XML and Web Services In The News - 29 December 2006

Provided by OASIS | Edited by Robin Cover

This issue of XML Daily Newslink is sponsored by BEA Systems, Inc.


 Office Open XML Clears First Standardization Hurdle
 Using XML Digital Signatures in the 2006 XML Environment
 NIST XML (Schema) Quality of Design Tool
 Why PUT and DELETE? A Conversation with Elliotte Rusty Harold
 Something to Look Forward to in WS-BPEL 2.0
 New Creative Commons Head to Reach Out to Businesses
 Google Project Targets Program Crashes

Office Open XML Clears First Standardization Hurdle
Michael A. Silver and Rita E. Knox, Gartner Research Report
A good amount of ink was spilt in 2006 on the topic of competition between ODF and Office Open XML document. Gartner Research Report #G00145329 suggests that we should not expect a victor in the format war until 2008. Excerpt: "On 7 December, 2006, Ecma International voted to approve Microsoft's Office Open XML document format as an international standard. Ecma will submit Office Open XML to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for fast-track approval. In this latest battle in the format war, Microsoft gained ground on OpenDocument Format (ODF), which the ISO ratified as a standard in May 2006. ODF was created by OpenOffice.org and developed by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). The ISO fast-track approval process likely means that the ISO will vote on standardization in 2007. The Ecma vote gives Office Open XML a higher chance of ISO approval. Standards ratification is important because some organizations, especially governments, prefer to use products and formats that conform to standards. In the case of document formats, IBM, Sun Microsystems and others, pushing ODF, got some government organizations to conclude in 2005 that they needed to adopt standard document formats to ensure that official documents could be opened years into the future. These vendors argued that a product might not be available that could read a document created in a closed, proprietary format 50 years hence, but if a format was open and documented, anyone could write an application to manipulate it. This spurred Microsoft to submit the XML document formats, released with Office 2007, to Ecma. In 2006, Microsoft opened its proprietary binary formats and funded an open-source project to create ODF translators for Office. (1) IBM, the sole dissenter before Ecma, voted against the certification because it believes: (2) Office Open XML serves Microsoft's interests first, while ODF serves the broader industry (3) The Office Open XML format's 6,000-page specification is too large for anyone to really implement Microsoft argues that the specification is so large because its software provides a richer feature set than ODF, it includes customer-defined schema support, it provides backward compatibility with billions of existing documents and legacy formats, and the specification grew as a result of other TC45 vendors' contributions.
See also: the PDF

Using XML Digital Signatures in the 2006 XML Environment
Thomas Roessler (ed), W3C Technical Report
W3C announced the publication of "Using XML Digital Signatures in the 2006 XML Environment" as an updated W3C Working Group Note, 20-December-2006. The document was produced by members of the W3C XML Core Working Group, and members of the xml-dsig mailing list. The "Using XML Digital Signatures" document references Canonical XML 1.1, which revisits assumptions made in the original Canonical XML specification, and that have subsequently been invalidated by further developments in the XML area. In particular, the transformations specified in Canonical XML 1.1 can be applied safely in the presence of attributes such as 'xml:id' and 'xml:base'. The WG Note "Using XML Digital Signatures" describes how to use the XML Digital Signature Recommendation ("XML-Signature Syntax and Processing") in a way consistent with the present (fall 2006) XML environment. This note suggests constraints on the use of XML Digital Signature, and relies on extension points present in the XML Digital Signature Recommendation. The note however does not override any aspect of XML-DSIG.
See also: the W3C XML Activity Statement

NIST XML Quality of Design Tool
Staff, Technology News
"Similar to HTML, which is used to format web pages, XML allows computers to exchange information and act on it. Rules called schemas that stipulate precisely the type of information included in the document and how to handle it are critical to XML communication. Every month thousands of new schemas are introduced. Not all of them, however, are precise enough to transmit the needed information without misunderstandings. Computer scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hope to avoid interoperability problems caused by poorly designed or imprecise schemas. The NIST engineers have just released a tool to help others develop well thought out schemas that are easy to understand, implement, maintain and expand. The test site contains sets of design rules for schemas as well as tests for the rules. Visitors to the site can use the rules to check whether a schema that they are developing or using meets good XML communication guidelines. Computer engineers skilled in XML are also encouraged to use the site to share their own rules with others in the XML community.
See also: the NIST QOD web site

Why PUT and DELETE? A Conversation with Elliotte Rusty Harold
Bill Venners, Artima Developer
In this interview, Elliotte Rusty Harold discusses the true meaning of PUT and DELETE. In "Why REST Failed", Elliotte Rusty Harold described the difference between the four HTTP verbs GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE, and praised their virtues: "The beauty of REST is that those four verbs are all you need. Everything you need to do can be done with GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE. You don't need to invent a new verb for every operation you can imagine. This make HTTP scalable, flexible, and extensible. Simplicity leads to power." He then expressed the problem with the picture: "The problem is that GET, PUT, POST, and DELETE really are a minimal set. You truly do need all four, and we only have two; and I've never understood why. In 2006 browser vendors still don't support PUT and DELETE." In this interview, Bill Venners asks Harold to explain what value PUT and DELETE really adds that POST doesn't offer. Elliotte Rusty Harold: "I would say if you're going to POST to an article to update it, the real key difference with PUT and POST there, if you're just adding a paragraph or comment to the article, and it's going down to the bottom of the page. You're not replacing the entire page, then yes, you're posting new content to that article. By contrast, if you're replacing the entire article — all of it; you're sending a completely new version of the article — then that's a PUT. POST is the most general thing and I hesitate to say it means anything, because on some systems it means this. On others it means that. POST is your generic catch-all, with no real restrictions on what it can do. It is incredibly powerful, but the principal of least power would suggest that where we can get away with PUT or DELETE, we do so. If all you have to work with is POST and GET, you'll probably be OK so long as you're clear about the difference between those two. You can live without PUT and DELETE, but it's a somewhat nicer world if we in fact have them.

