Better living through chemistry

I find it funny that I’m currently being inundated with drug comment spam, just after Danny Ayers pointed out the fact that the pharmacy industry is adopting the ‘orphaned’ semantic web:

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Internet standards arbiter that developed the HTML content description protocol, released a new standard several years ago called the semantic Web. Operating on linkages between data called triplets, in which two URL-based pieces of information are connected by a recognizable relationship in a kind of subject-verb-object arrangement, the semantic Web gained far less momentum with programmers than did HTML, which can be searched on the basis of written language.

However, the so-far-neglected standard, which relies on extensive and standardized coding of Web-searchable data and documents, may soon be adopted by the big drug companies, where a coterie of information technology (IT) specialists see its potential in organizing R&D data and expediting drug discovery and development—where a triplet might include a specific compound and a functional relationship of that compound to a specific cellular receptor.

“Many pharmaceutical companies are exploring the use of the semantic Web,” says Susie Stephens, principal research scientist for discovery and development informatics at Eli Lilly & Co. It is one of many avenues Lilly is investigating to develop a research IT regime, she says.

The entire article is surreal. And funny! Triplets!

Perhaps someone went home with one too many “semantic web” samples.

Technology Writing

Notes from the book part two

Summary:   Wherein author picks up both stick and carrot, paying particular attention to the attached metadata: Me relate stick. Me relate carrot. Me class hitting. Stick class hit. Carrot class eat. Me relate Microsoft. Translation: I am hitting the stick with Microsoft, while eating a carrot.

  • Open source developers, providers of free or inexpensive shareware applications, those working on open standards and specifications, or providing documentation, tutorials, and help for all of the above: you almost make me believe there is a land over the rainbow, and that it has fairies and unicorns and we never have to wear shoes. I don’t thank you, as often enough, and as much as you deserve.
  • Speaking of which: whoever came up with the original idea for CSS, you deserve chocolates
  • Everyone is mad at Apple for iPhone, but I don’t care: Safari 3 is a wonderful browser. Color management, far out. And Opera? Thanks for standing up for standards. Firefox, you’re cool, too, but you need to commit to implementing one spec before you start on others. Oh, and it would be really nice if you didn’t crash so much. No, really that would be cool.
  • The WhatWG and (X)HTML5 efforts are, in my opinion, not the best use of resources. We’ve spent years separating presentation values from page layout, only to turn around and make the same mistake with semantics. Accessibility is in; accessibility is outMachine versus human semanticsIndent versus blockquote. Hey! Poem markupSVG isn’t ‘semantically rich’ . When semantics have to be hard coded into the syntax, satisfaction will never be guaranteed. Open models, not new specs. When will they ever learn? When will they e-v-e-r learn.
  • Regarding microformats: Using “rel”, “class”, and “profile”, as the only available means in which to add semantics to markup is the same as using LOLCats to re-define the Bible: it’s pidgin markup. “Me class sitting. Me relate chair. Chair relate desk. Me class watching. Me relate windows. Window relate Woman. Woman class running. Woman relate street. Woman class feeling. Feeling relate weather. Weather class cool. Weather class fall. Me class wistful. Me class wishing. Me relate woman.”–this is my sad attempt to describe my sitting in a chair at my desk, looking out through my open window at a woman jogging along in the wonderfully cool fall weather, wishing I was her instead me being here at the computer. At some point in time, simplicity breaks down and you want a richer method in which to express your meaning.
  • Chew on this: pictures as data, as well as visual, entities.
  • Canvas is cool, but SVG is better. It’s not just because SVG elements become part of the Document Object Model (DOM) and are easily scriptable. It’s because we can find SVG similar to what we want, copy it, manipulate it, and we don’t have to know any scripting. I wanted images of musical notes and searched on “music notes svg”, which led me to this Wikipedia page and this (as well as this) public domain SVG. I copied the SVG file and deleted the SVG creating the bars–no bitmap tool magic needed to pull the notes separate from the bars. I split the notes into two separate images by coping and pasting the two different elements. I copied the SVG for both into this post, and scaled them into tiny little representations of themselves. Though the browser had to reach to scale them so small, we’re not left with a tiny little bitmap blobsI did think about using the following image, copied from this resource. Oh look, the original SVG contains metadata defined using RDF/XML. Isn’t it marvelous when you can merge rich, well defined XML vocabularies together? Just like that?
  • Silverlight: Why? There’s nothing in Silverlight 1.0 that doesn’t exist as an open standard and can’t be supported for IE applications–if Microsoft would just support them. Silverlight as a 2D graphics system? Both SVG and Canvas are 2D graphics systems. Microsoft supports form controls like buttons? Hey! Guess what we’ve had in HTML for years? Silverlight 1.1 integrates web browser and ASP.NET functionality, which means you can use your Microsoft Visual Studio and Microsoft Web Expression applications to create Rich Internet Applications? Fantastic! It still doesn’t change the fact that Microsoft pushed its browser on the same developers it’s trying to suck into the Silverlight world, and then abandoned it, and us, for five years; effectively holding up advances in internet development for half a decade.
  • Adobe Flex/AIR: Why? It’s true that Flash has done much for us over the years, and we’re grateful, but we’re ready to move into a new era of open standard applications and, frankly, Adobe, you’re rather hit and miss when it come to ‘open’ and ‘standard’. Take your SVG plug-in. It’s cool and we thank you for providing it so that IE users could see what they’re missing using a half-assed browser. Now you’re going to pull the plug-in and your support for it. Why not open source it, and let the open source community decide if it wants to continue to support it? Is it because, as has been noted elsewhere, you want us to consider converting [our] SVG application to an Adobe Flex® application? Golly, I just love these opportunities to get sucked into another bloated, proprietary application environment. It makes me feel so good when you finally, inevitably, stop.
Programming Languages SVG

