Monday, January 31, 2011

Panel Builder for Insignia Infocast

I've completed my latest Chumby app called Panel Builder. It let's you create a control panel on your Infocast, specifying the layout, buttons, labels and actions in an XML file served by your own web server. This sample XML file shows the different aspects you can control. For example, you can create rectangular, circular, triangular and ellipsoid shaped buttons. You control the button color, border color, position, size, text label (size, color & position). You can also create just plain labels and have the option to add status graphics (to show on/off state perhaps?). Actions are defined in the XML file as well and use a PHP script on your server to issue commands. You specify the "root" URL in the XML file, then specify individual actions for each button by specifying the rest of the URL which gets appended to the root URL. You can see the XML file above for examples. A sample PHP script can be viewed here. The app is waiting to get through the Chumby approval process, so I will provide the link when it's available. In the meantime, here's a screenshot showing the different elements that can be created and a YouTube video of the sample screen in use (If you listen closely, you may hear some X10 light switches going clunk in the background in response to button presses).

If you find this useful, donations are greatly appreciated :)

Update: Panel Builder was just approved 2/1 and is now available from the Chumby website.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

First Flash App - SageTV Controller on Insignia Infocast

I've written my first Flash app. It's a remote control panel for SageTV and it runs natively on our Insignia Infocasts (which are Chumbies under the covers). It was a bit of work for me to understand Actionscript and figure out everything to make it work, but I've gotten to a point where I can show my progress. I started off using the Chumby2MPD sample code and the FlashDevelop package for the development. Each button on the app fetches a URL to a PHP script running on my Apache webserver, while passing it the command to be issued. The PHP script in turn issues an xPL message directed to the SageTV xPL plugin, which interprets the message and controls SageTV.

Here's a screenshot of the interface on the Infocast:

And here's a video of it in action.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Samsung Epic 4G, What I Don't Like

I've been using an HTC Touch Pro for the past 2+ years. I had unlocked it and installed WinMo 6.5, which gave it a nice mid-life kick. With our 2 year contract with Sprint over, the wife and I recently sprung for the Samsung Epic 4G and in the process, upgraded our Sprint SERO plans from $30/mo to the SERO Premium plan w/ 4G data at $50/mo. A big percentage increase in our monthly rate, but with 500 minutes and unlimited m2m/SMS/data/roaming data it's still $20-30 lower than plans from competing cell providers.

I've had it about a week and I figured it's time to write up my thoughts on this new toy. Let's start with the annoyances.

- Bluetooth visibility goes away after 2 minutes making bluetooth proximity all but useless. It's built into the kernel this way making it difficult to change. A big step down from WinMo.
- Voice commands over bluetooth does not exist - this was something I used *ALL* the time in WinMo. It is supposedly coming in Froyo, but Sprint & Samsung are really lagging on this. By the time Froyo hits for the Epic, it'll be time to upgrade to Gingerbread.
- In WinMo, you can turn off the 3G data connection after you're done with it, but it'll turn back on when you launch an app that needs it. In Android, if you turn off 3G data and you later start an app that needs it, it bitches about there not being a data connection. You have to manually enable data.
- When you make an appointment using the built-in calendar, it will default to the phone's calendar, which won't sync to your Google Calendar. You have to manually select that you want this appointment to be in your GCal for it to sync. Never had this problem with OggSync and WinMo. Why is the Google integration here so lame?
- On the other hand, Latitude binds to the Google account you set up your phone with and you have no option to change it, unless you re-setup your phone. This is lame. On WinMo, I used a different Google account for my Latitude tracking.
- I really miss PocketPutty, WinMo's Remote Desktop and Hamachi2 that I had running on the TouchPro. I have found alternatives to Putty and RDP, but they're just not as good.
- The TTS voice on Google Maps navigation is HORRID. How does the Sprint navigation app have a voice 100x better? Bing's WinMo voice is also way better.