08 Dec

Google Ads are not really relevant anymore

Over time, I have seen the behavior of Google Ads on my weblog change behavior. Today, when I visit websites, including my own blog, I no longer see content-relevant Ads.

Digging around I found information on how ads are targeted to your site:

  • Contextual targeting, based on keywords
  • Placement targeting, based on your site URL
  • Interest-based advertising, targeting specific users on your site based on their cookie ID.

I am not sure which one above is the one getting triggered, but from my perspective, the Ads being served have NOTHING to do with my blog content! Instead they seem to be related to my “search history”.

As a publisher, that is NOT what I want for my blog — I want to control the kinds of Ads that are served on my blog. I want them to be content-relevant, the way they used to be.

Google provides a way to “opt-out” which I haven’t tried yet, that supposedly allows you to “opt out of ads shown to you based on factors such as your interests and demographic details on your computer’s browser.” — whatever that really means.

I am starting to look for Ads alternatives — as I said, as a blog owner I want to control the kind of Ads that are served on my blog — which in my case I want them to be *content-relevant Ads*.

Perhaps I have problems with the Google Crawlers?

Does anyone know how (as blog owner) I can control the kind of Ads that are served by Google?

Do you have an alternative to Google Ads or suggestions for me? Thanks in advance.

Related to this:

* How ads are targeted to your site.
* Factors that affect ad serving.
* About the AdSense crawler.


27 Nov

Android App Ops is a Step Forward

Update Dec/15/2013: Two weeks after I wrote this piece below, Google removed App Ops... See Android App Ops *WAS* a Step Forward, and stay tuned.

One of Android’s top limitations, one that totally drives me nuts, is its security model, in particular the app permissions model. This is a permission security model where developers (the app) requests permissions, and the user grants permissions during the installation process.

To get an idea of how the Android security model works in general, see an old article of mine titled Understanding security on Android (IBM developerWorks).

The problem with Android’s permission model today is that users are limited two options: 1) grant ALL requested permissions, or 2) not install the app at all.

…and that is a sucky permission model that needs revision.

For example, if I liked a new cool camera app, one that accesses the camera and my location, but I do not want the app to track my location, I have to compromise – either I grant all the permissions, including the ones I am not comfortable with granting, and if I don’t like that, even though I may like the app itself, the alternative is not to install the app at all.

Enter App Ops (Permission Manager)

It was with great excitement (yes, sounds geeky) when I learned about the native App Ops app.

I had totally missed the native App Ops app in Android 4.3 that allows users to grant individual permissions post-app installation. Then I learned the app was removed on Android 4.4. But the good news is that it was not removed, it was just hidden. App developers such as Color Tiger allows you to unhide the native App Ops app. With the native App Ops app I can now control and turn off specific permissions per app!

This of course means that apps must be robust and properly handle the unavailability of restricted, un-granted features — by properly testing for null values and handling security Exceptions — vs. just crashing when it cannot perform the (restricted) functions that have been turned off by the user. Perhaps this is the reason the native App Ops app was hidden by Google for now.

I did a quick test on my Nexus 4 (I finally got my Android 4.4 upgrade) – wrote a simple location-based app/activity and put some breakpoints to test/see this behavior while turning the location permission on/off via the native App Ops app.

Permission Test screenshot

In the case of the LocationManager.getLastKnownLocation(), turning off the Location permission, it returns a null value (which means that the provider is currently disabled). Note that I was expecting a SecurityException to be thrown instead! Hmm, need to think about that. Thus, I will continue researching this and in the meantime, for LocationManager.getLastKnownLocation() seems that all we have to do is to test for null, something you should be doing anyways.

Location loc = locMgr.getLastKnownLocation(LocationManager.GPS_PROVIDER);
if (loc == null)
    return; // Provider is not enabled

In summary, while the native App Ops app is a step forward (for end-users that is), the selection of permissions to grant for a given app, really should be part of the app installation process itself (an alternative is to prompt the user every time the app attempts to use a restricted API – I think I prefer the former). This will require that developers be aware and properly test for scenarios related to restricted features/APIs not being available, and perhaps new documentation related to permissions guidelines for developers. I am looking forward to see this happening.

Oh, and thank you, Color Tiger!!!


12 Nov

Enabling Voice Communication on Android Apps

Check out the new guest post that I wrote on Enabling Voice Communication on Android Apps, for the Safari Books Online blog. It covers how to enable voice communication using the Android SIP Stack/API.

