IT

(a fine selection)
Server Environment
Linux (Ubuntu, CentOS) A growing need for servers had to be satisfied

The problem
The server landscape grew as services were expanded and systems got more sophisticated.

The question
Which operating system fits our needs and has the necessary agility and versatility?

The solution
It was almost a law of nature to choose Linux. Ubuntu was used for most web-related server whereas CentOS was primarily used for everything else.

Programming
Python A programming language to realize various server based projects/tasks

The problem
A powerful programming language was needed to realize complex tasks on Unix-based servers. It should be possible to easily create large scripts without worrying on which Unix it will be deployed.

The question
Which language is powerful, up-to-date and has a large user-base?

The solution
Python was chosen for it fulfilled the needs. It has a large community backing it, is easy to learn and capable of solving almost every task.

Infrastructure Monitoring
Naigos One of the most powerful (free) monitoring systems was needed

The problem
The server network grew rapidly and crucial services were moved to separate machines, making it hard to keep track of them.

The question
Is there a viable monitoring system that fits our needs while being affordable?

The solution
The Naigos monitoring system fit our needs. It was already implemented but in a poor, chaotic state and out of date. A complete Nagios overhaul was done

Orchestration
Ansible Used to provision primarily Windows clients and virtual machines

The problem
A growing Windows and virtual machine pool rendered manual administration inefficient. A solution for the inefficiency and a growing environment needs to be found.

The question
Is there a way to make cross platform administration more efficient?

The solution
After assessing multiple applications, Ansible was chosen. It offers superb crossplatform orchestration and is easy to use yet complex enought to fulfill all our needs.

Virtualization
Docker Merge services from VMs to one Docker cluster

The problem
A need for computational power grew rapidly in the last years. Dedicated VMs for each service (e.g. Git, Confluence, Jira, Ansible) was not viable for different reasons, e.g. downtime management, idling and general inefficiency.

The question
Is there a way to fully optimize the vitualized environment?

The solution
Dockerize the servies on one Docker host, hence have almost no downtime, no idling, easy update and a lot more advantages that a dedicated VM for each service does not provide.

Visualization
d3.js Data visualization is an art for itself, especially if there's a lot of data.

The problem
A massive amount of complex information is hard to grasp when not appealingly presented. Additionally, critical information must be highlighted accordingly.

The question
Is there a powerful visualization library to present all this complex information?

The solution
The JavaScript library D3.js offered everything needed - furthermore it's using HTML, SVG and CSS that can be viewed in any modern browser. That made sharing the visualization easy. The Magic Circle of the Brainatlas was born!

Research

(a selection)
Statistics
R / R-Studio Statistics is the equivalent of a battle axe in an RPG, R is the one epic drop everyone wants

The problem
Any statistical analysis. Using SPSS is out of question.

The question
Is there an statistical application that's like a programming language, open source and just awesome?

The solution
R is the best application for statistical analysis out there - and it's free! Now think of that one epic drop in the RPG and you didn't even had to kill a monster for it! Ain't that just great?

Reporting
LaTeX A document preparation system and a high-quality typesetting system

The problem
In reports and articles, content is king. Is there an editor or system that focuses on the content rather than the visuals (and is not messing around with the layout - looking at you, MS Word)?

The question
Is there an editor for writing documents without the obstacles of a WYSIWYG interface?

The solution
The LaTeX typesetting system need some practise, but it pays off big time. LaTeX does not only provide an convenient environment for writing documents, it's also the de facto standard for the publication of scientific documents.

Gamification
COSMOS A new web-platform for smart automated largescale data acquisition

The problem
For an experimenter, the main problem is the acquisition of data and it's associated cost. For a largescale experiment, costs can get exorbitantly high.

The question
What would be the best way to overcome this problem?

The solution
Gamification! We gamified several psychometrical test and developed a long overdue digital toolbox for both online and lab-based assessments.

Coordination & Communication
Student Projects Multiple groups with each between 5 and 10 students need adequate methods of communication and coordination

The problem
Communicating with a larger group of students can be tought, especially when certain tasks and goal should be reached within a predefined time frame.

The question
Is there an optimal way communicating our needs while continuing a time efficient coordination?

The solution
A direct and collegial form was chosen, not only via email but also via Skype and personal meetings. The requirements were always discussed with the students, for input and ideas, thus involving them more during the project, ensuring a perfect outcome.