Even Poolside, Casinos Entice by Hand-Held

No more need to fret about all that wasted time waiting in line for the buffet at your favorite casino. Or those tedious talks in a convention room just a few yards from the casino floor. Help is on the way to make it possible to gamble any time - in fact - all the time, by using a PDA.

Interview: Microsoft's Ya-Qin Zhang seeks power

The head of research for Microsoft's Windows Mobile software for handheld computers, Ya-Qin Zhang, was in Taipei last week talking up the company's latest major operating system release, Windows Mobile 5.0.

Linux v. Windows in Gadget Smackdown round 3

Tired of Linux v. Windows flamewars on the desktop and servers? Check out the Great Gadget SmackDown, pitting Linux against Windows in the arena of embedded/device computing. The article counts up how many devices are actually shipping with each OS, in nine categories such as mobile phones, audio/visual entertainment devices, and robots. In all, just over 600 devices are included, and the results are surprisingly close.

Interview with Giorgos Sarris of Crazysoft

One of my favorite PDA game companies around is CrazySoft, developing arcade shareware games mostly for PalmOS and some for PocketPC. We had the pleasure to interview its CEO, Giorgos Sarris, from the sunny Greece.


1. How difficult is to port an application from PalmOS to PocketPC and the other way around?

Porting an application can be easy but can also be very difficult. It depends on the developer and many times the PDA manufacturer. To make it easier you must have in mind the porting when you first design an application.

A frustrating thing for a developer is the resolution of the PDA screens. Palm OS have 160x160, 320x320, 480x320 or 320x480. Imagine that we develop a game for most of these resolutions and then we want to port it for Pocket PC. We have to re-design all the graphics and most of the routines to fit in 240x320 and 480x640! This is the hard part.

If all PDA manufacturers agreed to use similar screen resolutions, porting would be a lot easier and all of you would see our applications in most of the models. But I don't see this coming'¦


2. Which platform yields the most revenue for you?

For us Palm OS is far more profitable. But this has to do that we are years in the Palm OS business and we have established marketing channels and alliances. We are new to the Pocket PC world and we cannot really say. Everybody can easily see the strength of a platform by many ways. For example go to Handango where you can download demo applications for both Palm OS and Pocket PCs and find a popular game that has a trial version. Compare how many downloads it has for Palm OS and how many for Pocket PCs. This will give you an idea of the market but only that.


3. Do you have plans to support the Smartphone PocketPCs?

They way they are now, NO. We have many difficulties when porting our games and it just does not worth it. But this seems to change with the launch of the new 2005 Windows Mobile Platform. As I have seen Microsoft tries to unify Windows Pocket PC and Windows Smartphones with this new platform. In the next days we will port our best seller '˜PaintBall 2' for Pocket PCs 2003 and 2003 VGA and we will try also the new 2005 platform. After that we will decide if we should make the port to the 2005 Smartphone platform.


4. Do you have any plans to support Symbian?

Yes we have. Symbian market is growing rapidly. We have plans to port some of our games and apps in Series 80 Symbian PDA phones and maybe Series 60. We will have to see about that. If screen resolutions were more compatible we would already ported most of our applications. I'm not sure what do companies think when designing a new Pocket PC, Palm or Symbian PDA. It would be in the benefit of all if they used similar screen resolutions. But this problem started way back when they first established and I suppose they just continue it to be compatible with their previous modes.


5. You are a Greek company. How popular PDAs are in Greece?

This is a nice question. In Greece Palm OS is not popular. It never was and I suppose it will never be. Maybe because it was never really supported be Palm inc or by Greek companies. For example I'm not sure how many Treo 650 they sold here. I hope I'm not the only one.

Pocket PCs are commonly used by companies. They are really popular when it comes to business and not so popular for personal use. I think Pocket PCs in Greece is a strong market and it has to do with Microsoft's support. Translated OS and technical support near the customer is some of the reasons PPCs are preferred.

