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The Mobile Web is the most important development in the online world since the internet itself. Due to better services and smaller, cheaper devices, there has been a huge explosion in mobile technology that far outpaces the growth of any other computing cycle.

Are you ready for this?

Our brand new title Build Mobile Websites and Apps for Smart Devices is a practical guide for innovative front-end web designers and developers. You’ll discover a fun and accessible approach to mobile web design and development, with enormous scope for opportunity.

If you need convincing as to the mobile web’s impact, simply look around you. Everywhere you go, people are accessing the Web from their devices. Check out these statistics:

  • By the year 2014, consumers will be buying more smartphones than PCs and Laptops.[1]
  • Since the launch of the iPhone, more than four billion apps have been downloaded, with an average of 47 apps per user. Android and iPad app stats are also in the millions.[2]
  • Worldwide mobile browsing has increased 148% in just a year. [3]
  • The number of users accessing Facebook and Twitter through their mobile devices has more than doubled in a year.[4][5]

Clearly, the need to develop for mobile devices is very much alive, and will only become more necessary as time goes on. This book will take you from turning a basic website into a sexy mobile site, from cool mobile app to lucrative and seductive native app.

For the first time ever, you can grab a multi-media bundle including the epack, print book, and a comprehensive online course. The course is from our sister-site, Learnable and taught by one of the book’s authors, Myles Eftos.

You can grab the bundle here for only $49.95 (Saving of 50%!) and take part in this comprehensive learning experience!

The crew with their toys

 

The Echo Nest has issued a challenge to music identification services like Shazam and Soundhound with the launch of Echoprint, an open-source music fingerprint service that will let any developer create comparable apps.

To create this free music ID technology, music intelligence company the Echo Nest partnered with 7digital, giving developers access to 13 million songs. That catalog is expected to grow as more partners are added.

According to the Echo Nest, EchoPrint, as an open-source offering, will improve in functionality the more developers and app users play with it. The Echo Nest’s partners have already been using EchoPrint for 18 months, so it’s not coming out of the gate untested.

The Echo Nest also partnered with the open music encyclopedia MusicBrainz, to make more music-resolving apps Echoprint-aware in the near future.

EchoPrint could be a big game-changer in the music ID sphere. Shazam and Soundhound are constantly innovating — Shazam just scored $32 million in funding and is now investing in “Shazamable” television shows and ads, and Soundhound just released another voice-activated app called Hound — but now more players will be entering the ring.

How do you think this tech will affect the music ID realm?

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Bliz

More About: 7digital, Echo Nest, echoprint, mobile apps, music, MusicBrainz, shazam

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Fitness app developer RunKeeper has made its API available to the public, enabling developers to make use of its “Health Graph,” which organizes and correlates a variety of health and fitness data.

RunKeeper’s Health Graph integrates fitness sensor data, such as GPS trackers, Wi-Fi body scales, sleep monitoring devices and heart-rate transmitters, with eating habits, workout schedules, social interactions and more to help users track and understand their health and fitness choices in a holistic, highly correlated manner.

RunKeeper’s apps for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7 can help users understand how their social habits affect their sleep and workout patterns, which in turn affects their health.

Now device manufacturers and app developers — including launch partners Foursquare and Zeo — can tap into this same data, as well as RunKeeper’s social features, like its FitnessFeed and sharing integrations with Facebook and Twitter. Founder Jason Jacobs explains the API in a blog post.

More About: api, development, runkeeper

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SMS is the ugly stepchild of mobile applications, but if you’re looking for a simple way to reach a huge swath of people, SMS is the way to go.

After all, smartphone penetration is still relatively low within the U.S. and global markets. And for some tasks, you might not need something as complicated as a native or mobile web application.

Perhaps you want to launch an autoresponder or send interactive outbound messages. Maybe you want to run an SMS-based marketing promotion or build a self-service app for customers. You could even set up a voting app à la American Idol.

SMS is a great way to reach a much larger consumer base with these kinds of simple messages. And due to the simple fact of technological evolution, building an SMS app has never been easier.

SMSified is a new and relatively easy way to build SMS apps with a REST API. The service provides an SMS gateway that works with the Big Four carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile) as well as Virgin Mobile and MetroPCS. Currently, SMSified apps work within the U.S. only.

