Older blog entries for AlanHorkan (starting at number 227)

10 Jun 2005 (updated 10 Jun 2005 at 21:36 UTC) »
No Innovation, Only Discovery

Microsoft have finally revealed their plans for Expression but they are setting themselves up for a fall by encouraging direct comparisions to Adobe Photoshop when users think comparisons to MS Paint are more appropriate. Comparisons to Adobe Photoshop are particularly strange because Expression is a Vector Graphics program more like Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator. The distinction between Vector and Raster graphics matters less and less, the boundries are increasingly blurred as applications include a mix of features. Microsoft continue to help out hardware manufacturers by requiring newer and faster computers to run their software and users complain of poor performance but it has been said before that Microsoft never gets anything right on the first release.
As if it wasn't obvious that software patents will only serve to make Patent Lawyers richer, and just in case already Microsoft had forgotten losing the Eolas patent on case on Web Browser plugins they have again lost another patent case this time related to Microsoft Excel and Access.

Nicu Buculei has started to create a beautiful new deck of cards and I hope he will continue.

10 Jun 2005 (updated 13 Jun 2005 at 15:39 UTC) »

Abiword is a model of Open Source developement, at least that is what I have always thought. Abiword is used as model example in this paper on Evaluting test suites for managers. The paper makes reference to the frequent use of the archetypal user we like to call the "Church Secretary" which makes it easier for us to empathise with our target users when making design decisions. The paper is pretty old, it was written way back before Abiword had support for Tables and if automated test suites aren't your thing it doesn't make for the most interesting reading, educational though.

Word of the Day: Evince
The word Evince means to show or to express clearly. Evince is also a new PDF Reader for Gnome (an alternative to Adobe Acrobat) and I added an explanation of the name to their Frequently Asked Questions list (Evince FAQ).

Every program expands until it can do email or is replaced by one that can.

Email support in Evince, another milestone reached! :) Evince
Abiword is no exception to the Law of Software Envelopment and allows you to export as Email (both .eml and .nws) or alternatively you could use the embedded version of Abiword to view Microsoft Word files directly in Evolution Email.
Update: I've been had! I've been duped! The wool pulled over my eyes! The screenshot was a fake, I might have guessed from the incongruous Send/Receive button or the shear silliness of the idea but developers have done stranger things before. It also was not a huge leap from the very real powerpoint support in Evince.

Nothing to see here. Not watching.
So far so good, haven't watched more than a few minutes of this years Big Brother.
Tom Cruise is too annoying so I've decided I definately will not watch Steven Spielbergs War of the Worlds. Will be queuing up to see Batman Begins bright and early next Thursday morning though, assuming I can find enough coinage hidden in between the crevices of the furniture and floorboards.


7 Jun 2005 (updated 7 Jun 2005 at 14:45 UTC) »
Gnome Women

To slightly paraphrase Drawf Gimli from the Lord of Rings

It's true, you don't see many Gnome women. And in fact, they are so alike in voice and appearance[1] that they're often mistaken for Gnome men. This, in turn, has given rise to the belief that there are no Gnome women and that Gnome Developers just spring out of holes in the ground ... which is, of course, ridiculous.

[1] See Gender neutral nicknames and try not to read anything else into it.

All silliness aside I optimistically predict we will look back and wonder how we managed ever managed without Gnome Women. The Gnome community has broadened the definition of what constitutes a developer beyond programming and the direct pursuit of code. Gnome has been transformed for the better by a greater appreciation and understanding for other aspects of development such as: the Gnome Translation Project, the Gnome Documention Project and my own personal favourite the Gnome Usability Project.

The Women in Linux HOWTO should be considered obligatory reading.

Comment on Gnome Women

6 Jun 2005 (updated 6 Jun 2005 at 13:57 UTC) »

Afraid of Clowns?
Earlier today at a birthday party for my brother-in-law it came up in conversation how people are afraid of clowns. Coulrophobia? I've never quite understood why people fear clowns. I've nothing against dentists either.
Last month I watched Supersize me but it wasn't long before I found my way back to Burger King. The book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser didn't hold me back from eating fast food for long either. This evening as part of the BBC Storyville series I watched an excellent documentary film about the McLibel case. Before watching the documentary I had believed the campaigners had lost the case but won the publicity battle, and had in fact said things that were factually incorrect. Having watched the documentary it became clear there was a weight of evidence in their favour but in Libel cases the burden of proof fell on them and to win the legal battle they needed to be more than right, they needed to be able to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. Despite the weight of McDonalds highly paid legal team pushing against them they gained a substantial victory and were able to prove many of their points. I am going to spoil the ending a little, eventually McDonalds declined to pursue the punitive damages they won from the case but the campaigners went to the European Court of Human rights to winning a judgment against the British goverment for restricting Freedom of Speech.
If you get the chance to watch the McLibel documentary it is well worth taking a look at.

