Get In Line for iPhone Online

NJIT has announced the opening of registration for the first iPhone Application Development class available to the general public  and conducted  entirely online.  Taken from the for-credit class-section first offered by NJIT in the Spring 2009, the online syllabus contains development instruction, sample code, multi-media resources, and the documentation of the face-to-face offering.  Additionally, this professional development offering awards both CEU's (3) and an NJIT certificate upon successful completion of the class.  Students are required to have a Macintosh computer capable of running the latest iPhone Software Development Kit, an iPhone or an iPod Touch. Though not a pre-requisite to registration, participants in the class  will also be required to register as an developer with Apple, Inc.

So much for the advertisement.

The goal of this class is to produce independent, entrepreneurial code developers who can use their talents to develop skills that lead them into the realm of code-for-profit without having the developers  negotiate the daunting (and recently diminishing) corporate opportunities for application programming, and make some money from their independent effort and dedication.  Fostering independent initiatives is a departure from the NJIT instructive model.  Apart from the degree-oriented credit courses, even NJIT's non-credit offerings have been targeted at students who use their newly learned skills to get a job or enhance the jobs they may already have.  The iPhone application developer comes from an entirely different mold.

Tonight's guest lecturer, Michael Hill of PrimoSpot software, is right out of that mold.  Coming from a background of web application development, Michael spent "a couple of months" learning Apple's Xcode and about a year as the only staff in his new company. He developed PrimoSpot --an application that displays car parking zones and parking availability in New York City.  Boston is the next target of his app with more cities to follow.  As PrimoSpot grows, the plan is to port it to other platforms with the Blackberry clearly in his crosshairs.  Automobile GPS units will not be far behind.

For those who want to swim in this new entrepreneurial pool there are opportunities to learn.  Stanford University has released their iPhone curriculum for free download on iTunes, but there is more to learning to swim than reading a book about lifesaving. The  online iPhone class that NJIT is offering will support  step-by-step instructor-lead teaching and evaluation tailored to the student seeking effective professional development training.

The online iPhone class will begin on May 11th and continue for 10 weeks and offer 30 hours of instruction.  More information is available via e-mail at:   There is an announcement mailing-list available, and a course summary.  The main page for the online offering is:  and there is a direct link for class registration.

Here's to an interesting and innovative Spring and Summer of iPhone code.

Free Speech

Way back in the latter part of the last millennium, I was a high school student studying German.  My language resources consisted of my teacher and my German grammar/textbook, Deutsh fur Amerikaner.  Nearly forty years after I first practiced the lines, I can still hear my teacher, Frau Petillo intone:

"Klasse, wiederholen sie allezusammen...  Guten morgen, ich heisse Miller." and we'd repeat and respond: "ich heisse Brown"

Moving on in our daily responsive in-class readings, Frau Petillo would ask our Brownian class which cabin we stayed at:

"Welche Kabine haben Sie"?  and we'd all murmur "nummer neun" and Frau Petillo would clasp her hands in toe-curling joy and exclaim:

"Dann sind wir Nachbarn!  Ich habe nummer zehn!"

Yes, indeed, the times have changed since that snippet of secondary-school history.  Now, instead of cracking my grammar book to learn those dative case grabbing prepositions (aus, ausser, bei, mit nach, von zeit, zu), I could simply Google up an EduWeb resource and ignore the entire dative case,  or just hunt around and find  a site like Languages Online to study my prepositions and review my conjugations --if my mind didn't wander off into Indonesian.  I don't even have to buy a book; the sites and the resources are free.

People who expect that the internet exists in English probably have never used UseNet or IRC; they may even think that the World Wide Web IS the Internet. Those people probably have not spent hours (or days) trying to beat some source code into submission while searching sites that, apparently, have just the insight you need to win the  Code War only to spend even more time trying to decipher the programmer's explanation in French..  or German... or Japanese...

Though it still thrives on a fancy website, I have to assume that Esperanto just isn't going to be the global language that unites our global economy; it probably isn't going to be English, either, but that transition is probably many years away.  But forty years after she first taught me German I, Frau Petillo may be pouring over the German speaking UseNet NewsGroups and using IRC to IM her acquaintnces while she explains that steamships can NOT sail up the Weser River: "Die Weser ist nicht tief genug."

