With the sun currently approaching solar maximum, the most active period in the solar cycle, solar flares have become more common and powerful. This has led to some concerns about damage to satellites and electric power grids and it has also helped generate amazing and beautiful auroras.
The increased interest in “space weather” has also spiked interest in our free Space Weather Viewer iPhone app, which we developed for NASA back in November. We’ve had 107,528 downloads in the Apple App Store this month. The downloads peaked at 9,035 on March 13th although we have had more than 4,000 downloads each day this month.
Outreach efforts by our partners at Goddard Space Flight Center and the Sun-Earth Day 2011 events have also likely helped push the numbers upward. You can download the Space Weather Viewer iPhone app in iTunes store. If you’re a developer you can download the source code for the app at Github, there’s more about this release in previous blog post, Source Released for the NASA Space Weather iPhone App.
The Android version of this app will be available next month.
This video demonstrates the results of a recent collaboration between SENSUS and our own Open Exhibits software initiative. The concept is simple: make networking and sharing transparent across multitouch devices and operating systems. The demo video shows an Android Tablet (Samsung Galaxy), a Multitouch Table (our own, new MT55), a Windows 7 multitouch kiosk, and an iPod–all sharing media items (images, video, and a Google Map) effortlessly. This easy sharing is made possible with Konnectus software which is a new cloud-computing platform developed by SENSUS.
The Konnectus software and the Open Exhibits modules will be available later this summer. And, Yes! These “network friendly” software modules will also work with our GestureWorks multitouch framework.
Here’s a bit more about Konnectus and our partners at SENSUS…
KonnectUs is a new cloud-computing software platform by SENSUS designed to make sophisticated networking functions easy and intuitive for users across a range of devices including multitouch tables, desktop computers, tablets, and mobile phones. KonnectUs “Natural Networking Technology (NNT)” empowers users to connect seamlessly across all major platforms – from Windows to Android to iOS. The new software aims to deliver a desktop user experience for key cloud-based services such as file sharing, social networking and location-relevant distribution of content. Additionally, KonnectUs APIs allow developers the opportunity to leverage the power of SENSUS networking technology through integration into third party applications.
You can read the full-press release on the SENSUS Website.
For anybody interested in the NASA Space Weather Media Viewer and iPhone/iPad/iPod development, we’ve released the source code for the NASA Space Weather Media Viewer mobile edition! You can find it on its new GitHub home page (https://github.com/ideum/NASA-Space-Weather-Media-Viewer). If you’re looking for the app itself, you can download it for free in the iTunes store.
We’ve utilized the awesome Three20 library originally engineered by the folks at Facebook, and a simple CoreData store organizes the media assets. Though they’re streamed from the NASA server to your device, you’ll find all the video content in the source (be prepared for a long checkout process). The RichContentViewController displays HTML content with text sizing options and ShareKit integration, and the SegmentedNavigationController provides an alternative interface to the icon-based buttons available with the standard navigation controller.
As we mentioned in a previous post on the Space Weather Viewer app, the iPhone development process was not as smooth as we might have hoped. By releasing the source code, we hope to aid students and educational programs that may want to try building their own iPhone app as well as programmers just getting into iPhone development.
We’ve just posted a video on our YouTube channel (multitouchexhibits) showing the features of the NASA Space Weather Viewer iPhone app that we released at the end of October. The app connects to near-realtime views of the Sun from NASA Satellites. Check out the video below:
The app is free. Look for the NASA Space Weather Viewer on the iTunes Preview page. You can scan the QR code here to visit the page. Also, in case you missed it, we posted more about the iPhone development process a few weeks ago. See “NASA Space Weather Media Viewer Mobile – Uncaged and Wild.”
As the so-called Apple vs. Adobe war continues, the consensus that Apple is winning out and that Adobe (Flash in particular) is in trouble has begun to crumble. A recent New York Times article, Will Apple’s Culture Hurt the iPhone?, raised some very interesting questions about Apple and the long-term prospects for its closed development environment. They (and we here at Ideum) are wondering:
Can Apple, which insists on tight control of its devices, win in an intensely competitive market against rivals that are openly licensing their software to scores of companies?
