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OpenOffice.org Calc functions, part 1: Understanding functions

A function is a pre-defined calculation entered in a cell to help you analyze or manipulate data in a spreadsheet. All you have to do is add the arguments, and the calculation is automatically made for you. Beginners might be content to use Calc for lists, but, for advanced users, functions are the main reason for spreadsheets. If you understand functions, then you can start to use the real power of a spreadsheet. more>>

Linux 's Missing Manual Coming to a User's Group Near You

Would you like to get your hands on "Linux System Administration" and have Bill Lubanovic or me show up to your local LUG or UNIX User group meeting? Then you should contact Marsee Henon at O'Reilly. Of course, if you would rather have another author and another book she can handle that too. Marsee works with various groups around the country to make sure they have books and speakers. more>>

A Public Market for Public Music

On the one hand, it's a bummer that the new per-song/per-listener royalty rates threaten to put Internet radio out of business. On the other hand, I don't mind paying Radio Paradise $.0019 (that's under 2/10ths of one cent) to hear Joseph Arthur singing "In the Sun" or to pay the same to RadioKAOS for Jo Jo Gunne singing "Run Run Run". (To name two songs I like that are being played right now.) I can afford that. I also like the idea of paying artists and their friends for their work — but not on coercive terms over which I have no control.

Right now there are only two ways of doing that. One is the advertising based commercial radio model. The other is the donation-based public radio model. The first doesn't involve me at all. The second only barely involves me, and then only as a "member" of a station.

So I have a proposal. Let's turn this thing around. Take it from the point of view of a listener who wouldn't mind using the radio station as an intermediary for paying artists on a voluntary basis. Give radio's consumers an easy way to become customers — with tools that let them pay on a voluntary, a la carte basis for stuff that's available for free but is worth more than that. Let's create a new and truly open market for music that's led by listeners rather than followed by them. Let's solve common problems in ways that work for everybody because they're conceived as common opportunities. more>>

News And A Review: LAC2007 & Rosegarden 1.5

The news: The annual Linux Audio Conference is now underway at the Technischen Universität Berlin. Alas, I won't be there, but I can still enjoy the presentations through IRC, audio, and video feeds. Check the conference wiki's LAC2007 Live Streaming page for access details. For more information regarding the conference see the LAC2007 general information page. [As of March 24 there is an alternate site.] This is the Linux audio community's event of the season, so feel free to visit, whether or not you're actually in Berlin.

The review: The developers at 64Studio recently announced the release of version 1.2 of my favorite audio-optimized Linux distribution. Among its many additions and improvements this update brings Rosegarden 1.5 to the 64-bit desktop studio. It's been quite a while since I considered the program in detail (I profiled a much earlier version in my Book Of Linux Music And Sound), so I decided the time had come for me to spend some quality time with the latest Rosegarden.

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More on Regional Ruby Conferences

The 2007 MountainWest RubyConf (MWRC) has come and gone, leaving only pictures, memories, and a promise of videos to come. Of course, this isn't the end of regional Ruby conferences in 2007. more>>

Dear Microsoft, Sue This, Please

November of last year, you announced a covenant with Novell not to sue its customers for patent violations. Shortly thereafter you tried to strike a similar deal with Red Hat. Red Hat turned you down. Somewhere early in the public discussion you claimed that all users of Linux owe Microsoft money for using Microsoft intellectual property (read: infringing upon Microsoft patents). Please tell us when you plan to collect said monies. When are you going to sue Red Hat Linux customers? When do you plan to sue the users of other countless non-Novell distributions? Surely Novell customers will feel their protection money was ill-spent unless you follow through with such lawsuits. So please fill us in on your plans to sue. The suspense is excruciating. more>>

FSlint: annoyingly vague, but useful

Version 2.20 of FSlint is a program whose functionality is at odds with its design. On the one hand, a program for -- as the name suggests --- locating and removing unnecessary or useless material ("lint") from a filesystem is a handy one to install. On the other hand, a rough interface with cryptic buttons and options and a lack of anything except minimal help files makes accessing its options a bit of a challenge, especially at first. more>>

Why the Office Format Wars are Not Over

Gone are the days when free software could blithely ignore what was happening in the world of proprietary code. The two approaches are now inextricably intertwined as more and more users and companies choose to run both. One paradoxical consequence of this is that as free software becomes more widely deployed, Microsoft's impact on it becomes greater. Against this background, a recent shift in Microsoft's public statements about open source assumes a particular importance. more>>

Internet Radio on Death Row

Internet Radio has been sentenced to death.

