Archive for category Science And Technology

Android App POSIT – September Code Sprint in Toronto

A firsthand account from the UCOSP Code sprint in Totonto on XX. by POSIT project team members :

UCOSP (Undergraduate Capstone Open Source Projects) gives students all across Canada the opportunity to work together and collaborate on joint open source projects. One of the great projects of UCOSP is POSIT, an android application from the Humanitarian FOSS project.

Since many of the students in UCOSP are from different regions of Canada, the wonderful steering committee of UCOSP organized a 3-day code sprint, held in Toronto, for students to meet face to face and familiarize themselves with the projects together. Members of the POSIT project, Gordon, Stanley, Ryan, Kalin, and Eric were all extremely excited to attend the code sprint; some even traveled from Vancouver and Edmonton to Toronto.

On the first day of code sprint, we devised a tentative plan for the next three days, based on our supervisor Professor Ralph Morelli’s agenda. Since working on POSIT was our first time working in an Android development environment, we decided to set up the Java Android environment and work through Google’s online tutorials to  really understand the structure and workflow of an Android application. We have found that the Notepad Tutorial ( was particularly helpful because not only did it show us the standard Android framework, it also introduced the Java SQL database, which was essential in understanding the inner-working of the POSIT application.

One of the biggest challenges of working with team members all around Canada is effective team communication and efficient project coordination. We were thus grateful that, during the second day of the code sprint, our supervisor Ralph showed us many tools that we could utilize to easily collaborate and share with the team online. Such tools include online POSIT wiki and ticketing system where we can report and resolve issues encountered in using POSIT; and Mercurial for managing POSIT’s online code repository. With the help of Ralph, we also successfully deployed the demo POSIT application on our phone to test out its basic features.

Ralph also mentioned that he and POSIT’s past development team decided to overhaul POSIT’s overall framework to make it a more agile and configurable application. He introduced us the concept of “plug-in”, with one “plug-in” being its own separate application that has different user interface and supports one or more data types (texts, images, videos, etc). He also shared with us his vision on how users could simply configure the “plug-in” online and our code base would auto-magically generate a brand new version of POSIT with the specifications defined in “plug-in”.

We were all very excited with the idea of configurable application, but in order to get there, we needed to first understand the structure of the existing POSIT code base. On the last day of code sprint, Ralph pointed us to some fundamental POSIT framework and we each read through a part of the POSIT code base. Before we all left for our lovely home city, we had set up the date for our weekly Skype meeting so that we could update each other on our progress and coordinate project features.

Throughout the three days of code sprint, we all felt like we had accomplished a lot. We were so glad to meet each other face to face and were given the opportunity to work on such a great project. We really look forward to collaborating with each other and we cannot wait to see what our final POSIT application will be like.

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HFOSS builds Android app to assist humanitarian organization in Haiti

POSIT-Haiti from Humanitarian FOSS Project on Vimeo.

In July a team of HFOSS faculty and students from Trinity College traveled to Haiti to deploy POSIT-Haiti, the Android application they developed for ACDI/VOCA,  a humanitarian organization providing food and health services for expectant mothers and infant children in Haiti.

The app, which runs on Motorola XPRT smart phones, supports beneficiary registration and helps process monthly food distribution events for more than 10,000 beneficiaries in Haiti’s Southeastern Department.

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IBM in talks to buy Sun Microsystems

According to a Wall Street Journal Article this morning (March 18th 2009). The International Business Machine (IBM) are in talks to buy Sun. IBM is offering 6.5 billion according to the WSJ for the deal which is one of the largest bids by IBM for a rival. If this goes through this would put IBM in competition with the likes of HP and Cisco in the server markes and Oracle in the database space. IBM is a heavy backer of the Java platform which Sun owns; what does this mean for the other applications in Sun’s cart, including MySQL and OpenOffice applications. In this weak economy its not uncommon to see these consolidations. What impact will this have in the Open source space if two OSS giants become one?

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Bruce Perens on the Microsoft Lawsuit

Bruce Perens, co-founder of the Open Source Initiative and an expert on open source patent law, has weighed in with an interesting article on the Microsoft patent lawsuit agains Tom Tom, calling it “A Big Duh Factor.”

Is this a serious suit, or an effort to stir up fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Linux at a critical time, when government and industry is taking up Open Source in a big way? TomTom has shallow pockets, relative to Microsoft, pockets that have already been drained by other lawsuits. Will TomTom have to settle and license regardless of the validity of Microsoft’s patent claims, rather than drop $10 or $20 million in defending themselves?

Perens suggests rather strongly that the patents in question are bogus and gives a detailed accounting of them. There are eight patents involved, two of them concerning the FAT file system, which is Microsoft’s method of storing files on disk. When it introduced long file names in Windows95, Microsoft patented an “innovation” that associated long file names with short names. A File Allocation Table was used to map ALongFileName.txt to ALONG%#.TXT.

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Open source government

According to this BBC report Scott McNealy, founder and CEO of Sun Microsystems, has been asked to prepare a paper for the Obama administration on the advantages of using FOSS in the government. According to McNealy, FOSS is the secret to more secure and cost effective government.

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Wired: Open Source Hardware

In Wired’s latest magazine, there was an article on open source hardware: “Build It. Share It. Profit. Can Open Source Hardware Work?”. Massimo Banzi, co-founder of the Arduino project, posts all of the design files, schematics, and even software online, so that anyone can build their own Arduino board. It is a chipmaking robot, and 50,000 Arduino boards have been sold in the past two years. Arduino controls the brand, and this is part of the reason that they still sell any boards at all: anyone can make one, but only certain companies are allowed to use “Arduino” on their product, and they in return do have to pay a small fee. Surprisingly, this has actually helped Arduino. When other manufacturers make low-quality boards, with flimsy wiring and soldering, word gets around and Arduino sales increase.

As always, the question of money comes up. Software doesn’t cost much to make, but hardware? Arduino, like many others, sells their expertise. The boards cost $35, and Arduino makes very little off that–a few dollars, maybe. “But the serious income comes from clients who want to build devices based on the board and who hire the founders as consultants.” As far as the entire company is concerned, working for firms who want Arduino products can be relatively easy: “For example, one client wanted to control LED arrays. Poking around online, Banzi found that someone in France had already published Arduino code that did the job. Banzi took the code and was done.”
Wired really covered a lot with open source this month; online the article is 6 pages long. It has a lot of neat ideas and is really worth a read for all. Alert to bigtime hardware manufacturers: you may have to change your business style.
View article here.


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Problem Solving as a Mashup

An article titled If You Have a Problem, Ask Everyone in yesterday’s NY Times describes a new business model for what might best be called “open source problem solving”. Example: John Davis, a chemist from Bloomington, Ill., knows that you can keep concrete from hardening by keeping it jiggling (vibrating). He proposed using devices that keep concrete vibrating as a way to stop oil from freezing and the Oil Spill Recovery Institute of Cordova, AK paid him $20,000 for his idea. The problem and its solution were mediated by InnoCentive, a company that

links organizations (seekers) with problems (challenges) to people all over the world (solvers) who win cash prizes for resolving them. The company gets a posting fee and, if the problem is solved, a “finders fee” equal to about 40 percent of the prize.

To use a hip-hop (and increasingly web-centric) metaphor, we might say that the solution in this case was a mashup.

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