Not Your Average Bar Code Tattoo – It Scans

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Back in July, I upgraded my single parallel port tattoo to add on Fire Wire ports and a bar code. Underneath the bar code was my name in binary code and for those who don’t know binary, I wanted the bar code to scan properly to display my name, just in case. Below is the picture I posted online of my new ink.

Bar code and ports tattoos

When I told Jordan at Americana Tattoo that I had put off the bar code for years because it seemed everyone was doing one, I added that I finally decided to do it because I found a way to make mine unique. He told me how a surprising number of people ask for a bar code and just give him any random bar code to copy. Apparently, there’s a lot of people out there who, if thrown on a checkout line scanner at the supermarket, would likely come up as a $0.99 bottle of filtered water. Hearing that made mine seem so much better, but I never got around to scanning it until Friday, when a friend told me he scanned the picture of my tattoo with his T-Mobile G1 and it worked. Of course, I immediately headed to Jared’s office to borrow his G1 and try it myself. I took my video camera:

In case you’re wondering what got me thinking (and talking) about my tattoos again, take a look at some of the recent blog posts that I noticed popping up that were talking about it. I love that it inspires people to write about it.

There was another link in Spanish that I can’t find at the moment.

With all this tattoo action buzzing, it also got me thinking about what’s next. I know I want more ports, but I also want to move forward with the beginnings of what will be a whole cyborg theme. The ports are just a start. What’s the best geeky tattoo you’ve seen? Any suggestions on what I should do next?

Up Close and Personal With the T-Mobile HTC G1

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Right as I was about to publish my iPhone vs G1 comparison, I received an email letting me know that T-Mobile was sending me a G1 to review. The phone arrived and I dove in, playing with, pulling apart, photographing, and generally getting to know it. In the last week, I’ve learned a lot more about the iPhone’s first real competitor, and there was a lot to learn, so hold on tight.

T-Mobile HTC G1 Review : Powering On

What is the G1?
For a long time, those of us who care have speculated about what Google would bring to the table to compete with the iPhone. At first, speculative mock-ups surfaced. Then we found out that Google was just going to focus on the software platform and leave the hardware to the pros. Finally, we saw the late-summer release of the aptly-named G1 from T-Mobile. Like any phone I would even consider purchasing these days, the G1 is much more than just a phone. With integrated Google searching, maps, access to email, games, third party applications and a lot more, the G1 seems to be the all-in-one device many of us look for.

Key Features
– Touch Screen
– QWERTY Keyboard
– One-Touch Google Search
– Real Web Browsing
– Easy Access to Google Apps
– 3G Network and Wi-Fi Access
– IM/Text/Email
– 3.2 Megapixel Camera
– YouTube Videos
– Music Player
– Android Market
– Customizable Home Screen

This is just a summary of T-Mobile’s Features PDF.

For this review, I went a little photo crazy. Click below to see all 140+ photos.


A new mobile platform
T-Mobile HTC G1 Review : Powering OnThe real power behind this device is in Android, developed by The Open Handset Alliance.

From the Android site:

The Android platform is a software stack for mobile devices including an operating system, middleware and key applications. Developers can create applications for the platform using the Android SDK. Applications are written using the Java programming language and run on Dalvik, a custom virtual machine designed for embedded use, which runs on top of a Linux kernel.

While you may not care about this, it’s important because it opens the door for a wider selection of free applications. Who doesn’t like free?

Compared to a lot of the phones hitting the market this year, the G1 isn’t going to win any beauty pageants, but it’s not exactly ugly, either. This offers advantages, as well. The screen doesn’t appear as smudged and if I have it sitting on my lap in a meeting, it won’t slide off nearly as easily as some other slick phones (double-entendre intended). Ultimately, looks take a back seat to function in my book, anyway. Looks aside, there were some things I liked about the G1’s hardware and some that I didn’t.

– Unlike the iPhone, I can actually get a second battery and swap them.
– The keyboard is a nice addition.
– Trackball. One-handed scrolling is much easier.

– Covered USB connection. Leave it open and save me a step
– No standard headphone jack? Seems like an oversight to me.
– Battery/SIM access. I feel like I’m going to break the phone when getting to the battery. Although I’ve had a couple smart phones with battery covers that slid off far too easily, too.

