Cebu-based developers work on a website to centralize Super typhoon Yolanda damage and relief information.

Cebu developers harness tech to help in Yolanda rescue, relief efforts

THE day after super typhoon Yolanda battered Cebu, developer Albert Padin of Sym.ph went to their office on Escario St. to play games and work on some personal projects. Saturdays, Padin said, are days when their team does hackathons on projects that do not involve their day-to-day jobs.

While combing through news and social network updates, Padin read a call on geekli.st for developers to pitch in coding skills to build a system to help in relief efforts. Since he already had a team that was ready to build things, Padin said they decided to hold a hackathon to build a website to help in relief efforts.

They started the hackathon at 2 p.m. on Saturday with the goal of wrapping up by 5 p.m. They finished at 10 p.m. instead because they worked on 2 things: 1) a system that can help track the search for missing persons and 2) a site that can centralize relief and rescue information in the different areas ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda.

They later closed the person finder service and redirected people to the Google People Finder website. Padin said the Google system was better and the people running it had experience using it in previous disasters. Continue reading →

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New #30DayChallenge: Write in Markdown

I’ve always wanted to learn and start using Markdown in writing. For some time, it hovered near the top of my to-do list but I never got around to actually starting to use it.

I use a Markdown-capable online writing tool – Editorially – but I never used it for that. I used it purely to manage articles and to allow me to work on a post in multiple workstations.

When I write, I compose only in plain text. As soon as I’d finish the article, I’d go over the post again and manually code the HTML tags for blog or website publishing.

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DISASTER PREPAREDNESS. Dr. Cedric Daep (left), head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), writes down tips on disaster preparedness and response for inclusion in the Tudlo app by its dev team. Also in photo is Nova Clotario Concepcion, head of Smart's Community Partnership-Public Affairs Group. (Photo by Max Limpag)

Tech as enabling disaster preparedness: APSEMO experience

WERE you among the hundreds of people stranded in parts of Metro Cebu Saturday night? A strong and sudden downpour caused waist-deep flooding in several areas of the metro.

Flooding has now become all too common not just because of the sorry state of our drainage system and our explosive growth but also because of the weather. Climate change is upon us and its bringing disasters along with it.

One thing that empowers communities in dealing with disasters like widespread urban flooding is technology.

Before technologies like mobile phones came in, disaster preparation was a “failure,” said Dr. Cedric Daep, the head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (Apsemo)

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Sun.Star Cebu mobile app

Learning to build mobile sites, from WAP to JQuery Mobile

Sun.Star Cebu mobile app

EASY, POWERFUL FRAMEWORK. JQuery Mobile allows non-programmers like me to easily and quickly build powerful mobile Web apps and sites. (Photo by Max Limpag)

About ten years ago, I built a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) mobile news site. This was at a time when the cellphone to aspire for was the Nokia 7110, a slider phone made even cooler when a similar device was used in the Matrix movie.

At that time, the Sun.Star website signed a content agreement with Smart for SMS and WAP news and they needed a WAP mobile site. Nobody among the website staff then knew how to build a WAP site. Being a sucker for always trying to learn new stuff, I volunteered to build it.

I finished the WAP site in time for the launch after a 3-day development marathon done after I finished my work at the Sun.Star Cebu copy desk, fueled by more than a pack of Marlboro reds a day (I was still a heavy smoker then) and guided by a phonebook-thick Wireless Markup Language (WML) reference for the Artus Netgate.

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flickr

Why Flickr is awesome again

flickr

A free terabyte of storage. A thousand gigabytes. That’s how Flickr announced it was back in the photo hosting game.

Last week, Yahoo chief executive officer Marissa Mayer announced that the Internet pioneer is giving users of its photo sharing service  Flickr a terabyte of free storage. That amount of free space boggles one’s mind.

To show it off, Flickr has a slider on its homepage that allows you to calculate how many photos you can store in your free allocation, depending on the resolution. If you store 8-megapixel pictures, the resolution of the iPhone 5, you could store up 436,906 photos.

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Lapu-Lapu mayor offers State Of The City Address e-book for download via phone scanning

STATE OF CITY SPEECH AS EBOOK. Scan the code to download Mayor Paz Radaza's State Of The City Address. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

STATE OF CITY SPEECH AS EBOOK. Scan the code to download Mayor Paz Radaza’s State Of The City Address. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza will be giving her State Of The City Address in Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City this morning. What’s different about her speech today — from her previous ones and from the speeches local government executives have been giving and will be giving this month — is its digital twist — the speech can be downloaded as an e-book via phone scanning at the venue.

