I'm going to try to make this a regular feature for Tuesday, in lieu of my long (all right, verbose) normal rantings.
Microsoft Announces Longhorn to Ship in 2006, Cuts WinFS and Avalon
WinFS was to be the next generation file system, one which transparently melded local files with those on the web, as part of the process of creating Virtual Drives. Avalon, the core graphical system and the foundation upon which XAML sits, would have completely rebuilt the way that Windows handles its whole presentation layer. This week, Microsoft decoupled both technologies from the Longhorn mothership, saying that 1) they would probably be provided as upgrades in 2007, and 2) they would be backported to Windows XP.
Hmmm. What's left? Another two years of Microsoft's so-far less than sterling Security Inititative? Another version of .NET to add even more compatibility woes? Both of these technologies have been anticipated for months (or years in some cases) and Microsoft's inability to deliver on these raises some serious questions about the real state of Windows, and offers an opportunity for both the Linux community and the W3C to capitalize on if they are alert enough. The Avalon backport as well should beg the question - if I can get Avalon running on Windows XP (which will be a six year old system by the time Avalon sees the light of day) just what exactly do I need Longhorn for?
This may very well prove to be a new lease on life for SVG/XBL - IF the Graphics group acts quickly enough to get reference implementations in place, especially as the announcement about WinFS is also as effective an admission as is possible that maybe, just maybe, the http protocol isn't quite as bad as Microsoft has been saying.
XAMLON Releases Xamlon v0.9 with .NET Integration
In a curious bit of synchronicity, Xamlon, Inc. has released it's version 0.9 of it's Xamlon XAML interpreter, which can now be run within the .NET framework. Between Xamlon and competitor Mobiform , the third party XAML market is actually heating up much faster (apparently) than Microsoft's own technology is. Both of these companies seem to get something which has either eluded or stymied Microsoft's development efforts - XAML works much better when it is treated as an in-memory DOM application than as a pre-compiled system, even if the latter is slightly more efficient. Xamlon currently ties into .NET, making it easier to work with such features as intellisense and schema checking. I'll try to do a more formal review of Xamlon's product in a future blog.
Michael Kay Releases XSLT 2.0 Programmer's Reference
Michael Kay gained a reputation in the XSLT commmunity several years ago with his voluminous and comprehensive XSLT Programmers Reference. More recently, he has served as the Editor for the XSLT 2.0 Working Draft, and has also been keeping the Saxon XSLT/XQuery Processor up to date to reflect changes in the draft, making it the closest thing to a canonical implementation. Thus, it was natural for him to produce the next version of this bible for XSLT developers, and this week it was published and is currently available for sale on Amazon (I haven't seen it in stores yet, but it should be out shortly).
This book is pretty much indispensible in your library if you are planning on migrating to XSLT 2.0, and after having spent a year and a half myself with the evolving standard, I would heartily recommend making the change if you are programming within in Java or .NET (there is a .NET version being developed by Pieter Siegers and David Peterson, based upon the Saxon implementation) you should seriously investigate the tool, and buy Michael's Book.
Scribus Releases 1.2 Version of Desktop Publishing Suite
Open Source Company Scribus has released the 1.2 version of its open source desktop publishing suite for Linux. Scribus is an ambitious project - creating a full-featured desktop publishing system that provides an alternative to Quark Express, Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher. Incorporating SVG and PDF generation and designed to work with SVG Editor Inkscape, Scribus has recently been adopted by a couple of newspapers for doing layout work (newspapers are, from personal experience, the acid test for a desktop publishing system). In addition to the formal 1.2 release, Scribus has also released an academic version, bringing decent desktop publishing software to potentially millions of kids in the schools.
I've been watching Scribus emerge from a very shaky beta project into a first class piece of software over the last couple of years, and am evaluating it myself for use in the print arm of Metaphorical Web Publishing once I launch that later this year. I'm more excited for its potential use in schools however - currently layout is accomplished in academic versions of MS Word, which while powerful as a word processor, has some significant limitations as a decent layout tool. With free, open source desktop publishing available to students, you will see an entire generation of kids who will be capable of laying out their own books and magazines -- coupled with inexpensive binding tools and JIT printers, and you see the foundation of a desktop publishing revolution that will make the 1980s look like a hiccup. (Thanks to Michael Bolger at svgx.org for this).
Orbeon Releases Orbeon Presentation Server Under GPL
Business software company Orbeon has released the Orbeon Presentation Server under the GNU Public License today. Similar to Apache's Cocoon, The OPS is a publishing system meant to tie into a business process manager, and as such it incorporates such technologies as XForms and its own internal XML Pipeline Language (XPL) . This one is definitely worth watching closely, as it may be the first real test of XForms as part of an overall high-powered integrated business system. (Thanks to Micah Dubinko for this)
W3C XML Binary Packaging Candidate Recommendation Released
XML has long had a blind spot - transporting content that isn't in XML format, such as images, sounds, or similar binary resources. They typical solution, the use of Base-64 encoding, has proved to be awkward at best, as it requires both an encoding and decoding step that can have a serious impact upon efficiency. The W3C XML-binary Optimized Packaging Recommendation, announced this week as having gone into Candidate Recommendation, provides a set of standards to permit the use of pure octet data rather than base-64 using MIME headers. With such standardization in place, this raises the possibility of creating XML parsers (and XSLT processors) that are capable of working with these binary bundles in a consistent fashion, making it easier to send a bundle of XML content and resource as a single stream of information.
If you have a product announcement you'd like to make to this blog or just see something that you think needs to be highlighted in the XML space, please send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.