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It’s been a year…

I’ve not posted for almost a year. I blame work, markup conferences, and golf, not necessarily in that order.

Re work: I’m back to being independent again, which is great. I couldn’t ask for a better boss, and I have a couple of interesting projects to complete.

Re markup conferences: XML Prague is over. I had a paper accepted with Geert Bormans, and what a paper it was. We had so much fun presenting it. Go find the video stream on Youtube if you’re interested.

Re golf: The winter’s been so mild that technically, we never had one.For the first time since I started playing some 20 years ago, I’ve not paused for the winter. It doesn’t help, though – I’m never going to be Tiger Woods.


So many changes already.

I said no to this year’s Göteborg Film Festival, having worked at film festivals since 1987 (and since 1990 at the Draken).

I didn’t submit a paper to XML Prague this year. I was there, though. Naturally.

Blogging Is Boring?

Well, it’s either that or that I’m lazy. I have been busy in real life, though, and it’s sometimes hard to prioritise a blog post, even when I have something I actually want to say.

Which I really don’t, right now.

At the Movies, Part 2

This is where I wanted to do a thorough write-up on The Hateful Eight, the new Quentin Tarantino film I watched in 70mm Ultra Panavision at the Imperial in Copenhagen, Denmark. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I’ve had no time to spend on my occasional blog, so here are the highlights:

The film itself is a typical Tarantino film, relying heavily on dialogue and actors doing what the director tells them to do. This, however, means closeups and not much else, wich brings me to my next point.

Ultra Panavision is, well, ultra wide. Among the so-called letterbox formats, it’s ridiculously wide. As it’s a 70mm format, the resolution is, at least theoretically, ridiculously high, bringing me to my third point.

There are very few shots that actually require that resolution. Most of them don’t, and even though I know there are people who will disagree with me, this film would have fared better without the 70mm format. So here’s my fourth point.

The Hateful Eight, also known as H8, would have been a better movie, at least a more enjoyavble one, if filmed in a less extreme format. As things stand, the ultra wide screen is a distraction, and the resolution, while nice, is not needed. The story is there regardless, but the format is, well, abused. Which brings me to my fifth point.

It is in the nature of the format itself that it lends itself better to the kind of film that makes actual use of its grandeur. It is also a format that no-one could run unaided today; the company had to provide cinemas with projectors and lenses and whatnot, or the shows would have been limited at best, even for the cinemas that do have their 70mm equipment intact. See, Ultra Panavision requires a special kind of lense that no-one has today, and very few had in the 60s when the format was last used at all. It’s not your garden variety 70mm, it’s, well, ultra special.

So to my last point: H8 does a disservice to every filmmaker wanting to film in 70mm since it uses the format wrong, in my humble opinion. It happened because Tarantino had the clout to do it, not because it was required. As a result, the presentations, including that at the Imperial, were lacking, sometimes severely, because it’s the one format that no-one can screen without help.

The film itself? Well, typically Tarantino. Think Reservoir Dogs with lots of money and hype.

At The Movies, Part 1

I’ve been at the movies twice in the last two weeks, which is extraordinary for me, these days. There was a time when I watched hundreds of movies every year but then I got kids, work got in the way, and all that. I’m now part of the lost generation, as the cinema owners call it. Before October (hmm, November?) of last year, the last one I watched was in 2008.

Anyway, first I saw the new Star Wars with my wife. I enjoyed every minute of it, to be sure, but when the end credits rolled I was disappointed, nevertheless. First and foremost, in a single stroke, they had undone everything Luke Skywalker stood for in the first three movies in one swift stroke. What took him two and a half movies took Rey the Jedi Savant about one minute. Learn about the Force? Nope, you don’t need a master, just do our Lightning Course. Nope, you don’t need to train, all you need is a first, um, victim. Nope, no need to plan ahead. Build it and they will come. Just do it, as the commercial says.

Second, the script, um, wasn’t. What I saw was rearranged from (mostly) the first three movies, you know, that best kind of flattering. Probably why people approved of the thing, probably why they thought it was what #4 should have been. And probably why I was screaming inside for all of it, in spite of enjoying it.

See, JJ Abrams is talented. Really talented. He knows how to tell a story, he knows what is going to get you. He did it twice with the Star Trek reboot and he did it now. Because a reboot it was, no doubt about it. It was disguised as a sequel but very thinly, and he rewrote the business rules in one efficient stroke.

And third, the coincidences and happy accidents that framed the story, from the stupid robot landing within bargaining sight from Rey the Savant to Han Solo and the wookie to encountering right after lift-off (with the bloody Millennium Falcon!), they were a bit much.

I miss George Lucas’s attention to detail, his sense about what all this means. Sure, I don’t miss Jar-Jar, but c’mon, he was *never* important.

Of course, I will watch #8, and if the director is as good as JJ, I will enjoy it, but the battle was lost in this one.

4k Screen and Other Linux Woes

I’ve had my gorgeous 4k screen replaced twice since August, both times because of dead pixels. It’s what they call a premium screen, so apparently one dead pixel is enough. Still, that sort of thing will happen and I’m not terribly upset.