Enabling voice communication on Android apps is possible via the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) stack. This protocol originated in 2000 as a signaling protocol in support of Voice over IP (VoIP). With today’s move to IP wireless networks such as LTE, SIP is the core signaling protocol for voice over IP Multimedia Subsystems (IMS). In this post we will explore how to enable voice communication on Android apps by using the Android Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) stack. With the transformation of traditional networks as IP-networks, and the future of voice as a “data app,” expect media-rich and location-aware communication apps, where the smartphone plays a central role in personal communications. This means that developers can now create a new breed of voice communication apps like never before. This post assumes you are somewhat familiar with the Android platform and the Java language.

Read Enabling Voice Communication on Android Apps (source: Safari Books Online).


07 Nov

Congratulations to Filament Labs, Winner of the Mobile Monday Austin App/Startup Showcase at TWS 2013

“With such convergence happening with technology and healthcare, especially right here in Austin, and especially with mobile technology, it is great to see a company like Filament Labs be recognized,” said C. Enrique Ortiz, organizer of Mobile Monday Austin.

At the recently completed Texas Wireless Summit (TWS), eight Austin-area startups presented and competed in the fourth annual Mobile Monday Austin Startup Showcase. The 2013 winner was Filament Labs, http://www.filamentlabs.co, which focuses on turnkey solutions for patient engagement. Filament is building a consumer engagement platform for the healthcare industry that helps health plans & hospitals promote healthy lifestyle changes across their member bases.

“We are so honored to win the Mobile Monday Startup Showcase, especially to be in the same category as the winners over the past three years,” said Jason Bornhorst, CEO, Filament Labs. “We are building a platform that makes mobile health easy with reusable modules that solve the complicated stuff of mHealth, like compliance, data exchange and patient engagement.”

In the Showcase, competing companies were judged on five factors: idea, market and industry potential/impact, team composition, revenue model and company stage. This year’s Showcase judges included Carlo Longino of Wireless Industry Partnership (WIP), Dai Truong of Austin Ventures and David Gill of Nielsen.

“With such convergence happening with technology and healthcare, especially right here in Austin, and especially with mobile technology, it is great to see a company like Filament Labs be recognized,” said C. Enrique Ortiz, organizer of Mobile Monday Austin.

The Showcase runner up was Fosbury, http://fosbury.co, which provides tools to drive store traffic and customer engagement using mobile wallet campaigns.

Other Showcase competing companies included:
* Beyonic – http://www.beyonic.com
* eyeQ – http://www.eyeqinsights.com
* Futureware Inc – http://www.futureware.com
* Gizmoquip LLC – http://www.Gizmoquip.com
* Kloc – http://www.kloc.me
* SnakeHead Software – http://SnakeHeadSoftware.com

The Mobile Monday Austin Startup Showcase has been an important part of the Texas Wireless Summit (TWS) for four years now. TWS is co-hosted each year by the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), in the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin (UT), and UT’s Wireless Networking and Communications Group (WNCG). TWS brings together wireless industry leaders and entrepreneurs, engineers, academics and students, to discuss research, brainstorm innovation, and collectively work to move the wireless space forward in Texas and beyond.

“Austin remains at the nexus of wireless technology, both in research and commerce. TWS topped itself this year in terms of topic quality, engagement, and diversity of attendees”, stated event co-host and Director of ATI’s IT/Wireless portfolio, Kyle Cox. With a theme of Disrupting Wireless with Big Data Analytics, the 2013 TWS featured keynotes from Aster Teradata and Stanford’s GPS Laboratory, as well as other speakers from Stanford GPS Laboratory, Deutsche Bank, Huawei, Phunware, Verizon, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Cambridge and UT.

About the Wireless Networking and Communications Group
The Wireless Networking & Communications Group (WNCG) is a world-leading center for research and education at the University of Texas at Austin. WNCG strives to be the most relevant academic wireless center, which is achieved in part through its vibrant industrial affiliates program. Many WNCG graduates now lead and contribute to R&D efforts at those companies as employees. WNCG is a National Science Foundation Industry/University Collaborative Research Center (I/UCRC) for Wireless Internet Communications and Advanced Technologies (WICAT). http://www.wncg.org
About the Austin Technology Incubator:

The Austin Technology Incubator harnesses business, government and academic resources to provide strategic counsel, operational guidance and infrastructural support for its member companies to help them transition into successful, high-growth technology businesses. The Austin Technology Incubator, in the IC2 Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, has a 25-year history of successful new venture support with a focus on getting startups funded. ATI has helped more than 250 companies raise over $1 billion of investor capital. More than 85% of ATI’s 2012 graduating class received funding totaling more than $200 million. ATI has a dual mission: promote economic development in Central Texas through entrepreneurial wealth and job creation, and provide a “teaching laboratory” in applied entrepreneurship for UT-Austin students and faculty.

