Android: Anniversary, Avalanche, Automattic, etc.

The first Android phone, the G1, launched a year, less two days, ago. I got one about two months ago. Those who like their gadgets more up to the minute may have one of the more recent Android phones, or be eying the avalanche of new phones due out soon. TechCrunch offers a complete list of… Android phones. (That’s offers, in the present tense, because David Diaz promised updates to the post.)

Michael Arrington (also at TechCrunch) recently expressed a concern arising from the impressive number of Android phones and vendors. It’s that Android’s open source licensing may result in the platform splintering, thus creating much more work for application developers. The contrast with the tightly-controlled iPhone platform is obvious and troubling.

Closer to home, or at least to this blog, I’m interested in what Androidy things WordPress.com is up to. Will Automattic develop an Android app? There’s already an iPhone app, of which Automattic seems particularly proud, and a Blackberry app. Each of the two links in the previous sentence goes to the appropriate, Automattic-owned, WordPress.com-hosted blog.

When I typed in the corresponding URI for an Android app (http://android.wordpress.org/), I got a “blog is protected” message. That at least shows that the blog exists…

There is some Android-related, albeit not Android-specific, news about WordPress.com today. If you are viewing this blog on an Android, or other mobile device, you’ll see a built-for-mobile theme. The change was announced earlier today, with a link to the new Mobile Themes support page. I was at first disappointed to see that the CSS upgrade does not extend to mobile themes…

Sticking with disappointment, but going back to Android itself: the lack of a simple, built-in screen capture capability is ridiculous. To give just one example of how it would be used, I should really illustrate the theme news with screen captures showing this blog as it appears on my G1. I tried the fix described by Christina at Download Squad, couldn’t get it to work right away, and decided that I wouldn’t have time to write this post if I spent any more time on attempted screen captures.

That said, I’m bullish on Android, and will continue to post about it, grumbling only when it’s really merited.

WordPress.com Domain Mapping, Email, and Android

Domain mapping is one of the paid upgrades available for WordPress.com. I use it: that’s why this blog shows up as changingway.org (it was born as changingway.wordpress.com, and will still answer to that uri). I also use the custom email feature of the domain mapping upgrade: that’s why you can email me as andrew at changingway.org.

I recently got an Android phone, and I want to use my changingway.org email on it. I could of course use the Android’s browser. But I’d prefer to use its Email application. Why? I’ll defer that question until the end of the post.

This post is mainly about how to use the Android Email app with the custom email feature of WordPress.com domain mapping. Usually, Email setup is pretty much a matter of giving the app an email address/password combination. For custom email, you need to do more than that.

Instead, you need to do some manual setup. You’ll need to tell the Email app about some things you’ll find on your custom email web site. Starting at the web page from which you manage your custom email, click on Settings (near the top right of the page) and then on Forwarding and POP/IMAP. You want IMAP (see here for why it’s preferable to POP).

Make sure IMAP is enabled, and click on Configuration Instructions. This will take you to a list of email clients and mobile devices: Android is of course a mobile device. Clicking on Android will take you to some incoming settings (e.g., IMAP server is imap.gmail.com) and outgoing settings (e.g., SMTP server is smtp.gmail.com).

Tell your Android’s Email app about these settings. It’ll ask you for them after you provide your custom email username and password. Note that your username includes your domain (e.g., andrew at changingway.org, not just andrew).

You have a few decisions to make, some of them arising from the fact that the Email app can manage multiple email addresses. You’ll need to give your custom email a name, and decide whether it’s the default address when you send from the email app. For example, the app on my Android knows andrew at changingway.org as CW, and uses it as the default address for outgoing mail.

If you are the target audience – people wanting to use the Android Email app with the email they got when they mapped a domain to their WordPress.com blog – then I hope that this how-to post was helpful.

Now, from how to why, and to three specific questions of why.

  • Why prefer the Email app to checking email from the Android browser? My main reason is that the Email app can display a new mail notification icon at the top of the Android screen.
  • Why use the Email app, rather than the Gmail app that also comes on Android phones? After all, the custom email account is a Gmail account. I haven’t tried the Gmail app. My wife actually bought the phone, and had it set up with her Gmail. So I’m not sure whether a custom email could be used for the Gmail app. If it can, I suspect that some of the above will be helpful.
  • Why use this phone in the first place? Some have said that the G1 isn’t built for email. Well, the G1 is the phone I have, and it works pretty well, for email and for other things. And there will be many more Android phones, each seeking to improve on the G1.

Cloud Data in Danger

The data in question was in Danger. To be specific, the data were on servers operated by Danger, the subsidiary of Microsoft. The data in question included contacts, calendars, photos, etc., belonging to users of T-Mobile Sidekicks. This announcement from T-Mobile shows why I emphasize the past tense.

