Thursday Sep 18, 2008

Easy Peasy, ezweb and ubuntu

I have EZweb, see also ezweb, fast new dynamic mashups, running inside an Ubuntu 8 VM on my windows Laptop.

{short description of image}

The installation instructions were almost perfect, now I need to see how permit the VM to serve external systems. Also I am using Django not Apache, so I need to understand

  • how to invoke a start/stop script for it
  • or how to allow it to run in an apache server
  • or how to permit apache to act as a proxy for Django.

The later will hopefully be very similar to making snipsnap work behind apache, which I have done on the Qube.

Now to build an Application?

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Tuesday Sep 16, 2008

ezweb, fast new dynamic mashups

The real reason for meeting with the Telefonica reresentative was to gain some familairity with the NESSI project they lead, called EZWeb. This is hosted on the Morfeo Project site, and these projects have significant support from the Spanish Government. EZ Web has an english language installation & documentation page and for Ubuntu there is an apt script, documented on the web. I am just booting my Virtual Box Ubuntu VM to see if it works.

It requires Postgres or MySQL, Python and Django, documented on itsother operating systems page, I'll may check this out and see how hard it is to install on my Open Solaris VM, or I may bring up another Nevada VM.

Juan Jose demonstrated the ease of use of the mashup tool, and it'd be cool to have a go. This may even by the tipping point/use case that gets me to move off the Qube onto something better.

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Monday Mar 31, 2008

The socio/economic impact

The rest of the morning was taken over with a panel presentation, which focused on the socio/economic impact of the changing internet. The first speaker was Andy Wyckoff from the OECD who spoke of a number of economic issues reinforcing the link between creativity and wealth creation. In fact the OECD are running a ministerial conference, see http://oecd.org/futureinternet, which has had massive and unexpected support from the OECD's member and candidate members. He also emphasised the need for openness & interoperability. He also argued that smarter interfaces will be needed to truly create an internet of people, and that is required before further evolutions will occur.

Led by Geert Lovink of Institute of Network Cultures, the panel explored the question of paying for creativity given the marginal cost to copy is zero. Will it be possible to implement a form of micro payments?

Another issue raised was the duopoly of the search engines. It was argued that it is necessary to have a diversity of search engines, and that fortunately, the smaller players are staying in the market and continuing to innovate. Search will remain the "killer app" of the internet, but where is the "only people are experts" dimension. Will the next evolution be people finders?. They may become more important than resource finders, and is a dimension of the NESSI problem. How will you find services, in a world of billions, with hundreds of thousands joing each day. (Obviously thats the vision, not today's reality).

Dag Johansen asked if can we build a 'push' search engine, and that its very important to protect one's privacy. He (and others argued) that many internet users are prepared to trade some of their privacy for free services and resources. In terms of his privacy, he deliberately uses multiple search engines to hide from those that wnat to know about everything he does, he also stated that he doesn't think Google is good enough to justify exclusive use. I am moving towards this behaviour and often use exalead which tries to use semantic technology to improve the search quality. Another thought this raised in my mind is that {english} schools are once again pretty poor, they're teaching how to use apps, not the internet, and so while todays children are being taught in class how to use Word to write a letter, they are missing how to protect your privacy and use firewalls and spam filters. Actually it would seem they are teaching how to circumvent poorly configured content filters. (Don't ban Google images for the UK & USA, if you leave Ireland, India and Australia available.)

Diogo Vasconcelos from Cisco came up with the following insight, "People like politics, with politicians it depends", he also raised the issue of sustainability. Some of his visions had a real 'Minority Report' touch. A question was raised suggesting that, sometimes selling you stuff you thought you didn't want is good. But how much more than Amazon recommendations do we need? This did remind me of the minority report scene where the shop recognises Anderton (Tom Cruise) via an eyeball scan. Diaogo repeated the idea that the EU is the most connected place in the world? I wonder if its true. I find connecting in the States when traveling easier, the network and wi-fi seems much more pervasive, although I often have to pay. You can see elsewhere in this blog for my views on Italy and Brussels. My recent travels have confused me and I can't make up my mind whether to buy a wi-fi or 3G connected hand held appliance. I hope that I will be allowed to trial a new vodafone commercial solution, or maybe I'll check out BT Fon, which reminds me, I really need to sort my household content subscriptions. It just never stops.

