Older blog entries for MichaelCrawford (starting at number 202)

LinuxQuality or, The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

My original plan for The Linux Quality Database was originally to create a featureful bug database for the Linux kernel developers. I had a grand vision but not much of a clue as to how to implement it. I knew about bugzilla, but bugzilla didn't do what I want, so I planned to write a whole bug database from scratch that would put bugzilla to shame.

Well, the dot-com crash intervened and I found I had very little time to contribute to any Free Software projects. Finally someone set up a bugzilla for the kernel that, while it doesn't do all the cool things I envisioned, it isn't vaporware, thereby proving once again that Worse Is Better.

But something did come of my dream. My objective was not simply to improve the quality of the kernel but to improve the quality of Free Software in general. It's record is mixed: for every Free Software project of stellar quality that anyone can name, I can name ten whose quality is... less than stellar.

That's why so many years ago I wrote on the homepage of The Linux Quality Database:

I feel that software must not just be Free, it must be Good.

I felt that The Linux Quality Database must also have a mission of education, to help developers write better software, and to help users both to test it better and to write better bug reports.

This led me to write several articles on software quality that have turned out to be both useful and popular. So far they are:

They used to have the GNU Free Documentation License but the Debian developers have concluded it is not compliant with the Debian Free Software Guidelines, as I wrote in Which License for Free Documentation?.

Once Debian Sarge became stable, Debian started removing such GFDL documents as the Emacs and GCC manuals from main and moving them to non-free. To encourage Debian and other distros to include the LinuxQuality articles, just tonight I relicensed them to have the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.5 License.

In late August I'm going to revisit all the articles to bring them current, fix broken links and add any new material that seems appropriate.

I also updated the markup to XHTML 1.0 Strict. My HTML/CSS coding skills have come a long way since 2000 with the help of my wife the web designer. I'll seek her advice in creating a new design to replace the current appallingly primitive one.

I always intended The Linux Quality Database to be a community just like Advogato or Kuro5hin where anyone could contribute articles, but focussed on educating the Free Software community about quality. The Dotsrc.org Open Source hosting service (formerly SunSITE.dk) offers MySQL hosting, so I expect I could set up some kind of message board to allow anyone to publish articles more easily than via FTP as I do now.

If you'd like to be involved, there is a mailing list with instructions at the bottom of the homepage. I'm not completely sure it still works, it's been years since anyone posted to it. I just sent a query to ask if anyone is still subscribed... and recieved my post, so it still works!

Thank you for your attention.

Writing but not my own:

My friend CheeseburgerBrown (Matthew Frederick Davis Hemming in real life) is writing a serialized science fiction novel in blog form:

He shares my dream of making it as a writer. There is quite a lot of his writing to be found online.



I just published a new essay. It has a Creative Commons license.

I'll publish it here at Advogato if there is interest, but it has so far gone over like a lead balloon, both where I first published it at WebmasterWorld, where the moderators deleted it in less than a half hour, with a stern warning against claiming copyright over my own posts, and at Kuro5hin, where the revisions that were suggested after I asked for editorial help in my diary would have basically turned it into a completely different essay.

I can see how it could be improved, but I'm basically happy with how it presently stands. Please enjoy:

Most of the threads about copyright at WebmasterWorld have to do with how one can get the scraper sites kicked out of AdSense for stealing content, or even how to use the DMCA to get them shut down entirely. I hoped to offer an alternative viewpoint.

I emailed the link to RMS just now. I eagerly await his response. He's liked most of the other essays of mine that he's read.

Ask Advogato: How To Implement Site Search?

Can you suggest an open source package that will allow me to provide a search form on my pages whose search is restricted to my site? I need to be able to include a snippet of javascript in the search results to place Google AdSense ads in the results.

The is something called AdSense for Search, but it sends a lot of unpaid traffic away from my site. Paid ads are presented in the search results, but the pay per click is very poor, not enough I think to justify sending people away from my domain.

A short-term solution that won't make me ad revenue but should improve my site traffic is a hand-coded non-affiliate search box that uses Google to search my site by including a hidden form field that adds "site:goingware.com" as a keyword. Here is how such a search would result if one were to put such a search box here:

Now, I wouldn't get paid for ad clicks in those searches, but I think that's fair considering that I'm asking google to handle the searches. My reason for wanting site search is mainly to improve navigation at my site. I have already found that improved navigation on my pages drives up traffic throughout my site, as people spend time exploring it rather than going elsewhere. I figure offerring a search within my domain would improve that effect.

The adsense terms of service have been revised to allow ads to be placed in search results that adsense publishers generate. These are not the same as adsense for search, but are just like ads placed in static pages. The pay per click is much better, so that although I would lose a visitor when they clicked an ad, I would be paid well enough that it's worthwhile.

My web hosting service runs apache and mysql. I'm not sure what other web technologies they support. They're very busy people so I don't want to ask them to install any software they don't absolutely have to.

htDig is very popular but I've never been happy with its effectiveness. Maybe it is better now than it used to be. There must be many site search packages available, and I know I could find them all at Freshmeat, but I would prefer specific recommendations.

If you don't want to reply in your diary, send email to goingware (a|t) g m a i l dot com. My crawford@goingware.com email is deluged with spam because I have never protected it.

Thanks a million!

14 Jul 2005 (updated 17 Jul 2005 at 22:00 UTC) »

Greetings, Earthlings.

I have a new essay up at my site. It addresses my concerns regarding a proposed revamp of the Internet:

It has a Creative Commons license. Click the license notice and read the resulting Commons deed carefully to understand what that means.

