Older blog entries for Ankh (starting at number 123)

XML I've been spending a little time thinking about the future of XML and plan post a little more on that subject here over the next few days. I don't want to do a front-page article just yet, as people get nervous when they hear the idea of changes to XML or anything to do with it.

It's not clear to me that we (W3C) should be making significant changes beyond stuff like supporting the latest Unicode and incorporating errata.

I'm not the only one to have published suggested reworks of XML; Tim Bray has his "Skunk-works" XML, and there are many others, but most focus on reducing coplexity or syntax and retaining expressive power. A few, such as LMNL, focus on reducing syntax and increasing expressive power, most notably by adding support for overlapping hierarchies.

With XML Query getting closer to a 1.0 version of the specification, with XML Schema getting much wider adoption, and with XSLT 2 also close to release, incorporating XML Schema as well as other much-needed functionality, it's time to think about the way forward.

We (W3C) have a Working Group whose task is to make a case for (or against) a standardised efficient (binary) transfer encoding for XML. Again, the outcome of that WG may inidicate some changes.

Some work has been less widely adopted, although that doesn't necessarily mean it's less important. We haven't seen very wide uptake of XPointer or XLink, and I admit that I'd personally like to see XSL/FO supported in Web browsers. Support for interchanging arbitrary chunks of XML was specified but never achieved critical mass.

People are using XML for a ton of stuff today that wasn't anticipated, and for some that was. It has become part of general computing infrastrcture - which is why people don't want to change it.

What's missing? Are there big pieces we (W3C? others/) should be working on?

This is getting a bit long for a diary entry. More tomorrow, if anyone cares :-)


Raph, I'm reminded that the Folio/F3 system by (I think) Jakob Valdez added conic sections to PostScript's primitives, which is why NeWS, which used F3 fonts, had an extra codeblock argument to "pathforall". The F3 font hinter had an excellent reputation, anf F3 fonts were typically smaller than TrueType for a roughly comparable (hard to measure) quality. Sorry if this is off-topic, I haven't been following Advogato after it went off-line for a while.

Pictures I've been having fun with DeviantArt for a while now (no, I'm not Ankh there, that's someone else) and the trouble with that is that it's making me want a better camera. The one that I have has the advantage of fitting easily into a pocket, and at 4 MPixels I can usually filter out the noise and end up with a fair-quality picture without having a huge SLR or medium-fomat camera slung around my neck. Maybe I'll end up with two camera. But a better scanner is on the cards first, because I've been scanning pictures from antiquarian books and putting them online; I have a number of old books with fabulous pictures, but that are too large formy scanner. So I think I'm going to get an A3/tabloid professional-quality flat-bed scanner. An alternative might be to get a rig that holds a medium-format camera in position a couple of metres away from a book on a stand where the page is open at a little over 90 degrees, as this doesnt' do so much damage to the spine of the book. Hmm, decsions, decisions :-)

Writing A while ago I started thinking about writing a book called What Every Unix Programmer Should Know. I don't have time to write a book right now, but I'm considering that maybe I could write a few chapters and edit contributions. I'll think about it. Every time I see a buffer overflow attack I think about spending more effort on stack protection, as well as wishing for good old-fashioned non-executable data pages as on the PDP-11 and VAX. So maybe it'd be beter spending energy trying to promote operating system robustness, an area where Unix once had huge advantages over Windows and MS-DOS.

OK, time for lunch.

habes, I don't think I'd go so far as saying that a 3-column layout is a holy grail for CSS. If there is a holy grail I suspect (I'm not involved directly with the CSS Working Group) that it's supporting, simultaneouly, clear and effective communication and Web pages that work on any number of devices at the same time, something especially hard to do with tables. A secondary (but very important) goal must also be supporting the idea of domain-specific markup directly, thus helping people to re-use the information that's in their documents.

Of course, from the perspective of the Architecture Domain in the W3C, and particularly the XML Activity, CSS doesn't just apply to (X)HTML, but also to XML in general. There's an overlap with XSL/FO (formatting objects) and another with SVG, especially now that the SVG Working Group is adding wrapping text support.

Mandelieu (near Cannes in France) might sound like a wonderful site for meetings, unless you are familiar with all-day technical meetings and you know that you don't get to go out of the hotel very much. I go back to Toronto tomorrow morning.

We have just had the W3C Technical Plenary, where all the Working Groups meet in the same place, so that you get to have lunch, dinner, coffee with people from other Activitis and Working Groups, and get a chance to understand their needs. It's a good idea and seemed to go very well this time, although the four-day XML Query meeting has been a little gruelling!

