Posts Tagged rapidInnovation

Final blog post - Walking Through Time

Walking Through Time closing blog

This is a final closing blog post that summarises the achievements of JISC follow-on funding for Rapid Innovation - Benefits Realisation Small Project Funding.

The WTT project has taken many turns in its two year history and has forged many links that continue to demonstrate the rich nature of both the idea behind it and the collaboration that made it happen.

As of July 2011 the iPhone App has been downloaded over 9000 times and it continues to attract attention with limited marketing.

The App site is here:

The link the to App in the Apple store is here:

The app was launched at the end of July 2010 in time for the Edinburgh International Festivals. At this time the project team had secured an agreement with the Landmark Information Group to allow free public access to their historical maps for a period of time that covered the festival. This made the free app very attractive because along with 3 maps from the National Library of Scotland, the app allowed multiple maps of Edinburgh.

In addition to the maps, two guided tours were included that featured audio files embedded within the app:

1. Margaret Stewart a historian at the Edinburgh College of Art provided a very personal narrative to the history of places surrounding the Royal Mile.

2. The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust recorded a selection of narratives by two Scottish actors to extend their popular House Histories trail.

The tours appear as trails that are linked between landmarks in the map. Each landmark is identified by a pin point in the map, and touching/clicking the pin give access to text and audio file (where available).

Gallery of working app (click here for larger images):

Education and Cultural impact

The app has made good impact into the education and cultural communities and WTT was presented through an invited lecture and accompanying workshop at the Digital Futures of Cultural Heritage Education symposium at the University of Edinburgh (DFCHE), March 2011. The DFCHE project was funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and led in collaboration by the School of Education at the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland. DFCHE had two specific aims: 1. To begin to establish a research agenda for museum and gallery education for the digital age, 2. To inform policy and practice in the use of social media and user-generated content by the Scottish cultural heritage sector.

Business / Spin out

Following the immediate success of the app during the Edinburgh Festival 2010 the project team began conversations with Landmark Information Group to develop a UK version of the app which would allow the public to walk/drive across the UK using an 1850 map. Particular excited by the prospect of finding out what was under the M1 as one drives to London, the idea, coupled with the exciting download statistics from the festival led to a series of conversations about a fully licensed product.

Landmark remain keen to develop a product, however concerns over the pricing framework have meant that discussions have since stalled. In order to justify the release of UK wide maps, the company would have to charge a significant price for the app (something in the region of £4 for a single map).

More recently following a presentation of the app at the Scottish Technology Showcase (7th June SECC, Glasgow) interest has now turned to developing international language versions of the app for Edinburgh Tourists. Since the app capitalises upon the free maps that are made available by the National Library of Scotland, and 60% of visitors to Edinburgh are international, developing foreign language versions may be better way of capitalising what the project team has achieved.

Invited Talks

The app has attracted a great deal of attention across academic communities for a number of reasons:

1. For the GIS community the very user centred approach in its simplicity as an iphone App has given the team access discussions about how GIS technologies can access new audiences.

2. The museum community has embraced the App as a model demonstrator of novel audience engagement that connects historical data with contemporary media.

3. The IT / HCI community enjoy it’s critical design approach – the turn toward using old maps as oppose to adopting new cutting edge technology.

These connections and interests have led to range of invited talks and presentations in which WTT was discussed in the context of multi-disciplinary production and agile development:

SACHI: the St Andrews Computer Human Interaction research group

St. Andrews University

Invited research seminar: 29th March 2011

Learning Sciences Research Institute, Nottingham University

Invited research seminar: 11th January 2011

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), Edinburgh

Invited research seminar: 8th August 2011

Conference presentations

The App has also been presented as part of a series of conference presentations and papers:

The Digital Landscape Architecture conference, at Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, Germany. 26th to 30th May, 2010.

Speed, C. and Southern, J. (2010) Handscapes - Reflecting upon the Use of Locative Media to Explore Landscapes.

Also published in the conference proceedings:

MappingtheCITYinFILM a Geo-historical Analysis.

