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Monday, January 18th, 2010

Subject:INSERT/DELETE in 4store
Time:12:47 pm.

The "delete" branch (so named because DELETE was much harder than INSERT to implement) of 4store http://github.com/garlik/4store/tree/delete has some basic support for adding a removing triples to/from graphs.


PREFIX ex: <http://example.com/>
  GRAPH ex:mygraph {
    ex:a ex:p 12 .
    ex:a ex:q 23.0 .
    ex:a ex:r "foo"@en .

PREFIX ex: <http://example.com/>
  GRAPH ex:mygraph {
    ex:a ex:p 12 .


It behaves like a SPARQL 1.1 INSERT DATA, so no WHERE clause is allowed (the rasqal parser doesn't allow it, and the code doesn't support it even if it did).

Don't try to add bNodes, or you will just get an error.

Using variables will cause an error at best.

This code is not well tested, I pushed out the branch so that people can give it a go. If it works OK, and doesn't screw stores then we can look it merging it into the mainline code.

It fragments one of the indexes, so if you add and delete lots of triples to a graph then that index will grow quite large. It should be a huge problem, and it can be fixed retrospectively, but it's worth looking out for.

It's not well optimised, so the performance isn't all it could be. INSERTing or DELETEing large numbers of triples is especially inefficient. It wouldn't be much work to improve, but it's exactly the sort of thing I usually make a mess of.

If you try to INSERT/DELETE from/to the default graph:

INSERT { <x> <y> <z> }

It will end up using a graph called <default:>.

I guess DELETE could remove from all graphs, which would be a parallel to what SELECT does, but then it would be wildly different from INSERT, which I wasn't keen on either. INSERTing into all graphs, would be a bit... odd, and potentially very annoying.

- Steve

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Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Subject:Vestigial fulltext indexing in 4store
Time:8:04 pm.
Many people have requested fulltext indexing in 4store, at some point we'll probably use something like c-lucene, but for now I've done a bit of work on a sort-of entailment scheme. It's similar to what we do on qdos.com.

Imagine you have the file:
@prefix rdfs: <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#> .

<en> rdfs:label "Basking fishING Whales frogs cows Indeterminate"@en .
<ru> rdfs:label "Корова Хайнак Морфология"@ru .
<it> rdfs:label "Rane mangiano le mosche, ma non può volare"@IT-gb .
<gibberish> rdfs:label "Gibber gibber gibber"@gibberish .
For now the code latches onto rdfs:label predicates, but it will be configurable when it released.
When matching predicates are imported, you get the following data produced:
$ 4s-query text -f text 'SELECT * WHERE { ?x ?y ?z } ORDER BY ?x DESC(?y) ?z'
?x    ?y    ?z
<file:///tmp/en>    <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#label> "Basking fishING Whales frogs cows Indeterminate"@EN
<file:///tmp/en>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "bask"
<file:///tmp/en>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "cow"
<file:///tmp/en>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "fish"
<file:///tmp/en>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "frog"
<file:///tmp/en>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "indetermin"
<file:///tmp/en>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "whale"
<file:///tmp/gibberish>    <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#label>    "Gibber gibber gibber"@GIBBERISH
<file:///tmp/it>    <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#label>    "Rane mangiano le mosche, ma non può volare"@IT-GB
<file:///tmp/it>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "le"
<file:///tmp/it>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "ma"
<file:///tmp/it>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "mang"
<file:///tmp/it>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "mosc"
<file:///tmp/it>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "non"
<file:///tmp/it>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "può"
<file:///tmp/it>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "ran"
<file:///tmp/it>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "vol"
<file:///tmp/ru>    <http://www.w3.org/2000/01/rdf-schema#label> "Корова Хайнак Морфология"@RU
<file:///tmp/ru>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "коров"
<file:///tmp/ru>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>            "морфолог"
<file:///tmp/ru>    <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem>	         "хайнак"
This means that you can run queries like:
$ 4s-query text -f text 'SELECT * WHERE { ?x <http://4store.org/fulltext#stem> "mang", "non", "può" }'
I've also got code that does just word tokenisation, and I'll add metaphones when I track down a decent C implementation.

