Week Beginning 11th March 2013

I spent Monday and Tuesday this week focussing on the Timeline for the Burns project, which I’ve built using TimeGlider (http://timeglider.com/).  It’s a really nice interface and it’s possible to make some very visually appealing timelines using data stored in the JSON format.  I’ve created two test versions of the Timeline so far.  The first one has two different ‘streams’ – one for life events and one for prose events.  Any number of streams can be supported, with the possibility of turning streams on or off.  Timeglider allows you to include a ‘legend’, which allows you to filter events based on their icon.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get this working when the timeline has multiple streams.  I’ve created a second version of the timeline that doesn’t use multiple streams, in order to test out the legend.  The data in the timeline is the same, only prose events are not kept separate.  Instead, I’ve created a number of categories for the entries (e.g. life, locations, publications, tours).  Entries in the timeline have the appropriate icon next to them and you can filter the timeline to include only those categories you are interested in using the legend.  It’s a shame the legend doesn’t seem to work with multiple streams. It is also possible to apply ‘tags’ to events and limit a search based on a tag, although I can’t seem to get this working in any of the Timeglider examples.  I haven’t tried it out in our timeline yet.  I can’t post the URL to the test versions here yet as I ‘borrowed’ some sample images for test purposes that could be under copyright control and I don’t want to get into any bother.  I’m meeting with the Burns people to discuss the Timeline options next week though, and hopefully we will have a good ‘work in progress’ timeline to show soon.

Also this week I discussed upcoming projects with two people – Rhona Brown in Scottish Literature and Justin Livingston in English Literature.  I gave each of them what I hope was some good advice and hopefully their bids will be successful.

I spent the bulk of Wednesday and Thursday working on the Grammar app – finally beginning the exercises.  It took a while to get properly started on these exercises as they required some serious thought, but I’m quite happy with how they are progressing now.  I have completed the exercises for section two, which asks users to supply part of speech labels, and section three, where users have to supply phrase labels.  The CSS elements I created for displaying all the labels in the Grammar book have turned out to be equally suitable for the exercises too.  Each word is contained in a floating <div> that is between one and three lines tall (depending on the content).  Modifier and headword labels can go on the top row, words and brackets in the middle, and phrase / part of speech on the bottom row.  The floating nature of the divs ensures the words wrap nicely on all browser widths and it also ensures the labels will always be properly positioned in relation to the words.

For the exercises all I had to do was place some sort of user input option in place of the label.  I started off just using a standard HTML select box, but this looked pretty ugly.  After a few other experiments I decided on using a JqueryMobile popup containing a row of buttons in a control group, one button for each part of speech or label.  Pressing on an empty, dotted space in the page opens up the popup, pressing a button closes the popup and enters the content into the dotted space.  It’s remarkably simple and works really well.

I’ve also been experimenting with supplying content via Javascript.  When there are 26 different popups in one exercise it seemed a bit silly to repeat the identical content of these 26 times.  Instead the popups are empty in HTML and Jquery injects the necessary HTML (contained in one single Javascript variable) into these 26 empty popups as the page loads.  In fact it’s even better than that, as these popups are found throughout the exercises.  So whenever users are asked to supply part of speech information in any exercise the content comes from one single Javascript variable.  And if we need to change the content of the popup we only have to change it in one place.

You can see the exercises here: http://www.arts.gla.ac.uk/STELLA/briantest/grammar/exercise-2-1-parts-of-speech.html

Friday morning was mostly taken up with meetings.  We had a useful meeting for the Mapping Metaphor project where we discussed visualisation options.  The main outcome of the meeting was that we really need to come up with a requirements document before we can tell which possible software solutions might be suitable.  This document will be created in the next couple of weeks.  After this meeting we had a further meeting to discuss the revamp of the Historical Thesaurus web site.  I’m going to be developing a new front end of this, with Flora working on the back end stuff.  We’ll be aiming to get this all done by the end of the summer.

In the afternoon I did some further investigation into the Quicktime issue in the SCOTS site. I’ve been looking some more at the Quicktime files themselves and I’ve figured out why they won’t play but the test .mov file I downloaded from another source worked ok.  It’s because the SCOTS .mov files are just containers holding pointers to a media streaming server.  For example, opening up 1448.mov in a text editor shows several links to rtsp://streaming.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/v2/hq/1448.mp4.

So when the SCOTS .mov file is opened what Quicktime is actually doing is opening a network connection using the rtsp:// protocol and downloading the content, incrementally.  This protocol uses a different port from standard web connections (HTTP uses port 80, RTSP uses 554).

I don’t know if this is a recent change (and Googling hasn’t enlightened me) but Windows Firewall by default blocks port 554, meaning any RTSP requests bring up a Firewall warning. At least we know why the Firewall warning was coming up now.  And I think most PC users (who can approve Firewall exceptions) should only get the warning once.  We could maybe put a warning up on the site about this I suppose.  I don’t think we’ll be able to ‘fix’ it as it requires the user’s PC settings to be altered.

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