Mixture of technology at Google App Engine (GAE)

For some time now I am developing my little hobby project. It is called F1Dashboard and it contains informations related to Formula 1 (my favorite motor-sport).

F1 Dashboard
F1 Dashboard

Since the site is quite stable now I will share with you some technologies and ideas I used.

Platform

F1Dashboard is build and deployed on Google App Engine (GAE). I started this as an experiment and as a toy project just to learn something new.

GAE is not a new idea, it is another platform for cloud computing. Main difference from others is the Database model. GAE is using a thing called Data Store (Big Table), which is not a normal relational database that anyone used to. There is no schema defined, and querying is impossible without indexing it before. It is something like a massive bag that could store stuff in.

GAE is offered as Python and Java. The later was released long time after Python. It has limited version of JVM environment and a whole bunch of Google services to use. Lots of standard JDK types got repackaged by Google just to limit standard Java functionality, like spawning a Threads.

GAE offers standard Java servlets as web technology. This means that you could use some of the well established frameworks out there. I decided to create one myself of course 🙂 Something simple and not complicated.

Language

I choose Groovy, just because I wonted to learn another dynamic language and I liked the way Groovy did closures.

Patterns

The framework I did follows MVC pattern. It has single servlet entry. Every requested URL is parsed internally and resolved into Controller and Action. I’m using String Template as rendering engine for my views.

All database operations are entirely hidden behind Repositories, and I made it simple to switch from Objectify to Data Nucleus to anything else that comes.

I choose Objectify for its simplicity. If you are starting with GAE I would very much recommend it.

UI

The design is simple and was done by fried of mine Mike from Rosslyn Digital.

I plugged in jQuery Tools for Overlay effect. It also has a nice plugin for picture gallery.

I also added automatic Twitter updates for every message that is updated on a site.

Updates

Site is automatically harvesting for new content from various of Formula 1 related sites. There is also content from Twitter, YouTube and Flickr. It is utilizing GAE cron jobs for that.

I’m trying to gather some ideas for what I can do with the site in near future. If you have an idea, drop me an email. You can also see latest updates on a site at http://blog.f1dashboard.com

Cheers, Greg

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