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jjohn (22)

jjohn
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Perl hack/Linux buff/OSS junkie.

Journal of jjohn (22)

Tuesday January 15, 2002
01:12 PM

XML, SGML, XSLT, DSSSL, Oh my!

[ #2149 ]

Ill-conceived rant mode: on.

Gods. It's no wonder at all the XML/XSLT aren't getting traction. It's hard to find non-broken tools to make document processing a reality (the docbook folks make changes that the Fop group can't handle breaking the whole processing chain). But the tools are there, you say? Let me be clear: HTML is rendered in a web browser. Hell, even a crappy web browser like lynx is good enough to start learning HTML. As a user, I get immediate feedback on my markup. With XML and XSLT, there should be an equally easy way to do get pretty feedback. I've been reaching into the depths of docbook (both SGML and XML [don't ask why]) like a veterinarian delivering a calf and it's been just about as pretty. DTD management is insane and the tools (jade for DSSSL and xsltproc for XSLT and then Apache's Fop) are one step up from hacks. This is crazy. If I can't get PS from docbook easily, I should just stick to latex or even POD. After much fighting and reading and reading and reading, I have figured out how to use these tools but things have got to get much better in 2002 for these tools or XML will soon go the way of punch cards.

For the record, I don't get off on XML at all (unless people are buying my book). I care about what works, what's easy and what's available.

Grr. Grr, I say!

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  • It has been around how long now and how many people have actually figured out how to use it and what to use it for? Stick with TeX and LaTeX and wait for the fad to blowover.

    • OK, if you're really not trolling...

      Lots of people are using XML. Lots of people are using XML successfully. More importantly perhaps, lots of people are using XML unsuccessfully because they have overblown expectations of it (a.k.a. hype).

      But XML, in the document management field and elsewhere, works. I can write a book for O'Reilly in DocBook, and they can chuck it through their processing toolset and have a book come out the other end. I can use SAX tool suites to process DBI and Excel files the sam
      • Power is often passed over for simplicity as nature favours the path of least resistance...this would not be XML. DTDs are stupefying and the mess of CPAN modules is beyond even my ability to figure out which goes where when and how. I have lurked for many moons on the XML list and I have yet to really understand who and what are in which ring of the circus.

        I don't think people have lofty expectations I just think they're as confused as I am as to what this blob of stuff is really supposed to do and how

  • To an extent I agree. The docbook processing tools are crappola. Really they are bad. But I can't really agree with the XSLT tools. Simply stick a <?xml-stylesheet?> directive in the top of your file, and either deliver it via AxKit, or view it in mozilla or IE, and it'll be beautifully rendered for you.

    As far as XSLFO goes, the people I know who write books with it use PassiveTeX, not FOP, because FOP's output still sucks (i.e. doesn't use TeX formatting rules). However PassiveTeX is even harder to
    • I wasn't trolling actually...

    • TeX is a publishing markup language, and docbook is a technical publication markup language.

      The point is ASCII is easy to author in (at least I think so). Book printers need PS or PDF to print. Here, the source code (TeX or XML) is a convenience to the authors. The real world needs the information in a format usable by their tools. TeX isn't at all a general replacement for XML, but in the realm of publishing, it's often a better fit than docbook.

      Let me be plain: I want XML and docbook to succeed. I do

      • DocBook's biggest problem is over-complexity IMHO. I think most people would be better served with s-docbook (simple-docbook).

        But yes, we agree.
  • Nice, you've found out that DocBook sucks. Hmmmm. How you get from there to the fact that XML sucks is a bit beyond me though.

    In XML, you don't need DTDs. The fact that you chose to inflict those horrors on yourself is, well, not a problem with XML :) Also, XSLT are very much there and very mature, I fail to see how you managed to have a problem there.

    --

    -- Robin Berjon [berjon.com]

  • I'm happy to have provided some talking points and perhaps a minor distraction from Bigger Things with my rant. Lest hfb get beat up too much for agreeing with, let me make the following points:

    • XML as Rosetta Stone XML excels as a medium of data exchange. That is, XML makes the process of moving information from one application into another much simpler. I had a job at CareerSearch [careersearch.net] in which I had to deal with DBF, CSV and fixed positional ASCII files of all kinds. If the data had all been in XML, it wou
    • Sorry about the typos and what not in the last post. My net connection was getting flaky and I couldn't risk a "review". Hey Nandor, how's the XML-RPC interface to slash coming? I could have writing this in emacs... :-)