Posts categorized "Applications"

UPDATE: Will iOS 9 Make My iPad2 Usable Again? (Reports after the upgrade.)

Massive Glacier

Back in June, I published a post titled "Will iOS 9 Make My iPad2 Usable Again?" that seemed to strike a nerve with the legions of iPad2 owners out there wondering about the future of their device. There have been a good number of comments on the original post - and I've received a fair number of private email messages asking how my upgrade went. The question now being asked is:

Does iOS 9 make your iPad 2 run BETTER?

Sadly, the best answer seems to be...


Reports have been decidedly mixed, both in the media as well as in the comments to that June blog post here. Some people reported improvements while others said it was the same (or worse).

A couple of people (one example) have reported that after upgrading to iOS 9 and then doing a factory reset the performance dramatically improved. The issue there, though, as I understand it, is that you lose all your apps, settings, etc. and would basically need to completely rebuild how you have the iPad 2 set up. However, if the alternative is not using it, I guess that's an option to consider.

ArsTechnica published an article on September 16 with the conclusion "Not worse than iOS 8, but missing many features" that noted that many of the new features in iOS 9 simply don't work on the iPad 2. They noted that the speed improvements are not significant. There's a lengthy comment thread there, too.

In my own case, I haven't really seen any dramatic benefits after the upgrade. Quite honestly I've been too insanely busy with work activities that I haven't really had the chance to give it much of a test. I do like the new keyboard layout. Some of the cosmetic changes are nice.

It's still sllllooowww to launch applications and to switch between them.

Maybe I'll try the factory reset route and rebuild the device... or just accept the slowness of it.

Given that I keep getting messages asking me my opinion, I'll summarize my view at this moment:

  • If your iPad 2 already runs iOS 8, UPGRADE! Performance can't really get any worse than iOS 8, and might just get better.
  • If your iPad 2 is still on iOS 7... well... think about it.

On this last point...there's a challenge here - if all you want to do is browse the web and send/receive email, you may be okay keeping your iPad running quickly on iOS 7.


... you are increasingly going to find that apps aren't available for iOS 7. As Andrew Cunningham writes in that Ars Technica article:

not because you won't take a small performance hit but because developers will increasingly abandon that older OS version if they haven't already. Apple's iOS updates roll out quickly, but the downside of that is that there's not a ton of incentive for developers to support older releases forever and ever. It's common for developers to support the current release and the immediately previous release, but starting today that doesn't cover iOS 7 anymore.

So the choice may be between a snappy web browser tablet or a slow tablet with newer apps. Or... time to upgrade. :-)

If I get a chance to really use the iPad 2 and write more of a response, I will do so, but meanwhile I thought I'd share these initial thoughts and links.

Your comments are welcome about your own experience...

Photo credit: an image of a massive glacier by David Stanley on Flickr

Firechat Enables Private Off-The-Internet (P2P) Messaging Using Mobile Phones

Firechat mesh network

There was a fascinating article posted on Medium this week by the CTO of messaging app Firechat:

In the text he outlines how they do decentralized "off-the-grid" private messaging using an ad hoc mesh network established between users of the Firechat app. It sounds like the app instances join together into some kind of peer-to-peer (P2P) network and then do normal "store-and-forward" messaging.

Of note, the apps do NOT need an Internet connection, or even a cellular network connection - instead they can use the Bluetooth and WiFi radios in the mobile phones to create a private mesh network and connect to other users of the Firechat app.

Naturally, having spent some time exploring P2P networks back when I was playing around with P2P SIP and distributed hash tables (DHTs) and other technologies, I immediately jump into the techie questions:

  • How are they routing messages from one user to another?
  • How is the "directory" of users in P2P mesh maintained?
  • What addresses are they using for the communication? Is this still happening over IP addresses? Or are they using some other kind of addressing?
  • How do users join and leave the mesh network?
  • How do user get authorized to join the private mesh? (Or is it just open to all?)
  • How secure is the communication between the parties?
  • Is the message encrypted or private in any way? Or is it just plain text?
  • How well do smartphone batteries hold up if multiple radios are being used? What is the power impact of joining into a mesh network like this?

