May 2009 Archives

I think we are missing, or have now arrived at the stage where we need, a way to declare relationships between different namespaces in standard XML documents. This needs to be part of a broadly-based open packaging standard.
Out of your management asks you for a sizing estimate for the program in production, with 1500 users. You've only ever tested with 100 simulated users in JMeter, you don't have a machine big enough to test 1500 users on, and management need the answer by the end of today. Stop. Don't run screaming from the building, however horrible this sounds. You can't tell management what will work, but you can tell them how large a system they'll need to avoid guaranteed failure, which may suffice.
A radio DJ who runs her set from iTunes asked me if I could modify one of my fade-out AppleScripts. She wanted to end a song on demand and make iTunes crossfade into the next song on the playlist. I...
John Gruber's "Excerpts From the Diary of an App Store Reviewer" is cutting satire of the arbitrary decision making and capricious censorship that is generated by Apple's opaque App Store approval process. Read more about this brilliant commentary on the absurdity of the relationships between the Censor, the Censored, and "objectionable" material.
Last week I wrote about two different projections claiming that Linux will recapture 50% of the netbook market, either in three years or by next year. Compelling MIPS and ARM based systems are the reason I believe those projections are correct. Current versions of Windows won't run on ARM or MIPS processor based systems at all. [...] Lightweight, optimized versions of Linux are another matter entirely. They run just fine for many applications on the MIPS based systems released so far despite processor speeds ranging from 400 to 800 MHz. If that sounds slow please remember that the original Asus EeePC was underclocked to 600MHz and sold like proverbial hotcakes.
Google's clarion call for HTML 5 and rich interactive browser applications marks an interesting fork in the road for technologists. Will we invest our time in learning more proprietary, native APIs to create better iPhone and Adobe AIR applications, or will everything start to move toward a standards-based browser as the underlying platform for interactivity. Despite Google's influence in the market, this isn't a foregone conclusion. Just how long will it take for the content generators to adopt HTML 5? And, what's in it for Google?
In my blog last year Is ODF the new RTF or the new .DOC? Can it be both? Do we need either? I raised the question of whether ODF would replace RTF or DOC. I think this issue has come...
I haven't posted here in a long time. Hope this one is helpful to you. I want to introduce you to a new way of visualizing your thoughts for a presentation. Andre Heller once called his life falling through dreams....
In which I open the ODF 1.1 spec in Office 2007 SP2, immediately discover a bug with page breaks, trace it through the standards, find a workaround, then find the standard is not as clear as it should be.
This week, we talk to Damien Stolarz, author of iPhone Hacks, about how hackable the iPhone really is. According to Damien, it's a great platform for developing your own personal applications, even if you never want to sell them in the iTunes store. We also chat with Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene about Beautiful Teams, and why personality can be more important than what processes you adopt.
This article looks at some trends and challenges for document validation. The challenges come in two classes: first, raw capabilities for lifecycle support for standards; second, coping with transitions from technologies defined by implementation to technologies defined by standards with the necessary agility.
The possibility of having objective measures to test the completeness of a topical database is intriguing,
The json module provides an API similar to pickle for converting in-memory Python objects to a serialized representation known as "JavaScript Object Notation".
Dan Brickley blogs on my current to-ing and fro-ing with the W3C TAG and brings up an RDF angle.
An effort at ISO SC34 WG1 to try to get an agreed on way to associate documents with schemas. Plus some recent editors that support ISO Schematron, and a link to a good video introduction to Schematron for developers.
It might have seemed last week, with the announcement of the Open Database Alliance, that MySQL is forking. The ODA promises a "central clearinghouse for MySQL development" and claims to improve on areas where criticism has historically been aimed at MySQL AB/Sun: bug-fixing, performance, and community responsiveness. But what's going on behind the scenes is much more subtle and promises a much better outcome for MySQL.
