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Tag: programming

Modular Robotics: Cubelets Robotic Construction Kits

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 10:16 AM on February 18, 2013

Modular Robotics Modular Robotics have created small robotic cubes that can be hooked together using magnets. Each cube is program to do a different task including a drive block, a battery block, a block that senses distance and more. The cubelets can be used by young kids who simply snap the blocks together, but they are also programmable making them great for a student or adult that is learning to code. The newest cubelet is a bluetooth block which can be controlled remotely. There is an Android app, the Cublet Control which you can use as a control.  The bluetooth cubelet can be re-coded using C code. Modular Robotics have found that when they give the cubes to kids, they just attack them and start linking them together. Adults are more cautious in using them.

The starter kit has six blocks in it and is sold on the website for $160.00. Modular Robotics also sells individual cubes. They hope to have the product in toy stores by the holiday season. All production is done in Boulder, Co. If you a young child who is interested in how things work or a student who is starting to learn basic programming then Modular Robotics’ cubelets maybe the perfect gift for them.

Interview by Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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How To Succeed With a Mobile App

Posted by Andrew at 2:36 PM on November 8, 2012

Smashing Magazine LogoGetting into mobile app development often seems like a path paved with gold, but the reality is very different with many apps failing to succeed. Good apps do not simply “get lucky” but rather their developers work hard at  planning a successful app. Smashing Magazine’s article “How To Succeed With a Mobile App” shows the elements needed to plan for app success.

Smashing Magazine identifies six areas to consider for a great app.

1) The Idea. Find a vaccuum or empty niche for your app.

2) Money. Plan the business model for your app.

3) Define. Write down what your app will do in one sentence and stick to it.

4) Design. If the user has to think how to use the app, you’ve failed.

5) Coding. Native, high-quality, robust code is essential.

6) Marketing. Make friends, build buzz, launch big, love your fans.

But don’t simply read the above and move on. Check out the original article by Jeremy Olson at Smashing Magazine as it has plenty of further information for would-be app coders.

 

A Slice Of Raspberry Pi

Posted by AndrewH at 2:00 PM on March 27, 2012

Image Couresty of The Raspberry Pi Foundation

The long-awaited U.S. release of Raspberry Pi hit snag this month when the folks behind the pint-sized PC (credit card-sized, actually) realized the units were manufactured with non-magnetic jacks. “No magnetics means no network connection,” a blog post stated on the Raspberry Pi site earlier this month.

Tech folks have been buzzing about this British non-profit start-up (The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK registered charity) since it announced it was taking pre-orders for its Raspberry Pi and demand outstripped supply within minutes. Originally designed to provide a cheap, versatile and powerful little PC for young people to learn programming with, Raspberry Pi has instead captured attention from the entire programming world – many of whom (myself included) are waitlisted for the $25 to $35 dollar machine (probably more like $50 after taxes/shipping).

The draw is threefold – it’s inexpensive, versatile and small. Essentially, it’s a little Linux machine on a RM11-based Broadbom BCM2835 200MHz ARM processor with up to 256MB of SDRAM, composite and HDMI outputs, USB and memory card slots. No case, no bells, whistles, etc. They have a pretty extensive FAQ – it will answer all of your technical inquiries and then some.

Sounds pretty cool – a neat little PC that programmers both novice and pro can push and pull in many directions. The Raspberry Pi team has already taken to testing this little wallet-sized computer to the max, like running Quake 3 on it with minimal issues.

Outside of the technical impressiveness and the attractively cheap price, it’s the goal of this project that deserves the most respect. From the Raspberry Pi team – “We want to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere; we actively encourage other companies to clone what we’re doing. We want to break the paradigm where without spending hundreds of pounds on a PC, families can’t use the internet. We want owning a truly personal computer to be normal for children. We think that 2012 is going to be a very exciting year.”

They’ve got the buzz. They’ve got the mission. Now, all they need is magnetic jacks. Stay tuned.

The Web Perception Trap

Posted by tomwiles at 12:35 AM on May 8, 2011

We seem to be moving into the age of the apps. Are apps just a passing fad, or is something more substantial afoot?

