ICTF 2011

We had a great conference this year. In my opinion the topics were more relevant and presentations had more quality. To know who is who check: http://www.ictf.ox.ac.uk/conference/2011/whos-who.html

Please note that PDFs of the workshops can now be found here: http://www.ictf.ox.ac.uk/conference/2011/workshops.html

An Introduction to Biometrics by Julian Ashbourn

He gave some examples to illustrate ‘history’:
Egyptians – had a way to identify people using marks on forehead, etc
Galton Eugenics
Henry Goddard – Feeble-Mindedness
Juan Vucetich – fingerprint system based upon Galton’s ideas. First positive identification – Francisca Rojas – adopted by police – Galton-Henry system adopted by Scotland Yard

So, biometrics is not new idea…. what changed through time was the use of computers/technology to allow automation.

How does it work

  • define what we want to measure/match
  • extract features/biometric reference
  • statement of ‘likeness’

Two moments:
1. Registration – capture sample, extract features, create reference/biometric code (hash)
2. Live operation – capture sample, extract freatures, create code, retrieve stored code and compare!!!
– problems with accuracy and false positives – what comes to my mind is the case of Shirley McKie, for example (false positive, or better, a lack of proper judgment from the specialists involved)

The use of “User Psychology Index” to compare theoretical performance vs real performance. You can check some sample images from a software that does that.

Biometric matching is not an exact science…

Where to use? everything? security? convenience only?
Who the biometrics belongs to? Americans say it theirs, a person say that is theirs. So depends who holds it/the information, who will decide how is going to be used? Should a biometric be covertly? (here he gave an example of people watching a big screen and the screen scanned the ‘biometrics’ and started to show information on screen according to analysis on the public / face recognition (male/female, age, etc).)

Because it is biometric doesn’t mean that is correct.

Enrollment procedure very important. Establishin and identity, template quality (if the quality is bad, you can have bad data), user instruction, etc.
Be extra careful about exception handling; repudiation; and use of biometric forensics.

Ideas, new frontiers…

  • Biometrics in the cloud – (my personal reaction: “aaaaaaaaaaahhhh”)
  • Federated identities – implications for the registration process, who owns them? who services them? WHO MAINTAINS THE DIRECTORY OF BIOMETRICS?
  • Aligntment with profiles, privileges, location, device and other factors.
  • Virtualised environments and identity measures

Brave new world
Do we want the William Shakespeare version of it?

O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!
The Tempest (V, i)

OR these other verions:
Aldus Huxley, George Orewell, H.G. Wells

Final conclusion

Maybe is a good time to take a fresh look at what we might achieve with this technology.

  • Re-statement of relevance (where to use),
  • best practices around the systems integration,
  • clarity around privacy, ownership and data protection (on an international scale).
  • Clarity of purpose with respect to large scale public sector applications (and communication)

Book suggestion (same author): Guide to Biometrics for Large-Scale Systems – ISBN 978-0-85729-466-1

The Python Scripting Language by Bruce Beckles (e-Science specialist)

Did some interviews to academics/students/staff to identify what they need in computing support.
Answers: basic programming skills, easy access to libraries (not reinvent the wheel), lack of time (scientists, not programmers), return of investment.
Then, repeated the interview to social science and answers were the same/similar.

Why python?

  • good first language – match basic programming skills
  • loads of libraries available
  • ‘instant gratification’ because is interpreted
  • strict about syntax
  • object oriented
  • does its own garbage collection
  • dynamically typed/strongly typed

Common ‘academic’ libraries:
NumPy – numerical python
SciPy – scientific python – scipy.org/Topical_Software

There is a Python Package Index – http://pypi.python.org/pypi – that could help in finding the package you might need.


the capacity of being everywhere or in all places at the same time

Python everywhere: OS, types of application, disciplines, people

Alternative Implementations

  • CPython – bytecode interpreter
  • IronPython .net
  • Jython – Java
  • Stackless – Branch of CPython supporting microthreads