None of that is covered in this article, of course... this piece is more about the theory of how this can work given a particular density of users. It introduces the phrase "percolation threshold" and provides some background and research into how these kind of networks can be created.

I've always been fascinated by P2P networks like this sounds to be. The beauty of the Internet... the "Internet Way", so to speak... has been to support distributed and decentralized architectures.

If you think about mail or web servers, they are (or at least were) massively distributed. Anyone could set up a mail or web server - and millions upon millions of them bloomed. While we've certainly seen a great amount of centralization due to market dominance (ex. Gmail), the architecture still is distributed / decentralized.

Except... of course, the directory is still centralized. Mail and web servers rely on the central directory of DNS to resolve domain names into IP addresses so that connections can occur. Most other applications rely on DNS for this as well.

Hence my curiousity about how Firechat is handling the directory and routing issues.

I'm also intrigued by how the article hints at integrating Internet-connected users into the P2P mesh. So you really have a hybrid network that is part P2P and part connected out to cloud-based servers.

(And all of this brings me back to those early days of Skype 8-10 years ago when so many of us were captivated by the P2P mechanisms they created... most all of which is now gone in the post-Microsoft-acquisition as Skype has moved from P2P to server/cloud-based - with one big reason being given that mobile devices apparently had speed and battery life issues participating in true P2P networks.)

A key challenge Firechat faces, of course, is the "directory dilemma" of building up the quantity of users where P2P mesh networks like this can happen. This is the same dilemma facing basically all over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps. "Percolation theory" requires a certain user density for a mesh like this to work.

That will be their struggle.

And in some urban areas I can see this working quite well. Perhaps not so much out in the woods of New Hampshire where I live!

But I wish them well with this. I love to see new explorations of potential new architectures for communication. And I can certainly see instances when ad hoc, distributed/decentralized P2P meshes like these could be quite useful.

And I'm definitely looking forward to some more technical articles that dive down into some of these questions.... I do hope they'll write more soon!

Photo credit: Stanislav Shalunov's article about Firechat

Updated "Directory Dilemma" Article Now On CircleID...

Back in December, 2014, I published a post here called "The Directory Problem - The Challenge For Wire, Talko And Every Other "Skype-Killer" OTT App". After receiving a good bit of feedback, I've now published a new version over on CircleID:
The Directory Dilemma - Why Facebook, Google and Skype May Win the Mobile App War

I incorporated a good bit of the feedback I received and also brought in some newer numbers and statistics. Of note, I now have a section on WebRTC where I didn't before. You'll also notice a new emphasis in the title... I'm now talking about the potential winners versus the challengers. I also chose "Directory Dilemma" not only for the alliteration but also because the situation really isn't as much a "problem" as it is an overall "dilemma". It may or may not be a "problem".

I'm not done yet.

I'm still seeking feedback. I intend to do yet another revision of this piece, but in doing so intend to:

  • Change it from the informal tone at the beginning to more of a "paper" style;
  • Include a bit more about potential solutions.

Comments and feedback are definitely welcome... either as comments here on this site, on social media or as email to "[email protected]".

I'm not sure when I'll do that next iteration, but probably later this year.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. An audio commentary on this topic is available... see the embedded audio plater at the bottom of this post... (below the graphic)

Directory dilemma

Will iOS 9 Make My iPad2 Usable Again?

Massive Glacier

I have one very simple question amidst all the media hype about Apple's WWDC announcements yesterday:

Will iOS 9 make my iPad2 usable again?

Yes, all that other stuff announced yesterday sounds cool... but I have this more basic question.

You see, I made a mistake.

I believed Apple when they said that iOS 8 would run on an iPad2. I mean, the device is from 2011 - it was "only" three years old when iOS 8 came out last year. It was still working very well with iOS 7 and I was excited to try out iOS 8.

To be crystal clear, Apple is correct - iOS 8 does "run" on an iPad2. But...

... it... r...u...n...s... s... o... o... o... o.... o.... o... o... ... g... l... a... c... i... a... l... l... y... ... s... s... l... l... o... o... o... w... w... w... l... l... l... y... y... y...

