Thunder Arrives at Ligent

The various Ligent Web sites, including Escape Veloicity, have been hosted on a succession of virtual servers provisioned by Eapps.  Thunder is the newest cloud server that Ligent has created at Eapps.  Starting this week, Ligent apps are starting to transition from our old server (Cloud) to Thunder.  As of this posting, Escape Velocity is now running on Thunder.

Long live Thunder.



Kevin Joins UWM/SOIS

I am pleased to report that I have joined The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee (UWM), School of Information Studies (SOIS) as a full-time Lecturer.  I am teaching in the Bachelor of Information Science and Technology degree program.  In the Spring 2014 Semester, I am teaching the Senior Capstone course and Introduction to Information Science.  The faculty, staff, and students have given me a warm welcome. We are already in my third week of the term and I am enjoying both the work and the people.

Despite the fact that I live near Chicago, I am commuting to UWM on a daily basis. When schedule permits, I commute using the Amtrak Hiawatha Service.  Many of you already know that I am a bit of a train fan.  So, I am enjoying another chance to ride the rails. Fortunately for me, my local train station is the last stop that the Hiawatha Service makes in Illinois before continuing on to Wisconsin.  It has been both snowy and cold during these first few weeks of the spring term.  So, I believe that I am passing the commuter torture test quite well so far.

I will be continuing to teach as an Adjunct Lecturer at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Illinois), Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS).  In the Spring 2014 Semester, I am teaching Project Management in a new 16-week format. I am expecting this longer version of the course to give students opportunity to do more practice-oriented activities than the we have the chance to do in the traditional 8-week summer semester version.

I am expecting to still do a bit of consulting and training during school breaks.  In practice, this will mean the summer breaks.  So, my longtime friends in consulting and training should start thinking about how they are going to keep me busy this summer.

I hope that everyone will stay in contact with me as I will with you.  There is extensive information on the best way to contact me on the Ligent Web site Contact page.

Kevin Makes Presentation on Use Cases at UWM/SOIS

I will be visiting The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, School of Information Studies (UWM/SOIS) on Wednesday, January 8th.  My hosts have graciously asked me to make a short presentation and I have chosen Use Cases as my topic.

I consider Use Cases to be the most significant development in system analysis methodology in the past 30 years.  Consequently, I focus several sessions of the Systems Analysis and Management  course that I teach at Illinois/GSLIS on use cases as well as the diagrams and the analyses that accompany them.  I find use cases to be important for many reasons, including:

  1. When taken as a group (as they appear in a UML use case diagram) use cases become a succinct way to express the overall scope of the project. Use cases that are included in the use case diagram are within scope.  Potential use cases that are missing from the use case diagram are outside of scope.
  2. Well-written use case specifications illustrate how actors within the use case will interact with the system to accomplish their work goals. This compares favorably to earlier methodologies that produced documents primarily focused on the information that programmers needed to construct a system.
  3. Use cases can serve as a common expression of scope and functionality for systems analysts, system users, and system builders.  This facilitates a meeting of the minds that makes for a robust expression of the requirements and leads to satisfied stakeholders at the conclusion of the project.

Over the years, I have used a number of text books for my Systems Analysis and Management course.  Authors have been struggling to decide how much attention to give Structured Analysis (using data flow diagrams and related documents) versus how much attention to give to Object-Oriented Analysis (using UML-based use case diagrams and related documents).  Currently, I am using the following text book, which I believe does the best job of striking a balance in addressing both topics:

  • Hoffer, J. A., George, J. F., & Valacich, J. S. (2014). Modern systems analysis and design (7th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

The following is a list of links to the materials that I will be using during my presentation at UWM/SOIS.  It represents a subset of the materials that I use when I cover the Use Cases unit in my Systems Analysis and Management course:

Discussing these items should take up all of the time allotted for this short presentation. Anyone who has an interest in seeing the full class syllabus, schedule of lectures and assignments, or any other materials used in this course can contact me by email at


Only Wright Topic Maps Site Restored

I am pleased to announce that Only Wright, a Topic Maps-based portal about the life and work of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, is up and running once again at  I created this site back in 2007 to demonstrate subject-centric portals based on Topic Maps technology during my presentation at the AToMS 2007 Conference in Kyoto.  In 2008, I made significant refinements to the site to support demonstrations during another presentation that I made at the Topicmaps 2008 Conference in Oslo.  For that same conference, I also developed a simplified version of the site to support Topic Maps training.  Affectionately named SimpleWright, this simpler version of the site has also been restored and is available at

