TechWire

Category - Apps

A Sinhala touch keyboard for mobile devices

Reproduced with permission from http://zen.lk/2013/05/21/a-sinhala-touch-keyboard-for-mobile-devices/

Google Transliteration for Sinhala has probably done more to encourage active participation of Sinhala speakers on the Internet than any other technology or initiative. Using a simple English character based transliteration scheme that most Sinhala speakers are familiar with, it enables the average user to input Sinhala text into a computer at moderate speed without any knowledge of local layouts such asWijesekara.

However, things are not quite so simple when it comes to touch-based mobile devices. While placing a standard QWERTY keyboard on a mobile touchscreen is in itself an awkward attempt to use a layout meant for one type of device in another, using the same thing for transliterating a different language is doubly awkward. No solution exists in any of the dominant mobile platforms — Android, iOS or Windows Phone.

An innovative and widely used touchscreen keyboard scheme known as Swype may point the way. As many users would tell you, Swype allows you to drag your finger across the letters that form your word in one smooth motion. A prediction algorithm generates the word when you lift your finger off the screen. While this is a good scheme for any language, the nature of the Sinhala alphabet affords special advantages when using it.

sinhala_keyboard_2

While the Sinhala language has a large number of characters (without even counting combined ones), the most basic characters are:

ක ග ත ද න ප ය ර ල ව ස ශ හ ට ජ ච බ ම අ ඉ ඊ උ එ ඔ

When we consider ‘mahaprana’, ‘sanyaka’ and ‘murdhaja’ as alternate forms and combine these characters with the various ‘pillas’, almost all Sinhalese characters may be formed.

Features of this keyboard are as follows:

  1. The user may swipe his finger from one character to another to form words.

  2. Swiping over a ‘pilla’ key immediately after a basic character causes that character to be modified by the selected pilla.

  3. Tracing a small circle over a ‘pilla’ key causes it to become its long version.

  4. Swiping over the ‘shift’ key immediately after a basic character causes that character to become its mahaprana or murdhaja version (the software determines which, based on the base character).

  5. Swiping over the ‘binduwa’ key causes the preceding character to become its sanyaka version. When the key is tapped in isolation, it produces a ‘binduwa’ character.

  6. If a predictive dictionary is present, the user need not always be explicit about long pillas, mahapranas and especially murdhajas. The software will be able to pick out the correct form from the dictionary, given an approximation.

  7. Punctuation characters and numerals may be typed by a press-and-hold action (similar to the Swype keyboard).

  8. There are no dedicated characters for the vowels. Using a pilla character at the beginning of a word produces the corresponding vowel.

Rationales:

  1. Unlike English speakers and the QWERTY layout, Sinhala speakers have not become accustomed to the Wijesekara or any other Sinhala layout. This will allow them to quickly become accustomed to a new one.

  2. The layout can cut the number of strokes required to produce a word by about one third to one half, depending on the frequency of ‘pillas’. For example, the word ‘ලංකාව’ requires six swipes (or seven taps) on QWERTY. In this layout, it requires only four swipes.

  3. Reaching for keys on the higher rows naturally results in keys on the lower rows getting obscured by the user’s finger. Therefore the number of rows must be kept to a minimum and difficult-to-memorize keys should not be placed on the lower rows.

  4. The number of columns must be kept to a minimum so as to not make keys too small. Sinhala characters require more display space than English ones.

Improvements:

  1. The consonants here are placed in near-alphabetic order. However, the most optimal placement can be determined by statistical analysis of a large enough sample of frequently used Sinhala words and phrases. For example, ස, ය, ල, ම should probably be in higher rows than they are in this crude layout.

  2. The placements of the enter, backspace, comma and full stop keys may require rethinking.

  3. Infrequently used keys such as ‘rakaranshaya’ and ‘binduwa’ may be converted to shift functions to make space for ශ (which is currently considered a shifted ස) and more punctuation

Colombo Bus Route – Android App

Being the super app it is, Google Maps is what most people would use when they want to find directions from A to B. However if you plan to travel by bus, you would need to find out which bus route to take. This is where Colombo Bus Route steps in to help you. This android app will provide you options on which bus to take to get to your destination within the Colombo area.

Colombo Bus Route gives the user 4 options to find details on Bus Routes.

