chang.

Microsoft announced earlier this year that it would introduce Web browsing capabilities for mobile phones in the third quarter of this year.

11 cloud computing vendors to watch

Cloud computing looks to be a "classic disruptive technology," says Forrester Research in an interesting new report published Monday. For enterprise IT shops, cloud computing still poses some real risks, including an almost complete lack of service-level agreements and customer references, plus some genuine security and compliance concerns, according to Forrester. But even so, IT shops are tapping into cloud services for targeted projects: "There's a high likelihood that developers inside your company are experimenting with it right now," writes senior analyst James Staten in the report,"Is Cloud Computing Ready for the Enterprise?".

Which cloud computing vendors should be on your radar screen now? In its report, Forrester cites 11:

1. Akamai
2. Amazon
3. Areti Internet
4. Enki
5. Fortress ITX
6. Joyent
7. Layered Technologies
8. Rackspace
9. Salesforce.com
10. Terremark
11. XCalibre

Akamai, Amazon and Salesforce will be the most familiar to enterprise IT. Akamai offers application performance services that speed up apps for users of cloud services, while Amazon offers the Amazon Elastic Compute Service (EC2) and storage in the cloud. Salesforce is pushing hosted apps and what it calls Platform as a Service, to help developers create new software in the cloud.

Terremark, Layered Technologies, XCalibre and startup Enki all play more behind the scenes in the hosting business that fuels and manages the cloud.

Also prominent at the moment is 3Tera, maker of AppLogic, which Forrester describes as "cloud computing infrastructure software" and a "grid engine." Basically, this is enabling software that lets a hosting provider put customer software in the cloud with a minimum of fuss, for starters. AppLogic works on physical servers and virtualized ones, enables cost-based reporting, and runs many applications "without redesign or reprogramming to a grid API," among other benefits, Forrester notes. Check out the report for more details on all the vendors and Forrester's take on the competitive landscape.

Mobile next battleground for Linux

The co-founder of one of the most popular mobile Linux platforms has predicted a "revolution" in the use of open-source software on phones and handheld devices.

Trolltech's Eirik Chambe-Eng told delegates at the Open Source Business Conference in London that Linux is set to "make a lot of headlines going forward on embedded devices and mobile phones".

"We believe we are just now at the beginning of a revolution," he said on Wednesday, citing what he called the five Cs--complexity, control, customisation, cost and community--as motivating factors for manufacturers to switch to Linux.

"Linux gives manufacturers and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) complete control," said Chambe-Eng, who also claimed that Windows Mobile and Symbian--Linux's two great competitors in the mobile phone market--come with "agendas attached".

"Manufacturers are scared of Microsoft coming in and pushing margins away from the hardware. There are very thin margins in this business, and Symbian and Windows Mobile are typically expensive," he said.

Chambe-Eng claimed that the sale last year of Siemens' handset unit to BenQ was an example of a company giving up due to the "headaches" caused by proprietary operating systems, saying: "Software complexity today has become the Achilles' heel of the mobile phone industry".

Nokia's use of Linux in its 770 Web tablet is a tribute to the scalability and configurability of open source platforms, said Chambe-Eng.

While Linux had a lot to offer in comparison to proprietary systems, such as improved scalability and flexibility, it is lacking in other areas, according to industry watchers.

Ovum telecoms analyst Tony Cripps said that Linux-based smart phones are currently inhibited by the lack of a standardised application environment for third parties to write to, unlike Symbian's offerings.

Also, the hardware specifications required by Linux are still too high to make it a sensible proposition for lower-end phones, according to Cripps. "The hardware requirements of Linux need to come down to the point where it becomes a simple equation around numbers, where it's financially more viable to do it with Linux," he said.

But a recent alliance between handset manufacturers and network operators, including Vodafone, could be a step toward making Linux more viable. "Once a carrier like Vodafone, which has absolutely massive spending power for procuring terminals, says it's interested in a standardised environment based around Linux, then you've got to take it seriously, even though they haven't really elaborated on how they're going to do this," said Cripps.

Linux has recently seen its popularity as a smart-phone platform rise dramatically in the Asian market, but Chambe-Eng also predicted a great deal of success for the forthcoming Rokr E2 music-centric handset, the first Linux-driven handset to be properly marketed in Europe.

The Rokr E2 is Motorola's independent follow-up to the Rokr E1, an iTunes-sporting collaboration with Apple that saw poor sales due to limited storage.

Norwegian software house Trolltech produces an application platform called Qtopia, for embedded devices. Qtopia is in turn based on the company's Qt platform, which has been used to develop applications as diverse as Google Earth, Skype, the Opera Web browser, Adobe Photoshop Elements and space flight simulation modules for NASA.

Google outlines Web development investments in three areas

To encourage the creation of more Web-based applications during the next several years, Google will invest in three key areas for developers, including opening up its servers to host their applications, encouraging pervasive connectivity to the Web, and making the browser more powerful, says Vic Gundotra, Google's vice president of engineering, who the led opening keynote speech at this year's Google Developer Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

"Google was born in the era of the Web," Gundotra says. "It's the only platform we've known. It was a platform that was formed by consensus. It was all of us collectively that agreed to a few standards. We feel a debt of gratitude toward that community."

Gundotra conceded that Web developers working atop Google-provided development tools and servers would lead to remunerative opportunities for the Mountain View, Calif.-based giant. "As the Web gets bigger and enables better Web apps, it attracts more users. For us, more users means more Google searches, which leads to more revenue. But the money we make will get dumped back into the platform."

Here's a summary of Google's investment plans (though they never specified dollar amounts):

1. Making the Cloud More Accessible

Google will open up the Google data centers so that developers can more easily scale their applications. This means that developers will still create their app locally on their machines and test it, but once it's ready, they can deploy it to millions of users, according to Gundotra.

This will be done using the Google App Engine. Kevin Gibbs, Tech Lead for the Google App Engine, told the audience that the product would be free for up to five million page views a month. After that, a price plan will be worked out involving metrics such as page views, storage and CPUs.

2. Keeping Connectivity Pervasive

Google believes the mobile revolution will improve connectivity, and it's betting on its Android platform to be the central place for development on top of the mobile Web. Gundotra says the various mobile platforms (such as Windows mobile, Apple's SDK, and RIM's BlackBerry platform) are "too fragmented." In his view, an open source, mobile stack can centralize mobile development, which Google believes will be embodied by Android.

During the presentation, Steve Horowitz, Android's engineering director, displayed the Android platform's capabilities on a touch screen phone. These included some of Google's basic apps, such as Gmail and calendaring, and a more complex Google Maps feature called street view, which allows users to see pictures of streets in major cities.

3. Make the Client (Browser) More Powerful

Google believes its Gears plug-in (which allows people to take Web apps offline and utilize the power of their desktop) and HTML 5 represent the future of the Web-browser. By using these tools to extend the capabilities of JavaScript, Gundotra says, Web apps can become more powerful and more rich.

Google releases Google Earth plug-in and API

Google is looking to expand the reach of Google Earth with a new browser plug-in and API released Wednesday that allows developers to infuse 3-D geographic views into Web applications.

The new tools will let users "fly" over different venues on Earth or access other features of Google's digital globe without having to run the client installation of Google Earth. Google hopes the plug-in and API will make Google Earth as popular among developers as the company's Google Maps application, whose API now runs on more than 150,000 sites, noted Paul Rademacher, technical lead for the Google Earth plug-in and API.

"We recognize that there are tens of thousands Map API sites," he said. "We want those to all be 3-D enabled very easily, so we're making it possible for existing sites to be 3-D enabled with a single line of JavaScript code. What's been missing [in Google Earth] is the ability for developers to use Google Earth inside their own Web pages. Now inside a Web page you'll be able to fly through San Francisco or see a 3-D model of a cabin with exactly the view out the window of the mountains."

Rademacher said he expects Google Earth to be particularly popular on real estate sites so people can get a 3-D view of houses and on travel sites where consumers can see the view from a hotel room.

Google said key features of the API include:

-- The ability to embed Google Earth inside any Web page with only a few lines of code;

-- A JavaScript API to enable rich Earth-based web applications;

-- Support for manipulating KML and the 3-D environment to create polygons, lines and placemarks;

-- The ability to view the thousands of existing 3-D buildings, or add a developer's own 3D models; and

-- Support for switching to Google Sky mode for high-resolution imagery of stars, planets, and galaxies.

Google made the Google Earth announcement in conjunction with its Google I/O developer conference that got underway Wednesday in San Francisco.

"This is a relatively rare example of Google releasing a new technology to developers first," Rademacher noted. "Now we're very comfortable with the fact that developers do great things when you give them a new tool."

Top 10 Video Players for Linux

Review imageMPlayer – Every time I give MPlayer the deep six, in search for a better multimedia player, I eventually end up "embracing" it again, and thinking that I'll never let it go. MPlayer is, was and will be the best video player Linux ever had. Even if the default user interface is old and needs to be rewritten, it can play anything you want, even the latest Windows Media Video in 720p and 1080p video streams. It is also the base for many projects that you can find on the big download websites.

Review imageVLC – Being able to decode almost any video stream by itself, VLC, this cross-platform media player and streaming server, deserves the second place on my favorite video player applications list. It is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats such as MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

Review imageKaffeine – It’s the default media player for many KDE-based Linux distributions you can find these days. But being based on the xine engine, it lacks a few modern features and I had some problems with HD videos. Moreover, the interface has no more than 4 useless (for me) settings; the only real configuration you can make is for the xine engine, but you have to know what you're doing when you play with those settings.

Review imageSMPlayer – Even if it's new, SMPlayer's charm has enraptured me and wins the forth place on my favorite video player applications list. It tries to be a complete front-end for MPlayer, and, until now, it did a very good job by providing features you can't find in other MPlayer front-ends; for example, it remembers the settings of all the files you play.

Review imageKMPlayer – This was and will be one of my favorite multimedia front-ends, because it integrates very well the mplayer and xine engines and it supports the GStreamer engine as well. It's very fast, light and it integrates very well with Konqueror web browser, in order to play embedded content. It also plays and records TV streams.

