Technology Stir Fry, the blog

This is Technology Stir Fry: the blog.

The most recent ten posts are shown below. For older material, you might like to browse by tag or by date using the menus to the left.


There are only a couple of weeks left until Google Reader shuts down. Like many other people (the "loyal but declining" following the product had certainly numbered in the millions) I've been looking at alternatives for a while now. I've finally settled on feedly.


RFC 6919

I'm in the middle of several fairly large spec-writing projects at the moment, so this year's April Fool's RFC 6919 seemed particularly apt:

The key words "MUST (BUT WE KNOW YOU WON'T)", "SHOULD CONSIDER", "REALLY SHOULD NOT", "OUGHT TO", "WOULD PROBABLY", "MAY WISH TO", "COULD", "POSSIBLE", and "MIGHT" in this document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 6919.

I briefly considered making use of this and waiting to see if anyone noticed. So far, I have resisted the temptation, and am sticking with RFC 2119.


Balloon Animal

giant balloon sculpture shaped like a spiral sea-shell

No, not that one. This one is a sculpture by Jason Hackenwerth called Pisces. It's made out of 10,000 balloons; apparently, the artist and his assistants had to wear earplugs during construction to protect themselves against the squeaky noises.

The sculpture is in the Grand Gallery, National Museum of Scotland until April 14th; it's well worth a visit if you're in town.

Many Twelves

Well, you don't see that every day.

Pretty Fly

Network selection dialog with "Pretty Fly For a WiFi" as an option.

Seen on my phone while in a hotel in Philadelphia last week. If you're wondering why I think this is funny, you probably need to view this reference video.

Future of Federations

I'm speaking later today as part of a session on the Future of Federations at the Internet2 Fall Member Meeting in Philadelphia.

Here is a PDF version of my slides. They are really just a list of the emerging technologies I think may affect identity federations in the short to medium term future; I think things are changing quickly enough that looking further forward than a couple of years is just too difficult.


UK federation Metadata Aggregation

diagram full of boxes and arrows

One of the systems I work on is the back end of the UK federation's metadata system. Although I've talked about this in several presentations, the bare structural diagram isn't very informative on its own. Here, I present a snapshot of the architecture, and go into a lot more depth on the what, how and why than you'd get from just the slide on its own (click on the image to get a larger version).

I hope that this article can perform double duty as a case study for the Shibboleth metadata aggregator tool, which acts as the engine behind the metadata system and to which I also contribute as a developer.


Use Maturity Fruits

Use Maturity Fruits.

Cut the top of the lemon, introduce the part of the tool with the teeths and tur it down.

Your left hand hold the cup, while the right hand twist the lemon and press her softly at variable points.

Serve her directly at the table, squeeze the lemon softly and enjoy the juice wherever you want.

At least put the lemon down in her ceramics vessel.


Silver & Light

Ian Ruhter makes photographs with a large camera. A very large camera. His camera is so large that it is essentially the rear end of a big blue cargo van, which at least means transportation is built in.

He's using the wet collodion process which amongst other things means pouring noxious chemicals over the plates in the field. The introduction to his short documentary shows some of this process in a deliciously misleading way, and has a fair bit of footage of the plate preparation and shooting processes.

The plates themselves, which in this process also carry the final image, are large sheets of metal. I thought I was stretching things a bit when I worked with 5x4 inch negatives: one of Ruhter's standard plate sizes seems to be 5x4 feet.

If you've never seen large images from a direct imaging process like this, it's tempting to regard this as a bit of a gimmick, or at best just a way of making a really large photographic print. That's not what you experience when you stand in front of something like a 20"x24" Polaroid. Photographs like this have a physical presence; it's immediately clear that they are, to paraphrase what Ruhter says in the film, not enlargements and not copies, but original and unique objects.

I'm really glad there are still people in the world crazy enough to do this kind of thing.

EPS International 2012 Entry Closes Soon

The Edinburgh Photographic Society has been running an annual open exhibition since its founding in 1861; this is believed to be the oldest continuously running photographic exhibition in the world. That's one and a half centuries, which makes my paltry two-decade-or-so stint as the exhibition's Database Wrangler look rather paltry.

This year, the 150th Annual Exhibition of Photography will be held in Edinburgh from the 7th of August to 4th September. Entries for the exhibition close on the 22nd of June, which means that you still have time to participate if you're quick.

This year, the awards available have been extended to commemorate the 150th Exhibition, so if you have ever considered entering this would be a great time to do so.

Entry forms and copies of the rules can be found at:

Good luck!

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