[ Ø ] Harsh Prakash – GIS Blog

Quiet Musings On Applied Spatial (Health, Disaster, Technology, Planning et al.)

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Verizon iPhone or iNot?

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Back in the summer of 2010, as one of the million proud owners of iPhone 4, I noticed a certain setting to switch phone carrier. That setting then portended the change we will see tomorrow. But should you bite the bait? Assuming CDMA and GSM don’t matter, here’s part 1 of my guide:

There is a lot of spin around Apple’s flagship cash cow, or as we have come to know it- the iPhone, which only recently represented about 43% of its overall sales. Not all of the coverage is positive (remember Foxconn?). Apple’s growing pains also include a big lawsuit fight. But for those with out a blind searing faith in Steve Jobs, the genius patriarch, the iPhone may very well be suffocating. If true, could Jobs be repeating his original sin? And if so, should your phone follow his sin to the grave?

iOS works better than Android out-of-the-box. To better understand the genesis of its famed usability and cool minimalism, watch Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. If you decide to switch, be prepared to shell out monies in cool apps and media. From a quick glance, I paid around $750 over 2 years. To Apple. Not AT&T (that averaged around $2,400 for the same time). And remember that MP3s from Amazon, somethings you can’t buy on your iPhone, tend to be less expensive and redownloadable – a big plus for some. And all that precious data would cost even more to put into MobileMe, Apple’s own cloud solution, never mind the naysayers. So more additions to your ever burgeoning monthly bill (Tethering, Personal Hotspot, …).

iPhone’s Mythical Advantage: Apps

Apple still disallows Adobe Flash (or Oracle Java) from iOS. It appears to be more a business decision than a technology constraint, designed to control the sprawl of Flash-based gaming mobile websites where you could buy outside of Apple’s walled-garden. How this affects HTML5 gaming websites is still unfolding, but it certainly helps the lagging QuickTime in the meantime. In any case, it goes against the customer’s best interests by taking away her choice to enjoy multimedia content in one of the industry’s most prolific formats. But Apple has you covered with the most commonly used app: the browser. Mobile Safari, hands down is the best mobile browser out there between the platforms that I tested, namely iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. For the GIS pros among you, Joben blogs about GIS apps for the iPhone. You can always find an increasing number at the App Store, like the iGIS.

Jailbreaking Folsom

So you switch and finally get that toy you were waiting for? Why jailbreak it? Jailbreaking the iPhone isn’t worth the effort, even if it is legal. And even if not upgrading to the latest and greatest release (something that iTunes would handle seamlessly for you, but something that you can’t always do with Cydia because Cydia often trots a step behind) is an acceptable risk, ask yourself if your precious data is too important to jailbreak. After all, you could brick your iPhone and quite possibly provide no way for iTunes to restore it. But if your phone data is not critical ahem, then you can add some developer functionalities by jailbreaking and escape the infamous iTunes bloat. Now jailbreaking could also introduce your spanking iOS to new viruses, but if you must, hope over to Cydia. If you need a copy of the old firmware during jailbreak, grab it from here. Once you jailbreak, remember to download a file browser or explorer, like iFunBox or iPhoneBrowser. You may also want to jailbreak if you want to install a phone firewall out of privacy concerns. After all, Apple did confess to collecting GPS data from iOS 3 and iOS 4 daily. Then again, if that is what propels you, why share your payment info with Cydia’s marketplace (just asking)?

Some quick notes on iFunBox or iPhoneBrowser – You can’t watch your uploaded pics or videos, or play your uploaded songs in their native app, even if you upload them to the folders that the iPhone looks under, say //var/mobile/Media/DCIM/100APPLE/. This is because the iPhone, much like the Android, extensively uses SQLite as its Swiss Army database, and all your uploads need to be first registered in the database, say //private/var/mobile/Media/PhotoData/Photos.sqlite which links your IMG_0001.JPG or IMG_0002.MOV. Now there are Cydia apps like iFile that help add your photos, but videos are still no go. But if you are brave enough to try, download the SQLite Manager add-on for Firefox and test your luck.