Tim Bray mentioned me in his blog, on hearing that i was married; the interesting thing about this is that the visitors to my Web site from his mostly looked at pictures of me (is that the person I met in...), at my text retrieval package, and at my list of technical/XML/Web books. People from Advogato are more likely to look at my pictures from (and of) old books, and most especially at the scans of old books in many languages rather than (say) pictures of Castles. It's quite a strong trend, although I'm not sure if it means anything.

If you're wondering, I track this with a CGI script I wrote a long time ago that presents the Apache referrer log in full detail, but in a more readable way, with sessions groups together. I didn't make a distribution but a few other people use the script, so mail me if you want a copy.

A death in the family kept me away from this Net thing for a while.

Before that, was at the ORA Emerging Technology conference. The biggest talk of the town this year is the Friend-of-a-Friend (FOAF) collaborative trust network stuff, part of the W3C Semantic Web, but also shown in things like Orkut.

My XML Query-based search engine for my pictures scanned from old books web site is almost ready; I made it four times faster by rewriting the query a bit, and by switching from Galax to Saxon, which does much less type checking. Type checking is a Good Thing, so I hope to switch back again with the next release of Galax.

Next is to try and get the SVG visualisation of query results working better, and it's almost ready to go live.

It's still much slower than I'd like, especially as the machine it's running on is fairly old now. But it's been fun to work with a geographical database (actualy a flat XML file), RDF and a relational database all in the same query. I'm giving a talk on this at XML Europe in Amsterdam in April. At least I'll have nice looking slildes, using the SVG and also the pictures from the old books! The neat thing as that all the data is XML, and is all manipulated in XML Query - there's no extra proprietary middleware glue: once you can get something into XML, you can process it. It's that simple, and a fairly compelling argument for using XML Query and XML.

XML Query as Middleware is something people have been saying for a while now (including me in a talk at Emerging Technologies next week). The idea that everything going over the glue-pipes is XML turns out to be as startling in its way as the idea some 30 years earlier that everything could be newline-terminated ASCII streams of text. It's soemthing I've been looking forward to for over a decade, but it snuck up on me and startlified me by coming out of XML Query.

orkut: I've been surprised at some of the invitations. It's also clear the site isn't scaling all that well, alhough there doesn't seem to be anything that can't be fixed. The lists of thumbnails of friends, sorted by number of friends, seems to encourage competition. But I really wish they'd start making the friend network available in RDF, issuing RSS feeds of recently joining people per community, and so forth. It's not really giving enough back to the broader Web community I think.

Pictures: I had a request to scan the Slavonic entries from the almost three-hundred-year-old (1713) Oratio Dominica that I have online, and an offer to transcribe them. It's not clear how to do the transcription, and I may need to use a TEI Writing Set Definition and the Unicode private use aera in the absence of Old Church Slavonic charactersin Unicode 4. Until then, though, I'm busy with castle siege engines.

XML at the W3C is moving along in its own sweet pace; XML 1.1, Namespaces 1.1, Infoset 2nd Edition and XML 1.0 3rd Edition have all been published as W3C Recommendations. XML Parsers should be updated to accept both 1.1 and 1.0 documents (validating them appropriately). If you generate XML, it's OK to continue to generate XML 1.0, unless of course you need the new features, such as Unicode-compliant line end support (NEL) and extra name characters in element names, attributes, IDs etc.

nymia, thanks for commenting on the pictures scanned from old books. I keep thinking of getting a domain for them like oldengravins.org or something and seeing if others will contribute.

Orkut.com says at me, You are connected to -31062 people through 72 friends. A negative number of people? Could it be that the programmer used a 16-bit integer somewhere and more than 65535 people signed up?? At any rate the number seems to be moving towards zero, strengthening the hypothesis.

I notice that of the images in my deviant art gallery , the ones marked as Wallpaper/Medieval seem to be one to two orders more popular than the others. I am guessing that a lot of people browse the site by category and choose Wallpapers, so I've move all my pictures of the right size that might be useful for screen backgrounds into that category, to see if it made a difference. It did.

What interests me about this is that it presumably indicates that the Deviant Art site is browsed by a lot of people who are not part of the community. This is very different from orkut, where you have to be a member to be signed up. Of course, the popularity of sites ilke Digital Blasphemy indicates a strong demand for screen backgrounds too, so it's hard to interpret the skimy data I have ;-)

Speaking of orkut, if you know me and want to be invited, get in touch and I'll happily invite you. Don't forget to tell me what colour socks you're wearing.