Route Number – Displays the bus route information of a particular route number
Place to Place – Displays the possible bus routes to take from start to destination
From Current Place – Display bus routes starting from your current location
Through Current Place – Display bus routes going through your current location

When viewing a particular route number, you are given the ordered main locations of the route, which you can also view on a map. When you search for the routes between to locations, you are presented with a list of bus routes or combinations of bus routes depending on query. To specify the start and destination, you can either enter the location through the keyboard on specify the location on the map. In the case where multiple buses need to be taken, the app highlights the locations where you need to get down and take the other bus. The visual representation of this on the map with the routes and main locations marked gives a clearer picture.

Colombo Bus Route Screens

Colombo Bus Route Screens

In the case you search for the bus routes starting or going through your current location, the app picks your current location through GPS and provides you relevant bus routes accordingly.

The app is easy to use, and provides you the required information on bus routes. However we would like to see some modifications in the next update. In the case where multiple bus routes need to be taken, the options should be sorted according to shortest distance first. Otherwise the user has to go through each to find the best method. Also when maps are loaded in the app it should be loaded in the optimum zoom level. We had to zoom in several times to see the location details.

The Colombo Bus Route is a great app which provides you all the info you need to know on Colombo bus routes. It already has 10,000 to 50,000 downloads, and with a few small tweaks this could end up being a very popular and successful app.

Check it out on Google Play

Fish Prices through App and SMS

The ICTA in conjunction with the GovSMS initiative launched a SMS and android based app which lets the user check fish prices in a specific area. The fish prices displayed are the ones announced daily by the Ceylon Fisheries Corporation.

To access the service via SMS user should type cfc prc [fish code] [location] to 1919

Example : cpc prc kel col012
Reply : Price of 1kg Kelewalla/Kilawarayan/Yellowfin Tuna Rs 490 as at 2013-03-03 in Colombo

The android app is simple but delivers the requirement. From the top right hand corner you can select the location, and the relevant fish list with prices will be displayed in the screen as shown in the below image.

Ceyfish Android

The good thing about this app is that it is available on SMS, catering to the larger market. A future step would be to implement such services on a USSD menu, so that the user doesn’t need to remember a lot of codes.

CloudOn – Cloud based Microsoft Office App

Having the ability to create and edit Microsoft Office docs on your smartphone is obviously quite essential. Since there isn’t an official Microsoft Office app for android and iOS smartphone/tab users, you have to basically download a 3rd Party office app for it. There are a few notable good apps like Kingsoft Office and Quick Office, but most have some limitation that lowers the user experience. For example one app which we tried didn’t support adding images to a word file: would be a deal breaker for most users. Also these apps have their own UI which users need to get accustomed to.

Cloudon Inc, with the aim of providing a better Microsoft Office experience, launched the CloudOn app. This app gives the users Microsoft Office, directly from a cloud server. The UIs and features are quite identical to the desktop version. CloudOn supports Word, Excel and Powerpoint and connectivity to Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and SkyDrive storage. We used it on an Android Tab and the experience was quite good for viewing and editing the Microsoft Office docs. However you should note that even though the UI and features are similar to the desktop version, it would be difficult to create a document from scratch for Excel and Powerpoint. Rather this app would be best suited for editing, viewing and reviewing docs.

Since this a cloud based application, you need an active internet connection to work on the docs. So if you want to work in offline mode, this app is not for you. The other limitation is that for Android it is currently supported for only a set of Handsets on Ice Cream Sandwich and above. In Sri Lanka where a majority of handsets are on Gingerbread this app will not find alot of compatible devices. Nevertheless iPhone, iPad and Galaxy SIII(which we have seen moving in SL) users can try it out.

CloudOn Word

CloudOn Powerpoint

CloudOn Excel

Another important factor is that this app is free while other 3rd party apps have a price for the premium version. As per CloudOn CEO they would be running the app free for a certain time to determine the user requirements as well as get the app popular among the users. With all probability there will be certain charges introduced in future versions. Also it is believed that Microsoft will unveil its official mobile apps this year giving strong competition to CloudOn. Till then you can checkout CloudOn for Android and Apple devices.

TV Derana Android App

Today, TV Derana launched its android app and we had time to check it out. The app provides live TV, Program episodes and Music videos.

After launching the app you are directed to the Programs view which have various Programs by Category.The main categories are Tele Katha, Talk Shows, Music, Reality Shows, Religious & Ethics and Magazine & Variety. Once a category selected you get a list of programs available under that specific category. Selecting the desired program shows you the past episodes from which you can select which one to view.

TV DeranaThe menu is at the bottom with two other options: Tele Katha and Music Videos. The Music Video section holds some of the latest and Popular Music videos. The Tele Katha section is the same as the category in the Programs section. I guess since Tele Katha are bound to be the most watched, they have given it more prominence. Live TV can be watched by selecting the live icon available on the top right corner.

