Month: July 2013

Information Systems versus Information Technology – Complementary to a ‘T’?

Recently, a colleague from the College of Business and I (in the College of Sciences) have been attempting to play football in the nomansland between the Information Technology and Information Systems disciplines, in an attempt to repair the damage of past turf wars played out within our institution. Central to our discussions are the ACM/IEEE curricula. The most recent ACM IS curriculum dates from 2012 and has 7 authors, while the IT curriculum has 9 authors (none in common with IS) and dates from 2008. The IS curriculum talks about careers and broad courses. The IT curriculum talks about foundations, pillars and capstones. Beneath the differing approaches, however, a common theme emerges. Where the IS curriculum talks about data and information management, the IT curriculum talks about databases. Where the IS curriculum talks about IT infrastructure, the IT curriculum talks about networking. This pattern is repeated in pretty much every area of the two curricula. Together these approaches from a kind of ‘T’ shape in each of the core topic areas. The IS curriculum provides a broad horizontal view of Systems while the IT curriculum provides a vertical dive into supporting Technology. By merging these curricula into a comprehensive programme of IT and IS majors, we can hopefully provide both the breadth and depth of systems knowledge and skills essential to our future graduates.

Testing mobile apps with geolocation and i18n

Testing mobile apps can be tricky, particularly if they use geolocation. Sometimes there’s no substitute for manual testing with a mobile device in situ. For the last couple of years we have been developing a mobile learning game that uses Google Maps to locate geotagged learning tasks. Late last year I was testing it at the University of York in the UK. Instead of the elegant new campus at Heslington East, all Google Maps could show me was a muddy building site from several years previously. I have just returned from a few weeks working at Hanyang University in Seoul, Korea. This time it was the zoom level available in Google maps that was the problem – the satellite pictures of Seoul on Google maps don’t have a suitable level of detail. A further complication in Korea was the task of translating all the game’s text resources into Korean. It was useful to prove to myself that UTF-8 really does work for i18n (internationalization)! However many of the tools on my laptop could not cope with the character set, so kudos to Microsoft Word, with its handy viewer that shows you what your document will look like using different encodings before you load it, and to oXygen’s excellent XML editor that picked up my markup errors. I was also reminded, after some painful debugging, that sometimes the only bulletproof way to render an ampersand (&) in XML is ampersand hash 038 semicolon (no matter how else I tried to write that it rendered it as an ampersand – foolproof!)

Finally, if you’re thinking I could test all that in an emulator from the comfort of my office, we simultaneously tested the app with three similar Samsung phones (after all we were in Korea!) ¬†All three exhibited different behaviour, in particular in their response to the GPS signal. As I said, sometimes there’s no substitute for manual testing with a mobile device in situ.