The API allows for sending and receiving text messages via either short codes or ten-digit phone numbers. SMSified can also help devs with setting up short codes, a 90-day, $3,000 fee process.

The service uses a REST interface based on the GSMA OneAPI standard. It uses the HTTP POST method on the web server side to send and receive messages and notifications. You can get more info on the specifics in the documentation.

The service is currently in a beta period — during this time, all messages sent through SMSified are free. The company is also offering users a $20 credit to send and receive messages and test SMSified apps. When the beta and the credit run out, SMS messages cost $.01 each.

SMSified is made by Voxeo, a VoIP and IVR (that’s “interactive voice response”) company.


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How the WordPress SEO Plugin Can Help Your Blog [INTERVIEW]
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image courtesy of iStockphoto, spxChrome

More About: api, developers, mobile apps, SMS, smsified, web development series

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Music developers, it’s time to get programming. Music intelligence platform The Echo Nest has just announced a partnership with subscription app Rdio that will help devs create more engaging apps for music discovery.

As you may recall, super-social music subscription service Rdio opened its Rdio.com API and affiliate program to developers during SXSW, allowing devs to tap into its 8 million-song catalog and monetize any resulting apps through Rdio‘s affiliate program, which pays a commission for directing new subscribers their way and for song downloads. AOL was one of the first to take advantage of that API with a free Android app called Play.

The Echo Nest already has access to music from the likes of 7 Digital and Island Def Jam. It’s now added Rdio to its stable of song-providers.

What this means is developers will be able to marry musical intelligence with scads of songs. In any new app, users will be able to check out 30-second samples of songs via Rdio, or, if they are subscribers to the service, listen to entire songs. If a user signs up for a subscription via the app, the developer will get 2% to 3% of the subscription fee.

“We really want to help developers build commercially successful music applications,” says The Echo Nest CEO Jim Lucchese. “Rdio offers a simple and elegant way for developers to build streaming applications.”

In addition to Rdio’s catalog, developers will be able to tap into the service’s social features, from manipulating the social graph (adding friends) to creating playlists and getting info about new releases.

You can check out the partnership in action via Music Maze, a nifty little app that allows you to search for artists and build a shareable web of similar acts.

Hackers can take Music Maze as inspiration for the upcoming Music Hack Day in San Francisco (May 7-8), at which the Rdio/Echo Nest partnership will be available for use.

Image courtesy of Flickr, craigCloutier

More About: design-and-dev, Echo Nest, music, rdio

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The team at SitePoint have been very busy of late, thinking up wonderful new topics and websites. So it’s with great pleasure that I bring to you our latest creation: BuildMobile.

The recent launches of DesignFestival and RubySource have shown you some great new content and ideas such as the Cicada Principle. Our simple goal with BuildMobile is to bring you innovative ideas, tutorials and opinions from the world of mobile web development.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will be engaging some of the worlds best mobile web developers to ensure that our content is always cutting edge and relevant to your clients and your business.

BuildMobile is split into several distinct sections.

We know that many users are very passionate about their mobile platforms, so each of these categories will focus exclusively on specific platform news, apps, tutorials, reviews and more. New categories will be added over time, so make sure to stay tuned for the latest mobile developments.

We are always on the look-out for great authors. So if you happen to know a great mobile web developer, please let us know.

You can connect with BuildMobile via Facebook, Twitter or by visiting the new site. Stay tuned for more new sites from SitePoint in the near future also!

qr cork image

Hamilton Chan is CEO and founder of Paperlinks. With the free Paperlinks iPhone app, featured previously by Apple as the #1 New & Noteworthy app, consumers can scan and view QR code content with a native app experience. Paperlinks also provides a powerful platform for generating QR codes, hosting content and tracking their performance.

The QR code: A thing of beauty or an eyesore? The magical barcodes that can be scanned by a smartphone to launch an offline-to-online experience are often criticized for their black and white checkerbox appearance. Those who doubt that QR codes will go mainstream are quick to point out that the look of QR codes will deter marketers and advertisers from using them.

