Loud ramblings of a Software Artisan

Thursday 27 April 2006

Things I learned

I have to tweak OpenOffice.org 2.0 package at work to change a default preference.

Things I learned:

  • 72MB is the size of the official Debian diff.gz file.
  • 250MB is the approximate size of the tarball.
  • the build system is really complicated
  • the Debian package patches a lot of thing. Actually most packages for OOo do that.
  • I still don't know how long it takes on our build system to build, but it was done overnight...

Monday 24 April 2006

Talking about digital photography and Linux

I spend my week-end reading online and on dead-tree, as well as tranlating my slides from GUADEC 2005 to French so that I can talk about digital photography at the meeting of Club Linux Outaouais in Gatineau, QC, Tuesday. Talk will be in French, that goes without saying. I'm not just simply translating, I'm updating a few items and add some new stuff about KDE programs.

I must note that OpenOffice 2.0 did crash at least 5 times during the process. The good news is that their recovery mechanism seems to work pretty well.

Slides will be posted as usual (Update) are here. Enjoy!

Saturday 22 April 2006

French consumers associations finally start...

UFC-Que Choisir open the file of OS bundling (article in French). About time. The biggest consumers association in France has decided to finally open the file about OS bundling with PC. I hope it create a precedent.

And in an off-the-record discussion recently, I got told that the Microsoft anti-trust trial ruling in the US was also valid in Canada. IANAL, but that sounds interesting.

Wednesday 19 April 2006

The bad news comes from China

Some people were wondering why the Chinese president was visiting Bill Gates en route to visit President Bush... I think this is to attempt to reinforce Microsoft monopoly (see reuters for more details).

Tuesday 18 April 2006

Sensor cleaning

The other I during a shoot in the north of Outaouais, QC, I found out that I had a huge dust speckle on my sensor. So huge that it was visible on the camera LCD preview (without zoom) and it was visible on the sensor itself.

So I used the spat-u-swab method: pec-pads, Eclipse solution and the "spatula". The first time it took me 10 time to get it right. This time it was done in one shot. I should note that the biggest photo store in Montréal had none of the pec-pads and eclipse. Almost shocking, I was not impressed.

Hint: when doing the test shot, close the lens as much as possible. Due to diffraction, the dust speckles are even more visible when the lens is stepped down. f/16 or f/22 seems to be a good value.

nVidia caught lying

In this article:

For Nvidia, intellectual property is a secondary issue. "It's so hard to write a graphics driver that open-sourcing it would not help," said Andrew Fear, Nvidia's software product manager. In addition, customers aren't asking for open-source drivers, he said.

There are two lies in that quote. Mr Fear, thank you for your FUD. But who are you to claim that the talented x.org developpers wouldn't be able to understand the code if you open-sourced it? And if you don't want to provide the code, why don't you provide the documentation? After all if the same people are able to understand how the card works without documentation, they'll likely understand the documentation and/or the code source.

And what planet are you living on to claim that customers are not asking open source drivers? There have been numero requests from numerous people.

If I haven't purchased one of your card, either directly or indirectly is because you don't want an open source driver.

Sunday 16 April 2006

AbiWord 2.4.4

AbiWord 2.4.4 has been released. This time there are binaries for MacOS X 10.2 (and up) on PowerPC. Unfortunately the equation support is broken on Mac in this version. I hope to have a new build soon for that.

Release Notes, Changelog, Download

About AbiWord on Intel Mac, there is at the moment no official build planned as none of the developers has an Intel-based Mac. There is no reason it wouldn't work, but the dependencies have to be rebuilt as well. I have requested Apple, thought ADC, a loan of an Intel machine for that, but no reply so far.

Desktop scripting

I was thinking the other day about desktop application scripting. Scripting the desktop is basically high-level application programming, controlling third party applications. Real world examples include AppleScript on MacOS X and whatever MS Windows have. Also GreaseMonkey in Mozilla is a good example of internal application scripting.

How I think this should be implemented.

First: security. Security is the first major concern that should be a very strong requirement. Don't let security issues plague that, we have seen what it does on other operating system.

Second: it should be universal provided that the application provides the necessary hooks. And that universality should be cross desktop.

Third: it should be language independent with a sane default. And for that I'm thinking JavaScript. Why JavaScript? Because it is know by a lot of end user, as it is being used for webdesign, and some other world application like Photoshop use it as a base scripting engine. At least it make more sense by default than say Python or Perl. That language independence would also provide a way to implement said Python and Perl if desired. The idea of using JavaScript came from an article by Philip Greenspun on how to automate preparation of images for the web, which give a practical quick insight of what can be achieved inside an application. Note that scripting inside and scripting outside are 2 different things, but all you can do from outside could be done from inside.

But let's talk about the details:

There is a work to be done architecture-wise to achieve this properly. First let's not make the mistakes of previous implementations. For what I know, Apple initial implementation os AppleScript in System 7.1, in fact of OSA (Open Scripting Architecture) had 2 big flaws: it was complex to implement API-wise, and it was slow as hell.

Here is the architecture I think of, largely inspired by Apple's (designed 15 years ago):

All the dirty work would be done within the scripting engine. It is the interface between the language and the IPC mechanism, and it implements the scripting protocol. The scripting interface will arbitrate, allowing to control several applications from one single script. The IPC mechanism could be DBus, DCOP or whatever suitable. And ORB might do it too. In fact the only required to be unique mechanism would be the way for the application to register itself with the scripting interface. Converging to a unique IPC mechanism would be prefered, but the cross-desktop nature of the interface might not give the choice.

What do people think about it?

Wednesday 12 April 2006

KOffice Word importer

Ariya: the question about using OOo for import filter has been asked to us, with the same reply. But why don't you just use the same wv that we use in AbiWord? After all it is proven to work well (the real import problems are from within AbiWord feature set).

Tuesday 11 April 2006

Template bloat

I have been trying to wrap UT_Vector to std::vector in AbiWord, in order to try to save on lot of things. I must say that I just reverted my patch. It is buggy (that can be fixed), but the 7.2MB stripped binary jumped to 8.2MB after the patch.

I think I'm gonna change strategy...

Saturday 8 April 2006

Windows refund

ZDNet has an interesting article about Microsoft asking UK resellers to always sell Windows, clainming that these 5% or PC sold without Microsoft "tax" are missed business opportunities. I think that Microsoft is starting to get worried. When the FUD starts, that means the current direction is good.

On the side, I just got an e-mail from a fellow Linuxer in Québec. He tried in January to buy a laptop PC advertised without OS by a local reseller/OEM accross the river. The advertising said "no OS installed" and he called to get confirmation from a sales person that the price was really without Operating System. When the buyer told it was ok because he wanted to run Linux, the seller refused, because he was actually require to sell him a Microsoft operating, for a mere.... CAD$250 !!!!

In 2004, the AFUL (Association Francaise des Utilisateur de Logiciels-libres) has requested through a communiqué de presse that the governement support the BSA in reinforcing the fight against counterfeit software, including rogue copy (aka software piracy), and requesting the governement to require the true display of the price of software when sold with hardware. Take it like a joke, but I take it humoristically like a way to express his discontent with the current situation.