Regrettably, based on Microsoft/Danger’s latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device – such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos – that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger.

John Mayer tweeted happily about what he sees as the silver lining to this cloud failure: Perez Hilton loses 2000 contacts in his Sidekick (via Mashable Pete). That raises my opinion of John Mayer and of Twitter.

The interesting question is: who will be seen as the villain(s) in this story? Hilton apparently casts T-Mobile in that role. It seems to be that T-Mobile’s main mistake was putting Sidekick user data in Danger, and so Danger, and parent Microsoft, are more directly responsible.

And what will this Danger Disaster do to confidence in the cloud, and in other cloudy companies such as Google? Om contrasted this incident with the Google mail outage, pointing out that the Danger disaster is far worse. I think that the Danger disaster will be good for Google, and for other firms that are similarly seen as being cloud-competent (e.g., 37Signals).

I’m tagging this post DangerDisaster, not CloudCatastrophe.

New Yahoo Mobile Homepage

I haven’t quite given up on Yahoo, so when I saw the ReadWriteWeb post about the new Yahoo mobile homepage, I decided to give said homepage a try. I got round to it this morning, and was at once underwhlemed and amazed. The home page itself was underwhelming.

The “content” was the amazing part. Under the Today tab, the lead story is “Nobel Stunner: Obama wins peace prize.” It claims that Barack Obama has won the Nobel peace prize. While I am certainly not anti-Obama, I don’t see that his months (not years, not yet even one year) as President make him a serious contender for the award.

I would include a screenshot, but I discover that Android does not include a screenshot application. I then see another of today’s top stories on Yahoo mobile today: “Android may leapfrog the iPhone.”

Yeah right, and Yahoo has just launched “the world’s most advanced mobile homepage” (those are the words of a Yahoo exec). Rather, it has used an April fool’s day in October ploy to garner publicity for the new homepage. I guess I fell for it.

Pixelpipe From Android to Flickr

Flaky BarnThis is the first of the photos taken with the new G1 phone to make it to my Flickr account. It’s good to be able to carry a phone and a camera (and other things) in one device, and to be able to upload directly from said device (I used Pixelpipe).

But it isn’t quite as good as it might be, for a couple of reasons. First, the screen on the G1 isn’t good enough for me to decide which photos are Flickr-worthy. It’s not a question of space on Flickr (which is unlimited with a Pro account), I just like to be somewhat selective about what’s in my photostream. Most photos I take are obviously unworthy, a few are obviously worthy, but in many cases it isn’t clear from the G1 screen.

Second, I was hoping that since the G1 has a GPS, it would automatically GPS-tag each photo. I wonder if there’s a way to make this happen?

Paper is Mobile Too

Just before we set off yesterday from Boston to Philadelphia, I asked me wife if we had directions. We’ve made the trip many times before, but we were using an itinerary we hadn’t used before. Route 95 from Boston all the way down to NYC worked well, as did the NY Botanical Garden as a leg-stretch and lunch stop.

Judy reminded me that we now have an Android phone with Sherpa, and so don’t need printed directions. Soon after we got onto the road and onto Sherpa, she was pulling out a dead tree roadmap. When I laughed, she said that while Sherpa was great, the small screen isn’t ideal for the big picture of a route. She’s right, and on the other side of the coin, Sherpa was great at getting us from the Garden back to 95.

I’m now making sure that I have Judy’s cell number, not only on the Android, but also in my notebook. Again with the dead trees: I’m not referring to a small, portable computer. In the same notebook are the details of the flight I have to meet at Dulles in a couple of days.

I’m too old, or perhaps even too wise, to rely too much on these new-fangled electronic gadgets. By the way, our first stop on the trip was at the Dedham (MA) Panera for breakfast. Almost all the power was out there…

Mobile, in More Ways Than One

I’m on the mobile web at last! Well, not at this precise moment, since I’m on a PC with a pleasingly large monitor. But the family now has a smartphone. That’s mainly at my wife’s prompting, since I am a fan of prepaid phone plans, rather than commitments to hand over hundreds of dollars to a carrier over a two-year period. But it’s good to have, in one compact device, a phone, a GPS, a camera, and web access.

We got a T-Mobile G1 (I feel obliged to provide a link to the G1 site, but you aren’t obliged to click on it unless you are ready for a multimedia assault on your senses). When I saw that TM is about to come out with a pay-as-you-go Android phone, I had a shouldda-waited moment: but then I reflected that smartphones will be in the shouldda-waited phase for a while, reminded myself that the G1 is useful on our current trip, and noted that it’s TMUK, rather than TMUS, that made the announcement.

Oh yes, the currrent trip. That’s another way in which I’m mobile. We’re visiting Philadelphia and some points south this week. And the points south are related to the move we’ll likely be making soon.

Anyway, this is the first post in a new category for this blog: Mobile.