December 2008 Archives

When I was in Boston this last September I was fortunate enough to be introduced to John Werner, one of the founders of, by John Palfrey who thought I could be helpful in helping John achieve success with Citizen Schools on the Web 2.0 front. John has a chance to make it in front of President-elect Barack Obama and Congress, but he needs your help. Please take a moment to learn more.
In my last post I talked about how anybody with enough money (a small 6-figure sum) could create a rogue certification authority (CA). This would allow them to generate certificates for any web site that seem to be genuine. That...
Programmers know the impact that design patterns have had on designing and coding. Could patterns have just as strong an impact on people taking action in their communities? That's the thrust of the patterns published at the Public Sphere Project. The most fleshed-out patters are now published in the book Liberating Voices! A Pattern Language for Communication Revolution by the initiator of the project, Douglas Schuler.
Any major changes to the way we establish trust are probably too big to actually happen. That leaves the Internet fundamentally broken.
I tried a little experiment in 2008: living smaller. I caught public transport only. I got rid of extra lightbulbs. I baked my own bread. I froze my own dumplings. I didn't buy any gadget. I didn't buy any CD. I didn't get a flatscreen TV. No home phone; no home internet; no cable TV; no new art; no gin.
Boxing Day, celebrated on the day after Christmas, is a British holiday that's migrated to Canada, and is slowly beginning to make inroads even into the United States. It had its beginnings in the late 18th century, when the landed lords of England, after having given one another presents after Christmas Mass began an interesting custom. After having received new dresses, dress suits, hats and so forth, they would go into their wardrobes and childrens' play rooms and find those things that they no longer wore or used or played with, presenting them as gifts to their servants and staff, a custom which eventually extended to giving inexpensive gifts and trinkets to their tenant farmers and needy villagers.
The zlib module provides a low-level interface to many of the functions in the zlib compression library from GNU.
The biggest problem with host-based security has always been what happens when your protection fails. And yes, all traditional host-based protections will have the potential for failure, especially when you consider that it's generally easy to trick users into installing...
It's Christmas Eve as I write this, but after having put the children to bed and turning off the tree lights, I find that my thoughts are not on Santa Claus tonight ... at least not in a very positive way.
The importance of the differences among web application platforms like .NET, JSP, PHP, etc. drops dramatically under the cloud computing paradigm. Which architecture you choose really comes down to one question: what kind of programming and support resources do you have? If the answer is "Microsoft technologies", however, you should be aware of the Microsoft cloud tax.
A parable about the Internet's past, present, and future: The Ghosts of Internet Time. Still relevant today, nine years after I wrote it...
Below is my first podcast for this page. It's technically not my first podcast for O'Reilly, because a couple of years ago (Summer, 2006), Andy Oram and I sat down and created a podcast about the LPI Linux in a...
Welcome everyone! Just so you can get to know me, below are some additional blog sites I run: Twitter: CIW Community: Linux Pro Magazine: Each of the above URLs will pop on you, which means that they...
This week's podcast looks back at an interview we ran with physics rapper Katherine McAlpline in the fall, as well as announcing our first podcast quiz winner, and the new quiz question, that can win you your choice of any in print O'Reilly book.
A year later, the IT industry was in the worst recession that it had faced in fifteen years, a time that became known as the Tech Nuclear Winter. Senior programmers with thirty years of experience and post graduate degrees - people who sat on standards committees boards and often served to shape the industry - could be found at coffee shops "working on their next projects" while waiting for a job to open up.
Governments need to get a (and financially encourage the) vision of the open research, open development, open source, and open standards communities as a chain that promotes an efficient market for markets.
Instant Rails is getting old, but it's still a quick way to install Rails and start coding. This screencast shows how to download and install Instant Rails, and shows off how it works with a simple example from Chapter 2 of Learning Rails.
I recently moved down to Wellington, New Zealand, and was excited to learn that Python is very popular on this side of the world. A few of us on the NZPUG mailing list decided to arrange a meeting a local...
Looking for ways to tweak the performance of your Java applications? Look no further than the .NET platform and Windows Azure.
