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software development and life.


Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Novell creates fork

It seems that Novell created a fork of The cause of this action is the fact that the Sun Microsystems currently controls the entire development process of and requires contributers to transfer code ownership to Sun. Some of them, for example the creator of a linear solver for OO.o Calc refuses to do so. Novell now provides a version of OO.o which incorporate these patches. I’m not sure if this will benefit the development of in a significant and positive way. It is a shame that Sun is making all key decisions with regard to the future of and as such preventing the developer community introducing novel ideas.
I still think that OO.o is missing an opportunity by effectively building an MS Office clone instead of a Office suite which implement the same functionality in a better (or at least different) way.

Gnome 2.20, MySQL 6

Recently, I did some reading on new software releases. Last week, a new version of Gnome was released which was not unexpected, considering the fact that Gnome has the aim to release a new version every six months. Gnome 2.20 does not contain revolutionairy features, but has some nice improvements. One improvement I like is the notification that the e-mail client Evolutions give when it thinks the user forgets to add an attachement to an e-mail. When an e-mail contains words indicating that the mail should contain an attachment, the system gives an warning that the user possibly forgets to include the attachement.

Evolution warning

Another useful improvement (not mentioned in the release notes) is the drag-and-drop functionality between File-roller and Nautilus. I think this kind of features are very important to get Gnome accepted by the general public.

A nice addition to the list of applications that are available for Gnome is Cheese, which is a clone of the Mac OS X application PhotoBooth.


Earlier this month, MySQL AB, the company behind the open source database MySQL, has released the second alpha version of MySQL 6. This upcoming version of the database system contains a new storage engine, called Falcon. This engine’s aim is to replace InnoDB as default storage engine. The company which developed InnoDB was bought by Oracle in 2005 and I think MySQL don’t like the idea that its main product is based on a storage engine developed by one of its competitors. Falcon is developed by Jim Starkey which became an employee of MySQL when it bought Starkey’s company Netfrastructure.

Starkey has researched some important technologies for database engines. While he was working for DEC, he was the first to implement multi versioning concurrency control (MVCC) and triggers. These technologies were integrated in InterBase which later became the basis for the open source database engine Firebird.

Falcon has some nice features, such as an advanced caching system, support for ACID-transactions, and row-level replication. It would definately give MySQL a enterprise ready storage engine, but they first have to finish it. Currently, according to preliminary benchmarks, the performance of Falcon is worse compared to InnoDB when storing and retrieving BLOB-data. But the potention is definately there, considering the fact that Falcon is still under development. However, MySQL has the target to release the final version in 2008, which may be a little optimistic.

I wrote an article of Falcon for (Dutch).

New release

A new version 2.3 of has been released. I have not yet tried the new version, so I’m not sure if it is really a n improvement over the previous version. Recently, there was some good news for the development progress, since IBM has announced to support development. According to various developers in the community, the lack of developers is the main problem of I wonder if this is also the cause of the fact that usability-wise, is in some area’s worse than what Microsoft provides with its office suite.

I’m not a very frequent user of, so I’m not really an expert in, but I think the development team missed an opportunity to beat Microsoft by just doing things the right way and make it more user friendly than Microsoft Office. For example, it is very hard to select another language than the default for a document. For some odd reason, this has to be done in the settings for a paragraph, but there are also language dropdowns in the spell checker and the ‘options’ menu. Such an essential task should be more easy to be done.
Apple has done a better job with its iWorks suite. It seems they really tought about the usability and did not start with the ‘standard way’ office suites implement their interfaces. This resulted in a different userinterface compared to the competition, but definately an improvement over its competitors. Maybe, in the feature we will see this kind of improvements also in the open source office suites. It seems that office suite developers are starting to understand this problem, since the latest release of Microsoft Office shows an entirely different user interface which – on some points – is definitely an improvement over the previous version. However, it should be noted that I’m not an Microsoft Office user, so I’m not sure if it is also an improvement in daily use.

Setting up development tools on Mac OS X

Because I now use a Macbook for development, I had to install some stuff I needed for development. Unfortunately, Mac OS X does not provide a convenient method to install all the stuff using a single tool (such as apt-get/Synaptic on Ubuntu), but installing some basic stuff is not very difficult. After some research, I choose to install the following packages:

  • MySQL
  • PostgreSQL
  • PHP 5
  • Eclipse

Read on for the location of the packages I used (more…)

Open source photography

For people who think the only solution to have decent photo editing software, is to use a pirated version of Adobe Photoshop or Painshop Pro, there is a site called ‘Open Source Photography’. The site is all about (digital) photography and processing photographs using open source software. It contains tutorials on The Gimp, Illustrator and other software and provides information on other tools. The site focus on users, and I think this kind of initiatives makes open source software more accessible to common people.

Ordening stuff

Last weeks I cleaned up a lot of stuff, both virtual and real life. Almost all build-in cupboards are reordered, including the creation of new shelves. Working in an ordered environment makes your head cleaner is my experience. I also cleaned up most harddisks in my computers and servers. In order to not lose anything, I decided it would be nice to have automatically backups. So I fetched my Learning Perl book and wrote a nice backupscript which create tar.gz files of the most important directories (/etc, ~, www) and my database. A lot of drives should crash simultaneously in order to actual lose data. I also fixed my self-signed certificates for my e-mail. A nice tutorial on how to create self-signed certificates can be found here

