Friday, August 13, 2004

Search in Groove GFS

I've recently briefly talked about Blinkx, which is a great tool for desktop search (not so great for web search). Well, the great thing about this tool is that it facilitates conceptual search across local files in your desktop. But, what I'm really excited about is that, at last, I can now search full text across all files stored in Groove shared folders!! After a few tests, I can confirm that after firing up a search, Blinkx will suggest links to relevant files which are stored and synchronised through GFS folders. Further testing also reveals that Blinkx indexes the full text within files in GFS folders; that is, if I have a file, say a pdf, that mentions in a paragraph "RAD environment", Blinkx will pick it up. Brilliant!!

Blinkx in action

However, this cannot be achieved in Groove workspaces, simply because workspaces and the content within them are encrypted and unreadable to Blinkx or any other search engine. Hey, but being able to search across GFS folders is a blessing!

To all groovers out there, go and download Blinkx for free GFS search.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

CASAHL easily connects Groove to enterprise systems

Among the number of challenges that IT organizations face today, up in the list we find supporting mobile users and cross-organizational teams. Enterprises find it increasingly difficult and expensive to connect the "disconnected"; on the other hand, employees, particularly those who spend a long time on the road (i.e. mobile/remote) and also external contractors, find it extremely cumbersome to easily tap in into their organization's ERP, CRM and other enterprise systems and databases.

Last week, Groove Networks, industry leader in collaboration software, and CASAHL, industry leader in data integration, announced an strategic partnership which will make a lot of people affected by the above-mentioned issues grin a big smile. CASAHL has developed a Groove "connector" to enable IT groups quickly and cost-effectively build and deploy secure, cross-organizational, online/offline and automatically synchronized "data transports" between existing enterprise systems and databases and Groove workspaces.

Casahl's Groove connectors will help IT organizations dramatically reduce development costs and deployment time-cycles since build work will only need to occur at the front-end and not at an infrastructure level. Using Groove 3.0 Forms, even non-developers will be able, with the help of a wizard, to synchronize a data field, say in an oracle database, with a field in a Groove form template.

Moving data to and from Groove and enterprise systems has been made easy now. Thanks to this Groovy middleware solution your organization could effortlessly and with a minimal cost, extend the secure cross-company collaborative capabilities of your existing systems (i.e. DB2, Oracle and SQL Server databases, Lotus Notes/Domino, Exchange public folders, Microsoft SharePoint and InfoPath).

Loads of ideas spring into mind...think of ways in which you could embed and automate workflow and business process properties between centralized systems and distributed apps such as Groove..or simply build your app to search, track, map and synchronize data among systems. Endless opportunities, start thinking about how the CASAHL eKnowledge Groove connector could super-charge your existing systems with its unique "always-on" security, firewall traversal, offline usage, bandwidth optimization and synchronization capabilities.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

SA2 Project Lessons

Strong Angel II, a research project largely funded by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has taken place in Kona, Hawaii, in July. The goal of this humanitarian project was to experiment how technology could enable military and civilian disaster-relief people to deal more efficiently with each other -- and with the people who need assistance -- in the turmoil that follows catastrophes.

Dan Gillmor writes about the experience in this article. Various technologies were put to test (62 trials were reported) in austere conditions, ranging from advanced wireless networks, high-quality video-conferencing software, real-time translation software, to leading edge collaboration and synchronization tools. Nevertheless, as Dan points out, SA was about many more things than only technology:

I observed much more than some brilliant technology, I saw how people with poles-apart political perspectives could blend, in common purpose, to achieve remarkable results.

The endeavor was subtitled, ``Designing the Edge'' -- a recognition that increasingly ubiquitous data networks have turned some traditional notions of command and control almost inside out. Now, when people at the edge of networks can get the information they need in a timely way, and get what they know to others, they can work faster and more efficiently.

