Archive for July, 2008

Most impressive DeepZoom page so far?

July 22, 2008 Leave a comment

Taking a few minutes out to browse, I came across the Yosemite Extreme Panoramic Imaging Project, who have what can only be described as a mammoth collection of imagery – around 45 gigapixels – and of some stunning scenery to boot.

It’s a Silverlight / DeepZoom application, which will download automatically if you don’t have it. It’s good to see more and more projects using Silverlight, as it’s got fantastic potential…

Categories: Computer and Internet

SQL User Group Meeting

July 18, 2008 Leave a comment

I went to my first SQL User Group meeting last night (I make it sound like a self help group…), completely out of the blue as Andrew Sadler appeared in the office and told me it was happening. I should keep my ear to the ground more as it was a genuinely useful evening.

The first session was on Excel Services programmability from Jez Kirkup at TAH. Without a doubt there are some amazing things that can be done with EWS in creating dataviews within SharePoint that are very interactive and visually compelling. But the one key take away that I think all the attendees were amazed by was DelegConfig. It’s a tool created by Brian Murphy-Booth that takes away the pain of setting up Kerberos. This would have been an incredibly useful tool for me to have had a couple of months ago when we were doing a PoC that used SharePoint, Reporting Services and Analysis Services together – we spent ages fiddling around with SPNs, App Pools etc. which this could well have solved. Definitely something to bookmark for a later date!

After some beer and pizza (clearly essential at any geek meeting) Jeremy Kashel from Adatis consulting spoke around PEL vs MDX. PerformancePoint Expression Language is used to create business rules in PPS, and was designed with business users in mind – the GUI provides a simple way to define half of the statements, but knowledge of the script language syntax is still required and it’d be a pretty steep learning curve for someone who’s only used to Excel… I think the general consensus in the room was that PPS Business Modeller isn’t quite ready for business users to have free reign yet, but 90% of what’s required to translate complex Excel models into PPS is very intuitive and accessible. No doubt something we’ll see improved as we get towards V2. Most impressive thing: A PPS demo that didn’t include Excel! Kudos 🙂

All in all – great content, good chance to meet some ‘Real World’ SQL people and see what people are doing with MS BI products…

Categories: SQL / BI

A week in Tuscany

July 14, 2008 Leave a comment

Following the last post, surprisingly enough nothing *did* go wrong and I got back at the weekend from a very enjoyable week in the Tuscan village of Vibbiana,

Map image

in the depths of the Garfagnana region. It’s an absolutely gorgeous spot, this is the view from the front door that greeted me every morning:

The Apuane Alps

We had a great time wandering around villages, buying (and eating) lots of salami, prosciutto and cheeses… And climbing a mountain 🙂 Luke had already done the research into where we would climb, from a guidebook that recommends ‘A walk is not over until your legs are under a table’ – so true, a beer at the end of a walk is essential.

We started off walking through one of the huge marble quarries that Michaelangelo got his stone from:

That's a big-ass statue

To give you some scale, the smallest blocks on the right are about 4 metres high… Must be 30 metres in all? Absolutely amazing, and one thing the camera really doesn’t capture is how brightly it reflected the sunlight – and this is at 7.30 am before it got hot!

The walk got pretty steep towards the top; this is 2/3 up, looking to the summit:

Lots of signs!

And the views from the top were simply amazing. 1781m is the highest I’ve climbed, and we were just above cloud level on a great day for it:

Click to Enbiggen

You could see how far up the mountain the quarries went, bearing in mind we’re above 6000 feet here:

Monte Pisanino on the left there...

And on the top, a cross and a guest book diary – we filled in our names on the wrong day to start with (I blame heat, lack of oxygen and the 2 hour climb to get up there)

It wasn't that windy...

And finally:

An awesome morning’s climb 🙂

Categories: Travel

European Transport – fun

July 4, 2008 2 comments

I spent last week in Italy, and a day before that with work in Athens at my last graduate scheme training. Having finished the ‘Career Workshop’ and the MACH scheme graduation dinner, drunk a fair amount of beer and spent most of the night on the beach playing Mafia, I had plans to leave Athens, fly to Rome, then to Pisa (where I was meeting Ali), then get the train to Piazza Al Serchio. Fairly straightforward, I’d left lots of time at all the changeovers as a nice relaxed start to my holiday.

