Posted on June 29, 2014 by orbital

Photo Credits: Philipp Pohle @ Flickr
Photo Credits: Philipp Pohle @ Flickr

Dear all:

Your second Orbital hurdle is here!  Please make sure to put up your project’ revised README and log into Piazza (see pinned posts @793 and the updated @235) no later than 30 Jun 11:59pm SGT, but preferably as soon as possible).  Make these posts visible to all in your EG.

Thanks to the groups who have at least put in a preliminary or final project README and log into their EG group.  Note that you need to inform your EG adviser in advance of the deadline if for some reason you cannot make the deadline.  You must inform your advisers in advance, or lateness may count against your eligibility for getting credit for Orbital.

In the next week, you’ll also need to do the peer evaluations of your three peer teams in your evaluation group listed in Post @235. These evaluations are due as private posts addressed only to your adviser no later than 7 Jul 11:59pm (exactly 1 week later).

Posted on May 20, 2014 by orbital

[This is an old video from last year (2013) that I think may be useful to those of you attempting Project Gemini or Apollo 11 and doing a web project]

Hi all, I’ve recorded a 26-minute video giving some basics about virtual machines and also showing you how you can use the eforms service from within MySoC to provision yourself a virtual Linux box within SoC for you to play with.

We actually use this service to run the WordPress site, so you can see it can actually be useful to you as a hosting solution as well.

While getting your own server is easy as filling out the virtual paperwork, once you obtain a server, it’s more of an intermediate topic to configure it to be useful to you in some way. You might try installing the common LAMP stack, or installing WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or other content management systems for some extra experience.

Slides here:

2014 edit – If you find going through SoC’s VM process tedious or not as fun as having real-world experience, I suggest that you try out Heroku or Amazon EC2  (latter needs a credit card).  Heroku can host PHP, Python, Node.js, and Ruby web frameworks (incidentally it uses EC2 as its backbone, I think).  If you want to have some exposure to the web backend, you can consider Heroku and if you want more nerdiness and control over your backend, use EC2.

The backend is a big learning curve for neophyte coders and it is the primary reason why we use Google App Engine as our framework in Liftoff — it’s supremely easy to deploy and also easy to forget (until bugs start coming up) that there is a backend to worry about in GAE.  For me, it’s a continuum:

<Little control and responsibility>

  1. Google App Engine <application as a service>
  2. Heroku <platform as a service>
  3. SoC’s VM / Amazon EC2 <virtual machine as a service>
  4. Your own physical server <physical hardware also a characteristic you have to deal with>

<Full control and responsibility>

But don’t take it from me — check out the various debates about these topics on the net.  Your mileage and opinion may vary.

Posted on August 19, 2013 by orbital

Photo Credits: TerryDu @ Flickr

Dear students:

A very big thanks to all of you for making this first iteration of Orbital a rousing success!  You are all winners in that you have taken your own initiative to take charge of your learning through the hacking process of trial-and-error, assessment, iteration, and design.

Let’s be clear that Python and GAE are just the technologies of today, and even six months down the road, the technology will differ.  The constant will be your determination, to find out for yourselves and learn from and build on each other.  With the myriad talks that you have heard, you’ll have realized that your skills are in high demand and that you really can do something great with what you can pick up on your own.

As we sign off for Orbital, we have a few (four) announcements to make:

Certificates: We will be printing certificates for all teams that completed Orbital.  The achievements will have your name (as provided in the registration for credit form that you filled in this/last week), your Orbital level of achievement (Vostok, Project Gemini or Apollo 11) as well as a layman’s explanation of the level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced).  You may pick them up at the Undergraduate Office, hopefully by the end of the week.  Your names and achievement levels will also be made public on the Orbital webpage (if you’d like not be listed, we’ll be happy to honor that; just send us mail) as the 2013 Orbital cohort.

Photos / Videos: from Splashdown will be published out on the Orbital homepage in the Splashdown page.  Look for it in a few days with the certificate announcement.  Student videos that are public on YouTube will be compiled into a public YouTube playlist (hint: use your videos, images of your posters in your next pitch for internships, jobs).

Feedback: This course was put together by learning from all of you (in the early feedback in Sem II) and your SoC club seniors (in Comp Club, NUS Hackers, Student Chapter of the ACM, Games Development Group and the Student Network Associates), but we need your help to improve Orbital for the incoming freshmen who will have a chance to do Orbital next summer.  We’ll be asking you to jog down memory lane and critique Orbital, by letting us know all of the ways that Orbital didn’t work, as well as your aha! moments when you knew there was a better way we could have done things.  We’re also looking for a few good men and women who would like to make Orbital happen for the next batch next year as mentors and TAs for the course.  Please stay tuned for a survey link within the next couple of days — we really do appreciate all your feedback — especially your most critical and helpful comments.

