Loud ramblings of a Software Artisan

Monday 31 January 2005

Montréal in winter

This week-end we wanted to go to Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal, but a serie of unfortunate events made it not happen.

So instead, I provide with some pictures taken last week. Here is the gallery.

Sunday 30 January 2005

Picture of the day, January 30th, 2005

More on my slides archives.

Gallerie de lecture (reading gallery) Cloître de Cadouin, still in Périgord, France. This was one of our stops en route to Sarlat.

Taken September 21st, 2001, on Fuji Provia 100F slide film.

New galleries from Montréal

Despite my toasted DVD-ROM on the laptop, I could manage to get some new galleries online.

Here they are:



Looks like the DVD-ROM driver on my venerable PowerBook G3 is dead. It does not seems to read CD and makes a lot of noise when I have on inserted. That is really bad as I had plans to restore its original operating system...

I'll say how it works for me later, and I need to find a backup plan to put online galleries only have on CD.

Office 2003 XML schemas released

According to Forevergeek, Microsoft release the XML schemas for Office 2003 XML support. But don't expect this documentation to be free. They apparently claim patents on this, which means, whatever they are saying today, they reserve the right to sue you for patent infringement later. I seriously don't trust them, and the past have showed that this is a good idea.


Miguel is a hottie !

In the grand tradition of businessmen picturing, Nat decided to turn Miguel into a hottie (link and pictures are office safe). In short, the pictures: 1, 2 and 3

Any ressemblance with recently re-published pictures of Bill Gates would be pure coincidence :-)

Miguel and Nat, you rock !

Thursday 27 January 2005

GAIM wishlist

I use GAIM for instant messenging, because it allow doing all the protocols at once. But I find its UI sometime really cumbersome or annoying. Here is my GAIM wishlist, all UI related:

  • Buddy grouping is unclear. We don't know that a buddy is a group of buddies (like for example 1 person, 3 protocols), and the "expand" menu is cumbersome. Why no putting a disclosure triangle and setting up and explicit icon. The icon and the disclosure triangle only appears when the mouse is over the item in the buddy list.
  • I need to know the default buddy that will be used when I ask to send a message to grouped buddies.
  • Stop showing that buddy list when there is a connection/disconnection. If I happen to hide it, keep it hidden. This is really annoying and it only got better because Metacity in GNOME 2.9.x no longer put it fore front.
  • There is a nice notification icon, use it. Update it to show any message unread in any of the tabs. Unread = either the tab or the window has not gotten focus since the message appeared. Bonus of that notification icon can provide the number of message waiting in the icon, or at least in the tooltip.
  • There are lot of various cosmetic UI issues, like the account window that has checkboxes to connect the account, or the login window that does not have an "auto-connect" option.

I will report these bugs to the gaim bug tracker or comment existing bug that already report this. I'll also maybe sit to fix some, when I find the time to do so, or when the "piss off factor" will be so important to proritize this task higher. And I'm probably forgetting a few.

AbiWord live on Windows !

Let's go with guerilla installation of AbiWord. Install AbiWord everywhere on Windows machine (with approval of course) or just use it from a USB thumb drive. Here is the announcement I'm reposting:

From: <cspurrier_at_craigweb.net>
Date: Sat Jan 22 2005 - 21:17:29 CET

Announcing AbiWord for Thumb Drives (an unofficial version)

AbiWord for Thumb Drives for Windows is an unofficial
modified version designed for use on USB Thumb/Pen Drives. It was created by
Craigweb. AbiWord for Thumb Drives is based off of AbiWord 2.2.3.

Download it at http://sourceforge.net/projects/abiwordftd/

I haven't tested it personnaly. Have fun.

Source: abiword-user mailing list.

Guadec 2004 (Gallery)

OK, I have been lame of this. I finally posted my gallery of GUADEC 2004 in Kristiansand, Norway, at least the gallery of the digital pictures. I still have a bunch of slides to scan, and I will post them ASAP.

Tuesday 25 January 2005

Snowy Montreal (gallery)

I posted a new gallery of snaps from Montreal in winter, taken yesterday.

