Create Android Apps (easily)

July 12, 2010

Google today announced the App Inventor for Android.

To use App Inventor, you do not need to be a developer. App Inventor requires NO programming knowledge. This is because instead of writing code, you visually design the way the app looks and use blocks to specify the app’s behavior.

Lots of practitioners have wanted to create Apps (in the main for the iPhone it has to be said) but when they download the SDKs they suddenly realise how out of their depth they are. This tool looks like it will be much much easier to create Android Apps.

I found the following comment interesting.

You can create a quiz app to help you and your classmates study for a test.

It would appear form this that Google are aiming the app not just at teachers but also learners.

Though the iPhone has been very successful and had a lot of publicity, in terms of sales Android has sold a lot more phones. So it is more likely that our learners will have Android phones in the future.

An interesting development in my opinion.

Video of the App Inventor in action.

Photo source

Advertisements

Indoor augmented reality

July 5, 2010

I have been using outdoor augmented reality Apps for a while, ones that rely on a decent GPS signal in order to work.

Was led to this video by Mark Power on Junaio, an indoor augmented reality App.

The KIOSK EUROPE EXPO 2010 Channel is the first real life implementation of junaio®’s advanced indoor navigation capabilities on your smartphone, presenting an interactive mobile guide to the world’s largest trade fair on electronic self-service and innovative retail solutions. junaio® is the first augmented reality platform to overcome the accuracy limitations of GPS navigation, offering pinpoint indoor navigation services. Point, click and view information on individual exhibits or find directions to interesting events and locations. Available for iPhone and Android.

Certainly looks like it could be a useful idea for educational institutions.


Froyo’ing – These are the droids you are looking for…

May 24, 2010

Google last week announced the release of Android 2.2.

Unlike other phones I could mention, even though the update was announced my Google Nexus One said “it was up to date”. You have to wait until the phone provider sends out the update.

In my case that’s Google…

Waiting…

Certainly won’t be waiting as long as Motorola Droid users who had to wait six months for 2.1, but still waiting…

Then on Saturday night I noticed a post on Lifehacker.

Want to try out the neat new stuff in Android 2.2, a.k.a. FroYo, but haven’t lucked into an update notification yet? Follow these instructions to download a 2.2 update, install it, and get Flash up and running.

I downloaded the zip file and following these instructions updated my  Nexus One on Sunday morning.

The first thing I wanted to do was try out the Flash player… specifically I wanted to see how BBC iPlayer would perform. My first site was BBC News and I was very pleased with how the live stream of BBC News worked on the Nexus One.

Very similar experience to the EyeTV App on the iPhone, but obviously streaming from the internet and no need for the Mac to be on. I then tried to watch a programme from the archive, the film Brazil as it happens and… well the site asked if I was old enough! And trying to zoom into the checkbox was not particularly easy. However it did work!

As did Doctor Who!

Android 2.2 does off a little more than just allow you to view Flash on the web.

Android now has Exchange support, this is a feature I have found very useful on the iPhone. Despite what you may think of Exchange, it is a service that many organisations and institutions use, so by having support on Android, it allows for Enterprise deployment of phones like the Nexus One.

You can also now use the Flash when shooting video, great for when there is little or no natural light.

The Nexus One with Android 2.2 can now be used as a portable WiFi hotspot. This is something I have been doing for some time with Joikuspot on the Nokia N95 and was one of the main things I missed from the Nexus One, missing it no longer.

This is also something that is missing from the iPhone and technically it would be able to do it…

The key improvement though of 2.2 is improved performance and I certainly have found my Nexus One to be a little more zippy and faster than before.

I would never recommend bypassing the traditional upgrade process, but when the update does come I would recommend upgrading.


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #048: It’s very warm out there

May 23, 2010

James talks about EdTech 2010, pilots, the iPad, JISC CETIS Mobile Tech Meeting, Android 2.2, Lessig Method and the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year Award 2010.

With James Clay.

This is the forty-eighth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, It’s very warm out there

Download the podcast in mp3 format: It’s very warm out there

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Shownotes


I am not that bothered as Steve Jobs talks about Flash

May 1, 2010

In one of those rare moments Steve has posted his thoughts on Flash to the Apple website.

I wanted to jot down some of our thoughts on Adobe’s Flash products so that customers and critics may better understand why we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Steve in his thoughts extols the virtues of HTML5 as a way of creating interactive websites and for online video.

Now I am no technical expert on Flash or HTML5 and therefore can only really comment from a personal perspective about which is better for the web and devices.

So it looks as though if you want an iPhone or an iPad you are going to have to get use to not having Flash. Having said that, if Apple and Steve decide not to use Flash on the iPhone, it’s not as though there aren’t other phones available. Likewise even though we have the iPad, if you read blogs you will know that there are many other tablets and slates available.

These devices offer more functionality than the iPad with USB ports and cameras, and these devices will support Flash if that’s want you want.

However it would appear from Twitter and blogs that people don’t want any old slate that has Flash, they specifically want an iPad with Flash.

Why?

Well the reason in my opinion is that people like the iPhone and the iPad not because of the hardware, but for the user interface and the usability of the device.

