There aren’t many BlackBerry 10 apps that compare well with those for Android and iOS. While using some BB10 apps, you get a foreboding feeling of something about to crash it tingles. Take the Sports Tracker for BlackBerry, an app that tracks your run or bike ride using GPS. Midway into your run, it hangs and at times closes and you lose your mileage log.
But not the Nobex Radio and Podcast app.
The podcatcher app for the Z10 and Q10 is not only among the best made-for-BlackBerry 10 apps in the BlackBerry World, it is also at par with some of the best apps in other platforms.
In fact, I now prefer using Nobex on the BlackBerry 10 over Stitcher Radio on the iPhone or Android to listen to podcasts. It does the podcast playing task as well as the apps in other platforms and more.
Nobex offers granular control over episode downloads – allowing you to manually choose and queue episodes to download. It also makes it easier for you to browse show archives and download these to your device.
Nobex is also integrated with the BlackBerry Hub and you get an alert whenever any of the shows you subscribe to has published a new episode.
What I don’t like about the app, however, is that it does not have a system that allows you to put up a playlist of episodes (albeit a minor annoyance). Playing stops after each podcast episode and you have to manually select another show.
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.
Joan Didion – On Keeping A Notebook
I love paper notebooks. I have several at a time: the reporters’ favorite Green Apple steno small enough to fit in your pocket, a pair of Moleskine plain cahier journals and OhYeah Moleskine knockoffs (see photo). When I’m in the bookstore, I never fail to stop by the notebooks section, often going there first. I go over the items one by one, the notebooks I checked just last week.
I panic when I don’t have one: notwithstanding the fact that my phone has Evernote and Simplenote, which are both connected to an online account and syncs to all my devices.
I live in the cloud, so to speak, before that word became mainstream. Mention a note-taking service or application, I probably use it or have tried it: Evernote, SpringpadIt, Simplenote + Notational Velocity, Fetchnotes, Google Drive. For a time, I had an intense love affair with TiddlyWiki, a self-contained wiki system. (I just scrawled “check out TiddlyWiki5” after opening the TiddlyWiki website for the first time in several years.)
And yet for notes, I’m a pen-and-paper guy. I’m an inveterate scrawler – a random quotation here, a new web service listed as “to-check” there; a column idea here, a potential blog post there.
“We are not talking here about the kind of notebook that is patently for public consumption,” said Joan Didion in her essay “On Keeping a Notebook (PDF link),” “a structural conceit for binding together a series of graceful pensees; we are talking about something private, about bits of the mind’s string too short to use, an indiscriminate and erratic assemblage with meaning only for its maker.”
Startup Weekend Cebu 3 will be held on June 7, 8 and 9 at the University of San Carlos Downtown Campus. It will be held as part of the Cebu Business Month 2013 celebrations.
To prepare for the event, organizers led by TechTalks.ph will be holding an “Introduction to Startup Weekend” event tomorrow at 6 p.m. in the CEDFIT office in Asiatown IT Park in Lahug. The venue is across the Aegis People Support Building, Cebu.
To register for the event, you can go to the TechTalks Meetup page.
From Lifehack.org: 10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day
Mobile messaging is a fragmented sector. Every few months or so, a messaging app for the phone launches. Unlike SMS, mobile messaging makes use of the Internet for connectivity and offers a multi-media environment with photos, sounds and even animated graphics and virtual stickers.
“K, CU” isn’t enough, we now have to include a graphical smiley, Emoji (an expanded smiley set), or even an animated avatar that reflects our moods. One-on-one texting is old school; group messaging is in.
It’s not surprising that mobile messaging, according to research company Informa, already exceeded texting in 2012. Informa, according to a BBC report, reported 19 billion messages sent per day through messaging apps in 2012, higher than the 17.6 billion text messages process daily.
Viber, iMessage, Kik, WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, Skype, Path (a photo app with messaging support), GroupMe and Facebook Messenger are some of the more known messaging apps available today.
You can now add Google Hangouts to that group.
Hangouts is Google’s unified messaging application that allows you to chat on your phone, tablet or computer and move among these devices seamlessly. With Hangouts, you can start a conversation on the computer and pick it up on the phone while on the go.
Google has long been rumored to be working on a messaging system and app. Last week, it finally announced the serviced that had been codenamed Babel, after the Babel fish translating creature in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Hangouts unifies GoogleTalk and the Google+ Messenger app.
I installed the app as soon as it was made available after Google I/O and immediately bombarded contacts with messages to try it out. I like the app. It’s quick to load and centralizes messaging I already do in the Google ecosystem.
Google Hangouts signup
I find it a good service that I finally signed up my main email for Google+ to be able to use it. Google requires you to sign up for a Google+ account to use it.
Its biggest feature, however, is still on its way – integration with text messaging. This is much like how iPhones and iPads handle messaging with iMessage, which is to send the message via the Internet when the recipient is online but through the regular GSM network as a text message when the receiver is offline.
When it finally does that, I think Hangouts will edge out all the other messaging apps.
Right now, however, Viber offers the best messaging and calling experience. It is available on iOS, Android and certain BlackBerry devices. Two weeks ago, Viber offered a desktop client for Windows and Mac that allowed users to send text messages and make calls. I tried the desktop client and the experience was really good, comparable to calling through Skype – with the added benefit that more people in my contacts are on Viber than they are on Skype.
But with the 900 million install base of Android, a Google product, I think Hangouts has the potential to become the biggest messaging app and service on the Internet. Only Facebook potentially stands in the way.
The post With Hangouts, Google muscles into messaging sector appeared first on Leon Kilat : The Tech Experiments.
One of the key features of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system that runs on newer devices like the Playbook, Z10 and Q10 is its ability to run some Android apps that have been converted into .bar files.
If you’re on a Mac, it used to be a bit more complicated to install Android apps and required that you type commands on the Terminal.
A Google Chrome extension, however, simplifies this task. Here’s a step-by-step instruction from BlackBerry portal CrackBerry.
