Tag: app store

Choose your silo (or, Why are we partying like it’s 1999?)

Depending on when you first got online, images like this that adorned the bottom of web pages 15 years ago may or may not be familiar to you:

Best viewed with IE / Netscape

To me, it’s a symptom of what happens in unregulated emerging markets with an inexperienced audience. Companies attempt to provide shareholder value by aggressively adding users and making the cost of switching to a competitor high. They do this through incompatibility with alternative products. It’s an example of attempted ‘vendor lock-in’ and, at the end of the day, is all about enclosing things for profit.

It’s nothing new. The Agricultural Revolution in England 250 years ago provides another example. Here, common land was literally ‘enclosed’ for private profit. The people on the land protested, but rapacious capitalists forced legislation through by way of ties with the government. In unfettered Capitalism, public goods are sacrificed to the sword of private profit. The trouble is that we’re see this in the digital world again and again. It’s sad to see the lack of collective awareness.

In software development, a ‘feature’ is something that is meant to be there and is (usually) good for users. The opposite of that – something that’s bad for users – is a ‘bug’. For some reason we tend to treat a ‘bug’ of a the wider ecosystem as a ‘feature’. For example, this (despite how shiny your chosen silo might be) is not the mark of a mature and healthy marketplace:

App download icons

Forcibly erecting a wall to make apps inoperable provides temporary profit, but is not in the best interests of users. Even on a basic, financial level, re-purchasing apps because you switch device is frustrating. But, more importantly, it means that users have to make forced decisions before they even start using the apps for work or pleasure. As vendors look towards tighter integration between hardware and software for competitive advantage, software decisions are increasingly also hardware decisions. Am I going to purchase an iPhone so I can access this set of apps, or an Android device, to access a different set?

Often, decisions around software are made on behalf of users. For example by schools attended by students, businesses worked at by employees, or even by family members who ‘know more about technology’. The problem here is that the person making the decision has little option but to hitch their wagon to the roadmap of a company pursuing shareholder value. That company is then only likely to consider interoperability as a last resort.

Thankfully, the world is not simply full of companies trying to make money. There’s also non-profits and people innovating on behalf of users. I’m a paid contributor to the Mozilla project, but I also used the Firefox web browser when it was still called ‘Phoenix’. Open standards and interoperability matter. If you haven’t yet explored Firefox OS then I would encourage you to do so. There’s also, amongst others, Jolla’s Sailfish-powered smartphones, or Canonical’s upcoming mobile Ubuntu devices. What’s different about these mobile operating systems is that they’re putting users first; not just in the sense of creating a delightful user experience, but also in terms of giving users freedom and choice.

Let’s learn from our mistakes. As users, let’s not be seduced by ‘free’ as in ‘free beer’ but actively fight for ‘free’ as in ‘liberty’. Given the amount of time we spend on mobile devices, I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that part of the future of human flourishing depends upon it.

Image CC BY-NC-SA .keeva999

4 reasons you should jailbreak your iPhone 3G

I’m never happy to leave things be. I like doing things with devices that they’re not ‘supposed’ to do. Happily for my bank balance, there’s other people who feel the same way and are a lot more gung-ho with their devices than I am. My strategy is basically to see how they get on and then copy if they’re successful.

I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned that I re-purchased an iPhone after previously returning one. I love it. I paid £59 upfront for a 16GB version, then £45/month for 9 months and then dropping down to the £35/month contract for the remainder of my 18 month contract, as recommended on moneysavingexpert.com.

‘Jailbreaking’ your iPhone allows functionality not offered by Apple either via the in-built software or that available through the App. Store. Here’s 5 reasons to jailbreak your iPhone:

1. Apple doesn’t always allow a level playing field

For applications to show up in Apple’s App. Store, they have to be approved by Apple. Unfortunately, Apple don’t allow a level playing field. For example, applications that allow ‘tethering’ (using the iPhone as a broadband modem) aren’t allowed, and those that offer similar functionality (but are better) than Apple’s offerings aren’t allowed through the net. Podcaster, with it’s ability to download podcasts wirelessly is an excellent example of the latter. More on ‘Apple’s capricious app. policy’ can be found here.

2. Bypass silly things

Sometimes, applications that are allowed through into the App. Store have been crippled in some way. Take the applications that allow you iPhone to be used like a torch, for example. Apple’s rules don’t allow for developers of applications to play around the brightness settings, making this particular one of limited use. Jailbreak your iPhone, on the other hand, and no such restrictions apply! :-p

3. Customisation

I’m sure that I’m not alone when I say that I like my devices to feel personalised, not just the same as everyone else’s. Jailbreaking enables you to make your iPhone yours. Look at the image to the right, for example. I’ve got rotating Mac backgrounds on there, a subtely different theme, coloured signal bars (which change colour depending on signal strength) and I’ve changed the ‘O2-UK’ carrier name to ‘DAJB’ (my initials). I’ve got lots of applications installed on my phone, but I just have the ones I use most often available at-a-glance. The rest are hidden away in a coverflow-style program for app. launching (see below). Much better! 😀

4. Mobile broadband with iPhoneModem

I bought a mobile broadband modem when we moved house and I was without landline broadband for a few weeks. This week I’ll be selling it on eBay. Why? iPhone Modem allows me to use my iPhone as, guess what? Yep, a wireless broadband modem. It works most straightforwardly in conjunction with Mac OSX, but it’s not impossible to use with Windows or Linux. Result!

Interested in jailbreaking your iPhone 3G now? The best place to start is probably the link below:

modmyi.com/wiki

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