Thursday, May 26, 2005

Amsterdam in 30 Seconds

Amsterdam is pretty amazing. The entire city is below sea level. It has been a massive engineering effort to build a city here and it will take even more to keep it here once the Arctic ice cap melts. Amsterdam is famously liberal and shows it. The streets are dirty, but cleaned often. There do not seem to be any laws, but it all works surprisingly well. I love the lack of cars. Public transporation is cheap and easy and the streets are filled with bicycles. Lots of people simply walk. They use so many "wheelies", luggage with wheels, a stroll down the street can put you in mind of an airport. Fat girls with Batman t-shirts and thin girls wearing hardly anything at all. Young men in striped trousers and jackets. The notorious Red Light district is present, but full of hookers from poor countries overseas. It is smaller than its reputation. The canals, canal boats and ever-present bridges are quite picturesque. You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a museum. The home of Heineken. I've rented a bike for the next couple of days and plan to see the dikes.

XTech 2005

At first glance, XTech could be described as "WWW Lite", but a better conference for the development and user foci. A reasonable subset of the normal cast of characters are here, including John Wilbanks and Ivan Herman (W3C), Dave Beckett (on Redland), Jean Broekstra (Aduna/Sesame). Alistair Miles (on SKOS). Libby Miller is here, chairing a session. The Mozilla Foundation is well represented by Mike Shaver and Ben Goodger (lead engineer on Firefox). Dominique Hazael-Massieux is presenting on GRDDL.

Michael Kay has founded a new company, Saxonica, creating both the free Saxon processor and a new commercial one. He presented a comparison of XQuery and XSLT (2.0) in which he claimed to be evenly biased. Interestingly, he suggested that Saxonica (and other companies) would start to produce products supporting a fusion of the two languages for commercial advantage.

XQuery has been designed to be small and optimized for database queries. XSLT has more features, such as templates, formatting, regexps. XSLT is a flexible, dynamic language, which is exactly what you don't want in a database query language like XQuery.

XSLT is stronger on:

  • rendition

  • up-conversion

  • documents

XQuery is stronger on:

  • optimization

  • structured data

Ben Goodger gave an introductory talk on XUL, Mozilla's XML-based UI language. XUL uses GTK's Flexible Box Model, which I have always blamed for GTK's widget/panel initial sizing issues but he raved about it. The coolest thing I heard was that one can write apps as if one were scripting a Web app, but bind it to XUL. I will have to try writing a XUL app.

He recommended two books for XUL development: Rapid Application Development with Mozilla (for full XUL apps) and Firefox Hacks, which includes a couple of chapters on XUL extensions for Firefox.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Most Important Meme?

Hmmm. New research seems to suggest that human settlements predated agriculture, perhaps by a long time. Permanent hunter-gatherer settlements at Ohalo II in Israel (23,000 years old, with huts made from brush plants), as well as the Natufian settlements in Jordan and Israel (14,000 years old) strongly predate the first agriculture (currently dated 11,500 years ago in the Levantine Corridor).

If hunter-gatherers were living in permanent settlements for a long time before agriculture, we have to ask why. Agrilculture has generally been presumed to be the answer, not some Johnny-come-lately.

Ian Hodder, dig leader at Çatalhöyük in Turkey has suggested that the residents there settled due to religious convictions. That is particularly interesting, since Joseph Campbell has told us that those societies were almost certainly maternal and worshipers of the lunar bull cult (a flavor of earth goddess worship).

Could it be that women caused the first human settlements to occur and agriculture came later, to help feed people who were already stuck in one place? That would certainly explain a lot, especially the population explosion dates and the lack of significant climate change in the Fertile Crescent. If so, human settlement would be the first, and perhaps most important, of the Big Memes.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

FOSSTEC is a Farce

Wow. I started the process of submitting my accepted paper to FOSSTEC 2005, but started to get suspicious when the online registration seemed geared toward paper authors. I Googled it and found this post claiming the conference is, in fact, a scam. *Sigh*.

At least I have a paper all ready to submit elsewhere :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

More on Tiger

The 10.4.1 update is out. Yay! I'm told I should be able to sync now.

Why doesn't Safari report the Slashdot RSS feed? It is certainly there at Safari will render it if clicked, but does not report it in the bookmark summary. I wonder if Wired, CNET, NYT, etc are hard-coded somewhere?

I upgraded to iClock version 2.1.9, which fixed a critical Tiger bug (the multi-timezone clocks in the menu bar were not updating). It is a handy utility, which I recommend for anyone dealing with multiple timezones regularly.

Interview with Really Strategies

Ed Stevenson, Director of Content Strategies at Really Strategies interviewed me last month for their "5 Questions" series. The results of that interview are here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Cancellation of Smart Content Tutorial

I am sorry to say that the Smart Content Tutorial I was to participate in at The Gilbane Conference on Content Management in Amsterdam, The Netherlands on 24 May has been cancelled. I hope to have the opportunity to work with Wernher Behrendt, Mills Davis and Steven Newcomb sometime in the future. I will still be going to Amsterdam for XTech 2005.

