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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My hack at PipesCamp HackDay

One of the coolest parts of PipesCamp on Sunday was the HackDay part of it. Okay, it wasn't a whole day, more like about three hours, but it was still fun. You can find my pipe here: MTC Mashup.

You can type a bus number in the input box on the top and it displays (or tries to display :P) the places visited by the bus on a map.

Check it out!

The raw data comes from the Chennai MTC website (Yes, they have a website). There is a section that gives the stages visited for the bus number that you enter in a form. However, the output is quite a messy bit of HTML, quite a pain to parse through. Luckily, Rabin Vincent has taken this data and put out a much cleaner bus query interface over it.

So, Rabin's site provides the raw data for the pipe. Given a bus number, we construct an appropriate URL and query Rabin's site for the bus route, then parse the HTML to extract out a list of stages that the bus goes through.

Now that we have the list of stages, the next step is to figure out the latitude and longitude of these places. For that, we used Yahoo's Geocode service. This service takes a string address and returns the latitude and longitude of the place. Once we have the lat/long coordinates of each of the stages, we send it out on a yahoo map.

Now for the hiccups:

The biggest by far is ambiguity while searching. For example, the MTC site refers to the Central Station stop simply as "Central" which when passed to the Geocoding API gets confused because a lot of things match this. At the other extreme, a bus stop like "P. Orr & Sons" does not get any hits on the Geocoding API. So, sometimes the lat/long positions can be all over the map depending on whether the Geocoding API returned the right place or not.

An obvious solution is to create a small web service that takes the names as specified on the MTC site and return the correct lat/long for that stop. So we know that Central refers to central station, and we can return the position of that stop accurately.

The other thing that I could not figure out was how to get the data on other maps. By default Y! Pipes uses Y! Maps (Worldwide) which does not have good resolution for Indian cities. However, there is a India specific Y! Maps, which has good detail for Indian cities. How do I get Pipes to output to the Y! India maps instead of the global Y! Maps? I couldn't figure that one out.

Right at the end, labsji took my mashup, downloaded the KML data and imported it into Google Earth, so that the whole route was superimposed on Google Earth and it automatically ran an animated tour between the stops.

In the end it was a fun experiment, and something I would not have done without PipesCamp. When I first started this hack, I though it would be impossible, but Y! Pipes allowed me to create the whole mashup in a few hours as a total newbie. That's pretty cool if you ask me.

Friday, December 21, 2007

PipesCamp on Sunday

Hot on the heels of the AWS meet comes PipesCamp to discuess Y! Pipes.

PipesCamp is on the 23rd of December (thats the coming Sunday) from 10am to 5pm at Hotel Shan Royal, 85, Poonamallee High Road, Near Koyambedu Circle, hennai, India. (The wiki has more details, including the map to the venue)

Y! Pipes is interesting because it is an attempt to do programming visually. I remember Bosky's talk at DCamp about End-User Programming, and this is an interesting attempt by Yahoo to bring feed manipulation programming to the mainstream. With RSS becoming more popular, and mashups seemingly the in thing these days, it should be pretty interesting to see what happens at PipesCamp.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Amazon Web Services Meet: Jinesh Varia Videos Uploaded

Videos from the Amazon Web Services Meet in Chennai are now available online. Get 'em here -
  1. Part 1: Intro to AWS and Amazon S3
  2. Part 2: Amazon EC2 and Amazon SQS

The best part? Around the 2:00 minute mark in Part 1 he says that of the Indian cities, the highest intensity work seems to be done in Chennai :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Amazon Web Services meet in Chennai today

Jinesh Varia, evangelist for Amazon Web Services is in Chennai today, so labsji has organised an Amazon Web Services meet. The meet will be held at the Rails Factory office in Jafferkhanpet, Ashok Nagar. It starts at 5:00 PM, but you can come earlier and hang around if you want.

The rough agenda is
5:00: Welcome and Introduction
5:05 - 5:45 : Speed Geeking, networking and demos - over snacks.
5:50 - 6:30: Presentation by Jinesh Varia, and Question and Answer session.
6:31 - 7:15: Suggestions, Feedback, and Wishlist for AWS by AWS users and wannabe.
7:16 - 7:30: Discussion on next AWS Chennai meetup, closing.
and the address to the venue is
RailsFactory, 9/55, Karikalan Street,
Jafferkhanpet, Ashok Nagar,
Chennai, TN, India -600083
[ ~1.2 Km from Ashok Pillar, 200 meters from Kasi Theatre junction.]
(Google map here)

For more info, check out the AWS Chennai wiki.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

MindTree tries out an unconference

Since I'm maintaining the India Unconferences and Events group on upcoming, I often spend a bit of time looking for events to add. While doing that today, I came across Osmosis. Apparently, Osmosis is MindTree's annual technology festival, and its coming up in December this year - with a difference.

This year, the event is going to be held as an unconference, and they are opening it up to external participation. Which means (if I understand correctly) that anyone can attend.

Open space technology (closely related to unconferences) has often been applied in corporate environments, so it will be interesting to see how this works out.

One thing that caught my attention was this line from the site

Osmosis final day will be an ‘unconference’ where MindTree Minds will decide the topics to be discussed. In the true spirit of an unconference, MindTree Minds will decide, organize and lead the discussions on the final day of Osmosis.

Now, I'm not sure who a "MindTree Mind" is. Does it mean a general participant? Or it is a select group of people? If it is a select group of people who will decide the topics etc then it might just defeat the purpose.

Anyway, if anyone attends, I would be interested in knowing how everything went. The website is and the event takes place on Saturday, 15th December 2007. Check it out and let us know what happened.