Archive for May, 2008

Last.fm, Jaiku and Dorit Chrysler – a match made in heaven?

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Dorit ChryslerIt’s been a while since I wrote about the Jaiku online service, but it’s a service I use all the time, and I love it.

This is, mostly, due to the fact that Jaiku is filled with people, with whom I share interests, but the people there, all, seem to be more interesting than I am, so I can learn new things, and that is the thing in life I love the most.

One of the things I’m very adventurous about is my music, and another of my favourite online services, Last.fm, supports that perfectly.

Yesterday a conversation about Last.fm surfaced on Jaiku:

Jaiku | Det slår mig lige, hvorfor jeg er så vild med last.fm. Jeg kan holde liv i det ved at gøre noget, jeg alligevel ville gøre: Høre musik :-

Translation: It just struck me why I’m so crazy about Last.fm. I can keep it going by doing something, I’d do anyways: Listen to music 🙂

That is correct, Last.fm builds and extends your network by comparing your musical preferences to the other users, and it also gives you recommendations based on your listening habits.

Eventually the question was asked: What do you use it for?

This triggered me to use Last.fm again, something I usually only do once a month, and the feature I love the most, is the similar artist radio.

In April 2008 I travelled to Lisbon, Portugal, and I was so fortunate to attend a concert by Dorit Chrysler, a very talented artist from Austria, that has specialised in using the Theremin instrument, a very strange instrument that you control by moving your hands in the electrical field generated by the instrument, that basically is a bend metal-rod.

So the Jaiku post triggered me into finally ripping the CDs I bought in Galeré Zee dos Bois in Lisbon, listening to them, and then using that to listen the Dorit Chrysler Similar Artists Radio.

And what I dug into, was a wealth of wonderful music, that spans from Opera to Classical Chanson, over Russian Abstract Hip-Hop and even the wonderful Colleen, that I already knew.

Here’s a list of some of the wonderful artists I discovered:

  • Robert – A wonderful French chanteuse
  • Gudrun Gut – German female singer. Original member of Einstürzende Neubauten
  • Ute Lempner – German chanteuse
  • Susanna and the Magical Orchestra – Norwegian act that, for instance, does some amazing covers, especially one of Dolly Partons Jolene is wonderful
  • Meret Becker – Another German singer that has be associated with Einstürzende Neubauten

The list goes on, and I’ll recommend exploring the artists that are similar to Dorit Chrysler, you will not regret it.

Last.fm remains one of the most impressive, and genuinely useful, online services – the list of these services is short, the big three are, to me, Jaiku, Last.fm and Flickr.

The picture used here was taken from Last.fm, and is, most likely an official promotional pressphoto, I hope my use here will go under “fair-use”

xkcd – A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language – By Randall Munroe

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

xkcd – A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language – By Randall Munroe

I love xkcd, it’s way over my own humour, which, frankly, is Benny Hilly, I bow in respect, I’m not worthy :-D.

The ones about academia, often are over my head, but my online buddies Esben, Thøger and Jacob, who introduced me to xkcd, seems to get them (faster) than me, I suspect that they’re not uneducated drop-outs like me ;-).

The computing ones, sometimes, stoop to the Benny Hill level of computing jokes, like this one:

Sandwich

Nah, it’s actually quite profound…Brilliant…For even geekier computing humour check the geohashing wiki, I’ll have to try that!

OIO REST: RESTful web services developed by the Danish Public Sector

Friday, May 23rd, 2008

The Danish Office for IT and Telecommunications (IT & Telestyrelsen) is experimenting with so-called RESTful web services, and I’m very happy to hear that, because this is an indication that something finally is happening again, after years of impasse.

Services for the REST (sry) of us

RESTful web services are the predominant implementation model for web services developed by web 2.0 companies, Last.fm and Flickr are prime examples of services with extensive RESTful web services and APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).

A web service is a software service, or API, that software (application) developers can use to provide functionality to their applications, and thus users. The “web” refers to the fact that the service can be accessed using technology developed for the web, like a standard web-browser.

Other technologies for implementing web services exits, the best known is the web service or (WS_*) stack, often referred to as SOAP. REST is, however, much easier to use than SOAP, because it has a GET based interface, meaning that you can query a RESTful service using simple URIs for instance entered using a browser. REST is also much better understood by commercial web developers in the private sector, and the tools they use, eats REST for breakfast.

Here’s an example: http://oiorest.dk/danmark/veje?q=lindevangshusene

This retrieves the road-code and city-number of the street I live on in XML format, pretty sweet.

What IT&TS has done is that they, two years later, have picked up my idea, so that I don’t have to implement it (well it only means that I’ll never release my own code) ;-).

Concerns that history will repeat itself

I’m pleased, very pleased, and surprised that The Danish Office for IT and Telecommunications (IT & Telestyrelsen) has begun experimenting with such a relevant service, and has actually made some real-word applications available on the web-site.

But! I fear that history might repeat itself.

Something like 3-4 years ago, a sample SOAP service Address Web Service (AWS) was developed by IT&Telestyrelsen, they even had a competition to develop a sample application, and there even was a winner. But AWS never went into production, and the project dropped off the radar, that is until now. It seems that AWS soon will be released for production, and this is great news.

The problem was that I lost faith in AWS, I felt the project had died, so I didn’t really want to develop against it, and I hear the same concerns from others regarding the RESTful services today.

Do we need pseudo-standards like REST?

The RESTful experiments will probably never launch, but with the SOAP/WS_* AWS likely to go into production, we don’t really need them do we?

What we do need is an open and free infrastructure, for instance for eFaktura, it’s way too expensive to use the current providers, so I suggest that the next thing you do IT&TS, is to pick up another of my old projects 😉

In many ways I fail to see the real need for a RESTful service, but RESTful APIs are so much easier to implement than SOAP.

What I’d like to see is light-weight data-formats, like JSON, and JavaScript APIs Google style. The light-weight data-formats are simpler to parse than XML, so I’d love to see a JSON, or similar, version, e.g. something that is closer to the internal representations of data, without going to binary interfaces, even though they’re coming back, for instance through WCF (Windows Communication Framework).

Conclusion: BIG thumbs up! (but it was overdue)

All in all BIG thumbs up to IT&TS for this initiative, keep it up, and stay above the radar in the future, please. We need widely available, and free, services like AWS, and with the competition from Google GeoCoder, which can be implemented with few lines of code – and works with other than Danish addresses, and findvej.dk – that is using it’s own, outdated, copy of data from Kort og Matrikelstyrelsen to provide a nice, URI based service, reviving of AWS, and the new initiatives, were way overdue.