We have a great opportunity at Loughborough for an experienced E-Learning professional, if you are between contracts or looking for a new challenge. As part of commercializing the Co-Tutor software (with £100K of HEIF funding), we are looking to bring in some extra help. You will be working on Co-Tutor and other locally developed PHP based software including the open source Kit-Catalogue and Web-PA packages. You will also have the opportunity to work on other systems and services operated by our E-Learning Systems team, including Learn (Loughborough's Moodle based VLE) and Computer Aided Assessment via QuestionMark Perception and OMR/OCR.

Earlier this year I wrote one of my most popular blog posts “Hacking the Google Smartwatch” about the hacking potential of Motorola’s Moto Actv smartwatch. In this post I’ll turn my attentions to the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which launched in Autumn 2013 and has already been quite comprehensively hacked to vastly expand its capabilities. I’ll conclude by showing you how you can run the Google Glass software to get an early peek at how Glass will work.

As part of the HPC Midlands project, we've been developing a series of case studies about the work that we are doing with our industrial collaborators around supercomputing. Here's the latest one, about our joint project with Applied Multilayers to model thin film growth in photovoltaics We'll post further case studies both here and on the case studies section of the HPC Midlands website.

View HPC Midlands and Applied Multilayers Case Study - Thin Film Growth in Photovoltaics on Scribd (and see other documents posted by Martin Hamilton)

We just learned that our iconic supercomputer, Hera, has been selected for a Design Museum / Technology Strategy Board prize in their joint Future is Here competition. The competition celebrates our new industrial revolution of computer based modelling and simulation, high value manufacturing and 3D printing, big data and the digital economy, space systems, genomics and other present day developments that offer "a glimpse of the future, today". This is particularly appropriate for our supercomputer, Hera, which is a one-of-a-kind design artifact, but also a mixture of both R&D lab and factory floor.

From the Future is Here manifesto:

We are in the midst of a transformation in the way we design, make and use the objects that we depend on. It is a transformation that will affect commerce, industry, and the way that we all live as profoundly as any previous Industrial Revolution.

The Future is Here exhibition runs until 29th October 2013 at the Design Museum - for more information, see the-future-is-here.com.

I'm delighted to be able to present here the results of our recent survey of the UK Higher Education community's plans for Research Data Management, along with a little initial analysis and an executive summary. To stay true to the spirit of openness, we have made a redacted version of the raw data available, along with our analysis, using the figshare cloud RDM service.

I was recently invited to speak at the UK e-Infrastructure Academic User Community Forum in Oxford on the work that we have been doing to make e-Infrastructure accessible to industry - both as HPC Midlands and through my role on the Technology Strategy Board's e-Infrastructure SIG. Due to an autocorrect whim, the invite from Oxford e-Research Centre Director David de Roure turned into an 'incite', which in the circumstances seems quite appropriate. I hope the resulting call to arms offers some insight into where we as a community perhaps need to step up a gear or two. All of this, and Bee-Bots too!

We're doing a survey of UK Higher Education institutions' approaches to Research Data Management.  We've had a good response to this so far, but there's always room for more - hence this post to further raise awareness.  This work is part of Loughborough University's Research Data Management project, which I've blogged about previously:

Describing the Elephant

Suddenly, Everything has Changed.

If you are leading on RDM or Open Data more generally for your institution, please take a moment to fill out our RDM questionnaire.  We'll share a suitably anonymized version of the results in due course.


MPI (Message Passing Interface) is the de facto standard for parallel programming, defining how concurrent processes can communicate and hence work together to complete a given task in a shorter time. This course will introduce the concepts and terminology of High Performance Computing (HPC), before providing a comprehensive and detailed introduction to programming HPC machines using MPI. After an in-depth look at point-to-point and collective communication, we will study some more advanced but potentially very useful topics: Cartesian topologies, MPI derived data types, user-defined binary operators, groups and communicators. Each section of the course is supported by practical exercises.

For more information see the syllabus.

Aimed at:

Anyone interested in writing parallel code.


Attendees should be able to program in either Fortran or C and be familiar with working in a UNIX environment (i.e., you should be able to connect to a machine remotely, use basic UNIX commands, edit a source file and understand the elementary steps in compiling object files and creating executables).


3 full days, September 10th-12th 2013.

