Open Linked Data, Serendipity, and the Future of Web

Being a Semantic Web, Open Linked Data, Open Source enthusiast, and at some point the contributor to the AP for the FOAF and other metadata standards, recently I had an opportunity to talk with Kingsley Idehen on his current projects,  views on the use of the Web technologies, Open Linked Data,  WebID, serendipity, and certain aspects of the Internet that influence our everyday lives. The interview is published for Australian Science.

Kingsley Idehen is the Founder & CEO of OpenLink Software. He is a recognized technology enthusiast and expert in areas such as: Data Connectivity middleware, Linked Data, Data Integration, and Data Management.  He is also a founding member of DBpedia project via OpenLink Software. Kingsley’s  background is quite varied: he had planned to become a scientist in the genetic engineering realm but ended up being more fascinated by the power Information Technology and its potential to reshape mankind. From science, accounting, and programming, he followed his scientific instincts to architect OpenLinkVirtuoso, a powerful and innovative open source virtual database for SQL, XML, and Web services. The Virtuoso History page tells the whole story about Kingsley’s vision and accomplishments. You can follow him on Twitter and read his Google+ posts.

Would you explain to our readers a bit about the OpenLink Software, for those in the Web technology who may not be familiar with it? Can you give us a story about the inception, history, work and achievements of the OpenLink Software?

OpenLink Software develops, deploys, and supports bleeding edge technology covering the following realms:
1. Relational Database Connectivity Middleware — ODBC, JDBC, ADO.NET, OLE-DB, and XMLA Drivers/Providers
2. Disparate Data  Virtualization
3. Personal & Enterprise Collaboration
4. Relational Tables (RDBMS) and Relational Property Graph (Graph DB) based Database Management Systems
5. Federated Identity Management.

I founded OpenLink in 1992 with open database connectivity middleware supporting  all major RDBMS products as our focus. By 1998 we evolved our vision to include RDBMS virtualization, and by 2000 we decided that the Semantic Web technology stack provided all the critical standards that would enable us extend data virtualization to include other data sources and formats beyond the RDBMS.

OpenLink was initially associated with dispelling the performance myth that undermined the early promotion of the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) standard from Microsoft. In the Semantic Web and Linked Data realms our Virtuoso hybrid data server underlies critical parts of the Linked Open Data cloud (starting with DBpedia which lies at the core) as well as offering the largest publicly accessible Linked Data space on the planet, against which anything (human or machine) can perform ad-hoc queries that drive lookups while also aiding the emergence of other Linked Data Spaces on the LOD cloud.
Naturally, our technologies are used extensively across enterprises worldwide due to performance, scalability, and security that underlies every item in our product portfolio.

Is there any existing tools and methodologies developed by either you or your team in the OpenLink Software or others that you would like to mention? 

* High-Performance ODBC Drivers for all the major RDBMS databases
* ODBC Drivers for the World Wide Web — yes, the World Wide Web of Linked Data (or LOD cloud) is exploitable and accessible to any ODBC, JDBC, ADO.NET, or OLE-DB compliant application
* Virtuoso — high-performance and massively scalable hybrid DBMS (relational tables and property graphs).
* Linked Data Middleware — that transform output from a plethora of Web 2.0 and SOA services into structured Linked Data
* URIBurner — a public instance of the middleware mentioned above that enables anyone transform existing data into Linked Data
* OpenLink Data Spaces — platform for enterprise and personal data spaces that includes in-built Federated Identity and sophisticated Linked Data functionality
* DBpedia — Linked Open Data Cloud nexus that runs on Virtuoso (re. Linked Data Deployment and Data Management).

Some useful links and downloads: ODBC Drivers for the World Wide WebVirtuoso Commercial EditionVirtuoso Open Source Edition,  Linked Data MiddlewareURIBurnerOpenLink Data Spaces, and DBpedia.

Do you collaborate with similar organisations/institutions worldwide in the field of the Open Linked Data? Would you tell us more about your involvement within the DBpedia project?

Yes, as demonstrated by DBpedia (Frei University and University of Leipzig), Sindice (DERI), and Bio2RDF(Carleton University and others).

Virtuoso is the Linked Data Publishing and Database Management system behind DBpedia. Net effect of Virtuoso is you have a massive collection of Linked Data derived from Wikipedia that’s available to the entire public. This instance enables you browser through pages that describe entities while also delivering ad-hoc query functionality via a Web Service that supports the SPARQL query language, results serialization formats, and HTTP based wire protocol.

