Monday, 27 October 2008
Explains Lin : "If you have a large burial, that's going to have an impact on the landscape. To find Khan's tomb, we'll be using remote sensing techniques and satellite imagery to take digital pictures of the ground in the surrounding region, which we'll be able to display on Calit2's 287-million pixel HIPerSpace display wall. ...
which sounds an interesting use of the technology for large scale visualisation work.
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
- Users can upload and print the files from anywhere
- Users can upload but defer printing of files until they are ready to print
- Users only need to login to the print management application once
- Users need to create pdf files
- Printing is not seamless - users need to login to print management application
- Users need to install and configure remote printer
- Users need to login to separate print management application to release print job
- User do not have the option of immediate print
- Printing is seamless
Monday, 20 October 2008
Saturday, 18 October 2008
So far so geek.
Now i have a real world application for it -providing live system status updates. One thing we lack at work is an effective way of getting information that there is a system problem out to people. Basically we email notifications to people.
However is we can apply sufficiently rigourous filters to the output from various montoring sysstems such as nagios we can effectively provide an input feed into a micro blogging service. This then produces an RSS output feed which people can then refactor in various ways elsewhere on campus.
And of course we can inject human generated alerts into the service and use our own tiny url service to pass urls of more detailed technical posts on a separate blog when we have a real problem,
Also, we could glue the feeds together, much as I have with this blog in a webpage where people can check and see if there is a problem, or indeed what's happening in the background - good when you have researchers in different timezones wanting to know what's going on, and it gives a fairly live dynamic environment.
All pretty good for a couple of hours creative buggereing about to get my head round Twitter ...
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Tuesday, 14 October 2008
As an experiment I think it's quite successful, if only for me to (a) keep a list on interesting links in my sent mail and (b) share interesting things I've been reading with anyone interested enough to follow this blog.
Of course it doen't have to be twitter and twittermail, various other microblogging services provide the tools to create a similar effect - here it's twitter and twittermail purely because I found the correct off the shelf tools in their software ecology.
Personally I think this anonymous sharing model is more useful than the social networking 'share with friends' closed group model - it allows people who may be interested in a topic and who follow your blog also to follow the links you find interesting. Social network providers want to of course use the links to help add value to people who are part of the network to keep them hooked, or sell targeted advertising to or whatever.
In fact it's probably almost worthwhile also providing a separate rss feed for the interesting links as it's not beyond the bounds of probablity that someone finds the collection of links more useful than the original blog.
Likewise I've stuck with Bloglines as a blog aggregator in preference to google reader. In fact I've been using bloglines since 2004 which must mean something. And I've been happy with it - performance is rock solid, or rather was. Since the last upgrade it's claimed that feeds did not exist (including well known ones like guardian.co.uk) and if you re-add a feed it will work for a bit then stop. Response is poor compared to before the upgrade (being ever so anal I tend to read the feeds at the same time in the morning - so I think I can claim this even if it's anecdotal).
So one more bit of me has been assimilated by the borg - I've moved over to google reader. Not such an elegant interface, but more reliable, and given that my major reason for reading rss feeds is industry news and updates that's worth trading elegance for performance ...
Monday, 13 October 2008
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Now, I am not an anti microsoft zealot. Yes, I think Microsoft's business practices were not the best, but then all through the nineties and well into the first few years of the present decade there was no real alternative as a mass market desktop operating system - linux wasn't (isn't ?) there, and Apple seemed to lose the plot, and it took a long time to come back with OS X. The same in the application space. The competitors were as good if not better, and they took a long time a dying. Microsoft got where it was by either having products to which there was no serious alternative, or by convincing people that there was no serious alternative to Office and the rest. That was then and this is now, we work with the present reality.
Judi isn't an anti anything zealot as far as computers go. Computers are tools to her. Email, web, grading student reports, writing course notes and assignments and that's it. Providing she can send emails and buy stuff online, research stuff and get into the school email system she's fine.
Our decision for going microsoftletss was purely pragmatic. I can do most of what I can do with abiword, open office, google apps, firefox, zoho and pan, and I can do this on a couple of fairly low powered machines - an old ppc imac and a pc I put together for $83. Judi likes to play with digital photography, so we bought an imac purely because the screen was nicer. I though we might have to buy a second hand windows pc as well but that hasn't turned out to be the case. Firefox, safari, google apps and neo office have let her get her work done, even coping with the docx problem.
The only couple of problems we've had is with bathroom design catalogues (canned autorun powerpoint on a cd) and an ikea kitchen design tool. Things we could work around easily and turned out to be totally inessential. Other than that it's fine. Emails get written, appointments made, books bought, assignments graded, documents formatted.
So we've proved you can live without windows. We've also proved we could live with windows and not linux or OS X - no operating system has a set of killer apps for middle of the road usage.
And more and more we're using online apps - at what point does zonbu or a easy neuf bcome a true alternative? (and when do we get vendor lock in and all the rest in the online space?)
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Digital Archiving as preservation
Here one essentially wants to keep the data for ever, cross hardware upgrades and format changes. Essentially what one is doing is taking a human cultural artifact such as a medieval manuscript, an aboriginal dreamtime story as recorded and making a digital version of it and keeping the file available for ever.