Kudos: Orbital was put together by so much love from so many helpful individuals.  We can’t thank them all for helping out, but we’ll try!  They are hard at work behind the scenes to make it all happen as smoothly as possible.  You probably didn’t realize that the infrastructure requirement for running this course is really tremendous…

For the school: UG office staff (Pei Pei, Arifah: Admin support, Registration support), AV staff (Siti: AV support), Building Facilities staff (Judy: for use of SR1 and SR1 setup), Dean’s office staff (Theresa: Coordination of catering), Technical Services (for poster printing), TAs (Cuong, Tam, Pallav, Camillus and Mansheng; Advising, Booster services, Evaluation, Mission Control), Faculty ( Weng Fai, Khe Chai and all of our staff who came to visit you to see your projects).

External help: Mentors (Siva, Jan, Jing @ Google; Laurence, Ruiwen @ BillPin; Luther @ Gradeful, Pallav, Camillus @ SoC; Calvin @ PUGS; Mickey @ HiredTurf, Michael @ mig33: advising Apollo 11, Liftoff workshop), Venture capital and start-up firms, Orbital Liftoff Workshop / Splashdown Closing / Mission Control Sessions (Alvin @ PayPal; Jeffrey, Justin @ Golden Gate VC; James @ Silicon Straits; Winston @ Neo), Blk 71 Staffers (Liana, Nixon: sponsorship of Blk 71 space); IDA (Chris Ng,, Google Developers Group, Python User Group — Singapore, Singapore Python Platoon, PyConSG

We’d also like to thank Google (Cheryl, Minty, Shunjie, Jan, Siva, Jing and Davidson) for their stellar sponsorship of this programme.  They have devoted time, manpower and money (for printing of your posters AND the auxiliary Grow Beyond with Google programme AND food AND prizes) to help propel Orbital up several notches!

Posted on August 12, 2013 by orbital

Splashdown As part of Splashdown (just around the corner, next Monday 6-9pm), you’ll all will be reviewing and seeing your peers’ projects in person at the event.  To facilitate this final part, you’ll need to create a A1-sized poster for the event, detailing the highlights about your Orbital experience that you like to share with your buddies and industrial guests.

The details for the poster session are on the Splashdown page, but you can also ask questions on Askbot about it.  We’ll add your concerns to the Splashdown page , along with the answers.

Posted on August 5, 2013 by orbital

Photo Credits: US NASA

It has been a bug-blasting, hacking-all-around, action-packed summer thriller for all of you in Orbital!  Mission Control reports the all-clear for your reentry back to NUS, Singapore!  We’ll have a final, three-hour evening session, where all of you are required to participate (this *is* the very last milestone), in the form of a final Splashdown showcase!

Splashdown is structured as two poster sessions with following oral sessions after each poster session to serve as a transition period; see schedule below.  Orbital teams will be assigned to one of two sessions to present their work.  During each of the two poster sessions, each team will be presenting their work via a A1 sized poster that you will have to prepare and print (but we will pre-pay for you at SoC Technical Services).

17:30-18:00 Registration
18:00-18:40 Poster Session 1
18:40-19:20 Invited Talks Session 1
19:20-20:00 Poster Session 2
20:00-20:20 Invited Talks Session 2
20:20-21:00 Awards Ceremony

Splashdown will also feature peer voting for best projects.  During the poster sessions, take note of which other teams you think did the best projects and vote for their project electronically using your smart phone or tablet. We’ll tally your votes and announce the winner at the end of Splashdown at the awards ceremony.  Google has kindly sponsored some prizes for the very best projects, as voted by all of you and observers (SoC, project mentors and industry invitees).

Details for Splashdown (such as the final schedule and team allocations) are still ongoing, but you can check on the latest details on the Splashdown page on the Orbital site.

For those who cannot attend due to conflicts, you must let the instruction staff know ahead of time via emailBoth team members must attend the event.  Post-event application for leniency will not be permitted.

Posted on July 29, 2013 by orbital

This week’s Mission Control is back over at Blk 71. IDA and SLA will be joining forces to give you and the general hacker public a tutorial about OneMap.  With the summer finishing up, and more of you back around campus, we hope you can join us for this session.  Don’t forget to register your attendance so IDA can cater enough food for everyone!!

OneMap API Workshop

Location: Plug-in@Blk 71 (Blk 71, Ayer Rajah Crescent, #02-18, S 139951 )

Date and Time: Tuesday, 30 July 2013 6.30pm – 9.00pm
Register here:

OneMap is an integrated map platform for public agencies to publish information and deliver map-based services. OneMap makes location maps and data from various govt. agencies available through its web portal ( and also makes it available through an Application Programming Interface (API) for others to consume in their applications.

Using OneMap API, agencies can embed maps into their web and mobile applications providing a consistent and common map identity across different platforms and websites. OneMap makes streetmap, address, and other geospatial data available to all as a service.

The data layers in OneMap are also open to the private sector or community for development of innovative mapping applications.

For more on OneMap visit or watch this for a quick intro (

Posted on July 19, 2013 by orbital

Photo Credits:

This coming Tuesday from 6-8pm in SoC SR3, Winston Teo of NUS returns to his alma mater to talk to us about Agile Methodologies.  See you there!

