September 2008 Archives

Contrary to popular opinion, anger is not in fact all that good for a writer - you write, but what you write usually falls into the kind of political diatribes favored by more radical members of fringe parties.
I presented by podcast to WG1 (which is the working group on schema languages) my suggested update to ISO Schematron.
Jim Zemlin's job with the Linux Foundation is almost the equivalent of Steve Ballmer's job with Microsoft -- and he does it in the style of Steve Ballmer. That includes loud, outrageous, and sometimes incorrect claims that are easy to refute.
John Lam, who heads the Iron Ruby effort at Microsoft, stopped by to tell O'Reilly News all the exciting work going on with dynamic languages at Redmond. John spent some time discussing what makes a language dynamic, what the benefits of dynamic languages are, and how Microsoft is trying to leverage the power of lanaguages such as Ruby inside their CLR framework.
At one point, the stock market fall was so rapid that several financial sites web service update servers were overwhelmed and crashed as people refreshed their browsers second by second to watch the carnage. At the end of the day, the damage was significant - the Dow down 672 points (6.2%), the S&P down 94 points (7.8%) and the NASDAQ down a staggering 200 points (more than 9.1%). In Canada, the TSX closed down 750 points, and it's likely that the selloff in Asia and Europe will be just as brutal.
We hear a lot of talk about Web 2.0, but has the financial sector even got to Web 1.0, really? Lets take two key things: first, that data interchange should be rich, and second that everything important should be identified. But unless there is an accounting standards emphasis towards objective valuation, we can have all the good standards for financial data interchange we like, and it we won't have reduced society's risk nor improved evidence-based management.
After stripping away the marketing hype the net result is that SOHO is once again free. I also have to wonder if there was some push back from the community when SOHO, which was free for download when version 5.8 was current, was moved to a paid-only status.
Publicly-traded companies spend enormous energies, resources, and dollars to get their financial reports out the door, only to see them pop up on the portal in simplified formats that don't tell the story accurately. So getting the 'canonical' rendering into the hands of the consuming stakeholders is an important aspect of financial report. In the Internet age, it's all about getting the 'eyeballs on the glass' approach - aka what our computer screens show us is what we believe, and enabling the applications we use to consume this content accurately is the key to successful business decisions. The XBRL technical community has addressed this issue in three approaches - presentation linkbases, iXBRL, and rendering linkbases.


