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Posts Tagged ‘software’

Post-Modern Electioneering: Back to the Future

09-Feb-17 08:11 am EDT Leave a comment
Robyn Urback | Columnist

Robyn Urback Columnist

Written in response to CBC News: “Millennials finally fall out of love with Justin Trudeau after he abandons electoral reform: Opinion by Robyn Urback

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s a member of the vaunted (yes and cynical) Generation-X, I’ve got to just roll my eyes once more….. Millennials are doing precisely what the generations before have done as youth – not voted as a block….at least – not for long.

But if there is really a block here to be won (and – let’s be clear – there isn’t), it would be easy to take yesteryear successes and use ’em again. We need more IT staffers (like me!) to explore service industries like software development or network engineering. And offering a bit of money for vocational training here (alongside some success stories) would really go a long way toward making up for lost ground on the FPP voting fiasco. Trudeau, God bless him, should’ve known better than to try saying “well we tried, but you know in government – you can’t always do what you thought you could before being elected” routine. Even if you believe it, it’s kind of a crappy reason to go back to the public with.

The real worry I have isn’t the loss of some fictionalized Millennial solidarity. It’s the potential for cross-demographic populism and fascism to take hold in this country! And while O’Leary isn’t Trump, maybe the best we can hope for it the short term is that fascism will pass us by and that Trudeau’s over-promise, under-deliver showing so far somehow reverses itself the more experience he gets as our Prime Minister.

I’m about the same age as he is – but it’s obvious to me while he might be better at leading the country than I’d be….his father he is not. And there is plenty for him to learn yet!

AR CamFeeder 1.0.1 (beta) Released to UI Testing

16-Sep-14 06:07 pm EDT Leave a comment
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amFeeder, reflecting my latest work, has been deployed to the AppRefactory website.  It’s not in an ideal state just yet, but does offer the main UI to serve as the platform for future refinements of a tool that effectively replaces a much older utility that once existed for Yahoo’s application platform (which I forget the name of).  It features a simple XML file that contains data about web query strings and URLs needed to display and, eventually, capture imagery from traffic cameras anywhere in the world!  Because I live in the city of Ottawa (Canada), I’ve added a selection of cameras from this city’s own traffic monitoring service – but any camera with a web-based feed should be compatible.

AR CamFeeder screenshot (taken September 16, 2014); illustrating the auto-tiling camera feed feature.

AR CamFeeder screenshot (taken September 16, 2014); illustrating the auto-tiling camera feed feature.

Indeed, it would be particularly helpful to receive feedback from persons editing the XML file (called camopts.xml) in the application’s folder in other cities.  Currently AR CamFeeder is available only for Windows; but I expect to have a different version readied for Android smartphones in early 2015.

This was also an opportunity for a trial run using InstallShield as a package and deployment technology in concert with Microsoft Visual Studio 2013.  The Limited Edition package isn’t bad at all; offering a time-unlimited means to archive an entire windows application within a setup.exe and tailor all of the settings one used to need the Windows SDK and Orca to tweak properly (at least some of the time).  It is this setup.exe made available for download from The AppRefactory Inc. website you’ll be using to do the installation if you’d like to review the package or play around with adding your own cameras.

If you’d like to add your name to a usability testers list, get in touch with me via info@apprefactory.ca and I’ll add your name to the group list; with thanks for your assistance in advance.

To the rest: enjoy AR CamFeeder during this trial phase at no cost.  (Fear not: more features will be in the full release which, it is still hoped, will be a free download.)

More Planets Anyone?

27-Nov-13 12:34 pm EDT Leave a comment

Infographic showing how the Kepler space telescope could continue searching for planets despite two busted reaction wheels. Credit: NASA Ames/W Stenzel (Read more…)

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epler may be getting set for a resurrection of its planet-finding mission in other star systems, according to Universe Today. The space telescope whose primary mission to was catalogue planets around stars in our galaxy, visible in a particular part of the night sky was abruptly cut short this past summer when two of the wheels responsible for orienting the satellite failed, leaving its attitude control system crippled along with its primary mission.  These technical issues have also left Kepler vulnerable to budget cuts in the forthcoming 2014 budget debate which has already been the subject of a high-stakes game of political brinksmanship between U.S. lawmakers who decide how much money NASA and, ultimately, Kepler get.

