Saturday, 30 June 2012

Will the real Neil Munro please stand up?

Dear Internet, most importantly America.

I am not American, I am not a reporter and I do not live in Washington DC. I understand that there is a lot of talk about my namesake at the moment, but please do some homework before blasting a tweet my way. It took me all of twenty seconds to find who I presume is the intended recipient.

This is what I was greeted to when I went to tweet about my Ubuntu App Showdown project. I have been told I should sue for libel, tempting though that is, I have decided to not actually be an 'asshole', and simply accept an apology from the offending posters instead.

That is all.

Friday, 29 June 2012

My major reason for starting a blog

Hi folks, I hinted in my first blog that I would like to do more technology stuff and I finally have a means to start. I should explain, this morning I read a blog over on darkduck's blog, it appears to be a guest post, however it angered me in such a way I just felt I had to make some sort of response.

||| Link to original post

Why Can’t Linux Crack The Desktop?

Many computer geeks have always held Linux in high regard. 

What about all the non-geeks that use it? Ken Stark's and the Helios Project is dedicated to getting computers into the hands of kids who need them for school, these machines run Linux, from what I understand these kids cope fine and are not geeks, just regular kids. 

What about your Android phone? That's Linux, I have friends that loved the Android phones that don't know the difference between grep and sed and that's ok, on Android you don't need to, but it is still Linux.

They endlessly talk about its stability and security features. 

Do I? I am one of these such Linux wielding 'geeks' and I can't remember the last time I really spoke to anyone about Linux security who didn't first ask. I do remember boring the legs off people about the last movie I saw or the last album I bought (yes, I really should have had that one long before now). 

For many years people talked about how Linux may eventually take over in the future, but the OS is yet to take off as the leading operating systems. 

I'm sorry is this the future yet? So Linux isn't the default operating system on most consumer bought PC's, but again Android, Watson or indeed most Super Computers run Linux in some form or another. I would suggest that it's leading in the mobile market, AI research and high performance computer. It hasn't made it onto your PC but it's still all over the place it various forms.

There has been a lot of debate as to why this OS has never really taken off. There are many things that programmers, computer experts, users and geeks in general have failed to agree on. However, there are a number of things that have affected its success.

Personally I think the deal IBM made with Microsoft to supply a cheap OS on their personal computers back in the '81 and the subsequent 10 years of sales before Linux was first created might have something to do with it... 


There are many versions of Linux from UbuntuFedora and many others.

So? There's at least nine version's of Windows 7 listed on wikipedia.

All these versions have a different system as well as configuration. 

Care to back this up with any proof? Windows 7 has a vastly different security model than Windows XP, with a very different configuration, change happens, it's the cost of progress.

This doesn’t seem to be a problem to many computer geeks, but it is clearly a problem with many users. Users prefer using a system that is predictable. 

Ok, so you just complained about 'geeks' talking about the stability and security of Linux and now say it's unpredictable, these seems almost mutually exclusive, which is it? 

They don’t want to spend a lot of time reconfiguring the computer just because there were changes with the OS they were using. Even though Linux is free, this problem may be an extra expense to the organization due to investments in expertise.

Again see above, every time we get a new PC at work we have to configure a crap load of environmental variables and now have to re-write lots of internal software to work around the change in the user model in Windows 7.

This paragraph was titled 'Standards' yet I heard nothing about any form of standard... How about something as fundamental as Line endings, Windows is the ONLY mainstream OS that handles Line Ending's differently and UNIX pre-dates Windows. How about Open Documnt Standards? Or even it's standard API?


Linux has always been poor when it comes to usability. 

*sigh* Proof?

Even though the Graphic User Interface has improved over the years, it still has a long way to go for the ordinary user to feel totally at ease when using this system. 

What exactly is wrong with the interface? I mean there's plenty of choices, did you try others, were you aware you had a choice? Are you also aware that there is not such thing as an 'ordinary user'?

Currently, one of its biggest is the software it offers as an alternative to popular windows and other commercial software.

Biggest what? Usability issue? Software issue?

OpenOffice does not have as many features as MS Office. 

Many features does not a good computer program make, see here. Personally despite being around for 5 years now, I STILL hate the ribbon 'feature', anyone still lamenting the loss of this feature?

GIMP which is open source and free, is still not good enough to replace Photoshop, which is quite expensive in the market.

Well, it IS free, you want PhotoShop then buy photoshop and run it in a Virtual Machine. Can't afford photoshop? Then use the GIMP, it's simple really. The article is also a brief list of possible alternatives not a user study of why the GIMP is worse than photoshop.

You can still use these tools on a Linux machine but you need to install an emulator which doesn’t always work as you would  expect.

I think you will find that Wine Is Not an Emulator...