To sideload using your Google Chrome browser, all you need to do is:
1) Install the Playbook App Manager available at the Google Chrome Store,
2) Put your BlackBerry on Development Mode by going to Settings > Security and Privacy > Development Mode
3) Connect to your device by entering its IP address in the Device Hostnames/IPS field (if you can’t connect using the IP address listed in the Development Mode screen, try connecting using the IP address indicated in Settings > About then choose Network in the Category field. You will get a “The site’s security certificate is not trusted” warning, click on Proceed anyway and
4) Install .bar files into the device either by dragging the files into the upper right corner of the browser or clicking on the Install App button.
What’s great about the system is that you no longer need to use the data cable, you can connect to your BlackBerry device via Wi-Fi. When I first used this, however, I still needed my cable because the configuration of our office Wi-Fi prevented me from connecting to the phone. At home, I had no such problem and I was able to install apps to the device from my laptop via Wi-Fi.
I just installed some Android apps that do not have BlackBerry versions available in the BlackBerry App World into my BlackBerry Z10 using a MacBook Pro. These include the news reading app Zite, Facebook Messenger (which I now use even for work-related messaging), AirDroid, Facebook Pages Manager, Google Maps, the multi-protocol messaging app imo and Flipboard.
All the apps worked after installation. I encountered “500 cannot determine Package-Id” errors a few times during installing .bar files and these were because the files were not completely downloaded. I was downloading at a time when the office Internet connection had issues. I fixed the error by re-downloading the .bar files.
All the apps I installed worked although Facebook Messenger needed a couple of restarts before I could log in. Flipboard installed and ran but I still could not get past the log in screen (it is my 5th attempt as I write this, it still won’t log in.) AirDroid worked but I could not view text messages and when I tried to send one, the dropdown screen did not list my contacts. Bummer.
The post Google Chrome simplifies sideloading of Android apps to BlackBerry Z10 appeared first on Leon Kilat : The Tech Experiments.
They were at a “really low point,” SpellDial founder Albert Padin said in our interview. After two years of chasing their startup dream to make the world dial names instead of numbers, Padin had to look for a job.
But weeks ago, SpellDial got a much-needed boost. It was picked by the Science & Technology Council as one of the 2012 ON3 pitching competition winners, along with Payroll Hero and NEXTIX, another Cebu start-up.
The teams will be brought to Silicon Valley for three months of immersion at the Plug and Play Tech Center, a business accelerator.
Like second wind
It’s like a “second wind,” Padin said during our interview with co-founder Nicole Macarasig. There’s still hope, we’re inspired to work again, Padin said.
The SpellDial team is among the first to emerge in Cebu’s start-up community. Padin said they started with a big team of 10 to 15 people looking to “change the world” by simplifying communications. At one point, they invaded the IT Park with a group of teenagers, friends of friends, asking businesses to sign up and then putting up SpellDial stickers. That was their “high point,” Padin recalled wistfully.
Everything unraveled with dreams of money and funding.
“We realized we could get funding,” he said. The group became excited. “We could get a million dollars for this. We forgot we were in the Philippines.”
“We saw people getting funding of one million dollars, five million dollars, idea stage 10 million dollars and we were like ‘oh we have a very nice idea, we could get at least a million dollars,” he said.
Instead of working on their app and getting more people to sign up, SpellDial wrote proposals.
“Instead of trying to change the world here we were writing proposals and executive summaries and we had no idea what these were. A pitch deck, pitch presentations,” he said. “We stopped working on our product and convincing people to use it to focus on building an awesome presentation to pitch to investors, to pitch in startup competitions.”
Padin said that changed the team dynamics and some members left because they were offended by the shift in focus to making money. “We were supposed to change the world and it’s now a job.”
Padin said the biggest lesson he learned in building a start-up in Cebu was to always understand context.
“Reading so many things online, it’s like I’m living in Silicon Valley, with the thought culture there and I forgot that I’m living in the Philippines and the culture here is different,” he said.
“For example, in Silicon Valley they say quit your job and work on your start-up and focus…I think that can apply in Silicon Valley because people who quit their jobs can live off something for the next five or six months and have enough money to do that,” he said, “But not all Filipinos have that kind of luxury to quit their job. If we quit our job now, we won’t have food tomorrow.”
Padin and Macarasig are leaving for Silicon Valley in June. Padin said he will focus on getting feedback on SpellDial and network with people during his stay there.
When orthopedic surgeon Dr. Rene Catan proposed to create a local and cheaper total joint implant, nobody listened.
“Way mutoo, way maminaw (nobody believed, nobody listened),” Catan said Friday while propping up the huge P500,000 mock check he got for being one of the 10 winners of IdeaSpace’s nationwide search for start-ups.
Catan and his teammates, epidemiologist Niño Ismael Pastor and engineer Vernie Reyes, were named winners for their entry Mirand (Metal Implants Research And Development Corp.) in the IdeaSpace nationwide finals last Friday at the First Pacific Leadership Academy in Antipolo City, Rizal.
Catan specializes in joint replacements and finds it frustrating that people who needed their knees replaced refused the procedure because of the cost. He said he had been grappling with the problem for close to 20 years. Many people, Catan said, became aware of the procedure when former president Joseph Estrada underwent it.
The prostheses have to be imported and can cost up to P150,000. He said some would rather take medications that can have dire side effects like eventual kidney failure rather ran have their joints replaced.
Catan said he and his team were able to make a cheaper prototype because labor costs here are lower, they outsourced its manufacturing and their design was simpler and had fewer parts although still offering “greater range of motion to allow squatting and kneeling without compromise in quality.” The cost savings can amount to an estimated 50 percent, he said.
They had a hard time, however, in reaching out to potential investors because nobody listened to them.
“One day my wife gave me a piece of paper, which she got from her friend. It was about IdeaSpace. She said ‘why don’t you fill this up? Why don’t you validate your idea?” Catan said.
He filed his IdeaSpace application and progressed through the process until eventually landing among 20 finalists out of 700 that submitted to the nationwide contest.
When the finalists were subjected to a Skype interview, Catan said he tried to ask IdeaSpace whether he could come over to their office instead because he did not know how to use the VOIP and video conferencing software.
