Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Daily Archives / Saturday, February 9, 2013

  • Feb 09 / 2013
  • 9

If Office Suites Are Not Broken, Why Change Them?

Bruce Byfield reflects on the office suite:
“Should a modern office suite continue to resemble one from two decades ago? Or has the expectations and experience of users changed so much that we need to re-examine the assumptions we have lived with for so long?”
see Rethinking the office suite – Linux Magazine Online.

He has some reasonable observations but IMHO office suites work well. They are more or less perfected. There’s no reason at all for restructuring or slapping on rafts of new features. That’s M$’s business-plan to force constant updates/new licence-sales. We don’t need that with LibreOffice. Improving its efficiency, fixing bugs and making small changes to UI/features make sense. Rethinking to the extent of adding “the ribbon” or linking to clouds is not needed and not useful. We can run an office suite as a thin client already. What more do we need?

If I wanted a few more frills for LibreOffice it would be tiny changes like setting styles for charts (I don’t like the default fonts. They are too small for my eyes.). I should be able to set those once and forget them without rebuilding from source. LibreOffice was great on its first release and new features are fringes on a saddle.

  • Feb 09 / 2013
  • 3

Shock! Horror! Some People Want To Change The Linux Console

“UIs do not belong into the kernel. No one draws X11 GUIs or similar in the kernel so why should we draw text UIs in the kernel? User-space is responsible for that so lets move it there.

see FAQ · dvdhrm/kmscon Wiki · GitHub.

Hmmm… I am of the school, “If it’s not broken why fix it?”. The Linux console is what one needs to become root quickly on a running system or a system in trouble. Tinkering it with stuff in user-space could make GNU/Linux systems less reliable at least in the short term. I don’t see any particular advantage to the changes David Herrmann seeks myself. The switch to KMS (Kernel Mode Switching) caused me enough pain with black screens. There is some support for this in the kernel group. Linus has been known to prefer moving as much as possible to user-space as long as performance is not worse and the move is not radical/risky. We shall see…
“We do _not_ move stuff over that is questionable.

I thought that was clear by now. The rules are:
– we only move things that _have_ to move
– we don’t break existing programs, and no “but they are broken already” is not an excuse.
– we only move things where that _particular_ move can be shown to be beneficial.
No whole-sale moves. No “let’s break things that I think are broken”. No “let’s change things because we can”.

Well-defined moves. Both in content _and_ in reason.


  • Feb 09 / 2013
  • 29

Examining and Modifying the Code

A few trolls here have derided the utility of being able to examine and to modify code. I am not a C-programmer but I am not a complete idiot and can and do examine the source code. I have been using a neat little prgramme, gebc (GNU Exterior Ballistics Computer) but found a couple of rough edges. One of them I could fix…
“On my system, the column heading "Wind Drift" is cut at both ends to "Vind Drif" in the Range Table. I edited the file RangeWindow.cpp to change "Wind Drift" to "Windage" in this (123) line: tbl->add("@b@cRange\t@b@cDrop\t@b@cDrop\t@b@c
Velocity\t@b@cEnergy\t@b@cWindage \t@b@cWindage\t@b@cTime",0); There still appear to be a couple of pixels shaved off the "W" but it is more readable this way. The programme gives me accurate results. I would like to see it improved with resizable windows, fonts, etc. It is very usable as is but my eyes are old…”

see GNU Exterior Ballistics Computer | Reviews for GNU Exterior Ballistics Computer at

The programme is easily built with
make install

in the directory gebc-1.07 for the version I have. The download came as a .tar.gz file.

The idea that being able to examine or to modify the source code of software is somehow a disadvantage or useless is silly. Clearly it is an advantage and one that ensures bugs can be squashed more rapidly and by a more diverse group of users.

  • Feb 09 / 2013
  • 22

Content-Creation – The Third Option

The last argument of those who cling to the ideal of the Wintel desktop is that gaming office documents content-creation requires Wintel. They deny the current assault by */Linux on ARM or x86/amd64 as incapable of replacing Wintel in any manner. That’s clearly wrong on many fronts.
“Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, pegged 2014 as the year when such devices become reality. "In 2014 there will be broad adoption of new processor technologies from Intel and AMD, for that matter from ARM," said Moorhead of his prediction that chip makers will have silicon by then that not only sips power at tablet-appropriate rates but has the horsepower necessary for content creation. "This is going to happen. And that means there won’t be a robust, premium 10-in. tablet-only market."1
The modern ARM processors2 have greater throughput than the processors Intel was shipping just a few years ago and they were good enough then. Certainly Intel’s latest stuff can do the job but at much greater cost, weight and power-consumption.

Do we need an x86 desktop/notebook to do content-creation? No, if the real world is any judge. Facebook, YouTube and other sites are crammed with stuff generated by millions of smart phones. All kinds of real people are generating still images, audio and video using nothing more than a smart phone3. I know. My “little woman” is one who does. She has a good camera but leaves it at home these days. Would a smart phone be the first choice of a professional? No. Is every user of a PC a professional? Not by a long shot. Only a small percentage of PC-users are professionals. Professionals may use smart phones as necessary.4

Technically, one does not need to choose any particular client machine for content-generation if there is a network-connection to some powerful machine. It is trivial to control the behaviour of some server from an ARMed computer. That’s what thin clients do all the time. That’s what web-browsers do. There are kinds of content-creation that won’t work well that way but even Hollywood makes motion pictures using similar technology, selecting clips with a client machine and sending stuff to a server-farm for rendering. You can see people editing videos with their smart phones.5 Typing and cameras and microphones work with smart phones and tablets very well thanks to the Linux core which knows about such devices. We have had networked operating systems for decades. It’s the third option for content-generation and many millions don’t even care about the technology. It just works.

So, you can use any kind of personal computer for any kind of task if you do it the right way. Wintel certainly is no longer necessary if it ever was. */Linux works for millions. Why not you? There never really was a good reason to exclude other technologies. That was M$’s idea to make them rich6, not you. No doubt the trolls will shout that “Wintel works so why not use it?” but then we would have to look at re-re-reboots, malware, price,… There are plenty of reasons to exclude Wintel from IT.