Archive for category Cloud Services

Integrating the Experience across Desktop and Mobile with Pushbullet

I recall that Pushbullet appeared on my recommended apps in Google Play for a while. 

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Now that I’ve had it installed on my mobile and in the Chrome Browser, I wish I had done it sooner.

What does Pushbullet do?

Pushbullet does a number of remarkably simple things really well to generate a more unified experience across Desktop and Mobile.

When the desktop | tablet device & mobile are connected via Internet access (not necessarily the same Wireless access point)

  • Mobile App Notification are Pushed to the desktop (via browser or desktop app)
    • Send and receive SMS messages via desktop | browser UI
  • Share | Transfer files between Mobile | Desktop devices

For example, we are now all fairly familiar with some multi-factor authentication techniques that involve delivering a temporary code to a mobile handset, which then needs to be entered into a validation field on a web page.   While not terribly arduous it does mean accessing two devices and a couple of screen to ‘port’ that code between the mobile and the web page.

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So where Pushbullet makes it so much more easy, you receive the same message in a notification box on your desktop, making it very simple to copy the code and verify it, on a single screen – almost side by side if you wish.

The Unification of Communication through Pushbullet – considering it is a browser extension is quite tremendous.   It almost rivals some Enterprise UCC services for features and seems rather more transferable across devices.  For example:

  • You receive SMS messages that you can also send back a reply
  • Create SMS message direct from the browser 
  • You get notification of a call connection, with the contact details displayed if available from your contacts list. 

Moving files and images from a mobile has normally involved USB cable direct connections, though of course there are several file sync services that offer a holistic synchronisation service (those are normally orientated around the Mobile to Cloud pathway).  Pushbullet allows you to quickly grab an image or a file and Push it across very rapidly – great for receipt images etc.

It also enables you to

Have you tried Pushbullet ?

If so what do you like or enjoy about it? 

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How Google is Useful

Recently I blogged about Orientating around Android Devices.   While I did mention the use of applications and services in that post, I didn’t call out any in particular.

However, this screen shot, demonstrates one really useful service, I have become increasingly fond of and reliant upon.

That service is Google Now

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As a reasonably frequent traveller the information provided is succinct, timely and ultimately useful in assisting me plan, and schedule my actions.

As it covers a number of topics, including sport, useful local information, etc, and it is available on the desktop too – it is a pervasive, multi-device digital assistance.

Certainly in terms ecosystem and service, lock-in and increasing consumer dependency, I think Google Now, leads the field.

What do you think?

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Music Streaming – Time to go with the flow?

Spotify grandly announced (on Dec 11th 2013) that Led Zeppelin’s albums are now available on the popular music streaming service.

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Having such a globally recognised musically brands as Led Zeppelin, in addition to recent additions such as Pink Floyd, Metallica and The Eagles, in the Spotify stable has demonstrated the weight and momentum behind the music streaming service model.

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Though a number of popular artists still hold out such as: AC/DC, and the Beatles though as these articles point out on-line distributions and sales services (such as iTunes) are being patroned.

I think is significant that these bands which initially held out against music streaming services such as Spotify, RhapsodyRdio etc., are now coming on board.  While there may be real concerns and issues in terms of payment arrangements | terms to the artists (see BBC article “Spotify reveals artists earn $0.007 per stream”) – other services from Google Play (All Access) not forgetting Youtube, Apple (iTunes Radio) and Amazon (Cloud Player).  Admittedly that may be a considerable shrink in terms of pay per stream instead of pay per song (9.1 cents (per song) – via wikipedia (don’t believe everything you read!)) – but the comparison of music streams to actual physical albums sales are subject to drastically different economic models and trajectories.  And certainly from these charts, someone is making money from this.

I am a Spotify subscriber, so I’m not out to rip-off artists, in fact my subscription to Spotify is my way of supporting the music industry.  I now pay something every month, rather than occasionally buying a CD.  For me as consumer the model has great benefits, primarily being no longer limited to the physical copies I have to hand (actually purchased and own). So I am able to enjoy and sample a immeasurably wider spectrum of music than I ever had before (even the radio stations play ‘carefully selected’ playlists)… whereas with Spotify I can enjoy the full range | catalogue of an artist as I wish.   Also I can’t lose or break the copy of the music I have, it’s there when I need it.

Certainly with digital stores and streaming services, the model of distribution and marketing for artists has changed irrevocably, and while it may not be as fair or mature enough in the commercials; I think it’s fair enough to say ‘the tide has turned’ – music streaming (and media streaming for that matter) is here to stay.

