Archive for the 'blather' Category


Apple pulls the Van Pelt maneuver on developers

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Daring Fireball reports that Apple has changed their iPhone Developer Agreement to exclude applications that aren’t written with purely native C/C++ or Objective-C code or HTML/Javascript/CSS and webkit.

If it proves to be true, this move can only sound the death knell for a number of projects:

and possibly

I’ve personally put a few weeks of effort into a Rhomobile project that is now a big pile of wasted money unless Apple changes this requirement.

I can only imagine how completely gobsmacked the developers and funders of these projects will be to know that Apple has decided to take away their football. We’re talking literally millions of dollars of value suddenly disappearing on Apple’s whim.

I will be watching this issue with interest. These projects were only just starting to make iPhone/iPad development interesting by providing higher levels of programming abstraction.


Fax-only process flow in 2010? From Apple???

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I’m in the process of joining the Apple iPhone Developer Program, and I’ve just been asked to fax my business info to them. Here is my email response:

Is there an alternative method for sending you my articles of incorporation? I can email them as a PDF file or upload them securely to your site.

Even if I could get the fax modem working on one of my old machines, I’m not sure that it would work over my VOIP phone line with an analog adapter, and I don’t have a time machine to transport me back to 1999 when I last needed a fax machine, especially to communicate with the developer program of one of the most advanced tech companies on the planet.

Really, does anyone in the technology biz still use a Fax machine? Does anyone still have a computer with a modem as standard equipment?


Bye Bye Bi-Partisan, Hello Non-Partisan

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

I’m weary of all this talk in the USA of “bipartisan” politics. Being from a country with more than two parties, I’m not used to that word. Here in Canada we tend to use the word “nonpartisan” to describe a collaborative effort between our multitude of political forces, and I think there is a key distinction to be made.

“Bipartisan” evokes two parties, each pulling for themselves, albeit in a similar direction. “Nonpartisan” means in theory and moreso should mean in practice that partisanship has been entirely jettisoned in the interest of serving a common cause.

Bipartisan politics delivers only a glancing blow to the shared cause because each bipartisan member’s impetus is towards winning points for his or her own party in the name of the cause. Nonpartisan politics, when executed well, drives the entire cause forward with much more direct force.

Is it even possible to change the grammar of the political discourse from “Bi” to “Non”? I think the only effective course forward is to do so.


Get on with it, Rupert.

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Go ahead, Rupert Murdoch. Block the Googlebot (and presumably, all other such content indexers except your Bing buddies). Stop moaning about it and do it now. I’m itching to see how this turns out.


How to move your home phone to VOIP

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I’ve been a land-line hold-out for a long time. I’ve resisted the marketing campaigns of my phone provider (Bell Canada), my ISP (Rogers), and my long distance provider (Primus), and have continued to pay $40 per month for a wired land line with voicemail, forwarding, call waiting, and unlimited local calls, and an additional (average) $35 per month for long distance services to the UK at about 6 cents per minute, a great rate considering I paid at least $1.00 per minute when I first brought my English wife to Canada 23 years ago.

This month I finally changed over to Voice-Over-IP. I chose to go with Unlimitel, a Canadian voip provider with whom I was able to keep my existing phone number.

Unlimitel charges $3.50 per month for a DID – a Direct Inward Dialing number. That means a specific phone number is assigned to your provider who then provides a system for you to connect to it to receive and send calls. You connect to the provider over the internet.

You can connect to most providers via SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) or IAX (Inter-Asterisk eXchange). Generally, SIP is used by software or equipment that acts as a single end point, such as a VOIP handset or a soft-phone such as the free X-Lite software, whereas IAX is used by PBX software such as Asterisk or FreeSwitch, which will act as a switchboard to manage multiple extensions, Interactive Voice Response menus, voicemail, etc.

I decided to connect to Unlimitel via IAX, so I can run a simple PBX at home and play with some of the features. I chose to run SwitchVox Free Edition from Digium, because it’s a free, full-featured yet turnkey solution. I’m running it on a used Dell Optiplex box I got for $89 at Factory Direct.

In order to connect my existing home analog phones to the SwitchVox software PBX, I bought a Linksys PAP2T 2-line analog telephone adapter for $51 from Canada Computers.

After ordering the DID from Unlimitel by asking them to transfer my existing line to them, I received the login info from them and entered it into my SwitchVox software. When the line was transferred over, I disconnected my home phone wiring from the incoming wires, and plugged Line 1 of my Linksys PAP2T into one of my home jacks to connect it to all the rest of the phones in my house. I configured it as Extension 100 and told SwitchVox to route all incoming calls to that extension.

I have also set up other extensions for myself and my family members, so we can connect via our computers to make and receive phone calls. I have not yet routed incoming calls to IVR to give directory access by last name etc, but I can do that if I like.

I actually have another DID in addition to my original home number so I can play with things. I can route incoming and outgoing calls based on rules that I define. I’m even considering buying a cheap UK DID so my wife’s family can call us on a local number and avoid long distance charges.

I have 5 channels, meaning I can have up to 5 incoming/outgoing calls at any one time, including callers to a conference bridge on my PBX. Local calls are now charged at 1.1 cents per minute. UK calls are 3 cents per minute. I anticipate my total monthly charge to be less than $20, down from $75 before.

Unlimitel provides Basic 911 service, which means that I will be able to dial 911, but they will not automatically get my location (as they would with the usual E-911 service) – I will have to provide it when they answer. I have mitigated this somewhat by making a rule that says that whenever 911 is dialed from the extensions that are connected to analog handsets in my house, the Caller ID that is transmitted is my Postal Code and street number and name.

To summarize, I now pay about a quarter what I was paying before, I have up to 15 extensions, 5 channels, voicemail, call waiting, customizable Caller ID based on outbound call rules, detailed call logging and daily and monthly billing summaries. My intial hardware outlay was about the same as 1.5 months of my original bill and it runs on my existing broadband connection.

What the heck is not to like?

Tell me your story. How much have you saved, how much flexibility have you gained, what lessons have you learned?


Gnome equivalent of Windows ‘start’ command

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Being the command-line type of guy that I am, in the Windows world, I will often find myself at a CMD prompt wanting to start up Windows Explorer in the current directory, run a file with its associated program, or start a browser and send it to a URL.

In Windows, one uses the ‘start’ command to do this. It is essentially like typing something into the ‘Run’ dialog from the Start menu. If you specify a URL, it starts up your browser at that page. If you specify a path to a local directory or a UNC to a share, it will start up Windows Explorer with that target. If you specify a file whose extension is associated with a program, it will start up in that program.

Now that I have been using Ubuntu as my main OS for a couple of years, I have found that you can do the same thing in Gnome with the command ‘gnome-open’. I even went so far as to alias it to ‘go’ by putting the following line in my ~/.bashrc file:

alias go='gnome-open'

Then it is a simple matter of using ‘go’ to do all sorts of things:

Open a pdf in Document Viewer:

# go document.pdf

Open a file browser in the current directory:

# go .

Open a URL:

# go

Compose an email:

# go

Search for all the people who have blogged about this very topic:

# go ''


Twitter – Faster Than A Speeding Bulletin

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Yesterday, I came home a little late after dinner to find I’ve missed about an hour of tweets related to the long-anticipated DemoCamp 19. Visiting the Democamp site, I found no front-page information about the upcoming event, but there was a link to Register for DemoCamp Toronto 19. All the regular tickets were already sold out! As it happens, I had recently completed my year-end and had budgeted to sponsor the event, so I grabbed what was probably the last remaining sponsor slot.

Today David Crow announced DemoCamp 19 and a new issue of Networking Only tickets to the event, again over the dinner hour, and by the time I saw it, the new set of tickets was also sold out.

I’m starting to see the value in an iPhone. I really don’t care to be a blackberry-toting tethered business drone, but there are certain things that are worthy of my immediate attention.


After 7 years of Blogchat, it’s TTYL

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

After almost 7 years of uninterrupted service, Blogchat will soon be shut down.

I started Blogchat right here on this blog in February of 2002.

It was pretty well the first of its kind – an Ajax-style live chat (although the techniques were not called Ajax until three years and three days later, when JJG coined the term).

If you read through my posts [in reverse order on each of earlier and later pages] over those days, you’ll see that it was a great collaborative effort – a real early example of the social web pulling itself up by the bootstraps whereby the people collaborating to build a chat tool were using the chat tool itself to provide the input to the developers.

Tim Aiello and I ended up building it into a hosted service and ran it together until Tim took the reins last year, but without a large following, the care and feeding have become more than the service is worth, especially since so much advancement has been made in this sphere during the life of the project.

A testament to the simplicity of the thing is that it had been running essentially unchanged since at least 2003.