The quality of video and sound were satisfactory, while videos loaded at a decent rate. When viewing videos, the standard play, pause, and seek bar is available.

The app which has been developed by Fortuna Global is pretty solid. It might be a good idea to add social sharing as a feature for the next update, which will enable users to share their favourite TV shows and increases the reach of the videos and the app as well.

Click here, for TV Derana on Play store.

Eat em all – Android Game Review

In a nutshell: Strategic puzzle game with an Alien Invasion story line

Category: Games

Platform: Android

The Good: Addictive Gameplay, Cool graphics and sound, Nice story line, Free

The Bad: Not clear on star strategy

Description :

Photonfission presents Eat em all, a strategy puzzle game where you take the role of Troopie the hero and genius of Troop land. Troopland has been invaded by aliens and have laid alien eggs everywhere in the village, and it is up to Troopie to Eat all the eggs and save the village.

Eat em all Screenshots

This is a level based game, (such as Angry birds and Cut the rope) where in each level you have a puzzle which needs to be completed to move on to the next level.  In each puzzle you will get alien eggs laid in lines connected by red stop points. It is up to you to navigate troopie through the lines of eggs from one stop point to another. However once you have eaten a line of eggs you cannot move through that line again. Your final goal is to eat all the eggs without being stranded on a stop point with nowhere to go.

Eat em all Screenshots

The first few levels are quite straightforward, and can be finished easily. However as you go on you will encounter challenging levels where you need a lot of thinking. You will also encounter features such as strong eggs and powers like Thunder, Grenade, Timer Explosives, Flame, and Bridge. These features make sure there is something new to keep you interested and addicted throughout the 72 levels. The 72 levels are broken down to 8 areas. Three of the areas are free, while the rest of the areas you need to purchase. The only thing we did not understand was obtaining stars which are obtained when troopie eats them. Generally the number of stars are given on how well you complete the level, but in the levels we played you get all stars if you complete the level in any manner.

Overall the game is very impressive and addictive,  and by far the best Sri Lankan developed game that we have come across

The graphics and sounds are very good and have a very polished look. Overall the game is very impressive and addictive,  and by far the best Sri Lankan developed game that we have come across. We recommended that you download and play the game right now. Don’t forget to rate the app and spread the word to support these talented Sri Lankan developers.

Click Here for Eat em all on Google Play store. Go ahead and eat em all!!

Jacqueline Fernandez Android Apps : Probably the first android app for a Sri Lankan actress

So I was browsing on the Google Play store, and came across a couple of Jacqueline Fernandez apps. They are simple apps with wallpapers of Jacqueline, most probably created using standard wallpaper app template. However these probably are the first apps which represents a Sri Lankan actress, and Miss Fernandez gets the honours most likely due to her Bollywood fame. Surely many more apps will follow including an official app for Jacqueline. So even though these two apps are not up to standard, if your a fan do check them out.

1) Jacqueline Fernandez HD– 20 wallpapers of mixed image quality. Options are available to set as wallpaper, share, save and Slideshow

2) Jacqueline HD Wallpaper -24 wallpapers of mixed image quality and some images stretched. Only option available is to set as wallpaper

Sun FM Android App review

In a nutshell: Listen to SUNFM on your android mobile over the internet

Category : Entertainment

The Good : User friendly interface,

The Bad: Does not auto restart after it stops due to low data speeds

Main Features: Listen to SUNFM online, Check radio schedules, request a song

SUN FM recently launched the first official radio station app for android. This app basically lets you listen to SUN FM over your data connection, mobile or WiFi. So you will require this app if your smartphone doesn’t have a radio or if you’re using a tab.

Sun FM App Screenshots

The app has one screen which has three buttons at the bottom for menu, play/pause and volume. The middle of the app is mostly static, only displays buffering when needed. It would have been nice to have an equalizer running in the middle of the app. On the menu you have a set of options, main ones are to minimize the player, request a song or browse the show times.

Since this app is using data you have to keep an eye on your data usage, as this will consume about 20-30MB per hour. On HSPA, I was able to listen to Sun FM continuously without any buffering. However when I switched to EDGE, the transmission got cut off due to the low data speeds. Also once it stopped it did not automatically restart the buffering until I provided a touch input.

This app is good starting point for Sun FM. Hopefully the future versions would add a bit more flare into the UI and optimize for low data rates.