Data Visualization

Stats are Sexy

If you want to know what the future holds, or find out about the most brilliant and innovative work being done in any field, there is no better freely available resource than TED videos. My inevitable reaction to a new TED video is shaking my head and thinking “brilliant, just brilliant”. Like this one from Aaron Koblin, in which he talks about his works spanning data visualization, crowdsourcing, digital art and social experimentation bordering on cheekiness.

Massive amounts of data – either publicly available, or within enterprises – is a defining feature of computing today, and of growing importance for tomorrow.  In fact it’s given rise to a new discipline: data science. As the amount of data grows, traditional methods and tools for making sense of all this data break down and new innovations are necessary. A defining piece of work in data visualizations was Hans Rosling’s work on GapMinder which he presented a few years ago. The world got to know about it through TED:

At Infragistics, our product range includes general-purpose high-performance data visualization controls, making it easy for you build rich, powerful data visualizations for web, desktop and mobile applications. One of the innovative features is the Motion Framework, which allows you do visualize how data has changed over time, just like in the video above.  The WorldStats sample shows the same Gapminder data as in Hans’ video:


WorldStats uses a bubble chart, but Motion Framework can be used to automatically animate any type of chart included in our Data Visualization framework including maps!


iOS Development with .NET

Three years ago I blogged about the “iPhone bringing the Internet to your pocket”.  And now we have the iPad, the target device for most innovation in tablet apps.

If, like me, you’re keen to build iOS apps but are primarily a Microsoft developer and are daunted by the learning curve of a whole new platform, then MonoTouch might be for you:

MonoTouch is a bridge between .NET and the native iOS API called CocoaTouch.  It exposes the CocoaTouch as a .NET library so you can write code in C# instead of Objective-C. This gives you access to all the native CocoaTouch GUI widgets and a whole bunch of regular .NET libraries.


This is really neat!  Have a look at the Hello World tutorial to get a better feel of MonoTouch:

Tips & Tools

Dealing with “Server Not Found” Errors and Flaky DNS Servers

I get a lot of random “Server Not Found” errors while browsing from my home connection:


In Chrome, the error is:

The server at can’t be found, because the DNS lookup failed. DNS is the network service that translates a website’s name to its Internet address. This error is most often caused by having no connection to the Internet or a misconfigured network. It can also be caused by an unresponsive DNS server or a firewall preventing Google Chrome from accessing the network.

After a lot of frustration and some digging around I discovered that this was caused by my ISP’s flaky DNS servers.

It turns out that our friend Google has a free service called Google Public DNS that I can use in place of my ISP’s flaky servers:


There are actually more legitimate uses for Google Public DNS:


Now ever so often my ISP will terminate my session and I have to log in via a web interface, which doesn’t come up properly if I’m using Google’s public DNS servers.  So then I have to switch my ISP’s DNS servers:


All this switching can be quite a pain, but it can be automated. There is a command line tool called netsh.exe that can be used to modify the network configuration.

So I created two batch files, one for switching to Google’s DNS servers…

netsh interface ip set dns "Wireless Network Connection 6" static primary
netsh interface ip add dns "Wireless Network Connection 6"

…and one for switching back to my ISPs DNS servers…

netsh interface ip set dns "Wireless Network Connection 6" source=dhcp
Note that you would need to change “Wireless Network Connection 6” in the commands above to whatever your connection is called.


Hope you find this useful!
Trends & Strategy

Mobile Strategy: Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Windows Phone

In case you missed it, Microsoft and Nokia announced a strategic mobile partnership in February a few days after Nokia CEO Elop’s scathing memo to employees.

Some key points to note:

  • Nokia will adopt Windows Phone as its primary smartphone strategy, innovating on top of the platform in areas such as imaging, where Nokia is a market leader.
  • Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone. Nokia will contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies.
  • Nokia’s extensive operator billing agreements will make it easier for consumers to purchase Nokia Windows Phone services in countries where credit-card use is low.

And even though Android phones topped the list of new devices sold in Q4 2011, Symbian is a close second:



The fact is that the Windows Phone Metro UI offers a very slick user experience.  And in light of the Nokia/Microsoft partnership, I expect Windows Phone share to rise significantly as Symbian/Nokia users move to Windows Phone, especially in the mid-range and low-end markets.

Want to get a head start in developing applications for Windows Phone? My company Infragistics recently announced a Community Technology Preview of data visualization controls for Windows Phone.  These let you create powerful mobile dashboards using maps, high performance charts, gauges, sliders and even barcodes, that integrate beautifully with the Windows Phone Metro UI design language.

You can get the samples and download the CTP for free from here:


We will also be releasing mobile controls for iOS and Android soon so watch this space!

Trends & Strategy

Business Technology Trend: QR Codes for Simple and Effective Augmented Reality

QR codes are a simple but brilliant technology. They are a pictorial representation of data (like a traditional barcode) but can contain (or encode) a richer array of data  – a URL, text, SMS, email address, phone number or even a business card. And they are popping up everywhere. For example…

You can install Firefox for mobile by scanning a QR code on the page for Mozilla’s showcase application for Firefox mobile (Spark):


You use a freely available QR code reader application that uses the phone’s camera to take a picture of the QR code and then take appropriate action, in this case install the Firefox app on your phone.

The Google Groups on the web lets you go to the mobile Groups application by scanning a QR code:


If you are a BlackBerry user, you can display your unique QR code on your phone that friends can scan to add you to their friends list:


While in Bangalore recently, I noticed a McDonald’s billboard in Bangalore with a large mysterious QR code on it. This is something advertisers have been doing for a while:


(via Mashable)

Google trends confirms the growing popularity of QR codes:


So why are they becoming so popular as a tool to engage users in the digital economy? Because they simple, yet powerful. They have the following characteristics:

·         Pretty – they are a type of digital art

·         Mysterious – evoking curiosity and intrigue

·         Convenient – eliminate typing, clicking etc. and make like easy for the user

·         Provide Instant Gratification – there’s something really satisfying about taking a picture of something and having your phone automatically take some action

·         Versatile – have a large number of uses

If you think about it, QR codes in the “real world” enhance the user’s experience of the real world by augmenting it with digital information.  Ultimately then, QR codes are a simple and effective way to achieve augmented reality.

For example, if I come across an interesting web page, I bookmark it or save it for later reading using a tool like Read it Later.  QR codes can be used in the same way, as bookmarks for the real world.  Imagine walking past a restaurant in your neighborhood. If it had a QR code displayed prominently, you could scan it for checking out later. What would be even nicer is if the QR code linked to a website (like JustEat) that allowed you to order takeaway.  Fascinated? Google “innovative uses of qr codes” to discover more.

If you’re wondering how you can use QR codes into your own business, check out my company Infragistics’ QR code generator here: