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Formatting cells in OpenOffice.org Calc

I've seen spreadsheets that are basically interactive tutorials, and many more loaded with what Edward Tufte refers to as "chartjunk" -- embellishments that do nothing to make the presentation of information more effective. Yet, generally, spreadsheets are treated pragmatically. Certainly, few people worry about their layout than the layout of text documents. Still, even if you share this attitude, learning the basic formatting options for cells in OpenOffice.org Calc can be worth your time. Many of the options directly effect how you interact with spreadsheets, and even the purely visual ones can make your lists and calculations easier to read at a glance. more>>

Can we relate?

Imagine being able to relate to vendors -- productively, on mutually agreeable terms -- rather than just paying them money for whatever they're selling, and occasionally giving them "feedback" through surveys that aggregate our "input" inside some impersonal "customer relationship management" (CRM) system. That's the idea behind VRM, or Vendor Relationship Management. It's the reciprocal of CRM: a toolset for independence and engagement. That is, of independence from vendors and engagement with vendors.

VRM is also a development effort -- ProjectVRM -- that we've started at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. There are no VRM tools yet, so we're starting with a blank slate. We've begun filling that in with a wiki and a mailing list, both open. Find them through ProjectVRM.org. more>>

The Ultimate Distro

The name of Gaël Duval's new distro, Ulteo, with its hint of the word "ultimate", smacks of a certain ambition.  But Duval probably means it in the sense that it is the last distribution you will ever need to install, because thereafter it will "self-upgrade automatically," as the announcement of the alpha release put it.  Ease-of-use has been a constant theme in Duval's work.  When he launched his first distro, Mandrake, in July 1998, one of his stated goals was "to provide a working and easy-to-install linux-distribution to people who don't want to spend too much time in installing and configuring their Linux system : just install it and USE IT."

But if the vision has been steadfast, the path to achieving it has proved somewhat stony.  more>>

Some Ruby Before Christmas

'Twas the Saturday before Christmas and throughout Ruby-land hackers were working, refact'ring by hand. Their programs were written with the greatest of care in hopes that a new VM soon would be there. The newsgroup was still, the irc channels too In light of the quiet, what's a blogger to do? When up on the mail list, there arose such a clatter I sprang to my laptop to see what was the matter. When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a great bunch of news before the New Year. more>>

Looking into the FSF's BadVista campaign

BadVista is the latest in a series of activist campaigns launched by the Free Software Foundation (FSF)in the last eight months. It follows the highly successful Defective By Design campaign against so-called Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies, and an unnamed effort to encourage the activist media to make free software part of their agenda. Released on December 15, the campaign currently takes the form of a blog site coordinated by John Sullivan, a program administrator at the FSF. The site features a logo with its name over a quartered flag reminiscent of the Windows logo, but in black and with what appears to be a skull in one corner. So far, the contents is mostly the announcement of the site, an explanation of its purpose, and a news aggregate about the problems and limitations of Microsoft's Vista operating system. more>>

A Good Beginning (And Some Holiday DSP)

A t'ai-chi instructor once told me that he considered ten years practice in the art a "good beginning". By year's end I'll have maintained the pages at http://linux-sound.org for more than ten years, so I feel justified claiming that the site is off to a decent start. However, I have a somewhat suprising 10-year celebration announcement: The next edition of the Linux Sound & Music Applications pages (a.k.a. the Linux soundapps site) will be the last under my control. I'll leave it online in a final condition with all addresses checked and repaired, but my tenure as the site's sole maintainer is over. more>>

Unsucking Linux app installation

In Software installation on Linux: Today, it sucks (part 1), Ian Murdoch (whose first name is the second half of Debian) writes, Unless an application is included with your Linux distribution of choice, installing that application on Linux is a nightmare compared to Windows., and proceeds to say exactly how. more>>

What Can't Open Source Achieve in the Next 10 Years?

Exactly ten years ago I was sitting in a small but cosy flat in the west of Helsinki, waiting to interview its owner. He was busy in the tiny kitchen, which lay just past the entrance hall decked out with dozens of cups and shields won at Karate competitions, preparing a cappuccino for each of us. As you've probably guessed, his name was Linus Torvalds - the trophies belong to his wife. more>>

Microsoft Office lock-in and the deal with Novell

I can't urge you strongly enough to read the article entitled How Vista Lets Microsoft Lock Users In. It details how Microsoft has built into Vista the "trusted computing" ability to lock down Office files via DRM such that no unauthorized document reader will be able to decrypt and read them. This is perhaps one of the biggest hidden weapons Microsoft has in its arsenal that could sabotage Linux and OpenOffice.org if Microsoft succeeds in its attempt to plug SUSE and all Novell's "interoperability" bonuses.

Think of this, if you will, as the Tivoization of Office files, only with malicious intent. Microsoft could, indeed, open up the document format completely and swear before God that it will never sue anyone for patent infringement. However, this does not prevent Microsoft from locking Office files in such a way that only Vista users can read them. No one else will be able to do so without the proper authorization, thus rendering the open format and Microsoft compatibility entirely meaningless -- unless, of course, someone agrees to pay Microsoft for the keys to unlock those files. more>>

Miguel de Icaza plays fast and loose with the facts and history

Miguel de Icaza, in this weblog entry says, "Facts barely matter when they get in the way of a good smear. The comments over at Groklaw are interesting, in that they explore new levels of ignorance." This comment rings especially true of his weblog entry. For example, Miguel states...

We have been working on OpenOffice.Org for longer than anyone else has. We were some of the earliest contributors to OpenOffice, and we are the largest external contributor to actual code to OpenOffice than anyone else.

