Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bringing 20.000 Algarve offers to the UK

Traditionally, the Algarve has been the first choice of British people purchasing second homes in Portugal. So what could be more obvious than to make our casa.keru's Algarve offers available right in the potential buyers's domestic market?

Today, we have launched, extending the reach of our portal into the UK and beyond.

Since casa.keru's start in Portugal only 4 weeks ago, listings have doubled. We are now presenting more than 20.000 offers in the Algarve alone, still counting.

For your convenience, all prices on Portugal Realty are labeled in British Pounds. You might see some odd-value pricing due to the current EUR/GBP conversion. The exchange rate is updated on a daily basis. Of course, the ruling price is the Euro amount stated in each property's description.

PS: Happy birthday, Felix!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Behind the name: "keru"

Lots of our visitors from abroad were asking: What does the name keru stand for?

The answer is really simple: In Portuguese, "keru" is the phonetic transcription for "quero" which means "I want ...". Our dear friend Isabel from Lisbon came up with this idea. She's an excellent copywriter and very good at wordplays - thanks again, Isabel!

The implication for our customers: is the place to go if you want a house (casa), and some day maybe a car, boat, job, friend, deal, or whatever ...

So "keru" works very well for our domestic users. BTW, with over 260 million speakers, Portuguese is the fifth most spoken language in the world (and the second fastest growing European language after English on the planet).

When we did some research, besides Keru being a city in Eritrea we found two other remarkable connections to the word:

- In Japanese, "keru" means "to kick". We like that, we get a kick out of it, too. You can listen to the original Japanese pronounciation spoken by lovely Mezashi from Tokio (actually, it really doesn't sound so much different from the Portuguese articulation).

- In the Star Trek universe, Lieutenant Commander Ranul Keru was an unjoined Trill who served as a Starfleet officer in the late 24th century. He served as a stellar cartography (!) officer on the USS Enterprise-E.

We don't know about the rest of the universe, but it looks like "keru" would also make a great brand name in Japan ...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

How fast is the IFS, really?

Today I saw an interesting presentation on modern server latency.

L1: 3 cycles
L2: 14 cycles
RAM: 250 cycles

Disk: 41.000.000 cycles
Network: 240.000.000 cycles

The Tredix IFS stores all data in-memory (RAM). Any XML source data is really just a transport format. We replicate it into memory, rewriting the data for optimal memory access, and even cache read access intelligently on top.

Can your DBMS deliver suggestions, full text, or geographic search results in milli- or microseconds? No need to answer ... How about result sets like Did you Means or geo clustering. OK, never mind.

So how fast is the IFS really?

Lightning fast.

Living in Keru - Another late night session on the API, Episode 1

Your properties, mapped (1/3): The basics of "Search"

All right, so you are a real estate agent or developer and all of your offers have been included with casa.keru - nice!

But wouldn't it be great to have this same cool bells and whistles map representation of your properties on your own web site?

"Of course", you will say, "but isn't that terribly complicated?"

Long answer: No.

Today we'll talk about integrating casa.keru maps into your web site - it will only take 20 minutes. This is what the result will look like:

Here we go … we will build a single small HTML page presenting all of your properties for sale on a map, allowing for basic yet complete user interaction.

Prerequisites: Besides some  basic knowledge of HTML and JavaScript, an HTML editor is essential for this session. In case you don't have one installed, notepad.exe will do. Other suggested tools include the Firefox browser with the latest Firebug Add-on (1) installed.

First, we create a very basic HTML structure which marks the starting point for any HTML document:

<title>My own casa.keru property map</title>
Listing 1

Now, we'll add some content to the page in three easy steps:
  • Step 1: The HTML
  • Step 2: Some Includes
  • Step 3: The JavaScript logic

1) The HTML

Creating a Google map within our web page is very easy. Inside the <body> section of our code (somewhere between the <body> and </body> tags), we create a <div> that will later contain the map. Always specify the required dimensions; in this example the map will be 800 pixels wide and 400 pixels high.

<div id="map1" style="width:800px;height:400px;"></div>
Listing 2

Yes, that's right: The total HTML fits in just one line of code.

2) Some includes

In order to make the Google map come alive, we need to include the maps library with the HTML document. Also needed is the jquery (2) library which will make the connection between our page and the casa.keru server.

