Nice presentation I found on the blog of an old friend.
Yesterday I got the idea of making an UML plugin for XWiki based on uml2svg. But since there was the need for a new uml2svg release I could put this in practice only today. Developing XWiki plugins is not as easy as it could be (more about this later), however it was as easy as I originally expected. Also things are not yet quite polished so I need to test and document the plugin before I can submit it. However, as you can see it already works:
As I have anticipated in a post a very long time ago: Adobe has decided to discontinue support for Adobe SVG Viewer starting January 1, 2008 (ASV End of Life FAQ). Adobe even plans to remove Adobe SVG Viewer from the Adobe.com download area on January 1, 2009. While this development is not surprising at all, I just hope that by that time Renesis and friends will be mature alternatives to Adobe SVG Viewer. That is because it is hard to believe that Firefox will gain significant market share on IE, especially now that IE7 is out.
Some days ago I had a discussion about the Semantic Web with Henry Story (one of the creators of BabelFish, now working for Sun). While he thinks that the Semantic Web is something attainable and he is probably not the only one, I think it’s just a dream some people share, but will not happen no matter how nice the dream itself might be. I was busy with other (more useful) things, like working on my thesis, so I didn’t have time to write these thoughts properly until now. Moreover, before posting, I also wanted to read this: “The Semantic Web Revisted (pdf, 2006)”. Sure, I already knew pretty well what this is all about (after all, my licentiate thesis was about “Semantic Web-Based Agent Communication”) and I had already read their previous vision statements. However, those statements were all at least 5 years old (which by web standards is ancient) so I expected great changes. Changes like coming back down from the clouds into reality. As you might expect by the title of the post, these changes did not happen. So let me summarize in just one phrase for those who don’t have time to waste reading all this:
It’s the same old bullshit!.
The Browser Wars 2: The Empire Strikes Back
Both Firefox 2 and Internet Explorer 7 are now out, and the browser wars have started again. More friendly than ever before, the new browser war is great news for the users and even better news web developers who had to live with the countless bugs of Internet Explorer 6. Not that Firefox is bug free though, it took them three years to fix what was a show stopper on the Mac. BTW., if you ever wanted to do me a favor, please vote for these five open Firefox bugs: 293581, 305859, 276431, 231179 and 272288.
Renesis, the (maybe too) promising SVG viewer is still alive and under heavy development. When their parent company lost interest in SVG, most of the Renesis developers have gone outside and formed a new company – Emia Systems – located in Regensburg, Germany. They have since then bought the rights and everything on Renesis from their previous parent company.
I expect it will take a long time before it is officially released, especially on platforms other than Windows (it’s .NET), but after Adobe buying Macromedia, this is probably our only chance to finally have a solid, multi-platform, multi-browser SVG plugin. And they might even make the player open source.
STIX Fonts: Always Coming Soon
The STIX Fonts project is aimed at creating a free font to cover an important part of Unicode — i.e. a free pan-unicode font. Since the project was started more than ten year ago it was always “coming soon”, but this time it really looks like they have almost done it. A beta test is expected to take place during the next months.
You might wonder why is this so important, when commercial pan-unicode fonts like Microsoft’s Arial Unicode have existed for years. Well, the commercial part in the last statement tells it all. The only free enough (shareware) pan-unicode font that covers all mathematical symbols is Code2000. And while Code2000 can display these symbols reasonably well, the modest 5$ license fee is only for supporting James Kass, it’s generous creator, and Code2000 is overall an astonishing achievement with its more than 60000 glyphs, there is a small problem. The focus with Code2000 was on coverage rather than high quality, and the STIX Fonts would cover exactly that, while being totally free for everybody.
Finally, you might also wonder why do I care about this. Quite simple, the STIX Fonts would cover all symbols needed to draw LaTeX and MathML formulae for sMArTH, our open source online equation editor.
HTML Back from the Grave
The W3C recently decided to restart work on HTML and “incrementally evolve it” to a point where it’s easier and logical for everybody to transition to XHTML. This means that the transition from HTML to XHTML is not going well at all, with tools and developers alike producing bad mark-up (“tag soup”). It also means that the voices of the people supporting WHATWG were finally heard, which is of course a good thing (on the other hand this does not make WHATWG right when promoting “HTML5″ instead of XHTML), and the new developments seem to be positive.
However, in my opinion, in their quest to “evolve” their standards, the W3C could become an obstacle for their adoption. It seems evident that it is impossible to make something a true standard (adopted by the wide majority), when you make it a moving target at the same time. So maybe the W3C should concentrate on making higher quality standards for which they gather more community support before releasing, rather than releasing poor standards often, and fixing things that are not really broken. “Release early, release often!” is good practice for (open source) developers, not for standard bodies. Multiple incompatible versions are already a problem for HTML, so do we really need more? And do they really expect that continuing support for HTML won’t harm the adoption of XHTML?
So what might have been an alternative solution? Now I really don’t know any more. When I first posted this I thought that deprecating HTML and XHTML Transitional entirely (and maybe removing the validators for them, they are poor anyway) in favor of XHTML would have been an alternative. Then whoever would still want to publish “tag soup” online would not adhere to any standard, and whoever wants to render “tag soup” in a browser would not adhere to any standard — this is the current situation anyway, and it’s quite unlikely to change. However, maybe this could have been an incentive for everybody (web developers, web publishing software developers and web browser developers) to go away from “tag soup” and towards something more “meaningful”. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t think that they can built their semantic wet dreams by having “tag soup” as a foundation. But well, who cares about their semantic dreams anyway? At least not me. Not any more.
