This weekend, I drove a U-Haul to Philadelphia, getting keys to and then significantly populating my apartment. I also have far too many books. The moving was pretty exhausting, but it's nice to be set up out there. A semi-surprise addition to the trip was a Random Hacks of Kindness event, which paired a number of programmer-or-technical people with a number of people who had problems they wanted solved. Kep and I, along with a few others, joined a team that imported/munged data from NASA and weather stations in Bolivia and visualised them on a map. None of this was blue-sky by any means, but it took some doing at every step and it was appreciated by the sponsors. We did it with Python-Postgres-Matplotlib as our main tools.
The toughest part, as is often the case, was figuring out what tools to use for some parts of the tasks. There were some data in dBase format (some of which we could not extract), and making the kinds of plots we wanted took a lot of trial-and-error. The project literally came together about half an hour before judging, and we eliminated the last of the major bugs some time after that. I'm not sure what's going to happen to the code after this weekend (are we into the clean-and-document stage? Will there be a use for more features?), but our project's sponsors (from the World Bank) seem to want us to stop by DC to present the results(!). Right now, I think this is at functional-prototype level.
Programming in Python really wasn't too bad. It's not a language I would choose for my projects, but it was reasonable here. I need to get more in-depth knowledge of git; there are things that I don't know how to do (like revert a local commit and revert a subset of its files to versions from the head of a given repo) that required too much fiddling. Matplotlib turned out to be pretty cool and I'd like to find Perl (and C and Java) equivalents.
I enjoyed it. New, practical problems that come with access to domain experts, endless supplies of decent food, and a decent environment for coding: good times. It did feel a bit rushed, particularly as a two-day event where a lot of people were there just for the first day, but we got good results.