About Mobile Monday Austin
Since 2005, the Austin chapter of Mobile Monday has been connecting via monthly meet-ups, technology and business professionals, researchers and enthusiasts who share a common interest: mobile software and technologies. Today Mobile Monday Austin has over 495 members. For more information see http://MobileMondayAustin.com. Mobile Monday Austin is possible thanks to its sponsors and the Austin tech community.

See the press-release – http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/10/prweb11276133.htm.


04 Nov

Android 4.4 (KitKat) is Here!

Check out the new guest post that I wrote on Android 4.4, for the Safari Books Online blog. It summarizes what is new on Android and related important information.

In this post we will explore the major changes introduced in Android 4.4. Android 4.4 is the newest version of the Android mobile operating system that was released at the end of October 2013. Also known by the codename KitKat, this version brings a number of very important internal memory-related improvements as well as improvements to the user interface, connectivity support, media and security support, and more.

Read Android 4.4 (KitKat) is Here! (source: Safari Books Online).


21 Sep

2014 American Freestyle Open

Planning has begun!

The American Freestyle Open is the premiere freestyle disc event of 2014 in the United States with top-ranked players expected from all over the country and the world.

And it is happening in Austin, Texas!

To all my friends, individuals and businesses, hope you can help us make this an awesome event.

This event is planned for the Fall of 2014, and it is going to be huge and awesome.

If you would like to help, and/or sponsor the event, please let me know; we have a number of sponsorship levels available.


21 Sep

Stephen Hawking Says Humans Won’t Survive Another 1,000 Years On Earth

Stephen Hawking Says Humans Won’t Survive Another 1,000 Years On Earth

“if humans don’t migrate from the planet Earth to colonize other planets, they’ll face extinction in 1,000 years.”

The above quote reminds me of Into the Void


Into the Void

Rocket engines burning fuel so fast
Up into the night sky they blast
Through the universe the engines whine
Could it be the end of man and time?
Back on earth the flame of life burns low
Everywhere is misery and woe
Pollution kills the air, the land and sea
Man prepares to meet his destiny

Rocket engines burning fuel so fast
Up into the night sky so vast
Burning metal through the atmosphere
Earth remains in worry, hate and fear
With the hateful battles raging on
Rockets flying to the glowing sun
Through the empires of eternal void
Freedom from the final suicide

Freedom fighters sent out to the sun
Escape from brainwashed minds and pollution
Leave the earth to all it’s sin and hate
Find another world where freedom waits

Past the stars in fields of ancient void
Through the shields of darkness where they find
Love upon a land a world unknown
Where the sons of freedom make their home
Leave the earth to Satan and his slaves
Leave them to their future in the grave
Make a home where love is there to stay
Peace and happiness in every day


13 Sep

Betting on Nokia (2013)

(Image source: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk)

Have you given up on Nokia?

From my perspective, due to its recent (couple of years old) debacles and endeavors with MSFT, I had stayed away from Nokia.

I never believed on how their MSFT strategy was approached.

Nokia should have totally maximized their Smartphone hardware design expertise, and should have offered that to the world — running Android, Windows and their own Advanced OS. If they have done that, by just supporting the Android OS, they would have owned the other side of the marketshare (not already owned by Apple).

But instead they handed this unique opportunity, and without contest, to Samsung. Today Nokia has lost such hardware design expertise to Microsoft.

And while the world was changing, Nokia management was too comfortable. Call it arrogance or not, they assumed their leadership and marketshare would last, versus seeing it erode at such a fast rate.

Nokia failed to adopt-standardize on “touch interactions” fast enough — even though they had the technology, OS based on Symbian and R&D brain-power. Then they pulled out from Japan, then pulled out from the USA, gave up on MeeGo Phone, and sold bulk of its Qt business to Digia. Its audience, platforms, content and ecosystem was all too much, too complex, affecting company focus.