[Edited the last paragraph: 2006-10-31]
It is well-known that the server performance degrades considerably for SSL transactions compared to the non-SSL case. However, many people running Web servers are (mis)using SSL for a lot of not-security-critical content. In most cases this leads sever overloading and unacceptable long waiting times for the clients. The best example of this is probably SourceForge.net, whose servers are overloaded 100% of the time as they are using SSL for almost all of the administration tasks. Most of these tasks are not security critical, but they are time critical to many of us. Using SSL for them is like wearing a firefighter’s full turn out gear to protect you from getting a minor burn when having a family barbecue. It is overkill.
As for me, I am starting to graw tiered of waiting for Web pages to load over HTTPS. It takes so long that I sometimes give up before it’s done. If there was a way to disable SSL for services like SourceForge.net, I would do it right away. The productivity decrease is so high with SSL that I am ready to give away security just to be able to get my work done.
- SSL increases computational cost of transactions by a factor of 5 to 7
- On a 1.4 GHz Xeon machine the computational demand of an initial handshake is around 175 ms and that of a resumed handshake is around 2 ms.
- RSA computations are the single most expensive operation in TLS, consuming 20-58% of the time spent in the web server.
- V. Beltran, J. Guitart, D. Carrera, J. Torres, E. Ayguadé and J. Labarta, Performance Impact of Using SSL on Dynamic Web Applications., XV Jornadas de Paralelismo, pp. -, Almeria, Spain. September 15-17, 2004. PDF File (144 KB)
Kant, K., Iyer, R., & Mohapatra, P. (2000). Architectural impact of secure socket layer on Internet servers. Computer Design, 2000, International Conference, 7-14. PDF File (248 KB)
C. Coarfa, P. Druschel, and D. Wallach. Performance analysis of TSL web servers, 2002. PDF File (144KB)
H. Xubin, A Performance Analysis of Secure HTTP Protocol. PDF File (154 KB)
I am scared by the new alliance between Adobe and Macromedia. What will happen to SVG after this merger? Some critics are already foreseeing the wonderful integration of Flash and SVG to form a new standards-friendly product. And while it is true that Adobe was a strong supporter of SVG, that was only because they needed something to match the popularity of Flash.
Flash is a proprietary product but it has a much larger installed user base than SVG. And now that Adobe owns Flash would it make any sense to push for an open standard? Well, I think they won’t. It would be no surprise if Adobe drops support for SVG entirely and focuses on providing a better Flash solution that could monopolize the whole market. Under these circumstances the Adobe SVG Viewer, the best available SVG viewer (maybe excepting Batik Squiggle) might not have a future at all and this could be a big setback for SVG.
The recent adoption of SVG by two major web browsers (Opera 8.0 and the upcoming Firefox 1.1) is most encouraging. Although the implementations will not be perfect right from the start, they will surely improve over time and they could counteract any move from Adobe. At least that is where my hope is.
Sketsa 3.1 is now out and comes with many important improvements. I have watched the development of this excellent SVG editor over the last couple of months and I must say that the developers from Kiyut never failed to impress me.
First of all, Sketsa is the most standard friendly SVG editor I have worked with. I use it to post-process UML diagrams exported by uml2svg and Sketsa is the only tool that rises to this challenge. But, even though it has made a good impression on me right from the start, there were still some problems that needed to be fixed, like the poor support for grouping and several glitches with text handling. What I did was to provide constant feedback on the areas that needed improvement and is was a pleasure to find out that the developers of Sketsa are very receptive to suggestions, they have a tendency to respond fast and fix things right away.
The new Sketsa 3.1 comes with much better support for ungrouping, an enhanced DOM Editor, a more accurate Lasso Tool, and many other improvements. If you are serious about SVG editing you should give it a try.
According to Wikipedia a Folksonomy is a the practice of collaborative categorization using freely chosen keywords. Folksonomies offer an alternative to classification using ontologies that is more flexible and scalable and is therefore well suited for collaborative categorization by non-professionals.
Although ontologies are widely used to classify the information we posses about world, they are not flawless. Some people think that in the context of the Web the very purpose of ontologies (classifying objects into classes) is flawed. Clay Shirky has a recent interview on ITConversations entitled “Ontology is Overrated” on the topic. In my view everyone attempting to build a general ontology runs into a major problem: some concepts can be classified in different ways according to the expected use. Is Australia a continent, a country or a rugby team? No matter which of the classes is chosen there will be some users that will find the classification arbitrary. This is one reason why directory services (not only tools like LDAP, but also web directories like ODP and even file systems) offer the possibility to add aliases (symbolic links) between related categories that are part of different subtrees. While this could solve the classification problem in many of the cases, the amount of links that one has to add can be restrictive.
What the folksonomies do is completely renounce to the hierarchical relations. Metadata is attached instead to each object in the form of tags (labels). A major advantage is that an object can have an arbitrarily large number of tags. Related tags can be determined automatically and used to increase the accuracy of the searches. Moreover these tags are added by the users themselves and not by experts. So it is the users that create metadata for their own individual use that is also shared throughout a community. Two such communities are Delicious and Flickr. Delicious allows users to store and share bookmarks while Flickr does the same thing for photos. Because the users can add any tags they like this is a very flexible way for users to organize their information. But things don’t stop here because the real power of folksonomies comes in when the supporting community grows large enough. Not only the categorization is usually comparable to that made by experts but the resulting system is much flexible and the advanced search capabilities are almost limitless. Although folksonomies are just beginning to become popular at this time, the idea behind them is very simple and interesting. They surely deserve further investigation.
For a more in-depth introduction to Folksonomies Adam Mathes has a very interesting article entitled “Folksonomies – Cooperative Classification and Communication Through Shared Metadata“.