The Xperia Play (a.k.a. the "Playstation Phone") lands in London

People dressed as superheros and characters from computer games in a queueCrossing the road towards the venue I was looking for I stopped at stared at the building in the distance. It was looking rather sorry for itself, broken windows, graffiti and a tired concrete look. Outside, a woman in a grey boiler suit directed me to the press/guest list queue. This rather odd venue is the “Old Sorting Office” in the heart of London and the location of Thursday's (March 31st) launch of Sony Ericsson’s much anticipated “Playstation phone” officially named the Xperia Play. Inside was a party venue that was a complete contrast to the outside of the building, a location inspired by computer games and the sights of the far east. It might have been a sorting office once, but for that day only it was the "Xperia Play Rooms". This was going to be an interesting evening.

Starting to relax with CouchDB

A red sofa outsideLike most developers I spend a lot of time keeping my skills up to date as new technologies and demands emerge. Recently I have been learning a bit about non-relational databases, specifically CouchDB, to understand what this approach means and how it might be useful. I still have a lot to learn about this technology, but thought it might be interesting to share and reflect on what I have learnt so far. In this post I will attempt to introduce CouchDB, how you use it and some of the concepts involved. I won't be able to show the full capabilities of CouchDB in one post so a lot will be missed out, including some of its more powerful features such as replication, but hopefully it will be a start.

Fun with Ubuntu and MIDI

MIDI port connectorsRecently I treated myself to a new keyboard (of the musical variety), one that helps you learn how to play it, which is great for someone like me who has only just started trying to play a musical instrument. Despite not being very expensive it did come with MIDI connectivity. MIDI is a standard that is as old as the hills and is still very useful for connecting musical instruments to each other and to computers, it also provides a file format for MIDI data. Searching around online I was surprised to find a MIDI to USB cable for only a few pounds so I got one and started looking around for interesting software that would run on Ubuntu that would make use of the new connection. The results were interesting and I found that MIDI makes all sorts of things possible.

PhoneGap Build makes apps in the cloud for multiple platforms

Part of the phonegap build status screen for an app, showing downloads and errorsJust targeting one mobile platform is not good enough anymore but building apps for lots of different mobile phone platforms could be a long and tedious task. Every smartphone platform has its own software development kit (SDK), these will need a developer to use different languages to be able to work with them all. You could easily end up with five or six code bases in order to reach a decent number of devices. So what to do if a mobile web site isn't seen as an acceptable alternative? Fortunately mobile apps and mobile web sites are two ends of a spectrum of possibilities. Sitting somewhere in the middle is PhoneGap Build, a service that lets you develop using Javascript, HTML and CSS and then builds apps for five platforms in the cloud.

Bring web video in from the cold with Ericsson Labs' Web Device Connectivity

WDC logoImagine a situation where you are sat on your sofa using a laptop to find interesting videos on the web. The laptop is great for this as it is close and you can get a lot of information onto the screen, you also have the keyboard and mouse so navigating options is very useful. Now you've found the video you might hit a snag, what happens if you prefer to play it on that nice big television that is only a few feed from you, instead of the smaller screen of the laptop? Sadly there is often no easy way to do this, but the team over at Ericsson Labs have been working on a solution: Web Device Connectivity (WDC), a solution designed to bring media devices in the home closer to the web by combining the power of the DLNA standard with a web API.

The Blackberry Torch 9800 puts the message centre stage

Screenshot of part of the apps menu on BB TorchDespite spending the last few years following the mobile scene and trying out lots of different phones the Blackberry has remained somewhat of a mystery to me. On many occasions when taking the train I would go past smart looking business people reading their emails on them while I trying to find a seat and this reinforced the idea in my head of this being a business phone, but it seems teenagers quite like the Blackberry too, a fact which both surprised and intrigued me. To end my ignorance of this brand I have been trying out the Blackberry Torch 9800; a touch screen phone with a slide out keyboard. It is also the most expensive phone I have ever reviewed, weighing in at an eye watering £40 per month on a twenty-four month contract.

Using Linked Data in an experimental TV app to personalise content on offer

Illustration of keypad text entryA little while ago I started reading up on Notube, an EU funded project that aims to explore how technology such as Linked Data can be used with televisions to (amongst other aims) produce personalised content. Inspired by this idea I started thinking about a small example that would build upon my earlier blog post How to use Linked Data on the Samsung Internet@TV platform to produce a personalised view of Open University Podcasts. In order for the example to be useful it would need to use data for the personalisation that was easy for the user to supply using just a remote control. I've got as far as producing a simple prototype that hopefully shows some of the potential of this technology.

Book review: Drupal 7 First Look

Front cover of Drupal 7 First LookThe release of Drupal 7 was a long time in coming and is a major upgrade from and means major changes for anybody used to working with Drupal, the popular content management system and web application framework. Every major version number means lots of new features, but also breaking changes making upgrading possibly tricky depending on how your site is set up. It also means that you need to know what the benefits are of the new version before deploying Drupal. In an attempt to address this need Packt Publishing have released Drupal 7 First Look by Mark Noble and were kind enough to send me an electronic review copy.

A field trip to see the Boxee Box

The Boxee BoxAlthough I have been using Boxee for quite a while both as a user and developing apps the closest I have come to seeing a Boxee Box was holding a prototype in my hands, and it wasn't even switched on. So it was a great opportunity to take up PR agency 33 Digital's open invitation to go see one in operation in their offices in London. They are representing Dlink, the hardware manufacturer for the Boxee Box on the social media scene and run the @dlink_boxee_box Twitter account. It was a great chance to have a play with this innovative bit of hardware and explore what it can do.

How to use Linked Data on the Samsung Internet@TV platform

Top of an emulated remote controlA real advantage of Internet powered TV is the opportunity for personalisation and customisation to make it a more compelling and meaningful experience for the viewer, but to support this it helps to have a flexible solution to query the data about what is on offer. Linked Data could be that flexible solution as it makes it possible to send a quite complex query, possibly generated on the fly to a data store. With this in mind I have been experimenting with consuming linked data on a cheap and cheerful blu-ray player that supports the Samsung Internet@TV platform. Using a web developer skill set it is possible to build a web application that runs on the device that has the ability to pass a query directly to a SPARQL endpoint and parse the results.

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