After Course Attendees Will:

Be able to parallelise an existing serial code, or write a parallel code from scratch, using MPI.


The course will be held in room LDS.0.17 of the Loughborough University Design School and the adjoining PC lab.

Here are directions to the venue and directions to the University. There is ample free visitor parking nearby, and a regular shuttle bus service between the University and the train station. Overnight accommodation is available from the Link Hotel and Burleigh Court.


The course is delivered by NAG as part of the training programme for HECToR, the UK national supercomputing service. To register for HECToR courses go to the booking form. Please note that there is a small attendance fee for non-academic delegates.

As part of the HPC Midlands project, we've been developing a series of case studies about the work that we are doing with our industrial collaborators around supercomputing. Here's the latest one, about our work with RWE npower to model coatings for industrial gas turbine blades. We'll post further case studies both here and on the case studies section of the HPC Midlands website.

It's starting to feel like we are really living in the 21st century at last: Elon Musk's Hyperloop, vat-grown artificial meat, 3D printing hitting the high streets (and we're now 3D printing human organs) and hedge funds are beaming neutrinos through the Earth's core in a bid to accelerate high frequency trading. The Star Trek tricorder will shortly be a reality too. But, this is just one side of the story. Quoting Ian Livingstone, Co-Founder of Games Workshop and CEO of Eidos: "Something is wrong when you have one million young people unemployed and 100,000 jobs vacant in IT".

If data is the new oil, then how do we go about extracting and refining it? And will it come out easily, or will we need to resort to "data fracking"? I'll talk here about my favourite idea that came out of the recent Jisc think tank meeting on Big Data and Analytics, which is all about setting up mechanisms for data and potentially code sharing across academia, government and industry. I'm also setting you up to find out more about the literal Digital Exhaust.

This is a companion piece to my plenary talk at IWMW 2013, looking at the disruptive changes sweeping through the higher education sector and how moving to being open by default may help us to weather the continuing storm. I look at how we are increasingly "crossing the streams" in terms of bringing hitherto unrelated areas and activities of our institutions together, and working with a much broader range of external partners. Historically JISC would have taken a leading role in terms of steering innovation in the community. I discuss whether the new Jisc could and should attempt this once more, or whether it has lost the capability along with the staff members that it has recently shed. All this, and dragonflies with backpacks...

What does a top secret stealth submarine have in common with Edward Snowden's revelations about Internet snooping? How do you "snoop" on the Internet anyway, and what does it look like to the snooper? These are questions you'll struggle to find answers to in the mainstream media, but fear not - I'll cover them and more in today's super soaraway post!

In a couple of weeks' time I'll be one of the plenary speakers at this year's Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2013). My talk is called The Inside-Out University. It's about how we adapt to a new world where publications, research data and educational resources are open by default, and the catalytic role of the web community. Read on for more... NB: Last call for IWMW bookings is Monday June 17th!

In a few days' time we'll be holding the first of our imaginatively titled Doughnuts and HPC sessions.  Modelled on the Open Data Institute's ODI Fridays, the idea is that we set aside an hour over lunch for people to discuss our latest HPC backed research. This will be a great opportunity to find out more about what the person down the corridor is doing, and we hope that it will lead to all kinds of new interdisciplinary collaborations.  All that, and doughnuts too!

As part of the HPC Midlands project, we've been developing a series of case studies about the work that we are doing with our industrial collaborators around supercomputing. Here's the latest one, about our joint project with TATA Steel to model the welding process at the atomic scale. We'll post further case studies both here and on the case studies section of the HPC Midlands website.

I've blogged in the past about our Research Data Management project and the Higher Education sector's transition to being Open by Default (through Open Access Publications, Research Data and Open Educational Resources). This work is coming on nicely, and we now have a draft institutional policy (developed by my colleague Sue Manuel) that I'd welcome your feedback on. This still has to be further crunched over at an institutional level for formal approval, but it incorporates lots of good ideas from our discussions with other institutions, and I think we're pretty much where we need to be.

As part of the HPC Midlands project, we've been developing a series of case studies about the work that we are doing with our industrial collaborators around supercomputing. Here's the latest one, about our joint project with Airbus to explore the effect of machining on the structure of composite materials such as those found in airframes. We'll post further case studies both here and on the case studies section of the HPC Midlands website.