I've been running Knoppix for a few days, because my laptop died and I'm borrowing a system that doesn't boot except from floppy. It'd be nice to have Flash installed - even nicer if fewer Web sites used Flash, especially now there is SVG - and it'd be nice to have more memory, and it'd be nice if Knoppix's hardware detection was as good as Mandrake's seems to be - Knoppix didn't find the sound on this system for example - but it's a lot better than having to walk up the road to use an Internet Cafe.

Speaking of Flash, I went to see Lord of the Rings / Return of the King last night. I tried to book a ticket online, but the Paramount web site is totally useless without Flash. Luckily there was plenty of room, and I saw the film projected onto an IMAX screen. I love the Alan Lee drawings in the closing credits, and definitely felt it was the best of the three films. I forgive them their deviations from the book - not that they care about what I think, but I do :-)

Someone asked me to scan in some samples of Serbian script I have; when my laptop is back I'll do that. Possibly tomorrow.

When I get back from the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference next week I want to post an article about why I use the particular distribution of linux I do (when my laptop is working!) - not to start a distribution war, but to try and elicit discussion about the maturity of Linux, and a bit about the cultural and social problems we have to solve. If you're willing to help by reading a draft, please let me know.

elanthis, my favourite rogue-like game was always Omega, for what it's worth, by (I think) Lawrence Brothers. Part of that was that the humour was clearly separated from the mechanism. Looking at AweMud's "screenshots", the game mechanics seem very in-your-face; I think I'd find it felt more like wargaming as a result than a fantasy/quest sort of game, but maybe I'm showing my bias (or my age?). I assume that calling a forest clearig a "room" is just poor scripting, and not part of the game engine. The last two face-to-face roleplaying campaigns I ran (in 1989/1990 and in 1992 or so) didn't have any combat, which was just as well as I didn't write a combat system for them. The players seemed to enjoy them, though.

I had to take my laptop to be repaired today, and stopped off at BCE place (between Yonge and Bay, south of King, in Toronto) and ate in the Movenpick there. When I came out, there was a photography exhibition there, in the Canada Trust (or whatever bank itis) part of the building.

You might expect something very corporate. It was called "Toronto, a celebration" or something. There were maybe 100 photos printed maybe 2 feet across, mostly showing events like the Jazz Festival.

There were some pretty neat photos. One (visible from quite some distance aay becuase it was on the end of the display) was of someone wearing very tight white undies or shorts with "gaypride" printed on them. It could have been in a beer ad or something... except I realised after a moment that the wearer had a beard.

Another was of two men wearing suits and ties, kissing, it was called just married. There were pics of the Hindu Festival, the Pride Parade, Caribana, Jazz Festival, and quite a few others I've forgotten now. But it was neat to see the ones I mentioned, in a context where you might expect controversy to be avoided.

Of course, gay marriage isn't all that controversial here :-) The exhibition has a web page, although I can't see it right now (using knoppix while I have no laptop, I should try gnoppix!)

Seaking of controversial, I've been playing with orkut too. It feels somewhat validating to get a message, so-and-so wanted to add you as a friend, but then there's pressure to get as many friends as possible (I'm resisting). I'd like to distinguish friends, co-workers, acquaintances, lust-bodies and so forth, but then, what's the point? You can do almost nothing with it.

I can see interesting possibilities if it's integrated with google's main search. For example, "weight my google search so that pages made by friends, or linked to by them, are higher in the results".

It doesn't have the focus of a community site like deviantart.com (that's a link to my page there if you care; follow the "Gallery" link there to see the pictures I put there) nor the shared interaction of Advogato.

I'm off to San Diego next week to speak at O'Reilly's Emerging Technology conference. I'm really not sure what the audience will be like; I'm guessing it'll be more analysts, consultants, people trying to decide if new technology is important to them, than programmers trying to learn it, compared to (say) OSCON, but I'll see. I'll be talking about XML Query, which is actually pretty cool despite being fairly large and complex.

I've been working on a search engine for my Pictures of Ruined castles and other engravings and woodcuts from old books. This uses XML Query and RDF and SQL and XHTML and XML and CSS and SVG all at the same time, so it's very Acronym-friendly. I'll share the URL after the conference, I need to do a bit more work on it first, to make it more useable. It's pretty neat to discover how much you can do with XML Query in an all-XML world.

By the way, I've noticed that people visiting my picture site from Advogato tend to be most interested in the Oratio Dominica, a complete scan of an 18th Century book giving the Lord's Prayer in over 100 languages and in lots of different scripts. Next most popular is Fry's Pantographia, another old book of scripts. Maybe geeks like languages?

I'm remembering having lunch at the Ras Cafe just off Central Square, when I lived in Cambridge MA. I ordered a sandwich and a coffee and heard Ettore and Anna right next to me ask if I wanted to join them.