By Erik Wilde
September 26, 2008 | Comments: 3 has been around for a long time now, and for a most of that time was considered to be one of the best information sources about XML technologies. It published articles and news and was very focused on people...
Oracle highlighted a number of new database features and related topics at OpenWorld 2008. This entry provides just a quick description of some of the topics you might want to explore further. The big news item of the week was...
As I understand it, the proposed bail-out is shooting seven hundred billion dollar-sized bullets into the dark. But banks know where their money is. We could figure out exactly how risky each asset is, exactly how much exposure each institution has to bad loans or collapsing stocks and bonds, and what the overall health of each institution is.
Programming Flex 3 — If you want to try your hand at developing rich Internet applications with Adobe's Flex 3, and already have experience with frameworks such as .NET or Java, this is the ideal book to get you started. Programming Flex 3 gives you a solid understanding of Flex 3's core concepts, and valuable insight into how, why, and when to use specific Flex features. Learn to get the most from this amazing and sophisticated technology. Learn more.
A. Garrett Lisi gives a tour of the Wiki he uses to record his own research into Theoretical Physics. Lisi uses TiddlyWiki and jsMath to create a open, self-contained platform for scientific collaboration.
Dynamic languages have become a prominent part of the software landscape. While languages like Perl used to be limited to small scripts, there are now a wealth of large systems that have been built entirely on dynamic languages. The web...
Many companies think they are investing in the relationship with their clients, but in fact, they are only establishing a points program.
Arjan van de Ven is a Linux kernel hacker and the author of PowerTOP and LatencyTOP. His goal is to fix problems in the Linux desktop to save power, respond more smoothly, and to run faster. This interview explains how.
I have the same reaction to IBM's recent publication of its I.T. Standards Policies as I had with Microsoft and OOXML standardization. What should we do when some large FUDdy commercial Colossus whose motives we don't necessarily have confidence in wants to do something we pretty much had wished they would do? My recommendation: just lie back and enjoy it honey!
Some people are predicting the death of Solaris. As a multimedia, client-side guy, I find Solaris to be pretty uninteresting, I find Ubuntu's attempt to compete with Mac OS X more compelling. Solaris used to be a huge player on...
On the 20th of September, Henry Paulson submitted an architectural plan to Congress to provide a foundation for keeping Wall Street functional and prevent the credit markets from seizing up, a task which he has been engaged in pretty much non-stop for at least the last year (since the markets started to crack in August 2007). This architectural plan, one that would involve potentially trillions of dollars and affect the lives of tens of millions of people, was not 1000 pages of detailed analysis, not even a hundred pages of recommendations and "to be filled in with details later". It was 2 1/2 pages long.
Google's Michael Weiss-Malik gives us a brief look at Google's GeoWall: a visualization of search traffic on Google's infrastructure.
WSGI almost magically helps you avoid Python web scaling problems due to the GIL. Here's how.
Recent discussions about who contributes to the Linux ecosystem have singled out certain companies as freeriders. That almost makes, but misses a greater point: it's their responsibility to contribute to the health of upstream projects.
The job of standards is to promote bazaars. The large monolithic standard is anti-market, however scaffold technologies and small modules are pro-market, which is not to say they necessarily have any commercial appeal. How do we apply these ideas (parallelism, human scale, scaffolding, modularity, evolvability) to standards, and particular to standards development and adoption? Web Meets World
The opening of Microsoft Research's latest facility was celebrated today with a free one-day symposium here in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I think the symposium succeeded in its goals of showing that the research facility is an independent entity that plays by the rules of open scientific debate and funds basic research of value to society.
It's obvious that Cisco gets the message about the importance of XMPP to the future of the infrastructure of the web, and is placing its bets on the future of Jabber.
On September 19, the W3C published the Last Call Working Draft for Efficient XML Interchange (EXI) -- which allows XML-based implementations to exchange documents without having to use XML's verbose syntax.
The Linux Standard Base (LSB) is the Rosetta Stone for Linux distributions, it establishes a common set of libraries and tools that any Linux application can use safely, and be assured of running correctly. The Linux Foundation is the keeper of the LSB, and recently we spoke with Theodore Tso, who helps tend the LSB, about what goes into keeping it healthy, and how it benefits ISVs, distribution maintainers, and end users alike.
Chad Fowler and Rich Kilmer discuss where Ruby and Rails have gone in the past year, whether RESTful composition obviates the need for ORM, what's interesting in the upcoming world of Ruby and Rails, and how Maglev, Rubinius, and other new Ruby implementations contribute to the world of dynamic languages.
Persistence, performance, rich APIs and increasing broadband connectivity are all likely to make a huge difference for this latest generation of browsers, and the quantum improvement of JavaScript capabilities due to Trace Trees and precompiled JavaScript will likely play a major part in that evolution.
What topics would you like to see in a real-world book about good XML style and use?
Proclaiming Amazon Web Services is "... Never Content" Jeff Barr recently announced the creation of what appears to be a content delivery network (CDN) scheduled for release at the end of this year.

