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 ever 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.