Every one is talking about building apps in cloud or moving the apps to cloud. There are plenty of jobs on job boards looking for the people with the skills: "familiarity with cloud" or "expertise in cloud". The latest buzzword is "Cloud Computing". What is Cloud? Why all of sudden Cloud is a buzz? What are my options to move Java app to the Cloud? What are the features and limitations of the Cloud? How IaaS and PaaS will fit in the Cloud?
Learn to create a custom SOAP request using Ruby and Net::HTTP
XML entities/inclusions can increase the power of streaming processing. It was common knowledge in the old SGML days, when documents were often--indeed typically--greater in size than physical or virtual RAM, but I think may be under appreciated now. (I say entities, but it could also be XML fragments referenced with XInclude elements and an XInclude-enabled XML processor.)
We have more data than ever before, but is there meaning in the noise? Maybe we need a new epistemology for the Internet.
It really is interesting to look at the parallels within software and music. The classical vs. pop debate is very similar to functional vs. object oriented programming. Signing to a major label feels very familiar to taking millions in venture capital. A developer in the zone is very similar to when a song just comes together.
In this article, I want to further the discussion on how micro-blogging channels may be leveraged by terrorist organizations to obtain real time surveillance and intelligence of their efforts.
This year there were three legal cases of interest to me that resolved in 2008, each in a positive direction as far as I am concerned. In each, it turned out that the way I hoped and expected that things operated was in fact how things did operate, at least in the reality of the courts.
Traditionally when security experts talk about snake oil products, they are usually only brave enough to call out products from dubious companies that make claims that are obviously false... almost always around cryptography. Few people call out venture-backed companies with well-known people on the management team.
I would like to join Elliotte Rusty Harold, James Clark, Tim Bray, Michael Kay and David Carlisle in deprecating or being dismayed by XML 1.0 (fifth edition). The fifth edition loosens up rules about characters that can appear in names. This means that anyone who actually creates such documents will find they are not accepted by approx 100% of XML parsers out in the world, as of now. Guaranteed non-interoperability in the name of better inclusiveness.
The other day I had what could only be described as a 'Roy Scheider moment', you know the bit in the film Jaws where the camera tracks-in whilst zooming-out at the same time. Well, whilst debugging an XForms enabled application, the Mozilla XForms plug-in had exposed the host document, XForms and all, as the content of the empty xf:instance. How odd. I mean, what good is that? That's when it struck me in a Roy Scheider sort of way; this was Reflection, the ability of a program to look at itself and change its behaviour.
I was excited to hear of a nationwide Year of Science initiative, launched by a Boston-based conference in the first week of January. This conference will help people working in the sciences learn how to educate the wider public about what they do, why it's important, and what its implications are for public policy.
This week's (delayed) podcast includes excepts of interviews with Dr. Joshua Wurman about storm chasing and Professor Rich Gordon about the adoption of the web by traditional print media. There's also a new quiz question (your chance to win free O'Reilly books!)
The past decade saw many centralized architectures move to distributed ones. Where previously the applications stopped at the server boundary, they moved to three-tier architectures with messaging, and then n-tier architectures. This is the architectural idea behind cloud computing.
Can we define a family of markup languages that used the Unicode properties and which could accept a fair imitation of XML and produce a SAX-like event stream?
The recent re-emphasis by Adobe on the "Flash" brand is scary!
Rails application templates, just added in Edge Rails, offer Rails developers the chance to spread their wings and bring Rails to new audiences and new capabilities - and might even help Rails lead the next generation of frameworks.
Bailouts are an awful thing, an admission of drastic failure. They're also a safety valve that can lessen the impact of disaster in a given area on the rest of the system. In the immediate and short term, we need to recognize that it's not just a given group whose boat is being bailed - we're bailing a very large boat that we're all riding.
Government absolutely must play a role in dealing with companies that are too big to fail ... it must prevent them from reaching that point. Until that happens, real reform in business will be slow and problematic.
If you've watched the Discovery Channel series "Storm Chasers", you will be familiar with Dr. Joshua Wurman and his Doppler on Wheels radar, which he uses to study tornadoes up close and personal every spring. We spent some time last week speaking to Dr. Wurman about what it takes, technologically, to operate a weather radar in 100 mile per hour winds in the middle of a lightening storm. We also talked about the value of this kind of research to both tornado and hurricane research, and how having a film crew around during missions affects the science.
