New iOS App In The Works
on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 04:03pm via Blog by John Caruso

My first foray into native (non Cordova) iOS apps has been in the works for the last couple of weeks. I read through Matt Neuburg's iOS 10 Programming Fundamentals with Swift and Programming iOS 10 (although I cherry picked the parts I thought I'd need in this one) and then got started writing my first app, tentatively titled WallpaperCapture; A camera app that lets you take a photo for your iPhone lock screen and home screen with all of the labels and objects you'd normally see superimposed on the screen so you can frame the scene perfectly.

The goal with this app right now isn't to get rich (I'm going to release it for free, possibly ad supported) but rather to practice what I've been learning, and experiment with interface objects and frameworks that I'll likely need in the future on a much larger project. I've got a preliminary build that I'm testing right now that provides the time, date and other lock screen labels of an iPhone, along with the Perspective Zoom so that the photo that you take will look exactly as it does when you set it as a lock screen photo. The photos are currently stored into an app specific album in the Photos app, but I'm planning on having an in-app library to see all of the photos that have been taken. Eventually I will provide a way to upload the best images 'to the cloud' so that the photos can be shared with other users looking for interesting and unique wallpapers.

I'm in the process of implementing Fabric.io's Crashlytics for app statistics prior to releasing the app to some users via TestFlight (email me if you are interested in being part of the beta test group). Once that is done and I'm ready to implement the ads and photo upload, I think I'm going to integrate with Firebase since it is an all in one SDK for ads, cloud storage and countless other features that I may need in the future.
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Experiment in SEO: CarKeyBatteryDepot.com
on Mon, Aug 07, 2017 at 05:14pm via Blog by John Caruso

Over the last couple of weeks I have been getting up to speed with a few web development frameworks that I've been wanting to work on: NodeJS and bootstrap. I had experimented with both of them a little over the last few years, but I never had the chance to actually work on a project, until now.

I had the idea to put together a little website to search for car key replacement batteries when my Mazda 3's car key was starting to get a little weak. Doing a google search returned some results but nothing definitive, other than a few youtube videos on how to replace the battery. Nothing outright stated that a 2014 Mazda 3 uses a CR2025 type coin battery, so it didn't give me the confidence that I was actually getting the right battery without confirming it with the car manual. And further more, those youtube videos didn't give me an option to buy an actual replacement battery.

So I set out to build a new site that would both definitively tell you what kind of battery your car key needs, and give you some cheap options to purchase a replacement battery and I called it CarKeyBatteryDepot.com. The website lets you specify your car's year, make and model and key fob type (if there is more than one for your car) and it displays the type of replacement battery you need and provides you a list of vendors to purchase the battery from for cheap. The battery database was built by going through hundreds of car manuals (so far only Mazda and Toyota from 1999-2019 is supported) using a Python program I wrote to read the PDFs and extract the battery data. The purchasing options are pulled from Amazon's Product Advertising API.

The site was built using NodeJS and NGINX with a LokiJS backend for fast searching and Bootstrap to provide a responsive UI. I followed Mozilla's Beginner's Guide to SEO to get the basics of SEO to give the site the best chance of being the top Google search result. Specifically, I'm using the following techniques:

I've been waiting to see how well this works, but Google hasn't indexed the site as of yet. This blog post is meant to both give me a way to introduce the site to anyone who is following my website, and to give Google another link to the site in the hopes that they consider this as me vouching for the site which should help its site rank. I'm hoping this little experiment works and that I can generate a few bucks off of Amazon referrals, as well as use it as an example when attempting SEO for other people. I'll post a follow up once I have some definitive results.
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Programming Language Potpourri
on Fri, May 06, 2016 at 11:22am via Blog by John Caruso

At one point this morning I was thinking about what subject to tackle next and I started thinking about all of the different programming languages that I'm currently, actively, writing in at the moment between all of my contract and personal projects. It was getting a little scary when I realized there were about 6 different languages that I write in on an almost daily basis at my contract job, and another 2 that I kind of hack around with at home.