What is Agile? In this talk, we will first learn about the origins of Agile and the Agile Manifesto. Then we’ll take a look at the differences between Agile and the traditional Waterfall SDLC. As a daily practitioner of Extreme Programming (a flavor of Agile), I’ll also share the working practices that make Extreme Programming work. You’ll learn something both as a Product Manager or as an Engineer.

About Winston Teo: As a Lean Engineer with Neo, Winston help to create great software for companies using Agile methods and Lean Startup principles (think Pair-Programming, Test-Driven-Development, Continuous Integration etc.).  He is also the organiser of RedDotRubyConf 2013 (the annual Ruby conference in South East Asia), and runs monthly Ruby meetups ( in Singapore too.

Posted on July 15, 2013 by orbital

Hi all:

As the IDA / Google Developer Group Meet-Up will be featuring the PHP runtime for Google App Engine tomorrow at Blk 71, we’re asking you to attend the session in lieu of Mission Control this week.

Make sure to register for the event by visiting


In the second of this three part series, we will be covering the new PHP runtime on Google App Engine. We will be porting a popular website, currently powered by wordpress and LAMP stack on AWS, to run on Google App Engine. We will do a live load test this deployment to show the scalability.


Dr. S. P. T. Krishnan & Dr. Louis Shue

Please note we will aim to start the talks at about 6:30-6:45pm, and it’s unnecessary to bring the ticket for this meetup.

Posted on July 4, 2013 by orbital

Dear Orbital students:

Please take note of the opportunity from IDA to help shape the future of while being reimbursed for your time.  If you’re interested, please contact Liyana directly at  Thank you!

The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) has embarked on a pilot project with the National Library Board (NLB), to explore the use of linked data technology to better manage and share data.  We are looking for developers to test our pilot project.

If you are interested, do read on below for further details and if you are keen to be part of this pilot, please provide me  with the required information in point 3 below by 8th July 2013. Thanks!

Liyana Bte Muhammad Fauzi (Miss)

Assistant Manager | Data Management and Analytics Division | Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA)
D: 6211 0834 | HP: 9620 4842 | F:
6659 2517 | E: | W:

1.       Background:
The objective of the pilot is to enable better sharing of government data with linked data. (If you are interested in linked data, read more about it at

For the pilot project, we have created a mobile app, LinkMe and a web browser app, Pathfinder with government linked data. The types of government data used in the pilot include land and routes data (SLA), traffic data (LTA), weather data (NEA), parks data (NParks), etc. As part of Pathfinder, we have also made available some data for developers to test. These datasets are shared via APIs and SPARQL queries.

As a participant, you will explore the above and provide feedback on your experiences at a focus group session. You will also be entitled to receive incentives amounting to $40.

2.       What will be expected of you:

Step one :  Attend briefing for focus group participants (at National Library Board Academy, co-located at Toa Payoh Public Library)
Step two : Use or explore the apps/datasets for a certain duration during the period of end-July to early Aug
Step three : Provide feedback via survey after using the apps/datasets
Step four : Attend a focus group session (at National Library Board Academy, co-located at Toa Payoh Public Library)

3.        If you accept our invitation and would like to participate in our focus group sessions:

Please provide the following details :

Name (on NRIC) :
NRIC no. :
Age :
Gender :
Mobile no. :
What smartphone device are you using, and what is the version currently (E.g.: iPhone 4/5, Android phone, Windows phone, etc.)?:


We would also like to seek your cooperation not to divulge any information or data related to this pilot project.
(Note: All focus group participants are required to sign an undertaking for your participation in this.)

Posted on July 1, 2013 by orbital

Picture Credits: courtesy

Tomorrow’s Mission Control will be held at PlugIn@Blk 71.  Pallav, one of our teaching assistants, will be reviewing and having hands-on exercises for Node.JS, a library for writing capabilities to be able create scalable Internet applications, notably web servers.

Node.js is a packaged compilation of Google’s V8 JavaScript engine, the libuv platform abstraction layer, and a core library, which is itself primarily written in JavaScript.

See you tomorrow at Blk 71!  Please make sure to follow the preparation instructions below (after your submission deadline tonight)!

If you’d like to participate in the workshop, please install node before-hand. Instructions for different Operating Systems are listed here:
Go to Click INSTALL. Follow through the installation process. To check that it works, go to the start menu and search for “powershell”. Run it. Now type “node –version”. If you see a number, you’re set.
Go to Click INSTALL. Follow through the installation process. Run Terminal and type “node –version” and press enter. If you see a number, you’re set.
Go to Now you have two options. You could, if you wish, click DOWNLOADS and get the Linux Binaries for your computer. However, you might prefer to install from source. To do this, click INSTALL, extract the folder, open it in a terminal, and follow through the process inside the file (follow the “Unix/Mac” instructions). Run “node –version” to check that it works.
Note: For the purpose of keeping up-to-date with the latest version of Node.js, avoid using a package manager to install it.
Important Downloads
Download this file before the workshop starts, to avoid network-related delays later. This will allow you to code along through the entire workshop offline.