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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

Exploring the mobile landscape – InfographicExploring the mobile landscape – Infographic

The mobile space is getting important by the day as it is becoming an essential part of peoples lives. From interacting with people to buying goods to playing games, mobile phones keep finding various areas which it adds value and thus making its usage soar. The below infographic shows the impact of the mobile landscape and also how it is used. (Infographic credits to New Relic)

Mobile Appeal

  ජංගම ලෝකය දිනෙන් දින සීඝ්‍රයෙන් වර්ධනය වන බව අපි දන්නෙමු. මිනිසුන් සමඟ කත බස් කිරීම , පරිබොගික භාණ්ඩ මිලදී ගැනිම, games සෙල්ලම් කිරීම වැනි ක්‍රියාකරකම් රැසකට ජංගම දුරකථනය භාවිත වේ. පහත දක්වා ඇති දත්ත රුපයෙන්(infographic) ජංගම දුරකතනය සිදු කල ඇති වෙනස දැක ගත හැකිය.

Mobile Appeal

 

All you need to know about Dialog Mobile LTE

Not long after successfully bidding for the LTE frequency, Dialog launched its Mobile LTE network few weeks back. This enables 4G network on supported mobiles and USB LTE modems. Lets take a look at some of the aspects of this new service

 

Frequency

The frequency band used is 10 MHz from the 1800 MHz band. The 1800 MHz band is currently the most used frequency band for LTE deployment around the world. The 700 MHz band would have provided better coverage, but seems free bands on it were not available.

 

Coverage

The Mobile LTE coverage is currently available in the Colombo 1 – 15 area. Since the frequency band used is in the 1800MHz range, the indoor penetration of the signals would be less than in the case where the 700MHz band was used. However since there wont be large number of users initially, even with marginal signals one should be able to get good speeds.

 

Speeds

As the frequency bandwidth is 10MHz, theoretically one would be able to reach upto 50 Mbps speeds. However 20-30 Mbps would be the practically achievable speeds. This might also vary according to the bottlenecks in the server you are accessing and also the device category.

 

Supported Devices

You would require a FD-LTE 1800 MHz Band 3 compatible handset or a dongle to be able to use Dialog mobile LTE. The dongle currently available through Dialog is the Huawei E398U which is priced at Rs. 16,000. That is quite a price for an USB modem. The price of these type of units directly depends on the quantity in the production line. Since the demand is still less for these devices, the number of units manufacture in batches are low and hence the high price.

Only a few mobile LTE supported mobile phones are currently available in the market, although this number would increase significantly by the end of the year. Please check below for some of the supported mobile phones available in Sri Lanka.

  • Samsung I9305 Galaxy S III
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II N7100
  • Sony Xperia V
  • Sony Xperia Z
  • LG Optimus G

(Note: Mobile LTE is not supported on Apple devices have not enabled the service for Sri Lanka)

 

Use cases

Dialog Mobile LTE would be used less for personal broadband data as the price of the dongle is high. The dongle would be more appropriate for an office use, where it is used to create a Wi-Fi Zone.

In the initial stages Mobile LTE would be used more in phones. Streaming HD video would be a main usage. With the large HD displays on the supported handsets, watching HD videos would be a treat. Browsing and email would also be a breeze with 4G , and if needed one can always generate a hotspot from the phone for a high speed WiFi.

 

What do you need to start using Dialog Mobile LTE?

You will need a supported device (phone or dongle) and a 4G enabled SIM which you need obtain from a Dialog outlet for Rs. 150. Also you would need a postpaid connection as it is still not available for prepaid.

 

Firefox Mobile OS beta released as a Firefox Addon

Few months ago Firefox promised that they will make a mobile OS of their own, and two days back Firefox announced that they have released a beta version of the OS and consumers can install it as an add-on for Firefox. This Mozilla’s operating system coded named “Boot to Gecko” based on HTML5 web standards which is good news for developers. ZTE, Alcatel and some other vendors have already announced that they are already developing ARM based hardware for this OS. However, I have major doubts on how Mozilla is going to survive from the huge mobile OS war.

Even for Windows Mobile, although their developers are giving their best against Android and Apple, they can’t see any big improvements. Recently Newegg said “Windows Mobile phone sales are slow” at the same time Nokia lost $1.27 billion in last 3rd quarter and its sixth quarterly loss for them. This shows just how hard it is for a new OS to break through in to the market. However Mozilla strongly believes in success, according to “the Guardian” website, Director of Research & Development at Mozilla Corporation Andreas Gal recently said “We wanted to break out of the “silos” presented by competitors like iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7. We think we can change this by doing the same thing we did on the desktop,” that’s good because more competition means better products for us.

Firefox Screens

Firefox Screenshot 2

 

Before writing this article, I experienced the Firefox OS add-on so I can write what I personally think. The first moment I saw the OS I was like what? Is this Android? Yes it’s very similar to Android, it has a pull down notification bar where you can see your notifications and your toggle switches. If you long press the home button it will bring up the multi-task menu so you can close them by swiping up. There is no dedicated app drawer so if you swipe left you can see the app icons which already installed. Swiping right brings you the search menu and it’s bit similar to iOS search menu. I don’t think that’s a good idea for Mozilla to have similar features like iOS considering the latest legal battles. Anyway this is not the final version and who knows, the final version may be drastically different. This add-on version of Firefox OS is so sluggish, but no worries because it’s still a beta version. Firefox uses the Nokia maps for their map services. I don’t know why they chose Nokia Maps instated of Google Maps. This beta version already has a Marketplace built-in. I installed Twitter and it worked pretty nice. I hope we can see more essential apps from Mozilla when it’s available for consumers. According to Matthew Key, chair and chief executive of Telefónica Digital, the first Firefox OS based mobile devices will appear in Brazil in 1st Q2013. So next year we can see how it’s going to perform against other operating systems giants.

You can check out the Firefox Add on Here