Saturday, August 21, 2010

Touch Screen on phones : Capacitive or Resistive?

All touch screen phones look alike but there is a key catch in the technology that is being used underneath the screen. A touch screen can either be Capacitive in nature or Resistive. What is the difference?

Know this fact to make a wise decision when buying your next device. Also note that there are other lesser known screen technologies but these two dominate our gadget market as of this writing.

Technical Differences
A Resistive touch screen contains two electric conducting layers divided by a thin gap. As soon a we touch/press on the screen the two layers connect and this results in a voltage divide and the flow of electricity changes. This is registered as a touch.

A Capacitive touch screen consist of a single layer transparent conductor with electricity flowing. A human finger is also a conductor of electricity and carries electrostatic charge. So when a human finger touches the surface it results in electric signal interference. This is registered as a touch.

OK. That is as far as my understanding goes, don't ask me more on this!

Working Differences
A Resistive touch screen can be worked on with a stylus or some other pointing object. If you have long nails, this work too. As the name suggests, resistive screen require resistance or pressure to register a touch.

A Capacitive touch screen needs human body touch or some other similar conducting object. Long nails don't work and neither does most pointed objects. Capacitive will work well with soft touch (no pressure required). It is quite sensitive.

Resistive needs some pressure, it could be insensitive sometimes. I have found that Resistive sometimes fails to register a contact and this often needs a retry. So there are hits and misses here.

On the other hand, Capacitive screen may fail to register a touch if you have wet or sweaty fingers. So you need dry hands to have a more receptive screen.

Yes both screens can be fingerprint magnet, you can avoid this by using a good protective screen shield.

Which is better?
For human touch Capacitive screen are the best bet. Though they cost more than the Resistive ones. My recommendation is that if you plan to buy a touch screen phone, think Capacitive. The human experience is much more rich and interactive on this platform.

How to identify?
There is no visible way of differentiating the two, none that I know of. The only way is to use the surface and see how sensitive a device is to human touch. Before buying a device, go through the technical specification and identify the screen type.

Of the phones I have tried - iphone, HTC Hero, HTC Desire, Google Nexus etc. all come with capacitive screens. While Samsung Jet and some Nokia models are on Resistive screens. Devices that come with stylus are mostly Resistive. Devices that come with Google Android OS are mostly capacitive. Devices that come with Symbian OS are mostly Resistive.

Recently launched resistive screen devices make claims that the experience is as good as capacitive. Though both technology are evolving, I have found that swipe actions and virtual keyboard fair better on capacitive.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oracle Apps : Adding custom text on Login and Home Page

Corporate Policy mandate that proper Notice and copyright information be provided in the Oracle Apps login page to ensure that users are made aware of their actions and what they are trying to access. Oracle Apps provides parameters to customize the login page and header information. I normally set the below minimum parameters at my sites.

Following changes will reflect once the Apache Server is restarted. Though some settings like the "Page Header Info (Hope page Brand)" may not require a restart.

Corporate Policy Message
A short Corporate policy text can be displayed on the login page. The profile parameter "Local Login Mask" (System name "FND_SSO_LOCAL_LOGIN_MASK") has the site level value of 32 by default. To add corporate message on login page, increase this value by 64 (this number stands for Corporate policy messaging).

32 + 64 = 96

Set the profile parameter "Local Login Mask" to 96. Navigate to the following link and change the value.

Responsibility : System Administrator -> Menu : Profile -> Function : Systems -> Query for "Local Login Mask" (Site-level)

Next Navigate to following link.
Responsibility : Application Developer -> Menu : Application -> Function : Messages -> Query for "FND_SSO_SARBANES_OXLEY_TEXT"

FND_SSO_SARBANES_OXLEY_TEXT parameter defaults to "Corporate Policy Message". Change the "Current Message Text" box value to display the right policy information to users. For example, "Statutory Notice: This is a confidential and privileged Enterprise system of <Company>. Access is restricted to <company> employees only." Keep this text short as the text does not wrap to the next line on the same page.

