Linux for Science Museums
Over the past several years, my son and I have spent a significant amount of volunteer time creating exhibit software for the Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York. This article discusses how this project is similar to other software development projects, how it is different and how using Linux has been beneficial. It's not only about Linux or software; it's also about the processes involved, and what you may encounter if you have the opportunity to work in this type of environment.
Science museum exhibit software must be designed with a different audience from the typical computer program, as the software generally is used in a different manner. My earlier Microsoft Windows-based exhibits—Measurement Factory and Fabulous Features—were designed for children up to approximately sixth grade, while the Linux-based exhibits—Sound Studio and Traffic Jam—were designed for fifth to eighth graders. The software must be simple enough that the target audience understands a significant amount of what they see on the screen and how it relates to the exhibit. A computer in an exhibit is not necessarily the exhibit; it may act as a guide or simply be another “manipulative” along with real-world objects.
A second “audience” also must be considered, the museum staff. Floor personnel (many of whom are volunteers) shouldn't have to be trained in the vagaries of each computer. Exhibit software and hardware also should come up and run automatically when the systems are powered on first thing in the morning, as museums tend to turn off at least some circuit breakers when they close in the evening. Trust me, you want the museum staff to like your exhibit—if it makes their life difficult, the exhibit may sit there with a sign saying “broken”.
Possibly the most important thing to keep in mind when you're developing your dream exhibit is this: when you build a non-hidden computer into a museum exhibit aimed at younger visitors, you're competing with every video game they've played and every television show or movie they've watched. Your exhibit, therefore, must be extremely cool.
Measurement Factory is cool because visitors can weigh themselves, measure their height, test their grip strength, compare themselves to others of their age and get a certificate when they're done.
Traffic Jam (Figures 1-3) is cool because visitors can play with traffic lights and prevent traffic jams—or not, if they prefer.
Sound Studio (Figures 4-6) lets visitors record themselves and their friends on a multitrack recorder and play with simple special effects, such as echoes.
Cool has a definite limit, however. For instance, it's not a good idea to make the “you made a mistake” annunciator—sound, animation, whatever—too cool; otherwise visitors will consider that the goal. Don't defeat the purpose of the exhibit.
Practical Task Scheduling Deployment
One of the best things about the UNIX environment (aside from being stable and efficient) is the vast array of software tools available to help you do your job. Traditionally, a UNIX tool does only one thing, but does that one thing very well. For example, grep is very easy to use and can search vast amounts of data quickly. The find tool can find a particular file or files based on all kinds of criteria. It's pretty easy to string these tools together to build even more powerful tools, such as a tool that finds all of the .log files in the /home directory and searches each one for a particular entry. This erector-set mentality allows UNIX system administrators to seem to always have the right tool for the job.
Cron traditionally has been considered another such a tool for job scheduling, but is it enough? This webinar considers that very question. The first part builds on a previous Geek Guide, Beyond Cron, and briefly describes how to know when it might be time to consider upgrading your job scheduling infrastructure. The second part presents an actual planning and implementation framework.
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- The Firebird Project's Firebird Relational Database
- Stunnel Security for Oracle
- My +1 Sword of Productivity
- Non-Linux FOSS: Caffeine!
- SUSE LLC's SUSE Manager
- Managing Linux Using Puppet
- Murat Yener and Onur Dundar's Expert Android Studio (Wrox)
- Parsing an RSS News Feed with a Bash Script
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- Doing for User Space What We Did for Kernel Space
With all the industry talk about the benefits of Linux on Power and all the performance advantages offered by its open architecture, you may be considering a move in that direction. If you are thinking about analytics, big data and cloud computing, you would be right to evaluate Power. The idea of using commodity x86 hardware and replacing it every three years is an outdated cost model. It doesn’t consider the total cost of ownership, and it doesn’t consider the advantage of real processing power, high-availability and multithreading like a demon.
This ebook takes a look at some of the practical applications of the Linux on Power platform and ways you might bring all the performance power of this open architecture to bear for your organization. There are no smoke and mirrors here—just hard, cold, empirical evidence provided by independent sources. I also consider some innovative ways Linux on Power will be used in the future.Get the Guide