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Archive for April, 2010

We had hoped to announce this a few months ago, but never mind the delay: the Sixth WikiPodium Meeting will take place on May 18th. Subject of the meeting: “Positioning of SharePoint 2010 as a social computing platform” – and that includes Wikis, of course.

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Steven already pointed me to lots of reading material, but I’ll add somemore here about the same subject: “Considering Data Stores” is what Joseph Ottinger proposes. He writes about and compares several “database systems”, including some of the N-O-SQL camp.

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I’ll admit that Flash on the iPhone isn’t very probable, especially considering the fact that Adobe seems to have lost interest in trying to convince Apple to allow it. But if you want to do Flash-y things on your iPhone, you can try VNC and Citrix to fake it. Or you can get Android to run on your iPhone and wait for the Flash Player for Android that has been promised for this summer. Anyhow: Android on the iPhone is tempting – Apple hardware has a tendency of being great, and the iPhone is a good example of that high quality engineering we have come to expect from them. And finding a used iPhone (and add Android to it) is a lot cheaper than a brand new iPhone here in Europe! Now, will these hackers succeed in crerating an Android version for the iPod Touch? That would make an interesting successor for my Palm Tungsten.

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During an event last night organised by SAI, Steven Noels (Outerthought) gave an introduction to the latest non-relational database systems. No-SQL, or N-O-SQL as the speaker put it, is a vast subject , of course; that’s why even two hours wouldn’t have been sufficient to cover it all. Nevertheless I think I did get a better grasp of the subject, so I’ld say Steven succeeded in his mission. Luckily, Steven left us with a reading list – you’ll find it at the end of his slides.

Steven Noels (Outerthought) at the SAI Evening event of April 20th, 2010

Steven Noels (Outerthought) at the SAI Evening event of April 20th, 2010

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Today, I needed to redress a problematic situation in an almost finished application at work. I’ll spare you the details, but I’m going to write down what I learned – I feel that I might need to look this up again in the future! Just for the record: I’m developing this app in ColdFusion, version 6.1 MX to be precise (and hoping to migrate to CF8 soon, but that’s another story).

Basically,  I wanted to cache the ID values from each of the lines in a file in order to compare them to the ID values from each of the lines in another file. A quick test made it obvious that creating a CF Query was the way to go: CF handles the creation of query rows a lot faster than a the addition of values to a list (I’m guessing the slow Java string handling of the days before the StringBuffer class is the culprit of that phenomenon). The creation of the caching Query was no problem: a dump of the Query called ‘idcache‘ showed exactly what I wanted. However, executing this Query Of Query crashed my app:

SELECT ID FROM idcache
WHERE ID = '#some_id#'

After half an hour of tweaking, debugging (loose the CFTRY‘s in your code!) and swearing I did the smart thing and googled the “Comparison Exception”. The root of the problem is that ColdFusion tries very hard to deduce the exact type of the data it finds in its source – and often gets it wrong. In my case, the ID’s are strings of 8 numeric characters, with leading zeroes… which led CF to compare a numeric ‘long’ with a string representation (note the quotes I had put on the right side of the WHERE clause).

There a multiple solutions to this problem – just see the suggestions in the Google search results. I chose to add a character before each ID, to make sure the comparison is done on a string basis. Thus, when creating my ‘idcache’ I  add the letter ‘X’:

<cfset ok = QuerySetCell( idcache, "ID", "X" & somevalue ) />

And the Query of Query then becomes

SELECT ID FROM idcache
WHERE ID = 'X#some_id#'

Note the added letter on the right side of the equals sign. Problem solved: string comparisons are exact, whatever the version of CF (or so I hope ;-). Tomorrow I’ll test the rest of the application, and I hope there are no more similar surprises hidden in the few lines I had to add!

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Mobile Trouble

I really had to struggle to get yesterdays post published on this site! Why, you ask? Well, I started writing it on the train, on my smartphone. Not being connected to the Internet is, however, an invitation for trouble when working in Wordmobi – at least for me. The promised support for offline post writing did not work out for me, so I had to write the post several times – and still had to write most of it again on my Mac. I guess I’m better off writing myself an email with the text of a future post in it…

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The renovation of the upper floor of our house has taken most of my time the last few weeks, and that should explain why this blog hasn’t seen any updates since April 2. But most of the heavy work is behind us now, so I’ll have more time (and the inspiration, I hope) to post more frequently.

During my lunch break yesterday I read Dave Winers thoughts on the future of Twitter. I’m not exactly an expert on the subject of Twitter and the applications that have been, should be and could be built around it. But I find 140 characters of plain text frankly unattractive and hardly inviting, even for simple messaging. Dave’s proposal to have metadata attached to a tweet would help overcome at least a part of the current limitation, and make Twitter a much more powerful communication mechanism. Working with all kinds of content management systems and the unavoidability of metadata in them makes annotating a message, be it small or large, a very natural reflex for me.

I have written about Microformats in the past; they’re just metadata within a larger document like a web page (or part of a web page). I consider them to be a small step on the road to the Semantic Web. You could say that the Microformat approach is a top-down way to annotate small islands of data in a large document. Dave’s proposal is a bottom-up approach: take a complete “document” and add metadata to it. The effect is similar: information gets enriched and thus gains value – perhaps not necessarily for you, but perhaps for others, or for specific applications. Take my posts about the electricity production of our solar panels: wouldn’t it be good to be able to have a standardized way to indicate “monthly solar production in KWh” in a web page, to facilitate comparisons with other installations?

There are other forms of annotation in existence, although not many of them are in any sense popular: RDF, Topic Maps, and – of course – RSS (I consider Atom to be part of the RSS family). RSS can and does contain metadata, even if their scope is limited. If we want to keep a fighting chance to make all these tools compatible in some way, we’ll have to stay with XML as the underlying data format. Or at least with a format that is easily convertible to XML…

All in all, the objectives aren’t too difficult to understand nor too complex to implement: who’s going to build a server application that delivers what Dave would like to see? If I may add just a single requirement: remove the 140-character limit on the message?

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