The morning was finished up with a presentation on internet governance, and the need to address bureaucratic degeneracy and market failure. See also http://www.intgovforum.org/, which is a United Nations body.

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Wednesday Nov 14, 2007

Look at what Google won't put in a press release

Innovation Matters on SolarisLast month, just before traveling to the West Coast, I practiced my latest presentation,"Six reasons to choose Solaris", in which I have a slide with some company logos of the users of Solaris 10. One of my audience asked why Google wasn't on the slide. I driveled on about their use of Solaris not being public and he pointed me at this job ad on their web site, for a Solaris trained systems administrator. It seems they're also using Oracle! Using Google to look for the obvious keywords, finds this google job ad for a Solaris/Oracle administrator, which isn't even on their site. Google uses Solaris is now a public domain fact.

I wonder how many of my "Six reasons" led to Google making this decision.

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Tuesday Mar 13, 2007

A Faster Horse

John Maeden of BT presented after lunch and spoke about the nature of fundamental change and how organisations react in dealing with the problems that cause the change, indicating that data centre architecture was such a problem today, due to its complexity and the requirements of today's applications.

He also quoted Henry Ford about radical change,

"If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have chosen a faster horse"

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Tuesday Nov 21, 2006

blackbox is a video star!

Jonathan announced Project Black Box at the end of last month. Its a Data Centre in a shipping container and expanded on its unique value in his blog article "A picture's worth.... Jonathan said that customer reaction has varied with

Jonathan:Equal measures of a) nervous laughter, b) incredulity, c) profound curiosity and a recognition that we're working on the right problems for the future of datacenters. And we have an enviably beefy pipeline of customers and integrators wanting to talk to us, which is the right starting point.

As part of the reaction by customers in the UK I have been asked to talk to two major UK based customers and have thus checked out the YouTube videos published by Sun (& others; the link queries Youtube for "sun+blackbox" tags). I have also uploaded the customer presentation I use to our media caster [.pdf]).

Its clear after some research that the big advantages are it can supply & cool 25Kw/rack, so racks can be full of modern space efficient computers; you don't have to spend your space budget on cooling. With a footprint, of 30'x15', and capable of hosting 250 n-way systems with between 1000 & 2000 cores, we claim it can save 80% of your space costs, and reduce the demand for space by 50%. The land is cheaper; it doesn't have to be air-conditioned, doesn't need a raised floor, etc., and Sun Blackboxes can be stacked, if you have the headroom!

 

Rack'em + Stack'em

 

All you need is power, networks and chilled water.

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Thursday May 18, 2006

Food for Thought

Just looking back on Tuesday reminded me of various science fiction films and books. From William Gibson who in particular wrote about the Network, bio-feedback systems and AI, and obviously influenced the Wachowski Brother's Matrix, to James Cameron in Terminator 2: Judgement Day also spoke about how the network came alive. Marginally more benignly, Heinlen wrote about another computer that woke up in "The Moon is a harsh mistress". Some of John Ames presentation brought "Minority Report" to mind, at least the scene where John Anderton (Tom Cruise's character) is using the computers, but not anything to do with precognition.

It just goes to show, some of this is a lot closer than you might think.

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Tuesday May 16, 2006

An iconoclast's glimpse into the future

The day ended with another glimpse into the future from Graham Whitehead of BT. He is a passionate and enthusiastic speaker and while I've neither met him before or heard him speak he is well known. He started with

"There will be more change in the IT in the next 10 years than in the previous 100"

and then asked who agreed. After the day we'd had we were all ready to do that, so he contradicted himself and stated that actually it'd only take eight years. (For the aficionados of the history of the Soviet Union, very reminiscent of the Five Year plans.)

