“failed to retrieve account information”

If you’re getting “failed to retrieve account information” after getting a new android phone, or if you’re like me and getting it after you got your new Samsung Vibrant/Galaxy/Fascinate whatever back from the company after the update bricked it, then you’re not alone. I played with it quite a bit to try to figure out why the gallery could no longer post videos or photos. I did a bunch of factory resets and called TMobile. Finally I got down and dirty with the thing and figured it out.

Do a factory reset (only way to fix it, sorry), then if you have the update to at least Android 2.1.1, you’ll go back to your home screen and not the “sign in or sign up” screen. Let the media scanner run. Now the first thing you need to do before you do anything else
(including adding wifi configs or any other account) – click on market. You’ll be taken to the “sign up or sign in” screen. Choose sign in. You’ll add your google account per usual and market will close.

That’s it, this fixes your google account for posting videos and photos.

Game Review – Army of Two: 40th Day

I got this from Gamestop for $25.

Gamestop now has a new promo where if you get cold feet about a game within 7 days you can return it for a full refund. Suddenly I’m a lot more interested in those singleplayer titles I can breeze through or like Army of Two, it’s coop singleplayer. Return it for store credit and now for the price of Gamefly but without the monthly subscription, you too can rent games you don’t really care about!

That being said, if I had paid $60 for it new, I would have felt let down. $25 is pushing it, but it’s the right price given that Extraction Mode is included now.

The game is gross fun. You can be a sadistic jerk and it gives you weapons, or you can be a nice guy and… Oh there’s no incentive to be a nice guy. No seriously you get $30k cash for saving this kid and maybe one crate unlock but otherwise shooting everyone down gets you more guns and more money by far. Also sometimes the correct choice is still a messy choice. Saving the “trainer” guy in the first scene merely gets him killed anyway on a beach, and you lose $30k. Saving the kid later in the game gets you $30k, but he goes on to hate mercs and kill a bunch of people. If you let that kid live you also pass up on unlocking the most powerful sniper rifle in the game. You can play the game making the “nice” choice the entire time but it’s a lot harder since you’ll spend most of it starved for cash and ammo.

The bromance in the game isn’t as overt, but you can still express camaraderie and otherwise gay it up when you feel like it. Put in oftentimes weird camera angles and it’s not uncommon for Salem to look like he’s blowing Rios (air guitar). There’s apparently a points system here for expressing how awesome you are as buddies but otherwise it adds little to the game except for the downtimes between shooting. There’s also a paper-rock-scissors minigame which lets you win $100 from your buddies when you win. It’s fun to play during inappropriate cut scenes. Bored with that doctor reaming you out for warcrimes? Play some paper rock scissors for folding money! Bored with that guy talking about the majestic white tiger at the zoo you just had a firefight in? Hit camaraderie until Salem is blowing Rios over the video phone.

The aggro model works better in this game then it did in the previous game, but the AI doesn’t use it. More on the point when you’re customizing weapons, it’s not clear why the AI needs “money” at all. It would be nice if his money were given to you. Since you can get an achievement for making a “hate machine” (mine is a gold plated AK47 with a bayonet and an “enhancer” which is the opposite of a silencer) aggro plays a huge role just on accomplishments alone and it’s easy to rack up. With an AI which is ignorant of aggro, there’s no real reason to draw attention to yourself. I’ve never once seen the AI get killed. Also the game changes the AI’s attributes to cover up for occasionally shoddy AI work. In the hostage situations, the AI will always succeed in taking a hostage. The AI will always remain undetected. The AI will always pass a quickdraw. When you eat a rocket, the AI will simply take a knee for a second. And for parts where you split up suchas the first area with the fences or the area with the building cut in half, send the AI in on the hot side because the game won’t let the AI get cut down before accomplishing the “button push” sequence to let you regroup. (This may not be true on contractor difficulty but for the default difficulty, this is true – I’ve basically hidden behind the AI in the harder shootouts full well knowing he won’t go down).

