When we first started running our London Open Source Jam meetups, we took over part of the public Google Open Source Program Office wiki, and asked people to sign up by filling out their details on a wiki page.
That worked well for a bit, but the publicly-visible email addresses were a bit of a pain (unless you really wanted phone calls from recruitment agencies), and you had to create a wiki account before you could sign up. So Joe threw together a PHP/MySQL-based signup page at osjam.truemesh.com that we’ve used for the last six months or so.
That’s worked well for people signing up, but it’s been a bit annoying for us:
because it runs on Joe’s home machine, the only administrator is Joe, the way
to edit the signup list is via the
mysql command line, and the way to edit
the text on the page is to edit the PHP script.
You can see where this is going, I’m sure. Tuesday’s release of the Google App Engine gave me an excuse to look at how hard it’d be to port Joe’s PHP to a hosted Python application.
How hard? About six hours. If that seems like a long time, bear in mind that it included not only learning about the App Engine, from scratch (I’d been aware of the project internally, but I hadn’t tried anything out until Tuesday evening), but also finding out how to do trivial stuff in Python (“How do I make a date from a string, anyway?”) and adding a bunch of features to the original port. Here’s the new site: osjam.appspot.com, same as the old site.
Since there’s a not a lot to see at the moment (we’ve not yet announced the next event), you can also download the source and play around with a local copy, which isn’t a bad way to see how the App Engine works. Alternatively, I’ve put the source online in a browsable format, if running software’s not your thing. Don’t expect the code to be a perfect example of either the App Engine or Python: it’s something I hacked up quickly to solve a problem.
One note: you might need to install Python 2.5 to run the App Engine SDK tools.
Although they allow you to run with Python 2.4, they print up a scary warning
at startup, and also depend upon some modules that weren’t part of the core
distribution until 2.5. Someone with better Python skills than I — not hard!
— could probably just install the right modules, but I’m lazy, so I just
downloaded the Python 2.5.2 tarball, and after a quick
./configure --prefix=~/usr; make; make altinstall, had a
~/usr/bin/python2.5 that I could run the App Engine scripts with, without
touching my system Python installation.
To run everything locally, download the osjam source and Google App
Engine SDK tarballs and expand them into the same directory (you should
be left with a directory called
google_appengine/ and one called
Note that you don’t need to sign up for an App Engine account to run
things locally, if you don’t want to.
Then, run the development application server:
$ python2.5 google_appengine/dev_appserver.py osjam/ INFO 2008-04-10 09:36:43,814 appcfg.py] Checking for updates to the SDK. INFO 2008-04-10 09:36:44,257 appcfg.py] The SDK is up to date. WARNING 2008-04-10 09:36:44,257 datastore_file_stub.py] Could not read datastore data from /tmp/dev_appserver.datastore WARNING 2008-04-10 09:36:44,258 datastore_file_stub.py] Could not read datastore data from /tmp/dev_appserver.datastore.history INFO 2008-04-10 09:36:44,262 dev_appserver_main.py] Running application osjam on port 8080: http://localhost:8080
Cool! Let’s go to
Oops! No active event!
Ah. Everything’s working, but there’s no data. We’ll need to create an event
before anything useful happens. Fortunately, there’s a hokey admin page at
http://localhost:8080/admin. Note that this
URL is protected by the
login: admin statement in an application
configuration file called
app.yaml, so you’ll be prompted
to “sign in” before you can access the page — though since this is running on
a local development server, you can sign in as anyone. Make sure to check the
‘Sign in as Administrator’ checkbox, though.
Once you’ve signed in, you’ll see an empty table with an inviting ‘New event’ link. Select it, then enter some details about your event (including some number next to the ‘How many places?’ label), check the ‘Make this event the active one’ checkbox, and click ‘Create Event’. Now go back to the home page, and you’ll be able to sign up for your event. Woohoo!
As well as the
app.yaml file, which mostly
configures the URL ↦ handler mappings for the
application, it’s worth taking a look at
defines the models used in the datastore,
main.py, which defines the code for the root (GET) and
/signup (POST) handlers, and
main.html, which is the
Django template for the main page. It’s worth mentioning that you’re
not limited to Django’s templates: it’s just that the SDK includes that engine
by default. If you want to use something else (or if you want to use the rest
of the Django framework), you just include it in your application (much as I
did to make use of the
Another cool thing to play around with is the built-in console at
available when running on the development server; hosted applications
get a full-featured dashboard on appengine.google.com). It’s also worth
going through the SDK’s Getting Started guide, which
covers everything in a lot more depth.
When you’re looking around at the documentation, you may notice some rough
edges (it is a preview release of the SDK, after all). For example, the
bulk upload article — which appeared yesterday, just as I
was wondering how to do bulk uploads! — makes reference to
objects, which aren’t documented anywhere, making it a little hard to figure
out what’s going on. Fortunately, the Python is pretty well documented, and in
this case the SDK’s
google/appengine/ext/bulkload/__init__.py contains a lot
of useful comments, so I was able to create a bulk upload handler of my
own and import all the data from the old MySQL database.
Posted at 11:45:56 BST on 10th April 2008.