Graham mentioned the revolutionary nature of BT's 21st Century Network (see also here...) as an enabler of the internet of things. He obviously thinks this is important, the Register reported a speech of his at the Irish Internet Association's Congress last year

"that the anarchic and hazardous nature of the public internet meant that companies were now constructing supervised private IP networks. These private networks would be able to handle the amount of traffic that would be generated when broadband was ubiquitous, phone networks were IP-based, and common household objects had their own IP addresses. "The internet is dead, or dying; it's full of viruses, worms and porn, you have to wear a kevlar suit before you go online," he said. "BT is creating a private network, which will be joined to other private networks, to which we will add voice over IP.""

He described the new paradigm (my word not his), as AORTA, "Always on Real Time", which goes down a storm in the healthcare industry.

One of the things he examined was around customer care, "there's never a queue in virtual reality", I bet he didn't try and file his income tax online in the last week last year. He suggests that machines don't say "Sod Off! I'm busy.", but actually they do. While he argued that people will deal with machines if they're better than people, (Bank ATMs are a proof point), if you want to speak to a person, that's it! People with machine generated scripts are as helpful as the machine, as Graham says, while no machine has ever passed the Turing test, many people have failed it. This is actually quite rude (what me worry!) and the problems with customer care call centre staff is often that their systems aren't good enough to help and the automated telephone menus absolutely infuriating. However the headline he offered that people will use machines if they're better than people is true enough and we'll probably get better at trusting and delegating stuff to them, which leaves the question as to what people are going to do?

He took this to a travel agency and asked them where he thought they'd be in 2015 and posed a not desperately unreal scenario that flight (well, aviation fuel) will be very expensive and rationed (anyone watch Dr. Who last week, the return of the airship) but that today's text/messenger kids will (or did he say may) be prepared to take virtual reality holidays. It wasn't at this point that he talked about a scent generator but it is an example of the extension of virtual reality to all five senses. (This is also a device that was not demonstrated during the day.) I'm really unsure about VR holidays, but some people go to Murder Mystery weekends today!

He was also quite keen on Robots, which put the demo of Sony's robot dog in a context in the Home 2.0 showcase. For him, robots extend the network's capability, and while the dog is not very useful, the programming packed into the AI is pretty amazing.

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Monday May 15, 2006

The Wireless Doctor

We then visited a demonstration of the Healthcare supply chain, showing the use of database and proximity technologies (RFID & Barcode) for people, data and drugs. The real interest here is how the proximity technology enables cleverer and new applications which reinforces the demonstrations given by John Ames (See here...).

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Home 2.0

On the site, BT have built a demonstration suite illustrating one view of how new technology will change the home. The home is quite cute, but I'm not sure if its because I'm a sucker for these things. In retrospect, I'm not sure how truly futuristic the their Home 2.0 really is, but it does have a bunch of great toys.

The demonstration showed a Wifi LAN with a computer on it and demonstrated the maintenance and configuration of a numer of household items, including the lights (using the phone as the switch), and more obviously various home entertainment devices. I know that my new phone can act as a remote control handset for bluetooth enabled devices, but managing devices by the phone could be quite usefull as a security device if away, or returning home late, or as suggested by one of the other vistors for monitoring your older kids. "Stand away from the cookie jar".

Also, multi-streaming was demonstrated with one sound track for the kitchen and one for the bedroom. (You can't do that with Sky).

This all rather fascinates me, as I had been coming to the conclusion that for electronic/digitial entertainment, a Home LAN is becoming necessary, with the various devices playing traditional client, server and console roles. This is a step beyond the computer network's required to play multi- or massivly multi-player online games, and my views began to form as I realise how limited my options are as a Sky basic subscriber, and the difficulty in putting a second screen into the bedroom. Sadly, we were not demo'd BT's IPTV service, but we were shown an IPTV feed from Spain, with High Definition.

Now, once upon a time, I'd have thought it a good thing to be able to use my phone to program the VCR, but in the world of multi-channel, I don't know when anything's on, so it doesn't matter.

