Infopath trial

Ah ha, I've been playing with microsoft's infopath beta.

So whats the crack?

Well its a form based maker for filling in xml documents. It uses a datasource as the start of the document and you can then build forms to fill in that datasource.

In english – it takes a schema, can be database or xml schema and creates forms for each element in the schema. Sounds good eh? Yes and it actually isnt that bad, it does what it says and within 1 hour I had a form which would fill in a courselet for me.

First problem

it hates my schemas to death. If you import or include a schema in or apply min or max to a choice it goes nuts. Which means you end up writing a schema just for infopath or simplifying your schema to the point it becomes non useable.

My orginal schema for courselets was fine, but the one for courselet 2 which included simple xlink with its namespace and a generic xhtml schema. Threw a error each time, i even tried to fix the errors and ended up making all my current xml documents un valid.

Next problem

Even if like me you make a custom schema just for infopath, and create the forms.


You have to own a copy of Infopath to fill it in! I thought you could open it in word or even ie6 and fill in the forms. No it seems like you must own infopath to save the final xml document. That sucks big time.

Plus points

It allows you to write validation in javascript or vbscript. It also understands xml schema and points out required and optional elements. I havent really tested the attributes too much because all my new schemas dont work in infopath. It also reckonmends how you should layout certain forms based on there schema type. So it will not create a freeflowing block of text for intergers. Or a drop down box for free flowing text.

It deals with repeatable elements better than I actually thought, everytime you press return it will create a new paragraph in my case. You can also change that to shift return or anything else you want.

Its also creates accessable forms using access key and tabs points, which is useful for the future. i have yet to try the xsd:any element and serious xhtml style schemas which allows the author to play with the format. You could allow them to put in element of there own using the greater than less than thing but you shouldnt have to. I would also like the ability to split forms up, so one form could be for dublin core metadata and the other for the xml content. It would then join them together using xinclude or something like that.

because even a form for a courselet looks big and most of the metadata is already filled in. yes you can do prefilled and subs. It will take defualts into consideration too.

So I would say its good but great for simple structured documents where the author doesnt have the freedom do what they like. For creative input, basicly forget it, its far too restrictive. But lets not forget its a beta and things will hopefully change.

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Streamliner on pocketpc

Ok I have to confess Streamliner on the ipaq is actually quite good for writing down notes quickly. So good I might actually buy a copy.
One thing it doesnt do at this moment is, save or open opml files.

It does however save as wiki format and rtf. The rtf unfortually is styled and not in bullet lists as I orginally thought it would be in. The wiki is xml based and is actually valid, so I can always write a xsl which will take the node element and nodetext and turn them into a outline with nodetext becoming a attribute.

For some unknown reason it also puts the DTD for the wiki at the top of the file. Useful? unsure yet.

I tried to put the wiki file from streamliner into Java outline editor and it refuses to read it correctly. Instead it just bungs the whole lot into a new outline. So you can see all the node tags.

After futher experination I realised that Joe is expecting outlines not nodes, even on wiki files. Which is a shame because I'm gonna have to write my transformer soon if I want to keep using them.

I'm hoping the next version of streamliner will support opml natively or at least import/export. Or I can get joe to read nodes like outlines. That would be hardwordk.

I need to find out what officially is a wiki file, I guess streamliner has it right and joe is just being silly.

Its quite interesting that outline is actually a really good way to write structed notes quickly and easily. I never used streamliner before I went to the semantic web talk the other day. But I was able to write quick notes on my ipaq very quickly. And they actually make sense afterwards.

I really can not see one note beating this for speed and structure. Plus the fact theres editors on every platform.
I have yet to play with one note because it crashes everytime I run it, has to be something due to the fact my tablet feature doesnt work no longer. Will have to try it out on a non tablet machine see if it still crashes.

But going on what others have said, one note stores notes in its own format and it is not xml based in anyway. I guess Microsoft were thinking that you will bring your notes into word or something else and export as xml then.

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The power of sunshine

So I've been seriously thinking about my net holiday idea again.

The main problem is the power of laptops, there battery are pretty crap, even my tabletpc lasts around about 3.5 hours with wireless on. Never tried it with just the Lan connection on, or thinking about it now, with just bluetooth on.

Anyway once you put the brightness of the screen up, your 3hours becomes a very sickly 2hrs and if you want to read the screen outside in the sun your gonna need all the brightness your laptop can deliver.

Even while I write this post on the coach ride from Bristol to London, the sun is giving me grief, so much that I had to draw the make shift curtains.

Anyhow, if you plug in power your fine. You can drain all the power you like and still have the brightness on maximum. However, on a net holiday would you want to be confined to one area in which you can have power? Not really, no.

The solutions

Why not have extra thick power packs which will increase the life of the laptops? Yes I guess it would work, but no one wants to carry around a brick of a laptop on holiday? And lets not forget most people will bring there own laptops rather than rent one.

Why not have power blocks everywhere, so people can plugin everywhere? It would kind of work except we would have to once again supply mains power for every type of laptop. We could tell people before hand to take extra power blocks?

Another issue with always on mains power is if one falls in the swimming pool, everyone dies of a nasty electric shock, where if just the laptop everyone gets stunk no one dies. I'm guessing because obvioulsy I've never tried it myself.

Why not use solar power? Ah you hit the nail on the head. If we use solar power in a hot sunny place like south spain, we could easily get the charge of a main supply. But its safer and can be moved around alot more than mains adapters.
So ok theres two ways to do this. Some kind of large one which will power a set of laptops or little mini ones which you put on the outer side of the laptop. Maybe theres some kind of mounting like you get on those usb laptop cameras?

Once you got that sorted and powering the laptop, there should be enough sunshine to power the laptop thought-out the day. because if I'm right in saying, it only really requires daylight not bright and hot sunshine. Maybe it generates charge quicker if its brighter?

This kinda makes me think why cant the hotel be solar powered? And indeed, why not?

What self confessing geek wouldnt want to come on a net holiday? I'm sorry but I wouldnt beable to resist it.

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