Creating Mobile Websites

First off, apologies as it’s been quite a while since I’ve made a posting. I’m gonna try and change that :) I’ve really got no excuse. So, to try and get back in the groove, I’ve just created a new website project that uses varying parts of PHP to do a number of things – mostly to keep me informed of the ever changing Washington State weather. It has a configuration file that has a listing of all of the passes in Washington State and then from the pass names, it has a few arrays that specify cameras, etc and them embeds them in to a mobile based website:

http://wsdot.227volts.com/

Check it out. It defaults to Snoqualmie Pass because that’s the one I travel over most. However, you’ll notice at the top left, the three horizontal bars. If you click on the three bars, by default it will show you the cameras associated with that pass. The cool feature however is if you click on the pass name at the very top of that menu system, it will take you to the “main menu” and list all of the passes. Simply click on your pass of choice and presto, you now are whisked away to that pass and all of the associated cameras. It also uses the WSDOT RSS feed to grab the weather quickly so you’re always up to date. No need for an app, no need to have to pinch and zoom on WSDOT’s site, you’re all set!

If you like it or have feedback or comments, please let me know!! Send me an email – my address is simply justin@227volts.com!

Enjoy!

Using algorithms to evaluate status

Today I had an interesting one happen. Starbucks has a reward program wherein if you use their card 15 times you go to a “Gold Level”. Once at that gold level, it keeps rotating every 15 times. You can check the status by simply logging in to their website and go to your “My Rewards” page or your account. Interestingly enough, today when I logged in, I got a page that said “Gold Level” however to spread the word about the program, they provide you with a social media plugin (FB & Twitter) at the bottom. Somehow though, because I was at the reset point (0/15) the reward plugin wanted me to tweet I was at a Welcome level:

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Hmm, looks like there might be some work needed on that algorithm Starbucks Winking smile

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Send me email at my web address–what?

So, I take the bus to and from work every day as I’m still a bit European in my ways. The bus company – I won’t mention any names – recently announced some new routes and as such they’ve posted announcements about the upcoming changes. Have a look at this one, which I found funny (at 6 a.m.!):

proposed route 234

The best part, which like I said, made me laugh at 6:00 a.m. was Jack’s email address in the last paragraph. If you’ve got problems you’re supposed to send him email at jack.whisner@kingcounty.gov/metro which makes me wonder Jack, do you want me to email you or go to the website cause that surely isn’t an SMTP compliant address.

DOH!

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Dear Columbia, you need a java update

So, the winter season is upon us and so are the updates. Yep, I’ve found another one. Was shopping for a new winter jacket the other day in the Columbia store, and what did I come across? You guessed it, another kiosk infraction (and it’s running XP – yuck)!

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Let’s take a closer look at that there kiosk:

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Hmm, how about a bit closer?

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Yep, Java Update Available. Yet another reason why automatic updates are a bad idea (especially on kiosks).

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Is United Ready for Continental?

Over the past ten years travel has been a necessity in the business I’m in. I’ve had to travel all around the world for various clients, projects, meetings, etc. As such, I’ve been a Delta Platinum/Diamond member for multiple years, Virgin Atlantic Silver/Gold member, Scandinavian EuroBonus Gold member and most recently United Premier Executive (I’m only a few miles away from 1K status).

In the recent months of travelling on United, Jeff Smisek, CEO of United prefaces each safety video with the fact that as of October 1, 2010, Continental is now United and United is Continental. This is also the focus of many of the articles in Hemisphere and it got me thinking, is United really ready for Continental or are they going about this without planning? Here’s my thoughts:

Painting Planes

In both the October 2010 Hemisphere’s as well as now in the November article, it’s pointed out that the first thing we’ll see as frequent flyers is the new livery. Big Deal. Here’s a suggestion, why don’t you take the money it takes to paint the plane and invest it in something worthwhile, rather than making sure the new United font is on the outside and the globe is on the tail. What do I mean? Well, a while back United was a pioneer in on-board wireless connectivity. They boast about being the business man’s airline, yet when I get on board, I don’t have wireless capabilities. Almost every other airline does. Take the money you’re using to paint the planes and put it to something more useful.

Take care of your Frequent Flyers

Currently in the Miles Plus Frequent Flyer scheme, there are five tiers (four if you count the default one) – Premier, Premier Executive, 1K and Global Services. The last tier is a coveted one for buying loads of full fare tickets but the others are attainable by flying more often. However, while there are some “perks” with each tier, in my years of travelling, the perks with United are minimalistic when it comes to flying and it seems as if they don’t care too much. Here’s an example. I was on an international flight the other day and asked if business had checked in full. The gate agent said no. I asked as a Premier Executive if there was anything I could do to get an upgrade and their response – no. Again, this is something small, but other airlines give vouchers as that level and also should Business Class not check in full, be kind to those that travel often and give them a complimentary upgrade – after all, the food is already on the plane and the person is going to be on the plane as well.