Where used?
Many places/projects, a few examples:

  • Eve Online – multiplayer online game, written in stackless python
  • Web apps – Django, turbogears, Zope/Plone,
  • Graphical applications in Linux are written in Python
  • Glade – gui builder written in Python, can be use to create GUI
  • Robots:PyVISA and PySerial
  • Embedded systems — mesh network
  • Written in Python:
    • Gutenkarte – book catalog
    • PyArchint – excavatioon management tool
    • Pleiades – cartographic framework

Integration/interfacing with existing code:
c, c++ > swig > python
fortran > f2py > python
java > jython > python
.net > ironPython > python

Python 2 (still supported for about 3-4 years), slowly the most common libraries are being converted to Python 3

Suggested links:
Python, an introduction to Computer Science – http://mcsp.wartburg.edu/zelle/python
Cambridge Computing Service Python course

Challenge for Computer SVCS in HE by Tom Mortimer

UCISA – Conferences, training sessions, lobbing in all UK universities

Top concerns:
1 – ongoing funding and sustainable resourcing of IT
2 – delivering services under sever financial constraint (new concern compared to 2008)
3 – providing a quality, resilent service (structure of service)
4 – IT strategy and planning
5 = business systems to support the institution
5 = organisational change and process improvement
7 – IT/IS service quality (delivery of the service)
8 = benchmarking, costing and value for money (new concern compared to 2008) – 2011 meeting – Know your numbers
8 = mobile computing, anytime, anywhere computing, home working (new concern compared to 2008) 2011 meeting done by Paul Golding
10 = cloud, managed services and alternative service delivery models (new concern compared to 2008)
10 = use of technology in teaching
12 – governance of IT

Concerns that are ‘out’: environmental and energy and data centres (feel that these concerns were ‘dealt with’)

Iceberg example (12% above water, 88% below)

How IT spend money: 5-15% transform, 5-15% grow, 70-90% run the business
IT expenditure – driven by business needs and funding pressures

Ideally increase percentages of transformation and growth to up to 40% and reduce the running of the business to 60% through resources and funding.

Multi-platform Mobile Apps by Greg Jennings (IT manager – Hertford College)

Started with DVDs for things about Hertford. Film, sound track with orchestra, 20000 cds over the years….
But to reduce costs and look ‘in the loop of technology’ they decided to invest in mobile apps. Starting with iOS then add one another platform per year.

Phonegap – framework for making apps. Don’t need to relarn Object C, can design for many platforms (symbian, iOS, #Blackberry, etc…)
What phonegaps gives you: accelerometer, geolocation, etc…

What you will need: html + css + phonegap + device + SDK
Starting from iOS/android – they limited their project to 50hs development if it was to be longer than that they would scratch the idea.
Phonegap, jQTouch – free

How to start
Design – keep it simple, design on paper first (useful article, not included on the ICTF, if you like wireframing, I highly recommend Balsamiq mockups)
XCode, – (xcode3 is quite nicer, but xcode4 is the way to go now…), Phonegap, JQTouch (get the whole bundle except the demos, they are too big)

Basic index.html

hello world, you can go here or there
this is here
this is there

Images are usually PNGa

PhoneGap Build – compress files into a zip and upload it don’t need to use multiple compiles

Testing – repeat the process many times, get tested on simulator, get tested on devices, etc

Publishing – screenshots, icons, descriptions, android self sign or tun off trusted sources – apple requires a registered CA or development device (ad hoc, jail broken, b2b) – android market updates happen synchronously – iTunes take 2 days but 14 days for ‘review’.

The results – iTune connect is poor and is yesterday’s info – iTunes connect is ok, android market is great android app andlytics is great app

Json – why should you use it? it is small/compact/great – why not xml? because doesn’t scale well, too much info you don’t need to know.

