Fairly Positive

Introducing … Glint

Glint is a Mac application for querying SPARQL endpoints. At the moment, it has a number of features:

  • Store the location of SPARQL endpoints
  • Syntax highlighting for queries
  • View the results of a SELECT statements in a table, or view the results as XML or JSON
  • View the results of DESCRIBE and CONSTRUCT queries as RDF/XML, Turtle or N3
  • Export the results to file
  • Ability to receive automatic updates to the application

Why the name Glint? SPARQL sounds like sparkle, and a glint is like a sparkle. I think its better than the previous name for the project … LinkedDataViewer.

The project represents a merger of some of my professional and personal interests: the Semantic Web, SPARQL endpoints and developing Mac application with Objective-C and Cocoa. Basically, I wanted to write a Mac desktop client that allows me to query SPARQL endpoints. It is also provides a refreshing anthesis to my main development skills and focus at the moment, namely Java, web applications and the Mobile Web.

A lot of the projects I’m involved with in the Web Futures team at the Institute of Learning and Research Technology (ILRT) use Semantic Web technologies and we are starting to use SPARQL endpoints more in our projects. The development on Glint is partly associated with the ResearchReveal project, albeit most of the work is happening (rather slowly) in my own time.

The project is still in the early stages and I would appreciate any comments, criticisms and suggestions for features that should be supported. Providing a history of queries is pretty high on the list of new features.

The latest DMG can be obtained from the project page on GitHub.

SPARQL query in Glint

Tabular results in Glint

The Mobile University

On the 13th May I attended Eduserv Symposium 2010: The Mobile University at the Royal College of Physicians, London. It was a stimulating event with talks from people involved in both the education and private sectors. It provided an opportunity to network, meet current and former work colleagues and talk about the Mobile Campus Assistant project to anyone who would listen.

The slides and videos of the presentations are available online. All of the talks were interesting, but three stick in my mind:

The opening keynote, “Mobile, Mobile, Mobile!”, was given by Paul Golding. Golding is the CEO and Lead Innovation Architect of Wireless Wanders and author of Next Generation Wireless Applications: Creating Mobile Applications in a Web 2.0 and Mobile 2.0 World. The keynote started with an overview of the development of mobile technologies in the in the last 10 years, using the terms Mobile 1.0 and Mobile 2.0. There were some interesting statistics given, including 1.2 billion mobiles are sold annually and smartphones are expected to have 40% market penetration within the next 2-3 years. Some of the drivers for the success of Mobile 2.0 include data friendly tariffs, faster networks and mobilised social networks, such as Facebook. In addition, mobile technologies were a closed platform 10 years ago where it was difficult to distribute applications. The platforms are more open with 2.0. Golding believes the future will be focussed around augmented reality where phones can recognise objects or people! There are a number of existing services like Google Goggles.

Dr Christine Sexton, Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services at the University of Sheffield, “The role of a University Computing Service in an increasingly mobile world. Or: ‘We don’t support that…’”. Sexton talked about the challenges facing IT departments in supporting mobile devices, such as infrastructure, security, licensing and support. It was interesting to hear that the wireless networking infrastructure installed in buildings three years ago can no longer support current demands. Sexton outlined different support models and emphasised that IT departments can no longer default to the ‘we don’t support that’ stance with mobile devices.

Tom Hume, Managing Director, Future Platforms talked about “Real life experiences launching mobile apps”. Hume’s talk was particularly interesting because he highlighted how, in developing applications, the market remains very fragmented. For example, to reach 70% of UK mobile owners you need to support 375 different handsets. iPhones will only deliver 3.63% and the ten most popular devices only covers 28.11%. It is expected that the fragmentation will only become worse - even if you develop for iPhone OS you still have devices (iPad, iPhone, iPhone 3GS, iPod Touch) that have differing capabilities. In the questions after the talk it was suggested that the Web provides better opportunity for supporting more devices. In a recent O’Reilly Radar article, Jason Grigsby illustrates that even though the Mobile OS market continues to fragment, the Mobile Web continues to converge on HTML 5 and Webkit.

I would highly recommend watching all of the videos if you have time.

Other blogs that mention esym10 include:

The whole event fed my interest in developing for the Mobile Web and I hope, at some point in the near future, that ILRT and the University of Bristol secure funding for the continued development of Mobile Campus Assistant. If you are interested in this project my colleague, Damian Steer, will be talking about the Mobile Web at Institutional Web Management Workshop 2010, 12-14 July. I will be giving a demonstration of MCA at JISC’s Joint Innovation Forum 2010, 28-29 July.

Dev8D: Call for Help!

I’ve just put the following plea for help on the dev8D wiki:

I’m currently working on a small project that merges some of my current interests: SPARQL and developing Mac applications with Cocoa and Objective-C. The application … currently called Linked Data Viewer … allows you to query SPARQL endpoints. I’d love to speak to the following people about the project:

  • Developers or others who write SPARQL queries. What type of things would you find useful if you used this type of application? Syntax highlighting? Query history?
  • Any experts in User Interface design who could make suggestions on making an intuitive interface.
  • Any developers familiar with Cocoa. I’ve got some experience of writing native iPhone applications but very little Mac development experience.
  • Can you think of a better name for the application/project?

I’ll be at the event on on Friday and Saturday :-)

Release 0.4 - Query With SELECT

I’ve made 0.4 available as binary on GitHub. This version checks whether or not you are writing a SELECT, CONSTRUCT, DESCRIBE or ASK statement and updates the results format option list appropriately.

An example of a SELECT query:

SELECT statement

A CONSTRUCT statement:

CONSTRUCT statement

A DESCRIBE statement:

DESCRIBE statement

An ASK statement:

ASK statement

Binary download: LinkedDataViewer-0.4.dmg.

Release 0.3 Available

I’ve made release 0.3 available. This included the basic syntax highlighting for SPARQL queries and the new place-holder application icon. The application can only properly handle SELECT statements … I’ll be working on making sure the correct headers are used for other queries very soon.

LinkedDataViewer-0.3.dmg

Syntax Highlighting

I’m currently experimenting with providing some basic syntax highlighting for SPARQL queries. I’ve chosen an implementation based on examples given on the CocoaDev website. Its fairly rudimentary and just highlights SPARQL keywords in blue.

Screen Shot

I’m wondering if URIs should also have a different colour?

Ideally, the user should be able to set the colours in the application preferences.

10.5 Now Supported

I’ve updated the LinkedDataViewer application so that it will now run on Mac OS X 10.5 - this involved a minor code tweak and slightly changing some issues with the user interface. This version is downloadable as LinkedDataViewer-0.2.dmg.

Here is a screen shot of the tweaked user interface:

Screen shot