Unlike my last post, this one is serious. One of my favourite podacsts, The Linux Link Tech Show, interviewed RSI expert Deborah Quilter. The phenomenon of RSI has risen to prominence in recent years, largely in response to increasing computer use. That puts tech workers such as myself in considerable risk of developing injuries, and in fact I am certain that I have developed some already. Ignoring the problem only makes it worse. Anyone who works at a desk should listen to this interview and heed at least some of its warnings and advice.
27 August, 2006
26 August, 2006
Are you aware of the condition known as Service Support Termination Trauma (SSTT)? View this Novell Public Service Announcement to find out more.
17 August, 2006
This report is pretty cool. The emphasis was added by myself.
The open source software phenomenon has spread far beyond Linux and is gaining enormous momentum, according to an IDC study of over 5,000 developers in 116 countries, representing 38 developer networks. The analysts found open source software being used by 71 percent of the developers in the world and in production at 54 percent of their organisations. Half of the global developers claim that the use of open source is increasing in their organisations.
The study declares that open source software represents the most significant all-encompassing and long-term trend that the software industry has seen since the early 1980s. IDC believes that open source will eventually play a role in the life-cycle of every major software category, and will fundamentally change the value proposition of packaged software for customers.
14 August, 2006
I must say that the SLUG Videofest on Saturday went very well. The immediate aim is to organise a video recording/editing/encoding/hosting/streaming team for Software Freedom Day (SFD) on September 16. I’ll need to squeeze every bit of performance I can out of my Pentium III 700MHz laptop to perform the requisite editing and encoding. Encoding in single-digit frames per second has never been more fun!
The real goal of this venture, however, is to prepare for linux.conf.au (LCA). We are seeing SFD as a dry run for this premier annual event, so it is important that we are organised for this one. I am not concerned: Silvia has been doing a fine job leading us so far.
Speaking of SFD, congratulations Pia!
13 August, 2006
In January, during Steve Jobs’ Macworld keynote speech announcing the new Intel Macintoshes, Microsoft made a "commitment" to continue to develop for and support the Apple Macintosh platform. In true Microsoft style, they conveniently didn’t explain how deeply that commitment went. Now we know.
Microsoft have decided to kill their Virtual PC product, removing a virtualisation option from Mac OS at the same time that similar functionality is being folded into Windows Vista. They are aware that virtualisation is quickly becoming a killer feature, and they’ll be damned if they allow anyone else to have it. Fortunately (and probably preferably), VMware will be made available for the Apple Intel platform. There’s also Parallels, but they still do not have any server-oriented products.
In addition, Microsoft will also be removing Visual Basic support from Office for Mac. If you can’t stop supporting something, why not cripple it instead? Many businesses are dependent upon VB scripting, or exchange files with people/organisations that make use of it, so this is a major blow indeed for Apple. Such a deficiency will be subtle: people will purchase Office for Mac expecting it to work with files created in its Windows counterpart (or vice versa), and will be sorely disappointed. This has already been occurring for a number of years, but the problem is becoming increasingly acute.
Ultimately, the best solution is to remove our dependency on proprietary formats and languages, for they are the root cause of this mess. OpenOffice.org already does what most people require, and in some cases it does it better. It even has growing support for Visual Basic for Applications. OpenOffice is truly looking like a better Office than MS Office. The OpenOffice file filtering support developers work hard to support all the MS Office formats they can find (people have counted over 20 different versions of the Word .DOC format alone), which is more than I can say about the MS Office programmers, who are notorious for breaking compatibilty with older versions. Using the OpenDocument formats (which are now an ISO standard) assures that your data will be accessible on many different platforms for many years to come.
The main stumbling block to OpenOffice adoption on Mac OS is the Windows-like interface and its reliance on X11 for display. There is work being done on a native Aqua version, but in the meanwhile there is NeoOffice.
11 August, 2006
Last month’s SLUG meeting (Friday 28 July) was an interesting one for me. The SLUGlets topic was Web browsers, so I decided to volunteer my services to give a demonstration of my favourite, Galeon. Its philosophy of "The Web, only the Web" felt extremely refreshing back in 2000 when the world was dominated by Web browsers that were either integrated into some form of software suite or even into the operating system itself. Its position as a top-dog Web browser has since been usurped by its offspring, Epiphany, and its parent, Firefox, both of which have been clearly inspired by Galeon. Nevertheless, the slickness and functionality of Galeon has left it cemented as my Web browser of choice.
