31 March 2007

Top Irish Web Apps

An interesting list of Ireland's top web applications Top Irish Web Apps.

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29 March 2007

Read the Treaty of Rome

Well this is a good suggestion, if we are serious as EU citizens about what the EU is or could be then we should actually Read the Treaty of Rome, as antoin suggests:

This is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. Let's be honest. Nobody cares about the Treaty of Rome. But the Treaty of Rome is the foundation of the peaceful, growing Europe we know today. Everyone who cares about Europe should read at least a few sections of it. It's actually pretty readable. If you are interested in commercial law, Title VI is worth reading.

So here is a link to the Treaty of Rome and another to the Wikipedia entry on the treaty, including a copy of original signatures.

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Mail Transfer Agent Comparison (exim, postfix, qmail, sendmail)

Here is an excellent on-line article comparing the four main open source Mail Transfer Agents (or email servers in common, though slightly incorrect, parlance) MTA Comparison - Granizada. The bottom line is that it recommends exim as the best general purpose solution for most people.

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Open Source Licencing

The debate about the GNU General Public License (GPL) Version 3 rolls on. A third draft of GPLv3 was released yesterday (28th March 2007) for discussion.

This article has a nice summary with onward links to further articles on related topics Controversy Swirls Around Changes in GPLv3.

It seems that many people in the open source community (including Linus Torvalds) are planning to stick with version 2 of the license (dating back to June 1991), but also that the strange deal between Microsoft and Novell on Windows and SUSE (see also the announcement) has stirred up deep resentment in the open source community that the spirit of the original license was being subverted, and that the new version 3 license tries to make this illegal in future. The version 3 license also tries to outlaw certain Digital Rights Management (DRM) issues. All quite confusing, but I'll track these developments with interest.

I have been a big fan of open source in general, ever since downloading GNU utilities for Unix in the mid 1980s as an undergraduate student in the University of Keele in Staffordshire, UK - the final year students were allowed to use Unix! Even then I marveled at the achievements of the collaborative communities involved. Since then, like many others, I've been impressed by Richard Stallman's continuing commitment to free software (open source) in the FSF (Free Software Foundation), and by the interesting analysis of the benefits of open source from Eric Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", bust most of all I have also been impressed by the huge success of individual open source efforts including:

  • GNU "unix" utilities and GNU CC;
  • the Linux kernel;
  • web servers like CERN httpd and then Apache and other projects in the Apache Foundation;
  • email programs like sendmail/postfix;
  • web browsers like Netscape and then Mozilla Firefox;
  • email clients like Mozilla Thunderbird;
  • dynamic languages like Perl, Tcl/Tk, PHP, Python, and Ruby;
  • the opening up of IBM's approach through software development IDE Eclipse;
  • the opening up of Sun Systems' activities in terms of both Solaris and Java (c.f. earlier blog post on Sun's coming out as a major contributor to open source according to an EU sponsored survey).

And for an interesting discussion of the most important open source activities see this earlier blog post on bloggers nominating their candidates as the three most influential open source projects.

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26 March 2007

Karen Spärck Jones - ACM/AAAI Newell Award 2006

I have just heard that my MPhil mini-thesis supervisor, Professor Karen Spärck Jones, of the Computer Laboratory in the University of Cambridge (UK) has been awarded the joint ACM and AAAI Newell Award for her work on natural language processing ACM: Press Release, March 22, 2007.

Congratulations, I am a proud alumnus of the taught masters course she co-founded with the late Professor Frank Fallside, an innovative linkage of computer science and engineering, "Computer Speech and Natural Language Processing", where we did Hidden Markov Models and Neural Networks side-by-side with Prolog and LISP in the late-1980s. I believe that where I now work in the TSSG in Waterford Institute of Technology also captures the creative energy of working where disciplines intermingle, here with telecommunications engineering and Internet technologies.

The notice also mentions that Karen is being given two further awards:

The Athena Lecturer Award, given by the ACM Committee on Women in Computing (ACM-W) recognizes women researchers who have made fundamental contributions to Computer Science [...and...] the Lovelace Medal, presented by the British Computer Society to those who have made significant contributions to advancing and understanding Information Systems.

Well done Karen, you were an inspiration to me and many other students.

UPDATE: 2007-04-26 Karen Spärck Jones, IR Pioneer, Winner of Two ACM Awards Karen Spärck Jones, recently named as the recipient of ACM/AAAI's Allan Newell Award and ACM-W's Athena Lecturer Award, passed away on April 4. As we say in Irish "Ní bheidh a leithid arís ann" - "We will not see her likes again".

