Bye TouchWiz, hello Smart Launcher!

I've been very happy with my Samsung S3 since the day I bought it. It's a great phone with a lot of features that make it good fun. However, lately I've been finding the TouchWiz launcher a bit slow to work with. It seems a bit laggy at times which isn't a good thing on such a powerful phone. So I experimented with a stock Android launcher and that was fast and responsive, but I still found it a bit slow to use. It was time to look for a more radical alternative.

Boxee changed my life

The news that Samsung has acquired Boxee caught me a little by surprise. Boxee is software that I don't use much anymore, but it changed my life. Back in 2009 I first started using Boxee, which was then a fork of XBMC. Initially I was interested in the social aspects of the software, the ability to share and recommend content, but what became increasingly important to me was the presence of web content as a central feature of the user interface.

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.

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.

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.

A "Hello World" app for Samsung Internet@TV

Samsung Internet@TV is a platform that aims to bring content from the Internet into people's living rooms through certain Samsung televisions and Blu-ray players (be careful to check app availability though). The system uses HTML “widgets” to bring an app like experience to the TV set. For developers this is a chance to experience developing for an embedded system while needing only HTML, CSS and Javascript skills. As another bonus Samsung are currently running a competition for developers in Europe (at the time of writing there is about one month left until closing) where you can win some decent prizes. In this post I will attempt to pull together some information on how to build a simple “Hello World” app and then deploy it to a real Internet@TV device for testing.

The Samsung NB30 Touchscreen with Ubuntu's Unity: an alternative to tablets

There is a lot of talk about how tablets might kill off netbook sales. I thought about buying a tablet to replace my broken netbook but then I found another rather interesting option. The Samsung NB30 Touchscreen in some ways occupies an uncharted land between netbooks and tablets. It is a netbook, but you could also think of it as a tablet with a keyboard. This machine fitted my requirements a bit better than a tablet and I felt that it would offer me a bit more flexibility. In my last blog post I examined how to set up Ubuntu on this machine, in this post I want to reflect on my first week using it.

Installing Ubuntu 10.10 on the Samsung NB30 Touchscreen Netbook

The Samsung NB30 running UbuntuThe Samsung NB30 is a great little machine and if you get the model with a touchscreen it can be a nice way to fully enjoy the new Ubuntu Unity netbook interface. I recently treated myself to one of these and now have Ubuntu 10.10 installed with (hopefully) everything working. I'll be writing much more about this netbook and touch screen interfaces in future blog posts but first to get the features working that don't work out of the box, or don't work well straight after installing Ubuntu. These include WiFi, the touch screen, screen brightness adjustment and the hotkeys.

Samsung annouce Bada - a new mobile platform

Today Samsung announced that they are launching their own smart phone operating system called “Bada” (which is Korean for “ocean” apparently). No Android or Symbian for them, instead they have decided to go their own way with an ambitious new platform all of their own, and it is proprietary too (possibly an odd approach now?). When I heard about Samsung's plans I was curious so I went along to the launch event in London to find out more. There they outlined their vision for the platform and announced a developer competition but curiously did not show us any Bada handsets.

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