Norman's blog – archive

All posts.

2015 September 19 (modified 2015 September 25)

Unicode is simpleThere are many many introductions to Unicode. Here is another.

2015 May 27

Xoxa: normalizing and signing XMLNormalising and signing XML is a well-known pain in the neck. You don't have to look far to find expressions of horror and dismay or even the outright rejection of the idea that XML is signable other than as a text string (Peter Gutmann: ‘XML is an inherently unstable and therefore unsignable data format.’).

2015 March 28

Python methods are not functionsWhen I first looked more closely at Python, I was pleasantly surprised that its semantics seemed significantly simpler than it appeared to be at first: everything's a dictionary, and symbol resolution is a matter of walking up through scopes; functions are first-class objects. It's practically a Scheme!

2015 February 19

A registry of BibTeX conventionsThere are a number of informal BibTeX conventions for things like the url field or doi or eprint. They're 'informal' since they're not documented anywhere, but are either obvious, or have some obvious consensus on use. As well, there's at least one fairly common BibTeX entry type – @webpage – which I at least support in the 'urlbst' style.

2011 October 20

From the Salon: Nuclear Power – Numbers MatterI was one of the participants – one of the speakers – in a production at the Traverse in Edinburgh, by Untitled Projects. The Salon Project was immersive theatre, evoking a 19th century parisian salon, but with anachronisms an important part of the point, and with the talks intended to be (mild) ‘provocations’. In that spirit, I was talking about Nuclear Power – Numbers Matter. This is what I said.

2011 August 29

Programming for AstronomersI gave a talk about Virtual Observatories (and other astroinformatics stuff) to the recent STFC Introductory Summer School in Astronomy 2011, in Glasgow. Here are a few extra notes that occurred to me later, spontaneously or as the result of questions from attendees at the school.

2010 December 20 (modified 2011 December 11)

The Benefits of Digital Preservation: an alternative viewWhat are the benefits of research data management? Neil Beagrie, in the KRDS project, described a number of 'dimensions' in which these benefits could be viewed. Viewing these 'dimensions' in a slightly more mathematical light makes them more vivid (I believe), and allows us to draw some extra illuminating conclusions.

2010 December 11 (modified 2015 February 11)

Editing Mach-O files (hint: you can't, really)You can't feasibly edit Mach-O object files. Bummer.

2010 November 6 (modified 2015 February 11)

FITS-WCS is an ontologyAt the 2008 ADASS in Québec, I gave a short talk at the FITS BoF, describing FITS-WCS as an ontology. This (finally) is the worked-out version of that talk, and follows a brief presentation at the FITS BoF at the 2010 ADASS in Boston. It's not that this work has taken two years, but... other things got in the way.

2010 May 8

The necessity for electoral reformFirst-past-the-post (FPTP) is so obviously mad that I find it difficult to believe that anyone defending it is doing so in good faith.

2010 March 20

XML parsers, and the myth of reordering contentXML parsers preserve the order of input elements. Obviously.

2007 June 8

Second Life: MOOs second time aroundI spent a little time in Second Life today, as part of the Emerge tour, thanks to Steve Warburton. It was a curious experience in some ways, familiar in others.

2006 January 22

House of Lords as a supreme courtOn the delights of legal language.