Category Archives: Software

A Second Coat of Drying Paint

I suppose Windows is the slowest-installing program I know (and that’s on my mind because I’m going to have to upgrade my home desktop, my last XP box, to Win 7 soon), but Libre Office, the free and open source substitute for MS Office, has to come in second place. I have just been watching the installer for version 3.6.6 sit on my screen for more than the time it took Lou Reed to sing “Pale Blue Eyes”.

Oh #$**#U$W#**%$.

I got the 3.6.6 update by clicking the ‘download update’ button in response to a Libre Office popup (the automatic download has not worked pretty much ever). Fair enough. But now I just googled Libre Office to be sure I linked to the right website in the first paragraph above. And, guess what, THERE’S A VERSION 4.0.3 WAITING THERE that the updater didn’t tell me about. Being vaguely OCD about updates, I guess I get to watch some more paint dry. Bob Dylan will be long done with “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”1 before these (help files are separate) are downloaded, much less installed.

To be honest, I use the Libre Office spreadsheet much more than the word processor. I’m still using Wordperfect as my word processor of choice, and will use genuine Office when people send me files to collaborate on. Many versions ago the track changes feature of Libre Office didn’t play nice with Word, and I’ve been shy about it ever since.

Anyway at least I posted something here so my mother won’t call up to see what’s wrong. Talk about creating expectations.

PS If you download Libre Office, and I recommend it, it seems to install real fast until one of the later steps, when it just sits there a long time. Don’t panic. The progress bar is for each step, not for the whole process.


  1. Courtesy of my Pandora Lou Reed channel. []
Posted in Software | 1 Comment

Civilized Discourse Construction Kit

Jeff Atwood, of the great Coding Horror weblog, writes about his new “next-generation, 100% open source discussion platform built for the next decade of the Internet.

He’s calling it “Discourse“.

As much as existing forum software is inexplicably and terrifyingly awful after all these years, it is still the ongoing basis for a huge chunk of deeply interesting information on the Internet. These communities are incredibly passionate about incredibly obscure things. They aren’t afraid to let their freak flag fly, and the world is a better place for it.

The goal of the company we formed, Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc., is exactly that – to raise the standard of civilized discourse on the Internet through seeding it with better discussion software:

  • 100% open source and free to the world, now and forever.
  • Feels great to use. It’s fun.
  • Designed for hi-resolution tablets and advanced web browsers.
  • Built in moderation and governance systems that let discussion communities protect themselves from trolls, spammers, and bad actors – even without official moderators.

Our amazingly talented team has been working on Discourse for almost a year now, and although like any open source software it’s never entirely done, we believe it is already a generation ahead of any other forum software we’ve used.

Love the ambition, love the name. Not so sure yet about the interface, though, which seems very busy with all those avatars and stuff.

Posted in Discourse.net, Software | 3 Comments

Xmarks is Back

Xmarks is back. I found this on their twitter feed:

We experienced unscheduled downtime, we apologize for the inconvenience. Please try a “repair” for ongoing errors: http://bit.ly/MlqXKf

Which leads you to this ‘perfect storm’ explanation:

Xmarks bookmark sync has experienced unscheduled downtime over the last 20 hours. This morning the decision was made to disable syncing to facilitate recovery.

Xmarks has gone to backups to restore the service for impacted Xmarks bookmark sync users. If you use Xmarks bookmark sync please double check any bookmarks you’ve made over the previous 48 hours from 7/1/2012.

At this stage all users should be back in working order from the server, if you’re having issues we’d recommend trying Xmarks Settings -> Advanced -> Repair first. You may want to consider simply using Upload instead to push your local set up to the server if you notice inconsistencies.

If you use Firefox you can reference the bookmarks backups that Firefox automatically creates: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Backing_up_and_restoring_bookmarks_-_Firefox

A number of issues came together causing Xmarks to experience this problem:

– While our datacenters were not impacted, our staff was impacted by the storms that hit the Washington DC area – leaving many of our employees without power, without Internet, and without working phones.
– Our offices are also without power impacted by the storms so using them was not a possibility either.
– Nearly all of our servers were impacted by the bug detailed by Mozilla here: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=769972
– We found that rebooting machines fixed the issue before we found out the true cause (and the above bug report). Rebooting worked but a number of machines failed to shutdown gracefully causing issues bringing back up the cluster cleanly.

We apologize for this issue and thank you for your patience. We will be looking into ways we can further mitigate our risks against threats like these in the future.

That Firefox bug, by the way is ‘Java is choking on leap second‘. That plus a major power outage is very very bad luck indeed. The leap second bug had some nasty effets around the world — grounding Qantas flights and crashing various internet services.

Previously: Xmarks is Down.

Posted in Internet, Software | 1 Comment

Xmarks is Down

My Xmarks bookmark synching service stopped working. I got a whole bunch of different error messages, most of which made it sound like it was either my fault, or the fault of a gateway between me and Xmarks.

But in fact, it seems to be a server problem at Xmarks:

Xmarks experienced a server problem on June 30, 2012. We are working to fix the problem now, we appreciate your patience.

Sounds bad. I can cope for now … but I wish the error messages in my browser had been more accurate and informative. And that they’d put a notice about the problem on their main homepage.

Posted in Internet, Software | 1 Comment

It’s Only Funny at First

This looks like the sort of internet ‘tax’ you could learn to love:

explorer tax

"Today at Kogan we’ve implemented the world’s first ‘Internet Explorer 7 Tax’. The new 6.8 [per cent] tax comes into effect today on all products purchased from Kogan.com by anyone still insistent on using the antique browser," says a blog post from the firm.

via Kogan implements Internet Explorer 7 tax – The Inquirer, who seem to think it’s copacetic.

Kidding aside, though, this isn’t a true tax since since it’s private, not governmental.

Worse, I wonder if this might lead to a new struggle for market share in which some retailers would offer a discount to users who visit with Chrome, or come from Bing. In the long run, this sort of deal would not work to the advantage of open source projects since they don’t have the deep pockets it would take to run that sort of (wickedly effective?) promotion. I wonder if there would be any anti-trust implications…

Posted in Internet, Software | 7 Comments

ProxMate – Work Around Regional Internet Blocks … Or Not?

ProxMate says it is a free plugin for Firefox and Chrome that will allow your to see more of the internet by going around regional content blocks:

– unblocks Youtube Videos!
– unblocks Youtube Channels!
– unblocks Youtube Search!
– unblocks Grooveshark!
– unblocks Hulu (beta!)
– Add your own server!
– No History Tracking!
– On github!
– 100% FREE to use!

I ran into one of those myself not so long ago, but as far as I can tell, adding ProxMate to my browser didn’t fix the problem.

Could it be that the plugin makes it look like you are FROM the US when you are not, but fails to make like like you are not from the US when you are?

Posted in Internet, Software | 5 Comments

GIMP 2.8 Released

GIMP ReleasedThe latest from Gimp.org looks like a significant upgrade — better aesthetically, bigger feature set, it also feels snappier so far.

Versions seem available for just about every platform.

(GIMP stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a free and open source solution that rivals Photoshop. And did I mention free?)

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