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Archive for February, 2013

OpenDataDay Hackathon at Kwartzlab

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 27th February 2013

Open Data Waterloo Region


On International OpenDataDay four teams of hackers from OpenDataWR gathered at Kwartzlab to work on Food Premise Inspection Data, modelling new transit routes and route changes with GTFS data, improving the server for the Catchr transit app, a proof-of-concept pushbutton app for Android, and creating a Get Map button for OpenStreetMap in the Thunderbird Lightning add-in.

Hackers at Kwartzlab OpenDataDay Hackathon at Kwartzlab. Clockwise: Koo (back to camera), Ralph, Michael, Mike, Brett, Jonathan. Missing: Darcy, William, Katherine, Bob.


William and I worked on the Get Map button. Although we had hoped to create some working code, we got only as far as making a mock-up of Lightning’s Edit Event screen:

Screenshot of Thunderbird Lightning Edit Event screen
Lightning “Edit Event” screen, showing the new “Get Map” button


The first hurdle we ran into is that Lightning source code is kept in a Mercurial repository. Although William was familiar with Perforce (another code revision system), I haven’t used Mercurial until now. And the repository contained all of Thunderbird, Firefox, SeaMonkey, and the Mozilla addins. We certainly didn’t want to clone the entire Mozilla code base! So William found the Lightning tarball, which I unpacked in a new folder. This let us poke around the source files to find where our new code should go.

Then we found that Lightning isn’t straight Javascript, it’s mostly XUL. XUL is close enough to XHTML, CSS and DTD files that we could figure out what needed to be done. But we had a limited amount of time, and I didn’t want to spend it waiting for source code to build. So I created a new profile in Thunderbird, installed a fresh copy of the Lightning add-in, and we hacked at the installed files directly. This gave us instant feedback on the changes we made, just by restarting Thunderbird and running Lightning. Some of the changes were in plain text files, but others needed to be made to files in JAR format. One of those was the localized language file. We weren’t sure which language file we were using, en-GB or en-US. Of course, we picked the wrong one to start with, and spend maybe two hours trying to debug a misleading error message about a missing entity definition while we were working on the wrong file.

But it all turned out OK in the end. Now we need to take the work we did on the installed files and replicate it on the source files from the Mercurial repository, properly build Lightning from source, and offer our changes to the Mozilla Calendar project. And, once we’ve got it working, we’ll make the changes available on this site too.

–Bob and William.

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