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Mobile Directory App now operational

The Grinnell College application development team, known as AppDev, has just released a project that brings Grinnell College directory access to smartphones through an iPhone app called simply “DB.”

Colin Tremblay ’14 and Daniel Torres ’15 developed the iOS version of the app, while an Android version of the app is currently under development by Daniel Goldstein ’16 and Spencer Liberto ’15. Goldstein said they worked on the projects throughout last semester.

The app works by taking information from the College’s electronic directory, commonly referred to as DB, and reformatting this information for the app. However, those not connected to the GrinnellCollegeStudent wireless network will only be able to view names and usernames of students.

“If you’re on the campus Wi-Fi, you will get all the information that you would get on [a] computer on campus,” Goldstein said. “We don’t really have access to the database with all the information, so we’re using strictly the Internet.”

He also noted that the team has tried unsuccessfully to get direct access to the directory.

“As of right now [Student Affairs] haven’t really helped out with [getting access to the database],” he said.

According to Goldstein and Tremblay, the team would like to allow users to log in and access the full database off campus, as from any other computer.

As of right now, the apps are internally similar.

“[The Android and iOS versions] should be virtually identical. They’re both just looking at the website and scraping that information off of it because [Information Technology Services] won’t give us any other access to [the database],” Tremblay said.

Tremblay said being on the database would be better due to the amount of extra code needed to format information pulled from the website.

“[Directly accessing the database] would be a lot more efficient,” Tremblay said. “We’re taking large amounts of data, transferring it over the network, and then using very small amounts of data.”

Tremblay considers some of the complications to be inherent to the database itself.

“As far as I can tell [DB] is a system that’s in place and they don’t know what it does or how it works, so they don’t want to mess with it,” he said. “If they’re

going to do anything else with it, then they will have to start over, which they said they will do in a couple years.”

Although AppDev has offered to overhaul the directory database for ITS, Tremblay said they rejected the offer.

“We met with [ITS] and, basically, they just said [that] they don’t have time to work on a project like this,” he said. “Their current system doesn’t have any way of logging into the database.”

AppDev was a part of ITS until last summer, when funding was cut for the group. However, they have continued developing apps and games pro bono.

“The thing that surprised us the most was that we were creating stuff that the school tended to like, and they decided that they didn’t want to fund that,” Tremblay said. “We would be happy to do this DB rewrite without compensation from them. We don’t want to be paid for it; we just want the app to work better, but they don’t want us [to work on it].”

The team is also working on an app to display event information at the College.

“As soon as we get a reliable source of data from the Office of Communications that should be ready,” Tremblay said. “The app is built; we’re just waiting on data.”

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