Getting the capital out on the Web

Let’s face it, business travel is a drag. “If it is Tuesday it must be L.A.” is an all too common situation.

Now with the advent of city portals, travelling to a new city can at least be a little more enjoyable. Click on, find out what’s happening, book some theatre tickets, click off.

Earlier this year the nation’s capital joined the list of on-line metropolises with the launch of, thus allowing residents and visitors the opportunity to get up-to-the-minute information on hotels, restaurants, entertainment and special events.

“The idea is to develop as the place to go for anything Ottawa, particularity with on-line links and on-line information,” said Seymour Diener, new media manager of He said, for starters, a strong focus will be aimed toward tourism and entertainment.

With the ability to create e-mail and calendars, producing a personal schedule is a snap. when visitors see a listing for an event they would like to attend, they drag and drop it into their own calendar.

Diener said the Ottawa Citizen newspaper realized several years ago it would not be satisfied with only an on-line newspaper and that it wanted to capture the whole city.

Like any major on-line venture, the creation of took a lot of time and effort.

“It took us at least a year to put all of the back-end pieces together, and I don’t just mean the technology, but the right partners, the right business model,” Diener said. The next step was “to sit down and do the coding and design the front end, the back end, the tools and all the rest of it,” he added.

Community sites often require the involvement of a wide variety of participants, and was no exception. The start of the project goes back more than two years.

“There was a conference in Ottawa designed to trigger interest in something called the Ottawa Community Network,” Diener said. The idea was to look for applications based on high-end telecommunications. One of the categories identified from the conference, that would benefit the community, was a tourism site. Other areas deemed to be beneficial were health and medicine, and government services. According to Diener, at this point the Ottawa Citizen became involved along with the Ottawa Convention and Tourism Authority and the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation. The group then jointly submitted an application for some assistance from the province of Ontario and received $500,000 to help finance the site.

Diener said the group looked for off-the-shelf solutions but came up short. There was a desire to have a Canadian solution, designed from a Canadian viewpoint, using Canadian technology, he said.

Enter Hard Boiled Egg (HBE) Software, a Montreal-based software development company. It developed a Linux-based software solution geared toward city sites that have connections to local newspapers. The company’s program, Net.hub, is the technology behind the site.

Linux is by no means as widespread as other operating systems, which might shy some people away from using it. According to Sean Terriah, systems architect at HBE Software, his company reassures people using documentation which proves the stability of the OS. To back that up, Terriah added, “ has never been restarted and it has been up since January.”

Though the software is Linux-based, the servers are Sun Microsystems Inc. Unix-based systems, and the combination has proved to be seamless. “We chose Linux as a development platform because we write all of our technology based on open source,” Terriah said. “When ever we up load it to the Sun machines it is pretty transparent,” he elaborated.

HBE will customize the front end to adapt to the demands of any city site, but the back end doesn’t change.

“If we keep changing the back end we don’t have a product, we have something for,” Terriah added.

A total of four Sun servers are being used for the site. The main database is on an Enterprise 250 machine. There are three front-end servers, and the two primary servers are Sun Ultra 10 servers. They back each other up and load balance via round-robin DNS. The fourth server is an Ultra 5, and it operates as backup and tape backup for the system. All of the servers are running on Sun Solaris 7. uses version 1.2.