A small update to an enormous project

•August 20, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Berlioz is turning out to be somewhat more complicated than I’d imagined.

Development on its core functionalities, I’ve found, consistently seems to get interrupted as I try to figure out how to smoothly incorporate additional functionality — which I’d considered essential to demonstrating its usefulness. The accounting module should track the organization’s budget for feed, routine supplies, maintenance costs, etc… and needs to play well with the supplies/inventory module and nutrition module (which also needs to track seasonality and availability of feed, as well as supplies). The supplies/inventory module obviously needs to play well with the nutrition module. They both need to play well with the core bits that keep track of individuals/enclosures/areas, and should be able to generate a report on how ‘fit’ the organization is to take in new animals. All of these would also need to potentially integrate with a future fundraising module.

Much of the backend to all of this, surprisingly,  isn’t extraordinarily difficult. Just time-consuming to plan and implement. But at some point I probably will have to start collaborating with people talented in UX design to make the system a pleasure to deal with from a user perspective. Also, posting on Github when I’m more confident in the core elements.

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A Bad App Proposal – or why there isn’t a pet-microchip identification smartphone app

•September 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I while back, while talking with a (shelter employee) about how many different pet microchip technologies and companies were in business and commonly in use, the conversation turned to, “is there an easy way to check a found-pet’s microchip?”

Currently, there are 14 companies in the US that provide microchips, utilizing 4 technologies
http://www.findmypetusa.com/

There’s (at least) one website that allows you to enter a serial number, upon which it reveals with which service <your pet’s chip> is registered. http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/

The program would have to first find the provider, then query that provider, potentially dealing with multiple APIs. Not too big a deal for app developers, but an issue nonetheless.

The other big issue is that there aren’t any chip readers on the market that interface with a smartphone (or computer, for that matter). Would manufacturers be willing to add a universally-compatible interface for computers?

The readout yields a number. Unless you’re regularly scanning several chips, typing a number into a computer isn’t enough of a hassle to validate buying a new scanner with a bluetooth or NFC or (insert another buzzword) interface.

I can only speculate that the current system is set up as something of a security measure, to prevent someone from entering every possible number into a web form (or, more likely, using SQL injection), to return records of pets they haven’t found…for whatever potentially malicious purpose.

So, no pet-microship identification smartphone app. Bummer.

Conservation Project Management

•April 5, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Project Name: Berlioz

What it is:
A management, tracking, feedback, accounting, and information system for organizations that deal with enclosed populations of wild animals.

Goals:
1 – to be clearly useful
2 – to be easily implementable, highly user-friendly, and usable on older computers and mobile phones
3 – to track movements of individuals/animals within a sanctuary, in the interest of preventing (and/or managing) disease outbreaks
4 – to encourage good management practices and documentation
5 – to replace existant system(s) that offer a smaller featureset and/or offer inferior inter-compatibility among systems
6 – to be as inexpensive, in terms of initial and maintenance costs, as possible. Ideally, all of the software should be free/open-source.

Server-side:
The primary method of deployment for Berlioz’s server package will be as a Live-USB session that boots into a lightweight distribution of Debian linux, and offers the options of installation to an internal hard disk, or for saving settings in a “persistence” file on the USB dive itself. Berlioz runs on a LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP/Python) stack, but a DE is available for initial configuration. Further development will include setup packages for existent servers.

Client-side:
Initial development of Berlioz’s desktop user-interface will be as a relatively lightweight web application, with the intention of making it usable on older hardware and web browsers. Further development will add HTML5-based interface improvements. A mobile web interface will be designed as well for usability on smartphones and “media phones”. Further development will include an SMS gateway.

A (current) review/comparison of Twitter clients for the Nokia N900 (Maemo 5)

•March 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Update July 16, 2011: Many clients have updated. TweedSuit works (and has all along), although its list function doesn’t seem to. A major problem I’m noticing is the ability to load tweets – specifically going backwards on a timeline (although, to be fair, I’ve also noticed this in Echofon and Tweetdeck).

Update May 30, 2011: All clients have updated, somethingoranother. TwimGo is much snappier now, offers geotagging of tweets, and…is generally stable enough for primary usage (just because the UI is slightly prettier than Qwassr). Khweeteur merged experimental with stable. Witter…doesn’t seem any different. Will update table soon.

I’d add TweedSuit to this if I could get it to work…

Update March 27, 2011: Updated to reflect new version of TweeGo (0.6.0)

Nokia’s ‘experimental’ mobile OS, Maemo, hasn’t seen a ton of commercial support and development. In turn, the userbase/community has stepped up contributions to software development, adding tremendous functionality and usability to devices running Maemo, particularly the N900.

