Friday, 12 June 2009

More on the Desktop Repository

I've done some more experimentation on the Desktop Repository idea - strangely coinciding with another 100 exam scripts appearing on my desk to be marked.

Firstly, I've tried to have a go with moving the PowerPoint image data back to an EPrints repository. Each slideshow appears as a separate eprint record, with each of the individual slide images appearing as a separate subdocument, with its own metadata (title/caption etc). A document search allows individual slides to be selected on a specific topic from across all the slideshows. They can then be viewed or exported, and my previous comments about creating new slideshows apply as before.

Secondly, I've been thinking about how to manage individual slides out of the context of the PowerPoint slideshow wrapper that they were created in. Either a new document format has to be created, or I just use a singleton slideshow object (i.e. a PPTX file with just one slide in it). I think that the latter will be easier to handle, because the problem of how to discriminate between an n-slide slideshow and a 1-slide slideshow is easier to solve than the problem of how to manage a whole new document format!

Thirdly, a colleague of mine (Dave Challis, the webmaster here at Southampton) is creating some software for manipulating OpenOffice XML files so that a repository (such as EPrints) can use PowerPoint packages much more easily. The aim is to have Perl and Java modules that will enable collections and sets of repository items to be easily rewritten as slideshows; and if those items are individual slides in the first place (see above) then the ability to conjure slides between slideshows is guaranteed.

This is all a bit of a step back from the truly desktop repository, but EPrints does give me a framework to deal with structured data and metadata. The desktop itself is great at dealing with files, but delegates all of the complexity of those files to applications. The file system has facilities for storing metadata (see the BSD xattr command), but very few commandline tools for managing and manipulating it. So I'll use EPrints to give me some experience with handling large collections of personal data, and then see how far I can push those capabilities back to teh desktop.

Must dash, I have some marking to do.

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