Java News from Wednesday, December 3, 2003

The Guardian is reporting that the U.S. Army has fired five of the six lawyers recruited to represent the few prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who will actually be tried. The fired lawyers consisted exclusively of U.S. military officers. We're not talking about Jonnie Cochran here. Apparently even these people felt the trial conditions were too ridiculous to stomach. I remember my grammar school teachers telling us how evil the Soviet Union was because they used unfair show trials to convict political prisoners. I wonder what St. Catherine's is teaching the kids today?

One small (very small) positive note: The Yaser Esam Hamdi, an American citizen and "enemy combatant" being held in the contintental U.S., will be allowed access to a lawyer. Or at least he will unless it looks like the lawyer might actually accomplish something, in which case I'm sure the lawyer will be taken away.

One very important reason for having a system of checks and balances, for actually requiring evidence and proof to convict somebody, is to make sure that the process actually works, that the genuinely guilty parties are charged and go to jail. The rules do not merely exist to protect the rights of the innocent and the accused. A system that does not allow meaningful defense leads to lazy cops and lazy prosecutors who arrest anyone they can get their hands on, and toss them in jail so they can say they caught the bad guy, whether they actually did or not. When the police and the prosecutors know their assertions will be actively challenged and must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, they work harder. They do a better job. The right people are more likely to go to jail. A system that allows almost anybody to be convicted on only the slimmest evidence or no evidence at all is much more likely to leave the real evildoers at large.

Syntext has released Serna 1.1.0, a $299 payware XSL-based WYSIWYG XML Document Editor for Windows and Linux. Features include on-the-fly XSL-driven XML rendering and transformation, on-the-fly XML Schema validation, and spell checking. Version 1.1.0 adds TEI support, DITA stylesheet updates, and bug fixes.

Pricing is reduced to $149 until the end of the year. If you want support past the first 30 days, it will cost you $99 extra. Personally, I'm not willing to pay for any product that doesn't include support. Especially with end-user software of this nature, it's not like support is so expensive or frequent that it requires a separate price. I can sort of accept that a company might charge for support for some developer tools where support essentially involves extensive debugging work in the user's own code. However, for an end-user tool like this, there are really only three reasons a user will call support:

All of these are the vendor's own fault, and the vendor should eliminate them. It is essential that all these problems be seen as costs to the vendor rather than profit centers. Charging for support gets the incentives exactly backwards. It becomes in the vendor's interest to make the product buggy and hard to use.

Kiyut Software has released Sketsa 1.5, a $39 shareware SVG editor written in Java 1.4. I note they don't charge anything extra for support.