Thursday, July 31, 2003

Putting XML in LDAP with LDAPHttp

This article at O'Reilly's describes an approach to storing data (as XML) in an LDAP directory. It is based on LDAPhttp, which provides MVC abstraction to the directory via servlets.

We are currently thinking about where to store some attributes for users and groups and are bouncing between directories and databases as a solution.

The author, Jon Roberts, has also written Why use LDAPHttp to deliver web applications and services?

IBM Lotus Workplace Strategy Roadshow

Looks like it is time to raise the profile of the Lotus Workplace Strategy in Australia. If you live in Oz you can get details and register here. See you at the Canberra event on August 12.

What they say:

IBM Lotus software, the leader in collaboration, introduces the Lotus Workplace Strategy - an innovative new initiative for collaboration and human interaction. Lotus Workplace, integrates people with the information and business processes they need, in a single secure, reliable dynamic work environment. It's capabilities can be applied as needed to fit specific industry or business needs helping to transform an organisation to an e-business on demand.

Be one of the first to hear about the latest developments at the IBM Lotus Workplace Strategy Roadshow. See first hand the latest features demonstrated by Lotus Software and IBM Business Partners.

FOAF Authorship

Edd Dumbill has a good writeup on his blog (and here) about specifying authorship in FOAF. As you may know, a FOAF can contain a number of person elements. How do you specify which one is you in your FOAF?

The articles also provide a meta tag for HTML to link authorship of web pages to your FOAF description.

RDFWeb continues the theme here.

I have made these changes to my site template and will apply them here in the next 12 hours. Then you can check out the source to these pages to see both the FOAF autodiscovery and ownership tags in the HTML header (this is why I like not using someone else's template).

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Blake's 7 - back from the dead

According to the BBC, Blake's 7 will be returning to our screens as a Mini-Series soon.

You can see more details at the new Blake's 7 site.

My favourite character from the old show was the perspex box with the flashing lights - or was it a powerful computer?

Be Afraid.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Voyage of Discovery

I saw this on BBC (TV) news last week, but spied CNN's version of the story this morning.

An armada of small, faded yellow toy ducks is expected to make landfall in Britain within weeks at the end of an epic 11-year voyage from the Pacific Ocean. They are the survivors of a consignment of 29,000 bath toys washed overboard from a container ship in 1992 that have since floated across the ocean, round the United States, through the Arctic and past Greenland....

The report I saw said that oceanographers were very keen to find the ducks as they were following Arctic currents that were usually difficult to monitor. They had provided useful data on the flow and patterns of these currents.

I assume they were all Drakes.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Friend of a Friend

The Friend of a Friend (FOAF) project (details) is about creating a Web of machine-readable homepages describing people, the links between them and the things they create and do. FOAF is a project of RDFWeb.

Basic Idea - from the old RDFWeb project page:

The basic idea is pretty simple. If people publish information in the FOAF document format, machines will be able to make use of that information. If those files contain "see also" references to other such documents in the Web, we will have a machine-friendly version of today's hypertext Web. Computer programs will be able to scutter around a Web of documents designed for machines rather than humans, storing the information they find, keeping a list of "see also" pointers to other documents, checking digital signatures (for the security minded) and building Web pages and question-answering services based on the harvested documents.

So, what is the 'FOAF document format'? FOAF files are just text documents (well, Unicode documents). They are written in XML syntax, and adopt the conventions of the Resource Description Framework (RDF). In addition, the FOAF vocabulary defines some useful constructs that can appear in FOAF files, alongside other RDF vocabularies defined elsewhere. For example, FOAF defines categories such as 'Person', 'Document', 'Image', alongside some handy properties of those things, such as 'name', 'mbox' (ie. an internet mailbox), 'homepage' etc., as well as some useful kinds of relationship that hold between members of these categories. For example, one interesting relationship type is 'foaf:depiction'. This relates something (eg. a Person) to an Image. The FOAF demos that feature photos and listings of 'who is in which picture' are based on software tools that parse RDF documents and make use of this properties.

Edd Dumbill also has a good background article at developerWorks: Finding friends with XML and RDF.