The enemy AI is vastly improved over the first one. In the first one you couldn’t wound the AI. Now the AI has a DBNO status where wounding them (and leg shots will wound) cause them to go down and call to their buddies like you do. DBNO badguys can still hit you with the pistol, for the automatic pistol in the game this is particularly annoying. You can execute them, but there’s no option to force them to surrender. Grenades have a gears-of-war style arc preview which extends to the grenade launcher also. Bad guys will intelligently run from grenades or point their shields at them. Bad guys also try to fan out, which is also refreshing since the airport level of the first game was largely an excercise in reloading it until you ended up with a favorable spawn of bad guys and then hit the group with the RPG. This time around still suffers from a bit of luck, but it’s mostly lucky shots. More than a few times we’ve been hit by heavies and I’ll get lucky with a blindfire on a shotgun that saves us (or not).

Level design is worth a hat-tip here, it feels a lot like gears of war. GoW comparisons are inevitable in any game which also uses cover-and-concealment. Each level feels distinctive. Even in the hospital basement which could have looked like the skyscraper, it feels unique and you’re like “oh I’m in a different area”. The zoo feels like a zoo, each slum feels suitably slummy, the highrises feel like office spaces (although shot to pieces). More importantly each level clearly has an eye for “player space” where the players are likely to spend all their time, so these areas are highly polished. The hit model works well too – rebar sticking out of rubble will even block shots – and the game rarely suffers from rendering issues even with wide open spaces. Everything looks good. More importantly like GoW MP levels, everything flows nicely. There’s no one good spot to dig in, but it’s not like Modern Warfare where its absolute luck and each level is either “bowl” or “doughnut”.

The problem with multiplayer is twofold – strangers don’t wear headsets, which forces you to play in a game where people are required to communicate with people who don’t want to and it’s so late for this game that no-ones playing. Extraction might have been really cool with 12 players, but after checking the public servers for about an hour late my time, there were only three people playing on average. Multiplayer is a wash. It’s like Gears 2 now where the only people left are uberhardcore and they turned the bots up to 11. If you didn’t learn it before, you’re not going to learn it now. It’s actually still sort of fun since your buddies get a lot of cash for getting you up, but it’s not fun having to have someone babysit you because you’re not a headshot machine from playing the game since release. More on the point in straight up deathmatch, don’t even bother. There’s two kinds of players – headshot machines with the sniper rifles (unlike gears, the maps are big enough to make some decent use of the sniper rifles) and headshot machines with the shotguns. The maps are varied enough that you can get away with an assault rifle, but people who specialize in one of those two weapons classes will routinely score big.

Was it worth it? Probably not for $60, but at $25 and the ability to return it for a refund for 7 days, yeah. There’s enough content there to justify two sick days worth of time. For $60, I’d feel like it was short on content. There’s not enough going on with the assault rifles to make them distinctive, the same for the sniper rifles. Shotguns are interesting because they’re automatic or not, but basically there’s only four guns here. Levels are short and unfortunately divided up into bite sized chunks with “heavy troopers” in between. Once again the campaign just feels like training for multiplayer. The problem is, of course, that multiplayer is dead with a slew of new shooters out and it was never popular to begin with since the first Army of Two wasn’t really fun. So, for $25, it’s worth it to buy just for the experience, but trade it in quick.

Steve Jobs on Android

truly then has the android come into it’s own when Apple takes a note. Much in the same way Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with free press, Jobs really did the wrong thing by bringing attention to it.

Two points – The UI. I’m not worried about the UI. Microsoft phones have had a different UI for each release and it hasn’t stopped them. Blackberry too, for the most part, has had a new UI release for each phone, although they at least try to keep a standard look and feel for where things are even if the icons are different. Why then is the UI important? Its what people expect to see for making a phone stand out. You go into a cellphone store and they have running demo phones just so that you can mess with the UI. More on the point, the Google App Store doesn’t hurt anyone over the UI experience because the user will buy something they’re comfortable with UI wise while getting access to the app store. Apps which won’t run on your device (IE: 2.2 apps) don’t get presented. But this is an argument against Apple – who’s UI is absolutely the same for each device. It’s all their eggs in one basket – either you really like the UI and you’ll purchase a phone with that look and feel, or you hate the UI and you’ll shop elsewhere. My take on this argument is that it was a straw man from the beginning. Apple doesn’t let other companies do integration, so then when Jobs says “The user has to do the integration on android” – he’s being dishonest. The user can shop around for an android which fits their UI expectations – but if the user buys an apple phone and wants to change the UI, s/he really does have to do the UI integration. Incidentally the app “homeswitcher” in the market will let you do all that pesky UI integration with one click. This seems to be a popular talking point, enough that I felt a need to discuss it earlier.

