Tuesday, 15 November 2011

By on November 15th, 2011 in computing, science kits

10:00 – There’s still a lot remaining to be done, but I now have Kubuntu 11.10 to the point where I can work with it. Most of the stuff remaining to be done can be done on the fly as I discover missing pieces. For example, I just realized I need to install NVU or something like it to edit HTML pages.

I’m now using LibreOffice instead of OOo, but I don’t see many differences. I did run across one, which may be an artifact of old files created with much earlier versions of OOo. I have a spreadsheet that lists every disc I’ve ever received from Netflix, including the dates received by us, returned, and then received by Netflix. When I open that file in LibreOffice, what I see is a two-year-old version of the data. The file I opened is definitely the current version, so I’m not sure what’s going on. I may unzip it and look at the raw data, but I suspect what LibreOffice is showing me is the last version that was saved with a much earlier version of OOo.

We’re just about out of chemistry kits, so Barbara and I intend to spend some time this weekend building two or three dozen more. We have all the purchased components in hand, but we need to make up and package chemicals, which means we may not be able to ship kits until early December. We’ll continue accepting orders in the meantime, letting customers know that shipment will be delayed for a couple of weeks. This new batch will be priced $10 higher because it’ll be built using some components I ordered at higher cost than the preceding batches. And once we have that batch built, I need to place orders for more components.

18 Comments and discussion on "Tuesday, 15 November 2011"

  1. Chad says:

    It’s been awhile since I used them, but AbiWord and Gnumeric use to be excellent MS Office alternatives. They were eclipsed by OOo and sort of got forgotten about by most people.

  2. Chuck Waggoner says:

    I am late to the recommendation table, but personally, I have tried KDE, and found that it is very problematic. Most of my experience is the result of much experimenting with the radio automation software Rivendell, and the experience of the users on their mailing list.

    KDE is a bleeding edge desktop, where the developers repeatedly violate good programming practices (according to the Rivendell developers), and that breaks things. Rivendell just will not run correctly with KDE installed, and the developers are not interested in accommodating the poor practices of the KDE folks. So they just say, ‘don’t use KDE’.

    I tried KDE, and found that stuff I really needed would not work correctly — and that included font configurations of various screens and programs. I work exclusively with laptops at the moment, and standard font sizes just do not work. KDE just will not let me adjust what needs adjusting. It is one of those whiz-bang, graphics intensive desktops that also eat a lot of CPU’s and leave all kinds of unnecessary processes running, all the time.

    Ubuntu has gone completely off the rails. Even minor updates to Ubuntu are now causing things to break. In fact, those maintaining production systems of Rivendell have one solid rule which should not be violated: NEVER update a working Ubuntu production installation running Rivendell — EVER! Linux is not Windows, the experienced Linux people say, and updates are not necessary to properly working Linux systems.

    Those very experienced with Linux do not consider Mint a viable alternative, as it is basically Ubuntu with a Gnome desktop still available. Most have moved to Debian, which one very longtime Rivendell user describes as “Ubuntu without the surprises”. But the real hardcore Linux folks have switched to CentOS during this year. CentOS is derived from Red Hat, is harder to configure than Ubuntu, but is absolutely rock-solid. Rivendell development moved from the SuSE platform to CentOS very early this year.

    From everything I am reading (and my own experience — for instance, Rivendell will not install properly on some versions of Ubuntu after 10.04LTS), Ubuntu is now an out-of-control distro, lots of internal fighting going on in the community, and furthermore, nothing is being done to make stability a priority.

    Once again, the real Linux experts say that updating systems is a Windows concept. Don’t do it to properly functioning Linux systems! — especially Ubuntu.

  3. Chuck Waggoner says:

    A word on Ooo. There is a battle going on with development between Ooo and LibreOffice. Ooo started in Germany as a commercial product called Star Office. Along the line, it was sold to Sun, who took the project open-source, as they had a successful history of doing that with other programs. The Germans remained involved and working with/for Sun.

    Within the last year or so, a great many of the Ooo developers in Europe (many of whom were being paid by various corporations to develop Ooo full time) split from Ooo to form LibreOffice. This had to do with Oracle’s purchase of Sun Microsystems, and what many of the European developers felt were bad-faith moves by Oracle regarding the open-source nature of Ooo. The Germans headed the move to LibreOffice.

    Well, then Oracle compounded all the problems by giving Ooo to the Apache Foundation, which administers the Apache server stuff. This did not, however, fix the problems. Oracle’s motivation was tax-related, not from any sense of duty to open-source. In order to get the tax benefit, instead of giving Ooo to LibreOffice — which is a foreign entity, — it had to give it to a US corporation. Because of differences in the law between the US and Europe, certain elements of Ooo are not free to be shared with LibreOffice. This has compounded the bad blood between Ooo and LibreOffice.

    Still, the key smart developers who have contributed the most, are in Europe. It looks to me as though Ooo is headed to die on the vine, because the best and brightest are now developing for LibreOffice and Ooo development is a shadow of what it was a year or so ago.

    I moved to LibreOffice in the spring. I just personally trust the Europeans who have been the key developers all along. I have not had any trouble with LibreOffice, but YMMV. Again, as with Linux itself, the hardcore Linux users say — just as with Linux — do not upgrade the software if you are not having problems! M$ may test updates before releasing, but that kind of testing is not done commercially in the Linux community — it is done by users after release. So, if it ain’t broke in Linux, don’t fix it until it is!

  4. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Regarding the spreadsheet that will not open in LibreOffice, if you still have another system with OpenOffice on it, try saving it in another format and then opening in LibreOffice. My guess is that this is one of the aspects that can no longer be shared between OpenOffice and LibreOffice.

