Proactive automotive apps?

January 5, 2013

In a previous post, “Synergistic Social Agent Network Cloud” I argued for more proactive apps. I was just reading something that is related to that topic: “Ford Hybrid’s EV+ Feature Learns and Automatically Adjusts Powertrain to Deliver More Electric-Only Driving” Also see “Proactive Agents.”


The clunkiness of user interfaces

September 18, 2012

So much research and patents on UI design and interaction, yet we still have the most banal GUIs. For example, to share a web page on my Android phone I have to do about twenty operations. We don’t really notice how much we have to do since we are used to it and it becomes ‘natural’ like riding a bike.

In a new blog post I tackled this issue. I think those twenty steps can be easily reduced to two.

Links

Keywords

  • User Experience Design (UXD)
  • Interaction Design (IxD)

Samsung Galaxy Note is not too big.

February 20, 2012

Just got the Note. The AT&T model differs from the prior European model, I believe. Previously I had an iPhone, probably could even be the original one. I think my iPhone was using cogs and gears, so slow. If I opened the map and started entering an address, by the time the screen would respond to the first character, I would stumble upon my destination or get there by stopping at every gas station along the way. Well, anyway.

Most reviews of the new Note carry on about the size. Yes, it is larger but not by that much. In fact, like monitors and flat screen TVs, its the trim (bevel) that makes them look larger. The Samsung Note’s screen size is just about right. If Apple came out with a five and a half inch smart phone all the pundits would be drooling and everyone buying; let’s see how cool this would look in the cafe!

If I put the phone in my shirt pocket only about half an inch sticks out at the top, and that part is the trim where the camera and AT&T logo are located. Highly nerdy looking, btw. It is not very pocketable. They could have made the Note even better by minimizing the top and bottom bevels.

So, since it is a cross between a phone and a pad, where and how do you carry the dam thing? Is it squinting into tiny little screens or “hey baby, I’m happy to see you in a square kind of way!”.

As to the phone’s worth? [After using it a few days? Great!]

Screen:
Of course, the screen is great. A Netflix movie looks awesome. But, what noob would really watch many movies on a phone; what about cinematography, sound, and all that? Better for shorter stuff like Youtube videos. At least, currently, for my tastes.

Stylus:
Meah. I tried it once, it did not keep up with my strokes. Perhaps, there is a setting for it. I will probably use it if I can adjust that. I think the old Palm Pilot’s pen kept up with the strokes, so a dual-core 1.5GHz system should do better. [update: Tried it a few times. I selected the eraser. If you stroke too fast, the eraser circle disappears. Come on, really?]. I read somewhere that this lag is due to the Note’s processor having to do it all; until Android 4.0 the graphics chip is not really used to its fullest. Don’t know if that is true.

Apps and OS:
It works and looks pretty much like a Galaxy SII Skyrocket. I think they changed a few things and the Skyrocket seems a little smoother and less error prone. Like the soft keys, volume rocker, and sleep switch are just too sensitive on the Note. Maybe it will take getting used to the new form factor so that the hands don’t trigger unwanted actions.

Active Apps app
I was testing the Navigator GPS app that has voice prompting and all that. Then I had to leave on an errand to a different location. The app just kept telling me “turn here, turn here you idiot; your going the wrong way!” Very annoying. I couldn’t stop it.

So, I clicked on the app for active apps, the navigator did not show in the list, huh? Its speaking, knows where I should be going, not where I want to go. So I just dragged the top of the home screen down (nice Android feature) to list the app, opened it, got to its menu, and exited it. In the meantime I almost went off the highway. Yea, don’t drink or mobile while driving, especially with a Note that needs two hands, and a Padma Mayurasana to manipulate. Maybe these things should except an overriding voice input: “shut up!”. Not you honey, this thing that is always so happy to see you.