One thing I haven't worked out is how to take natural language strings in SPARQL and stem them. Metaphones are easy, cos that's a standard algorithm, but there are tonnes of stemming algorithms, and if you use a different one it might not match.

Something like
SELECT ?x WHERE { ?x <http://4store.org/fulltext#unstemed> "Корова Хайнак Морфология"@RU }
Would work, with some query rewriting, but it's a bit cheesy. When I remember out how to push this to a public branch on github people can try it.
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Saturday, August 8th, 2009

Subject:Left Join in LaTeX
Time:10:50 am.
Mood: recumbent.
Once again I've been frustrated by the lack of a left join symbol in LaTeX. Wasysym has a bowtie-style join, but no left join.

So, I've finally made a decent one in EPS, which matches the computer modern join symbol to an acceptable level.


You can create save it into your Tex build directory and then define a \LJoin macro for it with

The scale is correct for whatever font size LNCS uses, but you might need to tweak it for other styles.

Don't ask how I made it, it was a real horror story, and involved far too many random bits of software.

PS \bowtie and \Join look sufficiently different than it's annoying if you mix them, so use the right one.
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Monday, July 27th, 2009

Subject:RIP the worlds most complex SPARQL engine
Time:9:24 am.
Geek content follows.

So, I've been looking at the BSBM (SPARQL benchmark) qualification set and realised that there was a fundamental flaw in the join optimiser in 4store.

It was set up to try and minimise the number of intermediate binding tables, and joins. It worked very hard at it, and had no fallback to the naive execution of the SPARQL algebra. (mistake no. 1).

Consequently it worked far too hard at applying the optimisation, putting far too much effort into it, and there are some joins that it just wasn't capable of computing correctly. It was also mindbendingly complex. You can see the code with this over-optimisation in if you look at http://github.com/garlik/4store/commit/2fe39024d148175fb579d9699e90b22c6afdab84 or earlier, particularly frontend/query.c and frontend/query-datatypes.c, but it's not for the feint of heart.

So that I don't forget how it worked, I'm going to briefly describe it below, I'm working on a paper describing the 4store optimiser, but it won't include this stuff for obvious reasons.

Imagine a query like

Where BnQm is quad m in block n. Sorted so that the most specific quad comes first.

Given that, the joins go

σ(t1 and t2) (B0Q0 [X] B0Q1 [X] B0Q2 =X] (B1Q0 [X](s1) D1Q0) =X] (B1Q0 [X](s2) D1Q0))

Where DnQm is an integer that used to identify the "source" of that value in the column, and sn and tn are expressions on the various columns that enforces the SPARQL algebra.

For the above case it's not too complex, but when you start throwing nested OPTIONALs and UNIONs into the mix it rapidly becomes extremely complex.

the advantage is this is that you never need intermediary binding tables, you're just always joining a new triple or (set of triples in some cases) onto the existing master table.

The two really tricky parts are tagging every value in a UNION branch with the correct DnQm value, and selecting that correctly in tn. The thing which made me finally give up was when faced with a triple in a OPTIONAL block that introduced no new variables. It would have been possible to rewrite it as a triple with a variable and a constraint, but at some point you have to decide that enough is enough.

The new join optimiser is much simpler, and much more correct (debugging the above in tricky cases is frighteningly complex), but I may re introduce this for some of the simpler cases, especially where the DnQm joins aren't required, which is the purpose of this post.

I'm going to dive back into tidying up the actually-SPARQL join optimiser now. Generally it will be a bit slower (but only noticeably on very large result sets), and UNIONs may actually be faster.

If you've read this far, I admire your perseverance :)

- Steve
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Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Subject:Mail.app, iPhone and spam
Time:12:05 pm.
Mood: jubilant.
So, I have this debilitating problem where my work email inbox gets so much spam that I can't read real mail on my phone unless I've used my Mac mail client (with clientside spam filter) in the last couple of hours. My main machine is a laptop, so while it's asleep, no spam filtering gets done.

