New Tech City

New Tech City: Learning How to Make a Smartphone App

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Apple's App Store and Google Play have hundreds of thousands of smartphone apps. When it comes to the megabytes, however, apps are tiny things, taking up the same amount data as any 3-minute song you can buy on iTunes. So how hard is it to create one of these itsy-bitsy pieces of software?

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New Tech City

How to Build An App

Monday, December 10, 2012

In the world of business and tech, “mobile revolution” and “app economy” are the buzzwords of the moment. The meaning behind the hype: In a smartphone world, money will be made by those creating the programs that make smartphones smart: apps. For those who want to get in on the act, the good news is there are a record number of books, classes and websites to help you every step of the way. But the hype also clouds a very simple truth: It’s a lot easier to get started than it is to finish. Good luck.

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11 Takeaways From Zuckerberg's First Interview Since Facebook's IPO

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In his first interview since Facebook's troubled IPO, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized the company's mobile-centered future, his commitment to mission over fun and explained why he doesn't code much anymore.



Bored? There's A Music App For That

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

As the French author Jules Renard once wrote, "Being bored is an insult to oneself." And he didn't even have a smartphone! In today's digital environment, there's really no reason to ever find yourself with nothing to do (well, unless your phone or computer dies -- and then you're just out of luck). writer Eliot Van Buskirk joins us to recommend his four favorite boredom-busting musical apps.

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Apps Contest Aims to Help Homeless Vets

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Two local app developers are finalists in a Department of Veterans Affairs contest to help reduce Veteran homelessness.

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It's A Free Country ®

When Will NY Be Able to Register to Vote on Facebook?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Washington has just become the first state to allow people to register to vote via Facebook, and the way things are going, it won’t be the last.



Tech Savvy Students Headed to Boot Camp

Monday, July 16, 2012

Every tech entrepreneur starts somewhere. Steve Jobs had his garage. Mark Zuckerberg had his dorm room. Now dozens of tech savvy New York City high school students will have NYC Generation Tech.

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Transportation Nation

NYC Prize for Subway App That Works While Underground

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The top new transit app in NYC is now official, at least as far as government sponsored contests go. Embark won the MTA's app contest in February, and last night the trip planning phone application won the  NYC BigApps competition in the mobility category.

Last year, when NYC doled out $40,000 in prizes for apps that use government data in useful ways, transportation cleaned up with two of the top three.  This year Embark was the lone tool for getting around to get a nod. (Full list of other winners).

While most trip planning tools require internet access to generate suggested routes, or tell you your travel time, Embark is designed to work underground while actually on the subway. So when the garbled overhead announcement threatens to ruin your plans with a delay or unexpected closure, you can whip out your phone to see what alternatives you have right there on the train.

Nest year, maybe we'll get an app for making your train switch to express when you're running late.

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NYCFacets Winner of BigApps Competition

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An application that seeks to streamline the process of accessing and utilizing New York City's Open Data Portal is the winner of this year's third annual BigApps 3.0 competition.

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App Contest Produces Few Hits, But Lots of Buzz

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday evening, at a ceremony attended by the stars New York's technology and venture capital scenes, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will congratulate the winners of a city-sponsored software competition, which includes $50,000 in prizes.



Like The Instagram-Facebook Deal? Depends On Your Filter

Monday, April 09, 2012

Facebook's decision to acquire Instagram for $1 billion set off strong reactions among Instagram users Monday, when the deal was announced. And if any of the photo-sharing service's fans were in love with the deal, they seemed to be keeping pretty quiet about it.


Apps For Apnea? New Gadgets Promise To Improve Sleep

Monday, February 13, 2012

For some people, getting a good night's sleep seems like an impossibility. A new batch of gadgets and apps tries to help troubled sleepers learn how to get their best rest.