Master Statistics

By O'Reilly Media
September 17, 2008 | Comments: 0

Head First Statistics — Wouldn't it be great if there were a statistics book that made histograms, probability distributions, and chi square analysis more enjoyable than going to the dentist? Head First Statistics brings this typically dry subject to life, teaching statistics through engaging, interactive, and thought-provoking material, full of puzzles, stories, quizzes, visual aids, and real-world examples. This book satisfies the requirements for passing the College Board's Advanced Placement (AP) Statistics Exam. Learn more.
Mitchell Baker of Mozilla reports that they have revised their decision to include a EULA-like notification in the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution. The debate over Mozilla's decision reveals two important debates in the free software world.
Where 2.0: The State of the Geospatial Web — The GeoWeb is a rapidly evolving Web 2.0 market of innovative data and software applications—including location-based services, social software, and even augmented reality—for both the web and mobile devices. Propelled by the new location-aware iPhone, the GeoWeb is hurtling into the mainstream. This report maps out the new generation of geo products and services, identify the major players, and show how your business can leverage the power of Where 2.0. Learn more.
Last week I wrote about a privacy-related controversy and extolled the Code of Ethics that proposed by my colleague Brian McConnell. I heard shortly afterward from the other side of the controversy, Virtual PBX, so I want to air their point of view here and wrap up what I've been told.
O'Reilly's focus has long been on programming issues (or programmer issues) and that focus remains very much in place. However, it is worth understanding how the grief playing out on Wall Street will have a very significant impact upon the IT industry within the next four to six months, even despite the fact that up until now the contagion seems largely to have remained contained in the financial sector.
I see the speakers for the Sydney, Australia, October Open Standards 2008 Conference have been announced: Jetty's Greg Wilkins and open source advocate Chris Messina (microformats, OAuth). The theme: Recognizing the Intersection between Open Standards and Open Source.
So, from these test results, it looks pretty good for adopting the same policy for determining the encoding for CSS files as you use for XML: if there is a BOM then use that (i.e. your document is in UTF-16 of some kind); otherwise use explicit labeling with an initial @charset.That works with all the current generation, which is really great.
The alternative to HTML 5 is for websites based on cross-platform APIs: not just browser sniffing but platform sniffing. ...As well as seeing HTML 5 as a way to ward off the evils of proprietary formats, we need to figure out how to use it to neutralize the negative impacts of these formats: if HTML 5 and CSS can be augmented in ways that take advantage of slicker rendering and interaction by the specific-vendor platforms, then their presence becomes a net gain not a challenge to interoperability.
Everyone seems to be in a huff about the EULA that Mozilla is displaying when you start Firefox under Ubuntu. There are even calls to pull Firefox out of the distribution altogether. But in reality, it's a tempest in a teapot, a waste of valuable energy, and harmfully divisive. Here's why.

New Book: Head First Ajax

By O'Reilly Media
September 15, 2008 | Comments: 0

Head First Ajax gives you an up-to-date perspective that lets you see exactly what you can do -- and has been done -- with Ajax. Using the unique and highly effective visual format that makes Head First titles popular, this book offers a big picture overview to introduce Ajax, and then explores the use of individual Ajax components -- including the JavaScript event model, DOM, XML, JSON, and more -- as it progresses. Learn more.
In a move to encourage more developers to use its CodePlex open source project hosting site, Microsoft announced today that the CodePlex repository will now support TortoiseSVN and other Subversion clients without the need for special client software. With this enhancement, developers can work with CodePlex as if it were a Subversion repository.
One hundred and eight years after a storm that wiped Galveston off the map, Hurricane Ike made landfall over Galveston and Houston to the northwest. While the winds were not as strong, the eye of the storm had pressures more closely associated with a Class 4 hurricane than a strong Class 2. The island was hit with a storm surge of roughly 13 feet, enough to smash houses, cover roads with debris (including large boats) and leave the downtown area under up to as much as seven feet of water at one point.
The IETF just published RFC 5261, an XML patch update framework. It's not a complete diff utility for XML, but it's somewhere between the obsolete XUpdate and the complex XQuery Update Facility.
O'Reilly News interviews Mozilla's Frank Hecker at Personal Democracy Forum 2008 in New York City. In this 25 minute interview you'll hear Frank Hecker talking about Mozilla's mission and structure, as well as his own views on how open source could provide a model for involving citizens in participatory democracy.
The problem is that the bottom line for document interoperability is not the format, but the feature match of the applications. The only way ever to get reliable, bottom-line interchange (enough fidelity that no semantics are lost, with graceful degradation) is by restricting feature use.

