Smartphones are the new Cigarettes? Really?

According to Mark Manson they are

Its quite alarmist title but to be fair his recent book “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” (I have started reading this book btw) also sums up a lot; although his blog about feminism really spoke to me.

The start of Marks arguement stems from going to gym and having people checking their phone in the middle of a session.

And the coach got pissed, yelled at them to put their fucking phones away, and we all stood around awkwardly.

This proceeded to happen two or three times in the class, as it does in pretty much every class, and for whatever reason, today I decided to speak my mind to the women glued to her phone while the rest of us were working out:

Is there really nothing in your life that can’t wait 30 minutes? Or are you curing cancer or something?

Point taken (although I did that nervous laugh when first reading this). I have lots of thoughts about this myself too, especially after coming back from Tokyo. I’ve been grappling with it and started thinking maybe I’m just getting old?

Smoking & Texting

I have been reading Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together book and haven’t even got to the part about smartphones yet. I’m still early in the book about robots and how we are react to them. Fascinating and slightly scary in someways.

Mark calls it Attention pollution

…somebody else’s inability to focus or control themselves then interferes with the attention and focus of those around them.

Then goes into detail…

…with the explosion in smart devices and internet available pretty much everywhere from Timbuktu to your mother’s ass crack, attention pollution is infiltrating our daily lives more and more without us realizing it.

It’s why we get annoyed at dinner when someone starts texting in front of us. It’s why we get pissed off when someone pulls their phone out in a movie theater. It’s why we become irritated when someone is checking their email instead of watching the ballgame.

Their inability to focus interferes with our (already-fragile) ability to focus. The same way second-hand smoke harms the lungs of people around the smoker, smartphones harm the attention and focus of people around the smartphone user. It hijacks our senses. It forces us to pause our conversations and redouble our thoughts unnecessarily. It causes us to lose our train of thought and forget that important point we were constructing in our head. It erodes at our ability to connect and simply be present with one another, destroying intimacy in the process.

Ok I hear you MarkAttention is precious thing, I’ve said this for years in blog posts and presentations around perceptive media.

Human attention is a scarce commodity

But I disagree on something and you would expect so as a person who finds it slight weird being offline for too long.

Its about choice, social norms and context.

For example I am writing this blog in Ezra & Gil coffee shop with no headphones listening to conversations around me. Ezra includes free wifi from Telecom which you need to click on every hour or so. Theres plugs around the sides of the Cafe, on the high tables best suited for laptop users. While I was in Iceland I spent sometime Reykjavik Roasters which has no wifi deliberately to encourage a different kind of environment. I could have gone around the block to one of the many Te & Kaffi’s but choose to give it a try (choice).

Back to Ezra, some of the conversations are person to person, some are video chat via phone or laptop (these tend to be quieter – social norms). I personally find this more useful for my own mind when writing and thinking. Hence I regularly work out of the northern quarter to help me think. However I don’t want someone on their smartphone while in the cinema (contextual).

Its helped having a smartwatch and I deliberately delay most of my notifications.

Simple but slightly naive solution to Mark gym problem. The coach makes it clear at the start what kind of attention is required. The people then have a choice if they take part or not. If this is broken social norm will take effect. If the notification is so big it cant be ignored, context will mean you can’t carry on anyway.

I do agree there is a problem but comparing it to smoking isn’t quite right in my head. Yes people fill in the silences by looking at their phones, yes I find ringtones in public very annoying (who has their phone on anything but vibrate now a days?) and yes there is a big problem with notifications. But unlike smoking there are big benefits to smartphones too (unlike smoking).

With the right amount of self control, context awareness and established social norms; it could be something incredible. But then we get into what they are actually doing on the phone which is a whole different blog.

Stop making stupid people famous

Dark data experiments?

Untitled - man in the dark
I have a lot of curiosity and one of the things which has consistently got me curious, is the challenges of the hidden. Hidden being the trick, the data, the technique, the place or the knowledge. This is why I’m very interested in Hacker House (it was almost added to my new years resolutions for 2017 even).

