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Field Notes on freshening up legacy iOS apps

Our Boat Watch app is pretty successful, but as busy developers we’ve got out of step with Storyboards, autolayout, and other (not so recent) additions to iOS UI development workflow — they offer benefits, of course, but were too much of an overhead to retrofit into a working app , and as a result we’ve largely let these pass by. SwiftUI, announced at the 2019 Apple Devcon, has piqued our interest though — it looks like a significant step change in UI development, and I feel that using it would enable us to freshen our apps, and hopefully enable them to more readily adapt to new device sizes and UI metaphors. …

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Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

A Guide to SSI, DIDs and VCs from a Beginner’s Viewpoint

Much has been written about self-sovereign identity (SSI) — the ability to gain control over one’s own identity — and how this is going to become a cornerstone of our interactions in the future. Work has been going on is this field for many years, but it is the emergence of distributed ledger and blockchains technologies that has re-energised the field and brought it into focus. This is timely, as it coincides with a general mood against centralised services taking ownership of our identities, and compromising our privacy.

As a newcomer, it can be tricky to get oriented in such a rich area, particularly when there aren’t really any services to sign up to or things to download and readily tinker with. I’ve been looking into this area for around a month now, and wanted to share what I’ve learned in the hope that it will help others to find their feet — I’m sure there are some inaccuracies or errors here, please be kind enough to let me know and I’ll correct them! …

I’ve been a software developer for many years - never a very fast or especially enthusiastic one, but reasonable enough, and I’ve made some nice mobile apps and other things along the way. Lately, I confess, I’ve lost my appetite for writing code, and looked for new things to do — I took an MSc, and then started a postgrad research degree, where I’m looking at a particular application area for blockchain technology. My “day job” has led me in to IOT, where I’m enjoying figuring out the pieces of Amazon’s Greengrass and the AWS platform, and looking forward to plugging some machine learning in. Yes, these new projects have code in them — but I think of it as exploratory code, to learn how things work — and I’m fine with that. …

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I’ve recently started a research project based on the applications of a concept in the blockchain world known widely by its acronym of “DAO” — which stands for Decentralised Autonomous Organisation. But what does that actually mean?

As a starting point, this definition works well for me…

“An organization that runs autonomously, in a decentralized manner, that functions without the need for centralized parties to make decisions for the organization to grow, to be profitable, or *physically* exist.” (BlockChannel)

Reading back into the literature of the early 21st Century, we find Professor Yochai Benkler, among others, writing about a movement known as Commons-based Peer…

In September 2016 I took a year off work and went back to university. I needed a change of scenery, and a bit of a reboot, so I pretty spontaneously signed up for a Master’s degree in Information Security and Privacy — cybersecurity — at Cardiff University, where I’d graduated nearly 30 years earlier. I didn’t have much knowledge of cybersecurity, but thought it would be topical, and might lead to new opportunities. The course was interesting, and it was nice to meet new people — although at 49 years old I was something of a curiosity! But that was fine, I’ve never been one to take myself seriously, and being older than most of the lecturers and twice as old as most of the students was a least a conversation starter. …

I recently completed a Master’s degree dissertation where I considered the suitability of using a blockchain implementation as a channel for securely sharing information. As the project explored some interesting technologies, I wanted to summarise it while it was fresh in my mind, and share the story with a wider audience.

The project was carried out at Cardiff University, with Professor Alun Preece from the Crime and Security Research Institute. The aim was to see if blockchain technology provided a means to securely share information among members of multi-agency groups. These groups could typified by a lack of a central control party, and perhaps no trust relationship between them, maybe arising from a lack of personal relationship, or knowledge of each other. My background reading tended to lean towards the needs of cross-functional teams that form after disasters or emergencies, where teams emerge and change quickly, and communications resources can be fragile. …

A journey of discovery, awkward id checks and trading Nectar Points

There’s a real buzz about cryptocurrencies right now, Bitcoin (BTC) and its more technical sibling Ether (ETH — the currency of the Ethereum blockchain) are hitting all time highs. I was lucky to get involved a few months ago, before the latest rise, largely by chance, but have been popping odds and sods into the market since. I’m not recommending anyone else does the same, but if you do, hopefully my experiences will help smooth the path a little.

One of the biggest mysteries is how to get started and buy your first Bitcoin (or more likely, fraction of a Bitcoin) — especially if you are in the UK and armed with a UK bank debit card. I’ve tried a few schemes, and without doubt the simplest and in fact the only one I’ve tried (so far) that isn’t painful and doesn’t feel shady is Coinbase (this is my affliate link — we both get £7 “free” bitcoin if you spend $100-worth). With Coinbase, you just sign up on their site to create an account and then download their app to track things as you go — you are able to use any 3D secure (ie normal) debit card to buy Bitcoin, and you get billed in pound sterling — so no nasty bank charges for converting from $ or Euros. The only snag is an initial £100 a week card limit, though they have some maths so that your limit gets freed up again as the days roll by. To be honest, the limit is a good thing — as you can take advantage of dripping money into the market, and not try to predict a good time for a larger lump sum investment. Once you’ve done a few payments, you can increase your weekly limit through the Coinbase site. …


Iain Barclay

Emerging Technology R&D • PhD student, researching Blockchain, AI and Crowdworking • Mobile, IOT & Alexa App coder and product manager

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