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

BCmoney MobileTV

JS Podcatcher v2.0

Posted by bcmoney on September 18, 2015 in AJAX, JavaScript, XML with No Comments


No Gravatar

This is the first revision of my quick and dirty Podcatcher (podcasting client).

English: Podcast or podcasting icon Français :...

English: Podcast or podcasting icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It adds three new features:

  1. Ability to search for Podcasts by name (via iTunes API)
  2. Resolving the actual RSS feed URL from the Podcast ID
  3. Caching a copy of the RSS feed on the server in XML and only requesting updates if changes have been made

The last features I want to add in my next post will be the ability to arrange and sort multiple Podcasts you’ve “subscribed to” by dragging their “album art covers”, and . This little Podcatcher app would by then have pretty much the full capability of the native “Podcasts” app (official Podcatcher from Apple).

 

I’ve done quite a bit of research into Podcasting lately, particularly because they are making a comeback in popularity, far surpassing their original interest. There are a number of factors contributing to this resurgence, including:

 

Read the rest of this entry »

E-Commerce Shopping Cart in JavaScript and PHP

Posted by bcmoney on May 18, 2015 in E-Commerce, JavaScript, PHP with No Comments


No Gravatar
English: Jewel-Osco - monster shopping cart truck

English: Jewel-Osco – monster shopping cart truck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In E-Commerce, a “frictionless experience” is often described as the ultimate design goal when it comes to the consumer’s purchasing experience. An easy-to-use, robust shopping cart solution that can easily have any number of diverse types of items added to it, calculate shipping & handling, taxes and any other additional fees (where such apply), provides transparency and immediacy to the customer’s purchase decision. Doing this well can mean the difference between huge sales numbers and lackluster or disappointing sales figures.

Boiling all the Shopping Cart solutions out there to the most common, key functions we should expect a solution to support are:

  • Add/Remove items
  • Tabulate itemized sub-total
  • Calculate shipping & handling
  • Calculate taxes & fees
  • Tabulate total
  • Remember History for later purchase completion
  • Purchase/Checkout confirmation process

Other nice-to-have features that begin to move away from basic “Cart” functionality and into holistic E-Commerce platforms, include:

  • Multi-Address memory (billing, shipping… home, work, summer, etc)
  • Multi-Currency support (switch currency at any time)
  • Multi-Lingual support (switch languages at any time, i18n)
  • Multi-Layout support (switch look & feel at any time, l10n)
  • Storefront & “canned store templates”
  • Layout drag&drop/point-click customization (as per SquareSpace, Wix, etc)
  • Auto-fill forms (with customers’ stored Address info)
  • Auto-billing (subscriptions/recurring payments)
  • Notification options for receipt (Email, SMS, Phone notification, etc… in addition to on-screen)
  • International Shipment Tracking (parcel status check)
  • Returns processing
  • 3rd party payment support options (CreditCard, Interac eTransfer via Moneris/PaySafe, PayPal, 2checkout, etc)
  • PCI & PA-DSS compliance (possibly by payment gateway deferral for sensitive data)
  • Item import/export
  • Ratings (star, thumbs up/down, etc)
  • Reviews (public or private textual customer feedback)
  • Search
  • Wish List curation
  • Product/Service Recommendations
  • Discounts (coupons, limited-time offers, affiliate codes, etc)
  • Promotions (buy X get Y, welcome emails, inactive account enticements, etc)
  • Loyalty Program (points, rewards, etc)
  • Tracking company/brand affinity & engagement
  • Inventory Management (real-time RFID, NFC, etc)
  • Supply-Chain Management (SCM)
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Advertising platform integration
  • Analytics platform integration
  • Social Media platform integration

There are tons more possible features but those two lists capture the main ones. Having defined a Shopping Cart and our expectations of its basic capabilities, the remainder of this post will summarize how to roll your own super simple yet intuitive E-Commerce Shopping Cart in JavaScript and PHP that gets out of the customer’s way as much as possible, focusing on the first key set of options only; it will also include thoughts on how the base functionality could easily be expanded out to include some or all of the nice-to-haves of a full-fledged E-Commerce platform.
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


No Gravatar

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:

131818816_80_80

 

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

Read the rest of this entry »

JS Podcatcher (a Podcast client written in JavaScript)

Posted by bcmoney on November 29, 2014 in HTML, JavaScript, Multimedia, TV with No Comments


No Gravatar
English: The "Made for iPod, iPhone, iPad...

