Colin's Journal

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

May 23rd, 2004

The weather is definitely conspiring against me. We have a three day weekend, and the weather features grey skies, rain, and thunderstorms. Normally thunderstorms offer opportunities for photography, but we have grey skies and sheet lightening.

Venetian skyline.In an attempt to turn the poor weather to my advantage I’ve spent some time looking through old photographs and releasing code. Today I released PubTal 3.1.0, which fixes some major incompatibilities with Fedora Core 2, and includes the software that I use to maintain my weblog.

When going through old photos I often find ones that I previously didn’t pick out, but now find myself liking. Unfortunately this can also work the other way – there’s been a couple of pictures that I’ve posted on this weblog that upon further consideration I’m half tempted to remove.

Now I’m going back through some of my Venice photos, and finding that there are several which I thought I had posted, but which in fact are languishing on my hard drive. They aren’t necessarily brilliant photos, but they’re probably good enough to warrant posting here.

May 19th, 2004

Patently obvious

Gosling sun bathing in the park.The Council of Ministers did vote to accept the new patent directive, and Germany was one of the countries voting in favour. Confusingly this particular vote was mostly pushed out of the headlines by another EU patent vote, one that could have allowed for cheaper and easier pan-EU patenting, and which did not pass.

Meanwhile, in happier news, the BBC is reporting on a recent survey that suggests a slim majority of people are in favour of banning smoking in public places. Here in Toronto we’ve had smoke free restaurants for a while now, and as of the 1st of June we’ll have smoke free pubs as well. As a non-smoker it makes eating out, and soon drinking out, much more pleasurable.

May 16th, 2004

EU Patent Directive

Apparently Germany is going to vote against the European Commission’s current patent directive. While this is being welcomed as a good thing, it is not, as is often the case, that straightforward. Firstly the translated quote that has raised the prospect of Germany voting no:

Under no circumstances do we want American procedures in Europe,’ Hucko vowed with regard to the US patent process. A patent must be ‘a fair reward for a bona fide invention and not abused as a strategy to bludgeon competitors.

Note that Elmar Hucko does not say Germany will vote against the patent directive. The directive as it currently stands (with the European Parliament’s amendments stripped out) is regarded by some (such as the UK Patent Office) as maintaining the status quo. It is likely that this statement by Elmar Hucko is simply an explanation of what the German government hopes the effect of the directive will be.

Pink tree blossom.Maintaining the status quo is not, however, a desirable state of affairs. According to the FFII the European Patent Office has already granted more than 30,000 patents that would class as software patents. Exactly where this number came from I’m not sure, but there certainly seems to be pressure to allow a broader scope for patenting software.

The best outcome would be a second reading by parliament re-introducing the amendments previously passed. If the directive could be passed by the Parliament and Council of Ministers then the EPO and national patent offices could be forced to disallow software patents. This in turn would mean existing patents becoming invalid, something that I doubt the Council of Ministers will agree to.

In this context it seems most likely that either the directive will be passed without the desired amendments (and with goverments continuing to claim that software patents are forbidden), or with the directive failing. With either result the fight will hinge on case law, and challenging patents on the grounds of technical contribution.

For good background reading on the current situation I recommend this exceptionally good Register article on the subject.

May 15th, 2004

Green benches stacked together in the park.Earlier this week I had a request for the API documentation to be added to the RSyncBackup tar file. I’ve done this, cleaned up the license wording, and released it as version 1.2. I need to find the time to make releases of some of my other software. I’ve added initial Atom support to TALAggregator, and I think I’ve shaken most of the bugs out of my PubTal weblog plugin. Unfortunately it always takes a decent chunk of time to do a release, mainly because of documentation updates, so it may have to wait.

May 9th, 2004

TimeFormat Python Library

I’ve finally fixed the way dates and times are displayed in my weblog. Moving from Debian to Fedora had changed the behaviour of strftime() so that I could no longer coax it into producing single digit hours and dates. The solution is a Python implementation of strftime that takes an extended format allowing me to control the padding.