Update
Feb 21, 2012:
Headphone does not mute speaker volume?
Was using the Note at work today. Had the headphones on. People looked at me like I’m a nut. Turns out the Note was ringing all over the place. I thought my tinkering with the ringtones was just in my earphones. What is up with that? I don’t remember if the iPhone automatically muted the speaker when the headphone was connected. In both, of course, the music, like Pandora was still going through the headphone. Someone told me I first have to reduce the volume so that the ringer is off, then plug in the headphone. Seems convoluted. [that did not work. If you mute the ringer, then only the media volume is working.]

When I Receive A Call, The Ringtone Is Not Heard Through The Hands Free Headset. Is There A Setting To Turn It On?

There are no configurable options or settings available to turn on the ability to hear the ringtones through the headset, they are heard through the handset itself, only. This is a matter of safety, as the decibel level for a normal call is much lower than that of a ringtone. Due to the decibel level of a ringtone being much louder than the human voice, the ringtones are not audible through the headset to protect against possible hearing loss.

That sounds like a lame excuse. If the handset can detect that a headphone plug was inserted or removed it can reduce the ringer volume to a subset of the media volume. Or should, but what do I know?
Blanking of the screen:
The “normal” settings for blanking don’t stop the screen from blanking so quickly. Turns out that is a setting in the custom power saving mode. Maybe it is elsewhere and I missed it.

Further Reading

  1. On Wikipedia
  2. Samsung Galaxy Note Top Tips Collection
  3. Download Android app, give away your body, mind and soul?
  4. Samsung Galaxy Note page
  5. Samsung Galaxy Note: Unboxing, size comparison to Galaxy S II

  6. The Samsung Galaxy Note Vs Galaxy S II Vs Pockets Showdown / “Pocketability” demo!

Download Android app, give away your body, mind and soul?

January 28, 2012

I was looking to download one of those flashlight apps for an Android phone. I have one on the iPhone.

Found some free ones. So, I hit the download or install button and then looked at the permissions that this app requires or is given. What! It wants to read my phone number, look in my contacts list, make internet connections, look at my school records, review my medical charts, do a rectal exam, interview my neighbors, cop a feel, practice root canal, withdraw from my meager savings, take out a second mortgage, and also, but not the last, peer into my soul and decide if I deserve Moksha or must burn for eternity in some exoteric religious hell.

Ah, no thanks. I’ll just go buy another real flashlight.

The Android market as a whole needs to address this. Or don’t. Just do what Microsoft, Apple, and every other company does, don’t talk about it; don’t even mention permissions. Shhhhh. All apps are dangerous. Secret, its between you and me.

What you expect the User to install VPN, Firewalls, Antivirus, Virtual Machines, etc. Ain’t gonna happen. Besides, security and privacy are partially a human behavior and marketing issue. Lack of privacy is profiting someone somewhere.

Updates
Funny I wrote this and later read about what Google is doing to combat malware. Synchronicity perhaps.

2012-Mar-9: My Samsung Note phablet came with a paltry set of ringtones, unlike the iPhone. Went to Android Market for some. Yup, a ringtone app wants access to everything! Just while viewing the reviews on one of the free ones, I felt a tug on my wallet. What gives? Its a ringtone, sounds, you need to access my contacts, phone, yada, yada, yada…….

Further reading


Tony Bennett – Body and Soul


Coleman Hawkins – Body & Soul


Bill Evans trio + Toots Thielemans – Body & Soul


Upload files from PC to Samsung Galaxy II Skyrocket

November 11, 2011

How do you transfer files from PC to the smart phone?

A family member got the Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket. Awesome! I’m stuck with the original IPhone 3G. Time to save my pennies for a real phone.

Anyway, there is a web page with the info here (http://androidbeast.com/229/import-mp3-files-to-samsung-galaxy-s2-via-kies/). The manual as usual is useless in this topic.

Not to criticize that web page’s content, but the instructions are not too clear. My family member was stumped on the very first step. When I get time I will try to explain it for the non-tech user.

