November 13, 2013
by retsoced
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Prototyping in the world of wearable tech

Oculus VRI’ve been designing and developing for the web for a long time now, and lately with this seemingly large uptick in interest in the Internet of Things and the growing array of wearable technology streaming into the market, the previous tools used for prototyping don’t necessarily apply to the real world in physical applications. With some limited success you could prototype an interface for Google Glass without actually having the device, but without being to install your work on the real deal, it’s going to be imperfect at best. The same idea applies to the various kinds of fitness trackers and smart watches out there too. While the Samsung Galaxy Gear has an AMOLED screen, the Nike Fuel Band uses LEDs. So how do you prototype interfaces and interactions with these devices?

Oculus Rift VR goggles could provide an interesting method for prototyping field of view interactions such as a competitive technology to the Recon Instruments Glasses or Oakley’s Airwave goggles. Through the creative use of masking on streamed video you could overlay graphics from a predetermined source with other information. If purchasing the development kit isn’t your speed, then you could stream video into an HTML5 video object and overlay a couple of masks to create the shape of the goggles, and then use CSS to create the graphics of the display which is overlay on top of the masked video. Like this example here, you can quickly add elements to the overlay to simulate how the user could receive data inputs from the optics. You could also process the video and add some of the overlay intelligence through After Effects depending on the desired results.

Of course this is just one example, and only refer to glasses and/or goggles. So what if I’m working on a watch of some sort, or a piece of clothing? This is where I would turn to the maker community and start looking at Arduino and the myriad of shields and add-ons that you can use to add WiFi to your board, or a bank of LEDs or control various strands of EL wire. Here’s an example of building a Bluetooth Arduino based wristwatch, as well as a dress with a programmable EL wire controlled by Arduino and Lilypad. Lilypad is versatile and small, making it an excellent choice for playing with clothing, plus, it’s not outrageously expensive. There’s also Raspberry Pi to think about, Matt Richardson worked out this bike light/speedometer using Raspberry Pi.

With the influx of Javascript and CSS frameworks available, you can rapidly prototype and iterate many web, mobile and hybrid interfaces for virtually any device out there that’s running a common mobile OS, but getting these prototypes small enough on the hardware size is another task altogether. With all of the activity around the Makerverse now, it’s becoming easier to find smaller parts and easier ways to get them to play nice with a hardware controller that you can program for. You can even run JavaScript on these controller boards like the Espruino.

Maybe that will be the next big Kickstarter project – a wearable platform prototyping kit, like the Arduino starter kit for wearables.

October 30, 2013
by retsoced
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Easy Android side-loading using OS X & Terminal

If you’ve been looking for a super easy way to side load your app on to your Android device, or multiple devices for testing or just for fun – well hold on to your butts – this is super easy on a Mac.

Android security settings screen

Open a terminal window and go to the platform-tools folder within the Android SDK folder (you can get the latest SDK version from Google), or, open your Android SDK folder, in my case it’s named android-sdk-macosx, then drag the platform-tools folder to the terminal icon and it will automatically open the terminal to that folder (I love this trick, it makes things so much easier than typing in the folder path).

We’ll be using the Android Debug Bridge to install the apk file to the device. You can also use the adp tool to install an apk to an emulated device as well, but I needed it on an actual phone.

First, make sure that your security settings allow you to install apps from sources other than Google Play. If you don’t do this part, you’ll get stuck with a warning.

As long as you have the Android SDK, you’ll be able to get access to ADB. Pop a terminal window, and type:

./adb install ~/Downloads/PROTOAPP-debug.apk

After ./adb install make sure to enter the location of the APK you want to install, then Bob’s your uncle.

If you run into issues with adb not being a valid command, you’ll need to add it to your path, for which you can use:

echo 'export PATH=$PATH:/Users/[yourusername]/android-sdks/platform-tools/' >> ~/.bash_profile

November 14, 2012
by retsoced
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Featured posts on your WordPress category pages

While working on a new WordPress theme for my day job, I needed to have the ability to add featured posts to the category pages. WordPress makes things easy with adding custom fields to posts. By adding the field “featured” with a value of “true” to for the post you want to feature, makes it easy to target that post when it comes time to edit your category page template.

This first part looks for the custom field with a true value:

    // this loop is specifically for the Featured Article of a specific category
    // it looks for the 'featured' meta value of 'true', and only in the currently displayed category
    if (is_category( )) {
        // this grabs the current category slug
        $cat = get_query_var('cat');
        $yourcat = get_category ($cat);
        // echo 'the slug is '. $yourcat->slug;
    }

    // this is the query to sort the featured meta_key only with the CURRENT CATEGORY by slug
    $args = 'meta_key=featured&meta_value=true&category_name='.$yourcat
    >slug.'&category_title='.single_cat_title( '', false );
    query_posts( $args );

I left a few of my comments in there from where I was just spitting things out on the screen while I was working out the kinks, like the last line in the top if loop. By adding the meta_key argument to the first post query, and the meta_value you art sorting for that post marked as featured.

