Older blog entries for jmason (starting at number 44)

Been on holidays since last Wednesday, so quite a lot of stuff to catch up on. However, MiniNTK sported a link to this beauty:

The hackers are members of a cult based in Finland called The Free Source that, among other things, practices communal ownership of software. Its members release their software under something called the Glorious People's License (or GPL) which basically states that no one can own the software or put restrictions on copying it.

"The Free Source has been recruiting on line for years now," says Ted Phillips, an expert on modern cults, "Their membership probably numbers in the thousands, although it is difficult to tell. They often work by enticing teens and young adults with the promise of free software and beer, before they start encouraging them to read parable-laced screeds that further indoctrinate them into the cult. They have been relatively harmless in the past, but now that they seem to be trying to destroy parents' abilities to protect their children it is clear that they are a danger to our society."

Is this so? If so, where's the beer?! Nobody promised me any beer...

WebMake 0.1 is released. If you fancy taking a look, it can be found at http://webmake.taint.org/.

I think it's pretty neat; a kind of preprocessing language mixed in with CMS ideas. Certainly makes my own web space easier to manage...

I've been quiet recently. Here's why -- my new project, WebMake. The blurb:

WebMake is a simple web site management system, allowing an entire site to be created from a set of text and markup files and one WebMake file.

It requires no dynamic scripting capabilities on the server; WebMake sites can be deployed to a plain old FTP site without any problems.

It allows the separation of responsibilities between the content editors, the HTML page designers, and the site architect; only the site architect needs to edit the WebMake file itself, or know perl or WebMake code.

A multi-level website can be generated entirely from 1 or more WebMake files containing content, links to content files, perl code (if needed), and output instructions. Since the file-to-page mapping no longer applies, and since elements of pages can be loaded from different files, this means that standard file access permissions can be used to restrict editing by role.

Text can be edited as standard HTML, converted from plain text (using the included Text::EtText module), or converted from any other format by adding a conversion method to the WebMake::FormatConvert module.

Since URLs can be referred to symbolically, pages can be moved around and URLs changed by changing just one line. All references to that URL will then change automatically.

Content items and output URLs can be generated, altered, or read in dynamically using perl code. Perl code can even be used to generate other perl code to generate content/output URLs/etc., recursively.

I'm just polishing it up, registering it on sourceforge, then I'll release an alpha and see what the reaction is. I've been using it for my own sites and it certainly revolutionises the crufty bag of SSIs and hack scripts I was using ;)

Want a clear, concise overview of the state of the art in internet groupware, discussion systems, future plans for same, why XML is good for the web, what Microsoft is on about with .NET, some snippets of Tim B-L's "Semantic Web", etc. etc. etc.? Then print out and read Jon Udell's report for Software Carpentry on the subject. It's very good.

In it he foresees an XML- and internet-based infrastructure for connecting services, "analogous to the UNIX pipeline".

I've been kinda doing this myself by repurposing other people's websites using scripts which talk HTTP, and pretend to be "normal people" browsing -- viz. sitescooper and send-sms-message. But it would be a lot nicer if those sites allowed us to use a clean, well-defined, open interface instead.

The only problem I can see is, how is it worth their while? ie. they cannot display ads in the (machine-readable) XML returned. Micropayments again??

The other question is this -- what's wrong with the UNIX pipeline?? In other words, why isn't there a set of command-line XML manipulation tools for UNIX? As Dan Lyke said:

Wouldn't it be cool to be able to do gzip -dp phonelist.gnumeric | xmlsearch "select phonenumber, longdistanceprice from phonelist.person.work" | xmlsort "person.longdistanceprice"?

Someone else here talked about this concept too, a week or 2 back. Go for it mate, they'll be dead handy tools right now, and everybody'll be thanking you in a year's time...

Too busy -- and trying to release sitescooper 3.0.0 as well.

tetron -- the IFRAME tag IIRC does what you're saying there (inclusion of HTML from another site). The advertising community have been hacking away at that for a while, wouldn't you just know it.

Got a nice plug at TBTF!

That will be all for today's diary I think.

RIP Napster -- for the time being...

Jeff Kandt has suggested embedding XML markup in the ID3 tag of an MP3 to provide a voluntary "goodwill" payment mechanism for MP3 spreading.

This is an interesting proposal, and could work, although there's 2 problems I see:

IIRC there's a problem with using credit cards for small payments like this, so we're back with the micropayment problem again.

Also I think it would need some kind of better authentication to protect against someone stripping out the XML (sig and all) and replacing it with their own, hacked or otherwise dodgy, server information. Maybe a widely-distributed list of valid servers, or a set of well-known trusted servers you could visit to verify that the link between MP3 and payee is valid.

Still, good proposal.

harrisj set up www.mit.edu using Plexus -- cool! I just have to show off at this point -- Iona's, which I ran, was number 70 or so. And yes, it ran Plexus too ;)

Oh dear, I should really stop going on about that, you'd think it was the only worthwhile thing I'd done in 7 years... hmmm...

Installed Postfix at home and in work. It's very nice, and I feel a lot more comfortable about it than s*ndmail. And I really appreciate Wietse Venema's design...

I read all the recentlog.html diaries last night at 1900 GMT before writing yesterday's entry. It's now 1300 GMT and my entry has already scrolled off the bottom. Looks like the diary system's not scaling... :(

New at Joel on Software: a critique of MS' latest vapour tactics regarding .NET.

Basically Joel's question is: "where's the beef?" I've been wondering that too, to a certain extent; it's all very well predicting that SOAP will change the internet, but I can't really see the diff between it and CORBA apart from it being (a) easier to support and (b) an XML-based protocol (that's a good thing in this case, IIOP is just messy IMHO).

BTW Joel is fantastic, I highly recommend this site.

Looking at the MSDN doc on SOAP's firewall traversal system, I notice an interesting thing -- they've worked around the tricky callback-through-firewalls problem by not dealing with it at all -- there's no such thing as an object reference for an object in the client, it seems.

In other words. a SOAP server cannot notify a SOAP client asynchronously unless it's designed into the interface, presumably with e.g. a client making a call that will block for a long time until the server has its data ready. In CORBA that would be done by the client creating an object, sending the object reference to the server, and the server could then call back to it.

This bidirectionality however didn't map into HTTP at all well -- which makes the firewall traversal thing difficult. (in fact it doesn't even map into IIOP well either, but that's another story ;)

Nice one for Caolan -- the largest GPL codebase in the world!! Now let's see what code we can nick for our own projects ;)

I notice openoffice.org is built on Tigris. That'll be a good demo of it, we can see what it's like.

BTW there is some kind of issue with sitescooper 3.0.0. The nightly snarfs have stopped getting 1/2 the sites for some reason. Must investigate...

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