Loud ramblings of a Software Artisan

Friday 31 December 2004

AbiWord unit testing (in progress)

I have been working on AbiWord unit test framework. I went with ripping WvTest off WvStreams for integration into the source tree. It is pretty straightforward and quite simple to use; all that I wanted. If it is too complicated people won't use it, like it is with the use of Doxygen for our own internal documentation.

Here is a little overview on how it works:

#include "tf_test.h"
#include "my_source.h"

TFTEST_MAIN("test decription")
{
	my_class c;
	TFPASS(c.foo());
	TFFAIL(c.has_error());
}

It is all integrated in the build system and even use valgrind APIs as a bonus. I need to put some more polish before committing it. No problem, 2.2 is still not branched. Stuff left to do is:

  • create the test make target
  • wrap to run valgrind if found
  • change configure to detect valgrind APIs (used by the test)
  • finish the documentation
  • write more unit test

Unit testing is probably really boring, but it is really really useful. You can find a breakage on the core of the code with it, you can even use it to develop your code. I did that for a few weeks, because either I couldn't run the whole beast or because it is was simplier. I did wrote my C++ code and write the unit test at the same time (required by internal company policy) and then just test everything with a make test. When I finally ran the whole program it was working by itself. Writing unit test does not take a long time if you do it at the same time and use them for immediate testing.

Thursday 30 December 2004

Wifi 802.11g card for Linux

rt2x00 is a project to support Ralink RT2400 and RT2500 chipset for 802.11b and g. The really interesting bit is that Ralink release their Linux driver under GPL, unlike most of the other manufacturers. So I'd encourage anyone willing to get a 802.11g card to run on Linux to get one using RT2500.

I personaly haven't tested it, but I put that on my list.

Wednesday 29 December 2004

Why DRM is evil.

Cory Doctorow of boingboing.net respond to some pro-DRM speech. Really insightful.

Tuesday 28 December 2004

When to not use a word processor

Newsforge has an interesting article about When to not use a word processor. Insightful.

Linux on Linksys routers

Linksys WRT54G are already known to run Linux and Linksys provide the source code. OpenWRT is project dedicated to provide an Open replacement for the Linksys WRTG firmware (and other compatible hardware). Seriously tempting to play with.

Next generation hearing protected CDs

Looks like buying CDs in 2005 will require even more care: XCP is scary. Wait and see. I hope labeling will be appropriate. I'd be afraid to have to return CDs because I can't read them.

Monday 27 December 2004

Picture of the day, December 27th 2004

This picture of Paris' cityscape has been taken 25km away from Paris in October 2001 from my father's house terrasse.

It is slide film, exposed using with my 100-300 USM zoom lens, and reframed horizontally.

Microsoft TOP 10 resolutions for 2005

Microsoft top 10 resolutions for 2005 as the strategical choice to be made. Direction Microsoft, despite being independent, is completely devoted to them.

Let's sum up the interesting bits.

3. Security, Security, Security

... In fact, the bad guys seem to be winning. Before anyone gets on the Internet the first time these days they need a PC already protected by the latest service packs and security patches, an antivirus program, an antispyware program, and training on how to avoid phishing exploits. ...

I'd put that #1 just for the respect of the customer, but apparently they don't have the same values. Given the number of security flaws found every week, the problem is more important than you think. And they admit that the bad guys win.

6. Put a Lid on Open Source

.... On the desktop, the company must recognize that its monopoly is no longer safe. ...

With this they recognize the importance of Open Source. Remember they just reformed the disbanded Internet Explorer team to counter FireFox. Internet Explorer haven't had any new feature for 2 years, since Netscape death.

They really think that their monopoly is in danger and they cannot do like they did for Netscape: switch off the cash pump. Mozilla project can't be shutdown has it as already been and is still alive. Even sponsored development like OpenOffice wouldn't.

9. When I’m 64

... Sales of 64-bit Windows versions on new hardware could make a measurable contribution to Microsoft’s revenue growth, particularly since this OS could be priced at a premium. ...