I recently gave the closing talk at the UCISA Networking Group's Bring Your Own Device event, ostensibly about the future of BYOD but touching on a few broader themes.  This is a companion post that teases out and expands on some of those themes.  Go grab some popcorn and take a seat - we're going on a whistlestop tour around hacking culture and how new hackers are born, wearable computing, the irresistable rise of Linux, and more!

Are you an HPC maven looking for a new challenge, or a hardcore Linux hacker looking to upskill? Come and join my team at Loughborough, working on supercomputing for research and industry!

This is an open ended post on our Senior IT Services Specialist (Grade 7) salary scale - £37,382 to £44,607. The closing date for applications is 24th June. For more information please see below.

Do get in touch if you'd like to chat about the post.  To apply, please see our online vacancies site.


You will support a substantial (£1M+) internal University investment in HPC, with an opportunity to contribute to the high-profile EPSRC-funded HPC Midlands project, bringing HPC capacity and expertise to our commercial research partners.

In addition to an in-depth technical knowledge of Linux and ideally HPC in an academic or industrial context, you will possess the inter-personal skills and drive to develop a professional network of HPC research staff and students, and disseminate good practice, to ensure the University gets the maximum return on its investment.

Following on from the positive response that I've received from posting some of our policy and strategy consultation documents, I thought people might be interested in the IT Services Charter. This is a cracking piece of work that I think it has much wider applicability than just my own department and institution. Do let me know if you pick it up and use it at your own organization.

Many thanks to the working party that put the charter together: Pritesh Parmar, Lee Preston, David Wilson, Martin Edwards, Anjana Lad, Jane Snape, Dan Towns, Graeme Fowler, Mark Newall, Gary Hale, Sharon Kitson and Lynne Render - and also to Matthew Cook for facilitating.

We've heard a lot lately about how 2013 will be the year of the smartwatch, with upcoming products rumoured from a host of sources. But hey, guess what - it turns out that Google are already selling an Android powered smartwatch, through their purchase of Motorola Mobility. This is the Moto Actv, which probably isn't on a lot of people's radar because it's sold as a sports accessory. In this post we'll learn how to hack the Google smartwatch and install a full Android distribution on it, and see some examples of what we can do with it.

Five years into blogging, and this site has just reached some significant milestones - over 100,000 page views, over 10,000 hits per month, and over 500 hits per day. Let's take a moment to probe a little deeper, and check out our all time top ten posts.

I'm delivering the closing talk at May's UCISA Networking Group event BYOD: Responding To The Challenge.  Regular readers of this blog may have read my Post-PC posts, and probably have a fairly good idea of what to expect from me.  However, I will do my best to surprise you!  I'd also love to hear your thoughts about where BYOD/CYOD and Post-PC are leading us - do leave a comment if you have something to share.

We were recently asked to put together some guidance for lecturers on using Internet services (Web 2.0, social media, ...) to enhance the teaching and learning experience. We had a lot of useful feedback on our Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy document, so I thought it would be worth blogging this new draft in a similar vein. If this subject is interesting to you, please do leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Enhancing Teaching and Learning with Internet Services (draft for comments)

Martin Hamilton and Charles Shields

Executive Summary

Over the last decade, there has been a huge expansion in the quantity and variety of Internet services that are either explicitly aimed at academic users (teachers and students) or intended for general use but which have been adopted by education. These services can enrich education but their use can involve significant risks to institutions, individual academics, and students. Certain services, such as Facebook, seem to pose greater risks than others, often connected with privacy misunderstandings and inappropriate online behaviour. This document provides some simple guiding principles that may be helpful to academic colleagues, and pointers to further information and training.


With the growth of the Internet there is now a new class of service available - so called "cloud" or "Web 2.0" services. Many of these have social networking at their core, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Google+. Other services are oriented around file sharing (such as Dropbox, Microsoft Skydrive, Amazon Cloud Drive) or provide more general facilities for online collaboration (such as Google Apps or Microsoft Office365).

There are also a plethora of niche sites and services that are aimed at the academic user (such as iTunesU, Mendeley, figshare, Academia.edu, myUduTu, Socrative) or have seen widespread adoption by academia (such as Lanyrd, SlideShare, Scribd). There is an increasing trend toward delivery via "apps" for smartphones and tablets, and some services are only available as apps.

Practical Considerations

Warranty and Liability: Internet services commonly come with an explicit disclaimer of any warranty or liability on the party of the service provider. This means that the lecturer, the student and the University have no recourse should there be a problem with the service that prevents it from operating as intended. Moreover, not only do Internet developments take place at a breakneck pace, but it is also commonplace for Internet startups to be acquired and services to be merged or dropped altogether. Some illustrative examples are the introduction of charging for Ning, the termination of the Twitterfountain service, and the planned shutdown of Posterous following its acquisition by Twitter.

Data Protection: It is common practice to build Internet services on a substrate of cloud computing technologies such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. This has significant implications where Data Protection legislation is concerned, because as a user of the service you may find that you have inadvertently acted in contravention of the University's Data Protection registration. Indeed, you may well not be able to determine the Data Protection regime that applies to an arbitrary Internet service that you would like to use in your teaching.

Copyright and IPR: The Internet contains a huge reserve of content that may trivially be re-used and re-mixed to build new teaching and learning materials. For the most part, anything that you can see on your computer screen can trivially be copied and pasted, linked to or embedded in slides, documents, videos, and so on. However, you cannot assume implicit permission to do this, as the vast majority of material on the Internet is not public domain. In many cases reproduction is controlled by restrictive copyright clauses, and there have been a number of high profile legal actions over inappropriate re-use of online content.

What's a lecturer to do?

It would be easy for the University to issue official guidance to the effect that formal teaching and learning can only take place through official University IT systems and services, and that staff were forbidden from using Internet services and content. Whilst this would provide a high degree of certainty and keep risk to a minimum, it would also potentially throttle innovation and innovative teaching practice. Such a policy would also be almost impossible to police and out of kilter with the policy that obtains elsewhere.

We hope to avoid being prescriptive by setting out a few simple principles that ensure Internet services and shareable content can be fully exploited, whilst minimising risk:

Third Party Core Services: The University has formal contracts in place for a number of Internet services that you can regard as part of core IT provision. Examples include the Google Apps online collaboration tools and the Blackboard Collaborate virtual classroom service.

Risk Management: Beyond core facilities, take a considered and informed approach to your use of Internet systems and services. Consider what the impact would be on your course if the service suddenly ceased to be available, or changed in such a way that your planned use of it was no longer practical. To put it crudely, make sure that you have a Plan B. Consider also whether the service is offered by a major multinational (eg Google) or a new company, although this may not be obvious.

Digital Inclusion: Do not assume that all members of your student cohort will have fast broadband access at home, an unlimited mobile data plan or access to the latest tablet and smartphone devices. Whilst we aim to provide world class IT facilities on campus, the University is not presently able to extend this out to students' own devices or personal Internet connectivity. If in doubt, check with your students before making any firm plans.

Open Educational Resources: Only re-use Internet content that you have permission to, through an appropriate license such as Creative Commons. If in doubt, use explicitly labelled Open Educational Resources such as those available from JORUM (http://jorum.ac.uk) or through the Xpert search engine (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xpert)

Acceptable Use Policy: You might consider alerting your students to the final paragraph of Section 4 of the University’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) which states:
Users of services external to the University are expected to abide by any policies, rules and codes of conduct applying to such services. Any breach of such policies, rules and codes of conduct may be regarded as a breach of this Acceptable Use Policy and be dealt with accordingly. This includes social networking sites, blog and wiki services, bookmarking services and any other external services, including those described as Web 2.0 or otherwise.

Getting Help

The E-Learning team at Loughborough has provided a wealth of information and recommendations via the E-Learning blog: http://blog.lboro.ac.uk/elearning/, in particular through the Tools for Teaching section which is featured as the focus of an activity in Unit 2 of the New Lecturers’ Course. This section will be further expanded with the inclusion guidelines (and case studies) of new services.

I was recently invited to speak at the JANET Networkshop conference about HPC Midlands' involvement in the JANET(UK) Pilot of Project Moonshot. In this post I'll explain a little bit more about how Moonshot works, how we are using it, and why it is relevant to our industrial collaborations.

As part of the HPC Midlands project, we'll be posting a series of case studies describing the work that we are doing with our industrial collaborators around supercomputing. Here's the first one, which looks at the partnership between Loughborough University and E.ON over modelling wind energy yield. We'll post further case studies both here and on the case studies section of the HPC Midlands website.