When told that they had to do the interview over Skype to be fair to everyone, Catan said he had to seek his child’s help.
Never too late
When Catan, who is 54, and his team went up on stage last Friday to claim their award from IdeaSpace chairman Manuel Pangilinan, they were the most applauded from a start-up field young enough to be their children.
“It’s never too late when you’re an entrepreneur and you have ideas and you want these ideas to soar. It’s not about the age. It’s your dream that makes you young,” he said.
Catan, Pastor and Reyes, along with the nine other winning start-ups, got P500,000. They will also receive funding and incubation services worth up to P5 million each.
TimeFree is a system that manages the queuing of customers. It allows people to leave the queue and get an SMS notification when it’s close to their turn.
When it was a student project, the system included a piece of equipment where people dropped P5 and then entered their priority number, specified on which priority number they want to be alerted and then entered the phone number where they want alert text messages sent.
Joselle Macrohon, who thought about the project when she was still a student and saw long lines in Ateneo de Zamboanga’s finance office, said she couldn’t believe their achievement. Macrohon is now the group’s chief financial officer.
Teammate Philip Adrian Atilano, now the chief executive officer, said that “after so many failures, this is the best thing to have happened.”
“We had a lot of obstacles even in college, many said it wasn’t needed, it’s no good. We proved them wrong,” he said.
Atilano said they did away with the hardware that accepted P5 coins and turned the system into a software package that is easier to deploy. They’ve added an online scheduler that allows people to get a priority number even without going to the establishment.
Macrohon said they already have a deal with Smart to deploy the system in its wireless centers nationwide.
The other winners include Armtech from Angeles City, an affordable water purification machine for households; DateCola from Davao, a natural date-enriched beverage; PGRS from Metro Manila, a system that produces electricity via rumble strips on high traffic roads; PinoyTravel from Metro Manila, a bus seat reservation system that uses mobile technologies; PortfolioMNL from Metro Manila, an online marketplace for creative professionals; Prodigo from Manila, a solution for targeted promotions and analytics; Tech4Health from MetroManila, a solution for monitoring chronic health conditions including diabetes; and WeGen from Sorsogon, a new design of wind turbine that is more efficient than what is currently available.
IdeaSpace president Earl Martin Valencia said the 10 winners “embody what we need right now in the Philippines.
“We have a diversity of ideas from IT-based solutions all the way to the next big medical company. That’s what we want here,” he said.
The post IdeaSpace winners show why it’s never too late to chase your dreams appeared first on Leon Kilat : The Tech Experiments.
The headline screamed “install me now!” It was for yet another mobile messaging application and this time, one that promised, according to TechCrunch, “A Richer, Faster Messaging App That Quickly Grabs Doodles, Videos & Images.”
The article about MessageMe got me at: “It’s light, It’s fast and it isn’t just limited to texting or photos.”
I promptly opened the website and was invited to “experience the free messenger that everyone’s talking about.”
The app was quick to install and set up. After activating my account, it immediately scoured through my social networks to look for contacts already in the system. Of my 797 phone contacts, MessageMe was able to find only one who already signed up. One out of 797, imagine that. And that person signed up, I suspect, because he wrote about the service for a tech website. After a few days of checking whether other friends would sign up and seeing none, I uninstalled the app.
Mobile Internet messaging is currently among the most fragmented sectors in technology. There are probably as many messaging apps as there are groups of friends in your contacts database. It is the Balkanization of our social networks.
Multi-network IM apps
Among the first mobile Internet messaging applications I tried was Fring on the SonyEricsson P1i close to five years ago. The app offered multi-network instant messaging and voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) capabilities to Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. I used it extensively to chat on the go with GoogleTalk and Yahoo contacts.
When I moved to Android and later, iOS, I used various multi-network apps until I eventually settled into imo.im.
Apps like Fring and imo.im unify the Internet messaging experience. The new crop of mobile messaging apps break it apart.
Among my contacts, Viber is the most popular. It is a cross-platform messaging and calling service that had 175 million users as of February. It is the app I use to get in touch with old friends.
Then there’s WhatsApp, which, according to the Financial Times in 2011, “has done to SMS on mobile phones what Skype did to international calling on landlines.” I managed to chat with six people in the app but I basically used it in the past year to get in touch with one business contact, who has since stopped using it. WhatsApp indicates when a person last used the app so you’ll know whether you’re better off sending an email or text message.
Kik, on the other hand, offers a more responsive messaging experience, especially on lower-powered devices. I use it to send messages to my kids and two other people I collaborate with.
Another messaging app that generated quite a buzz is Line, which was reported to have 100 million users in January. Apart from calling and messaging, it allowed people to use virtual stickers. Even the photo-sharing social network Path got into the messaging act in its latest version.
There’s also ChatON by Samsung but I used it only for a couple of days when all I could find in the system was a newsroom colleague within earshot. Why chat when you can just talk?
The messaging experience in iMessage, on the other hand, is really good and seamless but it’s limited only to iOS devices. One hopes for a similar feature in Android or better yet, a cross-platform equivalent.
For group messaging, I tried GroupMe and managed to coordinate a couple of projects using it. Eventually, my contacts stopped using it and the app is unused and in danger of being uninstalled.
Earlier this year, however, I decided to just stop asking people to use whatever mobile app I fancied. SMS is so cheap and reliable there’s no urgent impetus to move to messaging applications.
I decided, instead, to take advantage of existing networks imo.im for IM chats and Facebook Messenger. Most people are on Facebook, anyway. With the fragmentation of the messaging space, Facebook might just become the default mobile communication app. It’s agreement with carriers all over the world for free or discounted airtime to use the app will help the social network cement that dominance.
The idea is broadly misunderstood, said Harvard professor Clayton Christensen. Disruptive innovation isn’t just about being new, different or radical.
Disruptive innovation is transforming “something that used to be complicated and expensive so that only the rich and people with a lot of skill had access to it and could use it” and making it “so much more affordable, simple and accessible that a whole new population of people has ready access to it.”
Christensen is the authority on disruptive innovation and wrote “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” a book that was said to have deeply influenced Steve Jobs, the epitome of a tech innovator.
