Thursday Jul 02, 2009

And now I have a Centos VM

The reson for upgrading my Virtual BOx config is to install a Red Hat Centos image. I chose 4.7 because this seems jolly popular within the hosting community and I need a new host for my web servers. Two pieces of advice

  1. Download the x86 DVD image, I couldn't see how to use the multiple disk images with Virtual Box.
  2. It installs an SMP and uniprocessor version and grub is configured to start the SMP version as default. This thread, entitled CentOS 4.7 guest won't start, suggests that one should configure PAE/NX=on for the SMP image. This is not the default. Anyway works for me.

Now I need a manual to help through all those little differences between it and Ubuntu. Is been a couple of years since I played with Red Hat's Linux.

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Virtual Box 2.2.4 & Windows XP

And with one might bound he was free..................

I downloaded Virtual Box 2.2.4 a couple of days ago, but when I tried to install it on my XP SP/3, the install process failed and rolled back. This trouble ticket, #3701 details how to fix the windows registry which was damaged at v2.2.0.

Thanks to those who helped me find it.

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Tuesday Jun 30, 2009

Does knowing Stuff help?

How important are Universities to the software industry productivity. One would hope fairly high. For various reasons, I have been considering this question and some collaborators pointed me at the Academic Ranking of World Universitiesis which is referenced at Wikipedia as well and I first referred to in this blog last November. This is produced by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, in China.

I know that a discussion on ranking methodology may not be very helpful when considering economic growth issues, but there are some quite interesting and surprising results. One of the things that pointed me there is the domination of the USA, which has over 50% of the top 100 places as it was quoted for this reason.

Best Universities by Region

Sadly I haven't kept in touch with this issue since I was asked to work on other things since Xmas. I am sure that basic research drives innovation and productivity; I think that research quality and output is part of an institution's organic capability and therefore its undergraduate body and its ability to attract top students is important. I have come to the conclusion that Joy's law

"Clever People work elsewhere"

applies to academia as well, and that a lot of innovation in, and production of, software happens, outside the research institutes and departments, and also outside the traditional software industry. This is one of the reasons why public policy makers need to look at their procurement policies as well as their subsidy policies.

The rest of this article looks at the 2007 results, specifically at the UK University positions and compares them with some data points from the Guardian's Guide to Universities 2007, together with some personal prejudice, some of it informed. BTW, I can't find reference to the 2007 Guide on the web, so you might like to use this link Guardian University Guide 2006, and the 2008 results are also available. If you're planning to apply to a UK University presumably for a 2010 entry, I'd recommend getting a copy of the next book, which should be published later in the year.

Shanghai Jiao Tong University have documented their methodology on their site, or at the Wikipedia page. It is based on Nobel prize winners and the publication record of alumni and staff. One thing from observation is that Universities with large medical faculties seem to do well. It seems to have been designed with a scientific bias and for the purpose of public policy planning. From my current research, I am not able to determine the role of ICT or Software Engineering in these results. It seems that this may be a piece of research yet to be done. i.e. the creation of a ranking table for ICT teaching.

The 2007 national results are published http://www.arwu.org/rank/2007/ARWU2007Statistics.htm.

I was surprised by the fact that the UK comes a good second to the USA. The UK has 11, which are

  • Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial, UCL, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol, Sheffield, Nottingham, Kings College London and Birmingham

Another view of UK University ranking comes from "Blackadder goes forth".


Blackadder:I then leapt on the opportunity to test you. I asked if he'd been to one of the great universities: Oxford, Cambridge, or Hull.
Nurse Fletcher-Brown:Well?
Blackadder:You failed to spot that only two of those are great universities!
Nurse Fletcher-Brown:You swine!
Melchett: That's right! Oxford's a complete dump! [elsewhere]

Looking at the Guardian University Guide 2007's Computer Sciences and IT page, gives a quite different view. One of the most important things to say is that the Guardian's ranking methodology is optimised for undergraduate choice and the relationship between undergraduate choice and the wealth creation activities of a university are not well understood, or at least not by me. The Guardian's score is based on assessing the staff's qualifications, what it takes to get in, spend, pupil/teacher ratios, a value add score, post graduate job prospects and inclusiveness. The methodology is discussed in the book, and in the newspaper. Their 2009 Methodology notes are on the Guardian web site. The 2007 Computer & IT top ten were,

  • Imperial, St. Andrews, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Oxford, York, Surrey, Durham, Bristol, & Glasgow.

with Nottingham 11th. It interests me that the Guardian, doesn't (didn't) take the research grade of the departments into account, or maybe it does within the calculation of the teaching quality index. Its not easy to produce a Guardian fact based 'Best University' since the book is aimed at helping Undergraduates discover the best courses for themselves and the analysis is both institution and subject driven.

