Nokia mobile theme for Drupal demo

In an effort to show what you can achieve with the nokia_mobile theme that (hopefully) will be released shortly, I set up a small demo site with some dummy content. You can visit the site with your mobile device at dtest.dreamhosters.com. Don’t hold your breath, it’s dummy content, but the device detection and how the theme adapts based on the device capabilities should be evident.

The Mobile Plugin normally uses a PHP implementation of the WURFL API, unfortunately on a cheap hosting service (I bought dreamhost’s CHEAPEST possible offer on purpose) this crashes the server. So for this demo I started implementing what is in my view the next step, a very basic device detection that will enable site owners to decide what they want to do. If they have a lot of content optimised for different devices, they should pick WURFL and use the advanced rules settings available in the plugin, on the other hand, if they want a basic detetion and provide just two or three layouts, a simple detection should be more than enough. With the current demo version, no cache files are generated and the detection is instant. I would like to make this part of Mobile Plugin, eventually and better integrate the device classification that I built in the nokia_mobile theme.

More on device classification in the next days.

Drupal + Nokia templates = GREAT mobile theme

Nokia has always had great resources for developers and designers and I am very pleased to note that they keep being ahead of the competition. Forum Nokia recently released some nice templates to help inspire designers and also make it easier for new comers to get started. This is all great, but what about the site owners? Creating a mobile presentation for their sites isn’t THAT easy. So, which are the most popular Open Source CMS platforms? Easily said, Drupal and WordPress.

Here I am today showing you a fully functional preview of a nice mobile theme that I designed based on the official Nokia templates. It comes with two design implementations one for low-end devices (will work on all Nokia devices, but should be good for any XHTML-capable browser) and one for high-end devices such a Series 60 (Symbian) and Maemo, but also iPhone, Palm Pre and Android – all running webKit!
Also, we have provided buttons and images in 4 different colours so you can personalise your design easily via the standard theme configuration menus.

The theme relies on an existing Drupal module called Mobile Plugin, so you will need to isntall that along with the plugin.

What should you do with this theme? Well, if you are lazy and all you want is to turn your Drupal site into a mobile-friendly site, just install the plugin and the theme and all your mobile visitors should be very pleased. On the other hand, if you agree with me that mobile is the future and that it’s the most exciting thing happening in technology today, what you should do is download the templates and see how you can further extend the theme and make it better and more the way you like it.

The project is Open Source and should very soon appear on drupal.org, so you are more than welcome to send feedback and improvements. In the meantime you can download a preview.

PS: If you use WordPress you might want to take a look at the WordPress Mobile Pack that has just implemented the same templates!

DISCLAIMER: This project was kindly sponsored by Forum Nokia

UPDATE: link to the preview has been removed, see the official project page for the final release.

Apple headphones are crap

I got my first iPod many years ago (even if I was not an early adopter at all!) and the headphones that came with it were crap. They were the classic plastic headphones that you can buy anywhere for 2 Euro. I don’t know about you, but when I use them for more than 1 hour they hurt my ears.

Later I bought the first generation of Apple in-ear headphones and while they never hurt my ears they actually never worked properly. I expect them to remain in my ear for more than 10-20 minutes without having to keep pushing back in. Yes, I tried the other plugs that came with it and no big change.

Following a friend’s recommendation I bought some really expensive Shure in-ear headphones. While the Apple’s in-ears costed me about 50 Euro, that was money thrown down the drain, while the Shure have been rocking for more than 2 years now and I am really satisfied.

When I got the 3GS a couple of weeks ago it came with the original plastic-headphones. I had seen some presentation that explained how better they were, so I gave them another opportunity and the result is, I’m afraid, that they still hurt. 😦

If you are planning on buying headphones, please, consider buying some good ones, Shure, Sennheiser, Atomic Floyd all make great ones. It will seem like you are spending way more, initially, but if you use them regularly it’s a well worth expense.

Maps and navigation innovation

For quite a few years in-car navigation has been a very good business. Companies kept improving their hardware and selling every other year (if not within a year) a new device to their customers. I am talking about the navigation systems like TomTom and Garmin, not those that you buy integrated in your car, of course.

The interface had, over the years, small improvements and refinements, but hardly any major change. While Garmin was the leader up to 5 or 6 years ago, at least in Europe TomTom has taken a clear lead both in pricing and UI. Some might argue Garmin has better accuracy, but it’s not SOO much better, in my opinion. Companies like Navigon have tried some innovation, but they haven’t conquered enough market share, at least until now.

