The reviewers weren't just being lazy when they called it a poor mans Indiana Jones. The characters were pretty shallow, adventurer, side-kick and doctor/love interest. Indiana Jones never needed a smart alec side kick and when you have Nazis as villians you can get away without needing to explain too much. Penelope Cruz looks beautiful in her remarkably ordinary way (I know that sounds like a contradiction but I think it makes sense) and if Matthew McConaughey was even half as cool as he thinks he is he might have been able to carry it off and this might have been a much better movie. I mean "Dirk Pitt" are you serious? The title Sahara is seriously over the top and doesn't really suit the film. For an adaptation of a book (of the same name) I had hoped it might have more depth, I suppose the relationship between the McConaughey and his sidekick Steve Zahn was fairly solid and convincing (and isn't Zahn the German word for cream? What's that all about?). Villians are often more interesting than the heros and I quite liked how one of the baddies wanted to believe he wasn't a bad guy and it was not really his fault despite his wilfull neglect and trampling over other in his search of profit. I say one of the baddies because their are quite a few of them, an industrialist, a general and hooded assassin who appears briefly but is never explained.
Now that I've done might best to puncture any expectations you might have you might be able to enjoy this film for what it is. If you are looking for a middle of the road inoffensive action movie this might be for you. It would certainly be worth watching on television but unless you a fan of McCaunaughey or Cruz you might feel a bit cheated if you laid down your hard earned cash to see this.
Abiword: Gnome Office
Talk of OpenOffice.org versus Gnome Office makes me feel queasy. I do not think it is productive to consider the situation in terms of one against the other. It is worthwhile to think where exactly Gnome Office fits in and how can we encourage distributions to include Gnome Office applications. Even without getting into component APIs like Bonobo or UNO the work done with GtkMathView will give people all kinds of ideas when the next major release of Abiword happens.
Competing head to head with OpenOffice.org doesn't make sense. I think most of people will want to install OpenOffice.org for the occassional PowerPoint presentations they receive (the PDF export and the OpenOffice.org Draw program and the masses of features in OpenOffice.org don't hurt either). Rather than competing directly it is more productive to fill a niche and give users a reason to install Abiword as well as OpenOffice.org. I have mentioned before the idea expanding in other directions like using Abiword for quick text editing and using Abiword on Handheld devices making a version of Abiword more suitable for Handheld devices as well as I often do using Gedit. Although the original notions of a full Abi Suite is never going to happen there are a few things that could be done to bring the idea of AbiShow closer to reality. Abiword has been used successfully to put on Presentations, by using the right size of page, full screen mode and Ctrl+Page Down to move a whole page at a time the abiword developers have been able to use about to give presentations about Abiword. The improvements to support for Text Frames will certainly help but there are a more things that could be improved for those who want to use Abiword for presentations. Being able to roundtrip SVG and a good example Template would probably help. A Viewer or Presentation mode that skips to the next page on click or keypress wouldn't hurt either but a specially tweaked version of the XHTML exporter could probably be just as effective.
Oh, and don't forget that Abiword can be embedded in Evolution. I would have thought the ability to preview Microsoft Word Documents inline in the Evolution email cleint would nearly be enough to keep abiword in most distributions but it goes to show the effectiveness of bundling applications together as suite. Microsoft proved this long before OpenOffice.org came to dominate the mindshare of Open Source. The sheer intertia of an Application Suite is so massive that individual applications like Abiword and Gnumeric need to work exteremly hard to carve out a niche for themselves. Developement continues...
Other comments: Nicu Buculei comments on the Office Suite dilemma.
Putting the Action in Satisfaction
File Roller accepted my patch and now it makes better use of GTK_STOCK which should make things a little easier for translators (along with my similar patch to gcalctool) and it feels good. Most work leaves with little more than a sense of relief when it is over. This small but important task was satisfying because I made the extra effort to figure out how to fix the problem (with thanks to Jody Goldberg) and put in the work to produce and test the code and get it accepted. To an experienced developer the act of creating a patch and it being accepted may not seem like much but it has taken a long time to reach the point where I had all the dominos lined up so that I could knock them all down in one smooth almost seemless action.
Truth is stranger than fiction
A Wholpin, part whale, part dolphin, and a Liger, part lion, part tiger (damn, misplaced the link with a good picture that I wanted this one from gawker will have to do). Hope it isn't a hoax, sounds resonably plausible. Wikipedia has an entry about the Liger too.
I also saw a robot walking down Grafton Street today, it was really convincing looking. It looked a lot like the ABC Warrior Robots out of Judge Dredd only shiney and metallic grey. I guess there must be some magician or putting on a big performance in town.
Here's one I made earlier
Doctor Who continues to entertain and amuse, but the latest was a two part episode and left me hanging. The preview at the end of last weeks episode showed an Alien spaceship crash landing in London but they managed not to spoil it by giving too much away. Hopefully the show will continue to get it right and keep it fresh and interesting. So far so good.
