» Mostly Cloudy is no good.

With the cloud, you don’t own anything. You already signed it away… the more we transfer everything onto the web, onto the cloud, the less we’re going to have control over it.

– Woz


»  A Colourable iOS 7 Map Pin (Photoshop)

For anyone developing iOS 7 maps-enabled apps, you probably know that the pin image has changed for this version of iOS. iOS has long limited the provided pin colours to Red, Green and Purple. Here is a layered Photoshop file that we used in the latest version of AthensBook and you can use to change the pin colour. Besides the base layer, there are two hue-saturation-brightness layers. You use the first layer titled ‘Brightness’ to change the brightness of the colour. Don’t touch the hue or saturation sliders on this layer. The second layer allows you to change the hue and saturation of the pin colour.

Using both layers allows you to set the pin colour to anything.


Disclaimer: This is obviously based on a pin image that I extracted using UIImagePNGRepresentation and copied the resulting PNG after running the extracting code in the iOS Simulator. The original pin image is (almost certainly) copyrighted by Apple Inc. I am not affiliated with Apple Inc. in any way whatsoever and I am only providing this composite to assist developers in creating iOS 7 applications. I do not claim any copyright on Apple’s intellectual property. If you are an Apple employee or, dog forbid, lawyer, and object to the use of this bitmap, please let me know and I will remove the image. Hopefully you’re not that bothered/braindead and appreciate its value to the Apple Developer community.



Mind your Mind Share

It is almost 6 years since Apple announced and released the iPhone. I still remember Steve Jobs mentioning that his goal for the first year was to get 10M iPhones shipped; at the time almost 1% of the global mobile telephony market share. The goal seemed totally unrealistic to anyone involved in the industry as that would amount to several millions of units sold for a device that was, in many ways, severely lacking and overpriced (at launch). The iPhone came out, and despite having significantly inferior technical specifications in some of the most crucial benchmarks, such as the quality of its camera, the lack of 3G, the extremely slow CPU, the lack of MMS-support (a relatively obscure, yet somewhat ubiquitous feature of ‘feature’ phones, especially in Europe) and others, managed to exceed the 1% goal that Steve Jobs had set a year earlier. It soon became that the reference state-of-the-art device that exemplified everything that Apple had to offer in its nascent post-iPod era, where mass market was apparently successfully coupled with premium quality design and manufacturing and extremely high margins.

At the same time Google had already bought and was preparing for the launch of the Android Platform, an open source new generation smartphone platform based on linux and a slew of open-source libraries and APIs (including Java running on Google’s Dalvik VM) with a large ecosystem of vendors and supporters and Google at its centre. Google originally hoped to create a large ecosystem of OEMs, carriers and application developers all working for it and not against it. I had high hopes for Android in 2007, the same kind of high hopes you’d find developers, engineers, and ‘geeks’ worldwide having about ‘desktop linux’ around ten years earlier.

Contrary to desktop linux — and similarly to Microsoft Windows — Android gradually prevailed in the early smartphone wars, now commanding around 80% of the market share. But Android did not turn out what I (or Google, for totally different reasons) hoped it would; instead it evolved into a sprawling, chaotic, in some ways brilliant and others completely backward platform, combining the best of new technology, and geeky, specification based computing metrics and the worst of the technology industry compromises that accompanied computing since its early days. Fundamental concepts of mobile computing were butchered, like basic navigation, consistency, to manually controlling the power saving, managing tasks, having well-thought out, stable APIs, coupled with mediocre devices, widely varying user experiences and a generally poor roster of applications, as different device manufacturers created their own “skins” — as well as their own set of poorly designed and implemented software to accompany them — resulted in a desperate effort to differentiate their offerings from those found in the stock version of the operating system and an ever increasing pool of mediocrity. The irony, of course, was that the stock operating system was practically nowhere to be found except for Google’s own Nexus series of devices, a showcase of Google’s vision that permeated the developer community and diffused into the wider smartphone-toting populace. Devices cost just a small fraction less than Apple’s ‘closed’ iPhone, but demonstrated horrific deficiencies in performance and quality; the software stack was not optimized, power efficiency was poor, even with batteries much larger than those found on iOS devices. The hardware also lacked in some cases, like the response of the touchscreen, often blamed purely on the sub-par performance of Android, but apparently also caused by inferior hardware. Yet android was improving.

In a couple of years the number of android devices sold surpassed that of iPhones. Coupled with the global financial crisis, the iPhone failed to become a commodity device (at least outside of the large metropolises of the West, where salaries did not reach, let alone exceed, tens of thousands of $ or €) in the same way that the iPod had succeeded in doing a few years earlier. It was still the leading device, both from the design and technology perspective, but it was rapidly losing ground in terms of sales as people chose cheaper android devices. Apple was unfazed: it’s margins were still high, it still had the mind share. Above all, it still produced the definitive smartphone, the reference device that everybody else copied in one way or another.



SimCity (2013)

Of all the games that I’ve played over the past twenty five years or so, SimCity, in its various incarnations, has to be the one that I cherish and have spent time playing the most. Ever since I laid my eyes on the first version of SimCity in the early 1990s, I became enamored with it: it possessed this rare and seemingly magical quality you’ll get by reading books — one that you seldom get by playing video games, at least as far as I am concerned: it allows you to engage your imagination, think about aspects of the game that go beyond what the game mechanics, assets and design ever intended. A bit like playing a desktop RPG game, or — even better — Diplomacy, listening to a story or reading a book.


» On CalDAV and Google.

