Dec 032010

Over the past 6 months or so I’ve been spearheading the re-write of RPI’s Shuttle Tracking system into something less RPI-specific to make it useful to other organizations.  Part of this has been small semantic changes like removing RPI-specific words, location references (like the hard coded map center) and CAS-based authentication, but on a much larger level the application was restructured to do a lot more.

Both old and new systems store the same data (vehicles, vehicle positions, routes, and stops along the routes) but you no longer have to directly manipulate the database to hide a stop from the map and you don’t have to understand how to build a KML file to change the route around anymore.  Additionally, the new system feel much less “hacky” if that makes any sense, things are where they should be (for the most part) and there’s actually some back end pages worth showing off; we’ll be able to iterate and release new features much faster.

I am always impressed when an interface get’s polished, but I’m rarely the one to do it (Thanks Reilly!)… what I can take credit for is the switch to Ruby on Rails 3.  Flagship Geo was a primary driver behind this, Rails 3 was necessary to pull in all those resources like the route and stop editors, but Rails 3 should also provide some performance enhancements.

The server has also been upgraded to include Ruby 1.9.2 via RVM because I think that makes it harder to break things.  When the site goes into production we’ll be serving using Passenger 3 to, in theory, speed up our web server end of the pipe.

As for the timeline of this release, the current system is staging in beta at RPI for performance testing / feedback.  After I’m satisfied the new one is performing at least as well as the old one it will be switched into production.  In the meantime, you can follow development on github:

Jul 232009

I spent most of my time this week trying to make things go faster without upgrading the old server things are running on. One of the bigger slowdowns I noticed was BackgrounDRb which wasn’t only taking up a hefty chunk of memory when running, but was also querying the database non-stop looking for new jobs in the queue.

I ended up switching out BackgrounDRb with Workling/Starling. While I lost the persistent job queue (something I’ll look into handling internally) the performance gains I’ve noticed are pretty significant. This change has been committed and pushed to github and I was looking forward to saying you can check out how I did it here but it looks like the change was too significant for GitHub to track. You can always download a local copy of the code and see what I changed if you’re interested.

It boiled down to installing working, starling, and some dependencies (like daemons). Converting the actual background scripts was pretty straightforward. I had to change the top of the classes to reference Workling instead of BackgrounDRb and strip out references to the persistent job queue. In the controllers/models that call the conversion I adjusted my function usage slightly (removed the hash wrapper I had on my arguments) and presto, things were working.

On another note, this week the Concerto team launched the Concerto public site at Its a pretty great looking site! I also spent some time working on the new version of Shuttle Tracking at RPI, which will be released under an Open Source license this year. I’ve slowly been re-writing the user portion of the application in Ruby on Rails and trying to optimize the code as much as I can for maximum performance. The javascript has also been completely reworked so we can use the faster Google Maps V3 API when they add functionality for polylines, or something that will allow us to draw the shuttle routes.

Jun 072009

I spent some time today polishing up the basic video create/view/update/delete pages so they are a little easier to use. Not being a great CSS designer, I opted to use the Blueprint CSS framework [released under the MIT Lisense] to make things easier… I’ve never been a fan of manually crafting stylesheets for very complicated pages, and knowing that someone else will deal with the various browser-compatability hacks is a big relief. In addition to Blueprint, I’m using the Silk icon set from FamFamFam. I think I’ve used this icon set in just about every project I’ve done that doesn’t someone who is a “designer”. I was pleasently surprised to see they have icons for film.

On the coding front of things, the simple management (CRUD) of videos and collections is complete. I need to do a bit more work for adding additional videos to a collection, which I hope to have done by Wedneday… then I’m onto thumbnailing and conversion.