Many Pies

Many Pies

Friday, June 30, 2006

Finding someone in the organisation

I'm working on an interesting problem today - how to present a list of job functions in a hierarchical way (departmental hierarchy). We have at least four levels of structure, so I could put everyone in the top-level department:
  • Dept 1

    • Person A
    • Person B

  • Dept 2

    • Person C
    • Person D

The trouble with this though is that you can lots of people in few departments.
Another alternative is to put them in their immediate sub-department, but then you have no idea of hierarchy. Of course I could do departments within departments, but then it would look quite confusing. I'm using CSS and DIVs so you click on each top level (Dept 1) in the example above to expand and contract each level.

The best solution would be to classify people, not in their official organisational department, but the department in which people think of them. This would probably end up being a two level departmental structure, but only of my own invention, and needing to be maintained separately. Time to do some research I think...

tags: visualization

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reporting on the cheap

[Warning - heavy technical post. Non-technical summary: it's hard to do good reports in Excel.]

I'm embarking on a project to produce some reports that need to be sent out to various people around the world. One of the key requirements is Excel format. In the past I've done some research for this and I've not found a good, cheap solution.

I'm amazed at this given the popularity of Excel. What I mean by reporting is the ability to extra data from databases, produce reports that are well laid out, having groups within groups. Another requirement is the ability to change the layout without having to dive into some underlying programming.

My research turned up some products that cost a few hundred pounds, but I would have thought this is such a common requirement that some sort of open source solution was available.

One solution we used for our management reports is Excel macros. There the layout was pretty fixed, and so the customisation was limited to how many levels of detail you went to, what font and size each had.

What we do currently for the report that is being revamped at the moment is use Crystal Reports, to output to RTF. Its Excel output is hopeless, which is not surprising given that Crystal is heavily orientated towards the printed page. New versions keep on coming out, but they don't change the underlying approach. (Even its RTF output produces RTF that only works on Word for Windows, though you could blame all the other RTF handling programs for not implementing the full RTF spec.)

There are two possible solutions I'm evaluating for this problem. One is XML, XSLT XML-FO and other leading-edge acronym-heavy things. The downside to that is that layout isn't as WYSIWYG as option two: OpenOffice for layout and Python to fill in the data. Fortunately I've got some colleagues who know more about the former than me to help evaluate those two options.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Wycliffe mention in children's book

Scripture Union have recently published a children's book called "So, Who is God?" than mentions Bible Translation, and includes on of our pictures.

"Bible translation is very important if people are going to be able to get to know God through the Bible", it says. Good to see that we get a positive plug.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fieldworks Language Explorer

Fieldworks is a software tool often used by Bible Translators and Curtis Hawthorne is working in Dallas on part of it - Fieldworks Language Explorer or FLEx. Interesting stuff.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Larry Wall at ICCM

You may not know, but Larry Wall, inventor of Perl, trained with Wycliffe.

He did a keynote at ICCM (International Conference on Computing and Missions.

Tags: , ,

Thursday, June 08, 2006

RSS/Atom and authentication

Some nuggets I've found out about when investigating RSS and Atom authentication, which may be of use to you.

RSS (in all its flavours) uses HTTP Basic authentication, which is where you get a username and password dialog box appear in your browser when you try to access something.

Atom supports an extension to HTTP authentication.

If your corporate information system wants to use RSS then you're going to have to convert it's authentication mechanism, whatever that may be, to use one of those.

Microsoft won't support many forms of authentication in its RSS platform, but will
"support what's called NTLM/Kerberos pass-through authentication — which means that in many corporate environments where NTLM/Kerberos authentication is used (typically with Windows domains), the credentials that the user used to log into the machine will be automatically used".


Monday, June 05, 2006

Sign language

Recently, one of my colleagues whose wife trained as a teacher the deaf, explained to me why we are bothering to translate the Bible into sign languages when deaf people can read written languages too in most cases. His wife's answer when he asked that question was that sign language is not a flat linear language like written and spoken languages are - it's a performance taking place in front of the person, with their hands as the actors, and their head and body as the set and the props. I found that very interesting.

I found out a few years ago that British Sign Lanuage (BSL) is a separate language to English, and it puts words in different orders to the way we do. The person who told me this gave me an example where they said, in sign language, "I sold my baby carrots". In BSL the adjective (baby) follows the noun (carrot), so when she said this there was a gasp of horror when she said "I sold my baby..." and a smile of recognition when they realised what she meant, even though she said it wrongly.

Another of my colleagues is exploring ways to help over 40 signed language communities who don't have the Bible in their language. I haven't spoken to him recently about it, but when I did a while back it sounded like it was using some cool stuff. I'll find out more, but I thought I'd get this entry up now. There's an article in our magazine about it.

tags: sign language
Bible translation