Category Archives: Open Source

Be Supportive not Restrictive

I was outside recently watching our Research Support Student employees fly our helicopter drone over campus capturing some great autumn video.

Abby

Abby

I also had my dog, Abby, with me since I designated it to be “bring your dog to work friday”. Well Abby was generating some interest from students homesick for their pets while I got into a conversation with a couple of our IT Support Services Student employees about their programming ideas. These ideas come from our encouragement for our student employees to explore ways that we might improve our business processes. The idea was about a web app that the student workers could use to trade shifts with their coworkers. The gist of the conversation quickly focused on their perception that IT only recommended development based on Perl. Well he mentioned this to the right guy, actually the boss, but really what a ridiculous perception that obviously had roots from the past. But that type of preferential influence will not fly today.

Perl does have a significant development presence here and there is nothing wrong with Perl, but that should not dictate the requirements of future development. The student asked if he could develop in PHP but was told that PHP was not secure. Well maybe that a general statement with some merit but probably not of concern for a student employment shift sharing application. The student actually wanted to use Python and then our conversation steered toward new ideas like the possibility that WordPress might be utilized. My major point with bringing this up is that we in IT have to be cognizant of the influence we convey and that our way is not the only way. IT should remember when they were the radical adopters of new application platforms. Consider the fights they must have had with cobol and fortran proponents.

New Era of Data Visualization is Upon Us

Big Data is a term being thrown around a lot lately, probably because it is so easy to acquire or generate huge datasets for just about everything. And when I hear scientists discuss this trend the conversation always seems to end up with the need for better tools to interpret or visualize the data. As the new CIO of Missouri S&T I inherited a data visualization project that was started by my Research Support Services group to help one of our geophysicist’s interpret his data. At first it was help with running ParaView, an open-source, multi-platform data analysis and visualization application. Projection solutions were setup and a front end data filtering and a loading tool was created. Enough work to show real potential and earn the team of students nice recognition at last year’s SuperComputing 2012 Conference.

Last May as a new team of students was coming on board for summer work we took the data visualization system to the Great Plains Network Conference where it was again highly acclaimed. The system, now called

Visualizing Four Dimensions in Rolla

Visualizing Four Dimensions in Rolla or V4DiR is now anchored by the front end software referred to as Transformer. This front end, as explained by Nick Eggleston, a junior computer science major from Maysville, Mo., who leads the project is a computer program to allow the software to show how data progresses over time. The program will also allow users to manipulate the format of their data and combine similar sets of data. The recent article reprinted in Science Today on V4DiR explains more.

I throw out all of this buildup about V4DiR to announce that I believe we are ready for a new era of data visualization. One that might actually justify all of those expensive video display monuments that have primarily been used for marketing. Maybe the concept of the virtual immersion CAVEs are truly ready for prime time. My investment has been minimal up till now but I am ready to invest heavily when I validate the most effective technology for this new era. We hope to explore this in more detail at our upcoming Research Technology Day at S&T. Join us, registration is free.

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