Posts Tagged 'Android'

October 8, 2011

Smart Phones: Technology Replacing Contact?

So much of our life has been moved to digital devices these days. Smart phones are one of many devices that have made an impression on our lives. Smart phones these days have become a must for most, whether it is for business or personal use, almost everyone has one.

On the plus side, smart phones enable users to conduct business from just about anywhere in the world. Access to email accounts, VPNs and other tools that make business move on a daily basis have become accessible from the palm of your hand. You can even administer your web server from your smart phone with the right application setup.

You're carrying a small computer around in your pocket. It'll be interesting to see what new devices will emerge in the market in the next few years. Tablets are becoming wildly popular, and mainstream consumers are starting to keep an eye on the newest innovations, joining the "tech geeks" in the "early adopter" line.

There are several players in this market with Google, RIM and Apple leading the pack, and dedicated fans rally behind each. With smart phones becoming so increasingly common, I've started wondering if it's really for the best. Do we really need to check our e-mail every 10 minutes? If we're not on Twitter, Facebook or one of our other social networks, will they be there when we get to our computer?

Being digitally connected all the time give us a false sense of "socializing" in the old school face-to-face sense, and that pull us away from those IRL (in real life) encounters. Numerous crashes have been caused by people texting or updating their statuses while driving, and there have been cases of people walking into a busy street while being distracted by their phones.

When it comes to technology like smart phones, how do you keep those devices from becoming a dependency? How do you keep yourself from letting them take the place of direct human contact rather? It's something to think about as technology continues to evolve and permeate our lives.

-James

July 7, 2011

Me and My Android

Last weekend I went to an outdoor concert where I saw a pretty decent Beatles tribute band that hails from the great state of Texas and goes by the name Me and My Monkey. The entire excursion from home to the venue and back again lasted just about six hours. I was pulling into my driveway engaged in a phone conversation with a friend about which fake Beatle was her favorite when my Android gave a strangled beep, cut us off and powered down.

At first I thought it was a glitch, but a quick attempt to turn it back on showed me otherwise. I was out of juice. My battery was drained beyond the point of no return — or at least no return without access to an electrical outlet. I wondered if I had forgotten to charge the phone the previous night. After all, I was outside with friends, food, and music all evening. My phone was snug in my pocket on standby ... Or was it?

I was the first to arrive to the venue, so I made a call to let the my freinds know I had staked us out a shady spot. After that, I fired up go sms to coordinate getting the right number of chairs, and I used it again while searching the parking lot for my friend's car to help her carry those chairs. During the Sgt. Pepper set in an attempt to settle an argument, I "Googled" which year the Beatles officially broke up (turns out it was 1970 but the break-up dragged out until 1975). Sometime between Strawberry Fields and Hello, Goodbye I got an email from the office, so I logged into my handy SoftLayer App to check on a support ticket.

During the intermission, a local radio station was piped through the sound system and someone asked me to Shazam what turned out to be a Florence and the Machine cover of a track off Abbey Road. Since my phone was at the ready, I was the point person to find out whether the chorus to I Am the Walrus really said goo goo g'joob. I didn't have a lighter on me, but my Virtual Zippo did the trick nicely during Hey Jude. And did I mention I don't wear a watch because if I just hit the power button on my spiffy smart phone ... ta-da, I get the time!

It's a funny feeling when you realize how something that didn't really exist five years ago has managed to ingrain itself so deeply into your everyday life. That's what I found myself thinking as I was drifting off to sleep Saturday night, me in my bed and my Android recharging on the night stand ... Well, that and who are the eggmen? Goo goo g'joob.

-William

Categories: 
May 27, 2011

SoftLayer Mobile - Coming of Age

The SoftLayer Mobile application allows customers to work with support tickets, examine and control servers, monitor bandwidth information and more. The application is available on two platform: Apple iOS - supporting iPhones and iPads, and the Google Android operating system - supporting mobile phones and devices from a variety of vendors.

