Amazon Simple DB

Correction: In a comment, Justin Crites points out, correctly, that Simple DB does not offer 'relational' database functionality, in the sense that it is not an RDBMS. While this is true, I think Simple DB clearly offers functionality which many people get, perhaps inappropriately, from a relational database system. Amazon continue to expand their excellent infrastructure web services. Simple DB - relational databases in the cloud. I'm definitely going to have a look at this - clustering/replicating databases for resilience and performance was extraordinarily difficult when I was developing and supporting enterprise systems a couple of years ago. [continues...]

Paul Walk , December 14, 2007

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Repositories get my vote

Having attended the CRIG Unconference last week, I think that it delivered much that was interesting and valuable. I look forward to the results of the synthesis of the many contributions from the delegates. Although there was just one formal presentation, the volume of content was still considerable, as just about everyone actively contributed something. The final analysis will have to demonstrate whether or not the quality of the content has been good enough to be useful. [continues...]

Paul Walk , December 13, 2007

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Unconferencing the CRIG and browsable podcasts

David Flanders and I share an interest in the notion of the 'unconference', so I'm pleased to be participating in the CRIG Unconference which David and the 'WoCRIG' team has organised. David introduces the idea of the unconference thus: An un-conference is a combination of the best parts of a conference (face-to-face discussions generating new ideas, passionate debates and genuine information exchange) with all the PowerPoint stripped out. The agenda is set by the attendees on the day in a very simple and direct way - there is no signing up for predetermined break-out sessions and no sitting through interminable PowerPoint presentations. [continues...]

Paul Walk , November 29, 2007

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Defending your brand in Facebook

The strange excitement in some parts of the HE sector around Facebook continues apace. Apparently, it is now possible to create a page for an organisation rather than for an individual. This is of course creating a stir, with a rush to claim pages. Kind of like internet domain registering but without the regulatory framework. There's a long comment thread over on Brian's blog with several points of view on this. [continues...]

Paul Walk , November 11, 2007

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Not a unicorn, nor Switzerland neither

I've just listened to a podcast of David Heinemeier Hansson's keynote at RailsConf 2007 (which actually took place back in May of this year). David describes the changes and new features being introduced into Rails 2.0. Firstly, he is at pains to point out that Rails 2.0 will not represent a radical change, or a complete re-write. Also, 95% of what will constitute Rails 2.0's new features are already available in the bleeding edge EdgeRails and are being actively used. [continues...]

Paul Walk , November 9, 2007

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Web hosting recommendations?

Caveat: there follows a bit of a moan about some poor service - but if you can't have an occasional moan on your own blog.... who know, maybe even the service I'm moaning about has people who monitor for this sort of thing! I've been using the same web-hosting supplier, Site5, for a number of years. Site5 was a good fit for me as it offered a good range of development tools and more access (SSH/SFTP) to the server than was commonly allowed by web-hosts at the time. [continues...]

Paul Walk , October 28, 2007

The selfish application

Some time ago, several of my friends in Facebook installed the 'MyQuestions' application: this application allows the user to pose a question and invite answers from their friends. Significantly, in order to answer a question the friend must, in turn, install the application. I was that friend. Since installing the application I haven't intentionally used it to pose any new questions myself. However, it seems I have posed a question - on installation the application is set to ask a question, any question, in order to be seen by my friends. [continues...]

Paul Walk , October 23, 2007

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No degrees of separation?

I recently got spammed invited to participate in Karl Bubyan's Six Degrees of Separation application in Facebook. This application navigates the 'social graph' in Facebook, offering a couple of tools to allow the user to test the ' Six degrees of separation' hypothesis. The application and its interface seem quite slick - and it has the now obligatory visualisation (reproduced here). There's an irony here. The six degrees of separation idea can only work if there is some barrier to being directly connected to someone else. [continues...]

Paul Walk , October 8, 2007

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What do IM and social networks have in common?

I haven't used a dedicated instant messaging (IM) client for many months. I do occasionally use text-chat facilities when they are built into other tools - notably Skype at the moment. Last week however, a colleague sent me their contact details on four of the available IM networks: AOL/AIM Yahoo MSN Google Because I cannot control what my ID or 'screen-name' will be on each of these, I am forced to use different IDs for some. [continues...]

Paul Walk , September 24, 2007

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Bespoke metadata creation tools are commonplace

RLG Programs has conducted a survey of partner institutions which have “multiple metadata creation centers” to: ...gain a baseline understanding of current descriptive metadata practices and dependencies, the first project in our program to change metadata creation processes. Some intriguing statements in this summary post (I look forward to getting hold of the report when it's completed). For example: 76 listed the tools they used to create metadata. [continues...]

