SerenityOS

For the last few months, I’ve been absolutely fascinated with the SerenityOS project and it’s awe-inspiring rate of progress. For every day that goes by, new features and bug-fixes get merged in, and development screencasts from the creator Andreas Kling are an almost daily occurence. The operating system itself follows a design philosophy that has all-but-disappeared from computing in the last 15 years or so – a philosophy that I, along with every other fan of this project, want so badly to reappear in the modern computing landscape. See below for a screenshot as of November 2019 —

Screenshot of SerenityOS as of November 2019

It could be nostalgia, real productivity value, or both that drives my want for a return this kind of desktop computing metaphor. No animations, superfluous UI trinkets, padding or dark patterns. I’d describe it as a snapshot of the personal computing metaphor where the utility value for software developers was at it’s highest; right before a seemingly general pivot from what I’d call ‘focus-on-productivity’ computing to ‘focus-on-consumption’ computing. What we left behind in the early 2000s was, in my opinion, the perfection of the desktop metaphor for computing professionals.

In a spot of boredom last night, I attempted to get SerenityOS running in a virtual machine on my Surface Book 2. This proved harder than I’d had expected, so I’ll quickly outline the steps I took to get the development build working – in case anyone else can derive some value from my learnings.

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Open Live Writer, Blogger and Google Drive now working

docklands-laptop

Photo: Open Live Writer running on Windows 10, taken at Docklands Melbourne. This image was published to this Blogger blog with Open Live Writer.

Beginning from the next release of Open Live Writer (0.6.3), Blogger users will now be able to successfully post images to their blogs again. After being affected by the issue myself in my own usage of the software, I took it upon myself to develop and deliver a fix. Today, Open Live Writer will, instead of uploading to Google Photos using the now non-functional Picasa API, upload to Google Drive, publicly link-share the photo, and then embed the direct URL to the image within your post. This all happens automatically from within Open Live Writer, there are no work-arounds or hacks at play.

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Introducing PTData–easily obtain Victorian public transport data in a tabular format

Update 29/5/21: I currently no longer work on PTData and have taken it offline. Let me know if you would find some use in it!

Today marks the public release of my newest project, PTData. PTData makes obtaining data from the PTV API easy by displaying it in a tabular format, linking the data together via clickable links, and making all of it available for download as CSV. PTData can currently request lists of routes, lists of stops, lists of departures and a service’s stopping pattern, with more features planned for the future.

My initial intention for this project was to make it easier to import bus timetable data into Excel. Copy/paste just wasn’t formatting into the cells correctly for me, so that led to me entering in the times manually. This quickly became a tedious and frustrating process, which was what initially spurred me to start the project. Almost exactly two weeks later, and here we are.

The site sports quite a simple design as it currently stands, and that for the most part has been intentional. In ways I’m nostalgic for the bare-bones web design trends of the early 2000s, but at the same time it serves the practical purpose of being information-dense. In regards to the technology powering the site, I’ve kept it quite simple as to help with getting the site off the ground as quick as possible. The site itself is written in Ruby, utilising the Sinatra web framework and Dylan Shaw’s ruby-ptv-api gem. As for why I chose Ruby and Sinatra, it’s pretty much what I’m most comfortable with for developing web applications of this nature. I can see myself changing languages and frameworks going forward should the need arise.

There is currently no dedicated database storing the information from PTV permanently, although I do have the rendered pages being cached by nginx and then later Cloudflare to ease load on the API. I do plan to integrate a database eventually, and this would open a whole world of opportunities in regards to working with the data. On a surface level, it would allow for the rendering of a traditional ‘timetable’ view, but going further it would make possible some interesting analysis. Average delay per route, how time of day affects the network, etc.

The site’s code is open-source over at https://github.com/nvella/ptdata, and I do welcome any issue reports, ideas, or pull requests. The codebase is very rudimentary as it currently stands, however I do quickly see it becoming a rather complex project with numerous backend services performing different tasks.

By now you’re probably wondering what I’m going to use it for. For a long time I’ve wanted to perform an analysis on the bus timetables and connections in the Latrobe Valley. From experience I’ve found the inter-modal and inter-route connections to be quite poor, but with this tool I can now state with exact numbers just how bad it actually is. Stay tuned for a future blog post…