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Back on Unity3D

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

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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Using Cloudflare when moving hosts

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

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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Appcelerator Titanium vs. Xcode

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

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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Google Real-time analytics

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

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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The joys of seeing a site become popular

Posted by on Jan 27, 2013 in Development | 0 comments

Ok, I’m not talking popular like facebook or anything…but, seeing your site grow with users is a great feeling.  Early December 2012 I started a forum site for a particular niche and took to social media to start marketing it. Twitter and Tumblr have shown the best return on …er…effort, I guess.

In about 6 weeks, I’ve seen the site grow to:

  • Over 1500 registered members
  • Over 8000 posts
  • Over 1400 images uploaded
  • Over 150 blogs created
  • Over 330,000 page views per month
  • Average time spent: Just over 10 minutes

I still get excited every time I see a new sign-up. The best part of this is the ability to be completely agile (in its truest form). A user makes a post saying “Gee it would be nice to have feature A1″. I quickly go off an implement A1 without any significant market research. Users quickly provide feedback and I refine A1. So much better than once you formalize the process and it becomes: A user requested a feature. Let’s put it in the pipeline of feature requests. Lets do a market sizing and cost analysis. Let’s do a detailed functional requirement document. Let’s create technical specs. Let’s plan the rollout of the feature. Oh, that’s not what the user wanted. Ok,let’s plan another 6 month “agile” cycle…

Anyway, here’s hoping the site continues its growth. What I don’t know if if I’ve reach saturation point on the growth curve. Especially as it relates to monthly page views. It’s quite possible it’s going to take a constant influx of new members to compensate for the member site fatigue (those who naturally stop using the forum) just to keep that level of page views, but we will see.

After I started the forum, I found out there are two large forums already existing in this niche. I guess it shows that sometimes market research kills an idea before it starts. Had I researched this, I wouldn’t have started. As it is, I did, and I’m now the fastest growing forum compared to those two competitors. I am now on a plan for niche domination (insert evil laughter here). I’ve offered to try buy one of the forums and I’ll have to get creative on beating the other one by simply offering a better user experience and more value.


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On Patents

Posted by on Jan 27, 2013 in Development | 0 comments

We (myself and a friend) are busy filing a patent. We think it’s a really cool way of matching buyers of services with the provider of the services and can’t wait to also launch the site.

The site is being built on the WebDev framework (see my other posts) so it’s quickly becoming a good real-world test of the product capabilities.

It took a little bit of playing to get the look and feel but I must say I think it’s coming together quite nicely. First, it is very interesting to note that not only can a page inherit from a template, a template can inherit from a template…and that’s pretty damn cool. So we have a main template which is the basic look and feel. Then an “authenticated” template which inherits from the main template to provide a slightly different look and check for a valid session.

This project has also given us the opportunity to try out the Source Code Manager built into the product and the multi developer environment is working out really nice at the moment. A few minor annoyances…for example, to make a modification to the analysis (their term of the SQL Model), requires checking out a bazillion files….you cannot check out one piece of the model, but I guess this is ok:)

The patent is nearing its final revision…once it is filed we’ll be able to share the site and the idea itself.


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