Tuesday, December 2, 2014

VideoPlayer Plugin Updated for Cordova/PhoneGap 3.x and Above

Happily, I'm getting the chance to go back and visit some of my older plugins. I've just updated the VideoPlayer plugin so you can install it via the command line tools. To install via the command line just do:

cordova plugin add https://github.com/macdonst/VideoPlayer

For more information on how the plugin works check out my old post on the topic.

Monday, November 17, 2014

My Speech Rec Presentation at InfoQ NY

The slides and video for my speech recognition presentation are up now at the InfoQ site. Feel free to watch it and laugh at my demo fail.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull is a book that I enjoyed because it does a pretty good job of giving you the back story on how the company Pixar came to be. Pixar is the fascinating company that has given us wonderful movies like Toy Story, Up and Wall-E. It is really interesting to hear how they overcame various challenges over their lifetime.

Where it doesn't work for me is a business book. Most of what Mr. Catmull tries to import as knowledge seems like rehashed platitudes to me. He even makes allusion to this in the book. What's even worse is a lot of his people first approach in this book rings false as he's been implicated as a central figure in a wage fixing scandal.

So I'd rate this book as a solid borrow for those of us who want to learn more about how movies are made at Pixar.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor by Bruce Campbell. Look I love Bruce Campbell, probably more than the next guy, I mean he's been making movies and TV shows since the early 80's so there is something there for everyone to love. But read a memoir of a B movie actor, seems sketchy.

It isn't, it is every bit as hilarious and charming as Bruce Campbell. It is an amazing look at his life starting with him making independent films as a teenager, meeting his friend and frequent collaborator Sam Rami and all the way up to his rise to somewhat stardom.

This is a really funny book and a very cautionary tale of what it takes to get into the movie business. Highly recommended.
Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko is the first book in a 5 book series of this translated from Russian urban fantasy series. In this world all of the magical beings and creatures we read stories about are real but they are hidden from regular humans. The magical beings or "Others" as they are called are split into two factions, predictably, light and dark.

There are two groups, The Day Watch who police the light others and The Night Watch, which this book focuses on, who police the dark others. The two groups are in a bit of a stalemate. You see if a light magician does some great good then it gives a dark magician the license to do great evil.

This books is split into three stories where we follow Anton Gorodetsky, a light magician and member of The Night Watch. Anton is a member of the technical staff but due to events out of his control he has to step up and assume more responsibility. Throughout the novel we see Anton struggling with the differences between good and evil.

I enjoyed this book and I'm interested in reading the next novel, The Day Watch, to see the story for the opposite viewpoint.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

London Falling by Paul Cornell is an urban fantasy novel featuring a good old fashion witch but I'm getting ahead of myself. In London four police officers are closing in on a mobster. During the course of their investigation they bump up against the supernatural. Now they are all cursed with the ability to see the shadowy underbelly of London. This brings them into conflict with a real witch. This particular witch loves one of London's football teams and is part of the legend where any opponent who scores 3 goals against her beloved team will die.

This is a really entertaining book. I love the idea of a police force that protects us from the supernatural. It reminds me a lot of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series that way. Plus it is full of Cornell's wit which is British so that's always a plus.
Stuff of Legend Omnibus Two written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith, lavishly illustrated by Charles Paul Wilson III. As we rejoin the story our intrepid toys are still looking for their boy in The Dark in order to save him from the Boogeyman. After the events of the first omnibus they are separated as the first half of the book deals with the Jester and the second half focusing in on getting all the toys back together.

I really do love this series. If I had any complaint it would be how long it is between books but I shouldn't complain as all of that extra time is poured into the art. The toys just leap off the page and the sepia colouring they use invokes the World War II time period in which the story takes place.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Skin Game is the latest novel in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. I've been a fan of this series for a long time and each novel is an enjoyable fast paced read. In this outing the wizard Harry Dresden who became the Winter's Knight a few books ago must obey Queen Mab and pull a "bank job" with one is his most hated enemies. Obviously Harry is going to get backstabbed but he's gotta play by the rules until his enemy makes a play then all bets are off.
All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka is now adapted into the movie Edge of Tomorrow. I am such a sucker for reading a book before going to watch a movie. It really is the best way to jump a book to the top of my queue. I'm not even sure if I'm going to go see the Edge of Tomorrow but I figured I'd read this first.

