Oooooops, I was wrong … (so what else is new?)

In a previous post, “I may just have that reason to get rid of Ubuntu …” I stated that the thing that killed Ubuntu for me was the difference in how OO.o on Ubuntu 8.04 and Fedora 9 deal with the “notes” function in a document. The versions of OO.o in question were — according to distrowatch.com — 2.4.0 for Ubuntu 8.04 and 2.4.0 for Fedora 9. As of today’s date my F9 notebook has updated itself to 2.4.2, so to be fair I imagine that in the past year Hardy Heron has had some updates as well.

Today I stumble across this little gem from the OpenOffice.org website:

Improved Notes Feature in Writer

“In the past; notes in OpenOffice.org were just displayed as small yellow rectangles within the text. This was not very intuitive and user friendly. With version 3.0, OpenOffice.org got an advanced notes features which displays notes on the side of the document. This makes notes a lot easier to read. In addition, notes from different users are displayed in different colours together with the editing date and time.”

Ooops.

I went off on a holy rant, wondering why the heck Ubuntu has changed a few things more that it arguably needed to, when in fact … well, it apparently hadn’t: The annoying yellow dot was a function of OO.o to begin with. At that time. If anyone was changing things, it was Fedora backporting this function some time last fall, assuming that it wasn’t OO.o doing it, or adding a preview into the version that Fedora grabbed and included in F9 — in keeping with Fedora’s usual policy of not using custom patches not necessary to Fedora integration or backporting updates, instead opting for rapid changes, new releases, and submitting bug and improvement patches upstream instead.

Which is perhaps not saying much since at release time, both distros were using 2.4.0; rather, it only raises the question of why things are different between two nominally identical pieces of software, and perhaps lifts blame away from Ubuntu.

Oh well, I still don’t like Ubuntu. 🙂

In the meantime … I wonder how this is explained given that both distros apparently had the same version of OO.o at release time. I wonder if the feature was backported in Fedora. Or if it was backported by OO.o and Fedora simply passed on the change. Or … ?

And in the meantime as well, I wonder about the notes function in previous versions of the 2.x series of OO.o acting in “the new way” at least back to 2006 — again in the same post, second to last paragraph:

“The appearance of the notes in the margin is not a recent occurrence in OO.o, at least in the 2.0 series: back in August 2006 under CentOS 4.4 — OK, this is still the Red Hat family — I received a document with the notes visible in the margin (being a work contract I declined the document and asked that they resend the proper version, please.) I was using the standard OO.o 2.whatever downloaded and installed directly from openoffice.org (since the CentOS 4 series originally came wih OO.o 1.5.something series; I’d been using the OO.o 2.0 series for close to a year at that point under Windows before I’d made the switch to linux.)”

Printing PDFs

I’ve just had an interesting object lesson in the differences between two different pieces of software that have more than essentially the same function.

Today I had an important PDF document to print out at home instead of at the office. For the purposes of practical convenience, it was far better to print it out at home and just deliver it to the office than spend the extra time at the office (5-10 minutes) turning on my office computer and printing it out there on a printer I knew would have no difficulty dealing with it, having printed out a few dozen identically-generated documents on it.

On my pretty much stock Fedora 10 box, I use the Evince Document Viewer 2.24.2 using poppler 0.8.7 (cairo) for the Gnome desktop to display and print PDF documents. So far, I’ve been satisfied.

The PDF’s layout had margins beyond my printer’s abilities. And of course the most important parts of the document, being right at the edges of the margins in this document, were being cut off in the process of printing out the document. A reduction in the print size was not useful since the vital information was on the end of the document being cut off in the margins. I suppose I could have tried rotating the document to try to see if the cut off part would not contain crucial information, which I didn’t think of at the time. Both these strategies, however, miss the point: If the original document has very narrow margins, something is going to get cut off no matter what; not exactly desireable.

I did try something that happened to involve a Windows box (ughh) mostly because it had a different printer, and you never know how things behave differently with different equipment.

Not surprisingly, the windows box happens to have an Adobe viewer installed (I avoid that box as much as possible; I don’t even maintain it, that’s my brother’s job. 🙂 ). I click to print the document and whaddya know, in the print dialog there’s an option to fit the document within the printable area. Document printed, convenience secured.

Now what I would like to know is how much of the print window in my desktop is governed by HPLIP, how much by Gnome, how much by CUPS, and how much by the application invoking it at the moment. So I did a little experiment: Always selecting my printer, I opened a print dialogue in Evince Document Viewer, OpenOffice.org (3.0.1), Firefox (3.0.7), The Gimp (2.6.5), Xpdf (3.02) which I intentionally installed for the purpose of this experiment, and gedit (2.24.3) (on which I’m composing this blog). Besides Xpdf, each appears to have the same base, and except for Evince Document Viewer, each also adds a function tab of its own. Xpdf, on the other hand, has its own stripped-down interface — either invoke the lpr command or print to a file.