Picture of the day, January 25th 2005

Bike in snow - Montreal, Canada, January 24th 2005.

When going home at night, I found that bicycle embedded into the snow that was just behind the Lionel-Groulx metro station building. The lightning comes from the streetlight.

Technical info: Canon EOS 20D, 24-85 USM @ 24mm, 1/25s, f/3.5, exposure bias -1, ISO 1600, handheld.

Digital camera RAW files on Linux

I started looking at the solution to handle RAW files from digital cameras in GNOME. The problem with RAW files is that they are all proprietary as the camera manufacturer do not publish their specs. That is a good start toward non interoperability; greedy companies. What if film processing had been a secret ? C41, E6 and B&W chemistry and processes are well know, and you have plenty of vendor that still inovate. Why not doing the same for RAW files? Fortunately, Dave Coffin came to the rescue with dcraw. It works so well that Adobe did take the decoding algorithm to include them in the RAW plugin for Photoshop. I hope the future will converge to a standard solution, like DNG that Adobe (again) is trying to push, otherwise where would go all our photographic memories? We still enjoy digging thru archives of 70 years old picture found in some attic. This won't be the case with the polyacryl disc you'll find that you won't able to decode.

OK, I'm getting off-topic. Back to RAW decoding in GNOME.

The Gimp has 2 import plugins for RAW. The first one is RawPhoto. The second one, a fork of RawPhoto, is UFRaw.

There is also a solution for thumbnailing RAW in GNOME. I haven't tested it yet, but I suspect we could make it lighter by not having a script but a direct call to dcraw.

I myself don't really shoot in RAW mode, because 38 pictures on my 512MB compact flash, that scares me. I did 110 Sunday afternoon.

More on that later.

Monday 24 January 2005

iPod insight

I found on Slashdot this article "Inside iPod". It describe the inside of the iPod in a non-official way as must Apple suppliers for the iPod are, tied to a NDA, unable to provide any information.

iPod Linux also has some information.


Source: Slashdot article

Friday 21 January 2005

Picture of the day, January 21st 2005

I still haven't published galleries of the newer pictures I took, so here is still some digging, out of my slides archives taken with my Canon film camera.

This is the entrance of Château de Lanquais, still in Périgord. September 21st 2001.

libgphoto2 improvements: PTP bugs workaround

I finally tested and committed my patch to libgphoto2 to work around PTP bugs in the Canon EOS 20D. The workaround itself is not from me, but I wanted to make sure we only did apply it to buggy cameras, to not break the others. Currently, only EOS 20D and Digital Rebel (aka EOS 300D in Europe) are concerned. And this provide infrastructure for other bugs workaround.

All of this will be in libgphoto2 2.1.6 that I plan to release starting next week (release a release candidate first).

Other stuff I have to do is:

  • USB Mass Storage fake support (for libgphoto2 2.2)
  • Fixing canon driver for the EOS 20D, unless Stephen Westin beats me. Stephen is the current canon driver hacker, and he did a lot of work, including updating the comprehensive documentation for the Canon protocol. I must remind that the canon driver for libgphoto2 is only made from reverse engineering as Canon has been a black sheep for a long time by not providing the specs for their cameras. Fortunately, Canon seems to switch over to PTP, the USB Still Image device class protocol, which is standard, and given the effort they put on implementing lot of features usable thru PTP, I'm beginning to think that PictBridge is not the only reason they did it, and I hope they really want to get rid of the proprietary protocol.

Thursday 20 January 2005

AbiWord ad on Google

Some unknown benefactor advertise AbiWord on Google if you search for "word". May he be thanked. And we end up being on page 2 of the search results.

Thanks to Alan for pointing that out.

On a new planet

I just joined Planet #Photography. That is the 4th planet I'm on.

Thanks to Tybstar

Wednesday 19 January 2005

Picture of the day, January 19th 2005

This is Château de Lanquais, not far from Bergerac, in Périgord.

The picture has been taken on slide film, probably Provia 100F, around September 20th 2001.

AbiWord vs Pages, part 2.

I still haven't had my hands on Pages, because I don't have either the software, nor the hardware to run it.