This is actually a pretty damn good book. It reminds me a bit of the older power armour books like Starship Troopers by Heinlein and Armor by John Steakly with a dash of the Ken Grimwood's Replay. Anyway in it we follow a Jacket Jockey (power armor) as he fights the invading aliens, then dies only to wake up 48 hours earlier with all of his memories in order to do it all over again. Each battle he gets a little bit better until he is a combat wizard. That's where he runs into another soldier who is experiencing the same thing as he is. Will they be able to figure it out and use this power to defeat the invading aliens?

Anyway, this is a greatly entertaining short (200 pages) or so read. Has anyone seen the movie yet?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is the multiple award winning debut novel in the Ancillary series. In it we are following Breq, the last vestige of a massive star cruiser the Justice of Toren, who's bodies or ancillaries one numbered in the thousands. We follow along with Breq as she attempts to obtain a device which will allow her to get revenge on the killer of the Justice of Toren.

This is a fascinating novel exploring what it means to be human in a world where you can have multiple bodies and artificial intelligences run most things. I don't want to give too much away but I really enjoyed this book and I can't wait for the sequel.
Dad Is Fat is a hilarious memoir of raising 5 kids by stand up comedian Jim Gaffigan. If you are a parent you this material is rolling on the floor laugh out loud stuff. Even if you don't have kids you will find this book genuinely entertaining.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey is my new favourite space opera. I'm glad there is two more books in the series with a fourth one coming out soon. Anyway, in the future humanity has colonized Mars as well as the outer asteroid belt. In this universe where tension between Earth, Mars and the belt, the ice mining ship, Scopuli, responds to a distress signal. Now XO James Holden is in possession of a huge secret that multiple forces are pursing while he attempts to keep himself and his crew alive. At the same time Detective Miller is looking for a missing girl who's investigation will cause him to cross paths with the Scopuli.

Can they figure out what the hell is going on an advert an inter-planetary war?
Think Like A Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner is the third book in their Freakonomic's series. This book is a bit of a departure from the first two. Instead of diving deep into a number of different topics the author's instead try to teach the reader how to think like a freak. There is some good stuff in this book especially the chapters on how to admit "I don't know", how to think like a child and the upside of quitting.

The bad is the book is pretty short clocking in at just over 200 pages. The actual book is 256 pages but I'm only counting the actual content and not all the Notes and Index sections. That's not a lot of content for $34. Additionally if you are a listener of the Freakonomic's podcast, and you should be it's great, you will find much of the content of this book is a rehash of the podcast.

If you want to save the cash you can get the book from the library or listen to the episodes on How to Think Like a Child and The Upside of Quitting.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Most Expensive Starbucks Rewards Coffee Ever

I haven't posted a coffee related link in awhile but this one is too good to pass up. From Boing Boing:

Most expensive, caffeinated Starbucks drink ever

Andrew Chifari of Dallas, Texas used the free drink earned with his Starbucks Rewards card to get a $54.75 frappuccino containing 60 shots of espresso.

What makes it even more awesome is it was his "free" drink. As well this post brought the website Caffeine Informer to my attention.

Books I've Read This Week

Homeland by Cory Doctorow is a follow to his previous novel Little Brother. Once again the protagonist, Marcus Yallow is caught up in events surrounding shady government agencies. Marcus is given a set of documents by a hacker acquaintance that contains startling wikileaks/Edward Snowden level information and the instructions to publish them on the internet if anything ever happens to her.

This causes no end of problems for Marcus as he's recently been employed as a web master for a crusading politician. How does he get the word out without getting fired or worse getting snatched up by a shadowy government organization.

You don't need to read Little Brother to enjoy this book but I'd recommend that one to anyone as well. This book is part entertainment and part warning of the surveillance state. Based on all of the revelations coming out about the global surveillance infrastructure it is a excellent but chilling read.

