Many Pies

Many Pies

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cross-platform app development and app porting

Some thoughts that have been sitting in draft for a while.

Cross platform frameworks

Marmalade has been my tool of choice for Playbook development, and I could use it for creating cross platform apps. This article on cross platform frameworks points to a project which shows how much common code vs platform specific code you have when using various frameworks. It would be interesting to see what figure Marmalade would get.

App porting

Blackberry and Microsoft are struggling to increase the popularity of their mobile platforms. Blackberry has approached it by throwing free Playbooks at the problem. If you want to port an app to Windows Phone from iOS or Android then you may find your way to this page (last updated Aug 2, 2013 as I write this, so not out of date), but look at the links - no Windows Phone 8 guide. Unless I've missed something, Microsoft aren't putting much effort helping people port apps.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tech videos from Africa

Steve Moitozo II, who is a fellow member of the Polder Consortium visited Africa recently and shot some interesting videos.

I've heard of Ushahidi (crowdsourcing information via SMS for, for example, at the site of a natural disaster) before, but I didn't know who was behind it. Steve met one of the co-rounder, Erik Hersman (who blogs at and shot a short video of him.

Erik Hersman from Steve Moitozo 2 on Vimeo.
He's also behind another thing that crossed my radar a while back Brck "a backup generator for the internet". There are a couple of TED videos about him too. He's the son of Wycliffe missionaries.

There are a couple of other tech-related videos in Steve's Africa 2013 album:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Blackbaud Online Express

Earlier this year I was given a demo of Blackbaud Online Express. I was told not to talk about it, which I dutifully did, apart from in oblique terms with close colleagues. However now it's been released in North America and in the UK and I'm looking forward to seeing it in action.

In a nutshell, it's similar to the email and online donation facilities offered by Blackbaud NetCommunity, but in hosted form only. (You can embed it into your own pages, so it's not like those online donations services where users have to leave your own site in order to donate.) As it is more focused by my calculations it should be cheaper. We have had NetCommunity for seven years now and we really only use the email and online donation facilities, so there's a lot in there that we're just not interested in. So Online Express looks like it might be just what we need.

I only really saw the email part of the demo and it looked similar to the functions offered by MailChimp (which I've written about previously when I compared MailChimp and NetCommunity) in that you could have templates for email so the person writing the email could only write in certain parts of the template, and not spoil the layout. I'm hoping to attend a webinar when they are available in the UK and I'll probably write more about that afterwards.

Update: 11 October 2013 - UK pricing information is now available and it looks very reasonable.

Monday, September 09, 2013

My first Little Printer publication - UK daily weather

I've just made my first Little Printer publication live - UK Daily Weather "Daily Weather from the BBC (not officially affiliated with the BBC)". I've been following Little Printer for a while and when they announced a github project with a complete PHP publication it wasn't long before I forked it and made my own. A while back I developed the twitter bot behind Wycombe Weather, so my first thought was to develop a similar weather app, including an idea that I never got round to with that - pictorial representation of the weather.

It wasn't too hard to strip out the code at the heart of the original publication and substitute some code to parse the BBC RSS feed, print out the date and the description of the weather, and then display a picture of the weather. I used the whole of the @wycombeweather twitter feed to find a list of the words that the BBC uses, and then created some PNG pictures based on some original SVG weather symbols. I originally created them as SVG files but the Berg preview test tool didn't display SVG. Using the Berg tools you can test everything without having to actually own a printer, which I don't. I'm hoping they may give all developers a free one at some point.

The next step was to let the user specify their postcode, which wasn't in the original code, but I found some other sample code that did most of the work. Then I polished it up a little, and now it's live! While working on it I deliberately didn't look to see if anyone had done anything similar, but as I was deciding on the final name I had a look and was glad to see that there was only one other weather publication in the appropriate category.

It's been great to do a nice little project with such a cool device. If you end up subscribing I'd be grateful if you could get in touch and send me one of the printouts.

Update: I found you can send a message to the Little Printer people and they'll send you picture: