Saturday, 5 April 2014

Ubuntu One shutting down and what that means for the KDE plugin

I have recently learned that Ubuntu One will be shutting down on June first, with data accessible for another 2 months after that. See Canonical's Post for more details ...

This is a little sad for me as I have enjoyed using the service and trusted Canonical with my data, a lot more than a great many other companies. So much so, that I wrote a plugin which allowed KDE users to access Ubuntu One through Dolphin. I intend to put an updated version of the plugin on the which notifies users of this decision and I will pull the plugin on the first of June when the service goes down. The code will remain avaible under the MIT license on github if anyone wants to use it for their next cloud storage solution.

I want to thank all my users for being so nice when reporting feedback, be they bugs or compliments they were always polite and informed. I would also like to thank Canonical for a wonderfully reliable service and thank them for opensourcing the back-end now that they are shutting down said service.

I wish everyone the best of luck if finding a new cloud storage solution, I think I will be using this opportunity to switch to a service with client side encryption by default. I whole heartedly recommend others do the same.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

SailBus Dublin

Just a quick post to announce I've released an app for the new Jolla smart-phone. "SailBus Dublin" is a bus tracking app for Dublin city based off the National Transport Authority's new Real Time Information System(RTPI) API.

Screen Shot of SailBus Dublin
It is free and open source, the code is available on github and bitbucket. I'll probably write a post in the future about how it all works but for the moment I'll just  list a few of the features and say a big thank  you to the National Transport Authority and Dublinked for giving me API access.

  • Realtime information about bus arriving to stops
  • Route information i.e. stops on a route
  • Stop Location
I'll be adding plenty more features at a later date but this should give user the basic functionality they need from an app such as this.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Making sites accessible one step at a time

There is a section of society that many of us as developers don't consider when making our applications, those who have a disability. We often represent information with colours or images not thinking of how it may affect a visually impaired user using a screen reader or unknowingly break the tab flow to make keyboard use of an application impossible.

I have the privilege of working for a company which only produces accessible applications but I would like this ethic to rub off on some of my personal projects.

In the next series of posts, I'm going to make my blog accessible and explain how I did it and what tools I used to do it hopefully giving insights for others into a how to make their applications accessible. In order to do this I will be making this site WCAG 2.0 compliant.

A picture of the colour contrast checker used to check the blogThe first step in this process is to tweak the colour scheme of the site in order to be WCAG compliant. Which is to say, having a greater than 4.5 contrast between all text and it's respect background and make sure the link colour has a greater than 3.0 contrast with the surrounding text.

In order to find the issues with the site I used a firefox plugin, luckily once the issues were found it wasn't much work to fix them and the blog's theme by default was mostly accessible as only two pieces of text had to be changed to a darker colour. The main issue was the github gist iframe I use to display code snippets, unfortunately this had several issues with the area surrounding the code surface. In order to fix these issues, I hid the bottom bar and added CSS to darken the line numbers on the side. I'll have to add an attribution to github somewhere else in the site.

There you have it a small change which will help a certain demographic of visually impaired users to use my site more effectively. In my next post I'll be discussing keyboard usability.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Jolla - Review

So two days before Christmas my long awaited Jolla, a new smart phone created by the Finnish startup Jolla, arrived. First impressions were great, it was pretty, the battery lasted me more than a day and the android app compatibility seemed to work really well. Unfortunately due to the hectic Christmas season I didn't get to play with it very much but it did perform flawlessly in it's primary role as a phone.

After new years and things had quieted down a bit in life, I started to play about with it more:
  • Setup email
  • Install Humble Bundle for Android games
  • Add more than just an album or two to the music library
  • Use the Maps app
  • Write software for the device (because this blog isn't called software on the side for nothing)
  • etc ...
Unfortunately issues did start to appear :
  • Some music didn't get indexed properly and wouldn't show up in the media app
  • Sound stopped working for android apps
  • Camera didn't work for android apps
  • MTP is a bit flakey(not sure if this is a Jolla problem or and issue with my Kubuntu install)
Luckily I was well aware when I bought the device that some of the software was of beta quality so I didn't mind too much. They seem to give me a software update a week, so I can't really complain too much at least in comparison to other mobile operating systems(I'm looking at your every vulnerable android I've owned). In fact one of the updates has already fixed the camera. Given the pluses of the phones e.g. unique gesture based UI and proper multitasking, I can easily forgive these bugs especially since they will probably be fixed soon and I have found work arounds for every one of them.

Music Issue:
I recommend you check out tracker-control on the command line it seemed to work for some people over at It only worked partially for me so I wrote a little bash to generate play-lists for artists which the indexer didn't pick properly.

Too fully understand this have a look at the PLS format it's not a very interesting read but if you every want to create a PLS file without a media application it may be of some use.

Sound issue for Android Apps:

You need to become root using devel-su and then run this :

to restart the alien dalvik VM.


MTP File Transfer Issues:
  • SSH
  • Rsync
  • Ubuntu One for Android
  • etc..
Hopefully this article helps out some users that are having issues but I'd rather conclude on a positive note. Jolla is awesome, you really have to use it for a day or two to realize how easy it is to use but if your not convinced and don't want to do this that's ok but I'll be shocked if I ever see an Android or IPhone with a UI this well designed.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Ubuntu on the Edge of Success

My eyes have been glued to Canonical's crowd funding campaign, to create Ubuntu Edge. A top of the line limited edition smart phone packed with technologies everyone is too scared to ship. They are asking for a lot, 32 million dollars, in order to produce 40,000 incredibly awesome Ubuntu Touch devices. The specs of the devices are stunning:
  • Fastest multi-core CPU, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage
  • 4.5in 1,280 x 720 HD sapphire crystal display
  • 8mp low-light rear camera, 2mp front camera
  • Dual-LTE, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4, NFC
  • GPS, accelerometer, gyro, proximity sensor, compass, barometer
  • Stereo speakers with HD audio, dual-mic recording, Active Noise Cancellation
  • MHL connector, 3.5mm jack
  • Silicon-anode Li-Ion battery
  • 64 x 9 x 124mm
 I'm definitely going to picking one up but unfortunately I have to wait till pay day thereby forgoing the day one 600 dollar price tag. They go up to 800 dollars after the first day :(

What's truly insane about this is that they not only have to break nearly every crowd funding record ever set in this attempt but they are on course to do so and then some. When I returned from work at 7:40 they were at about 770,000 dollars as I write this post at 22:10 they are at 1,430,000 dollars. That means in about four and a half hours they have raised 660,000 dollars at a rate of 146,666 dollars every hour. At that rate they will reach their goal in a little over a week. 

That said I think some of this has to do with the first day offer of a $600 device instead of paying $800 dollars but it is never the less promising and if they hit their goal it will send shock-waves through both the software and mobile industries. 

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Phone Gap's Build Service is Awesome

If you haven't heard of Phone Gap before it's a framework for turning HTML5 applications into mobile applications. I've used it before by downloading the SDK and building apps for both Android and iOS using mainly javascript with a small bit of native code. It's a pretty awesome piece of tech although it can tend to be a bit slow.

Today was the first time I used Adobe's Phone Gap Build Service and I have to say I was extremely impressed. Firstly it's free for opensource apps, it took maybe 2 minutes to setup, integrate with Github and suddenly I had an application targeting :

  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Symbian 
  • Blackberry
  • webOS
Obviously if your using the build service you can't take advantage of native code but still it's pretty epic. I now have an app for several platforms I've never developed for and all I did was point a web page at a git repo. They also give you one private application for free so if you want your HTML5 app on some platforms you'd otherwise never touch with a fifty foot rusty barge pole give it a go. You can see an example download page for my Open Jog app below.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Jolla, Vivaldi what do think of Ubuntu ?

Just pre-ordered a new Jolla phone one of the successors to Meego and Maemo, who's devices I liked so much. It looks awesome and I can't wait to have proper Linux phone. Their launch is especially important for me due to a fall that caused the touch screen on my N810 to break and become almost unusable. Luckily the display itself still works just fine so I'll probably just use it in a hobby project or something.

So you'll probably see some Qt apps on the blog in the not to distant future. Hopefully targeting not just Jolla but Ubuntu Touch and KDE's Vivaldi Tablet. All these other platforms do have me a little worried. Mainly in regards to which one do I want to support or more to the point which one can I support since I won't have the money to buy all three devices not to mention a Firefox OS phone. I'm slightly scared the amount of emerging platforms at the moment may make it difficult for any one of them to even get the sort of community support that went behind the Nokia N900. I think the only way to make sure they survive is to buy the first that comes out and if I have the money and it's not to wasteful the second. Here's hoping the first is a phone and the second is a tablet.

There are several  reasons these set of open platforms may stand a greater chance than those that came before:
  • The main development platform is Qt and Qt is awesome, many of my favorite applications are Qt apps e.g. Skype, Kate
  • If they sort out their SDKs they should be either compatible or easily portable. Meaning, if target all of them and some fail so long as one succeeds we as developers should be able to have a viable revenue stream regardless of which platform succeeds.
  • The community is bigger and more organized, there seems to be more Linux users and r/linux pushes a lot more traffic than it used too.
Needless to say, I hope every one of these platforms succeeds but if they don't, I really hope at least one of these truly thrives. The real question is which platform the community and the public as a whole will get behind and which will succeed.