May 2011 Meeting Recap

We’ve been interested in posting about our members, topics of interest, and meetings in more detail for some time now; as our group doesn’t focus on any one specific technology, it’s a lot trickier for outsiders or those considering joining to know what we’re all about.  Starting with this month’s meeting, our intent is to remedy that. Meeting recaps are the first step.  In the future, we’ll hopefully be able to follow up with Code N Splode linkspam touching on issues and technologies that are of interest to us, as well as occasional discussions on topics that arise outside of our monthly meetings.

Our hope is that this will give current participants, potential participants and anybody who is simply interested in learning about the group a better idea of who we are, what we do, and why Code N Splode is a great resource for female technologists in Portland.  If you’ve missed a meeting, we’re hoping these recaps will still give you an opportunity to dig into the topics we’ve discussed on your own time.

May’s meeting theme was Show and Tell.  We covered three topics before we broke for ‘Splode at Bailey’s Taproom.

Addie covered terminal multiplexing in general and tmux in particular.  Terminal multiplexing is a great resource for any developers dealing with long-running processes on remote machines, daemons, session sharing, and difficulties with window management.  The most well-known terminal multiplexer in the *nix universe is GNU screen.  While screen is a powerful tool, its default configuration is not user-friendly and its development has been stagnant for several years.  Addie learned about tmux, a BSD-licensed terminal multiplexer that is undergoing more frequent recent development, and found her experience with the software distinctive enough to share with other developers.

Main takeaways from the tmux discussion:

  • tmux provides a better user experience for beginners than screen: although the status bar that shows up at the start of a tmux session can also be configured in screen, it is only provided as a default in tmux. Not all keybindings need to be committed to memory at the outset thanks to a prompt for long-form versions of commands that are harder to commit to memory. Overall, this means a smaller learning curve for beginners and a more productive initial experience.
  • tmux includes scripting capabilities, allowing users to configure their own keybindings, and start and configure a tmux session (with many individual windows attached) from a shell script.
  • The two biggest drawbacks that Addie had experienced with tmux: only a single command could be piped into sessions and windows configured via shell script (meaning that the configuration of multiple background processes couldn’t be fully automated), and navigation through the output buffer was awkward (requiring a switch to “copy mode” to be able to scroll through past pages of output).
  • Addie’s favorite tmux tutorial can be found at the Hawk Host Blog.

Audrey shared the work she had done with the Ushahidi crowdsource crisis-management tool in her work on a reporting app for PDX food carts.  She discussed the unique challenges presented by keeping track of the local food cart scene: food carts frequently move, open, or go out of business.  Crowdsourcing using this tool is a better means to keep this data relevant and accurate than an older Google maps implementation.

You can participate in keeping this app up-to-date by adding your own cart data via the web interface or by downloading the Ushahidi mobile app for either iPhone or Android apps.  Audrey appreciates your help!

Marissa rounded out the show and tell by sharing her Ride in Style Android app.  The app allows users to request and configure a ride from a local town car service using their mobile devices.  Since the show and tell was informal, we interacted with the app by passing around Marissa’s phone.

Marissa recommends the Android Developer Guide as the most useful resource for developers interested in getting started with creating Android apps.  The SDK is free to download and use, and a developer account for the Android marketplace is only $25.  Most of the issues she ran into during development had already been encountered by other developers through Stack Overflow, a popular question-and-answer site for developers.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday, June 28, 2011, and we’ll be discussing our experiences at Open Source Bridge, a local developer conference that was founded by Code N Splode members and is going strong in its third year (registration for the event is still open!).  Looking forward to sharing what we’ve learned next month!