Post Facebook Camp Hackathon, Pre Yahoo Open Hack All Stars 2011

Facebook held it’s Camp Hackathon at UIUC yesterday, and it was another great experience. Sam and I built a system to remotely control your iTunes music library via text messaging, a web interface and voice. Technologies used were Python, PHP, Twilio and NodeJS (NowJS and Express). I’m a huge fan of NowJS, it’s an excellent product that makes realtime communication in NodeJS so much simpler, and it opens up a world of possibilities in terms of applications that can be built. It’s the fourth time I’ve used this library, and each time it’s elegance blows me away. The same holds true for Express.  Robust and easy to use (though we didn’t use it heavily for this project). All the text messaging stuff was handled via Twilio, another service that I am a huge fan of. 

Heading out to New York tomorrow for the Yahoo Open Hack All Stars 2011. I’m super excited for this event and can’t wait for the competition to begin!

Snip: clone using Express and Redis

I’ve been wanting to learn and write something using Redis and Nodejs for the past few days. While scouring the Internet for knowledge I came across this article that describes how to implement a simple clone using Redis and nodejs. I used this article as ‘inspiration’ and modified their sample application.

Instead of using Nerve for routing and returning html in the form of a string, I decided to use Express to build the application and Jade for the templates. I also replaced Pygmentize, used for syntax highlighting, with a Javascript syntax highlighter. Lastly, I swapped the Redis module ‘redis-client’ with the recommended ‘redis’ module instead. I then rewrote the application using these new tools.

Code is here. 


Mozilla World Series of Hack

Sam and I took part in Mozilla’s World Series of Hack held on 7/22/11 7.30pm to 7/23/11 7.30am. The rules of this contest were slightly different from previous hackathons I’ve attended: contestants were allowed to start work on their projects as early as 7/15. They would then have 12 hours to work on it during the event and then they must demo at 8.00am. 

Sam and I had an idea that we started working on sometime around 7/19, but on the day of the competition we decided to completely change our idea and build something in the 12 hour period.

We wanted to implement a clone in 12 hours. Our concept revolved around a social music experience, where peers (users) connected to hubs (channels) and within a hub they could play music that would be heard by all peers connected to that hub. Each hub would have a ‘now-playing’ queue and songs added by peers would get added to this queue. Everyone present in the hub could also chat with other users present in the hub.

We implemented our idea using node.js, making heavy use of the awesome NowJS library for communication between the server and the clients. All audio playback was handled using html5.

NowJS is a wonderful library, and it was no suprise that a LOT of teams at the event took full advantage of it’s capabilities. The guys from NowJS were also at the event and were super helpful. 

Overall, the event was a great experience, and I learnt a lot in 12 hours. Kudos to Mozilla and the engineers from all the other companies who helped make WSOH kickass.


Tweet streamer using Node.js

A day or two ago I decided to learn Node.js and was looking for tutorials and articles on the internet for the same. In my quest for knowledge I came across this tutorial that talks about building a real-time tweet streamer using Node. Unfortunately, the code as presented on the website doesn’t work, I guess due to changes in the Node API since the tutorial. After a bit of researching and digging around in the Node API docs, I managed to produce a version that works.

Be warned though, this application makes a LOT of requests to the Twitter API resulting in your application being banned for an hour from using the Twitter API. Also, this is the first node application that I have written, so I might be making a lot of beginner mistakes. Please forgive me for this. The goal of writing this application was to have a working version of what was presented to us in the tutorial.

The version of node I am using(based on the output of 'node -v') is 'v0.5.0-pre'.

Here is my code.