Thursday, March 20, 2008

Study on Canadian Science and Technology

The Canadian government's House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has released a press release describing a consultation which is looking for submissions from various sectors and regions in the following areas:

  • Science advice to government;
  • Commercialization, venture capital and intellectual property;
  • Federally funded research performed in government and higher education; and
  • “Big science” projects and Canada’s position in global science and technology.
Submissions must less than 5 pages in length, and emailed in by April 18 2008.
No indication of what file formats are accepted.

Computers in Libraries: The Open Source Software Craze

The March 2008 issue of Computers in Libraries is titled "The Open Source Software Craze" and has a series of articles on Open Source in Libraries:

  • Using Open Source to Give Patrons What They Want. Amy Begg De Groff.
  • The Community Behind the Code. Terence K. Huwe.
  • Making a Business Case for Open Source ILS. Marshall Breeding.
  • What Librarians Still Don’t Know About Open Source. Daniel Chudnov.
  • Open Source Becomes More Accessible. Janet L. Balas.
  • What Can Open Source Do for You? Rachel Singer Gordon and Jessamyn West.
Unfortunately most of the articles do not seem to be web accessible until later this month.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Religion adaptive?

In the recent study, Deliver Us From Evil: Religion as Insurance those who are religious were found to have greater life satisfaction, "and that religion does insure against some adverse life events. All denominations suffer less psychological harm from unemployment than do the non-religious; equally both Catholics and Protestants are less hurt by marital separation."

As someone who is non-religious I can believe this. And yet this does not conflict with one of the four messages in Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion: "Atheists can [emphasis added] be happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled" - Wikipedia. This study is just suggesting that religious people are likely to be happier than atheists, for whatever reasons.

I am wondering if religion might be something that might even be selected-for in self-aware organisms. For entities whose cognition is oriented around exploring and explaining things, religion may be adaptive in dealing with things which cannot be easily explained.

Of course, others besides Dawkins have thought through this as well and have looked at various possible explanations for the role and origin of religion:

  1. "an evolutionary adaptation,
  2. a side-effect of an evolutionary adaptation, or
  3. a “mind virus” with no direct evolutionary implications." -- Evolution and Religion: Is Religion Adaptive?
Additional discussion:

Update March 19: The Science of Religion: Where Angels fear to tread. The Economist, March 18 2008.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Library Social Networking: Next Gen?

One of the more interesting things that I learned on my recent trip to Denver was the new feature of Aquabrowser called 'My Experience' where LibraryThing tags (17M) and ratings (2M) are pre-loaded and made available out-of-the-box. More important is how all instances of My Experience can participate in a global network of other instances, and can share additional social networking information generated by the users' of the instances (and perhaps other sources?).

I also have to say that I was very impressed with the presentation of TLC's Indigo ILS front-end: it was very convincing (and much better than their online flash presentation: they need to fix that!).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Giving plenary at Next Gen Library Interfaces Conference: Part 2

Many of the other speakers - mostly vendors - demoed their equivalent to Google's 'Did you mean' with various names, like "Did you want".

This led me to refer in my talk to this particular feature as the "Spice Girls' feature": "Tell me what I want, what I really really want". :-)

Giving plenary at Next Gen Library Interfaces Conference

I am in Denver today, giving the afternoon plenary at today's Next Gen Library Interface Conference, put on by the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries. I'd like to thank George Machovec, associate director of "the Alliance", for inviting me down. The meeting is a mix of vendor presentations with two plenaries:

  • Morning Keynote: Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technologies and Research, Vanderbilt University Library
  • Vendor presentation: Encore (III)
  • break
  • Vendor presentation: AquaBrowser
  • Vendor presentation: Primo (Ex Libris)
  • lunch
  • Afternoon Keynote: Glen Newton, Researcher, Information Science, NRC-CISTI, National Research Council Canada: Open source tools and case study.
  • break
  • Vendor presentation: WorldCat Local (OCLC)
  • Vendor presentation: Indigo (TLC)
Here is my presentation. PowerPoint created in Open Office.

Related post (Marshal Breeding): 2008 Feb 23: Openness in the library (technology)

Update March 28: Link to Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries entry for meeting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Extremely Large Databases

The First Workshop on Extremely Large Databases was held at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, October 2007. Many of the heavy hitters were there (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, Terrasoft, SLAC, NCSA, eBay, AT&T, etc) from industry, academia and science (? their classification).

A report is available and I thought I'd touch on some of the more interesting things I found in it:

Scale:

  • Most have systems with > 100TB of data, with 20% of scientific databases > 1PB of data;
  • All from industry reps had >100PB of data, with all having at least one system with >1PB
  • Industry had single tables with > 1 trillion rows; science ~100 times smaller.
  • Need for multi-trillion-row tables in <10 years
  • Peak ingest: 1B rows per hour; 1B rows per day common
  • "All users said that even though their databases were already growing rapidly, they would store even more data in databases if it were affordable. Estimates of the potential ranged from ten to one hundred times current usage. The participants unanimously agreed that "no vendor meets our database needs"."
Usage:
  • The most surprising observation: "...highly unpredictable query loads, with up to 90% of queries being new." Wow: not good for modern learning query optimizers.

Open Source Software
  • "Both groups often use free and/or open source software such as Linux, MySQL, and PostgreSQL extensively to reduce costs."
MapReduce for some operations
  • "The map/reduce paradigm has built substantial mind-share thanks to its relatively simple processing model, easy scalability, and fault tolerance. It fits well with the aforementioned need for full table scans. It was pointed out that the join capabilities of this model are limited, with sort/merge being the primary large-scale method being used today". See previous entry on MapReduce/Hadoop.

Important Science Differences:
  • "The longevity of large scientific projects, typically measured in decades, forces scientists to introduce extra layers in order to isolate different components and ease often unavoidable migrations, adding to system complexity. Unfortunately, those layers aretypically used only to abstract the storage model and not the processing model."

"How Google Earth Ate Our Town"

Nanaimo is the future. Get used to it. Where can I sign up to get a GPS so I can track my dogs?

Nanaimo has been uber-mapped by Google, and everything from firetrucks to the grass-cutting machines have GPS in them, recording location and time telemetry into Google's Big Database in the Sky(tm).

And yes, you dead people aren't safe from this either: Nanaimo will be making available to Google the database of who-is-buried-where, so you may also have some extra visitors! :-)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fiber-to-the-home dance!

It is looking like I will be going from my purgatory of years of dial-up to - yes - 100Mbps fiber to my home! The deal seems to be going-through (cross-fingers!) for my community, and it is a sweet deal:

  • 100Mbps up/down fiber to the home
  • Full-dup ethernet (2 fibers)
  • One fixed IP; 4 email addresses
  • 16GB transfer limit per month; $5 per extra GB
  • VOIP telephony, voicemail, with call display, 3-way calling
  • Telephone number transfer (one time $35)
  • Free long-distance in Quebec and to Ottawa; $0.04 per minute other long distance
  • three 9s uptime
  • $70 / month
The company involved is called Xittel and they have thousands of km of fiber in Quebec and substantial fiber deployed elsewhere in Canada.

I, for one, welcome our new fiber overlords!