Application Recommendation: pReader Native

There is one big reason besides surfing and gaming that people are interested in tablets: Reading. Be it magazines or books, be it readers or publishing houses, everybody is exited about the new opportunities of digital publishing.

Actually you don´t need a tablet or a special ereader device to read on a mobile device. You can read on your smartphone, too. While there are many options on Android (including the brilliant open source application FBreaderJ) , it boils down to a few on webOS.

One of these applications is the GPLv3 licensed pReader Native (SourceForge.net / PreCentral thread), which is available in Preware (or via webOSQuickInstall). It is a rewrite of the original pReader application (which was homebrew, too), using the PDK features introduced with webOS 1.4.5.

pReader native supports many popular E-Book formats, ePub, eReader (including DRM), PalmDOC + plain text. Installing via Preware shouldn´t be to difficult, if you don´t have Preware yet on your webOS device, get it quick, it´s really worth it.

pReader works nicely. The UI may not be as fancy as the iBooks UI, but the application just works as it should, uses stock webOS UI widgets and thus doesn´t break the look and feel. Settings are plenty, you can set colors and scrolling options – everything I need is there. Reading on the Pre works nicely with pReader Native – because the Pres’ display is bright and has an acceptable pixel density.

Screenshots:

HP kills “Palm” brand, presents S, M, L sized webOS 2.0 devices

HP held a great announcement event yesterday, which was all about webOS, the mobile OS running atop a linux kernel, which I find quite likable, even though parts of it aren’t open source. The UX is just great, webOS offers the user true multi tasking – it’s not only the cpu which runs multiple processes or tasks, webOS offers a great way to switch tasks really simple and fast – Android really can’t compete on that front, and iOS either.

Let’s start with the smallest newcomer (and thus Pixi (Plus) successor), the HP Veer, which, while still featuring the same 2.6” 320×400 screen now looks like a down-sized Pre, making it form factor wise a 15mm thick credit card. Most importantly the internals have been bumped up – while storage is still the same as with the Pixi Plus before, HP cramped some more horsepower into the little thing, making it a real smartphone: The SoC bump (QC MSM 7230 vs. QC MSM 7225) doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a real 800MHz second generation Snapdragon with Adreno 205 graphics and thus a huge improvement, RAM is said to be similar to the Pre2 – it should be around 512 MB which should be enough for serious multitasking – if only your hands are small enough to feel comfortable with this 5MP camera ;-).

Moving on to M size, aka Pre3, which will be available in an EVDO/CDMA flavour (Veer HS(D)PA/GSM only).
As the M indicates, this thing is bigger, and it is bigger than the earlier Pre devices, as the 3.6” sized WVGA (as opposed to 3.1” HVGA before) indicates. Looking at the internals, RAM is said to remain about the same – but it’s now a Snapdragon inside (before TI OMAP 3 3430/3630) – the model number is 8655 (EVDO/CDMA) respectively 8255 (HSPA/GSM) here – and that means 2nd gen Snapdragon here, too – but this time clocked at 1.4GHz. The camera remains at 5MP, but gains autofocus and HD Video recording – and there will be a secondary, front facing camera for video telephony) While the Veer is said to be out in spring, the other webOS 2.2 running portrait slider, the Pre3, will be out in summer – which makes sense, as the first webOS 2.0 device, the Pre2, is available in the US on Verizon from today on.

The tablet device (aka L sized according to HP (I believe it’s 9.7” screen makes this rather XL or even XXL) is much like the iPad – with better specs: about a gigabyte of Ram, a dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU sounds like quite some horsepower, and it’s got some more fascinating features like a camera – the screen is just plain XGA (if iPad2 will have the rumored 2048×1536 pixel “Retina” screen, this will .um.. suck – as both will be out in summer). The name is pretty generic, it’s Touchpad, overall this is a tablet running webOS in its third mayor iteration (no gesture area, btw), which might turn out nice if HP manages to communicate the advantage of their solution – I will just mention the great synchronization with webOS phones here (I am typing this on my G1 and don’ t feel like looking up buzzwords).

