Will Mworia's Blog

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The Making of A Revolution

Filed under: research, , , , , , ,

A step forward!

So finally I pulled myself together, formatted and upgraded a PC that was idle (and in such a pathetic state due to viruses) to Vista, installed Visual Studio 2008 code-named ‘Orcas’, Silverlight runtime, tools and SDK as well as ASP.NET 2.0 AJAX extensions and ASP.NET 2.0 Futures, and obtained all the associated documentation, and dubbed the machine ‘devpc’!!! So far I have done a few things with both Silverlight (1.1) and ASP.NET AJAX, but still at chilld’s-play level and learning!

I also installed VS 2005 parallel to my current installation of VS 2003 (I just have never got past that cos many projects were lying on it) on my production machine which is running XP and installed Silverlight (1.0) and ASP.NET AJAX extensions and I am also playing around with that.

The only snag is the monitor on devpc, apparently the drivers for Vista are not in existence for it (it’s a Dell monitor).

All in all… definitely a step in the right direction! I will be doing some LINQ later on today! I have a couple of screencasts and videos to follow as well.

Filed under: fun, laptop, microsoft, OS, research, software, technology

Local Innovation… Peupe!

Yes! Another installment in the ongoing ‘Local Innovation’ series. So far i did a post on the new application for analyzing the stock market, StocksPartner. This time around however the focus is on a Web 2.0 initiative!!!

A couple of years back blogging and the ‘social’ web amongst other technologies and frameworks of collaboration and communication on the WWW literally breathed new life into the WWW experience. Blogs sprung up everywhere fast! Tons of new, dynamic content found their way into the lime-light; evolving into what is now quite famously known as the Blogosphere. This was further compounded by the invention of Syndication; RSS 1.0/2.0, Atom… You can get bits and pieces of information from across the www-scape simply and easily without going to look for it. Fast forward…. zoom to the present and what do you find in the future that is today… a new ‘architecture’ of sorts in building web experiences… Mash-ups, RIA…!!! And the technology has definitely been keeping up, which both supports current innovation, creating a form of launch-pad to make use of what we have to make even newer innovations…. is your head spinning yet? And that is not even the half of it!!!

And corporates were not left behind, some daring and innovative companies saw the potential in the new wave and began exploring how make use of the new shape of the web. And today what do you find? ‘Hmmm, so you want to get a feel of what some big-shot executive is up to?’, simple, just check out his blog!

It is within this ‘ecosystem’ that a local company, Multiple Choices is building Peupe!

And what exactly is Peupe? Glad you asked! But first who is Multiple Choices. Well, Multiple Choices is a local company that is probably the first within Africa to come out and proclaim itself to be specifically targeted at Web 2.0!

Multiple Choices

For a description of what peupe is, I will borrow from the text on the peupe home page:

Peupe is a blog that is specially developed for business leaders and experts. Its features allow the blogger to share information,photos,
documents, and much more

Communities build brands. Build your community and let them build your brand as they talk,listen and share with you and each other.

Peupe Logo

This from alkags:

Finally, I am making the first post on our very own creation, Peupe. Peupe is Africa’s first corporate blog application that has been designed and built by Multiple Choices, specifically for business leaders and experts. Why?…

This is clearly exciting news! However apart from the hype of Web 2.0 and the hype of the ‘first Web 2.0 company in Africa’ or the ‘first blogging platform/social networking’ built in Africa… there is something that just speaks to me louder… and that’s the what do i call it… ‘the philosophy’ behind Multiple Choices and Peupe. Clearly this is something that I dare call extremely unique, a technology start-up, a dream, a vision of changing the mind-set of Africa/Kenya from what John, one of the personalities behind peupe refers to as a revolution in the way we think about technology.

What’s more exciting, and I think it could possibly come at a better time, is that they are planning an event dubbed TIDE (Technology, Innovation, Design and Everything). If the first thing that pops into your mind is MIX 07… then we are on the same wavelength. Of course MIX 07 is probably being a bit ambitious! But the general idea is to get the designer/developer community in Kenya to congregate and mentor them. This is potentially a big (And I cannot over-emphasize the Big!) event. With all the research and general curiosity that has led me to learn about things such as Silverlight, Surface, LINQ, devs in Orcas, WPF/E, Entity Framework, Volta (I just downloaded the interviews with Meijer C9!!! Good viewing for tonight!)… it is usually a bit discouraging to pop up one of the topics in a conversation and I see people’s expressions changing to unknowingess. I mean there is so much innovation out there and sorry to say, so much apathy within the local tech community. And so typically my blood starts rising and I end up giving a passionate account of what’s happening and begging with the other party to try and become a little curious about what’s going on!

So, back to TIDE. What I am trying to say , and hopefully the organizers will take this to mind, is that a serious wake-up call to innovate and invent is seriously needed in the community, in fact, the community needs to come together and take things up (cos I am not sure the community knows it exists as such). And this would be a great event to sow the seed and watch ‘the revolution’ come to life!

Read more about Peupe here!

Here are some of the first blogs built on peupe:

Blog.oriakdigital.com

Sitati.peupe.net

Wesonga.peupe.net

Alkags.peupe.net

Apologies if my passion just came off too strong! ;)

Watch out for another installment soon to come int ‘Local Innovation’, this time we will be talking Google Earth! ;)

Filed under: interview, kenya, research, technology

Web 2.0

So what is this thing called ‘Web 2.0′? Well, glad you asked that question; it is an evolution in the way we experience the web, it is a tidal wave that’s taking the web by storm, it’s been around, being discussed in industry circles for a few years but I believe it’s fullness is only beginning to show. Web 2.0 is a concept that came to being from a brainstorming session between O’Reilly and MediaLive International; it goes back to about 2004 when the first Web 2.0 conference was held.

So what does it mean? Well, according to a paper by Tim O’Reilly (read it here or stream the audio here), Web 2.0 is characterized by a number of principles, that we will get into shortly. One way to learn something is by making clear what something IS NOT and then clarifying what it IS. In this case, what is Web 2.0 NOT and what IS Web 2.0, a simple way of knowing what Web 2.0 is NOT is by looking at it’s ‘predecessor’, ‘Web 1.0′; and this is what is proposed by O’Reilly:
Web 1.0 –>Web 2.0
DoubleClick –> Google AdSense
Ofoto –> Flickr
Akamai –> BitTorrent
mp3.com –> Napster
Britannica Online –> Wikipedia
personal websites –> blogging
evite –> upcoming.org and EVDB
domain name speculation –> search engine optimization
page views –> cost per click
screen scraping –> web services
publishing –> participation
content management systems –> wikis
directories (taxonomy) –> tagging (“folksonomy”)
stickiness –> syndication

Though the list is not exhaustive, it does show a significant difference in a sense of what is predominant on the Web as it is in comparison with what was (mostly) familiar, or what predominantly characterized the web in different ways in various areas from before!

According to Tim O’Reilly’s paper, the following are key distinguishing ‘principles’ that are emergent in Web 2.0:

1. The Web As Platform:

‘A Platform Beats an Application Every Time’

Here Tim makes use of 3 examples and some ‘Web 2.0 lessons’ that are evident in them:

Netscape vs. Google: The value of the software is proportional to the scale and dynamis of the data it helps to manage.
DoubleClick vs. Overture and AdSense: Leverage customer-self service and algorithmic data management to reach out to the entire web, to the edges and not just the center, to the long tail and not just the head.

Akamai vs. BitTorrent: The service automatically gets better the more people use it

2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence:

Web 2.0 shows an incredible enhancement in the leveraging of collective intelligence; collection, distribution and sharing as well as finding information and making sense of it. Here, Tim mentions the roles played by Wikipedia ad collective content creation and editing, del.icio.us and Flickr and the concept of folksonomy (a style of collaborative categorization of sites using freely chosen keywords, often referred to as tags.) and others, especially blogging, RSS and sites such as bloglines that aggregate RSS content and Permalink.

3. Data is the Next Intel Inside:

The race is on to own certain classes of core data: location, identity, calendaring of public events, product identifiers and namespaces. In many cases, where there is significant cost to create the data, there may be an opportunity for an Intel Inside style play, with a single source for the data. In others, the winner will be the company that first reaches critical mass via user aggregation, and turns that aggregated data into a system service.

4. End of the Software Release Cycle:

Here, Tim O’Reilly takes notice of some key aspects that Web 2.0 companies have to embrace in their business/software development models. He claims:

Operations must become a core competency. Google‘s or Yahoo!’s expertise in product development must be matched by an expertise in daily operations. So fundamental is the shift from software as artifact to software as service that the software will cease to perform unless it is maintained on a daily basis.

And

Users must be treated as co-developers, in a reflection of open source development practices (even if the software in question is unlikely to be released under an open source license.) The open source dictum, “release early and release often” in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, “the perpetual beta,” in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. It’s no accident that services such as Gmail, Google Maps, Flickr, del.icio.us, and the like may be expected to bear a “Beta” logo for years at a time… Real time monitoring of user behavior to see just which new features are used, and how they are used, thus becomes another required core competency.

5. Lightweight Programming Models:

Simplicity is the name of the new game!

A case in point being RSS and REST (Representational State Transfer)! Tim O’Reilly clearly notes the following key aspects of the Web 2.0 era in this regard:

Support lightweight programming models that allow for loosely coupled systems… The Web 2.0 mindset is very different from the traditional IT mindset!