As with all of Cory Doctorow's books you can download them free from his website.
Revival Volume 3: A Faraway Place TP by Tim Seeley, art by Mike Norton continues this rural noir tale. Officer Dana Cyprus is closing in on the killer of her sister Em, a reviver, while at the same time Em is looking further into the mystery of the ghostly figures in the woods.

This continues to be one of my favourite series being published. Can't wait for volume 4.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Saga, Vol. 3 by Bryan K Vaughn with art by Fiona Staples continues to be one of the best comics on the stands. It's wild mash up of Romeo and Juliet with Star Wars is one of my favourite books. In this volume new parents Marko and Alana visit the author of their favourite book hoping he'll have some answers for them while bounty hunters from both sides of the war are hot on their trail.

This is a great book and one single page in which Lying Cat and Slave Girl have a conversation is worth the price of the entire trade.

Lying Cat

Chew Volume 8: Family Recipes TP by John Layman and Rob Guillory continues it's strong story. After the shocking events of the last volume Tony is left picking up the pieces of his life and gets help solving a murder from a very unexpected source.

Like Saga this is one of my favourite books and well worth a read. Check out the first volume for it's out of this world premise and laugh out loud shocks.

Monday, May 19, 2014

ChromeCast Presentations

Over the past couple of months I did a couple of ChromeCast presentations on Sender apps and Receiver apps at Ottawa JS. The presentations don't have much extra content than what you would get on the main Google ChromeCast site but it was a great excuse for me to play around with the SDK. I love my ChromeCast and I'd love to program a game for it sometime when I can generate some free time.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis is the third novel in his Milkweed Triptych trilogy. At the stunning conclusion of the cold war has come at a great price and only Raybold Marsh with the help of the Nazi precog Gretel can set the world right again.

This book is an excellent conclusion to the series. Go back and pick up the first novel The Coldest War and you won't be disappointed.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid #8 - Hard Luck by Jeff Kinney. Man it is hard not to laugh at the titular character Greg Heffley in this books. He's even more of a loser in this one as his only friend Rowley has got a girlfriend so Greg is on the outside looking in. It is super hard to cheer for him as he brings his troubles on himself but at the same time there is something endearing about Greg and you end up liking him. Dare I say it, he may even be growing up a bit in this one. It's quite a funny series of books for kids and kids at heart.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

New Recipe Blog

Friends of mine have started a new recipe and fitness blog. I've already had quite a few of their creations and they are quite good. I'm really looking forward to trying Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken (pictured to the left) and Chicken Wing Burgers.

Check it out, it's at http://www.setsandrecipes.com/

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch is the third novel in The Gentlemen Bastards series. At the conclusion of the last volume Locke and Jean were in a rough spot. Now they've been forced into taking a tough job where they run into a childhood friend and once the love of Locke's life Sabetha.

The novel has two intertwined narratives. One which takes place in present day and the other who's events take place before the first novel. It's not typically a structure I enjoy but in this novel it works. My only complaint about the story is a fantasy trope that they were avoiding have come into play. I can only hope that it is a red herring but I'm very much looking forward to the next instalment.
Dune by Frank Herbert was our book club selection last month. It was actually the third time I've read the book and I like it a little bit less each time. What I did like was the first part of the novel with all the political manoeuvrings of the houses. What I didn't like was when Paul becomes the leader of the Fremen. It just kinda smacked of white privilege, Lawrence of Arrakis.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

The Martian by Andy Weir is a novel I was quite intrigued to read. The book takes place in a near future in which we've successfully had two manned missions to Mars and it is only our third one which runs into problems. The book kicks off with a sand storm overwhelming the astronauts, forcing them into an emergency evacuation. During the evacuation astronaut Mark Watney is lost and presumed dead. Now stranded alone on Mars, Mark, must figure out a way to survive on Mars for 4 years until the arrival of the next planned Martian mission.