And all the above happened during the time when the Smartphone itself, the mobile ecosystem and the mobile-lifestyle in general were being redefined, by Software, by advanced interactions and beautiful interfaces, rich content, faster networks, and awesome user experiences, all which when put together led to the awesome transformation of the Mobile space as we see know it today. This is a period of 3-5 years, really the culmination of 15 years of evolution that started with pagers, feature phones, Smartphones, and now Advanced Smartphones.

Those were the early days of Mobile, which also were the days of Research in Motion (now BlackBerry) and Nokia. Because BlackBerry and Nokia where both early pioneers, is the reason why their IP portfolios today are worth billions of dollars; Nokia’s alone is worth more than $6 billion dollars. Blackberry’s IP portfolio must be very valuable as well.

There were other factors that contributed to Nokia’s demise on Mobile.

Nokia was too dependent on the Network Operators/carriers. This is to the point of sacrificing/delaying the introductions of advanced (more costly) devices into the consumer market.

Control then moved away from the network operator and into the Ecosystem — led by Apple and Google.

Back then, Nokia saw BlackBerry as a threat. They saw Apple as a thread as well, but Nokia didn’t see Android as much of a threat.

And the final straw was Nokia giving-up what is the MOST important aspect of Smartphones — the Software. And because Nokia’s software strategy was MSFT alone, it was game was over.

But past is past. Nokia has finally cut clean from MSFT, and got rid of legacy stuff. Yes, it lost lots of good people, but life goes on. The market benefits from this via new startups formed by ex-Nokians.

Nokia can now start from scratch. In many ways, it is a blessing.

So am I betting on Nokia?

Yes, I am.

Nokia is a company with lots of passion and pride. It has the smarts/people. It currently has the technologies and products that can be monetized (network, maps, etc). It owns tons of mobile and wireless intellectual property that is worth billions of dollars. And now that MSFT is buying Nokia’s device business, and is cutting clean from MSFT, Nokia is in the position to reinvent and simplify itself.

I even see how Nokia would re-enter the mobile space. If you think about it, mobile is still young; what I mean is that while the “mobile use case” has been proven, the technologies are still evolving. Yet to be invented are new approaches and use-cases related to the Mobile Lifestyle.

So I bought NOK stock and it has been going up.

(Disclaimer: I am not giving you financial advice here, just a personal perspective).


04 Sep

App Showcase at Texas Wireless Summit 2013 (Oct 18)

The 11th annual Texas Wireless Summit (Oct 18, 2013) continues the tradition of providing a forum for industry leaders and academics to discuss emerging technologies and business models that will shape the industry over the upcoming two to three years.

As in previous years, we are running the Mobile Monday Austin App Showcase at the TX Wireless Summit, and we are inviting Austin (startup) companies to join us and showcase their mobile apps and solutions. You will be exposed to hundreds of attendees and investors.

If you would like to showcase your mobile app/solution, please complete this online form. If having trouble, please contact me at “enrique dot ortiz at gmail.com”.

Participation is limited.


28 Jul

Black Sabbath 2013 | #ATXSabbath

Last night (July 27, 2013) Black Sabbath came to Austin Texas (Erwin Center); my 1st time ever seeing Sabbath (and Ozzy for that matter).


We enjoyed the show very much. In memory of my very good friend Alberto Rafóls; we used as kids to listen to Sabbath again and again, while Frisbee Jamming. R.I.P. my good friend, my brother!

The Sabbath’s Reunion Tour is the group’s first album to feature their original singer Ozzy Osbourne since 1978 and original bassist Geezer Butler since 1994.

What they played:

  1. War Pigs
  2. Into the Void
  3. Under the Sun
  4. Snowblind
  5. Electric Funeral
  6. Black Sabbath
  7. Behind the Wall of Sleep
  8. N.I.B.
  9. End of the Beginning
  10. Fairies Wear Boots
  11. Symptom of the Universe
  12. Drum Solo
  13. Iron Man
  14. God Is Dead?
  15. Dirty Women
  16. Children of the Grave
  17. Encore: Paranoid

Not played, but I really wished they had: Wizard.


05 Jul

Texas GDG TX DevFest 2013

[Google invited me to give this talk, but expanded, in Kansas City on Aug 23rd. Stay tuned for more info]

Next Fri and Sat July 12 – 13 in Austin is the Texas’ GDG TX DevFest.