Training and additional costs:

Because Linux is not easy to use, it is not the best Operating System to introduce a beginner with to computers. 

Ok seriously I am starting to twitch now, where is your proof? In addition that article also doesn't even support your point! My evidence? The last sentence in that linked article: "Windows is by far the most used operating system, and for many people it works just fine. However, it is not necessarily the best, and you may find that you benefit from going to another operating system."

The Windows OS is more user friendly and easier to manage. 

For who? The mythic 'ordinary user'? My dad repeated asked me for months how things worked in Win 7 because it was such a paradigm shift from XP. Can't be that easy if users couldn't easily manage an OS upgrade.

If you are to migrate to Linux, then you need to train your employees because they probably have never used a Linux system before. 

Depends on what you classify as a Linux system, if they had an Android phone then yes, they have.

Depending on the size of the organization the additional costs of training, may exceed the amount saved by using Linux. If an organization is trying to adopt the Linux OS to be used by its employees, then they need to try and weigh the options to see if it really is a cost cutting measure.

Ah total cost of ownership that old gold nugget I searched Google briefly for some examples and got 771,000 results with no conclusive proof that Windows is any cheaper than Linux in the long run. Sure Linux requires re-training, then Windows requires anti-virus solutions and Linux requires X and Windows wants Y, it goes on forever. If there was an answer then the discussion would be long over.

It's articles such as this that make me feel like that tech news articles are being reduced to people stating their opinion around as established fact. If you make a claim, back it up with evidence, were you never taught to cite references or evidence?

Anyway I shall get back to working on LiberEdit for the Ubuntu App Showdown now.

Thanks for reading, though I wonder how many will continue to after this...


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Ubuntu App Showdown 2

Ok folks it's been a while since I last posted, or at least it feels like a while, work, gym then more work tends to cause the days to blur together. How has this blog already had over 750 views? The internet has indeed changed since the days everyone used... was it called LiveJournal? I think it was. It's been a long time since I blogged properly and with code on the mind please forgive a moment of technological forgetfulness.

Anyway, so I have been working on LiberEdit non-stop since my last post. Most of the rudimentary elements are present, you can create a new project, import an existing project, export a project and delete a project. Now I have some minor user interface fixes I want to do before dedicating the rest of the available time to working on the editing system. I was to get the design just so because I expect to be maintaining it after the competition and I don't want to have to re-write massive chunks of the project just because I cut corners.

The part I expected to be the hardest was the treeview, however that is done and dusted now, so that was a pleasant surprise! The only thing left to do on that is in fact part of the edit system, that is to say when you click on a file in the tree view it opens the file for editing. In the same graphical area, I have put the treeview itself into a notebook with the project tree in one page and the selected project table of contents in the second page, this I imagine will be another area of work I will start tonight. This is when the real work starts, most of what I have been doing has been small bite-sized tasks, but parsing the xml file and generating a table of contents while not difficult is something I have not done in some time, so with any luck it will be obvious, if not, well I will set aside a non-gym night or even a Sunday afternoon to tackle that one.

Implemented in the project creation aspect of the code, is a template system. I figured instead of writing new code every time a new standard or file format comes out, simple provide basic templates that the user can select from (or even add to!) and copy the template under the new project name and thus we have a new project and all anyone need to is write the smallest possible template and the code doesn't need to be altered.

The agenda for tonight is:

1) A confirmation dialog for project deletion. Easy, 10 min.
2) A reliable way to close notebook tabs (I know there's a good way to do it, I even remember implementing it in C once and can't for the life of me remember how it was done).
3) Check that when a project is deleted the project and all it's files are removed from the project tree. I am pretty sure this is how it behaves but I don't want to miss that.
4) Create a complete blank epub2 template, another small task.

This means most of the rest of the night will be spent ensuring that the note book tabs close the correct tab and all that jazz, it's a problem that has a defined solution I just need to find it!

So all in all it's coming along nicely and with a lot better direction and drive than I was expecting. The whole thing has slotted together in my brain nice and neatly prior to any work having begun, but then again, on my lunch break at work I tend to visualize what I need to do next and how I need to do it. Otherwise I doubt I would really be getting very far at all!

So, thanks for reading, I shall post again soon.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Ubuntu App Showdown 1

Ok so last night I got a chance to talk with my friends about the specifics of the application and how it should work, I have digested the basic construction of an epub file and I have been fighting with Quickly.

Quickly is the suggested application development framework for use in the project, it's by no means mandatory, but it makes packaging up the code a hell of a lot easier once you do get round to that. Having got a backlogged autotools clear up to do another another project I am in no hurry to dive into another build system.