... that it's hardly worth using. It takes a long time to open up applications, to bring up the keyboard, to switch between applications, etc. It is so slow that I've really stopped using it for almost everything but occasionally reading documents when traveling.

Yes, I do realize this is a very definite "first world problem" in that much of the world doesn't have access to even a device such as an iPad2. So who am I to complain about how slow a device is?

I acknowledge that.

But the iPad2 did work very well with iOS 7 ... and the cynical view is that iOS 8 seemed to be a way to make all of us iPad2 users get frustrated enough to buy new devices. And sure, that's perhaps great for Apple's revenue (assuming we don't buy an Android device instead) ... but it's not great for all the electronic waste of discarded devices. I'd like to continue using what is otherwise a perfectly fine device.

In the WWDC announcement yesterday, Apple's Craig Federighi mentioned that iOS 9 was slimmed down to be able to be upgraded easier over-the-air. He said that it was to help make sure it would run on all devices.

My request to Apple would be simply that - please make iOS 9 truly run on the iPad2!

If Apple is going to claim to still "support" the iPad2, they should do so in a way that lets you use the device in the manner in which we used it when we purchased it.

Or... they should simply be truthful about it and drop the iPad2 from the list of supported devices. Then we all who have them can at least know and not bother upgrading iOS. (And we can figure out what we want to do with the device...)

Will iOS 9 make my iPad2 usable again? I don't know... but I'll definitely be upgrading when it is released because at this point I don't know that Apple can make the device worse than it is running iOS 8. :-)

Photo credit: an image of a massive glacier by David Stanley on Flickr

Wow! Cisco To Acquire Tropo's Communications Application Platform

Tropo siteWOW! In companion blog posts today Cisco and Tropo announced Cisco's intent to acquire the Tropo team and platform:

As someone who was at Voxeo in 2009 and helped launch Tropo (and wrote many of the early blog posts about it[1], as well as some of the python samples), I'm thrilled for the team there now that this is happening.[2]

Congratulations to all involved!

Over the years since leaving Voxeo, I've written about Tropo from time to time and continued to watch its progress. I've continued to be very impressed by what they've done over the years. They've truly made it easy for people to create powerful applications using simple programming languages.

It looks like the Tropo website is struggling right now so here is a snippet of their announcement post:

Six years ago we launched Tropo with the idea to make it easy to power phone calls through a simple API. Since then, we’ve empowered thousands of developers to add voice and messaging to their applications.

From our very first sign-up in 2009, to powering thousands of mobile and voice applications, our mission has been the same: to make real-time communications more accessible and productive through great APIs.

Today we’re thrilled to share that Tropo is joining Cisco’s Collaboration Technology Group. Together we’ll enable completely new ways of communicating by opening up Cisco’s collaboration products to every developer on the planet (and maybe some off the planet…hey, they need collaborative tools on the International Space Station!)  :)

Knowing a good number of folks at Cisco, too, I think this is a great win for them in that they'll be able to make some of their products and services more accessible to developers.

I remember well back in 2009 when Jonathan Taylor (then CEO of Voxeo) brought in the Adhearsion team and "Voxeo Labs" was set up. Tropo was the first of the Voxeo Labs products, along with a number of others that were released over the following years. I watched as Voxeo Labs was then spun off from Voxeo in 2012 as a separate company and then Voxeo was acquired by Aspect in 2013... and Voxeo Labs was renamed to Tropo.

I watched, too, as the Tropo team continued their heavy involvement with WebRTC and brought that technology even deeper into their various services.

Congratulations to Jonathan Taylor, Jason Goecke, Johnny Diggz and all the rest of the Tropo team on this acquisition!

I look forward to seeing what Tropo and Cisco will do together to make it even easier to create voice, chat, messaging and other kinds of applications!

UPDATE #1: Jonathan Taylor has published a post on Facebook that outlines some of the history that led to this announcement. He includes this information related to Cisco:

We were even more surprised when Cisco approached us about acquiring Tropo. Selling Tropo was the last thing on our minds. But the potential was clearly huge for both companies, and over the course of the discussion, the deal terms clearly quite attractive. So here we are today!

