Category Archives: Software

Moving from Dotclear to WordPress: no regrets

In June of last year, I moved from Dotclear to WordPress to manage my blog. I have not regretted the move one bit. This morning I quickly took a look at the Dotclear web site and found that Dotclear 2 is still in beta. If I had stayed with Dotclear, I’d still be waiting for version 2! Boy, did I make the right decision when I decided to switch to WordPress!

An inherent problem with DRM

This post about Adobe’s DRM being unsupported on the Mac generated a lot of comments. A good deal of commentators made the issue an “Apple vs Microsoft” one but I think they are missing the real problem.

No information structure is ever totally impervious to eventual obsolescence. Even ASCII files will become obscure one day. However, the simpler a structure is, the more chances it has to survive longer and the more chances it has to be supported in a variety of environments. An ASCII file will still be easily readable long after everybody has stopped producing readers for PDF files and it is readable on more computing platforms than PDF files are.

There are many problems with DRM, but the one I want to focus on here is the fact that it needlessly increases the complexity of the information structure. By “needlessly” of course I mean that the person accessing the information infected with DRM does not need the DRM. The information would be just as usable without the DRM. Of course the proponents of DRM argue that DRM fulfills a need, namely the need of whoever owns the information. However, as I user of information, the DRM is just an obstacle to my goals. But here is the fundamental problem: DRM makes the information structure it infects more fragile. Implementing the external infrastructure to allow to properly process the DRM information embedded in a file is not trivial. Because of this, information structures infected with DRM are more likely to become unusable in the future than those not infected with DRM. They are also more likely to receive a narrower support across diverse computing environments. That is precisely the case in the Adobe issue reported by Consumerist: Adobe’s DRM is supported in Windows but not in Mac OS.

Now, Windows users may glibly boast that at least on their platform Adobe’s DRM is supported but they’ve got to realize that their files are more fragile than if they were not infected with DRM. They must also realize that even though they can use the information now, they still do not own it and it is only a matter of time before their DRM infected files become unusable.

OOHanzi 0.2 released

Change Log

  • Added some code to make things a bit more user friendly when a JRE is not properly installed.
  • Modified the way web browsers are launched.
  • Changed the nomenclature of menus and some functions.
  • General fixes to improve stability in Windows.

Status

This documentation deals with version 0.2 of OOHanzi. This software is very much at the Alpha stage of its life-cycle. Expect bugs. Expect nonsensical design decisions. Expect quirks.

Imagine a paper even before it is at the draft stage, when it is still just a bunch of thoughts quickly put together. Or notes taken at a conference. At this stage, OOHanzi is very much the programmatic equivalent of that paper or those notes.

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Another proof that Palm is obsolete

The title of the Palm Infocenter post says it all: Google Maps My Location Not Coming To Palm OS. Why not? Because despite the fact that all Palm-based cell phones have all the information needed for Google Maps to triangulate our position, the Palm OS (Garnet) does not allow applications to access that information.

Hurray, hurray! Palm has made damn sure I’m not buying another Palm device.

Using Firefox profiles for security

We all know that if we want to use our browsers securely, we should turn of java, javascript, extensions, and all the rest. Sounds good in theory but in practice turning all that off means turning off some of the really useful tools available on the internet. For instance, if you don’t have javascript turned on, you can forget about using Google Maps. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to give that up. So my attitude so far has been to think keep all those features on despite the risks entailed. But there is a functional solution to that problem.

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R.I.P. Gnus; onwards with Evolution

After over 12 years of using Gnus as my mail reader, I’ve decided to move on. In the past few years Gnus had become increasingly difficult to use. Getting it to display HTML or multipart messages properly was a challenge. I’m sure there probably would have been a way to get it to work but I’m losing patience with having to delve into badly documented software in order to get it to do things that should work right out of the box. A good deal of the reasons I had to use Gnus have over the years become quite moot. One major advantage that Gnus used to have was the ability to use it over a text connexion but I have not had to do that for years now. I still use telnet but only for issuing administrative commands, not for reading email.

So I’ve moved to Gnome’s Evolution. It does everything I used Gnus for. It also handles HTML and multipart messages intelligently right out of the box. Moreover, and that’s very important to me, Evolution integrates nicely with my Palm Pilot. That’s something Gnus never came close to doing. When I was using Gnus, I also had to use Jpilot in parallel to work with appointments and memos on my laptop. Now, I can just use Evolution for all of this. The only thing that I found Evolution does not do so well is archiving emails automatically in a sensible way. I had to write my own filter scripts to do that in the way I want it but that’s not a big deal.

Linux snobs are not only barriers to entry; they are also repelling old-timers

Walter V. Koenning has an article (Linux Snobs: Real Barriers to Entry) on the condescending reaction prospective and new Linux users sometimes get when they seek help in online forums. I think Walter’s observations are right on.

This kind of snobbery, however, not only erects barriers to the use of Linux but also has the effect of repelling experienced Linux users who are fed up of having to deal with buggy or poorly documented software. Bad documentation in particular is rarely acknowledged as being a manifestation of snobbery (the rationale for bad doc being: “they can just read the code”) but is just as common as condescending comments.

Related post: My next laptop: a Mac?

bochs vs qemu

Tired of having to reboot in Windows to handle the occasional file or task that I cannot perform in Linux, I’ve recently tried PC emulators so that I could run Windows XP in an emulator box in Linux. Boy, have things changed since I’ve last tried emulators! It used to be that those things would be quite unstable or could be used only by people willing to read the source code.

Bochs has improved a lot but is not perfect yet. I was unable to install XP in it. I’ve tried a bunch of different configuration parameters but nothing worked. I have to say that while Bochs is better than it used to be, setting it up is still an arcane task.

Qemu on the other worked pretty much right out the box. Its default mode of operation is much more sensible than bochs’. The only thing people need to consider is to use kqemu (or qvm86). There was one bug that came up when I ran XP in qemu without kqemu that disappeared after I installed kqemu.

Anyway, now I can run Win XP in Linux… yay…