Sep 262005
 

So I’m up to my eyeballs in proceedings papers for XML 2005 which is one end of the conference spectrum in terms of formality, work for the chair and the planning committee, and degree to which things must be organised, when along comes the reminder that the web site is up for Northern Voice 2006. Northern Voice is proof that there are certain conference concepts that don’t need a high degree of formality, in fact the concept of personal blogging is, I think, diametrically opposed to too much formality, so as a member of the organising group (planning committee seems a bit, ah, formal a term) I’ve always been on the side of “keep it simple, keep it informal”.

Last year’s event was a lot of fun and people seemed to really enjoy themselves. So this year we’re putting a Moose Camp on the day before the conference itself, where people can organise themselves into groups to discuss whatever they want to discuss that’s related in some way to personal blogging. Deadline for speaker submissions (we need to have some formality!) is November 16, Moose camp is on February 10, the conference is on February 11 and all the other dates are on the web site. Yes, we still have the moose logo, although the colours are different. Yes, we’re planning on having more t-shirts next year. No, we don’t yet know who the keynote speakers will be. Maybe we won’t have keynote speakers, we’ll figure that out when we see the speaker submissions and see what sort of program we can build. Hope to see you there!

Sep 232005
 

We went up to the Okanagan wine district for the Canada Day weekend this year, and I think it’s about time I wrote down some of my impressions of the vineyards and the wine. We took my friend Sally (she of G&T fame who knows a lot about wine), and had a great time. Tim mostly entertained the offspring while Sally and I tasted the wine, which seemed like a good division of labour to all of us. I typically like wines with body and heft, such as shiraz, much of the cabernet family, and rieslings; my impressions of other wines depend on what they evoke (sitting on the deck in summer, or some food pairing). So here are some notes about the wineries and the wines, none of them are anything scientific or indeed anything other than my impression of that day!

Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards
Great view, but a very commercial vineyard with lots of schnick-schnack to buy. I’d bought some cabernet franc here in 1995-6 which was great after a few years cellaring, but the 2003 Cabernet Franc they had on offer this year was too light and didn’t give me any confidence it would develop the way I like. The pinot gris was good so I got some of that. The gewürztraminer was ok though we’d had better at other wineries, so that didn’t go home with us, and although I thought the See-ya-later pinot noir could develop, I didn’t feel like taking the risk.
Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery
Very friendly people, good whites (some have won prizes) though not what I’d call earth-shatteringly great. I bought a mixed case of whites, including the 2004 Riesling, 2003 Stony Slope Riesling, and the 2004 Gewürztraminer.
Stag’s Hollow Winery
Unfriendly server but a good vidal (2004 Tragically Vidal), which is an unusual grape, and the 2002 Renaissance Merlot struck me as worth taking home, so I bought a couple of bottles for the cellar. It should be really good in a couple of years.
Hainle Vineyards Estate Winery
Nice people, organic wines; they’ve learned a lot about making organic wines palatable since I last visited in 1996 or so. Good bistro for lunch outside on the deck as well. The 2002 Hainle Chardonnay, 2002 Hainle Pinot Blanc, 2002 Deep Creek Pinot Meunier (nice rich taste, like the Hawthorne Mountain one from 1995 or so), and 2003 Deep Creek Z2 were all good, the 2003 Hainle Syrah ok. Bought a mixed bunch to cellar, mostly the Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay as they’re in short supply and I figured I probably couldn’t find them in Vancouver.
Arrowleaf
New winery and quite far north. Friendly people. Bought a couple of bottles of 2002 Zeigelt for the cellar, and some 2004 Bacchus (nice light grape) and 2004 Gewürztraminer for drinking.
St Hubertus Estate Winery
Much of the winery was destroyed in the big fire of 2003, but they’ve rebuilt with a bigger tasting room. The rubber stamps are now in the tasting room rather than in a separate building; they add a touch of eclecticism to the place. Decent selection of wines. We picked the 2004 Dry Riesling to take home (with Tim warning by this stage that we didn’t have much room left in the car!)
Raven Ridge Cidery
Not quite a winery, this one, but a cidery connected to an orchard with a good restaurant. I picked up their last two bottles of Sparkling Cider as well as a bottle of Braeburn iced cider (like ice wine, but tastes of apples), just for a change.

Touring Okanagan wineries is an excellent experience, and having the kid around meant we also tried out some of the other tourist things rather than just sitting in the car. So although we didn’t see as many wineries as the 1996 trip, we still filled the car and have wine enough to last us for quite a while!

Sep 182005
 

Like probably every other computer geek out there, I do a certain amount of helping friends set up their home systems. This particular friend knows nothing about networks and firewalls and the like, and just wanted something secure that would allow her to have a reasonably safe Windows box and the daughter to have a reasonably safe and virus-free Windows laptop. The easy bits were installing the spyware detectors (Ad-Aware and Spybot S&D) and the virus checker/utilities (Norton SystemWorks); the tough bit was getting the routers to work.

The system that made most sense was to feed the DSL into a wired ethernet router with a built-in firewall (the D-Link DI-604 has a reasonable price point and an integrated firewall) and then set up a wireless point for the daughter’s laptop. So my friend got a Linksys wireless router (no firewall). We have this system at home, though with different hardware (Linux firewall + Airport wireless) and it works just fine. So I wasn’t expecting any oddities. I found the support page on the Linksys site that said to turn off the DHCP server on the wireless router, and to give it an IP address that fitted in with the IP setup of the wired router. That was easy enough to do. But somehow the laptop just never managed to sync up.