Currently data is the hidden which intrugued me the moment, hence my massive interest in data ethics. There’s been 3 experiments which have really got me jumping up and down about this all… thought I’d share while I eat cheese and drink wine on Christmas day

  • Click Click Click
    A perfect and fun demonstration of mouse tracking on websites using just JavaScript. This is the data the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc use to track users dwell time and implicit actions on the website. Found via some folks on our BBC R&D internal slack.
  • I know what you downloaded (…last summer or even last Christmas)
    This site collects IPs from public torrent swarms by parsing torrent sites and listening to the DHT network. They have more than 500.000 torrents which where classified and have data on peers sharing habits. The slightly twisted feature is the ability to share a link and see what people have been sharing. I promise not to do this but highlights the problem with shortern urls and long query strings you can’t be bother to read or don’t understand how they work (knowledge). Found via Torrentfreak
  • Find my phone
    Man’s smartphone is stolen in Amsterdam, so the same man decides to root another phone and deliberately track the phone. Along with the person who stole it! The results are turned into a video which you can watch on youtube.
    Found via Schneier

I thought WebOS was going Opensource?

Bypassing a Palm Pre Activation

Me and David were arguing like old times about the state of the industry and we got around to the mobile industry… We talked about mobile operating systems and got around to Firefox OS and Ubuntu. David said remember WebOS, look how that ended…

I reminded him that it was going Opensource, however today David pointed me at this

Electronics giant HP is selling off the code, staff and technology involved in its WebOS software to Korean firm LG.

HP acquired the WebOS operating system when it bought veteran gadget maker Palm in 2011 for $1.2bn (£789m).

Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed but HP is not thought to have recouped much of the money it paid for Palm.

LG said the WebOS code would be used to power its next-generation smart TV technology.

The WebOS was created to run smartphones, tablets and other devices developed by Palm that, in its early days, pioneered the handheld gadget industry. However, Palm’s influence has diminished as Apple, Google’s Android and RIM’s Blackberry have come to dominate the smartphone and tablet markets.

In the deal, LG gets WebOS source code, engineers working on it, documentation and the websites that promote it. HP is holding on to patents underlying WebOS as well as technology that helps it connect to web-based services.

It looks like the deal doesn’t effect the code? maybe? who knows?

So much for going Opensource?, I had thought it was going to be like the BeOS of the mobile operating systems.

A win for openness

Android on a Camera

This camera by Nikon is a win for openness, google and of course android

The first mainstream digital camera to be powered by Google’s Android system has been released by Nikon. The Japanese company’s point-and-shoot Coolpix S800c model is being marketed as a “social imaging device”. Demand for compact cameras has suffered because of the rise of smartphones.

Is it ugly? Maybe a little…

Is it fascinating and a wonderful combination? Yes…

Google always wanted Android everywhere and it started happening a while ago. Now this is just a logical extension of where digital cameras may go. Instead of some crazy proprietary embedded operating system, why not Android?

Welcome to Steve Jobs distortation field, where open is closed

infrastructures

Steve jobs is a tricky figure, theres no doubt about that. When he talks, you can feel the distortion field emerging from everything chosen word he uses. As I’ve always said Steve Jobs and Apple are against choice and therefore freedom. Evidence? Well theres tons this week

Steve jobs slagged off Android saying Android is too difficult to build for due to many different types of handsets. He then said "Twitterdeck" (yeah I know – think he meant Tweetdeck, has he got any clue about social media? This wouldn’t be a problem if he didn’t use it as a example) was having a nightmare developing for Android.

Steve Jobs’ amateur sleuthing last night brought up that gorgeous TweetDeck chart showing the vast variety of Android handsets out there, which the Apple CEO used to illustrate the "daunting challenge" he perceives developers have to face when creating apps that work across all devices and OS builds for the platform. Only problem with his assertion (aside from Steve calling the company TwitterDeck)? His opposite number on the TweetDeck team thinks nothing could be further from the truth: "we only have 2 guys developing on Android TweetDeck so that shows how small an issue fragmentation is."

Next evidence.

"Let’s talk about the avalanche of tablets. First, there are only a few credible competitors. And they all have seven-inch screen. This size isn’t sufficient to create great tablet apps."

"And this size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size. We’ve done extensive testing and 10 inches is the minimum tablet size."

"Given that tablet users will have a smartphone in their pocket, there’s no point in giving up screen size. Seven inch tablets are tweeners — too big to be a phone, and too small to compete with the iPad."

What a load of crap, if people want something smaller then the Android tablets are ideal to serve them. In Steve Jobs head, a 12inch tablet might be ideal but for the rest of us, its too big and too heavy to be really useful. Once again choice is the key word here. If you like the idea of smaller tablets, then Apple isn’t offering you the choice. Most iPad users I speak to wonder when the camera version is coming.

Even more crap…

We think this open versus closed argument is a smokescreen that hides the real question: What’s better for users, fragmented versus integrated?

"We believed integrated will trump fragmented every time."

