Friday, September 28, 2007

Red Sox win AL East Champion title

The Red Sox won their first American League East Champions title in 12 years tonight (the last one was 1995). After defeating the Twins 5-2 (thanks to Daisuke Matsuzaka), fans in Red Sox nation kept their eyes on the Orioles - Yankees game for another hour - until the Orioles defeated the Yankees in the 10th inning, thereby losing the pennant race.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Microsoft releases updated Live Search

Microsoft has announced today that the updated Live Search engine includes a 4 x increase in index size, significant enhancements in the core algorithms, increased focus on query refinement, and a new web data extraction model.

More details about these technical improvements are promised to appear in the LiveSearch Blog over the next couple of days.

I've tested the new Live Search today, and it indeed produces more accurate results than Google: e.g. searching for the term "XML Editor" on Google produces a whole bunch of irrelevant web pages and entries on the first page of the search results - including websites like Peter's XML Editor that aren't even supported/maintained anymore. Ironically, the #1 best-selling XML Editor and de-facto industry standard tool - Altova XMLSpy - is not even listed on that first page of results.

In contrast, the same search for the term "XML Editor" on Live Search will produce only highly relevant entries, including Altova XMLSpy as well as some competitors that are indeed maintaining their software and keeping it current.

It may have taken Microsoft a while to get Live Search right, but that's simply how they work:
  • The first version of Internet Explorer wasn't the killer, but subsequent versions kicked Netscape's butt.

  • The first version of Visual Studio wasn't damaging the Borland developer tools, but future releases forced them out of the market.

  • The first XBox wasn't hurting the PS2, but the XBox 360 is showing Sony who's boss, or rather who's Master Chief.

Extrapolate from those examples to the field of search, and I'd say now is a good time for Google to start to fear Microsoft...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Twitter search goes live

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, just announced that the real-time search function is now live on Twitter.

All you need to do is set up your phone or IM on Twitter, and then you can send a command like track NYC to automatically receive an update whenever anybody twitters about "NYC".

Very cool feature!

P.S. You can follow the XML Aficionado on Twitter, too...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

XMLSpy Tip: Using the XPath analyzer to quickly find information in files

One of my favorite features in the Altova XMLSpy XML Editor continues to be the XPath analyzer, which lets you quickly locate information in any XML file by typing an XPath 1.0 or 2.0 expression. Introduced first by Altova in 2001, the XPath analyzer gained XPath 2.0 awareness in version 2004 and was turned into a new dynamic window with multiple output tabs in version 2007.

The XPath analyzer is really convenient and easy to use. Located within the bottom information/output window, the XPath analyzer is found in a separate tab, right next to the Validaton results and the Find in Files function. You can configure it for XPath 1.0 or 2.0 with the click of a button, and can immediately see the result of any XPath expression, by typing it into the text input line - the XPath expression is evaluated immediately and the resulting nodeset is displayed in the output window:

In this example I have used the XPath expression //expense-item[@type="Lodging"] to locate all <expense-item> elements that have a type attribute with the value of "Lodging".

The resulting nodeset is evaluated dynamically as you type, so you can always see whether or not you have entered a correct XPath expression (in addition, the text entered turns red, if there is any error in the expression). You can quickly navigate to any of the found nodes by clicking on them, and the corresponding node in the document will be highlighted in the main editing window (irrespective of which view you are using).

One of the cool new features that was just added in the new XMLSpy 2008 version this month is the ability to also evaluate XPath expressions across multiple files. This is great if you are working on a larger project and need to quickly see where certain information is located. Sure, there is always Find in Files, which has powerful Regular Expressions, but a true XML Aficionado always prefers to use XPath :)

In this screenshot I was searching for all elements in any of my project files that have an xml:lang attribute - this can be expressed in XPath as //element()[@xml:lang] - and the resulting nodeset shows nodes found in several different files in my project. I can, of course, open any of these files and immediately view the found nodes just by clicking on them.

Here is another nifty trick: if you often work with larger files and want to persistently bookmark certain positions in those files, you can also use the XPath analyzer to quickly navigate to those locations. All you need to do is add comments to the XML file to mark those locations, e.g. <-- Bookmark #1 --> and then you can use the XPath expression //comment() to show all comment nodes in your file. Now you can click on each one and you will see them displayed in the editing view. You can even quickly reestablish bookmarks by clicking on each one and hitting Ctrl-F2 to set a new bookmark:

To see more useful information about the XPath analyzer, watch this cool flash video or read the XPath Evaluation chapter in the online manual.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Microsoft in talks to buy a stake in Facebook

The Wall Street Journal reported just now that Microsoft is in talks with Facebook to acquire a 5% stake in the company. The deal is said to result in a valuation for Facebook of $10 billion.

Both Google and Microsoft are said to have been in negotiations with Facebook at one time or the other, but Microsoft has an advantage at the moment, due to an exclusive agreement with Facebook to deliver ads to Facebook users that was signed last year and runs until 2011.

Question: why wouldn't either Google or Microsoft want to buy all of Facebook instead of just a 5% stake?

Answer (according to the Wall Street Journal):

"Microsoft has considered trying to buy the company outright, but people familiar with the matter said it's unlikely at this time. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has steadfastly kept his company independent with the goal of eventually taking the company public. In a round of negotiations last year, Mr. Zuckerberg rebuffed acquisition approaches from Microsoft, Yahoo and others."

See also my previous article "Facebook: it's not just for kids anymore..." on my XML Aficionado blog.

Also seen in Valleywag and TechCrunch today.

UPDATE: New posting in the WSJ Deal Blog has an interview with Bo Peabody, the 36-year-old founder of Tripod Inc. - one of the first social networks, all the way back in 1992.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Red Sox clinch post-season ticket

Last night the Red Sox became the first team in the MLB to clinch a playoff spot in 2007 thanks to a three-run ninth-inning rally: Jason Varitek tied things up with a solo homer, and then Julio Lugo launched a two-run tater to cap the comeback.

The game didn't go too well for the Sox earlier, but the 9th inning turned it into a 8-6 victory over the Rays.

This makes Terry Francona the first manager in Red Sox history to reach the postseason on three different occasions...

More info on

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Restaurant Review: Atomic Cafe

What a great last day of summer in New England. Fall starts tomorrow, but today's temperatures are in the high 70s and it's just beautiful out there.

Talking of which, I just got home from lunch at the Atomic Cafe, and liked it so much that I thought I'd share a few thoughts and some photos (nothing high-res, just a few snapshots taken with my iPhone during lunch today).

Over the past few months Atomic Cafe has become a new staple in Marblehead due to it's central location, great food, and excellent coffee selection.

Located on School Street - right next to the Marblehead Little Theatre's newly renovated Firehouse - the Atomic Cafe sports 4-5 booths for seating 4, 3 tables for seating 2, a small bar overlooking school street, and a few comfy chairs. Their official address is 14 School Street, Marblehead, MA 01945.

In the summer you can also take your drink outside to the two benches in front of the cafe, or enjoy your beverages in the sun.

The Atomic Cafe offers WiFi interet access to patrons for free, and you can easily connect with your laptop (or iPhone) and utilize fast connectivity while enjoying your Frozen Cappuccino or other fine beverages.

Talking of coffees - I can't even begin to describe how good they are, as I wouldn't be doing them justice. Luckily, there is already another great blog post on barismo that goes into great detail about he espresso shots and doubles, so you should read that. Another great blog reaction is on (a)musings.

In addition to the usual selection of sandwiches, wraps, and panninis, the Atomic Cafe offers a few signature dishes that are both inspired and delicious.

This Grilled Pesto and Goat Cheese sandwich on the left is what I had for lunch today, and it is simply "to die for". As such it has quickly become one of my favoites. Equally impressive is the Caprese Twist or the Swanky Chicken. The selection of cakes and other sweet treasures easily out-performs Starbucks and their coffees creations, inspired teas, and smoothies are spectacular.

There is also a second sister location of the Atomic Cafe in Beverly, but I haven't tried that one yet. I will plan to do that in the upcoming weeks for some work lunch, since my office happen to be in Beverly, too. It will be interesting to see how the two locations compare, especially since the one in Beverly was already established in 1996, whereas the Marblehead location is fairly new.

My rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ◊ (4 out of a possible 5 diamonds).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mint promises to save me $35,977

I have previously written about the scalability issues that have crippled Mint since the public launch a few days ago - and those issues prevented me from adding even a single account.

Today I was finally able to take one giant leap and get one step further in the process of testing this site to see if there was anything to the hype. After numerous attempts over the past few days, Mint was able to connect to one credit card company today in the late evening (out of the four banks that I tried to add):

I was, of course, delighted beyond belief, when Mint promptly informed me that it did not only just load 50 days of transaction history (about 210 transations), but it immediately found some great savings for me to realize:

So let me see if I got the math straight here...

