BoxcarBlog

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  2. IFTTT and the new Boxcar

    The new Boxcar is now supporting IFTTT with a new channel and two triggers for Boxcar 2 iOS 7 push notification client.
    What is IFTTT ?
    image
    IFTTT, pronounced like “gift” without the “g,” is a Web service that uses the Internet to turn your favorite apps, websites and other Web channels into a personalized source of data. Along with Boxcar you can turn it into a very personalized push and alerting system.
    Why is this great ?
    Boxcar has been the leading push notification inbox since 2009. The platform went through troubled times but is still beloved by its users.
    When we launched Boxcar 2 a couple of months ago, we wanted to improve and make the API of the old Boxcar more modern.
    We needed to work with a reference partner to demonstrate and validate the scope and behaviour of our own API. IFTTT was the best candidate, because Boxcar team already did great stuff with them in the past, so it was a very convenient and natural fit.
    The integration also made a lot of sense for both IFTTT and Boxcar users. IFTTT is providing an increasing number of channels, triggers and recipes that make the life of users easier. It matches with Boxcar long term goal. We are not (only) a push notification service. We are building a tool to make the life of smartphone users more efficient and … smarter.
    This lead us to announce today the result of our joint effort with IFTTT team: The new Boxcar channel for IFTTT.
    You are already using the first Boxcar with older IFTTT channel. Should you upgrade ?
    Yes, it is time to upgrade, as the new Boxcar IFTTT channel is much more powerful, and IFTTT is going to discontinue the Boxcar 1 channel by end of february 2014. Here are a few of the benefits:
    • You do not have anymore to register an account on Boxcar to receive IFTTT notification. Download Boxcar, get your access token from the setting pane. Use it to register your Boxcar 2 channel on IFTTT and you are set.
    • You can select the notification sound you want to play on each Boxcar action when setting up your recipe
    • There is new handy feature like the ability to send images notification (through image URL)
    • You can now attach a link to the notification. You can open that link directly from Boxcar 2.
    All those features will make your recipes even more useful.
    You can still use Boxcar older version in parallel for other services that do not yet support Boxcar 2. However, if you are an avid IFTTT user, Boxcar 2 will provide with a much improved experience.
    … and this is just the beginning.
    What is coming next ?
    The new Boxcar service wants to be among the best platforms in term of IFTTT integration depth. New actions are coming, allowing the more advanced users of Boxcar and IFTTT to build great recipes.
    We love working with IFTTT team. This is just a first step demonstrating a few of the great things we can build when working together.
    You are convinced and want to give it a try ?
    Here are a few things you can do with IFTTT and Boxcar.
    IFTTT Recipe: If new job opening at a company you follow → Push connects linkedin to boxcar-2
    IFTTT Recipe: Receive in-game updates for your favorite team via Boxcar Push connects espn to boxcar-2
    IFTTT Recipe: Gmails from VIPs → Push connects gmail to boxcar-2
    IFTTT Recipe: Notify me of package shipping status changes via Boxcar Push connects boxoh-package-tracking to boxcar-2
    IFTTT Recipe: Send me a Boxcar Push with tomorrow's weather report at 8pm connects weather to boxcar-2
    IFTTT Recipe: Send me a Boxcar image notification when a friend adds an Instagram photo connects instagram to boxcar-2
    Feel free to experiment with Boxcar 2 IFTTT Channel and give us feedback !

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  4. How to monitor servers for free - and get real-time notifications

    There are lot of services that monitor server uptime, but seriously they are crazy expensive: Pingdom $14/mo for basic plan, AlertFox $99/mo for starter, Tweedo starts at $1.69 but who want to check server every 60 minutes? for 5 minutes checks you need to pay $28 - this is insane. Ping was never so expensive…

    But you can obviously have all that for free and do not pay that ridiculous prices for checks. You need 2 things:
    1. Free account on UptimeRobot (this guys are great)
    2. Free iOS app Boxcar2
    Now, add your servers (up to 50 checks) to UptimeRobot, and head to “My Settings”, scroll down to “RSS Notifications" and copy URL for your unique feed. Side Note: you can use Command-C app for sending long links and other stuff to your iPhone. Now, open Boxcar app, and add new source by tapping “+" and choose "Feed”, then another “+"  and finally paste link from UptimeRobot. From now on you will receive any alerts regarding your servers in real-time, for free.
    Bonus: For nice desktop notifications i recommend RSS Bot, for free of course…

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  6. Using Boxcar to send Nagios alerts

    For sysadmins watching their platforms, it is crucial to get real-time notifications about system failures . You can get mails or SMS but mails are slow and SMS-es are not cost-effective. Boxcar offers API for sending real-time notifications to your smartphone. Here i will show you how to connect your nagios instance to send alerts via Boxcar.