Steve Newcomb's Versavant, a way of describing Topic Map Applications in accordance with the draft ISO 13250-5 Topic Maps Reference Model has been released on Sourceforge.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Named Graphs at WWW 2005

Jeremy Carroll from HP presented his paper on Named Graphs, Provenence and Trust. His co-authors were Chris Bizer (of D2RMap fame), Pat Hayes of IHMC and Patrick Stickler of Nokia. I am pleased to see that Tucana's decision to name graphs (in 2001) has finally been given some support from people who have done the math. Many of the potential applications that Jeremy suggested, such as access control, passing of graphs, referencing of graphs in RDF, etc, have been implemented for some time in Kowari.

WWW 2005 has not yet put the paper on the Web, but an older version of the paper appears to be here. This paper was (wrongly, I think) originally rejected by ISWC 2004.

It is interesting to note that a couple of students from Italy had a poster showing how one could define a minimally self-defined graph (MSG) and digitally sign it. They did not resort to naming graphs to allow the definition of the graphs. Their paper is here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Paper Accepted at FOSSTEC 2005

I had a paper accepted at FOSSTEC 2005, the International Symposium on Free/Open Source Software, Technologies and Content. The conference will be held in Orlando, Florida from 10-13 July.

I had submitted an extended abstract for a paper entitled, "Open Source Software Strategies for Venture-Funded Startups". Now I have to write the paper and submit it by 23 May. Hmm... It is a good thing I have some airplane time coming up.

WWW 2005

Today was the first day of WWW 2005 in Chiba, Japan. The panel I convened ("Can the Semantic Web be Made to Flourish?") went well, but I learned a lesson. I had organized some questions in advance, distributed them to the panelists and used visual aids during the session, in accordance with guidance from the panel chairs and discussion with the panelists. After all that, Jim Hendler told me after the session that the way to do it is to simply introduce the panelists and take questions from the floor! Next time I'll know :)

I had expected the conference to be primarily attended by Japanese and had prepared accordingly. I suppose I had that impression due to the cost of traveling to Japan and the fact that many people I know from W3C didn't come. Again, I was wrong. WWW 2005 is truly international, with over a thousand attendees.

Bernadette and I spent four days prior to the conference in the lovely mountain village of Nikko, about 100 km North of Tokyo. It is a very historic place, where the masoleum of Tokugawa Iyeasu is located. He was the first of the Tokugawa shoguns in the early 1600s and the basis for James Clavell's novel Shogun. The Shinto and Buddist temples are amazingly ornate. I'll post some pictures when I get home since I forgot my USB cable and can't dump them from my camera :)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

More Tiger Problems

Can anyone get iSync 1.5 to work in Tiger? It just crashes for me. I also lost the ability to print to my home printer, an HP Officejet d145 reached via JetDirect socket (the dreaded Error -9672). Grrrr.

Monday, May 02, 2005

A Whimpering Tiger

Hmmm. I have Mac OS 10.4 installed and a Tiger in my tank. Dashboard is useful (of course, the KDE guys had this one figured a long time ago, although not as nicely packaged). I have yet to be impressed with Spotlight. My internal drive took about 10 hours to index. Searching for something simple (I chose "snow") worked well. I immediately found pictures, etc, related to snow. Next I tried a "real-world" search: patents. I have several patent applications on my machine and lots of supplementary data, including many mail threads. This time, I was not so lucky. Although Spotlight returned the right Folder, indexing of mail seems to be both slow and very incomplete. After an hour of searching, I had to rely on more manual means of finding the appropriate email message. That is not encouraging. Did you know that Spotlight will, by default, carefully index Mail's Junk folder? That's just not thinking. All four mail messages regarding patents that it did find were spam and filed as such in Junk. Sigh. And, while I'm ranting, who decided to index fonts? Why is that useful? I turned it off pretty quick.

I think we all knew better regarding Spotlight. Right? It is technology, after all, and not magic. We know how they do it and we know they don't really have the data to make the kinds of decisions they marketed. It couldn't stop us from hoping, though :)

Tiger also broke the three mail bundles that I used (GPG, Mail Prioritizer and Mail Appetizer). I had to uninstall all of them before I could get Mail 2.0 to work. That's OK, I can live with Prioritizer now that Mail supports mail priorities natively. The lack of GPG/PGP mail could bother me. I hope the authors catch up to Tiger rapidly.

Desktop Manager, a nice virtual workspace manager for OS X, thankfully supports Tigers (mostly). Transitions no longer function, but at least it works.

I haven't tried Automater yet, but plan to. I hope it lives closer to its hype than Spotlight.

Reading RSS natively in Safari is cool. I'm still not sure it is as cool as Apple have claimed, but it is useful.

In summary, don't coming running to Tiger if you want stability or have a need for every app that you are currently using. But if you are a gadget junkie, the wow factor is enough there to be worth the upgrade. I won't go back, but am definitely looking forward to the next few OSS upgrades. At least Terminal is still fully functional!