Friday, December 11, 2009

Apple: Crying freedom from behind a locked gate

Let's face it: we all love Apple products. Whether we're clinging to our iPods, watching something through our Apple TV's, editing our papers on our Macbook, or connecting with our friends on our iPhone, it's nearly impossible to escape Apple's universal appeal and reach. For years, while in the minority, Apple products have represented style, fashion, and the cutting edge. Why get stuck in the bland world of the PC, stuck in the death grip of Microsoft, when you can truly live life through Apples products.

All lies. Every. Single. Word.

While promoting a culture of freedom, Apple, led by Steve Jobs, has systematically tightened its control over its users in a fashioned that would make Microsoft look like 60's free-love hippies. Everything Apple does is about deepening their market share and locking their users into the Apple platform.

The music you buy from iTunes? Controlled by Apple through DRM.

The computer you buy from Apple? Controlled by Apple through proprietary hardware.

The iPod you bought from Apple? Controlled by Apple through software.

The iPhone you bought from Apple? Controlled by Apple AND AT&T

The four technologies I mentioned above are the companies four core products. Every single one of them is locked in an increasingly tight death grip in which Apple can control what you do and when and where you do it.

Take for example, the iPhone. Apple has been locked in a struggle with independent developers since the launch of the device over what software will be allowed on it. Most smartphones allow you to develop your own software for them or get software from just about anywhere else and put it on your phone. Not the iPhone! To use software not purchased (or given away) through the App Store, you have to go through a risky process called 'Jailbreaking'. This process effectively removes Apple and AT&T's software restrictions from your device allowing you to run software you get from anywhere you choose.

Every update that Apple's released for the iPhone has relocked jailbroken devices. Why would they care what software you use or where you get it from, you ask? It must be because Apple cares about the security of your device or the quality of the software you get. Wrong. It's about numbers and App Store sales. Control. By forcing everyone to go through their App Store, Apple can carefully monitor and create metrics around app sales. They know what software is running where, what software is struggling, and can disable software (if they wanted to) with the flip of a switch.

More importantly, Apple can control what software goes onto the device. Competition? Apple LOVES competition, except when you're competing with them. Do you think you're ever going to see Opera or Google Chrome or even Internet Explorer on the iPhone? Don't hold your breath. Opera has been in talks with Apple for over a year to get their excellent browser on the iPhone. But Apple has Safari and they will not allow any browser that competes with Safari on their device. The same story can be told for countless other 'would be competitor' software vendors who fight an ultimately losing battle every day with Apple to have their software included in the App Store.

The bottom line is that Apple is a hypocritical duality. The very people at the top of the towers screaming 'be free' are the ones with the keys to the gates of the prison. Yet, it can't be denied that Apple and its products have brought computing a new elegance and a new style. For that, we can be thankful.

Lastly, don't think I don't understand market economics. When you're in business, you're in business to make money. You do what you can to raise revenue, increase sales, and make your shareholders happy. You, by necessity, have to be greedy. That greed isn't my problem with Apple. Greed can be a good thing.

What is my problem with Apple is their efforts to show the buying public one thing (freedom) while fully practicing another (lockdown). If you're going to hold your users prisoners, tell them you will and explain why. Don't treat them like idiots or sell them snake oil. This is the same problem I have with companies like Google who have the whole 'Don't be Evil' mantra. It's not realistic to what they do.

Treat your users well, give them compelling products and a good experience, and they will gladly stay loyal. When you're as good as Apple is at what they do, you don't need to hold your users hostage. We want to be in your prison. We're willing to pay the price for all that sexiness.

Just don't lie to us. That is the where we draw the line.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Phone Sales = Phone Interview Skills

REPRINTED FROM A LINKED IN DISUCSSION

Here’s another great article for you from Mark Hunter, The Sales Hunter. They’re great sales tips for you to use when contacting customers over the phone, but I want you to also look at these as great tips you can use in phone interviews for medical sales, laboratory sales, pharmaceutical sales, imaging sales, biotech sales, medical device sales, or any health care sales job. Think of your job interview the same as you would a sales call–only here, the product you’re selling is you. You want the customer (the hiring manager) to buy your product (hire you). Keeping this kind of perspective is extremely effective.

Phone Sales Tips:
Phone Sales Tips When Contacting Customers

■ Never ask if it’s a good time to talk. This gives the other person a perfect excuse to end the call. If you are unsure if the person has time to talk, then state up front that the phone call will only take 3 minutes. When you give the person an exact time be sure you time the call. After the allotted time, tell the customer you’re at the end and ask them if they would like to continue or reschedule. Using this practice allows you to demonstrate how much you respect their time.

■ Ask questions. People will never hang up on themselves.

■ Use the person’s name at least 3 times in every phone call. Who doesn’t like to hear their name said?

■ When greeting people on the telephone, avoid using their last name. It makes the call seem too formal. Your objective should be to have a casual conversation, in the same way you would talk to a good friend.

■ Use visually descriptive words to help paint a picture of what you’re saying. A phone conversation doesn’t have to be boring and stale.

■ When starting a new telephone conversation, always give your first and last name. Never assume the person you’re talking to is going to recognize your voice or think you’re the only one with your first name.

■ Watch your facial expressions by placing a mirror in front of you when you talk. It’s amazing how they come through over the phone.

■ Add energy to your phone calls by standing up. Nobody likes talking to a “blah” person. People who have good posture tend to come across more enthusiastic than those who don’t.

■W hen you end a conversation, always summarize it in the same way you would end a live meeting. By doing so, you can prevent misinterpretation of your discussion.

■ Always allow the other person to have the final comment or question. Just because you’ve asked all your questions doesn’t mean the other person has asked all of his.

■ Avoid negotiating over the phone, use it as a means to introduce information and to follow up or confirm information. It’s impossible to truly read body language over the phone and thus you lose a major negotiating tool. A phone call however can be an excellent way to introduce a new idea you would like to receive some feedback on. Many times it will allow feedback to be gained in a less threatening manner than if it were to occur in a traditional sales call.

■ Never use a speaker phone with a customer even if they say it is fine with them. Speaker phones add to the perception the conversation is not important enough to capture 100% of the person’s attention. (Only exception of course is if there is a group involved.)


Written By:
Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter”, www.TheSalesHunter.com, © 2007

Monday, December 7, 2009

Not 'flipping out' over Flip Video support

Anyone who knows me knows I love the Flip Video. This inexpensive little video camera allows anyone to shoot quality video with minimal effort and no complicated menus or buttons to navigate. They bring the same point and shoot ease to video that digital cameras brought to still photography over a decade ago.

Pure Digital (owned by Cisco) is also a pretty social company that engages with its users at various places and aggressively uses user generated content in everything from their online promotions to their television ads. With their focus on users and 'the experience', I thought I'd have no problem getting help when my own Flip - the Flip Ultra - experienced a problem that, after research, I found to be a pretty common one.

I called up support and described my problem. The agent promptly and confidently said 'take your batteries out for 72 hours and it'll fix it'. It didn't. So I called the company back and asked for more help. Within less than a minute I was told there was nothing I could do but send it in to them for repair and that the problem I was experiencing was a common one that they've dealt a lot with in the Flip Ultra.

Alas, that is where it all went downhill. Upon looking up my serial number, the agent found out I was out of warranty and then promptly told me there was nothing they would do to help. I was just out of luck and would have to 'just deal with it' until I purchased a new camera. I disconnected from the call very disappointed and somewhat angry.

Don't get me wrong: I understand the manufacturers can't offer support forever. But this camera is a little over a year old and is experiencing a problem that is COMMON - which means it's NOT the users doing. It's a manufacturers defect. Warranty shouldn't be a 'get out of jail free' card here. It is THEIR FAULT. They should fix it. The answer SHOULD NOT BE 'just deal with it until you buy a new camera'.

Until this incident, I was seriously considering purchasing a number of Flip MinoHD's for family and friends this Christmas. Now, not so much. I'm very worried about handing those I love to a company that will offer little or no support for their own problems. I might give out small video recorders this Christmas, but based on this support experience, they will not be Flip Mino's.

Flip could VERY easily and cheaply have solved this situation by simply fixing my camera or replacing it with another. It wouldn't have cost them much and they wouldbe guaranteed another 5 - 10 new camera sales to me in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Goodwill goes a long way and Flip isn't showing any at all.

Don't get me wrong, I still love them and may - and I say MAY - buy a product from them in the future. But they are going to have to go a long way to earn my trust back and it's not going to be by telling me to 'just deal with it'.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How long is a piece of string?



You might think that measuring the length of a piece of string is pretty simple. After watching this video, you might just think otherwise. Follow Alan Davies on the BBC Horizon program as he tries to find the answer - one that might surprise you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Online software development for netbooks?