Review imageKPlayer – Not so popular, this one is an MPlayer powered multimedia player for the K Desktop Environment that can easily play a wide variety of video/audio files and streams using a rich, powerful and friendly interface that follows KDE standards. I recommend this video player to all the Linux beginners out there.

Review imageTotem – Some will agree with me, others will not, but the GNOME desktop deserves a better video player than Totem. Not only does it lack many features, but it does not even let you setup the xine backend like GXine, Kaffeine and KMplayer do.

Review imageGNOME Mplayer – Yet another GUI (graphical user interface) for MPlayer, only this time is for GNOME users. It provides a simple and very easy to use user interface for the best video player Linux ever had, MPlayer. If you're a Linux newbie, than you should definitely give this application a try.

Review imageGXine – It's the official GUI (graphical user interface) for xine. It plays back CDs, DVDs, and VCDs. It also decodes multimedia files like AVI, MOV, WMV, and MP3 from local disk drives, and displays multimedia streamed over the Internet. But the interface is very old and hard to use.

Review imageMplayerXP – I bet not many of you knew about MplayerXP, which is a branch of the powerful mplayer multimedia player, but based on the new (thread-based) core. The new core provides better CPU utilization and excellently improves performance of video decoding. The main goal of MplayerXP is to get monotonous CPU loading during movie playback. Unfortunately, this player doesn't have a GUI front-end as far as I know.

Red Hat: Enterprise Linux 5.2

Linux vendor Red Hat has updated its enterprise Linux version with features for big servers and some green improvements. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2 includes virtualisation support for bigger systems and more memory architectures.

The new version supports up to 64 CPUs and 512GB of memory, and can virtualise across non-uniform memory access (NUMA) systems. It also has new drivers to improve support for x86/64, Itanium, IBM Power and IBM System Z.

Linux vendors are addressing the issues of energy efficiency and virtualisation, in parallel, in their community ("free") releases and commercial supported software. Red Hat updates its enterprise version twice a year, and recently delivered Fedora 9 for the free community.

Novell recently previewed version 11 of its Suse Linux Enterprise Server, and delivered a second service pack to version 10 of the operating system this week. This, like Red Hat's new version, tweaks virtualisation and hardware support.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2 has green improvements that should reduce power consumption. It supports CPU frequency scaling in virtualised environments, and includes support for Intel's Dynamic Acceleration Technology, which can idle or, as Red Hat describes it, "quiesce" CPU cores. The system can also overclock busy cores to get more work out of them within safe thermal levels, Red Hat said.

On the desktop, it has better support for laptop hibernation and updated versions of OpenOffice (2.3) and Firefox (3).

"Today's availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2, with its many technology enhancements, re-emphasises the value that we offer to customers through our subscription model," said Scott Crenshaw, vice president, Enterprise Linux Business at Red Hat. "These new capabilities should allow managers to extract more value out of their IT budget."

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.2 is available automatically to customers with a Red Hat Network subscription.

Mozilla joins LiMo for enterprise Linux-phone push

The LiMo Foundation, a broad industry consortium of manufacturers, operators and software developers working to put Linux onto the mobile phone, is to launch a major enterprise push later this year.

LiMo on Wednesday announced a raft of new members, the most significant being the Mozilla Foundation, which is currently developing a mobile version of its popular Firefox browser. However, the head of LiMo claimed two more open-source enterprise vendors will join this year but he was not yet prepared to name names.

"We're looking at two of the very well-known Linux-distribution companies that currently operate in the enterprise space but are interested in bridging between the enterprise and mobile," Morgan Gillis told ZDNet.com.au sister site ZDNet.co.uk last week.

"The principle area of interest [regarding these two companies] is evolving the software stack such that it's really fit for purpose as a mobile platform in the enterprise segment, and will support applications and services for enterprise which interoperate comfortably on mobile devices and desktop devices," said Gillis. "It's seamless enterprise computing, basically."

Ovum analyst Adam Leach expressed surprise at the news, saying the largest opportunity for the mobile Linux initiative was generally seen as being in the consumer space.

"I'm surprised they're going out to specifically target the enterprise," Leach said. "The consumer opportunity is quite a lot larger [but], if you get the right companies involved to shape the platform in the right way, there's no reason why it shouldn't be [an enterprise play]. I'm forecasting quite an aggressive uptake of mobile Linux over the next three years."

Asked whether a serious mobile Linux push into the enterprise would have implications for the current leaders in the business mobile market, such as Microsoft and RIM, Leach said the development would be unlikely to "give them too much to worry about just yet", as such a push would need "the right manufacturers to drive the right devices".

On the addition of the Mozilla Foundation to LiMo's roster, Leach said the deal was "of significant strategic importance to both foundations".

"For LiMo it is a validation of its collaborative-development model and the [intellectual property] safe harbour that it creates, allowing proprietary and open-source software to co-exist within a single platform," Leach said. "Mozilla also brings an established and much-respected developer community to the platform."

"For Mozilla, joining LiMo represents an opportunity to establish a Mozilla-based mobile browser in the market by using LiMo as a distribution channel," Leach continued. "The market for full Web browsers on mobile is set to grow substantially over the next three years and this provides Mozilla with a chance to catch-up with WebKit-based browsers such as those used within Safari on the iPhone and by Nokia on S60 phones, Opera Mobile and Access NetFront."

