Getting started with watching web TV

Shot from a TV studio control room looking through the rear window.

This year's CES was abuzz with announcements about Internet connected TV sets. Much discussion of the technology powering these televisions followed and on this blog I have been exploring some of that technology over the past few years. Alongside these developments a whole new industry of web television is springing up. Last month even saw the first ever International Academy of Web Television (IAWTV) Awards that highlighted the achievements of this sector. However as this is a whole new world of television, where do you start? I made a resolution this year to find out much more about web TV. Here are some interesting examples of web TV shows that I've been watching.

A first look at Ubuntu TV

TV icon

It already looks like 2012 will be an exciting year for Internet connected TVs with a multitude of announcements at this years's International CES. One announcement that particularly caught my eye was by Canonical for Ubuntu TV, a version of the popular GNU/Linux based operating systems that will run on TV sets. Running Linux on consumer hardware is of course nothing new, quite a lot of gadgets in the home are Linux based and many people will be using Linux every day without even realising it (a couple of good examples are Samsung TVs and Bluray players and Humax set top boxes but there are many, many others). There is also no shortage of operating systems for Smart TVs. What is interesting about this announcement is the application of the Unity interface to a completely different context - the TV. Canonical have made the source code for Ubuntu TV available so I decided to check it out and take a look for myself.

Trying out a big screen mobile: the HTC Sensation XL

The HTC Sensation XL

The first thing you notice about the HTC (somewhat unfortunately named) Sensation XL is its sheer size. This phone is built around a 4.7" screen, the same size as Google's flagship Samsung Nexus Prime but this has a lower screen resolution. I was curious to try out an Android device with a larger screen as a few of these devices have started appearing on the market. Despite the large screen the phone is very slim and packs lots of features. After having the phone on trial for a couple of weeks I can only conclude that the large screen is a bit of a mixed blessing. It is great for some functions but gives the phone a bit of an inconvenient feel.

Scripting Layer for Android Tablet Remix - Release 2!

A road scene phptographed on long exposure to show a trial of lights

Three months have gone by since the release of the first version of the Scripting Layer for Android Tablet Remix. In that time quite a few changes have been made to the upstream version of the Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A) and I have had a few people asking me when these features are coming to the Tablet Remix. So just in time for Christmas I am pleased to announce that these changes have been imported into the source code for the Tablet Remix and it is now completely up to date with the latest SL4A features! Probably the most significant of these is the Full Screen UI.

An Android tablet in a creative cloud

Artwork showing stripes going into the distance

Adobe's recent decision to retire support for their Flash Player on mobile devices attracted a lot of attention and maybe there is a risk that they might become better known for what they are not doing in the mobile space rather than what they are doing. This would be a shame as recently Adobe released a whole suite of apps for Android tablets (with support for Apple's alternative, the iPad, coming in 2012). What makes these apps so interesting is that they challenge the idea that tablets are only useful for the consumption of content. Instead these apps are targeted at people who want to be creative on their tablets including professional creatives such as web designers.

Book Review: Learning SPARQL

Front cover of book

I've been experimenting with SPARQL for some time and was lucky enough to have had some training at work on it, but on several occasions when reading Bob DuCharme's Learning SPARQL I found out something that this very powerful language could do that was new to me. The book provides quite a detailed overview of the capabilities of the language and takes the reader right from their first steps in constructing a query through to using it as a data source for programs. The capabilities of both SPARQL 1.0 and 1.1 are covered, with warnings when commands only work in 1.1. If you are looking to take your first steps in learning SPARQL, or maybe you are someone who can already write queries and would like to enhance your skillset, perhaps exploring topics such as creating, updating and validating data then you may well find this book very useful.

The MiFi 3 moves mobile broadband to the fast lane

Three UK's third generation MiFi has slightly more refined looks than its predecessor, but it doesn't feature "go faster" stripes which is curious as the inclusion of HSPA+ technology promises a turbo boosted Internet connection with speeds theoretically up to 21 Mbps - enough to put many landline broadband connections to shame. I attended the launch event for the new MiFi (also known as the Huawei E586) and have been trying one out. How does it perform? How easy is it to use? Plus, with the increasing number of mobile phones that are capable of tethering (sharing their mobile broadband connection with another device through WiFi) is it still a compelling product?

An experimental CouchDB powered Samsung Internet@TV app

People on a sofa talking in front of a bank of TV screens

I've been experimenting a bit with CouchDB again recently and started thinking more about what it means to see non-relational databases as different from rather than better than traditional relational databases. One idea that I wanted to explore is that these differences mean that we do not have to use these new technologies in the same way as a traditional database layer. A notable feature of CouchDB is that it delivers data over an HTTP connection, so it can deliver data to the web without the need to write a layer of software to go in front of it. It can also store files quite happily. This could hugely simplify the server side of many phone, tablet and Internet TV apps so I thought I would have a go at building an experimental proof-of-concept app for the Samsung Internet@TV platform that gets both its metadata and video files from a CouchDB server.

Just how tough can a micro SD card be?

The micro SD card attached to a magnet

Every day our digital cameras and mobile phones capture pictures and videos which are often irreplaceable. Many devices now take a very small memory card called the "micro sd" card which is about as big as a fingernail, but just how durable are they? To be honest this isn't a question that popped into my mind until I got an email one day with the title "[Review Request]: Indestructible SD Cards" from an online retailer called the Memory Card Zoo. Usually I am very careful with micro SD cards as they always seem so easy to lose! However this seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, so together with my good friend Georgina Parsons (a.k.a. Spiky) we set about testing one to destruction.

How to use the Google+ API (and others) with the Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A)

A photo of chairs arranged in a circle

There was once a time when Google was mainly associated with search, but today many of us use all sorts of Google services. The latest of these to draw a lot of attention is Google+ a relatively new social network which could maybe be described as a bit like Tumblr crossed with Facebook. Google offer APIs to many of these services and recently added a read only API to Google+. They also supply client libraries that are designed to work with traditional desktop environments but with a bit of modification can be made to work with the Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A). We need to modify the code in one of the program files that Google supply and change the location of some of the files, but after that you can go ahead and integrate all sorts of Google services with your scripts.

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