Netbooks are a gathering storm. The average PC user doesn't need a fully featured computer with gigabytes of memory and storage space as most people live in either the web browser or whatever email client they use. So it's no surprise that, as more people realize that they don't need full PC's, netbook sales are picking up. But, while there's a lot you can do with a netbook today, there are still some things that just aren't yet possible.

Imagine for a moment that you're a software developer. Unless you work in a corporate enviroment, you're probably nearly solely developing web based applications and that kind of development doesn't require 'big iron' at all. A copy of Visual Studio for ASP.NET or Silverlight developers, or maybe Eclipse if you're into PHP is really all you need.

Unfortunately, those tools require a PC and, sometimes, require quite a bit of PC muscle to run.

Now imagine moving those tools to the cloud? What if Microsoft created a web version of Visual Studio targeted only towards ASP.NET and Silverlight developers? The software lived on the web and, maybe, was hosted in an Windows Azure account. You'd develop, test, and deploy your software all on the web. No need to download anything, no need for big resources.

Eclipse and other software tool makers could do the same and, effectively, the only people that couldn't live off of a netbook would be corporate developer and even they could live there most times. It wouldn't matter what your OS was or where you accessed from, everything would be in the cloud.

If Google, Microsoft and their ilk are smart, this is going to be part of their online strategy very soon. There's just no need for a 10,000 horsepower PC anymore and, to be honest, it's about time. Most people want simplicity, ease of use, and most of all, good prices. Netbooks deliver on that in spades and the time is right to move them deeper into the masses.

What would you need in order to make a netbook your primary (only?) machine? What is your 'must have' application(s) that keeps you bound to big hardware? Can you even conceive of living on a netbook?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Creating a simple user interface with MonoDevelop



MonoDevelop is an free, cross-platform, open source, tool that allows software developers to write .NET code that runs on both Microsoft Windows and Linux.

Using MonoDevelop, developers can quickly become productive in an environment that is nearly as good as Microsoft Visual Studio and create software applications with ease. This screencast, from the MonoDevelop team, shows us how to create a simple user interface from within the MonoDevelop enviroment.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This is why parents drink...

I found this on another website and, while I usually don't share humor on this blog, I thought it was too funny not to share. Hope you enjoy and I'm sure many parents out there will totally understand this post.

A father passing by his son's bedroom was astonished to see that his bed was nicely made and everything was picked up. Then he saw an Envelope, propped up prominently on the pillow that was addressed to 'Dad.'

With the worst premonition he opened the envelope with trembling hands and read the letter.

Dear Dad:

It is with great regret and sorrow that I'm writing you. I had to elope with my new girlfriend because I wanted to avoid a scene with Mom and you.

I have been finding real passion with Stacy and she is so nice.

But I knew you would not approve of her because of all her piercing, tattoos, tight motorcycle clothes and the fact that she is much older than I am. But it's not only the passion...Dad she's pregnant.

Stacy said that we will be very happy. She owns a trailer in the woods and has a stack of firewood for the whole winter. We share a dream of having many more children.

Stacy has opened my eyes to the fact that marijuana doesn't really hurt anyone.
We'll be growing it for ourselves and trading it with the other people that live nearby for cocaine and ecstasy.

In the meantime we will pray that science will find a cure for AIDS so Stacy can get better. She deserves it.

Don't worry Dad. I'm 15 and I know how to take care of myself. Someday I'm sure that we will be back to visit so that you can
get to know your grandchildren.

Love, Your Son John
PS. Dad, none of the above is true. I'm over at Tommy's house.

I Just wanted to remind you that there are worse things in life than a Report card...That's in my center desk drawer.

I love you.


Call me when it's safe to come home.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Could a Twitter enabled home work? #twitter #tech

I've been giving a lot of thought to what I like to call "beyond tweeting" lately. While we all know Twitter is a useful service for keeping up with friends, following the latest trends, and learning breaking news fast, I think the service could be used for something much more mundane, but also, much more useful: controlling a home.

So what does a beyond tweeting enabled home look like? Pretty interesting, in my opinion! Imagine you're out at a party and you suddenly remember you've forgotten to arm the alarm system. No problem! Just pull out your mobile phone and tweet @myhome ALARM enable and, just like that, your alarm system, which is connected to your home network in some way, receives the tweet, arms itself, and you can continue to have fun.

Or let's say you're going to be later than you expected and you didn't turn the lights on. Again, your mobile to the rescue! Send the @myhome LIGHTS on command and, just like that, your lights are turned on.

There's really no limit to the devices or systems that could be connected to the home network and, thereby, Twitter and the software to control it all is fairly trivial to create. Much of it is already out there in fact and just needs to be pieced together. Within a few days to a week at most, you could near totally Twitter enable your home and make communicating with devices much, much easier.

The possibilities are pretty endless and is limited only by your imagination and the amount of work you're willing to put into it. And those possibilities don't end with homes either. Robert Scoble, discussing a post iPhone world and the real time birth of his child, even speculated that hospital systems could be hooked up and totally controlled by Twitter and text message. Obviously, Twitter has to come a long way before we're there, but the point is that the could eventually be networked in this fashion.

I think the time when most people think of Twitter in a "dude, I just had the most awesome PB&J sandwich" way is nearing an end. More and more people are starting to think of creative ways to use Twitter and Twitter is actively supporting those people through an open API that anyone with a little knowledge can access.

What can we build?
What can we enable?

That, my friend, is up to you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Goodbye Mary Travers (1936-2009)



It is sad that, being born in the mid 1970's, I was not able to experience the power of her words as she lifted them up in protest throughout the 1960's and gently guided a generation seeking truth to find their own brand of it. Her voice was an unwavering, unflinching, yet still gentle one that tackled the issues of our time with beauty and light. I grew up listening to Mary's wonderful voice through my grandmother who was a lifelong Peter, Paul, and Mary fan - something I remain to this day.

Now, she is taken from us but for the better: never to experience physical pain or human injustice or cruelty again. In Mary Travers, we have lost beauty, grace, and an important voice for those who often didn't have a voice of their own.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A response from Sen. Tom Coburn about S.773 (The Cyberecurity Act of 2009) #politics

As you might remember, I wrote this letter to Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn a few weeks ago concerning S.773 or the Cybersecurity Act of 2009. In that letter, I expressed my serious concern that the government was overstepping its bounds by creating such a law and expanding Presidential powers to such a dangerous level, something I believe even more strongly now that I've read the accompanying bill S.778.

Earlier today, I received the letter below from Senator Coburn and, I'm glad to see that he has some of the same concerns I do about the legislation and he intends to work in a bipartisan way to help craft a bill that is less intrusive and has less potential for abuse. While the discussions of S.773 and S.778 are far from over and this letter does not fully address my expressed concerns, I'm encouraged to see that some people are keeping a level head in the face of an Executive Branch power grab and look forward to seeing what a bipartisan bill will look like.

I still encourage each of you to write your Senators and urge them to reshape both S.773 and S.778 prior to passage to ensure that ordinary Americans liberties are not trampled upon. Safety is important but, as Benjamin Franklin so eloquent said: "Those who would trade freedom for security deserve neither".

I couldn't have said it better myself. Now, here's the response from Sen. Coburn.

"Dear Mr. Papillion,

Thank you for your recent letter regarding cyber security. I appreciate your interest in this issue and welcome the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

Let me start by saying that I, too, believe that Americans should never be forced to forfeit their Constitutional rights for a promise of security. On the other hand, as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I recognize that potential threats could arise that could seriously undermine America's cyber infrastructure and Internet capabilities.

I think Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives must put aside their political self-interests and need to come together to develop a sensible approach that protects individual constitutional rights, and allows those charged with defending America's national security to have the ability to thwart serious cyber threats that could cripple America.

Like you, I have some real concerns with both S. 773 and S.778 as currently written. Specifically, I believe that S. 778 does not represent the best possible approach to combat potential cyber threats. I look forward to working with members of the Senate to make serious improvements to both S. 773 and S. 778.

Let me be clear-if Congress is going to create a new Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor, and if Congress is going to extend new authorities to the Executive Branch to combat cyber threats-it must be done in a way that respects the Constitution, allows for robust congressional oversight, and is narrowly crafted to address specific threats. Allow me to explain my thinking and principles on these two legislative measures in detail.

As you may already know, S. 773, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, and S. 778 would drastically reshape the Executive Office of the President by establishing within it a new Office of the National Cybersecurity Advisor. These bills are currently before the Senate Commerce Committee but have yet to receive a committee hearing.

First, S. 773 fails to define several key terms. I strongly believe S. 773 could benefit from Senate hearings that would allow for amendments and clarifications pertaining to some of the bill's provisions. For example, the bill would grant the Commerce Secretary significant access to review a private citizen's Internet data as well as give the President the power to shut down Internet traffic in a "national emergency." Of note, the bill does not define what specifically constitutes a "national emergency."