Personally I am surprised at how low KCL scores in the World Rankings compared with the other UK universities. It's also curious to me that the LSE, Warwick and Sussex are missing. (I may look into the numbers and see where they are and try and see why these are as they are it is likely to be methodology based, and tell us something about the methodology.) I am most curious as to where the LSE sits, which from its high numbers of overseas students, and its ability to ask for very high entry grades seems to be internationally and domestically very popular. I suppose that it might be a reflection of the science focus of the methodology, or the biases of potential students in the UK.

Since the question I am looking at is how do or can Universities add to the value of the software industry, I wonder if under-graduate students are the raw material of universities. It seems reasonable to assume that good researchers and teachers want to work at renowned (& rich) Universities, and that a University's social agenda is harder to sustain in the UK than in the primary or secondary sector. My theory is that as students and their families take more financial responsibility for their education, an assessment of life-time earnings comes into the decision framework and traditional economic criteria such as returns on investment and payback horizons are consider in more or less formal terms.

In my regional chart above, Europe includes Russia & Israel, and the obvious non EU countries (Norway & Switzerland), otherwise they're EU member states, with the UK contributing 11.

Both Canada and Sweden are punching above their weight in terms of population and even GNP, although Sweden is the host nation for the Nobel panel, which may have some relevance.

The Wikipedia page, Academic Ranking of World Universities has a sort button so you can see the institutions in order of excellence, and now has the 2008 figures, and there are other ranking methodologies and publishers.

This was been written over a number of months, and the UK fact finding over a number of years as I helped and hindered my family choose their university courses. The article was originally planned to be about the value of research to industry, but has evolved into some thoughts about the UK higher education system. I hope its useful to someone.

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Wednesday Jun 24, 2009

Syncing Google Calendar with the ipodtouch

Milton Stephenson was boasting on Facebook about connecting his Google Calendar to his ipodtouch and I thought "Ooh, I want one of those.". Its not that hard. I had downloaded V3.0 of the appliance operating system a couple of days ago. First, use the ipodtouch's settings application and open the Mail, Contacts and Calendars tab, then select 'Add Account...'

The settings I used were,

  1. Server = www.google.com
  2. User Name = my username, which is not a gmail address
  3. Password = my password
the caldav credentials screen

and it wrote the description and ssl parameters for me. I was advised that m.google.com works as a server parameter, but not for me. Maybe its the non gmail user thing again. This article called Google calendar speaks caldav to the iphone at http://justanotheriphoneblog.com/ was very helpful, and implies that V3 of the operating system is required. So I now have Google Mail available nomadically on the touch.

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Monday Jun 22, 2009

When WiFi's no good

I installed Joikuspot on my new Nokia E71 and this works quite well as a portable gateway. It uses the E71's wireless chip to turn the phone into an internet gateway for wifi devices. Some services were restricted by my network provider in Greece, but definately an additional way to connect my 'touch and laptop to the internet when on the road. This was pointed out to me by Sean Harris.

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Keeping in touch

Like most 'touch users, I am looking for a "keep in touch application". I was pointed at Zensify, a personal network aggregator. Its not quite one network, but gathers the posts from your correspondents in several networks and ceates a feed and tag cloud for you.

a screenshot of Zensify feed screen    a screenshot of Zensify tag cloud screen

I have just subscribed to several really prolific feeds on Twitter, and while I have also pointed my Google Reader at them, I have not yet subscribed to my twitter public timeline using Zensify. I use Facebook instead. I have come to the conclusion that Facebook is not only useful for keeping in touch with real friends but it can turn colleagues into friends, and here it is a way of keeping in touch with people.

I had come to the conclusion, that one should use these tools either as an aggregator or as a publication tool or as an end-point. I had made my twitter feed a publication tool, friendfeed as my aggregator and facebook as an endpoint. Unfortunately since we can't agree on what tool and what purpose, its a not very useful model. One really needs to consider one's readership and also assume they can find your stuff. It's not necessary to make everything an aggregator. By keeping a purpose in mind, one also makes it easier for people to find your referenced content. They don't have to trawl through several pages in your web space.

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Tuesday Jun 02, 2009

Europe's largest supercomputer

The Forshung Julich phase two super computer, now Europe's largest, had its formal opening session last week and Mark Hamiltion, Sun VP who leads our HPC team went to visit them, and recorded it on his blog, in a couple of articles dated as at the end of May, because it runs on Sun. He wrote three articles, several of them with lots of pictures.

This is Europe's largest super computer and runs on Sun's Constellation systems, Mark's article "Memorial Day in Germany" and the Forshung Julich web page, "Systems Configuration" talk about the technology, where they state, they have 2208 compute nodes, each with dual, Intel Xeon X5570 (Nehalem-EP) quad-core processors, running at 2.93 GHz. This has over 17500 cores with 207 Teraflops peak performance, hardly surprisingly they have also taken four of Sun's Data Centre Switches.