In a recent post I talked about using Google Glass as a sort of "seeing eye" for the blind, in a similar way to my talking barcode scanner hack. For a blind or partially sighted person, the world is full of obstacles like the small print on the postbox photo above. Let's take a moment to see what we can do to make them a thing of the past...

Google's Eric Schmidt recently said that they would not be merging Android and Chrome OS together. But they are both open source, so there's nothing stopping us from having a crack a it. Let's have a go, and see what we can do... This could be quite a nice combination for a touchscreen device such as the new Chromebook Pixel, as many have speculated. Before we can begin, we will need a ChromeOS device. Then we will need to take the red pill (i.e. flip the developer mode switch), as discussed in my previous post Hacking the Chromebook for Fun and Profit.

On March 20th 2013, we held a formal launch event for HPC Midlands. It was well attended, with some 80 delegates from both research and industry. Leading software vendors were also well represented, with CD-adapco, MSC Software and ANSYS all exhibiting. For those who could not make it, or would like to take another look at the speakers' slides, we have embedded them below. For more information about HPC Midlands and the services we can provide, please see the final slide deck for contact details and next steps, fill out our contact form, or call us on 01509 223110.

HPC Midlands is supercomputing on demand, for research and industry, with flexible licensing for commercial software. The service is brought to you by a consortium of Loughborough University and the University of Leicester, supported by funding from EPSRC/BIS under the UK e-Infrastructure Programme. We've just held our launch event, at Loughborough's award winning Design School, and this post is just to recap a few key themes from the event.

[Picture: Lionel Mazzella from E.ON presenting at the HPC Midlands launch event]

At the launch event we brought together speakers from both Universities, JANET(UK) and industrial collaborators from Rolls Royce, Tata Steel and E.ON. I was also very pleased to have delegates from large corporates like Jaguar Land Rover to small to medium sized businesses like BAST Inc, one of our Innovation Centre incubator tenants. It was also particularly gratifying to have support from key independent software vendors ANSYS, CD-adapco and MSC Software, who all exhibited at the event - and our suppliers Bull Information Systems, who are running the HPC Midlands system as a managed service for us.

We'll be sharing all the day's slides via our website in due course, but I wanted to take the opportunity to plug my own session, which was all about next steps in engaging with us. You can view a copy of the slides embedded below:

Engaging with HPC Midlands - Next Steps from Martin Hamilton

If you are using HPC in industry, we would love to talk to you about using HPC Midlands to scale your jobs up, and expedite urgent work. We also have access to a network of HPC experts that are attuned to industrial collaboration and very interested in working with you on practically focussed projects such as product design and simulation.

In the first instance we would encourage you to email Peter Strutton, our Business Development Manager, or call him on 01509 223110.

There's been a lot of breathless talk around the launch of Google Glass. Self righteous nerds the world over are now poised to attack the first person they see wearing Glass in a public space. But what if that person were blind? What if Glass was actually the best piece of assistive technology yet for blind and partially sighted people? Let's spend a little time exploring this...

[Picture credit: Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass on the New York Subway, via Twitter user Noah Zerkin]

Regular readers may recall a post from a couple of years ago where I demonstrated how you could use the Android scripting layer to drive the camera, speech recognition and crucially interact with product data online, with the result being a trivial python script that turns your phone into an audible bar code scanner. Cue witty aside here about the Google Product Search API being closed down as part of the latest spring clean at the Googleplex...

Jam and Jelly

But this is all a bit fiddly, particularly if you are trying to navigate your way independently through the local supermarket while using a white stick or being led by a guide dog. Now picture that same supermarket scene with Glass: "OK Glass, what's in the cans in front of me?" Or perhaps... "am I in the jam or petfood section?" (jam == jelly, for my American readers ;-)

We've also heard a lot of negative stuff about facial recognition technology. Now picture it from a blind person's perspective - "Hey Alice, I can see your friend Bob". Let's imagine that we went one step further and added some opt-in location awareness a la Google Latitude, then your glasses could even help you to meet up with a blind friend. "Hey Bob, Alice is two blocks away from you. There's a locally run independent artisanal coffee shop coming up in 100 metres where we could meet - shall I send him the location and use their API to order us both a tall skinny mocaccino?"

