Nerd time, issue 8

I used to work at a research laboratory, where the fanfare and fads of the web aren’t of great concern. But the co workers liked to know what was going on outside the ivory towers, so after I quit, I sent them an informal mailing list. I post it on here just for fun too.

So after a little hiatus deploying mobtropolis, nerd time is back. As
usual, easy reading is up top. This time it’s on databases. Dbs and
backends usually inspire yawns, because frankly, they’re not
sexy–there’s no pretty screens to look at. However, dbs are often a
bottle neck, and scaling beyond the usual db configs has been a source
of pain for large scale software. Here, I point out some relatively
obscure db stuff on the horizon–after some easy reading and news.
And oh, if you don’t want to get these anymore, just lemme know.

A group is its own worst enemy
Nothing to do with dbs. Just a classic piece of text on social
software. Easy reading, but good lessons for me when building
http://www.mobtropolis.com
http://www.shirky.com/writings/group_enemy.html

Firefox 3 with XUL runtime
I did comment on this, and FF3 should be less prone to crashes, unlike
FF2, and the significance of this is much like Adobe’s Integrated
Runtime(AIR), web devs will be able to create native desktop
applications using the usual web tools–HTML, javascript,
actionscript, XML, etc.
http://arstechnica.com/journals/linux.ars/2007/08/21/using-firefox-3-as-a-xul-runtime-environment
http://webjazz.blogspot.com/2007/08/using-firefox-3-as-xul-runtime.html

Adobe also open sourced their Photoshop engines. Offhand, I’m not
sure what one would do with it, unless there were some type of
innovative image manipulation–of which you’ll see on the next link
http://opensource.adobe.com/group__asl__overview.html

Content-aware image resizing.
This is kinda neat. It uses energy functions to resize images while
keeping important content, and killing out background parts of the
images. If you don’t click on any of the links but one, I’d click on
this one.
Update:
Well, what’s interesting is that the basic energy function they used is simply a two-dimensional gradient. It’s under the assumption that high frequency image content is usually what contains information/foreground/interesting parts of the image. This is probably usually true, and probably works for a large number of images. However, I think if you had an image of a flag with a forest as the background, it’ll cut out the flag first.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-SSu3tJ3ns
http://www.faculty.idc.ac.il/arik/imret.pdf

Byte-serving is an aspect of the HTTP protocol that I didn’t know
about. Apparently, you can request specific parts of a file over
http. Web-based bittorrent?
http://www.coneural.org/florian/papers/04_byteserving.php

hBase – Google bigtable open source clone. Bigtable is a in-house
developed distributed database. I watched a video lecture of it one
time, and it seems pretty neat.
http://glinden.blogspot.com/2007/07/hbase-google-bigtable-clone.html

A free database of the world’s spec-related knowledge in one place.
Oddly enough, it is populated with things. I’m not sure what
motivates people to enter things in, but probably the same motivation
as people contributing to wikipedia. The neat thing about this is
that you can query it with an API.
http://www.freebase.com/signin/

CouchDb is an database that doesn’t use relational tables. Mostly for
documents. It’s still in alpha.
http://couchdb.org/CouchDB/CouchDBWeb.nsf/Home?OpenForm

Ambition is an experimental ruby gem that makes SQL queries as Ruby’s
Enumerable functions. Web devs seem pretty allergic to SQL in general
and has tried to build layers between the dev to have one less
language to learn. Probably also the result of wanting a 3 tiered
architecture too.
http://errtheblog.com/post/10722

Mnesia is Erlang’s distributed DB. I’m under the impression that it
doesn’t use SQL. One queries directly by using Erlang tuples. I’ll
have to learn more about this one.
http://www1.erlang.org/documentation/doc-5.0.1/lib/mnesia-3.9.2/doc/html/part_frame.html

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