Leach added that LiMo's latest announcements reflected badly on its main competitor, the Google-led Open Handset Alliance (OHA), which intends to bring out the Android stack later this year.

"I think it's been a bit of a poor showing [for Android]," said Leach. "After a good start and big fanfare, we've just seen prototype demos. It seems to me that they're not making the progress that we would expect."

Leach noted, however, that the currently available devices running parts of LiMo's middleware did not amount to a consistent platform for developers. "Where this really will be judged is on devices," he said. "This is good momentum for LiMo, but its not devices. We have to see the devices in the market and they have to be open to developers. [LiMo and the OHA are] head-to-head in my mind, but LiMo seems to be making more serious progress."

Other new additions to LiMo announced on Wednesday include the US operator Verizon and France's SFR, which are both closely aligned with Vodafone — the most involved operator in LiMo. South Korea's SK Telecom has also joined, representing — along with Verizon — a major push into the CDMA market for LiMo. The manufacturer Sagem has also joined, as have the semiconductor firm Infineon and the software developer Red Bend.

Updating Twitter with cURL and Wget

Just in case you are a complete noob, let me explain one of the hottest social networking tools, a micro-blogging service called Twitter. Twitter allows you to post messages of up to 140 characters (from your browser or a variety of applications) that can be seen either by the whole Twitter world or by select Twitter users. You can follow what everyone is posting or just follow your Twitter friends. (On Twitter I am "quistuipater".)

So, first up this week is a service that all Twitterholics would love if it actually worked properly: istwitterdown.com. The home page of istwitterdown reads "Yes" or "No" depending on the status of Twitter.com. Sounds cool, but all it actually seems to be telling you is whether the server is responding to pings, which is something that is quite different from whether Twitter is actually working properly, which, at the time of writing, it isn't. Again. Actually, that should be yet again. Come on Twitter, I know it seems like rocket science, but really. . . .

At the end of this discussion we'll come back to how istwitterdown should work. . . .

Anyway, next up, a command line Twitter client. In a corporate context this is something that you might want to use to broadcast a "tweet" (that's what Twitter messages are called) for events such as status updates for a service or device.

The Twitter REST-based (Representational State Transfer) API is relatively simple, and to post a tweet all you need to perform is a straightforward HTTP POST request. (Oh great, now Twitter is going up and down like a yo-yo.)

An easy way to post to tweet from a command line is to use cURL, a free open source tool that lets you use a URL format to perform data transfers.

cURL is dauntingly overblessed with features and can handle all of the major protocols, including HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, FTPS and even LDAP and Telnet. Better still, cURL is available for a large number of operating systems, including AIX, BeOS, DOS, various flavors of BSD, a huge number of Linux distros, OS X, NetWare (our younger readers may have heard of this), Solaris and Windows (both 32- and 64-bit versions).

To post to Twitter you have to have an account because the API requires you to authenticate. So using cURL in a command or terminal window, you enter a command line as follows (this command should be on a single line and the variables are underlined):

curl -u email:passw -d status="text" http://twitter.com/statuses/update.xml

cURL figures out which protocol to use from the URL you provide, and when "http:" is specified will, unless otherwise instructed (using -0), default to using HTTP 1.1. The first argument, -u, instructs cURL to use the next two parameters (separated by a colon) as the account name and password for basic authentication. The next argument, -d, specifies the data (maximum 140 characters) to be sent via a POST request.

Of course what cURL expects is a response to the POST request so the result will be the requested page (update.xml) sent to stdout. This page will be encoded according to the file type used in the request, thus as we just requested update.xml we'll get XML-formatted data. The alternatives are JSON (JavaScript Object Notation), RSS and Atom formats.

If you'd prefer you could do the same exercise using GNU Wget. Wget, which runs on Windows, MSDOS, VMS and Solaris, is similar to cURL but with fewer features and a slightly more complex syntax. This is the same Twitter posting as above in Wget format (this command should also be on a single line):

wget --keep-session-cookies --http-user=email --http-password=passw --post-data="status=text" http://twitter.com:80/statuses/update.xml

Unlike cURL, Wget sends the output to a file named for the target of the request (here it would be update.xml).

It is important to note that you are limited to sending updates to your Twitter account no more frequently than 70 times in any 60-minute period.

So, how should istwitterdown.com work? Rather than just pinging the server, it should set up a Twitter account and, using a query similar to those above, perform an update and then check the return code. The code will show that the service will respond or the Web server will report that the server isn't running or you'll get a timeout. How hard is that?

Windows 7 and Windows 8 Bring New Performance Analysis and Diagnostics Tools

Microsoft insisted to put Windows Vista at least on par, if not on a superior level compared to Windows XP in terms of performance throughout 2007, in a strategy that proved little efficient even though it also spanned to Vista SP1 and XP SP3.

For Windows 7 and Windows 8, the Redmond company has changed tactics somewhat, and is determined not to permit feedback from the general public to dictate next Windows winner in the performance arena. As a matter of fact, the Windows Client Performance Team is hard at work in an effort to build the infrastructure and the tools to take Windows 7’s performance to the next level.