The new Planet Gnome style sheet is what the redesign should have been in the first place. I suppose that is a compliment to Steve Garrity, well sort of, but I prefer the previous layout. I would like to see more sites make use greater use of the LINK REL tag and properly title their style sheets and maybe even provide alternate style sheets.

Small patches, small devices, small thoughts
I've made some small patches to Gnumeric this week. I was interested to see the announcement of a Maemo port of Gnumeric from the same people who did the Maemo port of Abiword. The increased interst in handhelds creates a new challenges for developers and the user interface streamlining required to fit on smaller screens should result in improvements and a greater clarity from which all users can benefit. I hope I will have the chance to help developers with the user interface streamlinging work.
There have been quiet threats and rumblings of a conspiracy to kill off Gnome CD Player in favour of some kind of all in one media player so I have been taking a closer look and experimenting with a few things and will hopefully be able to provide some small patches soon. Having used the CD Player heavily for a few days I find myself wanting features like Repeat Track and Repeat Album but I want to let these ideas simmer for a while until I am more certain I really want these changes before filing a rash of bug reports (especially if I do not have patches to go with them).

The Scorpion and the Fox
I was going to try and write something long and insightful about Microsoft Office XML but it really doesn't feel like news. It looks Microsoft is attempting to create more Fear Uncertainty and Doubt and undermine the progress being made by OpenOffice.org. From the point developers of Abiword I think it only servers to create more work.
Developers are always welcome to contribute patches to help improve OpenOffice.org or Open Document support and users can help out too by providing complex sample documents to test against. Every little helps.

Summer of Code
I almost didn't notice the announcement of the Google Summer of Code as I was trying to pay attention to exams. Getting the chance to work on Open Source software and get paid for it would be a perfect summer job. There is a lot of reading I will need to do to make sure I fully understand the rules of the competition and how to write up a proper formal proposal. I want to find a project I can realistically achieve in the timeframe and that makes good use of my existing skills. Up until now I have been a developer in the broader sense and done a little of everything except burying myself deep into code so the programming aspects of the projects will be definately be challenging.
At first I thought the Summmer of Code was another round of Gnome Bounties sponsored by Google but it it seems to be something quite different. The previous bounties set specific rewards for particular tasks that needed to be done. Google are working in cooperation with the various open source projects to suggest task but they will cherry pick a limited selection of the best proposals and require them to be finished within the time frame. The task of picking a project and writing a proposal will be a lot more complicated than it looked at first, and I've got a little over a week to get it done while still looking for other summer work at the same time.

2 Jun 2005 (updated 2 Jun 2005 at 17:03 UTC) »
More Monkey Magic from the Gorillaz
Based on a good review from the Irish Times (4/5) and having enjoyed the first album I bought Demon Days, the new album from the Gorrillaz (and almost managed to lose it the same day). I have been listening to it all day, partly to drown out the background noise from the gruesome two-some who kiss long and loudly on the other side of the computer room, making unpleasantly wet slurping sounds like squid mating in bucket. I've no problem with public displays of affection and it isn't just because these two are ugly as sin but they seriously need to get a room spare us all their noisy sloppy face sucking action.
You may have already heard my favourite track on the album Feel Good Inc which is getting heavy rotation from MTV - on the rare occasions they actually bother to play music - and is being used by Apple to flog their music service. Taking a leaf out of William Shatners book, Dennis Hopper provides the spoken word vocals to Fire Coming out of a Monkey's Head, it is certainly interesting but you wouldn't want to try and dance to it. Former Happy Mondays lead singer Shaun Ryder manages to remain sober long enough to put in an appearance but if anything his droning prevents me from enjoying the track.
Demon Days is starting to grow on me, it is not as upbeat and poppy as the previous album but Gorillaz has always been about providing a facade allowing Damon Alburn and friends trying to try something a little different from what they might normally produce. The more I listen to tracks like O Green World and Dirty Harry the more I appreciate them. I wouldn' t predict huge commercial success for this album but I'll be listening to it regularly when I feel like a break from marathon sessions of Franz Ferdinand an album I am still enjoying a whole lot.

Star Wars: Return of the bad anagram related puns
Later I might do a detailed autopsy later and nit pick Sith but for now I stand by my ealier review of Star Wars and reaffirm it was dissappointing. John Fleck described it as colosally bad although that doesn't mean exactly what you might think it does.

1 Jun 2005 (updated 15 Nov 2005 at 18:46 UTC) »
Vote Inkscape: Linux Journal Readers Choice Awards

Linux Journal are Polling has begun for the first round of the Linux Journal Readers Choice Awards 2005. This year Inkscape is included on the official ballot. In other categories I will be voting desktop environment: GNOME, web browser: Mozilla Seamonkey, and even though it didn't make it to the shortlist I will still send a write in vote for Abiword in as both office program: abiword and text editor: abiword. There are some relatively new applications like Sabayon and Xen I must take a closer look at before completing the rest of my ballot. The system is different and a little more complicated this year so be careful and make sure your vote counts.

Update: Inkscape won the Linux Journal Editors Choice Award but was beaten by the GNU Image Manipulation Program which seems to always win in this category. Maybe next year.

