Tuesday, 15 March 2016

A chance to develop your skills with Google Summer of Code

Google Summer of Code offers you an opportunity to hone your software development skills - and get paid for it. Gavin Atkinson explains more...

Google Summer of Code is an innovative program dedicated to getting university students from around the world involved with open source software development.

Google offer a $5,500 stipend to students in exchange for them working on open source software over the Summer. Running every year since 2005, nearly 11,000 projects have been accepted from students in over 100 countries by over 500 organisations, and several students from the University of York have participated in the past. This year 180 organisations are involved, in such diverse areas as compilers to operating systems, web applications to virtual reality, FPGAs to games, databases to genetic research. There are projects written with Python, Ruby, Java, C, assembly, JavaScript, and everything in between. Whatever your areas of interest, experience and knowledge, there is likely to be a project that fits your skill set. Students submit proposals to participating organisations to work on projects suggested either by themselves or by the organisations, and if selected they are paired up with a mentor from that organisation to help them throughout their twelve week project. Summer of Code is a fantastic way to spend your summer earning money writing and releasing open source code for the benefit of all.

Two organisations in particular participating in Google Summer of Code this year have a special connection with IT Services. Arthur Clune is involved with The Honeynet Project, a security research organisation dedicated to learning the tools, tactics and motives involved in computer and network attacks, and developing open source security tools to improve Internet security, with a focus on honeypots and threat analysis. I am part of The FreeBSD Project, an advanced operating system for modern server, desktop and embedded platforms which can be found powering everything from the PlayStation 4 to huge Juniper routers. It's at the core of Apple's OSX and powers the servers Netflix use to stream movies worldwide.

Even if neither of those projects interest you, do take a look through the full list of organisations, available at:

The closing date for applications is Friday 25 March.

Useful links:

Monday, 14 March 2016

Meat lozenges and custard: advertising during World War One

Ilka Heale pores over advertisements found in the Library's Special Collections.

We've all seen this advert on the side of a building near Monk Bar in York:

Bile beans sign by Andy D'Agorne
Used under a Creative Commons license
Purporting to keep you "healthy, bright eyed and slim", Bile Beans was a laxative and tonic first marketed in the 1890s. Amongst other cure-all claims, Bile Beans promised to "disperse unwanted fat" and "purify and enrich the blood". Something after a winter of comfort eating, we could probably all do with!

Although the manufacturer claimed that the formula for Bile Beans was based on a vegetable source, its actual ingredients were commonly found in pharmacies. In 1905, a court case in Scotland found that the Bile Bean Manufacturing Company's business was based on a fraud and had been conducted fraudulently. Nevertheless, Bile Beans continued to be sold until the 1980s.

The following photographs of advertisements have been taken by our own University photographer, Paul Shields, from the Library's collection of the Illustrated London News.

The Illustrated London News (ILN) was the world's first illustrated weekly news magazine. The first issue appeared on Saturday, 14 May 1842 and was published weekly until 1971. The magazine continued less frequently with publication finally ceasing in 2003.

These photographs are from issues published during the First World War.

They show the change in the advertising pages to reflect the preoccupations of war. Before radio and television, the engravings and illustrations published in the weekly illustrated papers were often the only images people in Britain could see of the events unfolding. Some advertisements are targeted to families looking to buy a gift for the soldier at the Front and others for the families left at home.

Ever heard of Brands meat lozenges? No, me neither but this advert claims they are a 'meal in a vest pocket'. Who knew?

If that doesn't sound appetising, how about Bird's Custard? Apparently, 'served with any stewed or tinned fruits, it makes a feast fit for a King'!

Finally, these advertisements are aimed at planning for the future, when the war was over.

The newspapers are in the University Library's Special Collections and can be consulted in the Borthwick Institute for Archives.

For other titles on advertising, search YorSearch, our Library catalogue.

The Library also has a large collection of UK and international newspapers available in either print, microfilm or electronic formats. For further details on the titles held, please see About our collections on the Library website.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

That sinking feeling...

The horror of losing your work can give you nightmares. Tamsyn Quormby and Pritpal Rehal tell you how to save safely and avoid that sinking feeling...

See ya later, alligator by Jason Mrachina
Used under a Creative Commons license
One of the most common problems that the IT Support team come across is people losing their work, or finding that their files have become corrupted.

Recently, a student came to us when she was unable to access the work stored on her USB stick. She'd been working for hours, and saving her files regularly, but when the thin client she was using was accidentally rebooted, the USB stick became corrupted. We used every trick in our armoury, but we weren't able to restore the files for her. She showed remarkable forbearance at receiving this news; a single tear, and a muttered curse. But it was desperately frustrating to know that if she'd been using the virtual desktop to save to her central filestore instead, the sudden reboot would have caused her no problems.

A single tear by Lauren C
Used under a Creative Commons license
Not everyone is able to be so sanguine in the face of lost work. Every member of our IT support team has had to console a student or member of staff in tears of distress and frustration when their work has been lost - this can happen when a USB stick becomes corrupted or lost, or when a laptop is stolen or irreparably damaged.

Our advice is simple and unchanging:

Don't rely on a USB stick as the main storage method for your work: Not only can the data easily become corrupted, but the device itself is also easy to lose or break.

Don't save the only copy of your work to the local drive of your computer. If work isn't backed up elsewhere, it will be lost if your computer is stolen or damaged.

Where to save your work

So, how should you save and back up your work? We recommend the following:

Central filestore

Every member of the University has a central filestore, their H: drive, with 2Gb of storage allocated to them. Your central filestore is regularly backed up and you can access it from pretty much any device (PC, Mac, Linux, mobile devices...) whether you're on or off campus:

Google Drive

Google Drive offers storage 'in the cloud' (hosted and backed up in multiple locations) that you can access via a web interface or an app wherever you are. As a member of the University of York, your Google Apps offers unlimited quota.

Lessons learned...

If you lose your work, always contact IT support for advice. We'll do our very best to help you. But to avoid disaster, keep your work safe by saving it to your central filestore or Google Drive.