"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Friday, May 20, 2005


Joe Gregorio (BitWorking) smells a missed opportunity...

Personally I think he missed a great opportunity to name it Post Only Once.


Steve Ballmer of Microsoft sez of RSS (which one?)...

It is a little too simple, that is also the reason everyone’s using it. We are working on more existing powerful stuff, around XML/web services [sic] that will address many issues beyond RSS. RSS will be around, but whatever we are working next will be cooler and more prevelant.
(via James Robertson)

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Eric Meyer writes...

What’s fascinating is how fired up people get about microformats.
I'm kind of fired up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

More Data

IEEE Computer May 5, 2005 Beyond the Relational Database Model David M. Kroenke, University of Washington Former VP of Development at Microrim (R:Base 5000) pp. 89-90

During the next hour or so, I walked her through the process of creating five normalized tables - Customer, Salesperson, Invoice, Line Item, and Item - and hooking them together with foreign keys. Then I explained how to rejoin them to get her sales order back. Long into the call, she asked, "Why am I doing this?"...

After 35 years of computer science and numerous iterations of Moore's 18-month cycles, isn't there a better way?


Communications of the ACM
Volume 48, Number 5 (2005), Pages 111-118
The Lowell database research self-assessment

It is time to stop grafting new constructs onto the traditional architecture of the past. Instead, we should rethink basic DBMS architecture with an eye toward supporting:

  • Structured data;
  • Text, space, time, image, and multimedia data;
  • Procedural data; that is, data types and the methods that encapsulate them;
  • Triggers; and
  • Data streams and queues
as co-equal first-class components within the DBMS architecture—both its interface and its implementation—rather than as afterthoughts grafted onto a relational core...

Many new applications that use DBMSs are going to require unattended operation. In addition to no-knobs tuning, the DBMS must be able to recognize internal malfunctions and malfunctions of communicating components, identify data corruption, detect application failures, and do something about them. Such capabilities require making the DBMS more self-aware and providing it with explicit models of the information system in which it participates...

A small number of slick visualization systems oriented toward information presentation were proposed during the 1980s, notably QBE and VisiCalc. There have not been comparable advances in the last 15 years, and there is a substantial need for better ideas in this area.

Thirty years of research on query languages can be summarized by "we have moved from SQL to XQuery."

First, the database research community should avoid drawing too narrow a box around what we do. We must explore opportunities for combining database and related technologies that can improve the usage of information, such as information visualization technologies, which has often been left to the domain of other research communities. To broaden the set of technologies database researchers apply, they need to expand their breadth of competencies. Consider the plasterers' union, which decided many years ago, when wallboard was being introduced, that it was not their competency. As plaster was replaced by wallboard, the union lost out. This fate could befall the DBMS community if it does not respond to the new challenges of integrating related technologies with information management.

Second, it was noted that the average age of participants at these meetings has been increasing. On the other hand, there are more young database researchers than ever before, as evidenced by the large number of junior faculty in databases. We recommend the next meeting invite a broader mix of age groups within our community.

Coordination vs. Command and Control

From Vanessa Williams we get...

For my taste, Web Services and SOA architecture puts too much emphasis on centralized orchestration and not enough on self-organized, coordinated behaviour in large open systems.

No Regrets

Update: See my response to the comments if you're interested.

I have no regrets having dropped Newsweek about a year ago, what with the Bush administration CBS'ing them and Newsweek having no more backbone than the other "mainstream" corporate media so-called "news" agencies.

For their good behavior, I'm giving Newsweek and its owner, the Washington Post, this week's Yellow Streak Award for Craven Cowardice in Journalism.

As always, the competition is fierce, but Newsweek takes the honors by backing down on Mike Isakoff's exposé of cruelity, racism and just plain bone-headed incompetence by the US military at the Guantanamo prison camp.

Isakoff cited a reliable source that among the neat little "interrogation" techniques used to break down Muslim prisoners was putting a copy of the Koran into a toilet.

