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New BMW Concept Electric Car with iPhone App?

December 17, 2009

P90054917 BMW already have an electric car in their stable, the Mini-E, which has begun trials with selected members of the public. Now BMW are adding to the fleet of electric vehicles with the BMW Concept ActiveE; an electric vehicle under the BMW brand. More specifically it is a 1 Series Coupé. The interesting thing and the reason why I am writing about this is that in the press release there is mention of BMW’s ConnectedDrive services which allow a phone to connect to the vehicle to operate certain vehicle features and statuses:

“This includes specific remote functions which enable the use of a mobile phone to check the charge status of the battery, search for public charging stations and activate the vehicle’s auxiliary heating and air conditioning functions.”

While there is no mention of any brand of phone in particular, the press images do include some images which may be mock-ups of an iPhone application.

Some of the features which seem to be shown in the iPhone app images include: locate a charging station; schedule climate control; charge status and mileage remaining.

The vehicle itself is is said to give a maximum output of 170bhp and a maximum torque of 250Nm. 0-62mph is expected to be less than 9 seconds with top speed of 90mph (electronically limited) and range of up to 100 miles. If you have access to a 50amp connection, the car can be fully charged in as little as three hours.

Hopefully we will see some of these ConnectedDrive features from other manufacturers also without having to resort to third party add-ons in the near future.

BMW ConceptE BMW ConceptE BMW ConceptE

BMW ConceptE - iPhone App BMW ConceptE - iPhone App BMW ConceptE - iPhone App

BMW ConceptE - iPhone App BMW ConceptE - iPhone App BMW ConceptE - iPhone App

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SkyPlayer in Windows Media Center – Now Active!

November 23, 2009

skyplayer1 In Windows Media Center, on Windows 7, there has been a Sky Player icon which lead to a page saying that the service would be coming soon. Since then, SkyPlayer has been released on the Xbox 360 and can be accessed at no extra cost for those who have a Sky Multiroom subscription and for non-Sky customers who are willing to pay a large subscription cost to access a limited range of channels when compared to a dedicated Sky subscription (which requires a satellite dish and box).

Having checked this magical icon in Windows Media Player, the functionality of SkyPlayer has been enabled and provides the same experience as on the Xbox 360 but without the party features.

Sky limit the number of computers that can access SkyPlayer to four systems and one Xbox 360. At present, my main device is my Xbox 360 and this lets me watch the movie channels and Sky1 from the console, but not from Sky Player on Windows Media Center. Customers are allowed one change of their devices a month so this has to be thought out. A hindrance to this is that trying to watch Sky1 or a Sky Screen/movie channel on a device that isn’t currently the main device, in a month when you haven’t used up your changes, may cause that device to become the main one, leaving you wondering why you can access the premium channels on the previous device. I have yet to fully test this and may be saved by being restricted to changing the main device via the Sky.com account pages.

If you don’t have a main device specified, ie a PC, Xbox 360 or Windows Media Center, the device you first use to access the channels, will be registered as your main system and that will be it for that month. You will have to wait until the next calendar month to be able to change this.

Check out the screenshots below which show the same features as available to the Xbox 360 version:

 

Sky Player Installation Sky Player Installation

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

Sky Player in Windows Media Centre

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Microsoft Office 2010 Beta Now Open!

November 19, 2009

Microsoft Office 2010beta logo If you have been waiting for the public beta of Microsoft Office 2010 to open up, or waiting for the email inviting you, the wait is over.

Head on over to the Office 2010 Beta Page to sign up, get your key and download it. There are 32bit and 64bit versions on offer. I myself went for the 64bit version after having built a new computer with Windows 7 64bit on it!

Microsoft office send a smile With the beta, as in the previous Technical Previews, a small app will be installed which shows up in Add/Remove Programs or Programs and Features (depending on your version of Windows) called Microsoft Office Send-a-Smile. This will start up with Windows and display 2 emoticons in the system tray, near the clock, which you can click if you like or hate something. The app will then send a screenshot and allow you to add a comment regarding the feature that made you smile or frown. Please make use of this as it only serves to make Office better (depending on your comments) if the Office team get your feedback!