Something to Look Forward to in WS-BPEL 2.0
Ivana Trickovic, SAP Weblogs
The new 2.0 version of the Web Services Business Process Execution Language (WS-BPEL) will reach the status Committee Specification soon, and so will qualify for the approval as an OASIS standard. The question whether it will be as broadly embraced as its predecessor BPEL4WS version 1.1 remains to be answered. The 2.0 version introduces a number of new features, includes a number of improvements and addresses some shortcomings in version 1.1. These are probably good reasons to decide in favor of version 2.0. In the latest blog in the series of podcasts on WS-BPEL a number of changes in WS-BPEL 2.0 compared to BPEL4WS 1.1 have been discussed. In this blog I would like to discuss a particular one, the 'forEach' activity, in more detail. Typically, business processes encompass complex interaction patterns. Let us consider a purchasing scenario, which involves several activities: a consumer sends a purchase order (PO) to a seller indicating the type, quantity and agreed price for each product to be ordered. The seller loops over the list of items included in the PO and sends for each item a purchase order to a supplier. These requests could be sent to one supplier or to different suppliers. Since these interactions with suppliers are same, but independent activities, they could be modeled as parallel activities. Moreover, the number of interactions is not known at design time, but depends on the number of items included in the PO. The WS-BPEL snippet [here included, a fragment of the process on the seller's side] shows how this complex interaction pattern could be modeled using the 2.0 version. This version introduces the 'forEach' activity for supporting parallel execution of multiple instances of the same set of activities.
See also: WS-BPEL references

New Creative Commons Head to Reach Out to Businesses
Martyn Williams, InfoWorld
Creative Commons, the grass-roots content licensing system that has taken hold amongst bloggers and other content creators online, could soon be arriving in your digital camera. The organization behind the increasingly popular licenses is already talking to consumer electronics companies about getting the system embedded in content creation tools and its new chairman, Tokyo-based venture-capitalist Joichi Ito, sees cozying up to big business as an essential next-step for Creative Commons. Both Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. offer the ability to search for Creative Commons-tagged content while Microsoft Corp. threw in its support in June 2006 when the company released a plug-in for the Office suite that allows users to embed Creative Commons licenses in documents they create. The first document released with the new tool was a speech given by Brazilian Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil at iSummit 2006, a digital media conference that was held in Toronto. The Creative Commons licenses don't impact copyright but allow users a way to offer others limited rights to their content under certain conditions. There are a handful of main licenses that, for example, allow others to reuse work on condition it's attributed and for noncommercial purposes or to modify works as long as they give credit for the original and share the resulting work with the community. Right now the licenses aren't embedded in content as standard but Ito hopes this will change. "When you switch on your camera it should ask 'what license is this video going to be?'. Every creation tool, delivery tool, distribution tool, display tool, all those things should be Creative Commons aware. And for that, it needs to make sense to those making these tools, which are usually businesses."
See also: Creative Commons references

Google Project Targets Program Crashes
Brian Prince, eWEEK
In this article, Google Software Engineer Mark Mentovai discusses "Airbag," the company's open-source project to handle crash reports on different platforms. Program crashes are an unfortunate fact of life for software developers. But to protect against crashes, developers need to know which programs are crashing and how often. Mentovai: "We needed a library like this here at Google, and my colleague Brian Ryner and I decided it would be beneficial to other developers and open-source projects. A great example is Mozilla Firefox. Firefox is a large application with a lot of users, so scalability was also a concern. There are some commercial packages that provide crash-reporting systems, but there really isn't anything that a cross-platform open-source project can leverage. We wanted to change that. As we began working, we realized that the bulk of the work had to do with the nitty-gritty technical details, and that we could reach a wider audience by conquering those problems in a general way and allowing developers the freedom to choose how to integrate Airbag into their own products. Right now, we have a fully functional server-side library that can handle crash reports from any PowerPC or x86-based platform as long as the reports are packaged in the format we're using. The library is a 'middle layer' that processes the crash dump after it is received. Developers can then store the processed reports as they see fit. On the client side, we have complete implementations for Mac OS X and Windows. We also have a very substantial portion of a Linux implementation. These are the three operating systems we plan to support initially, although it shouldn't be difficult to write an Airbag client for another system if a developer is familiar with the target system and with Airbag. A crash-reporting system built around Airbag can examine crash data to determine which crashes seem to be occurring most frequently in real-world situations. Because Airbag can tell developers which crashes users are experiencing, and can provide clues as to why they're occurring, it can have a very positive impact on software stability.

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