Portable Serendipity35

Type an m for mobile serendipity, iPhone style.

I spend most of my weekends glued  to a chair with a Mac in my lap while I work on the iPhone Application Development content for the classes I teach Monday and Tuesday evenings at NJIT.  By nature I'm a system administrator and operating systems developer, not a client application programmer.  I've always been a lot more interested in delivering content from a central distribution program than building a standalone program that recreates server-side functionality on an individual piece of hardware.

For a few hours over the past few weekends, I've managed to become sufficiently unglued from application development to spend some time constructing a true server-side delivery system for the iPhone, the iPod Touch and other mobile platforms to provide Serendiipty35 content.  First efforts were made using Apple's DashCode to deliver content, but that was too restrictive.  The webages produced were so dependent on iPhone conventions that the pages produced no clickable links when viewed from a conventional browser like Safari or Firefox. I never even tried to subject Internet Explorer to the webapp's URL.

Serendipity can natively produce RSS newsfeeds in XML and since XML is platform (and browser) independent (and the Serendipity software supports plugin technology to extend its features), I thought that an XML based mobile browser was probably the way to proceed. At the time, I didn't realize just  how correct I was.  A lot of work had already been done on the backend code translation and the content display and even though most of it was in German, I was able to download significant parts of the plugin code and adapt it to what I was trying to do.

After a break in the afternoon that had me scurrying out to get yet another iPhone SDK programming guide, I was able to finish editing the plugin code, build a new virtual host for serendipity35, create a name alias that allowed automatic redirection of content to a mobile site when a mobile browser was detected, and get the whole shooting match online.

I don't have a mobile device besides the iPhone and the iPhone Simulator with which to view the site, but at least it is browsable (and functional) in both Firefox and Safari.  And besides the obvious functionality of having a true mobile device version of the Serendipity35 blog, it distracted me long enough from my other weekend task to enjoy a pretty big chunk of my day.

Will ByLines Be ByGones?

Back in the summer of 2007, Ken posted about homework software for students.  In that post he mentioned a site/service called Scribd.  Created in the image of Web 2.0 publishing, Scribd is essentially an archive into which authors may upload articles that they have written and want to make publicly available.  At first look, there doesn't seem to be any controversy in that.  But Aristotle said, "Nature abhors a vacuum," and into the serene and empty space of self-publication, controversy has naturally rushed.  From an announcement on the Scribd site posted on March 30th:
"Yesterday, The Times of London published an article claiming that various authors, including J.K. Rowling, were “fighting” Scribd over copyrighted material on our site. Unfortunately, the Times’ article was misleading and included factual errors that must be corrected."
Maybe Ms Rowling doesn't want to share the same publishing space as pikers like me, but apparently some others don't mind as much:
"Online document sharing site Scribd has announced that it has partnered with a number of major publishers, including Random House, Simon & Schuster, Workman Publishing Co., Berrett-Koehler, Thomas Nelson, and Manning Publications, to legally offer some of their content to Scribd’s community free of charge. Publishers have begun to add an array of content to Scribd’s library, including full-length novels as well as briefer teaser excerpts."

Of course, for the commercial publishing enterprises, the battle for publishing rights and sites comes down to their business model and their bottom line, but there is an underlying agita about shanghaied content that affects other content producers, too.  I won't publish the links, here, but on several occasions, Ken has found Serendiity35 content, taken verbatim with no attribution, on pseudo-blog sites that do nothing but list content to lure browsers to their advertising spam sites.  The (admittedly un-enforcable) license under which we publish Serendipity35 content is Creative Commons Share Alike --that license precludes any commercial redistribution of content.

There is a new model for online content and online publishing in the works, but it is not likely to be defined by existing precedents or the notion of ownership. What that model may turn out to be might look more like the law of the Wild West (it already does to a degree) than a codified set of principles, but it will almost certainly be something that redefines or eliminates what we think of as copyright, today.