Building a search – mysql back end, php ‘fuzzy’ query page, separate page lookup.html within the app for ease of writing – what we wanted it to do: either retain user details or do a look up of anyone’s details. (this part I missed a bit, so it may clarify when I get an update with the presenter’s slides)


Green Open data & sustainability by Alex Dutton and Howard Noble

Main idea: check how much saving happens with people turning off their pc before going home. Also, making this data available so people get aware of it.

Meter data is open at Oxford

Problem with efergy – smart metering – might help in the begining but once you don’t have more reduction people will get bored and start to consume more.

Ways of presenting the information to people:

  • Graph A-G rating (like the refrigerator scale)
  • Are we saving energy? NO, 2.7% more than UK.
  • tidystreet.org – graph on street
  • Graph with the polar bear sad – not very good for some people
  • Energy dashboard – showing in reception

I urge developers to use data.ox.ac.uk to represent electricity as a public good, i.e. help others understand how private consuption has public ramifications. Help reduce the ignorance that propelling us to a tragedy of the commons and/or social injustices with respect to electricity, clean water, air quality, natural gas, nuclear waste, fish stocks…
Please get creative with the University electricity meter readins and help us upload more data sets.

More widgets on website – “how we are doing”
Tags/barcodes on bins to weight how much is reclyclable or not

Apple Technology Update by Stuart Anderson

OS X Lion is the new release (the new big cat) has 250+ new features as:

  • muti-touch gestures
  • full-screen apps
  • mission control
  • mac app store
  • launchpad
  • resume and auto save
  • versions
  • mail with ‘conversations’ (which looks a lot like the google mail already
  • server

Voices downloaded as needed; no printer drivers, just download when necessary; accessibility inherited – if you have a mac desktop then you can connect an iphone, ipad to it and it will inherit your accessibility features (hi-contrast, or color scheme for example).

  • File vault – encrypt your home folder
  • iCal has colouring code for slots that are too busy (a way to show you that you shouldn’t add any more opinion)
  • Launchpad – applications organised by category
  • Search – faster
  • Networking – you can wake up a specific drive for backup without having to wake up all drives automatically, they support DFS now
  • Preview – can open word documents in Preview
  • Privacy – location data, who can use
  • QuickTime Player – share directly to Flickr and Facebook
  • Resume – resume the whole state of the computer
  • Safari – loads of features, populating email
  • Screen Sharing – can see under the hood not only screen itself
  • Spotlight search – gives a preview while scrolling on the list
  • System – general system: can import everything from Windows machine, AppleID
  • Text – improving on the entering too
  • TextEdit – revert to other version (only the final version)???
  • Time machine – not always have to be online, back it up daily just syncronyse when you are online
  • Version – browse between versions of your document, nice interface
  • Resize from the corners (in Windows for ages, but now in Mac)
  • Multiple desktops (Linux has for ages)
  • Integrated Mac Store
  • AirDrop (friends around can receive documents without worrying about network configuration)
  • Mail Server 3 – beautifully design interface (finally)

iOS 5 200+ features

  • notification cente
  • newstand
  • reminder
  • twitter integrated
  • faster safari
  • reader – get the ‘clutter’ out of the way, just show content
  • photo – accessible from main
  • split keyboard to make it easier to type
  • share with the TV: show on tv what you are seeing on the iPad (you need an Apple TV for that)


  • content in all devices
  • 5GB free storage
  • itunes in the cloud
  • photo stream (+apple tv)
  • apps, books, documents and backup
  • contacts, calendar and mail (me.com)
  • iCloud API
  • available in full this autumn

Sense and Sendability – Novel Mobile Devices for the Future by Lyndsay Williams


My personal comment on this presentation: very amusing, this woman did LOADS, and some very creative things!!! Hard to describe in words… well, some of her inventions:

  • Camera to take pictures of room when a person crosses a door, the door frame gives a very different change in shadow: to aid people with memory problems.
  • SenseSurface – Knob to adjust volume on lcd screen but real 3d experience
  • Hand tracker for mobile phones
  • Detection of tremor of someone having epilepsy (hand sensor detector)
  • Thrill chip – record and replay skin sensations, touch, replay feeling with skin actuators like chill, heat, nerve stimulation – http://tinyurl.com/6eyvko9
  • Microsoft GyroTablet handheld computer with motion detection

Please have a look on her slide presentation – found on her website – it has links to youtube videos with demonstration of the technologies… http://girtonlabs.s3.amazonaws.com/GirtonLabsv260809a.pdf


I’ve been on Dev8D this year and I noticed that if you don’t blog your notes as soon as possible, the time just passes and you forget the little things you kept in your mind and decided to not put down in paper (or in the notepad on the computer).