Fortunately, QR codes are malleable and can be redesigned in truly extraordinary ways, while still maintaining their scanability. The truth is, QR codes no longer have to be checkerbox in appearance. We’ve entered a new phase of “designer codes” that can be integrated into marketing campaigns in an attractive way that isn’t an eyesore.

QR codes have so much potential from a design perspective, so let’s take a look at a few tricks and techniques you should keep in mind when designing a code to enhance your brand and appeal to your audience.


1. Add a Color Palette


The easiest way to add branding power to your code is to add color to it. Your QR code does not have to be standard black and white in order to be scanned. You can embed multiple colors and apply a color gradient without affecting scanability. The only rule of thumb is that the code color should generally be dark and placed against a light-colored background. Make sure the contrast is sufficient, or the code will be difficult to scan.

A “reversed out” code, where the background is dark and the boxes are light colored, is generally not recommended. Only a small handful of QR code readers can treat such codes as a film negative and properly interpret the data.


2. Soften Hard Edges with Round Corners


blue qr image

One of the QR code’s greatest aesthetic flaws is its numerous hard edges. You can dramatically lessen the severity of this look by strategically rounding some corners. It is not necessary to round all of the corners, but softening up the edges will definitely make the code appear more friendly and approachable.


3. Incorporate Dimensionality for 3D Impact


One high impact way to brand your QR code is to obstruct some of the boxes with imagery, such as a logo. By placing an image in front of the code, you imbue the code with a sense of depth. An ordinary barcode suddenly becomes a form of artwork, and you can really make a statement with the way you melt boxes together or choose to obstruct aspects of the code.

Fun ideas include adding a logo to the center of the code, but you could also add interesting elements to the corners or the sides for an even less standard look. Adding images or characters between the boxes is another playful way to dress the code with personality and style.


4. Use QR Codes With 30% Error Correction


green qr image

If you decide to add in a logo to create a 3D feel for your QR code, you need to decide which part of the coding to obstruct with your logo. The key to creating these eye-popping designer codes is to take advantage of the fact that up to 30% of a QR code’s data can be missing or obstructed, and still be scanned. QR codes can be generated with 0%, 10%, 20% or 30% error correction rates built in. Building in the 30% error correction rate adds more noise (extra boxes) within the code, but those extra boxes within the code can then be removed to make way for a logo or other interesting imagery.

If you use a QR code with 0% error correction, the code will look more streamlined, but opportunities to brand the code by adding in a logo are very limited. Removing or obstructing a single box within a 0% error QR code could render it unscannable.


Apply a Trial-and-Error Process


cork qr image

Technically, it is possible to mathematically compute which boxes in a QR code are the buffers that can be removed, but such computations are generally unnecessary. By applying a simple process of trial-and-error, anyone can begin applying their design techniques to a code and then test for scannability.

Be sure to test your code’s scannability with multiple QR readers, ideally three or four. Some readers may be able to overcome some stylistic elements of your designer code, whereas others will not. Deploying your code without testing for scannability is designer malpractice and can cause serious heartache with clients. It is true that even with reasonable precautions, designer codes may still be difficult to scan, so you must always weigh the costs of scanning difficulty against the benefits of designing a code that is eye-catching. If a designer code takes more than a few seconds to scan, it probably needs to be redesigned.


Conclusion


In the end, creating branded QR codes is as much art as it is science. The mathematical qualities of a QR code and the impact of a clever design can truly elevate a QR code to the point where the code becomes the central artwork of a piece of marketing collateral. Applying designer best practices will enhance scanning conversion rates and effectively augment an offline item with online capabilities.

It is only a matter of time before QR codes hit mainstream. Knowing how to innovate both in technology and design, and how to implement a QR code in the right way for your business, will keep your brand on the cutting edge
of marketing and technology.


Interested in more QR Code resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.

More About: 2d, code, design, Mobile 2.0, qr code, tech, technology

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Code for America, the non-profit organization that creates government-changing apps for communities around the U.S., has received applications from 19 U.S. city, state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of State.

Each of these government entities will compete to be one of the three to five communities that gets Code for America fellows to create a customized, open-source app to solve a pervasive problem in public service or government administration.