Even though the iPad has no camera, no USB, no SD card reader,; that’s not the reason that Apple have sold over a million of the devices, it’s in my opinion a combination of the “image” of the device, the availability and ease of access to thousands of Apps, and in my opinion the way the user interface “just works”.

Microsoft made Windows XP Tablet PC Edition nine years ago. A wonderful concept slightly ruined by the user interface. It was very difficult to use a GUI that required a mouse and keyboard when using a pen. I am sure if Microsoft had known what we know now, then Windows XP Tablet PC Edition would have had a very different interface. Look at what Microsoft have said about their phone OS.

The new Microsoft OS for the phone is a very different affair to what we had with Windows Mobile – which again was trying to be a desktop version of Windows on a touch screen. Though lots of people liked their PDAs, compared to the user experience on the iPhone it was always something of a challenge and not something that would appeal or sell to the general public. I think that may change with Windows Phone 7.

As I am talking about Microsoft, I was disappointed to see that they have canned their Courier project which isn’t too surprising, as I thought it had potential.

I am not disappointed to see that HP have abandoned their Windows 7 based Slate.

The device was first seen as CES 2010 when it was unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and was supposed to go on sale in the middle of 2010.

It would appear that HP are not happy with using Windows 7 as the OS for their Slate.

However they HP don’t appear to be abandoning the form factor and have been looking at Android. HP’s purchase of Palm also gives them WebOS which was applauded on the Palm Pre even though it did not sell well.

I expect we will see either an WebOS Slate from HP or even an Android version! Regardless of which OS HP use, both will (according to Adobe) have Flash. So if you are looking for a tablet that has Flash you can either buy a Windows Tablet now, or wait a few months for an Android or WebOS Tablet.

So back to the iPad and the lack of Flash.

So what about Flash, how essential is that then really?

In terms of non-educational use of the web, Flash is predominantly used for video. Prior to YouTube, most people used Flash for splash screens, animation and the odd game. Today though Flash powered video is a key part of how people use the web.

Social networking sites, okay Facebook, also use Flash extensively for simple online games.

So what about educational use, as many educators have complained about the lack of Flash on the iPhone and iPods?

Well, yes there are lots of Flash based quizzes, diagrams and activities. Simple Flash games (and complicated Flash games) also have their place in education. It is these that just won’t play on the iPhone and iPad.

If these were created in-house then I also suspect that the in-house Flash developers are unlikely to have the necessary HTML5 skills to create new versions.

Most Flash games I have seen have actually been created using tools that then create Flash based quizzes using simple text input that any practitioner could utilise without needing to know Flash.

Now at this point I could argue that such activities and games can be created for the iPad (and are been by developers) however I don’t think this is an argument about whether we as educators demand Flash on a specific device.

Ten years ago, no one was using Flash for education or video. Things change and will continue to change.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what we think about this in our role as educators, practitioners and learning technologists. The real decision about this will be made by our learners and if we are sensible we will change how we do things in order to meet the needs of our learners. If our learners decide that they want to buy and use the iPad, then I believe as educators we should ensure that any learning content we provide should work on the iPad. I don’t see how we can dictate what devices learners should be buying. I also don’t think it is sustainable for educational institutions to be buying mobile devices for all learners just so that they can have a device that plays Flash!

If HTML5 is the future of the web, then we need to start preparing for that future and not try and fight it, as we have no chance of winning! Why, because the people we are fighting are not Apple or Adobe, they are our learners. They will make the choice, not us.

Technology changes, we need to have the culture and flexibility to accommodate those changes in order to provide the best enhanced and improved learning experience for our learners.


Microsoft’s Android App

March 4, 2010

The BBC News reports on Microsoft’s Android App.

Microsoft has made an application that works with Google’s Android phone.

Called Tag, the free software uses a handset’s camera to turn it into a mobile barcode reader.

You can read more about this on the Microsoft Tag Blog.

Last year in January I wrote a blog post about Microsoft Tag.

Back then I said…

Yes Microsoft have developed their own version of mobile phone barcodes, which require their reader and require you to register in order to create them.

It’s all very typical Microsoft.

I concluded back then

Overall I am not sure about this, not sure if it will catch on or whether we should stick with QR Codes.

Nah, stick with QR Codes.

Since then I think I have seen one instance of a Microsoft Tag.

However having said that I haven’t seen many QR Codes in the wild either…

Question is, do mobile phone barcodes have a future, or is augmented reality the real future of mobile phones?

It is interesting that Microsoft have made an App for Android, though they also have readers for Windows Mobile, J2ME, iPhone, Blackberry and Symbian S60 phones, so maybe it isn’t too much of a surprise.


Google Nexus One

January 5, 2010

Today (well according to all the rumours it is today) Google will announce the Google Nexus One.

Unlike other Google phones such as the G1, this is Google’s very own phone, built for Google. As opposed to phones that feature the Google Android Phone OS.

The HTC-built device runs Android 2.1 atop a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, a 3.7-inch, 480 x 800 display, has 512MB of ROM, 512MB of RAM, and a 4GB microSD card, can use up to 32GB.

When I had a chance to try out the G1 I did quite like it, however it did not have the power and the oomph to be a fantastic phone, just a good phone.

I am tempted by the Nexus One, but will replace my Nokia N95 rather than my iPhone 3GS.