Archive for January 2012

Microsoft Codename “Cloud Numerics”

The work that I did as a member of the Math Libraries Group in Technical Computing at Microsoft has been released in the form of a SQL Azure Lab named Microsoft Codename “Cloud Numerics”. There is, of course, a lot of other technology in the lab that was not produced by my group, but all of our product is in the release.


First a note about the Geneagrapher: a new release is impending. The release includes many internal changes: lots of refactoring to improve the code, better conformance to Python coding conventions (remember, I wrote the first version a long time ago and my proficiency with Python has improved a lot since then), better code coverage by the tests, better design to enable more extensibility, and a local caching mechanism to eliminate multiple network requests for the same record. I will explain what I mean by extensibility in a later post.

Now, the point of this post: thanks to the changes to Geneagrapher mentioned above, I have set up a web-based “Geneacache“. It is a very early preview, so the API may change in the near future. A lot of other changes are needed, too, and it is possible I will move the page to a different address. Here’s the idea: your software can use the Geneacache to retrieve records from the Mathematics Genealogy Project (MGP), saving you the trouble of scraping the MGP pages or having to use Geneagrapher to do it for you. The response contains the record’s information in JSON. For example, for Gauß you currently get:

    "advisors": [
    "descendants": [
    "institution": "Universität Helmstedt",
    "name": "Carl Friedrich Gauß",
    "year": 1799

Behind the scenes, the Geneacache either returns what it has locally or fetches it from the MGP, stores it locally, and then returns the record to you.

This is not used for anything at the moment, but I intend to start exposing Geneagrapher through a web page again (history lesson: the first version of Geneagrapher, from when I was in graduate school — was a web service) at some point in the future. The Geneagrapher client is nice and all, but I imagine most users are not interested in installing it locally to use it.

I am also planning to get in touch with the MGP folks about this and related topics.


I received a book about orienteering over the holidays (I had requested it). My trip back to Washington from Iowa last week was long enough, due to a four hour wait for the connecting flight, for me to get through the book.

Conveniently, there was an orienteering event in Seattle yesterday, and I went (results here). This was my first event, so I ran the beginner course. I liked it and plan to continue attending events. I think the sport will be really interesting on more challenging courses because of the decision making that will go into navigating to the controls.

Back to the book: it would benefit from updating and releasing a new edition. The basic information is still accurate, but parts of the book have become outdated, based on what I saw and learned from talking to an experienced club member.

Philips Urban Beehive

A few posts back, I was talking about beekeeping. Shortly afterwards, I saw a couple articles about a Philips urban beehive. Click through one of those links for images.

I kind of wonder about cleaning the thing, but bees are pretty obsessive about hygiene, so maybe there is no issue. Let me know how it goes.

This beehive is part of the company’s Microbial Home design project.