Similarly, S. 773 doesn't statutorily define what constitutes "critical infrastructure" when it comes to the dominion over the Internet. In other words, the bill would give a long leash to the President to define such crucial terms as the person deems necessary.

Lastly, I believe the costs of these bills, S. 773 in particular, are unacceptable. Although well intended, S. 773 comes at a hefty price to tag to taxpayers. As written, S. 773 would authorize more than $70 million of new spending per fiscal year without corresponding offsets or spending decreases.

I believe for Congress to make a truly informed evaluation of S. 773, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) should score the bill and detail its cost.

I wholeheartedly oppose the careless and arrogant spirit that advises Congress to spend your hard earned money on things you neither desire nor fall within the scope of the Constitution. Our national debt now stands at over $11 trillion. Our government wastes at least $350 billion every year through fraud and duplication. It is unconscionable for members of Congress to not do the hard work of paying for new programs by spending less elsewhere. I procedurally hold every legislative bill or amendment from passage that proposes new spending and new programs without similar reductions in spending or elimination of existing, lower priority programs. I have worked hard to save the hard working taxpayer millions of dollars in wasteful spending.

Again, thank you for your correspondence. As S. 773 and S. 778 move through the legislative process, I will certainly keep your views in mind. If you have any additional concerns, please feel free to write again.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gone until October 1, 2009

Hello everyone,

I'm going to be gone from blogging from today (September 9th, 2009) until October 1 to get some projects done. During that time I will occasionally post interesting things I find to this blog but will not be making any major posts.

I do hope everyone has a great time while I'm gone and look forward to hitting blogging full force when I return. In the meantime, follow me on Twitter for daily updates or follow me on 12 Seconds for some video love.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New Senate bill would give the President emergency control of the internet. #government

S.773 or the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 is a new bill in the Senate that, if passed, would provide a way for the President to seize control of the Internet in the United States during an 'emergency situation' or cyberattack. This bill is odious for a number of reasons but, in particular, because of its potential privacy and civil liberty implications.

Under the bill, the President would have the power to disconnect the entire internet or individual networks within the United States. There is obvious potential for abuse here and I'd like to urge those of you who truly care about your liberty to write to your Senator and urge them to vote no on S.773 and any revisions of the bill.

Here's the letter I sent to both of my Senators earlier today:

"Senators Inhofe and Coburn,

I'm writing with my concerns over S.773, a bill which will give the President emergency powers over the Internet in the United States in the even of a "cybersecurity emergency". I'm writing to urge you to vote NO on this bill as it is an example of intrusive government and an administration overstepping it's powers.

The dangers to individual liberty and privacy posed by S.773 are numerous and the bill itself is not needed in light of how fast system administrators are to mitigate cyberattacks without government intervention. Again, I urge you to vote NO on S.773.

Thank you for your time and your service to our country.

Sincerely,
Anthony Papillion"


I feel this letter is to the point, doesn't waste their time, and adequately says what I need to say. Feel free to use it as a template for your own letters or email to your Senators.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How would you handle these offers? Could you survive the tank?



ABC's new reality program Shark Tank is an American take on the British "The Dragons Den" where venture capitalist bring in entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses for a shot at investment. Some of the entrepreneurs are absolutely insane, but some are genuine business geniuses who make both good and bad deals and, some of whom, will definitely live to regret the deals they close with the sharks.


This episode, which is week two, shows some of the stark reality of negotiating with venture capitalist when your business is on the line. Excellent show and I can't wait to see the next episode.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Is your information secure? A basic security test for every website you join #security #hacking

There's no doubt about it: our personal information is moving to the cloud. From Twitter and Facebook to our online banking account, almost everything about us is stored in a database somewhere online. But how secure is your information and how easy would it be for a hacker to get to it under the right circumstances? Here's a basic security test I put every website I join through and it's easy enough where anyone with about 5 minutes can do it as well:

After signing up to a new website, log out and go to the "forgot password" link. Almost every website has one and they usually only require you to put in your email address to have a password or password reminder sent to you. Go through the process and request your password. Then, wait to see what you get in your email.

Some websites, if not most, will send you either a password reminder or a link to completely reset your password to something new. But others, and there's a huge number of these like PlentyOfFish, MocoSpace, and others, who will just happily send you your password in your email.

That is a website that has just failed a security test.

By sending you your password, it shows that it's not stored in an encrypted form in their database. So anyone who breaks into their site has access to, not only everyone's personal information, but also their site password. Since many people use the same password for almost everything, getting one site password could lead to them having access to your email address, other sites you belong to, and even your online banking account. Additionally, they could use new information gained from breaching your other accounts to extend their reach into your life and, eventually, steal your identity.

I've closed many of my online accounts after they've failed this test. I usually send the site administrators an email telling them I am closing my account and detailing why. It shows that they aren't concerned about security and they are taking the laziest way of developing their site. If they don't put any thought into the user-facing side of security - the part hackers are going to attack on - how much can they really be putting on the non-user facing side that nobody is supposed to see?

It's time sites take our security seriously. Wake up administrators! We're watching you

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why universal healthcare is a bad idea #healthcare #health

As more and more people jump on President Obama's universal health care bandwagon, I'm deeply saddened to think about what the ultimate ramifications of the actual implementation of such a plan could be. While it sounds like a good idea on the surface and is certainly a great 'connect with voters' issue, the truth behind universal health care coverage is something much darker.

In both Britain and Canada, two countries who've 'enjoyed' universal health coverage for many years, patients in need of important and sometimes life saving procedures must often wait weeks or even months before seeing a professional. Canada, a country widely accepted as having a 'successful' health care system, often forces doctors to take time off once they've met quotas or their billing reaches a certain level.

Of course there's also the issue of money. In an economy that's pretty close to teetering on the verge of major catastrophe, can the United States afford to spend the trillions of dollars it would costs to cover everybody? Even by the Presidents own estimates, it would be a significant financial challenge and many analyst believe implementing such a system could well send our economy into a death spiral.

The truth is, universal health coverage sounds like a good idea; it sounds like a humane idea. But in reality, it's one of the worst and most inhumane things we could possibly do to both our economy and people. I agree that the current health care system is flawed, but the answer is not universal health care. The answer is forcing insurance companies to implement saner coverage policies, governing more closely how they apply those policies, and working with doctors to reduce costs and provide better care to their patients.

Wake up, President Obama! Preaching coverage for all might help win elections or give you a few percentage points in the polls, but it will cost us all too much in the end.

Monday, July 20, 2009

First peak of OpenEMR Mobile #openemr #foss #healthcare #emr

For the last few weeks, we've been working on the OpenEMR Mobile Patient Information System (PIS). The PIS is a Windows Mobile and, soon, Blackberry application that will allow doctors who are out in the field to easily and securely look up patient information. This includes information, X-Rays, Labs, and anything else associated with the patient record.

The PIS is scheduled to be released in a few days but I thought I'd post a few screenshots of it running in an emulator (I don't have a Windows Mobile device) for you to enjoy. It's simple, intuitive, and, hopefully, going to be well received.

The first image is of the applications simple home screen...



Next, we see the menu structure...



And, finally, we'll look at the screen that lets users configure the software to access their OpenEMR server...



Overall, I'm hoping the software proves to be of value to the large community of OpenEMR users. We're discussing and setting final pricing today and the application should be launched by Thursday night.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Do we really need a Windows Mobile store? #windowsmobile

Microsoft announced a few weeks ago that it's preparing to launch a supersite of sorts called "The Windows Mobile Marketplace". The site, which will presumably function like Apple's App Store, Research in Motion's App World, and whatever it is that a few other vendors offer, will offer software for the plethora of Windows Mobile devices on the market.

When I first heard the announcement, I was excited. Why shouldn't Microsoft get involved directly in application sales and, maybe, their involvement might mean that the apps included in the marketplace might be a of a little higher quality. Then I remembered the garbage that's in the App Store and completely lost the will to live.

While I applaud Microsoft's efforts to "be everything to everyone", I really don't see the need for their own store. From a user perspective, it just means one more place to go hunting for applications and, from a developer perspective, it means yet another thing you have to pay for just to get your software out to users as the marketplace will cost developers $99 a year. Yes, I realize that Apple does this too but, Handango doesn't and that's the primary place to get Windows Mobile software now.

What does Microsoft offer developers or users that's compelling enough to displace sites like Handango? In the marketing, they say 'expose your software to millions of potential customers' but I already do that at Handango. Maybe the fact that software has to conform to standards in order to be included in the marketplace will mean better software, but how does that fit in with the crap in the Apple App Store?