Work's ISP runs a spam filter, but it just modifies the subject line, which means the phone still downloads it.

I found a for-money, mac based solution, but I don't have any always-on macs that I wanted to run the software on, and I'm not keen on paying money to get rid of spam anyway.

But, I found a solution that keeps the phone relativly free of spam and doesn't mess with Mail.app. It involves running spamassasin on my home server and a pythion script, ISBG.

You can follow the instructions on the ISBG page to get it setup, ignore how out-of-date it is, it works fine. The key thing is the exact IMAP folder ID for the Mail.app Junk folder (so you don't end up with excess spam folders). I had to brush up on my IMAP skills and connect with telnet to find the exact folder id that Mail.app expects to find spam in. The key line is:

isbg.py --imaphost mail.host.com --spaminbox "INBOX.Junk (NameOfAccount)" --imapuser username --delete --expunge --nostats

NameOfAccount is the name the account appears under when you expand the Inbox virtual folder.

I've put it in a crontab, to run every 10 mins (*/10 * * * *), and it seems to be doing the job...
Comments: Add Your Own.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Subject:EBooks and Anathem
Time:10:31 pm.
Mood: aggravated.
While on holiday I wanted to read Anathem, having been reassured by elseware that it was good.

To cut a long story short, yes, it's good. Not Snowcrash good, but still well worth reading.

Now comes the rant:

Anyway, I went to buy the book, but it turns out it was only available in hardback, and it's massive. Great if you have stout doors you need kept open, but way bigger than I wanted to take on holiday, and bigger than I wanted to carry on the train to work, or even store for that matter.

However, after a bit of googling, it seems that you can get it as an "ebook" from the publisher. Can't grep dead trees and all that, so out with the credit card.

This turns out to be a mixed blessing. Ebook readers are fairly cheap now, so I got a Sony something-or-other from Waterstones. I've had a go on a couple of other models, and the Sony had nothing particularly wrong with it - Amazon's Kindle is probably better, but it's still useless in the civilised world, and I wanted something to read in a hurry.

Well, the hardware is great - page turns could be quicker, and it could have a touch more resolution and contrast, but it's easily as good to read as the average paperback. The size, convienience and capacity makes it a great device overall. Give the technology time for a couple of revisions and it has the potential to do the the paperback what the iPod is doing to CDs. No question.

However, the PC-side software is appaling. Really, beyond unacceptable. Harper-Collins use Adobe-brand DRM of some sort, and Sony only support Windows (badly). So, while the Adobe software is cross platform, you need access to a Windows box to generate some sort of key and copy it over to the hardware - that took be about 2 hours, but it's a long story and mostly Window's fault. Once you've done that you can use Calibre (GPL ebook mangling software) to do the rest, it's better than the Sony software, but still pretty complicated.

I've now read Anathem, a Sherlock Holmes book and a bit of PG Woodehouse - all on one charge. Getting the books on the thing in a form that you want to read is a right PITA though. PDFs are generally too small to read unless you crop the margins, which you can't do if it has DRM on it... You can convert DRM'd PDFs to text, but if there's anything funny going on with layout, diagrams or tables (hello Mr. Stephenson), it just doesn't work that well. Project Gutenberg books work great though, as a counter example.

Stanza on the iPhone is much better at all this stuff, but the screen is too small and lowres to read on for any length of time.

As is typical, it's more painful to buy and use DRM'd ebooks legimataly than it is to rip dodgy ones off from bittorent. Publishers need to sort that out. Even though I'd bought the ebook of Anathem from the publishers, I ended up reading a dodgy one because it was actually easier to format it a way that was readable. Learn from the iPod/iTunes thing morons; Don't Make It Hard For Me To Give You Money.

Overall, it's much better than lugging dead trees around, but given how good the hardware is, it ought to completly changing the publishing world.
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Thursday, February 26th, 2009

Subject:Loch An Eilein (D3A_0475)
Time:10:53 pm.
Mood: relieved.

