Wednesday, August 27, 2014

GSoC: Thumping the Malaria and voyaging in cosmos with KStars

KDE is taking new shape now a days, porting most of its application to KF5. Meanwhile I completed my GSoC project in KStars, ameliorating it by enhancing the tools like Moon Phase Calendar, Almanac and Solar System Viewer and adding a super cool QML based tool Astrophotograph Browser. 

It all started with preparing proposal, I was using KStars since more than one year and had fixed many minor bugs already. I prepared first draft of proposal for GSoC in January (yeah I was super excited ;-) and mailed it into mailing list of KStars. I was not sure if anyone would bother to look into it, but kde developers are awesome people, I received many interesting comments on it and Rafal Kulaga in particular. I started refining my proposal under his guidance, and prepared seventh and final draft of proposal in February. It proved to be best decision to prepare proposal month before the deadline of submission as I was diagnosed with Malaria, just week before the submission deadline. 

Let's talk about my project now. KStars is desktop planetarium application under KDE Education Projects. I developed QML based cool interface to enable users to browse through image database of community of astrophotographers (i.e. which contains more than 1,20,000 (number is increasing everyday) real time and very high resolution images along with various information related to them (i.e. Date on which image was captured, Bortle Dark-Sky Scale, RA Centre, DEC Centre, Telescope or Camera used, Description added by astrophotographer etc). I am sure that this browser will enthrall school children by showing them real time images of stars and galaxies located at hundreds of light year far from earth.

I also developed image editor to enable user to mark sky objects and and write their name or other details on image to make it more intuitive before saving it.

The Moon Phase Calender tool was revamped by replacing early less accurate moon phase images with more accurate ones, adding lunar phase name in window title bar and adding the option to choose between Northern hemisphere and Southern hemisphere.
Yet another interesting feature was added to Almanac tool just after the mid term evaluation i.e. Live Weather Info tool. This tool uses Open Weather API to fetch the weather information like temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed, wind direction, cloud density, precipitation etc, for the selected location. The tool is developed for amateur astronomers to help them in planning the sky observations.

The time for accomplishing most exciting task was to come with Randa Meeting 2014 and Malaria attacked me again. I spent almost a week in hospital, planning for Randa meeting in bad. My strong desire to return to project helped me a lot to recover quickly. After recovery I accomplished the task of refurbishing the Solar System Viewer tool in Randa Meeting with the help of Artikulate developers Andreas Cord-Landwehr. The tool earlier gave the 2D view of solar system for particular date. I added option to visualize asteroids based on magnitude selection in the first stage. Then added the distance measurement feature to measure the distance (in km and AU) between any two solar bodies. This feature makes KStars unique tool for measuring distance between planets and asteroids.

In all, I enjoyed a lot working on this project. Let me thank my coolest friend Punit Mehta for motivating me to apply for GSoC. I'd also thank Rishabh Arora for enlightening me about possible ideas to work upon in GSoC at, organised in my institute and of which I was one of the co-ordinator. My best thanks is to Rafal Kulaga for his continuous motivation, support and appreciation at  my every little advancement in project. One of the best thing about Rafal is he always replies to my mail like a friend rather than a mentor. And not to forget, Thanks KDE Community.

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