In case this is useful for anyone else I’ve released it as a standalone library, and will bundle it into the next version of PubTal.

May 9th, 2004

Revelation Space.

Red tulip in the sun.After reading Chasm City, a reasonable but not outstanding experience, I decided to try Revelation Space. Revelation Space was written before Chasm City, although, as I found out in the first few pages, it is set afterwards. Online reviews had recommended this first book as being superior to the second, so I was hoping for something special.

Revelation Space unfortunately is one of those books that has too much in it, rather than developing and exploring a particular theme or story. The main characters in the book manage to discover three alien cultures and one character manages to die and get reincarnated. This style of science fiction doesn’t really interest me, so while there were some good points, I found I enjoyed Chasm City more.

In the hope that the writing will continue to improve, as it did from Revelation Space to Chasm City, I’m now tackling the next one in the series Redemption Ark. So far (a hundred or so pages in) it is proving an excellent read – I’m hoping it keeps up the current standard!

May 7th, 2004

Tulip madness

Toronto seems to be crazy about tulips. I hadn’t noticed until this spring, but now that I’m going out of my way to find interesting things to photograph, I seem them everywhere.

Tulips under a branch.This morning I dragged myself out of bed early so that I could take some photos in Trinity Bellwoods park, stopping along the way to snap our, as yet unopened, tulips growing in the garden.

For breakfast I went to Clafouti and picked up a croissant and coffee. I’ve not previously been impressed with their croissants, they were OK but nothing that seemed worthy of giving them the “best in Toronto” label. Today however I tried their chocolate-almond croissant, and I have to say it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a while.

On my way home from work I stopped by Osgoode Hall to take some more photos, again mostly dominated by Tulips. This shot jumped out at me when I took it, and looking through the days images, it still strikes me as particularly good.

May 3rd, 2004

Expanding fish.

Idle Words has an amusing and informative post about visiting Poland on the eve of join the EU. An interesting theme develops towards the end of the post:

Not only did I now have both an American and a European passport, meaning I could have any Russian bride in the catalog, but it also meant that this silly but deeply beloved country was here for good, was here to stay.

This chimes well with a BBC article that tries to explain the significance of EU expansion in terms of restoring normality to Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile the Tories are promising to withdrawing form the Common Fisheries Policy. This last move is intended to combat falling fish stocks and, simultaneously, increase the amount of fish being caught.

Exactly which 25% of EU regulations are deemed harmful, or how the Tories expect to retain membership of the common market after ditching a quarter of the rules that define it, is left as an exercise for the voter.

May 2nd, 2004

Old bytes and new bytes.

A few days back I received an email requesting the source code to the only BeOS application I ever published, DeskNotes. A year ago, almost to the day, I recovered data off my old BeOS disk partition.

A sea of red tulips with green stems.I had assumed that the only copy of the DeskNotes software that existed was in this recovered data, and so I started to look through the version there. At this point I noticed that there were CVS directories scattered through the code, which indicated that I had it under CVS at some point.

Looking through the checkout of my current Subversion repository (converted from CVS recently) I found that I had, all along, had the DeskNotes source code in my repository. The checked in version is later than the last released binary version, but I’ve made it available anyway in the hope that it still might have some utility in the world.

A few days back I added a new template to my weblog software that produces an Atom feed. I doubt that it is of much to anyone, but in the unlikely case that someone reading this has an Atom aggregator the link is in the sidebar.

April 28th, 2004

SimpleTAL 3.9 Released

I’ve just uploaded SimpleTAL 3.9. This release brings the large performance improvements that I’ve mentioned in earlier posts.

Applications that utilise the inner workings of SimpleTAL, such as JOTWeb, will need to be updated before they can use this new release. Most applications (such as PubTal) should work fine, and much faster, with this new version.

Copyright 2015 Colin Stewart

Email: colin at