Back to the Future
If history is any judge, the long-term prospects might not be so great for Apple facing such intense and wide-spread competition. As the Times article also mentioned . . .
“In the early 1980s, the Macintosh faced an onslaught of competition from an army of PC makers whose products ran Microsoft software. The fight did not end well for Apple.”
I agree. I’ve been an Apple user and enthusiast since the 1980s. Not even counting my family’s Apple II, I’ve owned a dozen Macintosh computers since the release of the Mac Plus back in the 1980s. I’ve seen a lot of highs and lows in the 25 years that I’ve followed Apple.
Besides using history as a guide, my recent move from an iPhone to an Android phone has further convinced me that Apple will likely be a niche player in a market that they now dominate. My HTC EVO with Android 2.2 does most of the things my iPhone did and it does many things better. It also runs Flash. (Yes, I can actually see the entire Internet now and am glad to have the option.) Apparently, my Android phone purchase was part of a larger trend as Android has now passed both BlackBerry and iOS in recent purchases.
Development: iPhone vs. Android
Our recent experience in developing our first iPhone App and Android “tests” with Flash have further reinforced my belief that even with Apple’s huge lead, in the long-term, it may be in trouble. The iPhone development environment was challenging. Although ultimately workable (check out our Space Weather Media Viewer app), it was a frustrating process with many seemingly unnecessary bureaucratic hoops that we had to jump through. And the majority of our frustrations with iOS have to do with publishing.
iPhone development required an official iPhone Development Certificate, iTunes software to connect to, and other restrictions. We had a ten day wait until our application was released in the Apple iTunes store. We needed to make a simple text change to our icon, and are currently in our second ten-day waiting period (and counting) just to make that one change. The application is, by the way, free and public domain, but still the store is the only way (short of jailbreaking) to distribute it.
When we did some test authoring using Flash on the Android platform, we could try out the application by emailing it or installing it via USB. There weren’t development certificates or other restrictions to deal with. We could author in Flash, make some adjustments in the Android SDK, and we were good to go. While we haven’t put anything into the Android market place yet, we’ve heard that the process is simpler (although the grass is always greener). But judging simply by the nature of the authoring environment, it seems that there are alternatives for distribution that simply aren’t available when authoring for iOS.
Many arguments against Flash have to do largely with performance. This is not a real issue on my HTC EVO; Flash performs reasonably well. Perfect, no, but again I’m glad to have it. Battery use is another issue, but lots of activities (wireless, screen brightness, playing audo, etc.) can contribute to reduced battery life.
As mobile processors continue to improve and Adobe (slowly, painfully slowly) improves Flash performance, I think we’ll see more choices for authoring for smart phones and tablets. And Flash will have a role to play; its developer base is just too vast and it’s too versatile a tool for it not to be a major player. Many people thought Flash video was dead back in the mid-2000s when it faced competition from Apple QuickTime, RealMedia, and WindowsMedia. Remember how that turned out?
Certainly HTML 5 could be an authoring solution in the future, but right now there are plenty of questions surrounding it. The W3C themselves said it was “Not Ready for Production Yet.” Also, it may be that in the future you’ll author HTML5 using Adobe Flash.
Going forward, I have a hard time seeing how iOS can continue to dominate. As I mentioned earlier, it is not so much about iOS authoring, but rather how things are published. A byzantine publishing platform that requires Steve’s way (iTunes) or the Highway, coupled with a tightly controlled and proprietary hardware platform, is hardly a progressive model.
If this model didn’t work for Apple back in the 80s, why should it now?
After months of development and ten nervous days in the Apple App Store approval process, we’ve just released the NASA Space Weather Media Viewer iPhone application. The Space Weather app allows you to view real-time and near-real-time imagery from a variety of NASA satellites, as well as videos and more!
Ideum, in partnership with Goddard Space Flight Center, was awarded a grant to extend the tremendously popular web-based Space Weather Media Viewer to the mobile platform. The application ships with informational videos, visualizations, NASA mission information, and enables near real-time observation and social network propagation of space weather phenomenon.