I currently use an American Express credit card which has a 0.00% interest rate and I pay my full balance every single month. By switching from 0% interest on American Express to 13.89% on CapitalOne, my interest rate just went up by a factor of, say, approximately ∞. But despite this monumental increase in my interest rate, Mint actually promises me that I will be able to save $35,977. I have no idea what mathematical theory would support that calculation (or what planet the math genius is from, who came up with this theory), but I am intrigued by the promise to "GET DETAILS AND COMPARE", so I click on the link and get this:

Turns out I can not only save $35,977 - I can actually do it in just 10 minutes....

Here is some free advice for the creators of Mint: if you are offering a financial software, you better get your math straightened out pretty damn fast...

Never mind that most blog comments in the last couple of days talk about people's anxiety to entrust your software with the login info to access all their bank accounts - if they can't trust you to do the math right, then why should they use your software at all!

Unless, of course, you don't have any mathematician on staff and this entire thing is nothing but a big advertising machine trying to lure unsuspecting customers with false promises...

The only hypothetical question remaining is: if I did indeed sign up with CapitalOne and then was not able to see $36k in savings, who would I have to sue for false advertising? Mint or CapitalOne?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

BlogRush: useful blog syndication or evil pyramid scheme

There's been a lot of talk about BlogRush recently and bloggers seem to be divided into one camp that subscribes to the "useful blog syndication tool" idea vs. another camp that paints BlogRush as an "evil pyramid scheme".

On the surface - if you look at their video - it does indeed appear to be both. There is clearly a benefit to the individual blogger who adds the widget to their site, and there is also clearly a pyramid scheme involved. But in contrast to evil pyramid schemes based on money (Amway, etc.), which can rip apart families and friends because you suddenly trying to sell stuff to them all the time, BlogRush is solely based on trading impressions of syndicated links. I see nothing wrong with that.

So I would term it a "useful blog syndication tool based on a non-evil pyramid scheme".

I do, of course, expect them to eventually open their syndication network to advertisers who can promote their new blog for pay across this network. But there isn't anything wrong with that either...

Conclusion: I'm going to give it a try (see sidebar on the right when you visit my site) or go to the BlogRush website to learn more and/or sign up your blog.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

GMail, Lotus 1-2-3, and why history repeats itself

Joel Spolsky just posted a brilliant article about software optimization, the downfall of established giants (such as Lotus 1-2-3 in the 80s), and why history is prone to repeat itself in front of our very eyes.

Those of us who were around in the software industry in the 80s will become dreamy-eyed as we think back to the "golden age" of computing and nod in agreement. And all you youngsters should read this very carefully, because history can ineeed teach an important lesson here!

I almost agree 100% with Joel, but would point out one additional aspect that he has overlooked: the browser isn't static, and so it's not just about inventing a "NewSDK" with JIT-compiler for JavaScript and better AJAX apps. The new paradigm (i.e. NewSDK) that will sweep away all current Web 2.0 apps could also come from those that provide the browser (e.g. Microsoft), and its predecessor could be under our very nose today in the form of XAML, Silverlight, etc.

I want that camera...

Hasselblad rolls out 39 megapixel H3D II DSLR, which includes a new 3-inch display, revamped menu system, GPS receiver to geo-code your images, and anything else you could wish for in a $37,000 digital camera.

More details in this review.

Mint not ready to scale?

After reading much blogging about TechCrunch 40 by others, and listening to many people talking excitedly about Mint, I wanted to see for myself what the buzz is all about.

So I signed up on their website to be notifed when the service goes live - and today at 3:39 pm (EST) I received an e-mail with the subject " is now live!". Shortly thereafter I went to to check it out....

It's a pretty website design, for sure. But it was excruciatingly slow during the registration phase, and trying to set up my bank accounts I got nothing but trickle-filling progress bars for any bank that I tried to set up (and I do indeed have real accounts on those and entered my real user-ids to test this) - and after several minutes (must have been about 10-15 or so) I got this result:

Not very impressive. I guess they have some scalability issue...

Google Reader growing up

Google Reader announced that it has dropped the "Google Labs" designation and is now a mainstream offering.

If you are still using another feed reader to stay up to date with blogs and other RSS or ATOM feeds, you should give it a try.