PS: More

Written by Harsh

February 9th, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Webinar Series: GIS TECH 101 – Mapping Mashups

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Taking Wolfram|Alpha on an Alpha Run

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Wolfram|Alpha is being billed as an Answer Engine for the scientifically-minded, as opposed to a Search Engine: It takes your query, implied or otherwise, that critical step further by selecting from its list of matches, the one objective description, image etc, and lays them out in context. Not that Google never attempts definitive answers [chord], but when it does, Wolfram|Alpha [note] handily beats it to it with background information. START, on the other hand, is sometimes embarrassing. Note that it may not know what to do, but it does not give the wrong answer. Yet.

So Wolfram|Alpha dares to do more than say, Google or Yahoo or Microsoft, and impresses despite its alpha status.

There are inherent risks in such an approach in that it hopes our queries are frequently specific enough, which in some cases, will not be because that is how we generally are. There is also that small issue of assigning culpability to its user for a dumb query. But through consistent performance and by avoiding curation, link-fraud etc pitfalls, Wolfram|Alpha has the potential to wean away some of the Google fan-base, notwithstanding Google Squared. And by targeting the scientific community, it has the potential to emerge as a niche Answer Engine despite semantic ambiguity or crowd-sourcing.

Bookmark it now. And keep checking.

Here are some stumpers:
* What is the elevation above sea level at 38.889483,-77.035254? Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START
* What was the annual revenue of the state of Maryland for Fiscal Year 2007?
Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START
* What is the maximum height of the Guggenheim Museum NY? Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START
* How many symphonies did Sergei Rachmaninoff compose? Wolfram|Alpha v Google v START

Related:
* Developers

Written by Harsh

May 17th, 2009 at 7:52 pm

A Touch of Play

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First impressions after testing Microsoft’s Surface Table:

Pi: Quite MusingIt is a coffee-table sized hardware running Windows Vista and allowing collaborative interaction from up to 4-6 participants. The number of hand-gestures it can recognize is obviously higher than that of a standard touch-screen which can typically handle only a single tap and drag, and maybe multi-touch. On the other hand, the Surface Table can recognize multiple taps, imprecise flicks and resizes, and touch-intensity. Actually, much like a TouchSmart, it can even detect movement just above its surface. Simply put, it is like a giant iPhone.

Application

So how does it lend itself to GIS/Planning application development? Well, it is more eye-candy than useful for its cost at this point and appropriate application ideas may not come readily. If you try to recreate a similar collaborative environment with a series of Tablet PCs, TouchSmarts and Windows 7, you might just be successful. Note that it can’t be detached from its base and wall-mounted since it has a projector underneath.

The Surface Table’s biggest strength lies in its enabling a collaborative environment, and therefore, it is more suited towards “playful infotainment”-type applications. If you develop GIS/Planning applications for the Surface Table, note this: It would be a lot of fun, but maybe not a lot useful. And also, it doesn’t carry any browser application (!) so you can’t simply start using your planning mash-up and development would present its own WPF learning curve for the web savvy. For an elegant GUI design, remember that fat shaky fingers need big buttons. In terms of pricing, Microsoft is currently also charging for its SDK (approx. $3K): Not sure of their pricing model, but it doesn’t seem like a smart idea if their goal is to also encourage the Viral Phenomenon. And although, they don’t yet come pre-installed (!), a wireless card and wheels can easily be mounted to turn your Surface Table into a self-contained unit to enhance its portability.

Sync

There are already some creative applications in-use: Soldiers returning from a patrol dump their head gears onto the Surface Table, and its docking corner instantly syncs their captured data with their sync folder- no fumbling there! Special ID tags can “identify” themselves to the Surface Table, but cell phones running Windows Mobile require a download before they can sync. Selected Omni Sheraton hotels and others are currently showcasing Surface Tables.

Technology

So how does it work? Well, conventional technologies detect touch-location by interrupting:
* Infrared
* Optical Field
* Surface Acoustic Wave
This interception happens just above the screen substrata and its grid coordinates are then translated to screen position. Alternatively, you can do a makeover of your current display using Dispersive Signal Technology (DST). DST integrates chemically-strengthened glass onto existing display. It detects bending wave within the glass radiating to the 4 corners where it gets converted to electric signals. This approach also makes it ideal for heavy-duty use to filter out “noise”, say when outdoors or think glass spills and crumbs in a snack-rich community planning meeting. Then there is Proximity Capacitive Resistance (PCR) for touch-across-surface.