Last year, Christensen, along with Nieman fellow David Skok and James Allworth collaborated on researching disruptive innovation in journalism. That paper became “Breaking News,” which you can download as an e-book.
A few days ago, Christensen and Skok discussed innovation and its impact on journalism in an event hosted by the Nieman Foundation.
Whatever it is you are doing now, stop and watch the video (you can find it in the NiemanLab website) or listen to its audio in one of my favorite podcasts. Although they discussed disruptive innovation in relation to journalism, the principles are industry-agnostic.
The video starts with Christensen differentiating sustaining innovation from disruptive innovation. He said majority of innovations are sustaining innovations, which involves making products and services better. He said industry leaders are good when it comes to sustaining innovation but could hardly get disrupting innovations.
He said understanding the concepts will help predict who will win in a battle of innovation. If it’s disruptive, “entrants will win.” Christensen said this is happening in journalism.
Skok said that in looking at the future, one should set aside profit statements as these are generally “snapshots of the past.” He said Christensen’s work tells you to “trust the theory” and not the balance sheet.
Companies shouldn’t be complacent when their balance sheets say they are still doing well because “it’s hard to see the cliff.” Christensen cited the case of Digital Equipment Corp., which went down the cliff in 1988, two years after hitting its peak in profitability.
“And a company that took three decades to build was gone in two years because you don’t see it,” he said.
Christensen also talked about another of his key frameworks: looking at things from the point of view of “jobs to be done.” He said understanding the customer is the “wrong unit of analysis,” what is important is understanding the job that needs to be done.
“I have all kinds of characteristics. But none of these characteristics or attributes have yet caused me to go out and buy the New York Times today,” he said. “There might be a correlation between particular characteristics and the propensity that I will buy the New York Times but they don’t cause me to buy it.”
“What causes us to buy something or hire it or rent it is stuff happens to us, all day. Jobs arise in our lives that we need to get done and we hire products or buy products and pull them in our lives to get the job done.”
He said it is important that people understand the job that needs to be done because it is very stable over time.
“If you keep focusing on the job, you weather ebbs and flows of technology as they come into your industry.”
Christensen said Apple, which had become an afterthought in the history of computing, became the company that it is because Steve Jobs “developed a sequence of products focused on the job to be done.”
He said the news industry still has ways “to create the next generation of distribution channel for your efforts. But you have to organize it around jobs to be done where you’ve got better ability to nail the job than your competitors.”
Skok said that “if you can see the disruption of your own business, chances are somebody else out there can see it too. And so you’re better off disrupting yourself.”
He said that Christensen’s research “is very clear on this. You have to incubate it outside of existing processes.”
He also said that in their operations, they are “patient for growth but impatient for profits.” He said they always try to maintain a margin of revenue neutral or profitability.
Skok said that if there’s something disruptive right now, it’s mobile. “The jobs that can be done better through mobile are immense,” he said.
“Change the color of the shirt,” the voice on the video said. Like magic, the shirt of the woman in the photo took on a bluish hue and, with a swipe on a slider, turned orange.
The video (embedded at the end of this post) is a demonstration of PixelTone, a prototype iPad app that allows users to edit images using voice commands and touch gestures.
The app was created by a team from the University of Michigan School of Information working with Adobe Research. That team is led by graduate student research assistant and masters student Gierad Laput, a Cebuano.
Studied in Cebu
Laput is from Barangay Guizo, Mandaue City. He went to Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion – Mandaue in elementary before attending Cebu City National Science High School. He studied engineering at the University of San Carlos for a year before moving to the United States in 2004.
Laput said the training he got from the schools in Cebu “really prepared me for the academic work and rigor in the US.” He got his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, where he is working on a masters degree. He will be pursuing a PhD in computer science this September.
Although he still hasn’t decided where to attend, Laput said he got full offers from 10 schools, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Washington, University of California Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University.
Platform for internal crowdsourcing in Ford
In his undergraduate study, Laput and a colleague submitted CrowdConnect, a platform for internal crowdsourcing, to the Ford IT Innovation Contest. It was voted as one of the top 10 entries out of more than 200 submissions.
“We received great feedback from top-level managers within the company, but unfortunately, I had to leave Ford to study for my masters, so I was not able to fully push through with idea,” he said.
For a research project in the summer of 2012, Laput and six research scientists collaborated on PixelTone. He was an intern with Adobe Research in San Francisco and was the only student on the team.
He said the idea was inspired by Siri, Instagram and Photoshop. In their paper “PixelTone: A Multimodal Interface for Image Editing,” the team said, “photo editing can be a challenging task, and it becomes even more difficult on the small, portable screens of mobile devices that are now frequently used to capture and edit images.”
“To address this problem we present PixelTone, a multimodal photo editing interface that combines speech and direct manipulation.”
Fusing Photoshop and Instagram
Laput said, “the idea was also inspired by folks like my dad and my sister, who have less experience or are sometimes intimidated by monolithic applications such as Photoshop. They often turn to tools like Instagram or Microsoft Paint for their photo editing needs.”
“In essence, we tried to answer the question: ‘how can we fuse the richness of Photoshop and the simplicity of Instagram?’ This question was the main motivation behind PixelTone.”
Laput said the app can understand spoken commands and users do not need to memorize phrases.
“For example, you can say ‘make the image spicy’ and PixelTone will try to interpret what ‘spicy’ means. It uses grammar technology to find a command that is a synonym to the an unknown word, in this case ‘spicy.’ In this particular example, it will increase the ‘warmth’ of the image since ‘spicy’ is related to ‘warm,’” he said.
He said that even if the user jumbles the words, the app will still try to understand the command. If PixelTone cannot understand the request, it will offer the user options and “has the potential to learn new commands that way.”
Voice interaction in the future
Laput said they showed the app to people inside Adobe, including product managers of Photoshop.
“Since the idea behind PixelTone is particularly new and potentially game-changing, Adobe will have to invest time to make sure the technology is ready for a wider audience,” he said.
While the current prototype will not be able to understand “ipa-gwapa (make her beautiful in Bisaya),” Laput said they are working on another idea that will allow users to teach PixelTone to understand words and phrases like “ipa-gwapa.”