Insert the following block of code within the <head> section of your HTML document, right after the <title>:

<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
  google.load("maps", "2.x", {"language" : "PT"});
  google.load("jquery", "1.4.4");
Listing 3

3) The JavaScript logic

For the map to come alive, we will need to put some logic into the page. The JavaScript code should not execute before the document is ready (fully loaded), so all of the code will go into the so called ready function:

<script type="text/javascript">
  // one after another, insert all of the following code here
Listing 4

In step 1 and 2 we put both the maps container and library in place. We can now go ahead and initialize the map, put it into "hybrid" mode (satellite imagery with street names), add the standard user interface (zoom, panning, map type controls, etc.), define the viewport, and center the map which is necessary to draw it for the first time.

// initialize map
var map = new GMap2(document.getElementById("map1"));
// set initial viewport, e.g. the Algarve
var algarveBounds = new GLatLngBounds(new GLatLng(36.94, -9.01), new GLatLng(37.53, -7.39)); //SW, NE
map.setCenter(algarveBounds.getCenter(), map.getBoundsZoomLevel(algarveBounds));
Listing 5

Save the HTML document and refresh it in your browser – voilá, we already got an interactive map in our page!

But where are the markers?

By this time, we are ready to request all of our properties from the casa.keru server in order to display the markers on the map. We need to have our user id provided by the keru team available (it is usually a four letter code like "ABCD").

We will put the request into a function called search() - this way, we can update the markers any time by simply calling this function, e.g. when the map viewport or zoom level changes.

"Who are you and what do you want?" I hear the server asking. So we need to give him some information before he can return the requested marker information.

Here's the information we provide below in Listing 6:
  • Our user id (UserID: "ABCD")
and the information we need ...:
  • markers, obviously (ResponseDetails: "Map")
  • limited to properties for sale (BusinessType: "SALE")
  • and particular property types (PropertyType: "Apartments, ...")
  • and narrowed by price (MinPrice/MaxPrice)
Additionaly, with every (!) single request, we need to pass the current viewport and dimensions of our map. The casa.keru server will spend some milliseconds on this information in order to deliver perfectly clustered items back to you.

Here's what the AJAX (3) call looks like:

// request your markers
function search() {
  // call the casa.keru server
    url: "",
    dataType: "jsonp",
    jsonp: "jsoncallback",
    scriptCharset: "utf-8",
    contentType: "application/json",
    data: {

      // your user id
      UserID: "ORBL", // e.g. Orbial - Soc. Mediação Imobiliária, Lda

      // request the results sets you need (map, list, tags, translations ...)
      ResponseDetails: "Map",

      // apply your filters (there are many more parameters and options ...)
      BusinessType: "SALE",
      PropertyType: "Apartments, DetachedHousesVillas, Townhouses, Lands, Ruins, FarmsEstates, CommercialProperties, Garages",
      MinPrice: 0,
      MaxPrice: 0, // == any

      // clustering needs map dimensions & viewport (mandatory for each request)
      ViewportLatitudeSouth: map.getBounds().getSouthWest().lat(),
      ViewportLongitudeWest: map.getBounds().getSouthWest().lng(),
      ViewportLatitudeNorth: map.getBounds().getNorthEast().lat(),
      ViewportLongitudeEast: map.getBounds().getNorthEast().lng(),
      MapDimensionX: $("#map1").width(),
      MapDimensionY: $("#map1").height()

Listing 6

In response to our request the server will now return all markers for your current map size and zoom level. To prevent individual markers from being stacked, some might get combined into clusters if necessary. This is a really cool and pretty unique feature once you think about it. For the moment we need to understand that we are looking at two different types of markers:

MapHits representing one single property, and
MapClusters containing two or more properties.

Apart from the latitude/longitude coordinates, the casa.keru server also deliveres many more relevant details about each marker, e.g. title and your reference for a MapHit or the number of properties contained in a MapCluster.

The following code will clear all markers from the map and paint a new icon ("G" as in geo point) for each MapHit on your map. Since these are all individual properties, we'll add some information (title plus ref) in the markers' tooltips.

Additionally, we will register a click event for each marker. The code redirects to the real estate web site's search for the corresponding ref. So if you click on the marker, you go straight to the details of the property. This is just one out of many examples how to connect casa.keru information with your own content.