At the same time, even with Windows 7 having reached Milestone 1 stage, and with M2 up next, Microsoft is also planning ahead all the way to Windows 8. For the next iterations of the Windows operating system, Microsoft plans to focus on enhancing performance for key components and applications of the platform. Starting with Windows 7, the Redmond company will work even intimately with original equipment manufacturers and system builders to provide them with the necessary resources to boost the quality of Windows PCs.

At the same time, Microsoft plans to build and reveal to the world what it referred to as extensible platform for Windows performance analysis. Such a platform already exists and is in use, but available only internally, at Microsoft. In addition, machines running Windows 7 and Windows 8 will benefit from unique industry standard definitions Microsoft is cooking up that will enable benchmarking and evaluating PC System performance.

With Windows 7, Microsoft will take the work done with Windows Vista in regards to enabling end users to perform basic troubleshooting tasks one step further through the introduction of a new breed of in-box diagnostics tools set up to detect the cause of performance issues. But the Redmond company’s work will not be done with Windows 7. In fact, plans are already in place for even more complex in-box diagnostics resources for Windows 8. And, in Windows 7, the company will simply lay the foundation of what will come in the future.

So many platforms. How does a developer choose?

Developers are faced with more choice in platforms today than ever before. There are social networks like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and OpenSocial. There is the iPhone SDK, Google’s Android, and RIM's BlackBerry. There are communications tools like Twitter, Jaiku, and Pownce.

There is the choice of development languages, and associated tools. Do you choose Java? Ruby on Rails? Python? PHP? Flash? Django? .NET?

How about cloud computing infrastructures? Amazon? Google AppEngine? Do you risk some unknown startup?

And the computing platform? Windows, Mac, Linux, or some combination? Or web only?

So many choices. How does a developer decide?

The easiest way is to follow the money. That certainly drove development on the Windows platform twenty years ago. But what if there is no obvious money?

In a world of free products, you’ll need to choose the path to the greatest reward. That usually means the way the gets you product or service in front of the greatest number of people, as quickly as possible. For multi-platform support, I will choose Java.

A year ago when the Facebook Platform was announced I could see that Facebook was growing exponentially. I could see the potential for getting web-based applications in front of groups quickly, and virally, so it was a simple decision to learn that platform. That decision in turn drove me to learn PHP and MySQL, since the platform provided a PHP API.

Today I'm learning Ruby on Rails, as I’ve seen how quickly it can be used to build a web application. However, I’m also keenly aware from the experience of Twitter, that it may not be the most scalable choice. However, I'm not building anything that big yet, and time-to-market is of greater concern.

And like many others, I have the iPhone SDK sitting on my laptop, though so far it is untouched. I’m in India, which doesn’t have the iPhone currently, but I have an iPod Touch, and I can already see that this is going to be an important platform. So the iPhone is next.

Back before the days of the Windows platform it was like the wild west. Every application looked different, and acted differently as well. Windows standardized everything so you only had to create one product, and all of the products on the platform behaved similarly.

Today we have much greater choice of tools to use, but we’re back on the frontier again. A different platform for every tool, and precious little standardization, except for efforts by Google such as Android and Open Social. And a new platform announced virtually every week.

Given a finite limit of development resources, maybe we should stop picking platforms and start pushing for some standardization. Is it really necessary to have so many different ways of working with so many products that, at their core, do much the same thing?

Microsoft Windows ‘Fiji’ beta testing has begun

Speaking of Microsoft information lockdown, there’s been no word in ages from Microsoft about “Fiji,” the next version of Windows Media Center Edition.

But that isn’t because Fiji has evaporated. In fact, the Fiji beta began a few weeks ago, according to a few sources with whom I’ve spoken and who’ve asked to keep their identities under wraps.

It’s not clear how many testers are part of this current test phase. There’s also no word on when and if Microsoft is going to tap the many other Fiji testers whom the company has signed up over the past year-plus or when Microsoft expects Fiji — also known as “Media Center Edition +1″ in some circles — is due out.

Last anyone heard, Fiji was supposed to build on the functionality that Microsoft delivered as part of Vista Service Pack 1. Some potential testers said they heard that Fiji would deliver some of the fit and finish that was missing in the Vista release. DirectTV support also is expected to be added to Media Center with the Fiji release.

Microsoft initially sought testers for Fiji last spring. It’s not clear whether any of the selected testers ever received any internal Fiji builds. Last anyone heard, Fiji was looking like a late 2008 deliverable.

Microsoft’s only comment on Fiji, delivered via a corporate spokesperson: “Microsoft has many ongoing betas, however at this point we do not have any announcements to make related to any future version of Windows Media Center.”

Google holds meeting on revived Microsoft-Yahoo deal

Executives of Google Inc. held an emergency meeting last night to discuss the implications of revived talks between Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., according to a report in The Times in the U.K.

Over the weekend, Microsoft said it might be interested in buying part of Yahoo, but not all of it.

For the past month or so, Google has been in talks with Yahoo to extend a two-week test whereby Yahoo would deliver Web advertising from Google alongside its own search results. According to various reports, that deal could be solidified this week.

