OpenOffice / NeoOffice fail at life

if you ever tried to use OpenOffice or NeoOffice to create a presentation with images and timed animations (bare-bones, standard stuff, in other words), do yourself a favor and delete those useless applications from your machine. you’ll thank me.
how those clowns can ship software that randomly replaces your images with the dreaded ‘broken image’ image, or that forgets about the animations it is supposed to show, and gives you a blank slide instead, is beyond me.
with desktop “productivity” applications this bad, no wonder people are defecting to online.

opensourcing the google os

it has long been argued that the google os, particularly MapReduce and GFS, is google’s real competitive strength. yahoo, meanwhile, is paying developers to develop clones of these. with seeming consolidation on a common computing platform, and ever-rising data center expenses, you gotta wonder how much sense it makes for the big three to duplicate all that CAPEX. they might be better off outsourcing their datacenters, and sharing some base datasets, such as a crawler cache (kinda like the feedmesh network).

the outsourced company, on the other hand, would end up running a grid with several million nodes and could optimize running costs overall, by using very low power servers, running on an opensourced processor architecture.

preparing for the post-sourceforge world

People have asked the question “What if SourceForge disappeared?�? for years now, but I have to wonder if we should be asking this question again. Now, SourceForge has its warts, but it’s ultimately a beneficial service. And, even if they did disappear, it’s highly unlikely that the open source movement would be handicapped for any real length of time.

But here’s why I ask the question:

phil goes into some more detail, wondering whether GOOG or YHOO might be prepared to take over. Maybe the woes of sourceforge can bring some long-needed fresh air though:

I think that the problem with SourceForge is that they are providing 1999-era functionality based on a business model that really is not much more than an afterthought after the collapse of their hardware business. Consequently, the core functionality in the SourceForge project hasn’t changed all that much in the past six years. All the projects on SourceForge are effectively partitioned… we don’t see any tools for figuring out code reuse possibilities or anything particularly innovative.

3 years ago, i researched the state of the art of open source production, and developed a matrix to map activities, actors and tools. To say that there are many areas of improvement in the way open source software is produced is an understatement. The obvious observation that there are a power laws in effect with regards to quality and popularity of a project makes me wonder what can be done to improve life for the countless small projects out there that have neither their act together code-wise, nor any audience. A recent study found that 81% of sourceforge projects are inactive, and only about 0.05% innovative.

A considerable subset of these projects deserves to do better on both fronts with the right tooling. Done correctly, a post-sourceforge integrated site could act as a large-scale lab for novel collaboration and software engineering techniques. Tool vendors might be willing to integrate their technology in return for widespread usage and name recognition, and the rest of us might finally break free of the anachronisms of mailing lists and other 1980s-era solutions.

Furthermore, the site could be made to emit statistical data for open source research. Most academic papers in the field already look at sourceforge anyway, if they had a way to get better data, they might actually arrive at some useful conclusions, including reuse patterns, social network analysis, and many more. Such a site could therefore be a down payment on discovering the finer points of peer production, slated to become ever more important in the larger economy.

the state of open source content management

my article on the state of open source content management is now available, via content-wire. the blurb reads:

Content management is no exception to this shift toward open source tools. Gregor J. Rothfuss writes about the current state of open source content management and identifies the important applications that will continue to evolve in the next 10 years. Rothfuss describes the progress on a standard for repository-based content (JSR 170) and the fascinating advances driven by software for online collaboration used by open source projects. Finally, he provides a snapshot of the leading open source CMSs – Apache Lenya, Midgard, OpenCms, Plone, and TYPO3. Based on the concepts and applications Rothfuss describes, open source projects will continue to challenge the market position of the traditional vendors by promoting open standards and innovation.

thoutreader for open source documentation

The ThoutReader™ is an open source cross-platform multi-document help system. Simply, it’s the “IT reader”. The ThoutReader™ can search and organize a library of reference documentation as well as reference books, allowing users to annotate and bookmark pages in their documentation.
not too sure about whether they are kosher or not, but might be worth checking out.

The state of X Windows

Jim Gettys, one of the main developers of X Windows, gave a talk about the future of X11 at MIT. The present had some nasty surprises in store, when it took Jim a considerable while to make X11 talk to the projector 😉 It is gratifying to know that even the gurus sometimes fail with the “simplest” tasks.
Rough notes from his talk:
X’s flaws
X’s font architecture fundamentally flawed
Inadequate 2D graphics
Accessibility difficult to implement
No Eye candy
Full integration into 3D environment
Collaborative shared use of X
Cairo brings extremely high quality graphics to free software. Client side fonts are the biggest change in X since 1988.
Try turning on hinting in Freetype (patent problem prevent it from being on by default.)
Lessons learned:
X is but one component of a complete desktop environment
no more flashing: double buffering everywhere
To preserve traditional X flexibility, new Compositioning Manager is introduced. Solved via indirection, copied to visible frame buffer by compositing manager. Apps never draw the screen, compositioning manager applies whatever effects are appropriate and does the screen drawing.
Mouse input needs to be captured and transformed for accessibility. XEvie by Sun does this.
Four new extensions: XFixes, Damage, Composite, XEvie
Eye candy is designed in a way that institutes an upper bound for computation cost. This is a very nice design. (Bound is human perception)
Demo with drop shadows, fade in / out. “A thousand eye candy flowers will bloom, most will stink, but some will smell nice. Expect a cambrian explosion of eye candy.”
X becomes just another GL application. Croquet project highly recommended.
Jim evoked visions of millions of people sharing 3D spaces with it.
Efforts underway to make X build more easy. Switch to autotools underway. 90% of server round trips can be eliminated. Network compression for synthetic images can do 300x (needed for competition with RDP, Citrix) Session migration needs Xlib support for connection loss. There is a migration prototype done in GTK+ 2.2 One goal is to make input devices network transparent (on the way to X11 entertainment center :)
“Network audio solutions are all very lame”
“XFree86 is dead”, most developers moved to X.org. It moved from industry consortium to open membership. X11R6.8 includes X fixes, Evie, Damage, Composite, shipping now. New releases happening much more frequently now.

advokit looking for lead developer

The Project
AdvoKit is a VoterID/GOTV Web application being developed as free software / open source. AdvoKit combines support for the best practices of traditional
VoterID/GOTV campaigning with the power of social networks and friend-to-friend methodology. Current proprietary systems cost upwards of 100k for use by a state campaign. This is a very high barrier to entry for
smaller organizations.
To see a background white paper on the project, check out this PDF
The Community
Several people who have been involved in the Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich campaigns are nurturing this effort. The team is involved in mature discussions with a variety of potential users (local and state organizations) as well as the leading national organizations who could deliver training and hosting for users of Advokit.
Funding
The project has received a very high degree of interest from several organizations and adequate funding for a small team of developers will be in place very quickly.
The Technical Lead
The team is looking for a person who has coordinated volunteers and maintained a free software or open source package. The ideal person would have experience with web application and database development.
Contact
For more information on this project, please contact Henri Poole