Austin is fine without Uber and Lyft… until it isn’t

https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/12/austin-is-fine-without-uber-and-lyft-until-it-isnt/

Using a clickbait headline, TechCrunch reveals that Austin, Texas is doing just fine without the predatory companies Uber and Lyft.

The only time there has been an issue is when the servers running behind the scenes for the Austin-specific rideshare apps were overloaded.

The lesson isn’t that Uber amd Lyft do technology better and have the best uptime, the lesson is that rideshare apps should band together and share their tech and techniques. It benefits no one when all servers for rideshare are overloaded.

I’m hoping to see rideshare server technology like LibreTaxi to take off to make it even easier for cooperative rideshare companies to launch and oprate.

WordPress.com lets you ditch Medium with new import tool

https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/02/wordpresscom-lets-you-ditch-medium-with-new-import-tool/

One of the best blogging tools, WordPress, can now import blogs and posts from rival Medium. Medium recently has laid off several workers and is searching for a new vision of what their company’s mission will be.

WordPress has been around for a long time and it just keeps getting better. The best feature, in my opinion, is that WordPress is free/open source.

Importing Medium posts and switching to WordPress is a good idea because who knows how long Medium will last in its current form, and besides you get more power and customizability with WordPress.

Pencil: An Open Source Balsamiq competitor

Pencil: An Open Source Balsamiq competitor

Pencil is a free/open source prototyping tool. It gives you the ability to create prototypes of web applications and desktop applications and GUIs in the same way that Balsamiq does. It works on all platforms: Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

I’ve personally used it to create web application product prototypes and also website designs. For me, the biggest advantage is how easy it is use and the built-in set of templates and stencils are great. It felt like I could prototype a whole app within a few days.

Creating a wireframe with Pencil is quicker and easier than trying to create a pixel-perfect prototype. What’s cool about Pencil is that it’s very easy to use and it can export each page as a PNG file which you can upload and share with others.

An interesting feature is the ability to export the whole set of wireframe pages as a set of web pages, making it easy for others to view. Combined with the inter-linking between pages that is possible, you can use Pencil to create a prototype that walks users through the different use cases and flows within your app.

 

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Android stencil for Pencil, the open source competitor to Balsamiq

Pencil provides stencils for Android and iOS so you can create wireframes for mobile and smart phone applications. Not only can you use it for wireframes and prototypes, you can also draw diagrams like flowcharts which are useful for documenting the various states and transitions within your app.

 

If you’re a developer you may be interested in the work the open source developers are doing on pencil, you can click here to check out their code repository.

Yoga, Facebook’s opensource crossplatform layout library

Facebook has released a new library, written in the C programming language that is a layout engine for GUI applications. It is called Yoga and it is aimed at web developers who have used the CSS flex box layout styles. It is possible to use the library with Java, C#, and Objective-C and can be used with React Native.

It handles laying out widgets in grid patterns or other layout styles using flex box styles like flex direction and flex wrap and alignment.

It is possible to integrate Yoga into an existing layout engine.

It’s an open question as to where this fits in if you’re using GTK or Qt to develop a desktop or mobile application.

Shazam keeps your Mac’s mic on

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/shazam-keeps-your-macs-microphone-always-on-even-when-you-turn-it-off

This is why I advocate for more software to be free/open source, because in some cases you have no idea what it’s actually doing. When the code is freely available under a free software or open source license, it becomes possible for third parties to do an audit of the code and to see what it actually does.

Shazam’s Mac app is misleading users by defining “off” as “well your mic is still on and we will only listen to what you say when the app is active, we promise”.

Open Source IFTTT: Trigger Happy

Trigger Happy is an open source alternative to IFTTT (If This Then That) which is a way of connecting and integrating multiple services on the web through their APIs.

Right now it supports these services:

  • Evernote
  • Github
  • Instapush
  • Pelican
  • Pocket
  • Pushbullet
  • Todoist
  • Trello
  • Twitter
  • Wallabag

Integration services like IFTTT, Zapier and now, Trigger Happy are vital to an ecosystem of apps, and they make web apps far more useful.

For example, you could create a trigger with Trigger Happy that when you create a card in Trello, a new issue will be opened in GitHub.

Surveillance Self-Defense Software

Check out this article from The Intercept, detailing how to defend yourself from government surveillance.

Here’s a list of the software that is mentioned, and while some of it is proprietary, I thought it would be alright to list it here because it does protect privacy through encryption technologies:

  • Signal (open source)
  • What’s App (proprietary)
  • Semaphor (proprietary), it’s like Slack but encrypted
  • Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates
  • Tor Browser
  • Qubes, a GNU/Linux distribution that runs everything in disposable virtual machines and compartmentalizes to protect you from USB drive viruses and PDF malware