The second part below, is the loop for the above query that actually spits out the featured article. It only shows 1 entry too, so if you forget to remove the featured value from a previous post, it won’t show them all. Additionally, if there are no posts marked as featured, none of the code from the “featured” block will display, so you can style it any way you want, and not worry about any remnants displaying and messing up the rest of the page if no posts are featured.

// The Loop
if (have_posts()) : $count = 0;
    while (have_posts()) : the_post(); $count <= 1; $count++;
        $featured_post_id = get_the_ID();
        echo '<section id="featured-area">';
        echo '<div class="featured-title">Featured Article</div>'; ?>
        <article id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>" class="featured-entry">
             <header>
                <h1 class="entry-title"><a href="<?php echo get_permalink(); ?>" title="<?php the_title(); ?>" onclick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'promo', '<?php the_title(); ?>', 'click']);"><?php the_title(); ?></a></h1>
            </header>            
            <div class="entry-content">
         <?php the_content('Read more'); ?>
      </div><!-- .entry-content -->
    </article><!-- #post-## -->
  </section>
 <?php endwhile; ?>
 <?php endif; ?>                        
<?php wp_reset_query(); ?>

The last thing I did was reset the query in preparation for the Loop to run to display the remaining posts in this category.

The only other bit I added for the remaining articles Loop is this:

// this is the query to sort the featured meta_key only with with the CURRENT CATEGORY by slug
$args = 'category_name='.$yourcat->slug.'&category_title='.single_cat_title( '', false );
query_posts( $args );

This takes the featured post out of the list of all of the other posts in the category, so it’s only listed once.

May 3, 2012
by retsoced
1 Comment

Facebook ups the ante on organ donor awareness

A couple of days ago, Facebook gave its base of 950 million users the ability to indicate that they are an organ donor. This, by itself could be fairly unremarkable, like many of the other features of the social network. What sets this apart then? The built-in ability for people to easily register as an official organ donor. Working with Donate Life, they provide a link to Donate Life’s Facebook app to select your region and then go out to Donate Life’s website and actually register. As the recipient of a liver transplant, this is big news, and I am grateful for anything that companies and people do to save a life – especially on the magnitude that Facebook just took on.

Unlike most of the silly “post this ….” awareness wall spam that circulate endlessly, this will actually do some good. Even If the national increase in donors is one half of one percent, that is still a job well done and lives will be saved. In fact, some 100,000 Facebookians signed up on the site on Tuesday alone, and according to David Fleming, chief executive of Donate Life America, this “dwarfs any past organ donation initiative.”

This simple thing that Mark and his crew have done raises awareness for the need for organ donors. In an interview Zuckerberg said he thought of it when his friend Steve jobs had his liver transplant. What’s really commendable here is that he could have done any number of things.  Zuck’s a rich dude, he could have donated money and registered himself and been done with it. Nope. He decided to out the idea in front of the worlds largest online community and take steps to turn a website, in this instance Facebook, from one of the worlds largest time sucks into a platform to help people.

This doesn’t make Facebook a system of record for people to be listed as a viable donor, you will still have to actually register and not pull a classic jersey shore move by only wearing the wrist band, but it’s about raising awareness – and he certainly did that.

Good on you Mark….

November 11, 2011
by retsoced
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Veteran’s Day

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations”

The original intent for the day was for everyone in America to take time and celebrate the end of the war, individuals and business alike starting at 11:00 am. As things do, they shift focus; become more or less important to different generations as the memory of things wax and wane. This is one of those things. We reserve our parades for Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July – you know, the big ones.

To me, today is a day of consideration, a day to reflect on the sacrifices made by everyone in the military, and their families. It’s more than that though. I am reminded of just how fickle our country is in how they honor and remember their own military. How support ebbs and flows like the tide, and how easy it is to point fingers and forget the cost of being in service for your country. Honestly, I think we have today backwards.

Veteran’s Day should be a day for our military to give thanks back to the people who have supported them without reservation over the years. We should be saying thank you for covering our six when we were off doing what needed to be done. That’s not the case; but it should be.

As a Marine I say thank you. Thank you to all of my brothers and sisters serving now, those who put themselves in harms way, and those who support these units. Thank you to those who are not in service, yet support the military, both abroad and at home.

Happy Veteran’s Day – now, go hug a Vet!

source – Veteran’s Day History