Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Poken apart and back again.

Thanks to @mikefoong, I managed to see first hand what this Poken device is all about. We met at D'lish at Bangsar Village for a tweetup and we got to choose our poken devices. I arrived kinda late, but got the RockStar Poken - only because he had a guitar.

I also brought my Ubuntu netbook to see if it worked well as advertised. I plugged it in, but nothing happened. So I kept an eye on dmesg and found it rather alarming:
I double checked with @davidlian's device, and the I/O errors persisted with his device too. So its not particularly well setup. However it mounts as a read-only device and displays 3 files.

Because Ubuntu doesnt recognise "autorun.inf", you'd have to manually click on the Start_Poken.html file. This is where the magic lies. In the html file, it has a URL which is automatically generated everytime you plug your Poken in.

Its a simple META refresh to a p.poken.ch website with a really long URL and looks something like this:
The URL autogenerated by the Poken device. Some information blocked to protect the innocent.

It certainly looks like it was a relatively straight forward encoding, with fields delimited or padded with the 'AAA's. So the first few parts tended not to change, but I could detect the byte field which increments by four bits every time its plugged in. What is also interesting is that the trailing groups of data corresponds to the number of people I Pokened. So in this case, was 6 people.

The remaining series of '+-+-+' obviously is "free space", and at 1434 bytes remaining, with approximately 23 bytes per Poken contact, it should be able to fill another 62 contacts in addition to my 6, so a total of 68 pokes.

So don't go to a Poken party with more than 68 new people, or you'd lose information. I'm not too sure what happens when it gets full, but it seems you can erase the information on your Poken by holding the button down for more than 3 seconds.

I also pried open my Poken, and it split apart quite easily. There was no glue holding it together, as its held together with just simple plastic catches, so a small screwdriver will do the trick. Underneath the circuit board, they melted the plastic pins to flatten out like rivets, so you'd have to push those up for the board to slide through.

Argh! Put that Poken back in one piece, darn it!

As you can see, the circuitry itself is small and thin with the possibility of being incorporated in a slim card form factor. However the bulk comes from the battery, and the antenna, which is wrapped up as a spool.

It also works just by touching the battery onto the contacts, and the red LED lights up. I noticed 3 other LEDs, inside the spool: Another Red, the Green, and Orange to signify the different modes of the Poken.
No worries, it still works, see? flashing lights!

I then snapped it back, not wanting to damage this device further.

So its a relatively simple device, with not much information exchanged during the Pokening process. Just the ID of your friend, and the status of their Poken (discrete or normal). All the actual "Social Network" information is actually in the website. So there is no need to "download" information into your Poken.

What this also means is that this Poken device may not be necessary in the future. All we need could be just software which runs on your phone, which can do almost the same thing via Bluetooth, Infrared or even the Bump.

I guess why this is interesting is that we have some relatively cheap tech which does data transmission, reception and storage in a really bizarre form factor. I look forward to people hacking this to make other interesting applications.

Noticing that the website allows customisation of the Poken Calling Cards, here is my Poken Card template which I created using GIMP (the layered .xcf file available on demand):
Which when populated with the Poken information, looks like this:
Things which Poken needs to fix:
  1. I/O error as reported by dmesg
  2. Making the device writable - what is the use of a 1GB capacity when I cant use it? [Update: it seems the 1GB is simulated, as the device has only 14KB of memory]
  3. Linux friendly - plug and launch
  4. It seems Facebook Connect only works with Internet Explorer 7+. Being a Firefox on Linux user, I don't see how I can make use of this.
  5. Make the device cheaper - something which people wont even think twice about buying. RM20?
  6. Make it thinner
  7. More Pokenistas abound.
Other good Poken reviews:
Carolyn Chan - "If it ain't Poken, go fix it"
Nicki Choong - "Let's start Poken"
Suanie - "do you poken? come poken with me"


[Update: 12 Aug 2009, added Suanie's blog which mentions this, and the 1GB simulated info]

9 lewsers:

DK said...

If I'm not wrong, the Poken will display a orange light when your Poken is almost full and a red light when its full. No new data can be added when it is full. Your existing data won't be overwritten. :)

UnkleBus said...

silly question btw, but how did you find out that it was 1GB?

skeevs said...

YK, according to support answer from Poken employee. It seems that the 1gb is only simulated, and that device actually only has 16kb memory.

I'm assuming 'o' is 'b'


Yoon Kit said...

@UnkleBus, I saw the 1GB in the Nautilus status bar, and if you look at the dmesg output, in the screenshot, it states "1.07GB / 1.0 GiB"

@skeevs, its interesting then that there is no write space on the device. I thought that it was great that it could double up as a nice thumbdrive.


thechannel© | meta4 said...

it can use a cooler, less toy-ish design as well. all my credibility (whatever's left) is gone the minute i whip this out. something that looks like mynameise http://mynameise.com/connector wouldn't be too bad.

Roger Huitt said...

sleeker versions of the Poken are available, with 2GB of flash storage, which of course they hold a lot more contacts as well as any file. Files sharing will be available soon. http://www.startpoken.com/

eda said...



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