"As you know, we were massively against the clock with the launch of the cycle hire scheme, and we needed something we could get going with fast that would effortlessly scale to perhaps tens of thousands of mobile users. App Engine seemed the perfect choice from what we had read of it before the meeting, and after your presentation it was obviously the way to go. Your recommendation to use Python was scary given neither of us knew a thing about it, but then again we only knew Java from Android not from web development so we didn't have the domain knowledge of building Java web services. So we went with Python, and it worked out really well. I'm astounded how we actually delivered this product in a very short space of time when we both have full schedules working on projects for our clients and other demanding outside interests. Particularly satisfying was having a solution that was agile and flexible enough to enable us to display live cycle availability data within hours of it becoming unexpectedly available at the launch, so we were live in the field with real-time data that very same launch morning, a feature our competitors are still struggling to replicate."
"The single coolest thing about this project is that it was possible to go from a state of knowing nothing whatsoever about App Engine or Python (other than the mile-high view) to having a working and useful application inside of eight hours. We're long-time geeks but we're not geniuses. For us to pick up a new language, a new SDK, a new environment, a new way of doing things, and produce anything of value at all in such a short time speaks volumes about the value, potential, and quality of App Engine and Python.After installing the App Engine SDK, yes, the very first thing I did was your online tutorial. I did "Hello World" to find my feet then continued into webapp, since a clean URL handler with easy ways to get at HTTP variables seemed essential. Then I immediately jumped into learning about data storage. And wow, what an enlightenment that turned out to be! Goodbye SQL, don't think I'm going to miss ya.... :-)Since the app's purpose is to manage just ~400 simple objects representing Cycle Hire Stations, each of which contains only Plain Old Data types — no object references or anything possibly messy — I felt I knew enough to implement it now, and so I dived in. And it was so easy! I started with a handler to rebuild the datastore from scratch. Then I wrote a "get" type of handler to retrieve information about groups of hire stations (returning the data in JSON). Finally I wrote an "update" handler so that updated information about cycle hire stations could be posted, and that was it. Job done.One thing that initially confounded me was an HTTP 500 error caused by our "reset" handler exceeding the 30-second request limit. For a while I was ready to despair; HTTP 500s to anyone with much ASP experience usually means a hideous low-level bug somewhere! However, once we discovered the problem, this was easy to fix by splitting the work into multiple requests (/reset1, /reset2, etc.) It's an admin function that only we'd ever be using, so no harm done and no need to work out anything more clever.I know we've barely scratched the surface of what can be done with App Engine. We've yet to use Memcache, background tasks, batched updates, or anything beyond simple cloud-based data storage. But that simple thing alone seemed then, and still seems, not far short of miraculous. To not have to worry about databases, servers, uptime, upgrades and above all scaling... to not have to think about any of that at all is such an immense freedom. I'm completely hooked on it and am unlikely to go back to my traditional server tools of MySQL and PHP.
"We formed Little Fluffy Toys Ltd as a vehicle for Android development where we do consultancy work as well as our own stuff like the Cycle Hire Widget and Social Wallpaper. Whilst all custom development enquiries are very welcome, we're also interested in hearing from people or organisations that would like us to customise Cycle Hire Widget for their particular domain, whether it's cycles with availability in another city, coffee shops with opening hours in a geographic region, or dieting group meetings at pertinent times nearby. You name it, there are a gazillion applications for it!"