Bruce Byfield's blog

Confessions of an unjustified sinner: Using justification in OOo Writer

When typewriters ruled the desktop, all paragraphs had a ragged right justification, with each line starting at the same position on the left, but with a variable right margin. Full justification -- lines whose left and right sides all ended in the same positions -- were the mark of professional typography, and beyond the means of the average user. more>>

Adding contents automatically in Calc

Spreadsheets are labor-intensive documents. Usually, their contents is entered carefully, one sheet at a time, at an input rate far below a text document. However, like most spreadsheets, has several tools for removing some of the drudgery from input. more>>

Buying an HP Pavilion laptop for GNU/Linux

A corporation is not the person the legal fiction makes it so much as a collection of different interests. I was reminded of this fact a couple of weeks ago when I went shopping for a laptop. Remembering that Hewlett-Packard almost singlehandedly solved the basic problem of laser printer support for GNU/Linux, I ended up buying one of the company's laptops. Consumer reports, price, and HP's listing as one of the greener hardware manufacturers according to Greenpeace also affected my decision, but my impression of HP as a free software friendly company was a large criteria. more>> Calc: Pivot tables by another name

DataPilots are Calc's equivalent of what MS Excel and other spreadsheets call pivot tables. Under any name, they are a tool for extracting and summarizing the information contained in spreadsheet cells in a more convenient form. Using a DataPilot, you can immediately see relationships between different pieces of data that would be difficult -- if not impossible -- to find using formulas, and tedious to extract manually. In effect, a DataPilot gives you something of the power of using a database without actually switching out of a spreadsheet. Small wonder, then, that over half of spreadsheet users are said to use datapilots or pivot tables. more>>

Seeing yellow over color printer tracking devices

A series of encodings on printouts from color laser printers to discourage counterfeiting? At first, the idea sounds like the urban legend from a couple of decades ago that claimed you could hear Satanic messages when you play vinyl records backwards. Yet the evidence from the Electronic Frontier Foundation is that the encodings are embedded in color printers from all major manufacturers. Moreover, the issues raised by the practice have caused Free Software Foundation director Benjamin Mako Hill and other members of the Computing Culture group at the MIT Media Lab to begin the Seeing Yellow campaign to stop the practice. more>>

Options in Calc

Like other applications, Calc has several dozen options in how it is formatted and operates. These options are available from Tools -> Options -> Calc. Thanks to's habit of sharing code between applications, some of the tabs for these options resemble those found in other applications. more>>

A guide to using PDFs on GNU/Linux

Although GNU/Linux has long supported postscript format, full support for the related PDF file format has been longer in arriving. Today, however, PDF support is finally starting to equal what is available on other operating systems. Whether you are printing, editing, or viewing PDF files, you now have the choice of a variety of applications on both the command line and the desktops. more>>

Remembering Stormix

Reminiscing about my days at Progeny has me thinking back even further to Stormix Technologies. As a commercial venture, Stormix was a disaster, with an especially virulent strain of dot-com fever infecting everyone. Still, I'll always remember it as my first professional introduction both to free software and general management practices, as well as a snapshot of a surreal time in technology history. more>>

Remembering Progeny

Two weeks ago, I heard that Progeny Linux Systems of Indianapolis had closed its doors for the last time. The end was a long time coming – in fact, six years longer than I predicted. All the same, I paused last week for a bit of nostalgia. Working for the company in 2000-01 gave me my first sense of my potential and gave me a sense of self-worth at a time when I badly needed it. more>> Calc function tools

Once you are comfortable with inputting functions and formulas, the next step is to learn how to automate the processes. Calc includes over half a dozen tools to help you manipulate functions and formulas, ranging from features for copying and reusing data to creating subtotals automatically to ones for varying information to help you find the answers that you need. These tools are divided between the Tools and Data menus, according to no apparent logic. more>>

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