Really, just about the only "benefit" I can name of being part of the marketplace is its association with Microsoft. It's a lot like being part of the Apple App Store except, with Apple, you can't get your software anywhere else. And, if the Microsoft association is the only benefit, is it a real benefit at all? The Apple App Store is popular because it's the exclusive place to get iPhone and iPod Touch software, does the launch of the Windows Mobile Marketplace signal that Microsoft might be headed that way, forcing hardware partners to lock their devices down to only the authorized source.

As it stands, I'm probably not going to waste my time and money signing up as a developer for the marketplace. I'll keep publishing my software on Handango but watch what Microsoft does very closely. I'm sure the marketplace could be a very useful tool if the company had more control over hardware but, as it stands, it's just another "also ran".

Are you a Windows Mobile developer? If so, what do you think of the soon to be launched marketplace? Will you sign up? Am I dismissing it unfairly?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This is the email I just sent to @ev and @biz regarding @twitter 's support problems

I've been a member of Twitter almost two years now and I, like the rest of the membership, have not had an easy time. We've put up with lost tweets, database issues, lost followers, and several server outages. But, during that time, Twitter has always been somewhat responsive to our needs.

That's changed.

Now, getting support from Twitter on issues - even issues that are several months old, has become near impossible. Emails go unanswered, @ messages are ignored, and all avenues for support seem to have been ignored.

I just sent the email below to both Ev and Biz at Twitter. While I doubt it's going to make any impact at all, I think it expresses the feelings of many Twitter users.

"Gentleman,

Over the course of the last few years, Twitter has had its share of problems. Loyal users have stuck with the service, not because we didn't think there were any alternatives, but because we really felt connected to Twitter and felt like Twitter cared about its customers. Lately, the plummeting quality of customer service is making quite a few loyal users, myself included, rethink our devotion to Twitter.

Support emails go unanswered.
Get Satisfaction posts are ignored.
Issues go unresolved for months.

This is not quality customer support guys. I know that the Twitter team is focused on building a revenue modal but, understand that, users are going to be the key to that revenue modal and, if you alienate them now, they won't be loyal when it comes to ponying up cash - even if it's to advertisers. I know I wouldn't be.

Get a customer service program in place. It's not difficult. A few dedicated support personell under a good customer service manager is all you need. Engage the community again because, it's slowly slipping away.

Sincerely,
Anthony Papillion (@cajuntechie)"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Guidelines for protesters of the #iranelection دستورالعمل ها را برای اعتراض به انتخابات ایران

اگر شما نشان دادن در خیابان های تهران امروز ، می دانید اولین بار دست به خشونت دولت قادر است که بر علیه شما خواهد شد. در این پست کوتاه شما را به چند نکته است که حفظ خواهد شد شما را به عنوان اعتراض خود را امن تر خواهد داد.

1. است که قدرت را در تعداد آرا وجود دارد. وقتی که اعتراض ، اقامت با گروه از دوستان. اسلحه قفل که توسط پلیس مواجه و کار به شما اجازه نمی دهد که پا را خاموش کنید و یا به دور از گروه. انجام این کار به طور بالقوه می تواند زندگی را تهدید.

2. از محیط خود ، آگاه باشید در تمام زمانها. آیا از محل سرگردان بودن نیست که شما را به عنوان محل اعتراض. انتخاب یک نقطه و اقامت در آن را ، مگر مجبور به توسط پلیس حرکت کند. اگر شما مجبور به حرکت ، تکان نخورید به مساحت جدا.

3. اگر گاز اشک آور است پراکنده ، پوشش بینی و دهان خود را با یک پارچه مرطوب و نفس را از طریق آن. در حالی که هنوز هم این تجربه را بسیار ناراحت می شود ، آن را موجب خواهد شد در تنفس بسیار آسانتر می کند.

4. سعی کنید که از تلفن همراه شما نیست استفاده کنید. آنها قادر به زنجیردار می شود. اگر شما باید به همراه خود ، استفاده تماس فقط کوتاه و برداشتن باتری هنگامی که شما انجام می شود. مطمئن شوید که باتری شما را حذف کنید. از بین بردن سیم کارت است که به اندازه کافی نیست. شما هنوز می توانید زنجیردار شود.

5. آیا با پلیس مقابله با خشونت است. آنها را می دهد این دلیل به شما حمله کرد. فقط به خشونت های خودتان را در شرایط زندگی و یا مرگ دفاع استفاده کنید.

حتی اگر شما دنبال این دستورالعمل ، این است که هنوز رفتن به یک زمان برای شما بسیار دشوار شما را به عنوان اعتراض. ولی خدا است که در سمت شما و شما را در مبارزه برای کشور شما. در جهان است که با شما و از طریق تعهد خود را ، ایران را یک محل بهتر است.

متشکرم برای همه شما انجام. اقامت قوی.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The TweetFree Relay Network is LIVE! #iranelection #gr88

After nearly three weeks of hard work, I'm happy to announce that we launched the TweetFree Relay Network this morning!

After the Presidential elections in Iran last month, it became very obvious how important tools like Twitter, Facebook, and email are to citizens taking a stand against unfair government rule. It also became obvious the lengths such governments will go to in order to silence their critics and control the flow of information into and out of a country in the midsts of political crisis. When the Iranian government started blocking Twitter, many of us immediately understood how powerful a tool the service really was and we began actively looking for ways to make sure the protesters were able to stay in communication with the service and, thereby, the rest of the world.

That's when the concept of TweetFree was born. The idea was to create a simple program that ran on mobile phones and would provide anonymous access to Twitter in a way that the government couldn't block. Using a decentralized network of TweetFree Relay nodes all connecting to a central point to post messages to Twitter, it's now virtually impossible for any government to block access to Twitter without totally shutting down mobile data services in the country.

Now comes the hard part. In order to make the TweetFree network as robust as possible, we need TweetFree Relay Servers. Setting up a relay server is simple and can be done in under 5 minutes. All you have to do is fill out a form, fill in a few entries in a file, and your server is live.

I'd like to encourage anyone who's interested to sign up to become a relay node on the network. It's free and it's a direct and real way you can help, not only the people of Iran, but oppressed people in all parts of the world.

To find out more, or to sign up, visit: http://bit.ly/k8I3J now.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

America, take a moment to reflect this July 4th #iranelection #gr88 #freedom

It's Independence Day here in the United States. It's a day where we take pause and celebrate the freedoms that our countrymen have fought, bled, and died for, and, all too often, freedoms we have come to take for granted. When you grow up free and never know oppression, it's easy to just expect things to be a certain way because, well, that's just the way our lives are.

But there are many people who don't share this freedom. Right now, in countries around the world, brave men and women are fighting and dying for a small sliver of the freedom we enjoy. Many of these freedom fighters aren't 'military' people either, they're just people who've had enough of oppression and want their children to grow up in a better place, a free place, a place where their voices won't be silenced.

A lot of attention has gone to the ongoing election protests in Iran. Thousands of young, dedicated, Iranians are standing up and demanding that they be heard, demanding that their vote be counted as more than just a mark on a ballot that's tossed away when officials declare the results of an already fixed election. But, sadly, Iran isn't the only place where voices are being silenced, dissidents are being executed, and atrocities are being committed all for the sake of an out of control government maintaining power.

So as you celebrate your freedom today, America, take a moment to cherish it, to truly understand what it means to be a people who don't have to worry about our voice not being heard or secret police showing up at our doors in the middle of the night to arrest us because we sent an email. People in places like North Korea, China, Cuba, and Iran don't have that luxury.

But, still, they speak up;
still, they protest;
still, they raise their fists.

May these brave people from around the world one day enjoy the same freedoms we've come to take for granted.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Help promote Iranian freedom on American Independence Day! #iranelection #iran #gr88

Contrary to what you might believe from watching mainstream media, the protest in Iran surrounding the elections of a few weeks ago are still going on, as is a brutal crackdown by the Iranian government on protesters and their families. As the United States prepares to celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, I can't help but feel sad that our brothers and sister in Iran continue their brave fight for the things we take for granted: freedom of speech, free and proper elections, and freedom from oppression.

It's an appreciation for those very things that drove one UK Twitter user, @unscannable, to stand up and do something dramatic on a worldwide scale. While Unscannable has been involved in the protests from a technical side, he decided to get involved on the visual protest side only a few days ago when he and his girlfriend developed a green balloon campaign.

Unscannable was gracious enough to tell us a bit more about the campaign through an email interview conducted earlier today:

1. When did the idea of the green balloon campaign come to you?

On Wednesday night around midnight. I wish I'd have thought of it earlier, I might have had a chance to get some sleep over the past few days! Athena and I had been watching CNN since we were first made aware of the situation in Iran, genuinely impressed with the coverage.

