Category Archives: Applications

Introducing NearestSubway.net!

The past few weeks I’ve been working on a one-touch web app for finding the nearest NYC Subway station – http://nearestsubway.net. My hope was to create a simple, super-lightweight experience for anyone wanting to find their way to the nearest relative subway while minimizing the time spent on their phone.

NearestSubway.net uses the trusty and deep Google Maps API along with HTML5 Geolocation. I’m also using the tried and true PHP/SQL combination (technologies which I have limited experience with) for storing and accessing MTA Subway data. This was also my first project using JQuery Mobile, which looks and feels slick, although a bit too “controlling” for my tastes. Rounding out the technical fun is some use of HTML5 local storage to save preferences.

An interesting suggestion made to me by my professor would be to turn ‘Nearest ____’ into a platform that anyone could use to create an instant mobile utility just by plugging in their data in the form of an SQL database. If I can clean up my code to the point where it is portable and modular, this is definitely the direction I’d like to go.

Playing with SMS…

I’ve always liked the idea of hooking SMS into a webapp. If it weren’t for the cost of SMS charged by unscrupulous carriers, I think we’d see a lot more SMS-related apps using shortcodes generated by services like TextMarks and Twilio.

Just to play around, I created the service ‘NBAINFO’ on TextMarks. Text 41411 NBAINFO and then the three letter code for you favorite NBA team (e.g. ‘NBAINFO BOS’ for Boston Celtics, ‘NBAINFO MIA’ for Miami Heat…) and you’ll receive back information on their 2010 season. Granted this isn’t the most meaningful use of the service, but it with some database magic the could be expanded to create generic SMS-based references for when 3g/WiFi are unavailable/untenable.

I imagine a service used to check and report polling abuses, for instance. With a few simple commands, users could confirm reports and also set flags (whether or not volunteers, oversight on the way, for instance) for their local station. A command could also provide a summary of each station’s status as a whole.

Re-presenting DoogieWrite.

This year I’ve started using more seriously a web-based tool I built last year, DoogieWrite. In short, it’s an HTML5 text editor with a minimalistic feature set and retro look.

Although the app is meant to evoke memories of the closing scene of an episode of Doogie Howser, M.D., (the theme music is available in-app, as popularly requested), DoogieWrite’s color scheme is actually patterned after the Memo Pad, the default function of the Atari 800 8-bit computer of the early 80s, my first computer.

Although the project itself is highly indulgent, I do believe the cool blue of the Memo Pad (coupled with Chrome’s excellent full screen mode!) promotes a distraction-free writing environment, something that is harder to achieve on our always-connected, media-rich laptop screens.

There have been some hacky workarounds. Although DoogieWrite features an ‘autosave’ sort of feature through HTML5 local storage, there’s no syncing between browsers/computers… and so a ‘save to text file’ option was important to me. Unfortunately, there exists no truly feasible and lightweight way to save a local file from HTML5/Javascript yet, so I had to settle for a small PHP script that generates a text file on the server and serves it to the user. (The text files are deleted from the server within the hour and are not accessible to anyone else). Having to settle for this workaround was painful to me, as I’d like the app to be completely usable offline. It’s close.

You can use DoogieWrite, and I hope you do, at http://doogiewrite.com!

On the Road

So, since apparently it’s the thing to do these days… I’m posting from South by Southwest in Austin!

I’ve never seen so many laptops on a flight. The plebs worked on their powerpoint presentations and excel spreadsheets while journeymen tackled javascript consoles and other various forms of coding. I stated my own claim to nerddom by blitzing through a couple hundred feeds in Google Reader’s clumsy but well-intentioned offline mode.

The grand prize has to go to a gentleman touching up some beautiful b&w photos in Apple’s fancy-ass Aperture: a program I may have deemed worthy of a purchase (or another term with a p) had I not been so thoroughly scared off by the putrid stench of iPhoto.

Until next time.

Play Passage

You owe it to yourself to play Passage.

Passage is an art game. Although I deplore the term, it is actually the most consistent term we have to describe this genre of game: there is no right or wrong way to play, no stated objective, and, ultimately, no way to win. The game lasts only 5 minutes and represents your character’s condensed lifetime.

The game is an interactive (another term I despise, ranking up there with “multimedia”) reflection on life, the tradeoffs between achievement and exploration, and death. Despite admitting its own purposelessness (the creator notes that even your score “looks pretty meaningless hovering there” in the end) the result of playing even one round is surprisingly powerful. But I won’t draw your conclusions for you…

So go ahead, try Passage. Even if you don’t like games, you have no excuse. It only will take 5 minutes, it runs on PCs and Macs, and takes up a svelte 5 MB. Read the creator’s statement before or afterwards: there are some interesting thoughts on the representation of death in video games as well as explanations of some of the game’s various metaphors.

Freed from the Shackles

“AOL Sucks” – Sir Winston Churchill

I hate when an inferior product dominates the market just because it has an established userbase. Case in point, AOL Instant Messenger. AOL Sucks. You know this, I know this. And as loathe as I am (was) to use their products, lets face it… everyone I wanted to talk to was on AOL or AIM. Enter Meebo. I can log in on AIM, Google Talk, Yahoo, ICQ, MSN, or any other 2-bit chat client… all from a tab in my browser. I don’t have to download anything? Even better. I originally feared a javascript application emulating draggable ‘windows’ and such would be pretty hokey, but it’s actually quite solid. Check it out.

NIKOLA WOULD BE PROUD
yes, its electricAn Electric Car that could kick your ass, go 0-60 in 4 seconds, and has a 300 mile range, too. Wow. Got a chance to see one of these in person recently. Hey Tesla, how about making one for the regular joes that goes 0-60 in a modest 7 seconds, seats 4, and costs $25,000?

The Search for a Savior

iTunes, once the populist darling of the digital music world has gotten too big for its britches. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for a replacement. Here are my conditions:

  • Be Lean. Run fast, even on shitty computers. Don’t slow my computer down, don’t clutter my screen unless its necessary, certainly not with ads or provocations to buy things. *shudder*
  • Be Well Designed. Be able to sort by album, artist, track, etc. I shouldn’t even have to ask for this by now…
  • Be Cross Platform. Run on PCs and Macs. ‘Nuff said.
  • Work with CDs. Be able to rip CDs and burn them. And not in your own bullshit proprietary format (I’m looking at you, Windows Media Player). I’m talking Mp3s, here.
  • Work With Mp3 Players. Preferably iPods and all drag/drop players.

Get SongbirdIs this too much to ask for? I don’t think so. Songbird seems like it might be on its way. It certainly looks nice, and the ability to download directly from mp3 blogs is cool… but I think its going to fail my ‘be lean’ requirement. It took up 1.5x as much ram as iTunes does… but I won’t complain too much, since this is only a ‘developer preview’ release. (Is version ‘0.2.1 Developer Preview’ too early to have your own line of hip t-shirts and icons? Hell no!) I await a savior from the bloated behemoth that is iTunes. Anyone have any thoughts? Suggestions for alternatives? I’m open to anything at this point-