Transportation Nation

Lhota: Don't Hate on the MTA

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Joseph Lhota, on his second official day as chair and CEO of the MTA (photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

When Jay Walder took office in 2009, he made no bones about his priorities: installing countdown clocks, Oyster cards, and bettering bus service. But the new CEO, Joseph Lhota, confirmed Monday by the New York Senate, seems to have a less lofty goal: getting the public not to hate on the nation’s largest transit agency.

Yes, he wants to improve efficiencies; yes he wants more and better communication with customers; yes, he’ll strenuously defend the expenditure of taxpayer funds on the transit agency. “There’s not a transit agency in the country that burdens their riders with solely paying for the system,” Lhota says, echoing remarks he made at yesterday’s hearing.

But at the end of the day, Lhota says, “I’m finding a lot of people don’t have a whole lot of respect for the MTA."

He sat down Tuesday with WNYC’s Jim O’Grady to talk about the MTA’s image problem, why there won’t be more bus service anytime soon, and why he’s encouraged by a move by the Transport Workers Union to extend the contract deadline beyond Sunday night.

[TWU President] “John Samuelsen and I have tried to do everything to create a relationship with each other.  We’re open and honest with each other,” Lhota said.

A transcript of the interview follows.

O’Grady: Under your predecessor, Jay Walder, a set of his main accomplishments were innovations like the countdown clock and real time information for riders. What innovations do you have in mind?

Lhota: I think you’re going to see a continuation of more information, more communications with all of our customers, our riders.  The ability to tell them how soon a train is coming or how soon a bus is coming is a very important thing. I’m going to spend an enormous amount of time on increasing the efficiency of the MTA and also changing what most people think of the MTA.

I’m finding a lot of people don’t have a whole lot of respect for the MTA. It's an organization that allows eight and a half million people to travel to and from work every day and to travel home every day and to school, to dates on Saturday night. I want people to understand how important the MTA is to their lives. At the end of the day I’d like them to feel good -- or feel better -- about the MTA.

O’Grady: Do you have any ideas in the technology realm?

Lhota: In the technology world there are an enormous amount of innovations.  We started a contest for apps, so we can provide data to people who develop apps for iPhones and smartphones. The best thing to do for technology is not for a government agency determine what to do, but to harness the power of young people who seem to have a much better understanding, a much better grasp of technology.

O’Grady: What ideas do you have for funding the MTA?

Lhota: Some of the senators yesterday said they wanted to find a way to end any taxpayer funding for the MTA. And I reminded them in 1968 when the legislature back then with then Governor Rockefeller --they created the MTA with the intent that the burden of the transit system would not be solely on the rider, that it would be more broad-based, that there would be tax revenues.  The concept of totally eliminating tax funding for the MTA would be inconsistent with how it was created. There’s not a transit agency in the country that burdens their riders with solely paying for the system.

O’Grady: Where’s that money going to come from?

Lhota: I don’t know where the money is going to come from but I’ll work with the state legislature and I’ll work with leaders across the state. The question of revenues right now not isolated to the MTA -- all government agencies are under pressure. The current condition of our economy is really providing the lack of revenues.

I’ll work with Albany, with City Hall and the federal government, on new and better fund sources.

O’Grady: Jay Walder said in Hong Kong that New York’s transit system was underfunded and under developed.

Lhota: I heard Jay’s comments. They were taken out of context. Jay was comparing the brand new system in Hong Kong to a hundred plus year-old system here in New York. It’s really tough to compare something that is brand new with something that has being operated for over 100 years. The comparison is not apt.

O’Grady: There was a close vote on [the MTA] board about restoring bus service. People are always clamoring for connecting underserved areas like, say, Red Hook to Williamsburg as one example.  Would you consider restoring or adding bus service anywhere in New York?

Lhota : When we get the finances under control. Our budget is currently very fragile [and] we have a lot of risky assumptions in our budget. We have to constantly evaluate where should we have our routes, where should we change service, where should we increase it, where should we decrease it. We need to do that based on the demographics of what’s going on, but until we get our financial house in order we will not be seeing restorations.

