Archive for the ‘Open Source’ Category

Building Timelapse Aquarium Video

02/26/2014 Comments off

Aquarium Dropcam

My wife Kathleen and I keep a 29 gallon mixed tropical reef aquarium. For her birthday, I bought her a Dropcam webcam so we could both watch our reef when we’re away from home. Dropcam provides a live, hosted video stream and also has APIs for other data, like still snapshots.

Tropical reefs are teeming with life, though much of it moves at dramatically slower scales of time than we do. For example, when a coral captures food it can take 30 minutes to open it’s mouth, swallow the food, and digest a single bite. Snails, sea urchins, and other invertebrates slowly crawl the sand and glasswork in our tank.

Looking at a single picture of a tropical reef, it’s easy to miss how active the reef is. To show the activity, I wanted to create timelapse video of our aquarium.

Aqurium Timelapse for January 2014

This video distills the entire month of January from 2014 into a few minutes of video. At this scale, you can see our reef is teeming with life.

Dropcam Tools hacking

I started writing a toolkit that would capture a snapshot from our Dropcam every 10 minutes as a still image. Then, I wrote tools to stitch these still images together into timelapse video using ffmpeg.

You can find the source code on Github:

Categories: Aquarium, Open Source

Emoji Gem 1.0 Release

02/12/2014 Comments off

Emoji Gem:

Earlier this week, we are proud to release the complete 1.0 version of the emoji gem on for public use.

What is Emoji?

Emoji are cartoonish icon characters, distributed as a UTF-8 font, like this heart: ❤. Using emoji began in Japan with mobile phones, but has grown in popularity throughout the internet over the last 3-4 years. Unfortunately, emoji character support is incomplete in many cases (like the Chrome browser). Users of Polar Polls easily add emoji on their iPhones and we wanted to support them. However, we needed a way to support emoji on unsupported web platforms.

Enter the emoji gem. The emoji gem bundles a comprehensive emoji index and a complete emoji image library from Phantom Open Emoji. This gem provides a fast and simple Ruby translation between UTF-8, moji characters, and image representations. Additionally, this gem implements a Rails engine that serves up the Emoji image library when replacing characters with images. This gem works in all Ruby interpreters, but will load a native-optimized string engine if it’s available (everywhere but JRuby).


This project began after-hours at the Burlington Ruby Conference in August of 2013. I was having dinner with Steve Klabnik and a handful of other developers at Farmhouse, when Steve mentioned his plans for building an emoji gem. We had struggled with web support for emoji at Polar Polls after enabling emoji support in our iOS app. I exchanged information with Steve and hoped to work together on building a solution.

After the conference, I worked for several weeks putting the first working version together. Steve and I roughed out an outline for the architecture and tools. Shortly after, we opened up the gem to review/contribution from other folks. We were lucky to get several pull requests and I polished a version that Polar Polls could use in production. Over the last 6 months, we’ve collected a handful of fixes and performance tuning to prepare for our 1.0 release.

Thank You!

I’ve been a huge beneficiary of open source software and the community supporting Ruby/Rails. I’m glad to have a chance to build something useful and give back to the community. None of this would have been possible without the following folks:

  • @steveklabnik – for the idea, securing rights to “emoji” gem name, guidance, and publicity for the project
  • @ryan-orr – for transferring the emoji gem account for our new project
  • @mikowitz – for contributing code and adding Ruby String extensions.
  • @semanticart – for contributing code and expanding Ruby version support.
  • @parndt – for improving our docs and README.