Saturday, September 22, 2007

Today's Garage Sale Book Review

Garage sales don't do it for me like they used to. The girls are too old for most garage sale toy fodder, we have as many Berenstain Bear books as we're ever going to find, and my tastes are too esoteric to find things worth getting. But I had a few minutes to kill, there was a sale nearby, including a couple of boxes of high-tech books. For a buck each, I got a book on Flash that will fit on the shelf next to the other books I've bought on flash and web design that I never cracked open; a copy of Philip Greenspun's coffee-table rewrite of his awesome "Database Backed Web Site" book retail price $62.95, garage sale price $1.00; and a QUE book on XML from 2000 which I got only because I'm always curious how writers attempt to explain RDF. I'll just quote a bit:
In the following example, the members of the RDF triple are defined by descriptive names

<rdf:description about="resourceURI">

Got that? No, me neither. The name of the object's property is "property", and its value is "literal". Why not an example like this:

<rdf:description about="editorPencilsAreUs">

At least I understand it. Which makes me think it's invalid.

So RDF is full of things called triples. Sort of like (subject, predicate, object) sets, like "the boy is drinking water" or "that spec confused the hell out of me".
So naturally the author spends a full page talking about Roman triumvirates for her next example. Just the kind of topic someone tackling RDF can relate to.

For a realistic RDF example, go read some install.rdf files from a Mozilla application like Thunderbird or a Firefox extension. Or fix this bug, which has only been open for four years, and from my understanding could be fixed in a few minutes with the right administering of RDF fu.

At least I can use the book to prop up my laptop screen while I write this review of it. And Phil's rewrite is still funny, and the kids liked the letraset stencils. The computer has 200 fonts or so, but there's still something very cool about creating a 36pt Helvetica stencil by rubbing pen over tracing paper. And I can't really complain about finding an RDF book at a sale. Maybe next time I'll find a 1989 Gel boom for five bucks.

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