Then mobile devices entered the game. It happened in various small steps like the introduction of GPS chips and Nokia’s acquisition of NAVTEQ.
Also, Apple has proven that people LOVE maps on their phones and need something that is not necessarily a navigation system while driving. See for example slides 5 and 11 from this great presentation by Skyhook (the technology providers for location services on iPhones and other devices).

Nokia has come with some interesting application, service and business model, see the Ovi Maps and these 2 demo videos. It is very interesting, it is definitely going to hit Garmin and TomTom, but it’s still a paid service, so it will not kill the other businesses.

Apple has quitely acquired a company called Placebase. This confirms the interest of mobile device makers in location and maps services (and probably also adds to the current Google-Apple competition). Obviously, relying on Google’s Maps wasn’t good enough for Apple, hence expect some innovation here. It will have to be seen what they can achieve when competing with Nokia’s technology acquired from NAVTEQ and Google, it cannot be just eyecandy.

Now comes in Google with Android 2 and the new maps service. There’s a good quick look from TechCrunch, Google Redefines GPS Navigation Landscape: Google Maps Navigation For Android 2.0. Google’s service is going to be free to use and comes in an Open Source OS. Not only, it comes with some very interesting innovation in the UI and service such as the use of Street View, the ability to search for Points of Interest on your route and traffic alerts. Yes, points of interest have been there for a while, but how good are they? It doesn’t seem to me like they can be compared with Google Maps on the web. I expect this on-device service to be as good.

OpenStreetMap proves that you can create a good map with crowd sourcing and if Google is going to be in millions of phones within next year, it will not be hard to add a small button that makes you share “anonymous” data to Google so that they can track a lot of information with minimal effort (it’s not hard to guess there’s a motorway when you’re traveling at 150km/h on a straight line).

What is the future of companies like TomTom, Garmin, or even those that sold maps? Who can provide the level of detail that Google will have?

Nokia Mobile Web templates competition

For some reason I must have missed that there was yet another competition at Forum Nokia. The guys are really working hard on helping the community and giving good reasons to developers and designers to create great content for Nokia devices.

It’s almost over, but if you know how to do it, you might still make it before the deadline on Oct, 31st. See the details of the competition on their Wiki, Wiki mobile web templates contest instructions.

Best of luck!

Life is a great adventure

My last blog post was almost 3 months ago, I would not be surprised if no one is reading this any more. Before that I have been blogging very little. Twitter is taking a lot of inspiration, I admit, but also most of my “writing energies” have been focusing on mobiForge. Writing for mobiForge, as part of my dotMobi duties, has been great and offered great visibility, of course. My adventure with dotMobi is about to end, anyway, after more than 2 years it is time to move on. With that, I expect some more time for this blog.

A few ideas are already taking shape, but the reality is that I am going back to the white board and start thinking about new ideas and new projects. They might be in mobile or they might be somewhere else. Of course I think the future is ubiquitous, so mobile will have some space in any plan I will make, but the bottom line is that I will have some time for myself. Some time to think about what is exciting on the Internet today and maybe what is not quite as I would like it to be. From this, I expect some new exciting project will come.

Do you have a cool idea? Do you want to share thoughts? Let me know!

Peculiar device recognition by Disney

Earlier today I followed a link on mocoNews about Disney announcing record visits on their mobile site. I remembered Disney has a nice disney.mobi address, so when I read that the article talked about visitors to “disney.com” I was a bit surprised and wondered if it was a mistake. With my Sony Ericsson V640i I went straight to the .com and to my great surprised I saw a nice mobile site. My curiosity immediately grew from 0 to 100!

I opened a nice xterm and started playing with curl and headers. Here are a few discoveries:

  • disney.go.com is the real address, no matter what you use, you are always using the .go.com domain
  • device detection happens in the very first page, once you’re on disney.go.com you are going to get the desktop site with flash, javascript, etc
  • the real mobile site is at m.disney.go.com, once you’re there you will always get the mobile site
  • the iPhone seems to go to the desktop site, but then gets a special layout
  • no matter what headers you set, if you go to .mobi you will get the mobile site
  • the desktop site is served with a Windows server, so I assume developed in .NET
  • the mobile site is served from a Coyote linux, using Tomcat
  • if you only provide the User-Agent string of a mobile device you will NOT be detected as mobile
  • in order to be detected as mobile you will have to provide a valid UAProf URI, and that’s actually enough by itself
  • the iPhone on disney.mobi gets the same presentation as all other devices, i.e. not the same as if you visited disney.com in the first place

There is definitely some broken flow here, although I think the mobile experience is very good and the detection at the root is a very good move. Now, will someone from Disney tell me how many visits they get from mobile compared to desktop? I’d love that. 😉

Some nerdy stuff if you wanted to replicate my tests.

