Monthly Archives: September 2011

Playing with SMS…

I’ve always liked the idea of hooking SMS into a webapp. If it weren’t for the cost of SMS charged by unscrupulous carriers, I think we’d see a lot more SMS-related apps using shortcodes generated by services like TextMarks and Twilio.

Just to play around, I created the service ‘NBAINFO’ on TextMarks. Text 41411 NBAINFO and then the three letter code for you favorite NBA team (e.g. ‘NBAINFO BOS’ for Boston Celtics, ‘NBAINFO MIA’ for Miami Heat…) and you’ll receive back information on their 2010 season. Granted this isn’t the most meaningful use of the service, but it with some database magic the could be expanded to create generic SMS-based references for when 3g/WiFi are unavailable/untenable.

I imagine a service used to check and report polling abuses, for instance. With a few simple commands, users could confirm reports and also set flags (whether or not volunteers, oversight on the way, for instance) for their local station. A command could also provide a summary of each station’s status as a whole.

Re-presenting DoogieWrite.

This year I’ve started using more seriously a web-based tool I built last year, DoogieWrite. In short, it’s an HTML5 text editor with a minimalistic feature set and retro look.

Although the app is meant to evoke memories of the closing scene of an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D., (the theme music is available in-app, as popularly requested), DoogieWrite’s color scheme is actually patterned after the Memo Pad, the default function of the Atari 800 8-bit computer of the early 80s, my first computer.

Although the project itself is highly indulgent, I do believe the cool blue of the Memo Pad (coupled with Chrome’s excellent full screen mode!) promotes a distraction-free writing environment, something that is harder to achieve on our always-connected, media-rich laptop screens.

There have been some hacky workarounds. Although DoogieWrite features an ‘autosave’ sort of feature through HTML5 local storage, there’s no syncing between browsers/computers… and so a ‘save to text file’ option was important to me. Unfortunately, there exists no truly feasible and lightweight way to save a local file from HTML5/Javascript yet, so I had to settle for a small PHP script that generates a text file on the server and serves it to the user. (The text files are deleted from the server within the hour and are not accessible to anyone else). Having to settle for this workaround was painful to me, as I’d like the app to be completely usable offline. It’s close.

You can use DoogieWrite, and I hope you do, at!

Initial Thoughts on the Velocity Micro Cruz Tablet…

The Velocity Micro T301 CruzWhen searching for inexpensive and smaller Android tablets for a case mod project I’m considering, I was shocked to see the rock-bottom prices of some Android tablets on the market. We’ve heard the horror stories before, and so naturally, I was wary when I found the not-quite-rock-bottom $150 price of the Velocity Micro Cruz T301 with some pretty respectable customer ratings.

I ordered the tablet having well read what to expect. I knew out of the box I wouldn’t be able to use the Android market. To be honest, I can’t think of one app off the top of my head I’d want, anyway. As long as this device browses the web and browses it well, I will be pleased.

I have to say, I am pretty pleased with the tablet thus far. I happen to think the 7″ size is an overlooked segment of the tablet market, and I find it fits it one hand, not unlike the original Samsung Galaxy Tab. The back of the case does have a unique texture and the buttons are perhaps a bit gaudy, but overall the tablet feels solid. The screen is not the sharpest, but I appreciate the 800×600 ratio. Many tablets this size go for the overly long and thin approach, hoping to capitalize on the ability to watch “widescreen” movies, while really just depriving you of portrait screen real estate.

The experience using the tablet is where the tablet has really exceeded my modest expectations. Firstly, I did not have to upgrade to Android 2.2 as the upgrade was already complete. Nice. Next, I tried browsing the web and found the browser zippy and responsive to my commands and keystrokes. I was scared to death this device was going to chug and choke on even the most elementary tasks, but I am happy to say, that it looks like a most competent web browsing tablet.

I have not tried the Kindle store, or the Cruz market, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it. I should also mention the tablet came with a docking station, a protective pouch, and a 4GB SD card. Not bad extras for a budget tablet.

Admittedly I haven’t pushed the tablet very hard or expected very much, but I anticipate books and websites being the majority of most tablet users’ needs, and in these areas, the Cruz seems quite the good deal. Of course, I’ll report back if anything changes.