English: The “Made for iPod, iPhone, iPad” emblem appearing on accessories approved by Apple Inc. for iPod, iPhone, and iPad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So just this month my 5-year old iPhone3GS finally bit the dust. I had been hanging on and managed to extend its life well beyond its 3-year Telco contract (which I immediately cancelled the day I was out) by pairing it with a MiFi hotspot for much cheaper VoIP-based calling and using data-intensive applications only when on WiFi. That trusty iPhone3GS made it through a major liquid submersion (thanks to the good folks at Atlantic Cell Phone Repair) two cracked screens (thanks to the good folks at iCracked). At some point I may even replace the screen again, which is what’s gone a third time. I’m pretty stubborn though, and now that I’ve finished off my Mobile contract for the MiFi as well, pretty much at all costs I really didn’t want to have to buy another discounted device which usually requires one to agree to the terms of a foolishly one-sided/restrictive 2-year or 3-year contract; likewise, I really don’t want to shell out anywhere near the full asking price in the $500-$1000 price range for a new smartphone. So it’s either go back to my old Nokia flip-phone and live in the early 2000’s on a basic voice-calling only plan, or, hack my old 4th generation iPod Touch into something with phone call abilities. Of course, I opted for the latter!

iPhone 3G and iPod Classic 5G.

iPhone 3G and iPod Classic 5G. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Luckily thanks to an excellent VoIP app called BRIA (of which a 4th gen. iOS 4 version is still available in the iTunes App Store), I was able to continue doing voice calling by using my Anveo VoIP service (highly recommend this low-cost VoIP provider, please enter Referral Code 5334764 if registering). I was already using Anveo through BRIA on the iPhone, over MiFi when on-the-go, for over a year and a half since I got out of that first contract. I’ve described Anveo in great detail in “My Experiment in Cutting Cords (and costs) with VoIP” where I went over setting the VoIP service up on an iPhone (with BRIA app) and just how much could actually be saved per month by taking the plunge and switching to VoIP instead of a traditional Telco calling/data plan. I’ve found that with a little patience and using replacements (such as Slingplayer in place of Bell MobileTV, or, SoundHound in place of Shazam) along with some occasional disappointment (can’t get older versions of Netflix, Skype, Fitocracy, and several other top apps), I was able to get a good amount (about half) of the apps I was most frequently using on my iPhone3GS, downloaded to the iPod4th gen, in their older iOS 4-supported versions.

One somewhat irreplaceable app though that I just simply could not find, nor find a replacement for was the basic “Podcasts” app built by Apple (common alternatives such as Overcast, Downcast, TuneIN, Slacker, and even RSSradio all did not work on my device either). I mean, seriously Apple, WTF!? Even the very first iPod devices were within a few years of their release to become known as the cannonical “Podcatcher” (Podcatcher means a podcast downloader/player).

The term “podcasting” itself was first mentioned by Ben Hammersley in a February 2004 article in The Guardian newspaper as a portmanteau of the words “pod”, from the success in consumerizing digital music with the “iPod” line of Apple products and “broadcast” (as in traditonal Radio/TV broadcasting to many receivers over a wide area, constantly). As such, the native “Podcasts” app has been around since the early days, as Podcatching (better known as receiving and listening to Podcasts), became one of the main functions of iPods just as it continues to be a core functionality on the many other iOS devices. Why then, are older (iOS < 6) versions of the Podcasts app not still available through the iTunes App Store? The app existed back then, for those devices, and now its just plain unavailable it seems. Why not keep the old versions around? What if a legacy iPod user (anyone still on iOS 4 or lower for that matter) accidentally wipes or restores their device to factory settings? Tough luck if they didn’t store a backup that had that legacy version of the app which still runs on their device. This is an example of planned obsolescence at its worst!!!