Page Header Info (Home Page Brand Area)
The top part of the page shows the Oracle Logo and also the label "E-Business Suite". The Label can be customized for business needs. Navigate to below link.

Responsibility : System Administrator -> Menu : Application -> Function : Function -> Query for "FWK_HOMEPAGE_BRAND"

FWK_HOMEPAGE_BRAND function is by default set to "E-Business Suite". This can be changed to "<Company> E-Business Suite (TEST or Production)". I prefer adding the Instance type so that users can differentiate between multiple instances by looking at this information. Note, this does not reflect in Application Manager and Workflow screens.

Oracle Note states that Message Parameter FND_SSO_EBIZ_SUITE needs to be set to allow Login page Brand change. I have however found that the above function change works for login page also. If it does not in your case, set this parameter also, the link to this parameter is as below.

Copyright Message
Navigate to following link.
Responsibility : Application Developer -> Menu : Application -> Function : Messages -> Query for "FND_SSO_COPYRIGHT_TEXT"

FND_SSO_COPYRIGHT_TEXT : This text is displayed at the bottom of login page and has legal importance. Defaults to "Copyright (c) YYYY, Oracle. All rights reserved." Can be changed to "Copyright (c) YYYY, Oracle. All rights reserved. Licensed to <company>, <Location>".

Login Page Customization
I set the following to customize the login Page information. Navigate to following link.
Responsibility : Application Developer -> Menu : Application -> Function : Messages -> Query for below parameters.

FND_SSO_WELCOME : This text is shown on the Login page header and also shows up as the page title. Defaults to "Login". Can be changed to "Oracle Apps Production Login". This information also gets prompted when adding the link to browser favorites.

FND_SSO_PASSWORD : This text is displayed against the Password field.
Defaults to "Password". I normally change this to "Enter your Password".

FND_SSO_EBIZ_SUITE : This text is displayed on the login page brand display area. Defaults to "E-Business suite". I prefer setting this same as the function value "FWK_HOMEPAGE_BRAND" (only if the function does not work for login page).

Forms Window Title Change
The Forms applet title is set using a profile parameter. Navigate to following link.
Responsibility : System Administrator -> Menu : Profile -> Function : System ->  Query for "Site Name" (Site-level)

Set "Site Name" to appropriate name along with the instance type. For example, "<Company> - <Production/Test>"

Metalink Note 468971.1

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Measuring the Internet line speed : Kbps Vs KBps?

This terminology is quite confusing for even IT guys. What is the speed of your broadband? What does it mean? Any hidden caveats here? This has been long told and we still forget the basics. Here is a recap again...

Kbps Vs KBps
First thing first. Understand the meaning of KBps and Kbps. The 2nd character "B" or "b" makes a world of difference. Capital 'B' stands for Bytes and a small 'b' stands for bits. 8 bits make 1 byte. So a 128KBps is much much faster than a 128Kbps (approximately about 8 times faster). These units are now common for Internet lines. Now we have Mbps and Gbps as things become faster

The rationality behind the two measurement units differ. For a person who is interested in understanding the download/upload speed of a connection it is more important to get an understanding on what scale is the internet line being measured in by your ISP. This would give an idea about how much time it would take for a 100MB data file to download or a 4GB DivX movie to come through. Note when we measure file sizes, we always talk about in bytes or multiple of bytes. We do not use bits per say. So when analyzing the speed of a line, try to compute in the same unit.

Here is an example, My ISP provides me a connection of 256 Kbps. That is Kilo bits per second.

-> 256 Kb
= 256 * 1024 bits
= 262144 bits
-> In bytes ?
= 262144/8 bytes
= 32768 bytes

-> In Kilobytes ?
= 32768/1024 KB
= 32 KB

So, if I have about 100MB data file to download, then it would take me about (100 * 1024)/32 = 3200 seconds = 53 minutes approximately (hold on.. this does not happen though, read further).