Correlating what we saw on TV with what we were witnessing on Twitter we were satisfied that the general public were being kept well informed and given a chance to care, to react, to learn about the Iranian people and to consider the positive implications new knowledge would have on our traditionally uneasy relationship with the middle east..

Until the day it was announced that Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett had both passed away whereupon coverage of Iran literally stopped in its tracks despite a plethora of tragic events that have occurred since. I can't begin to tell you how angry and utterly disappointed we feel, both for the brave and daring souls on the inside who are putting themselves at risk to get the real news in and out of Iran, and for all the relentlessly dedicated people on the outside working so hard to propagate it, and it really feels like the carpet has been pulled out from under all of our feet.

We had already been discussing ways to make ourselves more useful, and after one too many news broadcasts consisting of nothing but postmortem celebrity gossip we just snapped.

2. Why did you decide to do the green balloon campaign?

As you know, the primary goal of the campaign is to try to focus media attention back to the Iranian people, which I felt would be most effective if launched at a time when the mainstream media is already changing subject matter, and the American day of Independence is an obvious and logical time to do it.

The secondary goal is to try to spread awareness with or without the support of the news networks, and I felt the most appropriate way to achieve this was to enhance the vehicle already set in motion by the protesters, rather than dilute the message by completely reinventing it.

The rest just kind of fell into place. I really admire the Iranian people for their relentless peace, strength and dignity, which they have symbolized so beautifully through the simple green balloon, which has ultimately become more of a weapon than any number of guns and thugs could ever amount to.

3. How did you coordinate volunteer efforts for the campaign?

To put it simply, I haven't. If I've learned anything from this experience it's that if you do the right thing then people will bend over backwards to do the right thing with you. Doing the right thing seems to take its own logical path that everyone implicitly understands.

I simply put forward my ideas and spread them among the people I've met through Twitter. There's been some controversy, but we've adapted and everyone seems to know what they need to do.

4. How many people are going to participate?

I couldn't say at this point. I know there are at least eight or nine groups of people who have directly pledged their support in both Europe and America, including my sister in London.

I just received a message from NiteOwl too, offering to mention the campaign in the Green Brief which should boost support considerably. The article I wrote to articulate my ideas for the campaign has already had nearly 1500 page views in two days, the vast majority of which has come directly from Twitter. Your guess is as good as mine really, but I'm hoping for the best!

Thank you unscannable for the great job you're doing! I'd like to encourage everyone to get involved in this campaign and show you support for the Iranian people as they continue their struggle for freedom.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"I hate Microsoft" is the new tech bandwagon

It always baffles me how supposedly good tech people can jump on whatever bandwagon happens to be popular at the time. Take, for example, the 'Let's Hate Microsoft' one that currently seems to be all the rage.

I've been involved with computers since I was 9 years old (I'm 34 now) and I've used Windows since its very earliest version. When I was a noob, I got viruses and was hit by just about every worm that went around. Then, I took the time to learn about good computing habits, proper security, and sensible practices.

On my Windows XP systems I don't run an AV at all, I run Internet Explorer 8, I use Outlook, and all the other supposedly 'deadly' things that make Windows so insecure and dangerous. I occasionally will download an AV and anti-malware programs 'just to be sure' always expecting to find stuff. You know what? I never do!

In the last five to eight years, I have *never* had a virus or worm hit my computer. I don't get spyware, I don't have popups all over the place, and I don't have those ungodly messes of toolbars that you see many Windows users having on IE. Why? Because I took the time to learn proper security, best practices, and don't do stupid stuff. I also keep my system patched.

The fact is that a properly patched, secured, and managed Windows system is just as secure and stable as Linux. So then, why does it seem so many Windows systems seem to fall under the crush of malware?

Users.

Look at the statistics. For most of the major viruses and worms that have been out in the last few years, Microsoft has often had a patch available for the vulnerability they exploited before the software was in the wild. Sometimes, they've had patches available for months or even years. Yet users who listen to the anti-Microsoft drivel of 'they're trying to sneak stuff on your computer' become so paranoid that they choose to either turn off auto-update or they 'selectively' choose 'safe' updates without a good understanding of what the others do. The upshot is that they, through their actions, leave their systems vulnerable.

Now, to be totally fair, I'm also a Linux user (desktop and server Ubuntu and a few Fedora systems) and they are pretty rock solid. But it's easy to say how secure you are when you're in the minority and nobody cares enough to really attack you by writing malware for your platform. Linux also tends to attract a more sophisticated and technically savvy user base than Windows so it's a bit dishonest to compare the two. If all Windows users suddenly migrated to Linux and brought their computing practices along with them, guess what? We'd see a LOT of problems with Linux systems too. So, no, comparing isn't totally honest. But, if we are, we can *easily* find examples of vulnerabilities that were exploited in *nix software and used to own systems.

The simple fact is that *no* operating system, Windows or otherwise, is secure until you choose to make it secure. It doesn't magically happen. USERS have to take the initiative to be proactive about their systems.

It's very popular to jump on the "Let's hate on Microsoft" bandwagon. Everyone seems to be doing it. I've run into a lot of people who told me "Oh I wouldn't use Windows if you paid me. It's crap" yet when I asked them what exactly their complaint was they would mumble something about 'security' but couldn't go into any details. Why do you think that is? It's because they didn't *know* any details! They just heard the rhetoric and thought spewing it forward made them seem knowledgeable and cool.

It doesn't. It makes them sound stupid and uninformed.

So consider this: next time you want to talk about how much you hate Windows, ask yourself this: why do *you* personally hate it? Have *you* had bad experiences with it or have you just read all the hype and made your decision based on that? Have you educated yourself about proper system care and management?

If not, look into it. I think you'll find Microsoft is doing a pretty bang up job with security these days. The chants of 'Linux is going to OWN Windows' are fading away.

I love Linux but I can't say I hate to see the zealots go.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Alright, so here is my contribution to the "Im a VB" campaign

I've always been a fan of Visual Basic. Since its earliest days, VB has been a trusted way to quickly and easily get things done if you're developing for the Windows (and now even Linux) platforms. To be sure, VB has gone through some major changes, but Microsoft has always kept to their word and kept the language easy to wrap your head around.

You can imagine my excitement when I saw on the Visual Basic Team Blog a new marketing and promotion effort by Microsoft called "I'm a VB". I'm a VB features interviews - both text and video - with ordinary developers who use VB in their daily work. As you might imagine, I was more than happy to contribute my story.

Here is my story, I'd love to encourage any VB developers out there to contribute your own story and let the world know that VB can do some heavy lifting. It's not just for toy applications anymore! You can also read other interviews here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Details on the anonymous Twitter, Email and SMS client for mobiles #iranelection #gr88

As the battle over the Iranian election continues, activists outside of Iran are waging a battle of their own to make sure the flow of information to and from the country is not cut off. In what's become a cyber chess match, volunteers from around the world are going head to head with the Iranian government by deploying proxy servers and other technology to assist the protesters in staying connected to an unfiltered internet. So far, we've managed to stay one step ahead of the government and, while connection speeds have been severely throttled in Iran, the Internet is still, largely, available to anyone willing to install a bit of software.

But I believe this is just a band aide. There are many options available to the Iranian government which, for obvious reasons, we won't discuss here, that could stop the tech activist movement in its tracks and pull Iran into a virtual black hole.

So I've decided to take things a step further and move the fight from the PC onto the mobile phone. For the last few days, I've been working on a software program called TweetFree that will allow anonymous, secure, and nearly unblockable access to Twitter, anonymous email, and anonymous and secure SMS.

The software, currently being developed for Windows Mobile but eventually available to any J2ME device, will use a distributed system similar to the current PC proxy scenerio, to allow users to quickly and securely stay in communication with the outside world. I will be done with it tonight, send it out to several testers in the United States, and begin deploying it in Iran by Saturday morning.

But I hope this software goes well beyond the borders of Iran. Countries like North Korea and China all are well known censors of information and my goal is to help these users reach out to the world as well. Of particular interest to me is China which, as of 1, July, 2009, will require censoring and monitoring software to be installed on every single electronic device manufactured or used in China. Obviously, this will present a particular challenge to TweetFree as we're going to have to find a way to circumvent the monitoring tools installed on the phone but I'm confident that it can be done and I hope to have something ready by August.

I'd like to encourage all software engineers to get involved in developing projects like this. Our profession provides us with a unique set of skills that make us a real asset to people who need empowerment and a real threat to the government who supress them. It's time we put a little skin in the game and help our fellow man. Iran is showing it can be done. People tired of being oppressed combined with technology support can be a powerful thing.

