Saturday, October 4, 2014


This blog is now retired. New stuff will be posted here.

Friday, May 2, 2014

OpenData not-so-daily

Luckily I didn't write my goal of doing a blog post a day about OpenData in my last post, because it turns out, writing a blog post about it every day would cost a lot of time. Nevertheless, I bring you yet another post. This one's packed with a bunch of news, applications and new(ish) data. Enjoy, and feel free to post feedback in the comments or through twitter, @namnatulco.


Although we commonly define open data specifically as not being tied to individual people, privacy issues are starting to appear around open data. This guardian article provides an overview of some recent privacy problems in this context. The OKFN has a working group on this topic, as well as a somewhat older but excellent blog post on the topic.

In the Netherlands, an interesting new hackathon has shown up: the Flora & Fauna (Dutch) hack. Now, that by itself is already quite interesting --environment and ecology seem to be the main topic--, but the cool thing is, they actually have a list of concrete challenges to solve! Unfortunately the entire thing is currently in Dutch. However, they seem to be worth checking out!

The Sunlight Foundation, a US-oriented organization that promotes open data and government transparency, writes a nice discussion about what open data gives us beyond business opportunities. From my fairly limited perspective, in the US, stimulating business is increasingly tied into the motivation for opening up data. Although I'm all for business use cases, this Sunlight article demonstrates that shouldn't be the only reason.


This article (in Dutch) is a nice introduction about what OSCity (in English) does: it allows for spatial searching and spatial organization. The latter has always been a big topic in Dutch society, it being comparatively densely populated. Continuing that trend, OSCity allows you to search in data; when the application loads, an example search like "offices near water" or "addressen with age < 30" appears. Try it out! OSCity claims they want to include European data in the future, so stay I suppose we'll stay tuned. Unfortunately there isn't anything regarding data source, but I've asked them to find out more.

I encountered this list of applications for Swiss open data. The list mostly lists some older visualizations from the last few months. The most recent one is this application (German), which computes various statistics based on population density, and below it has a map that shows the density of the different municipalities (German 'Gemeinden'). Further down in the article there's some more graphs that show the same data for easy comparison. The cited data source is here.

In this tumblr article from a little while back, there is a really cool visualization of the orientations of streets (direct link to image). Notice in particular how many examples here have a very strange, rectangular pattern.

The interactive application on this page, by a German newspaper, shows how aircraft deviate from the official routes surrounding Berlin, resulting in significant noise complaints from the surrounding population.

This map (German) by a large German newspaper shows the amount of doctors relative to income and population in four major German cities. The map is based on address data of different types of doctors.


In Ottawa, Canada, someone created this spreadsheet that provides a nice overview of the available data in their region. Looks like an approach we here in Ulm could re-use -- manual tables like on this page aren't always helpful.

In the UK, the environmental agency of the government announced that they would make a number of different water- and flood-related data sets permanently available to the public (presumably including new data). A little more background can be found in this guardian article, which says in February some data sets were already released for a short time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

I'm back!

Maybe? I'm not sure yet. It's been a long time since I've felt I had something worth writing about, but for the past few months I've been interacting with the UlmAPI group. We're one of the newly launched (well, more like newly united, UlmAPI has been around for many years) OK Labs, loosely organized by the  German branch of the Open Knowledge Foundation. As you might have gathered by now, the group is based in Ulm. It currently mostly consists of computer scientists from the university, although one of our goals is to involve more non-computer science and non-students into the group. Having been assigned "scribe", it feels appropriate for me to start blogging again. Another motivation is that a recent project that involves documenting highlights of OpenData felt rather cold and lacking context, but adding context to all of the links could mess up the orderly list. Instead I'll write some context here on this blog, and minimize the text in the wiki. Of course, I'll mostly talk about things I've discovered recently, some of this might be out of date, etc.

CloudMade announced, quite some time ago already, that they'll stop providing map services to free users. I felt this was worth repeating because it puts a lot of applications by OpenData groups at risk, including ours. Yesterday our group spent a lot of time setting up a tile server to replace it. The tile server isn't up yet --turns out importing Germany takes a long time--, but for all of you out there having problems with it, make sure LANGUAGE and LC_ALL are correctly set. Normally the fall-back should ensure nothing breaks, but several scripts actually fail when this is not as expected.

Here is a great post suggesting we should have more Europe in OpenData. It basically speaks for itself -- with the upcoming elections, who knows, something might just happen.

I'm not sure how old it is, but the OpenGov Foundation introduced .gov.ify, an application that pokes fun at the wonderful qualities of government-produced PDF files. Be sure to watch the accompanying youtube video.

A really cool map of Barcelona can be found here, visualizing a large amount of data that indexes the age of buildings in the city. I seem to recall something similar for historic images in Ulm, but I can't find it any more.

I'm fairly sure this isn't new, but this page on the German wikimedia provides an index of information that can be used freely. It talks about many types of data; not just the typical metadata we would see in OpenData projects, but also music and historical objects.