So here is the highlight of what I witnessed:

On WEDNESDAY, I mostly spend time on Lightning talks, because I saw as a way of gathering general information and a taster of what everyone was doing.

Blackboard – interface seems fast and easy to use, better looking compared with other CMS/Moodle style of things. You can check general company information at www.blackboard.com, but if you just want to start publishing your own course you can do it for FREE (up to 5 courses) at http://www.coursesites.com

Talk was done by George Kroner, he blogs at http://www.PimpMyVLE.com and is @georgekroner on Twitter

PIMS – Stephen Wilton – project manager at JISC – @StephenCWilton on Twitter
The PIMS database is a record of all JISC-run programmes and projects, from 2002 to present. https://pims.jisc.ac.uk
PIMS API Documentation can be found at http://tinyurl.com/689x4gd

MyMobileBristol is an exciting collaboration between the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council that intends to facilitate communities of developers, data providers, policy makers and user groups to promote the development and deployment of innovative technologies. Site: http://mymobilebristol.com
The mobile interface is at http://m.bristol.ac.uk
The talk was done by Mike Jones he blogs at http://fairlypositive.com and is @MrJ1971 on Twitter

Open Bibliographic Data Challenge – Mark Macgillivray opened a challenge on Dev8D to use one of the 3 datasets mentioned and anything else that you want, the challenge page is at http://openbiblio.net/challenge (I think it closed on Feb 2011 but good to see the general information and examples) – He mentioned http://bibliographica.org – Bibliographica is an open catalogue of cultural works. And also gave an example that was created by Ben using the data available: http://benosteen.com/timemap/index

Mark blogs at http://odaesa.com/articles and is @odaesa on Twitter

SciVerse – Elsevier – search engine over oracle – allows performing advanced searches across SciVerse ScienceDirect and SciVerse Scopus content, and web content – http://www.sciencedirect.com

Talk by Remko Caprio, he blogs at: http://developer.sciverse.com/blog and is @sciversedev on Twitter

Open Planets – Digital Preservation & Format Identification
Tools for digital preservation and the importance of Format identification and a community taking care of the integrity of the information for format identification – all under opensource licence – talk by Bram Van Der Werf he blogs at http://www.openplanetsfoundation.org/drupal6/blog/3

The Molly Project is an open source (AFLv3) mobile framework that allows institutions to quickly develop mobile web services which target a wide range of devices. Talk was given by Tim Fernando – he blogs at http://mobileoxfordtech.posterous.com and is @timfernando on Twitter

Microsoft Academic Search – Alex Wade made a demonstration using http://academic.research.microsoft.com searching for “Les Carr” and at the time I used Google Chrome to see the website and took AGES to load the page… still today is a bit slower compared with other browsers, but the loading improved 100% (well, considering didn’t load to load) but at least now you can see some cool features like the publication/citation graph and the co-authors link where you can see not only a very interesting Graph but also pictures of the faces (much better than just names)!

He also mentioned about www.dreamspark.com which now, reviewing my notes is just an address, without any meaninful link to my memories… but seeing the website it seems that is about giving students Microsoft tools at no charge… so great! (you just have to be a student!)

Talk was done by Alex Wade http://research.microsoft.com/people/awade and @alexwade on Twitter.