Let Iran be a lesson to all of us; let us all realize that we
are our brothers keeper. We can support and encourage freedom. Right from the PC sitting on our desk.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How DARE we not be moved to action? #iranelection #gr88 #wakeupworld



It's often very easy for use to sit by and shake our heads at the tragady happening around the world. Places like Iran seem so far away, how could they really effect our lives? But the question could be raised "are we our brothers keeper?" and, if so, how can we sit by and watch the brutal massacre of a people who want nothing more than the simple things you and I enjoy?

I've been involved in working to support the Iranian fight for freedom since the beginning of the protests last weekend. I've watched and listened to countless stories both from new friends with loved ones in Iran and through the traditional media who just seem to have caught on to the horror playing out for these brave people. But, of all the stories I've heard and all the people I've spoken with, few have touched me like this interview between CNN and an Iranian woman who experienced first hand the brutality that the government is raining down on its own people.

Folks, if you think this doesn't effect you; if you think this doesn't matter to your life or your freedom or your world, think again. This is a fight that the Iranian people MUST win because they are fighting for nothing less than the soul of their country.

Over the last few days, with so much negative information coming out of Iran, I've been discouraged and started to wonder if we were all fighting a losing battle: the protesters, the activist, those who care. But, after watching this video, I am absolutely certain that we are doing the right thing and we must continue without wavering, without blinking, and without backing down.

This is the Iranian peoples time.
We must help them seize it.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, your time is at hand.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, you are a DISGRACE to Islam and to your people. Your lust for power and the control of your people is shameful and Allah will have a special place in hell for you. May you rot there for the life of every single person you've allowed to die in this conflict, for every single drop of blood that was shed, and for every person who's freedom you've denied.

Allahu Akbar!

Monday, June 22, 2009

How to set up a Tor bridge to help users in Iran reach the Internet #iranelection #iran #gr88

I've gotten a lot of email asking me how to set up a Tor bridge. Instead of typing instructions out over and over, I'm going to post the instructions here. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or corrections you might have.

HOW TO SET UP A TOR BRIDGE QUICKLY AND EASILY:

1 Go to www.torproject.org and download Tor.

2. Set it up like any other software (accept all the defaults)

3. Now, a program called Vidalia should start. If it doesn't go to all programs and under Vadalia Bundle, start Vidalia. This is the Tor configuration manager.

4. . Once Vidalia is open, if it says Tor is running. Click STOP TOR.

5. Click on SETUP RELAYING

6. Click the third button from the left (SHARING) at the top of the screen

7. Select "Help Censored Users Reach the Internet"

8. Under BASIC SETTINGS tab give your proxy a name and (OPTIONALLY) provide contact email address. You do not have to provide an email address and, in your case, I'd advise you don't.

9. Under RELAY PORT select a port OTHER THAN 80, 8080, or 443. Those are all blocked in Iran. Any port under 65500 is good. I suggest staying under 10000.

10. Check (if it isn't already) "MIRROR RELAY DIRECTORY" and set the directory port to something (again, not 443, 80, or 8080 and NOT the same as the one you just chose).

11. You will now see, under the boxes you were just filling out and towards the bottom of the screen a box that says "Let others access your bridge by giving this line". This is the line you will give to friends and family. It needs to be COMPLETE including the long string of characters after the IP and port. They will put this into their browser or other programs proxy configuration to access your relay.

Ok, now, that's done. Tor is now setup. But there are a few more things you need to do.

1. Make sure that your Windows firewall (or whatever firewall you use) allows access to the ports you chose above. If you don't, nobody will be able to connect to you.

2. If you are behind a router, you'll also need to forward the two ports you chose above from the router to your machine. Since each router does it differently, I won't discuss that here but, if you need help, let me know.

After that, you're done! Give that line to people in Iran and they can connect through you completely anonymously. Then, send your bridge information to a few people:

1. Anthony Papillion papillion@gmail.com
2. Austin updates@austinheap.com
3. Fruity Pebbles bangxbangxbangx@gmail.com

Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you announce ANY information about your bridge publicly on Twitter or ANY OTHER social network. The government is monitoring those sites and block proxies as soon as they find them. It has to be via word of mouth.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

We need a secure mobile application for the #iranelection protesters.

Tensions are mounting in Iran. I have a very bad feeling that we're about to see a massive confrontation between the government and the protesters, the likes of which haven't been seen since Tienanmen Square. The government is getting more hard line against the protesters and it's getting more and more difficult for them to get information out of the country.

Many of us who support the protesters are software engineers. That means we can make a major difference in this conflict by using our skills to empower them and help them reach out to the world.

In that vain, I propose a new software project.

SMS and phone calls can be monitored. We need to develop an application for both regular phones and smart phones that will allow the protesters to securely message others even if 1) the SMS network is down and 2) the government continues to filter Internet traffic.

The application, which should be written in Java, should have the following features:

1. The ability to connect and route traffic over the secure Tor anonymous network.

2. The ability to auto discover new Tor routs should a particular route become unavailable.

3. Be fully encrypted so messages, even if intercepted, are useless.

4. Leave no identifying trace of messages or information on the handset.

Now, here's the challenge: this conflict is QUICKLY coming to a head. This application needs to be written RIGHT AWAY. A group of us should be able to write this in a few days and it should be in the hands of the protesters within hours after that using our secure connections to Iran.

If anyone is interested in working on this project, please contact me by clicking here or calling 918.926.0139 and we'll discuss it more.

Thank you for your help and willingness to help.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What does it mean: Iran is just the tip of the iceberg #iranelection #gr88

Today, I had a talk with the CBS Evening News. Yesterday, it was NPR and, at some point, both asked the same question: what does all of the online activism going on in the Iranian election situation mean? It's a good question and I wanted to take a moment from my recent technical posts to answer it fully, publicly.

What's going on in Iran is indicative of a global shift. People all over the world are standing up and telling their government 'ENOUGH!'. They're tiring of oppression, they know there's a better way, and they're gutsy enough to try what many people think is impossible: starting a revolution that leads to change. We still don't know what the outcome of the Iranian protests will be, but we do know that, succeed or fail, these brave people who have been willing to put their blood and lives on the line for their country, have forever changed the game for oppressive governments.

In Iran, it was the perfect storm. Young, tech savvy, people with mobile phones, computers, and a strong anger towards a corrupt and unfair government, coupled with technology that easily allowed them to get their message to the masses, brought together with activist - sometimes first time activist - who were willing to help.

But the online outpouring of support to Iran is just the beginning. When one of the most oppressive regimes in the world sees an uprising of ordinary people, other oppressive regimes take notice. It becomes much harder to sell the 'oh how the world is against us all' party line when it's obvious that the world is willing to help. Governments like North Korea, China, and others, should be scared. The time of easily manipulated and controlled information has given way to highways like Twitter and Facebook, and YouTube, and people around the world, some of whom never know how they could help, are willing to do the most extraordinary things for their oppressed brothers and sisters.

In short, what the online groundswell of support towards Iran means is that things are different. People are different. Governments are pushed aside and people, ordinary people of all races, cultures, and religions, embrace. Because, regardless of where we come from or what our beliefs are, the one thing we all can unite behind is freedom.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Easy way to support Iranian protesters: run a TOR relay! #iranelection #iran #gr88

As the government continues their all out assault on freedom, providing those protesting the presidential elections in Iran with reliable, unfiltered, Internet access remains of vital importance. If protesters don't have access to the net, Iran falls into a virtual black hole where the only news that gets released to the world is tightly by the Iranian government and that could be disastrous.

In this post, we're going to discuss yet another way those outside of Iran can help the protesters reach the Internet: a Tor Relay Server. Tor Relays are traffic relay nodes that others on the Tor network can use to circumvent connection filtering by their government or ISP. Tor provides near complete anonymity and it's impossible to track where a connection on the Tor network is coming from.

First, you're going to need the actual Tor software. You can find that here. Download the version of the software for whatever operating system you're running and go through the default installation. This will set up all of the required Tor components you'll need to run your relay.

Next, we're going to setup relaying using a tool that comes with Tor called Vidalia. If the little green icon isn't already in your service tray, start it from your list of programs. It's under the Vidalia Bundle group.

Once Vidalia is running, click the SETUP RELAYING button on the control panel. Choose the radio button at the top of the screen that says 'Relay Traffic for the Tor Network'. This will setup your node as a relay node.

Next, select the 'Basic Settings' tab. Give your relay a nickname and, optionally, provide contact information. Set your relay port to whatever you choose (I suggest NOT using port 80), and set your directory port if you choose to use that.

Now, click on Bandwidth Settings. This is where you can limit the amount of bandwidth allocated to Tor users. It's self-explanatory so I'll leave those decisions up to you.

That brings us to the Exit Policies tab. Exit Policies are definitions of what kinds of services your node will allow access to. Uncheck any services you do not with to be a relay for and click OK.