"We are very committed to the integrated approach, no matter how many times Google characterizes it as closed, and we believe that it will triumph over the fragmented approach, no matter how any times Google characterizes it as open."

Android is fragmented, we all knew it would happen but thats not a excuse to give up your choice. I have friends who would like a physical keyboard why penalize them for this? For some people the touch screen isn’t friendly, but steve jobs doesn’t care about them. In actual fact its "Its my way or the highway!"

iOS is closed and google are right to call it so.

Finally in Q&A

One of these days we’ll eventually learn the Android numbers, and I imagine we’ll compete with them for a very long time. But we have very different approaches — ours is to make devices that just work.

Oh yeah of course just work? I’m very sure Android developers are thinking the same. Your not alone in that steve. No in actual fact your only interested in telling people through hardware and software how to live there lives.

Welcome to the steve jobs distortion field…

The Smartphone…

The Smartphone segment

So over the Christmas period I've been at my parents house and they read the Mirror. I was flicking through the Sunday Mirror's pull out magazine called life and came across six pages of anime about new technology from the Far East. Its a reasonable piece and the illustrations are done by Anime artist Kanako Damerum.

One of the pages talked about the smartphone and showed off the Sharp W-Zero3. Which can scan business cards, includes a 3inch VGA touchscreen and Qwerty keypad. Wifi, 256meg of on board storage and MicroSD expansion. I was a little puzzled, my current phone does all that (I discovered Worldcard Mobile only yesterday). Yes I'm not rocking with a VGA screen (I had planned to get the glofish x850 which does have a vga screen) and the HTC Kaiser is 19mm instead of 17mm but its not far off.

So what I never quite got around to before was the fact that Smartphones are still quite novel in a lot of circles. I pulled out my Kaiser in the pub with some friend during a night out and they were like “what the heck is that? is that a computer or something?” I wasn't do it for effect but I did have it with the keyboard and tilt on (i was answering a couple of texts). I guess add the bluetooth headset blinking in my shirt pocket and they thought I'd gone all futuristic or something. But whats fun about the Windows mobile phones is that HTC make them pretty cheap. So you can get a windows mobile phone for the same price as a LG, Nokia or Motorola. So its not about the phone prices.

Maybe people don't like the complexity of the phone? But I would say the Windows Smartphone platform is no more complex that any other phone. Maybe its the style? Could be on something there, but Ted Baker now have an edition of the HTC Touch, LG Prada anyone and what about the most loved gadget of 2007? The Apple iPhone?

2008 is going to be the year of the Smartphone for sure. There is very little reason not to get one and I'm sure the phone shops will be pushing them harder that ever.

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Cheap, hackable Linux smartphone?

Prototype Linux smartphones

One of the world's largest computer and consumer electronics manufacturers will ship a completely open, Linux-based, GPS-equipped, quad-band GSM/GPRS phone direct, worldwide, for $350 or less, in Q1, 2007. First International Computing's (FIC's) “Neo1973” or FIC-GTA001, is the first phone based on the open-source “OpenMoKo” platform.

When I first heard about this, I didn't think much about it but then I started to check out the specs. It sounds and looks a lot like the Windows Mobile devices made by HTC. And to be honest I like the devices but I'm not super keen on the mobile windows operating system. However Symbian for me still isn't great.

The Neo1973 is based on a Samsung S3C2410 SoC (system-on-chip) application processor, powered by an ARM9 core. It will have 128MB of RAM, and 64MB of flash, along with an upgradable 64MB MicroSD card.

Typical of Chinese phone designs, the Neo1973 sports a touchscreen, rather than a keypad — in this case, an ultra-high resolution 2.8-inch VGA (640 x 480) touchscreen. “Maps look stunning on this screen,” Moss-Pultz said.

The phone features an A-GPS (assisted GPS) receiver module connected to the application processor via a pair of UARTs. The commercial module has a closed design, but the API is apparently open.

The Neo1973 will charge when connected to a PC via USB. It will also support USB network emulation, and will be capable of routing a connected PC to the Internet, via its GPRS data connection.

Moss-Pultz notes that the FIC-GTA001, or Neo1973, is merely the first model in a planned family of open Linux phones from FIC. He expects a follow-up model to offer both WiFi and Bluetooth. “By the time one ships, the next one is half done,” he says.

Like most things, its maybe best to skip the first generation and wait for the next one. There's no way I'm getting a phone with no Wifi or Bluetooth. But that super rich VGA is certainly worth checking out.

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