Google and Yahoo could not be reached for comment at deadline. Microsoft declined comment

Speaking at the Google Zeitgeist conference in Hertfordshire, which was hosted by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the company CEO Eric Schmidt said, "After this press conference, the three of us will meet and decide what our response is," according to The Times.

The renewed talks between Microsoft and Yahoo come as billionaire investor Carl Icahn gears up to launch a proxy fight to replace Yahoo's board of directors. Icahn and other investors are angry that Yahoo snubbed Microsoft's initial offer to purchase the company for US$44.6 billion.

In addition, according to The Times, Brin said Monday that he would give Yahoo's CEO, Jerry Yang, "refuge within Google" if he were forced out of the company. Brin also said Google had not yet ruled out a deal with Yahoo, The Times said.

Ten 2008 Mobile Predictions

new year predictionsIt’s a silly excercise, but everybody does it.  After a banner year for mobile in Canada, here are 10 outrageous predictions for 2008:  

  1. 1. SMS third-party advertising - every SMS you send is 150 characters…most of which is sent as blank space. I predict new services will take advantage of this in 2008 to deliver SMS advertising to off-set mobile costs for the consumer (but only if they opt-in of course)

  2. 2. Mobile Web advertising will take a piece of your media buy. We’ve seen it happen with online media…now with more inventory becoming available off-deck, the time is right to test and pilot this channel

  3. 3. MMS Common Short Codes will finally arrive and usher us into a new era in Mobile marketing in Canada….or at least catch us up to the rest of the world.

  4. 4. Mobile payments (m-Commerce) will start to emerge from text books, blogs, and sales pitches.  Look for pilots from Interac, Visa and at least one of the major banks next year.

  5. 5. The iphone will finally arrive in Canada - but it will be the second generation 3G phone that will support higher internet access speeds and cool features like video calling. This will be offered exclusively on the Rogers network - but don’t be surprised if another non-mobile retailer offers them for sale first

  6. 6. Fixed or low-cost data plans will be universal across all carriers in Canada. It’s already started with Bell and Rogers now offers an $80 / month plan for 500 megs of data - plenty for most of us. It’s still a long way from other plans around the world that are 4 times cheaper or better, but it’s a start

  7. 7. Due to fixed or low-cost data plans, look for the mobile web to catch fire.  Marketing campaigns will start incorporating mobile web strategies as part of their marketing mix

  8. 8. A new mobile carrier will be announced. The Canadian government announced the opening of new spectrum and is reserving a piece of it for a new player and with special engagement rules that will make it easier for a new competitor to enter the market.

  9. 9. Google will continue its charge towards world mobile domination. Look for their gphone sometime in the 3rd quarter and look for them to either bid on spectrum in the U.S., buy a carrier like Sprint outright to own a piece without having to go through the auction process or leverage their new mobile platform called Android to get direct access to many subscribers across many carriers.

  10. 10. Social Networking will make the leap from desktop to Mobile as a primary interface / access point 

Even if only a few of these come to fruition in 2008, it will be a great year for Marketers and a great year for Consumers.

Microsoft puts new Yahoo deal on the table

Microsoft said on Sunday that it has raised the possibility of a new deal with Yahoo, one that may involve buying a part of the company but not all of it. "Microsoft is considering and has raised with Yahoo an alternative that would involve a transaction with Yahoo but not an acquisition of all of Yahoo," Microsoft said in a brief statement.

The company did not elaborate on the proposal. It said it did not plan at this time to make a new bid to acquire all of Yahoo, but that it was continuing to explore its options to expand its online services and advertising businesses.

Microsoft withdrew its offer to buy Yahoo on May 3 after the two sides failed to agree on a price. Since then, the activist investor Carl Icahn has said he will launch a proxy battle to replace Yahoo's board and force it back to the negotiating table with Microsoft. They could not immediately be reached for comment, although published reports said the company is not discussing its plan further in public.

"There of course can be no assurance that any transaction will result from these discussions," Microsoft said in its statement. It said it reserved the right to reconsider its decision not to buy Yahoo outright, depending on any future talks with Yahoo, third parties or the shareholders of either company.

Meanwhile, Yahoo issued a statement later on Sunday confirming that Microsoft isn't at this time interested in acquiring the entire company.

"Yahoo and its Board of Directors continue to consider a number of value maximizing strategic alternatives for Yahoo, and we remain open to pursuing any transaction which is in the best interest of our stockholders," the statement said. "Yahoo's Board of Directors will evaluate each of our alternatives, including any Microsoft proposal, consistent with its fiduciary duties, with a focus on maximizing stockholder value."

That Microsoft is discussing a new deal could be a sign that Yahoo's leadership wants to avoid the spectacle of a proxy battle ahead of its annual meeting on July 3, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Yahoo responded to Icahn's threats on Friday, arguing that its own board gave Microsoft's offer fair consideration, and that the current board, led by Chairman Roy Bostock, can best manage Yahoo's future.

It was unclear Sunday what type of alternative deal Microsoft has in mind. It said it issued its statement "in light of developments" that have taken place since it withdrew its offer.