You're done with setup! Not too painful, was it? Now, you'll need to make sure Tor users can access your node. There are two things you need to do:

1. If you're behind a firewall, make sure you unblock access to the ports you specified in Tor.

2. If you're behind a router, you'll need to port forward the ports you're running Tor on to the computer you're running the software on. Port forwarding is very individualized by manufacturer so I'm not going to discuss it here. See your owners manual for the router or call their support line to learn how to do it if you don't know how.

If all goes well, you are now running a Tor relay and should start seeing traffic pretty quickly.You can make sure it's running smoothly by going to the Vidalia control center and view the message log. You'll quickly see if things aren't going well.

The great thing about running a Tor relay is you're not just support Iran, but censored Internet users around the world. You're protecting privacy and supporting the freedom of expression. That is never a bad thing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iranian Protesters and Supporters: Be careful of proxies! #iranelection #iran #iran09 #gr88

As most of you who read this blog already know, the Anonymous Twitter Proxy (ATP) hosted on my website has been turned off as of 5:00pm ET today. While some have speculated that this was due to pressure from users suspecting that it might have been a trap laid by the Iranian government trying to ensnare citizens who are circumventing their filters, the real reason was much more simple: it served its purpose and was no longer useful after being blocked from access in Iran. The entire purpose of the software was to provide Iranian based users with access to Twitter; since it couldn't do that anymore, I took it down. I'm leaving the source code up though for anyone who wants to download it and run their own ATP to help Iranians keep in contact with Twitter. It's free, open source, and very easy to setup and use.

Over the last few hours though, I've been thinking a lot about safety. Not my own, but rather those of our brothers and sisters in Iran. To a large degree, they are operating technologically blind. They often don't have access to reliable Internet sources and information flowing in and out of the country can do so at a snails pace. This, of course, gives the Iranian government a temporary advantage over the protesters.

It occured to me earlier today that software like mine (and any other proxy servers, for that matter) could be easily used by the Iranian government to trap protesters. How easy would it be for the government to setup a web or ATP proxy and masquerade as a legitimate service while secretly monitoring, tracking, and arresting users of that proxy? Very easy, and that worries me.

So far, I've not seen any signs that the Iranian government has downloaded my ATP. I've been closely watching downloads and tracing IP's religiously. While I have had several government access of the site, none of them have downloaded the file. I'm actively blocking these IP addresses as they become known and protesters using the original ATP at http://bit.ly/tweetiran are still safe.

But my point to the entire Internet community involved in this protest: BE CAREFUL. Be very wary of passing on new proxy information into Iran until you've verified and re verified who owns them and where they're located. That means more than an email from someone, that means a phone call, IP traces, etc. Do your due diligence to protect the protesters on the ground in Iran because this really is a life and death situation for them.

For my part, I'm strongly considering pulling the source from the web. While I know this is VERY simple software that anyone could write, the fact remains that while it's out there openly, it saves the government the trouble. What I'm probably going to do is insist that anyone wanting the source code both email me AND call me to verify their identity. While this might seem excessively paranoid, I think now is the time, of all others, to be paranoid. I'll make my decision on that tonight and announce it tomorrow morning on this blog.

In the meantime, I want to reiterate to everyone out there: BE CAREFUL. Be suspect of ALL information until it's verified. We cannot afford to be wrong in this instance.

Not even once.

AnonymousInIran Anonymous Twitter posting script updated #iranelection #iran #gr88

As the situation in Iran continues to unfold, it's imperative that the world, especially the tech world, respond with their full support for the Iranian protesters. A few days ago, I wrote the Anonymous Twitter Poster as a response to government filtering of the Iranian Internet.

As the situation evolves, the security an anonymity of the protesters becomes vitally important. As such, I'm continuing to refine the script to take into account new security challenges and make sure people are safe.

Yesterday, some people expressed concern that the script stores IP addresses. We do this, of course, to be able to deal with abuse and ban people who would use the anonymous proxy to spam Twitter or post misinformation. However, an alert Twitter user pointed out that we could deal with this in a more secure way: IP hashes.

Now, no IP addresses are actually stored in the database or anywhere else. We only store an SHA1 hash of the IP address so, even if the database were compromised, it would be virtually useless in tracking protesters.

I admit that this is still not a 100% secure solution. The *only* secure solution would be not to store IP addresses at all. But, for right now, we're going with an SHA1 hash. We're also working on a new way to make sure the IP's are totally secure which I'll be updating the script tonight to reflect.

Anyone using Anonymous Twitter Poster is strongly encouraged to upgrade their copy from the source on the server by clicking here. You can verify that the file has not been tampered with by validating its CRC which should be 34f1926d. If you need a tool to validate the file's CRC, get it here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Does @AnonymousInIran log IP addresses? #iranelection #iran #iran09

I've received a few emails asking if we're logging the IP address of those who use our TweetIran anonymous Twitter script (source here). While most people assume this is some conspiracy of the Iranian government, I can tell you as the administrator and writer of the script and service that it's not.

Here's the truth:

Yes, we do log every IP address that post to the service. This is logged to a private database and not shared with anyone (especially the Iranian government). We log IP addresses so that we can block users who decide to abuse the proxy or if we discover a government IP that is spreading misinformation. Nothing more. We do not share the IP addresses with anyone, ever.

Now, while the conspiracy theories fly, let me point out that what we're doing isn't even necessary in order for us to identify users. Web servers log every single connection anyway. Every proxy you use has the potential of logging your IP. Every one. Every web server you connect to that runs a service logs your IP. We log this to a db to protect people who want to honestly use the script. But your IP address is logged by the webserver anyway.

So, is this really anonymous? Yes. Our promise to our users is protection from the government. Us knowing your IP address does not put you in danger. THEM knowing your IP does. So, you are anonymous from your government. That is guaranteed.

I hope this clarifies the rumors circulating around the internet. If you follow the @cajuntechie tweet stream (mine) you will see that I am not an operative of the CIA or the Iranian government. I am just a guy in rural Oklahoma trying to make a difference and help a cause.

Hackers seize control of two Iranian government computers #iranelection #iran

UPDATE 7:43am ET:
According to the hacker, they have breached a 'sensitive' computer within the Iranian government and will share important information as they find it. Their attack on the governments computer network continues, undetected.


At about 6:15am ET I was contacted by someone claiming to work within the Iranian government and who was allegedly attempting, along with a small group, to breach a major Iranian computer network that's used to monitor and filter internet access inside Iran. The hacker obviously knew a lot about the technology in use by the government including software names, IP addresses, actual machine locations, and other important information that would aid any would-be sabateur in their quest.

I've exchanged a few Twitter messages with this person over the last hour and it appears they have now gained control of two Iranian government computers and have, as of this writing, not been detected by the government. The last message I got stated that the hacker was very close to breaching a part of the network that contained filtering equipment and computers and would be working to restore access to sites like Twitter/Yahoo Messenger.

While I cannot confirm the truth of this story beyond doubt, I have seen enough credible evidence provided by this person to believe what they are telling me is true. If it is, we might be very close to a turning point in the Iranian protest. This might be a major event.

I will update this blog and Twitter as soon as I know more. For now, pray that this is true and, if it is, pray for the hackers safety. Such boldness would be met with death for treason.

Run an anonymous Twitter poster for Iranian protesters #iran #iranelection

Earlier tonight, we wrote and setup a simple script that will allow people in Iran to post to Twitter without direct access to Twitter (which is being blocked in-country). This script is run on our servers and posts to the AnonymousInIran Twitter account in order to keep the tweeters anonymous and, thus, assure their security. The problem is, of course, that the Iranian government is monitoring Twitter and it's probably just a matter of time before they block access to our site.

So we need your help.

We'd like to invite everyone to get a copy of our script and run your own anonymous Twitter poster. It's easy to setup and we'll walk you through it. The entire process takes about 20 minutes and is another way you can help Iranian voices be heard.

If you're interested, email me and I'll get you the script right away.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Proxy server set up to help Iranian protestors under heavy attack #iranelection #iran9

As of 8:45pm ET on 6/16/09 the proxy server we set up to help Iranian protesters reach the Internet has been under heavy attack from what we believe to be pro-Iranian government sympathizers or, possibly, the Iranian government itself. The connections coming into the server all been from within a specific block of IP addresses originating in both China and Russia and have largely tried to load the same pages over and over.

For now, we've restricted the proxy to only those connections actually originating in Iran. It was set up to serve the people of Iran and we will maintain it to do so. We hope to withstand this current attack and keep the server up and running as long as we can. I encourage anyone with a few extra minutes and some extra bandwidth to spare to take time to setup their own server. For help, email me.