But this scene changes when it comes to mobile phones and symbian pda phones. Greeks have a passion for Hi-Tech mobile phones. 8 months to a year is usually how long they keep their phones. Everybody wants to have Hi-Tech features regardless if they use them or not. So Sybian PDAs are very popular in Greece. Every hi-tech, expensive, new, gadget technology that has to do with mobile phones and communication is well appreciated in Greece.

REVIEW: A Cold Look at Fedora Core 4

Fedora Core 4 (FC4) is the fourth release of Red Hat's open community project and was released a few weeks ago. I tried both the DVD and the CD version for x86, on the LinuxCertified.com laptop, model LC2430. This is a 2.8 GHz P4, 512 MBs of RAM, 1400x1050 LCD, Intel onboard AC97 sound card, National Semiconductor NIC, 40 GB drive, combo drive and an ATi Radeon 9200 Mobility 64 MB.

All previous versions of Fedora have worked out of the box in this configuration, but it seems that the latest versions of the kernel has a bug with certain LCD displays where the installation screen won't initialized and load without beforehand adding the "nofb" or the "vga=971" command in the kernel configuration line. The latest Ubuntu and Debian seem to have the same problem too.

Anyways, that was just the first hardle (easy to solve), the next one was to make the system install from the DVD. It wouldn't work, not even after 3 burns (installation would die at random places), but the CD version worked flawlessly. Anaconda, the installation program for FC4, is maybe the best installer today, in any operating system. It is both powerful, and easy to use. Fedora has also made some massive steps towards making booting faster. FC4 booted much faster than any previous version, still though, not as fast as more lightweight OSes, like BeOS, FreeBSD or even other distros like Arch and Gentoo. Nevertheless, I am satisfied on the booting speed and optimizations done on FC4's sysinit.

FC4 But I wasn't as happy with the memory consumption. About 230 MBs of RAM were used on a clean, default load (according to "free", just after the OS loaded -- no major cashing has occured yet). I find this requirement huge, it means that computers with 256 MBs of RAM will swap heavily after only a few minutes of using the system (e.g. after opening Firefox and Evolution or OOo alone). The specs mention that minimum requirement is 192 MBs, but this is unrealistic for the default number of services that are loaded. I had to go and unload some services before I could see the RAM usage go down to a much better 140 MBs (but I don't expect new users to know where to look or what to disable, so I still find this poor). And btw, why can't I kill completely 'eggcups' (it keeps respawning) which takes so much RAM, and I don't even have a printer in my house? There are other, smaller bugs in there too, but I won't go into detail on them, i will only mention the big ones.

Regarding the overall feel of the distro, FC4 has now moved to the traditional Gnome look: two panels, one on top and one on the bottom. Additionally, it now uses the Clearlooks theme by default putting into sleep the venerable Bluecurve theme. I much prefer Clearlooks to Bluecurve, but I find it weird that after so many years Red Hat was trying to make KDE and Gnome apps look similar with the use of Clearlooks all this effort is going to the bin, as there is no Clearlooks port to Qt installed. On the bright side of things Fedora feels pretty spiffy. I have witnessed gnome applications loading faster than the same app would on a competitive so-called "lightweight" distribution, on the same machine. I am sure that Red Hat engineers did some work on making the system feel more responsive, and this work is commentable and easily spotted, not only when compared to previous versions of FC but also when compared to other distros.

FC4 comes with some new features, like native support for XEN, OOo 2.0-pre beta (looks sweet), SELinux's targeted policy that has been active since Fedora Core 3 has been improved to cover dozens of more daemons. There is now Integrated Clustering Technology, an open source clustering file system that allows a cluster of Linux servers to share a common storage pool. There is also GGC 4.x with a rewritten optimisation infrastructure and improved support for a native Free Java software stack. This includes parts of OpenOffice.org 2.0., Eclipse, and Apache Jakarta, among others. Speaking of Eclipse, it runs natively on GCJ, but it is pretty slow to load and operate, and it has visual bugs too (check that menu in the shot). However, it is very impressive that it actually runs on this Free clone of a java virtual machine.