Most usability niches have since found themselves being effectively filled (right?), with minor exceptions. One, being a decent Last.fm client. Another being a Twitter client as comprehensive, feature-filled, and, well, slick as Gravity (the saving grace of my accursed N97), Twidroyd, or one of Twitter’s official clients. While Twitter’s beginning to discourage 3rd party development, it seems unlikely that there’ll be an official client developed with the N900 in mind.

For this review-of-sorts, I’m including most of what I could get my hands on, and only excluding things that were both too experimental and not installable from extras-dev/testing via the application manager, like this one for Qt Quick (QML). I’d also tried to get the Twitter plugin for N900 Contacts and Conversations working, but it lacks OAuth support (there’s a workaround that I’ll probably try in the near future). The microfeed backend that Mauku uses doesn’t support OAuth, so Mauku was also excluded from this comparison. I also excluded the Twitter widget, and sharing plugins.

TwimGo
Fairly new client by Tommi Laukkanen, offering the best portrait-mode support of the clients tested. Offers a pretty complete featureset, imaging service previews, good menus, and does this cool split-view thing in landscape mode. Available here.


QWassr

Another fairly new client, QWassr offers very good portrait-mode support and a conversation-style view for @mentions, as well as support for in-program text customization. Newest (optified) version available from the Ovi store.


Khweeteur

Small, lightweight and simple-yet-respectably-functional client by Khertan that shows tweets, @mentions/replies, and DMs in the same timeline, and uses Maemo’s notification system. Available from Maemo.org repositories, different versions available in free, extras-dev, and extras-testing.


Witter

My personal favorite. Witter was the only client to successfully post a geo-tagged tweet, TwitPic image, or recognize a tweet’s location information. Available from Maemo.org repositories, different versions available in free and extras-dev/extras-testing.


TweeGo

Small, basic client that has the prettiest, most-refined interface, styled a bit like Twitter’s official client for Android. Available from Maemo.org repositories, in extras-devel. New version that offers portrait-mode support is just about to be released…

Cross-comparison

So here’s my methodology: a table (of course) comparing features and capabilities, and then a conclusion, an anecdotal passage.

