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 These days, I mostly post my tech musings on Linkedin.  https://www.linkedin.com/in/seanmcgrath/

Friday, March 28, 2003

Waiting for a Pizza in Sligo

Pregnant Mediterranean Insects

Mark O'Neill expands on the origins of copyright.


Ziggy on hyperspecialism.

OpenOffice 1.1 Beta Available

Beta of 1.1. now available.
I've been using 1.0.2 for a quite a while now. Some oddities as you would expect but a very, very solid tool. Being able to access the XML underneath is just a glorious facility. How did I survive without that?

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Blame/thank the Irish for copyright law

I'm reading Ingenious Ireland by Mary Mulvihill. There is a fascinating vignette in it about the origins of copyright - about a 20 minute drive from my house. Drumcliffe Church, better known as the burial place of W.B. Yeats, was the location of a row circa A.D. 500 when some monks objected to a Monk called Columba, copying manuscripts created in other monasteries. In A.D. 561 it went to the supreme court - to King Diarmuid - the High King at Tara.
Diarmuid's judgement was:
    "Le gach bain a bainin, le gach leabhar a leabhrán."

which means
    To every cow its calf, to every book, its copy
Unfortunately, Columba did not give back the copies he had made and 3000 men died in the battle that ensued known as The Battle of the Book at Cooldrumman.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Information Rules

I'm half way through Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy. Fascinating stuff - especially on the subject of information product (e.g. software application) lock-in. Very even handed - a chapter telling you how to avoid lock-in and a chapter telling you how to create lock-in :-) Open Systems? Yeah, right...

Ampersand attrition revisited

A year or more ago, I wrote an article about the problems of escaping special characters in HTML and XML. The ampersand character is an interesting case because you escape it using - um - another ampersand. That is to say, an ampersand sign, followed by "amp;".
Using the very character you are trying to escape with a sequence that includes that very character is a recipe for oddities. For example, searching Google for the string "amp;amp" today I get 39 thousand hits. When I wrote the article, I got 22 thousand hits. An increase of 17 thousand in about a year. Wow.
Here is my favourite example - American Express Air Miles. The title of the page is:

    ®* Gold Business Card

20 amp's! A 20 stage production pipe, each of which escaped the original ampersand methinks :-)

A Daffodil, a digital camera, a geek in his back yard - a moment in time

Sjoerd Visscher + Danny Ayers on the RDF article

Sjoerd says exactly what I was trying to say in the article. He points at Danny Ayers (and Uches) comments that are both worth a read.
I'm not anti-RDF, I'm anti "in-your-face" RDF. Thats a very different thing. Its why I like the idea of semantic shadows I explained in the article.
Analogy: I program in Jython. You program in Java. Jane programs in Rhino. Bill programs in XSLT. Ultimately, all are executed in terms of a very general, low level ontology called Virtual Machine Markup Language:-) What's the problem? Should be all start programming JVM directly in assembler because it is a more general solution?

Semantic Shadows

In the ITWorld article RDF and other money wrenches, I mentioned the idea of "semantic shadows" as a way in which markup languages can use concrete, domain-specific concepts but, behind the scenes, be mapped to more abstract concepts for the purposes of unified knowledge representation.
Andrew Newman has pointed me at RDFT as an example along similar lines.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Uche Ogbuji on RDF

Uche replies to my comments on RDF.

RDF and other monkey wrenches

In the ITWorld archives : RDF and other monkey wrenches.

IT Standards and other illusions

[via Bill de hÓra] When do we get a real RSS standard?.
A "real" RSS standard will emerge through rough consensus and running code - not by any formal mechanisms. RSS, like HTML, ODBC etc. are not "standards" in any real sense. Most HTML is miles away from conforming to any "standard". Such is life. Most useful IT standards (certainly XML standards )are just a state of mind. They are lunes on a noosphere - not fixed points etched onto titanium plates. The bit that ends-up being "standard" is a teeny, weeny bit of whatever is notionally "the standard".

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Its impossible to get Elmo toys in Ireland you know

Okay, so this is not the normal geeky stuff you get on my blog but I have a real problem. One of my kids is NUTS, NUTS, NUTS about Elmo toys. These are available (along with a large variety of videos) in the US but danged if I can find them in Ireland or the UK.
Any pointers appreciated. [Normal service will now resume].