T-Mobile’s News Express

T-Mobile has launched a mobile newsstand, delivering content twice daily to handsets, and plans to introduce more branded titles next year.

News Express consists of four channels carrying news, sports, weather and entertainment, which are refreshed twice a day, at 8am and 5pm, with additional ad-hoc breaking news delivered on top.

The interactive reports are delivered in Macromedia Flash Lite 1.1. Flash Lite is a Flash Player designed specifically for mobile phones.

News Express is currently available for download on Nokia 3650, Nokia 6600, Nokia 7610, and Sony Ericsson P900 handsets in Europe. It is accessed via an icon, which is pre-loaded on selected handsets, or is free to download via T-Zones.

Content is delivered automatically in the background of this application, allowing customers to read information offline with no need to connect and no download time. The service is free to all UK customers until the end of October, after which it is expected to cost 6 a month.

Sandy Munro, marketing director of T-Mobile UK, said: “News Express is one of the cornerstones of our mobile multimedia product offerings. The service is easy to read as a newspaper, offers a rich news experience with a slick interactive feel and our customers can trial it free till the end of October.” He added: “Moving forward, we plan on expanding News Express with additional news and lifestyle magazines, effectively creating an mobile newsstand.”

Jeff Jarvis likes RedEye as a model for the electronic magazine. Bold, concise, graphic.

Cleaner front pages might help.

Panoramic EventCam

NYTimes.com , Canon U.S.A., and Kaidan, have been using Kaidan’s EventCam to capture and publish 360-degree interactive panoramic images from the Democratic National Convention in Boston and will use it at the upcoming Republican National Convention in New York City.

Leonard M. Apcar, editor in chief, NYTimes.com, said, “This innovative technology allows NYTimes.com to use the medium of the Internet to capture the scale and drama of two of the major political events of the year. We believe that it will add a wonderful dimension to the richness of our continuous convention coverage.”

EventCam uses ten Canon PowerShot S60 to simultaneously capture a panoramic image. The PowerShot features a wide-angle 28mm lens. The images require Apple’s QuickTime Player for viewing.

In April, Chris Ramirez, a freelance photographer for The New York Times, created an interactive panorama photograph of the swearing in of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, before the 9/11 Commission. Jim Anders, president of Kaidan, Inc., saw the images and later met with Mr. Ramirez and developed an idea to form a cluster of cameras in a circle, synchronized to shoot with the single squeeze of a remote release.

In early July, EventCam was approved by the U.S. Senate Press Gallery for use during the conventions, a requirement due to its unusual appearance.

REALVIZ, a French panoramic software developer, was drafted to create the panoramic images. RealViz has a batch command and template functionality. Templates are used to cut down the time it takes to do repetitive tasks. The batch command runner can automate a large number of stitching processes.

Remote Reality has a mirrored ball ($495) for a one-shot 360 panoramic photography. It’s essential to get it in one shot if people are moving around. Stick it on a 5 megapixel Nikon 5000. Krinnicam is a remote shutter software for Nikon coolpix cameras that features automatic image downloading via USB. There you be.

Two, 5 Megapixel Nikon 5000 ($350 each) with two Nikon FC-E8 fisheyes ($150 each) might do the trick. The DigiSnap 5000 ($55) is a Cable Release Adapter, allowing the Coolpix 5000 to be controlled via a low cost shutter release cable, such as the Canon RS-60E3 ($30). Krinnicam remote shutter software can run on a laptop and provides automatic image downloading via USB. Panoweaver automates post-processing ($100) for one-shot panoramas and can automatically stich 2-3 hemispheres together.

The ACDsee Photosticher plug in ($29, above), which comes bundled with Pentax cameras, is based on RealViz software and may have potential for automated 360 degree panoramas. ArcSoft Panorama Maker 3 automatically processes image segments as does PixAround. Perhaps eight or so $100, 2 megapixel digital cameras could be synchronized to snap simultaneously. The images would need to be transfered to a laptop automatically (probably via USB). Then the individual images might be (automatically) assembled by a PhotoSticher. The panorama could then be ftped to a website automatically, every 5 minutes or so. An event panorama camera could be a valuable addition to “live” coverage.

Add an live MPEG-4 webcam (below) for live images with pan & tilt interactivity. The Space Needle Cam could be wireless and mobile. Toshiba’s Netcams ($500) use beautiful 1280 pixel CCDs (demo) and can pan over 120 degrees. Put 3-4 of these wireless units on a pole and grab frames anytime. Anywhere. Drop your captured frames in Pixaround or Panoweaver and you’re there.

Here’s a One Shot system (right), built using a glass ball (from a christmas tree) that cost $7. You can use the free PanoTools from Helmut Dersch to extract the panoramic image, rather than pay the per-image licence fee that other software requires. Panoweaver can stich two fisheye shots together. Newspapers buy $2,500 camera bodies without blinking. You don’t have to.