In an unrelated move, Google Docs today added Presentations (which can upload PowerPoint slide shows). For a quick example check out the LifeHacker blog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Yahoo Mail Beta spamming all my contacts?!?!

While trying out the Yahoo Mail Beta (in combination with the new Yahoo Mash Beta), I imported my address book from GMail into Yahoo Mail today - and was HORRIFIED when Yahoo proclaimed that it was now going to spam all my contacts and tell them about my "new" Yahoo e-mail address.

What on earth do they think they are doing? The system never asked me for permission to notify my contacts!!! And why would it do such a thing in the first place, when all I wanted to do was import my address book?!

If you got a message from Yahoo today that asks you to update your address book because I switched e-mail addresses from to - please accept my sincerest apologies and ignore that message!

What if.... Google turned evil?

Fantastic science fiction story "Scroogled" by Cory Doctorow appeared in Radar today - based on the premise of what would happen if Google became evil and supported a totalitarian regime...

Oh, wait. Isn't Google already cooperating with the Chinese government today?

See also Cory's related posting on Boing Boing.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

XML Aficionado on Twitter

You can now also follow the latest updates from the XML Aficionado on Twitter (a social networking and micro-blogging service).

Mash: Yahoo's new social networking site

Yahoo has launched Mash as a beta version (by invitation only) this weekend. It's (yet another) social networkig site that appears to be aimed at unseating Facebook, and their biggest differentiator is a wiki-like approach where people can edit each other's profiles. More importantly, you can create a new profile for somebody else and then inite them to "claim" that profile and make it theirs.

Hmmmm, I'm not sure that I really like that idea. Friends writing on my wall in Facebook is one thing, but having them edit my profile?!

Most things on Mash seem to definitely still be very much in beta stage, e.g. when I tried to import my Gmail address book to see how many of my 1,500 contacts are also on Mash, I got the following error:

"We could not find contacts from Gmail for you to add."

I guess we'll have to see how this evolves before we can pass a verdict. In the meantime, if you want to take a look, here is my Mash profile page...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Red Sox 10, Yankees 1

Last night's defeat was easily forgotten, as we watched today's game at Fenway Park from the Right Field Roof Deck.

Beckett held the Yankees to a mere three hits and one run over seven innings: Beckett walked two, struck out seven and, aside from a solo homer by Derek Jeter in the first, basically never blinked.

More details about the game on the Red Sox website.

Spidey in my basement

It finally arrived this week:

Spiderman 3 Pinball by SternCall me old-fashioned, but I've always been a pinball aficionado. In 1997 it almost looked like the last pinball companies woul disappear, but fortunately we've seen a bit of a rebirth lately with Stern Pinball in the US and the Pinball Factory in Australia reviving Bally and Williams machines.

And I was very excited when I learned about this Spiderman pinball game earlier this year, as Stern has added some very exciting features - chief among them the Fusion Malfunction (a magnetic lock right in front of Doc Ock).

I first got to play the game this summer at Canobie Lake Park, and our entire family immediately became fans.

It's not just Doc Ock - there is Sandman, the Green Goblin, Venom, plenty of ramps for skill shots and combos, and some nicely-done audio effects that complement the game.

Here it is directly quoted from the Stern Pinball website:

"This Stern Pinball Machine, SPIDER-MAN™, was designed by Steve Ritchie, Lyman Sheats, and the engineering staff at Stern Pinball, the pinball machine takes Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3 and puts them all into one fast-paced pinball machine that will excite both operators and homeowners.
In the SPIDER-MAN™ pinball machine, you are Spider-Man™. Your goal is to defeat the villains from all three movies: Green Goblin from Spider-Man, Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2, and Sandman and Venom from Spider-Man 3. There are detailed, vibrant toys of each of the four villains on the playfield with an associated shot. Defeat all four villains and experience Battle Royale!

What can I say... this game simply rocks:

Current high-score in our house is 128,626,000 (held by my wife, Nora).

Good thing I missed that end...

Sometimes it can be a good thing to not watch the end of a game: I was on the plane yesterday (returning from a day in New York), so I watched most of the game by looking at the MLB mobile play-by-play page on my iPhone during the first 2 innings (while still in New York), then I listened to the game on the radio (WRKO 680 AM) as I drove home from Logan airport - and by the time I was home the Red Sox held a commandig lead. Feeling good about that lead, and being exhausted from the trip to New York (i.e. getting up way too early), I was so tired that I simply went to bed instead of watching the end of the game.

