My first (co-authored) academic paper!

The information superhighway exhibit at the Smithsonian museum

I am very pleased to announce that for the first time my name will be appearing as a co-author of an academic paper! Consuming Linked Data within a Large Educational Organization was written by Fouad Zablith, Mathieu d'Aquin, Stuart Brown and myself and is a full research paper which has been accepted for the Second International Workshop on Consuming Linked Data (COLD 2011) which will be held in Bonn, Germany on October 23rd. The paper discusses the findings of the Lucero project which investigated the uses of Linked Data in educational institutions. My contribution was mainly the use case seen in an earlier post on this site: An HTML5 Leanback TV webapp that brings SPARQL to your living room but the paper is a much wider in scope than my blog post discussing not only use cases but the role of Linked Data principles to avoid the problems of data "silos" often found in large organisations. The paper can be obtained free-of-charge.

SQLite, CouchDB and SPARQL with Scripting Layer for Android

Men putting up a telegraph pole in 1909 in New South WalesThe Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A) and the new SL4A Tablet Remix have a lot of powerful features and interestingly can be used to consume data from a variety of sources both online and offline. The ability to work with some data sources, such as simple relational databases is built in, but thanks to the ability to add additional code libraries to this environment we also get the opportunity to work with non-relational databases and even Linked Data. In this article I will quickly show you how to work with three different types of data source using Python in SL4A: a relational database in the form of a SQLite file, a non-relational database in the form of CouchDB and Linked Data generated from Wikipedia which we will interrogate using the SPARQL language.

Scripting Layer for Android Tablet Remix - Release announcement

Small figure carrying a memory module*** UPDATE: The second version of this app has now been released. This page has been updated with the new version. *** A couple of days ago on the android-scripting Google group I was very pleased to announce the first release of the Scripting Layer for Android Tablet Remix also known as SL4A Tablet Remix. As the name implies this is a version of the Scripting Layer for Android that has been adapted for Android Honeycomb tablets, especially the Asus EEE Pad Transformer. There is still a lot of work to do on this app and a lot of improvements that can be made, but at last in is in a usable state and if you enjoy programming or want to learn about it this could be for you. The app builds on the fantastic work done by the contributors to the original SL4A project and extends functionality to being the Honeycomb look and feel to the app as well as extending the programming environment provided by SL4A to take advantage of some of the great features of the latest Android tablets.

A closer look at the Sony Xperia Play

Back in April I attended the launch of the Sony Xperia PLAY, the first Playstation Certified phone. At the event I got a bit of chance to have a quick go on the mobile, but now I have been able to explore it further thanks to being able to try out a review unit for two weeks. It is a rather unusual device, a smartphone running Android 2.3 with a crisp high resolution display with a slide out joypad that transforms the device into a mobile gaming experience – one that is both fun but maybe a little unpolished in places. This is a phone that will keep you entertained while dealing with some of the user interface frustrations that sometimes crop up in mobile gaming.

An HTML5 Leanback TV webapp that brings SPARQL to your living room

A group of people looking in through a living room windowWhen you are sat on the sofa at the end of the day relaxing and watching TV, maybe eating food and not in the mood to have to keep constantly making decisions about what to watch you might not think that you are in a situation where Linked Data and SPARQL queries could be useful. Yet the flexibility of the data that can be obtained from data sources supporting these technologies makes them ideal candidates to power a Leanback TV experience. With the right query it is possible to curate a collection of video podcasts that can be played one after each other to keep the TV viewer happy. They still have control, they can still go to any podcast in the collection, but they are not faced with a decision every ten minutes about what to watch, allowing them to relax and discover new content.

Book Review: Building Web Apps for Google TV or "Why I read this book even though I don't have Google TV"

Book cover

I don't own a Google TV device and I live in the UK (at the time of writing Google TV boxes are only available in the US) so why, you might wonder, would somebody in my position want to read a book about how to build apps for it? Thanks to the magic of web technologies it turns out that in the context of this book not owning a Google TV device doesn't matter all that much. In fact if you have a computer that runs Google Chrome then this book can still work very well as a primer on how to develop for the TV web and the issues involved. If you already have web development or design skills and want to start developing for TVs this book could be for you as it will tell you not just about the technology involved but also how to create an experience for the user that will work in the living room.

Reader poll on tablets puts Android in first place by huge margin

Church sign with a temporary Polling Station sign on it but the word Alleluia is still visibleFrom time to time I like to runs polls on this site to gauge opinion about technical issues and to help me pick topics to write about that are going to be of interest to readers. One of the most interesting polls has just closed with two hundred votes cast. The question asked was “Which tablet do you own or are you wanting to buy?”. Obviously there are some restrictions to how seriously this poll should be taken, but I am hoping that the number of participants in the poll is big enough to give some meaningful data on the tablet battles. So the results are in and they are surprising – who are the winners and losers?

Adapting Android Scripting Layer (SL4A) for tablets

SL4A logoRecently my evenings seem to have been disappearing in the blink of an eye. It is funny that when you get really into a bit of computer programming time can seem to disappear quite quickly. It can be quite a fun and mentally challenging way to spend time, not to mention absorbing. So I am hoping the project I am working on will enable more people to join that fun by writing small programs on their tablets. I am working on a version of the Scripting Layer for Android ("SL4A" – which used to be known as the Android Scripting Environment) and adapting it for tablets, especially the EEE Pad Transformer. The aim is to make the package work well on tablets and to adjust the user interface to make the most of the screen and new features such as the Action Bar.

Using Linked Data and jQuery Mobile to produce a podcast explorer web app

A podcast playing on a mobile phoneIn a recent poll on this site I asked "Do you have, or are you planning to learn, any skills related to Linked Data?". Interestingly 60% of respondents (there were 101 votes) said yes, so I thought I should finally get round to writing up a demonstration app that uses Linked Data to provide the information and jQuery Mobile to provide the looks (and more) for a mobile podcast by subject explorer. The site is written using PHP and was developed quite quickly. Again I will be using the Open University's Linked Data store, but the site could easily be adapted to use other stores, maybe even more than one store. Thanks to the use of jQuery Mobile it would even be possible to take the site and embed it in a thin app on the phone to make it look a bit like a native app. Of course the site is a bit rough and ready and I am sure there are thousands of ways to improve it, so experiment and let me know how you get on in the comments.

Converting a Bookmarklet into an Android Share app

Partial screenshot of the Delicious web pageI read quite a lot of web pages on my Android tablet and it is useful to be able to save them to my Delicious account so that I can look at them again later. On desktop browsers it is possible to save items using a small bookmarklet that lives on a menu bar in the browser. This very handily gets the title and address of the current page and prepopulates the fields on the Delicious save form, it also shows suggested tags. Sadly on the tablet it is not possible to use bookmarklets* in the same way and the apps I found that shared to Delicious used the mobile version of the save page. So I went about converting the bookmarklet into a small app that would hook into Android's Share functionality. The app could easily be repurposed to use in the place of other bookmarklets too, so here is an explanation of how it works.

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