Matrix: Reloaded. Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, 2003. Eyecandy only, and not enough of that. Very few movies do I actually want to fast-forward through, but this is one of them.
Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling; Scholastic Press, 2000. The fourth of the Harry Potter stories, this one is just as readable as the others.
The War of the Flowers, by Tad Williams; Daw, 2003. An entertaining story of a changeling and an industrialied Faerie.
Distant Music, by Lee Langley, 2003, Milkweed. Interesting story of a Portuguese girl and Jewish boy reborn through the ages.
Wednesday, 26 November 2003
MS Windows and GTK+: DLL Hell
I'm glad GTK+ was ported to Microsoft Windows. I'm glad various open source and free software projects are porting to Microsoft Windows using GTK+. I sure wish they could all agree on one binary runtime distribution. Or alway supply a package specific version of GTK+ so that the application will always work, although that's admittedly evil.
Kingdom River, by Michell Smith, 2003. A generation later sequel to Snowfall (which I haven't read), this book reads fine on its own. Ok post-apocalyptic fiction that's smoother but less quirkily interesting than Robert Adams's earlier Horseclans novels, with some interesting characters.
Titus, directed by Julie Taymor and starting Anthony Hopkins. I watched this completely for the first time last night; I'd seen bits and pieces of it before. It's an odd, disturbing, and good adaptation of Shapespeare's play Titus Andronicus.
I've always had an interest in markup and document formatting languages, and have long used troff and LaTeX for document formatting and XML and DocBook for markup, using the DSSSL DocBook Stylesheets and OpenJade along with JadeTeX to produce HTML and PDF output. I've also used a homebrewed application that produced Postscript output from Simplified DocBook using Groff.
Unfortunately, I've not been particularly satisfied with the results. Many of the tools involved are complicated to set up, some are suffering from a lack of manpower for maintenance, and often it is very difficult to customize the appearance of the generate output. Groff is perhaps the simpliest to install, but I've no desire to write in bare troff any more than I have in bare LaTeX, and groff and its macro packages lack good support for PDF - in particular, pdfmarks. LaTeX has good support for PDF (especially when you are using pdfelatex), but it is difficult to customize the appearance of the output, and there are a number of quirks when it comes to font handling. 1 And the PDF output from the DSSSL DocBook Stylesheets 2 can be very ugly when you are doing complicated things, and since it uses JadeTeX it's even harder to customize the appearance of the output than LaTeX .
While I've not found any general solution for the problem, I've have run across something that looks promising: ConTeXt. It is a TeX macro package that provides about the same level of structural markup as LaTeX but appears to be much more customizable. 3 It also has very good support for interactive documents, reasonably good manuals, and appears to have significant development resources behind it. I think it would make a more suitable backend than LaTeX. 4
As for those documents where XML markup is too much of a pain (say, things that should be easy to read as plain text, where the verbosity of XML tags overwhelms the text), I've found that the reStructuredText (part of the Docutils project) fits the bill nicely. Every since Steffan O'Sullivan produced the Fudge RPG in plain text format I've been looking for an easy way to turn something that looks like plain text into reasonably nicely formatted output. reStructuredText fits that bill nicely. It has enough structure to be useful without overloading the plain text with markup, it produces good looking output, and it's reasonably easy to process, with a DTD, an XML form, and an extensible implementation that's not too difficult to program. For things that I would otherwise be writing in plain text I'll be using reStructuredText from here on out, and I'm writing an reStructuredText to ConTeXt writer as I have time.
WYSIWYG? Well, that's a nice idea, but I've yet to find a system that works well for anything but the simpliest documents. I'd like to find a portable, open source WYSIWYG XML editor that supports DocBook, but they seem in short supply.
In particular, it's very annoying to have the ligatures disappear from printed output when using the standard Postscript fonts because Adobe Acrobat 's printer driver mishandles them.
I've not tried the XSL DocBook Stylesheets because in some ways the toolchain involved is even more complicated than for the DSSSL DocBook Stylesheets toolchain.
Doesn't that mean I'll be using TeX, which is rather complicated to install and use? Well, yes. However, there are easy-to-use distributions of TeX that include ConTeXt for the Unix distributions that I use as well as for MS Windows (teTeX, for instance).
Common Lisp, SBCL, and CLIM
I finally took the time to figure out how to install McCLIM under FreeBSD. The first thing to do was
install SBCL from scratch; the
FreeBSD port doesn't install all the SBCL extras, but they're needed
to build McCLIM, especially ASDF. The other things I needed to do were
described in the
INSTALL.SBCL from the McCLIM release. I had to
install CLX for SBCL using ASDF. This
proceeded with only one hitch: I needed a ~/.sbcl/trusted-uids.lisp
for some reason. Once that was done it was easy to build McCLIM for
SBCL and run the demo applications. Now that I know how to build
McCLIM I'll be able to investigate CLIM.
A Path of Shadows, by Lauren Haney. This is another book in Haney's series about Bak, an ancient Egyptian soldier and policeman. In this one Bak is sent off into the desert to find a missing explorer. Enjoyable.
Paladin of Souls, by Lois McMaster Bujold. A indirect sequel to her Curse of Chalion, this book main character is a minor character in the previous book. Well written fantasy of the non-generic sort.
The Far Side of the Stars, by David Drake. This is the third book in Drake's RCN series featuring Lt. Daniel Leary and Signals Officer Adele Mundy. Well done military science fiction, with potential to be more.