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Intelligent Paint?

We were introduced to John Ames, one of BT's Futurologists who took us on a little journey from Constable's horse & cart stuck in the mud (here... @Wikipedia), through the canels to the railways, arguing that innovation disrupts by destroying business models. He talked about real internet pervasivness (, we're talking intelligent paint here) and then showed us a bunch of RFID based applications, including printed paper.

He then moved from the RFID applications which allow computers to know where something is, to Bio-feedback systems. He demonstrated a game in which the two players wear finger gloves which measures how relaxed they are, and their relaxation drives two animated dragons in race (on a screen). If the players get really relaxed, the dragons fly. They're both technologies that lower the barriers between the real and virtual worlds. What interested me in the speech, was the breadth of vision offered, as he suggested that the nature of work will change as machines begin to be able to undertake "Professional" work. The previous presentation and demo had raised the question as to which Sci-Fi sources they were using, but it reminded me of Neuromancer, Minority Report and the Matrix.

John also quoted "Clayton Christiansen", the author of "The Innovator's Dilemma", first pointed out to me by Kieron Bradley, so I'm going to have to read it now! I've checked him out on Amazon and put it on my wish list.

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Intelligent Infrastructure

BT then demonstrated their veiw of Intelligent Infrastructure, the first part showed intelligent cameras, that can detect objects, and the demo had a loitering threshold so that if a person or a bag were to stay somewhere inappropriate for too long, then actions can be taken. The demo, was really about event management, but the camera application was used several times during the day, as it is one way of capturing real world information from non co-operative people and objects. The demo, then identified the nearest (appropriately trained) security guard (role played by our host), who demonstrated a voice recognition system for authentication and showing that the system knew where he was, by answering the voiced question, "Where am I?".

In this case, it did so because as a system co-operator, he had an RFID badge. The system then opened all the doors between our guard and the loitering bag.

The second demo showed a cement mixer that won't start unless an appropriately safety trained engineer asks it to start (not voice recognition this time, although it could be) and that the appropriate safety equipment is in the proximity. It can't make the engineer wear the gear though. A side effect of puting this device on the 'net, is that its activitly can be monitored and so maintenance activity planned on the basis of better knowledge, for instance how busy has it been, not how long since the last service. Its a bit of a difference from our definition of "Intelligent Infrastructure"

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The Changing Network

Everyone probably knows that BT are building out a new IP based network, but this will be across the whole of their network which has a global reach today. This together with the development of wifi & rfid, means that the Internet become pervasive and the network is no longer exclusively offering point to point connections (to make a call). I think this is important and revolutionary.

One of my feelings about the weakness of Carr's "I.T. doesn't matter!" is that it required a definition of infrastructure industries (which he didn't provide) and that the phone companies and railways only offered connections. The electricity, gas and water companies really offered a network. This is partly due to the homogenous nature of supply, we don't care if its the first c.c. of water out of a reservoir, or the millionth nor which reservoir it comes from. We don't care which technology components support our voice call, but we do care if it connects us to the wrong people, and with data, order is important. These all make IT and IT networks different from the classic utilities.

Alan Crowther then continued to place BT's activities in the context of the evolving network. BT Global Services are looking to help their customers, primarily companies, take advantage of the new business opportunities that the today & tomorrow's Internet offer. The state there are five priorities, "Build out the New Infrastructure", which may be social, and is not restricted to IT alone; "Ensure Security & Manage Risk"; "Serve Customers & Citizens", allows them to address private and public sector problems and opportunities, "Enable the Work Force" and "Extend the Organisation".

Phil Barnett (a Sun co-worker) asked about where Green issues were included or addressed, and the answer placed it very much in the context of corporate responsibility and good citizennship. I think that those who think this is important need to work harder at understanding how to make Green issues visible in the companies P&L. While shareholder supremacy is the principle of corporate governance, in any trade-off between the shareholders and pollution, its the environment and the companies neighbours that will loose. Law makers have the choice of prohibition or taxation. I think I need to do some reading.

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