Archive for the 'today' Category

Today: 09-Apr-2010: To leave or not to leave?

April 09th, 2010 | Category: today

Today was a slower day and I rocked up to work around 9:30am, read emails, attended a meeting about RPCS (we got some action yesterday), did some more emails, fixed a few things and had a long lunch with my boss discussing the shape of the world and things to come. I headed back to my office, processed a few minor things, made a few backups, responded to phone calls and emails before heading home for the day.

I went home, spent most of the afternoon crafting my assignment together. And then submitted it. To do this I need a TurnItIn originality report. Easy enough. I do all of that, wait for the report to come up, download the report (0% copied!) and upload it and the assignment to EASE. I have the sneaking suspicion that I had forgotten something and re-read the specification. I had, it was an introduction and a conclusion. I was close to writing one but didn’t because I forgot to put it in the original outline (I had everything else mind you). So I write up an introduction paragraph and a conclusory paragraph, regenerate the PDF (using LaTeX, NeoOffice on Mac is just a hog, is slow and non-responsive. TeXShop on Mac is fast and lets me write what I need with minimal fuss. Random style is hard but such is life) and resubmit to TurnItIn. Since I’ve already submitted they’re telling me I will need to wait two days. This really annoys me that I need this to submit, my university is paying anyway plus if we used the Moodle API we wouldn’t have this problem. In some respects it is a form of extortion because they want a material support to release it in some respects (signing up again with a new account would obviate the problem). In any case I submit anyway with the old report. We’ll see how we go.

Just recently I had issues with Outlook Web Access doing stupid things. I think my mailbox was over quota because when I emptied the trash via Apple Mail, everything started working. The weird thing is that when I clicked “Check Names”, it nuked the entire email for some reason. Curious behaviour. Anyway, email sent with mild frustration. Another day passes.

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Today: 08-Apr-2010: Another day behind

April 08th, 2010 | Category: today

Today, like yesterday, one of my staff was away sick. Like yesterday this didn’t help things because with them away and another staff member away that means that we’re covering for two people. So I was helping out supporting the first guy but I also had to keep up with the support requests for the other person which was also fun.

So I had the on going issues with the wiki. Some appear to be legitimate, others appear to be an inability to copy and paste accurately. This is rather unfortunate but such is life. They are only first year students, so hopefully they’ll learn at some point. There were a few that weren’t in this bucket and I managed to get them resolved. We also had one student who changed their email address to a non-USQ student email address and is complaining that they didn’t get any email notification. I have a distinct feeling that the email was dropped as the student had a Yahoo! account and they have a habit of blacklisting us and our emails don’t go through. This is in part why we have the UMail accounts so that we can avoid this problem. We can’t blacklist ourselves.

Other issues involved some hosts needing to be added ezproxy’s list. It appears that EBSCO were redirecting this particular resource back onto ezproxy even though it was free. The ezproxy upgrade we did appears to have had this strange side effect that I will need to spend some time investigating if we can get rid of it so that for URL’s it doesn’t recognise it will unset itself.

The next issue was a link in the journal list that wasn’t being rewritten through ezproxy. That was an easy matter of updating the link where it was to run it back through ezproxy. I’m not entirely sure how it got changed but it was changed none the less and fixed now.

I had the regular Thursday tasks that the person off sick would have done. This involved kicking off the MARC export of our Library Management System, VTLS Virtua, and then starting the 11 hour reindex process into Solr and VuFind, the tool we use to index the catalogue. This bit doesn’t take much time however I spent a bit of time working on improving some of the scripts. I altered the way it handled logging and printed some user friendly messages to the screen. I’ve made small improvements along the way so hopefully this will continue.

Another curious thing was EndNote again complaining about a particular page implicating them more than VTLS. The issue is that since the upgrade EndNote has been broken. The original text read like this:

APOLOGIES – PLEASE NOTE: Currently there is no connection file for the USQ Library catalogue. We are awaiting a compliance upgrade from EndNote to match our Library Management System. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes. As an interim measure you might choose to search the UQ or other Australian Libraries for the title once you’ve found it in a normal websearch of our catalogue. We ask you to understand that this is NOT a permanent situation. Notification of the availability of the USQ connection file will be made ASAP

EndNote were upset about the implication that their system could be at fault here and that they had to do something. Curiously EndNote is the only system impacted and malfunctioning. Every other system that utilises the Z39.50 interface works perfectly well including but not limited to our Library Catalogue, the desktop management tool and web search tool provided by VTLS, OCLC’s VDX, Civica Aurora, Biblioscape 8, Yaz and Mercury Z39.50. Both Yaz and Mercury are freely available tools and Mercury was even tested off campus by a colleague at UQ. There are perhaps other systems that interface on Z39.50 that I have missed but it looks very much like the only system that isn’t working is EndNote. This has now been changed to the following:

APOLOGIES – PLEASE NOTE: Currently there is no connection file for the USQ Library catalogue. We are awaiting a compliance upgrade of our Library Management System to fix this. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes. As an interim measure you might choose to search the UQ or other Australian Libraries for the title once you’ve found it in a normal websearch of our catalogue. We ask you to understand that this is NOT a permanent situation and is not a problem created by the EndNote software. Notification of the availability of the USQ connection file will be made ASAP.

