The Raspberry Pi might not be a heavyweight in the specifications department but that is no reason why this inexpensive educational computer shouldn't help you learn more about some of the latest technology used to create web sites. The availability of some of the latest open source software in Arch Linux ARM introduces the exiting possibility of using the device as a mini portable web server (you could even battery power it). This could be very useful, not just for learning about these new technologies but also if you wanted to try your sites out with client machines that may not let you install server software locally, e.g. phones, tablets and set top boxes.
Three months have gone by since the release of the first version of the Scripting Layer for Android Tablet Remix. In that time quite a few changes have been made to the upstream version of the Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A) and I have had a few people asking me when these features are coming to the Tablet Remix. So just in time for Christmas I am pleased to announce that these changes have been imported into the source code for the Tablet Remix and it is now completely up to date with the latest SL4A features! Probably the most significant of these is the Full Screen UI.
*** UPDATE: The second version of this app has now been released. This page has been updated with the new version. *** A couple of days ago on the android-scripting Google group I was very pleased to announce the first release of the Scripting Layer for Android Tablet Remix also known as SL4A Tablet Remix. As the name implies this is a version of the Scripting Layer for Android that has been adapted for Android Honeycomb tablets, especially the Asus EEE Pad Transformer. There is still a lot of work to do on this app and a lot of improvements that can be made, but at last in is in a usable state and if you enjoy programming or want to learn about it this could be for you. The app builds on the fantastic work done by the contributors to the original SL4A project and extends functionality to being the Honeycomb look and feel to the app as well as extending the programming environment provided by SL4A to take advantage of some of the great features of the latest Android tablets.
Recently my evenings seem to have been disappearing in the blink of an eye. It is funny that when you get really into a bit of computer programming time can seem to disappear quite quickly. It can be quite a fun and mentally challenging way to spend time, not to mention absorbing. So I am hoping the project I am working on will enable more people to join that fun by writing small programs on their tablets. I am working on a version of the Scripting Layer for Android ("SL4A" – which used to be known as the Android Scripting Environment) and adapting it for tablets, especially the EEE Pad Transformer. The aim is to make the package work well on tablets and to adjust the user interface to make the most of the screen and new features such as the Action Bar.
In a recent poll on this site I asked "Do you have, or are you planning to learn, any skills related to Linked Data?". Interestingly 60% of respondents (there were 101 votes) said yes, so I thought I should finally get round to writing up a demonstration app that uses Linked Data to provide the information and jQuery Mobile to provide the looks (and more) for a mobile podcast by subject explorer. The site is written using PHP and was developed quite quickly. Again I will be using the Open University's Linked Data store, but the site could easily be adapted to use other stores, maybe even more than one store. Thanks to the use of jQuery Mobile it would even be possible to take the site and embed it in a thin app on the phone to make it look a bit like a native app. Of course the site is a bit rough and ready and I am sure there are thousands of ways to improve it, so experiment and let me know how you get on in the comments.
If you have visited this site before you might have noticed that things are looking a little bit different around here. There is a new look and also the software that the site runs on has been upgraded. Since the site started it has run on an installation of Drupal 5, which is of course part of history now and no longer supported. It was great to get three and a half years service out of that version of Drupal but the time had come to move on and upgrade to Drupal 7 in order that the site will have the features it needs going forward. Upgrading was an interesting experience though and maybe a little time consuming!
The release of Drupal 7 was a long time in coming and is a major upgrade from and means major changes for anybody used to working with Drupal, the popular content management system and web application framework. Every major version number means lots of new features, but also breaking changes making upgrading possibly tricky depending on how your site is set up. It also means that you need to know what the benefits are of the new version before deploying Drupal. In an attempt to address this need Packt Publishing have released Drupal 7 First Look by Mark Noble and were kind enough to send me an electronic review copy.
The demise or otherwise of social bookmarking service Delicious has set tongues wagging across the Internet. Does it mean we can't trust cloud services? Or nothing of the sort? In reality I think this story shows us nothing new, it is just another manifestation of an age old problem. As the old saying goes “if you want something doing, do it yourself”, but you can't do everything yourself so you have to trust other people at some point and that is where risk comes in. One way to reduce that risk is to have alternatives that you can switch to easily (and consequently this is why vendor lock-in can be so dangerous). Fortunately with Delicious there are a number of ready to go alternatives and one I have been experimenting with a self-hosted solution called Scuttle.
Many organisations are offering rich Linked Data stores now that you can interrogate with the SPARQL language. This data might be interesting for the mobile app developer to work with so it would be great to be able to experiment with this data in Google App Inventor for Android applications. At the moment you cannot do this directly as App Inventor only offers quite limited functionality to interact with the web, however with the help of a server side "bridging script" we can close that divide and send a SPARQL query from inside the application and deal with the results we get back.
Extracting data from the web to use in our computer programs has always been a challenge. Many developers will be familiar with techniques such as Web Scraping, trying to parse a human readable web page and extract data and might dream of more reliable ways to query different sources for data in a standardised way. Linked Data is a proposed answer to this issue that seems to be gaining some momentum with data being exposed in this format by organisations such as the British Govenment and my own employer The Open University. So how do we query these resources and get the data into our PHP scripts?