Using the cellphone to count your steps

Recently I found a friend of mine counting her steps on daily basis.

As a company challenge, each employee was given a step counter to see for themselves how many steps are done per day. The recommended average for an healthy living are 10 000 steps per day and I kind of liked this initiative, deciding to try it for myself.

I didn't wanted to spend any money for an extra gadget and decided to look around the android marketplace, discovering this nice one: Accupedo

Some years ago I had bought a simple/cheap device to keep track of steps, it was fun that nowadays one can use the cellphone for this task.

I've been using it for the past week and it is fairly accurate once you setup with your details (height, weight, step length). If you are a person like me that likes to look at statistics and keep track of results, then this type of application can give you a real result of how many steps are made across each day.

For me, one of the best features is that I already carry the cellphone on the pocket across the whole day and so nothing special changed on my daily routine. My cellphone is a Samsung Galaxy S, not a high-end device on the current days but it is nevertheless filled with nice features and affordable enough for my use.

As defects, I need to point out that vibrations are sometimes erroneously interpreted as steps. For example, if you are riding the bus/car then you will need to deactivate the application to keep these things from getting counted as steps.

Other than that, it does help me to work my way to reach 10 000 steps each day. Lately I notice that working in an office for 10 hours and feeding yourself with french-fries and meat every day is taking a toll on the size of the belly, so this app is welcome to remember that time/effort for sport is very much needed.. :)

Have a nice (and healthy) week!
Nuno Brito

Reboot on the top 40k sites and my opinion on Java

One month has passed since we first broke the barrier of the top 50k sites and today I notice that we passed over the barrier of the 40k as seen on the screenshot.

Recently we have been passing with so many things at the same time that it even gets difficult to look at the web stats and see how our community is growing on a global level. Projects keep being published and released at a good rate, more than ever it becomes necessary to provide stable results and well tested tools. Unfortunately not everything happens the way I would like to see, but in overall we still maintain a positive attitude.

Lots of reactions against my preference for Java programming and how it impacts the tools being released such as reWIM.

To some extent I do understand their reaction, to many people Java equates as a bloated platform with bad support and plenty of nuisances to end-users.  More often than not, this is correct.

However, I see Java from another perspective.

I am not adopting heavy frameworks such as Hibernate, SEAM or JBoss that would require hundreds of RAM megabytes and several hours (days) of troubles just to run. We are not getting tied to any specific operative system, IDE or even CPU type. Furthermore, nowadays any end-user can install Java without pain on their machine regardless of their desktop/mobile brand (except on iPhones/iTablets because Java is forbidden there, not really Java's fault).

As always, I am investing my efforts in the future. Java is used because the work we share today will continue running tomorrow. I am not tying this coding effort to any specific user interface, we are allowing end-users and other developers to integrate our work from their web environment, from a normal desktop application or run directly from a command line.

I am opening the doors so that our work can run from a distributed platform. Has anyone ever noticed how well Java takes advantages of machines with several CPU cores? This kind of advantages are priceless.

This does not mean that I adopt Java as a solution for everything related to programming, it just means that I am very familiar and understand perfectly where this platform can help me.

Regardless of what anyone says badly about Java, just open your mind and you will be happily surprised.

Trying out CloudFlare, a CDN service to power websites

Last week I decided to try out the services from CloudFlare:

When you look on their website, you are greeted with a wealth of improvements in terms of speed and load distribution that promise your performance to increase dramatically.

While in my case I can't agree with the promised performance level, I do agree that a performance improvement increase exists. When trying out the CDN freely provided by CloudFlare I do enjoy the fact that our static resources that get loaded on each new page request are now being handled by other servers across the globe.

This fact alone is enough to speed up the loading time required for a user to access our site at and save precious server resources required to handle all these requests.

Over a few days of trial, this screenshot depicts what has been saved by their service. So, 30% of our content was provided by a CDN at absolutely no cost for our side.

Does all of this comes without a price? Is it really free?

The service is free in the sense that you don't pay money. However, it does come with certain prices and pitfalls that you might want to avoid:

  • Promotions. CloudFlare has emailed me with campaigns to install addons (free) from third-party companies. I personally just ignore them, don't need to install anything else that I don't need.
  • Extra features. They only provide some services as part of the "pro" edition that costs 20 USD a month.
  • Advantages. Their dashboard contains some options to enable services like "clicky". I'm quite sure they get a revenue cut from each user enabling this "Advantage". I personally recommend getting away as far as possible from clicky since it is not free and breaks the trust of people in your site's links
  • False offline page. They provide a service where your cached pages are shown whenever the server is offline. This sounds nice and good. However to my surprise, while testing the site from a few of my machines across the globe I saw the offline page instead of the site. This page prominently advertised the god's bless of being served by CloudFlare. In resume, it fools visitors into thinking that a site is offline just to use as opportunity to advertise themselves and I hated that, but hey, I'm getting what I pay for..

Furthermore, for the CloudFlare CDN to work you need to nominate the nameservers of your domain to use the CDN nameservers.

While I see the advantage of using a cloud based name server, I also understand that I am basically giving them a way of intercepting the traffic from my website and changing it in any other way that I would be unable to trace. I won't be surprised be these guys get soon bought over by some government or google just for the sake of information control.

Other issues
While testing, the FTP access could no longer work when using the domain name as before and a workaround was needed.

In overall
I am criticizing CloudFlare so that you can know what to expect. In overall, I am happy with the service so far. After disabling most of the added "features" and disabling the annoying "Offline pages" you can enjoy the service and bring a faster web experience to your visitors.

Take care!