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March 03, 2008

Phew… Made the Deadline

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Faithful readers know that I promised Mary to have an app ready for her to beta at town meeting tomorrow to collect information on who has what kind of broadband in Stowe and from whom they get it.

I used the Google maps API to build this. It runs as an application on my laptop rather than as a window in a browser because it’s not until my next project that I figure out what many of you already know – how to configure a server to receive all this information. The survey results are saved as an XML file which can go into Excel and lots of other places.

Took me at least forty hours of work to do this simple app. But that’s not a reflection on the Google tools; it just shows how much I had to learn about many things that working programmers already know. Reversing the usual, the first 10% took 80% of the time; the last 90% was a lot easier because I increasingly knew what I was doing.

I could do a new task with these tools of similar complexity in three or four hours.

BTW, the Google sample code was very helpful and got incorporated wherever I could.

At the last minute it looked like we might not be able to use the app. Town Meeting (oh yeah, and primary day, too) are at the High School. No way at the last minute to get my Internet access through the school. Oh, oh. We went up to the school to test today. Despite the fact that cellphone coverage is marginal there (ask the kids), Verizon EVDO with my new battery-boosted USB modem AND the antenna I bought managed to see a bar or two and that was enough for this to work as long as I don’t put the maps in bandwidth-hungry satellite map view.

Wonder if it’ll crash on its first real outing. Did put lots of care into making sure data will not be lost in that case; I’d be in lots of trouble if that happened.

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