Week Beginning 15th October 2012

I had a great meeting with the ‘Editing Burns for the 21st century’ people this week.  We’d been trying to arrange a meet-up since the beginning of September but it was difficult to get a time that suited everyone until this week.  I’m really looking forward to working on the project and I’ve already started making suggestions about their website and some possible ways in which web resources can be best exploited to throw the spotlight on their project outputs.

I also had another very productive corpus-focussed meeting with Stephen Barrett this week.  We spent a couple of hours working through some of the issues we’d been encountering with the Open Corpus Workbench and made some real progress, specifically to do with character encoding issues (we’ve now upgraded to the most recent version of the CWB so we finally have proper UTF-8 support) and text-level metadata issues (it’s now possible to specify metadata about texts and for this to be used as the basis for limiting searches using the ‘restricted query’ option).  I’ve started working with Marc’s Hansard texts and have so far managed to import one test text complete with one metadata category.  This may seem unimpressive but a lot of the issues that will be encountered when importing the entire body of texts have been resolved when processing this one single text file so I feel like real progress has been made.

Also this week I completed my mock-ups for the App and web versions of the five STELLA applications that we have identified to be the initial focus for redevelopment.  I also had a meeting with Marc to discuss STELLA matters in general, which was very helpful too.  I will begin working on the actual HTML5 based websites for these applications the week after next.  Whilst making the mock-ups I encountered some rather odd behaviour with HTML5 Audio and IE9.  Although IE9 fully supports the HTML5 Audio tag (which when used presents an audio player within the web page without any plug-in being required) I just couldn’t get the player to appear on my test file that I was hosting on a University server, even though the exact same code worked perfectly on my desktop machine using the same browser.  This was very frustrating and eventually I worked out that the discrepancy was being caused by IE9’s ‘Compatibility view’.  For some odd reason IE9 on the standard staff desktop is set to view pages within the university domain using ‘compatibility view’, which basically emulates an older version of IE that doesn’t support HTML5!  It’s most frustrating and as of yet I can only find a way to override this manually at the client end.

I also spoke again to Alison this week about the possible developments for Bess of Hardwick and we’re going to meet up the week after next to take this further.  And I also met up with Ann, Marc and Graeme to discuss the redevelopment of the Digital Humanities Network website (http://www.digital-humanities.arts.gla.ac.uk/) that Graeme created a couple of years ago.  We had a good discussion about the sorts of features that a revamp should incorporate and it was agreed that I would press ahead with the update, with Graeme providing some additional help as time allows.  We’re hoping to have a new version ready to go by the middle of next month.

Also this week I finally got access to the SCOTS server so I will be able to look into the problems with the Advanced Search when using Chrome and IE the week after next too.

Note that I will be on holiday next week and will be back at work on Monday the 29th October.

Week Beginning 8th October 2012

I spent a lot of time this week on corpus related matters.  I managed to get a test corpus (well, in reality just one sentence) uploaded successfully through the CQPweb interface to our test instance of the Open Corpus Workbench, which felt like a real achievement.  The corpus appears to work successfully through the front end, including word frequency lists, searches and KWIC displays.  There is currently no access to the full text though and this still needs to be investigated.  I had a meeting this week with Stephen Barrett and Marc regarding corpus matters, which proved to be very useful.  We went through a few of the existing online corpora that utilise CWB / CQBweb which gave us some good ideas and we also discovered that I’d somehow managed to check out an older version of CQBweb from the Subversion repository.  After the meeting I rectified this and reinstalled the front end.  I also managed to get a couple of Stephen’s Celtic texts which he’d been having trouble with installed, and by the end of the week Stephen had managed to get his complete corpus uploaded, which really is progress.

I still haven’t got access to the SCOTS corpus server and I’ve chased up IT support about this.  Marc suggested that I might be able to get the necessary details from Flora and I’ll ask her next week if I’ve not heard anything further back from Chris.

Also this week I continued working on the mock-ups of the redevelopment of the STELLA applications.  This week I completed mock-ups for the ‘Essentials of Old English’ and I began looking into ‘Readings in Early English’.  The exercises for the Old English application threw up a number of conundrums for implementation, most notably how to deal with Old English characters ‘æ’ and ‘þ’ when users are required to input these.  For the app version we will be reliant on a mobile device’s built-in touchscreen keyboard that will overlay and obscure the web page.  These characters will not be available through this keyboard.  I’m still pondering how best to deal with this but it might be better for the sake of simplicity if we could just let users input ‘ae’ and ‘th’ instead of these characters and have the app transform these into ‘æ’ and ‘þ’ for display.