Laput said voice interface will, in the future, become the main driver for interacting with computers.
“But the best experience is the one that gives users multiple options (i.e., voice with gestures, but not voice or gestures alone), since this brings greater flexibility in helping them accomplish their goals,” he said.
The post Cebuano student leads team behind voice-controlled photo editing app appeared first on Leon Kilat : The Tech Experiments.
TWO employees of the Visayan Electric Co. (Veco) cobbled together off-the-shelf parts to devise an equipment to test power meters for a fraction of the cost of imported gadgets.
Technician Niceporo Salvaleon, Jr. and meter engineer Alvin Basubas built the power meter tester for about P25,000 to do the job previously done by a machine that costs about P1.9 million.
Salvaleon and Basubas work in Veco’s Power Metering Department. Among their tasks is to check so-called instrument-rated meters, which are typically used by large consumers. The company regularly checks meters to see whether these are still functioning correctly and to guard against pilferage.
To check these meters, they needed power testers that cost about P1.9 million and took up to six months to order.
Lack of equipment limited deployment
Basubas said they only had a few units of these expensive testers and this limited their deployment. He said they had to borrow from sister companies like Davao Light.
The accessories of these units were also expensive and also took a long time to order, he said. When a peripheral like its testing clamps broke down, it took months to replace them.
Basubas said a supervisor suggested using a wooden popsicle and alligator clips with the equipment. He improved on this idea in the last quarter in 2011 by cutting a printed circuit board (PCB) into a popsicle shape, adding some electronics and using it with the equipment. It allowed them to use the equipment even when the testing clamp was broken.
Last November, Salvaleon suggested turning a digital power meter into a tester and using it with the accessory made by Basubas. A co-worker programmed the display to show the results of the tests that they needed.
After they were able to produce a prototype, they compared it with the imported equipment and found that the results were consistent.
Salvaleon said they next worked on producing a casing for the device. They first tried metal casing but found it too heavy. They tried requesting somebody to fabricate the body but got no response when they said that all they wanted were eight pieces.
Another co-worker told Salvaleon to check out a water-tight container sold at CD-R King. They found the container a perfect fit and because it had a foam bottom, it provided additional protection to the device.
A supervisor named the device Niceport, a play on Salvaleon’s name and one of the brands of the equipment.
They produced ten of the devices and deployed it to different teams in February.
Veco awarded the two for their innovation.
“I’m really proud that our team members here in Veco have been able to come up with an innovation that definitely makes us more effective in what we do. It’s very cost-effective yet maintains the operational standards that we were used to with the other equipment that we used to buy from outside,” said Veco chief operation officer Sebastian Lacson.
“The difference between the normal alternative to the homegrown alternative is so huge,” he said.
He said the innovation will be shared with Veco’s sister companies.
Lacson said there have been several internal innovations by Veco employees “but not to this degree where the benefit is so palpable. It’s because we know the budget is like this and now it costs like this. We know it takes five or six months and we are able to turn it around in, I guess, in a few days, if they put their mind to it.”
Among the innovations in the power company is a retractable hot stick that is central to its single-person response unit system.
Lacson said that during emergencies, they are now able to send a motorcycle unit first and if the person is able to deal with the problem, there is no longer need to send a team on a van.
Another internal innovation in the company is the use of a tracker to enable its command center to know in real time where all its emergency crew vehicles are.
“This was done internally by our engineering guys here in Veco. It has allowed us to increase the productivity in Veco and also improve our service to the customer. That’s the reason why our emergency crew response rate is really high compared to other utilities because we know where the crew is at all times. So for us to direct them somewhere it’s very easy,” Lacson said.
Lacson said that during a talent review held by the company yesterday, he suggested setting up an innovation group within the company.
“We have a lot of guys here who are tinkerers with their heads and with their hands. Sometimes they get caught up in what they are doing and they are not given the avenue or the runway to be innovative because they got this day-to-day thing,” he said.
Lacson said Veco will be putting up a group of “creative and innovative people together” to meet regularly and work on innovation.
He said the company wants to gather “creative and innovative guys who have that mentality to do things and to change paradigms and to give them office time to be able to let their ideas loose.”
Google Glass will be available to regular people starting this year for less than $1,500 or P61,000, various technology news websites reported the past few days.
Google Glass is an eyeglass computer that can take photos or videos or display information like weather data or your calendar items on a head-mounted display or take photos and videos. The device is controlled by voice – triggered by the phrase, “ok glass.”
When you say, “take a photo,” it takes a photo of whatever it is that you’re looking at. When you say “take a video,” it does that too. You can even livestream whatever you are seeing through the device and share it with friends.
You can also ask Glass to translate words and phrases for you. Its promotional video had one scene of a person eating on a boat in Thailand and then complementing a local in Thai that the food was delicious after asking Glass to translate it for him.
Google Glass is a research project by Google X Lab, a facility run by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. The lab also produced the Google driverless car.
What’s really exciting about Google Glass isn’t just that it can be used to record your life, what’s more exciting is its ability to augment it.
Data layer on real life
Think about the possibilities: what if upon leaving your house, the system could show you the things that you needed to do for the day and the hour’s top stories while also plotting your best route to the office, taking into account traffic conditions?
What if it shows you the Facebook or Twitter statuses or profiles of the people that you are looking at? Single, married, it’s complicated – what if Google Glass can put a social layer on real life?
What if while buying, the system could also assist you by providing price comparisons or even recipe suggestions?
What if it could alert you to take your medicine or scan what you eat to remind you of your diet?
What if the system could alert you of news stories based on what you see or where you are?
The scenarios above are close to being possible. It’s already being done on mobile, it’s just a matter of porting it to Glass.
I think Google Glass is a really exciting peek into the future of computing. We are in the midst of a disruptive transition to mobile but the move to wearable, as epitomized by the Google Glass, would even be more disruptive.
For content providers like the news media, wearable computing will present a new challenge and offer fresh opportunities to deliver information.
The Google Glass can be a device to navigate the so-called “Internet of things.”
