Can Marc come out and play?

My musings about the dangers of Protocol Poisoning seem to have hit some kind of nerve right in the center of Marc Canter's head. Ka-pow!

Of course I wasn't arguing with Tim Bray over protocols. I was trying to deal with his legitimate question about the size of the WS specs. The fact that he works for Sun didn't enter into the equation. He's a smart guy and I was intrigued by his question.

But this isn't Marc Canter's main point. He wants to drill into some kind of essence: that “we don't want standards controlled by Microsoft or Sun. It's that simple.”

I understand the gut feeling. I was in a small company most of my life. Microsoft was a force we always had to contend with, whether we liked what it was doing or not.

So I know there is a lot of baggage.

But I look at it differently. First of all, I don't think Microsoft can “control a standard.” Microsoft can put forward a set of proposals, but they will only become “a standard” if a bunch of players adopt them. And people will only adopt them if they see the proposals as generating good for the consumer and the industry.

The question thus becomes one of whether Microsoft can adopt – and put forward – proposals which generate enough good. If we can, Microsoft becomes a force that can be harnessed to speed the technology's incarnation in reality, helping to create a new environment that will potentially benefit all players. That's why I work there.

I'm not used to speaking in the royal we. But I think there is enough that is good in proposals like WS-trust and InfoCards that we should have a conversation rather than serving up bottles of vitriol laid down in past lives. Let's look at some of what you could do at the application layer if a fully interoperable infrastructure were in place that made the application platform work in a distributed way.

After all, that's where a new world of possibilities could open up for a certain brilliant (if attractively belligerent) innovator.

Drop what you're doing and go to see this man

Last night we were lucky enough to experience the spectacular young violinist Stefan Jackiw. The Seattle Symphony was up to the challenge, and together they put on Saint-Saëns’ pyrotechnical cliffhanger – Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Op. 61.

Looking half angel and half kung fu fighter and wearing all-black, the nineteen year old genius drew the most exquisite lightning bolts from his fiddle and cast them towards us with a finality that somehow never eclipsed Saint-Saëns’ himself. Stefan's natural charisma and talent make him so darn hip – withbout any of the tellement travaillé some young violinists have had to resort to.

(By the way, his management should lose his current promo shots ASAP – they completely miss what he's about. Get a shot of him while he's playing, for heaven's sake. Isn't it obvious?)

Basically, Stephan is so good I just want to see him perform again before anything changes.

Have I succumbed?

One of my friends, who for now may remain anonymous, recently sent me to visit Tim Bray's piece on WS-Pagecount. It is really funny.

And it got me thinking.

I guess when I first started looking at the WS specs I thought there were “a lot of them” too. And now I really don't. So I could see I might have symptoms of that terrible disease that stalks all of us who work with protocols – Protocol Poisoning.

I am one who has seen first-hand the terrifying effects of the disease – the result of breathing too much of your own protocol. The terrible numbness, blindness and deafness it causes – for which in many cases there is no possible cure…

How do you find out when you are slipping into intoxication and ultimately will succumb? You really need some kind of objective measure and protection – a modern day canary if you will.

Basically, as Tim points out, we are talking in the case of the Web Services standards about 783 pages for a set of standards covering distributed systems protocols for “Security, Reliable Messaging, Transactions, Metadata, Messaging, Management, and Business Processes”.

Hey, wait. Actually, does that sound so bad?

The only way to know is to compare it with things that have been done before. How about a successful thing – lke LDAP? After all, it was really simple, right?

So I did a bit of research (see previous post) to find out how many pages are in the LDAP spec collection. The answer - 550 pages! So are we looking at a case where the specs for all of distributed computing are of the same order of magnitude as the “lightweight” directory access protocol?

But Protocol Poisoning is dangerous stuff – we need at least one other objective measure. Maybe we should compare it with DCE? I once ordered the documents and had to move into a larger office. The book on RPC alone was about 700 pages…

So my short term take on this is that the protocol poisoning hasn't gotten to me yet. By the objective measures I could come up with, WS is pretty svelt.

How many pages does it take to make an LDAP spec?

In order to get a handle on how big “big” is, I thought it could be good to figure out how many pages were involved in the LDAP specs.

Of course, my memory is that there were an aweful lot. In fact, I don't think you could really do an LDAP implmentation without reading the X.500 spec first – and this means reading the X.200 series and probably getting your head around X.400. But let's take things at face value and assume you could ignore those documents and just use the documents that were filed as RFCs.

Given the fact that I'm opinionated, I thought it would be better to use someone else's list of the standards. A quick google and I came across an independently compiled list of LDAP documents. The site is run by Jeff Hodges – who seems to be a protocol architect himself at a very eminent software company.