All devices feature the same design language which surfaced first with the Pixi and its flat surface and was since refined with the Pre2. And there is on point, that I do not like too much about all of them, and which is really bad on the Pre3 and the Touchpad, considering that these are HPs top notch products: Storage. 8 GB or 16GB on the Pre3, which most likely doesn’t, just like its predecessors, feature a microSD slot really sounds like a bad joke – 16GB / 32 GB would have been much more adequate. It’s the same for the Touchpad, 32GB/64GB would have been appreciated. Please HP, if possible, fix this before you really ramp up production.

Having mentioned that HP plans to bring webOS to PCs, too (As a layer on top of Windows? As an Instant On System? They didn’t say.), these are some nice new things, and HP really seems to be devoted to push webOS – which is great, if only they keep the platform as slick as it is and don’t mess it up.

And guess what: They kinda mess it up: J. Rubinstein stated that the promised webOS 2.0 update for legacy webOS devices won’t happen – the community seems to be upset. HP says that it the Hardware wasn’t good enough to run webOS – while the webOS 2.0 might really stink on a Pixi, it most certainly wouldn’t on a Pre Plus. Probably this is the time to port Android to the Pre(+)… it should run just fine.

Netbooks, MID, UMPC, PDA – WTF? (Mobile Computing – The Hardware)

Some (personal?) thoughts about the different classes of mobile devices

Introduction

First of all, what do I mean when I say mobile devices? I personally believe that being mobile isn ’ t being mobile. There may be some guys out there, saying that a 18.4” notebook is still mobile – i don’ t agree to that. I believe that a 15.4” 3kg heavy notebook is certainly the end of mobility, to name the upper end (and this isn’t comfortable but training, if you ask me). Now what’s the lower end? Well, considering just mobile devices, i ’ d say it can be dead small, as long as you are able to use it, but considering mobile computing I would say it is the screen size of the Openmoko Neo FreeRunner, 2.8”, and in fact I would d love it even more if it had a slightly larger screen, like the 3.5” of the HTC Universal – even though this certainly makes a device less pocketable.

When you worked with such a small device on a table like you would do with a notebook, you would become tired soon, as such a solution isn’t very ergonomic (if you had a keyboard on your table and the display somewhere close to your eyes, like mounted to your head, it might be not that bad., btw..). So there are devices beyond this PDA class, Intel calls them MIDs. I have to admit that I never had a longer hands on with a MID, only some short ones on CeBIT. More powerful MIDs running Windows XP or Vista are called UMPCs, and then there are mini notebooks, called netbooks by Intel. The first one of these was the ASUS Eee PC 701, and we have seen many following since then. Compared to UMPCs, mini notebooks are a lot cheaper. This and the fact that they look familiar to notebooks (and that you use them basically the same way, besides they’re smaller, made these devices a huge success on the markets, even (or exspecially?!) in times of a economic crisis.


Netbooks or mini notebooks – 7”-10” (12”)

While I was fascinated by all these mini notebooks first (I liked the Eee PC 701 a lot, and the OLPC even more, before), I dislike the fact that while they were first 7-9” devices, they are now in a 10”-12”range (looking at the announcements, at least). This makes netbooks just a kind of cheap subnotebooks. The often heard argumentation for this screen bump (which has the positive side effect of bigger keyboards) is that people would request it – and I believe that there is a mayority that really does so. But nontheless, I don’ t like this trend, as the devices arent only bigger, but heavier, too – they are still mobile but in no way you can continue calling them ultramobile. And anyway: Calling a 12” device a “mini notebook” or “netbook” is just marketing bullshit, we’ve had those around for a long time, they were called subnotebooks and that is, what these devices are.

Writing and editing for a netbook site since two weeks, I really start hating some of the announcements you have to publish if you want to cover everything: Most devices are just the same. 10.2” or 10.1” screen (sometimes LED backlit), Intel Atom N270 (or N280, isn’t that different) processor, two chipsets, that’s it. Of course, minor differences in build quality, keyboards, screens (glossy or not), time they run on battery and thickness. My bad, I was close to forget that some have Bluetooth, while others don’t and that we have some with 802.11 b/g and some with 802.11 b/g/n. And I shouldn´t forget to mention that there are different designs and brandings ;)

List of todays “netbook”-platforms (seen in device announcements or real devices (except NVidia
Ion)
x86:


MIPS


ARM (we will see ARM11 and ARM Vortex A8/A9 SoC´s in various flavours)