Microsoft indicated earlier that it had moved on from the deal and that it was looking for other ways to grow its online business, internally or through smaller acquisitions.

Do you think, Microsoft will buy Yahoo?

PHP session cookie refresh

I have always had an issue with PHP Sessions. Albeit, a lot of my issues are now invalid. When they were first implemented, they had lots of issues. Then the $_SESSION variable came to exist and it was better. Then memcached came to exist and you could store sessions there. That was better. But, still, after all this time, there is one issue that still bugs me.

When you start a session, if the user had no cookie, they get a new session id and they get a cookie. You can configure that cookie to last for n seconds via php.ini or session_cookie_set_params(). But, and this is a HUGE but for me, that cookie will expire in n seconds no matter what. Let me explain further. For my needs, the cookie should expire in n seconds from last activity. So, each page load where sessions are used should reset the cookie’s expiration. This way, if a user leaves the site, they have n seconds to come back and still be logged in.

Consider an application that sets the cookie expiration to 5 minutes. The person clicks around on the site, gets a phone call that lasts 8 minutes and then gets back to using the site. Their session has expired!!!! How annoying is that? The only sites I know that do that are banks. They have good reason. I understand that.

My preference would be to either set an ini value that tells PHP sessions to keep the session active as long as the user is using the site. Or give me access to the internal function php_session_send_cookie(). That is the C function that sends the cookie to the user’s browser. Hmm, perhaps a patch is in my future.

In the short term, this is what I do:
setcookie( ini_get("session.name"), session_id(),

That will set the session cookie with a fresh ttl.

Ok, going to dig into some C code now and see if I can make a patch for this.

Google, Not Yahoo, Now Top Destination why?

As Google trounced Yahoo in various fields, fans of the second company could always point out that its sites received more U.S. traffic overall. New comScore stats show that this is no longer true.

In April, 140.6 million Americans visited Yahoo's properties, and 141.1 million stopped by Google's, according to the research company. Microsoft, if it matters, saw closer to 121 million visitors.

But even as it sits in third place, Microsoft's probably having a laugh over all this; comScore's news puts Yahoo in a significantly weaker position as Carl Icahn does his thing. Since Google achieved a higher year-over-year growth rate - 18
percent versus seven - it doesn't look like Yahoo is liable to take back the top spot on its own.

For Yahoo's supporters, here's the one encouraging point: Nathania Johnson reports, "Yahoo does still lead in page views, meaning either people are returning or are more engaged in Yahoo content. Yahoo had 33.6 billion page views while Google saw 28.7 billion page views."

Oh, and Yahoo should still have the lead in photo-sharing with Flickr, whereas Google is shutting down its Hello product.

Whatever happens in Google's peripheral industry dabbling, the search giant lives up to its core reputation by grabbing 67.9 percent of US searches in April, a 4 percent increase year-over-year, according to Hitwise.

The usual rivals are present in the top four with a noticeable decline for third-place breath-holder MSN. Microsoft's confusingly branded search engine dropped from 6.65 percent in March to 6.26 percent in April, down from 7.77 percent a year ago, and down significantly from search share once hovering around 12 percent.

Yahoo has shown little change over time, dropping from 20.29 percent in March to 20.28 percent in April. Ask.com showed an increase in usage, gaining from 4.09 percent to 4.17 percent. The remaining 45 search engines Hitwise measured accounted for only 1.4 percent combined.

Please share your thoughts as comments 'why Google is Top Destination?'.

Verizon, Mozilla join mobile Linux group

Verizon Wireless is throwing its support behind mobile Linux, becoming the first U.S. operator to join the LiMo Foundation, a group developing mobile Linux technology.

In addition to Verizon, the LiMo Foundation plans to announce on Wednesday that Mozilla, SK Telecom, Infineon Technologies,Red Bend Software, Sagem Mobiles, SFR and Kvaleberg AS are also joining the group. Verizon will hold a board seat.

Late last year, Mozilla said it was planning to get serious about developing a mobile browser. Joining LiMo could be "their ticket to get visibility,"said Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner.

LiMo has largely eclipsed the Linux Phone Standards (LiPS) Forum, an organization that is setting mobile Linux standards.LiMo is not creating official standards, but offering its members technology that was developed and contributed by members.

But LiMo still must contend with Android, Google's mobile Linux operating system in development.

Verizon could also throw its support behind Android. In a Business Week story late last year, Verizon Wireless' president said the operator would use Android, but the company later backpedalled
and said it didn't have any solid plans to do so. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have all said they plan to support Android phones.

Please visit this [ article ] for additional information.

Microsoft Buys Yahoo..A Pondering Primate 2007 Prediction

So I was off by 2 or 3 month for this prediction. Is it too little too late?

After reading Nicholas Carr's Big Switch, I wonder if Microsoft buying Yahoo is too little, too late. As more of the computing world goes and performs online, the PC becomes irrelevant.

Microsoft To Buy Yahoo For $44.6B

In an effort to take on Google, Microsoft buys Yahoo.

For $44B, what should Microsoft have bought instead?

The better question though is....what does Google buy to up the ante?

Fedora 9 hits the streets

The Fedora Project Tuesday said Fedora 9, a free, open source Linux operating system, is ready for download.

