Feb 252013
 
Palm Pre

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Ged Carroll.

WebOS. The mobile OS that I and everyone else had long left for dead, including HP after they finally killed it off. Even opening WebOS up as open source didn’t help, as even that community seems to have mostly moved on. But now, it looks like somebody actually wants to find a use for the mobile-OS-that-could(n’t): LG’s bought the rights to WebOS from HP.

LG plans on using WebOS to produce its line of “smart TVs” (TVs with app/Internet functionality built-in). It still plans on keeping it open-source, however. There doesn’t seem to be any indication of whether the Palm name itself is also now owned by LG.

It’s nice to see that somebody’s found a use for WebOS, especially long after it flopped on smartphones and tablets. I’m not too sold on the idea of a smart TV, myself; for me, a TV should be just that, with such online/app functionality in an external box (like the Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, etc.) that one can swap out (or repair) without also losing the TV. I’d also be concerned about software updates/maintenance. I suppose it’s for similar reasons I never warmed in the 1990s and 2000s to CRT TVs with built-in VCRs/DVD players.

 

Dec 102011
 

Xbox 360It’s been about a week and a half since I’ve gotten my Xbox 360, and so far, I’ve been enjoying the experience.

The main games I’ve been playing have been “Marvel vs. Capcom 3″ and “Fable III,” though more the former in the last few days, particularly for its online game-playing options (via Xbox Live). Playing online, however, has proven to be extremely tough—either I’ve gotten rusty (from not playing the Marvel/Capcom games much since the 90s), my mediocre video game playing skills are to blame, or the online players have way more practice. That, or they’re using some turbo/cheat codes feature. I still haven’t downloaded Halo: Reach yet, but I’ll get around to it.

Speaking of downloads, I’ve also decided to give Netflix’s streaming feature a try. The Xbox 360 supports streaming Netflix, so thought it might be worth trying. I’m disappointed that Netflix’s website doesn’t seem to offer a way to see what films/TV shows are available via the streaming side without registering for it first. Maybe part of the reason why I’ve also considered just dropping Netflix altogether. Either way, there’s still RedBox/the public library for DVDs, for less than what I’m paying for Netflix’s two-DVDs-at-a-time plan now.

Microsoft has also released an update a few days ago for the Xbox, updating its dashboard with its tile-based Metro interface, per its current push at cross-platform UI unity. While I’m not a big fan of Microsoft’s GUIs, the update does have some advantages over the old one (which, only having used it for a week, I didn’t have time to get attached to unlike some disgruntled Xbox users online): Bing is now offered as a search engine, while the various items are categorized by “video,” “music,” etc. I still don’t have streaming video from my laptop set up, but I’m still doing research.

On an unrelated note to the above comes news that HP plans to open up WebOS as open-source, hoping others might take advantage of using the now-dead mobile OS. While HP should’ve considered this a lot sooner, I hope that WebOS being freely available means its best parts will be taken advantage of by other mobile OSes (Android particularly). Or even better, that WebOS itself gets a second shot at life, and at app developer support.

Aug 202011
 

The online tech world still mourns (sort of) the passing of WebOS… with everyone and their brother giving their two cents on why WebOS failed. Here’s some of the aftermath of this week’s WebOS-axing announcement:

  • Microsoft is trying to get now-former WebOS developers to join them, offering free WP7 phones, etc. Guess that’d make sense; Windows Phone 7 isn’t gaining much traction either, but unlike WebOS (and Palm/HP), it has built-in name recognition and a company that’s actually willing to support its development.
  • PC World has this article on the five features they hope won’t die with WebOS. Maybe some other company could buy/make use of the intellectual property rights for the various aspects of WebOS (though not use the actual OS itself)?
  • HP’s stock value dropped Friday by 20%, hitting a six-year low. Guess Wall Street didn’t think much of the idea of trying to ape IBM/Lenovo’s strategy…
  • And finally, the expected fire sale begins: HP is now selling the 16GB TouchPad for the low price of US$99, while the 32GB model will go for US$149. Ironically, the TouchPads are now flying off the shelves, as people are snatching up the chance at a bargain-priced tablet. Still, I’m not sure how useful a tablet with a discontinued OS will be, per the need for bugfixes/security updates/etc., plus the continued lack of apps that helped kill WebOS in the first place. In my case, I still have my rooted Nook Color to read comics and ebooks on. Plus, there’s no Comixology app (and from what I recall, no comic-reader apps) for WebOS, so I’m not interested in the TouchPad, even at $100.

 

Aug 182011
 

Looks like the fat lady’s finally sung for WebOS, after this week’s already-disastrous news about Best Buy wanting HP to take its TouchPads back: not only does HP plan to sell off its PC manufacturing side to focus on just software/services, but they’ve also decided to kill off the TouchPad (this year’s biggest tech flop) and WebOS based smartphones. While they claim to be investigating possible future uses for the OS, I’d say WebOS is now deader than Elvis in terms of a future. (Ars Technica has more on today’s HP news here.)

