Friday, 3 July 2015

Further thoughts on Lodlam 2015

The Lodlam 2015 event was pretty interesting, and I came away all enthusiastic about linked data and what you could do with it.

However my bag's research infrastructure provision not research itself. To be sure I have a couple of play projects to teach myself about stuff to better inform/help/advise clients but they are just that - play projects.

So how to raise the profile of linked data in a research enablement context?

After all we're not funded to do projects (not strictly true - we can be but someone has to tell us to do it), and the experience of Project Bamboo suggests that building elaborate infrastructure is not the way.

Likewise simply providing storage and data management skills isn't going to provide that degree of enablement either.

Probably what it comes down to is talking to people, showing people examples, and perhaps showing the play projects - basically we needs a showcase and some demo code.

The only infrastructure required first time around is an old laptop, a copy of Ubuntu, and the ability to use an editor ...

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Lodlam 2015

I’ve just spent the last two days at the Lodlam summit in Sydney.

Lodlam - Linked Open Data in Libraries, Archives and Museums - was an invitation only event loosely linked to the Digital Humanities 2015 conference also on in Sydney at the same time and I was lucky enough to get an invitation to the LodLam event.

The even was cast using the unconference format - rather than a formal agenda it was a set of birds of a feather sessions where people proposed topics and groups met and discussed them. At it’s best it was pretty powerful as it allowed discussion among people who were motivated and interested in the topic and one could get some good discussion and insights - after all it’s the discussion that often makes conferences valuable rather the presentations themselves.

At its worst it was rather less valuable - the unconference thing breaks down in two ways - when one or two loud talkers dominate a discussion - which didn’t really happen this time or alternativesly when particular sessions get too large for informality and some structure and mediation is needed - controlled anarchy is productive, but sometimes a little scaffolding is needed.

I basically spent my time talking about disambiguation and entity recognition, topics near to my heart at the moment but I was also inspired to revisit some of my experiments with R and text analysis, not too mention to play with some of the Python natural language tool kits.

Along the way I think I also found the ideal note taking solution - type brief notes into Markdrop on a tablet, sync them to Dropbox and clean them up and generate a pdf and dump that in Evernote from where the shard can be shared out as a link I found my Samsung tablet had just enough battery life to last a day - something that was a bit of a problem sometimes with my older 7” tablet. It might be worth trying this on a larger format tablet as the onscreen keyboard size was a little restricting for may fat fingers, leading to more typos than were strictly necessary.

All in all it was a good event, a little nerdy, but quite inspiring to see what people are doing with open linked data ...

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Travel computing ...

I'm back from five weeks away, travelling to Vienna, Budapest, Slovenia and Croatia.

Over the years I've agonised about whether a tablet can truly replace a laptop for computing while travelling. I now have the definitive answer - it can (but with a couple of caveats).

I took a little seven inch Samsung tablet with me and the same netbook I took to Sri Lanka in 2013, albeit upgraded to Xubuntu from Windows 7.

The netbook spent most of the trip in its travel bag. I thought we might end up in a couple of hotels with only fixed internet, but in the event free wifi was everywhere - most strikingly in Croatia where cafes made it available by default, and hotels all had pretty zippy wifi (and for free).

The only time the netbook saw serious use was to back up camera SD cards to Dropbox.  I had thought I might do some writing while I was away, but in the event I didn't - which had been my main reason for taking the netbook in the first place.

I did still keep a travel journal, but as I've always done, I wrote my notes in longhand in a Moleskine notebook - incidentally the same one I've been using since my Laos trip in 2005.

I did end up using the netbook to book trains on both Deutsche Bahn and its Austrian equivalent OBB - purely because both companies' english language web sites were easier to use with a mouse and a keyboard rather than via an emulated tablet keyboard that covered half the screen.

Now I don't doubt that both DB and OBB have excellent applications, but as an occasional user, like one who need to make two bookings and amend another, I'm going to use the website rather than download and install the apps, especially as I can use it in English.

