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The sad events in Ferguson, Missouri

I grew up in New Zealand and have spent a bit of time living in England. In both of those countries, the police on the streets are usually unarmed. From that perspective, what has happened in Ferguson, Missouri is difficult to comprehend.

In case you have missed the story, a local teenager of the small town was walking down the middle of a quiet street. A passing police officer stopped and spoke to the young man. At the end of this interaction, the young man had been shot and killed by the police officer.

As frequently happened with these sorts of events, the young man is black and the police officer is white. It is being portrayed as a racial issue. The recollection of events as told by the police officer differs markedly from the story told by a friend of the slain youth.

Whether the events that occurred were a result of racial bias is currently being debated and will likely end in a pointless inquiry or an equally pointless show-trial where the officer is acquitted.

As I see it, there are two different things happening here. Firstly, a young man was killed by a police officer. This happens tragically often in the United States.

Thanks to the second amendment, both police and criminals are heavily armed. As a result, deaths of police, criminals and innocent bystanders all happen way too often. Any interaction with police can end in tragic consequences.

Secondly, when it is a white officer and black victim, the first assumption is that the killing was racially motivated. It may be too soon to answer that but since the local community are rioting because of this, it looks like trust in the police was already low. In a community where 67% of the population is black and 94% of the police force is white there is likely to be tension.

It’s sad to see that the response by the local authorities is more heavy-handed policing.

What amazes me is that these events keep on happening. They had been happening long before the Rodney King beating in 1991, they are still happening now and they will probably keep happening for years to come.

Nothing appears to have changed.

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I’ve gone blog crazy this week

This week, I have started two new Tumblr blogs, one proper blog and one Twitter account. Three of those are related for a blogging project that I’m trying to get off the ground and another is going to be recipes that I’ve been cooking.

The recipes are at whatmikecooks.tumblr.com. There’s not a lot there yet but we’ll see what happens. I’ve been working from home for a while now and have been cooking quite a bit lately. It’s a good opportunity to store away some of the recipes I use, although maybe Pinterest would be a better place for that.

I’m not so sure about the other blogging project. It’s an attempt to publish some technology news that I’m interested in although I’m not really sure how to build an audience for that. It is probably a useful skill to have but not one that I’ve currently got. I’m still working on it and will probably release more details here in the next few weeks.

With the iPhone app and the new technology blog, the aim is to make at least a worthwhile amount of money from one of the projects by the end of the year. That would be $1000 or more. I’m currently tracking at $0 so need to pick it up a little. I’ve got one more app in the works as well so I’m hopeful to reach that goal.

What is a GPS Logger?

This might seem like a silly question for me to ask but what is a GPS Logger? Any ideas? 

I’ve got an iPhone app called “Simple GPS Logger“, that displays location (longitude, latitude, altitude) and allows you to save locations. It will also show the distance from those saved locations.

The only reason it was called Simple GPS Logger is because AppStore names need to be unique and “Simple GPS” was already taken. Weirdly, my app is actually”logger” with a lowercase L and logger with a capital L was already taken, but I didn’t realise that until I was searching later.

I’m looking at adding some new features and am wondering what a “GPS Logger” should actually do. The obvious thing I am looking is something like Runkeeper that would create a trail, provide details of that trail during and after recording it (avg speed, total distance, etc), and probably allow that trail to be exported as a GPX or similar. 

Any comments or suggestions? 

This app is currently pretty basic and was my first real attempt at iPhone development. It has been about as successful as I might have expected considering it has had no marketing, with downloads in the hundreds in the past couple of months since I released it.

I’m happy doing some extra work on it to add some new features but don’t want to spend too much time since I’m giving it away for free and therefore it isn’t making me any money. I’m looking at adding a tip jar similar to what David Smith has done with Pedometer++ to try and a bring a little bit of money in but I don’t think I want to add advertising to the app and if I charge any money, I think that downloads will go to zero pretty quickly.

 

Coffee-making with Aeropress

About 18 months ago I was given an Aeropress coffee maker for a Christmas present. It’s a nice simple device that basically forces coffee through a paper filter. Since then, the coffee plunger/cafetière/french press has stayed in the cupboard and all coffee has been made with the Aeropress.

By way of endorsement, it’s made by Aerobie, the company that makes frisbee-type products. Well-known for plastic stuff. Not so well-known for coffee. But it is an easy way to make a coffee.

Anyway, I had an idea a couple of days ago to make a video of my coffee-making routine. I’m pretty happy with the result. It’s only the second video I’ve made and too a fair bit of editing. I’m reasonably happy with the result although do bang things around quite a bit while making the coffee.