I almost start to feel happy when I see a device using a Intel Atom Z-series + “Poulsbo” chipset combination and I am close to freak out when I see a VIA Nano / C7M + VX800 / VX855 combination or a so called “netvertible”. Of course there are some “outsiders” as the Loongson 2F powered Emtec Gdium netbook, which uses a USB-Stick and has no inbuilt SSD/HD. Or that small 7”, 128MB, 400MHz Ingenic-MIPS device, marketed as “Letux 400” in Germany, which might be a nice “mobile companion” (remember the cancelled Palm Foleo ?), if would have a more modern operating system (among the software it ships with is a beta version of Firefox 2.0). Maybe you could call the OLPC XO-1 a special netbook, too.

6”-8” – Mobile Companions?

I have to say that I like these “smaller than normal netbooks” range, as long as such a device has still a keyboard I am able to type on with my fingers (like my Quanta IL1 based “One A120”, its keyboard measures 21 x7.8 cm), or one that is really thumb typeable, though these devices are usually a lot smaller – so let’s go down slowly and think about devices like the Letux 400 for a second, as it is still wide enough for a keyboard not much (sizewise) worse than the one of my current mini notebook.

Of course a device with a 400MHz MIPS CPU and a 128MB RAM is not a great performer, more like a PDA (and I believe that there are more powerful PDAs). But think of a device like that with a fast ARM-SoC (like the TI OMAP 3 (or OMAP 4 in the future)) and 256MB or more RAM. Or imagine it at a form factor similar to the Psion netBook (Pro).

And let´s think of more innovation, or something you could call so in our boring PC worls, and think of such a mobile companion, which is a convertible (netvertible) and uses display technologies developed for the OLPC (PixelQi) – as long as it is rather lightweight (HTML5 (even though it doesn´t include Ogg Theora) we will see less (Adobe) Flash video on the web, the system has to be powerful enough to play these videos in order to give the customer a rich internet experience.
In fact I believe that watching Flash videos is one of the most common power hungry applications in a world of cloud computing…

UMPCs – 5-7”

Now forget my mobile companion dreams and let´s head over to UMPCs.
Wibrain B1 UMPC (CC) VIA Gallery
Actually I have to apologize first, that I am not that much into UMPCs. First of all, UMPC is a term describing a certain device class introduced by Microsoft in 2006. UMPC stands for Ultra Mobile Personal Computer, as they run “Origami” enriched Windows systems (like XP, Vista or “7”) you might be able to guess, that we talk of x86 based systems


List of common UMPC hardware platforms:

  • VIA C7-M ULV + VIA VX700

It must be due to the higher price tags of UMPCs and the fact that they have to run Windows, to be called that way that I am not to much into that.
But there are some devices, that look almost the same, but don´t have to run Windows: MIDs.

Mobile Internet Devices – 3.8” to 6” (estimate)

Mobile Internet Device (MID) is a term used by several vendors to describe a multimedia-capable handheld computer providing wireless Internet access. It is designed to provide entertainment, information and location-based services for the consumer market (rather than the enterprise). The MID is a larger form factor than a smartphone but smaller than the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC). As such, the device has been described as filling a consumer niche between smartphones and Tablet PCs.

Wikipedia

Looking at possible MID hardware platforms, it´s a mixture of what I listed up for netbook hardware, remoUMID mbook M1 (CC) UMPCportalving the Diamondville and the VIA Nano and the more power hungry C7-M versions, but adding some ARM11 based SoCs, which are used in the Pocket PC/Smartphone range as well. As these devices are too small to feature “real” keyboards, some feature hardware thumb keyboards, others just feature a softkeyboard – I believe that the MID range, that I see as the range of devices between small netbooks and “really pocketable devices” is a somewhat “gadgety” one. You wouldn´t usually use a MID to work hard, and it hasn´t real advantages over a netbook while seated (unless you are the kind of girl/guy that types faster with two thumbs than with two hands). But when you want to be online on the go and even thinking of reading a longer text or watching a video on a sub 4” screen makes you feel pretty tired, they are just the right thing for you. Depending on the horsepower you imagine to require, your MID might be called UMPC, at least if you want to use Windows (and I admit that there might be some reasons (e.g. business software, fun with malware ;) ) for doing so). Of course you might consider using your MID like a netbook / mini notebook / subnotebook, using a “pocketable” keyboard ;) And we shouldn’t forget the “Pandora” gaming handheld, which features a MID like form factor.


