Archive for February, 2007

Last month I wrote an entry about the LEGO Mindstorms NXT Mobile Application that allows a great deal of control over your NXT kit via Bluetooth. It’s a really great little application. I actually demonstrated it briefly at the local Make:Philly meeting last night as follow up to a previous presentation I had given on robotics, Flash and Legos. Well, there is one totally annoying aspect of the application that tarnishes an otherwise perfect implementation, which I noted in my previous entry. Whenever you launch the application, it has an animated intro screen that plays a really annoying 13 second long bit of techno-like audio. It wouldn’t be that bad, but there is no way to skip it, or disable it, and its really loud. You have to endure it every time you launch the application. Totally annoying and poor usability. I never had any luck contacting the developers at Nearcell, who made the app for LEGO, and their website is not much help either. So, I decided I had to patch this on my own. Here is how I was able to patch the application so that you can shorten/change the intro or replace it entirely with one of your own liking.

  1. Grab the application from the Lego Mindstorms NXT site
  2. Unzip the resulting download.
  3. Navigate to your phone model folder – in my case the Nokia 6680 folder and locate the .jar file for installing the application on your device. (I’m using it on a Nokia N70 without issues, so it should work on other Series 60 devices – your mileage may vary)
  4. Create a very short MIDI (.midi) file here with an excellent online .midi file creator. The idea is that we want a very short quiet file. For comical demonstration effect on the effectiveness of this patch, I’ve decided to use the more apropos song Mr. Roboto by Styx
  5. Rename your new or favorite .midi file to “jb.mid” and place it in the same folder as the NXTmobile.jar file.
  6. Bring up a terminal session in OS X, or a command shell on Windows (Windows folks, you’ll need some JAVA tools installed, specifically jar command line application – Mac OS X users you’ve already got it)
  7. Issue this command from the terminal prompt: jar uf NXTmobile.jar jb.mid
  8. What that has done is replaced the annoying, far-too-long intro sound in the .jar, with your own new .mid file.
  9. Transfer the new .jar file to your device and install it, run the application, and enjoy the shorter startup time!

The intro animation will only play as long as the .midi files duration, so if you want it short, keep your replacement .midi file short. Here is a quick video I made through that demonstrates the new startup and sound.

if you were so inclined, you can also use the same method outlined above to replace the .png files in the intro animation or elsewhere within the applications UI. Also, if you have some file manipulation utilities installed on your device, you could try doing all the replacements right on the device itself, but the method above works well on supported devices. Happy hacking!

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Ever since Colin Moock pointed out a few months ago that in August of 2006 Jonathan Gay and Robert Tatsumi (the original team responsible for SmartSketch, which evolved into FutureSplash Animator which became Flash) had headed off with Gary Grossman (creator of ActionScript) and Peter Santangeli (former vice president of engineering at Macromedia) to create a new startup called Software As Art, I was instantly curious. Actually, the moment I heard about it, I was actually a bit shocked to hear they had all left given the integral roles they have played in the development and success of Flash over the years. However, that shock was quickly replaced with curiosity and excitement at their combined potential. I have been checking their little WordPress based site religiously every other week or so to see if I could get get a glimpse or hint as to what they might be up to with this new endeavor.

To quote from their site, “Our solutions will enable developers to realize the products of their creativity and imagination, in the home, office and beyond. Our vision is to build bridges between the Internet and the everyday world around us, in ways that make our lives more convenient and fun.” For me that sounds pretty fabulous and inspiring, as the areas of my work that I find most interesting would really benefit from some toolset that would allow me to make my life more convenient and my work more interesting. The areas where the desktop PC and the real world meet and converge and entangle to provide a richer experience are the reasons I like to work on kiosks, exhibits, mobile devices and electronics designed to bridge the gap between humans and computers in compelling, fun, interesting ways. Needless to say I keep visiting their site looking for updates.

So you can imagine how much more curious and excited I am now by their most recent postings from just a few days ago on January 31st, that not only are they hiring, but that they have secured their first round of financing and will have more details/news about that soon. Some details of the job postings they have put up are what really have me super intrigued and excited now. The job opening for Product Manager/Busines Development specifically states, “Experience in the consumer electronics and hardware industries a plus.” If that wasn’t enough to put my brain into hyperdrive wondering what it could be, the first sentence of the most recent post for Software Engineer states, “Software as Art is looking for bright, energetic engineers to help build a new generation of consumer electronics.” So now I am completely and utterly curious – what kind of consumer electronic device could these brains behind Flash be cooking up? What kind of device is going to fulfill this grand vision of “enabling developers to realize the products of their creativity and imagination, in the home, office and beyond” and “build bridges between the Internet and the everyday world around us, in ways that make our lives more convenient and fun.” That certainly sounds like a tall order, but if there was ever a team out there capable of delivering on such a statement, I think these are the guys to do so.

I have been playing with a Chumby since this past October, thanks to Duane Maxwell and Steve Tomlin who hooked me up with one of their developer units back at MAX 2006 in October of 2006. Its a great little device that utilizes Flash for the interface and delivery of content/widgets. I think they are going to do really well, especially with their open/transparent business model around the software and hardware. I’m actually going to release to the community a few Flash based widgets I have built for the Chumby once I have them polished up a bit more. I am curious if Software As Art is going to be playing in this space as well. The popularity of “widgets” to deliver and visualize specific/granular types of information on the desktop appears to keep increasing over time. Widget style delivery of information is also moving away from the desktop into more consumer friendly and portable/connected devices like the Chumby, and Flash Lite capable handsets/devices. This is an interesting area and one I have been following for a while. I still remember all the anticipation around Konfabulator a few years ago when Arlo Rose and Perry Clarke brought beauty and functionality together with their “widgets”, now OS X has them via Dashboard, Vista has them as “Gadgets”, Yahoo bought Konfabulator, widgets are on standalone devices like the Chumby and emTrace’s Widgetstation – could Software As Art be cooking up tools and devices for us developers to do some really innovative stuff in this area? Perhaps a whole new way to think about how we interact with internet, data and visualization and presentation of information? Could they be cooking up some kind of modular electronic “building block’s” to interface home brewed software to data from the internet and bring it into the physical world?

I have no idea really – just speculation on my part, but I like to think that something really cool just might be under development, something that (even though I hate to use buzzwords/phrases) may even be considered a “disruptive technology“. With everything trending towards “Digital Convergence” over the past few years, and even whole conferences geared around this theme (SxSW this year has panels and sessions on “Digital Convergence” as well as the upcoming OReilly Web 2.0 conference and others as well) these speculations just may ring true. I guess we will find out as things unfold. Best of luck to you guys, I can’t wait for the unveiling.

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