Paul Walk , September 18, 2007

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eScience All Hands 2007 - final thoughts

I very much enjoyed the UK e-Science All Hands Meeting 2007 last week. Being new to many of the disciplines covered there, I went with an open mind. I learned a bewildering amount, and realised that there are all kinds of opportunities for aligning my professional interests with those of many from the e-science communities. Some small, specific points: Being more used to conferences in the e-Learning an web-development worlds, I was struck by the ratio of women to men. [continues...]

Paul Walk , September 16, 2007

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Stranger in a strange land (3)

Day 3 kicked off with a really impressive keynote on 'Medical Visualisation between 2D Images' from Professor Anders Ynnerman. CT scanning is developing to the point where the volume of data returned from a scan of a human body is difficult to manage and process. Various strategies are being developed to reduce the amount of data which must be analysed from a typical scan before the analysis and visualisation processes are invoked. [continues...]

Paul Walk , September 16, 2007

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Stranger in a strange land (1)

I've travelled to Nottingham, to the East Midlands Conference Centre, to attend the UK e-Science All Hands Meeting 2007. With my academic background being rooted predominately in the humanities, I'm looking forward to immersing myself for the next 4 days in a very different set of disciplines. I'm also wondering what chance I have of getting the conference dinner, scheduled for Wednesday evening, moved to a bar showing the England v Russia match. [continues...]

Paul Walk , September 11, 2007

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Stranger in a strange land (2)

A night spent in a fairly modern but spartan student university hall - all aluminium staircases and orange walls (Frederique of JISC described it as the 'EasyJet' of student acommodation). I kept waking up wondering why I hadn't been woken up by Harvey.... And so to the main auditorium, for the first plenary session. The auditorium had been dressed up in a way that reminded me of the launch venue for some new corporate venture - complete with a background of cheesy, dated rock music. [continues...]

Paul Walk , September 11, 2007

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Personal unit tests

As an increasingly serious practitioner of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) system, I immediately appreciated this post on 'personal unit tests'. I think 27 daily tests is probably far too many to begin with - this might explain the author's 85% failure rate.... but then again, think of the glow of satisfaction he'll experience when he passes all 27! I think this appeals to me in the same way that GTD does - one real lesson from which is to keep taking the small steps. [continues...]

Paul Walk , September 6, 2007

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Paternity-leave blues

I'm coming to the end of two weeks' paternity leave - its not all about exhaustion, anxiety and strange green poo.....picture is of Harvey and me. I'm the one doing the crossword.

Paul Walk , August 31, 2007

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A river of gossip

A couple of years ago, Dave Winer posted an article in which he outlined the notion of a _ River of News_, describing the use of an RSS aggregator to simply scroll through the latest new items from many sources (or categories), all merged together in one 'stream'. I don't tend to use my RSS reader (the excellent NetNewsWire) in this way, preferring to browse particular sources as the fancy takes me. [continues...]

Paul Walk , August 27, 2007

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Harvey has landed

So, last Monday, right in the middle of University Challenge, it became apparent that our second child (sex then unknown) was announcing his/her intention to arrive a week early. After a certain amount of drama, including my forgetting how to drive a car and repeatedly stalling at traffic lights, and a record-breaking drive by my brilliant parents from Portsmouth to Frome to come and take care of number-one-son (Joe, 3), Helen delivered a little boy at 01:08 on Tuesday. [continues...]

Paul Walk , August 23, 2007

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Facebook - what is it good for?

In Facebook, Ross Gardler asks: What features of Facebook make you come back day after day? The interesting thing about Facebook for me is to see how far I am dragged into using it by the groundswell of public enthusiasm before the next, more compelling thing comes along and we find this closed system is no use anymore. A bit acerbic perhaps. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm using Facebook in an experimental way, and one prerequisite for a useful experiment would seem to be to use it regularly. [continues...]

Paul Walk , August 17, 2007

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Facebook opening up?

Brian alerted me to a post by Dave Winer, called Facebook is opening up. It's true! Some Facebook content is now easily available as RSS feeds: for example a feed of items which have been posted by my 'friends'. Note how you don't need to be logged in to Facebook (or have an account for that matter) to use this. Dave reports that, in fact, these feeds have been available for some time. [continues...]

Paul Walk , August 17, 2007

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