Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

File Under: Databases, Other

Big Data in the Deep Freeze: John Jacobsen of IceCube

John Jacobsen works for the IceCube telescope project, the world’s largest neutrino detector, located at the South Pole. The project’s mission is to search for the radioactive sub-atomic particles that have been generated by violent astrophysical events: “exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars,” according to the project website.

Jacobsen is one of the people in charge of handling the massive amounts of data collected by IceCube. In the video, shot this week at the O’Reilly OSCON 2010 conference in Portland, Oregon, John explains how they collect a terabyte of raw data per hour, then send everything to IceCube’s remote research and backup facilities using a finicky satellite hook-up.

Antarctica is one of the least accommodating places on Earth to perform scientific research with computers. It’s the driest spot on the planet — atmospheric humidity hovers around zero — and bursts of static electricity threaten the integrity of IceCube’s data stores. The lack of humidity causes the server clusters’ cooling systems to break down. And if something fails, a spare might take six months to arrive.

File Under: Other, Software & Tools

W3C Adopts Semantic Standard for Web Data

The web’s governing body wants to make it easier for researchers to find the data they’re seeking using web-based tools.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has a whole department, the Semantic Web group, dedicated to integrating data from different sources under a set of common formats. On Tuesday, the group adopted a set of standardized organizational tags that anyone publishing data on the web should start using.

The model, called the Simple Knowledge Organization System, or SKOS, is a set of schema for categorizing data by topic in a way that’s human-readable. But it’s also machine readable, making the process of researching the same topic within different data stores using search and other common tools much easier.

Here’s what SKOS is, from the W3C’s Overview:

The Simple Knowledge Organization System is a common data model for knowledge organization systems such as thesauri, classification schemes, subject heading systems and taxonomies. Using SKOS, a knowledge organization system can be expressed as machine-readable data. It can then be exchanged between computer applications and published in a machine-readable format in the Web.

A practical example, via the W3C Semantic Web group’s statement, released Tuesday:

A useful starting point for understanding the role of SKOS is the set of subject headings published by the US Library of Congress (LOC) for categorizing books, videos, and other library resources. These headings can be used to broaden or narrow queries for discovering resources. For instance, one can narrow a query about books on “Chinese literature” to “Chinese drama,” or further still to “Chinese children’s plays.”

Library of Congress subject headings have evolved within a community of practice over a period of decades. By now publishing these subject headings in SKOS, the Library of Congress has made them available to the linked data community, which benefits from a time-tested set of concepts to re-use in their own data. This re-use adds value (“the network effect”) to the collection. When people all over the Web re-use the same LOC concept for “Chinese drama,” or a concept from some other vocabulary linked to it, this creates many new routes to the discovery of information, and increases the chances that relevant items will be found.

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File Under: Multimedia, Other

Tim O’Reilly on Twitter, Yahoo and the Coming ‘Sensor Web’

Here’s an excellent video interview with tech publisher and conference mogul Tim O’Reilly, brought to us by our friends at

In this 30-minute interview, O’Reilly talks about the evolution of sensor-based technology — how things like accelerometers and GPS inside devices, or speech-recognition and face-recognition capabilities within applications are going to revolutionize the next wave of web apps.

Gigapixel cameras will be able to see better than us, and the software inside them will recognize objects more quickly than our own brains.

“What’s the next web UI? It’s a pair of glasses,” he says.

There’s also a riff on how Twitter has brought the concept of “real time” to a whole new level of importance on the web, and a story about how his company almost purchased Yahoo back in the proverbial day.

That’s really just the tip of the iceberg. A fascinating half an hour.

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File Under: Other

Get Your Keyboard Porn Fix at Geekhack

If you’ve ever wondered where the real keyboard nerds hang out on the internet, it’s at a web forum called

For those who lust after keyboards, mice and strange input devices like glowing, space-aged hockey pucks, the amount and depth of knowledge to be found within its virtual walls is unparalleled.

User iMav, one of the site’s admins, started a monster thread about how to change your keyboards’ boring old beige or white keys into any combination colors using RIT dye, the same, cheap drug store find you can use to dye your t-shirts (the results are seen above).

Some other discussions: advice on replacing the standard LEDs on a Unicomp keyboard, insanely detailed reviews of boutique Japanese hardware, some truly eye-catching DIY mods and a hack to bring your beloved IBM Model-M into the modern era by replacing its PS/2 interface with a USB port.

For the truly devoted, there’s even a forum for posting audio samples of your favorite keyboards in action. A great place to visit if you’d like to brag about the clacking of your Cherry switch.

Thanks to Paul for the tip!

File Under: Other

7 Ways to Spend 7 Billion of the Stimulus Package Improving the Internet

The United States Senate passed a stimulus package Tuesday which reportedly has $7 billion earmarked for expanding high-speed Internet access. The stimulus is intended to keep the United States competitive during and after the current global financial crisis.

7 Billion is a lot of money, and there is a lot needed in order to keep our industry competitive. If it were up to me, I know exactly where I’d put it.

  1. Internet Ubiquity — I want to turn off my toaster from anywhere around the world. Is that too much to ask? Access to high-speed broadband, like municipal wi-fi and 3G networks, is simply too unreliable and expensive. Efforts towards expanding the reach of networks have been hot and cold. WiMax seems to be a questionable technology at best. There needs to be a solution to bring the internet to everyone, everywhere and it will take some substantial investments to get it going.
  2. Bigger, Stronger, Faster — Plans by broadband providers in America to increase speeds are infantile compared to those in other countries. It’s striking that the place where the internet was invented pales in comparison to places like South Korea, where average download speeds are almost 50 mbps.
  3. Online or Offline. It doesn’t matter — Connection is one reason, but keeping a copy of your data locally is another. Google Gears makes it easy to access the internet online or offline. For the most important services this is a great band-aid. Now it is up to the rest of the web to fill in the gaps.
  4. The Mobile Web — Computers are expensive, but cell phones aren’t. If you put the power of the internet in these devices, it means empowering families that may not be able to afford broadband internet at home, but might be able to start that business or buy from the palm of their hand instead.
  5. One account for everything, on your server, on your terms — OpenID and Google Friend Connect says your data is your property, but is it really? Facebook Connect is another way to consolidate your online information, but seems to be holding on to your data until they can figure out how they are going to make money off of it. Courageously, all of these companies seem to be working together to make OpenID work, well, openly.
  6. Open-Source Everything — Open-source projects are usually free to the public, which means the projects themselves don’t make much money (if any) and usually operate underbudget or on a shoestring. However, these projects provide the infrastructure and interoperability it would take to stimulate businesses and save them from inventing the wheel innumerable times. In many ways, this isn’t any different than what the entire stimulus package was intended to do.
  7. Give it to Webmonkey — Okay, maybe not just Webmonkey. Educating web developers with the skills they need to make them competitive is a tremendous stimulus. Making the internet easier to use and program will mean more professionals, more ideas, more businesses and a better internet. Besides, imagine the amount of tutorials we could entice writers to write with 7 billion dollars? If you’re looking to stimulate the economy in your own little way, contribute your own tutorial to Webmonkey.

Vote for your idea on how to use the stimulus package on internet related ideas or add your own ideas after the break

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