A view of Kepler's search area as seen from Earth. Credit: Carter Roberts / Eastbay Astronomical Society

A view of Kepler’s search area as seen from Earth. Credit: Carter Roberts / Eastbay Astronomical Society

Of course, while Kepler and other planet-finding missions continue with their discoveries (even if hobbled by issues of one kind or another), one question often asked about them is “where are they?”  I use a program called “Celestia” to get my answer to that question and over the past couple of years have acquired quite a bit of data pertaining to these “exoplanets” (as they’re called) and other astronomical phenomena whose coordinates and other data can be input into the application to generate a celestial map.

If you’re interested in using the data I’ve got , you can download the library from one of two sources:

Dr. Dobbs: Software Development Trending to be More Complex, Not Less

28-Apr-13 01:14 pm EDT Leave a comment
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here aren’t many advantages to being on disability for the past several months – but as I’ve recovered, looking for work and taking on the challenges with possibly getting my own software projects closer to completion has caused me to reflect on how software development has changed over the course of my career.  Imagine my shock at finding out I wasn’t alone in this realization this weekend, when I ran into a Dr. Dobbs article that articulated more clearly than I ever could (available free time notwithstanding) exactly what this revolution in app development is all about.

Chart above: “Fraction of programmers (y-axis) who spend x amount of time coding in a given language in 2012.  Note the big spike on the left and the mostly sub-2% numbers for programmers coding more than 50% of the time in one language.” (Source: Dr. Dobbs Journal, 03-Apr-2013)

My lead project is actually an upgraded version of a strategy game that’s been in the public domain for quite a while; but has the simplicity necessary to effectively permit interfaces to a number of different platforms – and with them, the necessity of leveraging a number of different technologies to make building and maintenance practical.  What will this mean software development as we close on 2015 or even 2020?  Likely what’s happened before – amalgamation to facilitate the creation of single-vendor solutions so that the process is re-simplified.

But until that happens, coders like me are gonna be left to absorb multiple platforms and become jacks-of-all-trades (and hopefully not lose the mastery of some in the process).

Anti-Microsoft Bigotry Finds New Ammunition in Search Results Scandal

02-Feb-11 10:03 pm EDT Leave a comment
At left, Google searched for the correct spelling of "tarsorrhaphy" even though "torsoraphy" was entered. Bing manages to list the same Wikipedia entry at the top of its results.
Google searched for the correct spelling of "tarsorrhaphy" even though "torsoraphy" was entered. Bing manages to list the same Wikipedia entry at the top of its results.” (Source: FoxNews.com; associated article here.)
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oogle and other players in the information technology (IT) industry say Microsoft is guilty of “industrial espionage” in the wake of catching the software giant displaying results originating from Google itself on the Bing search engine’s results page (which is operated by Microsoft).  The charge itself is surprising; but perhaps almost as surprising is that a company with the name-brand recognition, market share and raw success of Google would float charges as ridiculous as “espionage” is in this case – in public.

It’s all a product of an ongoing and, really, tired theme in the IT sector: techno-bigotry.  It’s existed for years between the two mainstream, competing platforms for Internet-based application delivery: on one side you have Microsoft Corporation which used to be criticized (rightfully) for offering a heavily proprietary solution architecture; and on the other, what I term “the Java alliance” – which is really an architecture that at key points conforms with a loose agreement on industry standards and technologies that are based upon “open-source” development principles (though there are many elements which can be proprietary in nature).

There are those who’d dismiss the Google announcement concerning the alleged Bing results replication as merely the product of the fiercely competitive web search sub-industry – that it’s all about optics and trying to make Google appear more innovative than Microsoft (yet again).  But this is a hugely simplistic view of Google’s real motives.  After all, the information being contested in this complaint is either “out there” – visible to the public; or at least any member of the public equipped with an application capable of reading the web protocol "HTTP” (a web browser), or voluntarily shared with Microsoft by individual users (i.e. data shared though the Bing toolbar or other available “clickstream” data, acquired by legitimate means.  Normally when one conducts espionage, one is surreptitiously (and unlawfully) getting information which has value both as intellectual property and as information that offers competitive advantage (which, in the IT sector would typically be technology that nobody else has).  Typically, such technology is the product of innovation by the company holding it.  So did Microsoft – which admits it did present results in a fashion very similar to Google – commit espionage or, as one analyst claimed, “cheat” doing what it did?  The answer is yes, certainly; if your definition of espionage and cheating includes using information that was broadcast without encryptions or other protections of any kind into the public domain.