An International Interdisciplinary Conference
School of Architecture / School of Politics and Communication Studies

University of Liverpool. 24th -26th February 2010.

Speed, C. (2010) Walking Through Time: Use of Locative Media to Explore Historical Maps.

The Digital Humanities 2011 conference

Stanford University Library, Stanford. 19th – 22nd June 2011.

Co-organised Panel: Virtual Cities/Digital Histories featuring papers by:

Robert C. Allen, Natasha Smith, Pamella Lach, Richard Marciano, Chris Speed, Todd Presner, Philip Ethington, David Shepard, Chien-Yi Hou, & Christopher Johanson

Speed, C. (2011) Walking Through Time and Tales of Things.

The App was also presented the Scottish Technology Showcase, Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow. 7th June 2011.


ALISS (Association of Librarians and Information Professionals in the Social Sciences) is a not-for-profit unincorporated professional society. It is an independent group which was formed in April 2005 by the former committee of ASSIGN (Aslib Social Science Information Group and Network).

Walking Through Time article / paper published in ALISS Quarterly was nominated for the first prize (£50)

Chris Speed Walking Through Time in Volume 5, no. 3 ISSN 17479258, April 2010 of ALISS Quarterly

Network Activity

Following the conference presentation at MappingtheCITYinFILM a Geo-historical Analysis in Liverpool in 2010, Speed was invited to consult and become a member of an AHRC/BT funded research network.

Through a series of meetings the network established a small but critical community who offered expert inquiry into cultural opportunities for GIS and new media to engage with historical documents / material.


Research from the WTT project has informed two book chapters:

Mapping Cultures, published by Palgrave Books

Edited by Les Roberts

Chris Speed: Walking Through Time: Use of Locative Media to Explore Historical Maps

Due early 2012

Heritage and Social Media: Understanding and Experiencing Heritage in a Participatory Culture, published by Routledge books

Edited by Elisa Giaccardi

Chris Speed: Mobile Ouija Boards

Due early 2010

Link to code repository or API:

Source Forge Site:

download the XCode project here

Project Team:

Chris Speed, - Edinburgh College of Art

Ian Campbell, - Edinburgh College of Art

Karlyn Sutherland,, Edinburgh College of Art

Dave Berry, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Peter Pratt, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Petra Leimlehner, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Jeff Haywood, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

James Reid, - EDINA

Tim Urwin, - EDINA

Project Website:

PIMS entry:

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WalkThruT: A web app that provides historical maps to people with smart phones

Screenshots or diagram of prototype:



•    Final copy of user manual and description

Link to working prototype:
Please contact: to get URL

Link to end user documentation:
◦    We feel that the YouTube video was the most effective and user centred piece of explanatoy documentation:

◦    Micro Site:


Link to code repository or API:
◦    Source Forge Site:

Link to technical documentation:
◦    Technical Report

Date prototype was launched:
◦    User testing began throughout September, with a refined version available at the end of September: 30/9/09

Project Team:

Chris Speed, - Edinburgh College of Art

Ian Campbell, - Edinburgh College of Art

Karlyn Sutherland,, Edinburgh College of Art

Dave Berry, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Peter Pratt, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Petra Leimlehner, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

Jeff Haywood, - Information Systems, University of Edinburgh

James Reid, - EDINA

Tim Urwin, - EDINA

Project Website:

PIMS entry:

Table of Content for Project Posts
◦ - Technical Start
◦ - Is this the answer - Geolocation
◦ - Getting Started
◦ - Our Edinburgh?
◦ - The artists view
◦ - Meeting one a summary of work up to that point
◦ - Art meets Tech - Chris and Karlyns write up
◦ - Tech fights back - early prototyping using balsamiq
◦ - Mr Speed and his iPhone
◦ - Outline of what came next
◦ - Summary of the work up to that point
◦ - Cross Platform - how does Android look or the day before Dave came to visit
◦ - First cut is the deepest? A summary of feedback up to this point
◦ - Meeting summary
◦ - Post JISCRI event
◦ - Web Application findings
◦ - Google API changes
◦ - Caching - web app fights back
◦ - One of the last formal meetings
◦ - lo, the user speaks…
◦ - Chris’s project Evaluation
◦ - The Developers speak
◦ - Chris speaking for the Users

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User Participation

User Participation

Dave and Chris have previously blogged about the test-run with the Historical Society, which was largely unsuccessful due to a series of problems from the outset. Despite not being able to fully access the application (but having seen several demo’s on Chris’s computer), both Robin and Andrew seemed very enthusiastic about the potential for the application, which was really encouraging. Both seemed to grasp the concept and methods of navigation well, despite admitting to not being particularly computer literate or owning a mobile phone!