But MacGeneration has a review (fr) of the product. From what it shows, it is a full fledged application, more page oriented than text oriented. Apparently their Word importer is not as good as it could be (the feature noted down in the article as not being imported are supported in AbiWord) but it seems to do a decent job. I suspect they use the .doc filter that is in MacOS X 10.3.

I can't really tell more as I don't have it in hand.

And for those who still wonder, my previous comparison was sort of a joke, because often people complain about the disk space that take OpenOffice.org or MS-Office.

Looks like to some extent, that AbiWord has a good competitor on MacOS X. I wish I could do something myself.

Show that you need Open Source drivers for Wifi.

Given my recent problem with a Netgear Wifi adapter and that the SMC worked, I thought it would be a good idea to send feedback to Netgear so that they understand that they lose customers. I encourage anyone that have returned a product that did not work with an Open Source driver to do the same to let these people know.

Manufacturer of devices, those that buy thhe chips, really have the power to make this change and require from the chip supplier to provide the source code under an Open Source license.

Here is a verbatim copy of my e-mail sent Monday January 17th to Netgear Customer Service:


On January 5th 2005, I bought a WG511 Wireless 802.11g PCMCIA adapter to run on my Apple PowerBook laptop running Linux. The choice was made because this card was reported to be compatible with the prism54 open source driver for Linux (http://www.prism54.org/) . I unpacked the card, inserted it, and after a few seconds discovered that it was not compatible. The reason is that, without changing the product name, you changed the chipset, making it incompatible.

For that single reason, I returned the product to Future Shop in Montreal, where I bought it, for immediate refund, and went to buy a SMC card, that works perfectly well. SMC got my money, you didn't. In fact, since it was supported, I bought 2 of them, one being for a coworker in the same situation.

I just wanted to bring you attention that I won't buy a Netgear product that does not work with an Open Source driver on Linux, and that I'm not the only one being in that case.



I haven't had a reply so far.

Recent work from OpenBSD team to open source drivers seems to be efficient as they got some rights to redistribute firmwares as part of OpenBSD and that they got completely reverse engineered the Atheros HAL code, unlike the Madwifi project which seems to be willing to keep it closed (making the Atheros driver not available in the Linux kernel, for a good reason). I hope someone ports the OpenBSD HAL code to Linux, as Atheros based card are quite common.

I'm myself a strong opponent to binary only drivers on Linux, and I believe that the ndiswrapper project harm Linux more than it make good: if people can use ndiswrapper to run Windows drivers on their Linux/x86, then they'll buy cards are not supported on Linux, and the manufacturer won't be inclined to provide an Open Source driver or even a Linux driver, claiming that this is not needed since they can run the Windows driver. FreeBSD seems to have the NDIS approach too... Driver support is just money talks. Show manufacturers that you give money to those that supports your OS. There are chipset for 802.11g that works great with Open Source drivers: old Prism "G" (newer does not, hence my troubles with the Netgear) using prism54, Ralink, Intel, etc. See A survey on Linux and Wifi for comprehensive information.

There is still a long run until that kind of problem get solved, and given that chip manufacturer make their product more and more dumb, requiring more and more complex drivers (like in the new Prism Frisbee where the 802.11 is no longer in the chip), and more and more firmware (because it cost less to store the firmware on the hard drive than in a ROM/Flash on the chip or device).

Nail Guns are dangerous

Nail Guns are dangerous. And Standblog (fr), where I found that link, says it is more dangerous that install Windows XP on an open Internet connection.

I think this guy should have played lottery at the same time. He would have won enough to re-imburse the hospital.

Tuesday 18 January 2005

Spreading the FUD

OSNews.com is once again spreading FUD. They post posted this "Free Software isn't free in reality" news, that points to an LXer article, but forgot to talk about Paul Ferris' editorial posted in response to the aforementionned article, and linked from it.

Looks like OSNews is in need of decent writers.

AbiWord 2.2.3 release

AbiWord 2.2.3 has been released. Here is the announcement:

AbiWord v2.2.3 Released

We are happy to announce the availability of AbiWord v2.2.3. This
release contains a great amount of bug fixes and improvements over the
previous release. This is especially true for the MacOSX platform

We would like to thank all users who took the time to submit bugreports,
notifying us of possible improvements or bugs. A great number of them
has been addressed, which we hope is noticeable.

