Aberdeen TechMeetup

20 May 2010

Even with good weather we had a decent crowd indoors with some new faces, which is good to see.

Gordon Murrison on From 35,000 feet to a shipping product

Gordon broke his talk into a design part and an engineering part. In the design part he told us that user experience (ux) is becoming just as important as writing good code. You do need to think of your users. Features make the ux and these need to start small and grow. However, you can’t put in what you think is ‘cool’ but rather think of the whole, and how by removing features you can actually make a better product. This is how the coffee grinder at his office works: it’s so well desigend you can’t use it wrong, and that’s how our software should be too. Don’t add features that will detract from the message of your software. As to the engineering side of things, he focused on three parts: source control, unit testing and automation. Use source control to keep everything in one place, and use its branching and tagging features appropriately. With unit testing we should test early and test often as a means to keep your code in line and and build confidence in the codebase for the futrue. Lastly, let automation take the strain of doing repetitive tasks for us so that we don’t have to do them by hand which also reduces human error. He recommended Cruise Control.rb as a way to automate the build system, which he also recommended putting in place right at the start so that you know what integration issues are there and that they can be resolved early in the process. He finished by showing his build monitoring system that provides visual feedback of the state of the build by hooking up red and green lamps.

Martin Evans on Arduino and Ruby

Martin told us about using the the open source hardware boards based on Arduino, and how you can add shields to them for extra functionality like wifi, Bluetooth and USB, as well as adding a variety of sensors too. He then compared the given arduino software programming language with doing it all using the Ruby Arduino Development gem, which is much simpler to use: rake make:upload and away you go. You can also use a variety of plugins in this as you do with other ruby projects. Lastly, we had a short demo of his robot car which uses sensors to detect objects and avoid collisions and a discussion about the affordability of Arduino projects.

Afterwards it was time for more beer and pizza while discussing the evenings talks. Thanks to all who came, and remember next time to bring a friend.

Videos of both presentations will be online in the next few days.