Anyway, today I shall be importing and exporting existing epub books and hopefully creating a epub project creation wizard, with that I can easily create the open project code too. This is all easy do do code that builds the basic user interaction with the software. I am tackling this first so I can have all the basic actions done and out the way so I can focus on the harder elements such as managing and switching between projects. I have previously left things such as this til the last moment and had to rush around at three in the morning to have basic's done, so I dont' want that to happen again, my attitude on this project is that if the complicated bits are not done, then it's not done. 

My big concern is the HTML editor/viewer that would be a part of the finished application and having something useful done within the time limits of the competition, however I am keeping positive and working away as quick as I can. 

And with that I shall leave you with some screenshots! These were thrown together on a non-ubuntu system as you can see, but it should give you enough of an idea until I can get something functional and pretty on my ubuntu system.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Ubuntu App Showdown 0

As some of you may know Canonical has a competition starting tomorrow to develop from scratch a new application for Ubuntu Linux, first prize is a System 76 laptop and a phone, second prize is more or less the same but with a slightly lower spec laptop and third prize is a phone, however all entries get a free Ubuntu t-shirt.

So my friend is on a publishing course and has to work a lot with the epub file format and wanted a much easier to use bit of software, so one time in a pub a promised to write it for him, and this has given me the excuse I need to really sit down and have a bit of a hack-a-thon.

In the interest of fairness I informed him about the competition and since I have just bought a brand new laptop and got it just so I decided to let him have the laptop should we actually win.

Now you can infer from the fact I mention my friend asked me to write it that he is not a programmer, however, I will be allowing him as much creative control over the user interface as possible (on account of him being the primary user/tester of the application at this time) and since he knows the format of the epub files much better than I do it shall be a collaboration.

Also, I did I mention the free t-shirt just for entering? Cos I would do it for the t-shirt alone.

Anyway this application which is called LiberEdit(from the Latin "Liber" meaning book and "Edito" meaning publish, so I am told), will be to import, edit and export epub books. It will do this graphically and not having to break open the epub files manually, everything from changing the author information to the actual chapter content should be handled inside the application. I have first draft screen shots, but once they have been approved I shall publish them.

All the best to anyone else taking part, enjoy yourselves.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Thoughts On Soylent Green

Having just watched Soylent Green for the very first time I figured I could use this as a means to get started with this blog. I have been meaning to start a blog for some time now, however could never find a suitable starting topic. I originally intended to write about my secret love affair with Vim but felt that starting a flame war over text editors would not be a good idea for a first topic...

So with nothing more ado here is my humble review of Soylent Green.

Now, almost everyone knows the twist by now, for those that do not I shall try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, however since there are numerous references littered throughout pop culture, you may have heard about this before having seen the movie. In fact that is how I first learned of Soylent Green, it's like knowing that Malcolm Crowe is dead after the opening act in the 6th sense, some of the magic is lost.

Charton Heston plays the role of Thorn, a police detective investigating the murder of a high profile individual as the events begin to unfold. The plot is simple, cop investigates murder, cop suspects something greater, cop get's caught up in conspiracy, uncovers a dark secret and tries to expose it. Do not let the deceptively simple formula deter you from watching it, Soylent Green probably helped to define the formula that so many plots employ these days.

The audio quality was fantastic considering it's age, or perhaps that's a testament to some sound engineer working for Warner Brothers converting the film to digital format, either way it was great.

Overall the special effects are impressive for the time, the opening sequence especially had something different about it, the montage of small town USA with huge open space descending into images of massive over population, global food shortages and ecological disaster juxtaposed with a cheery jazzy number left me feeling like despite all the issues the movie addresses it was simply business as usual for the human race.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the opening, on the contrary I thought it was a rather enjoyable piece of cinema, I just am not sure if I was feeling what the director intended. I would say I enjoyed the euthanasia scene, were it not for the fact that I would be saying 'I enjoyed the euthanasia scene' there's something almost wrong with a statement like that, even if it does refer to general things such as acting, effects etc. It was a very beautiful and deeply saddening moment on screen, not at least for the fact that it was the last role the actor would play.

For all my praise of Soylent Green it does seem to run longer than it needs to, although I should give it the benefit of the doubt, my DVD player broke half way through and I had to continue watching it the next day after I had bought a new player. If I had to make one criticism though it would be the usual cliché suffering action hero (which in all honesty probably wasn't so cliché back then), by my count at the conclusion the hero had been shot three times, shin, shoulder and abdomen, I just found it just a little hard to believe that the hero might have been able to run in that state. It would, however be a very poor movie if the hero couldn't overcome his wounds and unravel the conspiracy.

In conclusion it's a landmark movie, a must see for anyone seriously into film or just wanting to get the pop culture references. I feel however that it's age and dark subject matter might alienate younger viewers or those of a nervous disposition.

Anyway who would like some crackers?