Fortunately VTLS have accepted that they made a change that broke EndNote and they’ve said they’ll fix it in their latest revision. It is unfortunate that EndNote seem disinterested in resolving the issue when VTLS took ownership and I must admit I never got a reasonable response from anyone about what was happening. As far as I could see from the logs, Virtua issues a challenge to EndNote which never gets responded to and EndNote just times out on its own. So whilst VTLS has agreed to do a fix to resolve the issue and restore compatibility however it will be in their next release which will be in a few months and due to the time it takes us to complete formal testing around the system it will likely be another few months after that until the fix reaches our production system. Unfortunate really. What I really don’t get is why EndNote is the only product that isn’t working but such is life. VTLS are happy to fix the problem and it’ll get resolved eventually. To be honest I don’t care who fixes it, I’m just disappointed that it took us a long period of time to get anyone to fix it.

Another day slowly turns.


Today: 01-Apr-2010: Slow day

April 01st, 2010 | Category: today

It was a bit of a slow day for me today compared to yesterday. I had my usual set of meetings, I started working on building out the interface for the opening hours and generally had an easy day. I did a bit of documentation and fought with Visio before giving up and going back to Omnigraffle to draw what I wanted in less time than I had been fighting with Visio for – depressingly. Was quite a quiet day overall however there does appear to be a quirk with the library blog now sending out notifications on any update instead of just when we post something, will need to look at that.

Happy Easter!

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Today: 31-Mar-2010: Big infrastructure day

March 31st, 2010 | Category: today

Today was one of the longest days I’ve had for a while, it started at 7am and finished a little after 6pm. I should work less.
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Today: 26-Mar-2010: RDO or not

March 26th, 2010 | Category: today

One of the advantages of working for a university or government organisation is the use of flex. So today I made full use of the extra time I’ve worked up over the last week. I woke up late after going to bed early, so I caught up on a bit of sleep. I spent 1.5 hrs playing on Wii Fit which was good, it meant that I burnt off a whole heap of energy – allegedly over 300kcal, well perhaps not that much.

I finished up and went to uni to have a meeting with my supervisor. We went over the paper that we’re working on to get through a few things. I had a good two hour lunch catching up with people. It appears that ICT is going to be outsourcing with the people currently being sued by the University of South Australia. A curious choice, to go with someone who has a track record of apparent failure but they were probably cheap enough. I followed this by a short visit in my office to catch up on things before I went to visit with Luke, the ICT Security Manager.

We managed to get the library test site and blog working properly behind the load balancer which unfortunately took around 45 minutes to get right. Whilst I was visiting, he also fixed up coursereading pointing to test not prod which is good. This means I need to double check a few more things and we’ll be ready to

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CNC4 revisited

March 24th, 2010 | Category: today

So I’ve been having issues getting CNC4. Not only is it a legitimately bought copy but it was even a pre-order. It didn’t work properly so I filed a support request as you can read in my blog post entitled “CNC4 Fail”. My annoyance was that my details weren’t getting read properly. EA seem to employ many more drones and can’t be bothered particularly reading what I wrote. So I did some more work and I got some progress.

Ok, so I deleted everything in my temp folder, restarted and saw what happened. I saw the cnc4launcherupdate.exe file being created which was funky but then I received the same error message. So I deleted it, relaunched and got the same error message. Eventually after doing this repeatedly the launcher eventually loaded. Clearly you don’t a) check that the file is properly downloaded and b) prompt to redownload in this situation (given that you don’t check it to begin with it would be rather hard to do).

Once the launcher loaded I was stuck on the file not downloading properly and crashing. I am still stuck at this point.

So eventually got an update to this:

Hello there,

Thank you for contacting EA Games Support,

I sincerely apologize for inconvenience caused to you. I have checked the DXDiag of your computer the drivers are out dated please install the latest driver. In order to know your drivers open the dxdiag file and go to the “Display Devices” and check the drivers under ” Driver Date/Size” You will find how old your driver is. To correct this you have to update your computer driver, I have included the link for your convenience please go through and make necessary changes.