People are annoyed about the demise of Google Reader. Yet more than Google Reader, a service I’ve used and loved for more than 7 years, I am truly annoyed by the fact that Google is canning CalDAV. And not just because CalDAV is an open, free and widely used protocol (all very good things), but because, in the past, Google has been a champion of open protocols, because its support for CalDAV was reaffirmed only two months ago when it dropped Exchange Support from its Google Docs apps. Because it demonstrates that Google has been somewhat cavalier with its use of ‘Openness’.



Oh my God, it’s full of funds!

Νεοφυείς επιχειρήσεις. Καινοτομία. Εξωστρέφεια. Επιχειρείν. Ένα μεγάλο γαϊτανάκι από εραστές του φιλελευθερισμού, πιστούς του καπιταλισμού, των αγορών, κάποιους τολμηρούς και άξιους, κάποιους — απλώς — θιασώτες της όλης υποκουλτούρας, της ‘φάσης’, του χαβαλέ και της (σαφέστατα υποκριτικής) αίσθησης της αυτονομίας, της ελευθερίας κλπ. που επικαλούνται συχνά οι δορυφόροι της επιχειρηματικότητας. Παράλληλα ένα τεράστιο κενό σοβαρών επενδυτών. Μια τεράστια έρημος σοβαρής επιχειρηματικής νοοτροπίας και φιλοδοξίας.

Κι’όμως, εχθές ‘αποκτήσαμε’ τέσσερα χρηματοδοτικά οχήματα σημαντικού μεγέθους. Yippi ki-yay! Οχήματα με αρκετές δεκάδες εκατομμύρια προς διάθεση για την υποστήριξη της ελληνικής επιχειρηματικότητας. Δεν γνωρίζω σε βάθος τα άτομα που απαρτίζουν και τα τέσσερα, όμως γνωρίζω κάποια από αυτά. Γράφω το εξής άρθρο λοιπόν, ως μια φιλική συμβουλή προς τους (νεοελευθέντες) διαχειριστές των funds, από τον Πραγματικό κόσμο του Επιχειρείν, από την Αγορά: οι έλληνες επενδυτές, στον βαθμό που έχω εκτεθεί σε αυτούς, πολύ συχνά δεν έχουν απολύτως καμία συναίσθηση των διαφορών μεταξύ των ιδίων και των θεσμικών, υπερπολλαπλάσιων σε μέγεθος και εντελώς διαφορετικού πλαισίου λειτουργώντων funds της Κοιλάδας του Πυριτίου. Σκέφτονται και φέρονται με τον ίδιο, παράλογο τρόπο, μόνον που, επιπλέον τους λείπει η εξωστρέφεια, το όνειρο και η φιλοδοξία. Τους λείπει η παιδεία και το πραγματικό ενδιαφέρον για τις επενδύσεις τους. Συν τοις άλλοις, στην κοιλάδα το παράλογο γίνεται λογικό: Η υπερβολή είναι ο κανόνας. Η προσφορά και το ταλέντο περισσεύουν. Η αγορά είναι στρεβλή και οι μεγάλοι επενδυτές είναι ο θεσμός και όχι απλώς ένα μέρος του συστήματος. Μην κάνετε τα ίδια λάθη με αυτούς, μην προσπαθήσετε να τους αντιγράψετε. Η Ελλάδα δεν είναι Silicon Valley, και τα funds που στήθηκαν δεν θα την κάνουν SV μέσα σε μια νύχτα. Φερθείτε εξυπνότερα, εκμεταλλευόμενοι αυτά που μπορείτε για να αφήσετε και εσείς το λιθαράκι σας στο να μπορούμε κάποτε, εμείς ή οι επόμενες γενιές, να λέμε πως πήγαμε την Ελλάδα μπροστά. Έστω και λίγο.




Using OTE’s 11888 to provide fast CLID data for FreePBX/Asterisk

For those using FreePBX (a configuration/administrative interface that manages Asterisk) there is a CallerID Lookup module, published by the FreePBX team. The module allows you to interface with data sources using several methods, one of them being http.

Like many companies, we maintain several systems that can be easily integrated with our VoIP PBX system, but we also receive a number of calls from the public, viz. companies interested in advertising on GEO|ADS, adding their business to AthensBook or ThessBook, or asking for a quote for a project. OTE recently revamped its aging whitepages.gr site and incorporated its content into their ‘umbrella’ 11888 business directory operation. The new site is faster, more beautiful and written in a more professional manner, as far as the markup is concerned, which makes it a perfect source of caller id information for a large number of telephone subscribers in Greece. Around one hour of Ruby scripting using Mechanize, Sinatra and some custom transliteration tables to convert the scraped names to their latinised counterparts (Cisco phones don’t seem to like Greek characters all that much) resulted in the following script (github)




Mango / Tears of Steel

Tears of Steel is the fourth film (and the first live-action short) by the blender foundation and a giant leap forward for the community and the software. It is a sci-fi film that showcases recent work on blender, including Compositing, the Cycles render engine and many of the features introduced in the blender 2.6x series, like BMesh.

Like most blender foundation films, this one suffers from the the usual suspects: bad audio, bad accents and now, for the first time, they are complemented by pretty bad acting (the guy with the monocle is borderline unbearable) and a somewhat frustrating script; surprisingly I found the music to be more than decent; yet the true value of this film is the amazing work on blender and the impressive gfx and cgi the artists created for it. If anything, leaving æsthetics aside, Tears of Steel successfully showcases how far blender has come and will hopefully spur more people to contribute and use this amazing piece of open source software.


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