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

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HTML Tutorial and Web History lesson

Posted by bryan on May 21, 2016 in AJAX, Flash, HTML, JSON, XML with No Comments

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Today, something unexpected happened. I had the (somewhat unplanned and impromptu) pleasure of showing the ropes to the “new recruit” at work, a student here for a work term over summer break.

Now, we’re not necessarily doing that much coding here yet, as we’re still in the process of bringing back large portions of IT functionality in-house. We do, however, do a lot of software configuration, release management, testing/QA tasks, and, we are ramping up to use a major enterprise CMS to be able to create front-end content quickly (HTML/JS/CSS backed by JSP & EJB following OSGI structure).

I’ve always wondered in the back of my mind, if I were “in charge”, how would I more gently introduce the younger generation to the world of “enterprise programming”? Certainly the “enterprise world” is often significantly different, if not completely far-removed, from the real-world of cutting edge software development based on agile methodologies and lightweight web frameworks, co-developed with the customer in real-time, or implemented competitively overnight at a weekend hackathon. It is also far-removed from the naiively specialized world of “academic coding”, where “programming problems” (albeit sometimes very tricky ones) are assigned with a very clear set of up-front requirements and well-defined metrics for acceptance, where every assignment is given a certain amount of time to complete and graded for completeness and of course for “originality” or “ability-to-follow-the-book-without-copying” (where copying any minor component is seen as the devil’s work, labelled plagiarism, and ostracized).

Enterprise application development on the other hand, often times has no clear-cut requirements, no well-defined acceptance criteria (other than customer happiness) and is both behind schedule and over-budget before coding even begins. That thing about the no copying? Yeah that’s tossed out the window in favour of cutting corners and “getting it to market” as quickly as possible, often at the expense of quality (or in some cases even the development team understanding the solution, the most recent case that comes to mind is this hilarious StackOverflow verbatim copy “programming faux pas” from a Nissan connected car developer). All that being said, enterprise application development isn’t that hard, just more complex and frustrating than greenfielding, open source work, or even consulting. So it turned out to be a good opportunity to take a stab at it, as the student in question only had a year of Computer Science so far and despite some exposure to Java had not much in the way of Web development yet as those courses were coming later in the program. He did however, have a healthy interest in the Gaming industry, an industry which is increasingly finding an audience and monetization options for its wares on Mobile and Web platforms.


“The only thing constant is change”

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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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HTML5 Audio Player Jukebox

Posted by bcmoney on May 16, 2014 in AJAX, Flash, HTML, JSON, Multimedia, XML with No Comments

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A jukebox icon

A jukebox icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a piece of work I did on a freelance basis back in early 2012 for a client who allowed me to retain the full rights to the code as a “library” which I could distribute. (I offered them two prices of course, one cheaper rate where I retain the rights and one premium rate in which the code was exclusive to them and I would not distribute). After explaining that based on their request, I would be building it as HTML5/CSS3/JS front-end code that lives in the browser client and regardless of which choice they made it would be entirely possible for someone else to simply hit “view source” and/or sniff out raw traffic packets to copy it in full, they of course chose the cheaper option; they knew from all the hype around HTML5 in 2012 that they wanted it done in HTML5 and browser-based without relying on Flash (using Flash as a fallback only). Of course, the ease with which it would be copyable would depend entirely upon how well they protect their site through SSL-certs/code-signing/code-obsfucation/disabling-ViewSource or for example, put it behind a web viewer in a Mobile App or RIA viewer (Flex/Silverlight/JavaFX) and hiding URLs, if they really want it private. But that’s another point altogether!

They chose the cheaper option so I’ve been sitting on the code and until now I had been a combination of “too lazy”, “too busy” and “out-of-respect-for-them” not bothering to release or advertise the existince of said code. However, the time has come to unleash it! For those who’ve been at this for as long as me or longer, you may recognize that it is inspired heavily by some earlier 2009-2010 HTML5 audio demos done by the Mozilla development team as far as the look & feel; but I’ve added quite a few new features to it (for example the Flash-based fallback for old browsers like IE 5-8), CSS for a slick flat direct-link playlist if both HTML5 & Flash are missing, and the main feature which is support for both XSPF and JSPF playlist formats, which are by far the most popular open playlist data formats which really should be supported by all Online Music services (but that’s another story).

Ironically enough (as I blogged about benefits and annoyances of skeumorphs last year) it is more of a skeumorph for my old iPod shuffle which had two simple arrows (left for “previous”, right for “next”) than it is for an actual Jukebox, but I’m still calling it a jukebox where you can pick from multiple albums as long as they are all aggregated to the same XSPF/JSPF Playlist. Either way, I rather like it and think it borderline qualifies as a flat-design, web-based version of a Jukebox. It was also a disproportionately lot of work to put together considering I did the work for quite cheap and it was ultimately only going to be used to play a specific band’s few albums they had at the time online. As mentioned, it can pretty much support up to 1000’s of songs at a time (though I haven’t tested its limits or ran any browser comparison benchmarks or anything fancy-pantsy like that). Either way, it should theoretically fit as many as could fit into a single XML/JSON file without bringing your browser to a griding halt when trying to fetch, load and parse it, which is definitely in the hundreds if not thousands of lines of items.

Here it is, with a modest 4 sample albums (only one song per album for rights purposes) with royalty-free music I downloaded from Jamendo before they went under and/or re-focused their “open music community”.

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FOAF and the Facebook Death Star

Posted by bcmoney on May 18, 2012 in E-Business, JSON, Semantic Web, Web Services, XML with 2 Comments

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An updated SVG of the FOAF logo...

The Facebook Death Star

Since the February confirmation of the Facebook IPO, Facebook has continued to stagnate in user-base yet as an organization it holds no punches as it attempts to grow internationally, and its stock price continues to soar as Class A shares finally open up to the average person (major investment firms had first dibs at the initial Class A shares released during the IPO). Facebook founder and owner Mark Zuckerberg maintains 58% control of the company through complete control of Class C shares and veto power over all Class B shares. This is indeed shaping up to be a new Galactic (global internet) Empire, similar to that sought by a young Annakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. The new schematics for a seemingly unstoppable battle station would be the carefully-timed Facebook Timeline rollout along with Facebook Connect and OpenGraph protocol. So if one can draw vague parallels between Mark Zuckerberg and Darth Vader, who can play the role of the Emperor? An obvious choice would be early angel investor Petr Thiel of PayPal, but a more appropriate figure is Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, whose company owns approximately 2% of Facebook:

Symbolizing Facebook as the death star is hardly a new concept, just check out these previous references.

Enter the FOAF project and its RDF/XML data format for representing friendship connections in a social network, as well as personal interests and contact info. Although the FOAF file format is designed first of all to be machine readable, it is often desirable to be able to browse it as if it were a usual Web page.
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Unboxing the MintChip

Posted by bryan on April 15, 2012 in E-Business, E-Commerce, JavaScript, JSON, Mobile, Web Services with 4 Comments

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Royal Canadian Mint

Royal Canadian Mint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Royal Canadian Mint(RCM) has sponsored the MintChip Challenge 2012 in an effort to attract developers to the idea of developing software for the MintChip and giving away their best financial application ideas, basically, for free (on the long-shot that you are one of the few who win).

Starting April 1st, 2012, they began mailing out physical MintChip developer kits for up to 500 contestants (which will likely be an order of magnitude more actual developers involved when you count those who will inevitably work on larger teams).

Since Digital Currencies and related technologies have long been on my radar as a major business opportunity area, as well as a personal interest of mine in terms of how they work, it was only natural to apply for a kit. Today, mine finally arrived!


Contained in the package:

  • USB-microSD reader with MintChip software pre-installed
  • 2 MintChip MicroSD cards (aka. the MintChips themselves)
  • 2 SD-microSD card readers (paired with MintChips; one can act as sender, one as receiver)
  • Brief instructions on how to find your $100 balance for each MintChip (but no URLs, of course!)
  • The package itself has a punch-out Door Hanger on the back


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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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