      // clear map

      // display geo referenced lat/lng objects (MapHits)
      if (data.SearchResult.MapHits!=undefined) {
        $.each(data.SearchResult.MapHits, function(i,item)
          var geoPoint  = new GLatLng(item.Latitude,item.Longitude);
          var geoIcon   = new GIcon(G_DEFAULT_ICON);
          geoIcon.image ="";
          var geoTitle  = item.Title + " (Ref. " + item.PropertyID + ")";
          var geoMarker = new GMarker(geoPoint, {
            title: geoTitle, 

          // add geopoint click handler to connect to your web site
          GEvent.addListener(geoMarker, "click", function() {
            // e.g. search for property's reference
            window.location = ""+item.PropertyID;
Listing 7

We'll treat the MapClusters pretty much in the same way like the MapHits above (we are using "C" icons as in cluster). However, the click behaviour differs: When ever we click on a cluster, the map zooms in in order to eventually "spread" the cluster.

      // display clustered object groups (MapClusters)
      if (data.SearchResult.MapClusters!=undefined) {
        $.each(data.SearchResult.MapClusters, function(i,item)
          var clusterPoint  = new GLatLng(item.Latitude,item.Longitude);
          var clusterIcon   = new GIcon(G_DEFAULT_ICON);
          clusterIcon.image = "";
          var clusterTitle  = item.NumberOfObjects + " object/s";
          var clusterMarker = new GMarker(clusterPoint, {
            title: clusterTitle, 

          // add cluster click handler to zoom into clusters
          GEvent.addListener(clusterMarker, "click", function() {
            map.setCenter(new GLatLng(item.Latitude,item.Longitude), map.getZoom()+1);
Listing 8

Finally, it would be nice to see the markers updated when ever the user moves (drags) the map or zooms into or out of the map. We can easily listen for this kind of change through the dragend and zoomend events of the map. Once fired, they simply call the search() function which will update all MapHits and MapClusters immediately.

The following code should be inserted between Listing 5 and Listing 6:

// search() updates the markers on the map

// update the map when the user changes the zoom level ...
GEvent.addListener(map, "zoomend", function() {

// ... or when the user drags the map / changes the viewport
GEvent.addListener(map, "dragend", function() {
Listing 9

That's it - the map application for your web site is all done! Wasn't that easy?

You can watch the demo here. It includes all the code we have just developed - just copy the source HTML of the page and paste it into your editor.

If you want to put your page straight into production, you will need to apply for your free personal Google Maps key (4) by providing Google with the domain name the map will run on (like or

In the next two episodes, we'll look into casa.keru's "Suggest" and "Area" services. Stay tuned.

PS: Ah, yes, you are finally asking about the price tag. Integrating your properties into your web site is 100% free. All you need to do is register your access with us. Please contact for further information.


1. Get the Firebug Add-on:
2. Learn about jQuery:
3. A brief intro to AJAX:
4. Obtaining your Google Maps key:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011 up and running in Germany

We have launched in Germany.

Starting today, anybody trying to sell or rent his property with casa.keru will also advertise abroad, thus multiplicating circulation and reach. delivers the same content as casa.keru, making it the largest web site for Portuguese property in Germany right from the start.
Soon, there will be plenty more localized clones of casa.keru in all relevant European and overseas home buyers markets, driving lots of traffic and attention to the listings on the platform.

For our clients, this is great news: Simply list your property on casa.keru once, and it will automatically get local exposure in a growing number of foreign buyers' native countries!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

casa.keru press coverage in "Entdecken Sie Algarve"

Now that was a pretty nice new year's surprise:

casa.keru made it into the January issue of Southern Portugals leading German magazine "Entdecken Sie Algarve" (ESA).

Bernd Keiner wrote a very laudatory full pager praising the maps based search approach of the portal - thank you very much, Bernd!

We knew there was some press coverage in the works, but we didn't expect to even get a plug on the title! Apart from that, we were initially told the article wouldn't get published before February ... sooo glad we got the beta online on time.

Ever since, traffic is constantly increasing, mostly originating from Portuguese and German speaking countries. Also, we experience a growing demand for publishing properties for sale on our platform.

Again, thanks to all our friends over in the editorial department of ESA. Keep up the good work and stop by at the Tredix Cube for a drink or two any time.