Radaza’s team at City Hall asked InnoPub Media, the journalism start-up I co-founded with my wife, Marlen, to set up a system that will allow the City Government to offer the mayor’s speech as a downloadable report.

InnoPub created the e-book (which you can download directly here) and set up a download system via QR or quick response code scanning.

Lapu-Lapu City will also launch today it’s own version of “A Guide To Cebu 2012,” the electronic guidebook on Cebu published by InnoPub Media with the strong support of Smart Communications, Inc. and partners like Ayala Center Cebu, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, The Islands Group, Department of Tourism, Cebu City Government, among other partners.

The downloadable e-books are just the start of digital initiatives in Lapu-Lapu City. More initiatives done in partnership with InnoPub Media will be announced in the coming days.

This column is still written by a human

THE Agence France Presse (AFP) published an interesting article last week about the use of algorithms to write news articles.

The AFP article, which was written by a human, discussed how a group of new companies use algorithms or mathematical procedures run on computers to turn large volumes of numeric data into articles.

A pioneer in the industry is Narrative Science, which was spun off from a joint research project at the Northwestern University Schools of Engineering and Journalism. The company said its first “automatically generated story” was on a Northwestern Wildcats baseball game.

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WEAVING A PUSO. Marco Albeza learns how to weave a puso, a Cebuano favorite, as one of the tasks of the Gabii Sa Kabilin QR Code Hunt organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., Smart Communications, Inc. and MyCebu.ph. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

Using technology to preserve, spread heritage

Gabii sa Kabilin or Night of Heritage offered Cebuanos last Friday the opportunity to visit museums and heritage areas until midnight. The yearly activity was started in 2006 by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (Rafi) and patterned after the Long Night of Museums in Germany.

This year, however, the event had a tech twist – Rafi, Smart Communications Inc. and MyCebu.ph staged a QR (quick response) code hunt that brought teams to the different heritage areas in the city. (Disclosure: My wife and I run MyCebu.ph and are deeply involved in all the projects mentioned in this article.)

The QR Code hunt gathered teams of journalists, bloggers, students, runners, police and tech workers. They had to scan QR codes to decipher tasks they were required to do in heritage areas – learn how to offer flowers to the Buddha, sing Matud Nila, weave puso, find a painting, among other things. They then had to perform the tasks and upload photos as well as post in social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

WEAVING A PUSO. Marco Albeza learns how to weave a puso, a Cebuano favorite, as one of the tasks of the Gabii Sa Kabilin QR Code Hunt organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., Smart Communications, Inc. and MyCebu.ph. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

WEAVING A PUSO. Marco Albeza learns how to weave a puso, a Cebuano favorite, as one of the tasks of the Gabii Sa Kabilin QR Code Hunt organized by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., Smart Communications, Inc. and MyCebu.ph. Marco's team won third runner up and he and his teammate took home a Nokia Lumia. (PHOTO BY MAX LIMPAG)

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Encourage hacker culture

Facebook kicked off its historic initial public offering by holding another of the company’s fabled hackathons, which are all-night events that gather the social networking giant’s employees to work on products outside their office assignments.

Hackathon 31 was held on the eve of Facebook’s IPO and was a strong statement that even as it stands to raise billions, the company was still rooted in its “hacker culture.”

The word “hacker” has been sullied by years of use in media to refer to people who break into computer systems. The word originally meant a person who does clever tweaking of a system to improve its performance. “Hacking is ‘playful cleverness,’” said Richard Stallman, one of the world’s original hackers.

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WP Remote simplifies and centralizes the monitoring, backing up and upgrading of your WordPress sites. It is a free service. CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.

Running multiple WordPress sites? Here’s a service and plugin you should use

The maintenance of multiple WordPress sites can be tedious and time-consuming. The necessary tasks of updating plugins and themes and backing up your files and database site-by-site can take up a large chunk of your time, depending on the number of sites you manage. This is time better spent writing and blogging.

WP Remote simplifies and centralizes this task with its excellent free service. I have been using the service for more than a month now and it has been a great tool and time-saver.

WP Remote is a free service that provides a single interface to monitor your WordPress installations, back up files and data and upgrade plugins and themes. It is both a service that you sign up to and a plugin that you install in the WordPress sites that you want to manage with the service.

WP Remote simplifies and centralizes the monitoring, backing up and upgrading of your WordPress sites. It is a free service. CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.

WP Remote simplifies and centralizes the monitoring, backing up and upgrading of your WordPress sites. It is a free service. CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.

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