One thing I was not prepared for was a fair number of my co-workers to be present. That in itself was no surprise, given the SLUG-friendliness of my workplace. The effect of their heckling was another matter. Their light-hearted distractions may have diminished the quality of my talk, but they also made it much more enjoyable for everyone, including myself. This informality is a clear defining characteristic of SLUGlets as opposed to the Special Interest Talks, which are normally quite serious and intellectual.
I had also offered to give a "Privoxy in Under Five Minutes" talk as well, but unfortunately we ran out of time. Perhaps another time.
All in all, I am mostly happy with how things went. Sure, my talk could have been slicker, but nobody expects a professional presentation in SLUGlets. The fact that I was trying to demonstrate a Web browser without Internet access didn’t help either, nor did the time constraint. This was the first time I have done something like this, so I couldn’t have expected it to be flawless.
8 August, 2006
Steve "Reality Distortion Field" Jobs has delivered his keynote address to Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC). It’s amazing what he would have us believe. Apple has apparently invented virtual desktops. What does Microsoft have to say about it, given they applied for a patent on the technology in 2004 (complete with images ripped out of GNOME and KDE!)? Let’s just forget that they have existed since at least 1985, shall we?
That aside, I am heartened to see that OpenDarwin did not close their doors a couple of weeks ago in vain. Apple themselves are sponsoring Mac OS Forge, and in the process they have made readily available the source code for Bonjour, Collaboration (Darwin Calendar Server), WebKit (which is really just KHTML on steroids anyway), Launchd and even their XNU kernel (minus some essential proprietary parts). They have even licensed some of these projects under the Apache Licence 2.0. I pray that this signifies the start of a new era of collaboration between Apple and the FLOSS community, and not just a cheap attempt to contribute the minimum amount required to keep the bulk of the community on-side.
So with Tiger being favourably compared to the forever-delayed Windows Vista, what does that make Leopard? Mac OS just gets better and better, while the Windows debacle is far from over. With screw-ups such as this [video], it’s no wonder that Microsoft feels the need to prevent/destroy all competition.
Update (2006-08-13): Here is a much more sober evaluation of the so-called ‘copying’ going on between Mac OS and Windows. It puts everything into more perspective, showing that some of their killer features in fact originated elsewhere. It reminds me of a funny quotation: "Mac OS, Windows, BeOS: they’re all just Xerox copies."
As much as Paul Thurrott likes to claim that Spotlight is a copy of Windows Search, Apple had the same functionality in the mid-1990s with its Copland Project.
6 August, 2006
Klepas pointed us on IRC to a brilliantly-done film explaining the concept of Trustworthy Computing. It concisely and clearly demonstrates why so many of us in the FLOSS world prefer to call it Treacherous Computing.
Unfortunately, the producers decided to make the film available as a Sorenson-encoded Quicktime file. I find it amusing that people who oppose digital restrictions are using such a highly-proprietary video format. Fortunately for us, there is a DivX/MP3 version (still not as good as Theora or even XviD, but it’ll do) available at Google Video.
Once you have finished viewing it, head on over to Against-TCPA for more information.
5 August, 2006
On the rare occasion, I find myself in front of a Macintosh. In its default state, the OS feels rather barren. The default set of applications is quite sparse, and you have to put some work into installing the software you need to get going. As a GNU/Linux user, I’m accustomed to installing an operating system and getting a full suite of applications without putting in any extra work. Mind you, OS X is not nearly as bad as operating systems from a certain other vendor.
Here is a list of software that I recommend to Mac users. Most of these apps are free software and also work on GNU/Linux (or a suitable analogue exists), so switching between the two operating systems is easy.
Web browsing (like Safari or Internet Explorer):
Office suite (like Microsoft Office):
Desktop publishing (like Adobe InDesign):
Drawing (like Adobe Illustrator):
Painting/Photo editing (like Adobe Photoshop):
Get more free applications: