Release of the nifino iOS App

It’s been a while since my last post here. This doesn’t mean nothing happened in the meantime. I have been very busy in developing my very first iOS App called “nifino” (http://www.nifino.com). During the design and implementation process I co-founded a company under the hood of the startup accelerator from the University of Stuttgart, the TTI GmbH. That’s why the my company has the rather long name TTI GmbH TGU nifino. I founded this company together with three colleges I worked with as a research assistant in the group of Prof. Frank Leymann, Christoph Fehling (main Author of the Cloud Computing Patterns Book), Alexander Nowak (homepage), and Sebastian Wagner (homepage).

What’s nifino all about?

I think you now wonder what this new iOS App is all about? It’s about pedestrian navigation. In our view, current navigation apps on smart phones are not very useful for pedestrians. They are built with the mind set of traditional car navigation systems. Pedestrians have other requirements than drivers of cars when they are using a navigation system. They, for example, need more precise position information. For pedestrians a big town square is not just a tiny spot on a map. There might be several interesting objects on this square like fountains, for example. Thats why nifino does not work with maps at all. Maps are not precise enough for pedestrians. Instead, nifino works with an arrow that is pointing to the direction the pedestrian likes to reach. The arrow is sufficient because pedestrians know best where the can walk or which obstacle they need to get around in order to reach the desired destination.

With nifino it is easier for pedestrians to navigate in a town than with traditional navigation systems. With this in mind, nifino makes it very easy even to find people who are moving.  With nifino you can send a so called “nif” request to a friend. After the friend has acknowledged the request an arrow is always pointing to her current location until you reached her position.

Download nifino for iPhone here! Also see my more detailed blog post about nifino here.


Excel Progress Bar (the easy way)

Every now and then MS Excel is used as project management tool. If you want to visualize the project progress you can use the function ‘Conditional Format’ im Ribbon ‘Start’ instead of using a complicated makro. You can find an example in the following MS Excel file:

ProgressBar with condiational format


Right way to View Presentation Notes

Every now and then I am wondering why Microsoft PowerPoint does not have the ability to show formatted presentation notes in presentation mode. In my opinion this is an important feature. If you think back to your last presentation. Did you use the bullet list you presented with PowerPoint as your presentation script? Did it help that your bullet points where formatted? If you answer both questions with “yes” my recommendation is to use your bullet lists only for you in presentation mode and show images to the audience.

I did some research on presentation software. The only program that shows formatted presentation notes in presentation mode is Google Slides. My next presentation won’t be like this one anymore :-)




iOS: Update Locations in Background for More Than 20 Minutes

Currently I am developing an iOS app that heavily relies on accurate location updates even when the app is in the background. I followed all steps in the Apple Location and Maps Programming Guide (https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/documentation/userexperience/conceptual/LocationAwarenessPG/CoreLocation/CoreLocation.html) but location updates where always paused after the app was in background for about 20 minutes.

After a while I found out that setting pausesLocationUpdatesAutomatically of the class CLLocationManager does the trick. With this property set to NO location services are never powered down. But you have to be careful, as setting this property to NO significantly increases the power usage of the device. When the property pausesLocationUpdatesAutomatically is not set to NO iOS tries to shut down the location service to save energy. You can control this using the activityType property of CLLocationManager (see CLLocationManager Class Reference here).


Powerfull Tool for Interface Prototype of Your new Mobile App

Yesterday I built an user interface protoype of my new iOS app within a few minutes. In contrast to other tools it was fun to rebuild the app behaviour. Fluidui is a  good start to talk about the apps interface design with the design team.



School Grade Calculator

I have created a german excel-Sheet for teachers. It is in german and can be used to easily calculate grades of a class test.



Apple Notebooks of the Future: Putting Things Toghether

If you’d always wanted to know what future notebooks may look like, this article is for you. It is mainly an article that reflects my experience with Mac notebooks and collected news from everywhere, such as Apple keynotes and rumours. I think in 20 years people would laugh about how cumbersome things must have been done in the past from the viewpoint of 20 years from now. This becomes clear when we look at the progress the computer industry went through the past 20 years. And it seems to progress even faster. Just take a look at the mobile phone development. Five years ago almost nobody knew what a touch screen was. So, the latest developments are only the beginning of a long journey into the information society.

In this article I want to talk about what an Apple Notebook may look like 10 years from now. I picked Apple because Apple has always been a pioneer in the introduction of new technologies in the past. Thus, I assume this will go on for at least for the next ten years, even when Steve Jobs is not CEO anymore. But I think he has left enough potential in the pipeline for the next 10 years.