This has three purposes:
1)Increased access - these artifacts are delicate and cannot be accessed by everyone who wishes to. Nor can everyone who wishes access have or can afford access. While the preservation technology is expensive access is cheap - this is being written on a computer that cost be $83 to put together. This also has the important substrand of digital cultural repatriation - it enables access to the conserved materials by the originators and cultural owners. Thus, to take the case of a project I worked on, Australian Aborigines were too impoverished to conserve photographs and audio recordings of traditional stories and music, digital preservation allows copies of the material to be returned to them without any worries about its long term preservation.
2) Long term preservation. The long term conservation of digital data is a 'just add dollars' problem. The long term preservation of audio recordings, photographs, is not. And paper burns. Once digitised we can have many copies in many locations - think clockss for an example design and we have access for as long as we have electricity and the Internet.
3) Enabling new forms as scholarly research. This is really simply an emergent property of #1. Projects such as the Stavanger Middle English Grammar project are dependent on increased access to the original texts. Without such ready access it would have been logistically impossible to carry out such a study - too many manuscripts in too many different places.Digital archiving as publication
This seems an odd way of looking at it but bear with me. Scholarly output is born digital these days. It could be as an intrinsically digital medium such as a research group's blog, or digitally created items such as the TeX file of a research paper or indeed a book.
This covers e-journals and e-press as well as conventional journals, which increasingly also have a digital archive.
These technologies have the twin functions of increasing access - no longer does one have to go to a library that holds the journal one wants, and likewise one has massively reduced the costs of publication.Of course there's a catch here. Once one had printed the books and put them in a warehouse the only costs were of storage. These books were then distributed and put on shelves in libraries. Long term preservation costs was that of a fire alarm, an efficient cat to keep the depredations of rats and mice in check and a can of termite spray. OK, I exaggerate, but the costs of long term preservation are probably higher, in part due to the costs of employing staff to look after the machines and software doing the preserving and making sure that things keep running.
The other advantage is searchability. One creates a data set and then runs a free text search engine over it. From the data comes citation rankings, as loved by university administrators to demonstrate that they are housing productive academics (e-portfolios and the rest) and also the creation of easy literature searches - no more toiling in the library or talking to geeky librarians.
Digital preservation as a record
Outside of academia this is seen as the prime purpose of digital preservation. It is a way, by capturing and archiving emails and documents of creating a record of business, something that government and business has always done - think the medieval rent rolls of York, the account ledgers of Florentine bankers, and the transcripts of the trial of Charles Stuart in 1649. While today they may constitute a valuable historical resource at the time they served as a means of
record to demonstrate that payment had been made and that due procedure had been followed.
In business digital preservation and archiving is exactly that, capturing the details of transactions to show that due process has been followed and because it's searchable, it's possible to do a longitudinal study of a dispute. In the old days it would have been hundreds of APS4's searching through boxes of memo copies, to day it's a pile of free text searches across a set of binary objects.
Digital archiving as teaching
When lecturers lecture, they create a lot of learning aids around the lecture itself, such as handouts, reading lists. The lecture itself is often a digital event itself with a PowerPoint presentation of salient points, or key images, plus also the lecture itself.
Put together this creates a compound digital learning object and some thing that is accessible as a study aid sometime after the event.
While one may not want to keep the object for ever one may wish to preserve either components for re-use or even the whole compound object as the course is only offered in alternate years.
However these learning objects need to be preserved for reuse, and in these
litigious times, to also prove that lecturers did indeed say that about Henry II and consequently students should not be marked down for repeating it in an exam.
So digital preservation and archiving has a purpose, four in fact. The purposes differ but there are many congruences between them.
Fundamentally the gains boil down to increased accessibility and searchability.
The commercial need for such archiving and search should help drive down the cost of preservation for academic and pedagogic purposes. Likewise academic research relevant for digitisation, eg handwriting recognition, and improved search algorithms should benefit business and justify the costs of academic
Thursday, 2 October 2008
Likewise, prior to the black death we know the population had undergone a fairly rapid expansion, and hence could support the large rodent population in towns required as a reservoir for the plague bacterium. It has been hypothesised that the Black death was not a significant problem until it ended up infecting the large urban populations of Alexandria and Constantinople as part of the Plague of Justinian in 548. Large population, seaport, lots of rats.
There's also recently been a suggestion that the same sort of thing has happened with HIV in Africa - it had probably always been there but until significant urbanisation in the twentieth century, with accompanying population densities and greater opportunity for random sexual encounters.
So what does this mean for seventh century Britain. It's often argued that there was a plague event that preferentrially devastated the sub-Roman communities in the west of the island rather than the areas under Saxon control, providing an opportunity for further expansion westward by the Saxons. Does this mean that the plague was in the population and the outbreak was a result of higher population densities in the west capable of supporting a plague reservoir or does it simply mean that continued contact with the Byzantine east exposed the sub-Roman population to greater risk of infection as they had ports and the remnants of urban communities surrounding the ports to form an initial entry point for the plague?
If the former it suggests that the sub Roman successor states were capable of holding their own despite the loss of a lot of the prime agricultural territory, but to make a decision we need to know more about trade patterns, for example were the subroman populations also trading grain with northern France ?