Shortly after (following some trouble-shooting) were the test runs with staff and Diploma students from college. The first was with Vicky, from the conservation unit. Having never used an iPhone before, she found the application fairly straightforward to navigate, although concern was expressed at the size of the buttons along the bottom of the main screen – there were a few occassions where the wrong menu was selected, and due to signal problems it often took a long time to return to the main screen.


A quick run-through outside Old College

Generally, this round of testing went without too many hitches. Remembering to turn 3G on makes a big difference. I’m not particularly iPhone savvy, so had to be instructed by Peter over the phone on how to switch it on – I’m not sure if it’s safe to assume that other iPhone users would know to (or how to) do this?


On the move….and walking through time!

Figuring it would be a popular route for future users (sightseers, students, historians etc.), we walked from Chamber Street to the bottom of the High Street. Although the maps loaded pretty quickly, Vicky found the naming and filing to be quite confusing and frustrating, and suggested that there should be an option to list all of the maps chronologically, rather than just by scale or name (i.e. ‘Edinburghshire’).


Vicky in the 18th century…

At the time of testing, the conservation students had a project site in Aitchison Close, so we paid a visit. It was really great to see Vicky get excited by selecting and tagging the different maps! She was really positive about the benefit the application could have on projects and site visits. Her only suggestion at this point was that perhaps it would be worthwhile considering photographs of former streetscapes and buildings (either through markers or as a seperate option in a chronological list similar to the maps). We discussed the concept of the markers a bit more – I thought perhaps this was where the answer could lie, but Vicky felt that it would be better to have the images already available rather than hoping that someone else had uploaded them (or having to track them down and upload them personally).


We walked back up the High Street towards Chamber Street, and hit a few minor glitches along the way – despite a full signal, on several occassions Vicky’s screen went white then sent her to the start-up screen to log in again. Thankfully this seemed to be shortlived! Before returning the iPhones to Peter and Petra we both created routes using the markers we had created. Again, this was something that Vicky was enthusiastic about – like the team, she felt that pre-existing routes laden with information (as well as the users ability to create their own) would be a valuable and interesting learning tool.

Later in the same week I went out and about with Feng, Klas (both students) and Ian. We walked from Chamber Street to the Castle Esplanade, then through some of the nearby closes where Ian knew there had been several radical changes.


Klas, Feng and Ian discussing their finds on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade

Again, the application ran smoothly, with the only draw back being the length of time it took to load some of the maps. This seemed to be largely due to the poor (or non-existent) signal we got in the closes and courtyards. It’s annoying that this hinders it so much, but even more annoying is the fact that it’s outwith our control.

Everyone was really excited about the application, especially Ian – we got an amazing commentary from him as we walked around, which gave a great insight into how adding all this information (via markers, routes etc) could greatly enrich the users experience of and interaction with the city.

Having already discussed the previous feedback from Vicky, Robin and Andrew, the group had little else to add, other than comments about the occassionally disappointing 3G signal. From the esplanade we walked back towards Nicolson Square before heading to Chamber Street (with no signal problems!). Klas (an M.Phil. student) is interested in the relationship between people and the city of Edinburgh, and was encouraged by the potential for the application as a research/design tool.

All in all, the application got a huge thumbs up from all who tested it, which was a great result for us.

Thanks to everybody for volunteering – your feedback has been much appreciated and greatly valued!


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Value Add

Reflection of the value added nature of the project.

