Google I/O 2013: Keynote

03:10 by akylas. Filed under: Hardware,Mobile,Software

Today concludes the first day of the 2013 Google I/O developer conference. This year’s I/O event was a bit unique in that it started with a three hour keynote, and is the only day for which a keynote is to occur. This is unlike the previous year where the first and last days had keynotes scheduled. The keynote also oddly ended without a significant announcement regarding the Android platform, or the controversial Google Glass program. I discovered that attendees of the 2013 I/O conference would not have an opportunity to participate in the Google Glass Explorer program, which became another pain in the side of people who had to suffer through the very unreliable registration process the previous years for this conference.

While the keynote had these two large omissions, it was filled with some relevant, and well-received updates. In particular from a social perspective, Google has performed a significant revision of their Google+, Hangout, and Messenger applications and effectively unified them for once under one common infrastructure. This allows users to have synchronized conversations between many of Google’s platforms, but also between different devices, without missing a beat in conversation. Including this, they made a significant change in the user interface to match that of the evolving Google+ model, which I have to admit is a pleasing direction that they are taking.

The second of the two changes I’ve felt were significant for me was the announcement of the “Google Music All Access” service. The analogy I would like to use here is a web-based version of Microsoft’s Xbox Music (or really, their Zune Music model). I’ve always enjoyed Zune Music, and probably have had two thirds of my collection through their service, the other being non-DRM music that I have purchased. For those unfamiliar with what Microsoft offers, they allow you to pay a monthly fee to download an unlimited amount of DRM music for free, which can be played on any compatible Microsoft device. In this case, it was limited to the Zunes and supposedly the Windows Phone devices as well. Google has developed a similar service that allows you to choose any song or album and add it to your library, allowing you to revisit and play the songs in full any number of times, for a slightly less cost than what Microsoft offers ($8/month versus $10/month respectively). I have enjoyed Google Music more than Zune recently, only for the shear fact that I’ve been able to pull up my uploaded collection at any time and listen to my music, particularly under the various conditions I find myself in at work. I don’t have to carry an additional device around, I simply can open my web browser. Of course, the biggest downside of this is the lack of music availability in conditions for which there is no network connectivity, but alas, this is the service.

Lastly, one of the things many attendees enjoy anticipating at the conference is the well-known “swag” that is received, arguably the best out of any conference since the total retail value often far exceeds the cost the attendees had to pay to attend the event in the first place, at least minus the airfare and hotel. There was much speculation that the swag was going to include another revision of the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 devices, or perhaps the fabled Motorola Google X device. This did not end up to be the case to much surprise. The only swag given out this year was a Chromebook Pixel, and depending on where you lived, outside or inside the United States, attendees either would’ve received the 32GB WiFi model for the former, or the 64GB LTE model for the latter. Many people have been confused the choice of swag, given that a vast majority are attending for the purposes of using Android, especially when the majority of talks are focused on this platform. I have always considered the Pixel an interesting laptop, one that is very well engineered, although I have never been able to use one directly until today. I have to admit my initial taste of the hardware remains. It is great, and easily comparable to the Macbook Pro. The form factor is quite nice with a beautiful screen to go along with it.

The software on the other hand is left to personal taste. It is generally agreed upon that the $1,450 price tag for a laptop that is simply a browser is quite excessive. This was blatantly obvious to me when within the first 10 minutes of using the laptop I was contemplating and researching how I might be able to install another Linux on top of or along side Chrome OS. I would love to be able to use Fedora on this laptop with Gnome 3. Even though the hardware is very nice, I would not recommend someone purchase it for the purposes of Chrome OS. Some also have speculated that this ridiculous circumstance is a precursor to an upcoming shift in Chrome OS, but this will left to be seen.



Getting ADB working with the WiMM One

20:20 by akylas. Filed under: Hardware,Mobile

My first hurdle in starting development with the WiMM One was getting it recognized via adb. It took a while to find out the steps needed to get it working, but hopefully these will be helpful for someone:

  1. Ensure you have the latest driver package installed via the Android SDK.
  2. If you updated the driver package, and you’re running Windows, you may have to update the driver of the device in the device manager
  3. Next, if you’re on any platform, run the following commands in your terminal (if you’re on Mac or Linux, you may have to prefix some of these commands with ./ if you find they do not work):
    1. cd [ANDROID-SDK-PARENT-DIRECTORY]/android-sdk/tools
    2. android update adb
    3. cd ../platform-tools
    4. adb kill-server
    5. adb start-server (Note: If on Mac or Linux, use sudo adb start-server instead.)
    6. adb devices to ensure that your computer now recognizes the device

From there you can adb install packages, access the shell with adb shell, view the logs with adb logcat -v time, and many others. Hope your WiMM One is now functioning properly. Drop a comment if you continue to run into issues.



WiMM One Developer Kit Arrives

20:08 by akylas. Filed under: Hardware,Mobile

My WiMM One device (model 330) arrived this week while I was out in San Francisco. It had been dropped off on my doorstep the day after I flew over. I could have spent many flight hours further examining device! That’s what the weekend is for though.

Opening the box it arrived in yields the interestingly designed WiMM One box.

WiMM One Developer Kit

WiMM One Developer Kit

The outside of it is a strange plastic holder for the internal box inside. You have to use a plastic tie around the internal box to really get it out. What you’re left with is a two part box, the top containing the WiMM One device, while the bottom holds all other components, documentation, and the watch band. The documentation is left wanting, and can really simply be considered a “Quick start guide”. I wasn’t expecting much more though, since it’s a Developer Kit after all and not a consumer device. Given this, they did a great job with presentation.