Basically though:

  1. The Skyrocket comes with a built-in app called KIES.
  2. You run that,
  3. connect your phone to the PC with the USB cable, or just wireless
  4. then on the PC you open a browser to a specific address that the KIES app is listening on. KIES will indicate the URL.
  5. After that, you get this user interface on the PC’s browser with a bunch of stuff so that you can pick what you want to transfer to the smartphone. KIES gives you access to much more, btw.

I guess it is ok. I’m an old school nerd, let me see the file system, and I’ll copy stuff, thank you, never mind with those straight jackets like iTunes, Microsoft Live, etc. Grumble, grumble. [Update: On my Samsung Galaxy Note, I just connected the USB cable and viola, had access to the Notes file system. Maybe this is possible on the Samsung Galaxy II, but it didn’t work for me.]

An alternative is to use the sync capabilities that most mobile devices have. Good luck with that. My problem with Sync on mobile devices is that they are too intrusive and invariably slow everything down.

A tall tale
I once had a USB stick who’s sync wanted to sync everything, and I mean everything; it was pulling my soul right out of my body, I could see the ectoplasm pouring out. Luckily it was to a Windows PC, that ran out of memory and crashed. If not I would not be typing this post.

references


Santana & McLaughlin – Love Devotion Surrender – 03 – the life divine


Synergistic Social Agent Network Cloud

November 28, 2010

Summary

Multi-agent systems embedded in the social cloud offer more value then ‘Apps’.

Key words: agents, multi-agent, dynamic networks, social networks, Recommender system, cloud, cloud agent

Background

Mobile apps have not been very gratifying. Testing an app last year gave some clarity to what I felt to be a problem with the current App ecosystem. And, this is not just a mobile issue, but also for traditional computing platforms. I have been thinking of this subject for years. This is just, finally, a very simple and pragmatic example.

Scenario

Last year I downloaded an app that locates the cheapest gas based on my current location. Whether cheap gas should be used in one’s car is not the point here. The app could have been one for finding the best licensed massage therapist or bookstore. The point, is this using mobile computing to its full potential?

What if the cheap gas station is located in an area where crime is very high? Should I risk a carjacking just to save 3 cents? What if I’m about to run out of gas now, is the cheapest gas too far away? We can get even more complicated of course. What if I have to be at an appointment, shouldn’t the cheap criteria be augmented with route info; the cheapest gas is the one easiest to get to on my way to or from my appointment.

In short, the current app is one-dimensional. Real life is multidimensional and the human brain easily makes decisions within this mostly analog fuzzy chaos. If an app cannot make decisions or recommendations in that same world, it collapses the dimensions, it is a dumbing down.

Solution

How can the app be made more dimensional? AGENTS. The app should really be an Agent that cooperates with other agents to fulfill a need, in this case finding cheaper gas. Thus, it should talk to other autonomous agents, such as:

  • calendar
  • law enforcement to grade destination
  • vehicle network for fuel requirements
  • traffic
  • mapper
  • GPS
  • weather
  • retail for
    • quality
    • complaints
    • hours of operation
    • costs
  • Social Net
  • Politics
  • Financial
  • map routing, and so forth.

It should also be informed by human agents in a trusted relationship with the user. What we then have is An Ad Hoc Dynamic Network of Social Agent Recommenders (AhDyNoSAR).

The Mind Map Diagram below gives a contextual view of this idea.

SynergisticMobileAgentSocialNet Mind Map

SynergisticMobileAgentSocialCloud Mind Map (click for larger view)

Let’s look at another example. Someone is walking in neighborhood that has a few restaurants. The embedded Agent notes that the last time the person ate was a few hours ago (based on shopping venue, Calendar, etc.). The shop’s agents are contacted and a decision processing workspace is created. Is the person currently viable, do they have cash or credit available? Each store will check inventory and accounting ratios, does it need to offer a discount or promotion to this person? More agents mobilize to assert their criteria. What are the person’s tastes, dietary restrictions and allergies, past intake (who wants pizza twice in one day?), and other multidimensional agents in a problem space hierarchy are evoked.

