One Weekend to Prototype using AWS Technologies

On Friday evening (2 days ago) I and a number of other high octane LA individuals came to LA StartupWeekend to participate in the process of building the beginning of a startup in 2 days. The group of eighty participants divided up organically by interest into about ten different ideas which had been pitched that very evening.

I ended up in a great team of 9 developers, designers, and product folks who were all interested in building the idea I proposed:

Connect individuals carrying cell phone cameras with people who want timely photographs at a particular location.

Less than 48 hours later, we launched the prototype which you can check out now at:

And, we had a lot of fun in the process.

I mention this on the blog because our team used a number of cool technologies including:

  • Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid (released one day before we started this project)
  • Amazon EC2
  • Amazon SimpleDB (we decided to jump on the “NoSQL” buzzword bandwagon)
  • Amazon S3 (storage of uploaded photos)
  • Amazon CloudFront (CDN to serve the photos)
  • Perl 5.10
  • Mason (templating)
  • Apache (of course)
  • HTML, CSS3, JavaScript
  • Postfix (automatic processing of incoming photo emails)

Not shown on the site is the fact that two of the developers on the team learned Android development and built an integrated Android application which integrates with the service. In two days.

We also have prototype integration with Twitter. Feel free to follow us at:


Challenges we ran into and resolved included:

  • Our first AWS account took a long time to get approved for SimpleDB. Solution: We used SimpleDB from another AWS account (different than the one running the EC2 instance).

  • We quickly ran into the EC2 email sending limit just with cron job output and emails from our revision control system. Solution: relay email through one of our personal servers on a non-standard port.

  • We found that some SimpleDB requests had too high a latency to run a large number sequentially: Solution: make the requests in parallel (not yet implemented).

Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid worked like a charm.

Take the prototype service for a spin and let us know what you think. Do you think that this type of application has potential? What would you use it for?

Feel free to be harsh on what you see. We are. But, remember that this was built in less than 2 days from concept, to design, to building development infrastructure, to implementation. This is a fun prototyping project.

We don’t know if there is going to be a future for this project as we all go back to our separate real jobs on Monday, but some of us think there might be something really cool here. Give us your ideas.

[Update 2010-05-03: Added images]