Older blog entries for msevior (starting at number 78)

AbiCollab and undo's

Marc "uwog" Maurer wrote up a great blog post describing the progress of our peer to peer real time collaborative feature AbiCollab.

Just one little point, we "handle" the case of undo/redo interfering with other people's edits (because they made edit's over your work) by detecting if this is occurring then preventing the action. If we allowed undo's through other people's edits, we would have to undo all the remote users changes post the interfering change as well as the change itself in order maintain document integrity. I considered this too intrusive and went with the simpler solution which is easy to understand. Simply:

You can't undo/redo through a remote users changes.

You can type over then, delete them, put them in table, change font colour etc.. but you can't undo them.

Also as Marc said, we're moving towards a Luis compliant business model too :-)

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Some fan mail

I was asked by the Melbourne Newpaper The Age to comment on an Irish Free Energy invention.

I received this lovely piece of fan mail from James Stephens in response:

"Better get a new email address. I'm forwarding this one to all the over-unity enthusiasts I know of (a lot) in hopes they may flood you with material that might allow you to see beyond the end of your nose."

I pointed him to the slashdot commentary.

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A very disturbing blog.
My friend Pat Lam, pointed me to this very disturbing blog of a woman Particle Physicist working at Fermilab.

http://radio.weblogs.com/0151290/

The Journal appears totally authentic. The writer is clearly a top experimental Particle Physics researcher. Her story is appalling.

I had no idea that such things were common at Fermilab, which been the career forming lab for a number of outstanding women Physicists.

I hope that none of my friends, colleagues or ex-students ever suffer that and that justice is done.

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26 Jul 2006 (updated 26 Jul 2006 at 08:22 UTC) »
AbiWord Updates
We've made some really outstanding progress on AbiWord recently.

Firstly AbiCollab our real-time document collaboration tool, is making fantastic progress.

We can now transmit the most complex documents and all our features work in collaborative mode. Undo/Redo works as expected during collaborative sessions, whereby only the local users changes are undone/redone. It's all looking very promising and appears to be fullfilling our vision. I hope we can make a 2.5.0 alpha release with the feature mostly working within a month. There is a reasonable chance of unveiling uwog's Secret Project at the same time :-)

Our SoC'ers sum1, Jauco Noordzij and Erik Pukinskis have been powering along too.

Sum1 has been improving our import and export filters for odt and docbook. His work with docbook has reached the point where we can import the evolution help file written in docbook format.

Jauco's pdf importer has reached the "working plugin" stage and he has just blogged about having detected columns in pdfs. It will be fascinating to watch him develop hueristics to turn pdf's into wordprocessor documents.

Erik's code to enable AbiWord to be run in the sugar framework for OLPC was just recently committed too.

I wanted to test this out so I followed the instructions to build sugar, helpfully found here. Step 1. Install the following dependicies with yum. Damn! yum fails with: http://download.fedora.redhat.com/pub/fedora/linux/core/5/i386/os/repodata/repomd.xml: [Errno 14] HTTP Error 404: Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 07:30:31 GMT

I can't see what is wrong. So I try pirut but it damands some weird perl module for git-svn that is not available.

So I just download and install the rpms by hand, fire up the jhbuild process and it completes!

Next try ./sugar-jhbuild run

But I'm faced with a blank screen. Damn! OK I'll send an email to the olpc-software list and see what could be wrong. Maybe I do need that perl module after all.

The most important phase of contributing to Open Source software is getting the project to build. In the case of sugar, which is clearly using bleeding edge software everywhere, this quite a challenge. Hopefully I get over the hump and help with AbiWord-on-sugar. Sounds tasty eh?

Finally I have to plug Ryan Pavlik's fantastic Community Outreach Project. While not as out there as zennies old AbiWord Weekly News, Ryan certainly manages to to supply inspiration to the project and feedback to our users.

Thanks Ryan!

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Google Summer of Code applications are now open.

If you are a student and would like to paid $4500.00 by Google to work on AbiWord or a related project over the Summer, I have put together a few wiki pages describing what you need to do, along with a template (stolen from the perl project) that provides a framework to clearly address the selection criteria. Using this template will significantly enhance your chances of being accepted by Google.

The start point is here:

http://www.abisource.com/twiki/bin/view/Abiword/GoogleSummerOfCode2006

Google is accepting applications until May 8th.

Good Luck!

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AbiWord - Distruptive or pushing the edge?

Luis here is your chance to be lead by example :-) Now that you are a student and eligable for the Google Summer of Code experimence, why not sign up for Abiword SoC project numbr 5. To quote:

"5. Come up with a UI suitable for the OLPC project. The OLPC project is aimed explicitly at children and the computer screens are either 640x480 or 800x600. Our current UI is not optimum for this evironment. This project would be to find a UI that works for OLPC."

