Sunday, January 10, 2010

Flash 10.1 will (finally) Bring Slingbox to Android & Palm Web OS

Slingplayer Mobile on my PalmOS Treo 700P was a huge feature that I wanted in my next smartphone.

I would use the player to watch shows in bed as I was drifting off to sleep, or watch breaking news events. I was driving home the day the bridge fell in Minneapolis and was able to see live video while stuck in LA traffic on my commute.

iPhone, Palm OS, Blackberry and Windows Mobile have supported SlingPlayer Mobile for some time. Each of these solutions is flawed in a serious way:

iPhone- WiFi only. Like so many other apps in the ATT / Apple walled garden, this is LAME.

Palm OS- This is a dying platform

Blackberry- I have no interest in this antiquated OS.

Windows Mobile- See Palm OS

Sling announced this week at CES it will support Adobe Flash 10.1. Devices with Flash 10 support will be able to view Sling Player content on their desktop or mobile devices. Word is this will only work with Slingbox® Pro-HD and Slingbox SOLO. I believe Sling tried restricting which devices would work with the iPhone when the app was released and eventually supported all Sling Devices.

I have sold my SlingPlayer Pro on eBay anticipating Sling wold never get around to supporting Android. I may be shopping for a new Sling in the near future when Android 2.1 comes to the Samsung Moment in the first half of 2010.

UPDATE:  3/20/10 Engadget has a demo here

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Transition to Android: A PalmOS Addict's Story

I was a Palm Treo 700P user for several years. I made the jump to smart phones with trepidation because I didn't want to give up my huge screen and Graffiti text input method. I was using a Sony Clie TH55 prior to the Treo and didn't know how I could handle the switch. The Sony had WiFi, a full color touch screen and Palm's capable OS with a Sony overlay. (My PDA History)

The transition was not nearly as rough as I had expected. I had long been a fan of scroll wheels on the Clie PDA's and the thought of a 5D directional pad was a huge turn off. The transition was made easier because the TH55 was meant to be ambidextrous and placed the scroll wheel in the center of the back of the machine instead of the traditional right-hand side. Minutes after using the Treo 700P, I became a huge 5D pad fan, much like my affection for the Thinkpad's TrackPoint.

The Treo 700P was perfect for one-handed operation. The applications available in 2006 were amazing for their time (still are). It took me almost a full year to tease out the magic streaming podcast capabilities of Kinoma player. I paid $30 for the ability to watch YouTube and hadn't thought to explore more of the program's capability. I became addicted to NPR hourly news and TED Talks.

I also picked up a Slingbox and Slingplayer mobile. I have a DVR at home and the Slingplayer was great to catch live news on the go or the occasional South Park in bed.

Documents to Go was a solid app that allowed you to view and create Microsoft documents on the phone. I could not understand why people flocked to WinMo devices with their sub-par document handling capabilities. You would assume the maker of the native PC based software could make a better mobile experience, but you know what they say about people who make assumptions...

Easy Sync allowed me to sync my work email calendar with my phone. Hopefully, you are not saddled with the Lotus relic at your workplace, but if you are, Easy Sync would have made the early 2000's much easier on you.

I was also able to continue using Graffiti with Graffiti Anywhere. Although not nearly the seamless experience it was on the PDA's, it was serviceable enough on the Treo that I used it about 50% of the time vs. the hard keyboard.

My Search
When Palm announced the Pre with WebOS at CES last year, I thought my ship had come in. Here was the company I had been devoted to since the late '90's and they finally got off their ass and made a new OS. I was at Best Buy the day the Pre was released. I wasn't put off by the iPhone superfan negative reviews that preceded launch day. I played with the phone for about 20 minutes and found it to be very visually appealing, but also very slow and limited. I kept the faith for a couple months before I started to seriously pursue the Android platform.

I needed something that could wire-less-ly access podcasts with one program like Android. This alone eliminated the iPhone from my consideration list. Sure there were NPR and other ad hoc streaming apps, but I wanted a clearing house for all my podcast needs. Android seemed to be lacking this capability and Google stepped up and wrote a no-frills app, Google Listen, to fill the void.

Although the Treo had a physical keyboard, I do not find myself married to the idea of that keyboard. I decided the Blackberry Storm may be the device for me. Blackberry seemed to be putting some amount of muscle behind its application library and didn't seem to be as anal as Apple was about letting users use the full capability of their phones.

I was at Verizon the day the Storm was released. I was intrigued by the click screen, but after 5 or so minutes of using the garbage OS, I went away disgusted.

Directional Pads
Few phones on the market today seem to have a 5D pad. One-handed operation has been sacrificed to ensure a sexy form factor. Palm never made any claim to having an attractive phone. The Treo line screamed, I am a nerd who really likes technology.

True, the HTC Hero and Google Nexus One both have trackballs, but the Hero's is useless and I assume the Nexus One to be similar as it is also made by HTC. I spent another 20 minutes with the HTC Hero on the day Sprint released it. I was in love with the Android 1.5 OS and Sense UI. Unfortunately, the virtual keyboard was garbage and ruined the experience for me. I needed a physical keyboard, even though I loved the idea of the iPhone's lack of a keyboard since day 1. It was just like my old TH55 with a cell phone.

Cutting to the Chase- Samsung Moment
I waited as long as humanly possible to update my beloved Treo 700P. When I read the announcement that Sprint would also carry the Samsung Moment, I knew it would be my next phone. It seemed perfect for me, Android OS, physical keyboard, and optical mouse, the next best thing to a 5D pad. I read the mixed reviews of the device and headed for the Sprint store. They were completely sold out, but there was a customer upgrading from his bricked Treo to the Samsung that let me take a look. I spent no more than a minute checking it out before I headed home to order it off the web through my Employee Discount website. Check your employer for discounts on cell plans. My company has discounts with all providers, ATT, Sprint, Verizon and T Mobile.

Diving In
I exported my contact data from the Palm and uploaded it to my Gmail account. (This is my only hesitation about the phone. Google has such a lock on my personal information at this point. Hell, I am blogging this on a Blogger account.) The contacts merged fairly easily with my email and the phone was connected to my Google calendar as well.

This was the first app I downloaded. It is free and does a good job of hunting for podcasts and managing your favorites as subscriptions. I have mild complaints about how it seems to lag finding the latest podcast and it sometimes starts into the cast and starts over after a short period. I just downloaded an update tonight that I hope will improve these issues. Even so, it is a livable, free, replacement for Kinoma Player. I had no complaints about Kinoma, but technology is always improving...

Slingbox UPDATE 1.10.1
Sling seems to have no interest in Android OS. I have sold my Slingbox. I would love to have this with my phone, but by the time Sling gets on the Android train, Hulu and others may have made cable TV irrelevant. Tell Sling that you want an Android app now!

This was the first and so far only pay app I have downloaded. I love it. Very similar experience to Palm OS, but no sync with your computer. We live in the cloud now :(

I got this after Docs to Go and it may be a viable free alternative with some additional juicy features. I LOVE how the app will OCR text on photos and make it searchable. I use it to snap pics of wines I like.

I am demoing this pay app for two weeks. It has worked fine for me, although I have seen some nasty reviews. If you aren't saddled to Lotus Notes, there must be many, cleaner solutions to sync your work and Google calendars.

This task manager / backup utility is great, and free!

This is an amazing app. Can't believe they don't charge for it. Allows you to set phone settings for different locations, times, WiFi networks, etc. Change your wallpaper at work to your company logo to let your boss know you are a team player!