I had a couple of further meetings this week, one with Jeremy and then the general DROOG meeting.  Both were very fruitful.  I managed to speak to Jeremy about the ‘Essentials of Old English’ application as he created the content for this.  He would like to rewrite a lot of the content, although as he’s a very busy man I’m not sure when this might be completed.  He suggested prioritising ‘Readings in Early English’ initially.  At the DROOG meeting Marc suggested that ‘ARIES’ might be the best app to develop first as the online version of this tool continues to be used widely.  I think this is a good idea.

I demonstrated the mock-ups as they currently stand at the DROOG meeting and everyone seemed quite enthusiastic about them, which is encouraging.  I also had further contact with Alison Wiggins about a mobile / tablet version of the Bess of Hardwick site and it looks like we are going to take this forward.  We are hoping initially to make a mobile-friendly interface for the existing website (which shouldn’t take long) and we are hoping to put in a bid to develop a stand-alone app version of the letters after this.

Also this week I completed the migration of the Disability Studies Network from WordPress to Glasgow and that all seems to have worked out very smoothly.  I also had my first contact with the Burns people, providing some help on the addition of sound files to the Burns blog.  I’m meeting with the Burns project next week so I’ll find out more about my involvement then.

I’m still ensconced in the HATII attic this week, although I did peek once again into my new office.  It’s all pretty much finished now, but there is still no furniture and I’ve been told it might take a week or two to get furniture delivered even after I’ve been to the stores to select suitable pieces.  I emailed the estates people this week to see if there is any further news on a possible date of entry but I haven’t heard anything back yet.  I did think I might have flown the HATII nest by now.

Week Beginning 1st October 2012

I split this week primarily between four projects:  The SCOTS Corpus, the Open Corpus Workbench, the STELLA desktop applications and the Disability Studies Network, a project being run by two PhD students in English Literature.

Last week I met with Marc and Wendy to discuss some legacy issues with the SCOTS Corpus when running it in Chrome and modern versions of IE, and this week I began testing things out.  The main problem relates to the advanced search page, and would appear to be a Javascript issue.  Certain page elements have their display property set to ‘none’ within the HTML of the search page, and during page load some Javascript executes, initialising things like the Google map pane.  After everything is initialised Javascript then overrides the ‘display:none’ and makes the elements visible.  Only in Chrome and IE this last step isn’t being reached.  I’ve asked IT Support for access to the SCOTS server but they are still waiting for a port to be opened to allow me access.  Once this has been done I’ll try to find the cause of the problem.  Rather strangely, the advanced search page is working fine in my desktop version of IE9 yet fails to work in Wendy’s version, even though we are both running the same version number on Windows 7!

A couple of weeks ago Marc and I met with Stephen Barrett who is doing some corpus work for a project in Celtic. An outcome of this was to ask IT Support for a test server where we could install the Open Corpus Workbench (http://cwb.sourceforge.net/) and this week IT Support delivered.  I spent quite a bit of time this week installing the Open Corpus Workbench software and its dependencies on this server.  Setting up the back end software for the corpus was relatively straightforward once dependencies such as Perl packages and a C compiler had been installed, but some issues were encountered when installing the PHP based front end for the workbench, which took some time to investigate.  It turned out to be a database privileges problem – the system requires ‘Grant all’ privileges for the database it will use and this had not been selected for the database in question.  After that was resolved the front end appeared to work.  However, there is still a lot to be done in terms of customisation and configuration.  I attempted to get the Dickens test corpus working through the front end but attempting to install it resulted in errors, specifically “Pre-indexed corpora require s-attributes text and text_id!!”, which is a bit odd as I would have expected the test corpus provided through the CWB website to be in a format that would allow it to work in the front end without any further tweaking.  I still need to investigate this further.

After completing some mock-ups of an App and a Website version of the STELLA resource ‘ARIES’ last week, this week I created mock-ups for English Grammar: An Introduction. The exercises in this desktop application are very complex and text heavy and it took quite a while to come up with an app solution that would not require the user to type in lots of text.  I’m quite pleased with the mock-ups I’ve created and I think they should cover most of the eventualities the original desktop based application throws up.

My final main project of the week was the Disability Studies Network.  I met with Christine Ferguson and two of her PhD students who currently run a WordPress hosted blog for the Disability Studies Network.  They are wanting the blog to be migrated to the University of Glasgow domain to give it a more official feel and I ran through a few options with them in collaboration with Matthew Barr from the School of Humanities, who had spoken to them initially.  I agreed to set up a blog within the University domain, to apply the UoG WordPress theme that David Beavan had previously created (and modify it where necessary) and to migrate all of the content across.  I am about half-way through this task and aim to have everything ready for the students to use by the end of next week.