Contract #1

HTML5 Apps
- Javascript using the Sencha Touch and EXTJS framework
- Java for custom native Cordova plugins on Android
- Objective-C and Swift for custom native Cordova plugins on iOS

Main Web app and Webservices
- C# for latest main application and mobile REST services
- VB for previous main application still supported by the client
- Java for a custom web service for solving routing problems using jsprit
- TSQL for database stored procedures

Contract #2

50BookPledge.ca
- PHP for dynamic web pages
- Javacript for the usual cool site interaction stuff

84 North Studios Projects

SilverBeak.com
- Python using bottlepy for the site

And a bunch of other things using a combination of all of the languages already mentioned


That list ended up being bigger than I thought it was going to be when I first started writing this post. I had to go back and update the language count in the first paragraph a couple of times.

Listing all those out has started to worry me a bit about how well I actually know those languages. The doubt started creeping in yesterday when I stumbled on Standard JS Style and read through a couple of links. Mainly the part about not using semicolons to terminate a line. I knew they weren't required, but I didn't know why or in what situations you'd need to either make exceptions or handle the fact that the js interpreter might get confused (like starting a line with [ ( and some other chars). I've since done the requisite reading and now have the knowledge, but that just leads me to think what else don't I know that I DON'T KNOW? I think I need to start trying to just buckle down and specialize in one or two of these areas that I use a lot and just learn all there is to know. I'm leaning towards javascript, and maybe even dumping PHP in favour of nodejs since I've been wanting to use it for a project lately but don't know for what yet.
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Ok Seriously, I'm Back For REAL This Time...
on Fri, May 06, 2016 at 10:47am via Blog by John Caruso

So my last post was well over a month ago, not quite fulfilling the promise of having an active blog. But life has been busy since my fiancée and I bought a house. And now between trying to find 'stuff' to fill it with and getting all our paperwork in order, there just hasn't been much free time to just sit and write.

So I've learned over the last month that adulting is hard, but I'm getting used to it and now I'll have one more thing to write about here. Maybe this development-leaning blog will turn into a home improvement blog at some point?
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My ZazeenTV Experience
on Sat, Apr 02, 2016 at 02:55pm via Blog by John Caruso

In an effort to reduce my cable tv bill to almost nothing, I decided to try out Zazeen TV's IPTV service. They are offering their skinny basic tv package for $10/month (compared to $25/month the other cable companies are charging), and it included all of the 'regular' channels you'd expect to get, outside of sports and movies. The other benefit is with their basic package, you don't have to also subscribe to their internet package, so I was able to continue using Rogers while I evaluated their service. It also meant that I could keep my free Rogers Gamecentre subscription so I wouldn't lose out on watching hockey.

Once I subscribed, the set top box arrived in about 4 days. I plugged it in to my router and TV and powered it up. After a quick boot-up I was watching TV over my internet connection for only $10! I was pretty impressed with the technology until I started flipping between channels. Some looked and sounded great (like I was used to with Rogers) but others had visual artifacts and sounded like I was listening to a Skype call circa 2005 (like everyone was underwater).

Since most shows I'd want to watch were all streaming fine I thought I'd be able to live with it. I decided to try out the PVR functionality. It was as easy as plugging in a USB hard drive, rebooting the box and it was ready to start recording. I recorded a couple of shows, and it performed pretty much how you'd expect: recorded the show, played back normally.

In the end though, I ended up sending the box back and cancelling the service. The set top box itself was a bit flakey; it would occasionally just play static out of my speakers and would only stop if I rebooted it or it would reboot itself. This is a problem if you're recording a show on another channel and your recording just stops because the box goes wonky. Also, the internet here can be a bit flakey as well, and while watching tv a couple of evenings it would just cut out and stop working, while my Rogers TV box kept working.

It's those couple of things that make it seem like ZazeenTV just isn't quite ready for heavy TV watchers. While reading through their user forums I came across a lot of posts where people referred to watching TV as something they do once in a while. So for the time being, I'm going to stick it out with over priced cable, and hope someone else starts up a reasonably priced live TV streaming service with higher quality service. Maybe something that works as an AppleTV app so I don't need a separate box? That would be nice.
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