Login screen of the POSIT-Haiti app in Creole.

Login screen of the POSIT-Haiti app in Creole.

Trishan and I made another trip to Haiti last week to field test the latest version of POSIT-Haiti.

On Thursday I traveled overnight to Cotes de Fer for a distribution event on Friday.  Trishan remained back in the Jacmel office.  We field tested the bar-code feature.  There were 210 beneficiaries and the app was easily able to keep up with work flow.  We processed all 210 in about 90 minutes.  As soon as the event concluded, the SMS messages were  transmitted back to the Frontline server at the Jacmel office.  The distribution site at Cotes de Fer had a very strong signal — 4 bars.  Transmitting the 12 messages took less than 2 minutes and we received an acknowledgement from the server in around 15 minutes.  The field test confirmed — as had our many lab tests — that the barcode feature is working very well.  End-to-end, the POSIT-Haiti app is working extremely well.

On Saturday we met with the ACDI/VOCA team in Jacmel to discuss some additional audit scripts that we are working on to make it easier to determine that the app is working properly.  This may have been our last visit to Haiti for a while, as it looks like ACDI/VOCA may be winding down their food security program in Haiti.  Hopefully they or another NGO will be able to use the app — or a modified version of it — in another project.

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Random Hacks of Kindness Returns to Hartford!

The following is a guest post by Patrice Gans, a Technology and Montessori School Teacher from Newton, CT, who was part of a winning team in the recently concluded Random Hacks of Kindness Hartford event, focused around challenges in the Sanitation space as part of the World Bank’s Global Sanitation Hackathon.

Highlights of the Hartford event can be seen here:

RHoKHartford from Under Consideration on Vimeo.

On Saturday, December 1, I had the opportunity to experience firsthand the intersection of technology and social good when I participated in the Global Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) event, at Trinity College.  As a K-8 Computer Science teacher, I had anticipated that I would attend the event as an observer, but instead, found myself quickly immersed in the activities.

The first step for my group was the selection of the problem definition we wished to tackle. I found myself drawn to one of the featured sanitation problem definitions from the World Bank’s Sanitation Hackathon problem set. Thankfully, my desire to work on a project aimed at helping girls was also shared by fellow participant and Trinity College student, Pauline Lake.

During the initial brainstorming process, a representative of RHoK, Elizabeth Sabet from Second Muse (http://www.secondmuse.com/), suggested we touch base with other RHoK events that might be simultaneously working on the same challenge.   We managed to track down teams from DC and New York and connect with them remotely.  It was an interesting experience to hear how others were tackling the same problem and reinforced the potential magnitude of our collective impact.

We also had the good fortune to speak with the expert in Washington, DC who had proposed the problem. In addition to explaining the details of the project (the introduction of menstrual health education and gender-friendly sanitation facilities in Cameroon http://www.sanitationhackathon.org/sanitation-girls-education-empowerment), she also clarified the requirements for the App (monitoring girls’ attendance at schools after implementing gender-friendly sanitation facilities) and further explained how she envisioned the local NGO’s implementing this technology.

After the initial discussions were concluded, we returned to brainstorming solutions, then worked up a prototype and diligently debugged our App.  Designing the App entailed determining the components, the layout, the code, the logo and the name. I was a novice App Inventor programmer (having taken my first App programming class this past summer with Trinity Professor, Ralph Morelli), so Pauline took the lead.

While designing the App, I envisioned how my own students would tackle the task.  Independent by nature, many of them would initially shy away from collaborating, thus missing out on the benefits of working within a group.  Computer programming presents the perfect opportunity for collaboration, as each person brings a unique talent to the process.  For example, in the case of my students, some excel at drawing, others have a firmer grasp on the intricacies of App inventor, and others’ personal strengths lie in their communication skills.  Software development is indeed a group effort.  I am eager to share this insight with my students.

I also want to share with them the opportunity to work on an application that will be used to help others.  To this end, I am happy to report that, on Saturday, May 4, I will be hosting the first ever Random Hacks of Kindness Junior at the Fraser Woods Montessori School.  The objective of the daylong event is to show students that, as technology creators, computing can  be more than a media and entertainment outlet – it can be used a tool for change.

The app Pauline and I created at Trinity, Empowering Girls, will track the attendance of girls in Northern Cameroon schools before and after the implementation of gender-sensitive sanitation facilities. We were driven and motivated by the knowledge that our program would be put to good use.

When duplicating Saturday’s event with students in grades 4-8, I will definitely stress how their participation is part of a bigger effort.  Attending RHoK Hartford, helped to solidify other objectives as well; the need to come supplied with student-friendly problem definitions, inspiring user stories, and, of course, plenty of refreshments.

My first experience “hacking for humanity” was very inspiring, both as a K-8 Computer Science teacher and as a humanitarian endeavor; which, unbeknownst to most, can actually go together!  I am convinced that my students will come away with similar feelings.  I can’t wait for May!

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Bluetooth and how its used in POSIT

Hi everyone! My name is Elias Adum and I am a part of the UCOSP Winter 2012. I’m currently in the POSIT team and I’d like to talk about Bluetooth technology and how we are currently using it in our project.

Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices. It creates small networks with high levels of security that can connect several devices to exchange information.

I decided to implement a Bluetooth synchronization plugin for POSIT because I wanted to provide users with an additional method to share Finds. I realized that there will be cases where users will have no access to a WI-FI or data connection but there will still be a need to transfer and/or update Finds from one device to another.

To use the plugin, the user can go to ‘View Finds’ and select from the menu options ‘Bluetooth Sync’. Then from the menu options one can either connect to another device or make own device discoverable to others. After the connection is established, the user selects the Finds he/she wants to sync and clicks the ‘Send Selected’ button and voila! Finds will be transferred from one device to the other.

