Archive for September, 1997

A Database-Backed Dynamic Website

Posted on the September 1st, 1997 under Web Projects by

This was a project I developed for the BU Department of Electrical Engineering in 1997-1999, when dynamic websites were expensive and difficult to build.  In 2010, a lot of these features may seem standard, but back in 1997, its construction required tons of original thought as well as extensive effort.

Rstr.bu.edu was a full-fledged content management system (CMS) supporting 7 universities on a common $1.7 million grant on recognizing targets in radar images.  It was running on AOLserver (an early full-featured web server with a built-in Tcl interpreter), and used Solid Tech’s Solid RDBMS (a pretty good RDBMS since acquired by IBM).   My work was one of the early examples of how to build great dynamic websites on the cheap, and Philip Greenspun wanted to include it in his next edition of the book “Database-Backed Websites.”  We ultimately decided against it because it was running on an UltraSparc 2, which would likely crumple under the load of traffic from the worldwide readers of Philip’s popular book.  The website had a lot of innovative features, which I developed from the ground up, i.e. without using any external libraries, including:

  • A custom, tiered user login, permissions and access control system.  This system also allowed the creation of user groups and assignment of various permissions to users.
  • An HTML-based templating system that allowed fancy formatting of content.
  • A fully automated document submission and storage system using either web or FTP uploads.
  • An online browser of bibliographical content.
  • A calendar of talks and events.
  • Automatic generator of LaTeX bibliographical for the papers stored in the archive.
  • A custom search engine that allowed parenthetical grouping, logical connectives (and, or, not) and wildcards (* and ?).
  • A web-based administration suite, including user and content management.
  • An automated integrity checking and reporting system that notified the administrator of submissions and breakages on the website.
  • Features to thwart attempts at hacking through malformed form arguments.
rstr.bu.edu website header

Website header

rstr.bu.edu calendar snapshot

The built-in meeting calendar

rstr.bu.edu search page

The search page with options

rstr.bu.edu search result page

The search results page

BU Computer Graphics Group

Posted on the September 1st, 1997 under Organizations by

In 1997, I co-founded Boston University Student Computer Graphics group (BUGG), together with Chris Abernethy, Natasha Tatarchuk, Alex Vlachos, and Dean Radcliffe.  I served for a year as its vice-president.  We gave a series of lectures about computer graphics (graphics engines, hardware accelerators), 3D engines (Doom and Quake), 3D modeling and animation (3D Studio, Lightwave and Truespace).

Interestingly, many friends who shared my interest in computer graphics and attended BUGG,  went on along with yours truly to formally study the subject in classes taught by Professor Stan Sclaroff.  Then, some went on to fairly prominent positions in the computer graphics industry.  Here are some examples.  Alex Vlachos, Natasha Tatarchuk and Chris Oat were at ATI Labs and were partially responsible for producing the excellent ATI technology demos (including the one with Ruby).  Alex then went on to work on Drake’s Fortune’s engine renderer, and is now working at Valve Software, adding cool shader-based effects to their graphics engine. Dan Baker worked for the Direct3D team at Microsoft for a while, and is currently working on Civilization 5 at Firaxis.

I have also always loved computer graphics and continue to do so, however my professional development took a different path since I realized that I am even more compelled by computer networks and distributed systems.

All I have remaining from those times are some rather crudely put together announcement posters:

BUGG Poster 1

BUGG Poster 2