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Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Some more on OpenXML

Migual de Icaza wrote a lengthy article on the Open Document Format vs. OpenXML discussion. One of his points is that the size of the OpenXML specification is not a problem, because ODF lacks essential parts in the specification of the spreadsheet document format, which makes it impossible to implement a spreadsheet solely based on the ODF specification (the specification on formulas is missing). OpenXML will probably by sufficient to implement an office application ‘from scratch’. I think this is a reasonable observation, and therefor I think the OpenXML specification isn’t that bad after all. Another point he makes is that first everybody was complaining about the fact that MS did not disclose the specification of its file formats, and now the company does, people are complaining it is ‘too much’. De Icaza: “If anything, if I was trying to interoperate with Microsoft products, I would request more, not less.”. I think he has more knowledge about these issues than I have, because he was one of the developers on the Gnumeric spreadsheet, which was one of the first non-Microsoft applications fully compatible with Microsoft Excel’s document format.
Another issue he mentions is that ODF is not perfect, and that a standardization of OpenXML is not a real problem for the success of open source software. He points out that open standards in general are a Good Thing and that has that point as clear advantage over Microsoft Office (which uses closed standards until the release of Office 2007). This made it a little bit easier to get governmental organizations using instead of MS Office. Now that this advantage is not there anymore, open source software should compete on technical grounds instead of political grounds.

Watch out for OpenXML

Jono Bacon, community manager of Ubuntu, calls everybody to protest against the standardisation of Microsoft’s OpenXML format as an ECMA standard and European ISO/IEC standard. While I’m not very involved in the discussion of the various word processing document formats, I think it is better that everybody uses one common standard. Because OpenDocument was the first of this kind of formats to become an international standard, I think it is reasonable that everybody uses this standard. I think it is not a good idea to let Microsoft again decide about the standards for the document formats used in word processors (and other office software), because the prove in the past that they do not like to let others use their format and seems to be incapable to define a decent standard.
According to Jono Bacon, the OpenXML standard is 6000 pages, but Microsoft is trying to make it a standard using a ‘fast track’ procedure.

Linux with Beryl: almost as good as Mac OS X

I’ve used Mac OS X almost exclusively for about 1,5 year. I especially liked the nice effects and the fact that things ‘just work’. Now, since a few weeks, I’m using Ubuntu Edgy Eft on my laptop and this week installed it on my old Athlon PC with Nvidia GeForce 4 graphics board. I enabled Compiz this week (see previous post) and now installed Beryl. This last engine is even nicer than Compiz (but according to the changelog of Compiz, a lot of the features of Beryl are also available in the latest development versions of Compiz). Beryl makes Linux almost as usable als Mac OS X. The software was already available (Firefox, Thunderbird, Gaim,, Eclipse, Gvim, The Gimp, Inkscape and Xchat are the programs I use the most) but with Beryl the usability and visual effects are almost as good, and sometimes even better. Especially the Exposé emulation and the trailfocus is very nice and actually improves the usability. I also installed Beagle and Deskbar. I have Beagle installed because of the engine, and use Deskbar as my main search program. This way, the functionality of Deskbar is similar to Spotlight on the Mac, and allows you to search for documents, e-mails, programs, chatlogs, webpages and much more. Finally, there is Network-manager which makes it easier to configure your network and especially makes it a lot easier to use wireless networks with WPA en WEP encryption.

Unfortunately, most of these tools are not installed by default on Ubuntu Edgy Eft, however, Feisty Feist (version 7.04) of Ubuntu, will include most of the stuff I mentioned in this post. At least there will be 3d desktop acceleration, beagle, network-manager and (I assume) Deskbar. As a bonus, the Ubuntu developers aim to improve the multimedia support in Ubuntu. I think this last point will make Linux even more usable for the average person than ever.

Ironically, I stumble across the news that Gartner thinks that Mac OS X is more attractive for businesses as a desktop operating system than desktop Linux. While I have the opinion that both Mac OS X and Linux are more usable than Windows as desktop operating system, I’m not sure that one of them is better than the other. Both are based on Unix, and as such have some obvious advantages over Windows (most notably a better command line shell and better security model), but I think they have both their specialties. Mac OS X is more suited for people who work with proprietary software, such as Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and MS Office, while Linux is a better platform for developers (although Mac OS X could be used for this as well, but requires some more fiddling because of the lack of an integrated package manager such as RPM/Yum or dpkg/Apt/Synaptic.

Compiz on Ubuntu Edgy Eft

Today I managed to get Compiz working on my computer. Compiz makes it possible to use OpenGL for rendering your desktop, which makes it possible to add all kind of cool effects. It didn’t take very much time, but some driver troubles made it a little more difficult then expected. I have a nVidia GeForce 4 Ti4200 videocard in this computer, so it was required to install the binary nVidia driver. While this driver is shipped with Ubuntu Edgy Eft, it is necessary to install a newer version. Using this topic at the Ubuntu Forum, this was not very difficult. After some minor modifications of /etc/X11/xorg.conf (enabling Composition and adding Option "AddARGBGLXVisuals" "True", see this topic) everything works. Since the last time I tried AIGLX, there is a lot improved. The speed is much better and there are a lot more nice plugins, like wobbly windows, a rotating cube (for desktop switching), easy to configure transparent windows, a cool alt-tab window switch effect and an Exposé clone.

