February 1999 Decision made Gnu/Linux identified as the most attractive way forward. Perl works as it should on the platform. I have had a good time with NT but it is resource hungry. (more recently I hear MS has plans to do something to address its shortcomings in the Perl department). 289
a better way
March 1999 Lex Mercatoria site down. Critical hard disk failure. Have been working on a new site - all texts being generated by Perl scripts, which greatly improve the ease of maintenance. A trip to Norway is called for. Question is whether to get the old site back up, or push on to have the new site ready as soon as possible.
8th March 1999 Ralph Amissah - made a Fellow of the Institute of International Commercial Law, School of Law, Pace University, White Plains, NY, USA
17th May 1999 New site is ready, planned hosting in Norway and the US as detailed in the credits at the bottom of the pages.
More efficient techniques used in creating the site.
May 27-29, 1999 Lex Mercatoria back on the air and grateful to the Law Faculty of the University of Oslo for hosting the site. Somewhat streamlined, possibly slightly smaller than we were and for the time being, but technically superior to anything that we have been (construction of the site is fully automated with only one page being manually constructed) and with the potential to become better yet. At this time the home page is the only manually generated page on the site, which is once again hosted on a UNIX platform (Sun Solaris running Apache) which happens to be what the University of Oslo uses.
May Scripts (numbering system etc.) have been used at the request of Albert Kritzer and Richard Hainebach to produce a Kluwer text Uniform Law for International Sales, Sales under the 1980 United Nations Convention, Third Edition by John O. Honnold, Schnader Professor of Commercial Law Emeritus University of Pennsylvania, Secretary, UNCITRAL, and Chief, U.N. International Trade Law Branch, 1969 - 1974, Kluwer Law International. Also made kindly made available by Kluwer for testing of scripts International Project Finance by Hoffman. At some point prepared content from the Trade Law Project (prepared by our scripts) is noticed within the Kluwer Arbitration site, did not have a problem with this, but the direction of content flow should remain clear.
2nd June 1999 LexMercatoria regenerated with first set of "bugs" cleared most documents should now have titles, which are required for meaningful query results from the search engine. (any fresh bugs will be corrected in next update).
14th July 1999 There has been quite an extensive update of the site though much remains to be done. For a trial period of three weeks we will try to wean you off our old home page and trust you will be able to find your way about our new one. If your browser supports redirection, you will be redirected to the auto-generated page one minute after the old home page has been fully loaded. Unless there is good reason to reconsider we are likely to phase out the old home page, in time.
Download times for the site would speed up considerably if we dropped the use of tables on long documents, and we are considering this. This is particularly noticeable if you (like myself at present) are not amongst the privileged with broadband Net access. There are bound to be a few bugs. Not all files have yet been transferred from the old site to the new, though the new site contains a more up to date set of documents. Our old file system was insensitive to case, the new file system is case sensitive, some links may not yet be fully compliant. Patience, these and any other issues will be addressed.
6th December 1999 Another new interface for the site is under test, the result of another generation of improvement in our site building tools (collectively fondly nicknamed SiSU). Information on the text presentations and navigation is available 290 . There is much greater consistency in presentation and viewing should have been enhanced and (for most part) made faster, across most graphical browsers and platforms. What we unfortunately do not provide examples of and so you will not see is that it is particularly well suited to the electronic publication of books, and has been tested on several legal academic and practitioners texts of over 500 pages. In parts of the site there are likely to be some "bugs", these however bad they look, should from a technical standpoint be minor to correct.
Status as of year end 1999 The document providing information on the text presentations and navigation contains a summary of the year from that perspective which is copied below:
The site has undergone a facelift for the Millennium, but in most respects our focus with regard to the presentation of documents has remained the same. We hope it results in an improved user experience.
In 1993 we boldly set out amongst other things:
"To explore, utilize and demonstrate the potential of the new IT mediums insofar as they pertain to our chosen subject area."
We have largely achieved this goal in demonstrating how various complicated legal (and other) documents of different content, structures and sizes can be can be presented on the Net using simple html.