As long-time readers of this blog know, I was fairly enthusiastic about WebOS as an operating system at first, and still view it as a nicely designed, slick looking OS. It was also my first “real” smartphone, and the first I signed a contract for (I was using prepaid Virgin Mobile dumbphones beforehand). I was enthusiastic about the first-generation Palm Pre I bought, and though I had some doubts even then about whether I should go with WebOS over the then-burgeoning Android, at the time (October 2009) I didn’t think Android was polished enough, so I went with the Pre.

Since then, having a smartphone was one of the best purchasing decisions I’ve made, as it’s made many things in my life a lot easier (bus schedule information; an aid on my trips out of town; a portable electronic calendar/notebook; etc.). For that much (and the pleasantness of WebOS), I’ll be grateful. However, the flaws of the Pre soon became too big to ignore—the awful hardware for one, and the lack of support for the OS for another (aka few apps; there’s a reason WebOS has a strong homebrew community). Also not helping were the various other stumbles for WebOS and Palm since late 2009 (the lousy advertising campaign; the sale of Palm to HP, who also stumbled on handling WebOS; etc.), or the explosive growth in Android’s popularity since then. (And yes, my “WebOS shall live on” comments in that last link are quite ironic in retrospect.)

Several months ago, I finally had enough with the phone, and decided to look into an Android phone (Android having greatly improved since late 2009). After some deliberation (and deciding not to wait until August, when my Sprint contract would let me buy a newer phone), I decided to jump to Sprint’s prepaid subsidiary, Virgin Mobile, and bought an Android-based LG Optimus V. Thanks to Android, the phone’s been even more useful than even the Pre was, not to mention the amount of money saved by going back to prepaid. Thus, I haven’t looked back at WebOS since…

And now today’s news; guess I jumped ship just in time. So long, WebOS… it was (for awhile) fun.

PS: HP’s also looking to spin off their PC manufacturing division, just as I’m considering buying a new laptop in 2012. Given I’m not sure if buying another HP laptop during such a transition period’s a good idea, I might be looking at other laptop brands—Lenovo? Acer? Even Dell (after my refurbished laptop experiences)? We’ll see…

Jul 302011
 

Given my recent move to an Android smartphone (from WebOS-based Palm Pre) means a much bigger range of apps to choose from, I thought I’d start reviewing apps I like for my Android phone. So I’ll start with this one I used on my old Pre, Sports Calendar.

Sports Calendar (US$1.99) is, as the name notes, an app that lists sports team schedules for a variety of sports, from hockey to European soccer matches. Like its WebOS counterpart, it also has the ability to add schedules of your preferred team to the default Android calendar, making it easy to follow their upcoming games. The app will also update schedules as needed (in case of rain-outs, etc.).

I’ve chosen my teams of interest (Chicago Blackhawks, Green Bay Packers, etc.), but TV schedules for the fall hockey season on Versus (or whatever Versus is renaming itself) aren’t available yet (or added to the app yet). Still, this is probably the best app I’ve seen for sports schedule information, so it should be well worth the $2 purchase price.

May 282011
 

LG Optimus V with a screen protector As regular readers (or Twitter followers) know, I’ve been quite strongly dissatisfied for some time with my smartphone, a first-generation Palm Pre. While I do like WebOS, the hardware for this first incarnation of the Pre is, well, truly awful, while development of apps for WebOS leaves a great deal to be desired. This week, the screen for the phone started to malfunction, and required jiggling the USB port to get it to stay functional.

Fortunately, I’ve also been trying to think of ways to reduce my phone bill. While I’ve been on Sprint’s 450 “anytime minutes” plus unlimited data plan for $70 a month, any future phone purchase would see a $10 rate hike (to make Sprint’s 3G phone plan rates match 4G phone plan rates). I’m also “only” paying *this* much due to being a city employee; if/when I leave city employment, I’d presumably lose the 15% discount.

After some research, I found that prepaid phone company Virgin Mobile offers a few smartphones, including the LG Optimus V. The Optimus V is a Virgin Mobile-branded version of the LG Optimus One, an entry-level Android phone sold globally under various names by LG. The Optimus One’s offspring have received positive reviews on various tech sites. The Optimus V costs $200, and comes with a charger and the usual manuals. The phone comes with a reasonably stock Android 2.2 installation (plus a few Virgin Mobile-branded apps). Aside from the VM apps, the VM logo on the front of the phone, and the order of a few front buttons swapped (for some reason), the phone is an exact duplicate of the Optimus S offered by Sprint, who also own Virgin Mobile.

While I’ve only been using the phone for a short while, it’s been quite nice to use. The processor is a 600 MHZ CPU running Android 2.2; not the highest end phone, as I noted above, but so far there’s been no problem with any of my usual smartphone activities. The phone also has access to the Android Market, which greatly expands its abilities. The phone’s body (particularly the back) is mostly made of a rubberized material, which helps make it feel less cheap than my old Palm Pre. There’s also no physical keyboard, which means my getting used to typing on a virtual one.