Now a days we have high speed lines that are being measured in Mbps. That is Mega bits per second. Using the same formula let look at an 8Mb line.

-> 8Mb
= 8 * 1024 Kb
= 8192 Kb
= 8388608 bits

-> In bytes ?
= 8388608/8 bytes
= 1048576 bytes

-> In Kilobytes ?
= 1048576/1024 KB
= 1024 KB

-> In MB?
=1024/1024 MB
= 1MB

So, if I have about 100MB data to download, then with this speed it would take 100/1 = 100 seconds = 1.6 minutes approximately.

Looking at the above calculation, one can safely conclude that whatever information is provided in b (bits) can be converted to B (bytes) by dividing it by 8. So you can bypass the above calculation headache and directly divide your bandwidth to get the right picture. For instance, 512Kbps = 512/8 = 64KBps

But it does not work in reality!!
Yes the next question is obvious. I never get a 256 Kbps download on my line even if it has this capacity. The download speed is always between 30-40Kbps. Check yours and you could have a similar condition. So my 100MB file actually takes me about 5-8 hours to download!! Ha. Few things to note here -

  • The broadband line you have subscribed to is part of a shared network that other users in the same data package are also using. So a group of users have to share the capacity of a line that your ISP is providing you. Hope your ISP did tell you about this, right?
  • The download/upload speed will greatly vary depending on the load on the shared network that you are part of. It could happen that your speed is much better at night because most users use it during the day. It Could also happen that you get a sudden bust of high speed connection because the broadband network is idle. It is also possible that the YouTube video you are trying to watch just does not seem to complete streaming for hours.
  • The ISP do have their own agenda to put a slab on the transfer speed so as to avoid over use by few individuals at the sake of others. So there is every possibility that your ISP has put a lock of 30/40Kbps download speed, though you are subscribed to a 256 Kbps line. Don't worry, your ISP will never tell you about this.
  • ISP will never guarantee you the speed of the line. They will only direct you on the current state and the charming numbers that will hike your imagination and lure you to take the plunge towards a more expensive data package. It is possible that as the number of users increase, the subscribed line can blow out of proportion giving you a speed equivalent to the old days classic Modems (I still love these).
  • In true network world, apart from the above there are few other jargon such as network latency and hops that also contribute to the transfer performance, I will keep this out for sake of clarity.
  • Hey Man, you are on internet! The virtual world that no one can control.

Are we getting cheated?
Yes and No.
Yes because most ISP do not give customers clarity on what they are offering (Customers don't ask for it either..).
No because you as an individual have not made yourself abreast of the latest trends and technical labels.
So it is 50-50.

None of the ISP I have come across has ever given me a clear picture in this area. No one has given me a clear indicator of how my speed would be. I do not want to know the speed of a website located some were on the web, I understand no one can guarantee that. All I want to know is how much time it would take to download a file from the ISP server to my desktop and if it can be guaranteed during my subscription. Sorry no takes here. You may say it doesn't matter, if my current speed is slow I will upgrade to the next package. Yep that is the catch. Can you guarantee that your ISP is not chocking your package bandwidth to compel you to move up to a higher valued package.

Any Good Moves?
I am on Linux and I have got ways and means to hike up my speed. Here are few that can be used on Windows and Other OS. Sorry I am no Windows/Mac expert. My experience is on Linux and below are just few tweaks that I have tried.