I’ve long been experimenting with ways to put a layer of data on real life. My wife and I are using quick response (QR) codes to deliver tourism and heritage information in some spots here in Cebu and, soon, in Iloilo and Bohol.
Connecting digital to physical
Right now, QR codes are the best way to connect digital content to a physical trigger. The system does not consume bandwidth in finding the location of a digital resource because what it does is just decode a string of characters from the QR code, which is a type of barcode, and use it as input. It could either lead you to a website or trigger the download of bits of data. The next phase to this type of connectivity can be NFC or near field communication.
If you were to do that purely via augmented reality systems (AR) like Google Glass, you would need constant connection to a server to compare what you see with a database of images or GPS locations in order to find a matching content. GPS locations might be easier to implement via a system called “geo-fencing.” That’s what we are looking at next.
But with Google Glass and the next generation of connectivity like LTE, augmented reality will, I think, finally live up to its name and become reality.
A SYSTEM that allows homeowners to monitor and control lights and electrical appliances in their homes from anywhere via mobile technology won the 9th SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards last Thursday in Dusit Hotel in Makati City.
Colegio De San Juan Letran’s SMS.AWT: Switching and Monitoring System Using Android in Wireless Technology was picked the best among the 10 finalists that made it to the finals of the nationwide search for student applications with the theme “Technology in Nation-Building.”
The student team, led by 5th year computer engineering student Frances Marie Kagahastian, won P500,000 in cash and an equivalent amount in grants for the school. The team won an additional P50,000 for the Ericsson Networked Society Award.
Kagahastian, who said her dream was only to be featured in a tarpaulin banner in their school, said she was overwhelmed by the victory. It was the first time her school joined the contest.
She said she was so nervous during the presentation. She failed the first time she demonstrated turning on the lights via text message – with judges ribbing her by asking whether she was using a Globe line inside the Smart Telecommunications Inc. tower. It took her some time to figure out that her team failed to input the destination mobile number in her demo system. It worked in her next try.
Ready for deployment
Kagahastian said the system that they developed is ready for deployment and can be set up in a home for P30,000. She will meet with Smart officials again this week to figure out the next steps for her project.
Tarlac State University’s Smart H.E.A.D or Helmet Engineered for Accidents and Disasters was named 1st runner up. The team led by Ranier Rivera won P200,000 in cash and an equivalent amount in grants for the school. Their project involves a system with a helmet that facilitates rescue via reporting of location of an accident through global positioning system (GPS). Rivera said their project was inspired by a real life event: the death of a friend of their former mentor in a motorcycle accident at night in a remote location in their province.
De La Salle Lipa’s Systematic Market Application for Real-Time Trading was named 2nd runner up and won P150,000 in cash for the student team and an equivalent amount in grants for the school. The system allows people to buy groceries on their phone via an Android application. The buyer can then pick up the groceries later from the store or have it delivered. The app won an additional P100,000 as Best Mobile Application from the Smart Developers’ Network.
IdeaSpace Foundation handed a Best Business Case award and P100,000 to the University of Southeastern Philippines for Wordify, a phone application that processes images of words and translates these into various languages. According to the student team that created the prototype, the app does not need Internet connection to translate words. During the demo, they were able to translate “hello” into Korean, English and Chinese. The team said they are still working on expanding the database of words and phrases.
Organizers also announced an on-the-spot award from Voyager, Inc., a new Smart subsidiary that focuses on innovations outside the company’s core business. They gave P100,000 to the Ateneo de Manila University team behind Botika-On-The-Go, a mobile phone application that integrates medicine inventory, database on drugs information and drug stores directory with map integration.
IdeaSpace Foundation president Earl Valencia said the submissions by students show a shift toward mobile applications interacting with electronic systems. “I think more and more that’s where the world is coming to – that the phone is an enabler for a new experience.”
PLDT and Smart technology head Rolando Peña, who started the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program or Sweep, said the students have “elevated the level of the competition.”
“This is the first time that we see a lot of these mobile applications. And you can see that they can be useful to our everyday life,” he said in an interview after the awards.
Smart developer evangelist Paul Pajo said the student projects were of high quality and showed extensive integration between various systems. They were also “very practical,” he said.
What’s different about this year’s Sweep awards is the involvement of IdeaSpace, said Smart and PLDT public affairs head Ramon Isberto. It is “no longer just a competition in which you submit a school project to win prizes,” he said.
“There’s now a development path beyond the competition. The products or the innovations that are developed and submitted to Sweep actually now have a…clear path to become commercial products. And even possibly commercial products around which enterprises can be developed and built,” he said.
Starting this year, the students were required to present a business model for their projects.
Isberto said this impacts the way schools approach the contest, which traditionally had been an electronics and communications engineering field.
Closer to real life
“If the school wants to be holistic about it, you should be bringing in your business students to make inputs in the development of these kinds of innovation. I think when they do that, it would be a much more enriching and rewarding experience or effort on the part of the school. Integrating engineering, IT and business I think is an important step forward for many of these schools, bringing them closer to real life,” he said.
Valencia said Smart and IdeaSpace “want to show the world that these student projects don’t end. The ones that are so interesting we should continue.”
IdeaSpace is incubating three previous Smart Sweep submissions: a Braille cell phone and obstacle detector, a system that allows one to leave a queue and be alerted via SMS when its near your turn in line and a platform for runners and race organizers that started from a project to allow people to donate to charities and relief efforts. Each of team gets P500,000 and undergoes an incubation program meant to set them up as a business.
In his speech, Smart and PLDT chairman Manuel Pangilinan pushed for stronger focus on science and technology. He said the country’s lack of scientists is a challenge and an opportunity for the student engineers.
“I hope you do better than my generation in pursuing careers in engineering, science and technology,” Pangilinan said, “You have a brain, so use it. You have a heart be bold, be brave and take risks. I think you can afford to make mistakes because you’re still young. The opportunities are here before you, via Sweep. Build a bright future for yourselves and for our country. Now is your time.”
LibreOffice released version 4.0 of its office productivity suite a few days ago and early reviews and feedback point to a solid release.