From the FAQ, the Beta will be active until October 31, 2010, so you have a good length of time to try it out and settle in.

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Nokia N97 Gets v20 Firmware Update

October 27, 2009

Nokia Software Update application Today saw the release of the long awaited v20 firmware update which was expected to bring kinetic scrolling throughout all menus on the N97, being able to hold keys down to access the alternative character/number when typing as well as some other much needed bug fixes. One important feature which was expected, Skype, is not included and is expected again, at a later date.

An excerpt of the change list from Steve Litchfield at All About Symbian:
Improvements in firmware 20.2.019 are:

  • A reworked memory mapping model – this means that applications use the (relatively) limited RAM much more efficiently and you should rarely see any memory errors. Note that the available ‘Free RAM’ after booting is now a lot less (around 47MB), but don’t take this raw number too literally – apps apparently use less RAM than before
  • Kinetic scrolling in the User Interface in all lists and larger-than-screen views
  • The keyboard driver has been enhanced so that a long press on any key brings up its associated ‘function’ symbol (or number)
  • Music player shows album art more reliably, plus extra MP3 ID3 information
  • Half a dozen new social media and services widgets have been added by default
  • Camera still and video improvements…

For those of you running a sim-free unlocked UK Nokia N97, the v12 update has only been able since the 17th of October, there may be quite a wait for v20 unless the posts on the Nokia forum have been read.

The update is probably only available to Euro sim-free variants but worth a try if you have a non-operator branded handset from another region. For more information check out this post on how to update your N97 firmware. Over the air updates using the built-in Software app may not be available for a few days.

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Opera Mini Beta 5 – Optimised for N97 et al.

September 21, 2009

The previous version of Opera Mini worked well on Symbian S60 3rd Edition handsets but wasn’t conceived in anticipation of the touch-screen version of the S60, S60 5th Edition, which can be found on the Nokia N97 and the 5800, to name two. As a result touch functionality didn’t work and the user had to fall back to the hardware keys of the N97 and the virtual keypad of the 5800.

Opera has now released Opera Mini Beta 5 which is a godsend for those with a touch-screen mobiles and brings with it some great new features that should have been part of the inbuilt browser of the Nokia N97, in particular. So, what does Opera Mini Beta 5 offer besides touch friendly browsing.

 Scr000033 Scr000034 Scr000038 Scr000039 Scr000042

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tabbed Browsing
An awesome feature especially on a mobile device which has a small screen. The native S60 browser doesn’t handle multiple windows well and to force a new window you have to create a custom page/bookmark hack as the feature is not available natively. The way this has been implemented on S60 5th adds to the usability as the thumbnails of the page are shown in the tab, which will work well for those who prefer to see the colours/images of a page rather than read the name of the tab to identify it.

Select Text/Copy
One thing that Nokia have missed the boat on is the copying of content from the web browser with their S60 devices. Opera opens up this feature and is activated by pressing down on the screen until a balloon with “Select Text” appears. Once text is highlighted, by dragging a finger or stylus across the screen, another balloon pops up offering options to “Copy,” “Search,” or “Search with,” which allows you to select a search engine. Nice time saving features allowing information to be freed from the browser.

Save Page
You can save web pages to the device so they can be viewed offline. Another cool feature allowing pages to be saved, just like on a PC browser but for a mobile device, options can be set as to where you would like pages saved on the phone, to prevent those ‘low disk space’ errors!

On-Screen QWERTY Keyboard
A handy feature for the N97 which doesn’t have this natively. Sure, there is a physical keyboard but sometimes you aren’t typing enough to warrant opening the keyboard, but just enough that the on-screen number pad becomes an inconvenience.

Speed Dial
Opera Mini b5 can be set to open up on the Speed Dial page, a grid of 9 thumbnails representing your favourite sites, providing you with quick access to them from start up. This has replaced my Start.io homepage and instead the Start.io page can have a speed dial box.

