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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 »

How to build widgets following the W3C Widget specification

Posted by bcmoney on June 29, 2014 in Mobile, Web Services with No Comments


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English: an incon to indicate that there is a ...

Icon to indicate a widget. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post will be a quick & dirty step-by-step guide to building a Widget following the cross-platform W3C Widget specification. For starters I’ll list out the 7 primary W3C specifications on Widgets and 4 specs on their use with Mobile devices (roughly in order of significance):

Now unless you are supporting an instance of one of the legacy widget platforms/portals for your organization, or, have recently been put in charge of building a new “widget type platform” for your company, then I wouldn’t suggest you waste too much time going through all those specs. I’m intending to give you a quick overview here that will save you that pain and give you a sufficient familiarity to be functional with Widgets right away.

What is a Widget?

Whether you call it a widget, gadget, badge, module, capsule, snippet, framed window, representation, implementation, micro, mini, page flake or anything else; a Widget is a small web, mobile, or desktop application that brings information directly to you, so you don’t have to go somewhere else look for the information yourself.

Some widgets are helpful self-contained resources like clocks, calculators, or calendars. Some widgets are static and just display specific information that rarely if ever changes, like a “list of useful links” or some reminder text. Some widgets are more dynamic and let you write desktop post-it notes, convert media files, or see weather forecasts. Dynamic/Interactive widgets really do let you accomplish some incredible stuff, like let you automatically feed Dilbert comics in color straight to your Facebook wall or Instagram followers (or even just to your blog, personal web page, or even your desktop). Widgets can of course also pull data from external sources. Regardless of their type, all widgets are designed to be shared. You can easily send your favorite widgets to friends and co-workers with a single click and email, and anyone who sees a widget on your personal pages can download a version to customize for themselves. The following image from the original Widget 1.0 spec shows how this simplicity works behind the scenes, based on web standards:
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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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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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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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