TwimGo
(2.8.0)
QWassr (0.6.6-1maemo5) Khweeteur (0.1.16-1) Witter
(0.3.7-2)
TweeGo (0.6.0)
support for multiple accounts? no Yes, aggregates them in timeline/reply view. Posting options. 1 Twitter,
1 Identi.ca
yes, but one active at a time. Couldn’t get Identi.ca working yes, but one at a time (stores logins)
portrait mode? Yes – full support Yes – except the prefs screen yes, although preferences is a bit scrunched Mostly – all views but landing screen and accounts screen Yes – full support
view your followers? Yes – shows latest tweet, newest followers at top no no no no
view list of users you follow? Yes – shows latest tweet, newest users at top no no Yes – shows latest tweet, alphabetical order no
TwimGo QWassr Khweeteur Witter TweeGo
view subscribed timeline? yes yes yes yes yes
“jump to top/bottom of timeline” button no yes no yes no
Timeline/DM autoupdate 1, 5, 15 minutes, or manual Adjustable, # of minutes Adjustable, # of minutes Adjustable for each, # of minutes manual
retweets shown as shows retweeter’s avatar, classic “RT @…” Shows original tweeter’s avatar, username, timestamp, and “retweeted by (username)” shows retweeter, text “Retweet of (original tweeter)” shows retweeter’s avatar, classic “RT @…” shows original tweeter’s avatar, username, retweet by
view mentions/replies? yes yes yes – but in timeline. Displays mentions below new tweets. yes yes
view your direct messages? Yes – inbox only (no sent) No (?) yes – but in timeline. Displays unread DMs below new tweets. Yes – inbox only (no sent) no
view your tweets? Yes – button on main menu Yes – from tweet menu from one of your tweets no Yes – from tweet menu from one of your tweets no
view “retweets of you” Yes – but not where, who, or when no no no no
view your favorite tweets? yes no no no no
search? yes yes yes yes no
view saved searches? yes no no yes no
view your lists? yes yes no no no
view subscribed lists? no yes no no no
view trends? yes no no Feature present, but couldn’t get it to work no
Posting
TwimGo
QWassr
Khweeteur
Witter
TweeGo
post status? yes yes yes yes yes
post image? no Feature present, but couldn’t get it to work Kinda. Test posted to TwitPic, but not timeline. Yes – posted via TwitPic (but caused program to freeze) no
post geo-tagged status? no no ‘Use GPS” option in Prefs, but test failed even though GPS was locked YES no, but I could’ve sworn it did in a prior version…
post geo-tagged status with image? no no no no no
Individual tweet/tweet menu TwimGo
QWassr
Khweeteur
Witter
TweeGo
Retweet (classic/editable RT @username “…”) yes Yes – calls it “Quote selected tweet” no yes yes
Retweet – new style yes yes yes yes no
Add tweet to favorites? yes yes yes yes no
reply (not just @mention)? yes yes yes No – doesn’t track No – doesn’t track
reply to all? no yes no yes no
view “in reply to”? Yes – “Show Original” button YES!!! “Conversation” button in tweet menu is awesome Yes – displays inline in timeline, but not in tweet menu Yes. Shows in timeline and tweet menu. no
delete (your) tweet? no yes yes no yes
search link from #tags? yes no no no no
open links in tweet? yes links are clickable from timeline, but not tweet menu yes yes yes
preview of image (twitpic, yfrog, etc…)? yes, but not through url shorteners (t.co, bit.ly, etc…) no no no no
profile information from tweet menu? yes not really, shows user timeline no Yes – for tweeter no
follow/unfollow from tweet menu? yes no Yes – but only for the user you follow (not tweeter user if RT) Yes – for any user mentioned in the tweet no
recognition of geo-tagged tweets? no no no displays district/town in timeline, nothing in tweet menu no
Misc. TwimGo QWassr Khweeteur Witter TweeGo
Timeline customization no not really Toggle: display avatar, username, timestamp (per tweet) not really no
themes no no yes yes no
font customization no font, size, weight, ital., character set (language) no, uses system no, uses system no
tweet order newest top newest bottom (?) newest top newest top newest top
Adjust # of tweets in view/loaded no, but “load more” button no Yes – in prefs Kinda – “load more” buttons at bottom of timeline (20,50,100,200) no, but “load more” button
Uses Maemo notification system? no no yes yes no
quirks “Load More” functionality of timelines sometimes unreliable; sometimes can be buggy depending on connection latency Menu shortcut shows up in Ovi, rather than Network (for Catorize); no DM support (yet) “Nearby Tweets” feature doesn’t seem to work Seems to crash when toggling “Location” checkbox (while still acquiring location) can’t tweet from portrait mode

Quasi-Conclusions…

TwimGo – best featureset and implementation, but seemed to have the largest RAM footprint (not terrible, but multitasking got sticky sometimes), but probably more due to my swapfile being fragmented… Also would sometimes re-load already loaded tweets when “Load More” button pressed.

QWassr – less functional tweet menu than TwimGo, and no DM support, but better view customization and awesome “Conversation” feature for replies. Also, that progress bar at the bottom is surprisingly reassuring. Newest tweets loading at bottom…takes a bit of getting used to…

Khweeteur – Probably best suited for users who use Twitter as a messaging service rather than a digg/reddit analogue. Obscure-sounding “Use Serialization” option in preferences. Not ideal client if you follow 500+ tweeps.

Witter – a bit unpolished, but only one to successfully attach geolocation to a tweet, and post an image (aside from sharing plugins – which are still way easier). UI not always intuitive, but interesting and surprisingly comprehensive featureset.

TweeGo – Smoothest, most attractive interface, hands down. But bare-bones featureset (so far). But not enough praise can be given for how smooth the interface is. Seriously. Try it.

Which one to go with? Get ’em all, they’re all currently free. I find myself using QWassr, Witter, and TwimGo the most, and the standard sharing plugin is still the easiest and most reliable way to post images. Unfortunately, none offer advanced features found in some Android clients, like list editing, video upload, etc… and Alien Dalvik (Android emulator) isn’t public yet.

Why this is a silly article to have written – many Maemo users have already experimented with Twitter clients, use TwimGo, or use Tweetgo or Hahlo or another touch-optimized web client.

Why this isn’t a silly article – I think there’s too little hype about QWassr and Witter. QWassr has a lot going for it, not to mention that it does that conversation-style display thing for @mentions/replies, and doesn’t seem terribly popular yet. And I think Witter shows more promise than many people give it credit for, and it feels more like a Maemo app (in a good way) than any of the other clients. Nokia may have kinda seemingly ended the N900’s product lifecycle, but the community has addressed that, adding additional functionality and usability.

Also, a big thank you to the community and all the developers for picking up Nokia’s slack 🙂