Ook Vista designer vindt besturingssysteem matig

Op 11 januari had ik een discussie in een besloten forum een korte discussie over de gebruiksvriendelijkheid van Windows. Met name de gebruikersinterface van het besturingssysteem vind ik op sommige punten echt slecht (overigens hebben ook Mac OS X en Linux dergelijke gebreken, maar daar ging het nu niet om). Ik gaf toen als voorbeeld het aansluiten van hardware op een Windows-systeem, en de hoeveelheid overbodige handelingen dit met zich meebrengt. Ik zal een relevant onderdeel van de discussie citeren (de cursieve tekst is van mij afkomstig, de rest van de tekst is van een ander):

Als je onder Mac OS X een printer aansluit, dan kun je deze gebruiken zonder dat er eerst allerlei ‘meldingen’ komen. Windows komt weer met allerlei pop-upjes die zeggen ‘nieuwe hardware gevonden’, ‘printer xxx gedetecteerd’, ‘uw printer is nu klaar voor gebruik’ (en als je pech hebt moet je ook nog een paar keer ‘next’, ‘next’, ‘next’ klikken). Die informatie is niet erg interessant,

Jij vindt die informatie niet interessant. Ik vind het wel zo handig als de printer niet print, ik tenminste wel weet dat Windows hem goed gedetecteerd heeft. Als ik dus een printer in een Apple-plug en het ding print niet, kan ik op zoek gaan of het nou aan de driver, de software, de kabel of de printer ligt, want ik weet niet eens of ie goed geïnstalleerd is [/gechargeerd] 😉

omdat het logisch is dat hij, zodra je hem aansluit, klaar voor gebruik is. Ze moeten alleen een melding geven als er een probleem is.

Als mijn usb-poort defect/niet geïnstalleerd is vind ik het heel sterk dat een OS op magische wijze een melding kan genereren dat je er wel iets ingeplugd hebt. Met Windows merk ik tenminste van ‘tiens, vreemd, geen popupje dat de printer geïnstalleerd is, er is iets mis’. Dat vind ik zelf een voordeel omdat ik het zo gewend ben.

Tot mijn verbazing ben ik niet de enige die dit vindt. Tjeerd Hoek, van oorsprong een Nederlandse Industrieel Ontwerper, tegenwoordig ‘Design Director’ bij Microsoft zei het volgende tijdens de Nederlandse lancering van Windows Vista:

Vooral het ‘device management’ is hem een doorn in het oog: het inpluggen, installeren en configureren van hardware moet veel duidelijker en eenvoudiger gemaakt worden. Daarnaast heeft de ontwerper nog wel enkele ideeën rond zogenaamde ‘notifications’: meldingen van het systeem of vragen die door het systeem gesteld worden. In het ideale geval moet het mogelijk worden om een soort van ‘interrupt rules’ zoals hij het noemt op te stellen, vergelijkbaar met regels in een mailbox. Zo zou de gebruiker kunnen bepalen welke vragen en meldingen voorgeschoteld mogen worden en op welke manier dat moet gebeuren.

Precies dus die dingen die ik in ook al als voorbeeld van zwakke punten van Windows aanvoerde. Ik snap alleen niet waarom dat pas in de toekomst kan worden gefixt. Dergelijke zaken zorgen er naar mijn mening juist voor dat een besturingssysteem wel of niet als ‘eenvoudig’ en gebruiksvriendelijk wordt beschouwd. Ik kan me niet voorstellen dat 10 van de 10.000 ontwikkelaars die aan Vista zouden hebben gewerkt hier niet een paar weken aan konden besteden…

New Linux kernel

Today, a new Linux-kernel is released. 2.6.20 does come with Playstation 3 support. Also, this is the first kernel with virtualization technologies integrated. KVM and support for hypervisors/paravirtualization are now included in the kernel. See a list of features here.

Computer Science dying?

Neil McBride, a principal lecturer in the School of Computing at De Montfort University, has an interesting article about the feature of computer science at universities. He claims that the current CS-courses are disconnected from the reality. IT-workers hardly develop new systems from scratch, but has to cope with existing systems and are doing less technical work, but more social and business related work. This is mainly caused by the fact that computers are not mysterious anymore. A few decades ago, only at universities computers were common and it was a true art to get a computer doing something useful. Today, an eight-year-old can design and use a robot without programming. On the other hand, in countries such as India and China are full with graduated programmers working for a much lower salary than ‘western’ programmers.
He claims that coming years CS-courses, like the one currently existing, have to change. He doesn’t come with a prefixed solution, but points out some ideas. At his university, the CS-degree does not assume programming as an essential skill, other skills are more important for a computer scientist. I’m not sure if I agree with this, because I think an understanding of the fundamentals of programming are relevant in order to understand computer related problems and to think of sensible solutions. I think it is important for current CS-students not to focus on the technical part only, and to develop a broad skillset. It is important to understand businesses, a little bit of psychology and market developments. During my study I saw a large number of students thinking that it is sufficient to have knowledge of systems which are currently used (mostly the Microsoft productline, consisting of Windows, Visual Studio and Office). However, it is not very likely that in about ten years, this is the same. When you asked them questions about open source projects, they turned it down with statements like ‘it is to difficult’ or ‘… doesn’t run on Linux’. They clearly doesn’t have any knowledge on this part of the IT-market. In my opinion it is deadly for a CS-graduated to be this narrow sighted.

Talk about business models with KDE

Last Thursday, I went to a talk organized by the OSBC about how to use open source software in a business. The talk was given by Sebastian Kuegler, one of the members of the KDE Marketing group. The talk was very interesting and the questions asked by the audience were also very interesting. I think there is definitely a growing interest in open source in common (small) businesses, which is a good thing. However, there are certainly some gaps in the total product open source can offer. Especially in the marketing department there is a lot of work to be done. It seems to me that KDE is a little bit more ready for adoption in businesses than Gnome is. They seems to have a better message prepared for the public, with clear solutions for independent software vendors.

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