Nature Locatorhttp://naturelocator.ilrt.bris.ac.uk
During the summer of 2010, the Conker Tree Science project engaged with members of the public across the UK by appealing for geo and photographic evidence of the spread of the horse chestnut leaf-mining moth (www.ourweboflife.org.uk). The JISC funded “Nature Locator” project will help the researchers by creating mobile applications that provide geo-tagged photographs, and visualisation tools to facilitate crowd-sourced verification of the data submitted during 2011.
Talk by Mike Jones, he blogs at http://fairlypositive.com and is @MrJ1971 on Twitter

Android Development by Phil Raymonds
This talk is interesting and quite unusual… Phil uses Eclipse to develop his apps plus loads of plugins… the presentation itself was a bit poor was really brief about Android coding and how to make apps (which suppose to be the focus of the talk) but demonstrated that anyone willing to develop will develop applications for phones… the success of them will depend on the need and quality… I couldn’t find his apps without my memory but they weren’t great on design but was good on functionality.

What developers who don’t believe the hype actually need to know about RDF.
Talk by Chris Gutteridge, he blogs at http://blogs.ecs.soton.ac.uk/webteam and is @cgutteridge on Twitter

Primary keys is a web address (global unique id)
He mentioned about Graphite: http://graphite.ecs.soton.ac.uk/browser He also send me later on Twitter the crash course in RDF for hackers in a hurry: http://openorg.ecs.soton.ac.uk/wiki/Linked_Data_Guide_for_Newbies which is quite good!

What makes Dexy so Sexy for creating beautiful code documentation?
Quite good automated documentation, is open source, it generates screenshots on-the-fly and runs the program creating report with the results of the computation. I went to the workshop on the next day and was quite useful… the install and tutorials are quite straightforward and Ana was a great help and is very approachable so I don’t think she will mind giving more information if you have questions. Check tutorials etc here: http://www.dexy.it/intro
by Ana Nelson – http://ananelson.com@ananelson on Twitter

The Lucero project at the OU is producing open linked data. eprints as linked data, using bebo.

this article, has an author, john smith (triple example)

Talk by Owen Stephens, he blogs at http://www.meanboyfriend.com/overdue_ideas and is @ostephens on Twitter

Archives hub
http://loc.gov/standards/sru – Search and Retrieve via URL
Requests: archiveshub.ac.uk/api/sru/hub
Twitter account for the project is @archiveshub
Talk by John Harrison – @bloomonkey on Twitter

LOCAH – Adrian Stevenson/Julian Cheal
How they did: exposing linked data – model things into RDF/XML, enhance data, load into triple store, create data views, document the process
Adrian blogs at http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/adrianstevenson and is @adrianstevenson on Twitter

RDFa 1.1
RDFa – data in (x)html
Linked data reqs are scary: rdf? rdf/xml? content negotiation? 303?
webpages as records….

Reconsider design if you have more than 2 RDFa attributes on same element

Talk by Damian Steer – Bristol

I went to check the Drone being controlled by David Tarrant and a phone… was quite smooth but I didn’t give a try myself… maybe was shy???


One challenge was announced, with the chance of winning $15K (first prize)!!! More details at http://developer.sciverse.com/appsforscience I’m not sure if that’s still going on, but is worth checking if you are keen on it…

‘registry catalog’
Share data, check if data is still available, etc

This workshop was a bit of a mistery, it worked using their instructions, I put the Dev8D rdf into the http://test.ckan.net – you can see my test here: http://is.gd/ZJzuUG (last time I tried didn’t work… maybe they changed the test server)

What I could take it from this tutorial/workshop is that CKAN s a kind of framework, with storage and data normalising, enabling share with community. But I’m still getting my head around it, and trying to understand what to do once the data is there!!!