O’Grady: Getting your financial house in order -- where does the consolidation play into that? Are there savings to be had from consolidation?

Lhota: There are some savings to be had -- and dealing with what people unfortunately pejoratively call the bloat -- with the MTA.  Where do we have too many lawyers, where do we have too many accountants,  where do we have too many paper pushers? That will provide some help but not substantially all, we need to find ways to do what we do with the resources we have.

O’Grady: Just give me your general impression of how its going with the Transport Workers Union.

Lhota:  Negotiations are ongoing, they’ve been constructive, they’ve been very helpful. John Samuelsen and I have tried to do everything to create a relationship with each other. We’re open and honest with each other. We tell him things that we like.  I tell him things I don’t like and there are no repercussions from it. The negotiations are ongoing but will remain behind closed doors.

O’Grady: Are you going to hit the deadline?

Lhota: We’re going to do everything we can to hit the deadline. The executive committee of the TWU has already extended the deadline by saying if they don’t have a contract by that date they’re willing to extend it out. That was a very encouraging sign by the leaders of the TWU, so the pressure we normally have on us is not there. That being said, we’re going to do everything we can to have it resolved by midnight next Sunday night.

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On The Media

Apper's Delight

Friday, December 23, 2011

Smartphone apps are big business, and increasingly complicated to develop. WNYC producer Jody Avirgan talks with Rekha Murthy of PRX and Lisa Bettany of Camera+ about what it takes to get one made -- and pitches his idea for an app to Bob and Brooke.

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Transportation Nation

New NYC Transit Site Easier To Use, Unless You're Mobile

Thursday, May 26, 2011

(New York, NY -- John Keefe, WNYC -- ANALYSIS)  The MTA took a step toward giving New Yorkers fresh, crisp transit information with a revamped website yesterday.

The site is much clearer, with key information right up top: service status by line, links into train and bus pages, and a slick new version of its "Trip Planner" to guide New Yorkers from Point A to Point B.

It's also much easier to find maps and schedules. Particularly nice is the consolidation of bus schedules by borough (the previous site listed some express lines by company, which was very confusing).

The bus schedules and maps themselves, though, are still in PDF format -- literally electronic representations of the paper versions -- which are frustratingly difficult to use on mobile devices. And there are no bus schedules on the mobile version of the site, which didn't get the same revamp.

Fortunately there's now a gallery loaded with third-party apps and services that serve MTA data in more useful, mobile formats. (Full disclosure: The gallery includes two free services I built with live bus data.)

Hard to find from the revamped site are two cool MTA features: The system that proves a train delay made you late for work, and a live map of bus locations on the B63 line in Brooklyn.

Beyond the "status update" widget, real-time schedule information remains woefully lacking. Other metropolitan transit sites, such the one serving Minneapolis and St. Paul, put live bus and rail information right on the home page. Not even third-party programmers can help here until the agency makes subway and bus location information more available.

So the new site is definitely a step in the right direction. But not a leap.

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Transportation Nation

New York MTA's Website Promises More Timetables, Transit Apps

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

(New York, NY -- Jim O'Grady, WNYC) The NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority's website just got a makeover. It now sports a simplified design and better tools for planning trips and saving money on fares.

The new homepage lets riders find out if delays are expected at a particular time in the future because of construction work, while the old site only let people check the current status. And the "service status" function--which gives updates on everything from closures on bridges to escalator breakdowns--can now be installed as a widget on other websites.

The site famously failed last January when some 500,000 users at once tried to access the site during a 19-inch snowstorm. Users were given a plain text version of the site. The MTA said at the time it was a victim of its own success, and had attracted more users than it can handle.

The MTA site also features 36 mobile apps by independent companies that do things like help riders pick the subway car that will get them closest to their exit and compile travel alerts and advisories.

Riders can use the site's "Ways to Save" box to find out whether they qualify for reduced fares.

What do you think?

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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