A Grand Day Out

For some more practical examples of how Glass could help blind and partially sighted people with independent living, let's imagine that I am blind and aiming to catch a train to London. How could Glass help me out?
  • OK, Glass: When is the next train to London?
  • OK, Glass: Book me a ticket on the 1234 train to London and reserve me a seat
  • OK, Glass: Which bus route is best to get me from here to the train station?
  • OK, Glass: Directions to the nearest eastbound bus stop on the Number 7 route
  • OK, Glass: Alert me when you see the Number 7 bus coming, and direct me to the doors when it stops
  • OK, Glass: Direct me to the ticket collection kiosk
  • OK, Glass: Tell me what you see (The ticket collection kiosks in the UK are pretty much inaccessible, so in reality you would probably find yourself going to the ticket office next. If it hadn't been downsized...)
  • OK, Glass: Am I holding my train ticket the right way up for the barriers?
  • OK, Glass: Direct me to the ticket barriers
  • OK, Glass: Which platform is my train leaving from, and is it on time?
  • OK, Glass: Direct me to platform 2, and alert me when my train has pulled in and stopped
  • OK, Glass: Direct me to the nearest train door
  • OK, Glass: Tell me when I reach my reserved seat on the train
If this all seems a little fanciful, here's a more homely example:
  • OK, Glass: Tell me when the kettle is directly above the coffee cup, and alert me when the cup is three quarters full

The Android Connection

Android, the open source Linux distribution running on 750 million smartphones and tablets, is also the technology underpinning Glass. It will be interesting to see how much of the Glass software Google make open source - it's easy to picture other Glass type products appearing that use Android but aren't aligned to the Google ecosystem, a business model already proven by Amazon with the Kindle Fire, and numerous Android devices in mainland China.

What's the big deal about Android? Well, bear in mind that much of I have described above is already possible with existing apps and APIs on Android and those achingly fashionable open data feeds - it's just a bit impractical unless you strap your phone to your head, or something like that.

The science fiction part (for now - but perhaps you can change that, dear reader!) is the bit where Glass "directs" you in real time by processing the camera imagery, e.g. to the exact bit of the train where the door can be found, or your reserved seat. But if you think about it, optical character recognition of images has already been demo'd to great effect by Google Googles and there are some interesting pointers from the lesser known but seriously awesome The vOICe for Android.

Closing Thoughts

To get a feel for potential revolutionary applications for Google Glass, just try walking around for a while with your eyes closed! See how I managed to get this far without mentioning collision avoidance?

Now listen to the Google Glass promo video, embedded above, with your eyes closed. OK, Glass: Take a picture, and tell me what you see...

This week I spent an enjoyable and stimulating couple of days in Birmingham at the CETIS 2013 conference. This was tempered by the knowledge that key national services like UKOLN and CETIS itself were looking ahead to new challenges, a euphemism for closing down due to withdrawl of funding. In this post I'll reflect both on what I learned from the conference, and on the impact and timing of these changes.

[This is going to be quite intense, so here's a little game for you to lighten the mood: If you are visiting Aston University, see if you can find the building and window where the inspiring quote from Einstein shown above appears!  Also, here is a YouTube link to funny cat videos in case you need to take a break to calm down from time to time.]

I have long been fascinated by JISC, which has delivered a fascinating mix of full production services (JANET being probably the most instantly recognisable), best practice advice created by community practitioners coming together, and what can only be described as "throw enough mud at the wall and some of it will stick" projects with hugely ambitious agendas. You may not recall individual projects, but be assured that when you download Open Source software, Open Access publications from institutional repositories, mash up Open Data, and share Open Educational Resources in MOOCs - JISC was there first. In many cases, JISC was farsighted enough to forsee requirements in the research and education sector that have subsequently turned into significant businesses in themselves.

But we are entering a new era, necessitated by funding reductions, changing student demographics and frankly an unwillingness to see "R&D" type activities (of which a large proportion can be expected to fail) facilitated through top sliced central funding. The most immediately obvious change here has been that we have swapped JISC for Jisc, saving a few bucks by making the Shift key last a little longer. Behind the scenes, a lot of people who have been working for JISC on its various centres and services have been having meetings with their local HR departments about redundancy and redeployment, and some have been transferred over to the new Jisc legal entity via TUPE.