    And surely, somebody else out there in Internetland has had the same problem.

  5. OFD says:

    I have no complaints thus far with my two Ubuntu 11.10 laptops and I did the little tweak to go back to Gnome Classic from the Unity, which I just could not get used to and did not like. Gave it an honest try but no go. I, of course, do not have business or production stuff running on them, so my mileage certainly does vary.

    And I heartily concur with Chuck’s characterization of CentOS, which we use at work occasionally along with RH. Scientific Linux is another version of Red Hat which also seems rock solid and stable and I have it on a home desktop to simulate RH scenarios for my cert studies. CentOS would fulfill the same purpose quite nicely.

    Agreed again on Libre vs. OO, and have since made the transition accordingly to Libre, but Mrs. OFD has had issues with it on her Windows laptop, which is running Vista. I am jacking up the RAM on it for her; reformatting her drive, and installing Windows 7 Professional on it. She needs that and the CD/DVD for her work, so cannot talk her into Linux, but she will use Libre, Firefox, Chrome, etc. at least.

    Writers may wanna try this app:


    And for travelers with need to quickly get up to speed on other computers away from home, etc.


  6. OFD says:

    Oh my. My comment is awaiting moderation? Haven’t noticed that before…

    I wait with baited breath….with fear and trembling…

  7. OFD says:

    Hmmm….didn’t show up that time. Was it because of the embedded hyperlink?

    Let’s see….


  8. OFD says:

    Nope. OK, OFD is stumped.

  9. BGrigg says:

    Are you twirling the cat clockwise or counter clockwise? Also, many WordPress comment users have found that twirling dead cats doesn’t work. The cat must be live at the beginning and at the end of the twirling, though oddly, that isn’t necessary during the middle part.

  10. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Anything with two or more hyperlinks is held for moderation because that’s characteristic of spam.

    Don’t hesitate to post multiple messages with one link each.

  11. Chuck Waggoner says:

    Re: audio on Linux
    Audio is a mess in Linux. Not sure if it ever will be resolved in the near-term. There are 3 methods of getting audio out of Linux: OSS, ALSA, and Pulse Audio. ALSA seems to be the default choice of most distributions I have tried, but the problem with ALSA, is that only one audio source can access it at any one time. So — for instance — you cannot play audio from a music player, and play something in a Firefox window at the same time. Even computer sounds will not be heard, if you have something else playing.

    Enter Pulse Audio, which was created to solve that problem. If you are doing a regular home installation, Pulse is probably the better choice, if there is a choice at installation.

    I am working on creating a Rivendell-only installation, with not even a desktop. ALSA will be fine for that. Later, I have to come up with a video/audio workstation, and I will need for that to have multiple programs accessing audio all at once. That will likely use Pulse Audio with the JACKD audio patching and routing abilities. I will report on that when I get to it.

    Meanwhile, Kubuntu is one installation I had real problems with in sorting out audio. Cannot remember if I ever got it working properly, but I guess I am not surprised it did not come up automagically. One of the things that comes up again and again on the lists I subscribe to, is that things somehow change on their own in Ubuntu (and therefore Kubuntu). A piece of advice from the more advanced in Linux, is: don’t reboot a working Ubuntu system! Rebooting can cause configuration changes, and nobody has yet found out why.

    As I have mentioned, the guys with Linux experience repeat over and over: Linux is not Windows. Rebooting is the way to clear a Windows machine. Rebooting is a way to really screw things up in a *nix system.

  12. Randall Sluder says:

    For wysiwyg editing of HTML, NVU is obsolete. What you want is KompoZer http://kompozer.net/. Latest version is the somewhat dated 0.8b3 but the developer Fabien Cazenave seems to be back at work on it — see kazhack dot org.

  13. Brad says:

    But rebooting must work. Imagine, your system goes down for some reason – power failure or whatever. You reboot – youve got enough peoblems without having to reconfigure things.

    I have no idea about Rivendell, but I wonder… If it can’t come up cleanly after a reboot; if it is sensitive to unrelated system updates… Perhaps the Rivendell developers are the ones at fault?

  14. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    As I have mentioned, the guys with Linux experience repeat over and over: Linux is not Windows. Rebooting is the way to clear a Windows machine. Rebooting is a way to really screw things up in a *nix system.

    That doesn’t sound like any of the Linux guys I know. I agree with Brad. From what you’ve said, it sounds like the Rivendell people are at fault here.

  15. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    For wysiwyg editing of HTML, NVU is obsolete. What you want is KompoZer http://kompozer.net/.

    You’re right. I’ve been using KompoZer since NVU was orphaned.

  16. Chad says:

    Everyone knows that all the cool -nix kids write their HTML in vi or Emacs. 🙂

  17. Actually ALSA, in modern revisions, can do fine at playing audio from multiple sources at once. At some point about five years ago I noticed that it was able to do so, when previously it hadn’t been. Technically it’s the “dmix” plugin, but I didn’t have to set anything up; it just started working. Pulseaudio is for solving more complicated problems, such as playing audio over a network to another computer, and having each application get its own volume control (which is remembered for that application, from run to run). Oh, and perhaps most importantly, making it so there is only one volume control knob that users see, rather than a confusing mess of them. (On this computer, not running Pulseaudio, there are three different ALSA volume controls that all have the same effect — and this is a relatively simple setup.)

    As for Pulseaudio versus JACK, the developers of both agree that Pulseaudio is for consumer applications while JACK is for pro audio — the latter being defined as people who care about latency. The two audio systems try not to step on each others’ toes, but fundamentally it’s a choice.

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