Ah, how good it was that I allowed more time than I expected to need to set it up! My basic idea was that ethernet comes out of the DSL mode, goes into the wired router in the uplink socket, then a cable comes out of the wired router and goes into the uplink socket of the wireless router. Still seems logical to me, but in this case my logic was completely wrong. Fortunately Linksys has live chat to tech support that works on a Saturday (good move, people!) and Melrose didn’t need very long to figure out the problem and tell me to put the cable coming out of the wired router into one of the 4 regular sockets. This worked just fine; the laptop synced up, my friend (and her daughter) are happy and think I know exactly what I’m doing, while I’m still slightly baffled and wondering what’s wrong with my simple hose-pipe analogy of internet connections. Still, I now know empirically what to do, so that’s the important thing.

Sep 162005
 

Working in small technical committees on well-constrained problems can be really rewarding; the small group allows for a certain amount of fun in the meetings and everyone knows they have a role to play. I chair the OASIS Entity Resolution TC, which is working on XML Catalogs.

The idea of catalogs has been around for a long time, it was one of the first pieces of work to come out of SGML Open, the precursor to OASIS. We’ve updated them for XML and use on the Web and although we spend a lot of time explaining that entity resolution is not restricted to XML entitities and indeed we use the word “entity” in the more general sense of the word, i.e. we really mean “resource” in today’s terminology (see the FAQ for more on this), I think it’s a good piece of work. Mind you, having Norm edit it and write code to implement it does help immensely.

So now it’s time to vote! We need another 44 OASIS member companies to vote (we need to reach a total of 47 “Yes” votes to pass) – so please pass this on to any voting reps you know (yes, this is a shameless lobbying act for something I think is worthwhile). The ballot is at Approve XML Catalogs v1.1 as an OASIS Standard. Many thanks!

Some supporting information from the TC:

XML documents and data often reference other external resources. Often the referencing information is not sufficient to locate the desired resource unambiguously, or the resource is not accessible at the given location at the time it is required, or it is preferable that an alternate resource be used in place of the referenced resource.

For example:

  1. External identifiers may require resources that are not always available. For example, a system identifier that points to a resource on another machine may be inaccessible if a network connection is not available.
  2. External identifiers may require protocols that are not accessible to all of the tools on a single computer system. An external identifier that is addressed with the FTP protocol, for example, is not accessible to a tool that does not support that protocol.
  3. It is often convenient to access resources using system identifiers that point to local resources. Exchanging documents that refer to local resources with other systems is problematic at best and impossible at worst.
  4. Incoming XML documents may reference customized versions of standard XML schemas. To protect your systems, it is necessary to remap the schema references so that known, trusted copies of the schemas are used.

Entity Resolution is the process by which these resource references can be mapped to another version of the reference that can be found or that is preferred for other reasons. To address these issues, the OASIS XML Catalog specification defines an application-independent entity catalog that maps external identifiers and URI references to (other) URI references.

Entity resolution catalogs have already been widely implemented in much deployed software. Promoting the OASIS XML Catalog specification to an OASIS Standard is crucial for continued interoperability of XML applications.

Sep 122005
 

What do you do when you need the answer to a question and Google doesn’t deliver? Ask on the blog of course… I would really like to know the answer to this one, as it would save a large amount of irritation and I assume others have the same problem. I’ve spent hours buried deep in search engine results with no luck.

As befits a family with jobs in the computer industry, we have a few computers spread around the house, all connected with a decent home network and protected with a good Linux-based firewall (which also serves this blog). The computers run a number of operating systems – Windows 2000, Windows XP, Mac OS X, Solaris. The problem only appears with the Windows XP boxes – or rather, between them. For some reason, one Windows XP box can’t see all the files and folders on the other Windows XP box, although they’re quite visible from both Windows 2000 and OS X. The odd thing is that some files and folders are visible, often some files in a given folder will be visible but the others won’t, and to my eye there are no differences in security settings, ownership, or ACLs. Mind you, I’m obviously missing something somewhere or I’d be able to see all those files from every machine in the house! I tried copying some of the files to new directories; sometimes that lets me see them across the network, and sometimes it doesn’t. I have no idea what settings are being put in place to stop me looking at such dangerous files as .css and .html in particular directories; the system seems capricious – as does any system when you haven’t figured out the rules by which it operates. The innate ability of the human brain to figure out patterns has decidedly failed me in this instance.

Help would be much appreciated, not only for me but for the rest of the family who have to put up with my imprecations each time I want to transfer files from one box to the other, only to find that they’re not visible from the box I want to transfer them to.

Final Chance to Speak at XML 2005

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Sep 072005
 

It’s that time of year again, fewer than 10 days until the deadline for your last chance to speak at XML 2005. This year we kept a lot of slots open for late-breaking talks (which don’t have to be only on really late-breaking subjects, good presentations on other topics that don’t duplicate material already on the program will also be considered, so check what’s already on the program!) We would like to see submissions on newer topics that weren’t around in May, whether that’s WSDL for REST, or Ajax, or the technical underpinnings of Web 2.0. More details on how to submit are at Call for Participation / Late Breaking News.

And there are also the Town Hall meetings, which this year we’d like to make less formal, and more “the opportunity to voice their opinion on controversial topics” open mike, open-to-the-public, meeting.

And, of course, the product presentations, designed to give attendees a space to really look inside interesting products that implement standards, interoperate with other products, and/or are new on the market. One of the reasons I like having the product presentation talks on the program is that it gives attendees a way to find out about a product without worrying that they’ll be pestered by over-eager sales people – they can find out the info they need without handing in their business cards. Of course, lots of vendors aren’t as keen on these talks as they don’t get the business cards, but you never know what makes somebody buy a product or recommend a product – where did the original spark come from? It could be a booth demonstration, or a full-length product presentation. You just never know.

So, if you’re interested in speaking this year and you don’t already have a speaking slot, you have until September 16 to get those submissions in!

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