The store(s) – I think the rant here was because Apple is afraid that developers will go for greener pastures, and while it was only Apple and Google competing, Apple only needed to sweeten the deal to keep developers in the apple store. There’s nothing to keep the existing developers on one platform or another. The Angry Birds guy is a good example of this – he’s well entrenched in the apple store and he’s probably made all the sales he’s ever going to make from that application. He’s got every reason to move despite less favorable terms elsewhere because he’s already hit market saturation unless there’s new users on the device. However with the apple ipad failing to offer up any new experience aside of being a “larger iphone” (and not that large at that), it’ll simply fail to entice people to purchase software again. There’s really no new users (unless people are somehow swayed by Jobs’s speech). What Apple is worried about is that new developers will see the competition from the other stores and the terms which are basically bidding wars and maybe they’ll get the next Killer App out on the android before it comes to the IOS platform. Not every indy developer is going to get titles like gameloft, who arguably don’t need the app store because they’re getting promotional tie-ins. However the new developers are going to look at the google store, the apple store, the samsung store, the verizon store and the at&t store and they’ll probably write off apple immediately. Why? Because they can code for one platform (android 2.1, android 2.2, etc) and pick which store is giving them the best terms at the moment. Is the verizon store likely to be open to t-mobile customers? Maybe. The Samsung store absolutely is open across carriers. If Verizon is serious about running a music/video/games store, they’ll make the verizon store app available in the marketplace.

Apple, at this point, is now going through the gentrification process. If I were Jobs, I would be looking for a new look and feel for IOS to inject some fresh life into the platform.

Woodstove Preview

Here’s what I’ve been working on. It’s almost done, I couldn’t wait to show it off. Basically the last task is to elevate the woodstove an inch and we’re done. I plan on using some nice, decorative bricks, centering it up, and we’re good to go.

What’s going on in this picture? We’ve got the hearth pad under the stove (tile + type X drywall), then behind the stove we’ve got wallshields, which are cement board with steel standoffs. The steel is 1 5/8ths thick, the wallboard is quarter inch, so we’ve got almost two inches of shielded area behind the stove. The bottom and top get an inch gap which prevents my walls from catching on fire, and we’re set.

All it needs is those one inch tiles to pretty it up and we’re in business.

Tomorrow is my foray into woodburning, wooo!

Oracle Sues Google – Software as a Tollbooth

I originally wrote this as a mail to my boss encouraging him to get off of java and start looking at HTML 5. The technical parts are glossed over but explained enough to make the point. I republished it here because I think it will generate discussion, especially among the SAP people, etc.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-30684_3-20013546-265.html <- this is tough to get your head around the “why” until you consider how the android (and thus the cutting edge of java) works.

Oracle has decided to become a patent troll as far as Java is concerned. Oracle’s moving towards an oracle box as a literal thing – and I think the trend here is for companies to get away from IP (intellectual property) because of how badly MP3s and whatnot have eroded case law. The music industry has problems prosecuting pirates, the movie industry has problems prosecuting pirates, and as we move into the brave new cloud world, I think software companies will go the same way. The mainframe is dead. Long live the mainframe.

So we’re back to the pressed CD, the pressed DVD (how terrible is it we’re advertising “includes digital copy” on the media, Disney), and now Oracle is making Oracle Boxes and suing google using phones as a fathom of piracy. I would say “oh but everything is going to be a VM now” makes sense for abandoning hardware and virtualizing the stack except that an OS is a complicated thing, and a company which makes databases isn’t into the business of making SCSI card drivers. Drivers aren’t Oracles game and I don’t think this is particularly about Java and I think it’s much more about virtual machine technology. Google is the cloud and frankly it’s a better cloud than the VMWare-ish cloud of pretending to be hardware. If you’re looking to make a literal box you install on your network and become a toll booth of sorts, it would behoove you to attack the cloud. Oracle is going to take a shot at google over how virtual machines work.