LibreOffice is the free and open source equivalent to Microsoft Office. Unlike Microsoft Office, which costs as much as P10,995 for a single license under the Home and Small Business edition, LibreOffice is free.
It is, as advocates are wont to say, free as in beer and free as in speech, meaning it costs nothing and does not come with license restrictions.
The LibreOffice suite of applications includes Writer (for word processing, the equivalent of Word), Impress (for presentations, think PowerPoint), Calc (a spreadsheet program similar to Excel), Math (a program for dealing with mathematical formulas and causing nose bleed), Draw (a drawing and diagramming tool similar to Visio), and Base (a database program similar to Microsoft Access).
Developers say the release is “leaner and faster.” It does seem leaner, with the installer just 183mb compared to previous versions that exceeded 200mb. In the two days that I’ve been using it on Windows XP and Mac OSX, it seems a bit more responsive. I still have to test it, however, on my main desktop, which runs Ubuntu Linux.
The new version, according to various reports, contain 10,000 changes in code by more than 500 contributors.
Among the major changes that come with the recent release is compatibility with content management systems (CMS) like Microsoft Sharepoint, Alfresco and Nuxeo using the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) open standard. According to an IDG News Service report, the new version of LibreOffice will allow you to “check documents in and out” of enterprise content mangement (ECM) systems from the application itself.
Another key improvement is better interoperability with documents that come in DOCX and RTF formats.
The new LibreOffice version also allows you to customize its interface using Firefox Personas, which are themes you can use to change the look of your browser. With the new feature, you can change the visual appearance of LibreOffice by choosing a design at http://getpersonas.com, copying the design’s web address and setting the office suite to use it in Tools > Option > Appearance > Personalization.
Presentation remote control via Android app
Another exciting addition to the suite is the addition of a presentation remote control app for Android. With the LibreOffice Impress Remote, you can use your Android phone to control your slideshow presentation via Bluetooth. You can view slide previews and speaker notes on your phone. The feature, however, currently only works in Linux but developers said other platforms will be included in upcoming versions.
I’ve been using the software and its various incarnations for close to 13 years now – from StarOffice to OpenOffice to LibreOffice and the software suite has really gone a long way to become a serious competitor to Microsoft Office. When I first used it, many people I know derided the software as a poor copy of Office that had no future.
But open source development fueled continuous improvements. LibreOffice is released under an open source license, a license that allows its users to run it anyway they want, share the program, see how it works (meaning source code is available) and improve it.
Today, I can’t think of a reason to use Microsoft Office. I’ve been told that there are some esoteric accounting functions you could only do with Excel and not with Calc but I never got around to having someone point this out for me.
My go-to office suite is still Google Drive. It fits my need for word processing and some spreadsheets work and has the advantage of being always “there” out in the cloud just as long as you have Internet connection. You don’t have to worry which drive you saved the file in, it’s just “there” in the digital ether.
But for working offline, LibreOffice is my go-to office application. It more than fits my need as a blogger, start-up co-founder and journalist. I don’t see why one has to pay thousands of pesos or be kept up at night by the guilt of piracy (or not) for using Microsoft Office.
The post Stop paying for (or pirating) Microsoft Office, get LibreOffice appeared first on Leon Kilat : The Tech Experiments.
This year’s Sinulog is more interactive. Banners carried by contingents now contain QR or quick response codes that, when scanned with a phone or tablet, triggers the download of information about the contingent.
The article that is loaded by the system is connected to Facebook, allowing people to “Like” performances right on the spot.
We thought about QR coding the contingents because we’ve been covering the Sinulog for years and we’d often hear people on the streets asking about the contingents that they see in front of them.
If you watch Sinulog performances on the grandstand in the Cebu City Sports Center, you’d have the benefit of the emcee providing you background information about the contingents.
Out on the street, however, you’re on your own.
But this year, you can use your phone to scan QR codes found on the contingents’ banners to download information about them. You can also like the group’s performance on Facebook or leave a comment using your Facebook account.
To do this, you need to be connected to the Internet and you’d need a QR code scanner, which you can download for free in your phone’s application market. Scan.me offers QR code scanners for different phone platforms.
We piloted it in yesterday’s Sinulog Sa Kabataan – Lalawigan and we will again deploy the system in today’s Sinulog Sa Kabataan – Dakbayan. We are also working to implement the system during the Grand Parade on January20.
I tried it yesterday and I was able to download information about the different contingents just by phone scanning. You may need, however, to go closer to the banner in order to scan the code (depending on the quality of your device’s camera).
The QR code scanning of Sinulog contingents is part of a project on digital tourism undertaken by InnoPub Media and Smart Communications, Inc. The project involves the putting up of QR code markers in certain tourism and heritage sites as well as the production of electronic guidebooks.
For the Sinulog, we recently made available “A Guide to Sinulog 2013,” which you can download to your phone, tablet or e-reader.
To download the guide, pick the appropriate format for your device below:
2) MOBI .mobi format for the Kindle.
The anthology, “Skina Balak,” will be launched tonight in Persimmon in Mabolo, Cebu City in time with the opening of Tahas art exhibit.
Skina Balak can be downloaded to your smartphone, tabler or e-reader from sites like MyCebu.ph. I also included the download link below.
The e-book can also be downloaded via phone scanning of QR or quick response codes printed on posters, desktop standees and other materials.
The anthology includes poetry by Adonis Durado, Anthony Kintanar, Cindy Velasquez, Delora Sales-Simbajon, Ernesto Lariosa, Gerard Pareja, Greg Fernandez, Ioannes Arong, Januar Yap, Jeremiah Bondoc, John Biton, Jona Bering, Josua Cabrera, Karla Quimsing, Michael Obenieta, Nancy Noel-Nacua, Noel Rama, Noel Villaflor, Pantaleon Auman, Radel Paredes, Rolando Morallo, Romeo Nicolas Bonsocan, Temistokles Adlawan, Vicente Bandillo and Vince Cinches.
The e-book also contains tuba on paper art paintings by Josua Cabrera.
Note: Depending on your connection, downloading may take some time. You can check the address bar of your phone to monitor the progress of the download.
