Behavior, Content, Money – 3 Things you should never give away for free!!!

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IFTTT finally releases its own API, sort of, with “Maker channel” triggers

Posted by bcmoney on October 30, 2015 in Cloud Computing, JSON, Web Services with No Comments


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Pwn the internet

Pwn the internet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

IFTTT finally just released its own API (sort of) when it announced the introduction of its new “Maker” Channel which may very well be the closest we ever get to a true API. It offers HTTP-based activation of Actions to carry our when invoked or Triggers which can be combined with another service.

The Maker Channel extends the power of IFTTT to any DIY project, big or small,” said the company in a recent blog post. “You can now build and connect Recipes to any device or service that can make or receive a web request.”

Since launching nearly four years ago, If This Then That (IFTTT) has provided a web-based platform for “thing” integration towards realizing the promise of the Internet Of Things (IoT) helping to make our lives simpler rather than more complicated as it often does as new technologies continue to be introduced.

For a quick refresher from my previous post on IFTTT’s role within the Internet of Things, it enables its users to authenticate/authorize and inter-connect a variety of tools, devices/sensors, applications and web services through unique “recipes” that are based on an “if this happens, then do that” formula. These could accomplish anything from the serious (such as automatically receiving a text message if suspicious activity is picked up by your home surveillance system), to the fickle but convenient (for instance backing up photos uploaded to Facebook which have a particular tag to a dedicated Dropbox folder). Recipes like these have all been created by the community and are free to use (unless you wish to mark your recipe private, and either way the data you enter into your recipe of course stays private and only a template of it is shared)

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The Internet of Things – If this then what?

Posted by bcmoney on January 10, 2015 in Cloud Computing, Mobile, Web Services with No Comments


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English: A technology roadmap of the Internet ...

English: A technology roadmap of the Internet of Things. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The “Internet of Things” (or IoT) is an evolution of microprocessor engineering, sensor innovations, wireless communications technologies, and of course the Internet itself. An IoT “thing” could be any natural or man-made object that can be assigned an IP address and provided with the ability to transfer data over a network. For example, inanimate objects (i.e. many cars have more built-in sensors than early NASA shuttles for doing everything from alerting the driver when tire pressure is low to regulating anti-lock breaking systems or airbag deployments during emergencies), animals (i.e. a wild animal tagged with biochip transponder to track position/population size or migration patterns) or people (i.e. an elderly person with a heart monitor device or any other implant or device which tracks health data). In all of the previous examples, “things” are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human, human-to-animal, or human-to-computer interaction. A major question of this Internet of Things is now what the “killer applications” will be. As in, what real-world problems will be solved, what efficiency improvements can be gained or which tangible benefits can be realized for the end user? By connecting more and more devices (thanks to the proliferation of IPv6 addresses, enough to give every atom on Earth’s surface a dedicated IP), we are of course creating more and more usage data,  observational data and metadata about the interactions of these devices and users within the rest of the world, which has also placed even more importance on BigData. Certainly, a big part of IoT will be task automation (the absence of a user during operation of devices and their software),  enabling devices to function more and more autonomously and theoretically freeing up users from manually entering commands via a command-line or clicking/tapping on controls within a user interface. Enter the service If This Then That (IFTTT), which enables you to “wire together” the capabilities of or otherwise integrate data from two disparate sources to accomplish a particular goal. Read the rest of this entry »

LayerPlayer released for SkipSearch

Posted by bcmoney on December 21, 2014 in AJAX, Cloud Computing, HTML, JavaScript, Semantic Web, TV with No Comments


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Announcing the availability of SkipSearch’s new Layer Player ALPHA version. This is still early days even though its a multi-year project for me, as I continue to work on this in my very rare spare time. This new feature will much more readily bring to light the capabilities of the recommendation engine built under the hood of SkipSearch (powered by OpenRecommender). With this release, SkipSearch is effectively moving from Alpha to Beta in 2015 and getting further and further from vaporware and inching slightly closer to being a legitimate full-blown, widely usable (and hopefully well-used) Web 3.0 application. Please take a moment to check it out, and sign up for the BETA if you haven’t already:

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For comparison’s sake, here’s the architecture of a typical Web Crawler that powers most Search Engines:

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Working with LimeSurvey’s RemoteControl2 JSON-RPC API in PHP

Posted by bcmoney on April 17, 2014 in Cloud Computing, JavaScript, Mobile, PHP, Semantic Web with 2 Comments


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Hideous LimeSurvey shirt

Hideous LimeSurvey shirt (Photo credit: juhansonin)

Recently, I needed to switch away from SurveyMonkey, which, while still a useful free service for quickly collecting some basic Survey results, leaves much to be desired in terms of what they offer in their basic version. Of course the fully paid versions offer significantly more functionality, but the upper-end of the pricing schemes that do everything I needed are just way out of my price range for small individually-funded and/or non-budget independent projects.