Where google ran afoul of Sun and Oracle is that each android runs a JVM for each process on the box, so any process has extremely strict controls of what it can and cannot do to the phone (Linux 2.6.26). Sun tried to patent “the network is the computer” and android is the realization of that – each phone can send a JVM-generated work-unit back to google to do Big Work and because it’s a JVM, it doesn’t really care where it runs or how many resources it has. Oracles game seems to be selling you an oracle box as a box, or selling you oracle-as-a-cloud, but either way you’re installing an oracle connector and talking to a big anonymous thing rather than installing oracle as a service somewhere. You can send your work to your oracle-box or you can send your work to oracle, but either way you’re paying the toll to use it. Google’s doing the same thing – but they hide their subscription charges in the carriers bill. Oracle looks at this and says “If we’re going to be the turnpike of the database world, lets try to become the turnpike of the cloud!”

The fallout from this is that Java is now going to have the albatross that Oracle can cry foul on how you use it. What makes me fairly sure of this whole thing is that Apple does a lot of the same with the iphone, except for sharing the work units. It’s pretty obvious that since the iphone runs IOS but keeps it’s work-units to itself, it’s not running afoul of any VM patents in any form. Now would be a good time to start pushing HTML 5 for what we do. Runs in IIS! Doesn’t need Apache/Tomcat on Windows! Won’t be sued into oblivion!

The linux community is pointing out that Google very obviously built their JVM from the ground up and it therefor doesn’t infringe.

Ruminations on the Smart Phone

I’ve got a fairly large bone to pick with the smartphone as a device. I started out with an MDA 1 from HTC from TMobile running Windows Mobile 3 as my first “real” smartphone. I had a WinCE device previously but it wasn’t a phone. There’s an important distinction here – phones are different from tablets and pocket PCs and such because the task of being a phone has to have immediate preemption no matter what else the device might be doing. This makes any offering on any device consider the idea that the UI must be streamlined enough to be a phone first, and whatever else you want to do secondly. Anyway, this was back when there was enough standard issue C in a device my skills were at least relevant. Me and Tmobile got sort of buddy buddy over in their forums which, while plagued with spammers and me-toos, are fairly open in terms of what’s discussable. Nowadays things like rooting and whatnot come with big tags warning you it’ll void your warranty, but I think anyone who’s afraid of voiding their warranty or service plan is simply going to run over the phone with the car and claim it was an accident. Back then (2003-ish) it was really open to discussion and the company was simply fascinated with the idea that users might actually do something with the phone and not hardware engineers like HTC or “developers” like MS.

I never got into palm. Taking the paragraph above into consideration, maybe palm had the better idea. The phone does one thing at once and therefor when the phone comes up, it knows exactly who to kill to get resources. Every palm OS was different while Windows Mobile, while quirky, was mostly the same thing. Windows Mobile was Windows Mobile, Win CE was Win CE, and then Windows Mobile 5 came out and that was the breakpoint for an entirely new thing. I’m sure people will disagree with me. I felt the iphone wasn’t open enough. When I talk about open my specific rub for iphone development is the threading model. Mysteriously the iphone is limited to four threads per app. I’m not sure if they ever fixed this, but it’s just a bizarre requirement. I have a deep respect for anyone willing to play ball with Apple as a result. The idea is downright strange from a computing perspective and MS more recently did it with the desktop OS. I think it speaks volumes for what level of bullshit the users are willing to put up with and I think that the slow adoption of Windows 7 and the nonadoption of Vista speak volumes for the user experience towards a device. On a smartphone you might not notice the four threads requirement. On a table PC you probably will because the tablet never escaped the PC part of it’s name. On a desktop you will notice it entirely, which I think is why Apple is doing well and will continue to do well. The phone looks like the desktop, they run similar apps. The apple tablet runs the phone portion of the OS and apple users are more comfortable with the idea of a device rather than some shade of PC. Microsoft will always be microsoft and branded itself as a business company after the war with Lotus and therefor MS users expect MS products to be shades of a PC. This is why windows mobile 7 is going to flop. Is it technically astute? Yes. It fixes a lot of the issues Windows previous had getting smaller. Does it look like a business device? No. It looks like a Nokia product. Its not speaking to the MS Target Market. For the same reason Blackberry can’t rebrand itself (aside of the fact that BEX is garbage) as anything more than a business device, attempts by MS to be a non-business device probably aren’t going to fly. Your kids don’t give a shit about Microsoft, but they know the apple logo by heart.