WiMM One Device

WiMM One Device

The contents of the box warns you to ensure you charge the device for a couple hours before using it. Whether this kicks the battery into gear is uncertain, but I dutifully applied by hooking up its dock to the AC power adapter and heading to sleep. The next morning, I linked the WiMM One with the management web server, put it in the watch band, and headed out to work. It doesn’t take much to get it up and running. After you sync it to the management website, ensure you force a sync on the device to download all the changes you made to the configuration on the website. Besides that, there were two things that I found non-intuitive at first:

  • To change watch faces, press and hold down when on the watch face and it’ll bring up a slider allowing you to swap between the available ones.
  • One of the major features of the device is the ability to pair it with your phone and receive caller ID and SMS messages on the watch. It took me a while to find the application, and I could not seem to find it on the Market. On the phone, visit http://m.wimm.com/ and it’ll give you a link to download the application. From there it’s pretty trivial getting the watch sync’d to the phone, and it’s pretty awesome.

I find the SMS notifications to be one of the nicest features of the device. I often miss SMS messages arriving on my phone, and occasionally miss phone calls as well. The WiMM One will vibrate and ring when a new SMS comes in, and display the SMS on the watch face. It’s perfectly readable and I actually wish that the font size was smaller. The watch will vibrate and make noise despite what you have your phone currently set to, which is great in my opinion since I like to keep my device on muted all the time to suppress the typing and other ambient noises the phone produces.

The device comes with a number of (albeit simple) applications pre-installed:

  • Weather
  • Calendar
  • World Clock
  • Timer
  • Alarm
  • Stopwatch
  • Settings

The notable application of this list is probably the Calendar. The application can pull down calendar information from either your Google account, or a Microsoft Exchange account. Since the watch is running Android 2.1, I imagine many would find difficulty getting it up and running with Exchange mailboxes that have stringent ActiveSync requirements. I never bothered attempting to pair my account with the device for two reasons, 1) You have to provision the account through the management website. I wouldn’t want my calendar information being filtered through a third-party website. 2) Even if the website was not being filtered through the website, but the watch itself is responsible, it certainly would not be able to meet all the ActiveSync requirements and simply be rejected. I will have to learn to start using my Google Calendar a bit more to take advantage of the watch’s capabilities.

Even though the watch only comes with a handful of application, there are a number of “alpha” and “beta” applications available through the WiMM forums, ranging from games to the first re-implementations of popular Android applications in the Google Market. WiMM Labs is planning on launching a Micro App Store some time next year for easier management of applications. The only way to install apps at the moment is to hook the device up to a development machine and use adb install to install the APKs. The same is the case for uninstalling them. Once the store goes live, you’ll be able to simply install and uninstall apps from the web services portal.



WiMM One Developer Preview

14:10 by akylas. Filed under: Hardware,Mobile

I attended an Android Developer Conference, aptly named AnDevCon, in San Francisco earlier this week. The event had quite a few classes regarding specifics of developing mobile applications, not only on Android but many incorporated elements of developing for Apple iOS as well. Topics ranged from the advanced technical side (Deep Dive in Android Security, Tuning Android Applications) to beginner-level discussions. I have been testing Android applications for some time, but have not actually developed one. I thus had sporadic knowledge of the tools and best-practices and felt this conference was a good reminder of some of the core foundations for development. I think I will still have to pick up something more extensive as there are probably still gaps in my knowledge.

So what’s my motivating factor? It isn’t necessarily to develop an application that I’ll be able to sell on the market and make money from. That’s a nice thing that a lot of developers try to do. The conference was not only about classes on technical topics. Given the nature of the event, many vendors were present showing off their new static analysis solutions and services, or trying to promote their new ingenious ad framework that will shower you with money. Most of what the vendors were displaying was expected content, it was still fairly interesting. Many of the vendors were start-ups trying to get off the ground, intermixed with big names such as Qualcomm, Motorola, and Cisco. One particular company I took fondness of was WIMM Labs and their flagship Android platform.

The platform is a combination of hardware, micro-apps, and web services that tie it all together. As outlined on their website:

The WIMM Platform integrates hardware, app tools and web services into a highly scalable product development model. It can quickly take you from product incubation and testing to full-scale manufacturing and sales. And the product categories it’s perfect for are endless: health, fitness, mobile payments, fashion, enterprise, travel, entertainment, communications and others.

During the conference, they released their development preview device, the WIMM One, a smartwatch running Android 2.1. It boasts a 667MHz processor, 160 x 160 pixel screen that operates in two modes, 2GB of on-board storage, compass, accelerometer, WiFi, and Bluetooth. Not quite the amazing hardware, but it’s a watch. Not much you can ask for unless you want that watch battery to drain in a handful of hours.


WIMM One smartwatch. Picture courtesy of WIMM Labs.

I quickly picked one up, especially since they were offering a special launch promotion that reduced the price. The watch is expected to arrive some time next week. What makes WIMM One notable is that it’s really one of the first Android watches to make it out the door and into the hands of developers. There’s a few competitor products to the WIMM, which I hope to cover in a subsequent post shortly. I’ll do a review of the watch once it arrives, but there’s not much that can be focused on with much scrutiny–it’s a developer preview. The platform is new. I will have to base the analysis on its potential. From what I know now, it’s looking pretty good.