1.Web App

WTT has been quite a journey, one of the most significant aspects of the project that has a value added quality is the webapp. I started with an aspiration to make an iPhone app - largely because i’d done this before and seen the benefits of releasing something through the App Store and getting lots of users! However this was always going to be a problem for an app that relies on licensed  EDINA maps that only HE’s could see!

Peter was cool though and saw the bigger picture - he was always for a web app, cross platform and flexible for updating.

Having gone through the project now its astonishing what the team have achieved with the a web app and its clear that it was never an option to pursue an Iphone app.

Pros are:

1. Obviously any cross platform route has got to be good, and its refreshing to offer people access on a bunch of media.

2. The iterative development cycle using a web app meant that it was much easier to role out and update as we (petra and peter) went along - the consequences of ad hoc distribution are slow and tedious, so this was so fast and so nippy.

3. There is some faith in the future of a simple web app rather than the laborious nature of the App stores that prevent agile production and lock down apps.


1. No access to an App store so you can’t reach a wide audience, mind you this was never possible due to the limitations of the EDINA license. But if we had the license sorted out it would be great to reach anyone who was browsing their App Store - many people use this as a convenient filter to safe apps.

2. The app may have been faster if native. In the end it works very well on iPhone 3GS but less well on an 3G.

2. A less technical reflection is on the experience of using the app. Its an exciting concept and one that when turned in to reality offers some stunning thoughts. I’ve always believed that the blue dot on my Google Map was me. So when i find myself (the dot) walking across an old map something funny is going on. Something dramatic.

2.Walking Through Time

Maps were always on walls or table for me, i was never in them, so to find myself inside them is strange and exciting - its a sci-fi moment and something that Dr.Who or Marty McFly wouldn’t be without. Users are starting to communicate this - not just the logical expression of appreciation for using old maps but the cognitive excitement for walking landscapes using a different time frame.

It makes you wonder what time frames people are walking cities in - are a couple who have lived in an old place walking through it with the same eyes as a young couple? Do the memories of old places overwhelm the idea of the new? If this is even slightly true then a contemporary google map may not be the only one that should be used for navigation.

3. Releasing the EDINA maps

Working with James has been great - they are so quick and flexible its amazing. An extraordinary outcome seems to be the potential for releasing public access to the app that allows them to use the maps and develop a love for them. Obviously we can’t release to the public but you can see from HE testers that the maps take on a value that would normally be restricted to historical use only. The app seems to invigorate the maps with a powerful sense of memory and value because they become compared with the contemporary space.

We presenting the app to Landmark on Thursday to try and spark enthusiasm for its commercialisation, and you would hope that they would at least like to trial it with users.

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Walking Through Time Project Summary - Development

In the spirit of Chris’s post on SWOT’ing.   I thought I would give a similar post from the development side.


Web Application - After some initial wobbles we were set on doing a Web Application which paid of for us in many ways.  We originally thought that we would have to create  a bespoke application for a particular mobile application to access the GPS features of a device.  Chris had originally put us on the iPhone track and we looked into Objective C but as neither Petra or I were Apple developers, we got lucky and the geoLocation object came out for both mobile safari and desktop browsers; which solved that problem.  This small turn of fate turned out to be the ultimate strength of the Application.  The original goal was to create a field work tool but in making a web application we were able to open it out to a wider audience.  We were able to quickly turn around changes via the Web App - just using HTML and Javascript.

Java - Petra’s decision to use java on the backend also paid off.  As she is a much better Java programmer than me, she was able to quickly get a flexible framework up and running without too much fuss.

Creativity - Working with the Art College for the first time was a real breath of fresh air for the project team.  Working on an application which was both creatively and technically rewarding was a very pleasant side effect of working with our colleagues.  The team from the Art College were able to provide both help in terms of technical ideas  but also the much more conceptual ideas of what the project could offer.  This is a fairly rare thing to get when working directly with a customer, one I found particularly rewarding.

Design - We were able to explore some rather radical ideas which; didn’t manifest but we were able to use tools like Balsamiq to articulate these ideas quickly and easily to the other members of the team.


