I found it hard to believe, that it’s been 4 years now since I finished the previous installment of “language of the month” column, in which I pick a programming language and dive in for a month to see something new. In that 4 years I have learned a lot of programming for sure – though probably very little computer science, and barely any new languages. It’s time to chance, and for the revival of this I’m checking out Rust.
A while ago I came across the Formosa (Taiwan) City Plans, U.S. Army Map Service, 1944-1945 collection, in the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection of the University of Texas in Austin. I’m a sucker for maps, enjoy learning about history a lot, and I have a lot of interest in my current home, Taiwan – so you can call this a magic mix of cool stuff.
There are 26 maps in the collection, made by the US Army by flying over different parts of the island, and mostly I guess stitching together aerial photographs. The maps themselves were not that easy check in an image viewer, since there’s no context, zoom is clumsy, and have no idea where about half the places should be located. Instead, I thought it would be great to have them as an overlay on top of current maps and satellite imagery on Google Maps.
The result is Taiwan City Maps overlays, which does exactly that. Feel free to click the link and explore right now! In the rest of this post, I try to first show how that page was made, and also some history lessons I gained by making it.
After trying Resin.io briefly with a SomaFM Streaming Application, I was eager to experiment more with their cloud deployment platform. Maybe some new hardware, maybe some more complex project… In the end, it became a little bit of both: here’s MrEdison, and portable IRC chat display based on Intel Edison.
The idea came from the fact that we have an IRC channel for the Taipei Hackerspace, #taipeihack on Freenode, just it is not very well (or rather: at all) frequented by people. I wanted to break that channel out of the computer, and put a physical window to it in the ‘space, so people can see what’s going on, and hopefully want to get on too!
I have my fair share of playing with embedded Linux and Internet of Things projects these days, but the real treat is finding projects occasionally that just blow me away. Through some Hacker News comments I ended up checking out Resin.io, a tool that brings cloud deployment and management to embedded applications. That might simple (boring?), but here’s the workflow in a nutshell:
- Start a new application and download an image file for your chosen single board computer (1 of 5 choices at the moment: Raspberry Pi 1 & 2, Parallella, Intel Edison, and BeagleBone Black)
- Flash the image onto an SD card, connect the board to the network, and boot it up
- The board shows up in the cloud management console, and you get a git repo address
- Make an application (Docker, Node.js, etc.), do a git push: voila, your board’s running your app
- Flash a few more SD cards, connect the devices to the network, all of them will run your application
- Modify the app behaviour through environment variables, either all of them at once, or customize each
- Check status, logs, updates, online, and enjoy that things just work!
I cannot emphasise enough how good any service feels that 1) runs by git pushing code, and 2) just works.
Grabbed my RaspberryPi that didn’t do much lately, plugged an earphone in it, and started to look for some examples in the docs how to make it play some streaming music.
My previous post, titled SSL status of Taiwanese banks: a sad affair sparked a lot of visits and lot of discussion, clearly touching on something important. It was great to bring to light how well (or badly, in this case) these organizations are doing, as internet security should be one of their key focus.
Many of the organizations improved their setup since then, and it became quite troublesome to manually check each bank and each change, update the table and so on. It’s also good to have not just a snapshot in time, but a continuous record of how they were doing.
Thus I’ve hacked together some monitoring scripts, put the results online, and here’s the Taiwan Financial Institute SSL Status page.
Page features include:
- Automatically run once a day
- Highlighting issues, showing grade evolution
- RSS feed of grade changes
- Automatic tweeting of daily status and changes as @twbankssl
This is quite a bit more than “minimal features”, but wanted to make something that is actually useful.