These goings on are, sadly, mirroring many conversations taking place within institutions right now, as the realisation slowly dawns that the rolling back of UK Higher Education's post-92 expansion may well be permanent. The disruptive influence of the Internet (Clay Shirky's grandstanding notwithstanding) is also now starting to make its presence felt, with the development of for-credit MOOCs and partnerships with firms offering test centre facilities such as Pearson. In the UK, FutureLearn in particular now looms large over the sector - but will it be saviour or executioner? In any case there is little or no time for discussion and compromise if FutureLearn is to compete effectively with Udacity, Coursera and edX.

And here is the crowning irony - FutureLearn should have been the primary topic of CETIS 2013, instead it was the elephant in the room. So much of what so many of the participants have been doing leads inexorably to something like FutureLearn. Instead, we are breaking up the very services and facilities that are best placed to advise the sector on its transition to being "open by default", and in the urgency to get to market there is a very real danger that FutureLearn will be a pale me-too copy of the US MOOCs. Hence the JISC Diaspora, as we see former staffers with the relevant domain expertise being snapped up not just by canny UK institutions (greetings to Amber Thomas at Warwick ;-), but also by "foreigners" (hello to Nicole Harris of TERENA!) and with much more to come - notably as CETIS, UKOLN and OSS Watch are dismantled.

You might well say "fair enough, but what would you do in the same position?" I think the economic argument is actually a little more complex than it might at first appear - sometimes attack is the best form of defence, and there is undoubtedly a case to be made for strategic investments to improve our information literacy, get more people coding, increase the visibility and uptake of UK research, and expose more people to key technologies like High Performance Computing. But should Jisc try to do all these things and more? Probably not. And is it possible or desirable to maintain the status quo? Probably not.

However, what I am personally deeply sad about is the bridge burning aspect of these changes - once the key people from an organization like a CETIS or a UKOLN or an OSS Watch are gone, it's not a trivial exercise to recreate it. I hope that the members of the JISC Diaspora will still find ways to come together and collaborate, and that the moonshot projects will continue one way or another.  As Martyn Harrow says, JISC is the envy of the world - I hope we will be able to look back in years to come and say the same of Jisc.

HPC Midlands is a new initiative from Loughborough University and the University of Leicester, co-funded by EPSRC. Use our 3,000 core supercomputer to accelerate your innovation - find out more at http://hpc-midlands.ac.uk, come to our launch event on 20th March 2013, or read our impact report to EPSRC / BIS, embedded below.

This is the final report from the Open Course Data project at Loughborough University. We have been funded by Jisc to develop an XCRI-CAP machine readable version of our online prospectus. In parallel we wanted to explore improving the way that the prospectus is developed. The reader can find out more about the project at http://open.lboro.ac.uk.

HPC Midlands, a new supercomputing facility based at Loughborough University’s Science and Enterprise Park, provides state-of-the-art e-infrastructure for research and industry.

You may recall me noting that the Chromebook has been Amazon's top selling laptop for the whole of Q4 2012.  There are now a lot of Chromebooks out there - so what can we do with them?  Let's see...

As part of our series of posts on the MEGS-KT project, today we'll look at Learning Analytics with Moodle. Specifically, how might we go about figuring out which resources ("learning objects") from the Moodle VLE are of particular interest to a wider audience? Let's see...

My colleagues at the Centre for Engineering and Design Education are recruiting a web developer.  Here is some more information and a pointer to our vacancies site...

Job titleWeb Developer / Programmer
Job referenceREQ13031
Date posted28/01/2013
Application closing date07/03/2013
LocationLoughborough, UK
Salary£27,854 to £36,298 per annum
PackageManagement and Specialist Grade 6, £27,854 to £36,298 per annum. Fixed-term from April 2013 to March 2016.
Job category/typeManagement and Specialist
Job description
Centre for Engineering and Design Education
Fixed-Term for 3 Years 
Required to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team on a wide range of award winning web development and learning technology projects.
You will have excellent attention to detail, considerable experience of web development in a professional environment, the confidence and positive attitude that comes with proven experience and a willingness to learn and engage with new web technologies.
You will also have extensive experience in the following:
  • Using PHP and MySQL to create dynamic web applications.
  • HTML, XHTML and creating CSS-driven layouts.
  • JavaScript and jQuery (including AJAX and JSON)

Please see our vacancies site for further details on the CEDE web developer post.