UPDATE #2: A number of news stories are appearing on Techmeme.

UPDATE #3: Writing over on NoJitter, Zeus Kerravala dives into more detail about the acquisition based on his pre-briefing with Cisco's Rowan Trollope. Zeus' article: Cisco to CPaaS Providers: Game On!

[1] Although in the time since I left in 2011, my account was understandably removed from the Tropo site and the author on all those posts I wrote between 2009-2011 was changed to someone else. :-)

[2] In full disclosure, I should note that I am a very minor shareholder in Tropo after exercising a few options upon leaving Voxeo in 2011. I had no knowledge of this acquisition and have not participated actively with Tropo since leaving in 2011.

Wire Launches WebRTC Voice/Chat Web App For Windows, Linux, more - Includes High TLS Security

Yesterday the team over at Wire launched a new WebRTC-based "Wire for Web" app that lets people on Windows, Linux or any other platform now communicate with people using Wire on iOS, Android or OS X. You can get to it simply at:
If you already have an account you simply sign in with your credentials. If you don't have an account you can easily create one.

I've been running both the native Mac OS X client and the web client for a bit now (I was part of web beta program for Wire) and it is truly amazing how well the team has made the web experience to be seamless between the web and native client. Here's a screenshot showing both side by side (click/tap for a larger image):

Screenshot wire for web

In the web view on the right you have the browser bars at the top and one of the images did not go the full width of the column, but otherwise the experience and visual display has been essentially identical between the two platforms. The synchronization between the two is nearly instantaneous and all the features work really, really well.

Notifications in the web browser (if you allow them) work great to alert you to new messages.

And the voice calls from within the web browser have the same outstanding audio quality I've come to expect from Wire.

All in all the web implementation is quite excellent.

This new web app also addresses a concern I had from the initial launch of Wire back in December - the lack of a client for users on Microsoft Windows. With this web app Windows users - and Linux users - can now equally participate in communication over Wire. This is all courtesy of WebRTC that allows modern browsers to be able to use voice and chat from directly within the browser. Wire co-founder and CTO Alan Duric published a post about how they use WebRTC.

Alan also clued me in to the strong degree that the Wire team takes security extremely seriously. In fact I would say they take it more seriously than many other similar web apps I've seen. If you go over to Qualys SSL Labs and plug in "" you get a result of an "A+":

Ssllabs app wire com

The same can NOT be said of other similar web interfaces that I tested from similar services.

I've been writing about Wire for a bit now (see my various articles) and I have it running on my Mac all the time, primarily because of the great value I get out of a couple of group chats that I am in. From a chat / messaging perspective it's one of the best I've seen and I find it extremely useful.

Curiously, I don't find myself using Wire as much for actual calls, primarily because I find that much of my interaction has moved to video calls, and Wire doesn't support those yet. When I do use Wire the audio quality is truly amazing, but that has to do with the audio pedigree of the team behind Wire, and the fact that they are using the Opus codec. On a larger level, there is also the continued "directory dilemma" that I've written about, namely that Wire has the same struggle as most other new tools in that you need to gather a strong "directory" of people who are actually using the app for it to be an app that people regularly use. Most of the people with whom I regularly communicate aren't users of Wire ... yet.

Still, the release of this "Wire for Web" gives me hope that Wire may be able to build some momentum now that, for example, Microsoft Windows users can now join in. Time will tell... but this will definitely help!

Kudos to the team at Wire for this very excellent web release?

P.S. If you are using Wire, or try it out, you should be able to find me on Wire as "Dan York".

Note: an audio podcast about this topic is also available:

WhatsApp Calling Arrives on iOS - More Telecom Disruption Ahead!

Whatsapp callingAs I checked my AppStore updates on my iPhone this week I was surprised but pleased to see that WhatsApp now includes "WhatsApp Calling". As it says:
"Call your friends and family using WhatsApp for free, even if they're in another country. WhatsApp calls use your phone's Internet connection rather than your cellular plan's voice minutes. Data charges may apply.

How many ways can you spell "disruption"?
(Hint: w - h - a - t - s - a - p - p)

Sure, there have been a zillion mobile apps providing Over-The-Top (OTT) voice services, many of which I've written about here on this site.