A brief conversation with Craig Newmark from this year's Personal Democracy Forum 2008. In this interview Craig talks about the founding of Craiglist, how he came to found one of the most popular sites on the web. Craig also discusses his work with the Obama team and some of the important customer service issues facing Craigslist.
If you haven't been keeping up with the news coming out of the North Eastern US over the last few days, we've had a little bit weather. That is to say, we had about an inch of ice cover everything it could on Thursday night, and gravity being what it is, a lot of trees and power poles decided this would be a good time to lie down and take a little rest.
Creative Commons is more dependent than ever before on the funds of individuals. More and more people these days are grabbing pictures, text, and other random goods they find online and using them in their own presentations or creative efforts; some of us even build businesses on open contributions. All of us should be promoting the Creative Commons, which has provided licenses to support such sharing in 50 countries and is working with people in many more.
Like most of us, I have been in the cloud longer than I have thought about being "in the cloud". But it took the need for a significant capital investment in hardware to drive Valtira into cloud computing using Amazon Web Services like Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3. Our journey into the cloud began with a new product offering and an attempt to avoiding shelling out huge up-front cash on hardware. Today, we have a complex infrastructure that saves us money over other options and provides greater flexibility.
Forums have become an integral part of many communities over the years - as a webmaster on a number of different social sites, I found that the sites tended to live or die on the strength of their forums more than on any other component of the site. They provide a way for people to express their feelings, to communicate with one another, to explore deep concepts (and silly ones) and to learn, and as such they often form the vibrant backbone of communities regardless of the subject matter expressed.
In a recent post to his blog, Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford Law School announced a change in focus, and therefore a change in his location on this planet: It's back to Harvard and the Safra Center.
Programming language features and tools are obvious force multipliers for software developers. Development practices are less obvious. Here are some of my favorite productivity improvements.
This article sketches out how to implement the same functionality as XSD's integrity constraints in Schematron.
Back channel communications at O'Reilly can be fun. Lately, we've had a running thread about the role of practice and play in learning, and how that impacts the educational process (and the educational industry, which are not even remotely the same thing).
The decline of petroleum seems to be one more awful problem facing the US, but could it actually be an extraordinary chance to create a fine and fair national health care system?
Perl is 21 years old and Perl 5 is 14 years old. The language has aged well, but there's room to improve. Here are five features which make hard things easy and difficult things possible.
The search for self remains a powerful force, driving the flood of social networks, microblogging, and the posting of photos and videos to the Web. The urge toward self-definition exerts itself also when we search for information on other people--and that's where it becomes a problem.
In his Nobel lecture Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio posited that the Internet might have prevented the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War. In this post, I offer a counterargument: the decade we all just lived through demonstrated the power of the Internet as a platform for propaganda. If anything Hitler would have seen the Internet as the ultimate propaganda tool.
Think fractally, think non-linear, and help those of your linear friends, neighbors and political representatives who can't conceive that tomorrow will not be like today to understand that linear thinking is a dangerous, deceptive illusion.


By M. David Peterson
December 9, 2008 | Comments: 0

Proving yet again that attempting to boil the ocean results in nothing more than a few dead fish, Amazon Web Services continues its "one customer at a time" assault on the utility computing marketplace, this go round bringing EC2 a little closer to home for customers based in Europe.
Since the Tribune Company is about to file for bankruptcy, I thought I'd take some time to introduce you to your new Newspaper Editor. The replacement is an algorithm and a crowd of people, or is it? Are collaborative filters adequate replacements for human editorial decision-making? Is collaborative filtering making us more or less informed? Do we need to start thinking about transparency for collaborative filters? Just how do these algorithms work?
While newspapers are likely on their way to the recycle bin, editorial journalism isn't. We are moving to an era where journalistic integrity and personal prestige of the individual journalist is becoming more important than the prestige of the newspaper or other media that the journalist writes for. Journalism is becoming decentralized, and there are many indications that this is, just perhaps, a good thing.
The expression "cloud computing" is confusing a lot of people. I use three criteria when talking about cloud computing to separate cloud services from other kinds of services. I think they capture the essence of what excites people about cloud services as opposed to other kinds of technology services.