In the old days, Isakoff's discovery would have led to Congressional investigations of the perpetrators of such official offence. The Koran-flushers would have been flushed from the military, panels would have been impaneled and Isakoff would have collected his Pulitzer.

No more. Instead of nailing the wrong-doers, the Bush Administration went after the guy who reported the crime, Isakoff...

Have some sympathy for Isakoff: Mike's one darn good reporter, but as an inmate at the Post/Newsweek facilities, his ability to send out serious communications to the rest of the world are limited.

A few years ago, while I was tracking the influence of the power industry on Washington, Isakoff gave me some hard, hot stuff on Bill Clinton -- not the cheap intern-under-the-desk gossip -- but an FBI report for me to publish in the Guardian in England.

I asked Isakoff why he didn't put it in Newsweek or in the Post.

He said, when it comes to issues of substance, "No one gives a shit" -- not the readers, and especially not the editors who assume that their US target audience is small-minded, ignorant and wants to stay that way.

That doesn't leave a lot of time, money or courage for real reporting. And woe to those who practice real journalism. As with CBS's retraction of Dan Rather's report on Bush's draft-dodging, Newsweek's diving to the mat on Guantanamo acts as a warning to all journalists who step out of line.

Newsweek has now publicly committed to having its reports vetted by Rumsfeld's Defense Department before publication. Why not just print Rumsfeld's press releases and eliminate the middleman, the reporter?

The term "pussy whipped" comes to mind.


A.H. wonders...

Wouldn’t it be delicious if the female orgasm were the thing that tips the scales in favor of the Intelligent Design crowd? It would make for a great closing argument: "The female orgasm is so complex and strange, it could only have come from God. The reason there is no evolutionary purpose to it is because there is no evolution! God is in the details... and the bedroom. Who needs Darwin when you have the Bible -- and the Jack Rabbit (grown ups only). Case closed. Amen."

Big Ice

Live Science, via Yahoo News...

If B-15A gets stuck, as it has before, researchers fear it could block sea ice behind it, thwarting animals that need to move from shore to the open sea.

B-15A is the largest chunk left of a bigger iceberg, known as B-15, that broke off the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000. That initial frozen hunk was about the size of Jamaica. After B-15 broke apart, the chunk named B-15A drifted into McMurdo Sound, where it blocked ocean currents and caused other sea ice to build up, threatening wildlife.

Scientists predicted an imminent collision back in January this year. Instead, the iceberg ran aground and stalled out. Then it broke free in March. On the move again, it collided with the Drygalski ice tongue in April, forcing the redraw of Antarctica maps.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Missing More Boats?

Chris Anderson has been exploring Python and states...

I've really come to the conclusion that Microsoft is missing the boat around dynamic languages and scripting in general.
Agreed. And yet...
I think that scripting and many dynamic languages are in the same camp. They are great for small applications and writing glue code. Look at Google Maps, the real processing is on the server...

Regardless of the limitations, our singular focus on strongly typed compiled languages has blinded us to the amazing productivity and approachability of dynamic scripting langauges like Python and Ruby.

Python and Ruby are fine languages. Miles ahead of most others. They work well in many situations.

Remember their most common implementations are relatively simple. Don't use them as the benchmark of where the performance can really go, and has been for some time, e.g. in Smalltalk, Common Lisp, and Scheme where more attention has been paid to efficient implementations.

Microsoft will be missing a huge opportunity if they settle for current Python and Ruby performance as their "scripting" language par. The first step toward this new consciousness would be to stop using the term "scripting". Call them "dynamic" or "agile" or something that does not connote just slow "glue".

Check out JP Morgan's KAPITAL system in Smalltalk. This is the engine, not the glue. Don't miss the boat.

Decidedly Unwiki-like

Jotspot is about as cool as it gets. But when you are dealing with stuff like this can it fairly be called a wiki?