    First download free Boxcar 2 app from iTunes Store, launch it and go to Settings and note AccessToken, it will be needed! Next we need to setup nagios with new commands and contact options, here is how to do it.
    Edit /etc/nagios3/commands.cfg and add following lines:

    define command{
    command_name service-notify-by-boxcar
    command_line /usr/local/bin/boxcar.sh -a $CONTACTPAGER$ -t “$SERVICEDESC$ is $SERVICESTATE$ on host: $HOSTALIAS$” -d “Details: $SERVICEOUTPUT$. Comment: $NOTIFICATIONCOMMENT$” -s score
    }

    define command{
    command_name host-notify-by-boxcar
    command_line /usr/local/bin/boxcar.sh -a $CONTACTPAGER$ -t “Host $HOSTALIAS$ is $HOSTSTATE$.” -d “Details: Alert: host $HOSTALIAS$ is $HOSTSTATE$. Comment: $NOTIFICATIONCOMMENT$” -s score
    }

    this will define 2 new notification commands service-notify-by-boxcar for service level alerts and host-notify-by-boxcar for host level alerts. You can define different sound alerts for this event if you want (-s option, more on that later…). Now you need to bind that new commands to your contacts - it all depends on how you want to receive this alerts, here is most simple option, lets say you don’t want emails at all because you receive alerts via RSS and Boxcar (so you don’t want to poison your mailbox with unwanted nagios mails).
    Edit /etc/nagios3/conf.d/contacts_nagios.cfg and replace service_noticifacion_commands and host_notification_commands - for users who will get push alerts - with following lines:
    service_notification_commands service-notify-by-boxcar
    host_notification_commands host-notify-by-boxcar
    also add new line that states:
    pager YourAccessToken
    YourAccessToken is a token taken from Boxcar app. It is needed to authorise your calls to the API. You can repeat that step for as many users you want, just remember that each user have it’s own unique API key!
    Last missing piece is boxcar.sh script for sending notifications to the app. Here it is:
    copy it and save in /usr/local/bin/boxcar.sh. Don’t forget to set proper file attributes: 
    chmod 755 /usr/local/bin/boxcar.sh
    reload nagios, now you should be able to receive push alerts. You can see boxcar.sh help screen for possible arguments, you can define various sounds for the events, just test them out!
    If you want to explore Boxcar API please refer to this support article especially if you are looking for some more sounds for your notifications.
    That’s all, and here is how it looks like:

    Other then that, you can checkout other cool features of Boxcar 2 App! So you would not be bored only with nagios alerts…

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  8. Meet Boxcar Tech Lead at Renaissance.io Conference

    We are in San Francisco this week to meet push developers and users at Renaissance.io conference. We have been here last year and it was a great event. We are looking forward meeting again a bunch of brilliant iOS developers.

    If you are coming or if you want to meet our team to see what is coming to Boxcar service, please, leave a comment !

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  10. How to get your custom notifications in Boxcar

    We promised we would have an API very soon to send your device notifications. Here is the first steps. With a simple HTTP post using your account credential, you can know receive a custom notification on your iOS device in Boxcar app.

    Do not hesitate to share with us your feedback, feature request, and exciting use cases !

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  12. Call for translators

    We started recently a localization effort for Boxcar application. We called for suggestions of languages on our Uservoice page: Translation requests. The goal was to get an idea of the most popular languages in our user base.

    We have now prepared the application for translation. This is the first stage, as translation / localization is always a complex topic. However, we tested the process with French to make sure it is working well.

    We are now at the point where we can accept your help for translation effort itself. If you would like to see Boxcar translated in your language, your help is welcome and we will work together to make that happen.

    We have a translation kit ready with three files: two files from the application and Apple App Store description. You can download the zipped file here: boxcar_translation_kit_1.0.3.zip.

    If you would like to volunteer, please check this file to make sure you are confortable working on the task. When you are decided and know you can make it, please, put a not on our Uservoice site to say you have started working on it, on the matching language: Translation requests. You can create the request for your language if it does not exist, of course. We do not want to limit the list of languages for Boxcar.

    When you are done, please send the resulting files in a zip archive by email to our email address: awesome AT boxcar.io.

    We are curious to see how many languages we can have in the next release for Boxcar. Feel free to ask if you have any questions.

    … And, most of all, thanks for your help !

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  14. Boxcar 2 update reached Apple App Store

    Boxcar 2 has just been released on the App Store in version 1.0.2. It improves the user experience significantly adding major new features (like Global Do Not Disturb mode and welcome screen). The full changelog is available on Boxcar Uservoice site.

    However, this is not the most interesting part of the story. The most interesting story is the process that led to this new version.

    This is the third release in three weeks time, showing commitment of ProcessOne to improve Boxcar at a fast pace.

    This version is also the product of a community effort around the development roadmap on our Uservoice site. We gathered feedback from more than 130 users. 64 votes were satisfied since the first release at end of december.

    As already mentioned several times, this is just the beginning. Please, download the new Boxcar and give us your feedback.  We are listening !

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  16. 2014: A Great New Start for the Boxcar Community

    We made it !

    We have promised to deliver a new Boxcar for iOS 7, with a revamped server by the end of 2013 and we have made it real

    As some of you already noticed, we quietly launched a Boxcar 2 version in Apple App Store.

    This is a first step and just the beginning. As the most passionate users noticed, we have a vision and we laid the foundations so that we can now work in incrementally improving the application.

    We do not want to over-promise, but we are showing every day our commitment and how serious we are to make Boxcar the ultimate push notifications inbox. We want you to have all the content that matter to you in one place, push in realtime and we want to help you manage the information overload by increasing relevance.

    The Boxcar 2 application that has been released in the store is not the app we have in mind. It is far from perfect, but it is already doing what it does better than the previous one. It is just a first little step toward our vision.

    So, what’s next ? Trust us !

    The most critical part of our vision is to regain the trust of the Boxcar community. We learned in the process of building this new Boxcar app that its users are amazing. They truly loved Boxcar and felt let down when it collapsed.

    We have achieved the first step demonstrating our commitment, but we need your help for the next steps. We need your feedback. In return we will deliver anything that can help you live a better life with your mobile in a way that fit our long term vision.

    As an example, it is important to build a service architecture that scale, both in term of performance, but also in term of discoverability. It does not make sense to simply put a list of services in the app like before and we think we have a better way. Trust us.

    Boxcar community, we need your help !

    So, you want to believe in us ?

    Great, there is plenty you can do to help. Here are some ideas:

    • We have a feedback site for the Boxcar community: http://boxcar.uservoice.com. Join it and share your feedback. Tell us what services are important to you and what is good and wrong in the new app. We are listening and promise it is not a loss or your time. 
    • You love the new app and believe in our vision ? Take the time to rate Boxcar 2 and leave constructive comments. 
    • Spread the word and the vision on Twitter. Follow @boxcar and tell other users what Boxcar is about.

    We are lucky to have one of the greatest users community on earth. 2014 is a new start for Boxcar. Let’s make it the best year ever for that lovely tool. Our commitment is to make your mobile life easier, together.

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  19. Boxcar Developer Push Introduces Phonegap Support

    Boxcar Developer Push Introduces Phonegap Support

    We have been offering a push service for mobile developers since close to a year. We have been supporting Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) and Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) since the very beginning. However, our SDK only provided support for natively written applications, leaving mobile developers using popular web technologies to package their applications.

    We are happy today to announce that we know support Phonegap / Cordova push on our Boxcar Developer Push platform. You can generate your native APNS or GCM credentials as usual and use the SDK to pass them to your phonegap application using our Boxcar Push SDK.

    We provide a modified version of Phonegap build generic push plugin to make it more flexible. It is still generic and platform agnostic but supports flexible handle on push notification that was missing on Android.

    The code of our changes of Phonegap generic push plugin is published on Github: PushPlugin.

    We design our changes to have minimal impact on the Phonegap / Cordova plugin, but to be really good, we realize that this plugin will require more changes. You can expect to see more contributions to it from Boxcar team, in near future.

    Interested by push support in your mobile application ? Contact us !

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  21. BEYOND PUSH NOTIFICATIONS: MOBILE AS THE NEW HOLY GRAIL OF ONE-TO-ONE MARKETING?

    This is a very good article from Thomas Husson (Forrester) explaining why push is a very special capability for your application:

    It means that the users that have opt-in to receive push from you should be very special to you. You need to treat them as such.

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  23. Boxcar Apple iPhone Event Live Page

    Today, Apple is expected to announce their new iPhone devices. To follow bloggers reactions to the announcements, we have compiled a list of some of my favorites Apple sources (both Twitter people and news sites). We are tracking those sources and publishing their Tweets and articles in real time.

    Boxcar Apple Live Twitter and RSS stream is available on live.boxcar.io. Enjoy and let us know what you think and if we missed some great sources.