Robert Staudinger has had a bit of a go at this already. You can find some mockups here along with some discussion on the OLPC list here

I'm also really interested in the possibilities of Beagle-Dashboard-Abiword integration as listed in project number 1.

"Last year Martin wrote the AbiDash plugin which sends clues and notifications to the Dashboard program. Dashboard is a really interesting project which runs in the background in a spare piece of screen real-estate. As different programs gain focus they send "clue packets" which describe what the user is currently doing. Dashboard integrates with the Beagle search engine and uses the clues to perform searchs through the Beagle index. It attempts to find relevent files and relevent pieces of text that could help the user with their current document.

So for example, if a user is employing AbiWord to write an essay on Shakespear's Midsummer Night, the Dashboard program would search through the users documents looking for both relevent documents and relevent parts of the documents to what is being typed. It should present the user with useful information without the user having to do any explicit searches. So imagine relevent parts of the "Midsummer's Night's dream" appearing in Dashboard as I write my essay. Or if I'm writing a technical paper I get references to previous work and relevent numbers and formulae in Dashboard as I type in Abiword."

Dashboard currently complies wth a small patch to the Beagle pkgconfig.pc file but crashes almost immediately after receiving clues. It needs a lot of love to recover from it's bitrot.

Will Dashboard live up to the vision described above? I don't know but it will be fun to try and you never know, it might be the Next Big Thing.

And of course the uber-cool AbiCollab project that uwog and I are working on (Project number 2):

"The AbiCollab project enables users to work collaboratively on the same document by immediately broadcasting changes from different Abiword sessions around a peer-to-peer network. The basic functionality and first order corrections for internet lag have been implemented and shown to work. Abiword sessions on different sides of the planet (Australia and Holland), (Australia and the USA) have been connected and typing, deleting and changes within the documents are transported to the remote documents. The first order corrections to internet lag allow the documents to remain in sync even if the users type and delete as rapidly as they can. In addition the usual word processing features like text fonts/style/tables/bullet points etc all get transmitted correctly to the remote document.

However there is tons of work left to do here.

"

But that's not all! We have another 6 interesting projects listed on our wiki and if students have an interesting idea they like to try we'll certainly listen.

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27 Apr 2006 (updated 27 Apr 2006 at 02:52 UTC) »
Presentations with IBM T43 and Fedora Core 5

Getting my IBM T43 to give presentations actually took a bit of manual configuration of the xorg.conf file automatically generated by Fedora Core 5. The T43 has a screen resolution of 1400x1050 which is a bit wider than the aspect ratios found in almost all data projectors. Consequently without the following tweaks, the edges of my presentations were cut off.

After installing the proprietry ATI drivers from the http://rpm.livna.org/ web page I editted the device and screen sections of the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file. I got this information after a google search. Unfortunately I can no longer find the webpage that give me the clues to get this right so I'm blogging this to add to the general correctness of the web :-)

The key to all this is the "clone" paramter in the device section of the file. This literally makes a clone of your laptop display so what you see is what your audience gets. (WYSIWYAG) Which Is Normally What Is Wanted :-)

Section "Device"
Identifier "Videocard0"
Driver "fglrx"
VendorName "Videocard vendor"
BoardName "ATI Technologies Inc M22 [Radeon Mobility M300]"
Option "VideoOverlay" "on"
Option "MonitorLayout" "LVDS,CRT"
Option "MergedFB" "true"
Option "DDCMode" "on"
Option "RenderAccel" "on"
Option "MetaModes" "1400×1050-1400×1050 1280×1024-1280×1024 1024×768-1024×768"
Option "CRT2Position" "Clone"
Option "CRT2HSync" "32.4-90.0"
Option "CRT2VRefresh" "60.0-100.0"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Screen0"
Device "Videocard0"
Monitor "Monitor0"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Viewport 0 0
Depth 16
Modes "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"
EndSubSection
SubSection "Display"
Viewport 0 0
Depth 24
Modes "1400x1050" "1280x960" "1152x864" "1024x768" "800x600"
EndSubSection
EndSection

Then when I make a presentation, I use randr to set the resolution to 1024x768.

There is one final trick to make it work. After pluging the external display into the laptop I have to logout and restart X.

If the lazyweb can tell me how to avoid this restart of X I'd be most appreciative :-)

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17 Apr 2006 (updated 17 Apr 2006 at 05:03 UTC) »
Faith restored in Linux Desktop

I installed Fedora Core 5 on my IBM T43 laptop a few days ago. I waited a while for a new kernel that supported the proprietry ATI 3D drivers.

I'm VERY pleased with the outcome. Firstly the install went like breeze. Video worked, sound worked hardwired network worked. Next I installed the firmware for the centrino Wireless built into the laptop. Got wireless working with the standard Fedora network tools.

Then I did the big update since the DVD was distributed. Around 300 Megabytes! Included was the patched 2.6.16 kernel. After rebooting and downloading the livna rpm to gives access to the grey packages, I installed the ATI 3d driver. It worked like a charm.

Started PowerManager and now the machine suspends to RAM just fine with lid closure. NetworkManager handles different wireless networks beautifully. The video out works nicely so I can make presentations with my laptop (I do a LOT of these now).

Plus there is a whole load of useful goodies in FC5. Gnome-2.14, Beagle, Tomboy, F-Spot are great programs. The FC Extras and Livna repositries now hold a whole slew of useful applications and now the "pirut" graphical interface to yum allows these programs to be discovered and handled easily.

Unfortunately "pirut" has a really dumb behaviour of closing immediately after having installed software. Sum1, our really cool AbiWord bug meister, found that there is a bug for this, and after adding a "Me Too" to complain about this, I discovered that it is possible to load up every thing you want before installing. This wasn't obvious to me and I think most users would find the same thing. Since "pirut" takes a long time to start up, closing the app after a single install really sucks.

Anyway after discovering the right way to use "pirut", via the bug report, it was very easy to find a whole lot of interesting software. (Including the all the patent restricted stuff.)

So in all, I'm very, very happy with FC5 on the T43. Plug and play with USB devices works great. The nautilus based CD and DVD reader and writers "Just Work" beautifully. I'm learning how to use Beagle and desktop search.

I'm looking forward to finishing the integration of AbiWord with Beagle and other search tools via dashboard.

Crossover Office 5 is there when I absolutely must have MS Word and Powerpoint alhough AbiWord is more than enough for almost all my needs now that we have fully integrated Equation support. I've been creating problem sheets and solutions with AbiWord for my 2nd year Thermal Physics classes and it works great. It is much easier and faster than MS Word or OO.o Equation Editors to an old Latex Hack like me.

FC5 definately raises the bar to whole new level for Linux distros. The GL-based Window Managers from Novel and RedHat should make Linux desktop fully competitive with Vista and OSX. There is every chance Novel Linux Desktop-10 will take things this new level, especially since they can ship patent restricted software like mp3 and various video codecs.

Anyway I also wanted to send a big "Congratulations" to the whole community that made FC5 possible. It's great to see how a huge group of competiting and cooperating people can raise the water level so that "everyone floats ups".

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14 Apr 2006 (updated 14 Apr 2006 at 15:08 UTC) »
My First Marathon

Last Sunday I completed my first marathon. It was held in Australia's Capital, Canberra. I flew up on frequent flyer points from Melbourne on Saturday. My brother drove down from Sydney to be my support team. It was great to spend a couple of days together and he even managed to get a few videos of me struggling along at 16, 23, 28, 34km and for my stunning last 200 meter sprint to the finish :-) The day was just perfect. The sky was clear blue and the temperature rose to 20 C. The course was beautiful and wound around Lake Burley Griffen and various Important Buildings. The locals were fantastic and really supportive. Lots of people volenteered their time to provide drinks, traffic coordination and Inspirational Music along the course. I'll never forget "Theme to Rocky" while running under a blocked-from-traffic underpass :-) All in all if you are going to run your first Marathon this was a great place and time to do it.

My time was a very un-stunning 4 hours 48 minutes. I finished 788th out of 866 people who completed the event. I think over 1000 started. I found that despite all my training my legs became really sore after about 23km. At 25 km I just couldn't run any more. I needed to walk. After about 10 minutes of walking I was able to run for another few kilometers. Then I needed to walk again. The remainder of the event saw the periods of me walking get longer and longer except for the final 200 meters when I put on sprint to the finish.

While I was training I thought I would complete this one Marathon and that would be it. I could cross it off my List of Things I Want To Do Before I Die . But there is so much room for improvement in my time I think I'll do another.

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Fuel Efficient cars

Rich Burridge quotes a summary of a Consumer Reports article which states that only 2 hybrid electric cars will save you money over 5 years.

This was based on the idea that fuel prices will either remain stable or fall in this time scale. Just to remind people, China, India and other countries in the third world are enjoying economic growth which is leading to substantial increase in private car ownership. The effect is to increase world demand for Oil by about 1-2 million barrels of Oil per day per year. This article shows that even Saudi Arabia will max out the rate at which it can supply Oil at an extra 4 Million Barrels of Oil per day and that it will take them until well into the 2010's before the increased production is ready.

With an extra 2 billion people competing for the world's remaining Oil reserves, the only way gasoline will become cheap is if it surplanted as the transportation fuel of choice.

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