Here’s a quick table listing the tabs listed in the print dialogs available in five, off-the-shelf standard installs of Fedora 10 software, with my printer selected, plus Xpdf, which was installed directly from the Fedora repositories without any modification of settings or whatever on my part:

OpenOffice.org*: General; Page Setup; Job; Advanced; Properties
Firefox: General: Page Setup; Job; Advanced; Options; Properties
Document Viewer: General; Page Setup; Job; Advanced
The Gimp**: General; Page Setup; Job; Advanced; Image Settings***
Xpdf: Xpdf has its own stripped-down interface
gedit : General; Page Setup; Job; Advanced; Text Editor

* There is an Options button in the “Page Setup” tab for OpenOffice.org.
** The Gimp treats my “special” PDF as an image much like any other, and automatically sizes it to the current settings, much like it would handle a .png or .jpg image
*** The Gimp has an option to ignore the margins; see above note

Not one, besides The Gimp, has an option to fit the document within the printable range, and The Gimp only indirectly, because of the way it seems to handle PDFs by default as an image to be manipulated. And of the others, to be fair, only Document Viewer and Xpdf deal with PDFs — even FireFox delegates PDFs to the Evince Document Viewer by default.

Then I did another little experiment: I installed Adobe Reader 9.1 (that license is interesting, pretty convoluted, and makes me wonder whether I may use the installation at all; in any case, I’ll be getting rid of it since I really only installed it for the purpose of this experiment, and decided a while ago that having 2 PDF viewers above and beyond that which is available in the basic distro installation is superfluous unless ther’s a particular reason for it.) And what do I see? A new print dialog that reminds me of the one I saw earlier on the windows box. Interestingly, it has “fit to printable area” and “shrink to printable area” options.

So my little experiment has led me to the following conclusions:

– many pieces of software, presumably not wanting to reinvent the wheel, rely either on the OS or I suspect, at least in this case, the desktop environment for its print dialogs;
– some software authors do want to reinvent the wheel, such as to “do it their own way”, or to be completely platform and environment independent, and therefore make their own dialogs;
– some software authors want to do extra things but don’t want to reinvent the wheel, so they have a wrapper for to add extra functionality to an existing base;
– in my documents, I shouldn’t try to stuff as much content as possible into each page too far, at least not by playing around with the margins.

Looks like something for the Evince authors to toss in. Assuming, of course, that — without fundamentally changing a document — resizing a PDF and/or its content to the local printer’s printing range is a really useful feature, such as to deal with awry margins, or PDFs sized for A4 instead of letter sized or vice-versa. 🙂 And that such non-conformities and/or their prevalence make it worth my using the Adobe Reader, licensing issues aside. Or that another PDF reader out there that has that functionality.

finally, more memory

My desktop now has a gig of memory. I managed to trade the $5 1gig DDR2 memory stick I bought a month ago for 512megs of DDR memory.

So far, the machine is a bit peppier. I wonder if the X.org problem will become solved in the process. I doubt it.

Hmmm … OO.o differences, Fedora, and Ubuntu

In my post I may just have that reason to get rid of Ubuntu … I whined about minor differences between “stock” OpenOffice.org appearances and functions and those I used straight off the OO.o website as well as what ships with Fedora.

This blog (here’s my archive) explains a bit why: It says “Many Linux distributions ship ooo-build. … Fedora ships a modified OpenOffice.org, but Fedora does not use ooo-build.” Which means that in keeping with Fedora’s usual policy, it ships upstream versions of software with only reasonably required modifications to make it work under Fedora. When I was using CentOS, I was using the vanilla version directly from OO.o.

That explains a few things. It doesn’t necessarily justify my whining — nor all the changes Ubuntu or other distros (or even Fedora) make, but … Why mess with a good thing? 🙂

Blog spam

I’ve been both annoyed and had my curiosity piqued over the past couple of years regarding my blog: While I’ve been having to hit the “Spam it!” button quite a bit for responses to my posts — not so much over the past 6 months, mind you — but apparently not a single comment came from a real person.

Interestingly, most of the spam posts are generic posts that are along the lines of “interesting post, keep it coming” “I don’t agree with everything you wrote but you make interesting points” and the like, and the give-away is the link (rolexes, youtube, etc.)

It appears that my posts are all drivel, and no one real is really interested in what I have to say.. 🙂

Actually, the self-deprecation is sincere, I read my posts sometimes weeks later and poke holes it them on their technical merit.

Hmmmm … maybe it’s the X.org, not the vino-server

Last week my Fedora 10 setup was grinding to an unusable halt. My brother set up an hourly cron job to kill the Vino-server, and in the whole process of having done this things were back to their peppy selves.

