19 December 2010

'Google Listen' for Podcasts on Android

Last week the Google Reader app for Android was released.
To be honest, I've been disappointed. I find the application really slow, and that may be due to a number of reasons:
- too many feeds (hundreds for me)
- slow connection (3G not always available)
- uncompressed XML on Android 2.1

Also, I've been experiencing an annoying bug: items that appear as 'read' on my mobile are in reality still unread. Sometimes, after spending some time on my mobile going through all items, when I connect to Reader I find them all again as 'unread'. Strangely enough items I've 'starred' on Android seem to maintain that state but not always. I wonder whether that might related to me having multiple accounts.

I've been using Reader for a long time on the desktop also as a sort of iTune for podcasts. I've got a number, not large but very active, of subscriptions that I keep in a special folder within Reader.
While that works fairly well on the desktop, it doesn't suit very well as podcast catcher on mobile. That's mainly because when you click on a podcast in Reader, that starts streaming but it's not saved anywhere in particular. Basically you either listen to it or you'll have to stream it later, there's no way in Reader to automatically save the podcast for later use.

Until now! I've tried 'Google Listen' as a suggested application by App Brain.
I had previously installed another Podcast application but never got to use it.
The main feature that attracted me to Listen was its integration with Google Reader.

How does that work?

Well, there are a few ways to enter a subscription in Listen:
1. by hand
2. by clicking on an RSS link
3. as a newly created folder in Reader

The first way is really painful, RSS urls are usually long and tiresome to type on a small screen.
The second way, I haven't tried yet but it involves, I presume, visiting a web page with a link to a podcast.
The third way is brilliant in my case because it just meant moving my existing subscriptions in Reader from my old Podcast folder to the new 'Listen Subscriptions' folder.

As an application Listen allows you to do all the expected: create a list of podcasts to download, set when they will be downloaded, etc.
It's also way faster and more pleasant to use than Reader itself on Android.

Still there's room for improvements, I'd like to be able to:
1. share podcasts to Facebook, Twitter, E-mail etc
2. automatically set an item as read, same as in Reader
3, star an item and prevent it from being deleted
4. save an item to a preferred location

Google Listen for Android is a great little app, it'll become the one I use the most.

18 September 2010

App Inventor for Android

Just received this e-mail from Google

Welcome to App Inventor!
About App Inventor:
App Inventor for Android allows people with minimal programming experience to create simple, personal apps for Android devices. It has a number of features which ease app development. App Inventor is best suited for people who are eager to learn the basics of programming and are interested in making basic apps for their personal use.

Remember the Beta Tag:
App Inventor is currently available as an invitation-based beta product. We are limiting access in order to ensure that our systems can handle the load. As a beta product App Inventor still has rough edges and missing features. In some cases the rough edges include un-pleasantries such as: installing Windows device drivers, installing Java on your computer, and fiddling with settings on your phone. We are working hard to smooth out the rough edges and we appreciate your use of App Inventor while we are in this beta state. It may sound a bit cliche but it really is true, your use of App Inventor today will help us make it better for the future! Now on to the good stuff.

Getting Started with App Inventor:

Complete these 3 steps to start using App Inventor:
  1. Set up your phone and computer.
  2. Connect your phone to your computer.
  3. Complete the basic tutorials.
Take your App Inventor knowledge to the next level by:
Happy Inventing!
Google's App Inventor Team

05 September 2010

Keeping track of changes with Google Reader

Recently I heard JavaPosse's Dick Wall stating: "Google Reader is my lifeline".

I agree! More and more content is user generated. But not all content is quality and most of it still comes from traditional sites. 
That's where a feed aggregator like Google Reader can help.

Google - Google Reader

A feed aggregator is a software that collates syndicated content called RSS feed. That is a machine readable file that reports parts or all the content of a page. When available,  a special icon usually appears somewhere on the page or on the browser's url field.
Feed-icon.svgIf you click on that icon you'll be taken to the Url of the Rss feed. The page appears as scrambled text. It is in reality an XML representation of the page you were looking at. You can grab that Url and paste into a feed aggregator such as Google Reader.
The feed aggregator will start polling that Url and will prompt you when the page is updated.

The initial effort of copying and pasting that link soon pays off: you don't have to go and visit web sites you follow regularly in order to check updates. The updates come to you soon after they're published via the feed reader.
That way I've been able to monitor much more interesting stuff than I could have done by hand.

Not all Rss feeds reports the whole content of the page is linked to. Often news sites provide just an excerpt from their stories and a link back to the stories themselves. That's for obvious reasons: generating traffic to their ad hosting pages, fair enough.

Not all syndicated content is interesting or original. A lot of times, the same news comes from different sources. That's where Google Reader's Key Shortcuts are really useful.
If you click '?' on Google Reader, a list of those shortcuts will appear.
The ones I use a lot are:
- g+a: go to new posts
- n: skip to the next post

At a certain point it may become too much, with hundreds of new feeds being collected every day. It's then time to decide what sites is worth following and what's not.

Google Reader, being web based, has a series of advantages with respect to stand-alone readers:
  • it's connected to your gmail or google apps account, so it's always updated and available wherever you connect from. That's useful when you follow a mix of work and personal sites
  • you can search across your subscriptions to find interesting stuff you've read before
  • with time you build a profile of what you're interested in and Google Reader can suggest you sources you might be interested in. 

