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

BCmoney MobileTV

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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Will the real Developers please stand up!

Posted by bcmoney on February 26, 2014 in Java, Mobile with 1 Comment


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Graphite, on tan wove paper, laid down on comm...

Early “Standing Work Desk” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my industry of IT (and indeed all Technology jobs in general), it is extremely easy to develop unhealthy and border-line self-destructive habits. From staring at a screen for too long to bad posture slouching over a keyboard, and from tendonitis in the wrist due to bad hand/wrist joint alignment to forgetting to stand up regularly in order to keep the blood circulating; these are just some of the many common pitfalls of being a developer, engineer or technologist of any kind. Furthermore, in our digital society, these now also apply almost equally to the majority of other professions as almost everyone has to use a computer or electronic device of some sort in their line of work today. Compounding this even more is the fact that once we get home, we are often interacting with more and more computers and devices (interface in our cars, on mobile phones, TVs, personal computers, tablets, etc). It’s not too surprising that digital overload is a major trending health concern in the 21st century.

Recently, if only in the interest of self-preservation, I’ve become extremely interested in the growing Fitness movements online to take one’s health back from the digital distractions and electronic that seek to steal it away. What started out innocently enough (yet often times insulting/disgustingly/self-deprecatingly enough) with Reddit’s Fitness discussion thread has now grown into an experiment with several different Fitness Tracking, Calorie Counting and Nutrition Planning tools, as well as keeping track of any ailments or injuries that cropped up during my training using Patient-to-Patient Networks and related resources. At this point I had not yet gone full “Fit Geek” yet, as I wholeheartedly rejected one of the primary driving forces behind this so-called “Fit Geek movement”; namely, the “wearable gadgets” fitness technology category. I knew things were really starting to get out of hand though, when my own mother got into said technocratic gadgetry craze by purchasing a FitBit ONE which is basically a Pedometer, Heart Monitor, Sleep Analyzer and Watch/Timer/Stopwatch all in one, complete with a secured Web 2.0 style RESTful API to allow you to access your personal Fitness Activity data.

So, not to be outdone by my own mother, I finally decided to crack and give this fit tech thing a try (stubbornness and rejection of mainstream trends/agendas aside, I really do need to know about this health & fitness technology stuff at a deep level since I believe it will be tightly entwined with my career in Health IT). Not being exactly sure what I was looking for, and at the same knowing I didn’t want to put much time, money or effort into this investigation initially, I decided to take up Nintendo on their offer of a free downloadable copy of $59.99 Wii Fit Plus for people who already had the Wii Balance Board that came with previous versions of Wii Fit who purchased the WiiU FitMeter before January 31st, 2014. Sadly, if you’re reading this, you’ve missed that deal; but I can tell you that I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the ease of use and convenience of using the FitMeter to track your distance walked/jogged/run/skied/biked and a rough estimate of the total calories burned from that basic activity.

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The Evolution of the Cell Phone INFOGRAPHIC

Posted by bryan on December 7, 2013 in Mobile, Multimedia with 4 Comments


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Mobile Phones have come a long way since the giant “Cell Phones” (sometimes called “Bricks” for their heavy weight and rectangular shape) of the late 80s and early 90s, to the modern “Smart Phones” with intelligence and computing capability that would have seemed like Science Fiction back then. Today’s handhelds are fully-functional Mobile Devices that perform a multitude of tasks.

 

The following infographic entitled “From Bricks to Brains” summarizes this evolution of the Cell Phone:
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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 1 Comment


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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 »

Top 10 Finish in MintChip Challenge: THANK YOU!

Posted by bryan on October 2, 2012 in E-Business, Mobile, Web Services with No Comments


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BCmoney_Actions

BCmoney Actions

It is with great humility and gratitude that I announce that I have finished in the Top 10 of the Mintchip Challenge with my proposed application and idea that “A digital currency can be used for P2P barter and micropayments“.

You can see the full list of finalists in the Mintchip Challenge here:
http://ideas.mintchipchallenge.com/

There were really some phenomenal entries into the contest and this has to have been one of the most well-received and highly active (by sheer number of participants/voters) campaigns of all the ChallengePost software development-related contests so far. Congratulations to all the competitors, it was an honour to be amongst such talent. While I didn’t earn one of the big money prizes for my app (you can see the teams and applications who were winners of the demonstration side of the contest here) I do feel honoured and appreciative of the Top 10 finish for the idea itself. I would like to thoroughly thank everyone for their ongoing support, and let you know that this gives me the positive encouragement I needed not to give up on my idea of creating a fairer, more efficient and transparent money system, built on the idea that one deserves to enjoy the fruits of their labour however they wish and not have the income generated from their hard work just handed out to greedy corporations via questionable transaction fees, high interest payments or uncalled for service fees.

When I started this experiment called “BCmoney MobileTV”, I had the seed of an idea in my head, that today:

  • we can do a better job at distributing the world’s essential resources (food, water, energy for heat/lights, etc)
  • we can valuate people’s contributions to society a lot better than we currently are
  • we (at least in North America, but really worldwide) spend alot of our time on activities that benefit other people or organizations (sometimes without even knowing it)

With this post, I am also taking the time to announce the development of a new Web Service, to be known only as “BC$”, and henceforth, the existing BCmoney MobileTV site will serve as the testbed for it. The Web Service will be a simple, lightweight tool to passively track creation and consumption habits online. This will be different from existing tracking tools in that it will absolutely respect “Do Not Track” requests and immediately stop tracking individuals on request (i.e. whether that is just temporarily or permanently). 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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