Dec 30, 2006

Neuronet - The Matrix is here?

The Matrix films have been ridiculed by many people to be an impossible scenario- with machines enslaving human beings and feeding off our body heat to keep us immersed in a virtual world. Well, they have not mastered us yet, but a recent announcement from the International Association of Virtual Reality Technologies could indicate the birth of a more Matrix-like Internet.

Called the Neuronet, scheduled to go live in 2007, the network would provide a platform for virtual reality and gaming innovators around the world to develop applications for a second-generation network.

Virtual reality refers to computing systems which provide sensory feedback to the user to make her feel like she is actually in a different environment. For example, flight simulators are examples of virtual reality environments where a trainee pilot can learn the nuances of flight training before actually flying a multi-mllion dollary aircraft.

Although much cruder than the versions depcited in sci-fi movies like the Matrix, virtual reality is all set to grow in the coming years with quantum improvements in computing power and network bandwidth.

The Neuronet would be separate from the current Internet, the IAVRT announcement explains. Virtual reality programs like IBM's Second Life has become very popular among its members, where they can actually live out a virtual life.

3D designer Sven Johnson has questioned the "reality" of the virtual reality network, saying that it could be a "get-rich-quick" scam funded by domain name sales. (link)

Scam or not, it is only a matter of time before virtual reality environments become more possible and inviting to the masses. Even now, the chore of getting online, checking your mail and IMs, hanging around in a social networking site, etc. is considered by some to be "virtual reality". Where "real" ends and "virtual" begins is becoming a tougher question to answer.

CNET article

Dec 2, 2006

Opera Mini 3 - Mobile web unleashed

Study after study proclaims the arrival of the Mobile Web, information on the go and being "always connected". The few who have actually explored the Web on our mobile devices would know better that things are not all that great right now. Clumsy browsers trying hard to fit Web pages on the small screen, slow download speeds and the worst of all, the exorbitant charges for data usage by mobile operators.

Opera Mini 3

Opera Software, the makers of the popular desktop Web browser, have announced the latest version of their browser for Mobile phones, Opera Mini 3. Opera Mini is a Java application that can be installed on most of today's smartphones or mobile devices supporting Java.

Unlike traditional mobile browsers like Opera's own Opera Mobile and Symbian browser, the Mini does not connect to the concerned web server directly. Instead, it connects to a proxy server that fetches the requested page and reformats the original HTML, Javascript and multimedia content into a format optimised for mobile phones. Thus, when you type in the address bar, the application relays it to the proxy. The proxy then fetches the Yahoo! homepage, strips it off all the bells and whistles, optimises for your specific device and sends it to the application. All the app has to do is take this and render on the screen, a much easier task when the heavy objects are taken off.

The killer utility

What makes Opera Mini so useful is that it cuts out the data consumption drastically, since the proxy has filtered out most of the unwanted content already, making the pages much lighter. Some reviews claim to have observed 70-80% reduction in the data consumption, which can be extremely useful considering the exorbitant charges levied by mobile operators. Thus, even if the webpage is not optimised for your mobile device, you can expect Mini to step in and do the dirty work for you.

The standard homepage of the browser carries a Google searchbox, and a customisable search engine containing sites like Wikipedia and RSS feeds are also supported, and so is photo blogging that helps you blog from your phone to the Opera Community server. The scroll feature is really user-friendly and keyboard shortcuts are really a breeze.

Mobile web proxies

If your phone doesn't support Java and you can't install Mini, you can still use other mobile web proxies to reduce your data usage. A good one is Google Mobile service, available at Enter the site name or URL in the Google Mobile search box and click on the relevant link. Google Mobile uses a proxy server to interpret the target webpage into a format more suited for mobile devices, although you can't really compare it with the Mini's performance. But then again, that was not what it was designed to do. It is a search again, after all. For browsing on mobile devices however, I highly recommend getting the Mini. Goto on your mobile and install the app. The Web is truly mobile now.