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Network Neutrality

Wendy M. Grossman argues, in an interesting way, that we have two network neutrality debates in parallel: net.wars: Double the networks, double the neutralities

The upshot is that because the two markets - wireless phones and the Internet - have developed from opposite directions, we have two network neutrality debates, not one. The wonder is that it took us so long to notice.

Umm, interesting, you could substitute two NGNs "next generation networks" for this and would read just as well.

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Mark Pilgrim and W3C Standards

Mark Pilgrim has been hired by Google, in his own words (Mon 19th March 2007):

There are two basic visions of the future of the web, and one of them is wrong. I'm going to work on the right one for a while. At Google. Starting today.

In terms of clarifying this here is an older posting of his on W3C standards: W3C and the Overton window [dive into mark].

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25 March 2007

Treaty of Rome - 50 Years

In my St. Patrick's Day posting about what it means to Irish, which I argued that one good way to find out to to dip into our rich literature written in both Irish and English, I placed the issue of Irelend's identity within a European context, the membership of the European Union (or the European Economic Community as it used to known) being one of the most significant issues for Ireland in the past 100 years, other than independence from the British Empire.

Now it seems that this type of thinking is very appropriate as the papers this weekend were full of discussions about the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Treat of Rome that created the original European Economic Community. For example this editorial in the Irish Times (subscription required) ireland.com - The Irish Times - Sat, Mar 24, 2007 - How stands Europe at 50?.

Well, I have always felt the noble ideal of creating a common super-national entity to bring together former enemies (primarily France and Germany), to prevent another world war, was an inspired one. Yes I know that economically the post-war recovery in Europe was helped by American investment as well, and that was welcome as well.

I don't really mind how many Eurosceptics bash the EU, I think that is a noble ideal, and the best experiment in the world today about how 22nd century world government could be organised - a voluntary relinquishing of national sovereignty to a wider entity in the hope creating an environment for peaceful cooperation. All of us who are citizens of the EU should get involved and make it work!

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23 March 2007

Watching the web grow up (Mar 8th 2007; Economist)

This recent Economist article gives a good overview of what's exciting about the mobile web and the semantic web: | Watching the web grow up It is based on discussions with Tim Berners-Lee.

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John Backus dies at 82

Tim O'Reilly blogs that John Backus Dies at 82. One of the pioneers of software, involved in creating the programming language Fortran, and the Backus-Naur Form (BNF) for specifying programming languages and other things.

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17 March 2007

St Patrick's Day Musings: What Ish My Nation?

Famously, an Irish soldier, MacMorris, in Shakespeare's Henry V exclaims:

Of my nation! What ish my nation? Ish a villain, and a bastard, and a knave, and a rascal. What ish my nation? Who talks of my nation?

This quotation is often used in literary discussions of what it means to be Irish (particularly in the post-colonialist context e.g. 'What ish my nation?': Towards a Negative Definition of Irish Identity by Eugene O'Brien).

Traditionally the Irish media, on this day and indeed the rest of this week, 17th March St. Patrick's Day, we are often treated to discussions of what it means to be Irish. Whilst we are not yet as confused as the English/British seem to be (which is not necessarily a bad thing, by the way, and I personally can claim British citizenship as well as Irish though I choose not to). However, there is certainly an impression that we Irish are becoming more confused as to our national identity.

The truth is that, as a comparatively young nation, coming into existence in the early 20th century, we have a recent written tradition that defines the national identity. This "Irish literary revival," the flowering of literature and cultural activity at the end of the 19th and the start of the 20th centuries, is now seen in retrospect as a fundamental part of the process of creating an environment where independence became possible. Although some of the literature of this period may now seems idealistic and distant from "modern Ireland," it is still a rich tradition to draw on. In combination with this more recent literary and cultural heritage, we have a long oral and written history going back two thousand years and more; the Irish language being one of the oldest written languages in Europe. I find that most Irish people are not fully connected with this, and that Irish language enthusiasts often promoted the wrong parts of this tradition.

For me Ireland now shares most aspects of a wider trans-national European culture. When I travel in Europe I always learn new things about its rich cultural heritage, but I still feel strangely comfortable in countries where I cannot speak a word of the native language (most recently for me Slovenia); but when I travel outside of Europe I definitely feel like a foreigner (for me most recently South Korea).