The Topic Maps-based version of Only Wright (based on the Ontopia Topic Maps software) was replaced with a static HTML page in late 2009 and SimpleWright was simply shut down.  I apparently thought that the economy was bad in 2009 and that this warranted the shutdown of my production JEE server to save a monthly subscription fee.  While it would be difficult to say that that the economy has improved in any meaningful way since 2009, apparently my spending priorities have changed.  I have a new JEE server that is running the Ontopia software (version 5.3.0) and this has given me the opportunity to restore applications like Only Wright (and SimpleWright) to their former glory.

I have a number of research and development ideas that I would like to pursue with Only Wright in the future.  Please visit the site to read my current list of ideas.  I would very much enjoy hearing from potential collaborators.

Rob Bishop in Makerspace


Raspberry Pi’s Rob Bishop made a stop on his 2nd Raspberry Pi U.S. Roadshow last night to speak at Pumping Station One, a popular makerspace/hackerspace in Chicago. I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation, Raspberry Pi – One Year On, as well as the generous Q&A session that followed. I also managed to score a bit of Pi-swag, including a great little logo sticker.

Rob talked about quite a lot.  So, I won’t attempt to give a full account.  But, I will note a few points that caught my attention:

  • Much of the engineering support workload in the first year has been driven by the far greater number of purchasers and their far greater number of use cases than had been expected. The USB port issues were his primary example. While the team’s testing had focused on common use cases like keyboards and mice, problem reports arrived from users trying to communicate with a wide range of exotic USB-controlled devices.  I think Rob’s example of a USB-controlled aquarium might have been a humorous exaggeration.  Yet, from the wide range of projects that the attendees reported having underway with the Pi, the aquarium seemed fairly mundane.
  • While the audience of approximately 30 people was made up almost entirely of adult Pi enthusiasts,  I did see one grade school aged participant who had come with his dad. Rob acknowledged that the unexpectedly large adoption of the Pi by adult hobbyists had been a happy surprise. Yet, the focus of the Raspberry Pi Foundation will continue to be that of promoting computing literacy for the school-aged audience. Keeping his immediate audience in mind, Rob took great care to emphasize the important role that the adult enthusiasts play in helping the foundation to create and maintain an infrastructure around the Pi that will make its adoption by educators easier.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to tour Pumping Station One.  It is an impressive facility that supports its over 200 members in maker activities of all kinds. Some of these activities include the integration of computers like the Raspberry Pi into custom solutions that control everything from beer brewing to building access.  There was also a wide array of computer-controlled equipment that is beyond the budget of your average maker.  This included a 3-D printer, a laser cutting machine,  and  2 small CNC routers. The scale of this place, with its wide array of shop equipment, electronic components and workspace is amazing.

Much of my interest in makerspaces has been fueled by the interest that some of my current and former students at GSLIS have been showing in developing makerspaces in libraries and museums.  My visit to Pumping Station One convinced me that my students are definitely chasing after a good opportunity.  Makerspaces like Pumping Station One are clearly aimed at an adult audience. The access, the safety program, the level of supervision and the culture make this a great place for adults to learn and work. So, I believe that there is still plenty of room for libraries and museums to create these same kinds of opportunities in an environment that has traditionally met the additional needs of children, young adults, and families.  My next step will be to find an example of a library or museum makerspace that I can visit.  If anyone has a suggestion, please contact me.

I will close by thanking Rob Bishop for his great presentation and Pumping Station One for their great hospitality.  It was a truly enjoyable night.