Booting up and general navigation
T-Mobile HTC G1 Review : Locking SettingsBooting up is just like any smart phone. It takes a minute. Navigating is a little different. Before you can get started, you need to unlock the device. By default this is done by first hitting any button on the front to turn on the screen and then hitting the Menu button to unlock it. Most phones, however, include some form of password lock as well, and the G1 is only different in its approach to password locking. Rather than the ever-popular four-digit code, the G1 employs a pattern lock, which you set up by heading to Settings / Security & Location / Set Unlock Pattern. You pattern is set by sliding your finger from one of nine dots to another in any pattern. Once set, you simply recreate the pattern with your finger to unlock it.

The G1 comes equipped with eight external buttons, a tiny trackball, and a full QWERTY keyboard. On the front, you’ll find the Phone button, used mainly for getting to your phone call area and beginning a call, but can also be held down to initiate voice dialing or double-tapped to redial the last number called. Moving left to right, the second button is the Home button. As you might guess, this can be pressed at any time to get you to the home screen. Holding it down will show you the last six applications you accessed. In the center is the trackball. It’s tiny, yet comfortable and not in the way as much as I previously thought it would be. The trackball works like a single-button mouse. Depending on where you are in the G1, you can use it to scroll and choose links or options by clicking or double-clicking. To the right of the trackball is the Back button. This is important to note because many applications in Android seem to rely on this instead of offering any kind of on-screen “Back” button. All the way to the right is the End Call/Power button. When pressed it will switch the phone between sleeping and active states. If in a call, it will end the call, and if pressed and held for a second, it will turn the G1 off or on. Above this row of buttons and centered is the Menu button. This button will bring up a menu if one is available in any application or on the home screen. On the left side, near the top, HTC has provided the convenient and familiar volume controls, allowing you to adjust the general device volume or the volume of a call. On the right side, near the bottom, the camera button can be pressed and held for a second to start up the camera (only when the device is unlocked). If pressed about half way, the camera will focus the shot. When ready, press the button again to take a picture.

T-Mobile HTC G1 Review : Icon TrayTo access the keyboard, all you have to do is push the screen slightly up and to the right. The display orientation changes to horizontal and you’re ready for true keyboard input. While the keyboard itself is small, the keys seem appropriately sized and spaced for easy typing, which has always been a challenge with QWERTY keyboards crammed into cell phones. I still mis-typed a few times, but it was pretty rare, surprisingly. When in a crunch, I chose the G1 over my iPhone for my server administration simply because of the keyboard.

Everything else is right on the screens. Although you start out on the center home screen, there’s another to the left and even a third to the right. Each screen can be filled with widgets (like the clock or search box), application shortcuts, or photos from your photo album. I’ve found that it’s best to put the applications you use the most on the middle screen, and other applications you use often on a second screen, reserving a third for the photos you like to show off the most. The rest of your shortcuts can stay in the handy application tray, which you can get to by either tapping it’s tab at the bottom of the screen or sliding it out yourself. When you’re done with the application tray, you can just hide it again the same way. One of the things I really liked about this interface is the widgets, and I mostly mean the Google Search, although I’m sure more useful widgets will turn up over time. The Google Search widget is just a smart little search bar that can sit on your home screen for searching, eliminating the need for first opening the browser and heading to Another nifty feature of this interface is that you can touch and drag from the status bar at the top of the screen to expand it full screen and get more information about any errors or notifications. Being a touch device, the G1 wants you to put your hands all over it. Slide your finger across the screen to switch home screens or up to scroll down a web page. Tap an icon, photo or link to open it or hold your finger on an icon, photo, or web object for more options specific to that item. What you won’t find is the famous “pinch” and “un-pinch” methods for zooming in and out as we’ve seen on the iPhone.

Using the phone
Answering a phone call is pretty standard business. When a call comes in, you just hit the Phone button to answer or the Power button to ignore the call, silencing the ringer. Initiating a phone call can be done in a few ways. You can either dial the number manually with the dialer, choose someone to call from your contacts, favorites, or call log, or select someone from your “Fave 5” to call. Once a call is in progress, the dialing pad is hidden like the icon tray I mentioned above and accessed the same way. A tap of the Menu button provides several options, including Hold, Mute, Bluetooth, Call Merge, Speaker and Swap Calls. While I won’t use a couple of these very often, I know from experience that it’s great to have them a finger tap away when I want them.