I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who enjoys the new doctor who.
(Whoops, lopped off half this post while making a small update but managed to recover it before it was too late.)
Finally released here in Ireland about a week ago, a big group of the tramps all went to see Garden State. With any luck the rollout of digital cinema in Ireland will mean in future there will not be any more waiting months and months for for sloppy seconds when films eventually finish their run in the U.K. and the prints can be shipped over. The wait for House of Flying Daggers was so painfully long I was tempted to borrow it from a friend who had bought it while in Asia and not bother seeing it in the cinema at all. Despite this kind of messing hordes Irish people still go the cinema regularly.
The film itself has an interesting timeless quality to it. I don't that in a grandiose way but rather that it doesn't seem very heavily anchored to a particular time or location despite the title being an allusion to New Jersey. The film didn't particularly grab my attention or excite me, the amount of reviews and publicity material I had seen probably didn't help. Dealing with a state of numbness and feeling of emptyness and trying to find ones place in life makes for an interesting but not very uplifting story. Even seeing Natalie Portman in her underwear didn't help. There were some funny moments, although some of them like the petrol pump gag seemed very incongruous. The film was likable enough and I simple interesting story but I my expectations were too high and I was underwhelmed. Zach Braff and Natalie Portman played their parts convincingly and they did keep me moderately entertained for a couple for a couple of hours. All in all a fairly average experience.
I wish I'd written a script where I would get to kiss Natalie Portman. :)
 Not real tramps of the hobo variety, but what we call the trampolining club for short.
 It feels like bad pretentious writing to use words like incongruous when I could just as easily say out of place. And even using the word protentious probably makes me sound even more full of my self. Hopefully someday I'll look back at this and marvel at my apalling lack of writing style and laugh (or go back and change it before anyone notices).
MIDI Technolgy still live and kicking
At the moment I am studying (revising and learing a few new details) MIDI so I have an excuse to play around with the Sound Editor Audacity. The lecturer was at great pains to explain to us and make it distinctly clear that MIDI is not a sound but a set of instructions that can be used to make sounds. What particularly interested me was how MIDI was a cheap and useful technology that became extremely popular and continues to be sucessful and that MIDI was uses for other purposes the designers never unexpected, controlling more than just musical instruments but also devices such as such stage lighting and special effects.
Give some people an inch and they'll think they're a Ruler
My suggestion to turn rulers off by default in the GNU Image Manipulation Program was declined. Many programs with the Rulers and Guides functionality like Inkscape and Adobe Photoshop (and I informally surveyed a few others) have their Rulers off by default which I think gives a better first impression as it makes for a cleaner layout and a better use of space, although the downside is that it makes the Rulers and Guides functionality a little more difficult to discover. It was my opinion that Rulers are not frequently used and that the trade off was worth making but others did not agree. I made the suggestion and they considered the idea which was all I let myself hope for. Oh well, it was worth a try.
Today I was interested to learn that Trinity offers a degree in Deaf Studies and Sign Language.
I was also pleased to see how well the Gnome CD Player rescaled to fit the 320x240 display.
I mentioned it before in my comments about using Abiword as a Text Editor and I am still underwhelmed by Abiword Normal View but it is not going to get fixed until I can make time to provide a clear specification of how I believe it should behave.
(I accidentally posted the same comments twice. Rather than remove it completely and leave a blank entry I split out these comments about Handhelds and Gnome Games into a seperate entry and added a few more little bits and pieces.)
Ubuntu: Hoary Hedgehog Live CD
Great name, even if good writing style recommends writers to always avoid alliteration it can be occasionally amusing. I could tell you all the things I like about Ubuntu and Gnome but I am not going to. This mini-review may seem harsh. Every distribution should offer a Live CD it is a great way to try out the latest software.
It could be my imagination but this time the Ubuntu Live CD seemed slower than the previous Warty Warthog version. Hardware detection has improved and I didn't need to choose fall back mode, which until now was something only Knoppix did properly for me.
Having panels at the top and bottom of the screen doesn't work for me. If Fullscreen was ubiquitous in Gnome and I could put menus right against the top edge of the screen it might help (and satisfy others interested in Fitts Law).
Although I've already known about it for months, when I started the GNU Image Manipulation program I was overjoyed not to see the painfully unnecessary Setup Assisant. I seriously hope other distributions will follow their lead and the developers will eventually get the message. There are more start-up speed improvements that could be achieved without requiring masses of programming work, the most obvious of which is to use --no-data option at something no Live CD distribution should be without. I also think some plugin detection could be shifted to compile time instead of first runtime.