Basic request (and then follow the redirects):

curl -D – http://disney.com

Basic request with mobile User-Agent:

curl -D – -A “Mozilla/4.0 SonyEricssonV640iv/R1EA Browser/NetFront/3.4 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1” http://disney.com/

And with UAProf:

curl -D – -A “Mozilla/4.0 SonyEricssonV640iv/R1EA Browser/NetFront/3.4 Profile/MIDP-2.1 Configuration/CLDC-1.1” -H ‘X-Wap-Profile: http://wap.sonyericsson.com/UAprof/V640iR101-3G.xml’ http://disney.com/

And just in case, with iPhone User-Agent (and no UAProf as it doesn’t serve it):

curl -D – -A “Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 2_2_1 like Mac OS X; it-it) AppleWebKit/525.18.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.1.1 Mobile/5H11 Safari/525.20” http://disney.com

Even more nerdy note, the desktop site sends the following header:

X-Cnection: close

According to a quick search some proxy or gateway in the middle.

Speaking of crappy User-Agent strings

I am normally a fan of Opera Mini and I use it quite often on my V640i, but yesterday we stumbled on a very wierd string.

A Samsung SGH-E740 (on Device Anywhere, so you can probably try it yourself) has Opera Mini installed and the User-Agent string is Opera/8.01 (J2ME/MIDP; Opera Mini/1.1.7621/hifi/tmobile/uk; Motorola V3; en; U; ssr).

Now WHY is that “Motorola V3” string there? Surely this is not a Razr V3, surely Opera Mini aspires to be a better browser than the one pre-installed on the Razr V3, so WHY?

I don’t have a clue, of course.

PS: The X-OperaMini-Phone-Ua header is there and has the original User-Agent string.

Predictions on the Apple Tablet/Netbook

Here I am, on a nice Samsung NC10, according to a personal survey one of the most popular netbooks these days (every single netbook at dotMobi is an NC10!). I really wanted an Apple netbook, but it’s not coming and Apple seems reluctant to release one or at least according to their public announcements, the last one just a few weeks ago.

My own take on this is that they are still not happy with what they have and certainly they have no plans to compete with the 200-300 USD products such as the Dell Mini 9 (AMAZING price for a whole laptop).

If I look at the general Apple trends and the technologies they rolled out in the last year or two, I have a list of features that I think they will (or would) include in a netbook if they ever released.

Let’s start from the display which of course determines the overall size and is often identified as the main battery-eater. In line with the latest Apple products, it should be an LED monitor and should be 10 or at most 11 inches. Smaller than that you should use an iPhone, bigger you should buy a 13″ MacBook or MacBook Air. I am not going into the reasons why you would want a 10″ laptop, I’m using it just now and I know a lot of users that are happy with this size. Even though admittedly very small, it is VERY portable.

The hard disk will not be there or rather, it will be SSD memory. The MacBook Air had it since launch and even if expensive it has a number of advantages such as that it’s not a movable part (very important in an ultra-portable), uses less battery, weights less. Apple has already leveraged the technology and know exactly how to use it and what the downsides might be. The Dell Mini 9 has a ridiculous 4GB SSD, Apple should do something better, the Air has 128GB, for a netbook 80 or 100 might be enough even though these days space is never enough.

Now think about the experience Apple has with engineering design, casing of the new 17″ MacBookPros and the MacBook Air, you can expect that it will be VERY light and very thin. I doubt it can be much thinner than the Air, so I would expect it in the range or 1.8cm in the thickest point and the weight should be around 1.2kg VERY attractive.

The small details: no ethernet, wifi 802.11n, bluetooth, 1 USB. Pretty much like the Air.

I think the new Ubuntu Netbook Remix has an interesting UI, clearly optimised for such a small laptop with limited resources. I would not be surprised if Apple came with a version of OS X optimised for these power CPUs and small screens. It would be slick as usual, simple and effective, as Apple has got us used to. Could be touch screen, but I think it will not be, if you want tactile feedback it needs to be thicker than what you can get with an LED display and they will want to be able to say it’s the lightest and thinnest of all. I would expect a comfortable keyboard, or at least as much as it can get in such a device. I repeat, a comfortable keyboard and this should rule out a large multitouch trackpad that also acts as a keyboard, users still need tactile feedback while typing (did I mention how impressed I am by the NC10 keyboard?).

If you factor in all these specs, add the Apple premium price, it is going to be in the price range of 1000 USD (or Euro as they are pretty much the same at least in Apple’s mind). It’s a high price for a netbook, but Sony has already done that, they paved the way, consumers will not be so surprised by the price and I can see them queuing to get one. 1000 is still a reasonable price for a computer, do you remember how much we used to pay for laptops 2 years ago?