Slight problem. Last couple of days, the computer started slowing down again. A top command seemed to reveal a potential culprit: The X.org server. I think that it’s important at this point to mention that my computer is normally left on 24/7, so of course I saw relatively long uptimes for the server (relatively being important, it’s probably been only a few days. 🙂 )

I did a manual kill of the server, and either because Red Hat systems are set up to do this automatically or somewhere in my particular setup, including the auto-login, it automatically reboots and within a minute or so I’m back in my desktop.

And my computer is peppy again.

I guess that earlier in the week, included in the whole process was a reboot somewhere, that reset any bogging down in the X.org server.

Vino-server appears to have struck again!

Back a couple of years ago, my CentOS-4.6 system was slowing down to near unuseability. Using the Top command at a command line, there seemed to be this service listed at the top called Vino taking up a good amount of resources. My brother looked at it, researched it, and set up an hourly cron job to kill the vino-server every hour, and the problem was solved.

Back last fall, I was getting this notion, while running Ubuntu 8.04 LTS, that the system had slowed down a bit much the same way that Windows 2000 is a little slower than Win98. When I switched back to Fedora 10, I noticed the same thing. However, I never noticed a return of the infamous vino-server.

Then last week I figure it’s time to get more memory and decided to pull out my 512meg memory stick and go with it, for comparative purposes to make sure I get the right thing, to the store to get a twin for it, or a 1gig stick, in the hopes that either a gig or a 1.5 gigs would improve performance. I’m cheap and was pleased to pick up what appeared to be a nearly-new, opened box of 1gig of SDR2 667mhz for $5.

Well, I guess those of you who actually know what to do around an open computer are chuckling by now and know that my new purchase doesn’t fit in my DDR slots, the little slot in the DDR2 stick being about a millimetre or two over from the same slot in DDR memory sticks.

In the meantime I of course put my original memory stick back and notice over the past week that my computer is becoming increasingly bogged down to unuseability. During the week I found a website that seemed to make my computer freeze, but others didn’t. Today I mention the general slowness that the computer has bogged down to to my brother who looks at things and he has a flash of memory. A quick hourly cron job is set up to kill vino-server, and my computer works fine again.

Linux *is* breaking into the mainstream

Back in October I saw a billboard along the highway where (probably) hundreds of thousands of people see it every day. It advertised a French-language spell-checker that I’d never heard of, despite living in a French city — in fact, the second-largest French-speaking city after Paris — and being fluent in French; I’m a native-English speaker. Go figure, chalk it up to the two solitudes.

There was a marketing pic, and four words. In large, bold type, “ANTIDOTE” (the name of the spell checker.)

And, in smaller, grey type, “Windows Mac Linux”

I’m impressed. And it made all the more an impression since I’d never heard of the product and had to look it up.

It’s a small step, of course, but to me it underlines that there is appears to be enough desktop penetration for them to not only make Linux version, but to actually bother to mention that they have a linux version in their marketing as an apparent equal alongside Windows and Mac.

Let me tell you about my angst regarding Ubuntu

I suppose I’m trying to make my peace.

I’m enjoying my new Fedora 10 setup on my desktop. Not because it’s the latest and greatest. The fact that it works is good enough for me … aside from it not being Ubuntu. And frankly, I’m not 100% sanguine with the reformat-every-time-somebody-sneezes mill; at least Ubuntu 8.06 is LTS, lasting about 3 years if I were to want to wait that long.

What gets me is purely subjective, the only thing vaguely rational about it is thinking about the time I went to a LUG meeting while still a relative newbie and announced that I used CentOS. Those who’d been around a while were extolling the virtues of linux and its diversity, and how you can pick and choose. Funny, of the dozen or so there there, as I recall, there were probably at least 10 Ubuntu boxes. I recall feeling a bit of pressure to change. So much for diversity, score one for the fanboys.

As for my part, I guess if you grow up on one side of the fence the other side seems strange no matter what.

When I use my computers with some form of Red Hat (be it Fedora or CentOS) I truly enjoy using it, even when what I’m doing has nothing to do with the underlying OS. On the other hand, when I was using Ubuntu, the experience was quite joyless. Sure, it did what I wanted. Sure it met two important criteria for me (the immediate criterion of supporting my printer, and the general criterion of not having to reformat every time someone sneezes.) Sure, from a technical perspective, the user experience was identical other than a few minor administrative differences. But the joy seemed to have been sucked right out of things.

Hmmm … my F10 disk 2 was corrupted

Funny, when I was downloading F10 I had to get the disks from 3 canadian sources … IWEB.ca (they offer Ubuntu server … 🙁 ) and the downloads for disks 1-4 kept on stalling mid way through. Then I tried the NRC … and could only get disk 1 before I got challenged for passwords. Finally, the LUG at the University of Sherbrooke gave me the last disks. Problem is that the disk 2 I ended up getting was corrupt. Fortunately this morning I managed to get disk 2 from the NRC before being asked for a password, and the installation is now complete!

Ubuntu Free!