Ubuntu does not include Abiword. I know I am extremely biased but it would be a significant improvement to the Ubuntu Live CD. I was disappointed that Ubuntu failed to play the various video files I threw at it. Even though Ubuntu is serious about free software I still expected more. Unlike Knoppix the Ubuntu Live CD does not mount my Windows Partitions for reading.
The Ubuntu Desktop is remarkably empty, uncluttered by some of the rubbish other distributions see fit to put on the desktop. They leave it up to the user to make use of the Desktop which is fairly good idea, however that doesn't make much sense in the case of the Live CD. Matchbox Gnome uses the desktop if you can call it that, to provide links to all the applications effectively provding an alternative interface to the main menu and I like it so much I think it would be a concept worth exploring for other Live CDs like Ubuntu.
I have moved my response to enduring Ubuntu to Livejournal in case anyone might have any comments.
Quick Comments, Canned Comments, Cliche Responses
Open Source consolidation is good thing. Rose bushes need to be pruned if you want the to grow properly. Some of the Licenses the Open Source Initiative accepted in the past were an insulting joke. The great thing about standards is there are so many to choose from. There's nothing new under the sun.
The TV series the OC is the Beverly Hills 90210 of a generation and will age just as badly, probably even worse. That is not to say it isn't entertaining. Mischa Barton, Olivia Wilde, mmmmm :). Point Pleasant might surprise me and last more than two or three seasons. Smallville is an _awful_ lot like Dawsons Creek but with less psychobabble and more super powers. I suppose I should be glad it has raised itself up from the monster of the week schlock they were churning out to begin with and it does reward past viewing by building on old episodes.
Channel 4 has a new cartoon called Quads by John Callahan (who is wheelchair bound himself). It tries hard to be offensive but isn't very funny. South Park continues to surprise me make me laugh hard so I wont be going out of my way to watch Quads.
Honestly, I really am trying to watch less television. (I still haven't even commented about Doctor Who yet.)
Audition makes Fatal Attraction look like a Disney movie. The Japanese sure know how to make horror movies.
Be nice to Translators, use Stock items properly
Use stock items. I've said it before and now I'm saying it again, if you are GTK developer you'd be insane not to use stock items. Actions speak louder than words, and with a little nudging I provided patches to gCalcTool ( bug 171393) and File-roller (bug 172867) to make proper use of stock items, in particular the stock labels which should get rid of some unnecessary translation work. Translation work is hard enough as it is, on one wants to do the same work over and over again.
I'm surprised by how GtkActionEntry is supposed to work, as far as I can tell you cannot use a stock item label without being forced to use the stock item icon. There really should be more GTK stock items, especially for the obvious top level menus like File, Edit, View, Go, Bookmarks, Tools, Format, Insert, Help.
Abiword News: Spike!
Oooh, pretty pictures. The graphs show a big spike in downloads of Abiword particulary from Windows and Mac OS users. Although a spike is to be expected after a new release it is a surprisingly large spike. We are left wondering what Abiword did to deserve this spike, and we can only assume we have been published somwhere. There was an article on OSNews.com that took advantage of Abiword being cross platform software and made a comparison of the installation process on various operationg systems. We also got a mention in an article about AutoPackage because Abiword uses AutoPackage.
ALL YOUR BITS ARE BELONG TO US!
Larry McVoy is not happy but he really shouldn't be surprised.
At some point the open source world needs to either decide they'll tolerate commercial software and respect the fact that commercial companies are entitled to make money off their efforts or step up and take on the challenge of providing open source versions of *every* application."
Even if the Open Source finds a way to make more allowances for commercial software (by which I think Larry really means proprietary software) the Free Software movement has made it quite clear already that they very much intend to continue until there is a Free Software version of every application. Free Software advocates have made it pretty clear how they expect commercial development to happen and they have no intention of playing by his rules. This is one of those occasions where the fundamental differences between Open Source and Free Software are very significant and the distinctions really do matter.
GTK only and QT only software.
While I was learning about Garnome I also learnt about Konstruct a simliar system for KDE although I only used it briefly to try out Desktop Publishing Software called Scribus and a few other projects. Scribus is notable as one of the few applications which uses only the toolkit QT and does not include and KDE specific components. I have always liked cross platform software and I feel more secure about the future of a project when that doesn't have a limited userbase and doesn't try to lock users in to specific technologies.
While I often hear user comments about wanting applications that are GTK only and that do not require Gnome libraries, I rarely hear people asking for QT only applications. I would guess this is because of a variety of factors. KDE seems to have more users, and quite a few of them want to use GTK based applications and are very vocal about it. In the past compiling Gnome has been troublesome, with what seemed like an almost unending chain of interconnecting chain of dependancies and requirements. Another factor, although in my opinion a very minor one is probably the licensing of the Windows version of QT which until recently did not particularly encourage Open Source developers to make their software more cross platform and work on Windows.
Any comments on GTK only and QT only software?
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
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