Apple be damned, could the Podcast app’s functionality be replaced with a quickly hacked together web app though? Being a developer, that’s the question I wanted an answer to. So I realized it definitely should be doable, as Podcasts to me have always simply been RSS news feeds with links to Audio files embedded in them in a variety of ways. Thanks to Apple’s aforementioned “Podcatching” dominance, and iTunes’ position of oligopoly, Podcasts also need to be garnished with plenty of Apple-specific syntactic metadata to satisfy the behemoth that is the iTunes Store and rank better therein, so have to be able to parse that crap too.

All that to set the context for this experiment, which aims to concisely (I promise hah, from here on) describe how I took my original RSS parser from the post “RSS Reader in jQuery .vs. JavaScript”) on using JavaScript and/or jQuery to implement an RSS news reader, and modified it a few weeks ago to allow me to read the media links and embed codes.

Read the rest of this entry »

Animations on the web – Applets .vs. Flash .vs. SVG .vs. setTimeout .vs. jQuery.animate .vs. requestAnimationFrame .vs. CSS3 animations

Posted by bcmoney on October 23, 2014 in CSS, Flash, Java, JavaScript, Multimedia with No Comments


No Gravatar

In a follow-up to my prior article on Interactive Graphics on the web from a few years back, today I’ll be looking a bit closer at the latest Animation options on the web.

Animations have always been the specialty of Flash and before that pioneered by Java Applets on the web, but with the introduction of HTML5 and CSS3 things are sure changing fast!

This post is a quick round-up of the leading approaches to do something that a decade ago when I was first learning to develop I would have had trouble believing were even possible without a plugin/tool like Flash or Java. That is to simply move a box around through animation, moving it from left-to-right (but could be any direction) across the screen perpetually within a user’s browser, with simple controls to control the starting and stopping of the animation.

Java Applets

Historically the first (and back then pretty much only) way to accomplish your dynamic and interactive content needs, Java Applets offered the ability to code “Rich Internet Applications” in Java, similar to what it could already do on the Desktop via AWT GUIs, but run them on the web in the user’s browser client.

-or-

This loses alot of marks because of the sorry state of Java plugins and security issues since Oracle took over from Sun Microsystems and seemingly de-prioritized Java’s RIA features in favour of backend and enterprise parts of the stack which have a closer potential tie-in to its database and related products/services. Its also more cumbersome as it depends on the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) being installed to work, along with a Java browser plugin (IcedTea for OpenJDK or JavaWebStart for Sun/Oracle) so it would not work on a majority of mobile devices without rooting the device and layering in Java support (if even possible – depending on device type it may not be).

Many legacy devices do run Java Mobile/Micro Edition (JME) already, but the average user would have trouble even with some of the installer tools out there. Users also grow tiresome of the constant updates, warnings and security concerns that Applets present in the browser. Java in the browser lives on in the form of JavaFX and JNLP app launchers, but Applets are on their way out slowly but surely.

Score: 2.5/10 (I recall being wowed when I first saw dynamic and highly interactive content being rendered by Java, but have to admit the web has changed a lot since the 1990s).

Flash

Shortly after the debut of Applets, Macromedia launched their web-version of Shockwave (later Flash). Flash used a concept of “Motion tweens” where you basically draw out by hand the path that you want the animation to take, and the Flash plugin/player takes over and renders the desired motion path on your graphic objects, the desired number of times (or endlessly on a cycle).

-or-

This can be quite performant on Desktop devices that have the Flash plugin installed and enabled (most Computer browsers at this point in time), however not so much on Mobile devices. Also, thanks to Steve Jobs’ infamous statement that he’d never allow Flash on the iPhone due to its known security and performance issues on mobile (FlashLite), it may never be the case that you can rely on Flash to hit a majority of mobile browsers. This could still be a decent option however, if you’re already invested heavily in the Flash stack and/or Flex framework for your multimedia needs, and are ok focusing on Computer users. With Flash suffering pretty much as many security issues of late as old school Java Applets, I’m guessing most Developers are rejoicing with the other options emerging.

