Home - Dr Owain Kenway

Wednesday, Nov 15

A significant part of the job of my team at UCL is to install and maintain user applications on UCL’s centrally-owned clusters (Legion, Grace) and the new Thomas national materials modelling service. A number of years ago, prodded by my colleague Dr Kirker, we embarked on a journey where the installation of all new applications is scripted (in bash, nothing fancy) so that subsequent deployments (either to other machines or upgraded packages) is as painless as possible. You can see our work over on Github, because transparancy is also something I think benefits university IT in general, not just “Research Software Development”.

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Tuesday, Oct 03

We’ve had a number of tickets recently asking about running Jupyter Notebooks on Legion/Grace. Until the architecture of the Jupyter Notebook changes this will never be a good/safe idea. This sparked a discussion which descended into an argument between James and myself on the internal Slack about whether it is appropriate to encourage new researchers to use Jupyter notebooks.

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Wednesday, Jul 05

Bywater BASIC is very old fashioned, Open Source BASIC interpreter. If you have Ubuntu to hand, you can install it straight from apt.

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Monday, Jun 19

Generally, I’m a tinkerer. I like playing with things and taking them apart and fixing them. I do this in my day job looking after UCL’s supercomputers, but I like to have some systems at home to play with. If I’m honest, I’m attracted to unusual, old pieces of technology - old programmable calculators, old computers - my most recent aquisition for example is an Amstrad NC200 - a Z80 based laptop computer which comes with BBC BASIC, a stunning 128K of memory and a DD floppy drive. I dream of having the room for DEC PDP-8s, 11s, and 10s in my flat. But that’s not an option today.

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Friday, Feb 03

Some of you may be aware that my colleague Dr Kirker and I maintain a repository of implementations of a particular way of calculating PI in whichever language we are playing with at that moment in time here.

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Wednesday, Jun 22

I mentioned previously that I recently bought a TI Nspire CX CAS. Today I thought I’d have a go at backing up the small programs I’d written using the tilp2 package in Ubuntu since I use Linux and there is no official TI support for that. This worked, sorta, but you end up with programs in a proprietary binary format that nothing can read (and you don’t really want to put into version control).

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Sunday, Jun 19

I’ve been frustrated for some time about the lack of programability of modern portable devices. “Smart” phones are anything but - sure, you can buy more apps for them, but when was the last time you opened an editor, wrote some code on one and ran it? It wasn’t always so - the coolest computer I own is a little Sharp PC-1251 - a pocket computer Sharp produced in the 80s. In computing terms it’s tiny - ~0.5mhz 8 bit processor, 4K of RAM and a one line display, but in one respect it is superior to every iPhone ever made - it comes, out the box, with a programming language. In this instance, a cut down version of Basic, called S’BASIC.

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Friday, Jun 17

I tried editing posts in Libreoffice (and saving as plain text) so that I could use the spell checker and it broke the YAML front matter.

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Friday, Jun 17

Since I’ve been put in the position of some responsibility here within Research IT Services at UCL, I’ve decided that it’s sensible to start having a public, semi-professional blog where I can talk about some of the things that we (or more specifically me) are doing here at UCL to enable our researchers to use computers to generate science, as well as posting long form about various things vaguely or not at all related. I’ve had a twitter account for a while, but UCL doesn’t really have a recommended blogging platform for individual staff, so a colleague suggested I try using Jekyll with Github pages and so here we are.

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