Maker Faire Austin is Coming this Fall

By O'Reilly Media
September 11, 2008 | Comments: 0

Maker Faire is a two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset. It's for creative, resourceful people of all ages and backgrounds who like to tinker and love to make things. Happening October 18th and 19th at the Travis County Event Center and Fairground. Tickets for sale now at:
In a previous post I mentioned how mentors have played in an important role in my life in both learning to code, and learning about life. One of my mentors, and one of the most underrated, unhyped Python gurus around, Shannon -jj Behrens sent me this blog post by Jeremy Allison, from the Samba team, about how he learned to program.
We live in an age of standard schemas. It is supposed to be a good thing when the whole world can get behind a common standard. However, one of the selling points of XML is how beneficial it is for people to be able have documents with comprehensible tags rather than obscure codes. Chinese element names for Chinese people, for example ... Can you see the contradiction?
I think that underneath the IT bigwigs' comments is the ghost of Plan A: an avoidance of responsibility by procurement or policy makers by invoking the authority of ISO as the reason why a standard should be adopted as a strategy to disentangle from Microsoft and go open source. However, since that was a dodgy proposition to start with (i.e. the invocation, not the disentangling), withdrawing it actually withdraws nothing.
Up until very recently every system, desktop and laptop, in their catalog ran Windows and sported a Windows logo in the ad. While the majority still do a half a dozen laptops, all low-end netbooks, are sold with Linux preinstalled and the Tux logo is prominently featured in some of the ads.
My problem, if it is a problem, is that I don't basically don't believe in the existence of institutions and corporations, only of people.... Once you start to couch things in terms of the people involved, it seems that many simplistic sentences are revealed being based on lots of tacit assumptions.
Born Digital postulates a watershed between those born on or before 1980 and those born after. Although the book is advertised as a guide to the latter for those born earlier, I suspect that the marketing became unmoored from the authorship. That's because the book's arguments culminate in the message that its lessons need to be learned by "digital natives" most of all, and that they are the ones best positioned to alleviate the social dislocations caused by digital media and the Internet.
Ubiquity, the open source add-on currently in alpha and being produced by the Mozilla team for Firefox, is intended to make such a command line possible. The idea behind ubiquity is to take advantage of both the internal storage capability and online communications in order to let users both create local "scripts" written in JavaScript that can be invoked to perform certain actions and to create a centralized (and vetted) library of such scripts online that people can load to accomplish nearly any task.
SQI is providing and hosting their Incident Manager software, a ticketing system specifically for paid support customers, as well as a blowledge base available to all Vector Linux users. In addition to providing the software for the knowledge base they are assisting with content creation. The new Vector Linux website which was unveiled in July is also hosted by SQI.
The big secret about the Google Chrome browser is that it's faster in some tests, slower than other. But guess what? As I wrote in my first review, few of us are going to notice any difference. The best part...
One of the more interesting characters in the recent standards battles has been Gary Edwards: he was a member of the original ODF TC in 2002 which oversaw the creation of ODF 1.0 in 2005, but gradually became more concerned about large vendor dominance of the ODF TC frustrating what he saw as critical improvements in the area of interoperability.


By Jeni Tennison
September 7, 2008 | Comments: 1

A while ago I put together a framework for unit testing XSLT. I’ve been using that for a couple of years and it’s been OK, but then I started playing with Ruby on Rails, and testing with RSpec: a framework...
Previous articles in this series showed how to use Perl for text processing and general purpose programming. Now it's time to demonstrate how to use Perl on the web.
A note on an LDAP bug in Debian lenny.
My colleague Brian McConnell has a story about employer abuse guaranteed to make you scared and angry. But finding something constructive and beneficial in an incident that was personally devastating, he offers a Code of Ethics concerning workplace privacy that seems to me simple, fair, and both technically and legally capable of being implemented. A call for privacy is particularly well-timed in this election season, when the Republicans publicly spat on the Bill of Rights at least three times last night.
A friend of mine pointed out Disco, a map-reduce framework written in Erlang and using Python for writing the actual map and reduction functions. I haven't tried it just yet, but the concept is interesting in that it uses both Erlang and Python.
For those of you (such as myself) who have interest in Chromium (The foundation of which Google Chrome is built upon) running on Linux, Seo Sanghyeon has created a status page over on the Google Groups Chromium-Dev site.
There was a lot of discussion on the WHATWG mailing list last week about the role and utility of RDFa, whether it’s something that should be supported in HTML5, and what that support should look like. The objections to adding...
Is Apple using malicious software installation tactics to market products to us we never had any intention of installing on our system? Seems that way to me...
To me, though this is one of the journalistic quandaries of the twenty-first century. Where is the dividing line between news and opinion, between the article and the blog, because objective reporting and subjective editorializing? Is one better than the other? Is one more ethical than the other?
Chrome represents a change in the way that Google is choosing to play the game, putting them on a far more equal footing with the other browser vendors, and asserting that, on the browser as on the server, they have arrived.
Greetings all! I've missed having a significant on-line presence since writing for CNet a few years ago - all things now blog versus Dear "Windows Helpdesk" e-mail and columns. I need to make up for some lost time, jumping right...
When discussing Oracle performance challenges with DBAs and consultants over a period of years, a common trend became evident (especially in data warehousing). A lot of time was spent in figuring out where indexing might apply and where other database...

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