Continuity

October was a busy month and I got to go both east and west – essentially crossing both oceans. What I noticed amazed me. There is no continuity between overseas flights on United. What do I mean? Well on a flight from Seattle to Tokyo – an international flight – alcohol is free. Yet, take a flight from Chicago to Amsterdam (same distance), again another international flight, but this time you’ll get charged $6.00 for alcohol. Another small thing, but the mapping program onboard…go east you get one version, go west you get another one. Further, go west and it will end up in English as well as the destination language. Go east and it will only be in English (however I must say the east bound version seems newer, more clean and the better of the two versions).

Channel 9

United was really on to something good when they introduced Channel 9 on to their planes. I remember about 4 years ago finding this channel and thinking, wow, for the avid flyer, this is pretty cool. For those of you unfamiliar with Channel 9 it’s “straight from the cockpit” wherein you hear the communications of the pilot with ATC. However, the problem with channel 9 is it’s like a crap shoot. One plane will offer it, one won’t and there isn’t any reason why. Sometimes pilot’s tell you they’re going to do it, other’s just ignore it and there’s no method to the madness. Why not write in to the policy of the flight attendant or even the pilot in his/her intro message to tell you about channel 9, as you were really on a winner on this one, but now it’s hit or miss…

Conclusion

There are more than the above I’ve noticed however they are some of the main ones. Another one that makes me laugh is that United don’t seem to provide luggage tags for Frequent Flyers (it promotes your airline after all guys), yet every other airline does. It gets so bad that a group of people over at FlyerTalk have devised their own. Again, is it important to update the livery rather than simply print luggage tags for those who fly often with you?

In short, I think United really has some housekeeping they need to look at/address first before they think that taking on Continental is the best thing to do. After all, what are you going to do when merging Continental traveller’s in to your system? The elite get free standby and we don’t on United and their top tier is 75,000 miles not 1K.

Seems United is trying to run before it can walk…Just like any IT project – planning is critical here and I’ll be interested to see what comes off the back of this grandiose plan/scheme that Mr Smisek says “good things are going to come from”…

Adding the cool factor to Microsoft

With the upcoming release of Kinect for the Xbox (everyone should have gotten a system update within the past few days), Microsoft has added one other “cool” factor to the marketing push for Kinect. The executive team at Microsoft, who are prominently displayed on the Press Pass site:

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/a-d.aspx

have all been turned in to avatars, with the exception of Sinofsky.

execs

I don’t see Apple doing this any time soon, nor does Nintendo have Wii characters for their executive board Smile

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Dear SeaTac, I upgraded your kiosk for you

So the other day I flew in to SeaTac thinking, wow, I haven’t seen any blue screens or problems recently (ok, I did see a few but didn’t have my camera), when BANG. At that moment, walking to catch the bus (yes I take the bus to and from the airport), I came across a kiosk and it had a dialogue box up. Most of the time when I come across a kiosk with a dialogue box it is usually stating it needs a reboot, however this one, strangely enough wanted to upgrade…something I don’t think should/is/was supposed to be a consumer task. At any rate, here is the kiosk:

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and the close up of the kiosk:

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so, I went ahead and clicked update for the version update for SeaTac. Not sure if you’re now out of EULA or your license allows you upgrades to LogMeIn or not, but hey, you gave me the chance/option to upgrade and as we all know, the newer the better and with software always use the latest and greatest, right?! Smile

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You know you were on a bad flight when…

This morning I woke up to check my email after travelling 16 hours yesterday to my destination only to find the following email in my inbox:

On behalf of all of us at XXXX Airlines, I want to take this opportunity to reach out to you regarding Flight XXX on October 24th.

I realize how alarming it can be to experience unexpected turbulence during a flight such as you encountered during your travel from Tokyo. Please know that XXXX utilizes some of the best technology available to help ensure smooth air for our customers. Even so, turbulence can at times be unforeseen and simply unavoidable. Our crew used their experience and training to ensure the situation stabilized and that everyone was comfortable as the flight continued to XXXXX. I can certainly appreciate any concern and anxiety you may have felt personally or on behalf of others. Thank you for your understanding of this unusual in-flight event.

Whether in the air or on the ground, our priority is keeping our customers and our people safe. And while safety is at the core of our business and the foundation of everything we do, we are equally committed to service. We welcome an early opportunity to better serve your travel needs in the near future.

I guess as a seasoned traveller I take turbulence for granted but it must have been really bumpy for that email to be sent (oh and of course the paramedics did have to board at disembarkation to help some passengers with wounds, so yeah,  it was probably serious).

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Why Yahoo! never made it too far

Disclaimer: I am not a programmer. I did a bit of programming in college and I “dabble” occasionally. I by no means consider myself hard core but the following might assume I think I am.