There are some more parts in the distro that dissapointed me though. Firstly, there is no support for Synaptics in the Gnome preference panel. If that was not bad enough, the actual defaults of Synaptics used are dissapointing, it's too sensitive and the horizontal wheel is enabled making your interaction with Firefox very poor, because it is unexpected to have Firefox going back and forth in history just by using your touchpad. I would have expected Red Hat to include some sane defaults in there, given the fact that most of their engineers use laptops. Oh, yes, I forgot, Red Hat uses mostly IBM laptops internaly, which they don't have touchpads. Go figure.

The second problem I have with Fedora, and it's been there for more than a year, is its "Add/Remove Applications" utility. Well, if you try to make a big install with many packages, it would return errors to you, like in the screenshot. And if you do manage to go around them, towards the end of the installation it would tell you to swap CD1 and CD2 after 1 package has been installed. This was a terrible user experience. I had to swap CD1 and CD2 about 30 times, in less than 5 minutes! Obviously, their package manager needs to be more intelligent.

FC4 And then there is Network Manager! Red Hat engineers are advertising the tool everywhere on their blogs as one of the great utilties in FC4, and yet there is nowhere to be found in the Gnome menus or the "Add an applet" pref panel. How do I load this thing, it's a mystery to me.

Two more peeves include the fact that the up2date applet in the panel does not inform me anymore of FC4 updates (while there ARE updates available), it stoped working after my first update. Also of importance is the fact that Fedora does not automount FAT/NTFS partitions and so new users will find this a bit dissapointing (the "security" excuse is lame, encrypt the fs if you need security, I don't). Having to use "mount" in the command line or have to mess up with your /etc/fstab is hardly fun. And speaking of fun, there is not much entertaining that's going to happen with a default FC4 system, as mp3 and other proprietary media technologies are not included for licensing reasons. Lastly, I would much rather see Graveman or Gnomebaker included instead of the scary-looking XCDRoast (KDE is not installed on my system, I do not like its look & feel or clutter).

So, how do I feel about Fedora? Well, it's a powerful system, it works well-enough, but not well-enough for me. It is not a polished system, and it is somewhat bloated, making a potential polishing attempt very difficult as going through the hundrends of applications and libraries included can be daunting. I am sure that many people will find it good enough though, and being a Red Hat-based solution makes it very compatible with most proprietary and other apps, so that should be a good enough reason for new users to pick FC4 instead of another distro. It is not bad by any means, but these bugs/problems I encountered so far really irk me personally. I like clean, fast, small, usable, stable, bug-free, good-looking, sane and lean but powerful systems. Fedora Core 4 is mighty powerful but it delivers poorly on the rest of my requirements. However, I must note that I really like on Fedora its system configuration panels, making the distro's configuration a breeze and offering ease of use where many other distros don't.

Rating: 6/10

 

Review of Nokia's 9300 Communicator

Nokia's 9000 series Communicator devices have always had a few things in common. They've had big displays, full QWERTY keyboards, and they were huge. The Nokia 9500, a current model in Nokia's lineup, still fits that description. But with the 9300, things are starting to change. The 9300 still has a big display and a QWERTY keyboard, but it isn't exactly huge - especially when compared to earlier models, as you will see.

WiFiTunes for Pocket PC

This application will discover via Rendezvous any iTunes running on Macs or PCs on your local network and allow you to browse the library or playlist and then stream MP3s directly to your PDA. Example uses include connecting your PDA headphone jack into a stereo in another room in your house.

A04 Released for Dell Axim X50 Series

Rom Version A04 for the X50 Series has been released. Fixes and Enhancements: 1. Improved the power-on mechanism. and 2. Enhanced the system robustness when changing the memory frequency.

Fondling the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet

An in-depth review of the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet with many pictures.

Pepper Pad Internet Media Player shipping today?

According to Amazon they will be shipping the Linux/Java-based Pepper Pad Internet Media Player today.

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