Written by Harsh

January 20th, 2009 at 4:54 am

Follow Up [1]: Never the Twain Shall Meet

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Written by Harsh

November 21st, 2007 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Technology,Web

Tagged with ,

Memorandum Excerpt, Alleged

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From: Bill Gates
Sent: Sunday, October 30, 2005 9:56 PM
To: Executive Staff and Direct Reports; Distinguished Engineers
Subject: Internet Software Services

“… Ten years ago this December, I wrote a memo entitled The Internet Tidal Wave which described how the internet was going to forever change the landscape of computing… Five years ago we focused our strategy on .NET making a huge bet on XML and web services… We will build our strategies around internet services and we will provide a broad set of service APIs and use them in all of our key applications… This coming ‘services wave’ will be very disruptive… This next generation of the internet is being shaped by its ‘grassroots’ adoption and popularization model, and the cost-effective ‘seamless experiences’ delivered through the intentional fusion of services, software and sometimes hardware… I’ve attached a memo from Ray which I feel sure we will look back on as being as critical as The Internet Tidal Wave memo was when it came out…”

–Bill

PS:
?
From: Ray Ozzie
Date: October 28, 2005
To: Executive Staff and direct reports
Subject: The Internet Services Disruption

“… This isn?t the first time of such great change: we?ve needed to reflect upon our core strategy and direction just about every five years… In 1990, there was actually a question about whether the graphical-user-interface had merit… When we reflected upon our dreams just five years later in 1995, the impetus for our new center of gravity came from the then-nascent web… In 2000, in the waning days of the dot com bubble, we yet again reflected on our strategy and refined our direction… It is now 2005, and the environment has changed yet again- this time around services…

The Landscape:

… In the US, there are more than 100MM broadband users, 190MM mobile phone subscribers, and WiFi networks blanket the urban landscape… We should?ve been leaders with all our web properties in harnessing the potential of AJAX, following our pioneering work in OWA [Outlook Web Access]. We knew search would be important, but through Google?s focus they?ve gained a tremendously strong position. RSS is the internet?s answer to the notification scenarios we?ve discussed and worked on for some time, and is filling a role as ?the UNIX pipe of the internet? as people use it to connect data and systems in unanticipated ways. For all its tremendous innovation and its embracing of HTML and XML, Office is not yet the source of key web data formats- surely not to the level of PDF. While we?ve led with great capabilities in Messenger and Communicator, it was Skype, not us, who made VoIP broadly popular and created a new category. We have long understood the importance of mobile messaging scenarios and have made significant investment in device software, yet only now are we surpassing the Blackberry… The same is true of Apple, which has done an enviable job integrating hardware, software and services into a seamless experience with .Mac, iPod and iTunes, but seems less focused on enabling developers to build substantial products and businesses.

… Only a few years ago I?d have pointed to the Weblog and the Wiki as significant emerging trends; by now they?re mainstream and have moved into the enterprise. Flickr and others have done innovative work around community sharing and tagging based on simple data formats and metadata. GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting are very popular low-end solutions to remote PC access and online meetings… VoIP seems on the verge of exploding- not just in Skype, but also as indicated by things such as the Asterisk soft-PBX. Innovations abound from small developers- from RAD frameworks to lightweight project management services and solutions…

Key Tenets:

… 1. The power of the advertising-supported economic model… 2. The effectiveness of a new delivery and adoption model… 3. The demand for compelling, integrated user experiences that ‘just work’…

The Opportunities:

Seamless OS… Seamless Communications… Seamless Productivity… Seamless Entertainment… Seamless Marketplace… Seamless Solutions… Seamless IT…

Moving Forward:

… Platform Products and Services Division- a. Base v. Additive Experiences… b. Services Platform… c. Service/Server Synergy… d. Lightweight Development- The rapid growth of application assembly using things such as REST, JavaScript and PHP suggests that many developers gravitate toward very rapid, lightweight ways to create and compose solutions. We have always appreciated the need for lightweight development by power users in the form of products such as Access and SharePoint… e. Responsible Competition…

Business Division- a. Connected Office… Should PowerPoint directly ?broadcast to the web?, or let the audience take notes and respond?… b. Telecom Transformation… c. Rapid Solutions- How can we utilize our extant products and our knowledge of the broad historical adoption of forms-based applications to jump-start an effort that could dramatically surpass offerings from Quickbase to Salesforce.com?…

Entertainment and Devices Division- a. Connected Entertainment… b. Grassroots Mobile Services… c. Device/Service Fusion…

What’s Different?:

… Complexity kills… Another simple tool I?ve used involves attracting developers to use common physical workspaces to naturally catalyze ad hoc face-time between those who need to coordinate, rather than relying solely upon meetings and streams of email and document reviews for such interaction…”

–Ray

Related:
* “Building a Better Boom: …The Internet is exciting again, and once again folks are rushing in. In some categories – like search or social networking, for example – there are scores of start-ups vying for pretty much the same market, and it’s certain that, just like last time, most of them will fail.

