Week Beginning 2nd May 2016

It was another four-day week this week due to the May Day holiday on Monday.  I spent most of Tuesday finishing off a first version of the Technical Plan for the proposal Murray Pittock is putting together and sent it off to him for comment on Wednesday morning.  There will no doubt be some refinements to make to it before it can be integrated with the rest of the bid documentation but I think overall the technical side of the potential project have been given sufficient consideration.  On Wednesday I heard from Christine Ferguson that a proposal she had submitted which I had given technical advice on had been awarded funding, which is great news.  I’m going to meet with her next week to discuss the technical requirements in more detail.

Also on Wednesday we had a College of Arts developers meeting.  This consisted of Matt Barr, Graeme Cannon, Neil McDermott and me so not a huge gathering, but it was very useful to catch up with other developers and discuss some of the important issues for developers in the College.

I also spent some time on Wednesday investigating a bug in the Mapping Metaphor tabular view.  Wendy had noticed that ordering the table by category two was not working as it should have done.  It looks like I introduced this bug when I allowed the table to be properly ordered by the ‘direction’ column a few weeks ago.  For the table to be ordered by the direction column I needed to look at the full HTML of the data in the columns to get some info from within the ‘image’ tag of the arrow.  But for some reason the reordering isn’t working properly for the other columns when the full HTML rather than the plain text is used.  I’ve updated things so that the full HTML is used only when the ‘direction’ column is clicked on and the plain text is used for all other columns.  I’ve fixed this in the main site and the Metaphoric site.  I’m afraid the problem also exists in the App, but I’ll wait to fix this until we have the next batch of data to add later on this month.

On Thursday I contacted Gareth Roy about the possibility of the Hansard data being hosted on one of the servers managed by Physics and Astronomy.  Gareth had previously been hugely helpful in giving advice on how to use the ScotGrid infrastructure to extract all of the Hansard data and to convert it into millions of SQL insert statements, but without a server to host the data I couldn’t proceed any further.  In March Gareth and I attended the same ‘big data’ meeting and after wards he suggested that there might be the possibility of getting the data hosted on one of the servers he has access to and now that Metaphoric is out of the way I have a bit of time to return to the Hansard data and consider how it can be used.  I’m going to meet with Gareth next week to consider the options.  In the meantime I tried to access the test server that Chris had set up for me last year, on which I had a subset of the Hansard data running through a graph-based front end that I’d created.  Unfortunately when I tried to connect to it nothing happened.  As the box is physically in my office (it’s just an old desktop PC set up as a server) I tried manually turning it off and on again but it just made a worrying series of low pitch beeps and then nothing happened.  I tried plugging a monitor and keyboard into it and there was no display and the caps lock key wouldn’t light up or anything.  I took out the hard drive and put it in my old desktop PC and that made the same worrying beeps and then did nothing when I started it too.  I then attached the drive in place of the secondary hard drive in my old PC and after it had successfully booted into Windows it didn’t find the drive.  So I guess there’s been some sort of hard drive failure!  Thankfully I have all the code I was working with on my desktop PC anyway.  However, I’ve realised that the version of the database I have on my desktop PC is not the most recent version.  I’ll be able to reconstruct the database from the original data I have but it’s a shame I’ve lost the working version.  It’s completely my own fault for not backing things up.  Chris is going to try and see if he can access the hard drive too, but I’m not holding out much hope.

On Friday I had a meeting with Alison Wiggins to discuss a proposal she is putting together that will involve crowdsourcing.  I did a bit of research into the Zooniverse Scribe tool (http://scribeproject.github.io/), which she was keen to use.  I also tried installing the tool in OSX but despite following their detailed installation instructions all I ended up with was a bunch of errors.  Nevertheless, it was useful to learn about the tool and also to try out some online examples of the tool as well.  I think it has potential, if we can only get it working.  The meeting with Alison went well and we discussed the technical issues relating to her project and how crowdsourcing might fit in with it.  She is still at the planning stages at the moment and we’ll need to see if the project will feature a technical aspect or if it will involve some kind of event discussing issues relating to crowdsourcing instead.  I think either might work pretty well.

Also this week I received an external hard drive in the mail from the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh, who want access to the raw TIFF images that were produced for the Cullen project.  Project PI David Shuttleton had previously agreed to this so I started the process off.  Copying half a terabyte of images from a Network drive to an external hard drive takes rather a long time, but by Friday morning I had completed the process and had mailed the hard drive off.  Hopefully it will arrive in one piece.