Counting people on stairs – or IoT with a particle photon and node.js

In this article I will show you in 3 easy steps how to actually get started with an IoT a project build with a particle photon and a node.js server in order to have your own dashboard. I admit, IoT is a bit of a trend these days, and yes I jumped on the bandwaggon too. But since visiting the maker faire Zürich I have seen so many enthousiastic people building things, it has also motived me to also try out something. Thats why I decided to count the people that are running up and down our stairs at Liip. Follow along if you are – like me – a total noob when it comes to connecting wires but still want to experience the fun of building IoT devices.


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Startup tool inspiration – what we use

Liip has a fair number of startup customers who often struggle with finding the right set of tools, so I will share here a bit what we are using on a daily basis. We traditionally use a lot of open source tools in our projects. For our infrastructure tooling we also use a fair bit of open source but also an ever increasing amount of SaaS products. Additionally we build some tools internally, some of which we have made open source. One of my holacracy roles is called “Platform Gardener” with the purpose “Provide corporate-wide streamlined digital services and tools”. This role gives me a pretty good overview of the tools we use, which I would like to share below.

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An opensource Drupal theme for the Swiss Confederation

After having contributed to the official styleguide of the Swiss Federal Government and having implemented it on a couple of websites, we decided to go further and bring these styleguide into a theme for Drupal, a well-known, pluripotent and robust CMS we implement regularly at Liip.

Screenshot  of Drupal theme for the Swiss Confederation

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Personal report about Drupal Developer Days Milano 2016

DDD is mostly for – surprise! – Drupal developers. This year it took place between 21 and 26 of June in Milan. People were on code sprints all week long and on Thursday, Friday and Saturday there were sessions and workshops as well.

I went to 2 sessions. The keynote of Bojan Živanović was about building reusable php libraries. Bojan is the architect behind Drupal Commerce 2 which is a prominent example of adopting the “leave the Drupal island” principle. They are not only advocating the usage of external solutions in Drupal but also creating libraries that are usable outside Drupal.

The session of Major Zsófi about organizing Drupal events could not have come from a more authentic source. She shared her experience about the practical aspects of building a community and the importance of providing coffee.

All session recordings are or will be available online.

I attended three workshops. A really excellent one by Florian Loretan was about the trending search solution, elasticsearch. Pieter Frenssen had a workshop about Automated testing in Drupal 8. For me this proved to be the most valuable one since I could not keep up with the changes in this field since Drupal 7 and I need it in my contrib work. All my respects to Pieter who was able to present for 3.5 hours in a way that noone fell asleep even though we were just after lunch.

The third workshop I attended was my own 2 hours workshop about Caching in Drupal 8. I learnt a lot about this important topic during preparation and since only around one person left the room it might have been useful for the audience as well.

In the sprint room I joined the Commerce team. The team seemed to have been cursed. A laptop was stolen from the sprint site on Wednesday. Then on Thrusday night Bojan’s MacBook got also stolen from a restaurant with days of uncommitted work. Fortunately, with the effective help of the organizers (which among others included providing the victims a spare laptop and taking them to the police to file a report) they could participate in the sprints only with a minimal amount of delay. As a result we could finish several issues in the Commerce, Commerce Migrate, Token and Address modules.

Sightseeing with drupalists

Sightseeing with drupalists

But the most important part of DDD was the social aspects. I met old friends and got to know new interesting people. Wednesday evening there was a quantitywise challenging dinner for speakers. On other nights we visited several parts of the beautiful city of Milano. Huge thanks to all the organisers, you did an amazing job! Hope to see you next year!


Swiss Confederation, the Styleguide version 3

What is a StyleGuide for ?

It is a long-term and flexible solution listing and exemplifying web components and tools useful to create a website. For instance, it explains how to use each component, how they should appear on the web and interact. It is a support for developers while integrating, and useful for designers, as it allows them to keep a general vision on the style and the system’s functionalities. It is obviously necessary to keep a StyleGuide up-to-date, anytime the Corporate Design or Corporate Identity is modified.

Why is it for the Swiss Confederation useful?

The Swiss Confederation is split in multiple departments, each of them owning one or more website. The StyleGuide supplies them a common ground for the creation and their websites, while ensuring a coherent visual identity for the user. The StyleGuide does not only offers web-component AA certified according to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines’ recommendations about accessibility, it also provides additional information. The StyleGuide aims at ensuring a wide access to information to any kind of users, including disabled people (for instance sight or hearing disability). These recommendations are also useful to all users.