We all know the hype of IE9 right? It’s the latest and greatest out of the halls of Redmond. They’re suggesting for all of us to upgrade and try it out and see for ourselves it’s the best thing since sliced bread. OK, I took the plunge, I upgraded just like many others will – in order to try it out as well as try to be ahead of the IT curve, in such a case I get asked any questions.

Today, I took my browser to Yahoo! Answers because Bing told me it would have the answer to the question I was looking for. I got there and Yahoo! told me IE9 wasn’t a new enough browser and I should upgrade:

yahoo-answers-upgrade-ie

What’s even more comedical is when I click on the Upgrade Now link, in lieu of taking me anywhere it takes me to a page that says:

yahoo faux paux 2

Yep, that’s right. IE8 isn’t available for my system. So, three learning experiences we need to teach Yahoo! in order to get them up to speed:

1. When testing for browser compatibility your programmers might want to use $browser >= $version and not just hard code specific versions

2. P.S. I’m running Windows 7 which runs IE 8 fine although you don’t seem to think so

3. IE8 is not ONLY available for XP, Vista and Server 2008. It comes bundled with Windows 7 which makes it available for that OS too (see number 2 above).

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Spring, Samsung, Google and WinMo

I use Sprint for my cellular service like many other Americans. It’s reliable, it’s fairly inexpensive, it has an unlimited data plan and, well it works (I won’t mention friends and colleagues who love their fruit machines, but can never get them to work due to the network, but alas that’s another story). When I initially signed up for service I thought I’d try something new, something different. For that, I opted for the Samsung Moment:

samsung moment

pretty sleek device, had a QWERTY keyboard and overall looked and felt nice. Over time it had some issues (airplane mode, upgrading from 1.5 to 2.1, being s-l-o-w and sometimes non-responsive) but nothing too drastic that the ole IT cure all (turn it off and back on again) couldn’t fix.

Well, with TechEd Berlin coming up, I’ve got to go to Berlin to speak which means going overseas. Sprint for those of you who don’t know run on a CDMA network and 99% of their phones are CDMA. What does this mean? Well, it means that their phones won’t work overseas, so there goes the moment out the window. So, being a Microsoft MVP and one who is always sticking up for their technology and software I pushed out the boat and had them issue me an Intrepid:

Search-Bing-via-Voice-on-Samsung-Intrepid-2

Runs Windows Mobile 6.5 and so far, not too bad. Now that I’ve got the history out of the way, here is the intent of the article. The Moment versus the Intrepid or essentially Android versus Windows Mobile.

Andriod

At first I wasn’t sure I’d like it as Google makes you log in to the device and their primary goal no matter what anyone says is that they want to track you and use your information to their advantage. It’s their business model. So, no gmail account, no phone services (or limited ones at that). However, once that was past, it was a pretty streamlined experience. I can’t say it was perfect but it was good. The default OS seemed to work ok, it had functionality and worked pretty well. However, I never ended up getting a full day’s battery out of the phone at normal use and I can only equate that to the OS.

As for the breadth of applications, not too shabby, however this is where they need some work. The Android Marketplace is at best a Moroccan Bazaar. No quality control, no real information, just put your app up here and we’ll help tout it to the Androidians (that’s my new name for those who use Android).

Windows Mobile

After the first few days of having the Intrepid, I found it pretty straightforward and easy to use, however I missed the bigger screen. The keypad on the Intrepid wasn’t as nice either, but that’s not really an OS drawback/feature, but it’s noticeable. Now, back to the OS. I will say Google seemed to trump Windows Mobile 6.5 here as when I click the start menu on my Windows Mobile I get some strange fandangled layout of applications which reminds me of some tetris like game on Xbox. You can’t rearrange them, you can’t ABC order them, you can only send to top and hope for the best. Mail however works a treat and the battery life allows me to have a full day of work on the phone without needing to reach for my charger. The Windows Marketplace too seems much more streamlined and groomed compared to that of the Android Market, however my concern with the WM Marketplace is pre-requisite checking. Bing has an app that requires special resolution, however it doesn’t say that anywhere and not until after I downloaded it and the .cab tried to install itself did it error out telling me I had an incompatible device. These kinds of things should be checked prior to download or even better yet WinMo, don’t show me them if my device is uncapable.

Summary

In short (I know I didn’t do too much comparison, but I like to keep these articles below 1000 words), they’re both good solid devices. I will say I feel more productive with my Intrepid Windows Mobile device but knew I had more “fun” options with my Moment. I have a full days battery life with the WinMo, but had more of the community behind the apps on the Android. All in all, if Windows Phone 7 Series is more crafted and well refined these two players, Android and Windows Mobile could easily take back some of the market that Apple has had the stronghold on for some time now and the competitionwill only make the devices strive for betterdom in the long run.

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