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  25. Optimizing Erlang applications: emysql

    The new Boxcar will be about performance. For those interested in gory heavily developer-oriented details about what we are doing on the platform, you can refer to this ProcessOne blog post.

    Do not click if Erlang and scalability oriented development are not your thing. You have been warned ;)

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  27. Top 5 events that show push notification landscape is changing in 2013

    Push notification landscape has been relatively quiet for a few years since Apple introduced push notification in 2008. Google Push system (GCM, aka Google Cloud Messaging) was the only important change that happen to that sector, but it has not been widely adopted yet. It still feels like a nice-to-have option for most Android developers.

    This year however the push notification ecosystem is evolving and traditional push for developers service providers need to change gears: Urban Airship, Parse, Pusher, Push.io among others are getting disrupted.

    Here are the top 5 elements that helps understand and anticipate the shift: 

    1. Both Google and Apple introduced major improvements in their notification service

    Google introduced many changes during Google I/O 2013 in their push notification service. Among those changes, notification synchronization and upstream notifications provide vastly enhanced user experience.

    Apple also added new features during WWDC conference 2013. The most important one is the ability to truly awake an application by sending a notification, granting it processing power without the need for user interactions.

    The bottom line is that push providers need to develop fast and focus on the push business to be able to stick to the new round of changes in the push notification API provided by each mobile OS provider.

    It also means that both Apple and Google push notification services are getting more and more different and pack more and more features. A good platform providers cannot just implement the lowest common features set available in each platform. They need to offers API that allow to target mobile platform specific features. This is difficult and requires skills and continuous improvements on their push platform.

    2. Push notification is key to the mobile application experience

    Push notification is now admitted as a key feature for better battery life in mobile environment. The changes introduced by both Apple and Google makes smart use of push notification a mandatory service for a vast majority of mobile apps. Going from a nice-to-have feature, the push notification is increasingly becoming the link between an always running server-side back-end and a smart, user-friendly and battery efficient mobile app.

    This is probably the most overlooked feature in the upcoming iOS 7. Improvement in the way background applications behave is the element that will really change how end-users use their devices. Push notification service is the most important component for background apps as it is the most flexible way to control when the mobile app will be doing its client-side background processing.

    3. New push services are being launched: true cross platform requires more platform support

    All traditional players support iOS (while some strangely focus only on Android). However, beside iOS the cross platform support is quite inconsistent and sometimes very limited even for the second platform: Google Cloud Messaging.

    Today, a modern push notification service need a very broad scope:

    • Apple support: iOS Push notification, including the new iOS 7 features.
    • Google support: GCM push notification, including XMPP notification, upstream notifications, and notification synchronization.
    • Native web apps support: with Phonegap build compliance.
    • Microsoft push for Windows Phone 
    • Kindle Fire is big enough in US and UK that it is now important to support Amazon Push Service.
    Supporting a large number of push backends is more and more critical and limiting to only a small subset of the available features is not an option anymore for developers.

    4. Large players like Amazon wants their share of the mobile back-end market

    Amazon launched today its mobile notification service for iOS, Android (Google flavor) and Kindle fire (Amazon Android flavor).

    This is a nice step that shows push is becoming increasingly important. This is mostly a catch up move as Microsoft had such service on Azure cloud platform since 2012.

    Big players will reshape the business equilibrium of the area, with aggressive per push notifications pricing.

    5. New niche players are entering the market with disruptive business model

    At ProcessOne, we feel that for the previous reasons, we have a role to play. We have been working on realtime backends since 2005. We found that Boxcar brand was a good opportunity to package a mobile developer push offer that is cost effective, offers state of the art push experience and truly cross platform experience.

    We believe our technology allow us to be truly effective in the way we manage push. This enables innovative and disruptive business model where the cost is not based on the number of push you send, but on the sending rate. Thank to our approach, our plans for push notification are fully unlimited in term of number of push sent and number of devices: You select a plan and you know in advance how much you push platform is going to cost you.

    The nice effect of our unlimited business model is that push is a feature that you can use without worrying about the cost. You do not have to restrict your usage of push just to fit your budget.

    Being a niche, pure player, we believe that this focus gives Boxcar a edge to lead the pack in features as well as in pricing.

    Conclusion

    From an important feature, push notification is becoming a key element in mobile developer infrastructure. It is not anymore a marketing, user engagement trick, and has now became the backbone of every mobile development infrastructure.

    This is only the beginning of more profound changes that the mobile back-end landscape will be seeing in the coming months. Push notification is now a critical capability.

    Read more about new Amazon Push Service

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