I really hope this plugin proves useful for our POSIT users!

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FBI vs Android Locks

Hello everybody! My name is Andrew Matsusaka, one of the Winter 2012 UCOSP Team members. Instead of posting about project updates found here I’d like to talk about security today, starting off with the power of Android locking mechanism.

Android devices have a locking mechanism that can be very difficult to break. After a certain number of failed attempts, the user’s Google e-mail address and password is required to access the information. Since so much personal data is stored on these devices, it’s nice to know that even the FBI can’t break in.

According to this article from Wired, the FBI was unable to access a suspects personal data during an investigation. You would think the FBI with all of their expertise in security would be able to access the data through various means. After consulting with several forensic experts, it appears the Android locking system cannot be bypassed through software. The next step would be reaching the data via hardware, however that carries risk of damaging the phone and losing the data itself.

The only way to gain access to that data was by issuing a warrant for data retrieval from Google. Apparently it is fairly common for personal data to be provided to law enforcement for some investigations. Google released a statement saying: “Like all law-abiding companies, we comply with valid legal process. Whenever we receive a request we make sure it meets both the letter and spirit of the law before complying. If we believe a request is overly broad, we will seek to narrow it.”

When mentioning this topic to the rest of the team, Yemi mentioned a program called TrueCrypt that is designed to allow hiding encrypted data while at the same time having legal plausible deniability. For those of you interested in maintaining their data with utmost secrecy may want to give this program a try.

The subject of online security is becoming a bigger concern as technology becomes a larger part of our lives. Just to give you a jump start, an article by LifeHacker called How to Stay Secure Online covers basic steps many of us should be taking when using the Internet.

On another note, just to put some faces to our developers for this Winter 2012 UCOSP team, I found a picture taken of us during the Vancouver code sprint.

UCOSP Winter 2012 Team

From left to right: Brittney Franzoi, Rob McDiarmid, Andrew Matsusaka, Yemi Ilupeju, Elias Adum, Eric Enns

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POSIT: Project Launch Summary

Over the past few weeks the POSIT team has been developing our project ideas for the term. The small nature of our team allows for a lot of detailed feedback and guidance from our mentors during our weekly meetings. Their input has helped our project proposals reach their current level and put us on the road to achieving our goals for this semester. Here’s what we’re working on:


1. Ensure a consistent user interface between the phone and tablet. Below is the updated tablet design:

2.  Develop a generic synching library for all synching procedures so that new synchronization methods can be easily implemented in the future.

3. Enhance the map display to allow for the grouping of Finds by location. This will give users the ability to easily discover patterns of interest in their Finds.

4. Improve the Bluetooth communication of Finds to simplify information sharing between users.

5. Allow for the “scanning” of bar codes to read in Find information using the phone’s camera.

6. Toggle Plugins on/off, such as the SMS, Twitter, or Tracker Activity Plugins, so that testing is less intrusive to the rest of the application.

We’re enthusiastic and can’t wait to see the improvements take effect!

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POSIT: Tools to help our meetings

As the UCOSP term continues on our weekly meetings become more elaborate and sometimes being able to showcase how the app works is key. Since we use Google+ hangouts we are able to share our own computer’s screen or a window. We have used this feature to look at specific code in eclipse and to in the early meetings to demonstrate the POSIT project site. To showcase POSIT on our phones we have had to hold up our phones to our webcam which would be unsteady and sometimes blurry.

So I decided that I should find a solution to this. I armed myself with my Google search knowledge and searched away. These searches led me too http://code.google.com/p/android-screen-monitor/ and http://code.google.com/p/androidscreencast/ both apps which will copy and display the screen buffer through an adb connection on your computer in a window. Both had similar features with android screencast having the ability to accept certain inputs from the computer.

In our last weekly meeting I demoed these applications and expect to see them as a common utility used in our upcoming meetings.

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POSIT: UCOSP Winter 2012 begins!

Hello! My name is Yemi and I am a part of the POSIT team this year. Throughout this season, myself and the rest of the Winter 2012 team will be blogging our fun developments, fixes and ideas we come up with. By now, you are probably wondering who the rest of the team is so let me introduce them:

In this team: Andrew Matsusaka, Eric Enns, and myself (University of Manitoba), Elias Adum, Brittney Franzoi, and Rob McDiarmid (University of Toronto). The team is headed up by Ralph Morelli (POSIT mentor) and he is helped by Trishan de Lanerolle.

By the way, everyone on the team is a real stand-up guy (and girl :D ) and they really know their stuff!

This year, the POSIT team had its UCOSP code sprint in Vancover from Jan 20-Jan 22. We all stayed at the Holiday Inn and did the 40 minute trip from there to the University of British Columbia for the better part of that weekend. All code meetings were held at the UBC and it was quite an experience! We even had the right distribution of MAC to PC users (even :P )

To help coordinate our meetings and because Skype is so passe, Google Hangouts was our weapon this time. Don’t laugh:

HFOSS UCOSP Group google hangout

HFOSS UCOSP Group Google hangout

During the weekend, we set up our environments on both laptops and phones (POSIT is an Android app). I can tell you that I am very excited about the possibilities of POSIT. I downloaded (by mistake) the medical version of the POSIT app and its cool how many ingenious ideas can come from the basic concept of creating Finds and manipulating that information from a central location.

Throughout this season, the team will identify app issues (because knowing is half the battle) and fixing them (because fixing is half our evaluation marks :D ). But i can tell you this, we polled ourselves as a team this past weekend and everyone on the team joined the POSIT project because of the good it can do, and its cool factor, of course, so expect good things!

Well that’s it for now. A line in our POSIT site says: “If you want to improve POSIT, we love you”. The whole team is raring to go get on coding, fixing and blogging, so yea,

“We love you too POSIT”.

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