This article cares to disagree. They think a reboot is what’s needed and they pick the bone that everything looks like an iphone. I personally don’t think that everything looks like the iphone, I think we’re stuck in the WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointers) UI if we realize it or not. Even if you dress something up with new colors or a cartoony look, we’re generally putting out icons in a grid, and we like it. The list UI is available on android, but it tends to fall by the wayside with every casual user I’ve talked to once they install their first application. Cellphones get lists. Smartphones get icons. Cellphones use keypad input. Smartphones have a keyboard. It’s only natural then that we go back to the XEROX PARC idea of icons in a grid. It’s not a MS thing, it’s not an apple thing, it’s not even a Linux thing, it goes all the way back to where we get the X in X-Windows from – XEROX’s UI. We haven’t come up with anything better. We’re sort of getting there, the new widget thing MS is doing with Windows Mobile is sort of cool, but it’s basically a question of “How do I put six windows on the screen and keep them readable”? That’s what the widgets are – they’re very small windows. It really makes me nostalgic for Window Maker. See the little widgets on the right? Each one of those is telling you something while still being about the same as the widgets on any of these smart phones. By the way, that screenshot is from 2001, back when the matrix was cool.

Has the UI changed? No.

We’re still using little postage stamp sized windows on a little envelope sized screen. We might tie into “big boy” services like office, but fundamentally people’s model of the smart phone is that it’s a small computer. The google phones do well because they avoid this idea, the apple phones do well because their users have already seen this on an iPod, and the MS Phones will fail utterly because the UI doesn’t scream “small computer”. MS’s zune is dead. The XBOX doesn’t really talk to anything without a total PITA setup process involving running back and forth between the XBOX and a computer connected to the web, and the whole thing is conspicuously missing a USB cable. Mac people don’t have problems sharing media or networking because it plugs in over USB. Connect the cable, get to work. MS still wants to run the network (not sure why) and that’s above the interest level of the average home user. Bits and pieces of the MS Empire may do well, but frankly the Windows Mobile 7 phone simply isn’t what people expect at this point out of a smart phone.

Where’s the innovation? “You’ve done an awful lot of complaining, Knarr, and very little fixing!”

Here’s the UI of the future, folks, you read it here first. The home screen is going to work on the entire idea that phones are now messaging devices. The last complex application here is going to be the webbrowser, simply because the web was built for PCs and people expect Frontierville on Facebook to look just like it does on their PC. The idea of a “mobile version” is just crap. People hate it. You fire up frontierville on your phone and you want to plant some damned corn, you don’t want to see “FACEBOOK LITE”. The UI of the future is going to be the home screen being the most immediate task. Got a message? The home screen will look like an envelope. You can flip through envelopes to see a series of contacts who messaged you like a rolodex, you click on it to open it and you can read the messages like sheafs of paper or, gasp, individual e-mails! Got a phone call coming in? I want to see the dialpad with the caller ID on it. Why? Because if you’re talking to your friends you’re not looking at the phone, but if it’s the bank calling and they want you to press 2 to speak to a mortgage rep, I hate having to fish around for the keypad. When someone’s calling or you’re calling someone, just display the caller ID until you pick up (or dismiss) and then bring up the dial pad. I hate displaying facebook statuses and crap like that, I’m holding the phone up to my face and talking to someone, not holding it out so I can read the screen. Have a list of applications? Take a queue from the cellphones (or MS) and have a Start menu or “applications menu” which lets you flip through categories. These are typically games, office, web, utilities and configuration. The icons thing, while quick, has got to go. However, I’ve always been a keyboard crusader, and I’ve always liked hotkeys. Why not make your cellphone UI have Hotkeys? You can either yell “start, apps, office, word” or you could use your finger to write S, A, O, W. It already does finger drawing recognition and there’s very little chance of butt dialing with this scheme. Contact lists can be the same way, write letters for Phonebook, Family, Parents, and then Frank, or dad. You get the point. We have this idea of small windows which do one thing, but then we overcomplicate the UI. While bitching about the icons thing for lack of innovation is the right idea, the problem is a problem of input and not presentation. Presentation isn’t going anywhere new until we get holograms, and even then it’ll probably be cubes and not squares. Input is always changing.

Innovate the input, then exploit the hell out of the new methods. The UI should follow the interaction with the phone, not dictate it.