Score: 3/10 (I also have fond mostly painful memories struggling to get my first “motion tween” working in Flash Studio 2004; again, the web is moving to more built-in options for animation needs as we’ll soon see, but for a quick one-off this is still a viable option for a few more years, as long as you don’t need to support iPhone users).

SVG

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is one of the up-and-coming mechanisms for multimedia on the web. I recall when it was initially being pushed by W3C in the early 2000s, but at that time, you needed a dedicated browser extension just to render the SVG. Later, JavaScript cross-browser polyfills and libraries like Raphael.JS, Processing, and D3 emerged which built heavily on SVG (or supported it as a primary export format).

The

https://output.jsbin.com/bubabil

Score: 4/10 (I also have fond mostly painful memories struggling to get my first “motion tween” working, again, the web is moving to more built-in options for animation needs)

setTimeout

This approach in vanilla JS uses a combination of “setTimeout” and “clearTimeout” (along with a helper “global variable” you can’t really get around).

-or-

The problem is that first of all its fairly obviously laggy due to rounding errors in the calculation of nanoseconds (basically the timer is leaky and gets compoundingly inaccurate the longer it runs); but worst of all, if left running in an idle window too long it can become even further janky, jump all over the place, and consume too many resources causing the Tab to crash. This is not a viable animation option unless you are detecting the “active” state of the browser client to ensure the animation is only played when the user is actively on the page and interacting within the desired content regions such that its worth showing the anitmation. Even then, there’s no guarantee it will work equally well across Mobile and Desktop browsers.

Score: 5.5/10 (cool idea that it’s possible, but not the best approach for serious uses)

jQuery.animate();

This is probably the leading go-to answer if you ask StackOverflow, as usual, the Dev community seems to prefer to hand-off the cross-browser edge cases to jQuery which “usually” performs reasonably well. This makes sense, why reinvent the wheel? In this case though, this solution too will lead to jankyness if you leave it running over longer periods of time, but not nearly as wildly as the first setTimeout example without jQuery, as jQuery’s $.animate() doesn’t suffer from the same nanosecond rounding errors as setTimeout does.

-or-

Score: 7/10 (convenient enough, but still not even close to the best performing approach)

requestAnimationFrame();

This is the new HTML5 + JavaScript option that was previously not available. Depending on your target browsers, you may want to check its availability, but its shipping in Firefox, Chrome, Safari and even IE 10+ now, so it should be ready for prime time!

It performs better because it uses purpose-built animation APIs rather than relying on the single client-thread’s timer to continue running and stay accurate, or, and cludgy browser workarounds and approximations that attempt to overcome this with the jQuery.animate() approach.

-or-

The only downsides here, is that for now, its still a bunch of extra code to ensure you’re covering all the browsers with cross-browser vendor prefixes, other than that its fairly smooth and fluid, handily beating both the vanilla JS setTimeout and jQuery.animate optons.

Score: 8.5/10 (convenient enough, but still not even close to the best performing approach)

CSS3 Animations

Last, but certainly not least, what I’m probably most excited about is CSS3 Animations, natively within the browser… I mean how crazy is that?! This stuff would have been unheard of a few short years ago.

-or-

Ok so while not totally 100% CSS3 only, we need at least a tiny snippet of JS just to control the currently active class based on the desired state of the animation, toggling the starting of the motion through a class called “running” being added, and stopping of the motion through a class called “paused” being swapped out instead. Still, I found this pretty impressive once I realized the possibilities of CSS3 Animations & Transitions… the future will be interesting.

Score: 9.5/10 (I might be biased on this one, but I’m blown away by the fact this can now be done in CSS!)

Just to be comprehensive I’ll at least mention there’s also other options like Animated GIFs, VRML/X3D, Canvas, JavaFX, Flex, Silverlight, Unity, and even WebGL; but for practical animation needs, and programmatic access to control the animation, those listed above are the most accessible and sensible options for developers today.

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.

  • Archives