Blog: Back to the Future – Lazlo Ferran

This week: Social Networking website dev and RDF, Lord of the Rings radio series, review of La Vie en Rose (Edith Piaf biopic).

No sneak preview this week. God! Another week when I haven’t a clue what to write. I will just have to wing it!

Social Networking Site
This week’s blog title is due to my first tentative steps into the AI world of Web 3.0. For the last two or three years – since stumbling upon an article about Resource Description Framework (RDF), I have been championing the whole idea of large data sets of triplets describing resources in a meta-data kind of way. Tim Berners-Lee – inventor, if you like, of the World Wide Web – has pronounced it as the precursor to and foundation of Internet Artificial Intelligence. I believe him. Without some way of aggregating data and meta-data there will soon be just too much information around to be used by humans. We need an intermediary, an intelligence that can filter it for us. For that we need large data stores of meta-data. That is where RDF comes in. It has been around for many years but, like HTML, it has been adopted by developers in a role for which it was never intended. It’s simplicity is probably it’s main virtue, and asset – as with HTML.

I always intended to dabble myself in this field, if only to keep up with the latest IT developments. I was on the very first HTML course – just five of us – in South Kensington. This was way back in 1996. I had discovered the internet and world wide web the previous year while temping at Nortel. The little dog cursor, running in ftp, has fascinated me. I consequently booked a place in Islington’s Central Library on the first internet connected PC for the public in North London. For the next six months, mine was the only signature in the bookings. There was only black and white text then, and only a few American sites (UCLA for one) had cracked images. It was a frontier. I love frontiers; few rules. From that I was able to walk into my first job as a webmaster and command my own fees.
This may all seem a million miles from writing but at the root of both my writing and internet projects is a love for connecting with people and observing how they behave. For this reason I have decided to try and build my own social network website.
I have gone with the WAMP paradigm: Windows (cos I have a windows PC), Apache, MySQL and PHP.
Tutorials for installing these were easy to find on youtube and I chose the ones my lucidnerd. He speaks very clearly and seemed to know what he was doing. Unfortunately he left me in the lurch somewhat when I reached the point of installing my cms for the social network. I chose Drupal. I used it in my last job and found it to be pretty stable. Sure enough lucidnerd did a turorial for installing drupal on Windows 8 so I thought I had it made. Wrong… At the beginning of the tutorial I find that he uses the WAMPserver application – a kind of one-click application to install all of the above three apps.I could find no help at all in installing Drupal 7 on the above development environment.
Therefore, I had to just install Drupal 7 on my own. Everything went fine until I told Drupal where the database was and what user/password to use. The next screen had a brief message telling me the table ‘properties’ already existed and the rest of the page was blank. I googled this error and found many others had experienced the same problem. The cause seemed to be browser related so I tried again in firefox and explorer – several times. The problem was worse in Firefox with not even an error message and explorer wasn’t any better. It was only when I returned to Chrome that I received a similar error, but this time naming a difference missing table. I thought… hm, this sounds like a memory issue. Sure enough, further googling revealed a comment by a developer that a problem with his flavour of drupal could be fixed by increasing the execute time and memory allocated to Drupal. I increased both hugely and… success!

So now I have Drupal installed and RDF ready. I have been researching themes and it looks like Zen is the one to go for: mobile friendly, versatile and quick. From here I will want to extend the application using a NoSQL data store and RDF.

Now I just need an idea for my site. Ideas on a postcard please.

I will keep you informed of my progress with this project.

Other News
There will be an announcement here shortly of two free promotions of my books. Watch this space.

I watched La Vie en Rose – the biopic of Edith Piaf this week. It’s an excellent movie but Piaf is such a boor. If it wasn’t for a passionate singing voice, I don’t think there would be anything likable about her. As a performer of chanson réaliste songs, she was impressive but I don’t think she quite matches up with other modern chanson singers like Jaques Brel. Nevertheless the film is colourful and well-directed. You won’t get bored if you are the slightest bit interested in singers or her life. My only criticism was the jump cuts – backwards and forwards throughout the film. This could have worked very well if they had jumped ‘back’ to only one segment of her life but the director chose to randomly visit various stages of her career. The clarity was not helped by fluctuations in her appearance – it could deteriorate and then improve with her heavy drug additions and recoveries. The confusion was even further exacerbated by lack of information about her various romantic relationships: men appeared and disappeared, including a husband with little or no explanation. Four out of five I think.
I have also stumbled upon a radio series of Lord of the Rings which I was unaware of. I will start watching it tonight. If anybody else has listened to it, I would like your views. I don’t yet know why it is labelled ‘notorious. Here it is:


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