Loch An Eilein (D3A_0475)
Originally uploaded by swh
Finally done editing the Nikon photos from Speyside, it's taken me ages, as there was a hell of a lot, and you can only look at so many snowy landscapes in one evening.

I've still got the panasonic ones to do, but those will have to wait for another day.

Rest of the photos are at flickr.

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Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Subject:A new kind of scary
Time:10:35 am.
Mood: relieved.
Drove home from Liverpool last night. The motorways were fine, and the major London roads were OK, bar the usual sociopathic bus drivers - who were still pulling out without looking or any kind of warning when there's ice on the ground. Cocks.

However, the minor road off Kennington lane to our road was ungritted, and had a thick layer of snow over sheet ice. I got very sideways at about 15mph with almost no throttle, trying to get down it. Almost slid into a merc, but luckily didn't instinctively go for the brakes and managed to steer out of it.

Trying to get onto the drive was equally interesting, it must have all of a 5º slope, but I was spinning the wheels trying to get traction, eventully managed to get up it, only slightly diagonally.

There's essentially no trains running today, and the tube line that goes that way is out, so working from home.
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Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Subject:10 technologies that made my life better in the last week
Time:2:46 pm.

Go technology!
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Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Subject:Panasonic G1 Mini Review
Time:9:42 pm.

Originally uploaded by swh
I got a Lumix G1 the other weekend, so I'll write a brief review of the novel things.

Viewfinder: the viewfinder is surprisingly good - in good light. In poor light it shimmers with noise, and it's very hard to check focus, and quite unpleasant to use. OTOH in daylight it's probably the easiest camera to manualy focus I've ever used, easier than a Leica. In poor light the screen is still OK for composition, for some reason. The screen is articulated, reasonably bright, and quite useful. One neat thing is that it can see a B&W image in the viewfinder, which is great if you want to shoot B&W with filters.

Auto focus: the auto focus is contrast based, and noticably slower than my D300, but very accurate, and fast enough for most things. It's never going to be a good action camera anyway, the frame rate is too low.

Meter: because it's using the main sensor to meter, in theory it should be good, but I find it tends to overexpeose and clip highlights. -1/3EV compensation pretty much sorts it out.

Noise/sensor issues: under ISO400 the noise is pretty good, over that it gets a bit questionable. High ISO images look good converted to B&W. Probably because the sensor is quite small, the dynamic range is not that great. High contrast scenes tend to clip and both ends.

Short sensor-mount distance: I don't know how much it's down to this, but the kit lens is really good, decent distortion, good contrast and sharpness. The short distance should make for decent wideangle lenses, at least in theory. The key thing about this is that it's about the only changeable lens system where you can adapt Leica M-Mount lenses, and because of the way the manual focus works, it should be easy to focus them.

Edit to add: maybe it's not obvious from this review, but I really like the camera! waiting to get an M adaptor so I can use my Leica lenses on it, but even with the kit lens it's nice to use.

Comments: Add Your Own.

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Time:11:49 am.

Originally uploaded by swh
Got back from holiday yesterday afternoon. Processed all the digital photos now and uploaded them to Flickr.

Holiday was great, sea, rocks, trees etc., but it's great to be back in the vicinity of dry cappuccinos, shops that are open after 9 PM and other trappings of civilisation.
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Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Time:3:51 pm.
Mood: cheerful.
Lucy and I are currently on holiday in Cornwall, having a great time, but phone reception is spotty, so I'm updating you all from livejounal, from a hotel with wireless.

Last night I proposed to Lucy, and she accepted, so were now engaged! Ten years seemed like a long enough time to be going out.

Writing here on my phone is a bit painful, so more info when we get back.
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Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Time:8:43 am.

Originally uploaded by swh
There was a Sparrowhawk looking for pigeons in our garden this morning. There was one yesterday that got one, and it made a real mess, so luckily it flew after one in someone else's garden this morning.

They're getting quite common in London according to the RSPB.