Underneath all of the features and tools, Lightroom is, at its heart, a database program. One of the things that make Lightroom such a powerful and flexible application is its ability to help us find our images. As our collection of images grows it can become more and more difficult to locate that image of the puppy in the basket by the red flowers. But the keywords, metadata, collections, folders, and so on are all hooks Lightroom can use to search and find that puppy! There is nothing in Lightroom to prevent you from creating more than one catalog to store your images. But should you? Let's take a look at the reasons you might decide on one approach versus the other.
As everyone probably knows by now, Amazon has altered the conversion/delivery fee associated with sending files wirelessly to your Kindle. When I got my Kindle v.1 I was happy to see that I could email PDFs and other documents and have them delivered wirelessly to the device for 10 cents/attachment. When I dug in deeper and was told by an Amazon rep (last summer) that they're actually not charging anything for this service I was ecstatic. Once I figured out there was no cost involved in using this service, well, I'm sure I used it a lot more frequently than Amazon anticipated. Unfortunately, I apparently wasn't the only one doing this, which is what forced Amazon to change the policy.
The past couple of weeks saw a flurry or articles debating the future of Linux on netbooks. A report in the Taipei Times on May 9th was picked up by LinuxToday but largely ignored by the tech press and the blogosphere. Stephen Lim, the General Manager of Taiwan based Linpus Technologies, made the surprising prediction that Linux will regain 50% market share from Windows on netbooks by next year.
Nobody expected Microsoft to make its proprietary OOXML format really work with products that support ODF. But an office suite has to hook into a huge number of outside pieces in its environment. We're just going to have to live with a fuzz factor.
I'd love readers to submit in programmer-friendly terms some of the new ideas and possibilities on optimizing XPath. In particular, I am interested in optimizations relevant to Schematron.
So, you're implementing a new software system that requires user authentication and management? Personally, I'm tired of seeing web sites fail to include a number of basic elements in their user management schemes. These Laws for Authentication Systems should not be violated regardless of how important or unimportant security is for you. If you decide to write your own solution or pick a packaged solution, make sure that system does not violate these laws.
I've worked on lots of collaborative books before. Now, I'm starting on something different: a book written by competition. We're asking TopCoder participants to create a book about how to participate in TopCoder contests, the TopCoder Cookbook. Cookbooks are a natural fit for books with multiple authors, as each recipe can be fairly self-contained, sequence is less critical, and there's room for a wide range of subjects and levels related to a given topic.
Lets look at the assertions in draft of HTML 5: The Markup Language which collects constraints about the markup: the kinds of things that are susceptible for schema testing.
Have you stumbled across any of those Kindle owners who get angry anytime they see an ebook price over $9.99? How about publishers who insist on maintaining their print list price for the e-version? Btw, for the record, at O'Reilly we typically fall somewhere in between; our "digital list price" is generally less than the print list price and, of course, Amazon is free to discount to an even lower price. As a consumer, when I see a Kindle price over $9.99 I'm highly likely to skip it.
WAPBL stands for "Write Ahead Physical Block Logging". WAPBL provides metadata journaling for file systems. In particular, it is used with the fast file system (FFS) to provide rapid file system recovery after a system outage. It also provides better general-use performance over regular FFS through less on-disk metadata updates - these are coalesced in the journal. WAPBL was developed by Wasabi Systems, and recently Wasabi contributed that work back to NetBSD. Wasabi has been using WAPBL in its storage products for about four or five years now.
When you think of companies that are not only built to last, but rather, built to thrive - in good times and bad - what companies logically sit at the top of the pyramid? Equally important, what should be the criteria for assessing them? Let me propose a straw man for assessing the "Built-to-Thrive" bunch...
Every time an individual cloud vendor suffers a failure like last week's networking issues with Google, mindless bloggers rush out to suggest the failures of one company represent failures of cloud computing in general. It's time to hold this logical fallacy up to the light and learn what we really can learn from any given incident.
I discussed the Wolfram Alpha "computational knowledge engine" in a blog a few days ago. To see how it works, you can watch a screencast (13:23) introducing the new search engine here. You can also watch Wolfram Alpha go live...