It’s only a short video and a lot happens so have a look. It’s a minute of your life that you’ll never get back:

It was an interesting experience creating this. I used three cameras to create the video: my two Olympus digital SLR’s and my iPhone camera. The only thing I really missed would’ve been an extra tripod, although some of the hand-held iPhone footage was pretty awful: it’s hard it do something with one hand while trying to hold a phone/camera steady.

iPhone application development

I’ve finally got my iPhone application developed and released to the Apple app store. It has been a bit of a long process: mostly because I have been a little distracted and doing other things, and partly because I’ve had to learn a lot to get to this stage.

It has been a good learning experience and has been very interesting working on my own after years of working in teams of people within companies. Now I just need to find a way of making money from this. Doesn’t seem very likely.

The app itself is only rather basic. It does a few GPS related functions including showing your location and saving locations for later reference. It can display current speed and as-the-crow-flies distance to a saved location. These are both functions that I wanted in an app and thought that maybe it was better to write it myself than using an existing app. I’m sure there are enough other ones out there that do similar things.

I’ve got a little more information on the page the I created about the app. Apple asks you for a URL for the app when you submit it to their store. You can also download the app directly here at the App Store.

Considering how basic the app is and how few people have actually read anything on this blog, I don’t expect a rush of people downloading the app.

Even so, I was pretty pleased that 15 people downloaded the app yesterday. And that was a significant increase on the 1 download on the first day. Even considering that two of those downloads were from people I know, 14 other downloads is great!

Russia has won this round of the Cold War

The current argument in Ukraine and Crimea seems like the Cold War is restarting and look like Russia has the upper hand this time.

The United States has intervened in so many countries over the years (or appears to have) that there can’t be many countries where the government hasn’t been taken down by the CIA. I’m probably exaggerating a little here but there is some truth to it, I’m sure. Despite the blatant intervention by the United States in so many countries, their public message is that democracy is the way to go and the will of the people must be heard.

Russia has heard that message and understood. In Crimea, they have decided that there needs to be a referendum to decide the fate of the area. Democracy! They have also decided that the president was taken down illegally and even claimed that the US was behind a coup the helped to change the government. Democracy undermined!

Russia is bringing democracy to the people of Crimea and helping to save them from the tyranny of neo-Nazis. I’m not sure that I’ve seen a propaganda war quite like this one for a long time.

Russia have come out with some good arguments on their position, although I’m pretty sure that it is all propaganda. Their arguments don’t hold up to much scrutiny.

It’s just not possible to have a free and fair election while there are foreign troops on the streets, the two options in the referendum both say that Crimea should revert to Russian control, and the final result has almost certainly been pre-determined.

It’s looking very likely that Crimea is heading eastwards in the next few days. Hopefully Ukraine isn’t following soon afterwards.

Programmers block

I’ve been trying to keep busy at home the past few weeks by writing an iPhone app to try and learn some new skills. This has been an interesting task after years of working as a database developer because of the need to learn a whole different style of programming.

I have got a nice simple app to work on that provides some useful GPS data in a simple format. I’ve been working on it for a few weeks now. There is probably only about one more week of work before I’m finished but I’m struggling to get that week of work done.

Last week I was investigating using the computer to generate BitCoins (well DogeCoin actually). That might’ve been a good idea a few years ago but now my computer can’t process anything fast enough. I even rented an Amazon server for a couple of days at $0.15 per hour to generate coins. I’m now the proud owner of 1900 DogeCoin (worth about $2) and an Amazon server bill of $5. I am no Satoshi Nakamoto!

The week before that I was mostly just distracted and didn’t get much done at all.

I’ve learnt a few things from my time spent trying to program:
1. Finding the focus to stay motivated without a boss telling you what to do is pretty hard. I have been good quite a bit of the time but am starting pretty late in the morning and wasting quite a lot of time.
2. Without a client setting the requirements it’s pretty hard to pin down the functionality that I require. I’ve got some features added and want a couple more but I’m having trouble actually designing them. Making progress but only slow progress.
3. My skills are pretty limited and being a one-man development shop requires a wide skill base. Even just simple things like designing an icon or doing other graphic design tasks are outside my usual skill set but I need to find a way of getting them done (without paying someone).

So? Where to from here? Next week I need to make a plan, decide what progress I need to make and actually complete this application. How hard can it be?

Everyday Sexism project

When writing my previous post about the Air NZ video, I found some information about the Everyday Sexism project.

It is an interesting project, attempting to change opinions on how men and women treat each other. This TEDx video from the site’s creator, Laura Bates, provides a good introduction to the reason for her starting the site, and what it has achieved.

There is also a Tumblr page showing some of the stories as well.

Interesting reading and something to make you think…

 

Controversy in Paradise

Over the past few years, Air New Zealand has made a habit of courting viral publicity with their on-board safely videos. I’m not sure when it first started, but I think it was probably with their “Bare Essentials” video from 2009. 

They are back in the news again this week because of their safety videos… this time because of swimsuit models. Possibly a bit more risqué than earlier episodes. Continue reading Controversy in Paradise