Experience from Iraq has taught that media awareness and rapid understanding and communication between troops and other humanitarian field forces is crucial; unfortunately, media in the battle field doesn't speak English. Thus, translation software has been extensively tested on extreme conditions (+100 degrees F). As Cmdr Rasmussen, SA2 manager, recognizes in this Wired article, "the influence of the press is enormous and we often have a genuine impediment to understanding the population around us if we don't keep track of what the local media is saying".
In one demonstration, a satellite dish outside a tent was capturing and recording the Al-Manar TV station, a Hezbollah outlet in Lebanon. Audio was extracted from the news broadcasts and converted to text in a speech-to-text program. Then the Arabic text was translated, also by a machine, into English. The results, twice removed from what the announcers said, were approximations. But they captured the gist of the reports.

Among other tools tested, Groove Virtual Office software was used for securely sharing files and communication among all soldiers and sailors, doctors and relief workers, technologists and managers involved in the project.

Laptops were everywhere, of course, and most were running Groove Networks'
powerful collaboration software, which lets people share information smoothly and securely. With Groove, people can work offline and then synchronize data when they connect, in a way that ultimately lets everyone on the network -- without any centralized ``server'' computer -- update to the latest information.

What I found very interesting is how Groove was also used to support (virtually) real-time translation; that is, human-assisted machine translation. Since the quality of the machine-generated translation was not accurate enough, soldiers would add the snaps of the trasncript in MP3 format into a Groove synchronized folder (GFS) so that a colleague/"trusted translator" sitting in the central office in DC could instantly and accurately translate the most important and relevant chunks of information.

This blending of human and machine translation capabilities makes the best use of both. The machines get us part of the way. Humans capture more subtlety, but machines can winnow out a lot of the dross first.

Another interesting observation is that, ever since the WTC 11S attacks , it is evident that centralized systems are a far easier target for the enemy, as Michael Friedlich recalls them: "hard targets".

Firefighters couldn't talk to local law enforcement and phone lines to the world went down in Washington. Yet the decentralized technology frameworks survived and aided in the response.....Only the edge can truly survive.

SA2 was about commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products being aimed at planes,
sunk under ten feet of water, dragged through lava fields, and just plain working in a jungle base camp when all that "ran" was a generator and a humvee that came through and picked up the "data" because it served as a mobile switching center. This was a test of extreme computing at the edge where any hopes of a server was a luxury at best, and a myth in a worst case scenario (total devastation). Adaptive processes, culturally neutral workspaces, and decentralized technologies delivered the goods in a big way.

Acticam, team webconferencing tool for Groove

Acticam: a (Beta) webcam tool for Groove

I remember back in 2001 Hugh Pyle worked on a team webconferencing tool for Groove 1.1, or perhaps 1.5 to enable webcam image sharing among members in a shared space. The tool was tested at Unilever, my previous company, and the results were quite satisfactory in testing, yet it didn't do well enough to be used in real projects neither made into production stage. This tool could feed images from up to 7 distributed webcams very well, however, issues arised from a platform perspective. How could we prevent other members in the space, who may be offline at the time, from stacking up 100MB on their transceiver's inbound trays?

Ashok Hingorani, Groove Partner, has come up with a new solution which selectively synchronises information (in this case images) among online members - only- in a space.

Special Features:

View 9 cameras at a time out of any number in the workspace
Remotely control cameras if member has allowed it.
Log activities if not able to be present during a session


chillin in Eastnor

Open Air Stage

Big Chill 2004 rocks!!

Well, back to work. I've just had a fantastic weekend in the middle of british countryside with about 20,000 more people! It's the Big Chill festival in Eastnor Castle, Hereforshire. Fab music (luckily not very big bands), lovely weather, wicked atmosphere and great people.

Highlights of the 3 day weekend have been: Ralph Myers & The Jack Herren Band, Gilles Peterson, Faze Action, Norman Jay, Coldcut, Lemon Jelly, and Victor Malloy and his band rocked at Tom's Top Tent!!

If your clubbing days are well behind you but still enjoy moving it to some jazzy beats, this is your place!