August 2008 Archives

Ecommerce professionals gush over targeted ads, claiming they'll make life easier on consumers and will supercharge advertising campaigns. But shouldn't someone ask the consumers how they feel about giving up personal information? Forrester Research has.
Google Earth Delivers Geographic Data, Satellite Imagery, and Political Bias
Google users trust that they receive accurate data from Google's products and services. What happens when that data contains biases in heavily-disputed subjects? Recent activity brings up questions of trust.
The subject of this article sounds like a mock-cartoon version of repressive censorship laws. But the proposals are real. They have been widely discussed in the Brazilian blogosphere and to some extent in the Brazilian press and TV, but they've received hardly any attention in the United States.
I am a registered Republican who voted for George Bush in 2000 and 2004. And then I realized I made a mistake. Had John Kerry spoke with this level of conviction when he was the Democratic Party presidential candidate,...
More detail at t\ake one. What's new? A lot more detail in the parameters. Developing that detail allows me to create a tighter, more consistent, and ultimately more powerful API.
The Mac at 25: Andy Hertzfeld Looks Back
Andy Hertzfeld, one of the original designers of the Macintosh, is also the author of the book Revolution in the Valley, which tells the tale of the birth of the Mac. As the Mac approaches its 25th anniversary in January, Andy spent some time talking about how the Mac has changed over time, how a group of highly talented individuals was able to come together as a team to create it, why Xerox let it get away, and how life might have been different if Steve Jobs hadn't left the company for more than 10 years.

Are statistics part of your job?