For example, in the last Code for America cycle, five cities were picked for projects such as an Open311-type project and an application that allows citizens to monitor and give feedback on city hall proposals.

The 19 applicants will compete for a spot in the next Code for America cycle. Applications will be judged based on the government’s commitment to the partnership, funding to support the project, and the openness, efficiency, and reusability of the proposed application or project. The selection process will be guided by a committee, which will announce the winning applicants in June 2011.

Once three to five candidates are selected, the custom apps will be developed by Code for America fellows, a team of 20 crack web and mobile developers hand-selected by an all-star committee that includes Irene Au of Google, Paul Buchheit of Facebook, Anil Dash of Expert Labs and many more.

Code for America’s Government Relations Director Alissa Black said in a release, “It’s great to see not only this much interest in Code for America, but also enthusiasm from public officials in using technology to change the way government works.

The response we’re seeing proves that government is thinking creatively about ways to innovate in response to our fiscal crises, and that the open government movement is really taking hold within government itself.”

Here’s the full list of applicants:

  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Austin, Texas
  • Balboa Park – San Diego, California
  • California Department of Economic Development
  • California Department of Energy
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Hartford County, Maryland
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • New York City
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Palm Bay, Florida
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • San Francisco, California
  • Santa Clarita, California
  • Santa Cruz, California
  • U.S. Department of State

More About: code for america, developers, government, social good

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Google has just pulled 21 popular free apps from the Android Market. According to the company, the apps are malware aimed at getting root access to the user’s device, gathering a wide range of available data, and downloading more code to it without the user’s knowledge.

Although Google has swiftly removed the apps after being notified (by the ever-vigilant Android Police bloggers), the apps in question have already been downloaded by at least 50,000 Android users.

The apps are particularly insidious because they look just like knockoff versions of already popular apps. For example, there’s an app called simply “Chess.” The user would download what he’d assume to be a chess game, only to be presented with a very different sort of app.

These apps are all pirated versions of popular games and utilities — an expeditious solution for busy hackers. Once downloaded, the apps root the user’s device using a method like rageagainstthecage, then use an Android executable file (APK) to nab user and device data, such as your mobile provider and user ID. Finally, the app acts as a wide-open backdoor for your device to quietly download more malicious code.

Below is a complete list of the bad apps, all of which were made by an entity called Myournet. If you’ve downloaded one of these apps, it might be best to take your device to your carrier and exchange it for a new one, since you can’t be sure that your device and user information is truly secure. Considering how much we do on our phones — shopping and mobile banking included — it’s better to take precautions.

  • Falling Down
  • Super Guitar Solo
  • Super History Eraser
  • Photo Editor
  • Super Ringtone Maker
  • Super Sex Positions
  • Hot Sexy Videos
  • Chess
  • 下坠滚球_Falldown
  • Hilton Sex Sound
  • Screaming Sexy Japanese Girls
  • Falling Ball Dodge
  • Scientific Calculator
  • Dice Roller
  • 躲避弹球
  • Advanced Currency Converter
  • APP Uninstaller
  • 几何战机_PewPew
  • Funny Paint
  • Spider Man
  • 蜘蛛侠

Remember, the Android Market is open, which can be great and unfortunate in different circumstances. Always read user reviews before you download; and if you have any doubts, play it safe.

More About: android, malware, Mobile 2.0, security

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Gowalla CTO and co-founder Scott Raymond knows a thing or two about Ruby — and about Cocoa, scaling, handling huge amounts of location data, mobile apps and NoSQL.

Gowalla is a Ruby shop, and as the captain of that particular ship, Raymond has had quite a bit of experience building a popular web app from the ground up using Ruby on Rails.

In a recent e-mail interview, we found out what Raymond had to say about those experiences and what he has learned from them over the past three and a half years.

Much has been made of Ruby/Rails’ perceived flaws when it comes to scaling. In your experience, what are the unique challenges of working with this language and framework and trying to scale an app for a nation-wide consumer audience?

Most of the “Rails can’t scale” noise is outdated or was misguided in the first place. In general, the question of scalability applies at the level of architecture and systems, and not really at the level of languages and frameworks.