Say what? Who created OpenOffice? Who bought it? Who opened it? Anyone ever hear of Star Division gmbh or Sun? Since when did Novell become the earliest contributor to OpenOffice.org? The earliest and largest external corporate contributor, maybe. I'd like to see some hard facts to back up an assertion like that (not that facts matter, as Miguel admitted), but his hyperbolic boasting of Novell's contribution is obviously overblown. And is a contribution that doesn't make it into the main code base really a contribution? After all, in the same blog entry, Miguel himself makes much of the fact that Novell's OpenOffice.org really isn't THE OpenOffice.org. It's Novell's unique version, patched and modified. more>>

The Ruby Way

I've wanted to tackle Ruby for quite some time. Luckily, Addison-Wesley just sent me a copy of The Ruby Way, Second Edition by Hal Fulton. This is one of those books that makes me think publishers feel the need to sell books by the pound. The sad part about that is that, in many cases, books printed by the pound contain tons of fluff and useless information. Not so with The Ruby Way. Every page contains gems valuable for anyone who wants to program with Ruby.

But this isn't a book review, per se. If it were, I'd recommend The Ruby Way without reservation. Anyone even remotely interested in Ruby should get this book, now. It's worth every penny of $39.99 US.

But here's what really inspired me to write about this book. There are pages upon pages devoted to the unintuitive twists in the Ruby language. There are so many quirks that I'm almost afraid to tackle my first Ruby program. more>>

Let's go bust some silos

The Internet Identity Workshop starts tomorrow (Monday, December 4) and runs for the next two days, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. Every time we have one of these, progress happens. It's a remarkable thing to watch, and to participate in.

But the challenges remain very high. To illustrate how high, I'll start with a conversation I had one year ago, when we were driving back from a Thanksgiving visit to relatives who live 250 miles away.

With the kid asleep in the back seat of the car, my wife asked me to fill her in on a subject that had preoccupied me over the last several years, yet had remained opaque to her. "Tell me about this whole identity thing", she said. more>>

LDAP Series Part VI - Directory Service Modeling

LDAP services exist in a TCP/IP context. It's an Internet service that uses daemons, requires an administrator, configuration files and structure. In some ways LDAP resembles a Linux file system with a root, limbs instead of directories, etc. Unlike the directory configuration of an operating system, LDAP is flexible in its structuring. That flexibility translates into a design makeup you can simply create. We call the hierarchical model a Directory Information Tree (DIT). Whoever designs the DIT needs to know something about how to model data. more>>

LDAP Series Part V - Getting a Grip on Directory Service Modeling

I have an observation I'd like to disclose about the Open Source community: We tend to leap into all kinds of things before we have all the facts and/or information necessary to make intelligent decisions. We criticize other communities, laugh at things like directory services from the two major NOS players, talk about all our great applications, etc. We hang on to old notions about what makes Linux tick. Sorry, but that model ESR defined doesn't fit any more. The community natter appears to come mostly from people who lack deep technical skills and knowledge of enterprises. more>>

RubyConf*MI Videos Now on the Web

Well, this is some news I've been wanting to share for a while, but I've had to wait until everything was ready. During the summer, I spoke at RubyConf*MI, one of the first regional Ruby Conferences (I think San Diego held the only one earlier than the Michigan folks). At the time, they filmed all the presentations. more>>

Why We Need an Open Source Second Life

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last six months, you will have noticed that the virtual world Second Life is much in the news. According to its home page, there are currently around 1,700,000 residents, who are spending $600,000 – that's real, not virtual, money – in the world each day. These figures are a little deceptive – there are typically only 10,000 to 15,000 residents online at any one time, and the money flow is not a rigorous measurement of economic activity – but there is no doubt that Second Life is growing very rapidly; moreover, we are beginning to see it enter the mainstream in a way that has close parallels with the arrival of the Web ten years ago. more>>

Printing in OpenOffice.org Calc, Part 2: Print selection and printer options

In part 1 of this entry, I discussed how to use Calc's page styles to control how spreadsheets print. However, although page styles are one of the most useful tools for the task, they are far from the only ones. How you setup pages for printing and the printer or export options are also part of the arsenal. None of these tools is useful on every occasion, and you may have to mix and match them to get the results you want, but, the more you know about them, the less of a nightmare printing a spreadsheet becomes. more>>

A Novellization clause for the next GPL

Forget about Tivoization. How about adding a clause to the next version of the GPL that counters Novellization? The clause would say (in proper legalese), that if any code infringes on intellectual property or patents held by third parties, and the third parties take legal action, the contributors of the offending code assume 100% liability. In short, if Novell injects Microsoft IP into open source and Microsoft wants to sue, it must sue Novell and nobody else, because Novell assumes liability under this new license. This would render any "promise not to sue the end customer" agreement with Novell meaningless. more>>

Ruby Related Conference Announcements

It must be the season for big announcements, because they seem to be flying right now. I'd like to point out two of them from the Ruby community. more>>

Novell is loading Microsoft's gun

It is with regret that I urge all FOSS developers to treat anything Novell has contributed to the community as suspect, scrutinize any Novell contributions and purge them as deemed appropriate.

This threat is real, and it is not necessarily contingent upon whether or not Microsoft would actually sue customers for patent infringements. This is a classic case of posturing. Novell is leveraging its agreement with Microsoft in a way that harms all other Linux distributions and other FOSS projects. It is actively exploiting its unique position in ways that seem beneficial, but will pose risks to anyone but its own customers (and even their own customers are only protected for the next five years). more>>

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