One could muse about how this common European culture was formed. Obviously the Roman Empire united much of what is now Europe (but not Ireland). Subsequently the Christian Church (particularly though its adoption as the state religion of the Roman Empire) provided a pan-European cultural norm that lasted until the end of the Middle Ages, and the Reformation introduced a new paradigm. Since then a common membership of a scientific and modernising culture, linked to the 19th century European empires (such as the British and the French) and finally the integrated European project that is the EU, has bound Europe together culturally. Indeed most European legal systems derive from Napoleonic models. Ireland, on the fringe of Europe, but part of the largest world empire of all, the British, was the first part of that empire to break away. This was a complete political schism in the end, neutrality during the second world war, rejecting the Commonwealth, whilst maintaining unique political and cultural links. In a way Ireland has much in common with Canada, Australia (and to a lesser extent India), all parts of the old British empire.

We effectively rejected our own language in the period of our greatest austerity after the great hunger (the Famine of the mid 19th century); Irish speaking families brought up their children speaking English in the hopes of enabling emigration to English speaking Britain, America, Canada and Australia - an implicit emigration for opportunity policy (a default mode of operation for Ireland up to the 1990s) that could be argued has worked given the strength of the resultant Irish diaspora. In the census' taken since 2000 the Irish population is increasing for the first time since the huge blow of the famine when nearly half of either died or emigrated.

Now Ireland is the poster child of the EU - look what we can do - transform an agriculturally dominant stagnant economy with most of its children leaving to work abroad (Ireland in the 1980s) into a globalised economy leading the world in terms of ICT and biotechnological innovation (with the help of our American friends) - a bridge between Boston and Berlin, a model of the 21st century state, in balance with the external forces that threaten to rip many counties apart. And of course the EU has prevented further war in EU (except for the fall-out in Yugoslavia, and that was before it was partially absorbed into the EU).

Of course, if you actually count the unbroken years of operation of a democratically elected government Ireland is actually one of the older nations in Europe, but we think of ourselves as young, perhaps this is the anthropomorphic use of the American cultural ideal of the teenager and the young?

So, to help those lost souls searching for the core of Irish identity, in the honourable tradition of weblog listings, I offer up this list of books and poems that each have something to say on the topic, whether directly or indirectly. In no particular order, and each with some personal musings, I give you:

  • [<1000-1300 Old and Middle Irish] The Táin translated by Thomas Kinsella (These are the stories of Cu Cuchulain, the Ulster Cycle of old Irish poetry, fantastic, and exotic, a must read. It is hard to give a date for this as some of the original poems passed through the oral tradition from periods potentially BC. The two primary manuscripts we have date from the 11th and 14th centuries, c.f. Wikipedia Entry:
    The Táin Bó Cúailnge has survived in two main recensions. The first consists of a partial text in the Lebor na hUidre (the "Book of the Dun Cow"), a late 11th/early 12th century manuscript compiled in the monastery at Clonmacnoise, and another partial text of the same version in the 14th century manuscript called the Yellow Book of Lecan. These two sources overlap, and a complete text can be reconstructed by combining them.
    Well, you just have to read that don't you?)
  • [1729 - English] A Modest Proposal Jonathan Swift (Swift's satirical argument that the solution to the Irish famine was to eat some of the children was taken as a serious proposal by some readers at the time.)
  • [1911 - English] The Crock of Gold, James Stephens (A fantastic tale set in rural Ireland, that pokes fun at the traditional elements of Irishness whilst honouring them).
  • [1914 - English] Dubliners, James Joyce (I've included this as you have to read Joyce, but Ulysses, or Finnegan's Wake, can be a daunting task! So instead dip into this collection of short stories, or just read the last one, "The Dead". It is hailed by many as the best collection of short stories ever. I love the incidental details such as bottles of Guinness being placed by the fire so that the cork can raise out by itself and bring the drink to the right temperature in "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" - a healthy antidote to modern chilled stout).
  • [1916 (1889-1939) - English] Easter 1916, William Butler Yates (This is a single poem Yeats wrote at the time of abortive uprising in Dublin in Easter 1916, arguably the defining moment politically for modern Ireland. If you want this in a bigger volume try Selected Poems and Four Plays of William Butler Yeats that contains selected poems and four verse plays including "Words on a Windowpane". Some of this stuff can still bring one to tears, it is woven into our cultural fabric in so deep a fashion.)
  • [1939 - English] At Swim-two-birds, Flann O'Brien (A really funny book. One part is based on a translation of a Middle Irish text, Buille Suibhne, The Madness of Sweeney; another on the legendary Finn McCool, or Fionn mac Cumhaill.)
  • [1975 - English] North Seamus Heaney (Heaney, a Nobel laureate, has always focused on what it means to be Irish, and is perhaps more gut trustingly honest about it in the earlier poems such as those in this volume.)
  • [1981 - English] Translations, Brian Friel (A colleague of Heaney's on the Field Day project, Friel is perhaps Ireland's best playwright of the 20th century, and this play is a masterpiece. It's best to actually go an see it performed if possible, but the script is good to read too - though you do need a bit of practice to enjoy reading plays in my experience. It is set at the period when British army forces are preparing an ordinance survey map of of an Irish-speaking part of Ireland.)
  • [1990 - English] Ireland, 1912-1985: Politics and Society, Joseph J. Lee (A very influential recent history of Ireland.)
And hey, I know I haven't mentioned any Shaw, Beckett, and original Middle Irish material, and so on. This wasn't designed to be comprehensive, more personal.