There will be multiple session tracks on Android, Web/JavaScript, and other tech, with guest speakers from Austin, Houston, Dallas and California, from Google as well as Texas local speakers.

I will be talking on Friday July 12 afternoon, where I will be giving a Lightning Talk on “The Evolution of Voice Apps” with focus on Android.

Visit the GDG TX DevFest website to buy tickets.


09 Jun

This week’s march toward dystopia: Amendment IV, the NSA, Surveillance, and Metadata

U.S. Constitution — AMENDMENT IV

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Proposed 9/25/1789. Ratified 12/15/1791.

Let’s not be naive. Big-brother, mass surveillance, in the name of “protecting its Citizens”

Shame on the USA Government for going into extremes.

You should read Stop likening NSA to a private company! (Salon.com). I totally agree with the article’s author. Do not compare the Government with private companies – there is a major difference between the Gov monitoring/surveillance and the relationship between consumers and private companies.

I am afraid that this issue of government surveillance goes beyond Democrats and Republicans — both have failed with respect to preserving the basic privacy rights. Where is the line drawn? Both political parties, and it is getting exponentially worst, use “terrorism and fear” as a way to rationalize their unbalanced and extreme surveillance efforts. This is just the beginning. How far will this go? How far are you willing to let this go? Who is responsible? “Only look into a mirror.”

I keep reading that all this is OK because the NSA is only collecting “metadata”. They use the term “metadata” as if it is harmless data. But it is not harmless. Let’s not be naive. Metadata is “data about data”. Metadata is used to describe data structure, and to describe the data itself. Metadata in this case is the Call Detail Records (CDR) — each time a call is made, a call detail record is stored somewhere in the operator’s network (storage). The following information can be pulled from a CDR:

  • “Originating number”,
  • “Terminating number”,
  • The duration of each call,
  • Trunk identifiers (call connection/endpoint info),
  • Routing information (call/connection routes in the network),
  • International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number.

The IMSI can glue it all together. The first 3 digits of IMSI tells you the mobile country code (MCC), and the mobile network (operator) code (MNC). Information that can be mapped to via the IMSI include IMEI (describes the handset/device model), MSISDN (telephone numbers), and account information such as telephone calling card numbers, personal/family information, and even the actual traffic/message contents. Other information that can be easily extrapolated from the network is Cell-site location data.

So the game the Government is playing is that they are retrieving “harmless metadata” (which as you can see above, tells a lot about individuals and privacy). They will parse millions of CDRs and look for “patterns”. From such “patterns” they will issue subpoenas or similar to extract the actual message contents and personal information for specific cases and individuals. This two-step process is the reason why they are saying “extracting metadata is harmless”. Again, let’s not be naive. These are patterns or search criteria that can be anything, it is way too loose. Who is watching the watchmen?

All this is about basic principles. Naive are those who fail to see this. There is the reason why the Fourth Amendment was added to our Constitution in the first place – to protect its Citizens of exactly this kind of dystopian acts that we are experiencing right now.

In case you don’t know, the 4th amendment was ratified in 1791; this is a long time ago. But it was introduced for a good reason, which should not surprise you. Back then, as it is now and will in the future, governments tend to be controlled by the few (individuals and enterprises), gain extreme powers, believe it has a mission from God, and begins coercing conformity and soliciting submission from their Citizens. This has happened again and again throughout out the world’s history. It happened back then in the late 1700s when the 4th amendment was put in place, and it is happening right now. But the 4th Amendment must be updated to reflect today’s definition of “papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”.

Related to this, a must read: The Eternal Value of Privacy (Bruce Schneier).

Coincidentally, two months ago, last April, I wrote a blog V for Vendetta, C for Constitution, which talks about this exact issue on how people are and will be willing to give up their rights, without understanding what they are really doing — until it is too late. Then will ask themselves, who is to blame. And the answer is “only look into a mirror.”

Power and Terrorism leads to fear. Fear leads to government control. Government control leads to censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. Coercion and submission leads to deprivation of Rights.

Last but not least, a must read by JWZ: It’s been a great week for the relentless march toward dystopia!

God Bless America…


28 Apr

Tag/Word Cloud (Apr 2013)

Every so often, I like to run a “tag or word cloud” against my Weblog (and Twitter). I then capture the output for future reference. This is a great, cool way of capturing a snapshot of topics that I write about at that point in time.

