Saturday, March 11, 2006

That was the week that was...

I've been remiss, no posts for week? You might be wondering what I've been doing, then again, you might not. But, fairly typically, I'm going to tell you anyway.

I've been in Sorrento in Italy for the VOTech stage three planning meetings with a somewhat intermittent network connection to the outside world which explains the lack of posts. If you can barely keep up with your email, you don't really have enough time to write a blog post. So I've arrived home from my week in Italy with over seven hundred unread posts in my feed reader, and about twenty half written articles in my edit queue on subjects ranging from flocking autonomous blimps, to the International Space Station, to Apple and Microsoft rumour mongering. It's even possible that some of these articles will see the light of day in time...

My over riding memory of Sorrento is of the scent of citrus fruit. Orange trees line the streets, and groves of orange and lemon trees are scattered around the town, and it's hard to turn a corner in town without seeing another tree.

The lemon groves of Sorrento

The meeting was in a vast echoing hotel several kilometres out of town overlooking the Bay of Naples. No doubt over run during the summer months, in March we were virtually the only guests. Considering the size of the hotel this left me, at least, feeling like we were rattling around the place somewhat.

The Bay of Naples

I was there to talk about my work on VOEvent during the DS3 session, but while I was there I got interested in the work that's been going on with the new Plastic standard for interconnecting applications. While there do seem to be some teething problems to do with casting between variable types in the current hub reference implementation, I did managed to write a test bed Perl client and get it to register itself with the Plastic hub successfully.

My initial thoughts was that Plastic offered me two things; an easy way for the eSTAR user interface, the front end the intelligent agents, to control display applications, and secondly an interesting conduit for VOEvent messages. What if Aladin could accept VOEvent messages, extract the relevant meta-data from the message then display the event? That'd be fairly interesting, and useful, but the exact same Plastic message could also be used to inject the message into the "traditional" VOEvent network if a broker running on the network was Plastic-aware. The flexibility, the fact that different applications can do very different things with the same Plastic message, is perhaps one of the more interesting things about the emerging standard.

If you're interested, I've posted more pictures from the meeting to my Flickr feed. I'll also try and get the pictures I took at Herculaneum, which I managed to visit on the final day of my trip more or less on the way to the airport, posted to Flickr over the next few days.