Monday, March 26, 2007

Casually Observing Russia

This past weekend, a couple of notable political rallies were held. On Saturday, in Nizhnii Novgorod, some estimated several hundreds gathered near the city's center to protest against, essentially, Putin's administration. The West (e.g., Associated Press) reported arrests, detainments, and even beatings. Apparently, the government had approved a gathering of the dissenting groups outside of the city environs, but the demonstrators chose to challenge the official restrictions.

In contrast, an estimated 15,ooo (!) Russian youth associated with the Nashi, or Ours/We movement assembled apparently without incident on Sunday, smack in the middle of Moscow, in order to mark seven year of Putin's leadership. According to reports, participants were encouraged to send text messages of encouragement to the President, via SMS (ubiquitous in Russia).

Now, Nashi membership is largely composed of teens. But the same is true of the less popular National Bolshevik Party, a rather nationalistic movement led by the apparently charismatic Edward Limonov (a nom de plume).

Oddly, on this Monday, the Nashi site has been down for many hours (and they're using a good Russian HTTP server), while the NBP site seems alive and relatively well (not many recent updates).

It's most likely a simple sysadmin thing. But after perusing the NBP's section about Our Fighting Girlfriends, one quickly recognizes how the group can attract young men.

Yes, Russia is something different.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Today's Presentation in2L by Dan Reed

It was cool, as folks from our group had built a virtual version of the Forest Theatre. MC and JM did most of the building, and I kinda just dropped some foliage and textures from pics taken at the real place. And the turnout was very good!

The New Media Consortium coordinated the event, and we handled the visitor overflow at our theatre with a saved version of the presentation created by MC. So the NMC presentation became full, and we showed the presentation -- with live audio -- at our Forest Theatre.

Folks showed up in RL to watch as the event unfolded. I look better in 2L ;)

Sometimes I Forget

Forget what licensed software I've got at home vs. at work, that is. Stuff begins to blur when one's exhausted ;) Let it suffice to say that I've now got OpenOffice.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

2-D Barcodes Again

As I've been working on this upcoming workshop, I revisited the world of 2-D barcodes again today. I've added the Kaywa QR 2-DBC on the right of blog, as you can see. With their client, capturing that image with your mobile's camera will render my blog feed in a friendly fashion, like so:

Now, as I've said before, this stuff hasn't yet really caught on yet in the US. In Asia, particularly in Japan and Taiwan, it's a big deal -- almost becoming commodity or ubiquitous. I'm not quite sure why it's not so here, especially as legacy ways of net use are increasingly abandoned by those who grew up with mobiles.

So far I've only really tried three mobile apps: began with Semacode, then tried Kaywa's QR, and today found ShotCode.

ShotCode rocks! You know, one of the potential probs with these 2-D barcodes is that, the longer your parameterized URL, the more complex the image. In practice, using my Sony-Ericsson 810i, I find that ShotCode works best. I'm able to read codes with ease from my monitor.

As an experiment, I encoded what I consider to be a rather complex URL calling a WMS request to my MapServer instance, with geolocation params, in ShotCode. Shot it and my map showed up, no problems!

ShotCode to our work blog to the left.

Semacode directing to UNC's TLT Conference

Last but not least, Moji-Q in Japan has a gig where one can create QR codes with extended embedded data, such as site name and descriptions. Like so:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Was writing a report about our recent work, and when it came to describing the so-called Context Browser that I've been tweaking for so long, I was naturally thinking again about porting some of it to a mobile widget. The CB can actually do a lot of stuff, but it's browser-based, and relies on the now-sacred AJAX to do periodic gets of the users current context state. There's simply not enough real estate on my wee 810i Sony-Ericsson to use it properly.

The nice thing about things like the Yahoo! widget engine thingy, for example, is that you can easily add external JavaScript libraries, etc., and then do things like grab a context snapshot in JSON format from our framework developed by my colleague Mike Conway. Then you just grab what you want and display it.

So what I'm really looking for is the ideal environment with which to do this stuff on a phone. The promising Opera Platform seems to have stagnated? There are some others I'm looking at, and I'm hoping that soon I'll find the right fit, so I won't mention them yet.

It's kind of a no-brainer: we can report location to our framework from the phone; we can grab very localized place visualization; we render it in a widget-type client. That could all be done in a midlet, sure, but widgets are so much easier :) Here's an almost up-to-date shot of the legacy CB:

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I Will Be Presenting at the Annual UNC System Teaching and Learning w/Technology Conference

This will be a hands-on workshop presentation, lasting 1 1/2 hours, and I hope to show how "easy" it is to location-enable applications with FOSS. I think I'll begin with an overview of what we've done for the last two years in the area of context awareness, and show a quick, locally hosted version of our context browser. Then demonstrate live location determination using Placelab along with some RFID stuff, then perhaps demonstrate how to visualize current location using MapServer and some add-ons.

We've got enough experience to know that live demos, when they require reliable connectivity, are a real gamble, so I'll try to run it all self-contained on a tablet. Let's hope there will be at least a few 802.11 access points within range, and I really hope that there will be a window nearby, so I can get real GPS over Bluetooth.

I'll probably drive over there this weekend and stumble for access points ;)

Anyway, tonight I was playing with QuantumGIS's SPIT (Shapefile to PostGIS Import Tool) plug-in. It's kind of cool -- let's you shove data from a .shp into yer PostGIS instance.