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Luke Melia

Mini-Review of Amazon Echo

I got an Amazon Echo on Tuesday. The always-available voice interaction model is pretty awesome and feels ripe with possibility.

Out of the box, I find our new friend Alexa most useful for giving me the weather forecast as I’m getting dressed. As the person in my household who is asked what the weather is going to be like each morning (why me?), it gives me much joy to be able to delegate this task to Alexa.

I would love if the Echo could tell who is speaking (i.e. different members of my family). That would open up some some fun interactions. Also, as others have reported, the Echo has trouble understanding my 7 year old daughter, though it is remarkably good with the rest of us.

The privacy issues are worrisome to me. Along with our computers, tablets and phones, there’s now one more hackable internet connected microphone in my apartment. It seems inevitable that a determined hacker will compromise a target’s Echo to transmit everything. But for now… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I spent some time with the dev kit today and wrote my first “skill” for Alexa. I call it “The Fish” and it aims to address another annoyance in my household. We have a fish (who everyone is kind of ambivalent about because she killed the other fish that arrived with her). The kids are generally supposed to feed her but sometimes forget, leading my wife or I to query in a loud voice, “Did anyone feed the fish today?”. Enter my new skill. When you feed the fish, you say “Alexa, tell the fish that I fed her.” Alexa pings my web service (implemented on AWS Lambda in node) which pushes the time stamp into a redis “fish-feedings” list, and instructs Alexa to reply “OK, got it. Thanks for feeding the fish”. Later, instead of the loud query, we can say, “Alexa, ask the fish if she has been fed” and it will reply “The fish was last fed 3 hours ago” thanks to the same web service reading the most recent timestamp and generating a humanized version of it (e.g. “3 hours ago”). We’ll see how well it works, but I’m rather tickled to hear it in action.

For anyone else who wants to build skills using AWS Lambda, a couple of tips: 1) forget to add Alexa Skill Kit as an Event Source to your Lambda functions. 2) if you want to use redis like I did, don’t try to use the AWS Elasticache redis because it can only be seen by EC2 instances; I used redistogo instead.

I’m looking forward to hearing how others extend it!

Patterns for Push in Ember & Ember Data

Presented at Wicked Good Ember in Boston.

Glazier demo at Boston Javascript

Through my Ember.js consultancy, I have been working with the rest of the Yapp team and some talented folks at Tilde and MHE Labs on a technology proof of concept combining Ember with Oasis.js and Conductor.js to create an app framework that allows for the composition of many apps leveraging iframes for isolation and an elegant communication model. I recently demoed the app, called Glazier, at a Boston Javascript event called “The Future of Cards”.

Video below. My demo starts at 34:12.

Events & Actions in Ember.js

I delivered this talk at the Boston Ember.js Meetup on Thursday, September 12th, 2013. (Jump to 0:58:10 for my talk)

Refactoring from jQuery to Ember

I delivered this talk at the Ember.js NYC Meetup on Thursday, May 24th, 2013. (Jump to 11:52 for my talk.)

Introducing Yapp Labs

The team at Yapp has been busy building toward Yapp’s vision: to make mobile app creation accessible to anyone and everyone. The early versions of our product have received rave reviews from our users and press including the Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, the BBC, and many others. We’re just getting started, though — we have a very ambitious vision for where we want to take Yapp.

The other thing we’ve been busy doing is helping to build Ember. As you may know, our team at Yapp has some serious Ember chops. We enjoy contributing our skills and knowledge to the Ember community in the form of code contributions to Ember core, mentoring newer Ember developers, running the successful Ember.js NYC Meetup group, and more.

To date, we’ve done this all in our “spare time,” while building Yapp. Ambitious visions require resources, of course, and when it came time to think about funding the next stage of Yapp’s growth, we decided to explore an alternative to traditional venture funding and be true to our vision and what we love to do – making apps accessible to everyone, ordinary folks and developers alike. Out of this exploration, Yapp Labs was born.

The goal of Yapp Labs is to enrich the Ember community by helping companies to develop internal Ember expertise, resolve tough bugs and performance issues, fill in missing functionality of Ember core, and ultimately ship great apps that make us all proud to be associated with Ember.

To that end, we have begun offering the following services:

Sponsored OSS development

As awesome as Ember already is, there is a very long list of improvements to make the development experience and production experiences as good as they can be.

If shortcomings in a particular aspect of Ember or the Ember ecosystem are a frustration for you, you have three options: you can roll up your sleeves and fix it, wait for someone else to fix it, or engage with professionals like us to get it fixed. Much of Ember’s progress has come from companies generously funding talented developers to devote some full-time focus to particular areas of Ember.

Ember.js training

We have been cultivating Ember talent and building a community of professional Ember developers in New York and Seattle through the meetups in each of those cities. Through Hacker Hours, our liberal co-working invitations, and online venues, our team has now personally mentored hundreds of Ember developers.

We can develop and deliver a customized curriculum to help your team get started or level up their Ember skills. Courses can be customized to half-day, full-day, or multi-day lengths.

Support contracts

When deciding to adopt an open source project, it can help to know that you have a vendor to call if you get stuck. Our support contracts let you know that you’ll have an expert available to you if you get stuck. Support contracts include several hours per month of assistance and troubleshooting from an experienced Ember developer.

Ember app development (mobile, tablet & desktop)

Through our work on Yapp, we have rare expertise in Ember on mobile, where performance is critical, and in implementing cutting-edge user experiences in a wide variety of form factors. Our team members bring strong Ruby on Rails skills to build the performant and easy-to-maintain back-ends that are necessary for an Ember app that works and feels great.

Our favorite way to work is to augment an existing team, so that when it’s time for us to move on, we’ve leveled-up a few more Ember experts in the world and know that your app will be in good hands.

We’re excited about this new offering. If you’re interested in working with us, get in touch: luke _at_ yapp.us.

Introduction to Ember.js

I delivered this talk at the Ember.js NYC Meetup on Thursday, March 28th, 2013.

Async Routing in Ember.js

This talk was delivered to the Ember.js NYC Meetup on Tuesday, September 18th.

Architecting Ember.js Apps

This talk was delivered to the Ember.js NYC Meetup on Wednesday, August 22nd.

Github post-receive hooks and SSL certificates

I’m working on getting a CI server setup for Yapp with Jenkins and the Jenkins github plugin. I ran into a puzzling roadblock that I will now blog for future me’s and you’s running into the issue.

The issue was that I was never seeing the github web hook request hitting my Jenkins server. I verified that I had setup the plugin correctly and disabled authentication for the web hook URL. After a bunch of experimentation and dead ends, my brother-in-law Micah suggested that perhaps Github is aborting when it sees the self-signed SSL certificate that I was using on the CI server. Sure enough, once I replaced the self-signed cert with a commercial cert from a recognized CA, everything started working perfectly.

LukeMelia.com created 1999. ··· Luke Melia created 1976. ··· Live With Passion!
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