After the late night Mafia-ing, I only got a few hours sleep. I also forgot to charge my phone, so my alarm didn’t go off. I woke up at 0700, my flight was due to leave at 0905 and the taxi ride from airport to hotel took a good 30 mins on the way there.

So, quick pack (no time for a shower – I’m still quite beachy) and out of the hotel. Panicing (if I miss this flight, I’ll miss all the connections and won’t be able to meet Ali), I get in a taxi and immediately hit Athens rush hour traffic, but arrive at the airport about 0815. (At least I remembered my passport, unlike Chris). They let me check in, I got through security and onto the plane with a few minutes to spare.

New panic: my phone’s about to lose battery, and there’s no way I’ll be able to meet Ali if I don’t have it. So, scour Athens airport to find a power socket- no luck at all.

Flight to Rome, airplane sandwich, touch down a couple of minutes behind schedule- nothing to worry about. Until I discover that I’m in the wrong terminal for domestic departures. Summoning my minimal Italian skills ("Scuzi, per favore" and then English) I find that it’s a 5 minute walk away, no problem. Looking at my watch, it seems to be an hour and a bit before my next plane leaves – not too long to wait, should be just enough time to find somewhere to charge my phone. Except I’d forgotten to put it back a time zone – actually have 2 and a bit hours to kill. And my flight’s been delayed, another 30 mins. Great. Finally get the departure gate, (eventually) find somewhere to charge my phone a bit and settle into getting bored.

Ali hasn’t left London yet, and actually any delay to my flight is good as it’ll mean less hanging around in Pisa for her to touch down. Feeling ok at this point.

And then my flight gets cancelled.

The poor Alitalia girl at the gate instantly gets about 15 angry Italians shouting at her (probably less scary if you can understand them) and a handful of completely blank faces from the non-Italian speakers as she explains what’s happened. It’s Ok, I remember there was a later flight around 1700 – but no, that one’s full. We all traipse back up to the check-in area and get told they’ll lay on a bus for us. This wil be ready to go in 20 minutes and take about 3 hours – if I know anything about the transport industry, especially in the Mediterranean countries, that meansit’l arrive in 30 mins and take 4 and a half hours to get there. And it’ll be a really rickety uncomfortable bus and looking at my fellow passengers I didn’t fancy spending any longer with them than necessary… Thinking about the timing, I’d probably arrive at Pisa about 730 or 8.

So I decided to get a train – I’ve heard great things about Trenitalia so it can’t take that long, right? Back to the Alitalia desk to get the train fare (actually, it turned out to be €10 less that they gave me) then up to the train station. I should mention that all this time I’ve been sending texts to Ali and her folks to keep them updated and my phone is down to one bar – main source of panic is the phone once again.

I get a ticket from a very helpful man, and the train into Rome pulls in a minute later – just time for me to remember to validate my ticket in the stamping machine: very important and have had this impressed upon me by everyone who has previously used the Italian trains…

All is looking good, it’s one of those funky double-decker trains (we REALLY need to get them in the UK) and it’s even got air con. Until I look at my watch, look at the time that my connection to Pisa is and remember one of my Italian colleagues telling me how long the train into Rome is: about 3 minutes longer than the time till my connection leaves. New panic!

I get to Roma Ostiense exactly a minute after it’s due to go, with practically no battery left in sweltering and humid heat. Not feeling great at the moment, little concerned because I’m not sure when the last train out of Pisa to Serchio is. Fortunately the Italian train system isn’t quite as punctual as people made out and my connection is 10 minutes late. It’s only a single floor train, the air con is broken, but joy of joys they have power sockets in all the seats! I’ve spent the last 2:30 hours in a giant greenhouse, but I’m just about to pull into Pisa Centrale, Ali’s waiting there on platform 1 and she’s already got tickets for rest of the journey.

What can go wrong? 🙂

Categories: Travel