If we have been limited in the possibilities that we have explored and utilized, our path has been selected by figuring out what could be achieved most effectively/ successfully with limited resources. We have stuck to a few basic tools and rules of thumb, and have gained considerable experience in: getting the most out of the basic text markup language of the Web, html, without frills; efficient site management; the selection and effective use of basic tools (an editor, markup languages, scripting languages); and how to efficiently maintain cross platform (server and browser) compatibility in our product, through the selection and careful use of inter-operable and preferably open standards, and focus of effort on (few of) what we determine to be key complementary technologies. Our approach has been to identify simple, effective and efficient tools and solutions and to get the most out of them. In effect we have been exploring what can be made of technologies that are available to anyone on the Net. We have also kept an eye on other IT technologies that we do not necessarily use but provide for your perusal and benefit through the maintenance of an information technology compendium.
In the construction of this site our primary focus has remained since the outset (1993) been on presenting texts using html in a convenient manner. It has in part represented an experiment in how best this might be done for our purposes. The results remain as good as can be found anywhere for publications using html 4.0.
Our aim has been to be able to provide and create and maintain efficiently high quality usable presentations of texts (legal, academic, practitioner's, & including conventions, rules, contracts) whilst avoiding unnecessary complexity, indeed, so far it has been achieved using the most basic of markup languages on the Net, plain html with the help of Perl scripts 291 for its transformation from ascii.
Our 1996 list of design criterion for text presentations has now been met and implemented consistently throughout the site [though a few bugs may still remain]. Whilst most individual requirements set were met as early as 1997, presentations have been continuously improved upon. The rationalisation of how best to achieve consistent presentation across various types of text, and its implementation is a feature of the 1999. 292 An idea of these criterion may be gleaned from the contents of this document.
The year's changes improve the site and to provide greater utility from text presentations, including: greater consistency between different types of presentation; improved navigation of the site and individual texts; faster loading and better rendition of texts across different types of browser, the main ones we support being Opera, Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, (and we expect Konquerer).
The programs that generate the site have been tested on several books (academic and practitioner's texts) of over 500 pages, and the results are particularly well suited for their electronic presentation. The text navigation and presentation features (generated by the site generation program) come to their own on these longer texts, in which it is easy to appreciate the utility of the resulting document presentations.
So on the technical front we are now, in a sense, free to set new goals, and indeed may look in a number of additional directions. The site has concentrated on making the most of html presentations across most modern browsers, and without making concession to having different presentations for different types of browser. In future we may also present texts as in RTF and possibly pdf, but our primary additional focus will be on XML and we will look at xhtml. /PHP/ being open source and designed for cross-platform functionality is of interest. We may if requested go back to having (in addition) html presentations without our paragraph numbering. In mentioning these possibilities we perhaps run a bit ahead of ourselves, as far as this text is concerned.
Introduce a navigation page describing how to use the auto-generated pages on Lex Mercatoria ‹http://www.jus.uio.no/lm/navigation/doc.html›
"Always remembering that we remain a small unit and will continue to do what we can."
289. This proved to be one of the best decisions I made in technology, that Gnu/Linux is more stable, less resource hungry was immediately evident, but that it gives you so much room to grow and take advantage of its rich offerings ... well, ... you learn with time, at least I did. Gnu/Linux offers better performance, reliability, scalability, security and total cost of ownership. And generally a more powerful and flexible environment in which to invest technology skills. My opinion of course.
291. We have a suit of in house Perl scripts (collectively called SiSU) that are used to generate the site from ascii with the minimum initial markup required to enable the possibility of generation of the texts on this site in html. We will build upon these scripts and the ascii files in further developing the site and approaching other forms of text markup.
292. This in part spurred on by the disk failure of March 1999 and the need to further improve the efficiency of site maintenance, fortunately the requirement of this need was complementary to that of achieving greater consistency in the presentation of texts.
Eric von Hippel
Erik S. Raymond