Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Help developing CTIC's DDR

Dear all: The Unit of Device Independence and Mobility of the R&D Department at Fundación CTIC Centro Tecnológico is preparing a distributed collaborative Device Description Repository and is asking for help to you all. By the way, our web site is in the middle of some serious changes so sorry if no English version is available or there is some problems with any of the web address above.

What is a Device Description Repository (DDR)?

It is basically a device database which keeps information about hardware and software device features. You can query a DDR in order to guess what vendor made the device, what the operating system version is, which web browser is installed, what sensors are available (compass, accelerometers, camera, microphone, ...), CPU model, primary and secondary memory installed, available storage, its physical screen size, its resolution in pixels, Bluetooth version and available profiles, audio and video codecs supported, and many other things. Mainly, mostly everything that you can know beforehand about the device, as DDRs keep static information which does not change over time. There is a good wikipedia entry if you want to dig more on this.

How can I help?

Typically, DDRs receive evidences about the identity of the device and a query for one or more device features. Consequently, they respond with values for the device features requested. This is only one of the multiple use cases for a DDR, but I consider it is sufficient for you to guess their purpose. For example, when I access a web site, the web browser of my device (my desktop PC, my laptop, my mobile phone, my TV set, my Set-Top Box or my game console) send a message called HTTP Request which includes some information which helps identifying which device/browser performed such request. So we have prepared a very basic web site that you can access with any of your device and web browsers. In this way, we shall read the HTTP Request, analyze all the headers included and add the device to the Device Description Repository that we are preparing. WE NEED THAT ALL OF YOU ACCESS http://idi.fundacionctic.org/mobHeaders OR THE SHORTER http://bit.ly/headrs address WITH AS MANY DIFFERENT DEVICES AND WEB BROWSERS AS POSSIBLE. We want to have real hits from real browsers because we will not sniff information from existing DDR technologies such as WURFL or Device Atlas.

And what do I get from it

So far, a response thanking you for contributing plus a sentence indicating if an identical web browser and/or device had already hit the site or if you are the first one which contributed those device identification evidences. After we have a sufficient number of devices and we have refined our algorithms, we shall enrich the site providing you with some information about your device. In the long term, we will release a free DDR technology with all the deployments sharing device identification and device features. Our intention is to finish the current state of walled gardens in device identification. A global universal device database should be ready for everyone so the developer community can focus their efforts creating high-quality adaptation software based on a trustworthy device identification source. Initially, this DDR will cover web adaptation but, if successful, who knows what might come? We have some aces in the hole which we shall share when they are mature.

When will it be ready

We are not in a hurry. You have excellent commercial solutions such as Device Atlas or WURFL so you are covered for good device databases in the web domain. Old versions of the WURFL API and database are free and they might be very helpful for you to develop your own device database. The OpenDDR, with an approach more similar to ours, has recently been released. However, a first version will be ready in 2012 (if the Mayan prophecy does not stop us) and it is very likely that we have an early access version in the first half of this year.

Please do not play tricks on it

Yes, some of you will feel tempted to make some HTTP Requests programatically, use user agent string faking software and browser extensions, flood our database, check security of the site and so on. Know that you will delay our results and it will be a pity but we won't do anything against that. We know it can happen and we shall bear with that possibility. You will be disturbing developers with the aim to provide new technology for free to the developer community. This is just an internal tool for us to catalogue all the devices which come to our hands and we are asking for help in the process.

OK, I will contribute.- What to do? When to stop?

Just access one of the available web addresses (http://idi.fundacionctic.org/mobHeaders or the shorter good for mobile phones and other hard-to-type-with devices http://bit.ly/headrs) with each web browser that you have access to. If you update your device OS version and/or browser, please remember us and access again.

Stay tuned

Yes, more news will come soon here and/or at CTIC's web site. We're looking forward to bringing good news! In the meantime we shall enrich our device database with all the devices that reach our hands. Will you help us? Thank you!

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