Protecting privacy

Personal information is gold

Companies makes billions from it, governments and criminals go to great lengths to get it, store and analyze it. The real-world consequences for an individual who loses control of that data are identity theft, fraud, blackmail, surveillance and potential threats to personal safety and property.

The value of privacy

Most businesses require some personal information in order to function. As a contractor I have built websites for lawyers, real estate agents, restaurants, fitness companies and artists who rely on me to create information systems that meet their legal obligations for the province in which they reside.

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Machine Learning

I had some time to myself recently so I was able to do things that I like — like…thinking about machine learning? No, really. I like thinking about that. What started off as tinkering, puttering, and being mildly spontaneous led to following up on some of my own curiosities. Freeing myself even briefly from my predictable, repetitive life is satisfying enough but I found myself falling into watching documentaries and movies that no one that I share a household with would ever tolerate.

In two days, with the help of a cold and a house-sitting stint, I’ve watched:

The narratives of these movies provided a broad context within which I could re-think about programming. The questions they raise are interesting. In my day to day life for example, programming  has a very narrow context, that is, programming in an educational context is still very much focused on finding efficiencies in workflow. No objection to that. It can be fun and at least it’s useful. I also don’t kid myself by assuming that it’s particularly ground breaking, at least from a computing perspective. Automating repetitive tasks has been a stable delivery of computing since its inception and distributing educational materials broadly, in different formats, or through different media channels is not a hot research topic. An area that is notable, in the very least that it’s hard to not to see the money flowing towards it is finding answers to questions around how machines (but really by this we mean programs) help us learn. Machine learning, adaptive learning, artificial intelligence are different terms used to describe what is essentially programming.

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Pressbooks plugin developed by BCcampus enables truly open textbook publishing

BCcampus has around 70 open textbooks in its collection, and more are being added each day. Once more textbooks are added (following the next phase of the project: 20 skills and trades textbooks), the sustainability of the collection will become more important. That means building technology that allows for the “Five Rs” of openness: reuse, revise, remix, redistribute, and retain.

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Three tricks to writing a tech story for non-developers

At BCcampus, we’re all about technology. Our boilerplate is: “We are an educational technology organization ensuring B.C. learners, educators, and administrators get the best, most effective technologies and services for their learning and teaching needs.”

Nevertheless, the main audience for the corporate web site consists of educators, administrators, instructional designers, librarians, and ministry officials. Not necessarily technologists, and certainly they all are people who don’t have the time to delve into the finer points of software development in a blog post. In-depth articles are therefore not normally part of our content marketing strategy.
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Cool Connections

The thing I like most about my job is working on open source software.

The community that has developed around the project I’m spending most of my development time on is growing. It’s still just a small community but it’s a source pride and joy to be a part of. This feeling was highlighted yesterday when I had lunch with Jack Dougherty from Trinity College. He’s recently written a blog post about the meet up that, for me, articulates the cool connections that can happen as a result of working on an open source project. Very much looking forward to more.


On the 15th and 29th of April, 2014 I presented, with Clint Lalonde, some of the modifications that I’ve made to PressBooks and PressBooks Textbook:

Before I talk about the specific modifications that I made to PressBooks I’m going to create some context around them. One of the key elements that was in place before I began working on these features was PressBooks being released as open source software.

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Migrating from RHEL 5.x to 6.x

Since Redhat doesn’t provide an upgrade path from 5.x to 6.x, it requires creating a new instance and porting everything over.

Unlike how a sys admin might feel, configuring servers from scratch is not fun for me. But I accept server administration as a necessary set of skills; it is not my passion and I’d rather get back to writing code.

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