Email options
For me, access to my email when I’m not on at my computer is important. I don’t sit around all day watching my phone for new emails, but if I’m expecting something important or someone calls and says they sent a document I need to see right away, I can access my email from wherever I am with the G1. It comes with a POP3 email client as well as a stand-alone Gmail client. The navigation is pretty intuitive. The only thing I find really lacking here is the ability to batch-delete messages. There’s a lot of things like server spam, notifications, etc. that I don’t care about on my phone and will deal with back at the office. I’d love to mass-delete those items. Better yet, I’d love rules like many desktop email client provide to filter items to the trash or a special folder.

Getting online
Since I’ve had the G1, I’ve only had one problem getting online. I had turned on the wireless and connected to my home network. Then I came to the office and it kept trying to connect to a network, but none were open, so instead of switching to 3G, it left me unconnected. Other than that, it’s been reliable. So reliable, in fact, that I didn’t have to think about it at all.

Web browsing
T-Mobile HTC G1 Review : BrowserThe browsing experience offered what I expected from it: bookmarks, URL auto-completion, multiple pages at once (like tabbed browsing, just not technically “tabbed”), zooming in and out, easy scrolling, etc. The zooming in and out, however, could have been a little easier. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been spoiled with the ability to pinch-zoom for the last several months, but having to tap to get the zoom controls up and then zoom proved to be a little more cumbersome than I’d prefer. Sometimes, I’d tap the screen to get my zoom controls and find that I’d tapped a link to some other site.

Google maps
T-Mobile HTC G1 Review : Street View Map in Compass ModeThe inclusion of Google Maps in newer phones like this make me wonder how I ever managed without it. I get lost on my way to the store, much less to a client’s office in another city. Google maps on any phone are a great value-add. On the G1, this includes standard maps, satellite maps, Street View, real-time traffic overlays, searching and directions. Additionally, like on the iPhone, you can click any known location to bring up a menu that allows you to visit the site, call the associated phone number, get directions, or add as a contact. The icing on the cake is “Compass Mode”. When you’re in Street View, you can turn on Compass Mode to give it a sense of direction. If you face East, you’ll be looking East in Street View. Turn around and you’re looking West. It’s a surreal experience.

Get more applications
With the rise of Android and the Android SDK comes the birth of the Android Market, a marketplace where you can find lots of third-party applications to install. Currently everything in the marketplace is cost-free. If (more like when) we have to start paying for third-party Android applications, it will be interesting to see what the pricing standard turns out to be. The marketplace does have a good number of applications already available. A couple that I downloaded and that I think show the potential for usefulness of niche third-party applications are the bar-code-scanning Compare Everywhere and ConnectBot, a handy little SSH client. Compare Everywhere fills a need that I remember hearing from a lady in the iPhone 3G line back in July. She said “I want to scan a bar code with my phone and see where I can buy the item for the lowest price”. Well, it’s here and it’s on my G1 and it works very nicely. I scanned in the carton of eggs we had just emptied one morning and found the cheapest store near me to replenish my egg supply. Better (and more life-saving) was ConnectBot. I host a number of projects on this server and on Thanksgiving morning, about 30 minutes before Michelle and I had to head out the door to eat with family, one of my other sites decided to start eating all of the server’s resources. This type of thing is critical and normally would require me to sit in front of my laptop until it was resolved. Instead, I worked on the problem in the car in a tiny SSH screen on the G1, getting it all fixed up shortly after we arrived.

Listen to and buy music
With the G1, music is purchased from Amazon or uploaded directly from your computer. Buying music is pretty simple. I typed “iamx” into the search box and got a list of their albums. I tapped the “Songs” tab and found the track I wanted for $0.99. Like on the iPhone, you must be connected via Wi-fi to purchase music, though. Once you have your music, playing it is as easy as operating an iPod. You can select artists or tracks, make playlists, and view artist information or album covers while you listen. The sound through the speakers left something to be desired, but headphones almost always offer better quality when the external speaker is lacking, and most people will be listening through headphones so I don’t consider that a huge setback for the G1.