In researching this post I found this excellent site: Island Ireland. This an excellent resource for Irish literature, with many useful links. Note that I've updated this entry over 17th and 18th March, as I filled in the details of why I like each text...

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16 March 2007


One of my colleagues in the TSSG, Jonathan Brazil, has just posted a summary of his experiences getting client SIP software to work with IPv6 Jonathan Brazil's Weblog: IPv6 - How I got there.... Great that we got there, and great for him to share these details via his blog for us all to read!

IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) is a big deal in modern telecommunications, and is a core (but not the only) part of the TSSG's approach to converged communications services. On principle we try to develop everything we do as dual stack IPv4/IPv6 to be really ready for the next generation internet. This project is one example of this approach in practice.

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14 March 2007

Are We Slowly Losing Control of the Internet (Karl Auerbach)

In this short article Are We Slowly Losing Control of the Internet? Karl Auerbach bemoans the lack of simple standards, as options proliferate, and standards bodies try and please all the stakeholders. A common problem. He sets his sights on SIP as an example of what can go wrong. Perhaps most interesting he links to a good set of slides From Barnstorming to Boeing - Transforming the Internet Into a Lifeline Utility that has speaker notes. Hey many this guy is trying to help out on my MSc (taught) module on SIP after all - though they're a bit high level. In any case I agree with the main message - we need to plan how to manage this stuff.

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13 March 2007

EU-sponsored analysis of FLOSS (Open Source Software)

In the Computer Business Review Online article Open Source Weblog: Where does open source code come from? the recently published EU report on innovation and competitiveness of the EU ICT sector is presented.

Interestingly, Sun tops the list of companies involved in open source software (tanks to Tim Bray of Sun for this link).

This is fascinating reading. I'll post back with more observations...

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11 March 2007

IPv6 BGP Geopolitical Analysis

A good analysis of the distribution of IPv4 and IPv6 AS (autonomous systems), prefixes and addresses across the world CAIDA : analysis : geopolitical : bgp2country. Interesting that IPv6 is still dominated by wealthier countries, but as there are so many addresses, they won't be able to hoard them; in contrast the USA dominates Ipv4 address allocations and has - it could be argued - hoarded them.

Note from source:

Last Modified: Thurs Mar-2-2006 23:24:59 PDT; Maintained by: Bradley Huffaker

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DatCat: Internet Measurement Data Catalogue

Reminder to myself and my students that this site offer access to Internet data that may be very useful for populating simulations or direct use for analysis DatCat: Home.

In contrast it is very hard to get good quality telecommunications data for analysis, mainly for commercial and legal reasons the operators are reluctant to release, even "anonymized", data.

Good science need good data, so it's good to see this type of Internet data being made available.

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6 March 2007

Hillary NY - Gradam na mBloganna 2007

At the Irish Blog Awards 2007 Hilary NY won the award for "Best Use of Irish in a Blog". Good to see the Irish language making use of the new technology, and cool that Hilary is based in New York - there's the modern Ireland for you (or is that the old Ireland - no or would that be Cape Cod where my own relatives are)..... I see she's been blogging since December 2004. Adh mór...

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Reflexive Web

Jon Udell's latest post Sharing knowledge on the web ォ Jon Udell descibes how informative he finds the web for his own work. He suggests that as so many people involved use the web regularly, and as so many of the processes involved can be represented textually in web postings, there is a very useful reflexive charater created. We use the web to learn how to use the web. He also suggests that in other domains, such as fire fighting, video representations may be more appropriate than textual ones, and that in time web will grow to encompass these too. Interesting stuff from Udell as usual!

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