Operating Systems animations and other resources

Back in 1998/1999 I supervised a couple of project students (who have gone onto bigger and brighter things) in the development of some multimedia resources to support a course in operating systems. The most recent version of the course is available here.

I taught the course from about 1995 through 1999. I seem to recollect that I got to use the resources we developed once, before handing the course onto others and taking on other roles. Some of the resources, the animations, are still being used almost ten years later.

The rationale and background for these developments is outlined in a paper that never did get accepted anywhere – we only submitted it once. I do think some of the conclusions are a little out there, but we had put a lot of work into it. There were also aspects of the approach that were gutted by subsequent teaching staff.

The main purpose of this post is to provide a permanent place for the animations so that they can be listed in Merlot. The previous location on an institutional web server is no longer working and with the current changes going on there is unlikely to be a permanent institutional location anytime soon. So here they are.

Aside: The animations are implemented as Flash animations. WordPress doesn’t allow uploading of these. So I’ve used the Internet Archive for the first time.

Plans for implementing rotating banner image

Problem: Implement a rotating banner image on this blog which is hosted by WordPress.com. This means I cannot install any WordPress themes that automatically support bnner rotation (e.g. the Mandigo theme suggested by Will Taylor.

There is a known approach that relies upon you having some disk space on a server that will let you run a PHP script. I’d like to avoid using that approach.

Instead, my hope is to cobble something together using Flickr, Pipes and a bit of CSS. The following is an attempt to outline what steps are necessary to test this out.

Flickr constraints

First stop is to see if the conditions of use on Flickr will allow this. Yep, the Flickr Community Guidelines seems to indicate that you can use your content on other sites, just make sure that is a link back.

So, I should be able to show a flickr photo in the banner as long as there is a link back to the page on Flickr it comes from.

Modify CSS to get image from pipes

Next step is to see if I can modify the CSS of the theme I’m using to include a banner image, and then perhaps to include a banner image from a Pipes.

Use pipes to extract a single image from a gallery

Next step, would be to figure out how to write a pipe that will extract a single image from a Flickr gallery. Once that’s working figure out how to loop through the contents of the gallery so that rotation through the images is achieved.

Figure out the link back to the flickr photo page

If that’s all working I need to figure out how to provide a link back to the original flickr page. A banner image in a blog header usually returns back to the home page for the blog. Thinking perhaps some additional text with the name of the image could be included with a link back to the flickr photo page.

Rotating banner images in WordPress – the last missing puzzle piece

Update: The old server that I used to use for my website and also to implement the rotating banner on this blog, is down. It will likely to be down for quite some time.

When I moved by website from my long-term personal server to WordPress.com the one bit of functionality that I lost was the rotating banner image.

Kaikoura Ocean Range Sunrise

The image of the sunrise just north of Kaikoura in the banner above is static. It’s always the same. Back on the original website I had a collection of 40+ images that, thanks to a small perl script, would cycle through each one. As of late 2008 you can still see this in action on this page – just hit the refresh button to see the banner image change.

I’d like recreate this effect on this site. But I have to do it without server side scripting and I should also probably do it to maximise the benefits of Web 2.0. I’ve got some ideas about how to do this using Flickr, Pipes and JSON or similar. These ideas will have to be reality tested. However, the first thing I should do is check to see what others have already done.

Ahh, it appears that there is the need to pay for a CSS customisation to enable this. 4 cents a day paid via PayPal. The approach outlined here and requires a server somewhere that will allow you to upload a PHP script. Essentially the approach I was using on my original server.

Not very Web 2.0. Will experiment with Flickr and Pipes, do a bit more searching. Can do some testing without requiring the CSS customisation upgrade.

Update on the website move – google rankings

In mid to late October 2008 I moved my long-term personal website to this blog, the early story is told here. One of my concerns voiced in that original post was to maintain by Google ranking. Here’s an update.

The first “problem” is the way that Google provides search results. Depending which country you are in the ranking will be different. When I originally reported that my personal website was #7 in a google for “david jones” this was based on a search from within Australia. I didn’t test what other countries saw, though I believe it was fairly high.

This is somewhat of a problem for comparison purposes as my new site is hosted by WordPress.com which, from a quick search that found nothing and a large assumption is located in the US. Update: The US assumption is correct – data centers in Dallas, San Francisco and San Antonio. Given the different locations, doing a direct comparison might be somewhat questionable.

Searching from within Australia this blog comes up as result 177 for “david jones”. From a US-based search it comes up as number 12.

What tree is this?

What tree is this?

The above tree is sitting in our front yard. It’s grown a lot over the last five years and is developing in a really nice way. The trouble is we have no idea what type of tree it is. Do you? Can you help us identify this tree? Our google searches have failed. Click on the above photo to see larger pictures

A couple of years ago we noticed it developed some flowers that grow in a bunch off stems which hang down from the branches. The flowers are yellow inside but have a dirty red/maroon outside.

What tree is this? The flowers

Then just in the last few weeks the tree has developed woody looking seed pods which hang down the same way as the flowers.

What tree is this?  The seed pod

An introduction to Linux Systems administration – 1st and 4th editions

Cover of 3rd edition

For various reasons I’m in a process of capturing some ancient history before it potentially gets lost in the great cyberspace rubbish bin.

The most recent find/rediscovery has been the Fourth edition of An Introduction to Linux Systems Administration. This text was used for the Systems Administration course I used to teach. The 4th edition is from 1999 and was the last time I taught the course all the way through.

Ahh, the good old days.

Sadly, the text hasn’t been maintained to the same level nor have subsequent versions of it been openly available.

Sadest of all is that none of the 140 links returned on Google are to a site associated with the course for which the book was created. The university for that course is no longer getting any of the free publicity and attention it once got.

Back in 2003 alone, a PDF of the fourth edition was downloaded over 65,000 times.


In its hey day this was a much read text, used by a couple of other institutions and even translated into other languages. A quick google search “an introduction to linux systems administration” used to show 140 hits including this one that has a nice, short review.  The following couple of images (click on them to see larger versions) are screenshots of user comments I’ve discovered on the open web (saved as images for posterity).
Shell script comment   Sys adm commentMisc other comments received by email included:

I just ran across your On-line book … called, ‘An Introduction to Linux System Administration’. I skimmed through it and was very impressed with the book. I especially like your writing style which I feel aims to explain difficult abstract topics in easy to understand language and tries to ease student anxiety levels. … In reviewing my 50+ collection of other books on the same subject, I feel that most other authors know the topics they are writing about well enough for their own understanding, their occupations and even to publish a book. However, it takes real super stars to be able to take abstract concepts and make them seem concrete enough for a person of average intelligence to understand. I commend both of you for a job well done!

Heading back further

Cover for 1st edition

Thanks to Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine I’ve been able to locate the first edition of the text – circa 1996.

Available here as a PDF.

It is official – a best publication for IS in 2007

I don’t like to brag, but you don’t get this sort of thing all that often.

Last week I was in Paris for the ICIS’2008 conference. The main reason for going to the conference was to receive an award.

It turns out that the The Anatomy of a Design Theory by Professor Shirley Gregor and myself has been voted as one of the 5 best publications within the Information Systems discipline by a group of senior scholars.

That goes with being the paper of 2007 for the Journal of the Association for Information Systems.

Thanks Shirley.

I was going to include a photo the little plaque we each received but that was perhaps taking things a bit too far.