And that's the end of today's blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Looking back: music from 2010

So here we go. The first year that I was really into music and actually following current releases, rather than simply basking in old glory. I thought it'd be fun to make a 'looking back' post, as I have time on my hands because I'm currently recovering from a dislodged elbow. The ordering in this post is based on the current state of the RYM Top Albums of 2010 chart, which seems to fairly stable, from what I recall anyway.I'll refrain from talking about live albums unless I have specific reasons to do so -- live albums are usually not interesting unless you're intimately familiar with the artist/band.

1. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
I have to confess. I think I'm afraid I might like this album. Maybe that's why I've avoided it since it came out. Nevertheless, I figured I now have to try it. Now that I'm finally listening to it, I though my fears were confirmed -- the beats are pretty choice, the flow isn't bad -- but fortunately (unfortunately?) Kanye West tries to actually sing, including sections with misplaced auto-tune. On Power, Kanye tries to be edgy by sampling 21st Century Schizoid Man. The album definitely has its moments, but I'm just turned off by the atrocious singing, the 'edgy' lyrical content and would-be gangsta sections you often hear in Pop Rap. However, in the end, it isn't a total failure, and I can sort of understand why people like this album. But no, I don't think I'd be able to endure this entire album in one sitting.

{I published this as my review}

2. The National - High Violet
This is one of those albums you've heard, but you can't remember much of it. To me it sounded like a generic Indie Rock band. Music to play on the radio or in the background during a party. It isn't bad, but it feels incredibly unremarkable.

3. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
I enjoyed previous works from Arcade Fire (Funeral and Neon Bible) a lot, so I was somewhat looking forward to this. In that light, it was a pretty big disappointment. It sounds more like a cash-in than really a new record. Sure, it is listenable, but that's just about it, too. It might be intentional -- portraying the suburbs as bland and uninteresting, but I frankly don't care. Maybe their previous albums were just too good.

4. Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
Not being a fan of Joanna's style (based on the previous record, Ys), I haven't listened to this beyond a couple samples. Really, though? Three CDs long? A for effort, at least.

5. Beach House - Teen Dream
This is probably one of the last records I discovered through /mu/ (4chan's music board). Being the seat of hipster garbage among many other things, Beach House was hyped there, and there was a promotional free stream I checked out. I was hoping for a great Dream Pop album -- unfortunately I only got thalf of that. I guess if you're into the style, you'll dig this, but beyond that it doesn't have much appeal, in my opinion.

6. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Here's the first record I decided to listen to while looking at the 2010 chart. I wasn't much of a Deerhunter fan, having listened to a couple of songs off Microcastle. However, this record is actually not bad at all, which is the reason you're now reading this blog post. This record starts off kinda slow, with a bunch of tunes you might expect from a Neo-Psychedelia record. What's Neo-Psychedelia exactly, you ask? Don't ask me, I'm just saying this based on other albums I've seen with this genre label, like a bunch of The Flaming Lips albums. Toward the end there's a bunch of more proper rock songs.

7. Janelle MonĂ¡e - The ArchAndroid
Finally! A really good album in this list! This is probably one of the few Contemporary R&B records I really like. There's a sweet story that provides a nice build-up for the album, but most importantly there's some excellent dance-able tracks scattered across the record. There's plenty of variation, too: two Overtures, dance tracks like Dance or Die, Faster and Tightrope, there's the lyrical content of Cold War, psychedelic ideas with songs like Oh, Maker and Say You'll Go, and there's a fast-paced song, Come Alive. All-in-all, the album is great. Of course there are things to complain about -- the track with of Montreal (Make the Bus) is not to my liking, and I'm not that foond of the closing track. The Overtures are really quietly mixed. But that's details; this album is good, you should listen to it. On that note; recently, the follow-up The Electric Lady, was released (at least, as exclusive? stream at afropunk)!

8. Luis Alberto Spinetta - Spinetta y las bandas eternas

9. Friedrich Cerha - Spiegel; Monumentum; Momente (SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg; ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien/Sylvain Cambreling; Dennis Russell Davies; Friedrich Cerha)
Another release with very few ratings, considering how high it is on the RYM chart. This seems to be a double CD of content by different orchestras, playing music composed by Friedrich Cerha. I'm not familiar with either, but the reviews of others sound very promising.

10. Heaven & Hell - Neon Lights: 30 Years of Heaven & Hell

11. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
Flying Lotus is an unusual fellow. This used to be shuffled under the Glitch Hop genre, but it seems the community has changed its mind, as it is under the parent genre IDM now. I suppose IDM -- Intelligent Dance Music -- is pretty accurate; Cosmogramma sounds like it takes cues from major artists in that genre, like Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. My opinion on this style has varied a lot over the years, and I'm fairly sure it will change again in the future. The Boards of Canada brand has never really managed to excite me the way a lot of more experimental music does. Nevertheless, I remember liking Cosmogramma. As I listen to it again, I can see why: there's a lot of unusual beats and samples put together in a nice and atmospheric record. The amount of fuzz (?) seems rather excessive, though.

12. Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit
Aha! The first metal album in the list! Considering the high ratings that metal releases on RYM tend to get, this is quite surprising. I know Agalloch mainly from their drummer, from whose blog Cosmic Hearse I have learned about a ton of great bands. I've never delved into Agalloch itself that much, however. The enormous amounts of praise this band has gotten made me almost certain I whould just feel disappointed. For this blog post I decided I'd finally give this record a shot -- that is the point, after all. Despite the fact that it is filed under Atmospheric Black Metal, a genre that more often than not bores me to tears. Indeed, this was not a mistake: the album provides a warm, folk-heavy metal record with plenty of atmosphere, but lacking the uneventful repeated riffage that marks a lot of Atmospheric Black Metal. The album is varied and dynamic; both the foreground and the atmosphere change over time, without feeling chaotic. Considering this seems to be written off as Agalloch's worst or second worst album, it might be time to try The Mantle or Ashes Against the Grain.

13. Deathspell Omega - Paracletus
Often hailed as one of (progressive) Black Metal's finest, Deathspell Omega was a must-hear band for me back in 2010. Although initially I liked it a lot, I can't say I fondly remember it.Which is surprising, now that I'm listening to it again: this album opens with Emperor-esque grandeur, before veering in and out of more progressive regions of metal. Compared to a lot of 'true' Black Metal, this record is overflowing with melody and complexity, while to Progressive Metal listeners this record will sound much, perhaps too much like Black Metal. It's a pretty adventurous record, but it does in the end meander a bit -- which may be why I didn't have such positive memories.

14. David Bowie - A Reality Tour
[live] This is a live album. I know a lot of people hail Bowie as the best thing since sliced bread, but I can't say I've ever gotten into it, so I haven't listened to this.

15. Various Artists - Whom the Moon a Nightsong Sings
Ah yes, this beautiful album cover. I really need to listen to this: a folk record by a bunch of bands, including Ulver and Dornenreich. I don't know most of the names that well, but this looks like a record combining songs of metal bands that have experimented with Dark Folk. If Dornenreich is any measure, it'll be fascinating. Well, that was quite an experience. There's a lot of very similar material here, but the execution is quite good -- it kept my attention, which considering my previous encounters with the genre is a very good sign. If you're into this stuff you probably already know about it, but if you don't, you'd better pick this release up.

16. Mono - Holy Ground: NYC Live With the Wordless Music Orchestra
[live] For a while, Mono was among my favourite Post-Rock bands, right next to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. That was a long time ago, but maybe I'll give this album a spin some time -- the orchestra could add a fascinating touch.

17. Joe Bonamassa - Live from the Royal Albert Hall

18. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
I remember the hype surrounding this record. Listening to it now, it may just have been justified: active, energetic and intimate songs that shine in simplicity. Supposedly lyrical content is at the core of records like this -- which is probably why Singer/Songwriter and I tend to agree to disagree. Not so here; the tunes hold their own, and the voice of the singer (Kristian Matsson) is pretty intriguing. I'm pretty sure this album would be almost as good if the guy would just hum all the songs. Apparently this guy gets compared to Bob Dylan all the time. Far be it from me to dismiss that, but I'm not seeing it. Maybe because I only heard Blonde on Blonde, which hardly sounds like a Contemporary Folk album.

19. Transatlantic - Whirld Tour 2010 - Live From Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

20. iamamiwhoami - In Concert
[live] Well, this is a very unusual release. It's labelled as a live album, but it's actually more of an improvised piece of audiovisual art. I wonder what a proper release of this band (?) sounds like. Regardless, this is a very intriguing release. But there's also actually good music, which could pass for a pretty solid Electropop release. Watch the release here.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Goodbye Mendeley

So I haven't written on this blog for more than a year. I won't make a habit of writing about work here. It's a personal thing, it has nothing to do with work. I'll make an exception this time though.

Based on rumors of an Elsevier takeover I started migrating my reference indexes from Mendeley to Zotero a while ago. Now that it has actually happened, I'm partly glad my time spent wasn't wasted. It is also somewhat sad to think the figurative cancer of academic research can use money to take over something as idealistic as Mendeley.

I think it's pretty clear from my post history on ResearchGate that I don't like Elsevier at all. For computer science, they're really not what they are (or at least seem to be) for other fields. Unfortunately, as a researcher you're stuck with where other people publish their work, so you do need access to the papers. But that's all I do with them. I try to avoid citing Elsevier papers, and I wouldn't submit or review a paper there. Thus it seems fitting I also don't use Mendeley.

Anyway, from a paper management point of view, "nothing of value was lost", as the internet says. Zotero is fantastic. So thank you, Elsevier, for making my life easier by forcing change upon me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Apple AirPlay

Just a re-publication of this mail. Just in case.

Hi all,

VLC has had RAOP output for a while; is there interest in RAOP input as well?

I've extracted the Airport Express RSA private key that is necessary to implement this.
An example implementation is available at:

The private key follows.


Sunday, March 13, 2011


Don't you just hate it?

My hardware broke yesterday, so now I'm writing and running from my laptop. Hell, maybe now I'll waste less time playing Doom and more time writing blogposts. Good for you.