OU player Why CodeIgniter?

I have been asked to present the reasoning behind our choice of CodeIgniter over Drupal for the OU player/ OU embed projects.

I will argue that the OU player project provides an ideal case study for why The Open University, including the central IT providing departments should not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to the choice of information technologies. At present, I think they are in danger of doing this. You may also be interested in Juliette Culver's post, Why we moved from Drupal to CodeIgniter, and Will Wood's post, Agile Ballooning.

First, some background. CodeIgniter is a minimal model-view-controller PHP framework. It is open source, makes full use of the object-oriented programming paradigm, offers database abstraction, an ORM (object-relational-model) layer, and various extension mechanisms including libraries, hooks and helper functions. By default, templating/ views are implemented in PHP, though an alternative templating system such as Smarty could be plugged in. There are many third-party plugins available, and it is a simple matter to plugin other libraries, for example parts of the Zend framework. As a low level framework, its benefits are a shallow learning curve, the promotion of maintainable, well-structured code, small footprint, performance and flexibility (http://codeigniter.com).

OU player - seeking testers

Between the Wednesday 8th and 13th of June we are conducting usability and accessibility testing for the OU media player project, at The Open University's campus in Milton Keynes.

We are seeking test subjects for 1 to 1.5 hours testing. Travel expenses and a fee will be paid. Anyone can come forward, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, those who have dyslexia and those who use a screen reader.

Email me N.D.Freear AT open.ac.uk if you are interested.

Thanks, Nick

Captioned video search

This is an experiment to embed a Google Custom search in a page. Results are returned for dotSUB.com and Universalsubtitles.org.

Enjoy! (May 2011)

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Creative Commons Licenses for software - just say "NO"

Two point before I start:

  1. I'm not a lawyer, so this blog post does not constitute legal advice. If you need help, contact a lawyer who specializes in software and content licensing. I accept no liability...
  2. I'm absolutely not against Creative Commons Licenses, for content. Indeed on recent projects I've made extensive use of CC licensed text, images and so on, and this blog is CC licensed. Just not for software...

So, you've written some software and decided to share it with others - congratulations! You may be contemplating licensing it with one of the range of Creative Commons Licenses... Hold on! In this blog post, I'll explain why this is a really bad idea, both for you and the community. And I'll hopefully dispel some myths and point you to other sources of information.

Open source at the OU

A colleague of mine asked me the other day at Dev8D if there was a list of all of The Open University's free/ open source contributions. I had to say that as far I knew there wasn't.

So, I've started this list on Delicious, using the tags ou opensource project. Note, I have also added tags for license where I can find one (eg. gpl for GNU General Public License), OU department (lts), technologies (svn, java) and wider projects (moodle).

Note that the tag ou does not necessarily imply that The Open University is the founding, sole, or main contributor to a project!

Feel free to add anything that I've missed. It's interesting to see what licenses we're using, what projects we're contributing a lot to (Moodle fairly obviously!) and so on. Enjoy...!

Direct messaging & CloudEngine 1.1.0 beta

I’m happy to say that last Wednesday (2nd February) my colleague Richard Lovelock put the new direct messaging function live on Cloudworks. It is something that Cloudworks users have requested and we have wanted for a while. Despite a quiet launch, it has already been taken up by the Cloudworks community. And, we’re excited about its potential for fostering private discussions that can lead on to public Clouds and Cloudscapes.

OU media player project

Tony Hirst has just blogged about the Office for Disability Issues new accessible media player AKA the "Most Accessible Media Player on the Web". Both he and Will Woods have alluded to work that The Open University is undertaking. I thought I'd fill in the gaps.

The OU is at the start of a 6 month development to create a multimedia player that (we hope):

  1. Will be an "attractive" player that the average designer/ blogger would be happy to use on their site.
  2. Can be used in a variety of contexts - our Moodle-based virtual learning environment, OpenLearn, OU-Drupal sites, blogs, Cloudworks...
  3. Will deliver content mostly from the OU podcast site in the contexts mentioned above.
  4. Will be accessible to users with disabilities - both in terms of control, and display of alternatives like transcripts and captions.
  5. Usable on a variety of devices, including mobiles and tablets.
  6. Will be delivered in a maintainable way.

The King's Speech portrays stammering well

I've just taken the afternoon off with my wife to see The King's Speech. It's a movie that I highly recommend. As a stammerer myself, I found that I very much lived the film.

Be warned, spoilers follow!

Scene from the film - speech.

The film opens with Prince Albert (Colin Firth), second in line to the throne, preparing to give a speech to close the 1924 Empire Exhibition. He must speak in front of the large crowd at Wembley, and his address is transmitted live around the world on the new wireless radio. He struggles to start the speech, and continues to stammer (with a lot of long and silent "blocks"). Colin Firth conveys this upsetting, traumatic and frustrating experience well, so that I think many in the cinema audience would have shared the discomfort of the crowds watching in the film.