It's a bit bigger than I would have thought, and pretty fearless. A Simpsons-style approach to pigeon management – flooding the city with Sparrowhawks to control the Pigeon population might not be ideal.
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Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Time:12:52 pm.
Went to Floridita last night for Kate's going-to-america bash. Was a good night out, drinks not too expensive and we didn't have to pay on the door. Some tables have a £1000 spend minimum, which is a little rough.

Normal cocktails are £8 each – if you ask for expensive ingredients then it gets steep, but at the beginning of the night they were pretty well made, though when it started getting really buys, around 10-11 they quality went down a bit, and by midnight they were a bit crap. I was too drunk by then to care.

There's a cigar shop next door with a walk in humidor, and way too much selection, you're allowed to smoke in the shop, which is... interesting. Some loophole I guess. They close at midnight though.

Band were good, show was OK.

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Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Subject:Profiting from the misfortunes of others
Time:11:10 am.
Mood: chipper.
I visited So'ton on the weekend and my choice of car attracted some attention - a little while ago I chopped in my (now massively devalued) 325ci sport for a (also massively devallued) 911.

The reaction from my friends in London was either "well, obviously, what else would you buy" or "huh, why would you buy anything other than a slightly battered 3 year old hatchback" depending on the quantity of petrol in the veins.

The combination of fuel price rises and the lack of bonuses given to city boys this year caused a huge slump in the price of GT cars, and as London is stuffed with 911's prices took a big hit.

We're not talking bargain here, but I fancied a new (to me) car, and made this mistake of testdriving a 911. After that there was no other choice. I could have got a new, top-spec Ford Focus for less, but really - who cares about comfort, convienience, quietness, luggage space, running costs, being able to carry 4 people, ease of use or any of that other stuff when you can have a worryingly lively car based on a 40 year old design with it's engine in the wrong place?

Also, Jeremy Clarkson hates 911s, which automatically makes them good.

It's is truely amazing to drive, I mean, obviously it's fast, but it also does all that sports car stuff where you can tell what kind of road surface you're driving on and feel the levels of grip when cornering, blah, blah.

But, ontop of that, it's actually pretty easy to live with - it's got a fairly exotic oily bits, but they put loads of effort into making it not anoying: you only have to service it every 12k miles, you dont have to let it idle for a while after parking and so on. Plus, you can actually drive in town without it overheating, stalling, stinking of burnt clutch and nearly crashing into things all the time, unlike certain Italian makes I could mention. You can also drive at 30 and 40 mph without modulating the throttle or using the brake, which is a bonus.

Fuel consumtion is an issue, I get about 21 mpg, and it runs on 97+RON but it's not really that big a deal compared to the other running costs of something like that. Tyres work out at something like 10p/mile for example. Servicing is fairly expensive, but no more than a fast Merc/BMW, way less than Ferrari/Lambo/Aston etc.

As gnommi pointed out the speedo is a bit of a joke, it goes from 0 to 175-and-a-bit (the car does 177, so the speedo goes to 177, very german), with marks every 25 mph in about 120º, but there's a digital speedo below the tachometer. At 75 a spoiler comes up from the engine cover to stick the back of the car to the road (you can hear and feel it rise, which is a little disconcerting the first time it happens) and there's loads of aerodynamic stuff in the nose to keep the front on the road at speed.

I find that I get let in and out of junctions much more often than I did in my drug dealer special BMW, and even get thumbs up from van drivers and the like, which is odd given how common 911s are here.
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Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Time:5:32 pm.

Originally uploaded by swh
I think by posting via Flickr I can get round the LJ restrictions...

Went to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall before the AC meeting today. It was absolutely chucking it down with rain, but both are spectacular. I'll edit and upload the Great Wall photos tomorrow if I have time.

Everything in the FC is arranged in threes, there's 3 levels of terrace inside the compound, 81 nails in every door, 9999 rooms and so on. It's properly large, about 1 sq km and it was packed with Chinese tourists, even in the rain.