But this is WhatsApp!

This is the application that just passed 800 million monthly active users! (Techmeme link) With projections to hit 1 billion monthly active users by the end of the year.

Oh, and it's owned by Facebook! :-)

Now, I personally don't use WhatsApp that much right now. The people who I want to message are primarily using iMessage, Facebook Messenger or Wire. (And every once in a great while I'll fire up Skype on my iPhone.)

But obviously there are 800 million people who do use WhatsApp each month... and they now have free calling! (If they are on Android, iOS or BlackBerry 10... and subject to a staggered rollout, i.e. people will get the actual ability to call over the next while.)

It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.

WhatsApp provides a messaging app with a very simple user experience (UX) that works seamlessly inside the iPhone. Now that same app can be used for calling. And most importantly, WhatsApp has the massive directory of users.

The legacy telcos are going to be saying good bye to even more of their diminishing calling revenue...

Interesting times ahead!

More on this topic:

Wire 1.4 on iOS Tweaks The Display And Adds Avatars To Chats

Today the team at Wire rolled out a new version 1.4 of their iOS app. As they say in the release notes visible in the AppStore, the changes are:
  • Added avatars and blurred background in conversations for improved readability.
  • Added colored background images in the conversation list
  • Improved tutorial hints
  • 1Password support
  • Bug fixes and improvements

More to the point, the Wire team outlined the thinking behind these changes in a blog post on February 2, 2015. At the time they indicated the changes were available right then on Android and it apparently took this long for Apple to approve the new version for iOS (depending upon when Wire did in fact submit the new version to Apple).

I'm admittedly in a bit of a mixed mind with regard to the evolution of the chat interface. Here is what a Wire chat looked like on my iPhone 5s before (left) and after (right) the upgrade to Wire 1.4 (click/tap the image for a larger view):

Wire 1 4 avatars

On the plus side, I do find the avatars helpful as visual identifiers that help you easily see who is writing what in the chat window. Particularly if people use the same avatar image as they do on other networks and messaging systems, it becomes easy to rapidly identify who is writing.

On the negative side, I did like that the previous version used the full width of the screen and also had a slightly larger font size.

I've just started using the new version so don't yet have much experience with the other new features. The change in the display was quite noticable, though.

What do you think? If you're using Wire, do you like the new changes?

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Video: VUC 528 Provides An Update On And Wire

Vuc logoLast Friday's VUC conference call / podcast / hangout provided some interesting updates about the ongoing work at to build services for scalable, distributed and federated collaboration systems as well as some discussion of Wire, the app I've written about here. Guests included Matthew Hodgson and Amandine Le Pape from, as well as the usual cast of characters and a couple of live demonstrations, too.

You can view the episode web page and listen to the show here:

I joined the show about mid-way through and naturally wound up talking about IPv6, the Internet of Things (IoT), ICANN, DNS and other topics.

FYI, some good info about can be found in their FAQ. Back in November 2014, there was also another VUC episode focused around

It was an enjoyable show and I'd encourage you to give it a listen.

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Congrats to the Wire Team for TNW Apps of The Year Selection

Congratulations to the team for having Wire be selected as one of The Next Web's "Apps of the Year"!

Tnw app of year wire

TNW's Napier Lopez talks about how beautiful Wire is and how much it is a platform that he wants to use... and suddenly he is the one asking people to join him.

Many of comments mirror my own opinion of how much I enjoy using the app. It's just a pleasure to use for communication.

Napier Lopez does, though, hit Wire's real challenge:

Still, I mentioned earlier that I started using other messaging platforms because my friends made me, and therein lies the crux with Wire, or any new messaging platofrm, really: you need to get users on the platform.

This is indeed the "user directory problem" that I wrote about at great length. And I, too, hope that the Wire team - and we all as Wire users - can find ways to help bring people to the platform.

Meanwhile, congrats to the Wire team for this recognition - and I look forward to seeing what may be coming up next in the app!

P.S. I notice a version 1.2 for iOS just appeared in the AppStore and it includes the ability to invite people to join, so that's a start....

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