ROME’s “3 Dreams of Black” WebGL Demo Is Awesome!

If you haven’t heard of ROME’s 3 Dreams of Black WebGL demo, you should seriously check this out. It’s an interactive music-video like experience that is rendered in the web browser in real-time using JavaScript and WebGL. Because it’s hardware accelerated, it allows for insanely complex, dynamic, and interactive graphics to be rendered right within your web browser. Of course, you will need to be using a modern web browser for this to work, such as the latest version of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox (5 was just recently released), Opera, or Safari. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer does not support WebGL, which is required to view this demo. Also, this is an open source project, so all of the source code is available on Google Code. 3 Dreams of Black is more than just a music video. It offers a look at the future of the web, where open web technologies can be used to create interactive experiences never before thought possible, all through a web browser. If you have a modern graphics card that supports a reasonably modern version of the OpenGL API, I highly recommend playing with this demo. For the rest of you, there is a video on YouTube that shows off the demo.

What I Think About the New YouTube Widget

Don’t get me wrong… I absolutely love the new YouTube application (well, new to me, considering I’ve been stuck with the archaic version in Android 2.1), and the application itself is a huge step forward from how the application used to be, and, I must say that it has one of, if not the best touch screen video player controls on any mobile device. However, there is one major flaw that only recently caught my attention: the style of the new YouTube widget. At first, it doesn’t look that bad. It tries to stand out by using the YouTube logo as part of the outline of the widget, and it has a very unusual gradient and outline (for the Android platform). Unfortunately, being creative and having a non-native feel are probably the worst traits of this widget. The left and right margins of this icon are very slim, causing the widget to feel cramped, and not fit in with most of the other Android widgets. In addition to that, the borders of this widget are really ‘sharp’ looking, in comparison to other widgets. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Take a look at the Google Search widget, the news and weather widget, the Google Buzz widget, the “Power Control” widget, or almost every other widget that comes preloaded with Android. Also, I don’t think I like the partial transparency of this widget, as it just doesn’t ‘feel’ right to me, since most other widgets are fully opaque with subtle transparent drop shadows and anti-aliased rounded corners. Functionality wise, the widget is great, since it’s mostly just a redesign of the previous YouTube widget.  While the widget looks great alone, when it’s on a mobile device, next to icons and other widgets, it feels cramped, the borders are too noticeable, and it doesn’t feel very native. Really, YouTube did an excellent job functionality wise with both the YouTube application and the widget, but I think there is always room for improvement, in particular, they could allocate more room for the title of the video by moving the record button under the search icon, and having them on top of each other, and moving the separator for the video information over to the right. Then they could go back to the old styling of the widget’s background, which looked similar to what was seen in the ‘power control’ widget. However that’s just my opinion on the new widget, and I’m sure that there are plenty of people out there who love the new look. My biggest complaint, however, is the slim margins on the sides of the widget.

My Opinions On the Leaked Epic 4G Froyo ROM

There are many changes that Samsung made to the leaked Android 2.2 (Froyo) ROM (link: [ROM] Froyo DJ29 leak, deodexed, zipaligned and pre-rooted v4.2 [11/12]) that I really dislike, and I hope that they change before the official release comes out. This is a list of the things that I noticed so far that significantly degrade the user experience, as well as changes that I absolutely love, and a few suggestions:

  • Samsung replaced the stock messaging application with their own custom one that isn’t nearly as good or as nice looking. This is actually my number one concern about the new firmware
    • They really need to stop trying to imitate the iPhone’slook and feel. If we wanted an iPhone, we would’ve bought one
      • Not only that, but they are also doing a terrible job at mimicking it. In fact, Samsung’s new messaging app feels worse than the one on the iPhone
    • The image viewer in the new messaging application is completely broken. It has no ability to zoom in, it shows a progression timer when displaying a still image, images are zoomed out by default, etc.
    • The best option is to just scrap their messaging app and go back to the stock messaging app, which works flawlessly, and has a very native and natural look and feel
  • The new way the applications are arranged in the app drawer is annoyingly unintuitive. Making the user manually rearrange them is not the right way to sell more devices. They were fine before when they were automatically arranged in alphabetical order, but it’s really annoying having to manually reposition the icons. There doesn’t even seem to be an automatic arrangement option.
    • Manual arrangement is fine, as long as the user can choose to have the icons arrange automatically.
    • The new application removal icons are also fine, but really, they should also exist on the pre-installed crapware, since nobody wants NASCAR and Sprint Football Live preloaded anyways.
  • The Internet browser feels incredibly slow and unresponsive now, especially with scrolling. I’m not sure what modifications Samsung made to the browser, but really it would be best to leave it stock, since the stock browser is known to have excellent performance compared to the one in Eclair.
    • Also, the new “Internet” icon looks terrible compared to the look and feel of the rest of the operating system. I really prefer the old one.
  • The new “News and Weather” application is great. It really is. I love how it automatically locates you via GPS and displays relevant weather information, and the tab scrolling at the top of the screen is wonderful.
  • The new colorful icons in the Settings menu feel very non-native to the platform, but I kind of like them. With less glossiness (I despise glossy icons) and saturation, I could actually become accustomed to them.
  • I really like the new voice recorder application they include in the new ROM. It’s very simple and easy to use, yet it looks great!
  • The Video Player application is also really good, but I experienced some issues with stopping a video that really ruin the user experience. When the back button is pressed, the video should be stopped, and I should be taken back to the list of videos on my device. There should be no need to press an additional on-screen button to stop playing the video. Also, video playback is laggy, and skipping to parts of the video reveals significant delays.
  • The Memo application is pretty good, but it should allow you to backup memos that you create, either on the device’s SD card, or to the cloud.
  • Getting a GPS position is still flawed. It takes way too long to get a lock on my position, especially considering how other, lower-end phones such as the Samsung Transform are able to get a quicker GPS location that a high-end device like the Samsung Epic 4G.
  • The new AllShare logo looks much better than the old one, but it looks a bit too glossy for my tastes.
  • It would be a great addition if Samsung would pre-install the latest version of Google’s Voice Search application, which comes with Voice Actions. Sure, users could install that themselves, but it integrates really well with the operating system, and works much better than the version that comes installed. Also, most users won’t know to install the version of Voice Search in the market.
  • I love the new Silent toggle in the notification bar, but really, it should let you put it in Silent, Vibrate, or Normal (Non-Silent) mode.
  • During calls, the proximity sensor sometimes doesn’t work correctly, leading to difficulty ending the call.
  • There are often glitches when entering the lock pattern.

I will update this list if I notice anything else that should be changed with the new firmware, but really, I’m overall impressed with the new firmware, and I will continue to use it on a day-to-day basis.

UPDATE: Very frequently, when pressing on the screen and dragging, the phone will think you let go early, even though you didn’t. This is far too common, especially with the lock pattern and Swype, and the problem is incredibly annoying and infuriating.

Great News: Gmail Gets Free Voice Calling to US and Canada

Gmail's logo

Image via Wikipedia

Google just added a really cool feature to their already great Gmail service… free voice calling. It is now possible to simple click a link (labeled “Call phone”), type in a phone number, and dial it, using your computer’s speakers and microphone. The only downside is that you have to install a proprietary plugin, which is available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. I tested the service on my computer running Ubuntu Linux 10.10 (Maverick Meerkat) Alpha 3 (64-bit edition). The call quality is excellent, and it rivals other competing VoIP solutions such as Skype, not to mention, it costs absolutely nothing, as long as you are dialing a number located in the United States and Canada. This is a really great addition to Gmail, and I hope to see Google add the ability to dial numbers from their Google Voice service too. Another thing that I’d really love to see as well is the ability to dial phone numbers using your Google Voice number from the Google Voice application for Android and other mobile phone platforms. Also, if you are calling number outside of the United States or Canada, you can also make international calls at competitive rates. Check it out!