Far worse is the mediocre support for 4k screens in Linux. The new Ubuntu version, 15.10, is a prime example. For example, there’s a Unity bug where the display scaling setting is not respected when drawing the mouse pointer over Unity components, shrinking it to its original, unscaled HiDPI size. Forcing the scaling of the pointer had to be done in 15.04, too, by adding Xcursor*size: 48 last in /etc/X11/Xresources/x11common, but in 15.10, it’s no longer enough. Unity has to be reloaded before the pointer size is on par with the rest of the desktop.

There are also GUI components and other software that still ignore the scaling altogether: the scroll bars are ridiculously thin, and, of course, most Java components, from toolbars to radio buttons and menus, remain tiny. I’m not a software developer so I don’t know what is required to handle something like that properly, but what I do know is that it all works in Windows 10 and it all works in OS X.

To make matters worse, Ubuntu 15.10 upgrades the kernel to 4.2. This would normally be a good thing, but apparently there has been some small change in the kernel that breaks the Nvidia Optimus support: the Nvidia DKMS build fails, stating that the kernel is not supported.

So here I am, making do with the Nouveau drivers while waiting for updates, and reloading Unity after every reboot. I much prefer Linux to the alternatives, but I am a bit disappointed. I went from being a dist-upgrade junkie running Debian Unstable to a vanilla Ubuntu user because the bleeding edge sometimes bleeds a bit too much and I simply wanted to run Linux as my production environment using recent hardware.

I’m not giving up, though; a Windows session is enough to remind me why.

LinkedIn Spam

LinkedIn seems to be testing new ways to make money after their recent revenue forecast cuts. My inbox had a “sponsored message”, something I don’t recall having seen before.

Sorry, LinkedIn, but you’ll have to come up with something else. I’d rather delete my account.


I’ll be going back to running my own company, Creative Words, again. In short, I got an offer that I simply couldn’t refuse (no, not that kind of offer), and so here I am. It is exciting and fun, but also a little scary.

I’ll update this page when it’s time.

The Uniqueness of Things

Found the below in my Drafts folder, unearthed after I imported my old blog to the WordPress instance on my own server. While it was written six years ago, I thought it was still worth publishing after I read it. I hope you think so too.

Two years after writing this (and having long since forgotten that I did), I presented the concepts behind URNs and the need for uniqueness in document management at XML Finland. The system was finished and done, and I was proud of it. It wasn’t perfect but it was battle-tested and we knew about its weaknesses. I really wanted to talk about it with other markup people, colleagues who knew about angled brackets, and I was sure they’d understand. In fact, I feared some might say they implemented it all years ago, only better. Yet, what is described here also happened at XML Finland; the importance of uniqueness and the advantages of semantic naming using URNs went right past them, judging by the Q&A afterwards.

Or maybe it’s just that I’m wrong.

Anyway, here goes…


I’ve been busy finalising an authoring system that is supposed to identify every resource ever stored in it with URNs. What follows is just a rant, but I do think about it and would like to know the why’s and the how’s. I would like to know why the concept of uniqueness is so difficult to understand.

A URN, of course, is the unique name of a document, as opposed to its location, the URL. Compare with a book in a library. Sometimes books get reorganised in a library, meaning that they will be put on another shelf (another address), but the name will remain the same. The name is unique while the address is not. When identifying content to be reused, this is the principle you need to honour.


It’s been my primary concern all along to ensure that everything is identified with a URN. Everything. If you create a document and link to another, meaning to insert that other document in the one you’re editing, the link should take the form URN#id, where the hash separates the name of the document from a node pointed out within the document when checked into the database. When checked out, in the XML editor, however, the form should be URL#id, since URLs are what most authoring systems can handle; we need the URL for styling the document in the editor, to publish it, and to proces it in various ways.

A URN is possible, of course, but it needs to be replaced with a URL when processing, one way or another, so the decision was to use a URL when a resource has been checked out and replace it with a URN when checked in.

Early on, we did make a demo application that opened a document containing URNs pointing to other documents, replaced them with the corresponding URLs, normalised the resulting document, and published it using XSL and FOP. It worked like a charm.

Today, I found that the check-in does not replace the URLs with URNs. The file name is a pseudo-URN (with colons replaced by underscores) so I know my URN scheme is being used, but that’s as fas as it goes. The URN-like file names remain.

Talking to a developer, I realised that he hadn’t even thought about it. He was using URNs to identify the resources in the database (the URN being an attribute on the object) but in spite of all our planning, all of our tests, the URLs were left in the links when the document containing them had been checked in. The object IDs in the database are unique, he said, but yes (he admitted), the file names are being used in the database so we can’t store two identically named files in the same folder in the database.

This is not a major problem since we already have the code to do all the work, but what surprises me is that nobody made the connection. Me, I assumed everyone had understood but did not check. I simply assumed that following the test, following the discussions, following the months of development, no-one could fail to understand their true meaning.


What is it that makes the concept of URNs so difficult?