Finally: “Smartphones” / “internet phones” – 2.6” to 3.8”

After a long walk on the “mobile devices” countryside, I finally have to find my keyring to open my home’s door. And guess what: Finding the key isn’t that easy. Well, first of all I want to define what I call “internet phones”. As you might realize looking at the screen size, I talk want to have some screen size, and additionally you should start thinking of touchscreen devices, at best running a software that fits to your fingertips. A classical PDA/Pocket PC form factor. Most likely it uses a WebKit based browser to show you the web (iPhone (OS), Palm Pre (WebOS), Android & S60 phones, they all use WebKit as default rendering engine and there is a WebKit browser for Windows Mobile as well, TorchMobiles “IrisBrowser” – so as long as you use a platform that is expandable beyond J2ME (and as this is still about “Mobile Computing” I would really recommend you to do so). I have to say that I need a QWERTY hardware keyboard on such devices – as “mobile computing” implies to me that you are able to write longer texts, e.g. for finishing your first book or just for editing office documents.

Today these little computers are almost all running their operating systems on a variety of ARM (9,11, Vortex A8) SoCs – low power consumption, but good performance and faster than all PCs we had 15 years ago. As I described above, you won’t use such a device (even if you are able to connect a keyboard over Bluetooth or USB host mode) as a real computer for work tasks unless you are a real enthusiast, just because the screens are too small. But imagining little projectors in these devices or foldable screens, they can become more and more usable for more than just typical SMS, browsing, twitter and phoning stuff. And all this while keeping their nice and pocketable form factor – but we enter the future now, I will stop.

See you again soon for “Mobile Computing – The Software”

Image sources:
Picture of the Wibrain B1 UMPC: (CC) VIA Gallery
Picture of the UMID mbook M1: (CC) UMPCportal

linmob weeky roundup (6 / week 12): few news, but at least some

Another week has passed by and it is time for another round up of what happened.

Besides Android smartphone speculations and rumors (e.g. there will be a Samsung branded Android running smartphone as soon as Q3, but it will be just a Samsung branded HTC Sapphire / Magic device.. and Samsung Omnia HD might run Android, as well), there was really great news this week.

The OpenSource BlackBerry is great news, don’t you thengadget’s mobile OS shootout.ink so?

Ok, might be that interesting for everybody. iPhone OS 3.0 isn’t really Linux related, but as it is a competitor, it has to be mentionned. You should read engadget’s mobile OS shootout.

What are further findings of this week?

Well, you should definitely read Andreas Costantinous opinion about the LiMo platform. I believe that LiMo’s idea wasn’t the worst we’ve ever seen (damn it, I still have to write that article about LiMo…), but now that we have several Linux based platforms like Android, Palm’s WebOS and good old Maemo, that don’t use the benefits of the LiMo platform, and as LiMo-based ALP and Azingo missed their timelines, they should definitely re-think their approach. The market doesn’t wait.

Additionally I would like to link the Openmoko Community Update, but it isn’t ready yet…
Check out the latest OM Community Updates!

[UPDATE 03/22/2009]

I was a little bit lazy yesterday, so enjoy two mobile internet experience related things that might interest you:

Fennec 1.0 Beta
is out, and there is a webpage with two nice videos of the soon to come mobile firefox.

A french video (of the SFR HTC Magic) shows that there will be a new zooming mechanism on Android 1.5, circular zooming (via Android Smartphone).

One more thing: Koolu has some more, newer Android beta images, featuring a new installation process and faster boot-up. But as they aren’t officially announced (at least I couldn’t find an announcement on koolu.com), I would just recommend you to find them yourselves.. ;)

linmob weeky roundup (5 / week 11): rumors and such

Another week has almost passed by, and as usual (looking at the last week) not that much has been happening – at least concerning really pocketable devices that run Linux.

First of all there have been several rumors about Android 1.5 coming to the G1 in april (at almost the same time the HTC Magic will find its ways to your favourite seller (as far as you live in Europe) – even if this would not happen official, it was very unlikely that there would be no Android 1.5 (Cupcake) for the G1 at all.
(In fact there are some builds to try out on various web pages, e.g. there – they lack the Google and closed source apps, but otherwise they aren´t bad at all.)

Over to Openmoko: No, still no GTA03/3D7K spyshots or something like that, but I strongly welcome Risto H. Kurppa’s efforts to start a browser comparison on the wiki which he announced in the community’s ML – browsers are one of the real weak points of the Openmoko platform right now – besides the browser on Android and possibly the browser of Qt Extended 4.4.x I haven’t tried yet (nor seen it on video), there is no satisfying solution (I have seen a promising screenshot on scap.linuxtogo.org some time ago, but nobody seems to know what it shows). And now, that telephony is at least close to be called reliable, it does not sound to absurd to work on that issue.

Well, and as far as I didn´t miss too much, that´s all what I would consider interesting, as long as you are not interested in things like special Android offers or known devices appearing in various contrys under different brandings.

Ok, there is another Palm Pre webcast: The browser appears to be amazingly fast..

And then for those interested in netbooks or MIDs/UMPCs: VIA announced a new HD capable chipset, the VX855, which should be a fine companion to C7-M/Nano, eating even less Watts. But as there is no information on pricing and availability, this appears to be a Q4 thing – at best.

Oh, and I nearly forgot the best: OLPC XO2 news: It might be ARM based, which wasn´t unlikely as there is the strong aim to have XO2 to draw even less power than XO and AMD announced to discontinue their Geode processors.
There might be a certain point that makes you bang your head against the next wall, but nontheless I will link the PCWorld article.. Enjoy it ;)

Hope to see you again here soon .. ;)

CES – A short roundup

Of course Consumer Electronics Shows are always pretty interesting, and so was the latest CES. A bunch of news, e.g. Microsoft demo’ed Windows 7 among with allowing the download of a the first official beta. But let’s forget about Microsoft and have a look at the mobile stuff.

The most interesting device presented at this years CES is, if you ask me, the Palm Pre and Palm’s new WebOS. There were rumors that Palm would prepare a new OS for years (and these rumors were credible as the need for a Palm OS successor was huge). What they released (I’d recommend to watch the presentation of the device, if you have time and bandwith) looks pretty promising, the Pre is a goodlooking device and a OMAP 3 SoC promises that it’s a fast one, too. WebOS is, at least as it seems, a browser based OS: Creating Apps in HTML 5, CSS and JavaScript seems weird at first, but when you consider todays web services, it isn’t the worst idea after all, as it is confirmed that this isn’t the only way to create apps. And don’t forget: There is a Linux kernel underneath.
But that’s all I want to write about this device, if you want to know more, check out Engadget.

Regarding smartphones there wasn’t much I fancy. There is a phone stated to be able to run ANDROID, the “exeda” handheld, a huge device featuring the well known PXA270. Additional to that, Motorola unveiled the MOTOSURF A3100, a phone that has been seen on spy shots a long time ago, running Windows Mobile 6.1 which makes it kind of, well, let’s say “not that interesting” for us.

Furthermore there were some new mini notebooks presented at the CES, some featuring the new 64bit enabled VIA Nano CPU (e.g. the Samsung NC20), some featuring the various Atom combinations people interested in “mini notebooks” should already know. Sounding the most interesting to me are the Nano powered and FreeScale i.MX 51 powered ones, especially the FreeScale solution, as it means that these mini notebooks or let’s call them mobile companions will run Windows CE in worst case and more likely Linux. This could be (as long as they are delivered with “good”, device and user experienced optimized linux distributions) another step to more people using switching to Linux on their desktops, and it could lead to better driver support by hardware manufacturers (thinking of USB TV sticks and such peripherals).

If you want to know even more about this CES, i’d advice you to go over to engadget once more.

I expect that the Mobile World Congress in about one month will be much more interesting for those mainly interested in handsets and I think that I (equiped with a real digital camera (crazy, huh) will visit this years CeBIT at Hannover, so that i can do a little coverage with having seen the stuff myself.

One last thing, not really CES related: Nokia/QTSoftware adds a LGPL license option to QT 4.5, a decision which might be of importance for the whole GUI market.