This release is a bugfix release only. The changes from 2.2.2 to 2.2.3
include, amongst others:

* Extensive MacOSX port improvements
* Fixed a number of crashes related to image wrapping, textbox handling
and maintaining document histories
* Several Table of Contents, Format TextBox and Format table dialog
enhancements in the Windows port

The full Changelog can be found at

As always, users are advised to upgrade to this new version.

Main site: http://www.abisource.com/download/.

More information
Main site: http://www.abisource.com/.


   The AbiWord Development Team

Where do you want to go today: Let's have fun with MSN

Borrowed from the Standblog (fr), thanks to Tristan Nitot for the good laugh.

  1. Go to http://mappoint.msn.com/DirectionsFind.aspx
  2. Start in Norway, City: Haugesund
  3. End in Norway, City: Trondheim

No, Norway in not a that big country.

Result soon...

Monday 17 January 2005

Evolution to be ported to Windows

Ximian/Novell hired Tor Lillqvist according to Nat's blog to help port Evolution to Windows. Some may wonder if it is a good idea. Tor has ported Gtk+ and The Gimp to Windows, and is still making sure all that work.

Since we already have AbiWord and Gnumeric running on Windows, that will brings more parts of Gnome-Office to run on Windows. And I'm pretty sure Gnumeric folks will be happy to put back the stripped out feature into the Windows port, like Bonobo.

When will someone sponsor a port of Gtk+ to MacOS X (without X11) ? There is already a Gtk+-1.2 port for MacOS X, but it does not seems to have evolved since July 2003. That codebase could be used as a start towords porting Gtk+-2.x. If only I had a MacOS X machine to do that now that AbiWord for MacOS X mostly run.

Saturday 15 January 2005

No non-X11 OpenOffice.org 2.0

No Mac version of OpenOffice 2.0, at least without X11. Looks like they don't catch up with the "Aqua" version development because they don't put the resources in. And didn't they pretend that OpenOffice.org was portable ? AbiWord has often be criticized for its cross-platform approach which still require lot of work. But at least we have aversion of AbiWord that does not require X11 on MacOS X.

(link provided by MacSlash)

Thursday 13 January 2005

AbiWord vs iWork, part 1

First comparison beetween AbiWord on MacOS X and iWork: the disk space required. According to this article from Mac4Ever (fr), Pages, the word processor application from iWork require 448MB to install. In the other side, AbiWord on MacOS X uses 18MB.

Lightweight install: AbiWord: 1, iWork: 0

Update (01/14): This was intended to be some humoristic comment. I don't have the software, and I don't even have the hardware to run it, as my PowerBook, running Linux, is not enough according the their specs (given that I install MacOS X), because Pages require 500MHz processor.

Update: You can thanks the people that confuse this blog with a tech support area. I'm closing the comments for this one.

Apple DRM analysis

The Register has a good article that analyze Apple DRM from a market and customer point of vue (it is NOT a technical article).

So I'm still planning to stick to audio CDs, and still be careful about the "Copy Controlled" logo. That way I can listen to music I bought wherever I want.

Wednesday 12 January 2005

GUADEC 6 abstract

Today I sent my abstract for a talk proposal I'd like to do at GUADEC 6, in Germany. The topic is Connecting digital cameras to your desktop with libgphoto2.

That reminds me that I still have to scan the slides from GUADEC 5 and Norway. I only posted some snapshots of Oslo.

Shall I ditch the BeOS code?

Now that the AbiWord tree is branched, I wonder if I should ditch the BeOS code. It is not intrusive, but it is there, and it annoys me since no one touched in years: version 2.2 does not even compile on that platform.

Or shall I just leave it here in the hope that it gets updated ?

I already ditched the MacOS classic and Carbon code from the tree, but to replace it with the Cocoa code as it was decided that the Mac port would require MacOS X, with a good reason.

I still wonder what to do.

Picture of the day, January 12th 2005

This is a castle near Lanquais, not far from Bergerac, in Périgord, the country of the truffle mushroom, in France. I don't remember the name of that castle as I have to find my photos archives in the 50 boxes I got delivered recently. Stay tuned, I'll update the caption. The only thing I know is that we didn't visit it, because we were on our way to Lanquais.

The picture has been taken on slide film, probably Provia 100F, around September 20th 2001.

Tuesday 11 January 2005

New Apple toys

It is MacWorld, and like every year, Apple released some new hardware.

The long rumored $500 G4-based Mac called Mac mini. Probably as expandable as the original Mac 128k, but BYOKMS (Bring Your Own Keyboard, Mouse and Screen). $600 if you want DVD burner and more disk (you get a few CPU cycles extra as well). Looks really nice and does not really take a lot of space on the desk. That could do a real great machine for AbiWord development. Does not come with iWork '05; that is really cheap. Much like high-end machines never came with AppleWorks while the cheaper did. And the Mac mini feature an ATI 9200 as video card, so there is hope to have it run Linux in a forseable future, without Airport Extreme.

The also long rumored iPod flash called iPod shuffle. Up to 1GB of flash, and only shuffle mode playback. At the same time, Quicktime 7, and still no Ogg support. $149 in the 1GB version.

AbiWord has a new competitor on MacOS X, in the name of Pages, part of the iWork '05 suite. I wonder what file format to Pages use. Keynote use some sort of XML-based format, so there is hope that we might be able to import it without much trouble. But with this product, no hope they ever sponsor a project like AbiWord or OpenOffice to run better on Macs.

Saturday 8 January 2005

Is ASP .Net a good idea for browser compatibility ?

Apparently, ASP .Net is designed to make non MS-IE browser clumsy by sending a stripped off version of HTML code. If you are really stuck to ASP .Net for some reason, there is a workaround. Otherwise, I recommend to not use it, and use more open systems, like PHP, mod_perl, etc., that don't vary the output based on the browser.

Thursday 6 January 2005

The rise and fall of the film photography

Liberation, a french newspaper, published an insightful article about the fall of the film photography (fr). They are so right...

Wednesday 5 January 2005

Found a Wifi card

I managed to find a SMC2835W wifi 802.11g card for CDN69. Works well with Linux using the prism54 driver, that comes with the kernel. At least they did not change their chipset like Netgear did by manufacturing in China instead of Taiwan. This one use a Prism GT.

Update (01/09): I recently discovered that there are at least 2 versions of the card and that I got lucky to get v1. Be careful. The other one apparently do not work with Linux (unless you want to use ndiswrapper which is not a good idea).

Wifi adapter, warning

Today I bought a Wifi 802.11g PCMCIA adapter for CDN80 + tx. It is a Netgear WG511 and I checked that is was supported by the prism54 driver.

Big mistake. It does not work. After downloading the firmware, it ends up with errors. The side label says WG511CN and Made in China, and under the card (after opening the box), it says v3. Yes, that does matter. I'm gonna have to find a Made in Taiwan also know as v2. The friends on #prism54 did confirm this.

For reference, the FCC ID is PY3WG511-F. You can lookup FCC ID, this is really informative.

Saturday 1 January 2005

GPL Violation

Greg KH pointed out on 18 Nov 2004 in the Linux Kernel mailing list a GPL Violation by Silicon Laboratories. See also his blog entry

In talking with the company, they insist that they will not release the source code to this module, and they claim that they are not infringing on any rights by not doing so. I claim that this is not true, as to write a usb to serial driver for Linux you have to use the drivers/usb/serial/usb-serial.h header file which is specifically licensed under the GPL v2. This file contains inline functions and structures that all usb-serial drivers need to use in order to work properly.

In short, there's no way you can write a Linux usb-serial driver, that uses the usbserial interface, without it being a derived work of other, GPL only code.

So, they are in violation, so what. Well, I can't do much about this (due to my employer's rules about suing companies). But I can do my best to spread the word that the CP2102 device is not supported on Linux, and should be avoided at all costs by anyone considering such a device in a future design. I encourage everyone else to help spread this information too.

Word spread. I had to talk about that as well. I don't like blatant license violations.