Swiss Confederation Web Guideline 3

Swiss Confederation web guidelines define the graphic guidelines of the Swiss Confederation on the web. It ensure coherence on the different websites developed under the domain.

Innovations of the 3 version

  1. Change in the system generating the StyleGuide. Hologram (coded in Ruby) was replaced by Fabricator (identic but coded in Node). It facilitates its installation and development with Windows
  2. It is translated in the swiss national languages
  3. The components’ accessibility is improved (AA)
  4. Problems raised on Github solved

Who are the users ?

The StyleGuide is to be used by internal federal project manager and external service providers. The code is opensource, each can use, modify, solve issues or propose improvement. The StyleGuide is very convenient to use in all projects and easy to install with NPM or Bower. It is possible to download an archive or duplicate the project from Github. The whole installation process is available on Github.

The last version of the StyleGuide is built on a Fabricator. It is automatically multilingually generated with Gulp. Gulp is also gathers and improve all necessary files for the framework to work properly. The documentation is written in markdown, the components are dynamic templates Handlebars. The translation is performed with the support of a personalised Handelbars, referencing translated files in YAML.

State of Drupal Commerce for Drupal 8

The two biggest players in the Drupal 7 webshop field are Drupal Commerce (also known as DC1) and Übercart. DC1 actually started as an Übercart rewrite to make use of Drupal 7 APIs. After the split Übercart was ported to Drupal 7 too but it was still using Drupal 6 technologies.

Although still very much in development, it seems something similar will be true for Drupal 8 as well. The developers of DC2 (the Drupal 8 version of Drupal Commerce), lead by Bojan Živanović rewrote the whole system from scratch to make use of the huge changes in Drupal 8. They are active members of the Drupal developer community so they not only know but also form the actual best practices. While working on DC2 they have fixed many dozens of Drupal 8 core issues and much more in other contributed modules (such as Entity, Inline Entity Form, Profile).

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Predicting how long the böögg is going to burn this year with a bit of eyeballing and machine learning.

So apparently there is the tradition of the böögg in Zürich. It is a little snowman made out of straw that you put up on top of a pole, stuff with explosives and then light up. Eventually the explosives inside the head of the snowman will catch fire and then blow up with a big bang. The tradition demands it that if the böögg explodes after a short time, there will be a lot of summer days, if it takes longer then we will have more rainy days. It reminds me a bit of the groundhog day. If you want to know more about the böögg, you should check out the wikipedia pageäuten.

Now people have started to bet on how long it will take for the böögg to explode this year. There is even a website  that lets you bet on it and you can win something. In my first instinct I inserted a random number (13 min 06 seconds) but then thought – isn’t there a way to predict it better than with our guts feeling? Well it turns out there is – since we live in 2016 and have open data on all kinds of things. Using this data, what is the prediction for this year?

590 seconds – approximately 10 minutes.

We will have to see on Monday to see if this prediction was right – but I can offer you to show now how I got to this prediction with a bit of eyeballing and machine learning. (Actually our dataset is so small that we wouldn’t have to use any of the tools that I will show you, but its still fun.)

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Les Rencontres Hivernales du Libre, deuxième édition

Winter Libre meetup, second edition.

As member, I again had the opportunity to take part to the Rencontres Hivernales du Libre (roughly translated as ‘Winter Libre meetup’), up in the jura, in St-Cergue. This week-end-long meetup, organized for the second time this year, aims at gathering all libre-related actors. This article, originally written in french, tells you the story of what happened there, who attended and did what.

Les Rencontres Hivernales du Libre, deuxième édition

Dans le cadre de l’association dont je suis membre, j’ai à nouveau eu le plaisir de participer aux Rencontres Hivernales du Libre, du 8 au 10 janvier passés. Ces rencontres, organisées pour la deuxième fois en 2016, ont pour but de rassembler les acteurs romands du Libre, dans sa définition la plus large.

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Property Based testing : QuickCheck and co

Around the same time last year, I made a presentation of php-quickcheck to my colleagues. This nifty library allows you to quickly test your functions with thousands of generated inputs to easily find bugs in your software by using a technique called property based testing.

The main advantage is that you don’t have to think of test values anymore, just write a generator and let the library do all the work. This way you can concentrate on describing the features of your application instead of loosing time writing tests. It is also a great tool to find edge cases you’ve never even dreamed off.

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Git : Tips & Tricks

Git is a really powerful tool but it can sometimes be hard to grasp some concepts and the way of doing some things is convoluted.

In the following post, I’ll try to list a few tips and tricks to make your life easier.

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