You can use FOAF to describe yourself and who you know. The full FOAF vocabulary is here so you can browse through and add appropriate descriptors (e.g. MyersBriggs indicator or AIM chat ID). Identifying things in FOAF is a more readable overview.

Getting Started - you can use the FOAF-a-Matic to generate an initial FOAF (usually named foaf.rdf). This page also describes how to add a meta link to your HTML header for autodiscovery.

Here is a link to my FOAF document my FOAF (get buttons here). I have added a few bloggers to my FOAF as an example (hope you don't mind Ed, Ben, Ned).

FOAF Explorer This link is to a handy tool called FoaF Explorer. It allows you to explore FOAF documents and the relationships between friends. Click it to see how it parses my foaf.rdf. The site also has other tools available.

What does it mean? - this is real the question, of course. Or perhaps you should even ask "What does FOAF offer?" It seems to be a logical step to standardise (or at least flatten into XML) social/blogrolling connections in the same way that RSS is flattening a lot of web browsing.

If the FOAF meme gets some real traction, I suppose all the Domino Blog templates will need a this feature. I wonder who will be first?

Other FOAF links: k-collector - foaf,, technorati, Edd Dumbill, Danny Ayers, Marc Canter, Spring.

Photonics Institute

A new research institute has just opened it's doors here in Canberra according to ABC News. They just could not resist mentioning some of the more mundane uses:

A new research centre that could lead to major technological breakthroughs including teleportation has opened........

For specific details see the Photonics Institute.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003


The Project has announced an initial release of open source server software and the formation of an international development community supporting open-protocol groupware server software. The goal is to create "the leading open source groupware server to integrate with the leading open source office suite products and all the leading groupware clients running across all major platforms, and to provide access to all functionality and data through open XML-based interfaces and APIs.

The source code initially includes the technology SKYRiX Software AG has been developing for future versions of the SKYRiX groupware server; the source is written in Objective-C and delivers language-neutral and scriptable functionality, including XML interfaces.

"OGo software will enable users to share calendar, address book and e-mail information; they can communicate via instant messaging, share folders, exchange documents, track changes, share a whiteboard, and browse the Web all at the same time -- all upon open Internet standards and without paying or managing cumbersome licensing fees. OGo offers users a free solution for collaboration and document management that, despite being free of charge, will far surpass the quality and level of collaboration found on Windows (through integration of MS Office, Exchange Server and SharePoint). The OGo project is a fully independent open source project, but will interoperate with the software and other similarly open clients via open standards."

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Visual Passwords

Don Park points to a Microsoft research article that describes some effort to generate passwords using a selection of images. Whilst an interesting idea, it seems a bit convoluted in practice. Have a read and see what you think.

BTW, I really like the visual hieroglyphics that the Notes client generates as you type in your password. It is a very clever pre-validation validation.


If you have Patterns to help describe how to develop good code, you also need Anti-Patterns (wiki, Zawodny's experience and Google category for completness) to describe all that you should not do.

Bitter Java describes a number of java-specific anti-patterns and links to Eric Allen's list of articles on developerWorks.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Breakfast with Scientist

Joshua and I had a great time in Sydney. He enjoyed his origami workshops and came home with undiminished enthusiasm along with a samurai helmet, a family of pigs, the obligatory crane and plenty of new Japanese words. I had a relaxing break from work, lounging in campus coffee shops enjoying cheap coffee and food, then browsing in the bookshop while Joshua creased and folded.

The workshops were in the morning, giving us the rest of the day to explore. On Monday we returned to the Powerhouse Museum, as there was not time to see the space exploration display when we went on Sunday. Tuesday afternoon was spent at Coogee Beach. Josh took shorts and a T-shirt and I said he should only go in up to his knees, but of course he couldn't resist getting soaked (I had a change of clothes in the car - I know my son). Don't forget it is winter here, the water was not warm. Besides, I was raised in sub-tropical Brisbane, the beach, to me, was the Gold Coast (think Florida if that helps). The only people that went swimming in July were poor Victorians heading north to avoid their winter. We'll avoid mentioning that I now live in one of those cold-in-winter places and my kids would happily swim with icebergs.