Should you have any further questions, please take a moment to review our Knowledge Base site at


EA Rep Austin
Electronic Arts

I’m annoyed that they’re apologising and not actually reading my responses. Drivers might be a problem but I initially a) couldn’t launch the launcher and b) the launcher can’t patch properly so it doesn’t matter what version of my display drivers I’m on, I’m not even getting there.


I mean, seriously? Your launcher has a flaw in it that it doesn’t validate that the download has completed successfully (even a simple MD5 sum or file size check should fix this) and then tries to run the app which fails because the file isn’t downloaded correctly.

Problem number two is what appears to be an issue that the launcher when you finally get the damn thing updated hands on downloading the file. This doesn’t appear to be an uncommon issue looking through the forum.

Don’t worry, I don’t need an answer to this. I gave up. I wanted to play the game and I got a crack. The game runs nicely and I’m progressing through the missions fine. Thanks for not reading my messages. Repeatedly.

The funny thing was that whilst I uninstalled and reinstalled the game I got a CNC4 server emulator downloaded, copied it into place, made the required changes to my hosts file and I started playing the game. It is working perfectly fine. It depresses me that I got what I couldn’t have paid for – I could have illegally downloaded the game and I would have actually been playing it faster than the legal game. As it stands the legal version isn’t still working anyway so in some respects I’m still behind by paying money. So I responded to their message with the text above and I also ticked the ” I no longer need an answer to this question.” I don’t require a response any more because it is working, just not their intended way.

Of course the sad thing is that the game is working fine and I’m enjoying it. It is a different concept that I’m trying to get my head around but it is pretty enjoyable. I haven’t had much time to go through it and I’ve only done the first few GDI missions but I’ll get there eventually. It looks like there are a few glitches which could be patched but since patching the game legally doesn’t work I guess I’ll never know.

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Today: 22-Mar-2010: Much work ahead

March 22nd, 2010 | Category: today

Looks like I have a busy week ahead. Last week I was working on the death of lib1 and libblog which will have to continue to a point but it looks like not this week. Might get there but you never know. Other items ahead this week include iPhone training tomorow and DiReCt consultants up on Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday we’ll start our catalogue reindex process again and hopefully that will continue successfully. I had some word today that we should be able to go the other way with the Virtua and library catalogue to help automate the reindexing so that we don’t have to do it all ourselves.

I had some fun with paperwork and a rather unfriendly colleague trying to be annoying. Managed to get all of the paperwork filed and shifted around the place which is good. It all ended up working out even though it was at the last minute. Nothing a bit of friendliness doesn’t help.

I was having a look at getting the JIRA jelly to notify non-users from JIRA when their issue changes. We don’t necessarily want people to be able to do anything but just be notified of changes. Creating users for everyone would seem a bit painful instead of just adding a few emails to the particular issue so that they’re notified when things happen.

To round out the afternoon I spent some time redoing the MARC loads for a new type of file and hopefully that will get properly tested tomorrow and all sorted.

Late in the afternoon I had an email from another part of the University. They wanted to attend some of the sessions to get an idea about the architecture about DiReCt since we’ve got two consultants coming up to try and work out how the system works. What I don’t get about this is that they hired the person who knows the most about the product at the University and gave them an extra two levels on top of what they were being paid. I don’t quite understand why need to get an idea when they already employ an expert already. But such is life.

The work slowly turns!

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Today: 15-Mar-2010: More Meeting-o-rama

March 15th, 2010 | Category: today

My entire day seemed to revolve around meetings. Started off at 9am with the team meeting and being informed that I’m being put onto yet another task as well which takes priority over everything else. The unfortunate thing about politics higher than you is the fact that you get pulled all over the place. Such is life unfortunately. New work, new tasks and new integration targets.

The next meeting was a pseudo meeting for myself where I filled in a few more HEAT requests for the day. I had three, including one requesting to install HEAT at the suggestion of Luke Drury. I’m told it is only used in ICT related business. Such is life, I guess Service Desk really enjoy rerouting all of my HEAT jobs.

Following this was a meeting with one of the Faculty Librarians about Access All Databases (AAD) and looking at options. AAD is an application that has been picked up from elsewhere and repurposed by the Library and it shows. It is in dire need of a rewrite and it scares me how badly the entire item is structured. We’ve got some changes and we’ll have a demo at the relevant meeting later in the week. Lucky us! More work likely but no time to clean it up properly.

Next on the list was the ePrints meeting, the last for the quarter. We did alright this quarter and most things were completed acceptably. There are some outstanding items and a few things left but all in all it wasn’t too bad. Was a relatively quick meeting which also makes me happy as well and I got to lunch at a reasonable hour instead of being horribly late.

