Android Google

Google Mail is becoming Gmail in the UK – just don’t change if you use Android

As the title of this post says, UK Googlemail users can now change their email address from to If I remember correctly, there was a trademark issue with “Gmail” in the UK, but it looks like this has now been resolved.

I decided to change my Googlemail account to use the .gmail domain name. However, as soon as I did this, my Android phone (which is linked to my Google account) began to get a little cross. The Android Market stopped working, and I kept getting a Google Talk error (even though I don’t use it). I decided to remove the Google account from my phone and add it back in. However, my phone warned me that I would have to reset the whole phone in order to do this! Just for changing to I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

So I have reverted to and everything has returned to normal. I might wait a little while before I try that again…

Android Mobile

Bye bye Symbian, hello Android

HTC Desire

Last week I waved goodbye to my trusty Nokia E71. After watching the iPhone and Android communities evolve over the last 18 months, Symbian (the operating system that runs on the E71) has increasingly felt rather outdated.

I am now the proud owner of an HTC Desire running on Google’s Android platform.

People who know me may be a little surprised, given my general enthusiasm for all things Apple, that I didn’t get an iPhone. One of the major deciding factors is the unavoidable practicality that I am stuck in the middle of a long contract with 3. I can’t justify the outlay on an iPhone as well as the £35/month contract that goes with it. I’ll get one someday, just not yet.

Putting all of that aside, I am an itinerant tinkerer. I like the freedom that goes with Android – you can tinker with the many options, set up homescreen widgets, and truly customise it. There are plenty of free apps out there to play with, and the Android App ecosystem seems pretty healthy, with the number of apps available in the Android Market steadily increasing (50,000 at the time of writing). Android is the underdog platform, and is something I’ve wanted to try out for a few years.

So what phone to choose? Initially, it was going to have to be the Google Nexus One. However, being based in the UK, it wasn’t available, and I didn’t want the hassle of trying to import one. Manufacturer HTC and Android review websites were making noises about a handset called the HTC Desire, which was mooted to be almost exactly the same as the Nexus One bar a secondary microphone and a different design (HTC make the Nexus One for Google anyway). This sounded ideal.

After a few weeks of reading reviews, and looking at sample video and photos taken by the device, my mind was made up. At the same time, my mobile operator, 3 UK, announced that they would be releasing the HTC Desire on their network. Due to huge interest in the handset they also announced that they would release the handset ahead of their own branding and customisation, so that the first batch of handsets sold by them would be unbranded, unlocked, and subsidised. Excellent! An unlocked unbranded handset means that I will get all of the necessary firmware / OS updates from HTC when they’re released. Branded handsets are sometimes never updated.

Thinking back to my post about Simply Drop, a way of recycling old mobile phones for cash, I totted up how much I could get for all my old mobiles, including the E71. Enough to pay for half the HTC Desire, and enough to convince me that this was a good idea.

After a little bit of fun trying to buy an HTC Desire from 3 (who didn’t seem to want to sell one on PAYG) I managed to get one at the end of last week.

So, two days in to using Android on the HTC Desire, what do I think? So far, it’s amazing. The HTC Sense interface which adds some extra functionality to the standard Android user interface (UI) is very slick and easy to navigate. The dark interface is cleanly designed and minimal, the capacitive touch screen is very sensitive, keyboard works well, and the 1Ghz SnapDragon processor means the whole experience is very quick with no detectable lag. I like it.

The social networking and Google integration is just wonderful. Gmail, contacts, calendar, Twitter, Flickr, all synchronise automatically. Without doing anything, I have the same information on my phone as I do on my Mac. It’s something I’ve quested to do on my old E71 since I got it, and never managed an eloquent solution. And now I have one.

Also – browsing the web is every bit as good as on an iPhone (I have an iPod Touch, so know it well). The inclusion of Flash in the browser is nice, but it’s not something I’m too bothered about really (favouring standards and HTML5).

The downsides so far are the battery life and screen visibility. This, like an iPhone, is a charge every day device. I understand that the battery gets a bit better after a few days, but I will be keeping a closer eye on battery levels after being used to the E71’s 3 day capacity. Screen visibility is poor in direct sunlight. It’s nowhere near as good as the E71. The AMOLED screen brightness needs to be set to full to see it in bright conditions. I recommend setting the brightness to auto rather than manual control, otherwise there are times when you can’t even see the brightness control to turn it up to full when you need it.

But otherwise, all good so far.

Expect a full review of the HTC Desire in the coming weeks.

Computing Netbooks

The fabled Google OS

Well, it had to happen eventually. Google have just announced their latest project: Google Chrome OS.

