Outer Web Thought Log
April 28, 2004
I'm honoured

I'm a loyal reader of Julie's great non-geek blog, where she chats about raising and self-schooling kids, marriage, faith and lots of other thoughtful matters in a conversant, pleasant-to-read style. I 'know' Julie because of Ted, who I know from Apachy things, and who happens to be married to Julie. While a blogging couple sounds "oh so cute", it's actually great to see how they both relate differently to identical events, a bit like Telsa and Alan from the days when blogging was not a buzzword and no BlogCons were held. Ted has a true-techy blog with human edges, while Julie definitely has a real life blog with few techy edges. I read much too little real life blogs, but hers sure makes up for that. She doesn't blog a lot about blogging, nor about techy things or "living with a geek" (I hate the geek stigma), she posts merely about herself and her little family world who, if I may say so, seems pretty charming from the spectator's perspective.
(Being happily married myself, with three kids as well, I tend to be realistic about such charms, knowing fully well that family love only happens when you invest energy into it, and Julie's tales sure are exemplary for that: you get what you give.)
Julie has been posting quite some pictures of her garden, kids and the neighborhood since I started reading, but seemed careful not to disclose a picture of herself. A few days ago, she posted some pics of Ted (who I've met already briefly IRL, so my appetite for visualisation was already addressed) and I 'complained' to her that it was about time to drop the mystery curtain and come out. My complaint was heard and addressed in due time: thanks, Julie!
(some family pics below in the non-feed version of this post)

Since everyone loves pics, here's some family shots of late which I happen to like.


Mie & Saar

I'm still looking for a decent shot of my second son, but he hates being photographed and punishes me with all sorts of freaky faces. :-)

April 27, 2004
Found some new picture workflow treasures

I'm still a bit annoyed with my picture handling workflow, basically since the default Nikon RAW handling software is crappy as hell (slow as molasses on Mac OS X, a plain Carbonification rather than an nice Aqua port, etc...) Yesterday night I found out about dcraw.c, yet another magnificent example of the power of open source. Some solo guy has been working on this love project of him for several years, and his code appears in almost every RAW converter or handling software out there, Photoshop included (!). It's a command-line tool only, which makes it combine nicely with ImageMagick. Now I just need to find all the right switches and parameters, and importing images from my camera will be a no-brainer rather than the current fiddling around with that Nikon Capture crap. The last possible alternative will be Bibble - but that guy seems to be having huge difficulties in releasing the new promised version.

April 26, 2004

I'm not going to post here. I'd love to, but I won't. I'm just going to breath slowly, and swallow my bad feelings into the safety of my inner self. Hopefully, they won't start fermenting there.
On a different note, I had a most enjoyable weekend of luxurious escapism, while I learned a lot about the wealthy side of humanity. After almost 34 years, I start to see that my daddy was right. Pardon the cryptic post, but it's just way too complicated to explain here.

April 21, 2004
23: I'm in!

"Now you know." Anthony Bourdain, A Cook's Tour. Fun game, Vincent!

Silly home-brown quote of the day

Love relates to sex as community to code: love is just the community consensus model applied to sex.

Another day, another conference

Today, it's V-ICT-OR SHOPT IT²: an ICT forum and congress for Flemish city administrations. Our longest-standing customer will be presenting a session about open source and open standards in an e-gov context: thoughts and visions we shaped collaboratively over three years of intense collaboration, and which eventually enabled us to release xReporter and soon Daisy - our CMS solution - under a BSD-style open source license. How cool is it when books about Cluetrain become theory and practice turns out to be even more fun?

April 20, 2004
One third of XML Europe trip report

(unfinished, will add hyperlinks)