This was our first foray onto the rocky road of iPhone development, but with the help of libraries like Three20, we were able to complete a very full-featured and superbly performing application relatively quickly. We will say that the iPhone development process is not as simple as what we were promised when the iPhone first launched. Our next goal is the Android version of the application, and we’re examining other rapid development platforms, some of which, due to licensing issues, were not available for our use with the iPhone.
So, check out the app store page to download the Space Weather Media Viewer, mobile version. It’s free. You can also use the QR code to the right to access the page from your phone! Just click it to view the full size.
Just last week Adobe released Air for the Android Platform, allowing Flash applications to run on Android devices (version 2.2 is required). We’ve been checking out the pre-release, but now that it is official, we thought we’d share some demos of the GestureWorks frameworks for Flash running on Android.
Here’s a video showing two of our tutorial applications running on an HTC EVO. We start by showing them running on a desktop system with a PQ Labs overlay, then the same applications running on the phone.
Once the Android “.apk” files we’re authored, we simply had to email them or connect a phone via USB to install them. Unlike authoring for the iPhone, there is no iTunes software to deal with, you don’t need to apply for an iPhone Development Certificate, or spend $99 to join their developer community. You simply author and deploy. What a concept.
Here’s a zip file with the two Android apps, if you’d like to try them out:
GestureWorks – Android Examples (Zip file with two .apk files)
We’ve recently built out individual pages for the hardware featured on the Multitouch Hardware section of the GestureWorks site. The hardware is divided into categories for easy sorting, making it easy to compare different models of multitouch all-in-ones, notebooks and tablets, displays or tables.
For each device listed, we’ve hunted down reviews, video, specifications and even press releases to provide a comprehensive overview of device strengths and weaknesses without all the legwork. We’ve also enabled comments so we can get feedback from actual users on how the hardware performs. What are you waiting for? Check out the new GestureWorks’ Supported Hardware page for yourself!
A lot has been said about Apple’s closed-door policy in regards to Flash development for the iPad and iPhone. I’m not talking about Apple supporting Flash on the devices but rather the decision to close off the Apple Store to apps created in Adobe’s CS5. Several reasons Apple’s decision have been cited: Apple would have to deal a flood of apps in their store, third-party authoring will lead to substandard apps and will “hinder the progress of the platform,” or Flash apps won’t perform as well particularly if Apple tries to add multitasking. I seriously doubt that any of these are correct.
I think that Apple simply didn’t want Flash developers to gain any kind of a foothold in designing for mobile and tablet devices. If Flash developers started to develop apps, they would begin to grapple with the UI issues that are inherent in creating programs for these new mobile and tablet devices. They would begin to incorporate multitouch events, develop and incorporate UI elements like dials and switches and become, as a group, much more savvy in regards to mobile development. They would have also created a slew of Flash-based apps ready for other mobile and tablet devices.
If Apple had allowed these Flash developers a head start designing for iPad and iPhone, they would have more easily been able to transition to the dozens of tablet-based devices and smart phones that have already been announced for later this year. Flash will run on Android 2.2, WebOS, Google Chrome, and WinOS, so the number of potential devices is vast. All of these will compete directly with the iPhone and iPad. The Android OS has already surpassed Apple’s iPhone OS in sales for the first quarter of the year.
By closing the Apple Store to Flash developers, Apple bought themselves some time; onlylater this year Flash will begin to compete directly with Apple. Our own GestureWorks multitouch framework for Flash will work with all these devices, so true multitouch is ready for mobile. It should be an interesting year.
Our latest prototype, RSS Mixer, is now available. This is by far the most elaborate of the prototypes we’ve been working on over the last few months. All of these experimental applications are part of a larger project that we are developing for release in 2008.
RSS Mixer allows you to combine various feeds into a new one that can be viewed as RSS, HTML, an iPhone page, as well as a Web and Apple Dashboard Widget.
The design is simple: you can create a title for your custom RSS mix and you can add up to ten feeds in the form. A listing of recent mixes, along with a few featured ones, is also included. This prototype (and the others) was programmed using Ruby on Rails.
Each custom mix includes Widgets, an iPhone formatted version, and links to the various feeds in the mix. Below are some links to a custom mix called Environmental News.
Take a look at the site and let us know what you think.