The most unexpected event occurred during breakfast at the Motel where we were staying. It is a comfortable, modest place, directly opposite one of the entry gates to UNSW. I was expecting to see a few other families there because we received a discount on the room when they found we were attending the workshops at the Uni. Instead of other families, there were scientists! At the table next to us people from the US, Germany and Uzbekistan were discussing Organic Chemistry - using a magnetic bottle to contain a reaction. Others were astronomers. When we woke up they were sitting on the balcony opposite our room enthusiastically peering into a telescope (at their age too!).

I went to University with the aim of a degree in Chemistry, but was distracted by Computer Science. I did first year Chem and a bit of second year, but CompSci promised just as much interesting stuff and the money was better (Oh, and Amanda was doing CompSci). Over the morning I found myself trying to imagine what my life would have been like if I had pursued Chemistry, Organic of course, instead. It was pleasant to imagine a different life whilst relaxing in the sun, but it was hard to imagine it much better than now (unless that lottery win arrives, and for that I'd need a ticket).

But most of all I enjoyed the time I spent with Joshua. Whether it was sitting and talking over a meal, reading together or seeing and experiencing new things, it was all deeply satisfying.

Amanda and Anneke left for Brisbane a few days before we tripped to Sydney and arrived home a few minutes before we did on Tuesday evening. They enjoyed visting family and a few friends too.

Life is good.

Dumb Warnings

We have all seen Dumb Warnings on stuff. Here is a list.

I remember having a pager years ago and the battery compartment cover had a warning advising me not to eat it. I hadn't thought of eating it, until then.

via Davezilla

Friday, July 18, 2003

Pattern Theory

I came across Patttern Theory yesterday via the story I linked to about the Architect Chris Alexander. Until I did a bit more reading, I didn't realise that usage of the term Pattern (as in Patterns: Custom Designs for Domino and WebSphere Integration) had a specific meaning, and was not being used in the generic sense.

Alexander has been developing his ideas on Architecture for more than thirty years and has published a number of books (see below). He wants to distill why some forms are good, how we know they are good, and the rules we can use to repeatedly create these forms. His thoughts resonate with the idea that there are both good (elegant) and bad (ugly) ways of designing and developing software and systems. The results of the development process also reflect the worth of process used in their construction.

To see how this thinking relates more directly to computing you should read this presentation by Alexander - The Origins of Pattern Theory, the Future of the Theory, And The Generation of a Living World by Christopher Alexander. It is the transcript of the Keynote at the 1996 ACM Conference on Object-Oriented Programs, Systems, Languages and Applications (OOPSLA) in San Jose, California.

An interesting idea from the presentation above was that we can take an elemental pattern or design and applying "structure-preserving transformations" to it. In this way the path to the design objective is defined as a number of transformations that preserve the integrity of the original element. An acorn becomes an oak.

The first book that applied the idea of patterns to software was Design Patterns by Gamma, Helm, Johnson and Vlissides. It is interesting to note that Gamma works for OTI (Eclipse & WS Studio) and Vlissides works at IBM Research. A quick google reveals lots of others using this appoach to software development as well as discussing its relevance.

Please forgive me if this is all well-known or I'm preaching to the converted. To me this revealed a deeper dimension and helps provide a mental framework to my thoughts about clarity, elegance and rightness in software.

Christopher Alexander's books:

Thursday, July 17, 2003


Tim O'Reilly mentions Dashboard, another Personal KM tool under development. This description from DJ's Weblog :

The heart of dashboard is a matching and sorting engine that receives information (in the form of "cluepackets" - how evocative is that?) from frontend applications (like your IM and email clients) and asks the plugged-in backends to find stuff relevant to that information, which is then displayed in the sidebar-style window, designed to be glanced at rather than pored over. It's a lovely open architecture in that you can (build and) plug in whatever frontend or backend lumps of code you think of.

Things I missed

Back again from Sydney with Josh. I'll get to writing something about it a little later. I missed these few things:

And......Apollo 11 was launched on this day in 1969. Yesterday I was standing under an F-1 engine at the Powerhouse Museum. There were 5 F-1s in the first stage of a Saturn V. They also have a Boulton and Watt Steam Engine (yes, that James Watt).

