Hello, I’m a Glass Explorer!

Recently, I was given the opportunity to become part of the Google Glass Explorer program.  As a “tech guy”, I was very excited for the opportunity try out these new augmented reality glasses.

There are only a few complaints I have about Glass.  First, there aren’t many applications available right now besides the ones Google provides.  I’m quickly working on fixing this problem, but if you pull Glass out of the box and start using it today then you shouldn’t get your hopes up.  I’ve also let a few friends try Glass and those with actual glasses have had difficulty using Glass.  They end up taking their glasses off so they can see Glass but then can’t see anything else.  It is my understanding that Google is actively working to get Glass working with prescription glasses so hopefully that will improve the Glass experience for those people.

Being a software engineer, I decided that while I couldn’t solve the prescription glasses problem I could work to fix the lack of applications available for them.  One of the first things I wanted to do when I got my pair of Google Glasses is to actually write code for them.  Given my role as systems admin for certain projects, I decided to integrate our server monitoring service (shout-out to CopperEgg) with Glass so I could receive alerts right to my Glass instead of receiving them via email on my phone.  After a quick read through the CopperEgg API, I quickly added my custom URL as a push notification when any alert triggers.  Once I had my website set up to receive these notifications, I then had to actually do something with them.  Another quick read through the Google Mirror documentation and I identified the APIs made available to send cards (Google’s fancy name a timeline item) directly to a person’s Glass.  A few hours later (mostly spent banging my head against the keyboard as I tried to get Google’s permission system to actually send Glass cards to my account) I finally had a working implementation.  Over the past few days I’ve tested the alerts and am very pleased with the notifications on Glass.

So where do we go from here?  I’m currently working on extending the CopperEgg monitoring to include some of the other metrics made available to us (like being able to cycle through all your server stats which update every XX minutes) and extending it for other notification platforms such as Rackspace.  I’m also working on a full-fledge piece of Glassware (Glass app) to make full use of Glass’s accelerometers and other functionality.

Drupalcon Portland – A Tale of MongoDB

It seems like just yesterday we traveled cross country to the little town of Portland for the annual U.S. Drupalcon.  As we left Baltimore on Sunday morning, we could tell we weren’t the only ones going out to Drupalcon.  There were quite a few travelers on the plane with “nice nodes” T-shirts or carrying enough technology with them to run what seemed like a mobile production studio.  As even more Drupal devs joined our flight in Salt Lake City, I knew I was going to the right place.

One of the things I like about Drupal events is their “Birds of a Feather” (BOF) sessions.  For those that don’t know, on the first day of the conference the organizers put out a blank white board divided into a grid by room number and time.  Once the white board is put up, it becomes a free for all to sign up for a session that you would like to talk about.  These sessions are informal and relatively small, only 20-40 people, but let attendees discuss things that don’t have a designated speaker during the regular conference sessions.  On Wednesday, I co-hosted a BOF session about MongoDB.

At Mindgrub, we use MongoDB in Drupal because of the performance enhancements it provides.  MongoDB is a NoSQL database providing near instant read/write times when queried.  If you have a content type with a lot of fields, you should consider using MongoDB because it will store all those fields on the node object, rather than in separate tables.  As we all sat around discussing the advantages and disadvantages of MongoDB, we heard stories from the developers of Examiner.com and one of the lead developers at 10Gen, the makers of MongoDB.

Both 10Gen, and the development team behind Examiner had interesting stories to tell about the inception of MongoDB into the Drupal world.  We heard stories ranging from incredible ease and success to days of banging heads against the wall because of performance issues.  10Gen was very open about what MongoDB was good for in Drupal and where things still needed work.  At the end of the session, I think we convinced quite a few of the other attendees to at least consider MongoDB for their next Drupal project.

Some of the pros of using MongoDB are:

  • It is fast.  Really fast.
  • You avoid having to join lots of tables together when loading a node
  • Database schemas become very easy to adjust.  Need to store a new piece of data on a node, just save it with the rest of the data
  • Community Support
  • Handles big data very well, especially if that data has a lot of variation in structure

In the interest of full disclosure, some of the cons of MongoDB are:

  • A non-relational database makes doing relationships difficult.  I know this sounds obvious but most people tend to forget it until they try and do a join on an Entity Field Reference.
  • Views integration is provided, but there are some limitations.
  • There are some things in Drupal that don’t play nicely with MongoDB.  For example, saving the weights of taxonomy terms in a vocabulary is done using direct database queries which means the MongoDB module can’t intercept them and save them properly.  I worked around this by adding my own submit handler and rewriting that code to save the weight in MongoDB.

In the end, MongoDB is a wise choice for you if you have a lot of data or data with a lot of variation.  If you are making a small, static site I would not recommend MongoDB for your project because it is overkill for your project.

Are you using MongoDB or have a question about its integration with Drupal?  I would love to hear your success (or horror) stories and will gladly answer any questions you have.


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