Password Manager
If you hate signing-in to sites over and over again, the password manager will be a boon, although if you frequently misplace your phones, this feature may be better left unused.

I have been Opera Mini Beta 5 briefly, but some sites aren’t formatted correctly, resulting in text overlaps, yet these pages appear normally in the default S60 browser. There’s no bookmark sync, which might have been the feature to get me to install Opera on my PC! Due to the addition of kinetic scrolling for touch-screen devices, the screen no longer snaps to the edges of paragraphs, so when scrolling up and down, unless you keep your finger, thumb or stylus on a perfectly vertical trail, you will find the page moving horizontally also. On a positive note, browsing on Opera Mini remains snappy, great access to pages using speed dial and tabs adds to the experience. With the addition of the qwerty keyboard, convenience and speed seems to have been the primary focus of this release. This is great progress on a great app and a lot of thought seems to have gone into improving the mobile browsing experience, which can be a chore at times!

Give the app a try if you haven’t used it before: opera.com/mini/next.

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Official Tesco.com iPhone App Coming?

August 24, 2009

Nick Lansley’s Tech for Tesco.com blog is in my Google Reader subscriptions, it’s the sort of blog I like as Nick gives an insight into the technology goings on behind a company that probably everyone in the UK is familiar with. The interesting part is seeing new technology being considered and used as part of a highly successful business and knowing that it could provide improvements to the way we shop or interact with the company.

I had previously followed Nick’s blog after seeing him present the Tesco application created with Conchango at Microsoft’s PDC2008. Since then, the opening up of the Tesco.com API had been announced along with a prototype ‘Beauty Room’ Silverlight app amongst other things of interest. I hoped to get on the API bandwagon to create an app where items in the kitchen could have their barcode scanned, or if they come with RFID tags, could be detected and potential recipes be suggested for that evening or even suggest items to add to the shopping list to increase the number of recipe suggestions.

My app thoughts aside, there is another channel for those wishing to create applications linking into Tesco, how about an iPhone application? On Nick’s blog, the latest post talks about how Tesco.com are open to creating an iPhone app and have asked the developer community to continue and create their own apps which will also have access to the checkout as will the official Tesco.com app. Nick makes it clear that the official app won’t have any “…secret privileged access to our service so will not present an ‘unfair advantage’ over third party apps.” So all the more reason to continue working on your apps. The application the Tesco.com team will be working on aims to be a simple one which can do the basics of shopping well. This leaves the door open for others to create apps with funky features such as data visualisation, list suggestions, connecting with other online to-do apps and information sources to create unique and engaging apps.

Now, if anyone is reading this, how about a Tesco.com app which compares items in your shopping basket, with the deals listings on HotUKDeals.com and other offer sites to see if you could make a saving elsewhere or even suggest Tesco deals from Hot UK Deals that may be of interest depending on which section of the store you are browsing, eg. If I was in the Dairy section of the app/site/API, a search would be run on Hot UK Deals for items relating to Tesco’s dairy selection and then display this at the top or bottom of the page or a small star with a number superimposed, denoting the number of offers available which, upon tapping/clicking would display the offers.

Read the post on Nick Lansley’s blog.

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PS3 Slim Now Official

August 18, 2009

PS3 Slim - photo PlayStation Blog Remember the rumours of a slimmer version of the PS3 around the time of E3? Well it turns out that it has been announced officially by Sony. Over on the PlayStation blog there is a video with Sony Computer Entertainment America President and CEO Jack Tretton presenting the PS3 Slim and announcing a $299 price Worldwide for the existing PS3. The PS3 Slim will be out on the 1st of September with a matt finish and 120Gb hard drive, not long to wait!

The higher price of the PS3 was the last issue in competing with the Xbox 360 and now that barrier has almost been removed, buyers looking to purchase a console from this generation will be considering their purchases even more.

Check out the pictures of the PS3 Slim over on Flickr

Sources: PlayStation Blog, PlayStation Blog Flickr

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