Friday, July 11, 2003

A small break in transmission

Joshua and I are going to leave the girls alone for a few days and have a merry jaunt to Sydney. He is going to a holiday workshop at the Uni of NSW.

We'll use public transport to get around. I found all the Sydney Bus & Train Routes online. Even better is this great Trip Planner which lets you specify start and destination addresses, date, time and will offer either mixed or single transport modes.

We won't be back until next Tuesday, so no blogging until then.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Opportunity launched successfully

CNN tells us that MER-B (Opportunity) was successfully launched late on Monday.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Automated Document Classification

I have been doing some investigating on automated document classification and have collected these links. These are just a small sample, but there are enough that we'll have to do a detailed evaluation and comparison.

Knowledge Management Weblogs

Along with the automatic document classification tools below I have found quite a few KM weblogs and portal sites. These are presented below for your edification and contemplation.

Knowledge Management Weblogs:
Knowledge Management Portals:

Saturday, July 05, 2003


evectors k-collector is another approach to Knowledge Management. It is a server-based shared collection of RSS feeds that can be added to, or categorised, by individuals. This devolves the taxonomy management out to end users, but rules can be applied to manage any chaos that develops.

From Paolo's summary on k-collector:
Our main goal is the development of an enterprise news aggregator that leverages the power of shared topics to present new ways of finding and combining the real knowledge in your organization.
One of the keys of this system is that there are no pre-existing lists of topics that must be set up and configured. Topics get on the server via RSS feeds while users create them, and they are distributed to all other users within the same cloud via TopicRolls.
The basic idea is to allow for topics and posts to somehow self-organize without any top-down design approach (also if rules can be enforced if needed by the system administrator).
evectors also host the ZOË project.

via Corante

Thursday, July 03, 2003


From BBC News - Behold the pentaquark :

Physicists have discovered a new class of subatomic particle that will provide unexpected insights into the fundamental building blocks of matter.The new particle is the so-called pentaquark - five quarks in formation. Until now, physicists had only seen quarks packed into two- or three-quark combinations.

Until recently, no firm evidence of pentaquarks existed, even though physicists have searched for these objects for over 30 years.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Ancient Weblog Discovered

I was reading about Personal Knowledge Publishing last night and the article mentioned one of the first hosted blogging sites called A rush of nostalgia flooded me - I spent a week or two fiddling with it, but that was in 1999, surely it would not be there still.

So this morning I fired up the browser and crossed my fingers. After a few guesses at username and password I was in. They sure know about running a reliable system - I haven't logged in in nearly four years.

My original stack (which seems to have been funky, even then) was still there along with an archive from August 1999. The front page indicates that I moved the content to another site called - which has since morphed into something else entirely.

It is a beautifully simple site, the bones of the standard 3 column blog style are there, along with links to long dead dotcom sites. It has a link to the Directory Interoperability Forum (Lotus, IBM, Oracle and Novell) along with a prophetic warning that these consortia don't have a good track record. Never hear of it ? The domain is now parked in limbo.

Things were simpler in those days.
I will keep a copy on this site in this db from now on, just to be on the safe side.

Reading for July 2003

This month's reading pile currently contains:

On the Shopping List:

Nothing so far.....

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Googling for Squid

At the moment I'm the 7th result returned by Google when searching for wonky eyed jewel squid. How bizarre is that. All because I mentioned them last week.

I'm not as popular as Cephalopod News, but then who would be. Although I did learn a bit more about the Pacific NorthWest Tree Octopus, including the latest sightings.


Haystack - the universal information client. They say:

Haystack is a tool designed to let every individual manage all of their information in the way that makes the most sense to them. By removing the arbitrary barriers created by applications only handling certain information "types", and recording only a fixed set of relationships defined by the developer, we aim to let users define whichever arrangements of, connections between, and views of information they find most effective. Such personalization of information management will dramatically improve each individual's ability to find what they need when they need it.

Here is a screenshot of a Haystack homepage. My favourite part of the Overview is E-mail and Instant Messaging Together at Last.

Ed - I assume Lotus keeps an eye on these sort of developments, like Chandler, Hep and ZOË.

Initial impression is that it is excruciatingly, unusably slow on my 1.8GHz, 512Mb W2K machine.

[via Brian Dear]