So I've been to XML Europe (and Amsterdam) for about 48 hours (travel included), and I had good fun. Upon arriving at Amsterdam and finding a parking place, I went for an evening walk on wet city streets, and was again charmed by the provincial nature of a major European tourism capital. There's quite some similarity between the size and walkability of Amsterdam and Ghent, except for the fact that more people actually live in Amsterdam: the historical heart of Ghent has a higher bars vs houses ratio. Amsterdam is full of little streets where people actually live, and it adds to an atmosphere of conviviality and down-to-earthness: you know you are a visitor of someone's living place and it makes you to try and merge better with the Amsterdam people and way of living. Knowing the language and sharing the currency helps, of course.
My evening walk led me to a corner bar called after Rembrandt, with a neat young jazz band playing classics. I took some pictures which eventually made me talking with the band members: they wanted to have the pics for their promotion material, and I was happy to oblige. A few beers helped me in finding a restful night of sleep in my dull hotel room, and I got up pretty early to get to the RAI in time for the conference to start on the Monday morning. Saw some old-time acquaintances before that, who had been visiting some or many editions of the XML Europe conferences in the previous years. The conference size was (again) smaller than last year, and it really felt like a final edition. I heard of only 200 attendees showing up, and luckily it was held alongside a Seybold conference, so that the exhibition floor was still reasonably filled and somewhat interesting. It was funny to see PDF and XML vendors side-by-side, each of them trying to sell tools based on their vision of an open document and information exchange standard.
Trying to tune myself into the buzz of the day, I went to the two keynote sessions which kicked off the congress schedule. First one was Jeff Bar which is the Web Services evangelist of Amazon, who gave a (IMO somewhat dated) overview of the different iterations of the Amazon WS interface. The fact that the ReST API was still used much more than the SOAP one wasn't new to me, and made perfect sense for the largely publish-only nature of their exposed methods. Their ReST API seemed to be adopted as a nice replacement for the screen-scraping alternative, which people would have been using otherwise. It was a good, if somewhat dull presentation.
Steven Pemberton of the CWI/W3C gave a more philosophical talk about the design of notation and markup schemes, and I must say it was one of the better keynotes I saw in the past few years. The guy was genuinely funny, brought up some nice allegories to get his point across, and the 45 minutes went by without any moment of boredom (and I'm easily bored). Great speaker with valid - if somehow evident - points.
During the breaks I talked a bit with Benjamin Chen, CTO of snapbridge, who make a Cocoon-like XML Server product. We didn't actually do a side-by-side comparison between Cocoon and their software, which would have ended in the obligatory "mine is bigger than yours" discussion, and he made some really sensible points about the difference in development style and environment between proprietary and open source development. Basically, it requires few, bright people to come up with something genuinely good, and the challenge is to provide these bright minds with ideal working conditions. I'm not sure an employee/employer model is better in this context than the self-selection of open source developers, but I see the same patterns and difficulties coming back in both environments, especially when products become popular and people starts flocking together to position themselves in the center (or as close as possible) of the spotlights. Anyway, it was one of these encounters where you actually decide not to toss the business card away when you come back home.
After the break, I went to see Chris Lilley explaining the works and progress of the Web TAG WG, and it was a nice presentation as well, with loads of interaction from the audience, like ERH, Michael Kay, Bob DuCharme (which was a bit pedantic IMHO), and some others I didn't recognize. Good session. Paul Prescod then compared Atom with the Amazon ReST API, explaining about the puristic approach in the Atom API (use of HTTP PUT and DELETE come to mind), and comparing that with the more bland and conforming Amazon GET+querystring approach. Nothing new here for regular blog readers, but a nice overview nevertheless, hopefully pointing out to some of the pure XML-heads that making use of XML in a web environment makes you worry about more than encoding and Infoset validity alone. That has been at least my best career move ever made, moving from an XML-centric job to a Web/Internet-centric one quite some time ago. Suddenly, I was confronted with real-world problems rather than the dreamy xml-dev discussions of those years.
Over lunch I had the opportunity to meet with some other folks (hi Stijn!) and then I had a small meeting with the Dutch XML UG chairs about UG matters. By then, it was time to go to my room, to find out that something between 60 and 70 people had been gathering for Liam's and my talk. Track chair was Garreth Reakes, a fellow Apache guy on the XML PMC, which had been recently setting up his own company. Liam had some beautiful pictures to show during his presentation, and showed us that XQuery is becoming useful (and interoperable!) these days.
My own presentation went reasonably well, except for an avalanche of in-session questions which made me hurry to stick to the 45 minute time slot - talk time management isn't my best, especially when presenting in English. There's so much to say about Cocoon that a 45 minute intro really is pressing it. Jonathan Robie grilled me with some questions during my talk, and it's good to see the standards and corporate peeps getting interested in Cocoon these days. After my talk, three or four people kept me in the room with specific questions, so it seems like there was genuine interest and I somehow made sure my point came across.
After that, I walked to the Gambrinus to meet up with some fellow Cocoonies. Arjé and Unico of Hippo were there, Jeremias Maerki of FOP and Christoph Gaffga whose name I knew from the Cocoon lists. Lots of talks (and beer as well), and I especially loved debating with Unico, with whom I found out I was sharing a lot of concerns: once again an evening that showed me how much one can get back from participating in an open source project, and what fine people you can meet. I'm sure some of the main issues we have been debating that night will percolate back to the lists.
After a shorter night of sleep, I decided to head over to the Hippo offices, where I got to fetch mail, drink coffee, and spend quite some time talking with Arjé about open source business models, and how both of our companies are coping with that. I also gave Unico a tour around Daisy, our upcoming content management repository and framework, and had the chance to meet and greet with other Hippo folks. They occupate a (temporary, but very nice) location on the Amsterdam grachten, so the walk to and from their offices added to another nice half day spent in conference oblivion.
After that, I hit the road and found my family back well after two nights of me being away, and that, eventually, was the best way to end a fun way of spending 48 hours on non-work stuff.


ping from the offices of Hippo on the Amsterdam grachten. Thanks for the coffee (and the lunch), Arje & folks!

