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Praetor Labs
A software development venture / private incubator.
A software development venture / private incubator.


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Its still a work-in-progress, so we welcome criticism and critiques. It is easier to adapt during this stage.
Some WIP screenshots for the website we'll be hosting at
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Our first grand adventure together in "The Imagination Room".

World Domination Awaits...

Having fun at The L.A.B.
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+Praetor Labs is getting a base of operations. The Praetor Laboratories' Developer House Project has finally found a home! 

We will no longer have 8 hours of overhead when working together in person. Plus we have space for a machine shop/maker space.

We are looking forward to all the awesome things we are going to make at [The L.A.B.] 

You can read our Introduction here:

We start moving in this Friday.
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Introducing [The L.A.B.] and one of it's projects:
Smart Houses are still dumb

I really want to reboot my senior project:

Step one is to get the non-broken version of the site up someplace else -- they pulled an old version from the svn :(

The smartHAuS system provides a novel way of allowing devices to "learn" about the network and set themselves up automatically and securely.

Microsoft Research has a demonstrated way of using touchscreens to interact with devices in a natural way, which is is similar to the system, but with a more natural gesture by using feedback from the system that is displayed on the cellphone. ( )

This was something we had planned for the smartHAuS system - our inspiration came from the simplicity of the starcraft's development language for map editing and the ability of it to auto populate variable fields.  Not just recording the state, but even going as far as suggesting possible connections to script in the system using some sort of Bayesian reasoning about the state of the system over time.

Ours was going to integrate with the devices's information to provide for automatic configuration of all the "light turns on in office" bits.  At the time we were investigating wearable Arduino devices and ubiquitous computing. With cellphones becoming more powerful and ubiquitous  this is the obvious choice of interaction platform.

We've had some ideas with interfacing a system by using NFC technology along with wifi-triangulation for in-home positioning. The interface on the cellphone is a natural extension from our original plan of using small connected devices like netbooks via a web interface.  I'd love to get a windows 8 /android app out to control my house - especially since windows 8 apps can be written in html5 etc.

All we need now is a place to test the system and develop hardware that is cheap, open source, and able to seamlessly update old houses.

This sounds like a no brainer as a long term project at +Praetor Labs's [The Lab] ( )

TL;DR: I want my house to be smart enough to suggest I watch the latest Adventure Time. Even going as far as it texting my friends to come join me in the living room, all because its noticed the trend of device usage and proximity of friend at the time.

#smarthouse   #smarthomes   #maker   #makermovement   #microsoftresearch   #arduino   #cellphones   #ubiquitouscomputing  
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Need to know the prices of a product and what store to buy it at?  Thats what we are trying to do.

Even if you are a disabled mother who needs to plan her shopping trip for her aid, or a backup company that buys hard drives by the hundreds. We're making an app for that.
My Kind of Crazy

I was reading the backblaze blog and they had a great story about how they dealt with the drive crisis coming from the flooding last year.

If you didn't know, there were factories over in Thailand that (as I'm told), were literally under water. Many of these factories produced a great deal of the world's supply of harddrives.  1tb drives went from sub $100 to damn near $300 (depending on where you bought them).

Hard-Drive prices skyrocketed  and it affected the company I worked for since we sold lenovos. The flooding meant the price went up for many manufactures.

Being the crazy person I was at the time, I spent a bit of time searching online stores and distributors to see if I could get a cheap drive. I had very little luck myself.

What backblaze did was to plan and drive to physical stores to buy their stock, which being priced at the pre-flooding rate, meant they were cheaper than fresh ones.

Man, could they have used our shopping list app that we are developing at +Praetor Labs.  This would be the almost perfect use case of it.
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Does your business model align with the way you are presenting it to your customers?

Don't be Mistakenly Deceptive!
Mistakenly Deceptive

I was trying out the wonderful Chrome Apps developed by +Jason Savard. His collection of "Checker Plus for [x]" apps are excellent examples of a developer finding a need and scratching an itch. In the 24hours I've had it running on Chrome, I have used it extensively. It is so much more useful than the default Chrome Apps provided by Google.

I was all ready to write a fantastic review and share it with my family and friends, but I stopped short when I noticed something about his app. I've attached an image detailing what I mean. I stopped short on reading "Donation Required"...

I really want to support this developer. There is one thing that is stopping me. His business model is deceptive. 

Don't get me wrong, I like what he is trying to do! There are very good reasons to structure it the way he has. I'm not against the business model itself. The crux of the issue is that I think the way it is presented is disingenuous. 

Donations, by their very nature, should be optional. "Donationware is a licensing model that supplies fully operational unrestricted software to the user and requests an optional donation be paid to the programmer or a third-party beneficiary"

If I HAVE to make a contribution to get a feature, it is no longer a "donation", but a payment.  Calling it a donation does not mean it is. I'd love to see the tax man's face if you were to try and write off the payment as a donation. He would laugh you out of of your house. I believe what Jason really has is a "Pay What you Want" style of payment plan.  

There is a legal precedent here to consider. Many states have strange rules related to protecting the consumer. Any court of law would consider the way he's presented the services, and I have no doubt that they would make him culpable as a provider selling a product. As such he may be putting yourself in a legal hotbed with the choice of words.  

The important distinction is that  'Pay What you Want' is still a fee for services rendered. The required minimum 'contribution' changes the whole dynamic of the transaction. 

My suggestions are: allow people to pay "$0"; allow them to unlock the features without contributing; or change the apps on the webstore to denote that it has in-app payments and stop calling it a donation or contribution in the settings page.

I was tempted to simply rate the apps with a negative review and 3-stars, or even investigating the Google terms of service and seeing if this is a reportable offense. But figure I'd get better traction by talking to the world (and him) more directly. I'd much rather rate the product as 5-stars because the rest of it is truly fantasic.

For a good example of how to do donationware properly, check out another excellent chrome extention:  

In chromeblock, the developer kindly ask you to donate, and you are given the option not to. His plug-in is not crippled if you don't donate, and he realized that even asking for the donation is rude. With that in mind, his donation page is super polite:  (play with the slider to see your options from $0 to $400, he really is genuine about his appreciation of your support)

At +Praetor Labs, we are hoping to have a similar 'Pay What you Can' pricing structure for a future app we are developing. As an organization, one of our core principles is not cheating the consumer. We believe that one of the best ways to help the consumer make better decisions is to help developers be more aware of how they are presenting their model. 

Until we have something to show, I am reaching out to good developers and trying to educate them on how they are (unintentionally) being deceptive with their business practices and advertising methods.

This is very important to me.  And it should be important to you too!

( You can look at the rest of Jason's excelent apps in the chrome webstore by going here: )
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