Thursday, November 04, 2010

Cloud Status v4, for the iPhone

It has been a while since the last release of Cloud Status, my Cloud Computing monitoring application for the iPhone and iPod touch. So I'm really happy to announce a new release, version 4.

Predictably with such a long time between updates there have been major changes. Along with a number of minor bug fixes, and an updated UI, the application has been fully updated to support iOS4 and the iPhone 4's retina display.

Reporting for MS Azure and the Rackspace Cloud has been added in addition to the existing status reporting for Google App Engine, Google Apps and Amazon Web Services.

The best part? This new release of Cloud Status is now available for free thanks to the generous support of WatchMouse, the application and website monitoring people.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Science Online London 2010

So this weekend I'm attending Science Online London at the British Library. A two day conference aimed at exploring how the web is changing the way we conduct, communicate, share, and evaluate research.

Tonight I managed to just miss out on the pre-conference pub crawl. My train pulled into London about the same time as the crawl was scheduled to roll out of the Cittie of York and onto the Ye Olde Mitre. Since the Mitre is notorious as being "London's most hidden pub" I decided that I'd probably shouldn't try and find even a relatively large crowd of drunk(en) science bloggers under my own steam at that point...

However as well as the first day of the conference proper, tomorrow night is the Frivolous Rooftop Debate hosted by Mendeley at their office in Clerkenwell. From the accounts of last year's event I'm really looking forward to it, and I'm hoping for a vaguely Foo-like experience from the un-conference programme...

...if you can't be there Science 3.0 is live-casting the event and of course you can follow along on Twitter, the hashtag for the event is #solo10.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

O'Reilly iPhone Sensors Masterclass

While I was in the States last month, in-between attending OSCON in Portland, SciFoo in Mountain View and my flying visit to New York, I headed up to Spreckles Theatre in Rohnert Park, CA, to film an O'Reilly Masterclass in "Making use of iPhone and iPad Location Sensors."

Demo'ing the AR toolkit we built during my O'Reilly Masterclass

The class guides you through developing applications for the iPhone and iPad platforms that make use of the onboard sensors: the three-axis accelerometer, the magnetometer (digital compass), the gyroscope, the camera and the global positioning system. During the four and a half hour class, amongst various other topics, I talked about face detection on the iPhone and walked through building an Augmented Reality toolkit.

The class is now available for US$99.99 from the O'Reilly Media website.

Included in the price is the full four and half hours of video, a copy of the slides I used on the day with added commentary, fully working Xcode projects allowing you to build and follow along with all the code we built during the class, and two preview chapters from my upcoming book "Programming iPhone Sensors" covering some of the material I talked about during the class.

If you want to see the sort of content you'll get you can view a free preview of the section of the course where I introduce the iPhone accelerometer, and if you're still wavering O'Reilly is running a "Buy 1 video, get 1 free. Buy 2 videos, get 2 free..." promotion all through September. Just enter code "BVGVF" in the O'Reilly shopping cart.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sci Foo 2010

I'm currently on my way to the Googleplex for this year's Science Foo Camp (SciFoo). Based on the original O'Reilly Foo Camp unconference model, there's no agenda until the first evening when the attendees collectively create one, SciFoo is a gathering of "leading scientists, technologists, writers and other thought-leaders" for a weekend of discussion, demonstration and debate.

From SciFoo 2009 - Charlotte Stoddart

I'm absolutely amazed and delighted to be here for SciFoo amougst some great people, it's going to be an amazing weekend...

Monday, July 26, 2010

iPad iPhone Summit

For those of you who didn't get the chance to go to O'Reilly's OSCON I'll be giving my talk on Face Detection on the iPhone again at the online iPhone iPad Summit run by Environments for Humans. It's an all-new, all-day online conference, on the 25th of August running from 9am to 5pm (CDT).

Talking will be Jesse MacFadyen on the PhoneGap project, myself on face detection on the iPhone, David Kaneda on Sencha Touch, Jonathan Stark on offline web applications using HTML 5, Simon St. Laurent on client side data storage using HTML 5, Suzanne Ginsburg on iOS and the user experience, Dan Rubin on mobile design and CSS3 and Aral Balkan on the Feathers App.

Use the discount code IPPSALLAN will get 10% off the ticket price for both individual or meeting room tickets. The ticket price includes a free iPhone ebook from O'Reilly!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Interview on iPhone Sensors

While I was at OSCON last week I was interviewed by Mac Slocum for the O'Reilly Media YouTube channel about my talk on Face Detection for the iPhone, augmented reality and mobile sensors in general.

To be honest we actually covered the best material after the camera stopped rolling, as we moved sideways onto ubiquitous computing, which is one of my most ridden and favourite hobby horses, and on using distributed data to allow us to make better real-time decisions. Maybe next time...

Face Detection at OSCON

I spent last week at the O'Reilly Media OSCON conference where I was talking about using the OpenCV library to do face detection on the iPhone using Haar classifiers.

The talk walked you through the cross-compiling and building a static distribution of the library that you can link to your application and make use of from both the simulator and the iPhone hardware itself, and how to build a simple application to perform face recognition on images taken directly using the device's camera.

Visualising Haar Classifiers from Adam Harvey.

Download the talk as a PDF (4.4MB), or view it on The associated visualization by Adam Harvey and sample code (20.8MB) built during the talk are also available.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Jinx on Solar Sail missons finally broken?

Yesterday the Japanese successfully launched three Venus-bound spacecraft: the Akatsuki Venus orbiter, the IKAROS solar sail, and a University-built UNITEC-1 mini-satellite.

In doing so it broke one of the longest running jinxes in spaceflight, it managed to sucessfully put a solar sail spacecraft in orbit. The last time this happened was in 1993 when the Russian Znamya-2 experiment, a spinning sail 60ft in diameter which was sucessfully deployed from a Progress vehicle after undocking from MIR.

The followup experiment in 1999, Znamya-2.5, was a failure after the sail became entangled in a antenna during deployment. The funding crunch that then faced the Russian space programme meant that the ambitious Znamya-3 followup mission, consisting of a 200ft diameter sail deployed from another Progress craft, which was to fly in 2000 or 2001, was unfortunately cancelled.

Around that time the Planetary Society attempted a sub-orbital launch of a prototype solar sail, a flight designed to test a new technology for unfurling solar sail blades, which failed due to a problem with the launch vehicle. The subsequent launch their Cosmos-1 solar sail vehicle in 2005, from a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea using the same Volna launch vehicle, also failed. Despite their initial optimism, their Cosmos-1 spacecraft did not achieve orbit. Despite this set back, the Planetary Society are still persevering with plans for a fresh mission called Lightsail-1 with a planned launch date around the end of the year.

NASA's Nanosail-D satellite during deployment testing

A similar fate to the Planetary Society's Cosmos-1 mission befell NASA's NanoSail-D mission which was lost in a launch failure during the third flight of SpaceX's Falcon 1 rocket in 2008. Despite the sub-orbital tests flown by the Japanese back in 2004, presumably as a pre-cusor to yesterday's IKAROS launch, it seemed that solar-sail mission just couldn't get off the ground.

However, despite the apparent break in the curse associated solar sail missions, the Japanese have yet managed to deploy the sail. The IKAROS spacecraft is currently undergoing in-flight checkout before a scheduled deployment of the sail in a few weeks... fingers crossed.

Update: IKAROS first stage deployment is now halfway complete...

Credit: JAXA / JSPEC
IKAROS first stage deployment halfway complete - A view from one of the four sail monitoring cameras on IKAROS on June 9, 2010 shows the folded sail being pulled outward from the spacecraft as it should be... (via the Planetary Society).

Update: JAXA are now reporting a successful full deployment of the sail, and that the sail's thin-film solar cells are now generating power. It looks like the curse is finally broken.

Credit: JAXA / JSPEC
Successful sail deployment for IKAROS (via the Planetary Society).

Update: IKAROS has two deployable mini-cameras, these are the first views of the fully deployed sail. Looks good...

Credit: JAXA / JSPEC
IKAROS sail from DCAM2 - One of the deployable cameras on IKAROS shows the IKAROS solar sail fully deployed. (via the Planetary Society).