The SoftLayer Mobile application is quickly approaching its first birthday. The application was first introduced to the world in June of 2010. Frequent visitors to this blog may remember when we introduced the iPhone application right here in the SoftLayer blog. We got back with you again when the Android application reached the milestone of 100 downloads. Our success with the application continues to this day with the both the iOS and Android versions sporting impressive download statistics which multiply those of a year ago many dozens of times over.

In the course of the past year, we've gotten some great suggestions for improvements from our customers. The first request was for the application to store account passwords a feature which we implemented quickly. From those humble beginnings we added some larger, more complex functionality based on your feedback like two-factor authentication using VeriSign Identity Protection, bandwidth charting, and the ability to check account balances and make one-time payments against those balances from your phone.

We'd love to continue that trend and hope to tap into the experience of the thousands of you who are working with the application. In the coming year, we hope to expand our existing functionality, include new features, and support both new operating systems and new devices. We'd love to hear about your ideas on how we can best improve the SoftLayer Mobile application to make it an even more valuable tool for you.

Would you like improved tracking of your bandwidth? Can we offer greater control over your server's network ports? Do you need to monitor your server's CPU usage even while you're in line at the bank? Is there one particular task that compels you to visit the SoftLayer Customer Portal time and again? If so, and if it would be convenient for you to have that information on the phone in your pocket rather than on the computer at your desk, please let us know!

To offer your suggestions, please create a support ticket in your SoftLayer account detailing your needs. Alternatively, if you are already using the SoftLayer Mobile application, drop us a line through the feedback links built into the Support section.

If you haven't been using the SoftLayer Mobile application, then we'd like to invite you to download it and explore its features. For more information, and for links and information about downloading and installing the application, visit our Mobile Application resource page.

Keep watching that page over the coming months as well. We have some exciting projects in the works and hope to share them with you very soon!

-Scott

May 3, 2011

SoftLayer's Android Client Gets an Extreme Makeover

One of the things you expect when you merge two organizations in the same vertical space is for your talent pool to get deeper. SoftLayer had a seriously talented bunch of developers before the merger - I should know, I consider myself one of them - and as I was promised would be the case, after the merger, we were joined by an equally talented group of engineers from The Planet. Where we had two low-level developers, now we have four. Where we had a dozen guys with .NET experience, now we have twenty. It's better for us employees, and better for our customers too.

What I didn't expect as part of the merger was that our talent pool would get wider. No, I don't mean we now employ an army of body builders and Siamese twins. I mean as result of the merger, we ended up with an entirely new group of folks here unlike any SL previously had on the payroll. This new and exotic breed of folks - new and exotic at least from my perspective - are collectively known as "user experience" engineers.

I admit (and I suspect most software engineers will concur) when I develop something, it becomes my baby. Each software engineer has his or her own method for inciting that spark of genius ... I start out with some ideas on a yellow pad, refine them until I can whip up an actual spec, code some unit tests and wait to see if my baby takes its first step or falls flat on its digital face. Either way, over time with gentle nudging and TLC, eventually an application grows. And like any loving parent I'm certain that my application can do no wrong.

So when I was told a "usability study" would be done on one of my babies by the user experience, team you can imagine what went through my mind. After all, I was there when the first API call succeeded. I was the one who got up in the middle of the night when the application got cranky and decided to throw an unhandled exception. Who the heck are these user interface specialist and what do they know that I don't?

In retrospect, I couldn't have been more wrong. I am a professional coder with more than a decade of experience under my belt. But I'm often more interested in how I can squeeze a few more CPU cycles out of a sub-routine than how much easier it would be for the user if I rearranged the order of the GUI's a little bit. The user interface review I received really got me thinking from a user's perspective and excited about the application in a way I hadn't been since the early days when I banged out those first few lines of code.

Two weeks ago, we released a new, radically different looking Android client. If you are a current user of the application, you've undoubtedly received an OTA update by now, and I hope you are as pleasantly surprised by the result as I am. For those of you with Android phones who have not installed the SoftLayer client, I encourage you to do so. You can get more info by visiting http://www.softlayer.com/resources/mobile-apps/.