For Apr 2013, my Weblog’s word cloud looks as follows:

Weblog WordCloud Apr2013

(Tag cloud source: Tagxedo)

That said, it is good to understand the limitations of word clouds and that depending on the goal, there are better ways to visualize this kind of data — see Word clouds considered harmful.


27 Apr

Facebook buys Parse :-/

Interesting — Facebook Buys Parse To Offer Mobile Development Tools As Its First Paid B2B Service (via TC).

First congrats to Parse, for the monetization event.

I have been a Parse.com fan for a while and even wrote a few months ago an article on using Parse on Android that was published at IBM DeveloperWorks.

Indeed, the Parse API is pretty cool — a very well thought out/organized API with platform/OS-specific bindings, and a very cool “cloud code”.

One of the things I liked about Parse was its independence from the “rest”. But this independence is now gone.

From the developer’s perspective, I have mix feelings about this acquisition — the only apps I want to run against or have dependencies to the Facebook back-end are Facebook apps, and nothing else. As a consequence, my use of Parse will not be limited mainly to such.

There is an alternative to Parse: Apigee, another back-end as a service/cloud API company I am a fan of. They have an API similar to Parse; not as sophisticated, but I believe it will get there. Apigee was a speaker at Android Dev Austin a few months back and I can see how Apigee will continue to evolve. As a matter of fact, this acquisition of Parse by Facebook is probably a good thing for Apigee. (Note to self: write an article on Apigee’s APIs).


23 Apr

V for Vendetta, C for Constitution


“…cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.”

Power and Terrorism leads to fear. Fear leads to government control. Government control leads to censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. Coercion and submission leads to deprivation of Rights.

I am not being paranoid. Just look at the World’s History; and history will repeat itself — it is the “human nature”.

Do not give up your Constitutional Rights…

God Bless America.


18 Apr

UcATX – Innovation in Communication Apps Architectures (Austin, TX) Meetup

I am very excited to announce Austin’s first UcATX – Innovation in Communication Apps Architectures meetup, where we will be focusing on the future of Unified Communications, but from the Apps, APIs, Services and Architecture perspective, and related technologies including Mobile, WebRTC, SIP, IM and Cloud stacks/technologies. This a technical Meetup targeted at Developers and Engineers.

Seating is limited, please RSVP. Food and drinks will be available.

Thanks Shango and TeleStax for sponsoring our Meetup.

When: Apr 22, 2013
Time: 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM
Where: Shango offices – 3811 Bee Caves Road #101, Austin, TX


  • 5:30 pm: Networking, grab some drinks and food
  • 6:00 pm: Welcome and Introduction – Charter/focus
  • 6:15: Evin Hunt, Shango CTO | Topic: Intro to the *new* UC — abstracting Apps (and voice intelligence) from the underlying network
  • 7:00 pm: Thomas Quintana, TeleStax | Topic: HTML5 WebRTC and SIP over WebSockets
  • 7:45 – 8:00pm: Conclusion

Hope to see you there…


26 Feb

Android Dev Austin | March 2013 Meet up with Apigee

Join us at our March 2013 Android Dev Austin Meet up with Apigee! Apigee, experts on all things “API”, is one of the coolest companies out there.

Seating is limited! Please RSVP: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4577513466

Topic: Making the Backend as easy as the Frontend: a look at BaaS.


Sure, Android makes it super-easy to build the front of your mobile app, but what happens when you need to plug it to a backend to load data, register users, connect to social services, etc. ? Does it have to be the same mess of PHP, MySQL, Rails and legacy code you had to deal with during the old days of the web? (Ah, the old days of the web… That was so long ago.)

Fear not! There is an alternative today, it’s called a Backend-as-a-Service.

Tim from Apigee will give us a tour of how BaaS platforms work, and how you can use them from any mobile app. He’ll conclude with a live demo of how to use one from an Android app, and show specific examples of how some apps on the Play Store use them.

Event Info:
* Event is free.
* When: March 4, 2013. Event starts at 6pm until 8pm.
* Location: Apigee offices | 1005 west 38th street, 3rd floor, Austin, TX.
* Drinks (yes, including Beer) & Pizza will be provided!