The same goes for booking a flight on Adria - I could have done it using Expedia's app, but it was cheaper to book directly, and again their English language site worked better on a laptop.

There is a follow up to this - I failed to find somewhere to print the booking confirmation docket, so at check in showed the clerk a pdf copy on my tablet which he was happy to accept.

So, for even quite a long trip, you can basically do everything you want with a tablet provided you've got wifi.

For a business trip it depends what you're doing. If you need spreadsheets and numbers undoubtedly a laptop. For reviewing documents, a full size tablet and a decent hardback notebook would probably do ...

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

These days are past now ...

Microsoft has introduced thus feature called clutter to Office 365 - basically the system learns what you always ignore or delete, and moves it to a folder called clutter, where you can set up an auto delete rule to get rid of the content after a decent interval.

Anyway, in my clutter folder were a pile of emails from various Jiscmail mailing lists, including a couple of lists I started myself some twenty or so years ago when I worked in the UK and was involved in the support of enduser computing - mainly windows and thin client (remember them?) stuff.

Well, the world has changed immensely since then.

Enduser computing is essentially a commodity - hardware is vastly simplified with no need these days to specify video adapters, network hardware - basically you can go to any of the big box stores and just about anything you can buy will do the job.

Likewise operating systems and network configurations - it's become immensely simple and black arts such as building boot volumes or building network configurations are mostly behind us, and the plethora of file services on offer such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox and the rest make network storage provision increasingly irrelevant.

And as these things become simpler I've moved away from enduser support and now work principally in data management and archiving.

So, I dumped out the headers of these mailing lists, found the unsubscribe instructions, and did the necessary.

I did feel a momentary twinge though ...

Friday, 10 April 2015

Microsoft using WindowsUpdate to spruik Windows 10 ...

So Microsoft have decided to use the Windows Update mechanism to sneak adverts for Windows 10 onto PC's worldwide.

This is really bad. Basically it's a Snapfish moment for Windows Update and destroys trust in the update mechanism.

It flushes years of educating users to apply windows updates religiously down the toilet.

Debian anyone ?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Netflix angst

There's been some angst recently due to the arrival of Netflix and its impact on Australia's shaky internet infrastructure. So far the consensus seems to be that Netflix (and its rivals Stan and Presto) are pushing a shaky house of cards over the edge.

This isn't surprising. For years at Chez Moncur we were troubled by unstable internet and service dropouts. Things got so bad I eventually bought myself a 3G router so that it would fail over to a 3G service whenever the ADSL did a walkabout.

Well that's worked a treat, and, about a month after I set up the 3G router I found an alternative ISP who'd provide us with an ADSL service (quite a few of the major players declined to offer us a service as we lived in an ADSL not-spot),

For whatever reason, our new isp's service has been incredibly stable, if a trifle slow at times. So much so that the router only failed over to 3G three or four times in the whole year.

Then came Netflix and its competitors.

Since then we've had as many flipovers in four weeks as in the previous year, and always in the early evening around six o'clock.

I can't of course prove it's due to Netflix but I'd say it was a reasonable guess.

The autumn school holidays start next week in Canberra - what happens to our link could be interesting ...

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

5 years of the iPad ...

Last weekend, as well as being the Easter holiday was the fifth anniversary of the iPad, a device which has undoubtedly changed the world.

The iPad wasn't the first such device - but earlier tablets had been slow, had clumsy stylus based interfaces and the rest - and they'd been heavy and had comparitively short battery life.

The iPad got it right - reasonable battery life, wifi available in lots of places, and suddenly one could carry a single device with all your meeting notes, photographs and the rest.

It could have been a flop. It wasn't. The success (or lack of it) of its various android competitors shows just how effective Apple's marketing was.

The iPad changed things. Finnish paper manufacturers blame the decline of their industry on it. Airlines let you use them to access streaming media on flights.

Things have changed, and the iPad has been one of the engines moving us over into a truly online world ...