By O'Reilly Media
August 26, 2008 | Comments: 3
Are statistics part of your job?
Statistics in a Nutshell — Need to learn statistics as part of your job, or looking for help to pass a statistics course? Statistics in a Nutshell is a clear and concise introduction and reference for anyone with no previous background in the subject. You get a firm grasp of the basics before moving into increasingly advanced material. Each chapter presents you with easy-to-follow descriptions illustrated by graphics, formulas, and plenty of solved examples. Learn more.
These days, it seems it's in vogue to rant about HTML 5. I'd rather explain the need for structured XHTML.
Python for Unix and Linux System Administration Book Arrives At Door
Jeremy and I both received the first copies of Python For Unix and Linux System Administration at our house's on Friday. It took Jeremy and I close to a year and a half from conception to finish, to write the book.
The New York times has a short article on community-funded journalism, in which the public pays a journalist in advance to cover a topic. I'm blogging this because, in the first place, it suggests a way technical information could be developed, and in the second place I anticipated the idea a year ago in my short story Validators.
Microsoft's response to the emerging cloud computing platforms of Amazon, Google, and Yahoo has been spotty to say the least. Now a new white paper from distributed computing maven David Chappell proposes a taxonomy for classifying what's available today and offers a map of where Microsoft may be headed.
Two drafts of standards are available on the web: Unstructured Operation Markup Language, and Minimum requirements for specifying document rendering systems
David Flanagan on JavaScript 2
Is JavaScript and HTML the new BASIC? What does the average programmer need from JavaScript 2? Is the web the new client-server model of computing? JavaScript guru David Flanagan addresses these questions and more in this interview.
For those of you who are Perl or PHP programmers and who also do heavy testing, there's an excellent chance that you've heard of TAP, the Test Anything Protocol. It's easy to implement, easy to parse, and is gaining in popularity. Because it's being implemented so widely, we've decided to form an IETF working group and we need your help.
"Convention over configuration" is a great way to write code - but a lot harder to explain when it comes time to write documentation.
Here's some links that struck my interest recently on various XML-ish things
Interview with David Heinemeier Hansson: Rails Culture, Scaling Basecamp, and Building Successful Companies
In this video interview, DHH discusses the current state of Ruby on Rails adoption. Who is using Rails? How was the culture changed over the past five years? Hansson also comments on the technologies that are catching his attention and how they might affect Rails in the months to come. Hansson also comments on his Startup School presentation, and why he thinks Chicago is an ideal environment for technology and innovation.
One of the reasons I've always liked the Balisage Conference and its predecessors is location: it's in Montreal, in August. This year, though, the pros and cons of that location seemed much much clearer. On a regular basis, several times...
As was previously announced to be within a few shorts weeks of becoming publicly available, Amazon Web Services has launched the official public beta of its AWS EC2 Persistent Storage Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) solution. Something tells me there's going to be a lot of smiling faces launching new EC2 instances today. ;-)
In a "Why?"-type moment, Red Gate Software has officially taken over the development of Lutz Roeder's .NET Reflector. My now obvious question: Why?
Rapping the Higgs Boson: Katherine McAlpine (aka AlpineKat) talks particle physics, the Large Hadron Collector, and Rapping at CERN
Katherine McAlpine spends her days putting together the online newsletter for the ATLAS project at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. But at night, she dawns her white labcoat and geek bling, and becomes AlpineKat, rapping about the world of high energy particle physics. O'Reilly News spent some time talking to this multi-talented woman about what's going on at CERN, what we can expect from the LHC, why the Higgs Boson is important, and guerrilla filmmaking in the bowels of CERN.
One of the projects I have been working on recently has been a proof-of-concept system to allow a rules-base approach to automatically classifying and annotating XML-in-ZIP documents. The approach we have taken is to use Schematron, using the report elements rather than the assert elements.
There was one thing missing from XForms 1.0 that would have made all the difference when trying to access RESTful Web Services - the ability to control HTTP headers when making instance data requests and submissions. What compounded the problem was that many of the implementations either inappropriately (in my opinion) set the HTTP Accept header to */* or just adopted the string used by the host browser. This made it nigh-on impossible to request, in a RESTful fashion, an XML representation of the resource you wish to edit...
Harmony comes to JavaScript, but Not Everyone's Singing
A long and contentious struggle came to an end this week as ECMA Technical Committee 39, responsible for the development and maintenance of ECMAScript (known universally everywhere else as JavaScript), voted to establish ECMAScript 3.1 as the next "trunk" branch for the venerable web browser language, rather than the more ambitious (and contentious ECMAScript 4.0). While the breaking of the deadlock is a momentous achievement, not everyone is happy with it.
But the bottom line for foreign elements as wrappers in ODF and OOXML is that ODF allows them to be stripped out by the application while OOXML doesn't allow that; neither of course require that any particular application understands them. The bottom line for OpenOffice and Office seems to be that OpenOffice strips them (dangerously, but perhaps allowed because of bad drafting of that part of the ODF standard) while Office 2007 does allow them. In both cases users would be helped by clearer text (better conformance text for the OASIS/ISO text, better references for the Ecma/ISO text.)
Audio: Lawrence Lessig on Congressional Reform and Internet for Everyone
Lawrence Lessig discusses, a online tool for users to tag congressional candidates as supporting or opposing reforms such as public financing, earmark reform, and congressional transparency. Lessig also responds to a few questions about, a coalition of public interest and industry groups working for open, universal, and affordable access to broadband.
On Friday last week, the ISO/IEC JTC1 Technical Management Board (comprised of various National Bodies) narrowly declined to forward the OOXML appeals of India, Venezuela, Brazil and South Africa to a Conciliation Panel. Despite some comments around the place, the appeals process is not necessarily over.
Basing his design on Steven Mesker's seminal work "Building Parsers with Java", Todd Ditchendorf has released the TODParseKit, a Mac OS X Parsing Framework written in Objective-C 2.0.
Receive notification of asynchronous system events with the signal module.Module: signalPurpose: Handle asynchronous events.Python Version: 1.4 and laterDescription:Programming with Unix signal handlers is a non-trivial endeavor. This is an introduction, and does not include all of the details you may...
After an honest and open discussion on the Open Web Foundation mailing list spurred by a post from OWF co-founder Chris Messina, while its still required to answer a question before your first post to the group, what's even more obvious is the fact that no one is denied membership. For extended details, read on...
David Pogue, the New York Times technology columnist and bestselling author, is back with a bigger, better, up-to-the-nanosecond second edition of iPhone: The Missing Manual. It's the first and best book about every Apple improvement to its own second edition--the iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0. Over 100 new features are demystified, troubleshot, and evaluated: GPS position tracking, MobileMe syncing, Microsoft Exchange server syncing, make-your-own ringtones, geotagging photos, and much more! The book is available in print, PDF, EPUB and Kindle-compatible Mobipocket formats. Browse the book now.

Pogue's iPhone 2E Tips

Over at, David Pogue shares some of his favorite tips for both the original iPhone or the iPhone 2E.
August markup conferences always leave my brain feeling a bit bubbly. Or maybe it's just melted. As expected, Balisage offered amazing food for thought that should last until next year's event.
I was re-reading NIST's XML Schema Design Quality Test Requirement Documentfrom 2004 recently: it has a great list of various best practices for XSD from different organizations from the lens of five years ago. So would be the set of meta-rules we can extract from these best practice documents?
Is Twitter's 140 character limit having a negative impact on our society. Or are we simply becoming more efficient in our communication with one another?
Is Google App Engine Getting Blocked in China?
App Engine Blocked in China?
I was surprised to read a review of Schematron and other schema languages which cited the lack of localization as an important reason to not use it, so the next release of the skeleton has localized messages. Here is the approach I took to localize the XSLT.
A common theme at this year's Balisage Conference has been integrating Semantic Web technologies with more traditional web interfaces. So far, it hasn't been the more common microformats approach, but rather approaches that let users add assertions to documents in...
In his Extreme "first person" talk yesterday, Patrick Durusau asked some of the right questions about the recent explosive battles over standardizing XML generated by Microsoft Office and I can't share his conviction, though, that getting through this firefight...
A new edition of the standard currency codes is out. Currency adoption shows the geo-economic affiliation of countries. Plus polymer banknote links.
It seems that the answer is, yes, a URL can contain an XPath, providing it has been delimited in certain ways. Why would we want to do this? The trouble with using fragment identifiers or queries in URLs (? and #) is that the resources identified become, in effect, terminal leaves. You cannot merely add more paths underneath, as far as I can see, to drill down further.
Your New Server:  The First 30 Days
Last month I went camping with a couple of tech buddies that also share a love of horses and riding. One of the more interesting campfire discussions that came up was the parallels between deploying a server, and starting...
In a talk that he'd contemplated naming "XML as the precipitating factor in the upcoming religious wars," Eduardo Gutentag examined how XML participated in, or even started, a revolution that most of the world didn't notice. Gutentag quoted Jon Bosak...
The DBD and DBD libraries are among the oldest and most successful perl libraries and existence, pretty much any perl program that talks to a database uses them. The creator of DBD, Tim Bunce, spent some time at OSCON 2008 talking to O'Reilly News about the history of DBD and how Tim has managed such a large and critical project.
Some projects are too big, too complex, or too well-entrenched to have credible competition. They often stagnate. Is OpenGL 3.0 falling into the same trap?
A small but high-powered core of markup specialists converges on Montreal every August. A decade ago there were XML conferences everywhere - everyone wanted to know everything they could about XML. Today, I think it's fair to say that most...

Save Money, Save Time with Safari Books Online

By O'Reilly Media
August 11, 2008 | Comments: 2
Save Money, Save Time with Safari Books Online
Bryan Ierardi, a self-employed Web Developer, has this to say about Safari Books Online: I was able to randomly walk around and look inside books that I would have never picked up in a bookstore... and there's something to be learned in every instance of reading. And yes, the cost savings is nice too.