PhotoPC and Krinnicam can control a digital camera from a laptop while Harbortronics makes camera remote controllers. The Pocket C3 camera control center for Pocket PC is a remote control platform for cameras. Digital cameras with a serial interface can also be controlled remotely.

A high resolution digital camera can work as a webcam. Most still digital cameras don’t have the control software that runs on a PC. Canon and Nikon do. Canon Remote Capture works with pro D-SLRs while PSRemote Pro ($49) controls Canon Pro1, G3, G5, S1 IS, S50, S60, A75, A80 and IXUS cameras via the USB connection. Nikon’s Capture 4 Software works with their pro “D” series SLRs but Krinnicam works with consumer models like the Coolpix 885, 995, 4300, 4500, 5000 and 5700. Kodak’s Easyshare software seems to have potential but Kodak says their current cameras cannot be used as webcams. Using still cameras as live webcameras is largely undocumented. You’ll need to test it out.

The inimitable Phillip Torrone explains how to make stereo images (above).

The prototype Newsplex Blog used camphones for political convention coverage. They had a wireless Webcam mounted above their Newsflow Deck.

Videos were also created. This video report on gay marriage was shot with a Motorola V400 cell phone. The stills were uploaded to the moblog from the phone, downloaded to the Newsplex editorial desk then assembled with narrative and captions in Serious Magic Visual Communicator. The finished report was then converted to the .3pg video format used for mobile phones and uploaded back to the TextAmerica servers.

Other Sound + Picture software includes SoundPix Mobile – Treo Edition, Microsoft’s Photo Story 2 and Pocket PhotoShow.

I’ve always wanted to do a flat stitch out the window of the Portland Streetcar. The 2 mile route would be one BIG file, though. Maybe a virtual Roller Coaster would be more fun. On the Solstice weekend, June 19-21, more than 110 photographers in 32 countries around the world created VR panoramas with the common theme of World Heritage. This site showcases the results. Here’s a kit for Blimp aerial photography.

The Panocam and The Panoscan Mk 3 are rotating, slit-scan cameras. VR Seattle uses one. Essentially no post-processing is required since it creates a high resolution panorama by rotating the lens. The Panoscan system captures full, seamless 360 degree images in a single pass, eliminating the need for “stitching”. Medium resolution scans are complete and ready to view in 90 seconds. It enables (essentially) a 1000-1 digital zoom in high resolution mode. Check out these Megapixel panoramas and this Big One with gigapixel resolution and sharp, screen-resolution zooming to 1000X or more.

DailyWireless has more on 360 Degree Video, 360 Degree Video Blogs, Reality Now, Telepresence Now, and Seattle to Portland WiFi Link.

Open Source News

Some 1,500 OSCON 2004 attendees were treated to literally hundreds of presentations. Some highlights:

  • Tim O’Reilly’s keynote talked about the Open Source Paradigm Shift and said the network, not necessarily hardware or open software, was the thing. Here are some clips.
  • The Stonehenge Party had over 1,000 people show up at Bar 71 in Portland. Stonehenge used 3 Linksys WRT-54gs flashed with Portless firmware to provide wireless access. One was plugged into the DSL line, the other two were linked via wireless WDS link, all sharing a single channel.
  • Brad Fitzpatrick’s “Inside LiveJournal’s Backend” focused on high availability, scalability and growing web sites. LiveJournal started by cobbling together hardware from random sources here and there. Today, 90+ machines that employ a lot of fail over techniques and custom sofware bits that complement the off-the-shelf open source software that powers the rest of LiveJournal.
  • Dana Moore is working on DARPA’s UltraLog project which is attempting to create extremely survivable software systems. The agent architecture for the system is built upon Jabber. The network is dynamically reconfigurable and can simulate attacks.
  • Willamette Week reviewed Dan Gillmor’s “We the Media”
  • Larry Wall’s State of the Onion” address was a hit (as always). Larry Wall, the inventor of PERL, overviewed Perl 6.
  • SCO’s lawsuits were featured in a mock court, where lawyers presented the arguments of SCO and IBM to the attendees.
  • BEA announced that two of its open-source projects, aimed at helping developers build service-oriented architectures, are making their way through the Apache Software Foundation open-source community process. BEA officials said the code for the company’s Apache Beehive project is now available to the public and its Apache XMLBeans project, which is aimed at helping developers simplify Java and XML development, has received approval as an official project of the Apache Software Foundation.
  • SafariU is O’Reilly’s vision of XML-based books on demand. U design it. Search across the safari library to locate content, choose content as needed, even add your own material. Each section will show the number of pages and price ($0.16 per page).

Improvements to the desktop will require a greater Internet focus that enhances communication and collaboration, said Havoc Pennington, technical lead for desktop engineering at Red Hat at OSCon this Wednesday.

The ability for users to access their data anywhere; and the option of software as a service are essential elements, he said. You can find slides from the talk here: Creating a Desktop OS and D-BUS (sxi format). KDE and GNOME combine window managers with suites of applications to create comprehensive work environments.