Back to notebooks. What will certainly be changed is the weight of the devices. Carrying around a 3kg Notebook is not a very healthy activity for everyone. In the last years I’ve been doing business trips quite often. From this experience I know that walking around with a trolley and an laptop that has almost the same weight really is breathtaking. I think we would always need some hardware that we carry around. But this piece of hardware must weigh less than 10% of the weight of an average laptop of today.

Also the input devices of these notebooks must change. The biggest disadvantage that current touch based devices have is that the touch screen of these devices does not give feedback to the fingers when pressing a button, for example. I think in the next few years we will see device that have two touch screens, one in front and one where the keyboard is on today’s notebooks. Both touch screens will be haptic feedback enabled. One application of the lower touch screen would be here to display a keyboard and provide real feedback when typing. It depends then on the kind of application that currently running what will be displayed on the lower touch screen. The user may switch between the keyboard and a big multi-touch surface in order to use the mouse pointer, or the surface is split and and two different sets of buttons are displayed on with sides.

The operating systems for such devices will also go through a transition. Apples iOS and OS X will eventually merge when mobile devices become faster and faster. Apple recently has presented the magic track pad that is one indicator for the movement into a multi-touch world for OS X. Other indicators are the multi-touch gestures that are now supported in OS X Lion and the launch Pad application that shows a full screen view of all installed apps, just like in iOS. This transition has started with OS X Lion and it will go on with the next releases of OS X and iOS.

Another important aspect of the merge of the two operating systems is that doing things with them must be easier. In iOS the file system is hidden from the user. All files that belong to an application can be opened within the application. Abstracting the file system away is the first step towards a more simple interaction with computers for ordinary users. Professionals will still have access to the underlying file system but that will not be needed for everyday work anymore.

In ten years also the cloud would be a part of everyday life. Computers may be booted from the cloud. They can at least be reinstalled from the cloud like it is already possible with OS X Lion. Everything that we work on may stored in the cloud and easily be shared with others for concurrent work.

Passwords are another obstacle for people working with computers. It is not easy for humans to remember long lines of disconnected letters and numbers. Instead, humans are much better in remembering images or melodies. The human body also has many points where it can be distinguished from others, like the finger print that can be used to authenticate. It is also possible that one may draw little images in order to authenticate oneself to work with a computer.


In the following I have a few references for you that I put together to form the image of future notebooks that I just presented to you:

In one of his recent keynotes, Steve Jobs proclaimed the new MacBook Air as the future of notebooks. The MacBook Air stands for lightness and thinness:


Apple apparently is working on touch screens with tactile feedback:


In OS X Lion Apple has introduced many features already present in the iPhone or iPad:



Presentation at CloudConf Munich

I will give a talk about compliance in cloud computing at the CloudConf in Munich, Germany this November.




Best Misheard Lyrics

This is something funny,

have you ever heard of the “Misheard Lyrics” collection by coldmirror on youtube? If not, you have to take a look, even if you don’t like metal music 😉



I think two of the best videos from this collection are:





Have fun :-)


The Pomodoro Technique Revisited

I am a big fan of the pomodoro time management technique. If you’re not familiar with it please follow this link (will be opened in a new window).  The pomodoro technique is based on three principles. Fixed working periods, a kitchen timer to time the work periods and the pauses in between, and two task lists the activity inventory and the todo today list.

I am practicing the pomodoro technique for quite a long time now. It really helped me many times to keep focus on my current task but sometimes it didn’t feel too good to end a 25 minute time slot in the middle of a period of strong concentration, for example. And it takes some time to get to full concentration even after a 5 minute break.  Also, one premise of the pomodoro technique seems to be that work can be divided into 25 minutes slots where after that slot is finished a measurable result is present or not. But what about creative work? You cannot estimate how much work will be done in 25 minutes. So, here are my proposals to extend the pomodoro technique for more creative purposes. What do you think?:

  1. At the end of a pomodoro, you should be allowed to keep on working on a creative task if you are in a flow. With every 5 minutes you extend the current pomodoro another minute should be added to the pause afterwards.
  2. When you finished a task too early you should be allowed to do something different within the current pomodoro. This may soften the rules of the original pomodoro technique, but as I said above, it is very hard when you do something creative to estimate the exact work that kan be done within 25 minutes.
  3. A pomodoro should not count as “void” when you are distracted by a colleague with a question, for example. It is much more important to learn new things at any time than to end a pomodoro in a proper way.