In a move that recalls the Vogons' decision to destroy Earth to clear the way for a highway bypass through space (a thankfully fictional premise of Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), the judges comprising the Copyright Royalty Board have decided to destroy the Internet radio industry so the Recording Industry won't be inconvenienced by something it doesn't know, like or understand. more>>

The Fun of LDAP - objectClass Attributes

OK - I actually like and enjoy LDAP, but do not allow that to cloud your judgment. LDAP took much more of my time and effort to learn than Bind and/or DNS. And I recall sitting in front of DNS chapters wondering why we needed another language to do something as easy as mapping a friendly name to an IP address. This jargon stuff has value though such as constraing insomnia. more>>

Can Apple clear the way for the Linux desktop?

That's the question that occurs to me as I read this piece in Roughly Drafted. It's about how Apple is kicking Microsoft's butt at the high end of the desktop market, and how Microsoft seems to be bumbling its way out of desktop hegemony anyway. Linux is mentioned only twice in this long piece, but the harbingery of the references are significant. Here's the enclosing quote:

Combined with the dominance of the iPod over devices using Microsoft's PlaysForSure, the imminent goring of Windows Mobile by the iPhone, and the shift of support across the industry from Windows to Linux in servers, the days of Microsoft's monopolistic grip on the desktop are winding down.

Apple doesn't have to take a majority share of the desktop market to win, it only needs to take the most valuable segments of the market.

Once that happens, Microsoft will be forced to choose whether it wants to battle Mac OS X for control of the slick consumer desktop, or repurpose Windows as a cheaper, mass market alternative to Linux in corporate sales.

And, at some point, consumer sales as well. more>>

A Modest GNU/Linux Proposal for Michael Dell

For anyone who has been using open source for a while, the current commercial enthusiasm for communities, collaboration, and all things Web 2.0, is rather amusing. After all, the idea that users are not to be regarded simply as passive and grateful recipients of whatever is handed down to them from on high, but need to be treated as partners and participants who can make valuable contributions to the formulation and development of new products, is central to the way that free software works. But some companies that are starting to dabble with Web 2.0 ideas are discovering that you have to be careful what you wish for when you solicit this kind of user feedback. Just ask Michael Dell. more>>

A Host For Native Linux VST Plugins ?

Fully functional support for the VST plugin standard is one of the most important remaining problems for the Linux audio world. VST plugins are ubiquitous in the Win/Mac audio worlds, they are employed extensively in professional and desktop music software, and it may be no exaggeration to claim that the VST standard has revolutionized computer-based creation of music and sound. Given its great popularity this writer believes that stable VST support would give Windows users a compelling reason to try Linux as an alternate or replacement platform, especially if they have a sizeable investment of money and experience in their collection of VST plugins. more>>

New Releases Lead to Better Ruby Testing

The last week or so has seen new releases of two of my favorite additions to testing (or speccing if you're of the BDD persuasion) in the Ruby world. zenspider and Kevin Clark have released a new version of Heckle on the 20th, and Mauricio Fernandez released a new version of rcov this morning (the 21st). more>>

Ruby Performance

Antonio Cangiano posted a Ruby Implementation Shootout on his blog last week. While it's an interesting piece (and will likely be more interesting over time), it's still very premature. more>>

Commercial Linux Transforming the Community? Or Do They Need a Wakeup Call?

Last week, I had the privilege of addressing the North Texas Linux Users Group. Ralph Green asked me to present information on my upcoming book called "Linux System Administration" by O'Reilly. I only had the digital images of the cover and gallies, since the book actually goes to press in early March. So, I showed my digital images. more>>

Recent GNOME panel apps

The basic set of GNOME panel apps ranges from the practical, such as clocks and system monitors, to the mildly amusing, but apparently too traditional to dispense with, such as Fish. However, in the last few years, an increasing number of GNOME applications are being designed to fit into the panel. Since many of these recent apps are interesting but too minor to rate a full-length review, here's a roundup of some that have caught my attention. Although all of them are in early release, each hints at new functionality and levels of customization that might soon be available on the desktop. more>>

Configuring OpenOffice.org Writer

Like other OpenOffice.org applications, Writer has dozens of options available from Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org Writer. These options allow you to adjust both the general settings of Writer and specific options for different kinds of formatting. Many are ideal for desktop publishing, and a similar set of options is available for web documents under Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org Writer/Web. more>>

Is there a secret story behind the Novell/Microsoft deal?

Was the Novell/Microsoft deal a worthwhile well-meaning effort between renegade open-source geeks at Microsoft and geeks at Novell that got derailed by salespeople and management, after which it was turned into a nightmare deal with the devil? I raise this question because I know someone with ties to people at both Microsoft and Novell. He has a credible story to tell about what really happened, and how much it differs from what we now know about the Novell/Microsoft deal. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get him to write up the history - yet. While I continue to pester him, here's the short version, third hand. more>>

Save the BBC from Windows DRM! - Update

The BBC has a long and glorious past as a technological innovator. Throughout the history of broadcasting, it has often been the first to develop and promote new technologies. Sadly, it seems now to be teetering on the brink of making technical choices that will not only damage its own reputation as a world-class institution, but which will also have serious knock-on consequences for free software. more>>

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