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From Ben Laurie <>
Subject Re: XML configuration revisited
Date Mon, 11 Oct 1999 21:12:56 GMT
Stefano Mazzocchi wrote:
> Ben Laurie wrote:
> > Actually, I don't think it was lack of code that stalled the discussion,
> > but an embarassment of options on how to solve the "XDTD problem".
> [...]
> > ...I think that until you think about how to integrate subsystems you
> > haven't addressed any problems that don't fall into the realm of the
> > bleedin' obvious(tm). To take a really trivial Apache example, some
> > modules have some configuration that can appear within <VirtualHost ...>
> > sections, and some that can't. The XDTD should define this, rigorously.
> > Somehow. Ideally in a way that everyone thinks is good and is
> > standardised.
> There are solutions to this problem but require a significant perpective
> change.
> 1) Do not validate.
> Let XML be well-formed and let the server understand if the format has a
> valid meaning. This is what currently happens with both Apache and
> java.apache projects. Wellformness, is these cases, is ASCII compliance
> (which we take for granted!)
> This solution allows you to remove the "contract" inside the DTD and
> replace it with documentation. Exactly like it's done today. True, part
> of the XML idea is lost.

No, Apache config _is_ validated.

> 2) Use namespaces.
> Let every module define it's namespace and it's own DTD. Currently the
> XML spec doesn't allow this, but the XSchema WG is specifically working
> to integrate what you defined as "XDTD", thus the ability to have
> different pars of the document being validated by different DTDs.
> The IBM XML4J parser (don't know about the C++ version) is currently
> supporting XSchema for validation, but I don't know its status.

Well, that's cool, but I'm not sure I understand the "own DTD" aspect:
we require a mix (that is, a module needs to be able to say "these tags
are valid within that other modules tag-so-and-so").

> 3) Use pseudo-RDF.
> Create a meta-configuration language which is what a group of four of us
> (Daniel Lopez Ridruejo, Eric Proud'Hommaux, Pierpaolo Fumagalli and
> myself) have been discussing at ApacheCon98.
> This XML should have information _about_ configurations and drive human
> interaction programs (either GUI, command line or web based) to create a
> valid configuration file.


> But this could very well be a superset of the configuration XSchema.


> To conclude: using a single DTD for configuration is too complicated,
> therefore it's not useful unless machine created.

Not quite sure I see why this rules it out?

> Since configurations should be human editable, we need a way to separate
> different validation rules on their contexts. Placing validation rule
> definition to the project/module developers, and allowing those
> validation rules to be _merged_ without influencing the "container" DTD.

Some validation is probably too complex to handle in "XDTD" but at
present Apache doesn't detect those: it just fails to work. The majority
of interesting cases are grammatical, IMO.

> I believe the XSchema spec is what we lack to provide such a
> configuration framework. Thing that would also allow configuration tools
> to work on every ASF project based on it.

That would be doublepluscool.




"My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those
who work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the
first group; there was less competition there."
     - Indira Gandhi

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