That turned out to be a good thing, as I missed the utter devastation that followed in the 8th and 9th inning.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Office Open XML (OOXML) Update: Country comments tabulated & rated

Rick Jellife today posted a great table of comments and likely outcomes of the upcoming 3rd round of ISO stantards voting on OOXML next spring based on reviewing each country's comments on the current DIS 29500 (= OOXML) proposal:

"I’ve just glanced over the 3549 or so comments put in by various national bodies for the recent ballot on DIS 29500. I’ve made a table listing the countries that commented, together with their votes and whether I think their issues could be resolved during the upcoming Ballot Resolution Meeting next year."
(see "Your country's comments rated!" for full article and table)

After looking through Rick's table, my previous conclusion remains unchanged: most comments can be addressed easily - and will even make the standard better - and I expect OOXML to become an ISO standard next year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Altova releases Version 2008 of the entire product line

I am very excited! This new release is packed to the brim with new features like XInclude and XPointer support, two-step XSL:FO transformations to allow use of XSL:FO with XSLT 2.0, evaluating XPath across multiple files, direct editing of database data, extended support for Office Open XML file formats, and speed and memory footprint improvements when working with large files in XMLSpy; aggregate data processing and value-map functions in MapForce; refactoring and modularization support as well as enhanced database functionality in StyleVision; Visual Basic .NET code engineering and real-time integration with Visual Studio and Eclipse in UModel; support for editing database views and stored procedures in DatabaseSpy; one-click directory synchronization and binary differencing in DiffDog; and much more.

We've really listened to our customers and implemented many of these features based on their direct feedback. I'm sure that you will find many of these enhancements and new features indispensible for your every-day work with XML, UML, and database technolgies. Make sure that you check out the MissionKit for Software Architects bundle, which includes all of our products in one convenient package.

In addition, you'll find common enhancements across the entire product line, such as upgraded support for Unicode 4.1, support for Widows Vista, an improved database connection wizard, and more.

For complete details see the press release, our What's New page, or simply download the free 30-day evaluation version. Also seen on the Altova News RSS feed.

Let me know what you think about the new features - post your comments directly on my XML Aficionado blog.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Facebook: it's not just for kids anymore... (and it does XML, too)

Social networking sites have taken off over the last few years, and for a long time there seemed to be a clear divide: Doostang, Ecademy, LinkedIn, and Xing for business networking vs. Facebook, Friendster, and MySpace for kids (be it high-school or college). Plus every network had their own particular and sometimes even unique focus (e.g. Musicians on MySpace, Harvard and MIT grads on Doostang, and lots of Europeans on Xing).

But things are not so simple anymore. As Facebook grows in popularity amongst "business types" due to several unique features that set it apart from the likes of LinkedIn (more on that later), the character of the network changes and it also gives rise to some interesting generation-conflict issues, such as in Liz Ryan's recent article "Worlds Colliding: My Mom's on Facebook!" in the BusinessWeek Career Insight column.

So what are these unique features that set Facebook apart from the rest of the social networking sites? There's been plenty of already, so I won't recite it all. Instead, I'll just say that it was these things that got me excited:

  • Great UI design: the user interface is clean, customizable, and elegant - yet is provides for an environment that is actually fun to work with. Very much unlike MySpace (chaos) or Doostang (boring)! LinkedIn and Xing are not necessarily bad in their UI design, but Facebook is simply so much better. Designing a great user interface is just as important for Web 2.0 applications, as it was for regular desktop software. What can I say: when it comes to Altova's developer tools I've always been working hard to ensure we invest in the best UI design (and as a result, I regularly hear "XMLSpy rocks" or similar comments when I talk to people at conferences or trade shows).

  • Open platform that uses XML: 3rd party developers can add to it, and masses of developers are already flocking to the platform. Facebook applications are using FBML (Facebook Markup Language), which extends HTML by additional FBML elements (in the fb: namespace) that are described by this XML Schema (yes, I know, they call it a DTD, but it's really an XML Schema - I should tell them to use the DTD and XML Schema tools in XMLSpy to fix this). In addition to the FBML describing the user interface, the 3rd party applications call a Facebook API, where most parameters and results are transmitted in XML (e.g. see the description of the Events.getMembers API call).

  • Privacy control: it has much more fine-grained controls on what information I want to share with friends, the network, or everyone. Only Xing is still slightly better than Facebook in this regard, because of its European roots.