JavaDissDotNet
Technology bigotry is so ingrained in the IT industry’s culture; there are very real parallels with college sports, complete with slogans, mascots and meaningless, ad hominem arguments as to which team is better.

My definition of both espionage and cheating differs from that conclusion (as does virtually every published lexical reference I could find online).

Beyond all of this, were Microsoft really guilty of espionage, Google would not be making claims so publicly about their “sting”, as they call it.  Microsoft would be dragged up on criminal charges and Google would be very tight-lipped about what claims it was making in public, notwithstanding the usual statement in such circumstances, “We cannot comment because the matter is before the courts.”  (Particularly in the litigation-prone United States of America.)  So why is Google trying its would-be espionage case in the court of public opinion? In fact, there are many reasons.  For one thing, Google wants to highlight its position as the leader of search technology, because Bing (Microsoft’s search product) has been gaining ground.  And, lets face it, search is Google’s “crown jewels” – just as Microsoft Office products are its “crown jewels” (alongside the Windows operating system).  Google will do anything and everything (within the scope of lawful conduct) to defend its web search property.  In charging Microsoft with “cheating” like this, particularly to the largely non-technical advertising and marketing business audience, Google is attempting to make Microsoft out to be a company that just can’t figure out how to beat Google by innovating on its own.  The trouble is, everyone already recognizes Google as the undisputed leader of web search.  So is there something else Google gains in all this?  You bet!  There’s another audience of note: software developers (like me!).

Web developers and software developers are often overlooked as a relevant crowd in such stories by the mainstream media; but don’t think for a second both Google and Microsoft  don’t spend a lot of time, effort and cold, hard cash wooing developers to use their products.  Why?  Because when software-based solutions are created, the size of the pool of resources available to maintain and upgrade the resulting products are a key consideration for IT managers – which translates into determining how much those solutions end up costing in the end.  In general, the more developers there are whose expertise gravitate to one particular toolset, the less costly that toolset is.  And at the moment, Microsoft is winning the battle for the hearts and minds of software developers (mostly due to the de facto capitulation of Java through IBM’s acquisition of it, via the Sun Microsystems transaction, back in 2009).  In this developer’s opinion, Java has lost much of its momentum throughout the industry as a direct result of IBM taking control of the technology.  And software professionals are aligning their careers accordingly.  But Java’s legacy can’t be underestimated – it is still to be found in many spaces and the Java language will remain a relevant, sought-after skill for several years into the future at least.  And Google can be thanked for this, in part.  As a third-party company, Google is at liberty to offer integration to any partners it prefers…and it is obvious that while it is possible to integrate with many Google service offerings with Microsoft technology – it is not rolling out the red carpet to Microsoft’s .NET platform, nor the Windows operating system by any means.  Indeed there are service offerings which are exclusively available only to the Linux operating system, which is one of the top three competitors to Microsoft Windows.

From a business perspective, this lukewarm reception to Microsoft integration makes some sense, since increasingly Google and Microsoft contest the same service paradigms.  Search is only one example.  Google Docs is a direct competitor to Microsoft Office, Google Desktop is a direct assault on both Microsoft Live Essentials and Microsoft Search technologies.  If Google is to gain mind-share amongst the developer population and someday be able to threaten Microsoft’s dominance in the server room (which is its ultimate goal, I believe, since that’s where the big money is), it really needs to do what it can to discourage adoption of the .NET Framework.

So expect more spectacles of one sort or another with this core theme exhibited as part of a long-term strategy to beat Microsoft.  And I say long-term in the full sense of the word.  Not only is Google not yet directly challenging Microsoft in the operating systems space (which it needs to do in order to get through the server room doorway), but Microsoft has played this game before…and always won.  It beat Java with .NET.  It beat Netscape with IE.  It even beat Sony and its PlayStation with the XBox.  But Microsoft’s never taken on a company quite like Google before…a company as innovative and fast-paced as Google.  Google won an early battle stifling Microsoft’s foray into online services with its Microsoft Live web properties; but Microsoft countered by making a huge consent-based investment in Facebook and continues to increase that investment while partnering more and more closely with the near-monopoly it holds on social networking.  The game is too close to call at this point.

And expect the techno-bigotry to continue….with all is parallels to college sports; slogans, cheers, mascots and meaningless ad hominem arguments as to which team is better.

Terry Glavin

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