To download th e-book, choose the appropriate file format for your device below.
If you’re having a hard time downloading the files, you can leave your e-mail address by using this form (click here) and we will send you the e-book. It may take some time, however, for us to e-mail you the file.
ON Christmas Eve, I cobbled together a network-attached storage (NAS) at home to enable everyone in our house to have a shared directory for school, work and personal files. This shared directory is also accessible from outside the house – like a rudimentary personal “cloud” for our family.
It wasn’t complicated — you can go to my blog for the article on the process — because the setup was a matter of connecting an old portable USB drive to a cheap CD-R King wireless router and setting things up using a visual interface.
The magic sauce in the setup is the Tomato firmware that runs on the router. Tomato is a Linux-based router firmware that allows you to manage your device on such things as filtering and setting quality of service rules for certain types of connections so that people browsing websites don’t experience crawling connection when someone downloads using a torrent.
The Tomato firmware that comes with the CD-R King router that I use, a CW-5356U model, simplifies the setting up of a NAS by allowing you to plug a portable drive into the router’s USB port. You can set the system to auto-mount any drive that you plug into it and make it shareable in your network. You can also designate a password for your shared drive so that not everyone who connects to your Wi-Fi can access it.
The system also assists you in setting up an FTP (file transfer protocol) server that will allow you to access that drive outside of your network. You can, with the setup, access your home files from the office or even on the go.
Promise of open source
What’s even more fun is that you can view movies stored on your portable drive over your iPhone or iPad.
The router also has a facility that will allow you to connect a printer to its USB port to turn it into a network printer. It also allows you to set up complex rules that can, for example, bar your children from accessing Facebook during class days but allow you to continue using the social network.
For just P1,280, the wireless router trumps the features of branded and more expensive models.
I think the CD-R King router illustrates the promise of open source software.
Tomato firmware is open source, meaning it is released under a license that encourages sharing the software and collaborating to make it better. Any wireless router manufacturer can use the Tomato firmware for its product. By using Tomato, the manufacturer no longer has to spend to develop and maintain its own firmware. Instead, it can just concentrate on the manufacturing side of the business.
By using Tomato, CD-R King is able to manufacture a router that’s really top-class for such a low price.
But if there’s an open source project that’s really making such a huge impact, it’s Android. There are phones in the market today that are powerful and advanced and yet cost less than P10,000. Cherry Mobile’s Flare, for example, costs just P3,999 but comes with formidable specs: Android ICS, 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor, five-megapixel camera and dual-SIM capability. It was such a hot item during the holidays that stocks were wiped out.
(I wrote this for an article on digital to-do lists for the Sun.Star Cebu Weekend)
My phone flashed the reminders because it detected, through global positioning system (GPS), that I was home.
Beyond calling, today’s phones have become our main computer. For many people, it already is the main device to read or send e-mails. Increasingly, it is how people access social networks like Facebook.
If there’s one task phones are really good at, it’s keeping to-do lists. Even before smartphones, people were already keeping to-do lists via the SMS editor, alarm system, calendar feature or the rudimentary notes facility built into some phones to keep track of tasks.
Productivity apps are a dime an unli-SMS bucket today and you’d have a hard, albeit fun, time figuring out which app works best for you.
What makes the task of choosing an app even harder is the tight competition for features and users, with developers releasing updates every few months or so in a frenzied apps race where users, millions of users, are the top prize.
I’ve gone through the gamut of the top productivity and to-do list apps. My failure to stick with one isn’t as much as being fickle as making sure that I’m using the best app currently in the market, or so that’s how I justify it to myself. And I also need to constantly try out applications for my blog and technology column.
My current trifecta to handle tasks consists of a small notebook (of the paper kind) and the apps Checkmark and Podio. I use Checkmark for location-based reminders and Podio for project management and collaboration. But ask me again a few months from now and I’d likely name different apps – only the paper notebook is constant.
Here are some apps that I’ve tried in using apps and digital tools to keep track of tasks in the past couple of years.
The app allows you to set reminders by locations. The technical term for this is “geofencing.” The app is still exclusive for the iPhone and costs $4.99 but I got mine for free when the developer held an “end of the world sale” last Dec. 12. Thank heavens for Mayans, if only because I got the app for free.
Getting location-based reminders is already part of the feature of the iPhone’s built-in Reminders app but Checkmark simplifies the process.
Checkmark is beautifully designed and easy to use. Adding locations is just a matter of zooming into a map, dropping a pin and deciding on the radius. The app also allows users to designate recurring reminders.
I find the app so useful that I actually turn on my phone’s GPS, which eats up power and allows systems to keep track of your movements, so that I could use it.
For project management and collaboration, nothing available for free today beats the features of Podio, a project management service with premium paid plans.
Podio is a very useful app for companies or groups. It offers the usual task management and tracking and the accompanying bells and whistles for collaboration but excels in one thing—it allows you to add functionalities via free apps you can download from the Podio app market or build on your own using a visual drag-and-drop editor.
Podio has good apps both for iOS and Android that you can also customize.
Before I got Checkmark for free, Any.DO was my to-do list of choice. It works on iOS, Android and the Web and keeps everything in constant sync.
Any.DO segregates your tasks by deadlines – Today, Tomorrow, Upcoming and Someday. The app is great-looking, responsive and easy to use. In Android, the app has the added functionality of listing your tasks in a homescreen widget, allowing you a quick look of pending duties.
The Chrome app also makes it easier to enter tasks or manage existing ones.
Any.DO recently added location-based reminders on the iPhone but it isn’t as polished as Checkmark. That will change, I think, in the coming months and when it does, I’ll swap apps in an instant.
Astrid is a robust productivity tool with collaboration capabilities. It is a Web-based service with apps for iOS and Android and Google Chrome.
Astrid was picked the most popular to-do list manager last July in the Hive Five of Lifehacker, the favorite portal of geeks and productivity nerds.
I used Astrid for some time last year and the mobile app was fast. The only reason I left it for Any.DO was because the latter’s widgets on Android were better. To get bigger Astrid widgets on Android, you need to buy its premium pack.