  • Flexible integration: it allows me to integrate my blog and new postings are automatically part of my Facebook news feed. In the same way I can integrate my photos (SmugMug), videos (YouTube), and other content. While some of the other networks only allow me to post a maximum of 3 links (LinkedIn), Facebook allows me to link as many web sites as I want and lets me directly integrate any RSS feed and have it automatically post to my profile. The only similar offering I've seen so far (other than dedicated news aggregators) is the new Plaxo pulse (beta).

There you have it, I'm going to join Robert Scoble and openly state that I like Facebook. Send me a friend request, when you get your account set up...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sony announces the Rolly music gadget today: a dancing iPod killer-wannabe?

Sony officially announced a new cross-breed between robot and MP3 player today (so far in Japan only). The Rolly is a hand-sized device that not only plays your tracks but also dances to the music. In other words, it's a dancing iPod killer-wannabe...

An off-spring of the now defunct Sony Aibo robotic dog division, the Rolly uses robotics to "flap its wings" and "roll around" to the beat of the music.

I must admit that I've always been a big fan of robotics. Case in point: in addition to two (live, real-world) cats, we also have two Sony Aibos in our home (an early first generation version and the last and final third generation model). And I do, of course, also own the Lego Mindstorms Robotics system (again both the original and the NXT generation) and my son and I love to program them.

Robotics and XML have been very connected, too: every since the creation of RoboML in 2001this XML Aficionado has followed those endeavors closely and was delighted to learn this summer how to interface the Microsoft Robotics Studio and Lego Mindsotrms NXT using XML manifests.

But when it comes to MP3 players I've been a big iPod fan for years now, and I somehow doubt that a dancing iPod is something that would tickle my fancy.

But then again, even though I have a Facebook profile by now, I may not exactly be the target audience (or age group) that Sony has in mind...

A video of the device has previously been leaked some 11 days ago and can be seen on YouTube:

Our cats have always been very skeptical of the Sony Aibo dogs - but I can't even imagine how they will react when they see the new Sony Rolly...

This news also seen on Engadget and even in the Wall Street Journal...

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Office Open XML fails to win ISO approval (so far)

This week Microsoft failed to win ISO approval for the Office Open XML (OOXML) standard in the 2nd round of the ISO standardization process. While the Wall Street Journal published a critical article about this, this is by no means the end of the road, nor is it even a major setback - the ISO process commonly requires multiple rounds, and the 3rd round (expected for early 2008) will very likely see Office Open XML becoming an ISO standard.

As Burton Group analyst Peter O'Kelly observes in his blog: "FWIW I still expect Open XML to become an ISO standard -- and it's reassuring to see the spec/design improved by the standardization process." - I couldn't agree more.

Irrespective of the timeline of this ISO standardization process, I expect OOXML to quickly become a de-facto standard as more and more corporations and enterprises upgrade from Office XP or 2003 to Office 2007 and start generating tons of documents in the new OOXML formats (which is the default setting for new Office 2007 file).

Having all these Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, etc. available in OOXML lays the groundwork for a huge increase in content reuse and repurposing, because the data - being XML - can now be accessed through other applications, transformed through stylesheets, and integrated with other enterprise data.

To get started with OOXML, software developers can simply open OOXML documents in XMLSpy and start working with the XML data inside, then use XMLSpy to create and debug XSLT 2.0 stylesheets that directly access the OOXML data through the AltovaXML processing engine.

Friday, September 7, 2007

I want that screen

Have I mentioned before that I love technology? Especially new technology gadgets that are rule-breakers, i.e. devices that are changing the way we work/play/compute!

Perceptive Pixel is a new company that seems to have just one such device: it's a gigantic (i.e. wall-sized) multi-touch display and it seems to be driven by some very innovative software for image manipulation, web-browsing, etc.

Such a screen would be great in my office for designing XML Schemas or an entire software architecture in UML...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

iPhone vs. Windows Smartphone

Which one is "better" - the iPhone or the Windows Smartphone? That's the question that many gadget-loving road warriors and cell-phone geeks are asking these days...

Here is my personal take:

I've been a big proponent of smartphone technology for a long time, and have been chasing the "perfect smartphone" for a while. Specifically, I've been hooked on using Windows Smartphone devices, because of the seamless integration with Outlook and the resulting automatic synchronization of all my contacts, calendar entries, tasks, notes, and e-mail over the air. And my favorite Smartphone so far was the Cingular/AT&T 8525. To meet a new business partner on the road, enter their contact details into the smartphone, and find the same person automatically in Outlook when you get back to the office is simply great - same goes for calendar entries.