This lead me to LimeSurvey (formerly PHPsurveyor), the leading open source web-based Survey data collection software, with a back-end written entirely in PHP.

Getting LimeSurvey installed on my own server was incredibly easy, just download the latest release version and upload the files via FTP. Then load the installation script and it will guide you through the remaining install steps (which are basically just setting a username/password for the administrator account, as well as database configurations such as connection info, table naming, etc). Pretty standard fare for a long-running open source PHP project with a solid development community in place.

What really set LimeSurvey apart from the alternatives though, was the extensibility offered by its API, dubbed RemoteControl2 (with support for both XML-RPC and JSON-RPC).

I had initially started out with XML-RPC since I’m kind of a nerdcore “semantics” guy, and favour XML over JSON for most server-side integration use cases (unless I’m publishing data for client-side consumption, then I almost always favour JSON). The reason, well there simply are way more tools and methodologies already in place for XML than JSON and the reliability mechanisms built into XML such as well-defined schemas (DTD/XSD) which provide data validation, namespsaces (ns) which prevent conflicts in name/value label namings and help ensure you get the right values when parsing, stylesheets (XSL/XSLT)  which allow for on-the-fly transformations, query languages (XPath and XQuery) which simplify data filtering and extraction tasks, and XML security mechanisms such as Digital Signatures which enable better security. However that’s all sure to start a debate on here.

The point is, I wanted to go XML-RPC, I really did! However I have to say, the simplicity of their JSON-RPC API which seems particularly well-implemented won me over.

So here’s what I made, a simple Survey response submission script that I call “limesurvey.collector.php“:
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My Experiment in Cutting Cords (and costs) with VoIP

Posted by bryan on November 1, 2012 in Cloud Computing, E-Business, Mobile with No Comments


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Example of residential network including VoIP

Example of residential network including VoIP (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like most Canadians, I have paid way more than I care to admit to the greedy Telcos over the past several years. My estimates put my average monthly bill for two smartphone plans and a home telephone line with an international long-distance plan at approximately $175/month (some months higher, some months lower, but that’s the average). Carry that cost over 12 months per year and about 5 years since I’ve been back in Canada and at the mercy of the Telcos, and you’ve got a scary picture. Add in Internet, TV and Movie services (i.e. Netflix) and what you’ve got is blatant wastage and inefficiency, something I intend to put an end to now that my major smartphone plan’s 3-year contract is coming to an end.

Feel free to jump straight to my problem and my proposed solution right now, but I’ll lay out some background on my particular situation, and what lead me to this current fleecing and desparation to find an alternative.

 

Mobile
At first I ended up with three separate carriers, which is almost never the cheapest way of doing things, but almost always the way a typical household ends up. As families grow, couples may have had separate services, and its not always easy or even possible to package, bundle or combine services due to prior contracts. It’s easy to blame the greedy Telcos, but at least some of the responsibility for this situation rests on my shoulders as a result of laziness or simple lack of time and energy to do anything about it sooner and/or do more research into all the possible alternatives.

Being incredibly busy but needing to fill an immediate need for services to get my wife a phone since I had no home phone line, before I had much chance to figure out how badly I’d be getting screwed, I had myself signed on to two 3-year contracts with two separate carriers.

Later, I needed to add a second smartphone plan, mostly because I had to get a Mobile phone plan for my wife before she was actually a permanent resident, and at the time there was a “special offer” on at Rogers that would have made it cheaper than adding a second line to my existing Bell-Aliant account. What I didn’t know was that despite it being cheaper, Rogers tends to hike their rates more later on down the line. Live and learn I suppose.

I’ve considered something like a Mobile 4G hotspot, but the thought of carrying it with me everywhere and being dependent on a spotty service that’s still being rolled out does not really appeal to me very much. That said, here’s what I found were my options: Read the rest of this entry »

BC$ = Behavior, Content, Money

The goal of the BC$ project is to raise awareness and make changes with respect to the three pillars of information freedom - Behavior (pursuit of interests and passions), Content (sharing/exchanging ideas in various formats), Money (fairness and accessibility) - bringing to light the fact that:

1. We regularly hand over our browser histories, search histories and daily online activities to companies that want our money, or, to benefit from our use of their services with lucrative ad deals or sales of personal information.

2. We create and/or consume interesting content on their services, but we aren't adequately rewarded for our creative efforts or loyalty.

3. We pay money to be connected online (and possibly also over mobile), yet we lose both time and money by allowing companies to market to us with unsolicited advertisements, irrelevant product offers and unfairly structured service pricing plans.

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