I have many more articles and essays on their way. I expect I'll have something suitable for Advogato's front page before too long. It's been a while since I've published anything here.

Mike's Latest Windmill-Tilting Venture continued...


PaysWell's SourceForge project is live at:


PaysWell is a payroll witholding tax calculator, in the form of an OpenOffice spreadsheet. PaysWell is Free Software, released under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

Name service for payswell.org is not yet available but should be sometime tomorrow. My web hosting service Seagull Networks has generously agreed to provide DNS for free. They're good people - I've hosted with them for seven years and recommend them highly. (SourceForge provides VHOSTing for vanity domains but not name service.)

The SourceForge project page is:


Subscriptions and archives for payswell-devel and payswell-user can be found here and file releases here.

PaysWell 0.01 is my prototype that just does Nova Scotia witholding.

I plan to issue a press release, but decided I ought to wait until I have a production-quality spreadsheet available, even if it doesn't cover all of Canada. My prototype does the job but there are some serious (and documented) problems with it. I might also wait until I have one that does IRS and Maine witholding so USians can get started working on it.

Andrew Sackville-West very kindly sent me his payroll spreadsheet, which he's been using for a long time and so is much more advanced than mine. I expect I will learn a lot from his contribution. I'm not any kind of rocket scientist when it comes to spreadsheets. Figuring out how to look up tax table entries was an earth-shattering breakthrough for me.

The website is also pretty austere, downright ugly in fact, so maybe any press release should wait until it gets a facelift. I was in a hurry to get something up at all.

I won't have the time to do either for a few days, or maybe even a week as I have some pressing work that I've been putting off because of the time I've spent getting my new project started. But I will certainly have time to participate in any mailing list discussions.

Thank you for your attention.


Mike's Latest Windmill Tilting Venture

I am pleased to announce that release 0.01 of the PaysWell Payroll Witholding Tax Calculator is available for download at:


PaysWell(tm) is Free Software, licensed under the GNU General Public License.

PaysWell is an OpenOffice.org spreadsheet. Other formats such as Gnumeric will follow in due time.

This initial release is incomplete and only supports the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The rest of Canada will be supported soon, with other countries to follow.

If and when PaysWell's SourceForge project is approved, PaysWell's homepage will be http://payswell.sourceforge.net/ For now that just gets a 404 page. A press release will be issued once the SourceForge project goes live.

For now, we're discussing it on the gnucash-user mailing list.

The reason I created my own spreadsheet is that GnuCash is not yet able to support witholding calculations. The reason I decided to GPL and release it is to help GnuCash achieve World Domination and crush Intuit for the crime of charging $199 a year for their undocumented QuickBooks format tax table "service". Intuit makes millions selling information that every national, state and provincial government in the world provides for free, often at considerable taxpayer expense by mailing tax tables in hardcopy form to every business in the land.

PaysWell is a trademark of GoingWare Inc.

Thank you for your attention.


Tilting at Windmills for a Better Tomorrow.

11 May 2005 (updated 12 May 2005 at 06:34 UTC) »

My new Kuro5hin essay is now posted. I was disappointed it only made section, but I knew from the start that such an inflammatory piece as mine faced an uphill battle. I'm relieved it was approved at all - I worked hard on it, but many Kurons were positively outraged. Please enjoy:

Please sign up so you can join in the discussion. Membership is free, and I'm much more hopeful than I have been in over a year that someday Kuro5hin will once again be the great community to be a part of that it once was.


This K5 comment right here is why I wrote what I did, and the way I did:

For what it's worth, your last one got me to dig up my password and start using my account again. -- destroyallofit

Sometimes dire circumstances call for drastic measures.

I realized I had succeeded beyond my wildest dreams when I saw the vigorous discussion that ensued in zrail's diary:

And finally, I posted a diary of my own at K5 tonight, on my thick skin, the advantages of being an egomaniac, and why I write the way I do:

I am quite close to being able to quit software consulting and live off the AdSense revenue from my programming tips.

All these years I have wanted to help out with many Free Software projects, but somehow never was able to find the time to make a meaningful contribution. But I have been able to write some Free Documentation, some of which has made a real difference to some people, as I know from some of the fan mail I get for it.

I am already able to devote much more time to my writing than I ever used to. As I transition into writing full-time, you can expect to see a lot more writing from me that isn't just Free as in Beer, but Free as in Freedom.

I am committed to it.

New Writing from MichaelCrawford

I just submitted a new story to the queue over at Kuro5hin. I worked on it all night long. I think I did a good job writing it, but if you're a K5 member, I need your support, as I'm sure my piece is likely to incite controversy, if not an actual riot.

Please go moderate:

  • Why Kuro5hin's Editors Need to Grow a Testicle
    Or, "What you can do to keep K5 from becoming the next Adequacy"

Thanks for your help.

If you're not a K5 member, membership is free, and I can remember a time when it was a great community to be part of.

3 May 2005 (updated 21 May 2006 at 03:48 UTC) »
Long Time No See

I'd like you all to read the Kuro5hin diary I just posted:

It's actually more about our decision to move to Canada, how things have gone since we've been here, and how I'm well on my way to changing careers from software consulting to earning my living through Google AdSense ads published in my programming tips.

It's long (6400 words, the longest diary I've ever written), but I worked for several hours to write it was well as I could. I think you'll enjoy it.

You might be surprised by what I have to say, but then, you might not.

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