So when my wife wanted a new iPhone when it came out, I was very sceptical. Sure, I do use an iPod Video and have been a big fan of the early Macs from 1986-1996, but I could no conceive of how the iPhone could offer anything to me - especially since my AT&T 8525 device had it all: UMTS, Wi-Fi, Push-Email, Windows-based Smartphone, PDF Reader, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Video, etc.

It took just one week.

I played with her new iPhone while we were in New York. I played with her new iPhone at home. I played with her new iPhone on the boat. After a few days she said "Buy your own iPhone!"...

So I did (at the Apple Store on 5th Avenue in NY) and I haven't touched the Windows Smartphone since.

The reason is very simple: UI design, UI design, and UI design! Just like with any great piece of software on the computer, it all boils down to the design of the user interface. Apple has managed to pack the essential applications into the device in such a way, that I actually started using them. Sure, the Windows Smartphone had a browser (Pocket IE), but it pales in comparison to the Safari browser that comes with the iPhone. Integrating Google Maps into the iPhone was a stroke of genius - it's so easy to use that I actually use it. Technically, I could have used it on the Windows Smartphone, and I even did once or twice. But I use it on the iPhone on a daily basis: to find a restaurant, get the phone number for a school, get the doctor's number, or just look up the way, if the car GPS is confused again (which happens a lot in Boston!).

E-Mail connectivity with our corporate Exchange server works great, and the difference between Push-Email and email that gets polled every 15 minutes is unnoticeable in reality.

Sure, I'm missing out on over-the-air synchronization of my contacts and calendar at the moment, but Apple has already licensed ActiveSync from Microsoft, so it's only a matter of time, before that will work on the iPhone. And until then I happily plug my iPhone into the laptop once a day to sync my contacts and calendar.

Bottom-line: even though the Windows Smartphone has some technological advantages (UMTS, Push-Email, over-the-air sync), the iPhone wins this comparison easily with the best UI design I've ever seen on a mobile phone plus it's 1/4 the thickness of the Smartphone and has a much larger screen!

Here's another reason why this XML aficionado likes the iPhone: it's all Web 2.0 based and you know what that means. Yup, it's using XML to talk to the servers!

UPDATE: Apple just annouced that the iPhone price has been reduced by $200 - what are you waiting for - go and get your iPhone now!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Geo-coding your photos efficiently

I love to take photos and digital cameras have certainly become the norm since the turn of the century. A new gadget from Sony recently caught my attention, because it promises to provide geo-coded Lat and Lon information for digital photos through GPS logging.

It is called the GPS-CS1KA and works on a surprisingly straight-forward principle: you turn the device on as you are taking pictures and it simply records your GPS position every minute or so. It is powered by just one AA battery and can record up to 10 hours of position data on one charge. The device comes with a USB-cable and associated software that lets you transfer the GPS logs to your computer. Then, when you have downloaded your photos from your digital camera into your computer, the software will automatically match the GPS log to the digital photos based on the timestamp information in will add Lat and Lon data to the JPEG files. This is appended to the file as regular EXIF information in the same way that your camera uses to store its metadata (shutter speed, aperture, etc.).

And why does this XML aficionado care about EXIF data? Well, that is really quite simple: the well-known jhead utility allow you to extract EXIF data from JPEG images to automate the process of building and manipulating image collections, and a very popular patch for jhead does, of course, support XML output, which makes this ideal for creating galleries/archives/directories or doing any other kind of post-processing for Web 2.0 apps.

I recently tested the Sony GPS-CS1KA device during an afternoon sail in Nahant Bay on a friend's boat, and the operation was indeed very simple. Once I had merged the photos with the GPS information, I uploaded the photos to my photo sharing website, which provides direct linking with Google Maps to utilize the included position data. You can see the result by going to this photo gallery and then clicking on “show” underneath the word timeline and zooming out a bit – this will show our approximate track that day and each green marker represents one photo, which you can view by clicking on the marker.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Buchholz no-hitter at Fenway Park

Red Sox Rookie Clay Buchholz shuts out the Baltimore Orioles in just his second start in the major league - what an unbelievable game, and the crowd at Fenway Park went wild!