In addition to providing the live instance, we also provide quality assurance, support and maintenance. Publishing and maintaining DBpedia is a challenge, and we even offer packages that enable others instantiate personal or service specific instances via Amazon EC2 AMIs (virtual machines).

DBpedia is basically germination of the seed planted by the Linked Data meme published by TimBL circa. 2005. In turn, DBpedia (more…)

mysterious case of DR’s HDD: breathe and reboot

Do you remember the stories when computer engineer advices you to store all the important files on the partition D, and the partition C is for the Program files? Well, forget about it. The hard drive on my laptop is dead. In a seconds. No data saved. On both partitions. “But HOW?”, my friend screamed out this morning.

I have been using laptop computers for over a decade. Simply, my dynamic life style, frequent travels and the change of living and working places since the end of the 90′s determined that I will be using laptops. I had them many and experienced different malfunctions, software errors, but never so far had any major problems with hard discs, major enough to have complete crash and lost of data. I heard that  such situations usually happen on weekends when technicians are not working. Now I believe in that.

Yesterday morning I had this message on the screen: PXE-E61: Media test failure, check cable. PXE-M0F: Existing Broadcom PXE ROM. I couldn’t start up the system, manipulate HDD from BIOS, find out what happened since I have relatively new laptop that is known for the excellent performance, durability, features. I tweeted out and facebooked on my ac.account the news and asked for help. I got some assumptions. Today, someone who happen to be computer engineer tried to boot my laptop from bios using Linux/Ubuntu, but failed. BIOS showed zero hard drive. Our fear became the worst case scenario that happened in really not desirable time in the project flow.

I haven’t back-up data in the last 25 days, at least. I haven’t saved my important files in the Dropbox either. I haven’t used the USB flash to back up my current work and projects I am working on, now. I lost them all in the seconds. We went to the computer service and the official technician immediately got me back in their working offices, opened the laptop, tested the hard drive on something few times, detected and announced it is dead. No help. No data extract. Nothing. They had to replace it with new one. I couldn’t say I was upset as much as I was shocked with the fact it actually happened without the reason and the fact that I am a good user, have the great laptop, and good life karma. We don’t know why did it happen. Neither the technician. He said in his twenty years of fixing computers sometimes things happen without the reason. In between what have happened today, I tweeted mostly and many of you have contacted me, and called me, even long distance. I am appreciating any of reaction of yours, kind words, support and help. That matters.

What I have lost is all data I’ve been working in the last 3, 4 weeks on the design of projects’ protocol, then research recent doc’s, e-Articles (that I can resume though). I also lost the TREE design on the mindmap, app files, all the relevant bookmarks (over 24 000!) for work and research that I will never be able to find or resume, many GB’s of photography (only 1/50  you can see on Flickr), over 300 GB of music (those around me know that music is “must” when I work), etc. I have less than 90 hrs to send the relevant documents before the deadline and I am writing this blog post while I download simultaneously eleven programs and services I may need, that I can think of at the moment, as I lost also the list of the existing programs in the previous life of this laptop.  I don’t even think about emails I lost in Thunderbird (please if anyone knows how to / if possible/ to bring back all the emails from different accounts, even those non existing, email me).  Some of you suggested there are disk doctors who can extract data, but I assume it costs a lot, and my technician told me that probably folks from Taiwan, who manufactured HDD, could retrieve the data.

But then, I believe that this event and data crash, and the new HDD will lead to newer and better things, more inspiring thoughts and productive ideas for the current and future projects. I perceive it as some kind of wonderful test. Test of the machine and test in life, and the relations with others. I didn’t tell you that I was writing a lot in my Moleskine notebooks in the last 24hrs. And there is more hard work for me in the next few hours. Nothing is lost, everything is on breathe and reboot.

My dear friend Simon Baddeley just sent me this quote that I will end my machine/data rumbling with:

“Sir Isaac Newton had on his table a pile of papers upon which were written calculations that had taken him twenty years to make. One evening, he left the room for a few minutes, and when he came back he found that his little dog “Diamond” had overturned a candle and set fire to the precious papers, of which nothing was left but a heap of ashes.
““O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the damage thou hast done”.

Updated: I got Serendipity moment today. The technician “fixed”, by good chance, my, as I thought previously broken touch pad, by simply unlocking it with two keys. Goodness me, I spent months at OUCS, with Oxford engineers who couldn’t solve the mystery of not working touch pad advising to buy wifi mouse as the procedure of hardware touch pad fixing would last a month or two. In less than two hours, technician du jour showed me how it works now. Oi!

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