A lightweight semantic interoperability framework for countries and large organizations (and small ones)

Interoperability. What do we mean by plant. A type of factory or a flower?

This post is a summary of some ideas for a lightweight semantic interoperability framework  It is mainly a composition of existing open standards to form a framework for organisations to be able to ensure that semantic and technical descriptions stay connected over time. The idea is to provide a framework that allows for an increasing semantic interoperability emerging over time without having a large centralized organisation defining vocabularies. Continue reading

Standards require reference implementations!

First, some people bash Microsoft for not implementing DIS 29500 (OOXML) in Office 2007. Then, someone discovers that OpenOffice 2.4 does not create proper ODF. (Update: The test procedure was wrong). And then, Microsoft announce that a coming Office service pack will add native ODF support to Microsoft Office ahead of OOXML support. And, South Africa appelas OOXML adoption. Will Microsoft Office 2007 become the first Office suite to support ODF?

At the heart of the issue is the lack of reference implementations. ISO is way behind W3C in this area. Could someone please tell ISO that open source reference implementations are an absolute necessity when working with standards for information exchange?

From the W3C technical report development process section 7.4.4:

Preferably, the Working Group should be able to demonstrate two interoperable implementations of each feature.

It is simple really. The benefit of a standard is created when it is used. Open source reference implementations shortens the time to market for everyone implementing the standard in their products and also disambiguate interpretation of the standard specification.

Tim, please tell me you know someone at ISO that can fix the process.




Does your webserver give HEAD?

In the process of constructing a crawler that finds and checks PDF documents on a website I discovered a lot of sites that don’t return information for HEAD requests. A HEAD request should return the same set of HTTP headers as a normal GET request only without the actual payload.

The typical response seem to be status 500 (internal server error) on a lot of IIS sites. So, now is a good time to check your own sites to see what you get back from a:

curl --head http://www.mysite.com

When “standards schmandards” could have been used for something else

I own the domain name standards-schmandards.com which I use for my accessibility blogging. Recent events have made me wonder if I shouldn’t use it to cover recent events regarding IE8 instead. Or, as Mark Pilgrim elegantly writes:

Said the monk:

If you give me non-standard markup, I will render it according to standards.

If you give me standard markup, I will not render it according to standards.

What do you do?

The student sat for a long time and said nothing. Then, without looking up, he raised one finger and said, “There is only one web.” Many years later, the monk was enlightened, but by then it was too late.

I thought the whole idea is that a standard is a contract that tool makers and content producers should be able to rely on. And now you are saying that the standard isn’t enough but that I specifically must inform a particular browser that I want standards standards mode?

Also see Ian Hixie’s entry Mistakes, Sadness, Regret.

How the Swedish OOXML Vote Was Bought for $57,000

Microsoft hijacked Swedish OOXML vote?Sweden is represented in the ISO through the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS). This means that our country has one of the 100 or so votes.

The member countries have had six months to consider if the Office Open XML (OOXML) format should become an ISO standard. In Sweden, SIS arranged a working group that have looked through the material. As you may know the OOXML format has been heavily criticized (by many e.g. Google (PDF)) for allowing embedding of closed Microsoft-specific objects in the document standard and thus making it difficult for non-Microsoft software to read OOXML documents.

Unfortunately, SIS is an organisation where anyone can become a member. Member organizations can send participants to a working group for a fee. The current rate is 17,000 SEK (~$2,500). The day before the vote that decided if SIS would say yes to OOXML in the ISO there were a couple of new members in the SIS/TK321/AG17 working group:

Company name Relation to Microsoft
Exor Microsoft Partner
Formpipe software Microsoft Gold Partner
Cybernetics Microsoft Gold Partner
Ibizkit Microsoft Partner
Emric Microsoft Partner
Strand Interconnect Microsoft Gold Partner
Nordicstation Microsoft Partner
Sourcetech Microsoft Partner
Cornerstone Sweden Microsoft Gold Partner
Solid Park Microsoft Gold Partner
Fishbode systems Microsoft Gold Partner
KnowIT Sverige Microsoft Gold Partner
Modul 1 Microsoft Gold Partner
IDE Nätverkskonsulter Microsoft Gold Partner
Connecta Microsoft Gold Partner
Camako Data Microsoft Gold Partner
Sogeti Microsoft Gold Partner
Tieto Enator Corp. Microsoft Gold Partner

And so, Sweden will be voting yes to make OOXML an ISO standard.

For more information see:

Exporting Exchange calendars to Apple iCal over HTTP and WebDAV

Update: This code has been integrated and greatly enhanced in the rexchange project by Sam Smoot. Update 2: iCal in Lion supports Exchange and none of this should be required anymore.

Having recently recieved a brand new MacBook Pro from my employer I needed to get basic things such as mail and calendaring working. We use Microsoft Exchange 2003 which is great if everyone is using Outlook. Since I work with various clients I am subjected to their respective firewall policy which typically only allows HTTP(S) traffic. This leaves us with Outlook Web Access (dumbed down interface for everyting but IE). Reading e-mail works fine in OWA. However, the calendar becomes useless as reminders won’t appear.

Unfortunately, Apple’s iCal doesn’t work with Exchange. iCal does, however, store data in the standard icalendar format. Having som experience working with WebDAV access to Exchange (which is available if you can reach OWA) I decided to write an Exchange API in Ruby to read calendar items and convert these to the icalendar format. So, I was about half-way through when I discovered that Sam Smoot had created RExchange. That gave me most of the API:s required for connecting to Exchange.

RExchange did not contain a class for working with appointments (only mail and contacts), so I had to add that. Also, RExchange uses the Time::parse method to convert strings to time representation which doesn’t work for dates after 2037.

Anyway, to export your Exchange calendar to iCal through WebDAV, download the rexport script, unpack the files and modify the rexchange.rb file with your login credentials and OWA URL. Execute rexchange.rb from the terminal. It will create an iCal storage file corestorage.ics in the same directory. This can be opened directly in iCal.

Future options may include a synchronization mode. Suggestions and patches are welcome.