Think syndication, not coordination. Simple web services, like RSS and REST-based web services, are about syndicating data outwards, not controlling what happens when it gets to the other end of the connection… the end-to-end principle

Design for “hackability” and remixability.

6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device:

According to Dave Stutz, “Useful software written above the level of the single device will command high margins for a long time to come.”

7. Rich User Experiences:

One word: Silverlight! and another word, Popfly

So, really, Web 2.0 is a paradigm shift in the way we look at the web, the way we get information from the web, the way we find information on the web, the way we develop the web, the way we build business models around the web!

Filed under: blog, content, cool, feed, google, information retrieval, microsoft, research, search, SOA, software, yahoo

What Everyone is Excited About – LINQ

LINQ or Language Integrated Query is probably the most exciting feature of what I will call the future of the .NET languages. It facilitates native, SQL-like querying of data sources within code (C#/VB.NET), and you can query in-memory collections, relational databases and XML data.

For example you can have query a string array or any queryable ‘object’ and do some interesting things with that. Here is a simple example using a string array

using System;
using System.Query;{	public static class simpleLinq    {

	public static void Main()

{

var names = new string[] {"Wilfred","Mwenda" "Mutua",."Mworia"}

		var namesWithM = from n names
                       where n.StartsWith("M")
		       select n;		foreach(var individual in namesWithD) 	{

Console.WriteLine(individual);

}

}
}
}

That simpler piece of code as you would expect return all the names beginning with ‘M’. Of course this is a pretty trivial example. Linq promises to open a door to enable devs to do data manipulation quite flexibly.

You will notice a few things:

The System.Query namespace enables you to use LINQ

var names : the type is inferred

The query structure is SQL-Like but not exactly SQL. The reason given by Anders in a video on channel 9 is that the syntax is actually represents the natural flow of thought. You want to go somewher where you know some interesting things are stored and probablt you want only a subset of these things so you go there and get them, (I hope I have not twisted my logic there).

Anders Hejlsberg is the point-man in Linq, this is a nice video giving a good overview of what LINQ is and where the C# team is headed with it.
Here’s a link to the official project site.
The Linq Project Overview
For tonnes of examples click here.
Scott Guthrie has some tutorials on his blog. This and This.
A look at Linq on codepreject.com

Here are two very interesting articles:

Article 1 & 2

Linq is only one of the really interesting things happening at MS that I am following, the Entity Framework and ADO.NET, Silverlight , DLR amongst others are just a few more examples of some of the good work going on there. I will get to post something on these over time.

PS: If you want the best scoop on all this… bookmark channel 9 and keep an ear on the ground.

———–
var toPost =
from p in wilfredsThoughts
where p.isPostable()
select p;

Filed under: cool, microsoft, research, technology

Yukon to Katmai

The Windows Observer -Volume 4, Number 19 — May 16, 2007

Microsoft Talks Up SQL Server ‘Katmai’

Published: May 17, 2007

by Alex Woodie

Microsoft started beating the drum for the version of SQL Server, codenamed “Katmai,” last week at its business intelligence conference. In addition to new business intelligence capabilities, Katmai, which is scheduled to ship in 2008, will feature better security, more extensibility, new high availability features, a rule-based management framework, and an array of new tricks for .NET developers.

The new rule-based management framework Microsoft is developing for Katmai is expected to reduce the dependency on scripts for daily maintenance activities, such as query optimizations, naming conventions, backup and restore operations, and index management. By automatically monitoring and enforcing policies in Katmai, Microsoft says users will be able to push policies out to thousands of servers, providing a more heterogeneous SQL Server environment.

Better security will be a focal point for Katmai. With this release, Microsoft intends to make it easier for users to encrypt entire databases, or just specific data or log files, without making changes to the underlying applications. Better auditing will also allow administrators to more easily enforce compliance.

Microsoft is also talking about a feature called “database mirroring” in Katmai. With database mirroring, users will be given another option, on top of application server clustering, for boosting the availability of their critical business applications. Microsoft says it is also improving the recoverability of applications from storage failures by making it easy to move processor and memory resources without affecting applications.

It will also be easier to tune SQL Server for the best performance as a result of new performance data collection features in Katmai, Microsoft says. This will be made possible through a new centralized repository for performance data where administrators can view performance figures and compare them to past reports.

Similarly, Katmai will also sport a “resource governor” that, according to Microsoft, will help administrators provide a “consistent and predictable response” to users. The resource governor will achieve this by defining resource limits and priorities for different workloads.

Katmai will also feature new tricks for developers, including the new Entity Data Model, which is part of the ADO.NET framework, and support for the previously announced Language Integrated Query (LINQ) technology.