Before I let you go, what kind of father would I be if I didn't take out my wallet and bore you to tears with pictures of my children? Without further ado, I present to you the latest and greatest Android Mobile Client:

SL Android App

SL Android App

SL Android App

SL Android App

-William

Categories: 
October 22, 2010

Microsoft Windows 7 Goes Mobile

On October 11, our friends at Microsoft unveiled what promises to be the first in a long series of devices that will be powered by the newly minted Windows Mobile 7 operating system.

From a device perspective, they look familiar to what we currently get from Apple and Google Android powered devices. Each device features a relatively large touch screen, and a number of on-board applications that let you send and receive phone calls, send email, listen to music, watch videos and browse the internet. In addition, Microsoft offers the promise of the Marketplace Hub – here you can download other applications and games to the device.

The great thing about all of this is the potential impact on SoftLayer. The success of both Apple and Google’s Android OS (which is found on a number of different vendors including HTC, LG, Lenovo, Samsung and others) is due to a lot of factors. What is certain is that one of those factors has been the birth of a developer community that feeds all sorts of wild and wonderful applications to the Apple App Store and the Android Market. It is amazing how many people will pay $2.00 to hurl a bunch of fowl at pigs…make no mistake, this is a lucrative marketplace.

It goes without saying that SoftLayer has a bunch of app developers as clients. Our ability to quickly scale combined with a network architecture that can take whatever is thrown at it makes us a great partner. Not only do we host a number of test and development environments, but we also host a number of the live applications that are getting pushed out to end users. The addition of a robust Microsoft powered device to the family means a few things for us:

  1. A number of companies will begin to work on porting games/apps to Microsoft Mobile 7. (We have already started)
  2. A new flock of developers will arrive that are focused on Microsoft Mobile 7 apps. They will start there and consider porting to Apple and Android environments if they are successful.
  3. Once the test and development work has been completed, it will be time to put those new apps in the hands of a bunch of eager consumers.

As far as I can tell, everything points to more SoftLayer! And the world needs more SoftLayer. So, on that note, let’s me take the opportunity to wish Microsoft terrific success with the new mobile OS. After all, a rising tide raises all ships!

-@quigleymar

June 30, 2010

Does Everything I Need it to Do!

So for those of you who have been following SoftLayer’s recent push into the mobile application space, you might be aware that we recently released a native application for devices running Google’s Android operating system. As the principal software engineer of the application, one of the exciting parts of my job post launch is monitoring the number of times the application gets downloaded, the ratings it gets in the market place, and of course, reading the user submitted comments.

This morning when I came into work and pulled up Google’s Android Developer Console, I saw that we had just passed 100 downloads of the application. Not too shabby considering the formal press release has not yet been made so those 100 lucky Android owners who found the application heard about it via word of mouth, following SoftLayer on Facebook, or reading our forums.

As the developer of the application even more thrilling than seeing the number of downloads, was for me to see that two users had rated the application—five out of five stars. And one of those users even left a comment. Does everything I need it to do. That’s what the post said. Then I scrolled down to see which of our customers was so pleased with the initial feature set of the app.

What I found caused me to burst out laughing (and get a few strange looks from the guy who sits in the cube across from mine). The comment, does everything I need it to do, was left by my eleven year old son. True, he does have an Android phone, and apparently it’s also true that he downloaded the app. What he doesn’t have is an account with SoftLayer, so the only thing the app can do for him is show him a title screen and direct him to the SoftLayer corporate website for help. Apparently that’s everything he needs it to do!

At any rate, while I am tickled to see my son being so supportive, I’d love to hear comments from users who need the application for something other than to show their friends at band camp their dad has written a program that can be installed on a phone. While I’m admittedly biased, I think the app is pretty cool. Browsing tickets on the phone works particularly well and checking bandwidth and rebooting servers on the go is pretty darn handy.

Alright, its back to work for me. I’m looking forward to hearing from all you Android owners out there though. Download the app. Tell us what you think. And most of all, let us know what you’d like to see in future releases. At SoftLayer, we are all about making things that make your life easier. Help us build an app that does everything YOU need it to do!

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