Seating is limited! Please RSVP: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/4577513466


03 Feb

On Voice Apps (and Contextual Voice/Communications)

Future of Mobile
Image Source: The Future of the Web and Mobile (Feb 2007)

For years I have been working on mobile and related software development. This has been a world of “data”-and consumer and enterprise applications and infrastructure, that for me started in 1999-2000 with CDPD, CDMA, then GSM, 2G, 3G, and today 4G and LTE from the network side, and from the device side Symbian OS, WinCE, Palm OS, RIM, WML, HTML Basic, J2ME, and into today’s iOS and Android (Smartphone and Tablets) as the main platforms for native apps and HTML5 webapps.

More recently, I have been interested on contextual voice/communications and “Voice as an App or App Feature”.

Evolution of Mobile

Mobile has truly gone through a period of tremendous evolution and growth. Mobile is about convenience and easy access (to others and to information). The mobile Smartphone is a social artifact. And while today I believe that mobile has peaked in general (a topic for another blog), mobile has entered the phase of continuous stable growth that won’t stop — its essence will just transform into different form-factors and new interactions — all about applying the mobile context and thus improving the experience (usefulness).

The Mobile Context

The Mobile Context

“The future of personal communications and computing is the mobile handset. Part of this future is the integration with local handset capabilities and sensors and the services on the web (the cloud). Part of this future is about leveraging the hidden information found in our actions and interactions, in our surroundings, in our mobile context.”

(See The Mobile Context)

Voice has always been a fundamental piece or feature of the mobile phone, and it will always be. But in the world or era of “data”, voice has been treated as “legacy stuff”, separate and driven by its own experience, drivers, and infrastructure. Voice just works, but separate, under Operator control.

As a side note, for years, many of us have been talking about convergence with respect to mobile; an example of this is a piece I wrote back in 2007 titled the Future of the Web and Mobile that covered the expected evolution of mobile from my point of view — this was written 6 months before the iPhone was first released; looking back is pretty much on target.

The early part of the 2000 decade saw technologies, concepts and lessons-learned from Europe (Nokia), Canada (RIM), Asia and USA (Palm, MSFT, others), but their impact remained pretty much closed as well as localized to the respective regions (mainly due to Operator control). Then the years 2005-2008 were the fundamental years of transformation, and openness away from Operator control and into the Ecosystem, first in the USA (thanks to Apple and Google) which then impacted the rest of the world in big ways, into what Mobile is today. Throughout that same time-period we have been talking about the convergence with voice, but this in my opinion has never really happened. I am talking about bringing voice convergence to the next level — from the device into the App-level.

On Voice Apps

Voice is by default a multi-platform application. But the future points to voice as a dominant “mobile app”. The consumer world is massively becoming mobile, and the enterprise world will be eliminating the traditional office phones in favor of mobile. Interestingly, the effects of BYOD also impact Voice apps as well.

Even though the technologies for creating voice apps have been around for a while, today we are still kind stuck in a different world when it comes to voice: a 100+ year old world of closed voice-networks, arbitrage, peering, FCC and PSTNs regulations and other. There is a lot of history on how we got there, but for folks that come from the world of “data”, like I do, it all looks like quite a mess. Thankfully, it is an “old world” that is slowly evolving (while in the process, crashing) with the new world. I am right in the middle of this world today. One day, all of this will be completely freed from such legacy world, thanks to open IP networks, mobile, the Web, the Cloud and new business models.

Voice is slowly but surely moving into becoming a “data app” — Voice as an app or an app feature. Voice will continue to be the Smartphones *main* feature (or app). Primarily standalone. But primarily standalone with many flavors or choices beyond the “core voice support” provided by the Network Operator (for example, Google Voice). These are SIP and WebRTC clients that you can download and use, point-to-point or via the old PSTN.

Google Voice
Google Voice. Image Source: The Next Web website

Cloud-services companies such as Plivo and Twilio are helping with this evolution to provide Voice as an app or app-feature.

Because of the current state of “voice” as an app, depending on the “app layer” you are at, the moment you want to open your voice app to complete calls to any phone out there (that is, the PSTN), you will immediately “crash” into the legacy world of voice. This is a hardcore world of telephone numbers, activations and inventories, origination and termination and routing, agreements, and fees and regulations. To effectively deal with all of this you either have to implement all of this directly (costly), or you can use solutions on the cloud.

