How Microsoft lost the office file format battle

There are two main ways to fail at the standards game: You can create software that handles documents in formats for which no true standards exist, or you can create a standard that exists only on paper and in committee, with no reference software implementation. Amazingly, for all its hype and bluster, with OOXML Microsoft has managed to do both.

I couldn't describe it better. OXML seems to be a dead standard at this point! Even if it it's no longer "MS OOXML" and is managed by ISO. In short: OOXML is defective by design


Writing a kernel module for FreeBSD

A "hello world" FreeBSD kernel modelue, with basic setup and procedure described:


Also a nice set of resources is listed at the end of the linked article.


Fractured YEARFRAC and Discounted DISC

It is obvious that Excel OOXML has currently many small, but serious flaws:


In fact the problems described makes me think about throwing away the whole MS Office 2007 forever! Boy, am I glad I have never installed it. :-)


Fight Microsoft with their own weapon

So, Microsoft puts out its hand and offers help with porting open-source software, to make it run best on the Windows platform. How mean. Understandable from marketing and business point of view, but mean anyway (and hey, that's my opinion!).

I have a proposal then, a simple one. Since Windows users are already used to trial versions, time-limited, feature-limited, shareware and other pieces of software which they constantly have to "unlock" by using codes found on the net (or keygens), so let it be!

Let's give Windows users what they already know:

1. Limited editions of Free and Open-Source Software for Windows.
2. Full-featured versions, including source code, for all other Operating Systems.

So if someone from Microsoft (or other third-party company) wants to keep working on a port for Windows, let it be. Let them even capitalize on the effort! This way THEY will have to keep up with the upstream. Or if they create substantial improvements, they will HAVE TO release their modified source code (that's the beauty of the GPL license!)

Your offer was insincere, so you won't get what you asked for.
Have it your way, Microsoft!

Ballmer: We'll outsmart open source


"Linux is a serious competitor," said Ballmer. "We have to compete with free software, on value, but in a smart way. We cannot price at zero, so we need to justify our posture and pricing. Linux isn't going to go away--our job is to provide a better product in the marketplace."

And Thomas Lee said about "most valued professionals" on Microsoft platform:

The [MVP] title is highly regarded. "You are recognized by your peers, not by an exam that you can cheat in." Linux and its community have a symbiotic relationship, he said: "You don't have that same thing at Microsoft, but there are people who are passionate and technical who are committed to doing a great job."

In FOSS, such people are called Hackers, or the White Hats (compare with Black Hat).

Groklaw - Microsoft emails Blender

This should be remembered!


And I have a solution!


Fixing Windows Vista

Ed Bott’s Microsoft Report - ZDNet

Fixing Windows Vista, one machine at a time

Fixing Windows Vista, Part 2: Taming UAC

Taming Vista's User Account Control

Fixing Windows Vista, Part 3: Top Troubleshooting Tools


High frequency of disk load cycles in Ubuntu

Finally somebody wrote some useful stuff concerning the following problem plaguing Ubuntu 8.04:

High frequency of load/unload cycles on some hard disks may shorten lifetime - original report at https://bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/59695

Alexey Borzenkov on May 7th 2008, 23:49 wrote:

A note of observation. After I switched back to Windows XP I found that
Windows indeed didn't let my drive to spin down or park heads, however
all this came at the same price I had in Linux, i.e. frequent superclicks
and Load_Retry_Count increasing. So the problem is not with Linux or
Ubuntu at all, the problem is solely with the hard drive.

It is also worth noting that with Ubuntu I was able to reach any comfortable
increase rates by carefully tweaking /etc/laptop-mode/laptop-mode.conf.
The most important are ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE_ON_AC=1,
LOST_WORK_SECONDS (the default value of 360 ensures only 10
Load_Cycle_Count per hour), READAHEAD (which in my opinion shouldn't
default to 3072, since huge delays every half or one minute between
reads effectively prevent playing videos, setting it to LM_READAHEAD=128
was the best in my case), IDLE_TIMEOUT (if you want your drive to really
cool down when idle, in my observation 60 seconds on AC was the best),
and WRITECACHE set to one (this adds another good layer of caching by
the hard drive).

Now don't forget to set ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE=true in your

BUT ALL THIS WON'T WORK unless you edit your /etc/acpi/power.sh and do
the following modifications:

Comment out all $HDPARM nonsense, since laptop-mode controls this for
you (provided you set your settings in laptop-mode.conf, of course).
Next, where you see "$LAPTOP_MODE stop" it should be "$LAPTOP_MODE",
WITHOUT STOP. The latter is very important, because when
"/usr/sbin/laptop_mode stop" is called it effectively TURNS OFF LAPTOP
MODE, even if you have ENABLE_LAPTOP_MODE=true in your
/etc/default/acpi-support. While calling "/usr/sbin/laptop_mode" without
arguments does autodetection, and depending on your settings will either
Without laptop mode "lost work seconds" do not work and this means that
mount option is not applied and pdflush will drop caches half a second
after some program (i.e. firefox) writes something to disk. The constant
writing to disk by many applications is what actually causes heads to
unpark, and when manufacturer sets some very ridiculous timeout for head
parking (i.e. 3 seconds in my case) heads keep unparking all the time.

I'm not sure if acpid is at fault here for calling laptop_mode with stop
argument, or laptop_mode not honoring your settings when stop is passed,
but current settings make laptop mode effectively useless. When I did
the above modifications and tweaked config files for my tastes I was
able to get rid of all problems. When my computer is idle heads park and
disk spins down, staying untouched for 6 minutes. When I'm doing
something active, like watching a movie, my drive is constantly accessed
and heads don't park needlessly. When I'm having a mix of the two (like
active browsing, or doing something else) my heads unpark only 20-30
times per hour, which I consider very good. And best of all, my drive
was not thermally abused and super clicks didn't happen.

As a comparison, average temperature of my drive under Windows was
41 degrees Celsius (and never below), under Linux it was 34-36 degrees

I consider that the main issue with this bug is that laptop mode (as it is)
DOES NOT WORK AT ALL. Please either fix acpid or fix laptop-mode.

Thank you.

I only wonder if this procedure really would work for me, but since I have a copy of his post here, I'll be able to test it eventually.


Package Manager Cheatsheet

This matrix lists common tasks and the command arguments to perform the task with dpkg, rpm, apt, and yum. Note that apt and yum are really front-end tools for managing packages with dpkg and rpm. The RPM-oriented commands are known to work on Red Hat/Fedora; Mandrake, SUSE, etc are unknown, as some ship slightly older versions. urpmi is not included because I don't have a Mandrake installation to test it on. SysV packages are included because I'm using Solaris again frequently.


Make backspace work in Solaris shell

From: http://osnews.com/comments/19715

> > And they're going to update the default shell to understand
> > the backspace key
> Thank god. Having the backspace key spew out useless junk
> instead of deleting characters is a personal irritant.
It doesn't take too much time to type "stty erase <backspace>"
into your shell's .rc file...


OTOH I really like this comment:

RE[3]: Finally!
by sbergman27 (3.96) on Tue 6th May 2008 22:25 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Finally!"

If it would fail gracefully and not do anything that would be one thing, but it doesn't. It spits out characters.

It's certainly a different day and age today. :-) I've seen so much:


in my time. Fixed so many broken terminfo and termcap definitions. Diagnosed so many flow control glitches and mismatched terminal settings on AT&T 4410s and 605s and Wyse50s and Wyse60s. Done so much blind typing into terinals whose screen contents were completely unrecognizable, that when I see a few strange characters, it takes my brain a moment to recognize that there is actually something wrong.

There are only really two important terminal types that I work with today, and those are "linux" and "xterm". And those work so consistently well these days that I can fully understand the surprise that the non-graybeards must experience when a key isn't mapped right. It's a sign that some of the more stupid crap I used to have to deal with is now truly history. Or at least a rarity. Praise the Lord! (And I'm an atheist!)

The backspace thing was, indeed, an embarrassing issue for the year 2008. Especially since, if I understand correctly, it was not a matter of the erase character not being set, but of the shell not handling the defined erase character properly. But it *does* seem to be history. I'm not sure what the old config was, but when I bring up gnome-terminal in 2008.05 I get bash, and the backspace works just fine. I was expecting to be able to ctrl-alt-F1 to check out a text console, but that doesn't seem to be the right key sequence. Unix is Unix is Unix[1]... except for all those little things we take for granted about our usual flavor. :0

[1] That would be "POSIX-like OS is POSIX-like OS is POSIX-like OS" for you anal retentives regarding Linux not being Unix. But even you have to admit it loses something in the translation. ;-)

Updated: May 11th 2008

Package Manager in new OpenSolaris

A nice demo with overview of basic package management in upcoming OpenSolaris 2008.05:

I can't resist observations that:
  • default Package Manager looks like streamlined Synaptic
    (one of the best!)

  • package management written in Python reminds me of Gentoo

  • the whole idea of multiple repositories reminds me of Debian

  • package management Python tools remind me of dpkg on steroids

  • Ian Murdock works for Sun right now, and he is behind all of this ;-)

So I'd say they took the best ideas and people so far.
I hope the end result will be equally great as well!


Computer languages and beards

So it seems like if you really want the computer language you've created to succeed, you'd better grow a beard!


One especially interesting aspect is that I intend to learn Python in its 3rd incarnation (so called Python 3000) when it is finished later this year. So hooray for Guido!

OOXML ISO aftermath in Poland

Not even ordinary people and experts in the field find the OOXML standardization procedure scandalous. Even members of the country standardization committees have concerns. Just read the letter to the president of the Polish Standardization Committee:

Here's the original letter (in Polish):

And here's the original answer (in Polish):