April 17, 2004
Safari-incompatible sites
These two sites don't finish loading in my copy of Safari: The only meaningful log message I can locate is:
2004-04-17 21:26:54.217 Safari[7361] ***
  -[NSCFString rangeOfCharacterFromSet:options:range:]: nil string (or other) argument

So much for the e-society: back to picking up the phone.

I've been online in some form since the very early 90s, when the Internet was still a rather new thing, and Usenet was still carrying some useful conversations. I never gave in, and have always been posting and mailing using my real email address, which of course because of job and ISP permutations has changed quite a few times since then. I have a barricade of both SpamAssassin and the Bayesian filter inside Mail.app fighting the barrage of incoming spam mails. That combo works good enough, in that "only" (sigh) about 30-40 spam mails make it into my real Inbox every day.
I've been neglecting mail lately however, since the amount of genuine mail is overwhelming me already, and those 30 undetected spam mails make every mail-fetch operation a disappointing experience. I've lost passion for mail, which is a sad thing when you depend on it like I do.
My blog upsofar was my private kingdom: I could say whatever I wanted, some people might comment on it, but all-in-all it used to be a spam-free environment which I could control without much hassle. The only annoying fact was that, sometimes, I didn't feel like writing, but that's of course a mostly self-induced annoyance. :-)
A few minutes ago however, I canceled XML-RPC notifications to bl.o.gs and weblogs.com, when it became clear to me that some freaks had set up bots monitoring these sites for active bloggers, which they can use as Google-ranking seeding places by injecting comment links to their stupid pharmacy, porn or insurance selling sites in their bogus blog comments. Only seconds after posting some new blog entries, I had 10 spam comments being added to them. The silent weeks before that, it were only 2, maybe 3 spam comments a week.
I'm not a physically violent person - I hate feeling bad about someone. But knowing governments are allowing UCE because of its so-called positive economical side-effects sickens me, and knowing who is behind all this makes me puke and dream of HalfLife-like scenarios where I can use the Mighty RailGun to nuke every single one of these bastards in a very violent way from our planet.
Sorry for my rage against the machine: I really don't care people can make good money of spam, and that stupid marketing people still regard mass-mailing as a valid advertising technique... I just want my internet back.

Digital photography goodies

In my ongoing quest to support small software companies, I'm eagerly awaiting the release of the new version of MacBibble and, upon reading Rob Galbraith's Noise Ninja review, have decided to buy a license of that one as well. Will be helpful for the times where I forgot to switch back the sensitivity setting of my new camera to ISO 200.

For those who liked my recent picture posts: I'm planning to do a rundown of my recently snapped shots Sunday night. Managing 4+ GB of newly shot material is a bit troublesome, and I still need to decide on a digital imaging workflow. Magic Lantern has now become my preferred picture viewer, but it unfortunately doesn't support D70 RAW NEF files - slim chance it will ever do, of course. ;-)

Update: just bought a copy of iView Media Pro, which does all I ever wanted about image cataloging and a bit more. Splendid piece of (Carbon) Mac OSX software. So when the MacBibble update with Nikon D70 NEF support hits the virtual shelves, my workflow will look like:

Still on my todo list is finding some web gallery or image database software which I like and has no cumbersome image upload back-end.

Blogroll update

Upon irregular tradition, I updated my blogroll again (listed on my blog homepage) from an OPML NNW export. If you're not listed, I don't read you. If you are: thanks for the insights!

J-Spring NLJUG conference

More coming out.

Looks like the conference season is steaming ahead at full speed: I'm presenting Cocoon at J-Spring, the NLJUG Conference on May 11th in Zeewolde, the Netherlands. See you there!

April 09, 2004
The airport mystery

Have fun!

April 08, 2004
I have a funny brother (Dutch)

Keeping up appearances

I'm presenting Cocoon during XML Europe on April 19th in Amsterdam, and will be attending the Cocoon Stammtisch afterwards. If you're looking for a Cocoon meet & greet that day, scribble your name on the Wiki page!

I'll also be teaching a half-day Cocoon tutorial at LTT's OMG/Java Info Day on April 28th in Amsterdam.