Here’s a stick figure summary of the conference.

Police Commandeer 2.4 GHz

Lockheed Martin today announced that it has received formal technical acceptance from the City of Garland, Texas, for deployment of the NexGen City NexLink wireless broadband communications network. NexGen City says it allows IEEE Standard 802.xx (both WiMax and WiFi) communications on its NexLink Network and municipal workers have the option of using either the company’s NexCard wireless interface product in a highly mobile environment or a standard 802.xx card in a low-speed nomadic scenario.

Garland has a population of 221,000 and is located 15 miles northeast of downtown Dallas. Lockheed Martin Space Operations, the project’s prime system integrator, has completed the contract awarded by Garland in September 2003. Next, the city will phase out their 19.2 Kbps CDPD network. The system includes a geo-location application that does not require satellite-based GPS receivers.

The communications network is made up of more than 500 mobile and fixed wireless devices that cover Garland’s 57 square miles. LM claims it is the first and geographically largest deployment of mobile mesh-based technology for public safety applications. Garland Police Department’s 290 officers were the first to use the system since the network went online in May 2004.

NexLink uses the unlicensed, 2.4 GHz band but won’t work with standardized WiFi gear. LockMart says their system, like a $700 toilet seat, is special and unique; optimized for high-speed mobility and quality of service, something that 802.11 “is not capable of providing”.

Maitland, Fla.-based MeshNetworks’ is providing the technology. Every device in the network can connect directly, or hop through the network to reach any other device.

MeshNetworks also has a citywide network in Portsmouth, England. It provides real-time departure and arrival information for bus passengers, via the Portsmouth Online Real Time Traveler (PORTAL) Information System. PORTAL encompasses 36 bus stops and 9 kiosks in Portsmouth displaying the comings and goings of 300 buses at any one time on large LCD screens.

NexLink says it takes an average of 30-45 minutes for an experienced installer utilizing a pole that already has a photocell and an average 1-1.5 hours (for an experienced installer/electrician) to install a horizontal mounting bar and do the proper terminations.

Meanwhile, Wireless LAN mesh player Tropos Networks is in the process of unwiring another city in the U.S with 802.11b WiFi gear using a mesh networked backbone. Corpus Christie, Texas, will have a wireless LAN mesh network in an 18.5 square mile area. The network is eventually intended to cover 147 square miles and be used by public safety agencies, government workers, and utlities.

Public safety applications will mirror what the city of New Orleans has been testing, also using Tropos Networks equipment. Tropos can use stock WiFi clients because signals aren’t routed through end-user gear.

Wireless Utility Poles

WiFi Netnews and Engadget link to a story in NY Times and the NY Post on plans by New York City to let companies put cellphone antennas and WiFi access points on top of lampposts, traffic signals, and highway signs.

Nextel and T-Mobile plan to lease space for cellphone services. ClearLinx Network Corp., Crown Castle Solutions and Dianet Communications are planning on wireless Internet. The Times says the plan will add about $21.3 million to city coffers, improve spotty cellphone reception – and turn many intersections into wireless Internet “hot spots.” About 18,000 spots will be leased. Each company will be allowed to use a maximum of 3,000 poles citywide for a term of 15 years at $6,000/year.

Portland’s Office of Cable Communications wrote a Wireless Utility Pole Agreement (pdf) some two years ago:

The Right-of-Way Use Fee. The Company shall pay as a Right-of-Way Use Fee $3,000 per year per Structure that has any Attached Facilities. If Attached Facilities occupy a Structure for less than one year, the amount of this Fee for that year shall be prorated at $250 per month. If Company places Attached Facilities in the first half of a month, the Company owes the fee for the full month. If Attached Facilities are affixed in the second half of the month, the fee will not be assessed for the remainder of that month.

New cell towers contruction is becoming increasingly difficult due to neighborhood complaints and political pressures. City-owned rights-of-way, are one answer. Utility poles are often owned by power companies, while streetlamps are often controlled by the transportation departments. Both use city rights-of-way.

Either way, a micro-cell tower (or hot-spot), on utilitiy poles, may provide one solution for telecommunications companies – as long as rates can be negotiated in a satisfactory manner. Portland’s process was open thoughout, and sought public comments.

Secure Tunneling with PocketPCs

Wireless-enabled devices devices tend to be less secure than their wired counterparts. Two Pocket PC, SSH clients are reviewed here, PocketPutty and OpenSSH CE. Both are free. They can be downloaded from several sites on the Internet and will improve security of remote access and data transfer. PockeTTY, is another commercial SSH product.

Rob Flickenger explains SSH (Secure Shell), which lets you log into a remote machine through a secure connection. A secure tunnel can prevent someone from grabbing your password since it provides encryption, end-to-end.

If you need a SSH tool for occasional use, check out the free ones.