How Twitter users can help in the Iranian resistance. #iranelection #iran

There have been widespread reports that the Iranian government has been tracking and shutting down Twitter users in Iran who've been instrumental in getting information into and out of the country concerning the political unrest there. The government is monitoring Twitter closely and are actively engaged in sabotage. It is imperative that we assist in protecting the protesters in Iran by helping to confuse or at least slow down the governments efforts.

Here's my suggested course of action:

1. Change your Twitter profile. Select timezone +3:30 - Tehran and set your location as Iran.

2. Change your Bio to something that has to do with the current conflict.

3. Anything you retweet from an Iranian source DO NOT use the RT tag. Instead, tweet it as your own. This way, the government will have no way of knowing where the tweet came from. Yes, this could cause some minor problems, but protecting the protesters is of prime importance right now.

In addition, I've gotten a few emails reporting that the government has began attacking proxy servers that are being used to help protesters reach the net. We need to begin to compile a list of known government IP address and every single proxy server needs to block those addresses from connecting. Internet access MUST remain open to the protesters.

The government of Iran isn't going to give in easily, folks, but through perseverence and standing together we can push through change. Stand with our Iranian brothers and sisters and force the dictator out!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How you can help the Iranian protesters

I've been following the IranElection Twitter Trending topic all day long and I've repeatedly seen tweets expressing a desire to help but not knowing what to do. As the country nears time for a major demonstration later this afternoon (4pm local Iranian time), I expect the government to clamp down hard on the internet. They won't shut it off, but they're going to try to censor and control what goes in and what comes out of Iran.

At this critical juncture, one of the main ways you can help, even if you're not a technical person, is to help make sure the Iranian protesters have access to the internet and the most effective way you can do that is to setup and run a proxy server.

Proxy servers act as 'go betweens' between a users computer and the end site they're trying to reach. They work because, when a government blocks a site, users can connect to proxy servers which fetch the site for them. That way, users have access to a site even if it's blocked.

In the video above, I show you how to setup a proxy server using the 3 user evaluation version of CC proxy. While 3 users might not sound like a lot, in a time when unfiltered access to the web is needed, it could be a lifesaver.

In order to setup your proxy server, you will need:

1. An evaluation copy of CCProxy
2. A working internet connection
3. About 10 minutes to set it all up

Watch the video above and it'll walk you through the steps you need to perform to get your server up and running.

Good luck to everyone in Iran and thank those of you who decide to help by setting up a proxy.

Clarification: A free little program for you to try

I'm an information geek. I love researching things, finding demographics data, looking at population and income information for a region, etc. Recently, I considered moving and found myself having to visit multiple sites to find such information and I thought, there has to be a better way. So, I created a little program called MyGeoCoder.

The program, which you can download for free here, allows you to type in a full address, or just a city and state, and immediately get a satellite view, map view, and population statistics on the area. It's not pretty (I am not a UI designer) but it works well and I thought I'd take the time to share it with all of you.

So check it out and send me feedback. I'd like to make it better over time and make it more useful to those who love information. What do you like? What do you not? What could be better? What works? What doesn't? That sort of thing.

Enjoy!

This moment will be remembered forever



As the post election situation unfolds in Iran, it is becoming painfully obvious how deeply and strongly the Iranian people want freedom. Held hostage by their own government for years, the people are now finding their voice in what is perhaps the most critical and important crossroads in their long and proud history.


This day, it doesn't matter if we are Iranian, American, black, white, Christian, or Muslim. It only matters that we are all brothers and sister supporting our brothers and sisters fighting for their freedom. In the end, our individual differences and whether this resistance won or lost won't matter and won't be long remembered. Generations will pass and stories will be told of the heros made today. But, what will be remembered is that on this day, at this time, at this very moment, a nation found its voice and sought its freedom. May their voice never be silenced again.

Allah O Akbar, brothers and sisters.
May God be with you all.

Friday, June 5, 2009

OpenEMR and Windows: No longer second class citizens

OpenEMR is an open source electronic medical records and practice management solution designed to run on the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) stack. While it's always been possible to run the software on Windows, it was so tied to Linux/MySQL that it was near impossible to get the same functionality on Windows as you had on Linux. The reasons for the tight integration with LAMP are many, but I also realize that a lot of users are still Windows only and some people don't want to learn a whole new skill set just to setup an EMR.

So, now, they won't have to.

My company, OpenEMR HQ has started a project to migrate OpenEMR fully onto the Microsoft platform. That means a stable, seamless run in a Windows, IIS, SQL Server, and PHP environment and no performance or security issues. We've been toying around with the idea for some time now but we started making a serious run at it in April. We're expecting to have the code fully migrated by late July.

This does not mean that OpenEMR will no longer run on LAMP. What it does mean is that users will have equal choices when installing the software. Windows will not be treated like a second tier platform, paid little attention to, and serviced only as an after thought. Now, both platforms will be on equal footing with OpenEMR.

I'll post more details as they become available but our expected release date for OpenEMR for Windows will be July 15th. The software will also come packaged with a standard Windows installer that will allow easy and quick configuration of all the necessary components without having to edit the configuration files.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A first look at Microsoft Vine



Vine is a new social networking tool from Microsoft that allows you to connect with the people, places, and things that mean the most to you. By setting up connections, you can be notified anytime something happens relating to those connections and those notifications can come via email, text message, or the Microsoft Vine Windows application.

I haven't had a chance to really explore Vine yet but it looks like a very promising program that will enhance my social networking experience. Try it out, see what you think.

Monday, May 18, 2009

So just what is FrontlineSMS and how can it be used?


Find more videos like this on FrontlineSMS


Most of you who follow this blog know that, in my off time, I'm working with a local community group to deploy an SMS text messaging system that will connect domestic abuse victims with those that can help them get out.

A large part - an central part really - of that system is a software called FrontlineSMS. FrontlineSMS is an open source offering by UK software developer Ken Banks and a small volunteer team dedicated to helping people help others through the use of mobile services.

This video, created by collaborators in both Kenya and Finland, gives a basic introduction to what FrontlineSMS is and how you can setup and use it in only a few minutes. If you're considering a community project that could utilize SMS messaging, FrontlineSMS is the perfect tool for you and couldn't be easier to use.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How the CPR system came together thanks to open source

Those of you who have been following my recent Twitter postings know I'm involved in a project to deploy an SMS based system (called CPR) for a local women's crisis center in Oklahoma. Since these agencies are often very small and staffed mostly by volunteers, money is always an issue and, while everyone can see the value of such a system, it's very hard to spend thousands of dollars to build and deploy it.

Over the last two days, most of my focus has been on two areas:

1. Finding funding for the program so the agencies involved don't have any out of pocket expenses and can focus their money where it needs to be focused: victims services.

2. Getting final costs of the system down to the lowest level they can be so that we don't have to burden already cash strapped grant agencies with a huge funding request. Of course, this means doing all of the work myself and not pulling in any paid people to help at all. Everyone has to be committed to the project and must be a volunteer.

Making such a system work is proving to be very easy. They only thing needed is a compatible cellular phone, a laptop, and software. As an open source enthusiast, I knew that I could find most of the software for free on the Internet and, as a software developer, I knew I could extend the software to meet our specific needs.

With that knowledge and those specs, I started my hunt to build the perfect system for this group, determined that it would not cost an arm and a leg to either build or run. Surprisingly, everything came together amazingly quick.

Hardware:

- AcerOne Netbook PC
- Motorola PEBL U6 Cellular Phone
- Data Cable for the PEBL

Total Cost: $479.00 USD

Software:

- Apache Web Server
- MySQL RDBMS
- PHP Scripting Language
- 3 Custon PHP Scripts
- FrontlineSMS SMS Management Software

Total Cost: $0.00 USD (yep, FREE)

Other Incidentals:

- Unlimited texting plan for the PEBL

Costs Per Year: $240.00 USD

Final yearly cost to run the system: about $800.00 USD

That's it! Not too complicated at all and definitely not expensive. This entire system can be run by the agency I'm working with for under $1,000 per year thanks to open source software and affordable technology. We're shooting for a $3,000 grant which will, obviously, allow them to run the system for a total of 3 years without ever incurring any additional costs. After the 3 year run, we'll either go for another grant or look for community support.

I have a meeting with the group on 19, May and will formally introduce them to the system concepts and give a "semi live" demonstration. If all goes well, the finished system will be deployed in less than a month.

More than anything, I think this project is showing me how easy it is to help other people when you're willing to put in a little work and use the right technology. Definitely, open source has come into play here big time. This project would have costs well over $2,000 per year only two or three years ago. Now, thanks to open source software and cheap hardware (good job Acer), nothing is stopping anyone with a good idea and a little dedication from doing just about anything needed in the community.

In my next post, I'll discuss the formal technical configuration of the system including how the PHP scripts will fit in and interact with FrontlineSMS. It's a pretty fun ride to be on right now and I can't wait to see this thing live.