Archive for category Mobile Technology

Ryan’s UCOSP Update

So the term has come to a close and I thought I’d give a short retrospective of my time working on POSIT. First of all, I’d like to thank all the people involved in UCOSP for making it what it is and letting us be involved in it. I know I’ve found it to be a very educational and rewarding experience, and I think the other students on my team feel the same way.

We started off the term with an experimental version of POSIT that had been rebuilt with a pluggable architecture that would hopefully make it a lot easier to customize the app according to clients’ needs. However, since the new architecture was fairly new, the actual functionality was pretty rough. For this reason, our UCOSP team spent much of the early part of the term helping Ralph and Rachel out with testing and patching bugs while they continued to build features back into the new architecture. As POSIT got incrementally nicer each week, we would then gleefully load the new version onto our phones and do horrible things to it until it broke.

Later in the term, as POSIT was getting more stable, we each chose individual projects to expand POSIT’s functionality. All of us eventually decided on function plugins for the app, which I believe have already been discussed by other members of my team. Here’s an overview of what my teammates have accomplished:

Twitter Plugin – Stanley had a neat idea early in the term to combine POSIT with Twitter. His plugin uses the Twitter4j library to give users the ability to post finds to their Twitter accounts. The wiki page for Stanley’s plugin is available here: http://code.google.com/p/posit-mobile/wiki/TwitterFunctionPlugin

Camera Plugin – POSIT’s camera functionality is one of the things I found most striking about the app when I was first introduced to it. Gordon’s plugin puts the ability to take pictures and associate them with your find back into the app using the new architecture. Find out more about it on the plugin’s wiki page: http://code.google.com/p/posit-mobile/wiki/Camera_plugin_with_syncing

Tracker Plugin – Another nifty feature that was begging to be added back in is POSIT’s tracker functionality. It provides the ability to track the path of someone’s expedition when using the app. This was Kalin’s project, and you can read about it here: http://code.google.com/p/posit-mobile/wiki/Tracker_Activity_Walkthrough

Location Aware To Do Reminder Plugin – Without disparaging anyone else, I think Eric’s plugin is probably the coolest. His To Do plugin allows you to set reminders for yourself that are linked to a find’s location. It monitors your own location and will alert you when you are in close proximity to the reminder location. You can read all about it on the wiki page: http://code.google.com/p/posit-mobile/wiki/To_Do_Reminder_Walkthrough

SMS Plugin – This was my plugin, so forgive me if I spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about it. I wanted to do something similar to what was done with the version of POSIT used in Haiti. The deployment of wireless Internet in Haiti isn’t exactly ubiquitous, so for them it was important that they be able to share data without relying on the Internet. For this reason, they built a whole synchronization system that used SMS messaging. My plugin’s functionality is a bit simpler than that. I implemented SMS functionality merely as a way of sending and receiving a single find over SMS. The tricky part about this was that, while the Acdi Voca app knew exactly what its Find object looked like, I had to contend with the fact that the user might be using a Find Plugin about which I don’t know the details. I’m pretty happy with the result, and my hope is that the code I have written will also be of help to anyone who wants to extend POSIT’s SMS functionality even further. The wiki page I created for the plugin is here: http://code.google.com/p/posit-mobile/wiki/SMSFunctionPlugin

And that just about wraps up everything I have to say! Thanks everyone again for letting me be involved with this. I think it’s great what you guys are doing and I wish you the best of luck in future terms.

Ryan McLeod

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POSIT: UCOSP Team Progress

Hello! My name is Gordon Leung and I’m in my final semesters of my Computing Science Degree from Simon Fraser University. I think POSIT is an application that can be used for fun as well as a practical tool for recording data. It not only allows users to share their favorite destinations, but can also be used to keep track of data when you’re out in the field.

Now it’s time for another progress report from the POSIT team! During the past few weeks, we have all been working hard to integrate our individual project proposals into the POSIT application. We’ve successfully integrated one of the student’s project proposals so far. This new functionality notifies the user when they have reached a point of interest! The user sets the reminder by specifying a particular date and location. When the user is near the location on the desired date, POSIT will notify the user of the reminder.

Another new functionality that is coming soon is the ability to tweet your finds. If tweeting your find isn’t satisfying enough, we’re also adding in the ability to send finds using SMS. We’re also adding back the basic functionality to take pictures of your finds. The tracker activity, which allows you to trace your route of how you came about your finds is also being reimplemented after being redesigned.

POSIT is becoming more and more awesome. But, during our progress we also faced many challenges. One of my biggest challenges is having to work with an emulator. Unfortunately I think I’ve reached the limitations of the emulator as our application has gotten more and more advanced. Programming on an actual phone probably would have made a huge difference in every aspect.

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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 (http://developer.android.com/resources/tutorials/notepad/index.html) 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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Internationalization and Localization of POSIT Haiti

A peak into localization by Chris N. who worked on the POSIT-Haiti code base:

Being able to display the app in multiple languages was essential for the project, due to the developers being native English speakers and the end users speaking French and Haitian Creole. I localized the mobile side of the app. There are hundreds of strings that appear in the display of the app, each of which needed to be internationalized and then localized. After the strings were translated and organized into xml files, they were then tested. A number of bugs appeared as a result of being able to change the language. Multiple strings needed to be abstracted out of the code. In addition, menu and dialog boxes needed to be reinitialized so that the newly changed language would display properly.

There was a great deal of difficulty keeping the character encoding consistent between Linux and Apple machines, which use different codes for special characters (such as the é character). This coding issue made it difficult to create non-conflicting translation patches that can work on both Linux and Macintosh computers. In addition, the patches often had to be tested for conflicts before being applied to the most recent repositories, due to the localization process’s nature of touching all the files in the app. It also became necessary to abstract the options end users select in data entry forms from the strings those forms store in the database, since otherwise the data queries would not be able to identify data submitted in one language and retrieved in another.

The localization process was difficult, but enjoyable. Users are able to toggle the display language between English, French, and Haitian Creole without exiting the app. Furthermore, the app is set up so that additional languages can be implemented quickly and easily.

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Fourth of July Weekend in Jacmel

Grog moi, ti cigarette moi...

Grog moi, ti cigarette moi...

Tomorrow, Monday, the 4th of July,  we’ll be splitting into three teams and traveling to remote parts of the Southeast Department.  But over the weekend we kicked back and headed to the beach.

The beach was nice and sandy. The water was warm. And we all had a swim.  Emmet brought his guitars and song sheets and he and Tina sang some duets and got the rest of the beach singing along — including some of the locals.

At first the local musicians just watched and listened.  But Emmet played a familiar local song and that was their cue to join in.  They started playing along.

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At the Voodoo Ceremony

The first couple of nights at the hotel I was wondering what all the loud drumming and strange chanting was.  I asked Meliu, our driver, about it.  He said it was a Voodoo ceremony with around 1000 participants, including himself.  I think he probably overestimated the attendance, but it sounded like a 1000 during the night.

The ceremony was being held in a vacant lot right next the the house neighboring the hotel compound.  Emmet not only knew the owner of the house, but one of the Acdi/Voca staff members, Anna, lives in the house.   Emmet was able to get us an invitation from the host — in his three years in Haiti Emmet had never been to a ceremony.   We were warmly welcomed by the host and he rounded up chairs for us right up front.  The ceremony was dedicated to the host’s father who was recently killed in a car accident.  The goal of the ceremony was to cast away the spirits who had caused the family’s tragedy.

Front row at the Voodoo ceremony.

Front row at the Voodoo ceremony.

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