64-bits support. Apparently this will cost a lot, in software license, to people. Here Linux is way in advance, and it will not cost more in software license.

10. Play Well with Others

They realize that Microsoft is not playing well, and they fear the the lawsuit are just gonna cost Microsoft billions of dollars.

They exaclty emphasize the dangers and the power of Microsoft and what we should expect for 2005.

Update: I forgot to say that I got the pointer from Standblog (fr)

Will open source apps kill open source desktops ?

Since the begining, AbiWord has been written to be an cross-platform application, and ran on Windows and UN*X with Gtk. We have always advocated this, and when people did ask us "why Windows ?" in Open Source conference, we always ended up saying that it was part of the freedom of choice we wanted to offer. After all, AbiWord is Free Software.

The other argument was that it is easier to move apps that to move the whole desktop to Free Software, and that could help doing the first step, which would allow the second step. After all, OS and desktop environment are meant to run applications, not the opposite.

Recently Aaron J. Seigo, a KDE developer, pretended that Open Source apps will kill Open Source desktops.

Like Sean Parson, I don't agree with Aaron. Here is my point.

First an OS is a way to run applications. This is often what decide the choice of the OS. They won't use the OS if they don't have the application they need. Take apart the motivation of using Free Software exclusively and let consider the case of the user willing to switch if he can get a replacement for all his applications. Switching people to Free Software Operating System is not an easy task.

Starting by replacing application by versions that runs also on Free Software Operating Systems is probably the best way to proceed because not every applicaiton might have a replacement. This is more and more true with enterprise computing where they have custom apps designed with Windows in mind. So, replace IE by Firefox and OE by ThunderBird. Replace MS-Office by OpenOffice.org (this replacement are only based on current trend). Without changing the operating system and without finding replacement for some apps, you still have freed the desktop more than it was. These application wouldn't be running on Windows, nobody in the Enterprise IT would have even an argument to even think about migrating to it. Most of the time they are locked into Windows with other chains like these little apps they spend thousand if not millions of $ into.

Mark Carter explains why he use Windows XP, and all the applications as free software, telling he has eveything he need as Free Software to run on Windows, and that Linux lack support for hardware there is no spec for. This basically brings water to Aaron J. Seigo mill. But it also explains why it is still good, because Mark use Free Software, and it will be easier to make him switch once he get his problems with Linux solved.

So in fact it is important that Free Software applications runs on proprietary operating system. It does not dismiss the effort of the Free Software Operating System, au contraire. It brings them credibility by demonstrating theire interoperability.

Thursday 23 December 2004

EU vs Microsoft

Microsoft have lost against EU in a trial for monopoly abuse. Liberation has an article (fr) as well as the Register "European court to rule on MS sanctions" and ''MS loses Europe appeal, will ship WMP-free Windows version'' (en). Basically, Microsoft will have to unbundle Windows Media Player and will have to provide information for interoperability with other operating system. They could not provide the deep prejudice that this ruling would make them, so they have been confirmed by court.

Consequence, they have to release a new Windows version without WMP, until the end of the appeal that may or may not confirm this.

In the same, Poland said no to submarine vote for Software Patent (The Register).

Tuesday 21 December 2004

Adobe Acrobat reader on Palm

Adobe is gently providing an Acrobat Reader for Palm. But why the hell do I need to have a Windows or MacOS computer to install it ? Can't they provide a .zip version of the package instead of these proprietary format ? Obviously not. Much like Canon and their firmware.

And as usual, no contact info.

Gotta have to look for an alternative.

Update: found more info why this require a Mac or Windows.

No more MacOS X development

Since I no longer do MacOS X development, for AbiWord, I unsubscribed from the MacOS X development mailing lists to free up some e-mail reading time and mailbox cluttering.

Let's make a brief history. In September 2000 I was no longer really believing in Mac, even though I have been a real Mac freak, advocating with more and less pragmatism Mac as the best computing solution. But there was that thing, MacOS X, about to be released as a public beta, that raised my interest. At that time I was already using Linux on the company provided IBM ThinkPad 600E, and it was working great for me. But I decided to go ahead, and bought an Apple PowerBook G3/400 FireWire. I bought this machine because it was a laptop, did run MacOS X Public Beta about to be released, and did run Linux correctly already. My main goal was to port AbiWord on MacOS X. That is what I mostly did, in too much time.

Today, my PowerBook is running Linux and it is my fastest Linux machine. It is running Linux bacause I needed a faster Linux machine, because MacOS X development on that machine, despite the 384MB of RAM has been far too painful, and because at that time I had an iMac G4 1.25GHz available to me. I currently don't have any longer another Mac capable of running MacOS X, that's why I'm no longer developing on MacOS X. AbiWord now has a running version 2.2.2 for MacOS X, thanks to Frank who took over a couple of month ago after the code stalled because of my lack of hardware resource. I consider my goal achieved, even though I did not finish it. Such is life. Of course, I'd have such machine, I'd happily spend time work on it.

Cheap laptop Linux based

From Slashdot Walmart now sells sub-$500 (USD) notebooks. The don't run Windows, because of the cost of the OEM license, they run Linspire, a Linux based operating system. It is not a fast laptop as VIA-C3 1GHz CPU is not really snappy, but it is decent for most people use.

They also have more expensive models with faster CPUs include AMD Athlon, inlcuding one 50$ more expensive, with wireless and Window XP Home (sigh). The makes me think that the sub-$500 notebook is just overpriced, but under the $500 barrier.

So I wonder what is the real justification of using Linspire ? Because it just cost less enough to bring the price down under $500 ? I don't think, given that the XP license is something around $100, they could have done it on the other laptop as well, as well as stripping out wifi. And they would provide Linspire on the other models as well.

Monday 20 December 2004

iChat to support Jabber in MacOS X 10.4

According to AppleInsider, iChat will support Jabber in the next MacOS X version. Jabber is an open instant messenging system that proves to be more versatile than the other IM.

I think I already blogged about that earlier in September, but the articles are off-line.

OpenOffice.org 2.0 no longer free

According to the Inquirer, OpenOffice.org 2.0 makes use of HSQL Embedded database engine for its database component. The issue is that HSQL is written in Java and though require a Java runtime, which is not free, given the current state of the Free java reimplementation. The source code license has not changed, but this dependency is probably not the best choice, even thought it is also Free Software. Probably because Sun and Java are so closely related.

Unit testing

I started this week-end to implement unit testing in AbiWord. For now, I use WvTest class from WvStreams. I must do that before I start to work on rewritting the core framework. Perhaps should I look into cppunit and depend on that.

I also started using arch to have revision control on my own branch of AbiWord off the CVS tree.

Thursday 16 December 2004

Firefox ad

Firefox ad has been published in the New York Times. But it is a real shame that I can't view it with a Free PDF reader. xpdf 3.00 does not render it completely by just skipping the Firefox logo, Ghostscript just fail with an error. gpdf does not do better than xpdf, because it use the same engine.

Oh, and don't tell me to run Adobe Acrobat Reader on my box, it does not. There is not PowerPC binary for Acrobat, and we don't have the source code.

gphoto2 and libgphoto2 2.1.5

Yesterday I released gphoto2 and libgphoto2 2.1.5. We now support more than 500 cameras.

Wednesday 15 December 2004

SuSE 9.2

Got a Fedex package today: SuSE Linux Professionnal 9.2. Complimentary copy, I still don't know exactly why, but I suspect this is for my gphoto2 contributions. Problem: I still don't have a machine to install it on, since I still haven't a PC at home.

Thanks you SuSE.

One more iPod lock down

Looks like the Apple zealot will dislike this post. I'm sorry, but once again Apple decided to downgrade their iPod by locking down RealNetworks customers by preventing reading these tunes not purchased on iTMS.

Apple current practice is completely similar in the portable player market than Microsoft on the software market. They have a predominant market share with an attractive product, much like Microsoft once had, and they gained marketshare with a new attractive way to sell songs: iTMS. But iTMS songs require either iTunes or an iPod to be played. Actually, iTMS requires iTunes to buy a song, and iTunes is only available on Mac or the other predominent platform: Windows. One with the other make that Apple has the major marketshare with more than 90% of the portable hard-drive-based music players and may at least keep it. What will happen to customers that want to change their player and have some insane amount of iTMS purchased tunes ? Since Apple hasn't licensed their DRM, they'll have to either buy another iPod, or throw away their tunes.

I'll see from here a few people willing to tell that you can burn these songs in CD uncompressed. Sure! But have you listened to the recompressed result ? You've lost LOT of quality.

Update (Dec 15): apparently my phrasing was not accurate. I apologize. I said by preventing reading these tunes not purchased on iTMS. I should have said instead by preventing reading these DRMed tunes not purchased on iTMS. This does not prevent non DRM tunes to be played.

And I forgot to add (to reply to dave): DRM is evil and is just a way to screw up customers a little more. I have blogged about that in the past, but the articles aren't yet back online.

Update 2 (Dec 16): The Register has an article about this as well.

Update 3 (Dec 16): ArsTechnica also wrote about it.

Tuesday 14 December 2004

I hate viruses and spammers

Today, I receive lot of bounces for mail I never sent, that contain viruses. Apparently some **** in Spain (51.Red-81-38-96.pooles.rima-tde.net) has a virus on his Windows PC.

Do yourself a favor. Never use again Outlook Express or Outlook, and if you can avoid using Windows, that would be even better. These 2 3e-mail" programs are the widest virus spreader ever made. Use Thunderbird or any other available alternatives.

Monday 13 December 2004

AbiWord 2.2.2

AbiWord 2.2.2 has been tagged in CVS and source tarball released. More bug fixes. Binaries and announcements to come.

Sunday 12 December 2004

Ogg in iPod ?

Following Hadess' old advice, anyone who wants to have Ogg support into iPod should request it. Explicitely says that this is what prevents you from buying one. And you can also add about documentation to support iPod on other platforms, because currently everything is reverse engineered.

See my previous rant.

Friday 10 December 2004

Picture of the day, December 10th 2004

For month, not to say years, I wanted to have a photoblog. Since my Canon EOS 20D is gone for repairs, I cannot provide picture of the day. So I will rollback thru the archives, mostly film.

This picture has been taken in Boston, MA on September 1st 2001. This trip was generously sponsored by SMaL that wanted to meet me for a job interview. This is a reflection on the John Hancock tower. I wish I had been longer in that city. I actually spent 4 days... The sad thing is that I never worked for them after.

Google Suggest

Google Suggest is in beta. Impressive demo of JavaScript, but higly censored. Try the following word to seek suggestion for:

  • fu
  • erot
  • se
  • por

Okay, actually that should be kid safe.

AbiWord news room

Some articles about AbiWord:

  • MacGeneration follows MacNN by announcing AbiWord 2.2.1 for MacOS X. Again we (the AbiWord team) still haven't done any official announcement for Mac sites.
  • A few weeks ago PCWorld published an article about Open Source software at work. Abisource's free AbiWord word processor lets you create, open, and save files in Microsoft Word's .doc format, as well as in RTF, HTML, WordPerfect, and other standard formats. It includes a spell checker and supports more than 30 languages, including Hebrew and Arabic.. They link to the download page for 2.0.11 on Windows.
  • Framasoft (fr) updated their article (english version) about AbiWord. Framasoft is dedicated to migrating to Open Source and Free Software.

Wireless Hell

I'm sitting 2ft away from the access point and apparently I get no signal with my Airport card. Why ?

This card has worked at GUADEC. But I don't know about the AP, a Linksys Wifi router. Any clues ?

$ sudo /sbin/iwconfig eth1
eth1      IEEE 802.11-DS  ESSID:""  Nickname:"foo"
         Mode:Managed  Frequency:2.422 GHz  Access Point: 44:44:44:44:44:44
         Bit Rate:2 Mb/s   Tx-Power=15 dBm   Sensitivity:1/3
         Retry limit:4   RTS thr:off   Fragment thr:off
         Power Management:off
         Link Quality=0/92  Signal level=134/153  Noise level=134/153
         Rx invalid nwid:0  Rx invalid crypt:0  Rx invalid frag:0
         Tx excessive retries:0  Invalid misc:0   Missed beacon:0

Update (Dec 10): I just tried with a BEFW11, the 802.11B only version, by just pluging it in, and I get link. In short my router is probably DOA.

Thursday 9 December 2004

At last

At last, Mac news sites notice the new release of AbiWord WITH the MacOS X port. MacNN is the first one (at least that I follow). It took almost a week, which is slower than for gossips (no links provided). Better late than never.

Who will be next ?

CUPS startup times

I agree with Thom May & Daniel Stone startup measurements for Ubuntu Linux, when it comes to cupsd. CUPS can be slow to startup, even with an empty configuration. Unrelated to what he is doing, I discovered that CUPS does not start as fast as I wished.

Ubuntu Linux

Today, I upgraded from Debian to Ubuntu. Upgrade instructions are crystal clear. The trickiest part was the lack of disk space to download at once 400MB of packages.

But a few issues:

  • I can no longer switch workspace using ctrl-meta-arrows or windows using meta-tab, with Metacity
  • The wireless applet do not find my wifi device that is bound to eth1

I asked on #ubuntu. No answer so far. Nevermind. I'll find solutions.

And I don't understand how NetworkManager works. I don't know what to start, and apparently the rebuild package (they are not available on PowerPC, so I had to rebuild them with debuild) don't start anything after installation.

Otherwise, congrats to the Ubuntu team. Great job.

Wednesday 8 December 2004

PalmSource to build Palm OS on Linux

The Register has an article about PalmSource to build Palm OS on Linux. Does that mean we'll be able to have GPE running on this little beast by scrapping the Palm layer to only keep the Linux kernel ? That would be fun.

GNOME Foundation board 2004

GNOME Foundation 2004 Preliminary Results has been published. Congrats to all the board members.

Why supporting OGG ?

I ask whether Apple next rumored iPod will support OGG, and people then ask why they should.

There is an answer: quality. A Multiformat at 128kbit/s Listening Test has been performed and show OGG as the best quality encoder. They can do it by upgrading software.

The other answer is Freedom, but it is harder to explain.

Tuesday 7 December 2004

Flash iPod ?

Mac Rumors talks about the rumored Flash iPod. My question is: will it read the Ogg files ? Will it work without the crippled iTunes, the software that lose feature at each release, and so work painlessly with Linux and other Free Software ? I doubt so given how Apple support Open Source software.

I still don't understand the iPod Photo that does not have a flash media reader...

Update (Dec 8): I was unclear. The iPod works fine with Linux, thanks to the combined effort of developpers that reverse engineered the proprietary format of the iTunes database. But this has been done without Apple's help that did not even provide documentation.

RSS feed reader: Liferea

Liferea is a nice Gtk based RSS feed reader. Before I was using Straw, but I complained that it was slowing down my machine and using too much RAM.

I feel somewhat satisfied by this one. I also allow to sort feeds hierarchically. And since it is written in C, I can eventually hack on it, unlike Straw for which I would have to learn Python.

AbiWord 2.2.1

AbiWord 2.2.1 has been released last week. Read the changelog or download it. Works on Linux (and the other UNIX), MacOS X, Windows and other platforms.

Why 2.2.1 and not 2.2 ? Because we released 2.2 and found a couple of bugs that required fixing.

We also got slashdotted with the announcement. Nothing serious, just visibility, and comments for never happy MacOS X users. Nevermind. The MacOS X version is finally available, thanks to FJF for the great work and for taking over this task.

Gnumeric got its 1.4 release too, and is now available on Windows. When will there be a X11 less version on MacOS X ? When someone ports Gtk+ 2...

Back online

So the server is back online in my new appartment. Should have been earlier, thanks to Bell Canada for the suckage in not setting up my POTS line properly. See my rant on LiveJournal.

Kudos to the folks of Wiznet for the good service.