Friday, April 02, 2010

An iPhone Book by an Open Hardware Advocate

I was surprised a few days ago when someone pointed out that as an open hardware advocate it might be viewed as, well, odd for me to write a book on iPhone programming.
Intrigued by a open hardware advocate that has written an O'Reilly iPhone book: @aallan
@erikevenson via Tweetie in reply to @aallan
A couple of years ago there was a great hue and cry about the death of the desktop, and the end of the Internet. Mostly brought on by Johnathan Zittrain's book, "The Future of the Internet: And How to Stop It."

Jonathan argued that today's technological market is dominated by two contrasting business models: the generative and the non-generative. The first model, general purpose computers, allow third parties to build upon and share through them. The second, non-generative model, is more restricted, with appliances that can only be modified by the vendor. He is very much afraid that the second model, where we are locked in by vendors is coming to predominate.

I don't think my opinions on this have changed much in the last two years. The iPhone, and now the iPad, are held up as being evil for being closed platforms. I don't think that's a problem. There is plenty of room for closed platforms.

Cory Doctorow argues that the next generation of kids won't be able to grow up and become programmers. That buying an iPad sends the wrong message to your kid, that the world isn't yours, it's something you have to leave to professionals.
Buying an iPad for your kids isn't a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it's a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals. - Cory Doctorow
I think he's dead wrong. Technology has moved on, and the world is changing. What is changing is that we’re in the transition phase away from one model of computing and towards another. I’d argue that the underlying trend is towards more openness, not less. It's just the things that are open and the things that are closed are changing, and with that the skills you need to work with the technology.

We're moving away from general purpose computers towards more purpose specific devices. Amoung these are the iPhone and the iPad. However the passing of the desktop computer, and the Web, is not the problem people should be worrying about. The important thing for people to hang onto is the infrastructure, the pipes themselves. The Web isn't the Internet, the Internet existed before the Web and it'll be around a long time afterwards. So long as we have the pipes the content flowing across them is really rather irrelevant. I'm far more worried by threats to network neutrality than I am by the death of the general purpose computer.

The only thing that's changing here is that the tools and skills you need to play with the next generation of technology; ubiquitous computing, embedded devices, mobile devices. So you'll need different skills than you might have used to play with the last generation of technology? The fact that you have to go out and learn some electronics to take part in the next big thing isn't such a big deal. You're supposed to like learning new things. Go buy a soldering iron and stop worrying about vendor lock-in so much...

...and even if you don't believe me? Stop worrying, the kids are going to be just fine.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How do I stop the scientists talking?

I'm at the LikeMinds conference here in Exeter today talking about social media. I'm not amoung my people, the room is mostly filled with marketing and public relations types. While I'm sure I'm not the only techie here, I may be the only professional scientist...

But what I didn't expect to here this morning was a question from the audience during the social strategies panel with John Bell, Maz Nadjm, Charlie Osmond and Gemma Went, " can I stop my scientists talking online?"
@aallan "...stop scientists talking"?! Why do they want to do that? Do they worry the Internet might be full?
  @astronomyblog via web in reply to @aallan
The issue seems to be that those naughty scientists are talking about restricted intellectual property between themselves without proper oversight from management types. Oh dear, we might come up with ideas and solve problems without the right paperwork getting done..?

Have they heard of the printing press, and peer-reviewed journals? Science, rather than the scientists themselves, have a problem with restricting communication. Science can't happen without communication. You only have to look at the how science was done before peer-review journals became prevalent, when theories were published first as anagrams, to realise how the velocity-of-change of technological and scientific progress depends crucially on open communications.

We talked about this at the .Astronomy meeting in Leiden at the tail end of last year, but crucially we weren't talking about stopping scientists talking. We were talking about how to make it easier, to make it open...

Michael Nielsen - Reinventing Discovery

...Michael Neilson's talk was about the future of science and how to build a collective future for all of us, and combat the silo mentality that this question of how to "...stop scientists talking" exemplifies.

You have to wonder if this person was worried about today's social media, what she'll think of open science, open data access, and .Astronomy's project #zombie...

The LikeMinds Conference

I'm in Exeter today. Well, I'm in Exeter quite a lot after all, but today I'm at the Exeter Convention Centre for LikeMinds conference. If you're not lucking enough to be here, you can watch the live stream or follow-along on Twitter...

Live streaming video by Ustream

Update: My response to the question, " can I stop my scientists talking online?"

Update: Some photographs from Like Minds.