Archive | November 6th, 2009

iPhone Tethering on AT&T: One Year and Counting

6. November 2009


iPhone CalendarExactly one year ago, on November 6th, 2008, I was siting in the audience at the Web 2.0 Summit when AT&T Mobility President Ralph De La Vega shared good news from the stage: The company would “soon” be permitting iPhone users to tether their phones for use. I assumed he was a reliable source and blogged the glad tidings.

I also assumed that “soon” meant a matter of weeks or a month or two, so it was startling when Apple announced that iPhone OS 3.0 would support tethering seven months later and named 22 carriers who would be ready on day of launch–and AT&T was not among them. The carrier merely said that it would support tethering at some unspecified date–which turned out not to be early August. Most recently it’s said that it needs to upgrade its network and that “We expect to offer tethering in the future,” which falls short of a promise that it will ever do so.

All along, of course, some folks have tethered their iPhones via hacks, software  that runs only on jailbroken iPhones, and even a program that was very briefly available on Apple’s App Store. But they’ve risked the wrath of AT&T, since tethering violates the carrier’s current terms of service.

As far as I know, nobody at AT&T has publicly explained what its president was doing whipping up excitement for tethering when allowing it without time-consuming infrastructure improvements would have been imprudent. But it seems likely that it now wants to go to extreme measures not to get anyone’s hopes up until it’s absolutely, positively sure that tethering is ready to go. I hope that day comes soon.

But I also keep asking myself an ugly question: If the company still seems to be having trouble dealing with the quantity of data being consumed by iPhone users who can’t tether, what does that say about the chances that it’ll allow them to hog even more bandwidth via their laptops anytime soon?

Steam Snag: Digital Retailers Boycott Modern Warfare 2

6. November 2009


call_of_duty_modern_warfare_2_Just days before Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is released, several digital retailers have decided not to sell the game.

Is it because of that controversial scene where the player acts out a terrorist attack? Nope. It’s because the game’s PC version uses Steamworks, a software platform for multiplayer match creation, downloadable content and anti-piracy measures. Direct2Drive, Impulse and GamersGate say they oppose the forced installation of third-party software on players’ computers (Direct2Drive calls Steamworks “a Trojan Horse”), and so they are sitting out on the biggest computer game of 2009. Bold move.

Of course, that’s only the official story. Steamworks is a part of Steam, Valve’s digital distribution service that happens to compete with the boycotting retailers. As 1UP so eloquently put it, “having to fire up Steam to play the game you bought from Direct2Drive is a lot like having to walk through a McDonald’s every time you want to eat a Whopper,” so you can understand the retailers’ position.

The bigger issue is that Modern Warfare 2 is taking away many of the things PC gamers love about PC gaming. Last month, chaos ensued when developer Infinity Ward said there would be no dedicated servers allowed for multiplayer matches. Instead, everything will be handled though a console-style matchmaking system, and the game won’t support user-created mods either. (Ars Technica has a nice rundown of how messy this situation has become).

The forced implementation of Steamworks ties into those earlier developments as a way of controlling the PC gaming environment, and making it more like the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. The problem is, that’s not what PC gamers want. Modern Warfare 2 will probably sell well on the PC anyway, but it’ll be a neutered experience, and one that hurts the free spirit of PC gaming as a whole.

Dell’s Adamo XPS: Incredibly Thin! Unexpectedly Odd!

6. November 2009


Dell Adamo XPSOkay, now we know why Dell was being so secretive about its new Adamo XPS laptop: It’s not only remarkably thin (9.99mm) but also uses a design which is unique, as far as I know. The keyboard hinges to the display not at its edge but part way up,so the keyboard is angled upwards. As seen in the photo above, the ports are on the display half of the system rather than the keyboard part. And you swipe your finger across some sort of band to open the case. Very, very unusual.

Most attempts to “improve” laptop design have flopped, but the Adamo is intriguing, at least. It’s kind of hard to figure it out without seeing it in person–which I haven’t done–but reports from those who have are at least guardedly positive, and say the angled keyboard makes for comfy typing.
Props to Dell for trying something different, at least. It has a preview site up with basic specs for the new Adamo; it’ll cost $1799 and be out for the holiday season.

Any guesses as to whether the slanty keyboard will be successful? Can you envision other PC manufacturers plagiarizing the idea, or is this the 2009 equivalent of an IBM butterfly Thinkpad?

5Words: Cheapie iPhone 3GS Coming Shortly?

6. November 2009


5words$99 iPhone 3GS for Xmas?

Droid: What you should know.

Skype legal hassles over! Please?

Twitter starts to test retweeting.

Windows 7 outselling Vista handily.

Band Hero sued? No doubt!

Slacker radio hits Android phones.

Orb media streaming for Macs.

It’s Wikipedia in handheld form.

Technology isn’t making us hermits.


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Google Magazines: Now Actually Findable!

6. November 2009

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Google Books LogoI keep writing about the wonders of Google Books’ archive of scanned magazines–most notably, the utter delight that is the complete LIFE. Every time I do, I pause to wonder why it’s practically impossible to find a magazine unless you know it’s there. Problem solved, mostly: Google Books now has a page with thumbnail images of all the magazines to be found there.

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Is it Too Early to Start Designing the Verizon Droid II?

6. November 2009


Droid IIVerizon Wireless starts selling its first Android phone, the Droid (“by Motorola”) today. I’ve been using a unit loaned to me by Verizon for a week, and remain mostly impressed: The Droid couples impressive hardware with the much-improved Android 2.0 OS, and the result is the first Android phone that’s fully worthy of being compared to the iPhone 3GS and Palm’s Pre. (It’s most definitely an example of the class of device that Walt Mossberg calls “super-smart phones.”)

I don’t expect every Verizon customer who’s currently lusting after the iPhone to buy a Droid instead, but I think a meaningful percentage will–and that overall, they’ll be pleased.

But the Droid is hardly above criticism. As I’ve been using one and mostly enjoying the experience, my mind has been racing ahead to…next year’s model. (I’m assuming there will be one: Already, Verizon is releasing another phone in the Droid lineup, the Droid Eris.)

So here’s my quick wishlist for the phone I’m calling the Droid II–the next major collaboration between Verizon, Motorola,and Google.

A better keyboard. I want to like the Droid’s wide QWERTY keyboard, but so far I can’t muster much enthusiasm for its feel–the overall thinness of the phone has resulted in keys without enough travel for truly satisfying typing. (I do like the fact that it frees up all of the handsome screen’s 854-by-480 pixels for content, not virtual keys.)

It’s gotta be possible to squeeze a better keyboard into the space the Droid has–for one thing, the little five-way controller to the right of the keys seems superfluous on a touchscreen device. Dump it, and you could widen the keys and make them more comfy. I’d also be tickled if the Droid II took a cue from the AT&T Tilt I used to carry and angled the screen up when you slid out the keyboard.

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