Loving Audiobooks

I have slowly become an audiobook nut.  My interest started from time spent during business travel. I had been reading hardback books up until then and I had discovered the many pitfalls awaiting the business traveler who reads hardback books:

  1. Bulk:  Hardback books are heavy and they take up quite a bit of room in your backpack. If you are like me, you always need to carry the book that you will finish during the trip and the next book that you will start. Sometimes, they both need to be in the backpack instead of the suitcase.  By the way, I still check my suitcase for every flight and would encourage the rest of you to do the same. This leads to more room for my backpack in the overhead and a much happier me.
  2. Bulk of another sort: Big guys like me have a hard time being polite about body contact with adjacent passengers on airplanes.  Spreading my elbows to hold my paper book usually brought me into undesired contact with my neighbors.  Depending on the gender and stature of my neighbors, the problem could either be mine or theirs.  But, there was a problem in any case and I thought that was unfair.
  3. Soup: Many business travelers will tell you that they dislike eating their meals alone.  This has never been true for me because I have always read my book during meals.  Unfortunately, this has led to an embarrassing amount of food being transferred to the pages of the book.  The worst culprit was soup — and I am a big soup fan. For some of my friends, reading a book after me was an interesting archaeological experience.  For others, it was simply distasteful.
  4. Romance: I am not ashamed to admit that I have come to enjoy a good romance novel so long as it has significant elements of detective fiction included that appeal to my macho needs. In my hardback phase, this caused me to be embarrassed about carrying around copy of a book by Karen Robards or  Tess Gerritsen.  Having the covers discretely displayed on my MP3 player has given me the courage to broaden my reading horizons substantially.
  5. Cost: When I started this reading frenzy, I was a jet-setting business executive spending half of his time in Chicago and the other half in New York City. The cost of new hardback books seemed reasonable and I enjoyed having them fill up my newly purchased bookshelves.  However, by the time that I traded in my jet-setter job for jobs as a researcher, administrator, and instructor at the University of Illinois, my book budget had declined dramatically. I originally got my audiobooks from (about $9 per book with a big contract).  I now get my audiobooks through my local public library (shameless plug for Glenview Public Library) taking advantage of their participation in MyMediaMall (a consortium-based subscription service free to Glenview Library cardholders). Getting access to the books that I want takes a bit more planning than the days when I downloaded books from Copies per library are limited, so patrons have to learn how to use the “hold” system effectively. Yet, the cost shift makes it more than worth it.  One aspect that I particularly like is that when I am downloading books for free, I can be much more adventurous about trying new authors and titles.  If I hate a particular choice, what have I lost? I just don’t play it all the way through.
  6. Disposal: Both my wife and I took great pride in our book collection until it began to crowd us out of our home.  We filled up all of the pretty new bookshelves in the living room and then went on to acquire and fill up less decorative bookshelves for the bedroom and our basement offices.  We always thought that our book collection could serve as a great lending library for our friends.  When interest in that idea was low, we tried to give them away to our friends.  When interest in that idea was nearly as low, we tried to donate the books.  My friends from the library world will probably not be surprised when I say that the public libraries in our area did not want our books.  Those associated with book programs for prisoners will probably not be surprised when I tell you that reading programs for prisoners will not accept hardback books. Luckily, we were approached by a friendly and helpful group named Books4Cause that was collecting donations of books for its Good Books for Africa program. I was working at home when their representative boxed up 500 of our books and hauled them away. My only concern was that the predominance of murder mysteries might give the African beneficiaries a skewed view of American life (perhaps not a skewed view of our taste in entertainment).  We still have quite a few books left (reference and unread entertainment books).  But the house (the living room especially) looks much better.

Many of my friends (both inside and outside of the library world) are still not very excited about audiobooks.  Many are concerned that listening to books is cheating in some way.  The biggest worry seems to be that the level of dramatization added by the narrator will affect the listener’s visualization of the characters and the plot.  Some feel that it turns reading into a lazier experience that is more like watching TV. Personally, I liken it more to listening to radio drama.  I have never thought of listening to radio drama as lazy. [To my younger readers, I want to emphasize that the big days of radio drama were significantly before my time.]  Most of all, I like the way the convenience of audiobooks has expanded my reading time. I listen while driving, while waiting in any kind of line, while on airplane and train trips, while walking, while painting the house, while falling asleep, and while doing any repetitive work that doesn’t require a high level of continuous concentration.

So, I love my audiobooks.  If you haven’t tried an audiobook yet, I suggest that you do.



