A free software developer adventure

Monday, October 08, 2007

Designing Qt-Style C++ APIs

I just found an article worth reading on designing good C++ APIs: http://doc.trolltech.com/qq/qq13-apis.html Here are the main topics:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A File Format Timeline

Here is an interresting retrospective from Rob Weir on microsoft way of thinking file formats. There is a very nice chart and not so much text to read (exactly what I need at 7 pm) : http://www.robweir.com/blog/2007/06/file-format-timeline.html A quote :
My guess is that OOXML is merely a transitional format, much like Windows ME was in the OS space, a temporary hybrid used to ease the transition from 16-bit to the 32-bit platform that would eventually come (Windows 2000). Microsoft doesn't want to support all of the quirks of their legacy formats forever. That just leads to bloated, fragile code, more expensive development and support costs. They would rather have clean, structured markup, like ODF. But the question is, how do you get there? The answer is straightforward: First, eliminate the competition. Second, move users in small steps, promising the comfort of continuity and safety. Third, once you have eliminated competition and have the users on the OOXML format that no one but Microsoft fully understands, then you may have your will of them. For example, introduce a new format that drops support for legacy formats and force everyone to upgrade. They are pretty much doing this already on the Mac by dropping support for VBA in the next version of the Mac Office.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Offline GMail, Gmail tags and Thunderbird 2

[SPOILER] As this post is quite long, here are the main ideas : (1) create a thunderbird extension to grab GMail tags, (2) standardize the way MUA (GMail, Thunderbird, Zimbra...) share mail tags with each other.

From time to time, I dream of an offline GMail & GCalendar. Those two applications are really nice but lack of an offline mode, which makes them unsuitable for travelling. As I use GMail & GCalendar to implement GTD [1], those two applications are cruical to my daily work. Not being able to access them is really a pain.

Offline Gmail & GCalendar? Yes, I am quite sure that this dream will come true some time in the future as Google announced Gears [2] a few month ago. For thus of you who missed it, Gears is a framework for making web applications work offline. Currently, Gears allows Google Reader users to check RSS feeds offline. Thus, we can easily suppose that GMail and GCalendar will be supported. But before this comes true, I have to find an offline solution.

The offline calendar issue was solved with Thunderbird, lightning and GCalDaemon [3]. This allows me to have access to my Calendar, to modify it and to synchronise everything back once I get an internet connection. It works really nicely.

For the GMail synchronisation, I can use POP to download the content of the mails, but I lose a highly critical part of the mail information: the tags. As each mail in my inbox is categorized with several tags (cf GTD) I can't possibly imagine to apply manually the tags for each mail twice. That would be a complete waste of time. It is also not possible to create filters/rules to automatically because the tags applied to a mail change over the time but not the content of the mail.

As a matter of fact, more and more Mail clients support tagging. For example, GMail, Zimbra [4] and Thunderbird support it. My first question is thus: would it be possible to improve the mail protocols (IMAP, POP) to support new features like tagging or flagging? If anyone has an answer, I would be eager to know it, but as always will well established standards, it would take year before we could see the result in daily used apps.

In the meantime, what I would like to see is a Thunderbird extension to synchronise tags between GMail/Zimbra and Thunderbid. Does anyone knows if such an extension exists? If it does not exists, I think I will try to spend some time working on it. The major issue I currently think of is: Does Google allows access to such an API? Any clue is welcome.

PS 1: BTW, if you don't know GTD, you should really read that book, it might change the way you work.

PS 2: Zimbra already provides a beta of an offline mode.

[1] GTD With GMail
[2] Google Gears
[3] Gmail and Offline Calendar

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Gmail and Offline Calendar

Since a few years, I have been using GCalendar for managing appointements. It is really a nice tool providing all the features I need (email alarms, ical sync...) : http://www.google.com/googlecalendar/overview.html The only real issue I had with it was to access to my appointements offline. As I regularly spent weeks abroad without any internet connection it was really a pain. Thus, I needed to print on PDF the next weeks in order to access to my schedule which is not that nice. Tonight, I finally found a solution, GCalDaemon: http://gcaldaemon.sourceforge.net/index.html And an introduction to using it: http://lifehacker.com/software/google-calendar/geek-to-live--sync-google-calendar-and-gmail-contacts-to-your-desktop-251279.php I can now synchronise all my calendars using Thunderbird and Lightning. This is a real improvement to my way of working.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

FUD - StarOffice in the Google Pack

I suppose that most of you already know about the Google Pack now including StarOffice. Recently, I read an article about it on Eweek. Here is what you could see: Isn't it nice to see how to scare potential users with a few sentences?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Firefox - First Enterprise Working Group

Here is an interresting post entry. It deals with all the companies' needs in order to ease the deployment of Firefox. I think that many aspects are the same for deploying OOo in companies.

An explanation of the Firefox Enterprise Working Group (EWG) :
As I mentioned earlier, we now have an Enterprise Working Group that is exploring how we can make Firefox easier to use/deploy for large organizations (companies, schools, governments, universities).

A quotation of the issues companies have:

Very Brief Summary The theme of this meeting was "Experience". Folks on the call shared their personal experience with Firefox in an enterprise environment. There were clear areas of interest and overlap. My main take-away has been this: It cannot be understated nor unappreciated that "Enterprises" do, in fact, share pain-points and challenges and therefore must come together to form a real, effective Community. Some identified synergies By no means a completed list, but here is what jumped out at me:
  • Packaging.
    • Story around MSIs and MSTs vs some open source formats. Most Enterprises are heavy Windows users. At what point does the lack of these hinder adoption?
    • What is feasible? What can Mozilla own and what can and should the Enterprise Community own?
  • Patch Management.
    • If an organization is not very Agile and agility assumes that not everything is perfect out of the box, is Mozilla's patch cycle too agile for "enterprises"?
    • How are others patching Firefox on desktops without having to uninstall and install the entire product?
  • Settings Management.
    • What are some trade-offs between GPO and Mission Control?
    • Not all settings are manageable.
    • What settings should be exposed by all extensions to enable pref-level lockdown?
    • Can we drive best practices for deploying plugins and extensions? There is very little documentation on where Plugins should go and how to configure in the registry.
    • How do we prevent some critical settings from being "tattooed" into prefs.js? I.e. mcontrol and user agent settings should never be written to prefs.js when in Enterprise mode.
  • User Profiles
    • How can profiles/certificates be migrated with minimum impact to the end-users?
    • Does having Firefox and IE share bookmarks help adoption? Can Firefox "piggy-back" on Favorites? How can it be done easily?
The links: http://jtbatson.blogspot.com/2007/07/first-enterprise-working-group-call.html http://e2pt0.blogspot.com/2007/07/firefox-ewgs-first-call-is-success.html

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office 1.0

Did you heard of ODF? In short, it is the format used to store OpenOffice.org documents and it is standardized as an ISO format.

Yesterday, Sun just released the version 1.0 of his ODF plugin for Microsoft Office. This is a great news, it means that if you install this plugin, you will be able to open/save ODF files from Microsoft Office.

This works with Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Supported versions are Microsoft Office 2000, XP and 2003.

Congratulation to Sun.