That said, languages and frameworks do definitely have performance and efficiency characteristics that need to be considered. Ruby’s standard interpreter doesn’t have a great reputation for being fast, but as part of a larger, well-architected system, it is very rarely the bottleneck.

So, as a developer for a popular service, the challenge becomes trying to foresee which actions will be the most frequently requested, which data types will be the fastest growing, and which actions are the most performance-sensitive. In my experience, it’s harder to predict these things than you would think. I have spent many hours trying to “pre-scale” parts of the app that never became a problem, which often leads to maintenance headaches.

You guys collect and store a massive amount of location data for your app. How do you use Ruby and Rails for this type of data in these amounts?

We use a variety of storage systems for different purposes. Our biggest database is PostgreSQL — it currently stores the canonical records for most of our data, including users, spots, and checkins.

We also rely heavily on Redis for all kinds of things, like friendships, counters and queues. We use lots of memcached for ephemeral things, Varnish for HTTP caches and Solr to keep fuzzy spot searches fast.

Increasingly, we’re using Cassandra to store a lot of stream-like data — things like activity feeds and audit logs. I expect that our usage of Cassandra will grow a lot this year, and that we’ll also start relying on Hadoop to help us understand our data better.

Here is a simplified example of how we store and retrieve checkins, using a custom-build timeline service, called Chronologic, which is backed by Cassandra:

When you’re not coding in Ruby, what other languages/tools do you use? Or, if you had to choose another language for Gowalla, what would it be?

When I’m coding at work these days, it’s usually on our iOS client — so Cocoa/Objective-C is where I’m spending most of my time.

But for server-side work, I see us gradually moving toward a more services-oriented architecture. We are always looking at our application today and trying to identify pieces of functionality that can be isolated into services that have their own data storage and deployment patterns. So far, all of those services are written in Ruby, but I won’t be surprised if some of them end up being written in Scala, or with Node.js, or something else. But when it comes to the central web application that powers gowalla.com, I’m very happy with it being Ruby/Rails.

Here is a section of one of the view controllers in the Gowalla iPhone application. This code handles authenticating with a third-party service.

From a fan via Twitter: Was the traditional ActiveRecord modeling enough or did you have to use an NoSQL alternative?

Every Rails app that I’ve ever worked on has had to break away from the “ActiveRecord way” at some point, for some part of the app. But it’s not an all-or-nothing question. Most of the time, the standard relational/ActiveRecord approach works perfectly well, and the convenience of following the Rails golden path is completely worthwhile. But most interesting apps will run into at least a few points where the standard tools break down, and you need to access your data differently.

Fortunately, it’s a wonderful time for alternative data stores. Just look through the Heroku add-ons page — you’ve got Redis, MySQL, CouchDB, Memcache, MongoDB, Solr and more — all available as hosted services. It’s incredibly freeing to be able to tinker with these tools without worrying about up-front installation and configuration.

The example from the second question is a prime example of this. Scaling activity streams with a relational database in fairly real time is tricky — it often breaks down when one user has millions of followers, or when one user follows millions of others. To make it work, we created a service called Chronologic that manages any kind of timeline, and exposes a relatively simple interfa
ce to the Rails application. Under the covers, Chronologic uses Cassandra for most of its storage.

What kind of gem testing do you use, if any?

We use Shoulda, Factory Girl and FlexMock for testing our Ruby/Rails code. After each commit, a local continuous integration server runs the test suite and notifies the developers via Campfire of any failures.

What side project(s) are you working on right now?

Most of my “side” projects these days are tangentially work-related — small experiments to learn about a new database or library, to try out a new web service or as a proof-of-concept for a new technique. My work directly is littered with dozens of tiny re-writes of our iPhone client, each exploring some new UI idea, networking optimization, etc.


Series supported by Rackspace


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The Web Development Series is supported by Rackspace, the better way to do hosting. No more worrying about web hosting uptime. No more spending your time, energy and resources trying to stay on top of things like patching, updating, monitoring, backing up data and the like. Learn why.


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Image courtesy of Flickr, Robert Scoble.

More About: gowalla, node, programming, RoR, ruby, Ruby on Rails, Web Development, web development series

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