Word Musing: decafate

I just paid a visit to the little coffee shop within the complex where I am teaching this week. As I was dispensing a large cup of “bold” coffee from the appropriately marked urn, I looked at the urn of decaf that was nearby.  It struck me that I would have been very disappointed had I accidentally poured my coffee from the wrong urn.  As I often do, I wondered if there would be a word for exactly that set of circumstances.  I decided that the word should be decafate. I can think of two reasons to recommend this usage:

  1. The actual mishap is that the drinker accidentally gets decaf. For someone like me, who is expecting to get a good jolt of caffeine to clear their head, this is truly a bad outcome.
  2. A fairly tempting keyboarding error will lead an author to accidentally use not this word (decafate) but its scatological cousin instead. The danger of getting such an unfortunate outcome from such an easy mistake is a great metaphor for the dangers involved in the coffee scenario described above.

Responsible researcher that I am, I did look for prior work on usage for decafate.  I found a tweet or two in which alternate definitions were suggested.  Clearly, I am not the first person to find this typographically dangerous word attractive.  Yet, I like my definition best of all of those that I have found so far.

This is my first Word Musing post. I am hoping that quite a few more will reach Escape Velocity in the months to come.


Ontopia Runs on Raspberry Pi

I am pleased to report that I have had the Ontopia Topic Maps software running on my Raspberry Pi for the past week.  Ontopia is a suite of open source tools for building, maintaining and deploying Topic Maps-based applications. The Raspberry Pi is an ultra-affordable ARM GNU/Linux box based upon the work of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.  My experience in running the out-of-the-box Ontopia apps (Ontopoly topic map editor, Omnigator topic map browser, and Vizigator topic map vizualizer) has been terrific. Using the Raspberry Pi to run the Apache Tomcat  server that hosts the Ontopia software, response time is as good or better than I have experienced when hosting the Ontopia software on a cloud-based Linux server at my ISP.  Topic maps open quickly in all three applications and navigation from topic to topic within each application is downright snappy.

As you will see in my discussion of testing below, I have experienced good results with up to two simultaneous users.  So, my future test plans include testing with more simultaneous users and testing with the Ontopia RDBMS Backend installed.  Based upon the performance that I have experienced so far, I have high hopes.  Stay tuned for further reports.

Significance for Topic Maps Enthusiasts

We Topic Maps enthusiasts are always on the lookout for new people to join us.  Just this week, Patrick Durusau suggested in a blogpost that we might want to introduce semantic technologies to a younger (teen/preteen) audience. Given the success of the BrainBank Project in using topic maps technology with middle school students, I believe that this is a great idea. More important, I believe that the Raspberry Pi platform can deliver this younger audience.  Despite the fact that the Pi has attracted quite a bit of attention from affordable computing enthusiasts like me, the primary target audience for the Pi is students in grade school and high school.  Raspberry Pi fans (young and old) have begun having a series of monthly meetups called Raspberry Jams, “where you can meet other Pi-thusiasts, learn to use a Raspberry Pi, listen to talks and see demos, and generally get to muck around with some like-minded people.”  Jams include sessions on subjects as technical as Python and Linux.  To me, Raspberry Jams appear to be an ideal opportunity to show people how to get the Ontopia software running on their Pi, and to introduce them to the joys of Topic Mapping.

Significance for Raspberry Pi Enthusiasts

Topic Maps is a fun and highly-useful semantic data technology that is very accessible for new users (see The TAO of Topic Maps by Steve Pepper).  This approach to knowledge management will appeal to students, teachers and hobbyists alike. Topic Maps technology is based upon an international standard and it has a well-developed community of practitioners in Europe, the U.S., Asia, and throughout the world. This is a well-established semantic data technology with an established community that is positioned to engage with the Raspberry Pi community around the world.

It is also significant that we have demonstrated that a Tomcat-based application can be hosted on the Raspberry-Pi with appealing response time.  While I am not making the claim that the Pi is the ideal Tomcat host, I am expecting the Pi to be viable development platform and a decent host for low-volume Tomcat-based demonstration applications that Pi‑enthusiasts might create. More important, this demonstrates that the Pi is capable of supporting many more applications and technologies than we might yet have considered.  I find that very promising.