And what do we find? Here is the resulting table of specs and pages…

1255 I T. Directory Forum, “A Naming Scheme for c=US”, 09/05/1991. 25
1276 PS S. Kille, “Replication and Distributed Operations extensions to 17
1275 I S. Kille, “Replication Requirements to provide an Internet 17
1274 PS P. Barker, S. Kille, “The COSINE and Internet X.500 Schema”, 60
1275 I S. Kille, “Replication Requirements to provide an Internet 17
1276 PS S. Kille, “Replication and Distributed Operations extensions to 17
1277 PS S. Kille, “Encoding Network Addresses to Support Operation Ov 10
1278 I S. Hardcastle-Kille, “A String Encoding of Presentation Address”, 5
1279 S. Kille, “X.500 and Domains”, 11/27/1991. (Pages=13) 13
1295 I NADF, “User Bill of Rights for entries and listings in the Public 2
1308 I J. Reynolds, C. Weider, “Executive Introduction to Directory 4
1309 I S. Heker, J. Reynolds, C. Weider, “Technical Overview of Director 16
1330 I ESCC X.500/X.400 Task Force, “Recommendations for the Phase 87
1355 I J. Curran, A. Marine, “Privacy and Accuracy Issues in Network 4
1384 I P. Barker, S. Hardcastle-Kille, “Naming Guidelines for Directory 12
1430 I S. Kille, E. Huizer, V. Cerf, R. Hobby, S. Kent, “A Strategic Plan 20
rfc1431.txt—DUA Metrics (OSI-DS 33 (v2)) 19
1487 PS W. Yeong, T. Howes, S. Hardcastle-Kille, “X.500 Lightweight 21
rfc1488.txt—The X.500 String Representation of Standard Attribute Syntax 11
rfc1558.txt—A String Representation of LDAP Search Filters. 3
rfc1588.txt—White Pages Meeting Report. J. Postel & C. Anderson. Febru 35
1617 I P. Barker, S. Kille, T. Lenggenhager, “Naming and Structuring 28
1684 I P. Jurg, “Introduction to White Pages services based on X.500”, 10
1727 I C. Weider, P. Deutsch, “A Vision of an Integrated Internet 11
1758 I T. American Directory Forum, “NADF Standing Documents: A Bri 4
1777 DS W. Yeong, T. Howes, S. Kille, “Lightweight Directory Access 22
1781 PS S. Kille, “Using the OSI Directory to Achieve User Friendly 12
1798 PS A. Young, “Connection-less Lightweight Directory Access Proto 9
1803 I R. Wright, A. Getchell, T. Howes, S. Sataluri, P. Yee, W. Yeong, 8
1804 E G. Mansfield, P. Rajeev, S. Raghavan, T. Howes, “Schema Publi 10
1823 T. Howes & M. Smith, “The LDAP Application Program Interface”, Au 22
Total 551

Hello World

I'm a techie. Writing is not my thing. Unless there's code coming out of my fingers. Or at least an architecture document or two.

But I can't resist my fate – an irresistable fascination with hard problems – especially the problem which I see as being harder than all the others: that of our identity and what it means as reality virtualizes. I want to be a part of the conversation about identity. And Doc has convinced me that the place to have this kind of conversation is in the blogosphere. After all, where else can it happen?

I want to make it clear that this blog will represent my own opinions – not those of my employer. I was recently called a “Microsoft official” in an article by John Fontana – who is a great guy and wonderful writer – and I have to say he shocked me with that one.

I just don't think of myself as an official. I think of myself as an innovator, someone who brings new ideas to the table, and who works over long periods of time to solve hard problems. In the course of doing this, my colleagues and I make a bunch of decisions so we can execute. Sometimes I report those decisions, but most of the time I'm involved in a conversation – the conversation that defines the technology which animates the market, my take on Doc's ClueTrain.

So there you have it. Other people make better officials than I do. Meanwhile, I hope this blog can be part of a wider conversation – and fun. I guess it's pretty clear from the minimalistic gunk on my page that I'm just jumpng in and will construct my site as I understand more about how this blogging thing all works.

What you see is almost what you get

The good news is that now I've realized the system converts my fonts when it posts them. The bad news is I don't have a clue why it wants to do this to me.

This must be a big yawn if you have stumbled onto my nascent blog. But I'm actually pretty impressed with the way Radio Land works – at least for the first fifteen minutes. S.ame for the tablet which is blowing my mind as it continues to figure out my awful scratching. I guess it's time to admit it: I failed handwriting in grade four. Mrs. McNutt just couldn't make out what was on the page – so this little machine gets full marks!

Time for an image change?

RadioLand just seemed to change my font for me. The software seems to think I have an Olde Englande type of thing going for me, some kind of a “Times” look .

The truth is I want to start a blog at some point. But I have this nagging feeling that I should be able to keep my fonts from going wild. Or should I just go with the flow? Stumble down the riverbank and into the torrent? To hell with the fonts and the style sheet?

I guess one of the neat things about bogging is that someone in the community can tell me why my fonts want to control me.

I have to be crazy…

I'm sitting here with a new tablet PC – some kind of HP thing which is wonderful except it has a really small screen. Or I have really small eyes.

And I'm writing things out longhand. Which is hard since all the muscles in my hand seem to have atrophied. So even though the handwriting recognition is staggering, the effect is vaguely nauseating.

Maybe I will adapt. After all, recognizing my handwriting is an amazing feat. It would be sad if someone had spent decades on something this impressive and it didn't really matter at all.

And then, at the same tine, I'm trying to figure out how to use this Radio blogging software. I'm using it in WYSIWYG mode . Can I stick in some of my handwriting?

Amazing. That works. After the Newton, I didn't think that my handwriting would ever be read by a machine in my lifetime; and I really didn't think I could paste some “ink” into the radioland interface.

I've got to become less cynical. And I'm working on it as you read.