Having seen more of it now, I can see that Beijing is seriously big, it's almost eight times bigger than Tokyo, fifteen times bigger than LA, and hundreds of times bigger than London. The tourguide described Beijing as "quite small really" - there are 25 cities in China that are bigger still. The scale of this place is amazing.
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Saturday, April 19th, 2008

Time:10:08 am.
So, I've just arrived.

The hotel room is moderatly normal, apart from the bank of switches by my bed labelled "Lobby", "TV", "Floor", "Do Not" and "Table". Sadly none of them seem to do anything, even "Do Not".

I'm scraping a small ammount of internet out of a hole in the wall, about 3k/s, for Y60/day. I think that's cheap, but I don't want to waste bytes finding out, I'm using all the spare ones to download gimp so I can edit photos to post on flickr. It's going to take another hour.

LJ appears to be blocked, I had to connect to the server at home and post from there on text link, so it will be flickr only unless I can figure out a better way.

I watched TV for a bit earlier yesterday, or possibly later today. Chinese TV is way less insular than Japanese, and more entertaining, but still hard to watch. The news coverage of the olypic tourch protests seems to be much higher profile than the UK press was making out. They had inteviews with people in the US talking about it on one of the main TV channels.

The TV remote is pretty alien, it has the obvious stuff, plus Pi, Root, 1/X, and some Chinese characters I don't grok. I tried pressing Pi, and a menu with a picture of a cartoon cow, waggling it's ears appeared. Not quite sure what that's for, but I was scared to pick any of the options incase it ordered smething I didn't want. Other buttons make some kind of panda/bear appear.

Biggst problem with hotel is the LACK OF COFFEE. At this point I'm considering licking the walls for residual cafiene.

Right, going to take some photos and meet up with friends for dinner now.
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Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Subject:Testing, testing
Time:12:36 pm.

If you can read this then I'm off to the pub.
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Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Time:11:59 am.
So, the 2nd Garlik project, QDOS (http://qdos.com/) was launched at Somerset House last night

[√] Hungover
[√] Very tired
[√] Watching logs

Was a pretty big project, the software is very complicated, and there's a load of data in there. Was about 3 months from beginning to end, but the last 3 weeks of hte build were pretty hellish.

If anyone wants bumping up the invite queue, just give me a shout.

The RDF geeks out there can get at some of the workings, eg. http://qdos.com/celeb/c11940fa2ae9ccad441a4bf8ac3a0a2b can be conneg'd as turtle, or you can fetch http://qdos.com/celeb/c11940fa2ae9ccad441a4bf8ac3a0a2b/turtle directly. The raw stats are expressed in RDF too, and rdf:seeAlso'd from the FOAFish stuff, but for some reason you can't reference those URIs and I ran out of time before the code freeze to make that work.

We don't speak RDF/XML yet, for a variety of reasons - all the data we created internally was in turtle anyway, and RDF/XML is just a bit too icky. There will be some sort of API in the future, but that's no built yet.

There are a few features that our RDF engine is missing which wuld have made the build much easier, but it's very hard to predict exactly what you're going to want in the future.
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Saturday, September 29th, 2007

Subject:Misc update
Time:7:37 pm.
I've not posted anything for a while (been extra busy), so a quick catchup.

Kitchen was finished a month or so ago, really happy with it now but it was a pain while it was being done.
The last things to be done were installing the worksurface (it had to be specially machined) cf. background of M6 picture, and replacing a duff bearing in a pullout cupboard thing.

Replaced the lounge flooring. In a moment of enthusiasm Lucy and I decided to do it ourselves. Took two trips to the the wood-shop, filling the boot of my car with beech planks (probably shortening the life of my suspension) and two very unpleasant days to lay, but its done now. Looks good.

That's all the major work for now - still need to get a small shed for the back "garden" to keep bikes and garden stuff in. At some point we want to replace the upstairs bathroom too - but that can wait.

Still not sure what to do about the garden small patch of weeds out back. I have absolutely no interest in it, but concreting over it would be unwise given how much a bit of foliage adds to property value here. OTOH it seems a bit excessive to hire a gardener to look after 30-odd m2 of dirt.
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