There are too many links that I made note of… here they are:

  • http://ckan.net
  • http://ckan.org
  • http://test.ckan.net
  • http://ckan.okfnpad.org/tutorial
  • http://wiki.ckan.net/FAQ
  • http://ckan.org/install

Cool visualisation: wheredoesmymoneygo.org

CKAN from Javascript can be found here: http://rufuspollock.org/code/ckanjs – get the code at https://bitbucket.org/rgrp/ckanjs/src

Using CKAN apparently: just web, publicdata.eu / opendatasearch.org

To quick start, go to ckan.net/upload – choose a file and upload, that’s it…

Group (it is a bit more controlled, you can limit the people accessing/inside group):
Example of it is the http://iatiregistry.org – running ‘vanilla’ ckan and the groups are here: http://iatiregistry.org/group

Another way of describing CKAN is that is a kind of ‘sourceforge’ of data.

Talk by Rufus Pollock – http://rufuspollock.org and @rufuspollock on Twitter


Great tutorial, check all the info at http://www.dexy.it/intro (I already mentioned a few things in the beginning of the post)

Unfortunatelly couldn’t get too deep on the workshop, and up until now I couldn’t stop and finish the tutorials to start using at work…


at the time of the tutorial, we had a little problem so to install we needed to type:
install dexy: sudo easy_install dexy==0.2.0
after installation, open terminal and use
dexy -p
if you have python version 2.6 (version 2.7 is ok, so just ‘dexy’ will do)

There are too many filters, test filters (test expectations, etc): ~/code/dexy/examples .dexy file – you can setup what you expect from a test output and dexy will throw an error if doesn’t match.


This workshop was quite good, however we didn’t have any step-by-step that we could go back to, so I had to quickly catch up with the VM installation and getting the source code… But once was there was not too hard.

Tim was really good on making sure everyone was in the same page and the and Chris mentioned that they would be posting somewhere a tutorial for trying again later at our own pace.

These are just some quick steps I could annotate to try again later…

go to: molly-deployment
source bin/activate
cd deploy
django-admin.py startapp tube_status
create urls.py and templates folder
create tube_status folder inside templates and create index.html (to be the initial template)

some modifications: views.py urls.py tfl.py and settings.py (inside main folder)

Tim Fernando – http://mobileoxfordtech.posterous.com@timfernando
Christopher Northwood – http://www.pling.org.uk and @cnorthwood

And last but not least, I meet up on the session “Why we need an open registry of academic developers”

Why we need an open academic developer register. How we should go about building one. Bring your ideas and opinions to this, see blog posting http://benosteen.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/on-an-open-registry-of-academic-developers

Many ideas come from the discussion, for example:

  • swapping developer time (two institutions could swap developers for specific expertise in a project)
  • better coding practices (comments)
  • aggregation of skills (know better individual skills)
  • scrapping public profiles and user confirm/deny/accept
  • point on map with description of skills/projects (easier to find people and skills)
  • Example: 360 designs – bids of ideas/jobs (couldn’t find reference to this one…)
  • ‘dating’ type of site with profiles and skills
  • check Quora – http://www.quora.com – suggested by one of the participants, that in theory already have some aggregation of knowledge

Customising Blacklight

I’m doing my own customisation so, I will try to do a step-by-step with loads of comments so I can do it again if something goes wrong (or if I had to repeat in x months time…)


To change the initial text that comes with Blacklight on home page:

  • make folder ‘catalog’ inside /blacklight-app/app/views/
  • copy _home_text.html.erb from /blacklight-app/vendor/plugins/blacklight/app/views/catalog to this new catalog folder you just created
  • edit the file copy _home_text.html.erb with your text
  • logos/images can be found at /blacklight-app/public/plugin_assets/blacklight/images
  • stylesheet is atm /blacklight-app/public/plugin_assets/blacklight/stylesheets

If you are using multicore, change the default solr address to http://localhost:8983/solr/YOURMAINCORE in the file /blacklight-app/config/solr.yml

To change what is being show after a search, check the file that is at: /blacklight-app/config/initializers/blacklight_config.rb

To customise css and js, on /blacklight-app/app/controllers/application_controller.rb add:

ApplicationController.before_filter do |controller|
    controller.stylesheet_links << "my_css.css"

And put the stylesheet my_css.css in your own app’s public/stylesheets/my_css.css.

Check: css tinkering