Editor's Column

(Susan Small)

Sue This is the second issue of the newsletter that has been produced using XML. There are still a few gremlins lurking in the paper version, but we hope that new formatting software will remove some, or all of them, in time for the next issue.

Charles Curran has asked Mick Farmer (your Newsletter Manager) to write an article explaining how the newsletter is currently produced. This should be found below.

News from Owles Hall

(Jane Morrison)

Jane There have been five UKUUG Council meetings to date this year and the next one will be held on 19th June in London. The Annual General Meeting date has been set for Thursday 27th September 2001. It will be held as usual at the Institute of Education in London. Details, Agenda etc. will be sent to all members during August.

We are also planning to organise some tutorial days later this year.

The Winter Technical Conference for 2002 will be held on 13th & 14th February in London, please see the call for papers enclosed with this Newsletter.

I am currently being kept very busy working on the Linux Developers Conference which is this year being held in Manchester from 29th June - 1st July. This is an annual event and again looks as if it will be a huge success. If you haven't already booked a place please check out the web site - where you can see the list of speakers and their abstracts.

It appears that some members are still using our old address - please note our new address details: PO BOX 37, Buntingford, Herts SG9 9UQ

Do you enjoy reading the book reviews in the Newsletter? Would you like to become a reviewer? If the answer is yes then please email me at - and I will add you to the book review team and you will be offered various titles that become available for review.

National Linux Install Day

(Mick Farmer)

Following Roger Whittaker's letter in the last newsletter, I decided to see what this sort of event was like for myself. I knew that they were popular in Europe, especially Germany, and it would be interesting to see what would happen in England. There were many events planned around the country, most happening on the same day, 29 April 2001.

The London event was hosted by Turtle Technologies Ltd, a startup company in NW London. I went with Sunil Das, a former Chair of the UKUUG, because Turtle Technologies was set up by one of his ex-students at City University. We arrived about 11:00am to find some Turtle staff preparing two rooms with table tops and mains adaptors. People started trickling in, computers under their arms; monitors were provided so getting the kit to the venue was pretty painless.

Various flavours of Linux were available on CDs. The Turtle people would ask those wishing to have Linux installed on their machines what they were going to use it for; firewalls were popular amongst the people I saw. The Turtle people would then recommend the appropriate Linux edition and help with the installation where necessary.

By now, members of the London Linux User Group ( had also arrived to help with the installations. We stayed until lunch time, by when about thirty people were milling around installing, chating and generally having a good time. It certainly reminded me of the old UNIX events, when delegates arrived with magnetic tapes or RK05 disks under their arms in order to swap software. Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis.

Mick is a lecturer in the School of Computer Science & Information Systems, Birkbeck, University of London.

How do They do That?

(Mick Farmer)

Charles has asked me to write a piece explaining how the newsletter is produced, but first a short bit of history to indicate where we're coming from.

When Sue was first appointed editor, she used WordPerfect to generate the paper original for the printers. When your Council decided to make the newsletter available on the web, she used a program called WPTOHTML to generate the HTML version from the original WordPerfect. It wasn't ideal, which meant that Sue still had to edit the HTML to get things right.

As time went on, Sue moved from WordPerfect to Word in her job, and so did the newsletter. It was possible to generate crude HTML from Word in those days, so again a second edit phase was still necessary.

Gradually, over the years, Word acquired new features until it became possible to accept HTML input. At this point, I got involved in helping her generate the original document in HTML (using the HTML mode in Emacs), which she then imported into Word for the paper copy. This meant that there was less editing to do, as most of it was fixing widows and orphans in Word for the paper copy.

Enter left, XML

Towards the end of last year, I rashly agreed to give an XML course for my department. I read all the books (see Lindsay's reviews elsewhere), understood most of the examples, and wrote some noddy programs for transforming XML into HTML and ASCII text. At this time XML was on everybody's lips, but there were very few practical, real-world, examples of its use.

Naturally, I was keeping an eye on the XML Portal site ( and the Apache XML site ( and, in particular, those topics relating to transforming XML into different formats. Eventually, I took the HTML version of the December 2000 newsletter and hand-edited it into a rudimentary XML version, from which I was able to generate a close reproduction of the original HTML using the Xerces parser for XML and the Xalan processor for processing XML ( into other formats, especially HTML!

The actual XML is pretty mundane. Naturally, everything is hierarchical, so the top-level document (the newsletter) contains external entity declarations for each of the chapters and for each article, all of which are files in a common directory. Each chapter document contains the relevent entity references for including the articles.

Enter right, DTD

At this stage I produced a simple Document Type Definition (DTD) document which defined the valid XML document structure. It uses a document structure loosely based on DocBook (, that has a book (our newsletter) containing one or more chapters (our sections), each chapter (with a title) containing one or more articles, each article (with an optional title) containing one or more sections (with optional titles), each section containing one or more paragraphs or lists. Each paragraph or list contains text with occasional in-line markup, e.g. bold. Sue edits the raw input (usually ASCII text from contributors) into valid XML (using the SGML mode in Emacs). Now we were ready for action.

Enter centre, FOP

Generating HTML from XML using the Extensible Stylesheet Language for Transformation (XSLT) is relatively straightforward, but we required a tool for generating the paper version (our printer does not yet have a network connection :-). At this stage the Apache project announced the latest version of FOP, their print formatter driven by XSL formatting objects ( which produces PDF files. This is what we used for the last issue of the newsletter.

This issue should be better than the previous one. However, there is still a lot of work to be done before FOP produces a really professional result, but given the number of people working on these Apache projects, I expect them to get better rapidly.

Mick is a lecturer in the School of Computer Science & Information Systems, Birkbeck, University of London.