Okay this book is technically Robinson Crusoe in space but it is funny and engaging and well worth the read. I'm sure that some people will nit pick that the science is not 100% correct in this book but then they are missing the point. Obviously Andy Weir did his homework and gets a lot of it right but the story is about Mark Watney and how he is able to keep his head even when confronted with such a huge amount of adversity. The book itself keeps you guessing on whether or not Mark will actually make it through 4 years alone on Mars. I really liked and would recommend this book.
Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill is another in the long series of graphic novels in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen universe. In it we have the daughter of Captain Nemo who is now firmly entrenched as the Captain of the Nautilus and wanting to leave her mark on the world in much the same way as her father. Needing to step out of the long shadow of her father she travels to Antarctica to attempt a voyage whom her father was unable to complete. It is there she and her crew run into Lovecraftian horrors. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Comic Covers Now Supports DC Comics

My extension to Muzei called Comic Cover now supports DC covers. You can now select Marvel, DC or all under the customization section.

Let me know what comic company I should target next in the comics.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Doctor Who: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams updated by Gareth Roberts. Any new Douglas Adams is always good and an un-produced script Doctor Who script so much the better. Tack on the fact it is the 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) and Romana and I'm in heaven.

The Doctor and Romana are responding to a Time Lord distress call in Cambridge. What follows is a lot of crazy shenanigans and running about. Old time lords, crazed time lords, Cambridge students and Time Lord artifacts. I'd recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Adams or Doctor Who.
The Coldest War by Ian Tregillis is the second novel in his Milkweed Triptych trilogy. WWII is over and the English Warlocks have defeated the Nazi Supermen but at a great cost. Now the cold war has set in as Russia has moved decisively to secure the Nazi Supermen technology. Now the only thing that stands between the expanding USSR and the British Isle's are the warlocks and someone is killing them.

This is a really worthy follow up to Bitter Seeds and the questions that were brought up at the end of that book were more than answered here. I can't wait to get onto Necessary Evil!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman is a book I've been meaning to read for a long time. It is considered one of the top books to read for user interface designers. The version I have can be considered to be a bit quaint as it was written and published well before the invention of the cell phone so it can be a bit jarring when read it. However it is filled with a bunch of practical advice and I found it to be quite enlightening.
Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin is not exactly a biography of the man as it doesn't cover his full career rather it focuses on his accession into stand up super stardom. It is a funny and poignant look into his early life and career written by Martin himself. I really enjoyed reading it and I understand he reads the audio book version himself.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

The Simpsons And Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh is a fun book combining two of my favourite things, math and The Simpsons. In it Singh goes through a number of Simpson's episodes and explains the mathematical jokes embedded within. A high percentage of the writers on The Simpsons have advanced degrees in math or physics.

If you are a fan of this type of humour you probably already read xkcd and SMBC.
The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf is a diet book, I mean that's no shock, it's right there in the title. As a man of advancing years (that's not true, I'm not old) I've gained a couple of extra pounds around my midsection (that part is true) and I looked into this Paleo craze a bit. The diet has got a good hook to it, eat like your neanderthal ancestors and the pounds will just fly off and you'll be healthier.

Basically, you need to avoid any refined foods so stuff like bread, pasta and boxed foods are out. Considering this is probably where the majority of Americans get their calories from crossing out these foods amounts to a calorie restriction diet. Sure you can eat as much protein and veggies as you want but it is way harder to over eat these foods.

Does the diet work? Yes, yes it does. I tried it out myself for two weeks and I found it worked extremely well. I lost 10 pounds over the two week period and these strange things called abdominal muscles started appearing.

Did I stick with it? No, I found it way to hard to avoid eating refined carbs. Possibly as life becomes more predictable for me I'll be able to get back into the paleo lifestyle but for now I'm going to drink that beer and eat that morning glory muffin.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson is the first Hilda book I've ever read even though it is the third one released. I'd heard great things about the series but they are not exactly easy to pick up. Luckily I was given this one as a Christmas gift and I loved it.

Hilda lives in a world that is slightly magical and there is a question of exactly how much folks besides Hilda can see of the magical world. Based on events of the past few books Hilda and her Mom have had to move into the city where Hilda befriends a talking raven who she is helping regain his memory. They have adventures in the city as Hilda discovers more and more of the magical elements of the city. It reminds me quite a bit of Gaiman's Neverwhere in that way.