Mobile Platform - The platform of the phones as a real issue.  Screen size and speed were the 2 biggest factors.  We were able to overcome a lot of the issues but it meant that we were spending a little longer than we would have liked looking at solving speed issues rather than coming up with features.

Workload -  I for one certainly was working with a number of other projects while developing this and Petra was developing this full time, and I was not able to spend as long on it as I wished to.  Also we were perhaps a little ambitious in scope, I for one was keen to try some rather odd things which perhaps were shooting a little too high given the time.


EDINA - we were able to work with EDINA for the first time which was very rewarding.  Our colleagues there were extremely helpful in getting us started and providing solutions.

Agile - we were able to explore working in a very Agile style way with this project.  We deliberately tried to work with the customer to get as many ideas from them as possible, we also gave ourselves fairly strict schedules to accomplish our “work packages”, dropping or adding features as time would allow.  This was a very developer centric way to work - which for us as developers is great but it would be interesting to explore this in a slightly more controlled situation.

Mobile Devices Development - This was  a great exposure to work with mobile devices and explore what is possible.  This is not something that we would have been able to explore without the funding.  To have some time to do this with some leisure has been a great learning experience.


I am not sure that I can really add any threats to the project from a development perspective after the fact but I think I can easily say that when we started we had no idea how to do this.  It was based on some ideas, scraps of paper and some bits of code.

Well that’s a very brief round up of some of the development process of this little prototype

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Project Evaluation

Oops manage to miss most of the official Progress Report blog posts. In truth all of the content is located through our posts, but an extended reflection follows:

So WTT is proving to be a rollercoaster, but one that has stayed well on its tracks!

lets go through some SWOT…

Strengths: attributes of the person or company that are helpful to achieving the objective.

So unlike many applications that i’ve been involved in the project team didn’t really know each other, at all! But this has proved to be a stunning strength. Due to not knowing each other, everyone has retained a professional approach and has listened carefully to each others positions to maximise the project. There is no ego, no driver, and everyone is learning to appreciate each others skills and interests to make the project work. The Div Apps guys are amazing, so many times i’ve worked with developers who want to push their own agenda placing the project in jeopardy, but Peter and Petra seem to just get on with stuff and are able to solve problems with tenacity and enthusiasm. ECA end is ok, in truth the rapid innovation is really a tech thing, so once the creative parameters were established we just sat back - an extraordinary comfort and privilege! But thats not strictly true because communication and reflection has always been very good indeed.

Weaknesses: attributes of the person or company that are harmful to achieving the objective

Weaknesses are relative i guess, we’re trying something pretty ambitious things here and pushing the envelope is always going to have some fallout. We might reflect upon the decision to go web app one day - but the pay offs with the web app are immense as the phones get faster. Even the new 3GS has suddenly added more speed to what was a slow web app. If we’d had a bigger team (budget) we may have had more chance to trial a proper app. But then we’d have cut out our Google audience. There a cool app here and they clearly have gone for the single platform killer app. Doesn’t look as though the blue dot falls though - this is critical for the embodying the map within the user experience.

Opportunities: external conditions that are helpful to achieving the objective.

I think the gap between institutions  (ECA and UE) is good - they work very professionally and the college are bit sloppier - not bad sloppy but just creative sloppy. Div Apps are tight and well ran with Dave at the helm checking our every move. In the big wide world i’m still stunned that people don’t question the Google tiles, so despite being an incredibly obvious business / creative move to swap them the world seems prefixed with navigating the present. I guess we’re also lucky with EDINA - access to alternative map tiles is not easy, and with EDINA on your doorstep and with James and Ben providing so much constructive support we’re very lucky indeed.

Threats: external conditions which could do damage to the objective.

