I could self-host a WordPress installation and do it that way but, for now at least, I’m trying to avoid doing any IT sysadmin and support and concentrate on the writing 🙂 Fortunately there are plenty of other options around and one that I’ve been wanting to try for a while is Google’s App Engine. Running a separate site is less desirable because I have to link out from this blog to a different URL but it’s the path of least resistance to getting something up and running quickly.
Google App Engine Quotas and Billing
App Engine has a free plan / trial but as is usual with Google products it’s quite hard to pin down what the free limits are and what happens if you exceed them. There’s an FAQ discussing a “Free Trial” and “Always Free” plans but these seem to assume that you have an account with Google which I do not, although I do have a Gmail account which is needed to get started. Anyway, after setting up a demo site I had the following information on my App Engine console page:
I deduce from this that I get 1 Gbyte of bandwidth per day and, if I dig into the “Settings” link, 5 Gbyte of cloud storage for free after which some sort of error page will be served. We shall see 🙂
Google App Engine Setup
My demo site is at http://thereteng.appspot.com/ and was up and running quickly with no bother at all. Essentially you develop locally and deploy the site using Google’s SDK which you download and compile. I only use three of the SDK commands:
- gcloud app deploy [ -v version no] – Deploys the site. The version number is optional and will be automatically added by the SDK if it’s not specified.
- gcloud app browse – Opens the site in the browser. Or you can just point your browser at the site URL manually.
- gcloud app logs tail -s default – Live view of the web logs.
Rather than develop the whole site layout from scratch I used one of the many Creative Commons licenced site template downloads available – https://www.html5webtemplates.co.uk/ in this case. It’s a simple layout and I just tweaked some of the colours and formatting.
The first use for my new demo page was to display some of the PLY models created using photogrammetry in a web based 3D viewer.
The go-to technology for displaying 3D objects in the browser is undoubtedly WebGL ( Wikipedia link ) which is normally not used directly but via a higher level library. I’ve used threejs in past but this time I was looking for something with a higher level of abstraction just to display PLY models. After a bit of Googling I came across the 3D Heritage Online Presenter or 3DHOP which is ” … an open-source software package for the creation of interactive Web presentations of high-resolution 3D models, oriented to the Cultural Heritage field.”
There’s also a compression option which I haven’t investigated yet and many other display features. The pre-processor as downloaded only runs under Windows. It should be possible to compile it for Linux but I haven’t tried this yet.
Examples of my photogrammetry models can be seen on the demo site here – http://thereteng.appspot.com/photogrammetry.html