  • Apparently, the speed limit (if any) imposed on the line is on thread basis. I can download a file in multiple threads and achieve a speed of up to 200 Kbps on 256 Kbps line! A lot depends on from where the download is happening and what software is in use. For Window folks, check out the FDM (Free Download Manager) that replaces the default browser download software and allows use of threads.
  • Shutdown those junkie services and software that are automatically hogging your bandwidth. Try to put auto-updates download in a time slot where this does not interrupt with your activities. On Linux, I normally put this in manual mode and select the updates I want on a periodic basis. Yes Security alerts are immediately prompted and I do apply them ASAP.
  • Use BitTorrent supporting clients. BitTorrent is a protocol that creates a network mesh for file downloads. In this concept, every device connected in the mesh not only downloads the file, but also allows upload from it to other torrent connected clients. One file is split into numerous pieces and the Torrent client acts intelligently to identify the near by devices that can serve as download entities. Don't worry about the complexity of this protocol, just be aware that this will try to download in multiple threads and from multiple devices. For me, this option is not that fast in my region, but my download is reliable and I can start from where I stopped.

  • There are quite a few sites offering tips on improving internet performance. I suggest you try out some tips from reliable sources. For all you know, you may not require a higher data package and get quality speed on the existing bandwidth itself.

After Notes

  • By the way ISP is "Internet Service Provider".
  • And if you have guessed it, there is a difference between a lower case 'k' and an upper case 'K'. Lower case 'k' converts to exact 1000. Upper case converts to 1024. Yes this is one of the reason why you get 235 GB space when you buy a 250 GB hard disk. Since the difference is minor I am not too concerned with this right now.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

BeBook One ebook Reader Firmware update 2009

This note is for the BeBook One ebook reader only (2009 and earlier). This does not apply to BeBook bought in 2010 (there is a separate patch for this).

The latest firmware (version: 2.02NL.091127) patch for BeBook one can be downloaded from below link.

The installation process is not at all tedious.
  • Ensure that the BeBook is fully charged.
  • Download the patch
  • Unzip it into an SD Card that should not be more than 1GB in size (ensure this).
  • Take a backup of the data already present in internal memory. The patch will not erase the data but this is a safety measure.
  • Turn of the BeBook. Press and hold the power button on top.
  • Once the BeBook is shutdown, insert the SD Card into the slot.
  • Press and hold the Plus sign button (+) on the right side of the device followed by power button. This will turn on the BeBook reader and automatically take it to patch update mode.
  • Let the update finish (took about 5 minutes for me) and you will be prompted to restart.
  • Done.

The patch updates the following -
Update kernel
Update System
Update Logo
Update Parser App
Update Resource

picture shows the difference in versions before and after the update

Usable enhancements
I have found the following usable features -

Reflow of words
PDF files were badly handled. They were just shown as images and maximizing them just resulted in readjustment of the page. This patch now allows reflow of words, i.e., the words and sentences auto adjust to the screen size. Pressing the maximize button now actually increases the font size (and not the image itself) and resizes the text. I have found that I could maximize nine times, this is wonderful.

It also preserves individual document maximization settings. For instance I increased the font size of one document by 4 levels and another document by 2 levels. Both documents preserved their individual levels after I exited and returned back.

I used to recommend use of Mobipocket reader software to convert PDF to PRC files and then load it to ebook. With this patch, the BEbook reader offers excellent support for PDF format that can now be directly copied and read on the reader.

The old 3 mode maximize option is still supported for other formats. The firmware document also states that there are multiple level of maximization support for ePub format, haven't tried this.

Check the below images on how maximizing of same PDF page now looks like -

The earlier look
Maximizing perfectly resizes the pages content
Further Maximizing..

Search option
The patch now allows option to search using the provided numeric pad. A set of characters is represented by each physical button. The search will underline the words, pressing the next page button will take you to the next applicable entry. Exit search by pressing the backspace key.

Other enhancements
The firmware update document says that two modes are provided for pdf viewing (Adobe pdf default and XPDF). Besides Hyperlinks are also supported withing PDF document. I haven't tried these features.

There is also an option to track "Time & Date" using settings.

Well for me it is the PDF support and I am happy about it. Most of my technical manuals are available in PDF format and I can now refer these directly on my BeBook reader.