Montreal => My first impression

I had been waiting for a long time to put my first impression of Montreal here on my blog. Most of it is taken from the mail I wrote to my friends describing things which intrigued me.

I am in Montreal now and its awesome, simply the word is awesome. Here everything is very different from how I had been used to seeing or doing. I have a Mcgill Id card saying I m a trainee with them which also is my key to 12 libraries, doors of most of the buildings on campus. My mentor is very cool, relaxed and pro. He has cultivated good stress freework culture in our lab and is very helpful too. We have lunch together in the kitchen of our lab 😀 which has cutlery, microwave and fridge. We have talked about different topics and he is a New Yorker himself who bikes to his office in our lab :).  Every where they have the chilled water dispenser which throws the water upwards(which I find a bit weird and uncomfortable to drink from), as on our Delhi airport.  The lab is super cool, I have uploaded some pics on my google and facebook, please have a look. Here it seems that real money is spent on Research and Projects.

My LandLord is an french canadian guy, who is very different and loves Palak Paneer 😛 and loves to laugh :D. My housemate Sebastian Knotz, is an Austrian guy, who is going some civil service work for an year here. He is living in with his girlfriend. He is quite outgoing and social. I have developed good friendship with him and we often go out to clubs and house parties. The only Indian I know is Archi bhaiya, who is ‘Mummy Ji’. He is very accommodating, helpful and fun to be with. Doon school kae bande hai!! 😀

Name of my lab is Center of Intelligent machines (CIM), McGill. My project is a mobile application(on both platforms, iOS and Android) which helps blind users to explore their surroundings. It is not a navigation app, it helps blind users by providing added audio cues through special headphones so that they can hear the normal sounds in the surrounding plus the added info that the device generates depending on where they are walking. The Iphone part is pretty cool, and I am working on its android port so that we can have the same quality on both devices. Google is one of our funder and it has a blind employee who uses our app. I went to meet him the second day after I started here 🙂 The Google office was pretty cool too. It had the Google map of downtown Montreal imprinted on the floor with the reception centered at the address of Google, Quebec

One major difference is street etiquette. People here are generally very rich, or at least for us their way of living is. Public transport can be used by obtaining one card, OPUS card. You can travel anywhere, as many times as you want, you can just take a Months add-on in the card which is for 70$ on a 10$ card and u are good to go anywhere in Montreal. Its all very seamless and easy. Every time you enter the bus, the driver will bid you ‘Hi/Bonjour’ and a ‘have a good a day’ while your are leaving. But the most preferred mode of transport is bikes, bicycles if you may..   Every one is on a bike, a guy with an expensive suit, a beautiful lady with any kind of dress, may it be a single piece dress, jeans or skirt  or anything else, guys without any upper clothing to guys with full sports cycling gear on..speeding through the roads. Its awesome. All the pedestrians only cross the roads on zebra crossing and ya literally its the way I imagined, a car driver will stop the car in front of you and bid you to go first.. 🙂 Also, these bikes are very common inside building offices, my mentor, Jeff brings his on the 436th room on the 4th floor of our building. 🙂

Buildings etc..Houses have no fan and are mostly made of wooden flooring completely.Everyone leaves computers and laptops open, lights open (Huge wastage of electricity, which I dont like !! ). No one cares, as papa says, its a electricity rich country so, I guess it shows clearly :P. But Most of the houses have the brick layer outside which gives the city a beautiful look. McGill Campus is more like as we see in wonder land, or Hogwards. 😛 Here the grocery stores are huge..HUGE..I went to one and it had, like 6-7 choices of onions, have you ever seen any other kind except the one we use? There were 12-15 types and brands of milk, 1% fat, 3.25% fat, cream for coffee and what not.But things are quite expensive here a compared to India.  Also one og the Cineplex that’s like everyone’s favorite has 20 odd screens :O. There are many museums
and big parks you can visit and spend your weekend at.

Food
Here you can find all sorts of food. Specialty of Montreal is Poutine.I still have to try it. Pizzas suck here. They dont have good pizza places, goa was much much better :P. I had sushi, and its awesome. They do give you chopsticks as well which I learnt to use in like 5 mins ;). Bagel is very famous. The coffee places are awesome, you will find then flooded always. They have wifi, ppl do all sorts of stuff there; Study, Work, Surf the net, News and also make love 😛 My food experience is a bit lacking , I couldnt try much, but will be upto some good treats soon. Havent gone to any indian stores yet.  Yogurt Ice cream is also very common here.

I miss my friends and family a lot. I try to keep in touch with them as much as possible. Sometime its a bit lonely, but I keep myself busy to prevent myself from get that mood swing. I still imagine, if I had my college friendes here with me. Things would have been crazy and wild!!!!! I miss my college masti as well. 😦

Also, I know for sure I will change in a lot of ways after I go back. I am learning a lot here and its not only professional but about different cultures, etiquette, standards and much more.
Cheers!!

This is how it is.. 🙂

How to get directions between two places?

One of the challenges was to get the directions between two places obtained as input from the user.

So we read the Google Directions API provided by the Google Map Web Services. We understood that we needed to get the steps. A step is basically one line of direction, in layman’s terms. So the html_instructions in each step is what we needed.

[php]

$origin=urlencode($_GET[‘origin’]);

$destination=urlencode($_GET[‘destination’]);

//:::::::::::::::: Get the directions from google maps using curl :::::::::::::::::::::

$output="";

$ch= curl_init();

curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, "http://maps.googleapis.com/maps/api/directions/json?origin=$origin&destination=$destination&sensor=false");

curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADER, 0);

curl_setopt($ch,  CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);

$data=curl_exec($ch);

$json_data_var = json_decode($data, true);

//print_r($json_data_var);

[/php]

Lets quickly understand what the above code does? It uses the curl library to send a request to the googleapis in the specified format stores the json response object in the variable named $json_data_var as a array.

Birth of Offline Way2Go

The idea was born in Prof. Mangesh Bedekar’s Chamber when he was telling me about the problem of transferring data on the computer screen to mobile or your laptop etc. For example, you use google map and pan your trip! You create way points and different routes etc between two places. Now you want to save it in your mobile or your laptop! how will you do it? The crude way i can think of is saving it as a image by taking the screenshot of your computer screen. 

Then we found out that in USA, this problem has been addressed. The  solution in brief is that you  take a screen shot and save it. Then through image processing the image will be saved a real time data into your device. Here is the link to what i m refering to.But we also found out that, you have barcode and QR code scanning capability in the mobile devices. So we can ecode some data and pass it to the required device.

To our dismay, people had already thought of it and made browser extensions to save a url, text or image url in a qr code and transfer it to your phone. Then we came up with this idea, which we later on named as Offline Way2Go.

It is a chrome extension and a website where you can enter places of your choice and get the directions between them as suggested by google in the form a QR code.This will be useful for those who dont have GPRS or travelling without any kind of internet connection in their phone.
Later we thought of adding a feature in the android app where they can also share the directions to others if they want. Why only a chrome extension? Because it was too easy to make one 🙂
Why an Android app? Because I only know Android programming. If the idea is excepted by users, I ll not hesistate in making Iphone app as well.

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