Learn more about Safari and get a FREE trial account today!
For several years I have recommended improvements to the tools that software projects use to answer technical questions and provide documentation, such as wikis and mailing lists. My latest contribution is a draft of an API that could be implemented in tools such as IDEs and content management systems.
Luke Kanies, author of the Puppet configuration management tool, discusses how to fix what's wrong with system administration and why shell scripts and ssh are the wrong tools to keep your systems up to date.
Google Open Sources Google XML Pages
Given the mind-numbingly large number of pages that Google serves up every day, compiled efficiency is a key requirement for their web development team. However, as with many organizations, Google's team has also needed to split up their development efforts, so that web designers do not need to be programmers (and more importantly, do not need to endlessly spend their time validating and debugging low level code), and the core developers could spend time building components.
Opening an XML file with an XSLT transformation is a simple, useful and valuable technique for integrating work processing systems into larger XML ecosystems
William Patry, one of the most respected online commentators on copyright, has shut down his weblog. It so happens that copyright is a major subject covered in a book recently released by O'Reilly, Van Lindberg's Intellectual Property and Open Source A Practical Guide to Protecting Code. This blog continues with a brief statement by Van about Patry's decision, then a brief statement of my own, and finally an excerpt from Van's book about how copyright got to the state it's in, an excerpt I hope you'll enjoy and learn from.
The old client-server application versus client-only application debate is back on the Web, thanks to Ajax and RIA technologies. It's missing a long-forgotten third contender, however -- one which had significant drawbacks and very significant advantages.
The Incomplete Web
So I'm claiming here that the Web we have today is incomplete. How comes? Imagine you have a wonderful programming language which is object-oriented, nicely to read, produces beautiful documentation, etc. but does not support, say, I/O operations. Would you...
Clear, Concise, and Entertaining Answers to JavaScript Questions
JavaScript: The Missing Manual from bestselling author David McFarland teaches you how to use JavaScript in sophisticated ways — even if you have little or no programming experience. Once you the master the language's structure and terminology, you'll learn how to use advanced JavaScript tools to add useful interactivity to your sites quickly, rather than script everything from scratch. Like other Missing Manuals, this one is clear, concise, and entertaining cover to cover.
This last April Amazon Web Services let out some slack on the leashes of a top secret project they'd been working on only to pull back that slack at the last second, ripping from the clutches of 1000's upon 1000's of adoring fans the possibility of gaining even the slightest peek at what was under the covers anytime in the near-term future. That top secret project was a persistent storage solution, the lack of which many folks have long since criticized as the Achilles heel of Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud computing platform since it public beta launch in August of 2006. Today, it seems, that a bit more slack has been released, but as far as I can tell, this time there's no pulling back. Are you ready?
Drupal as Open Architecture
I have a confession to make - after close to a decade covering XML, I have something of a new love ... and the name of that love is Drupal. Drupal's become one of those interesting hobbies that is rapidly becoming both a profession and a passion. It wasn't supposed to happen this way ... by rights, I should be deeply in the world of Ruby on Rails right now, or learning the latest deep programming secrets of Python, but somewhere along the line I realized one of those ugly little fundamental truths that good programmers should never actually learn - that at some point, recreating the wheel yet again begins to lose its luster, and, indeed, become rather ... well ... dull.
Thoughts on Schematron headers for processing ODF and OOXML, with a C# URL Resolver that handles ZIP files like some Java resolvers. The new XML-in-ZIP documents present a new challenge: constraints that formerly would have been kept in a single document are now split into multiple documents. When the basic information is kept in a single XML file, validation is reasonably straightforward.The current range of schema tools support these kinds of intra-document invariants quite well. But no document is an island, so Schematron also supports a range of intra-document constraints, but it may be time to enhance it to support the XML-in-ZIP issues better.

Regarding "Offending Maggie"

By Piers Hollott
August 4, 2008 | Comments: 2
On June 3rd, 2008, "Fresh Born", the first single from San Francisco band Deerhoof's upcoming album, was posted as sheet music under a Creative Commons license. In a few months, a full twenty versions of "Fresh Born", recorded by all and sundry, have been recorded and contributed back to the CASH Music website.
10 Helpings of Dojo Goodness
In an effort to promote my recent book, Dojo: The Definitive Guide, I've been writing an ongoing column for the ONLAMP blog entitled "Dojo Goodness". The idea behind the column is to provide bite-sized chunks of useful information that are...
When you read a column that says that XML+GZIP "prevents processing efficiency" you know someone has given the bull a laxative.
Use the webbrowser module to display web pages to your users.Module: webbrowserPurpose: Open web pages in a browser.Python Version: 2.1.3 and laterDescription:The webbrowser module includes functions to open URLs in interactive browser applications. The module includes a registry of available...
Is Telework the New Face of the Agile Workforce?
The idea that twenty-somethings have to commute an hour plus each way to an office and work eight hours a day in a cubicle seems absurd to them. As they become the work force, expect the days of the cubicle to become numbered.
Apparently the "Open" Web Foundation forgot to look up the definition of "Open" before choosing their name. Or am I simply reading too much into the "Members Only" label that -- at present time -- keeps both you and me from openly contributing until such time as we've been deemed "worthy"?

Got an idea for a Facebook application?

By O'Reilly Media
August 1, 2008 | Comments: 2
Got an idea for a Facebook application?
FBML Essentials — Learn how to build it quickly using the Facebook Markup Language (FBML) and other easy-to-use tools in the site's framework. This book not only gets you started with this toolkit, you also get a complete reference on every FBML tag Facebook has ever written, with advice on the best ways to use these tags in your code. Browse the book.

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