Testing Details

In my first test, I ran the client apps and server apps on two different machines. The out-of-the-box Ontopia applications are browser-based.  So, I set up the Raspberry Pi to act as the server for these applications.  In my first test, I configured the Pi as a headless Linux server and did all server control and browser-based testing using a Windows 7-based PC as the client. The client and server were connected via my Ethernet LAN.  I was easily able to start the Tomcat server using a remote terminal connection using Putty. As is my usual experience, the Ontopia apps ran quite well on the Chrome, Firefox, and IE browsers.  As I mentioned earlier, response time compared very favorably with that experienced running the same apps from a cloud-based Linux server at my ISP. Topic maps loaded in reasonable amount of time.  Once inside an application, the navigation from topic to topic was absolutely snappy.

In my second test, I ran both client and server apps on a single Raspberry Pi. I took the Raspberry Pi server out of the headless mode (added monitor, keyboard and mouse).  I started the X-based GUI.  I started the Tomcat server from a GUI-based terminal window.  Then, I proceeded to test the Ontopia apps using the three browsers available on my distribution of Raspian Linux:  Midori, Dillo and NetSurf.  Midori gave the best performance of the three; NetSurf gave the worst.  Even with Midori, there was a small increase in latency over my previous test (PC as client).  Nevertheless, the response time was acceptable and comparable to that experienced by scores of satisfied Topic Maps tutorial students who I have taught while they ran the Ontopia software on their PCs. This verified my hypothesis that the Raspberry Pi would serve as a viable platform for learning and experimenting with Topic Maps.

My third test combined the significant aspects of the first two.  I continued running both client and server applications on the Raspberry PI.  Simultaneously, I established a second connection to the Ontopia apps from the browser on my PC.  I was very pleased to see that response time was not perceptibly slower on the PC than it had been in the first test.  Yet it was competing in this third test for resources used by the client running on the Pi.  Response time on the Pi client remained the same as well.  This leads me to believe that any latency issues that I experienced when using the Ontopia apps entirely on the Pi are browser- related and not server-related or capacity-related.  As you will see in the technical details below, my server configuration included the soft-float version of Raspian Linux (this is a requirement of the Java distribution).  Perhaps this had an effect on browser performance.  Or, perhaps there was another cause.  I am very interested in what readers may have to report on this issue from their own Pi browser experience.

Test Machines Configurations

Headless Raspberry Pi Server

  1. Raspberry PI (Model B with 512MB RAM) 64MB/448MB GPU/ARM memory split
  2. Sandisk Extreme 32 GB SDHC Card (approximately 4.4GB utilized)
  3. Soft-float Debian “wheezy” (
  4. Oracle Java SE Development Kit 7u9 (jdk-7u6-linux-arm-sfp.tar.gz)
  5. Ontopia Topic Maps Software Version 5.2.2 (

Client and Server Raspberry Pi

  1. Raspberry PI (Model B with 512MB RAM) 64MB/448MB GPU/ARM memory split
  2. Sandisk Extreme 32 GB SDHC Card (approximately 4.4GB utilized)
  3. Soft-float Debian “wheezy” (
  4. Oracle Java SE Development Kit 7u9 (jdk-7u6-linux-arm-sfp.tar.gz)
  5. Ontopia Topic Maps Software Version 5.2.2 (
  6. Midori 0.4.3 browser
  7. Dillo 3.2 browser
  8. NetSurf 2.9 browser
  9. HDMI Montior
  10. Mouse
  11.  Keyboard

Windows PC Client

  1. Windows 7
  2. Google Chrome Version 23.0.1271.95 m
  3. Firefox Version 16.0.2
  4. Internet Explorer Version 9.0.10
  5. Putty Release 0.62
  6. WinSCP Version 4.3.7

Resources Helpful to This Project

  1. Raspberry Pi Foundation Web site
  2. Raspberry Pi Wiki on e-Linux
  3. how to enable 512MB on Raspberry Pi Forum
  4. Raspberry Pi – Installing Oracle Java Development Kit (JDK 1.7.0u6) by Robert Savage
  5. Raspberry Pi – how to get ssh and Tomcat running by Johan Norén
  6. How do I turn off my Raspberry Pi? on Raspberry Pi beta
  7. Raspberry Pi Headless by Glynn Roberts
  8. RaspberryPI at  element14 Community
  9. Ontopia Web site
  10. Ontopia Installation and Getting Started (/doc/install.html within the Ontopia software installation)