State-of-the-art e-infrastructure, accelerating innovation in industry and research

HPC Midlands – a new supercomputing initiative – builds upon the high performance computing expertise at Loughborough University and the University of Leicester.

Capable of processing vast quantities of data, high performance computing acts as a catalyst for breakthroughs across a range of sectors including bio-informatics, engineering, finance, manufacturing, molecular modelling, science, and weather forecasting.

On Wednesday 20 March 2013, you are invited to learn more about HPC Midlands and how you can access its capabilities.

Join senior representatives from industry and research to:
  • Learn how HPC Midlands could provide real benefits and save you money 
  • Find out what access to a supercomputer could do for your organisation 
  • Meet the team behind HPC Midlands 
  • Explore opportunities for new collaboration 
  • View case studies and demonstrations that show how successful businesses already benefit from working in close collaboration around HPC, including E.ON, Rolls-Royce and Tata Steel 
This event is highly relevant to representatives from companies interested in using high performance computing directly in their business or in working in partnership with university researchers in applying high performance computing to the challenges that face them. Academics with a record of using high performance computing to solve industrially relevant problems are also welcome to attend.

Find out more and sign up at our HPC Midlands launch event microsite.

Learning Analytics is one of the buzz phrases du jour, but what does it mean in practice? Here is the first in a series of posts on the lessons that we have learned through our Jisc Business and Community Engagement project, MEGS-KT.

I was invited to speak at this year's BETT as part of the new Higher Education strand of the event.  My talk was all about the "perfect storm" of changes that are happening in the sector right now, and how we can respond to them.  Why the sleepy cat?  Well, when things get stressful, sometimes you just need to take a Kitten Break to calm yourself down...  [Thanks to Ray Kent from De Montfort University for introducing me to the kitten break]

HPC Midlands is an exciting new initiative from Loughborough University and the University of Leicester.  We have been funded by EPSRC to provide "on demand" supercomputing for University researchers and industry.

I recently presented on the project at the Hartree Centre's HPC As a Service for Industry event.  You can see my slides above, and I have broken out some specific comments in this blog post.

The Open Course Data project at Loughborough University has been funded by Jisc to develop a machine readable version of our online prospectus.  We have also been improving the way that the prospectus is managed.  [The video above and accompanying text have been created for the January 2013 Open Course Data programme meeting, in case you were wondering!]

We had long recognised that it would be advantageous to bring our online and print prospectus management together as a single process.  You will see from these process maps that online and print had historically been treated as largely separate activities.  We wanted to see if we could change that, make our processes more efficient, and create new opportunities.

We mapped out an "ideal" process that brought the two together, using our Web Content Management System, Site Manager from Terminal Four:

Now we have a single canonical data source for both the print and online version of the prospectus.  We also have a range of formatting options via the Content Management System.

We are particularly pleased with our new online prospectus app, which is fed directly from the CMS:


Note the entry requirements for the Chemistry Masters degree.  Here they are as displayed in the online prospectus:

And here is the relevant page for managing this course's information in Site Manager.


We'll just scroll down to the bit where entry requirements are displayed...

Note how the entry requirements are broken down into individual entries on the form - this gives us a lot of flexibility in presenting the information.  Once the change has been committed and approved in the CMS, it will be automatically published.

We also create a machine readable version of the course information using the XCRI-CAP standard.  This is done using a CMS output formatter script, which you'll see from the excerpt below looks pretty cryptic:

The resulting data feed (see excerpt below) is actually fairly readable even by human beings.  The XCRI-CAP feed can be processed using hundreds of software packages that understand the industry standard XML data format:

This new approach means that we can make better use of staff time.  We can embed course data in School and Department websites, which lets us avoid errors and out of date information.  Perhaps most importantly, the University's support services came together to carry out the work as a team.

We have been delighted by the support provided by Jisc.  We particularly welcomed the opportunity to share experiences and ideas with other members of the community.  You can find out more about the Jisc course data programme from their website.

PS You can read more about this work at the project blog, and stay tuned for more information about downloading and processing the XCRI-CAP open data feed :-)