Open data and more...
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Today I was looking over an interesting article called "Great open source map tools for Web developers". Look, I'm taking off my IBM hat and setting it way over there. Now it's just you and me with no major corporations to bother us or be represented in any way.
When you work in a company that does a lot of technology, with a lot of research, it's pretty difficult to deal with anything that isn't being explored somewhere. Some of these things become major projects and money centers, others are tinkered with and then set aside for the next interesting thing. So there can be a sort of love/hate relationship with companies like Google, who also do a lot of tinkering with various technology areas. One day a tool is OK to explore, the next day "Das ist verboten!" This can really be unfortunate when you have something that you're trying to do which has to either be thrown away or completely rethought. Yet when you're dealing with something like mapping, aren't you forced to go to someplace like Bing and Google who can afford to put satellites in the air and do massive data collection? Well... not necessarily.
As it turns out, governments and other public entities do massive data collection as well, and their information belongs to the public. It's true that some of it may not be as up-to-date or as rich as a private entity can do, but it is freely available. And it turns out that there are a number of open source projects that are tapping these public data sources, and finding interesting ways to tap into them. If I was a betting man, I would say that your odds of being shut off from an open-source resource are better than that of "the competition". It's also remarkably easy to find things like weather data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and community-supported street data (Say! I can see my office from here!). Here is a source for open data catalogs around the world, which pointed me to this specific list for Texas, among others.
Obviously, along with the data, there are APIs available as well. All of this can be mashed up in interesting ways. Here's an example where Open Street Map data was used to create an interactive map of countries. As you mouse over the countries you get information about the name of the country. Clicking the country takes you to data for that area. Obviously, one needs to consider the source of information, and there are situations where you need the accountability of a paid resource, but spend some time exploring these open data pits to mine. You find a good fit for your needs, and supporting these efforts helps ensure that they continue.
If you are keeping score, we have a coupld of new items in the Open Source and Linux sites today.
In Linux, "Accelerate to Green IT - A practical guide to application migration and re-hosting" has been a significant effort by a team inside of IBM to share their observations about server consolidation based on their real experience. This is good stuff, and the kind of information that only comes from experience. Their approach is to help you identify the "low-hanging fruit" for server consolidation and to have realistic expectations for where the complexity may lie. I think that server consolidation is a fascinating area. In some ways it makes me wish I was still involved in levels of system administration where I could give it a shot. This article will likely not answer all of your questions about what to expect, but it will get you thinking, and thinking is one of the keys to success.
In Open Source is a fun article, "Building Ruby extensions in C++ using Rice: Add new programming extensions in Ruby", an examination on how to use RICE (Ruby Interface for C++ Extensions) to combine the goodness of C++ with that of Ruby. It provides more ways to use the right tool for the job and allows you to tap into the power of C without having to do everything there. I like this sort of mashed-up approach to programming. Yes, it can add some complexity, but it's worthwhile if it keeps you in control of your performance or other critical elements. It's more tools for your toolbox.