What makes Virgin Mobile appealing as a service are the pricing plans: 300 voice minutes plus unlimited data for $25/month; 1200 minutes plus unlimited data for $40/month; or unlimited minutes and data for $60/month. I chose the $25/month plan, which, even with the costs of the phone and accessories (screen shield, early termination fee for Sprint, etc.) factored in, will cut my phone expenses in half. Since VM uses the same network as Sprint, voice quality and data worked the same as before. The main tradeoff is that Virgin Mobile doesn’t offer roaming, which for me shouldn’t be an issue.

Between this phone and my rooted Nook Color, I might consider dedicating some of these “Tech thoughts” posts to writing about my favorite Android programs. As for WebOS, I wish HP the best of luck reviving its fortunes.

May 142011
 

Yesterday, I signed up for the cloud-based notekeeping service Evernote (http://www.evernote.com). I wanted an improved notekeeping system that’d be compatible with my Palm Pre (and the future Android phone I plan to replace it with in a few months) and my Xubuntu Linux-running laptop. Until now, I’ve been using Tomboy (a Linux notekeeping program) on my laptop and the default memo feature on my Pre. While both were OK, if I wanted to transfer information between the laptop and phone, I’d have to email the information to myself and then copy it into the desired device; not particularly efficient. I figure a cloud-based notekeeping system will also cut down on the number of sticky-notes I use on a daily basis.

Evernote, so far, seems pretty efficient at notekeeping, and offers a range of features, though I probably won’t need to worry about the 60MB/month upload limit for free accounts (there’s a premium service for $5/month). They also offer a WebOS app and an Android app, though I wasn’t able to install the Android one from Android Market on my rooted Nook Color; perhaps it’s not compatible with rooted Nooks. However, there’s no Linux version of Evernote’s native client available; instead, there’s a Java-based third-party client called Nevernote for Linux users. While it’s not as nice-looking as the official version, it seems to do all the needed functions well enough.

Mar 092011
 

Ars Technica reports that starting next year, HP plans on including WebOS with all of its shipping PCs, alongside the usual Windows 7 install:

http://arstechnica.com/software/news/2011/03/webos-to-ship-on-all-hp-pcs-from-next-year.ars

I assume WebOS will be available as a bootable or virtual option on HP machines. Given WebOS’ anemic market share among smartphones (and the unusual nature of this plan), not sure how much of a boost it’ll give WebOS, and we still have yet to see the TouchPad released. I’d also like to know if this version of WebOS will be available for previous HP owners (such as myself, who owns a 1.5-year-old HP laptop). Either way, this should be interesting…

Feb 092011
 

Today, HP held a big press conference to announce several new products using WebOS (Palm’s smartphone operating system):

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2011/02/hp-announces-touchpad-tablet-and-two-new-phones.ars

Two new smartphones were announced, the Veer and the Pre 3. The Veer, like the short-lived Microsoft Kin, is a smallish-sized slider phone, replacing the Pixi. Meanwhile, the Pre 3 replaces the previous Pre models, but from the specs given, it just seems like a stepped-up-specs-wise version of the Pre 2. From the descriptions alone, I don’t think either phone will sway me from going to Android for my next smartphone.

The biggest announcement, however, is the TouchPad, a 10-inch tablet that’s similar to Apple’s own iPad, but runs WebOS. While it looks impressive, the main issues in my opinion will be: getting developers on board to write apps for WebOS (given how few apps WebOS has versus Android or iOS); being well-made; being able to stand out from the crowd; and the TouchPad’s price. By the time the TouchPad comes out this summer, it’ll be in the midst of the iPad 2 and a pile of Android tablets presumably running Honeycomb (Android 3.0, the first version dedicated to running on tablets). As for the price, it’ll have to be the same as or less than the entry-level wifi iPad (US$499), unless they want to go the same route as the Motorola Xoom ($800?!).

I wish HP luck with the TouchPad, as I still like WebOS despite the market share (and previous hardware) flaws. And yes, “HP,” not “Palm”; apparently as of this announcement, the Palm brand is officially dead. To think they were a major name in the 90s (with the PDA and all), and now merely absorbed into being a part of HP…

Nov 032010
 

Picture of Scoop #1Since I’ve been at this for awhile, I thought I’d take the time to list a summary (with links) of my favorite WebOS posts:

  • Scoop: an RSS feed app.
  • Twee: A well done Twitter app.
  • Sports Calendar: as the name says, a calendar that displays on the WebOS calendar app or within itself the schedule for your favorite sports team(s).
  • TipIt: A tip calculator app.
  • The Weather Channel and Convert: The former offers basic weather conditions and forecast information, while the latter is a unit conversion calculator.
  • TuneIn (aka RadioTime): An app that allows one to “tune in” to a large number of radio stations around the world offering streaming audio feeds.

While I’ve listed my most frequently used WebOS apps by this point, I might come up with some more in the future.