Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

February 2nd, 2003

European weblogs

There’s a small debate on the use of English on the continent going on thanks to Bjørn Stærk, with Tobias Schwarz providing some dialogue. It’s hard as a native English speaker, who knows no other languages, to comment on this issue with any level of authority. One aspect I feel I can comment on is mentioned by Tobias, and that’s the use of English as the language between people who speak two different languages (in this case Germans and the French using English as a common language).

The important aspect to this is not it’s evident benefit to the likes of me, but that it pushes forward the ideal of a Europe that can identify with it’s self. A Europe that can speak a common language, along with it’s common currency, is a Europe full of people more likely to get along with one another. In this sense any common choice of language would be fine, that it’s English just brings the bonus of being able to communicate with large chunks of the rest of the world.

I can definitely agree with Bjørn in welcoming the opportunity to read the views of Continentals in English. I’ve tried to track down European weblogs that are written in English, and I’ve not had much luck. The most promising list I found does not break up the weblogs by language, and seems to feature many broken links. Maybe I should start a list myself…

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February 2nd, 2003

First posting using beta version of SimpleTAL 2.0

I’m nearly done with the refactoring of SimpleTAL for version 2.0. All of the unit test cases that I have now pass, both for HTML and XML templates, and I’ve even added a few more to cover some commands that were not tested before. As part of final testing I updated my weblog software to use the new version, and found some interesting relics.

This weblog has archives going back to my first ever post, back long before my current weblog software was written. I started out with a few python scripts that would grab HTML files and merge them together looking for special tags in a template file; it was very crude but it mostly worked. The current system stores all my posts as XML, has TAL templates, and some cunning logic in between. When I moved to this new system I had to port over all the old posts to the new format if I wanted to keep a consistent history. The cut-over didn’t happen cleanly however, and there were a small number of posts which had strange XML source files.

The files had the content body of the posting encapsulated in a CDATA section, and were also escaped using entity references. In SimpleTAL 1.x the posting body would be sent through an SGML parser prior to inclusion in the template, and that parser would expand the entity references back into normal characters. In SimpleTAL 2.0 content structure is not sent through a parser (if you need to use TAL in the structure then you can create a compiled template before placing it into the context), and so the entity references would be included as literal text. A few search-and-replace commands have sorted those postings out, and it looks like the new version of SimpleTAL works reasonably well with my weblog system.

I have some documentation and clean-up work to do prior to releasing SimpleTAL 2.0, but it shouldn’t take me long to do. The performance of the new engine is pretty good, anywhere between 1.5X and 7X faster than the current version (depending on the type of template). The top performance is a little lower (~70 templates/sec) than I achieved with my prototype version, but I had expected that there would be some sort of drop once the character encoding conversion and other must have features were added.

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