1228346899725With a 3.2 Megapixel camera, the G1 produced larger and clearer images than most other cell phone cameras I’ve tried, and that’s with the protective plastic over the lens still. When you first press the shutter release button on the side of the phone, the camera does its best to bring the shot into focus, and it does a fair job of it, too. I used the G1 to snap the photo to the right of my DSLR. Click the photo to see an example of the G1’s photo quality. After taking a photo, you can easily set it as a contact’s photo or Fave 5 icon or just send it to someone via email, gmail or messaging.

Terminal Emulation
T-Mobile HTC G1 Review : Viewing ProcessesI think any device that I purchase and that is build on Linux should include some form of terminal access like the G1 does. People who are not familiar with Linux can opt to never enter the terminal, but the rest of us want to poke around and see what’s going on under the hood. In the photo to the right, I was watching “top” to see all the processes running on the phone. It can be interesting to see what the phone is connecting to and what processes are running. Additionally, this is another way to move around files if you know what you’re doing. Largely, it will be of little use to most, but has its uses as a diagnostics tool.

The G1 is developer friendly
Android is an open platform, which means that any developer can produce and submit for distribution their own application to be run on Android. If I don’t like the standard email app, I can sit down for a few weeks and grind out my own email application. This has its advantages and disadvantages, which I’ll discuss at another time, but it’s notable to anyone seeking a custom application. Even if you’re not a developer, you can pay someone to create that super-niche application that only you need.

For developers:

A beta version of the Android SDK is available for download. Along with the Android framework and application libraries, it includes sample projects with source code, a device emulator, and development tools for monitoring and debugging your code and GUI layout.

BONUS: Tips and Tricks
(from Laptop Magazine)
– Voice dialing

The G1 supports voice dialing, and you can easily call a friend by stating their name if you press and hold the Send key on the G1. Bonus Tip: If you want to add in another caller while you’re on the phone, press the Send key while in a call.

– Use an MP3 as your ringtone

We’re not big fans of people using mp3s as ringtones, since the music selection is often pretty awful. Nonetheless, we’ll tell you how with the G1. Open Music > Songs > and hold your finger on your song of choice. Next, select “Use as phone ringtone.”

– Quick the access to most recent applications menu

If you’re surfing the Web and want to quickly bring up your music player to switch songs, you can quickly do this by holding down the Home button on the G1. This will quickly bring up your Applications menu. If you want to go directly to the desktop, just press the Home button once.

– Typing tips

Insert special character: Press ALT + Spacebar
Delete entire line of text: Press ALT + Delete
Turn on all caps: Press Shift Twice
Move cursor to end or beginning of text: Press Alt while scrolling Trackball
Insert a Tab space: Press Alt + Q
Highlight text: Press Shift and roll Trackball

– Cut, Copy, Paste

Copying, cutting, and pasting text from Web sites or documents is easy with the G1.
To Cut, press Menu and x.
To Copy, press Menu and c
To Paste, press Menu and v.

(from Android Unleashed)
– Browser magnifying glass

To activate the magnify glass on the browser click the trackball twice.

– smooth zooming

when the zoom + – shows up- you can hold the + down and it will smoothly keep panning in.

– save pictures from the web

Press and hold the image for 3 seconds, a selection will pop-up either to save image or view image. It may contain more selections if the image contains a link.

(from srcasm)
– Automatic hot spot login

Free Wifi – Many people know of the free wifi that comes with the G1 data plan. This means that anywhere there is a TMobile hot spot but something neat I learned was to install the HotSpot Locator app from the Market. It automatically connects to any TMobile hot spot that it sees and no login necessary!

– task-switching

Task switching saves time and your “Home” button – The application, Task Switcher, in the Market allows you to press the Camera button to switch between applications instead of going to the home screen. In addition, I put a Camera icon on the home screen so I can still snap pictures of my kitty. In addition to this, hold down the “Home” button for a couple seconds and see the 6 most recent apps listed.

– Tether your laptop for internet access

Use your phone as a modem – Tetherbot was written for Android and the G1 to let you use it as a modem (of sorts). Once the application is configured and your computer is setup, you should be able to browse the web with a USB cable to the phone — FOR FREE.