After all agents complete their reckonings and the spontaneous net reaches a stable resonance, the person’s intimate personal soft computing agents make a decision. It turns out that the person is currently following their spiritual observance and is fasting today. This result is sent into the local agent milieu and starts a new search for resonance, so no food, how about some clothing or reading material? Again a new recommendation graph is created, religious and political leanings are queried, clothing and accessory rules are fired, ah, that is a very old turban, here are some suggestions.

Unfortunately, the person has now walked into a new map space, a neighborhood park. Now new agents awake: social engagement, entertainment, sexual, defensive.

Interface

It would be so gross if the information that this new cloud offers is shown as ads. A better approach is that this information space is entered as a virtual world, using technologies like that of Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). The consumer becomes an Avatar moving through Recommendation Space, a superimposed view on current locality based environments. Instead of or in addition to other consumers, the other characters are the various agents most visible recommendation goal.

Antagonistic

Unlike Apps an Agent should always be considered adversarial. That is, even when an agent provides a benefit, it also can allow intentionally or via weaknesses a loss of security and privacy since it must negotiate information with other agents. Thus, though current or future standards may be used, they must be in virtual application spaces that use encrypted anonymous data. This will be just as virus and other malware, an ongoing battle.

Collaboration

It would not be optimal to require a download of an agent to each user’s location or device. Instead, agents will exist in the cloud as a multi-agent system. A user will have a private cloud virtual machine and address space for agent storage and recommendation space. To handle disconnected use, an agent will have a mobile agent shadow. It will provide simple assistance and will punt decisions and actions it cannot handle until connection to the cloud is established.

Monetization

With Apps, the app provider may require purchase or try to enforce lock-in or an advertising monopoly. This can also be accomplished by centralizing the App marketplace. This may not work directly with Agents. Agents may not even provide an obvious visible function. For example, an agent may just contribute parking meter locations and status to other agents that use a map agent.

In the real world eventually someone has to pay the piper. So too will the development and use of agents must be rewarded. Some options are:

  • Advertising:
    An agent can contribute to an advertising stream that ultimately reaches the consumer facing user interface device.
  • Agent micropayments:
    Agents will negotiate among their collaborators to maintain a balance of payments, an agent of agents, and this payment is satisfied by the user or the user’s fee structure that the network provider maintains.
  • Purchase:
    The consumer will purchase agents. If the fidelity and number of agents is adequate the quality of service is greater.
  • Other.

Dangers

Security

Of course, the internet is currently wide open and thus this opens up predation to another level if Agent “sandboxes” are porous, if personal data is not secure.

Privacy

The present cavalier attitudes regarding personal privacy exhibited by the large Internet service providers is a big warning sign that giving agents access to even more information would be just another data mining delicacy ripe for exploitation.

Future

And now for an even more far out scenario. In a classic Science Fiction novel, before a character dies, a copy of their knowledge is captured. This intelligence is then available for implantation into someone as an “Aspect”, an agent that can add its unique expertise and judgment to the human host. That is a more radical direct means for accomplishing something that the social networking may evolve into, a means to collect knowledge and translate that into a ubiquitous intelligence.

Conclusion

Presented was a critique of conventional app centric mobile computing and a suggestion that Agent technology can provide a more realistic computing environment. The term Agent was not defined here. Perhaps the difference with an App is just intent or where the output is ingested. The experts are still debating Agent technology and its applications.

Updates

Acknowledgments

Further Reading

All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from Josef Betancourt.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License, See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/

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Amazon Price Check requires autofocus for bar codes

November 23, 2010

Great concept, Price Check. But the bar code functionality requires an autofocus camera. Thats strange. I have the “Barcode” free app and it scans bar codes just fine on the iPhone 3G.


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