After lunch I ended up doing some quick support and investigation as to why something wasn’t displaying properly in our library catalogue. Looks like a data error but you can never be cetain about these things. We’ve changed the data but it will take a while for everything to flow through due to the design of the system.

From here the next meeting was to work with ePrints with an ICT staff member to implement a feature that I had previously built into ePrints. Whilst I was working on the Author ID project within ePrints one of the needs was to reference a data set that was stored and managed outside of ePrints, namely the department tree. To do this I created a new field type called the “ExternalItemRef” which extended from the built in “ItemRef” field type. ItemRef links ePrint datasets together and allows you to do references which is cool, ExternalItemRef does the same thing but instead of using an ePrints defined data set, it works with any particular table that is available to the system within the same database as ePrints. You define the name of the table, the key for the table (a unique integer value) and then a text value for it that is then displayed. This gets processed by the field and neatly integrated into ePrints. Further to this I have a widget that permits the user to have a popup dialogue displayed to enable searching of item results. The popup dialogue was itself new functionality that I added to the system to enable searching on the various tables easily. Because it is a popup it can present information in my mind a lot easier than a simple AJAX drop down list. The thing that took the longest was in fact loading the data from an Excel spreadsheet into the MySQL database but after a bit of work it was easy enough to do and we’ve got instructions for next time. The trick appeared to be not using Excel but – free software to the rescue. Also regular expressions are amazing at data transformation. I need to do some more practice at loading data into MySQL and work out more effecient ways of doing it but I feel I’ve got it figured out enough for this situation.

The afternoon was spent reviewing the various systems that are available internally, looking at their issues and working my way through my horrific inbox. So many little things that need doing, cleaning up and fixing. One day at a time!

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Online Booking Fee Applies

March 14th, 2010 | Category: today

At the prompting of Dom Knight (of Chaser fame) I was looking over my cinema’s booking system. Recently rebranded from Birch Carol and Coyle (itself a merger from long ago) to form ‘Event Cinemas’. They’ve done a technology overhaul and remade their website to be very good looking (with some Flash but not overdone, I’d describe the site as flash but Adobe have taken that word from the web site descriptive vernacular). They have a nifty iPhone application that appears to work well though as Dom notes perhaps not as good as it should. They have a mobile application which also doesn’t appear to work well. But this isn’t what bothers me, what bothers me most is the little note they had: Booking Fee applies online. Of course it doesn’t note that this is per ticket. So if you book five people online in one transaction you have to pay an additional on top of the purchase price. It costs you more to book online per person than it does to show up in person. Let us dwell on that. I could potentially understand a flat fee here to cover some sort of consistent expense but a per person fee seems a bit much. Especially at a dollar. Perhaps this is to make up for the cheaper tickets you get there, a sort of recovery mechanism. Not sure.

Whilst I was typing this up I ‘timed out’ a few times. This wasn’t in a screen far in, it was the first screen after selecting the session time. At this point the only persistent information that could possibly time out is the movie, date and time. All values I feel should easily be persisting at this point. There should be no issues with those values timing out. The trick is that the timer is for the entire booking session. You have 8 minutes to pick how many tickets you need, what extras you want and your payment method. I also managed to trigger a runtime error as well within the application, a well written application indeed.

The booking process, when it isn’t crashing, asks for a member number as well. It says that is has already filled it in for me but then works out that it really isn’t the right number. So I proceed without it which is unfortunate. But that is the story here.

The process for all of this acquires an email address, credit card number of other identifying item. And that is the key. That is the value in this transaction that they should be encouraging.

The process doesn’t necessarily make it easier for their front counter staff beyond having everything in the system and being able to go through slightly quicker with the order pre-done. It is about building a database of information. Not only can you register people with CineBuzz to get them to provide details and link it in but even if they don’t do that signing in online with credit cards will allow you to handle and work out all of this information into your databases directly. You don’t need to recover it from point of sale systems located all the way around the country, you can have it deposited directly into your system and providing you information. In some cases where you get the booking days before you end up making interest off the money you just took. And you haven’t even had to provide the service!

Sitting through a business intelligence course, I know the value of having information available to you. Encouraging online booking can integrate into so much more. All of the different systems, availability of historical and trending data that is available. Even mild predictive values systems based on online sales and ability to prepare systems. The more information the better. It is worth more than the $1 per person that they seem to be charging for the pleasure of booking online.

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Today: 12-Mar-2010: Slack Day

March 12th, 2010 | Category: today

Instead of going to work today, I used my flex up and took the day off. Was fun to not have to do anything on a Friday and I didn’t achieve much but did clear up some stuff. Always good to have a quasi long weekend. Didn’t work on as much of my thesis as I would have liked but still I’m better placed over the weekend.

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