The G1 is the only thing I’ve seen come close to knocking the iPhone off its pedestal. It has the large, successful company backing it. It has the network of eager developers. It has most of the bells and whistles and it seems to be on a good network. I really love my iPhone, but I really hate the zero reception it gets in my office, dropping my calls like DOW. If the G1 had an optional (and super easy to activate) software keyboard, more applications, and a little more time on the market, I’d have bought one already and thrown my iPhone on ebay. Thankfully, the open platform means I can do more than just wait for those things. As a developer, I can join in and make them happen. For anyone who’s not already bought a new phone this year, the T-Mobile G1 is a great upgrade from whatever you have now.

Apple’s iPhone vs Google’s Android and the HTC G1

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iPhone vs Google G1 : Home Screen

(the rest of the photos are here, by the way)

It seems like so long ago that the iPhone hit the market with a bang and it’s still considered by many to be the best cell phone you can get. Over the last year or two, many speculated about various concept phones and if any of them would be an “iPhone killer”, including me. One of those hopefuls was Google’s promise of a Google phone, which people quickly dubbed the “Gphone”. A few months after Apple brought us the second generation iPhone, T-Mobile announced the release of their Android-running G1 and people started to get excited about owning one.

I’ve seen a lot of other phones come out that seem to follow the iPhone’s lead in many of their features, but none have swayed me from my opinion that the iPhone is far superior. The only one that comes close so far is the HTC T-Mobile G1, so when I had a chance to compare the two side by side, I jumped on it. I played with the G1 for hours, taking pictures along the way before creating a comparison video and finally putting together my conclusions.

First, the technical comparison
(image from Wired)
(Note that the G1 also plays video)

One of the things I think the G1 really could have used is a multi-touch screen, but I guess I’m just spoiled by my iPhone. There have been rumors, but nothing solid yet. A standard headphone jack would be nice, too. You can always listen with USB headphones, but that limits your options. One area the G1 technically surpassed the iPhone was the built in camera. Delivering 3.2 mega pixels, it offers a much better picture than the iPhone’s 2.0 mega pixel camera.

Getting hands on
Part 1:

Part 2:

The videos above cover most of what I’ve played with, but here’s some of what I found that’s worth noting:

– The iPhone offers a sliding software lock and optional password protection, while the G1 employs the old method of hitting any button and then hit “Menu” to unlock the phone, but it also offers another cool option where you store a gesture pattern like a happy face or a cursive G and you repeat that gesture to unlock the phone.

– Both phones allow for multiple pages to display icons for key features and applications. The G1 sets itself apart here, though, allowing its owner to also display search boxes and widgets like the big clock we keep seeing in G1 photos. Better still, these can all be moved anywhere. The iPhone makes you stack your icons neatly, gravitating to the top left of the screen, but G1 is a wild child, letting you throw those suckers wherever you want. Rebel. To accommodate all this freedom, G1 tucks most of its icons in a little slide-out panel, so you can hide the stuff you use rarely and keep your key items on the main screens.

– Both platforms offer Google Maps. My iPhone has Google Earth. I’m not sure if the G1 offers Google Earth, but it includes Street View and Compass Mode, which is very cool. Just watch the video to see what I mean.

– Oddly, the Google Search app on the G1 didn’t work nearly as well as on my iPhone.

– It doesn’t appear that I can create picture folders in the g1 like I can in the iPhone, but that may just require more testing.

– Setting up email was incredibly easy on the g1. The iPhone requres me to go to the phone’s settings area to add or remove an email account which is a little annoying.

– Both phones offer easy access to a wealth of third-party applications, both paid, and free. They’re both, hands down, vastly better than the alternatives I’d become used to with Windows Mobile phones.

– Adding music with the g1 is as easy as dropping MP3s from my computer into the phone’s shared storage, but the sound quality pales compared to the iPhone. The iPhone’s music play back is loud and clear, while the G1’s is a bit muffled and tinny.

– G1’s roller ball can easily switch away from the text box in focus on accident if bumped, but is very handy in Street View. The integrated keyboard is tiny, but useful. My main problem here is that I have to physically slide it out every time I need to type something, which can be hard one-handed, unlike the iPhone, where the software keyboard just appears as needed. The mix of a hardware keyboard and an optional software keyboard that could be accessed with a quick tap would be a great improvement.

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