I think it’s quite insane that my whole Apple account only has one password. I need the same password for a whole range of actions. I need to type it to ‘buy’ a free app, which has almost no consequences; I can always remove it. But with the same password I can also remotely erase my iPhone, iPad an Mac. So I have no choice but making it a long, complex, strong password. Which stops me from getting free apps, as it’s a hassle to type on my iPhone.
Apple should really have two passwords: A simple 4 digit PIN for free apps (or, up to a threshold: Let’s say I could enable my PIN for apps up to $5). And you could then use your “real” password for features that need more security, such as find/erase my device, buy a $999 app, and so on.
The last year I haven’t blogged much (or at all) here. Mostly, because I have been really busy: I founded a new startup: Skylines.
With it we are organizing the world’s real-time photos: We index over 5 million pictures every day, and make them searchable on people, subjects and locations. This is a big technical challenge (we run over 40 servers for this). So, if you want to see what we do, head over to skylines, or see our widget below, showing real-time boating pictures:
I have been a (mostly happy) customer of Telfort for the last few years. The provided phone (and 3G) access over the (good) KPN network, I paid their bills; everybody happy. Over the last few years I have paid them well over €7.000.
Until last week.
I woke up to a text I missed a payment, and they disconnected me. I looked into my bank statements, and it seemed they (automatic) bill for oktober failed. The bill for November did work. I immediately made the payment I missed, and give them a call. There they explained that getting reconnected will take 5 days. 5 Days?!
Why couldn’t they warn me by SMS there was an open bill? They did send me one when I was disconnected. Why no last warning a day before? (yes, they did send me a letter, which I must have missed).
Why didn’t they retry their automatic bill? Their next bill worked, they could have just added the outstanding amount to it.
Why, in this realtime age, does it take 5 days to look up a bank statement and reconnect a phone? Isn’t this an ongoing process?
Why don’t they do any risk calculation? I understand from their perspective providing service to non-paying customers is expensive. But I’m not a new pre-paid account: I have paid them well over €7K over the years, and never not paid a penny. It’s not like I’m a high-risk customer: They should have made that calculation, and understood I would pay.
Don’t they do automatic cost/benefit analysis? On average I pay them €5/day, so they have about €25 in missed income. Also, I have been talking to their call-center about this, which must have high costs on their eind. All in all their direct costs will be at least € 50,-. And since I’m planning to look for another telco, their indirect costs will be a lot higher.
I keep on thinking this is stupid from both a short-time financial perspective (today I’m costing them direct money, instead of making them any), and a long time perspective: I’m losing my interest in them, and wouldn’t advocate them to my friends.
The most frustrating thing is this whole mess could have been prevented with one text message (or call). Something like “You have missed a payment, if you don’t pay in the next 2 days, you will be disconnected”.
Besides the OneFrameOfFame Lowlands edtion, I did a second Lowlands project. For the VPRO I made the map for the Film It Yourself project. Visitors to the festival could use the FIY iPhone app to film a concert. These movies are uploaded to the server, together with their metadata (location, heading, exact timestamp etc).
All movies are shown in a map. It features a slider, which visitors can use to select a timeframe they want to see video’s of. The movies are shown as icons, indicating the direction they are shot in, and as thumbnails next to the map.
The system is compatible with all modern browsers. iPhone, iPad and recent Android versions are also supported, as these are served a HTML5 video, and the maps are all built using the new version 3 of the Google maps API. And all items have their own unique URL, making sharing the video’s easier. Since the Lowlands terrain is a field with cows for most of the year, we also added an overlay, showing the stages of the festival. It also features a dynamic legend under the slider, showing how many video’s are shot at a time. All this is rendered client-side.
For a project I’m working on, we need to generate thumnails from video files. While there are many tutorials for generating multiple thumbnails at different timestamps, we need to generate multiple, different resolution, thumbnails at the same timestamp. Using a post-processing tool here was not convenient.
Fortunately, its possible with just 1 ffmpeg command: you can have it use multiple output file names, each with their own parameters: ffmpeg -i inputfile.flv -vframes 1 -ss 1 -s 320x240 -f image2 thumb1.jpg -s 160x100 -f image2 thumb2.jpg
-i is input file
-vframes 1 stop after 1 frame
-ss is skip time (where to take the thumb)
-s is size of the image
-f is format. image2 works.
thumb1.jpg and thumb2.jpg are the filenames
Just a quick heads up if anybody is looking for the same
After the online success of OneFrameOfFame, we decided to take the concept offline. We built a photobooth, and invited the 55.000 visitors of the festival to mimic one frame. Every fifteen minutes we rendered a new clip with the latest additions.
Since Internet access was unreliable at the festival, all software was modified to run offline. We used the same stack (Apache, PHP, MySQL, FFMpeg) as the online version, but it all ran on 2 mac mini’s in our booth. The interface was modified to run on one big red button. Since we couldn’t use Crowdflower for the moderation (as that runs online), I built a local moderation interface which runs on iPhones and iPads.
In the end it was a great success: We needed 1400 pictures, and collected over 2200 in just 3 days. The resulting video can be seen above, and has a complete different feel from the webversion which has changing backgrounds.
Today, while looking into the new Google Maps Docs, I ran across the Styled Maps. They are quite powerful! While Cloudmade offers a similar service for a while, I didn’t expect Google to offer this, and for free.
A bit of technical background: these mapping services work by splitting the world into tiles. The whole world takes millions of tiles (depending on zoom level), and thus hundreds of gigabytes to render and store. While rendering and storing the world once isn’t that much effort for Google, rendering it in as many styles as it’s customers come up with does take quite a bit of processing power (For more background on the subject: See my Thesis on LBS)
While I have run a tile render server in the past, this was always an expensive, and not that scalable operation. So I’m suprised (but happy!) that Google now offers this to the world, for free! In just a few minutes, I was able to create the demo Waterworld shown above.
Last week VGZ op Reis went live. It’s a mobile application for people on vacation, build by me.
It’s the first application I’ve worked on that simultaneously is released on iPhone and Android. Below you can find a (dutch) screencast which explains the functions of the application. It features several phone numbers that can be usefull on vacation, you can save your own phone numbers to it, you can share your location by email, and the iPhone version also allows you to create your own iPhone Wallpaper.
The design of the application was done by the brilliant guys at BUROPONY.
It’s always cool to work on new mobile platforms. And since I’m a big believer of HTML as a future cross-platform development environment, the Vodafone widget platform shows a nice promise. I had done some experiments with the platform, but now the first widget went live.
Together with The Saints I developed a widget for Sensation for the Vodafone platform. It shows the latest video’s from Sensation’s Youtube channel. It also shows the news around their world-wide events, and the latest tweets from the official Sensation channel.
Since most of the content of Sensation is on public platforms (Youtube, Twitter), which all have an API, the widget could be developped fairly easy without further technical support by the organisation.
I regularly work at the NOS, the Dutch Public News broadcasters. Today the iGoogle widget I built for them went live. It shows the latest video’s from the website, in your own iGoogle page, or other iGoogle widget or Opensocial container. The video’s can directly be watched in the widget itself.