There's an R in the month

By Michael Kay on September 01, 2008 at 02:18p.m.

September is upon us; summer is over; so it's time to start thinking about a new season.

This blog has become rather dormant. I think the reason is that I've been reluctant to say anything unless I've got something profound to say, and the less frequently I post, the more profound I feel my utterances have to be to justify the uttering. Well, I'm going to try and reform, and post more regularly, and if I haven't got much to say then I'll just witter on about what I've been up to recently.

Saxon 9.1 was a big push. It's becoming more and more effort to get a release out, as the number of tests that I run increases, especially given the increasing number of environments in which the tests are run. I'm always conscious of how much I don't test (at least formally) - for example different JDKs, different .NET versions, different XML parsers. But despite the gaps, I'm always increasing the number of tests I run, and it seems to pay off - 9.1 has been pretty reliable on the whole, the first new development release that hasn't required a fairly immediate patch release to fix some embarrassing blunder. In fact, the worst bugs in 9.1 reported so far were also present in 9.0. However, the number of bugs has now built up to a level where doing a patch release is a priority in the next week or two.

On the development side, I haven't been doing too much since 9.1 came out. Most of the work has been to continue the implementation of new features in XML Schema 1.1, the biggest being "open content" which allows in effect for implicit wildcards to provide extensibility for people who want to allow elements in a different namespace to appear as children of any element, either at the end, or interleaved. As often happens with schema, most of the development work turns out to be concerned with scenarios that will occur very rarely in practice, in this case handling derivation of types with open content from types without open content, or vice versa.

I took a fortnight's holiday during August (sorry: for Americans that's two weeks' vacation), which is the longest break I've taken since setting up Saxonica, and reflects confidence that the boat can steer itself for a while. I had my laptop with me of course and kept an eye on the email but fortunately there was no support issue that couldn't either be dealt with with a quick reply, or wait until my return. We were in Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia, with a couple of days in Mostar in Bosnia/Herzegovina, and whether you're interested in lazing around by the sea or in exploring historic towns or just enjoying the scenery, I'd thoroughly recommend it. The scars of the recent war are pretty terrible though, and make one angry about the equally stupid wars that we are still engaged in.

Apart from getting a maintenance release out, my other immediate priority is to make some progress with the XSLT 2++ specification. The "theme" for the next release is streaming, and the Working Group (with a largely new membership) has been spending 18 months or so brainstorming about what's needed in the language to allow streaming transformations. Some of these ideas have already found their way, in experimental form, into Saxon 9.1 and are being well received by users. But the WG needs to switch now from brainstorming mode to design mode. We've got a meeting in Prague later this month that will hopefully achieve that transition, but to make this successful I need to prepare some concrete language proposals that we can use as a baseline. Fortunately (?) my consultancy diary is fairly light at the moment so I should be able to find some time for that.