Upgrading to BarracudaDrive 4.9.2

Thursday, March 29th, 2012 by hinrich


After approximately four years of running BarracudaDrive from Real Time Logic on my NSLU2 without a single problem - all the issues I have had were either related to my own mistakes or problems of my internet service provider - I have finally found the time to upgrade the software to version 4.9.2.

It took quite some time to get everything right - the original version dated from 2008 and was version 3.9 - the original was using UnSLUng and the new relies on SlugOS - in other words, quite some things have changed in the meantime, but after some puzzling I got it sorted.

The original statement by the folks from RealTimeLogic said: "Technically, the server should run 24/7 for a good 20 years." Well, I have managed the first four years with no problems whatsoever. So, let's see how things will be the next four years... ;-)

Posted in Computer

You search for a car - not an engine

Sunday, March 25th, 2012 by hinrich


What is the right balance between the time spend exploring potentially innovative technological solutions created externally versus the time spend creating innovative solutions build on mature technologies?

At times technological innovations appear to me like the beautiful facade of a house: nothing behind to actually live in. Some people and even some providers of novel technologies never get to build the house.

In other words, we constantly change the engine (e.g., we increase the horsepower, make it more fuel efficient, etc.) but we never build a car. While this is good for car engine manufacturers, it is bad if you are looking for transport to reach your destination.

To me biostatistical techniques are the steering wheel, the biological experiment is your point of departure, the experimental design is the travel route you have planned, and your destination is biological understanding.

How is changing the engine helping us to get to our destination if we have not planned the route and have no means of steering?

Posted in Science

The power of defaults

Saturday, March 17th, 2012 by hinrich

Modern biological technologies

No, I am not talking about the financial crisis. I would rather like to point at the increasing importance of default settings in data processing or data analysis procedures. We are creating continuously novel technologies that have a common characteristic: they create ever more data per analyzed samples.

At the same time it becomes apparent that we need to take the time to not only look at one data type at a time, but should rather look at various data linked to a given project to identify relevant biological themes. Some people refer to this as data integration or system biology.

As those approaches become more common, there will be pressure to increase throughput by reducing the time spent on preparing the data. This is likely going to result in cutting corners by relying on proposed defaults from technology providers or software vendors.

We have seen in the past that this can be tricky as technology providers often have their core expertise around the technology and not necessarily around data preprocessing or data normalization.

Therefore I find it important to underline that we need to spend time to define suitable default parameter settings. People involved in the development of algorithms need to reserve time to look at applications of their algorithms and propose the settings that ought to be used for their algorithms when applying them for a given application.

In other words: yes, we do need research into new algorithms and new technologies - yes, we do need to properly document our algorithms. But we also need time to research the right default settings for an application. Scientists will come to rely on them. If we do not provide good ones, we may unintentionally underestimate the power of a technology simply because people cannot make proper use of them.

Posted in Science