Archive for June, 2006

The BSCoE project recently received a Computerworld Honors Program laureate honoring the project for its use of information technology to benefit society. It looks like the official case studies and pictures of the award ceremonies have been posted online. You can find the BSCoE case study here. I’ve also included a couple of interesting photos from the Computerworld ceremonies including the snapshot of our client receiving the award.

BSCoE Computerworld Laureate Picture 1BSCoE Computerworld Laureate Picture 2BSCoE Computerworld Laureate Picture 3

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I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with Web-based video for GeoGlue as of late. I knew very little about the medium out of the gate but with a bunch of reading and prototyping over the past couple of weeks, I’ve learned quite a bit. The first revelation to me was that the majority of professional-grade video sites such as YouTube and Google video encode their video as Flash. A bit of further research found claims of 98% pervasiveness of the Flash plugin, as opposed to much lower rates for Real, Quicktime, and Windows Media. Scott Persinger’s post on the video format wars proved to be quite interesting reading in this respect.

My first inclination was to look at desktop-based software for Flash video encoding just to get a feel for the potential end product and dealing with streaming media. Most of the software that is available for desktop Flash video encoding is extremely easy to use and provided the encoded video, JPEG stillframe, video player controls, and an HTML snippet as the end product. I tried out encoders from On2 Technologies, Blue Pacific Software, and MSI Web Video. All of them worked pretty well and provided a good way to generate Flash-based video suitable for posting to a Web site.

What GeoGlue really needs, however, is to provide on-demand, server-based encoding of a variety of audio and video formats into Flash. It appears that On2’s Flix Engine API is one of the market leaders in this area. I chose, however, to experiment with the Turbine Video Engine SDK from Blue Pacific. The Turbine SDK proved to perform efficient asynchronous and synchronous conversion of videos to Flash. Its potential shortcomings (based upon your requirements) are that it does not encode to Flash 8 and that it is intended solely for deployment on Windows-based machines. Wrapping the Turbine SDK calls in a component called by a Windows Service running cron-type jobs proved to be more than adequate for meeting my needs.

Video On The Web

Scott also provided an excellent follow-up entry on Web-based video that handles the costs associated with video-based hosting. This was my first introduction to Content Distribution Networks (CDN) such as Limelight Networks. This post was quite an eye opener and is causing me to reexamine the long-term costs associated with the growth of GeoGlue. In subsequent reading, I’ve been floored by some of the numbers that I’ve heard thrown around for streaming media hosting. Most recently, I recall reading that YouTube’s bandwidth costs alone total a couple of hundred thousand dollars – per day. Keep that VC funding flowing…

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I got through the entire book Pragmatic Version Control Using Subversion over the weekend. You can read my Amazon.com review on the book’s page. Overall, the book follows in the footsteps of the other guides in the Pragmatic Programmers series in that it is written to be easily understandable and provides to be a relatively light read

Pragmatic Version Control Using Subversion

Although the first several chapters are relatively elementary, the material gets a bit better as the book progresses. Towards the back of the book, there is coverage on organizing Subversion projects and directory structures, handling common libraries, and dealing with vendor libraries and source code. To me, it was this material that justified the cost of the book. If you’re interested, I’d personally recommend getting the book directly from the Pragmatic Programmers website (no offence, Amazon). These guys are very good about providing updated versions of their books as they become available. They are usually free of charge or at reduced rates. A great bargain as long as you don’t mind reading PDFs.

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We had quite a harrowing experience this weekend with what was previously to us an unknown ailment – nursemaid’s elbow. This partial dislocation of the elbow is caused by lifting the child (Anna, in this case) by her arms. Anna screamed like we’ve never heard her scream before and was inconsolable. This resulted in our first child-related ER visit, putting an early damper on what promised to be a very busy christening weekend (Mia’s, in this case).

Nursemaid's Elbow

The ER staff made a precise diagnosis and immediately performed a “reduction”. Anna gained back control of her arm and was using it at 50% strength by the time she went down for bed 2 hours later. When she woke up the next morning very stiff and with similar symptoms, I became worried about a misdiagnosis, incomplete reduction, or other oversight. I did a bit of research and reaffirmed (in my mind) the diagnosis. I’m happy to report that, 2 days later, Anna has regained 90% of mobility and strength in the affected hand. This seems to contradict the reports of a full 100% recovery within 24 hours that I found in my research. However, Suzanne and I are elated to have our Anna back and functioning near peak. A couple more days Children’s Tylenol and pampering and she should be completely back to normal.

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The official press release just came out announcing that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will be using LogicLibrary’s Logidex product as its asset metadata repository. This is quite an exciting development since it will afford BSCoE the opportunity to automate many of the asset cataloging, management, and approval functions that would have otherwise been manual processes.

As a card holding member of the tool skeptics club, I admit to being plesantly surprised and impressed by all of the product demos that I’ve seen and the technical expertise displayed by LogicLibrary’s product technicians. Logidex has a number of extremely interesting features that I have seen in no other product, let alone product suite, including:

  • Visualization of the enterprise architectural layers with the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA) included out of the box and support for the integration of other popular models such as the Zachman framework. This allows users to navigate the layers of the enterprise architecture and examine the assets associated with each of the layers.
  • Cataloging the contents of multiple disparate version control systems and presenting them as a “virtual repository”. This repository includes UDDI discovery of Web services and baseline .NET and Java assets from Microsoft’s Enterprise Library and Sun’s core J2EE patterns, respectively.
  • BSCoE Logidex

  • Providing a configurable workflow for the review and approval of software assets as well as notifications to asset consumers of changes to existing assets.
  • Exposing core Logidex business services as Web services, lowering the barriers to integration with existing solutions, portals, etc. LogicLibrary eats their own dog food in this sense, by having their IDE plug-ins for Visual Studio and Eclipse consume these same Web services.

All in all, quite an interesting tool from some industry visionaries, including those responsible for IBM’s ill-fated San Francisco project. Like many large software packages, it’s hard to get a sense of how the software works since you can get trial software. Microsoft and LogicLibrary offer a limited trial version available. If you’re interested, I encourage you to check it out. Also, sharing of any experiences with this toolset, positive or otherwise, would be greatly appreciated.

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