This week's episode includes excerpts of interviews with our JRuby authors and climatologist Andrew Weaver, as well as news of the SCO lawsuit and this week's quiz question. Now, for your listening pleasure, we present "O'Reilly Week in Review", a roundup of the best content from the site, as well as good-natured pokes at the industry and a trivia quiz that can score you your choice of books from the vast O'Reilly catalog.
Rich Gordon, Associate Professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, discusses the Knight Foundation Scholarship for working developers to attend a one-year Master's program in Journalism. Gordon discusses the current trends in news and technology, and how developers will play an important role in the continued evolution of "news".
The gzip module provides a file-like interface to GNU zip files, using zlib to compress and uncompress the data.
William Hurley recently posted an article titled Three Reasons Open Source Will Save The Economy one a new weblog of his.
Current performance testing requirements that dip into the SOA abyss focus on technologies like Web Services that are "service-orientated" but at a tactical rather than strategic level .They are only one small piece in a very complex jigsaw of technologies and business processes that might represent a SOA performance testing requirement.
Over the past month I've made a few significant updates to my API for educating software project members.
Cloud environments like Amazon EC2 have the ability to dynamically add and remove capacity based on your actual demand. Some tools extend this capability into auto-scaling. Auto-scaling, however, can be dangerous and often serves as a crutch for poor capacity planning.
In the second monthly column for the blog associated with the Algorithms in a Nutshell, we investigate searching algorithms and reaffirm the ability for hash-based search to provide an efficient implementation.
One of the most pervasive security technologies that doesn't work very well is the intrusion detection/prevention system. To get value out of an intrusion detection system, you need to be able to at least separate out some of the good alerts from the many irrelevant ones.
I've been doing some reviews of desktop applications recently, so I have been thinking about what criteria I would use to judge them.
The Adobe/Microsoft/Sun strategy for producing rich Internet applications can solve most of the problems in developing web applications -- at the cost of a huge step backward away from ubiquitous computing.
It looks like MS is seriously feeling the heat from the likes of Ubuntu, Fedora, OLPC and the eeepc. Now this is interesting. As a musician and new media artist I'd still have to say that Apple has the upper...
I have not written anything about converting Schematron schemas to XML Schemas in the 12 months since the last little article. So here is another approach for schemas that were not written to be XSD-conversion friendly: it is just brute force and ignorance (BFI) pattern matching.
Good programmers tend to be polyglot programmers. I'm not sure that good applications tend to be polyglot applications; perhaps the way we build Internet applications is hazardous in the long term.
If you want to explore Rails, offers an easy way to get started, using a web-based interface that neatly hides the complexity of installation and database management.
The promise of peer production seems to reach everywhere these days, but harnessing it is quite a trick. uTest seems to have corraled all the necessary elements. Anyone who wants to try peer production in his own industry can get some tips by studying how uTest and a company with some similarities, TopCoder, found their sweet spots.
In yesterday's blog I suggested the idea of super-styles. These are properties of elements which sit above the kinds of typesetting mechanisms our current generation of typesetting and office applications provide. They specify the rhetorical characteristics of an element that the rendering should expose. So what might these super-style properties be?
Do we really understand the deepest causes of the economic crisis? If not, then we run the risk that our remedies will not produce sustainable results.
The 2008.11 release of OpenSolaris just hit their download page.
You, no doubt, try to incorporate best practices when engaging in database projects. This week, I developed a lengthy list of worst practices in vendor evaluations, purchasing, development, deployment, management, and other areas. Many of these "worst practices" are found in all kinds of database projects.
I've been operating almost exclusively on a Mac since OS X came out. I grew up in Unix, and never liked the lack of usability in Windows, so it was a good fit. However, I don't have any particular interest in making Apple look better than it really is, particularly when it comes to security.
Can our ideas of page-break styling, derived as they are from the mechanisms of quite ancient WP systems, be replaced by some more high level styling concepts that would allow greater mechanism-independence for typeset output?
A high-fidelity prototype provides the engineers and QA organization with a rich, interactive description of the product's intended functionality and design to be used as a reference basis for implementation and test. Whenever this subject is raised my thoughts turn immediately to XForms. The advantage of prototyping with XForms is that it is quick, declarative, readable and is well defined.

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