So this post is for the first week of our two-week EPrints assignment. The install was very simple, since all we had to do was add a few lines to our Ubuntu server’s repo list after we got a new VM up and running. My only hangup was that I accidentally typed “y” instead of “Yes” at one point during the installation, as the instructions specifically said not to do (oops). I wasn’t sure if that was a big deal or not, so since it was so easy, I just started over and everything was successful the second go-round.
As far as customization, I put a silly custom logo up and changed the blurb to describe my project. Good thing I had my classmates’ blogs to see where I was going wrong with the site logo thing (it was a .png and not a .gif, and there was a little typo in the instructions that had to be corrected). But otherwise, smooth sailing so far, and I’m looking forward to getting my little collection started!
For this unit, we installed a new VM to use the DSpace digital repository software. It was a pretty similar process to the other Ubuntu Server VMs that I’ve created for this class and 672. The notable additions were Tomcat and PostgreSQL.
It was very easy to follow the installation instructions. The only thing that I fudged was instead of creating a file on my primary system and using Fugu to transfer it to the VM (I suppose I could have used scp, too, but I never remember the right way to do those filepaths — any constant blog readers wanna help me out?), I just used Nano on the VM. I suppose the reason the instructions didn’t say to do that is that there would be no way to copy and paste the text in the config file directly from the host machine to the VM. Luckily I was using ssh to make copy/pasting a bit easier, so that wasn’t an issue.
When I looked over the alternative installation instructions (https://wiki.duraspace.org/display/DSPACE/Installing+DSpace+1.7+on+Ubuntu and http://wiki.lib.sun.ac.za/index.php/SUNScholar/Dspace), they seemed pretty similar. There were some small differences. For example, the former used a different version of Java, and the latter used the command line to do all the user configuration. Overall, though, it seemed like a very similar process. Since those instructions are both easily found online, I’m pretty sure I would be able to do an installation of DSpace myself at a later time by following those instructions.
For this week’s assignments, we spent some more time installing and configuring Drupal modules. One of our assignments was to choose our own module to install. I chose Print (http://drupal.org/project/print), which allows someone visiting your Drupal site some convenient buttons for saving content on a page (print, save as PDF, or email options). I thought this would be well-suited to a collection that’s writing-focused. However, a snag is that since I chose to upload files to my Drupal database, the actual site doesn’t really display the files — you have to download them. I guess in the real world, people would really want their writing files to be visible on the site itself, and might be more likely to copy/paste the text itself into the post in the content type, rather than attaching a file.
Installing it was a breeze — I just used wget to download the module in tarball format from Drupal’s FTP server, and then used the “tar” command and then the “mv” command to unpack it and sent it to my site’s folder on my VM. (Just an aside — isn’t wget kind of like magic? I often use it instead of GUI to download files on my Mac when something gets stuck halfway through a download or whatever.) It wasn’t very hard to configure — I just went ahead and allowed all three options.
This was probably the most interesting week for me so far. I can definitely see myself doing database work in the future, and although I’ve worked with databases a little bit (for example, I had to create a simple Open Office Base database in 515, and I’ve had to do some SQL queries), I haven’t learned much of the theory behind them. We didn’t really touch on normalizing, for example, beyond the importance of having a primary key. I really liked the video tutorials I watched, and definitely plan on revisiting the rest of them.
I guess the hardest part this week was not having hands-on practice or having a real scenario to create a database for. I tried to imagine something, but in real life, I’m sure there are a lot of things that go into the planning aspect that wouldn’t occur to me, because of my lack of experience with it.
Learning that the SQL language is derived from tuple relational calculus was really interesting, too. I have always found higher math intimidating; because I was an English and Creative Writing major, I never had to take math beyond trig. But knowing that hey, I’ve been able to use SQL databases before and the language doesn’t seem totally foreign to me is a really empowering thought. It made me wonder whether, if I went back to school, if some of the stuff I’ve studied with programming languages would make math less intimidating for me — maybe understanding its applications would help me conceptualize it better.
Last semester, I took IRLS 588, XML and the Semantic Web. This week’s assignment was a good refresher for me. A number of the resources we were assigned for this class had been part of that one (including the reading on attributes vs. elements, the w3cschools tutorials, and so on). Side note: I know that the latter gets ragged on a lot due to not actually being affiliated with the W3C standards (see http://w3fools.com/ for a good overview of the controversy), but at least in those XML tutorials, especially the XSLT ones, the ability to do in-browser edits is really really nice and helpful. Someone should make a competitive website that does it better, right? I’m hoping Codecademy will get there eventually.
So after doing a general review (I didn’t do anything super fancy, since the assignment was just a plain document, no stylesheet or namespace etc.), I decided to spend some time reviewing the hardest part of that class, for me at least: namespaces. I think that some of the other stuff covered (to a smaller extent in this class, and to a greater extent in that one), like XPath and XSLT, was easier for me because it was similar to other stuff I’d worked with before. XPath was very similar to doing SQL queries, and doing CSS with XSLT was something that I was embarrassingly familiar with from the days of Myspace. However, nothing ever really prepared me for, say, importing the dc namespace, and wrapping my head around which elements and attributes to use and not to use and how. I was a little disappointed to find that the video tutorials on UACBT didn’t really help advance my understanding of this tricky topic. Of course, there’s only so much you can cover in a quick intro course, and I’m sure those videos would have been a godsend last semester!
Still no practice machine to update on the status of, sadly. My VM and ssh skills certainly got a good workout this unit anyway!