I really enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to going through it with my daughter as it is perfectly suited for kids of all ages. Just trying to decide if I should track down the first two books before diving into it.
Revival Volume 2: Live Like You Mean It by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton continue their rural noir series. I love the way this creepy mystery is unfolding. To recap live in a rural Wisconsin town is turned upside down when the dead come back to life. Although they are not mindless zombies, rather they can jump right back into their normal lives, or can they.

This really is a great book. I'm not a big fan of horror but this book is the right mix of humour, mystery and suspense.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Batwoman Vol. 3: World's Finest by Hayden Blackman and JH Williams III.  Whelp, this is the last volume of Batwoman I will be buying. Like I said back when I reviewed volume 2 I wasn't super struck on the non-linear story telling in the last volume and a bit of that continues in volume 3. At least we get JH Williams III back on art duties but with both Blackman's and Williams rather public departure from the book this will be the last volume I'll be picking up.
Mind the Gap Volume 3: Out of Bodies story by Jim McCann and art by Rodin Esquejo continues to be one of my favourite books. The trippy super natural murder mystery continues to unfold. Just go buy the first trade.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Books I've Read This Week

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton. Wow, just wow. I knew that Twitter was pretty tumultuous from the start but I had no idea how deep it went until I read this book. The entire book is a pretty engaging read and I have to say I had no idea who Noah Glass was until I read this book. Spoiler, he was a co-founder of Twitter and you probably didn't know that either.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is getting into business with their friends as a cautionary tale. Besides that is is a pretty good Silicon Valley insider read.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I've had this book on my stack for quite awhile but never got around to reading it until recently and I loved it. In the book the lead character is a 15 year old autistic boy who discovers the neighbours dog has been killed and he decided to find out who the murderer really is.

The book alternates between being a murder mystery, humours and tear jerkingly sad. As Christopher has a hard time dealing with his own emotions and detecting how other people feel we get some very awkward situations. Including Christopher discovering what part he has played in the dissolution of his own parents marriage.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Introducing Comic Cover Muzei

If you own an Android phone you should know about the wonderful new live wallpaper app, Muzei coded by Roman Nurik. I was hooked on it from day one. You see Muzei automatically downloads and sets a new wallpaper image for you every day. By default the app will download art curated by Roman's fiancée. The first image it showed was van Gogh "The Starry Night" which is one of my favourite paintings and I'm getting a chance to see it at MOMA this summer but I digress.

After I downloaded the app I was reminded of a blog post by my buddy Raymond Camden. In the post on the Marvel Comic's API, Ray shows how to query the Marvel database and display covers. So I decided to combine chocolate and peanut butter into one awesome combination.

The Muzei app provides a way to write an extension to provide a new data source. So what I've done is to create an extension that randomly picks a Marvel Comic book cover and sets it as your wallpaper. It's called Comic Cover Muzei.

Select the data source

Set your options

Enjoy your art

Right now you can set an option to only download the images over wifi if you are worried about bandwidth usage and you can set the refresh interval from 3 to 24 hours. I've got plans to add more options to allow you to pick the character or series to pull the images from. 

Also, right now the app only uses Marvel Comic covers but I'd love to add other companies like DC, Image, etc.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Anna Has Been Pulled From the Play Store

Back in September of 2012 I posted up my sample app called Anna which highlighted the power of doing speech recognition on mobile devices using PhoneGap. Today I've had to pull the app from the Play Store because of this infringement notice from Wolfram Alpha.

I don't have the strength, time nor money to fight this so I just going to rolled over pulled the app. I attempted to discuss it with Wolfram Alpha but they insisted I 1) pay for an commercial deployment license, 2) remove the Wolfram Alpha functionality or 3) pull the app. I can't afford the rates they charge for a commercial deployment license. Still they can't do anything about the source code for the app which is still available at: https://github.com/macdonst/anna

I'm not even mad, just a bit puzzled as there is no way my sample app is in any way a threat to the Wolfram Alpha app in the Play Store. I guess they don't want to have a precedent where they don't aggressively enforce their terms of service.

It's rather silly as I don't even ship an API key with the app. If you want to use Anna you have to sign up with Wolfram Alpha so they won't be getting the, albeit small, exposure that my app provides. Also, I doubt I'll ever recommend them to any of my developer friends ever again.