For example look at the new digital service from the BBCBBC playlister

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The new digital service allows listeners to tag any piece of music they hear on the BBC and listen to it later.

At a launch event, senior executives from YouTube, Spotify and Deezer explained why the music streaming companies have decided to collaborate on the service.

Do you agree? 

Do you use streaming service – or stay away?

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When Google Replies– Voice Activated Search

Google has had voice enabled search services on multiple devices (mobile, desktop, laptop, tablet) for a while (see >> “search by text, voice, image”).

However, at the recent Google I/O (2013) they announced a “conversational” search experience which has been extended to the browser and desktop experience.

This means Google search responds to an audio search request with an audible answer.

Voice search starts with a click on the microphone icon in the search bar.

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giving the “Speak now” prompt

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and then the “Listening…” prompt

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it captures into text the voice request spoken…

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The search result returned show all the usual feature giving and provides an audible voiceover of the summary text from Wikipedia (where possible).

It also often says “Here is some information about [request]”.

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Often the request is not picked up or understood correctly and the following appears:

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Interestingly, the voice accent and gender are different for different Google domains.

e.g. (google.com – female voice with an American accent, google.co.uk – male voice with an English accent)

At the moment I find it a little flaky and error prone but I presume it will continue to improve as more people engage verbally with Google.

Have you started making use of this service?

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Sweet Suites of Integrated Mobile Forms

I had intended to post this a long time ago, closer to this generation of devices launches, but the opportunity passed.

However, I still thinking it is fascinating to watch the portfolio of devices these internet and manufacturing giants are assembling.  Much of the commentary and opinion has been developed much further elsewhere, however, even collecting images these device suites together on the same page and admiring the aesthetics is reason enough to post.

By announcing the arrival of the Nexus 4, and Nexus 10 to complement the existing Nexus 7Google have intimated that the application and content state within a mobile user experience across a related set of devices, is as a complete and integrated experience possible to date.  Of course this is not the 1st time it is has been brought together, but Google’s  Nexus | Android is certainly aesthetically and technologically appealing.

 

Apple with iOS offer that experience with their iphone, ipad mini and ipad too.  All synchronising via icloud.

Apart from the mass of OEM hardware manufacturing specialists bringing products to the market place, Amazon and Microsoft are the notable service companies making a inroads into the mobile device market.

Almost standing apart Samsung has that oft commented upon position of being a hardware partner with any of these key internet giants, as well as offering a portfolio of devices of its own.   Very much making the market work for it in more than one way.

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Certainly I see the consumer having benefitted from the general evolution of touch based mobile devices, initially championed and established by Apple , and brought to extensive commoditisation and choice through the market entry of Google, Amazon and Microsoft.  Of course there are other players now making moves Ubuntu and Mozilla, as well as Blackberry still trying to retain a market position and relevance. 

If nothing else this post will represent a moment in technology evolution, capturing the phase of the commoditisation and proliferation of these touch based mobile devices.

Do you have a favourite device or vendor?

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R.I.P. or R’n’R (Rip and Replace)– to those free services?

Last week Google made the announcement that their Google Reader (RSS feed Reader) service would be shutting it’s doors in July of this year.

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Like Curious Mitch points out here Google Reader  is not the only service in recent times to close its doors to consumers, particularly those that have grown up used to using ‘free’ or ‘freemium’ model services from various web enabled services.

In fact like Mitch I’ve blogged about a couple of service closures in recent times:

And also would add these services, which have recently shut their doors  :

While I agree with Mitch about the need to assess your service portfolio and understand the risk/impact of closure of any service you may be consuming. Obviously the ‘free to use’ services would be presumed to be more vulnerable, it doesn’t mean those services you may be paying for are not at risk from a failing business model or an aggressive move from a competitor to acquire it. Remember what Nokia did with Dopplr or Google to Jaiku… (the list goes on and on).

Alan makes the clear point in this post about Google’s right to decide to shutdown Reader (or any other service) not relevant to its business strategy | needs.

Sure there may be pain in the disconnection and lose of services rendered by that service.  But the thing to do is to “Be Prepared” to move on, switch services, try an alternative or something different.  One door closing, is may be the opportunity for a new door to open.    Make sure you have a way to liberate your data – and try and find services that support transition and transfer as easy as possible.   Something that is a little more effort, but does build resilience of a kind is to spread your needs across a set of similar services. (e.g blog at Tumblr and WordPress)

So R.I.P and R n’R (rip and replace) go hand in hand in the developing world of internet services.