But regardless of all this déjà vu, we are not in a bubble. Instead we are witnessing the Web’s second coming, and it’s even got a name- ‘Web 2.0’, although exactly what that moniker stands for is the topic of debate in the technology industry. For most it signifies a new way of starting and running companies – with less capital, more focus on the customer and a far more open business model when it comes to working with others. Archetypal Web 2.0 companies include Flickr– a photo sharing site; Bloglines– a blog reading service; and MySpace– a music and social networking site…

Start-ups are leveraging nearly a decade’s worth of work on technologies that are now not only proven, but also free, or very nearly so. Open-source software can now do nearly everything that Oracle, I.B.M. and Microsoft specialized in back in the 90’s. And the cost of computing and bandwidth? You can now lease a platform that can handle millions of customers for less than $500 a month. In the 90’s, such a platform would have run tens of thousands of dollars or more a month…

Or just ask Joe Kraus– a founder of the once high-flying Excite portal. Excite ran through millions in venture capital, then tens of millions of I.P.O. money, before its spectacular demise [Mr. Kraus had left before then]. His latest start-up- JotSpot, is built on open-source software, and cost less than $200,000 to begin.

Mr. Kraus exemplifies the second reason I believe we are not in a bubble: this time, the financiers aren’t driving. Instead, the entrepreneurs and geeks – often one and the same – are. The lessons of Web 1.0 are never far from their minds, and the desire to create something cool that might foster some good in the world is often equally paramount with the desire to make money. The culture of Web 2.0 is, in fact, decidedly missionary – from the communitarian ethos of Craigslist to Google‘s informal motto- ‘don’t be evil’.

Ah, yes, Google. That brings us to the third reason we are not in a bubble: vastly improved search technologies. Recall that the demise of Web 1.0 was predicated in large part on the collapse of the Internet advertising business – people were spending millions buying billboard-like ads that, it turns out, nobody was paying attention to…”

John Battelle; Co-producer, Web 2.0 conference; Author, “The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Reinvented Business and Transformed Our Culture”
* “What is Web 2.0”: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software
* NYT Article
* Memorandum Excerpt, Alleged

Written by Harsh

November 18th, 2005 at 7:01 pm

Posted in Technology,Web

Tagged with ,

Never the Twain Shall Meet

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On the eve of the launch of Virtual Earth, as Microsoft plays catch-up with Google‘s high-rate of innovation, here’s a transcript of some tete-a-tete:

[Sometime before 2000]
Bill Gates: Now that we are in the email business with Hotmail, we need to think of ways to fatten the bottom-line.
Steve Ballmer: Online marketing is the way to go Bill! Let’s just create ahem ahem unnecessary page-views when the user logs-in and put as many graphic-intensive ads on each one of them as possible.
Bill Gates: …something like that SNL skit about advertisements on MSNBC flooding the screen and blocking the anchor’s face?!
Steve Ballmer: …hehehe, something like that! Hey, it’s a free service- the user might as well pay for it through ad views. You’ve got to market these goodies aggressively!
Bill Gates: Yeah, the bottom-line is the key!

[Sometime before 2004]
Larry Page: We need to get into the email business with a Google mail. The current services aren’t up to par.
Sergey Brin: Yeah, but given our relative size we must offer something that is significantly superior to what the market currently offers to make any reasonable in-roads.
Larry Page: OK, let’s start with a clean slate- how do we offer a better email service?
Sergey Brin: It’s all about the user-experience. At the end, if the user likes it, she will come back for more.
Larry Page: So we don’t flood the page with pop-ups and such junk??
Sergey Brin: That’s right! Advertisements should be useful but as unobtrusive as possible.
Larry Page: Agreed, the user-experience is the key!

Related:
• Follow Up [2]: Map Viewer and Google

–π

PS:
• Rudyard Kipling

Written by Harsh

July 24th, 2005 at 7:37 pm

Posted in Technology,Web

Tagged with ,