We have come to think of the Internet itself as being synonymous with the World Wide Web. However, that’s a wrong perception that may have many of us caught in a perception trap making it difficult for us to “get” what is happening.

The Internet itself is a platform on which to run applications, a fact we would do well to remember. In the early days before the Web, there were data moving applications such as Gopher, IRCP, Telnet, etc. along with many others. HTTP just happened to be one of the major protocols that in combination with other protocols gave foundation to the websites we are all now familiar with. The Web itself is not the end of the story, but just a data delivery application.

Though we don’t think of it this way, many websites themselves are really applications.

The apps that seem to be taking over our smartphones and have given rise to tablet computing are more than what they appear to be. Though today the best of these apps seem to be giving concentrated bits and pieces of the full-blown functionality of websites, I believe a larger fundamental trend is going on than we currently realize.

The apps themselves are in the process of evolving into new Internet applications and will ultimately give rise to new services that go beyond computers and browsers. One day in the future, apps may well eclipse the Web as the data delivery applications of choice. Applications follow the form of the devices on which they are executed.

Apps are just now beginning to invade televisions. We are still in the earliest stages, and things are still clunky. Moving beyond the clunky stage, imagine what form these new web-based TV apps might look like in the future. Forget about browsers, and forget about existing web services that run inside them. For example, think in terms of a networked app running just on a connected TV – what could be done with that? Would it be possible to create an app that just delivered a live IPTV network stream (or a bunch of them)? Of course it would, and it would be an advantage over having to scroll through clunky, often near-useless lists and near-worthless descriptions because that’s the way websites running on computers seem to work best.

It could be argued that connected gaming consoles are data delivery apps, delivering specialized services to the end user that go well beyond browser-based or browser-conceived functionality. The Microsoft Kinnect attached to a connected X-Box with end-users using their bodies to interact with the games and ultimately other Kinnect users is moving data back and forth that has nothing to do with the Web.

Ultimately we must begin to think about the Internet as a global data retrieval/delivery system that is independent of computers and browsers. Computers and browsers are just one application of potentially thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions that have yet to be thought of. Therefore, apps must conform to the devices, machines, or appliances they are running on. App designers would do well to forget about computers and browsers and begin thinking outside the computer/browser Web perception trap.

Shredding The Cord

Posted by tomwiles at 4:02 PM on February 2, 2011

Ah, my once-beloved Dish Network account – the thing I once thought I could never do without; the budget monster that consumed $100 per month, month after month, year after year. I agonized for months over the idea of simply killing it before finally pulling the plug.

It’s been the better part of a year since I put the budget-busting beast to rest and cancelled the account. Dish Network itself seemed to want to throw up as many roadblocks as possible to get me to change my mind. They wanted the LNB module off of my roof, in addition to the two receivers. I had 30 days to send the units back in the packing boxes they sent or they would make me pay full price for them.

I was able to talk the guy out of forcing me to climb up on my roof to retrieve the LNB, and I was able to get the two receivers sent back to them within the 30 days of cancellation. However, somehow they had in their billing system I had three receivers, not two. They sent return packaging for three units. I spent time on the phone with them to make sure this discrepancy was resolved, and they assured me it was.

Ooops, not so fast! A month or two later I got a letter from them stating I still owed them for a receiver and they intended to hit my bank account for the amount. A phone call to them resolved the issue and I haven’t heard a peep from them since.

How has life been without all of those channels? $ome part of me hate$ to admit it, but I haven’t missed it at all. I’ve got an Intel Mac Mini set up as a DVR for local over-the-air HD broadcasts, as well as a Netflix account and several other Internet-connected set top box viewing solutions.

Observations

A very large percentage of TV programming is marketing presented as content. Much of what passes for entertainment depicts multitudes of dysfunctional drama queens assaulting and insulting the people around them. The more dysfunctional they are, the more likely it is the marketing messages will seep into the mesmerized minds of the audience. Even if one isn’t watching commercials, product placement and even behavior placement abounds. Viewers are being programmed to buy certain products, as well as behave in certain ways.