On his personal 'blog, former OLPC security director Ivan Krstic reveals his new position within Apple Core Security
Schematron run from inside JavaScript on the web-browser, editing structured documents/data trascribed to HTML. Click "validate" and a box comes up with a list of the validation problems; click on of those and the corresponding text or element is background-highlighted. Very slick. 300 lines of code only.
It would be cruel to cite this as another example of the increasing irrelevance of newspapers, but I was honestly stumped by this entry in today's New York Times crossword: Modern way to put out an album. "P2P" sure didn't fit.
Computational Geometry is the study of geometric algorithms and the data structures that enable their efficient implementation. We present algorithms that solve the Line Segment Intersection problem and describe challenges in validating their implementation. This is the sixth of a series of monthly columns in the blog associated with the Algorithms in a Nutshell book, published October 2008 by O'Reilly Media, Inc.
Here is a letter I have mailed to the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG) and to the W3C XML Schemas Working Group, regarding the XML Schemas 1.1 proposed recommendation. "I would like to register with the W3C TAG and the W3C XML Schema WG that, on having considered the XSD 1.1 draft, I think it is exactly the wrong direction for the WG and W3C to be taking. That is, while each individual decision may be well-founded, and each change justifiable and beneficial, the total effect will not help get us out of the mess that XML Schemas has created, but mire us further in it."
The scene: a document of pharmaceutical data keeps on displaying  after each major drug name but before a generated trademark sign.
My 1st generation MacBook didn't like the 10.5.6 update. And, now it doesn't like the 10.5.7 update. Fortunately, the Combo Update file for each release saved the day in each case.
Sometime this month, a new, more-interesting-than-your-average-search-engine will launch: Wolfram|Alpha. Wolfram Research, who has brought us Mathematica and A New Kind of Science, has set out to "create a true computational knowledge engine" that I am dying to play with. According...
Two new drafts out at W3C from the HTML 5 effort: HTML 5: The Markup Language and HTML 5: A vocabulary and associated APIs for HTML and XHTML. The first one is a model of the kinds of standards-writing we need. The second one is much larger, and is where many of the fiddles of historical HTML applications go.
Here in Virginia it's SOL testing time (that's Standards of Learning, not what you were thinking) and that means that parents everywhere are waxing philosophic about standardized testing and No Child Left Behind. First, some background. NCLB, which most people...
There is one Unix command that most have yet to master.
I couldn't say it any better than this, so I'm going to let a recent post from Reuven Cohen speak for itself: As the founder of an open source cloud computing product company my concern with combining open source and...

There is an interesting, but sometimes confusing, issue when you create a virtual copy while you are working in the Develop module. Here's the scenario: You are working on an image and before you travel down an alternate creative path you decide to make a virtual copy before proceeding. So you use the menu command or the keyboard shortcut and... poof ...a different image is sitting there instead of your virtual copy! You go back to the Library module or look in the filmstrip and notice your virtual copy did get created. You've done this before and it worked. So what's going on?

Malcolm Gladwell treats us to another of his counter-intuitive x-rays of the world's workings in this week's New Yorker feature, "How David Beats Goliath." His focus on the difference between batch and real time processing is a key to understanding why many nonprofit and commercial marketing professionals are failing to understand Twitter and other real time media.
The great thing about standards is that there are "so many to choose from." While it may be convenient to default to aphorisms like proprietary is evil, open is good, I am here to tell you that there are only three reasons to embrace open standards.
Aslightly interesting standards aspect to the ODF 1.1 interoperability problems that MS Office SP2 is caught up in. To my mind either the problem is in the short term only and intrinsic to the ODF feature, or the problem does not lie with Microsoft for making their choice, nor with other implementers for making their choices, but with the ratty choice of markup used for this feature in ODF 1.n itself.
Dear Publisher,
With so many people predicting your imminent death, you're probably wishing the Grim Reaper would just stop by and get it over with. The good news is that when everyone in the technology business or the financial press is making the same prediction, it's wrong. Certainly you've made some bad decisions along the way, borrowing too much, buying that Taj Majal when maybe staying put was a smarter move. But just like that messy divorce, that's all "water under the bridge" as they say, so what do you do now?
Software as a Service, known in earlier decades as Application Service Providers, upends the relationship between computer users and software. I'm seriously tempted to say that Wolfram Alpha takes the SaaS model to its extreme. So Wolfram Alpha's chances at scaling the heights of fame should force us to stop for a moment and run our own calculations concerning the value to us of data integrity, reliability, privacy, and innovation.
This week, we talk to Tim O'Reilly about how Twitter has dealt with the Swine Flu panic, Make publisher Dale Dougherty about the new interest in the Maker culture, and our usual podcast quiz question....
I was happy to see Thorsten Behrens' blog entry SmartArt Import and More. Thorsten works on the graphics engine for OpenOffice's presentation application Impress.
Adobe's FXG seems to be to PSD what OOXML is to .DOC: a re-factoring of a middle-aged binary format in XML with a focus on fidelity rather than elegance. My working model is that we need to think of the de-proprietarization of market-dominating technologies in the intensely pragmatic model of a sequence of bigger fish swallowing smaller fish: a sequence of consolidation of dialects, modularization of parts, then adoption into pluralistic frameworks and Adaptability Standards, allowing user selection of winning mini-technologies. Each stage of which will take at least a major software release cycle.
There are scads of piano-keyboard apps for the iPhone, but I find the lack of tactile feedback frustrating. With Apple opening the dock connector to outside developers in OS 3, couldn't someone create a true music keyboard?
Twenty years of change are shifting technology from top-down broadcast-model documentation and training to a more conversational approach that shrinks the social distance between teacher and learner, personalizing our experience.
Rails? Microsoft Access? Aren't those from different planets? Well, they may have different origins, but their similarities give me hope.
Arlen Specter's party switch was big news, but a quick visualization technique shows it was a long time coming. What other surprises might lurk in the Senate Social graph?
It hasn't been a good year for Apple's iPhone App Store. Child welfare advocates threw a fit over the notorious Baby Shaker application. App Store developers started to complain about slow payment of royalties from Apple. The ubiquity of iPhone flatulence applications became a running joke. And now comes word that popular industial rockers Nine Inch Nails have had their iPhone app turned down, because of naughty language. Which all leads to the question: Why is Apple in the business of selling iPhone applications anyway? One possible answer is that Apple needs to gate-keep iPhone applications because otherwise they could screw up their deal with AT&T.
In this new article, I've isolated three key traits we seek in journalism--expertise, diversity, and debate--and suggest how we might elicit them from the general public without mediation by journalists. The exercise is an example of the kind of practice that could emerge from a combination of new technologies and new habits.
But it does go back to a point I have made several times on this blog over the last few years: the more that our laws require the use of open standards, the more that we will need to make sure that the kind of "openness" involved or created by those standards actually allow grass-roots market-enhancing (which may in some cases be a euphemism for 'disruptive') implementation. So I am favouring the term Open Technologies rather than Open Standards: meaning technologies and their enabling standards which don't exclude implementation for reason of size and complexity, just as much as for reasons of openness or language or timezone or IP or corporate affiliation or technological tradition. In fact, I would go as far as proposing the following rule of thumb: no open standard should make a technology that would take an experienced and expert developer more than one month (full-time) to develop.
Consider that there may be one hundred million word processing documents printed every day (anyone know the real number?) That could mean a million extra pages per day generated because of page-profligate settings or algorithms. Now, paper is usually made from estate timber, so there probably is no SAVE THE TREES deforestation angle. But paper production takes energy, toxic bleaches are used, power is used to make it, fuel is used to transport it, if it is disposed by burning the carbon gets released, and more toner cartridges are used. A tiny effect for individuals, but a decent effect when aggregated. So can we green typesetting? Can word processing standards lead the way here?
Occasionally, I get asked to do interesting projects for various publications. Recently, I've been doing some DIY endeavors for IEEE Spectrum, the monthly magazine of (yes, you guessed it) the IEEE. My most recent project (where recent means I finished...

News Topics

Recommended for You

Got a Question?