With the new Entity Data Model, developers will be able to access data by defining business entities like customers, orders, and products, as opposed to using the table and column format that is standard with relational databases. Developers can then query and retrieve these entities natively within any .NET language using LINQ, which is a set of language extensions that Microsoft announced in September 2005 as a way to simplify the development process and prevent programmers from having to know and use SQL and XQuery by allowing them to query data in C# and Visual Basic. Meanwhile, as developers work with a logical view of objects in the database, administrators will still be able to manage the database using the physical table and column view.

Microsoft also plans to improve support for non relational data–such as XML, a hierarchical format that Microsoft first supported in its database with SQL Server 2005. With Katmai, Microsoft intends to enable SQL Server to store and consume any type of unstructured content, which would suggest support for XML documents, PDF files, or JPG images, as well as new “spatial” data-types for building geographic and “location aware” systems.

This widening of file-type support sounds a lot like the type of capability that Microsoft was touting with Windows File System (WinFS), the revolutionary file system that was to debut with Windows “Longhorn.” WinFS, of course, was removed from Longhorn after running into development problems. After surviving for a time as a separate development effort, it has entirely disappeared from view.

Katmai will also bring new features designed to help users build new business intelligence applications. On the plumbing side, Microsoft says it is boosting SQL Server’s capacity to manage large numbers of users and large amounts of data, and will improve the database’s query performance on large tables, optimize queries for data warehousing scenarios, and increase I/O performance. New changed data capture (CDC) functionality will assist businesses with the real-time loading of data warehouses, while more scalable volume management and integration services will help administrators keep it all properly sorted.

Katmai will also shine when it comes to building and running today’s cutting-edge business applications, according to Microsoft. Better hooks into Microsoft Office will continue to push Microsoft’s desktop suite as a key way to consume business intelligence, while an array of more advanced capabilities, such as SQL Server Reporting Services for building reports, and SQL Server Analysis Services for building dashboard applications with key performance indicators (KPIs) and the like.

Microsoft has historically trailed the business intelligence technology leaders, including Business Objects, Cognos, Oracle (which recently bought Hyperion), MicroStrategy, and others. But SQL Server Katmai may have the potential to turn Microsoft’s business intelligence fortunes around.

“Microsoft is charting a course to transform the BI marketplace as we know it,” said Jeff Raikes, president of Microsoft’s Business Division, said during the Microsoft BI Conference held in Redmond, Washington, last week. “By fundamentally changing the economic model for BI and delivering unprecedented ease of use, we’re enabling the broadest deployment of BI possible so employees can better contribute to a company’s overall business performance.”

Microsoft further boosted its business intelligence strategy last week with the acquisition of OfficeWriter, an application that enables users to access Excel spreadsheets and Word documents through a Web browser. OfficeWriter was developed by a company called SoftArtisans, out of Watertown, Massachusetts, but Microsoft only obtained the product, not the company. Microsoft plans to offer OfficeWriter alongside SQL Server Reporting Services.

The first community technology preview (CTP) for Katmai is reportedly due out in the next month or so. For more information, see www.microsoft.com/sql/prodinfo/futureversion/default.mspx.

Filed under: information retrieval, microsoft, research, technology, tool

Beowulfing Locality

Its been a crazy weekend! I fell really ill from Friday night! i didnt even go to work yesterday, I had to stay in bed fighting off a terrible cold, but i am much better now! Anyway, on to more interesting stuff (anything could possibly be more interesting than a story about my struggle against the common cold!)

Locality of reference (and i am thinking aimlessly on this); for some reason I have been mulling around this subject, though not strictly in the proper CS manner. It’s interesting how it seems that almost all that we discover and implement in science and tech is an already existent reality in nature. You know how they say that lightning does not strike in one place twice? I bet someone could come up with a proof of that based on locality of reference. I watched this video from microsoft research recently about some research they are doing into new ways of implementing concurrency in OSs. One of the guys gave a very interesting illustration; he said that what’s been happening with current implementations of concurrency is synonimous to building a structure with banana peels, you can get really good engineers to do it; and they could probably do it very well but principally building a structure with banana peels is not an ideal situation! There is also an interesting paper by Rob Pike I read about how systems software research can possibly be considered irrelevant today!!! Check it out, it’s a really good read!

There is something i came across recently while researching on the use of commodity PCs to build powerful clusters with immense computing power. You know, the same thing they do over at google with racks of commodity PCs strung together and kept humming by custom software! They call it a Beowulf cluster. The name apparently comes from some old epic. The aim is to get more computing power per unit at less cost, leveraging commodity PCs by clustering them and spending less, instead of buying a huge server that will give you less comparative computing power at a more expensive price… The major issues are of course cooling (I have always wondered how much Google spends per year on just cooling expenses) and fail-over, from what I have read, since PCs are constantly failing within the Google clusters, the architecture makes it such that when one PC crushes another automatically takes over.

Filed under: google, research, software, technology

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