Cybernetics Department puts faith in web

Roisin Woolnough meets the man who created the Reading University Cybernetics Department's Web site

Roisin Woolnough meets the man who created the Reading University Cybernetics Department's Web site

When Mohammed Arshad built the new Web page for the Cybernetics Department at Reading University, his remit was to create a site that could hold a lot of information and be amended easily.

"The objective was to build a database to hold course and module information and manage the relationships between these data sets," Arshad explains. "A skeleton HTML Web page structure defining the 'theme' of the online prospectus was then used to poll the database upon request by a Web user to find the required information.

"This allowed for the ongoing manipulation of database information, which was necessary to cope with changes to programme specifications, to be isolated from the design of the front-end." For example, if a course module is dropped, the site can be automatically updated.

Arshad says he really enjoyed designing the Jasmine Object Orientated database. "I particularly enjoyed the hierarchical structure of the Jasmine database. It was very simple to design using Object Database Query Language. And the great thing about it is that it's an e-business infrastructure, so it can communicate with different databases, such as Oracle or SQL. It just requires a provider. Most come with one or you can easily create one."

Arshad used the Com interface.

A server-side script, made up of Active Server Pages and Visual Basic script, executes all the information to be pulled from the database. Windows NT is the underlying operating system, running on Microsoft's Internet Information Server. Arshad has also employed Unicenter TNG as a monitoring tool. "Unicenter is well known for networking management software, but we're using the Web management option. It allows us to see which parts of the Web site are being visited."

Unicenter also enables the department to obtain the IP addresses of users to allow dynamic address personalisation.

On the hardware front, Arshad says they use a network of four PCs, two of which are being used as servers, one for development work and the other as a local server.

Initially, Arshad was one of just two people working on the project, but a new person has recently joined the team. It took them three months to design the site. But no sooner had they completed one project than they were on to the next job - an online prospectus for the university.

Curriculum vitae

  • Name: Mohammed Arshad

  • Job title: Web developer

  • Age: 24

  • Qualifications: IT skills: Dynamic HTML, Javascript, VB Script, Java and Delphi programming languages, ASP, Weblink, ODQL, Object Orientated Database Design, NT, IIS, Jasmine ii and Unicenter TNG

  • Hobbies: football, mountain biking, reading

  • Favourite film: Goodfellas

  • Favourite book: Any Sherlock Holmes novel by Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Arshad on Arshad: motivated, proactive, understanding

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