Exposé clone

Java available under GPL

It’s official: Sun will release Java under the GPLv2. Probably we will see Java by default in most Linux distributions. I think this announcement will also mark the start of a competition between the other ‘higher level’ development environment: .Net. Mono is also available under the GPL and is included by default already in most popular Linux distributions (Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse, Mandrake). Mono has a slight advantage in that it has the possibility to use native widgets for several operating systems, however, this requires to make different versions of a user interface for various operating systems. Java, on the other hand, has Swing – which is cross-platform, and also SWT. The latter is also cross-platform but also uses the native widgets of most operating systems. Also, there are more professional open source development environments for Java: Eclipse and NetBeans.
In my opinion this is a major step for the open source community. I wonder what the impact would be on the other open source Java implementation, known as GCJ/Classpath. Red Has is a major contributer to this project, but I doubt they will continue to invest in this project when there is a viable alternative already available. On advantage that GCJ had on J2SE is that GCJ has the possibility to compile Java programs to binaries which probably run faster.

GPL for Sun Java

According to CRN, Sun will probably release the source of Java under the GPL. This is a very smart move, I think, because it makes it possible to include the Standard and Mobile Edition of Java in most Linux distributions. On the other hand it renders the GCJ project rather useless. A GPL’ed J2SE makes it possible to use a completely free development platform, ranging from the compiler and runtime environment (J2SE and J2RE), development platform (Eclipse), application server (Tomcat) and database (Hibernate in combination with MySQL, PostgreSQL, Firebird or MaxDB (the former SAPdb)).
Sadly, it is not official yet and Sun doesn’t want to confirm anything. I think it would be a very good move from Sun, because it would become one of the few real open source companies (among Red Hat, MySQL and IBM). It doesn’t make any difference for the profitability for Sun, because Java was already available for free. I’m not sure but as far as I know, Sun has not many software you have to pay for. Most software is available under some kind of open source license (mostly CDDL) including Solaris. They probably will make most of their many with hardware sales and service and support.

Still alive

Yes, I’m still alive. I didn’t write much lately, mainly because I had some troubles with my life and the very hot weather. I hope I will be able to write some interesting stuff the coming weeks.
My girlfriend decided this week that she wanted to get some time for herself in order to determine if she still likes our relationship (at the moment she thinks she doesn’t). The reason for this, is that I was having some mental problems (maybe I was a little depressed the last few weeks?), but didn’t talk about it with her. Additionally, I didn’t work very hard on my final project for my Msc. grade, which caused some friction in our relationship as well.
Currently I’m staying at my parents house in order to get things sorted out. Life ain’t easy. I really hope we will be able to get our relation working again, because she definately is the girl of my dreams and I really don’t want to lose her. Time will tell.

On other news, I started programming on the OntoAIMS project, in order to finish my graduation project. I also started learning Perl, which is a very nice language for easy tasks. Especailly the regular expressions, which are also implemented in other languages, are very nice. While I already had some knowledge on Perl compatible regular expressions, I definately learned some new things and it is also nice to know how to use these things in the language for which they were originally developed.

Three OS’es on MacBook

The Dutch site has a videon online which shows a MacBook (the black edition, so it is a 2,0GHz version) which is running both Mac OS X, Windows (Vista?) and Ubuntu Dapper Drake (beta) on the same time. In order to achieve this, the virtualisation software from Parallels is used. In the video also a virtual desktop application is used, in this case Virtue, so it is possible to run every os full screen on its own desktop. It looks pretty fast on the video and certainly faster than using VMware or something on a Pentium M (which I have in my laptop). Probably this is caused by the Virtualisation Technology from Intel which is build into the Core Duo processor in the MacBook. I think it would be very nice to run Mac OS X and Linux at the same time at almost native speed… The Gimp for example is on Linux a lot faster than on Mac OS X, in my experience.

Helping people is a crime?

Today I read about this article on Slashdot. It is written by a teacher who helped a student reporting a vulnerability on a public (commercial?) website. Because shortly after their report the website was hacked and the police investigated the case, they were almost treated like criminals. I think this is ridiculous. It is almost the same that you will get arrested when you report a suspicious bag on a railway station or warn a house owner when you see that he left his front door open. Fortunately, here in the Netherlands there is no law which enables the police to arrest people for reporting a vulnerability as far as I know (and according to a teacher at our university). Hopefully the EU will not take the US law as an example for this kind of stuff, because the people over there who created this law are obviously not aware of the daily practice regarding the discovery of flaws in software. A typical example of the ignorance of some politician.
The teacher in the article concludes that you should destroy all the evidence that you are aware of an existing vulnerability and certainly not tell the developer/site owner about the bug. While it may be the best thing to do, it is really crazy that you should do this. How the hell do politician want the get a ‘safer and better world’ when it is not allowed to report defects? On the other side, it explains the growing number of spam, the increase in identity theft, the new problems with phising and so on… if they are not going to change this laws and rules, I think we are only seeing the beginning of these things.

Impressive Xgl demo

On the weblog Pubcrawler is an impressive video of the new Xgl Xserver. The video shows a presentation of Dave Reveman, showing the various features of Xgl, such as transparent windows, switching virtual deskops using a 3D-cube, OpenGL accelerated video’s and OpenGL applications which seems to intergrate very well in de user interface. I wonder what videocard one should use in order to achieve these results. At least I think there have to be good OpenGL drivers available for your videocard… I doubt that there are videocards with open source drivers which will work good with Xgl.

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