But this may be only phase or transition as these internet services evolve from start-up status, into established service provider and more technology infrastructure and utility service providers.  Dion put a good post up on the acquisition spree of major enterprise vendors as they move into these service space.  Perhaps these service discontinuation scenarios will become a less frequent issue in the future. When data movement is more easily transferable, and a common set of services is available more stable service providers. However, that may be conjecture… so remember – Change happens!

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My Portfolio of Mobile Devices – now with Google Nexus 7

I’ve recently added a Google Nexus 7 to the set of devices I use.  As a home based worker, I’m used to many aspects of remote working, and optimising the my use of the laptop and mobile phone (e.g. 2nd monitor, blue tooth headset).  However, this month my working location will be office based but away from home, which I thought was enough of a watershed moment to see how a Smart tablet format device would fit into my device mix.

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Device List:

Interface & UX:

All the devices have an touch enabled capability of some level.

The Blackberry has a touchpad control, but not a touch sensitive screen.  This is an improvement on the physical trackball device, and not an hindrance on the device of this size, and physical keyboard is  a more than adequate input option.  The only occasional inconvenience I experience on the blackberry is that the screen is now pretty small compared to many smart phones in the market, so coupled with many mobile enabled websites having been optimised for touch based navigation, the speed and mobility around some web sites can be a little cumbersome.

The Nexus 7 was a refreshing surprise to how easy and simple a completely touch and screen based device can be.  Also with Android Jelly bean 4.2, the touch screen keyboard is gesture | swipe enabled so that with a little practice I am get fairly adept at completely spelling a word with 1 touch and motion of the finger across the keyboard.  The swipe | gesture feature really is great, and with combination of the well designed device hardware and evolution of the Android OS, I don’t have any regrets about waiting until now before purchasing such a device.

I was also waiting for tablet OS which was able to support multiple user profiles, as my family will also have access to this device, so being able to separate use profiles for different individuals is very useful.  It’s often been said that Google Play doesn’t have app ecosystem or content breadth to compete with Apple or Amazon,  having had the device for a little over a week I don’t find either to hold any substance any longer.  Google Play is a well integrated content and application store and I have not been stuck in finding the applications to access my content  – in fact these 1st few days have been a little mind blowing as the sheer amount of content available through applications like Google Currents, Feedly, Flipboard and Pocket have given me a quandary about which application to use for what content or content category.

You will notice that there is also a Physical Keyboard dock (blue tooth connectivity) for Nexus 7 which also acts a hard case cover, and stand. I thought that this would be a useful addition in case I needed to do a lot content creation on the device.  Combined with the Kingsoft Office suite, I can use the Nexus 7 as a netbook format device as well.

The Lenovo Thinkpad has a resistive touch screen which responds to a stylus and has a flip and rotate function on the screen.  But I have never found that much more than a novel feature,  though the flip and rotate screen feature is useful in small face to face group meetings. 

It is my workhorse content input and creation device, and I need both a physical keyboard and mouse, as well as a large additional monitor to optimise my productivity on this device.  My activities in content creation and communication often requires the need for multiple applications and windows to be in operation.   The main laptop screen of 12.1 inches is too small to make multi window navigation and application use convenient. I frequently find the text size or content needs to be reduced in dimension to make that application window fit correctly to fit into the screen.

Integration of Content and Services:

Cloud  and Mobile enabled applications are so well established that this has been fairly straight forward.  Obviously the Blackberry has full enterprise service integration, and can also support a multitude of consumer email services etc.  In terms of Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) Evernote has been my application of choice for a long time, and that is always been a leading light in multi-platform support so it was simple to extend Evernote from the Laptop and Blackberry onto the Nexus 7.

I’ve also been a reasonably long time user of Synology NAS devices at home for home digital content (photos, movies, music etc.) The Audio and Photo playback application work without hitch, and I think it won’t be long until the video playback application is out of beta.  Certainly the download | file moving application made it easier to move content (music and movies) onto the Google Nexus.  I was also able to populate Google Play with my music library too.  So that means with Google Play Music, Synology Audio App, Spotify and Tunein Radio there is no shortage of music content on my mobile devices.  The Nexus 7 will come into its own as a content device when I purchase a good blue tooth speaker and use it to entertain the children when the family travels together.  Though, I must add as an aside – well done to United Airlines, who I flew with recently, for having a great on-demand music library – listened to Alison Strauss, Bon Iver, Robert Plant  and The Black Keys – many more were available too.

Conclusion:

I will be giving this combination of devices a good run in while working away so I will probably posting a lot more to the blog in the coming weeks.

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