Color sampling and SVG gradients

More fun with SVG.

I’m rather surprised there isn’t more general ‘design’ work using SVG. True, you really should have your pages as XHTML and not many people are ready to jump on that bandwagon. Still, once you’ve bit the bullet, you can have a lot of fun with your pages and incorporating SVG.

My newest experiment is actually combining PHP image functions with dynamically generated CSS entries, which also control the random photo header. All the SVG elements are dynamically created based on colors sampled in whatever is the current header image. I used the photographer’s ‘rule of thirds’ to pick four outer points and then sampled the middle. I use the sampled colors to generate CSS values used to style 4 small circles in the top of my sidebar and rounded-corner gradient-filled ‘caps’ to my individual comment entries.

I had to make some tweaks to make the gradient comments work. First, the SVG element had to have the display setting set to ‘block’ in CSS; otherwise, the browsers generated space following the object. I’m assuming that the SVG element is treated like the IMG element is in strict XHTML mode: treated as an inline element, and given a ‘text descender’ space. Second, just as with images, fixed widths work best for gradients, and the viewport for each SVG element has to be fixed to work with Safari 3.

The gradients don’t work with Firefox 2.x if you access the page using a page fragment, such as clicking on a specific comment. This is a bug that has been fixed in Firefox 3.x. It does work with the latest Opera and Safari 3. The page degrades nicely for non-SVG browsers.

I’m not sure if I’ll keep the SVG effects, or even take it further with creating entire page color schemes based on color sampling of the image. I may look at embedding additional data directly in the images to control both the CSS and the SVG.

I do want to implement ‘caching’ for the ‘blog pulse’ I created earlier. The best time to cache the pulse would be each time a new comment is saved, probably to a database table I’ll create for other uses. The color sampling, though, may not need caching. The gradient effect can be a little slow, but most of the ‘slowness’ is from the fact that the header image is quite large. Then there’s the random selector for the image–I imagine this can be improved through the use of caching.

Frankly, I don’t load my sidebar with dozens of widgets, hook into that abysmal google syndication service, nor do I embed dozens of YouTube videos in my posts. My little use of SVG is nothing compared to all of this, and, unlike the other services, doesn’t impact on the loading of the page contents.

Still playing. I’ll worry about performance when I’m finished playing.

For your own playing: SVG is in page, PHP dynamic modification code, import into your CSS file using: @import “photographs.php”;

The only drawback to all of these changes is Internet Explorer. None of this is going to work with IE. None of what I’m doing, though, impacts on the page layout, or the text or even the generated CSS style settings. The IE users won’t get some of the effects, but they’ll get the weblog content. I’m not going to try and use Silverlight or VML or a plug-in to work around these issues, either. I figured if the Microsoft people don’t care that their users are missing out on the fun pieces of the web that’s Microsoft’s problem, not mine. That browser has killed too much of my fun over the years–enough is enough.