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Posted by on Sep 3, 2013 in Architecture | 1 comment

BaaS platforms: Parse.com, Kinvey.com, Buddy.com and Quickblox.com

BaaS platforms: Parse.com, Kinvey.com, Buddy.com and Quickblox.com

A few weeks I started to play with some of the BaaS platforms out there.

I am toying with creating a iOS app for an idea I had. Some of they key areas of functionality it will need include:

  • Twitter and Facebook Authentication
  • Chat room
  • Sending and Retrieving images to the server
  • Message broadcast

Instead of developing everything, I thought of looking at one the BaaS platforms. What follows is NOT a detailed review. I played with 4 BaaS providers in one evening, so lets be fair to them and not make snap judgements. I’m just relaying my experiences with them when quickly looking at them. There are so many variables…for example, maybe I’m using a different version of xcode than what the sample was built in that it’s hard without deeper debugging to come to grips with the issue.

I first signed up with Buddy.com. The feature set looked very promising for what I need. Sign-up was easy but I struggled to get up and running a little. The documentation was not as impressive as some of the others. Although I ran into some roadblocks, I’ll come back to take a more detailed look at this one as the feature set is everything I would need.

I then turned to Kinvey.com. Clearly a well baked and mature solution, though the documentation did not appear to me to be as friendly as Parse. I will come back and make another post on Kinvey

Parse.com was the final one I looked at…and turned out to be, in my opinion, the best of all of them. The sign-up process was well done, the getting started samples were great and actually worked right out of the box, and the documentation was amazing. Plus of course, the feature set of the platform was exactly what I needed.

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Posted by on Jul 22, 2013 in Development | 0 comments

Back on Unity3D

Back on Unity3D

I posted earlier about Unity3d here and here. Fast forward and I hate to say I did very little other than evaluating the product and going through some tutorials. Life, as they say, happened.

I still have a desire to develop a game. It’s an idea that’s been brewing in my head for a long time now, so I decided to revisit Unity3d. Of course I forgot most of what I learned before so started ramping up my knowledge again. Coming back to it, I remember now why I was so impressed with Unity in the first place. There is no doubt this product rocks.

It IS a steep learning curve…not from a “difficulty” perspective but from an “overwhelming” perspective. There are so many options and configurations that it’s almost impossible to learn just in a few days.

Perhaps this time I’ll get to stick to the plan of implementing my game. My game idea requires a lot of light reflection so I just haven’t got my mind over the math part of this yet but hopefully Unity will help!

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Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 in Architecture | 1 comment

Using Cloudflare when moving hosts

Using Cloudflare when moving hosts

I have a relatively large forum I run. I keep running into the limits of my host and have been forced to move hosts twice (the cloud host, while scalable, tended to be a bit slow).

As you know however, moving hosts can be a real pain. All because of DNS propagation. The last time I moved hosts, I had some users that couldn’t access the new site for more than 72 hours since their DNS wasn’t resolving to the new host.

After the last move, I also signed up with Cloudflare to try speed up my overall site performance – Cloudflare’s CDN is not the subject of this article. Rather, I want to express how pleased I am with their DNS services.

Because my name servers point to CloudFlare, when I moved hosts I did not have to update my name servers at my registrar. Instead, I simply changed my Cloudflare record to point to my new IP address. And because this is Cloudflares network, they instantly updated all their nodes with my new IP. As a result, there was NO need to sit through the painful DNS propagation.  My only downtime was the time it took for me to backup the site and FTP and restore it to the new server.

For anybody who has suffered through the DNS propagation before, you’ll appreciate how nice this is to avoid.

Couple this seamless IP change, along with the fact that I can easily transfer cPanel accounts, I feel somewhat liberated: I’m no longer beholden to a host. I can change hosts quite easily now with nothing more than a few minutes downtime.

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Posted by on Feb 21, 2013 in Development | 0 comments

Appcelerator Titanium vs. Xcode

Appcelerator Titanium vs. Xcode

I’ve previously posted about my (positive) experience with Titanium. I very quickly knocked out an app that included a REST type call to a server to display data, while utilizing the GPS location functionality. And survived the code signing procedure to even get the app deployed into the app store.

Since then I have been using the Wx range of products and haven’t look at Titanium in a while. So last week I decided to go see what’s new with it, especially since I hadn’t seen it since the Aptana acquisition.

Given that I’ve since played with other technologies, I was quite frankly disappointed that Titanium still doesn’t have a WYSIWYG editor. I’ve become what you could probably term a lazy developer. I enjoy solving algorithms and focusing on the issue, I really don’t have the inclination to sit and map labels on my screen using coordinates. It’s such a core requirement for 99% of apps (um…if you have a UI), and is nothing  but tedium and routine, that any dev environment should provide this graphically.

It then occurred to me (perhaps I’m the last one to make the realization) that titanium is really all about cross platform, not about RAD. (That is, I knew its strength was xplatform but I assumed the RAD capabilities made it a top contender).

I then thought maybe I should take a look at Xcode. I had shyed away from it only in that I figured it was a case of needing to write hundreds of lines of code which would only take one in a product like titanium. Plus, if you haven’t looked at objectiveC and Xcode before, some of the directives seem somewhat daunting at first. Nonetheless I got a good book on it and started working my way through it.

I must say I have been pleasantly surprised. The actual Xcode environment clearly shows its maturity as an IDE. Objective-C is no where near as bad as I had been led to believe. And with the WYSIWYG editor and the new storyboard functionality, it’s almost as if Xcode has become a RAD environment. Plus, their are thousands of components out there you can use to make your life easier and your apps richer.

I’m now becoming an Xcode convert. The biggest drawback is of course the loss of cross platform capability, but I can survive without this.  I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that I think Titanium is still a good product, with a lot of potential. It does make life somewhat easier through some of its abstractions and the cross platform capability works well, including the fact that you can develop on a PC or a Mac. I think however I’ll continue on the Xcode path.

If you’ve been putting off looking at Xcode or have been intimidated by Objective-C, you owe it to yourself to take another look at it. Once you learn the proprietary directives and notations, you’ll quickly get the hang of it and even appreciate it’s elegance.

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Posted by on Feb 5, 2013 in Architecture | 0 comments

Google Real-time analytics

Google Real-time analytics

I gotta admit I’m really impressed with Google Real-time analytics. Not so much from a UI perspective (tends to be a little “clicky” to get what I want. For example 4 clicks to see my search traffic: Click Traffic Sources, Click Sources, Click Search, Click Overview). But I am impressed from an engineering point of view.

In terms of web stats, measuring the bounce rate is problematic because given the stateless nature of the conversation, you never know when someone really left your site. So if you have a very long product page and the person reads the entire page but doesn’t go anywhere else, well that’s still considered a bounce.

Not so with real-time analytics. Somehow it detects leaving a page within seconds. Which makes me think there must be some form of asynchronous polling going on. Yet, the regular analytics is incapable of knowing an actual bounce.

I don’t know what magic is happening here. I should probably sniff the traffic and see if there is some ping happening back to google while the page is being displayed.

 

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