Think you can’t do without cable or satellite TV? Think again. I was paying $1,200 dollars a year for Dish Network. Multiply that by just 5 years and that’s a whopping $6,000 dollars for the privilege of being shaped and influenced by marketing messages so I would spend even more money.

Let’s go one step further. For many people TV is an addiction. These people are crack dealers in disguise. How else could it be that they can continue to raise their prices and people continue to pay ever more?

Let’s be honest. The vast majority of cable TV programming is less than worthless. Could that $6,000 dollars been better spent on higher-quality programming? Of course it could.

Trying To Try Out Google’s App Inventor

Posted by Alan at 6:52 PM on August 23, 2010

The recently released Google App Inventor is a web-based software program that allows anyone to develop an app for the Android operating system.

I am still kicking around my Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone, but I have dreams of an Android-based phone when my contract is up in November.  I played with a Droid X today, but by the time my contract is up, who knows what will be out?!

That’s actually one of the drawbacks of Android – it’s coming too fast.  Who would have thought that would ever be a problem?!  But, with a new “greatest” phone almost weekly, and so many different phones running so many different versions of the OS, it’s becoming a problem.  You have people who bought a phone a few months ago that is running 1.6, who are angry about today’s buyers getting phones running 2.1, or even 2.2.

I decided to try out App Inventor, but apparently there’s a long waiting list to get in!  I don’t get this.  Google, of all the tech companies, have virtually unlimited resources.  Why are they always releasing software in such limited betas?!  They did this with Gmail (although they were a younger company then) and Wave.  They even did with Google Voice, which was a technology they bought (formerly Grand Central) which had been open when they purchased it.  On the other hand they rolled out Buzz to everyone with no warning….oh wait, maybe the results of that have made them cautious again.

I understand that some companies have limited resources when they start out, and therefore need to limit early users or that some companies want to test for serious bugs before they let everyone in – thereby limiting the number of potential bad experiences.  But if Microsoft can give an unlimited number of users the chance to beta test Windows 7 then the bar has been raised.  I mean, that’s a full-blown operating system for crying out loud!  The potential for catastrophic failure with that had to scare the Redmond execs half to death.

At any rate, I have signed up for an invite to App Inventor and maybe one day soon I’ll be able to test it, take some screenshots and let everyone know what it can do.  My hopes for both Android and App Inventor are high.  Android is already living up to those expectations, App inventor on the other hand is still in the wait-and-see category.

Top 25 Coding Errors

Posted by Andrew at 8:41 AM on February 19, 2010

The Mitre Corp has produced the 2010 CWE / SANS Top 25 Most Dangerous Programming Errors which identifies the most commonly encountered coding errors that can potentially lead to web sites being hacked or PCs being compromised.  Some of the errors are well-publicised in the technical press, e.g. “cross-site scripting”; some are downright stupid, e.g. “use of hard-coded credentials” and others are the results of carelessness, e.g. “improper validation of array index”.

However, what makes this document better than the usual Top-X lists is that it provides guidance to programmers on how to prevent or mitigate the errors.  For example, to avoid cross-site scripting it suggests, “Use languages, libraries or frameworks that make it easier to generate properly encoded output.  Examples include Microsoft’s Anti-XSS library, the OWASP ESAPI encoding module and Apache Wicket“. There’s additional information for the technically-minded that goes through the different stages of software development starting with initial design, through to compilation, implementation and testing.

One of the best pieces of advice is in the discussion around checking for unusual or exceptional conditions, “Murphy’s Law says that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Yet it’s human nature to always believe that bad things could never happen, at least not to you. Security-wise, it pays to be cynical. If you always expect the worst, then you’ll be better prepared for attackers who seek to inflict their worst. By definition, they’re trying to use your software in ways you don’t want.”

So, if you are into web programming in any way, this has to be mandatory reading to keep the bad guys at bay.  Even if you are not, the discussion elements for each of the errors is illuminating in showing exactly what is going wrong and why it’s bad.  Just skip over the technical bits in between.