<wiki:search forAll="true" filter="it/ActualTimeForm/iteration=args/iteration" />
<wiki:var var="totalSpent" value="${0}" />
<wiki:var var="totalRemaining" value="${0}" />
  <wiki:var key="ms" value="${it/ActualTimeForm/timeSpent/milliseconds}" />
  <wiki:var key="totalSpent" value="${totalSpent + ms}" />
  <wiki:var key="ms" value="${it/ActualTimeForm/timeRemaining/milliseconds}" />
  <wiki:var key="totalRemaining" value="${totalRemaining + ms}" />
<wiki:var key="percent" value="${round(totalSpent div (totalSpent + totalRemaining) * 100)}%" />
<div style="width:100%; border: 1px solid black; padding:0px; background-color:red">
  <div style="background: green; width: ${percent}; margin: 0px;text-align: center; color: #ddd">

Accounting for the Long Tail

The Accounts framework and other Adaptive Object Models provide more support for long-tail notions in software...

A system with an Adaptive Object-Model has an explicit object model that it interprets at run-time. If you change the object model, the system changes its behavior. For example, a lot of workflow systems have an Adaptive Object-Model. Objects have states and respond to events by changing state. The Adaptive Object-Model defines the objects, their states, the events, and the conditions under which an object changes state. Suitably privileged people can change this object model "without programming". Or are they programming after all? Business rules can be stored in an Adaptive Object-Model that makes it easy to evolve the way a company does their business.
And then [micro-]workflow. (But the site was having trouble today)

Experiments with OVAL

Tom Malone, et al. of MIT Sloan School addressed the long-tail of software some time ago (throughout the 1980's and then some). Their work resulted in more than a handful of useful papers and several generations of useful software written in a few dialects of Lisp (ultimately Macintosh Common Lisp). I wonder what happened to the software.

Demonstrating the range of software that could be addressed with little effort, one of the most ignored reports of all time in software has to be "Experiments with OVAL"...

This paper describes a series of tests of the generality of a "radically tailorable" tool for cooperative work. Users of this system can create applications by combining and modifying four kinds of building blocks: objects, views, agents, and links. We found that user-level tailoring of these primitives can provide most of the functionality found in well-known cooperative work systems such as gIBIS, Coordinator, Lotus Notes, and Information Lens. These primitives, therefore, appear to provide an elementary "tailoring language" out of which a wide variety of integrated information management and collaboration applications can be constructed by end users.
"Objects" in OVAL are essentially just like "objects" in JSON, i.e. they are name/value pairs. The main difference is there is a templating mechanism and one can inherit from another. There are no "methods" associated with objects, but rule-based actions are based on "duck typing", in this case the names and values an object has.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Content and Presentation

Sean McGrath raises the fuzzy boundary between content and presentation. My thoughts on the matter...

The concern about content vs. presentation is based in code maintenance. The model-view-controller design allows the model and the view to change independently (controller has remained a bit of a bear).

This separation is less of a concern on the web, although adapting content to multiple presentations is more than desirable. For example, "micro-formats" that embed content within HTML (which is perhaps 'semi-presentational'?) such that CSS can style based on more content-specific content than HTML itself, and such that automated systems can ignore the presentation and drive actions based on the content.

Supposedly the automated systems should care less if the presentation aspects of the format changes and vice versa. Agile data formats and processors should have less to do with a content/presentation dichotomy, and have more to do with semi-structured data, i.e. whether or not the document has enough information of the expected kind to do useful work.

Not Elegant?

Dynamic ("scripting" in this article) languages continue to gain more attention. Play along at home. Spot the misconceptions...

"Scripting (languages are) just getting more popular and powerful simply because they're easy to use," said Tim Huckaby, CEO of consulting firm and Microsoft partner InterKnowlogy. "It's all about time to market and money, not about how elegant it is underneath."

Another XP Code Sprint

Another Portland code sprint will be held at Free Geek on May 25-26 from 6:30pm each evening. Free Geek has some of their own compute power available if you don't want to mess with your own.

Jeff Freyley, one of the organizers, writes...

This will be a language neutral Sprint, so remember: language wars can only be settled by tree-climbing contests at midnight, not by words.

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About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.