The software features a unique portable capability that lets it live on a USB stick. Users can boot the operating system from the USB stick and add applications and download and store data to the environment.

The operating sysyem also is the first major Fedora release with support for KDE 4.x. The KDE desktop environment includes an integrated desktop search feature, a new UI style, a multimedia API and a hardware integration framework.

The Fedora Project is an independent community effort sponsored by Red Hat and many of the improvements developed for the open source Linux distribution find their way into Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

Fedora 9, code-named Sulphur, also features FreeIPA, which helps administrators centralize authentication and identity management. (Compare identity management tools.)

FreeIPA (identity, policy, audit) includes Fedora, Fedora directory server, FreeRadius, MIT Kerberos, NTP, DNS, Samba and Web browser or command line tools for provisioning and administration.

Paul Frields, Red Hat's project leader for Fedora, said in March that the Fedora Project plans to integrate certificate management and "later on down the road to do centrally managed group access control and collection of audit logs."

FreeIPA is a technology that could provide RHEL with a solid identity and access control framework if Red Hat were to add it to its commercial operating system.

Fedora 9 also includes Gnome 2.22, which adds security, power management and file system enhancement; and OpenJDK6, an open source implementation of Sun's Java SDK Standard Edition.

The operating system also includes Firefox 3 Beta 5, support for resizing ext2, ext3 and NTFS partitions during install, and support for creating and installing to encrypted file systems.

The software also includes PackageKit, a sort of unified installer of open source packages. The back end of PackageKit is built on Yellow dog Updater, Modified, an open source command line package management utility.

Firefox 3 out of beta by summer

Mozilla released Firefox 3 beta 3 on (2/13/08) with 1,300 changes since beta 2. The Firefox 3 development process has been publicly ongoing since 2006, with beta 1 released in November 2007, and beta 2 in December 2007. A beta 4 has been announced for "some time in the next few weeks." No timeframe for full release has yet been set, with Developer Asa Dotzler stating that it will be released "When it's ready." There are still some outstanding issues with plug-in compatibility (Foxmarks, del.icio.us, Fotofox, FireFTP, and Yahoo! mail, among others). Will the bugs be worked out and will Mozilla officially release (non-beta) Firefox 3 by summer 2008.

Google announces plans for free open source OS

It seems every day Google is coming up with new ways to impact our daily lives.

Therefore, one could reason Google's Android cellphone OS was simply the beginning as Google looks towards home and business computing (and not purely running software inside a browser window).

One potential growth market could be a more fully developed OS.

This is a prediction that Google will announce plans before the end of the year to release an open source operating system - i.e., one that can be fully operational on a desktop computer and serve as a basis for that computer - not simply Android as it currently stands running on a PC, nor an emulator, but a real-deal OS. (Let us not mince words.)

If this comes true, this operating system will be viewed as a direct threat against Windows and OS X.

The intended goal need only be announced by Google publicly, that it also be open source based, and reported by the mainstream media in the US some time in 2008. Rumors do not count. It needs to be official.

Zend PHP framework upgraded

Zend Technologies plans to announce availability of the open source Zend Framework 1.5 for building PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) applications next week.

With this release, Zend Framework is to be made available in a version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution in April. Featuring contributions and sponsorships from such vendors as Microsoft, IBM, and Google, Zend Framework 1.5 supports OpenID and Microsoft InfoCard identity management technologies. Also supported is LDAP authentication and the Nirvanix media content storage and delivery network. PHP programmers using the framework can access Nirvanix capabilities.

Other features include new services and enhancements to make it easier to build Web sites faster, including:

-- Support for an upload capability for YouTube via new YouTube APIs. Users can upload, watch, and comment on YouTube videos on PHP Web sites.

-- Forms, including AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) usage patterns for building Web-based forms.

-- Layout and View to implement a consistent look and feel throughout applications and keep Web application views componentized.

-- Lucene search engine to implement advanced queries.

-- Extended AJAX support on the server to automate AJAX detection and responses to make JavaScript and PHP programming easier.

-- UTF-8 character sets in Adobe PDF creation, featuring enablement of non-Latin characters like Kanji and Cyrillic when producing PDF documents.

-- Google GData Web services for building applications that leverage the Google application network.

Zend is offering a Zend Framework subscription support service, featuring consulting and a guaranteed per-incident response time.

Zend Framework has been downloaded more than 4 million times, according to Zend.

PHP's Enterprise Strengths and Weaknesses,Take 2

PHP was designed to solve what I (and others, such as PHP's creator, Rasmus Ledorf) call "The Web Problem," by which we mean the challenges found in the creation of dynamic server-side applications on the Internet or on an intranet. PHP was created to—and continues to evolve to—solve this single problem, which perhaps is the biggest reason why it's been a (if not the) Internet programming language of choice for such a long time. In fact, PHP is the fourth most popular programming language in the world, according to the TIOBE Programming Community Index, above C++, Perl, Python and Ruby.

In this article http://www.cio.com/article/197152 that explain why PHP is the premier solution for server-side Web scripting.

symfony open source php5 framework

Based on the concept of Rails / Django like framework only for PHP, here comes the MIT licensed symfony