On site digital recording is coming for all sides now; can't help but think that our implementation is going to be cooler though...
There's been some excitement over the last couple of days over Google's long rumored entrance into the mobile phone market, but what does it mean for an Archaeologist when an advertising company wants to "open" my phone?[Read More]
Looks interesting: Click[Read More]
I'd seen this before (it's my job, after all), but following the the morning's posting of OA related /. stories, I thought I'd share this one with those who may not spend as much time reading about outdoors computers as I do: Click
The shape of things to come?
I begin this week my position with Oxford Archaeology researching and developing methods of digital excavation recording. Such a process would be of numerous benefits to any commercial archaeology business, measured ostensibly in terms of financial savings, but with the possibility of arguing for improved archaeological practice and theory. It is from this background of archaeological theory, particularly thinking along the lines of Andrews, Barrett and Lewis (2000) and much of Adrian Chadwick's work to name just two, that I have developed an interest in this approach.
Work commences dogfooding on the XO units. I'm not sure if the comments in the bug report were particularly kind, but the general idea holds true; if you think something is a good idea, then you should be working on it, not developing elsewhere. The XO units are being tested with an eye to the potentials of future digital recording techniques, something which is just the start of a long process. The role of digital recording needs to be decided, as does the possibilities of various pieces of software and hardware. Some preliminary investigations will help guide following work.
As such, the XO units have begun to have been put through their paces at the Oxford Archaeology office (from here on in known as the O[pen]A Skunk Works), so far it hasn't been a pretty sight:
1: XO units don't like Java, neither does the OLPC organisation, causing issues for the Pathmapper plans. Java 1.6 installs but will not run any graphical programs whereas 1.5 fails to install.
2: Networking via the mesh or otherwise can be a pain; for some reason nothing works as easily in the office as it did when I took the units home with me. There are numerous bugs on crank.laptop.org that keep being re-opened on the matter, but it still appears very flaky. And flaky really isn't good.
3: It works best as a little desktop, so much so that one of the units has been sat on my desk plugged into the mains, a mouse and keyboard: Not the way I'd imagine they'd be used in a trench.
4: It works best as a slow desktop: A major stumbling block could be caused by the sometimes slow nature of the XO units - a goal of any software running on them should be that it does as little as possible, leaving enough resources to keep the machine running responsively.
I currently have a Windows laptop running Apache, PHP and PmWiki, it accepts ad-hoc wireless network connections and happily presents connecting machines with a very simple wiki. Using the browser utility the XO unit can connect to the serving laptop and view/edit the pages. Such a setup seems the most logical way of recording content; the XO unit does not have to run any additional software or store any data. The unit acts as a simple web terminal from which the user can deal with a wider range of archaeological data. The practicalities of this approach need to be further tested, but it appears that the unit is currently a little slow in this regard - a second Windows laptop performing the same tasks did so much quicker. Despite this, a situation can be imagined within which an excavation occurs and data is entered via the XO units, or similar device, into a central repository.
With these observations in mind, the limitations of the XO and similar pieces of equipment can be considered when I begin work on site to assess current practices and potential recording requirements. I slightly wory about moving away from this and towards something much less random, but I shall continue to ponder the opportunities of art. Thinking hard continues...
You can email me at Joseph.Reeves [at] the domain name in your address bar. Please do!