But there's another neat feature. Google Reader allows you track changes of any web page, even those that don't offer Rss! If you enter the location of a page without Rss, Reader will start polling that page and over time it will automatically build a summary of changes.

That's useful for pages like 'job opportunities' or 'current exhibitions' at museums such as: http://www.pataka.org.nz/48977/links/bulletpages.html

Google feed for "http://www.pataka.org.nz/48977/links/bulletpages.html"

Google will watch for changes in "http://www.pataka.org.nz/48977/links/bulletpages.html" and summarize them for you.

If I wanted to follow the news about the recent earthquake in Christchurch, I could go to Google News and simply enter the keyword 'Christchurch'. 
At the end of the result page, Google offers a way to receive the updates via e-mail.
But who wants to get tens of news alerts in their mailboxes. The e-mail is for personal messages that often need a reply! 
There's a much better way to keep track of updates: the Rss feed.
Search for the RSS icon at the bottom of the news results. You can copy and paste that link into Google Reader, a much better way!

25 June 2010

I'm human!


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08 June 2010

Anywhere will be better than here!

Mostly Cloudy
Current: Mostly Cloudy
Wind: N at 8 km/h
Humidity: 73%
27° | 18°
Scattered Showers
27° | 18°
23° | 17°
25° | 17°

Light rain
Current: Light rain
Wind: N at 0 km/h
Humidity: 79%
34° | 26°
Chance of Storm
31° | 25°
Chance of Rain
34° | 25°
33° | 26°


Wind: S at 10 km/h
Humidity: 82%
Chance of Rain
9° | 3°
Chance of Rain
10° | 3°
Chance of Rain
13° | 6°
15° | 7°

Rain Showers
Current: Rain Showers
Humidity: 84%
Light rain
29° | 25°
28° | 25°
Light rain
29° | 26°
Chance of Showers
30° | 26°
香港天文台 6月8日17時2分發布

Mostly Cloudy
Current: Mostly Cloudy
Wind: SE at 11 km/h
Humidity: 60%
Mostly Sunny
24° | 14°
Chance of Rain
29° | 17°
Mostly Sunny
32° | 21°
27° | 15°

Current: Cloudy
Wind: N at 6 km/h
Humidity: 49%
Mostly Sunny
25° | 16°
Chance of Rain
29° | 17°
Mostly Sunny
33° | 21°
Chance of Rain
28° | 17°

31 May 2010

Google Power Meter

An article on stuff presents a device made by Current Cost that monitors energy consumption in real time and sends data usage to Google Power Meter.

A user though has to keep a computer running all the time in order to collect data wirelessly from the device and update it to Google.
Through Powershop, that is also possible today. I've personally spent a few nights working with Powershop's developer API and managed so far to collect data from Powershop and then send it to Google.
Check this thread out: http://groups.google.com/group/powershop-developers/browse_thread/thread/54460039ec71fa1b

My aim is to develop a Google App Engine application that could collect that for me at a set interval.
Powershop's Ari Sargent  has also experimented with Google Powermeter and they may provide a link with that tool themselves.
By the way, their web site is excellent and they could provide similar, or better, gadgets.

14 May 2010

ASB has blocked all credit card electronic transactions to Italy (this week)

I tried a couple of days ago to purchase a domain from a reputable Italian provider and for the first time it was denied. I managed do it via Paypal though.
Today ASB rang me to say that credit card transactions to the whole italian country are blocked, as a (hopefully) temporary measure. Here's their e-mail:

Recently you attempted a transaction at an Italian merchant.  This transaction was declined.  Unfortunately we have had to take action to prevent any and all transactions from being processed at any Italian merchant where the card is not present.  This is a result of recent fraud activity and while we understand that this has inconvenienced you, and we apologise for this inconvenience, we feel this is necessary to protect our customers by preventing any possible  fraud.  Should you be travelling to Italy your card will be accepted where you present it at the merchant just not available for internet, mail order or phone transactions.

02 February 2010

Phitek Blackbox C14 earphones review

The bass will shake the wax out of your ears!

Noise cancelling earphones (not headphones) with a kick-ass bass. Designed in NZ

29 January 2010

The Complete Software Developer

Very good article:

While a Computer Science or Computer Engineering degree is not required to develop software, it can provide an understanding of the foundational elements on which everything else is built. Understanding both how a computer actually works, and the fundamentals of algorithms, data structures, and operating system design will provide a solid theoretical foundation for an entire career. I also believe it is important that the degree focuses on theory more than practice 

I find that a lot embedded software engineers lack knowledge of experience whatsoever with OO concepts. That's gonna hurt when devices become big enough so that C won't just cope with large projects.
I hope though we'll skip C++ altogether.


I believe that every new college graduate's first job should be with a consulting company. Not just any consulting company, but one large enough and experienced enough that it provides real training on how to be a Consultant, in addition to how to develop software. Consulting is a skill, and it is one that will pay dividends through an entire career.

It's been true for me.

  • Build a product 
  • Work for a startup
  • Learn
  • Mentor
  • Build and mantain your Network
I couldn't agree more