27 May 2005 (updated 1 Jun 2005 at 18:09 UTC) »
Exams make crazy
Exams are making me (more) crazy. I cannot be sure if the other illness I am suffering is directly related to the exams but I feel awful and cannot wait for it to be over. During the exams if I stop for a moment I get distracted and start wondering about strange things, like if I might get Deep Vein Thrombosis from sitting in the one place for so long. I counted how many students were wearing white socks with black shoes and still looking like they were dresed by their mothers (two). The University have been making a big deal about the new clean desk policy, no mascots, good luck charms or other nik-naks allowed anymore. I almost envied the students who had a bible on their desk for inspiration, almost.
At first I thought the clean desk policy was mildly stupid and annoying but now I think it is outright obnoxious and totally paranoid. The exam supervisors insisted on taking away my calculator cover (at a glance you could see there were no markings on it), taking my jumper from the back of my chair and taking my wallet (putting it back in my pocket simply wasn't good enough). Madness.

Did a little more translation work (Gnome Games this time) and was considering if I should translate the words like Helsinki and Kansas(some place names and proper nouns get translated phonetically but it is something I prefer to avoid). Strictly speaking there is no 'k' in the Irish alphabet (or j, q, v, w, x, y, z), the letter 'c' is used for the hard 'k' sound instead. Anyone who tried to translate KDE into Irish might go krazy!

Standing on the shoulders of Giants
Recognising your own mistakes is a difficult thing to do and I have a lot of respect for Callum McKenzie for being wise enough to recognise his mistakes and brave enough to admit that rewriting was a mistake. I think Callum would agree the devil is in the details.

Frank Miller and Sequential Art
The first book of Frank Miller's Sin City was out of stock and instead I bought Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. I already bought the sequel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again and it is always entertaining to see Batman making Superman look stupid.

Cúpla Focail Eile
Desperately needed a study break and did a little bit of work on the Irish Translation of Gnome. Truth be told I am unlikely to ever want to use a computer in Irish but it is an intersting problem to solve. I am trying to make a habit of spending a few minutes on it, and get a little bit done every once in a while. One amusing mistranslations was Colour Bicycle instead of Colour Wheel which is a circular shaped colour picker. It is an easy enough mistake to make, the Irish word rothar is to roth, as the word bicycle is to cycle (rotation). I love that the word used for Hint is nod, although fios (inform) or leid (clue) might be techincally be better choices.
For those who don't speak Irish (Gaeilge, not Hiberno-English) the above title means couple of words more (more or less). For those of you who do not speak computer-geek Gnome is a Desktop enviroment for your computer, a free alternative to the likes of Apple Macintosh or Microsoft Windows. ;)
25 May 2005 (updated 2 Jun 2005 at 16:57 UTC) »
Nokia 770: Can I run Abiword on it?

Nokia have announced a new internet tablet device. Uraues was also pleased to be able to finally announce how Nokia has been working together with Flumotion on the Gstreamer multimedia framework.
What interests me most about this latest device is the platform Nokia have built it on. Nokia have effectively released their own Gtk (not quite Gnome) Debian derived distribution called Maemo although they are more discreetly billing it as a development platform rather than their own distribution. Nokia is probably the biggest computer computer company in the world and they are known for making user friendly devices that are secure, reliable and do not crash. This could be a big boost for Linux and Gnome but Nokia needs to let the right hand know what the left hand is doing before it shoots itself in the foot. (Please forgive the extended metaphor. At least I didn't mix metaphors and mention killing the goose that layed the golden egg.)

Now to answer my own question "Can I run Abiword on it?". When I started writing this I believed the diplomatic answer was not yet but I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the Maemo Word Processor which is a version of Abiword modified to run on the Nokia 770 Maemo platform. From the screenshot of Maemo Word Processor you can see they have dramatically cut down the user interface compared to the standard Abiword. However it shows that getting the full version of Abiword working should be a relatively simple matter of cross compiling Abiword and then giving it some polish to make it really shine. Most of the dialogs in abiword are compact enough to fit on smaller displays although some might benefit from tweaking to fit more comfortably on to displays smaller than 800x600 but these are changes that could be included in the standard GTK version of Abiword. The toolbars already need to be cleaned up and reorganised to make sure they do exceed 800 pixels wide.

Related links:
Maemo at Kernelconcepts, Matchbox, Nokia 770. Reuters: Nokia 770, The Register: Nokia Tablet.
Alan has previously mentioned the idea of Abiword on Handheld devices and Gnome on Matchbox and is glad to see it happening.

I have nothing nice to say about it the new look Planet Gnome. I do not like it. 'Nuff said.

I hate exams. Who doesn't!? Wish I was going to GUADEC instead.

Update: Nokia is at least paying attention to developers concerns about software patents. When it comes to software patents Nokia doesn't get it yet. Nokia need to come to their senses before they find out the hard way and are held to ransom by a patent litigation company.
Uraeus shares his insight on Nokia's attitude to patents

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