All who knew Ettore, you are in my thoughts.

Went (along with my partner and Larry, a friend from Oswego, NY) to a Pow Wow, the first I've ever been to, at the Toronto Skydome. They had over 600 dancers, and I got to see and learn about a lot of aboriginal things, although it's only scratching the surface really. Someone was selling tee-shirts saying, Homeland security: fighting terrorists since 1492. If I felt slightly out of place (unlike Clyde and Larry, I can't plausibly claim any Native blood inside me at all) I did not feel unwelcome, and for once my wandering around dressed in bright orange and bare feet didn't make anyone bat an eyelid.

Larry is a song-writer, so he went to the Music Industry Workshop and said afterwards it was pretty helpful. I had been going to suggest that he put some of his music on mp3.com, but with that being bought by CNet, maybe iTunes is looking better.

An aboriginal event was an interesting contrast from a week of meetings in Japan. Now I think I need to sleep a lot.

Before I do that, though, I've tried to rescue www.valinor.sorcery.net, a web site where I had a list of IRC clients and a glossary that were quite widely linked to. The ISP decided to close port 6667 (used by IRC) without any explanation, and several months later when I finally got an answer, it was that the port (and port 7000) was closed for security resons for all of their customers. I mind that less than that it took months to find out, and the only refunds they are prepared to give are credits for a service I've no intention of using. It's not worth the small claims court, but I wouldn't use Interland again. It's a shame, because HostPro, the original hosting company I used, was very responsive, but Interland bought them.

Just got back from a week in Japan for W3C AC meetings. Very tired. My laptop died on the 2nd day there; back in Toronto it took an hour and a half for an engineer to fix it. A fuse had blown. It's taking more than an hour and a half for me to recover from the 26 hours of travel from Shin Yokahoma to Toronto, though. Well, OK, 26 hours from when I got up to get breakfrast to when I collapsed in a heap at home, attended by two anxious cats!

A couple of people asked me, incredulously, what did you do in meetings all day without a laptop? and part of me thinks there's something wrong with this picture. First, along came powerpoint presentations (or their HTML slidemaker equivalent) and the visual aid, that once added interest and delight, was reduced to an absurd summary to help remove the need to communciate clearly. Then people realised that they didn't need to listen to the speaker. And now it's hard to speak and be heard, because people expect to be able to view porn or play Ages of Corruption or some other game on their laptops, or read email and chat on IRC and buy socks on eBay.

On the other hand, in the audience, I wrote a fairly detailed outline for a novel, and practiced my calligraphy.

wspace, you're missing the point. The point of XML is not that it's more or less ugly than indented text, it's that I don'thave to parse it, it's that every XML-aware tool can already read it. Consider using XML Query to find all conf entries with timeout < 10:

/host[timeout < 10]

That's more succinct than the corresponding perl, and this is for a format with only one level of nesting and no structure in individual values.

Why would you want humans to edit configuration files anyway?

Thomasvs, for getting rid of stuff, one approach is to go without for a while. I admit it doesn't work for me very well, though. Stuff is a form of security, it shows I'm real.

Exercise: obtain a pair of pyjamas or a track suit or a pair of shorts and a plain tee-shirt (and if you live in the US or Canada, a pair of flip-flops); also obtain a toothbrush and toothpaste, a blank pad of sketch or writing paper and a pen. Wear (only) the items you just purchased, and carry the others in the plastic carrier bag they came in, and take public transport to a hotel. Stay there for a week, writing about your feelings. If possible, ask for a hotel room without a television, or unplug it.

When you return, ask yourself which of the items you own you wanted or needed during that week, and why.

As I said, this tends not to work for me, partly because on my return I get too embroiled in eeryday life to do an actual purge.

MichaelCrawford, like you, I emigrated to Canada, although from the UK not from the US. When I became a Canadian citizen it was because I felt (and feel) that I should contribute more to my surroundings. But if you move to Canada, do it because of a love of Canada, not only because of a hatred or fear of what the US has become. If you do decide you like it here, I'm sure you'll be very welcome :-)

My husband is in the process of becoming a landed immigrant so he can join me here in Toronto.

This summer was busier than I have ever been, I think. I wore shoes for more of it than I like, too.

I'm trying to start catching up publishing all the talks I gave, starting at a conference on the topic of the preservation and archiving of digital media in March.

But sometimes I get distracted; I've been playing with Deviant Art (thanks to halcy0n for suggesting it) and also transcribing a 1718 Grammar of Heraldry, a small book I happen to own.

Where do nudists carry their USB memory sticks?

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