You can’t download it just yet, but we can expect to see products (initially netbooks) running it next year:

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.

Running on a Linux kernel, the Google Chrome OS will have its own windowing system, optimised to run the Chrome browser, and the browser alone. The web will be the development platform. Google don’t want users to have to worry about viruses, malware and security updates – “It should just work”. Sound familiar?

Expect to see the source code later this year.


Google SketchUp 7, 3D export, and Vue 7 Infinite

[Update March 2010] In an update to Sketchup 7, you can now just go to File > Export > 3D Model and choose ‘COLLADA File (*.dae)’ as an option. This post remains as the information about extracting a KMZ file could be useful to some.

Google have just announced the release of SketchUp 7. SketchUp is a wonderfully simple 3D modelling package, often used to populate Google Earth with 3D models of famous buildings. SketchUp Pro is the paid-for ‘grown up’ version of SketchUp, allowing, amongst a range of features, 3D export of models in a variety of formats.

The free version of SketchUp only allows models to be saved in the proprietary .skp file format, and export to kml for inclusion in Google Earth. However, I noticed on the version comparison (Why go Pro) page, that listed in the 2D export feature list, that Collada (a 3D interchange format) export was supported. It’s strange to see it listed as a 2D file format, but there you go. This is exciting, as it means that the free version of SketchUp would be more usable to me (I can’t afford the $499 for the Pro version).

So, I downloaded SketchUp, and made a quick box model. I can do more complex models, honest!

The next step would be to export as Collada. Since it was listed as a 2D export format, I looked for it in the 2D export menu, but JPG, PNG and TIFF were the only options. So I checked the 3D export menu, which only listed KML and a tempting link to upgrade to Pro. The help menu didn’t seem to mention Collada export either. Initially, I put this down to an error by Google, and that this was indeed a Pro feature that had slipped into the free version’s feature list.

However, rarely one to give up, I decided to export the model as KML and see what I could do with it. I noticed that KML exports were KMZ files (a compressed file containing geometry and textures). On my Mac, I convinced Stuffit 10 to unzip the KMZ file to my desktop.

Stuffit created a directory containing the unzipped files. At first this just looked like it was a kml file and materials, but a quick look in the ‘models’ directory revealed a file with the extension .dae – which is the extension used by Collada files. So, through a rather backdoor method, it does indeed export Collada files. Which also means that Google Earth will read Collada files, which could lead to some interesting possibilities.

The next step is to test the exported file. I’m lucky enough to have a copy of E-On Software‘s Vue 7 Infinite at work, which supports the import of Collada files. Windows users of Vue are lucky enough to have a native .skp import, but it’s something us Mac users have to go without. Collada export neatly solves this problem.

It wasn’t that straightforward in Vue, however. The imported Collada file appeared to have no texture applied to it. A look in Vue’s material inspector revealed that for some reason the material had 100% transparency. Setting this back to 0% transparency showed my SketchUp-designed object, which I was able to render. Success!

While SketchUp Pro offers a lot more functionality, as well as plugins, the free version is still very useful for simple modelling tasks. Being able to export in 3D from the free version is a definite boon, and my use of Sketchup will definitely increase as a result.

I hope that this is of use to 3D artists out there – feel free to leave comments if you have any ideas on how to streamline the process.

Environment Technology

Google gets greener

Ars Technica reports that Google can now produce 30% of their peak demand power through their new installation of 9,212 solar panels. It can produce up to 1.6MW of green electricity, which is rather impressive.

Along with their other environmental efforts, it looks like they are committed to compensating for the vast amounts of electricity (and therefore carbon emissions) that they use to power and cool their servers (that we are quickly becoming dependant upon).

Great news, Google!
[tags]google, green, environmental, sustainability[/tags]


Google Maps API now supports GeoRSS and KML

Google has just announced that the Google Maps API now supports GeoRSS and KML. This is going to make the creation of Google Maps applications so much easier, given that Google Earth exports KML, and GeoRSS is becoming more widely used.

They seem to have made some efficiency tweaks too, as a few examples that I’ve tried out at work involving KML and complex polygons seem to work a bit more smoothly.

Get the full info at the Google Maps API Blog or jump straight to some examples.

[tags]google, googlemaps, api, kml, georss[/tags]

3D Metaverse

Google Metaverse?

GigaOM reports that more evidence is turning up that Google are developing their own metaverse, i.e. a virtual 3D world like Second Life.

Google themselves have said nothing about it themselves, so this is pure rumour/wishful thinking.

What with Google’s acquisition of SketchUp and Keyhole which demonstrates their keenness in 3D, it wouldn’t surprise me if a Metaverse is up their sleeves. We shall have to wait, watch, and see…