Archive for May, 2007

Cartiki, a user edited database of locations

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

Introducing Cartiki, a user edited database of locations. A cartography or map making wiki.

Anyone can add a location name to the database with a corresponding bounds on the map, a parent location, alternate names, and external URLs.
Other features will be released soon based on user feedback, so, send me an email and let me know what else you want to see on Cartiki!

My Web Mapping Background

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

I originally wrote the following as my biography for WhereCamp, an unconference for geo-hackers. I realized that readers of my blog might be interested in this too. Also, if you are going to be in SF next week for Where 2.0, Google Developer Day, or WhereCamp, please contact me if you’d like to meet up.

Hi! I’m Kyle Mulka. I just graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Computer Science. When the Google Maps API first came out, I was really excited about the possibilities and started hacking with it right away. I built a bunch of stuff, some of which you can see on my Google Maps page.

The semester after that summer, I started a class project which was basically Plazes but with more detail inside of buildings at our University. We called it liveUgli. UGLi is short for undergraduate library. Basically, we wanted the site to be a representation of what was currently happening in the library: what people were studying, which groups were meeting, if someone was planning a study break for lunch or frisbee or whatever. It would allow people to find study groups and meet up with friends and classmates. They would be able to more easily discover the people near them, but not close enough to see.

I believe there were many reasons which made liveUgli unsuccessful, the main one being that no one was using it, so the site was useless. This is a problem with all social networking sites. You need a critical mass of users for something like this to be successful. But, beyond that, there was no automatic detection of location (yet), and even the manual method was kind of difficult for users. Many people told me that they didn’t study in the UGLi, so the site was useless to them as well.
I set out to create a system by which we could easily add new location names and maps and floor plans to the system. I ended up calling this system Cartiki which stood for cartography wiki, or map making wiki. Not only would we, the administrators of the site be able to add locations, anyone could add locations in wiki fashion. I’m almost to the point where I’m ready to release Cartiki as a stand alone web application to be used to help people find locations, both on a regular Google Map, and on uploaded floor plans of buildings. This would be ideal as a university/corporate campus room finder.

The ability to upload custom maps and floor plans comes from another system I built for this purpose called the Gmap Uploader. This can also be used separately from Cartiki and liveUgli, especially for viewing high resolution photos.

Amazon’s New Web Services

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Maybe I’m a little biased because I’ll be working for them soon, but I think Amazon’s new web services are really cool. Basically, they offer a really reliable computing infrastructure for developers with a pay-as-you-go pricing structure. You only pay for what you use, and the interfaces are dead simple. They offer both SOAP and REST style web service interfaces.

For 10 cents per hour per CPU, you can rent as many or as few CPUs as you want. And, this can all be controlled automatically via their web service API. You pick the linux distribution, software, and data you want the machine to boot with. This pay-as-you-go computing is called the Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2.

For 15 cents per GB per month, you can store as much or as little data as you want with the Simple Storage Service, or S3. Each file in S3 can be anywhere from 1 byte to 5 GB large. Because of the way REST works, public files can be downloaded directly from the browser, so they can be embeded in or linkable from web pages.

Another service that I just started playing with is called the Simple Queue Service or SQS. At first, it didn’t seem all that useful to me, but I think it will become useful for messaging between unreliable or not on 24/7 systems. My planned use of EC2 doesn’t require my server to be running 24/7, so I’m going to use a queue to accumulate jobs to be processed once the server boots up. As soon as all the jobs in the queue are processed, the EC2 server will shut itself down, saving money in the process.

You may ask: “But Kyle, aren’t you just playing with this stuff? Surely you don’t have a real use for it.” Well, yes and no. I’m playing with it because I think its cool, but I’m also busy developing the Gmap Uploader, a service which allows you to upload any image into the Google Maps framework. This means, you can upload pictures, floor plans, campus maps, and a whole bunch of other stuff that isn’t available as a part of the standard Google Maps. The interface allows you to easily pan and zoom in to large maps and images. If you know or can learn Javascript and have your own web space, you can add markers, and info windows on the custom maps as well using the highly popular Google Maps API.

UPDATE: You can hear a lot more practical usage of Amazon’s web services in this podcast from IT Conversations.


Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

I usually don’t blog about personal stuff, but this whole graduation from college is kind of a big deal. That’s right, I can now call myself an alumnus of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with a degree in Computer Science in Engineering.

Now that I have graduated, the question comes up: “What are you going to do with the rest of your life?”

I at least have a little bit of it planned out. I’m planning a trip to the east coast in the next couple weeks with a couple of my housemates. Then, probably on Memorial Day, I’ll be flying out to Silicon Valley to attend a few conferences involving pretty much exactly what I’m interested in, web-based mapping: Where 2.0, the Google Developer Day, and WhereCamp. After visiting with a few friends there, I’ll come back to Ann Arbor, where I’ll probably just be relaxing. I may decide to visit some other friends in June… possibly in Chicago. Then, I’ll be around for my Grandma’s birthday on the 4th of July.

Shortly after, in mid-July, I’ll be flying to Seattle to start a full-time job at I’ll be working with the Enterprise Multi-Channel group, which basically means we use Amazon’s technology infrastructure to build ordering systems which allow large merchants to receive orders through multiple ordering channels such as on the web, over the phone, and in the store. Last summer, as an Inten with Amazon I worked on Marks and Spencer‘s ordering pipeline… the part where you enter your delivery information. Their new website, powered by Amazon just launched a couple months ago.
What happens after that is anyone’s guess! Maybe you can be a part of it!? Come visit me in Seattle!

Zattoo IPTV Download

Friday, May 4th, 2007

University of Michigan students, staff, and faculty can now download and try Zattoo, a P2P IPTV service within the University of Michigan network. You’ll need a UofM uniqname and password. Check it out:

Zattoo Download