The EU's PRACE project funded the feasibility of this and I have been tracking it for a while since we knew that phase 2 was to be based on Sun's hardware. I have a link roll...

<script TYPE="text/javascript" SRC="http://feeds.delicious.com/v2/js/DaveLevy/julich?title=My%20Delicious%20Bookmarks&icon=s&count=7&sort=date&tags&extended"></script>

which records a bunch of pages about it and this page, the Juropa Supercomputer has a rather cool picture.

the JuRoPA Super Computer

which I have linked to, but shrunk to get on this page.

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Wednesday May 27, 2009

For my HTML readers, more about Sun's Unified Storage

I have just uploaded my notes from a meeting where Mike Shapiro presented on Open Storage to this blog, but backdated it to the time of occurrence. See 11th March

tags: myblog

Monday May 11, 2009

Are liberal licenses a better future proofing?

A couple of days after the Kable Open Source conference, I looked up Gianugo Rabellino's blog and read his then most recent blog article, "Of Oracle, Sun and Open Development" about the impact of M&A on open source investment protection.

The conclusion I draw from his article is that open source adopters need to make investment protection a selection criteria. Its well understood that the vibrancy of the product community is crucial, so its just obvious that taking a view on the future is as important. Gianugo also argues that liberal licences enhance the ability of a community to survive M&A activity. I think he's probably right, and this means that licence terms might become important even to end user sites who have no intention of distributing software. It may also be worth measuring how diverse an open source development community is before adopting the software.

Its an interesting spin on Alisdair Mangham's comment on licences, (see below) but they didn't debate. Alisdair's comment was that if you don't plan to distribute, you don't need to worry about viral licences, he might well agree on the need to evaluate to protect the development cost.

This is another article that's been hanging around on my machine for longer than is smart. This one I have not back dated.

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Thursday Apr 23, 2009

A short URL for the "Third Wave" slides

I have created a short URL at is.gd for the slides I used on Wednesday; http://is.gd/ueDO is the mediacaster web page that hosts my slides.

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Wednesday Apr 22, 2009

Another intra-net community

Another tip from midweek, by Miles Berry, the british education community is adopting a community software product called the learning landscape for schools, its based on code from http://elgg.org/. Schools have even more concern that they control access to their communities than business and one of elgg's advantages is that you can install it on your own server and place it behind your firewall.

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You don't manufacture software

Gianugo Rabellino of Source Sense and the Apache Foundation and presented a demolition of the need or inexorability of charging for right to use, he finished this demoltion by quoting Eric Raymond from his paper, "The Magic Cauldron"

"....software is largely a service industry operating under the persistent but unfounded delusion that it is a manufacturing industry. "

Spot on in my opinion, creative workers need to get used to selling time and earning wages again.

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Tuesday Apr 21, 2009

The Third Wave of Adoption

I spoke next, the slides I used, based on Simon Phipps, current pitch are posted on my page at Sun's mediacaster. (I say based, this is a derived work, and I was pleased to be able to use his presentation). I covered how we have got to where we are, the Pioneers, the four freedoms, the geek community and the arrival of the enterprise. We then look at the compelling value of peer production, and the role of licenses in the community, and how to defend against trolls and vultures. One slide, developed by Simon and articulated in Sun's Free and Open Source Licensing White Paper posted at www.sun.com, classes the open source licences into Open, file based and project based licences. The slide I used is posted below

Three Classes of License Slide

. It is clear there are some who think that only the GPL counts as Open Source, but despite its undoubted popularity, there are a number of people and organisations who think that its duty to publish is not always desirable, and the Apache licence. These are not restricted to organisations that pursue a rights based business model. The presentations and white paper talk about community roles and present a model of these roles. The presentation re-inforces the fact that Sun is the largest publisher of Open Source in the world and has a range of produicts and partners to allow open source adopters to what they want.

The slide above is available as a full size .jpg if you prefer it.

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Implementing Opensource

Alisdair Mangham, the head of IS & Development for the LB of Camden argued from experience, as he presented a case study, that you need to own software development expertise to adopt open source and this became a theme for the rest of the day. Alisdair argied for an adoption led deployment, I was interested how yet again, he as do many others argue that Finance is a mission critical function. Its not always true, and becoming less so. Businesses compete on price or by differentiation. Its very hard, or illegal to innovate your finance processes, and price advantage is gained by efficient processes not innovative finance. Today, it should be at the front of the queue for outsourcing. Another GEM from Alisdair is that licence terms are not important to an End-User site and he knows, he's read a few. The point he makes is that unless you are looking to do business as a software house, the liabilities you incur through licence is not important. I wonder if he's considered aquiring indemnity.

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