Well the world does catch on, and is a good and close app to ours. It clearly has difference objectives and we need to identify ours (social dimensions, community and the fact that its a web app). Our biggest catch may be the licensing behind the EDINA maps, with the best support in the world, James can’t make the maps visible to the public on a wide scale yet - not without somebody paying for the license! We need to get some press soon, and we need a work around really to make this app as successful as it possibly can be. Hence making the video but this needs more work  - my use of grammar is under rapid innovation ;) Users so far seem keen and enjoy the moment of going back in time, so we’ll continue to develop toward their suggestions.

all for now


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Google Maps 3 API - Fail for us

We tried - we failed…  For us to implement it, would require a good bit of re-write and we took the decision to not go with it this time.  It did make us think about the modular nature of the javascript

It doesn’t quite have the feature set at this time that we were looking for but it does look like it’ll be great when it’s finished.  The focus on mobile tools would be great and gesture support for Android would be great.  Not this time but we did think it would be worth  keeping an eye for when it matures

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Web App fail?

The first round of testing that Karlyn performed was a resounding… well, fail to be honest.  I received a phone call bright and early one morning with the results of Karlyn’s testing.

To be honest it just didn’t work for her.  After a fairly disappointed chat we figured out what the problem was - is - might be?

Our testing has been done with WI-Fi and with iphone 3gs’s, and whenever we have done tests they are under lab conditions with the watchful eye of Petra or myself.  Outwith those lab conditions it turns out that the world of mobile and web apps is a bit fraught.

The main issue was getting a consistent and reliable signal at 3g - without this our application doesn’t work so well.  This is probably true of almost all mobile applications that need an internet connection but particularly for us as we are getting back data from a couple of sources and presenting it.  One web service call and another direct HTTP connection but that is for each tile, so we are basically sending a whole lot of HTTP requests and over GPRS this is not so good.

We came up with a couple of ideas on how to solve this - 1) try the Google Maps 3 API which is a little more mobile centric 2) some caching

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Thoughts and reflections

Ok so a list to begin with of things that need attention. Then the next post might be the order, but lets get them down first…

1. speed (i know, i know, but its the big one)

2. feedback on buttons, because its slow, the temptation is to push a button more than once because you’re unsure if a service is on or off. If its a matter of graphics - tell me i can make some on/off versions very quickly. Key buttons are…

a) footprint

b) explore - somehow a way of knowing that ‘markers’ are on. Many times you will be in an area and there will be no markers, but you’re unsure if markers is on or off. So a way of telling the user that the markers are definitely on would be good.

c) Same for Route, although obviously you’re taken to their start point, but if you move away from the start point then you may forget that the routes are on and are obscuring other ways of seeing markers (for example).

3. I know this may be impossible to resolve, but its irresistible not to want to zoom into further than the maps allow. The 2 zoom levels are great, but can we have more? even if the bitmap just gets bigger? Plus you can get lost when you are too far out - you never know how many levels you have to click thru before you find yourself in an olf map again.

4. On my iphone there is a white bar at the bottom under the menu bar. Is that due to platforms standards? screen size? can we put anything in there?

5. Do we need a link anywhere to a project website? sounds like more buttons, but i wonder if people would need access to a help page.

6. Follow me is slow - i know this is a speed thing but to get the audience ‘really’ into the map then the follow me should be very responsive indeed. On my google map app, the blue dot feels like me cos it moves reasonably quickly after i do. This may be very hard to do on a web app.

7. Really picky - the balloon graphic top right on the screen could be cleaner (really picky! sorry)

8. When you click on a marker, some seem to be truncated - scott monument for example

9. Marker filling is great - fast and simple. Only the amount of text that is displayed is a problem - the page could be cooler i guess.

10. At some point we might want to develop a product site and a brand (probably my job) but like for comob, it would involve buying a URL and developing a micro site to ‘push’ the product. (

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Cross Platform?

One of our goals was to try and produce something which worked cross platform.  We recognised this was a bit of a steep call but our lofty goals haven’t stopped us this far.  As a lot of our earlier work was focused on exploring navigation techniques and ideas we got a little swept up in iPhone mania (I blame Chris personally) but worry not…

android Video

I gave it a spin in the android simulator and well … it works …

Kind of, a lot of the functionality which we are relying on api’s for doesn’t seem to work in the emulator but what does work is the very basics of the application - which is really, really encouraging

Please excuse the crudely put together flash video but I was so excited that I a) got the emulator to work and b) the application worked, I felt a need to share…

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