From the design perspective, designing mobile apps with voice functionality does require a different way of thinking from designing traditional mobile apps and web apps. The inclusion of voice as an interaction mode does require re-thinking of your application as a contextual, multi-modal app. And because voice apps is about communication, the whole thing can quickly turn into including or not other kinds of communication such as IM, SMS, video, and group-communications (conferencing), and other.


The mobile device, the Smartphone, is a social artifact — it has always been. Voice has always been the fundamental feature on these highly personal devices. But we have always been treating voice “as its own separate function”. Voice is changing. Voice as an app or app-feature with CONTEXT is coming, and is coming fast. BYOD has an impact on Voice apps that must be taken into consideration.

We are at a very interesting crosspoint where the old legacy voice world is moving into the new world of “data” and Cloud-based services and apps. The Cloud service providers to help create, manage and support such voice apps are out there, the Smartphones provide the support for native SIP stacks and libraries to write and/or include voice functionality into your app, WebRTC is coming, and you can download your own SIP clients/apps to use as well.

The future is clear: open IP networks, Mobile and Cloud-service providers are and will play an important role in the evolution of voice communications, voice as an app and the future of “Mobile”.

Related to this:


(Revised Feb 2015)

29 Jan

Brokering the Cloud for IP Telephony Services

I wrote a piece, the special feature on @tmcnet, regarding why VoIP providers are leveraging cloud service brokers like Shango.

Titled Brokering the Cloud for IP Telephony Services, it is about the potential of cloud service brokers on communication service providers; below is an excerpt:

Most recently, the concept of “cloud services brokering,” a term defined by Gartner, has described the implementation of this premise to reflect a focus on the integration, aggregation and customization of third-party cloud services and applications.

For communication service providers (CSPs), especially IP telephony and VoIP providers seeking to leverage the cloud, this model can enable carriers and service providers, including Internet telephony service providers (ITSPs), to overcome expensive, legacy operational complexities that typically plague service fulfillment across disparate applications, partners and platforms.

Read Brokering the Cloud for IP Telephony Services (TMCNet – requires subscription).


23 Jan

Dell is going Private (2013)


A month after I wrote Dell to exit global smartphone business, now I hear rumors that Dell is going private.

Many years ago I was predicting that an Asian company would buy Dell, but I wasn’t expecting Dell going private.

The Dell story kind of upset me. Dell, which is right on my “backyard”, is/was an Austin darling, used to rule the personal computing world. Today, I am not surprised of what is happening at Dell; I have been saying this for years. The Round Rock, Texas company missed the boat in a major way. You need to understand that this didn’t happen over night. It has been a slow but expected process/result — I am talking about 10 years, which is the same time-period that it took personal computing/Mobile to evolve into what it is right at this moment — just look around and you know what I am talking about: Smartphones, Tablets, personal information devices. This mess all started during the days of Kevin Rollings.

For Dell, Mobile always meant laptops. The company wasn’t able to understand that personal computing was transforming, right in front of their eyes, into the new form of Tablets and Smartphones. Actually, some inside the company did, and they created prototypes and Tablets and Smartphones *but* without a proper business-plan and without proper vision. They thought they were in control, but they weren’t. Then, they couldn’t adapt fast-enough. They couldn’t make it happen; didn’t know how-to. Technology leadership requires vision and investing in R&D — Dell didn’t do either. Then Apple and Google-and its partners all ate Dell’s lunch. It wasn’t a tech problem, but a total lack of vision — a business (management) problem. Shame on you Dell management.

Rumors say that Microsoft would invest $2 billion on the deal. Good money — but Dell would once again miss to identify root causes. Dell needs to understand that part of the reason it has failed and is failing is truly related to its dependency on Microsoft for all things Software. Dell needs to realize and learn that Software is where differentiation comes from. Software runs the world. It must take ownership and leadership both on software and hardware.

It is no surprise why both Dell and Microsoft missed the personal computing boat — the mobile opportunity. It is a problem with the way of thinking and lack of vision (that is, lack of proper leadership).

As I wrote recently, moving forward, Services and Cloud is perhaps what Dell should focus on, and forget about the rest. The problem is that Dell’s dependency on PC revenue is still at 70%; it is a tough problem to solve.

The new personal computing (aka Mobile) is perhaps too late for Dell at this point. But with the right leadership, anything can happen. If Dell insists on addressing the personal computing market, it must do a re-boot, and bring totally new minds (business and tech) into the equation — something they should be able to do now if they go Private.