Hacking the Google App engine with python

Our company had a hack day last week and I thought that I’d have a look at the Google App engine. I was getting used to the management reply of “do you have a budget code?” when asking for a server in the racks, so I thought that I’d experiment with some data in the cloud. I had taken in the story about the Guardian knocking up a quick python web app using Django to notate the MP’s expenses information. I heard tell it took a week so I thought I might get something simple done in a day.
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Google maps and 3D trips

We had a few people from Google to talk about the latest developements and tools, so I thought that I’d just put down a few of the links as a memory aid. I looked at the impressive O3D after the conference and will return to it later, no doubt, but this session was more to do with flights of fancy around Google Earth and the customisation of Google maps.
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Birmingham Flash Camp

Spent a sunny day going on a train trip up to Birmingham for the Flash Camp. I decided that I’d like to listen to Mike Jones talk about components again, with a Flex 4 flavour this time. It was well worth the trip, not just for Mike but there was an interesting bunch of speakers there; a reminder on Away3d and the best demo I’ve seen of the Catalyst workflow. Friendly group up there; I recommend you get to some of the future meetings.

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Google IO Developer conference

Impressive keynotes at the Google IO conference over the last couple of days. Eric Schimdt opened but most of it was led by Vic Gundotra. He’s ex Microsoft, so not unused to being the lead in technologies and Google certainly seem to be pushing the leading edge as fast as they can. Lots more services; lots more apps, lots more things in the browser that you wouldn’t believe a couple of years ago (or maybe one year ago!). He gave everyone a free Android and a month free on the sim card. That made everyone smile, then surprise them all with Google Wave at the end. Very supportive of HTML5 and pushing Java everywhere. They made you want to start using all the apps now, even Google Wave which is still at an early beta.The big push is towards more openness. Google will open up areas where you can easily run your app; they make it easy to run in the browser but also now run when disconnected. It just shouldn’t be this easy for new programmers to do this. They will surely not be able to appreciate the skills of programming if they haven’t had hours wasted installing servers and more hours setting up a development system. This is just cut and paste programming but it makes me excited.
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Thoughts on wireframes and mock-ups

I started looking around for some software that would allow a team to sketch out some quick interfaces to show clients, but I didn’t realize how many people were writing software for this. What’s more, I didn’t realize that all of them would have some special features that would would cause me to bounce around them for hours. I had to give several a test before knowing what I was looking for. Wireframing apps have been around forever, but there is a huge gap in price and facilities and these two factors are now always linked. I’ve been using real applications to mock up my screens in the past, so that no effort is wasted; I normally use Flex, Dreamweaver or Visual Studio, but more recently have needed to get into Expression Blend and now Flash Catalyst. These are all excellent tools, but when you’d like someone else to take some of the workload, you need something that they can pick up and run with straight away. Here I look at some of the utilities that might help to do that – iPlotz, Balsamiq Mockups, FlairBuilder, Axure, Protoshare among others.
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Cloud Expo

I went across to the Cloud Expo at the Barbican. Not a huge event; not crowded by any means. There was a small set of exhibitors and some conference tracks with both business and technical sessions. Probably more people looking to see what a cloud was rather than those that were using it in earnest. I didn’t need to spend all day there, but I did see a couple of useful technical overview sessions from Simone Brunnozi of Amazon and Simon Wardley of Canonical, who support the Ubuntu software distribution.
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Test drive of Confluence on Amazon EC2

I took advantage of the bargain deal at Atlassian the other day; a 5 user licence for Confluence and Jira for $10. I’d been thinking of trying it out after a mention at the FOWA conference last year. So, if it involved EC2 as well that could be an ideal project.

Luckily there is a pre-built demo image that I could install on the Amazon Cloud so I just sped through the very quick tutorial by Adrian Hempel It was as easy as he says.

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