Tag : open-source

“The Thing about Volunteers and Civility” (#modernperlbooks.com)

I copy the post The Thing about Volunteers and Civility by chromatic on modernperlbooks.com. Though the text refers to aspects of the Perl community, I believe the message is more general. The formatting (numbered list, etc) is mine.

  1. The thing about volunteers is that they don’t have to do what they’re doing. If you’re getting paid to hang out in an IRC channel and answer questions all day, that’s one thing. If you’re hanging out on an IRC channel all day because you want to, that’s another.
  2. The thing about volunteers writing software is that they don’t have to do it. The same goes for volunteers writing documentation or reporting bugs or asking questions about how to use or install or configure that software.
  3. The thing about the Perl community is that almost no one gets paid solely for participating in the Perl community. Sure, you can volunteer for a while to earn the cachet and the right to apply for a TPF grant at a fraction of the going consulting rate to justify continuing to work on the unpleasant parts of a project, but you’re still effectively a volunteer.
  4. The thing about volunteers is if it’s not worth their time or energy or health or sanity or happiness to keep volunteering, they can walk away whenever they want. They have no obligation to continue to do what they do. Not even their sense of devotion or duty or guilt or community camaraderie should compel them to continue on projects that aren’t worth their investment of time, and that’s more than okay.
  5. The thing about volunteers is that you can’t force them to do anything. You can’t force them to have your priorities. You can’t force them to work to your schedule. You can’t force them to work on your project and you can’t force them to care about what you care about. They’ll do what they want to do when they want to do it and you either deal with it or you don’t.
  6. The thing about volunteers is that it’s rare to have too many and it’s far too common to have far too few. Thus healthy projects spend time and effort recruiting volunteers and keeping volunteers around and guiding the interests and energy and time of volunteers in productive ways, not only by making their projects pleasant and useful but by removing distractions and unpleasantness from their communities.
  7. The thing about volunteers is that for every one willing to take the abuse and hostility from a few people, you can’t tell how many orders of magnitude more potential volunteers find that hostility and abuse so distasteful that they refuse to consider the possibility that it’s worth their time to contribute.
  8. The thing about volunteers is that if you allow certain parts of the community to fester and to grow toxic, you’re well on your way to having fewer and fewer volunteers who grow more bitter and eventually become a tiny little cluster of angry, angry people who can’t do anything productive.
  9. The thing about volunteers is that it doesn’t have to be this way.
  1. Certain Perl IRC channels don’t have to be seething cauldrons of rage from burned out system administrators who castigate anyone who doesn’t know the secret rituals and wordings of arcane rituals to identify themselves as insiders.
  2. Certain Perl forums don’t have to devolve into arguments over whose web framework stole which idea from some other place, or whether it’s clear that anyone who does or does not use one CPAN dependency or another has parents with specific unpleasant characteristics.
  3. Certain Perl mailing lists don’t have to debate whether people who work on one version of Perl or another are hateful fools whose only goal in life is to destroy everything good and sunshiney and organic.
  4. Certain Perl blogs don’t have to have comments accusing other volunteers of being liars or thieves or people of negotiable affection because said volunteers disagree on project management styles.

I suppose it’s easier to destroy than to create, and it’s easier to prove that you’re right by demonstrating your scathing verbal wit with a keyboard, and it’s easier to believe that you’ve won an argument if you reduce the other person to a cardboard cutout of simplistic, ridiculous beliefs. It’s also easy to justify your decision to spread hostility if you can overlook the fact that the person you’re castigating is a human being with complex motivations, goals, dreams, aspirations, beliefs, and emotions.

The thing about volunteers is that they don’t owe you a thing.

If you want a Perl community full of hostile people who jump to hasty conclusions, who are willing to nitpick and debate the specific meaning of words than to understand what other people mean, and who are willing to throw wild accusations of crazy, hateful motives around, then you have an easy task. Just say nothing. Let it fester.

Me, I don’t think that’s the way to encourage a healthy community. After all, how silly is it to argue over how some other volunteer spends his or her time? Yet isn’t that what we’re doing?

Maybe if more of us speak up when we see this abuse and hostility, maybe we can discourage it. Maybe we can encourage people to try to understand and listen more, or at least to disagree politely if they must disagree. Maybe we can help people unwilling to be civil to find better hobbies than abusing other volunteers. Maybe we can make the Perl community and our IRC channels and our mailing lists and our forums and our comment sections places where potential volunteers want to participate because they know that we appreciate novices and we appreciate volunteers and we don’t all have to do the same things or want the same things or agree on the same things to treat each other with respect.

After all, we’re all trying to build great software to solve problems. Why should we borrow trouble?

Προβληματικές συμπεριφορές γύρω από το hellug

(σχετική δημοσίευση)

Δε λαμβάνω τακτικά φαν μέηλ, ωστόσο όταν λαμβάνω, τα διαβάζω με προσοχή.

(Κάντε κλικ στο σύνδεσμο παρακάτω για περισσότερα)

Ενημέρωση 18 Οκτ 2008:

Θα ήθελα εδώ να κάνω μια περίληψη όσων έχουν ειπωθεί.

Η αντίδρασή μου είναι στο ύφος ατόμων που είναι γύρω από το Hellug, όταν συζητούν σε λίστες όπως public@hellug.gr. Μπορείτε να δείτε παραδείγματα παραπάνω. Το ύφος μπορεί να είναι προσβλητικό, αρνητικό, stop-energy, κτλ.

Το ειρωνικό είναι ότι οι απαντήσεις που έλαβα ήταν του ίδιου ύφους που κατακρίνω. Οι περισσότερες απαντήσεις ήταν προσωπικές επιθέσεις, ότι κάνω κριτική στο Hellug διότι θέλω να είμαι ηγετική φιγούρα, ότι είμαι «κομπλεξικός», άλλοι (ανώνυμοι!) να παραποιούν το όνομά μου σε Σίμωνα ή Σιμούλη. Στις απαντήσεις στην ανάρτηση αυτή είχαμε και άσχετα σχόλια, προσωπικές επιθέσεις σε τρίτα άτομα.

Από τα επώνυμα άτομα που απάντησαν σε αυτό, είχαμε τον πρόεδρο και αντιπρόεδρο του συλλόγου Hellug.

Ο πρόεδρος του συλλόγου δήλωσε ότι πιστεύει ότι δεν υπάρχει πρόβλημα με τις αρνητικές συμπεριφορές. Αυτή είναι μια άποψη, που όμως καταστρέφεται όταν προσθέτει ότι η κριτική που κάνω εγώ (!) αποτελεί αρνητική συμπεριφορά! Το pattern που βλέπω στον πρόεδρο του hellug είναι ότι μερικά γράμματά του έχουν ποιοτικό περιεχόμενο που αξίζουν σε πρόεδρο. Ωστόσο, στο τέλος υπάρχει ένας χαρακτηρισμός ή ένα σχόλιο που καταστρέφει το όλο μήνυμα.

Το ελεύθερο λογισμικό βασίζεται στους χρήστες του που επικοινωνούν και συζητούν ηλεκτρονικά. Αυτού του είδους η επικοινωνία είναι πολύ σημαντική, και πρέπει να έχουμε ένα επίπεδο συζήτησης. Ο σύλλογος hellug ασχολείται κατά βάση με τη διάδοση και τις δημόσιες σχέσεις για το ελεύθερο λογισμικό στην Ελλάδα. Είναι πολύ σημαντικό τα άτομα, τουλάχιστον του συμβουλίου του hellug, να κάνουν την προσπάθεια να συμπεριφέρονται ποιοτικά.


thersa.org.uk, infected.

Probably through SQL injection, this page of thersa.org.uk links to a javascript file from some server in China

The screenshot shows the thersa.org.uk website has been infected, and users that visit it end up running in their browsers malicious JavaScript code. The code loads Javascript files from the .cn and the .la domains.

There is a reference in one of the files to a cookie named killav (Kill Antivirus?) that may disable some antivirus programs.

In addition, one of the JavaScript files checks which browser you have. If you have Internet Explorer 6 or 7, it loads some exploit which attempts to run binary code. If this succeeds, you are infected. If you have Firefox, it does not attempt to perform an infection, and it goes to the next phase.

The next phase is to open up pages to sites in China. It appears to me that the bussines plan in that case is to generate revenue from ad hits.

The worst thing however is if you get infected. Unpatched windows systems are at the mercy of these attackers.

One way to mitigate such risks is to use Mozilla Firefox, and have the NoScript add-on installed.

Update 5 June 2008:

The RSA updated their website by moving it away from Windows and ASP, to open source software. They are using Centos Linux, Apache, and an open-source CMS. Therefore, the above security risk does not apply any more.

Greek Campaign for Open-Source Software

mathe.ellak.gr is an campaign to promote free and open-source software to the Greek-speaking audience.

The purpose of the campaign is to provide a short and concise message to the visitors; and also helps to direct people to the website when they show interest about FLOSS.



It comes with logos of different sizes that you can put on your website so that you can direct your visitors to the campaign.

Got to put on on the Greek planet, planet.ellak.gr. 😉

FOSDEM ’08, summary and comments

I attended FOSDEM ’08 which took place on the 23rd and 24th of February in Brussels.

Compared to other events, FOSDEM is a big event with over 4000 (?) participants and over 200 lectures (from lightning talks to keynotes). It occupied three buildings at a local university. Many sessions were taking place at the same time and you had to switch from one room to another. What follows is what I remember from the talks. Remember, people recollect <8% of the material they hear in a talk.

The first keynote was by Robin Rowe and Gabrielle Pantera, on using Linux in the motion picture industry. They showed a huge list of movies that were created using Linux farms. The first big item in the list was the movie Titanic (1997). The list stopped at around 2005 and the reason was that since then any significant movie that employs digital editing or 3D animation is created on Linux systems. They showed trailers from popular movies and explained how technology advanced to create realistic scenes. Part of being realistic, a generated scene may need to be blurred so that it does not look too crisp.

Next, Robert Watson gave a keynote on FreeBSD and the development community. He explained lots of things from the community that someone who is not using the distribution does not know about. FreeBSD apparently has a close-knit community, with people having specific roles. To become a developer, you go through a structured mentoring process which is great. I did not see such structured approach described in other open-source projects.

Pieter Hintjens, the former president of the FFII, talked about software patents. Software patents are bad because they describe ideas and not some concrete invention. This has been the view so that the target of the FFII effort fits on software patents. However, Pieter thinks that patents in general are bad, and it would be good to push this idea.

CMake is a build system, similar to what one gets with automake/autoconf/makefile. I have not seen this project before, and from what I saw, they look quite ambitious. Apparently it is very easy to get your compilation results on the web when you use CMake. In order to make their project more visible, they should make effort on migration of existing projects to using CMake. I did not see yet a major open-source package being developed with CMake, apart from CMake itself.

Richard Hughes talked about PackageKit, a layer that removes the complexity of packaging systems. You have GNOME and your distribution is either Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora or something else. PackageKit allows to have a common interface, and simplifies the workflow of managing the installation of packages and the updates.

In the Virtualisation tracks, two talks were really amazing. Xen and VirtualBox. Virtualisation is hot property and both companies were bought recently by Citrix and Sun Microsystems respectively. Xen is a Type 1 (native, bare metal) hypervisor while VirtualBox is a Type 2 (hosted) hypervisor. You would typically use Xen if you want to supply different services on a fast server. VirtualBox is amazingly good when you want to have a desktop running on your computer.

Ian Pratt (Xen) explained well the advantages of using a hypervisor, going into many details. For example, if you have a service that is single-threaded, then it makes sense to use Xen and install it on a dual-core system. Then, you can install some other services on the same system, increasing the utilisation of your investment.

Achim Hasenmueller gave an amazing talk. He started with a joke; I have recently been demoted. From CEO to head of virtualisation department (name?) at Sun Microsystems. He walked through the audience on the steps of his company. The first virtualisation product of his company was sold to Connectix, which then was sold to Microsoft as VirtualPC. Around 2005, he started a new company, Innotek and the product VirtualBox. The first customers were government agencies in Germany and only recently (2007) they started selling to end-users.

Virtualisation is quite complex, and it becomes more complex if your offering is cross platform. They manage the complexity by making VirtualBox modular.

VirtualBox comes in two versions; an open-source version and a binary edition. The difference is that with the binary edition you get USB support and you can use RDP to access the host. If you installed VirtualBox from the repository of your distribution, there is no USB support. He did not commit whether the USB/RDP support would make it to the open-source version, though it might happen since Sun Microsystems bought the company. I think that if enough people request it, then it might happen.

VirtualBox uses QT 3.3 as the cross platform toolkit, and there is a plan to migrate to QT 4.0. GTK+ was considered, though it was not chosen because it does not provide yet good support in Win32 (applications do not look very native on Windows). wxWidgets were considered as well, but also rejected. Apparently, moving from QT 3.3 to QT 4.0 is a lot of effort.

Zeeshan Ali demonstrated GUPnP, a library that allows applications to use the UPnP (Universal Plug n Play) protocol. This protocol is used when your computer tells your ADSL model to open a port so that an external computer can communicate directly with you (bypassing firewall/NAT). UPnP can also be used to access the content of your media station. The gupnp library comes with two interesting tools; gupnp-universal-cp and gupnp-network-light. The first is a browser of UPnP devices; it can show you what devices are available, what functionality they export, and you can control said devices. For example, you can use GUPnP to open a port on your router; when someone connects from the Internet to port 22 on your modem, he is redirected to your server, at port 22.

You can also use the same tool to figure out what port mapping took place already on your modem.

The demo with the network light is that you run the browser on one computer and the network light on another, both on the local LAN (this thing works only on the local LAN). Then, you can use the browser to switch on/off the light using the UPnP protocol.

Dimitris Glezos gave a talk on transifex, the translation management framework that is currently used in Fedora. Translating software is a tedious task, and currently translators spent time on management tasks that have little to do with translation. We see several people dropping from translations due to this. Transifex is an evolving platform to make the work of the translator easier.

Dimitris talked about a command-line version of transifex coming out soon. Apparently, you can use this tool to grab the Greek translation of package gedit, branch HEAD. Do the translation and upload back the file.

What I would like to see here is a tool that you can instruct it to grab all PO files from a collection of projects (such as GNOME 2.22, UI Translations), and then you translate with your scripts/tools/etc. Then, you can use transifex to upload all those files using your SVN account.

The workflow would be something like

$ tfx --project=gnome-2.22 --collection=gnome-desktop --action=get
Reading from http://svn.gnome.org/svn/damned-lies/trunk/releases.xml.in... done.
Getting alacarte... done.
Getting bug-buddy... done.
Completed in 4:11s.
$ _

Now we translate any of the files we downloaded, and we push back upstream (of course, only those files that were changed).

$ tfx --project=gnome-2.22 --collection=gnome-desktop --user=simos --action=send
 Reading local files...
Found 6 changed files.
Uploading alacarte... done.
Completed uploading translation files to gnome-2.22.
$ _

Berend Cornelius talked about creating OpenOffice.org Wizards. You get such wizards when you click on File/Wizards…, and you can use them to fill in entries in a template document (such as your name, address, etc in a letter), or use to install the spellchecker files. Actually, one of the most common uses is to get those spellchecker files installed.

A wizard is actually an OpenOffice.org extension; once you write it and install it (Tools/Extensions…), you can have it appear as a button on a toolbar or a menu item among other menus.

You write wizards in C++, and one would normally work on an existing wizard as base for new ones.

When people type in a word-processor, they typically abuse it (that’s my statement, not Berend’s) by omitting the use of styles and formatting. This makes documents difficult to maintain. Having a wizard teach a new user how to write a structured document would be a good idea.

Perry Ismangil talked about pjsip, the portable open-source SIP and media stack. This means that you can have Internet telephony on different devices. Considering that Internet Telephony is a commodity, this is very cool. He demonstrated pjsip running two small devices, a Nintendo DS and an iPhone. Apparently pjsip can go on your OpenWRT router as well, giving you many more exciting opportunities.

Clutter is a library to create fast animations and other effects on the GNOME desktop. It uses hardware acceleration to make up for the speed. You don’t need to learn OpenGL stuff; Clutter is there to provide the glue.

Gutsy has Clutter 0.4.0 in the repositories and the latest version is 0.6.0. To try out, you need at least the clutter tarball from the Clutter website. To start programming for your desktop, you need to try some of the bindings packages.

I had the chance to spend time with the DejaVu guys (Hi Denis, Ben!). Also met up with Alexios, Dimitris x2, Serafeim, Markos and others from the Greek mission.

Overall, FOSDEM is a cool event. In two days there is so much material and interesting talks. It’s a recommended technical event.

ert-archives.gr: “Linux/Unix operating systems are not supported”

ERT (Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation) is the national radio/television organisation of Greece.

ERT recently made available online part of its audio and video archive, at the website http://www.ert-archives.gr/

When browsing the website from Linux, you were blocked with a message that Linux/Unix operating systems are not supported. This message was appearing due to User-Agent filtering. Even if you altered your User-Agent, the page would not show the multimedia.

There has been a heated discussion on this on local mailing lists, with many users sending their personal polite comments to the feedback page at the ERT website. Many individual, personal comments have value and are taken into account.

Since today, http://www.ert-archives.gr/ does no do filtering on the User-Agent, and has changed the wording at the support page saying that

Σχετικά με υπολογιστές που χρησιμοποιούν λειτουργικό σύστημα Linux σχετικές οδηγίες θα υπάρξουν στο άμεσο μέλλον.

which means that they will be providing instructions for Linux systems in the immediate future.

Going through the HTML code of http://www.ert-archives.gr/ one can see that the whole system would work well under Linux, out of the box, if they could change

<embed id=”oMP” name=”oMP” width=”800″ height=”430″ type=”application/x-ms-wmp


<embed id=”oMP” name=”oMP” width=”800″ height=”430″ type=”video/x-ms-wmp

Firefox, with the mplayerplugin, supports the video/x-ms-wmp streaming format. You can verify if you have it by writing about:plugins in the location bar and pressing Enter. For my system it says

Windows Media Player Plugin

File name: mplayerplug-in-wmp.so
mplayerplug-in 3.40Video Player Plug-in for QuickTime, RealPlayer and Windows Media Player streams using MPlayer
JavaScript Enabled and Using GTK2 Widgets
MIME Type Description Suffixes Enabled
video/x-ms-wmp Windows Media wmp,* Yes

I am not sure if the mplayerplugin package is installed by default in Ubuntu, and I do not know what is the workflow from the message that says that a plugin is missing to the process of getting it installed. If you use the Totem Media Player, it instructs you to download and install the missing packages. I would appreciate your input on this one.

A workaround is to write a Greasemonkey script to replace the string so that Firefox works out of the box. However, the proper solution is to have ERT fix the code.

I must say that I would have preferred to have Totem Movie Player used to view those videos.
ERT Ecology
I just finished watching a documentary from the 80s about ecology and sustainability of the forests on my Linux system. It is amazing to listen again to the voice-over which is sort of a signature voice for such documentaries of the said TV channel. The screenshot shows goats in a forest, and mentioning the devastating effects of said animals on recently-burnt forests.

Update (22Mar08): The problem has not been resolved yet. Dimitris Diamantis offers a work-around at the Ubuntu-gr mailing list.

OpenOffice Writer training notes (request: make training video plz!)

OpenOffice.org is one of the most important layers of the open-source stack. Although it does a superb job, we really need to make effort to get more users working on it.

Here we present training notes for the use of Writer, the word processor component of OpenOffice.org. We aim to make the best use of styles by creating well-structured documents. What we show here is built on work of others, including the OpenOffice Linux.com articles by Bruce Byfield, the amazing OpenOffice.org documentation and the spot-on article of Christian Paratschek at osnews.com. Actually, the following follow more or less Christian’s article.

When training in OpenOffice.org, it is important to create a fluid workflow that starts from the basics and increases gradually in complexity. It would be great if someone could turn the notes in a training video.

  1. We start of with running OpenOffice.org Writer. The default windows appears. Compared with other word processors, in OOo we see this text boundary in the document (the dim rectangle that shows the area we can write in). We mention we can show/hide it with View/Text boundaries.
  2. When creating a document, it is good to set the properties such as Title and Subject. We do that from File/Properties/Description. It may look too much effort now, but it will help us later wherever we want to write the document title or subject. Use Using OpenOffice.org Writer for title and How to write nice document in OpenOffice.org Writer for subject.
  3. Writer supports styles which makes life much easier. You probably have used styles before; using Heading 1, Heading 2 for headings so that you can create easily the Table of Contents. Writer has a Styles and Formatting window that is accessible from the icon/button near the File menu. The icon looks like a hand clicking on a 3×3 grid. You can also get the windows from Format/Styles and Formatting, or by simply pressing F11. Once you do that, you get a floating window. You can dock it by dragging it to the right edge of the Writer window. If you are into 3D desktop, it may not be easy to dock (it automatically switches to another side of the desktop cube). In this case, use the key combination Ctrl-Shift-F10 to dock the Styles and Formatting window. It is good here to resize the document (that is, change the magnification) so that it appears centered with little empty space around.
  4. Writer supports styles, not only for Paragraphs (like Heading 1) but also for Pages. See the status bar at the bottom of the Writer window; it mentions Default which is the default page style. When we write a document, the first page is good to have a distinct style that is appropriate to the properties of a first page. This includes, making sure the second page appears empty, the page gets no page numbering and so on. On the Styles and Formating dock we select the Page styles tab and we double-click on the First Page style. This will set the current page to the First Page style, and we can verify visually by looking at the status bar (Now First Page instead of the old Default).
  5. We are not writing yet; lets create the subsequent pages first. To do so, we insert manual breaks in our document. Click on Insent/Manual Break…/ and select to insert a Page Break. As style for the page after the break choose the Index page style, tick on Change page number, and make sure the numbering starts from 1. Click OK. Proper documents start numbering from the Index page. The Index page is the page we put the Table of Contents, Table of Figures and so on.
  6. Make sure the cursor is on the new page with the Index style. We need to create a new page break, so that we can get writing the actual document. Click on Insert/Manual Break…/ and select a Page Break. As style for the page after the break you can choose Default. Leave any page numbering settings as is because it inherits from before. Click OK.
  7. Now, to view what we have achieved, let’s go to Print Preview, and choose to see four pages at a time. We can see the first page, another page which is intentionally left blank, the Index page and the Default page. Close Print preview and return to the document.
  8. Now let’s go back to the first page. We want to put the title on the first page. Nothing extravagant, at least yet. What we do is we visit the Paragraph styles and find the Title style. While the cursor is on the first page at the start, we double-click on the Title style. The cursor moves the the center of the document and we can verify that the Title paragraph style has been applied; see on the right of the Styles and Formating icon on the top-left of the Writer window. Shall we write the title of the document now? Not so fast. We can insert the title as a field, because we already wrote it in the properties at the beginning in Step 2. Click Insert/Fields/Title.
  9. Now press Enter; the cursor moves down and it somehow automatically changes to the Subtitle style. Styles in OpenOffice allow you to choose a Next style (a followup style) and in this case, when someone presses Enter on the Title style, they get a new paragraph in the Subtitle style. While in the line/paragraph with Subtitle style, click on Insert/Field…/Subject. Fields in OpenOffice.org appear with a dark gray background; this does not appear in printing, it is just there to help you identify where the fields are.
  10. Now lets move to the last page, the page with Default style and write something. Select the Heading 1 paragraph style and type Introduction. Press enter and you notice that the next style is Text body. Text body is the natural paragraph style for text in Writer (most documents have the default Default paragraph style which is wrong). Now write something in Text Body such as I love writing documents in OpenOffice.org Writer. Copy the line and paste several times so that we get a nice paragraph of at least five lines. Make sure when pasting that after a full stop there should be a single space, then the new sentence starts.
  11. Press Enter and now we are ready to add a new heading. Type Writing documents and set the Heading 1 paragraph style. Press Enter and fill up a paragraph with more of I love writing documents in OpenOffice.org Writer.
  12. Press Enter and create a new section (add a Heading 2, name it Writing documents in style and fill up a corresponding paragraph).
  13. Press Enter and create a last section (add a Heading 1, name it Conclusion, and fill up a corresponding paragraph style).
  14. Now we are ready to place the cursor at the Index page we created before, and go for the Table of Contents. Click on Insert/Indexes and Tables/Indexes and Tables. The default index type is Table of Contents. We keep the default settings and click OK. We get a nice looking table of contents.
  15. At this stage we have a complete basic document, with first page, index page and default page.

The next set of steps include more polishing and adding extra elements to our document.

  1. The text body style is configured to have the left alignment by default. Normally, one would select paragraphs and click on a paragraph alignment button on the toolbar to change the alignment. Because we are using styles, we can modify the Text Body style to have another alignment, and presto the whole document with text in the same style follow suit. In the Styles and Formating dock, at the paragraph styles tab, select the Text Body style. Right-click on the Text Body style and choose to Modify style. Find the Alignment tab and choose Justified as the new alignment for Text Body paragraphs. Click Ok and observe the document changing to the new configuration.
  2. It is nice to the section numbers on the headings, such as 2.1 Writing documents in style. To do this, we need to change the default outline numbering. Click on Tools/Outline numbering… and select to modify the numbering for all levels (under Level, click 1-10). Then, under the Numbering group, change the Number option from the default None to 1, 2, 3, …. Click OK and the number is changed in the document.
  3. Go back to the Table of Contents. You notice that the numbering format does not look nice; some section numbers are too close to the section names. To fix, right click on the gray area of the table of contents and select Edit Index/Table. In the new dialog box, select the Entries tab. Under Structure and Formatting you can see the structure of each line of line in the table of contents table. The button labeled E# is the placeholder for the chapter number. After that there is a placeholder that you can actually type text. In our case we simply click and press the space bar to add another space. We then click the All button and finally click OK. Now, all entries in the Table of contents will have a space between the chapter number and chapter title.
  4. In order to add a footer with the current page number, click on Insert/Footer and pick Index, then Default. Both the Index and the Default style of pages get to show page numbers. Then, place the cursor in the footer area and Insert/Field/Page Number. You can modify the Footer paragraph style so that the text alignment is centered. You have to insert the field in both an Index page and a Default page.
  5. The page number in the Index page is commonly shown in Roman lowercase numbers. How can we fix that? We simply have to modify the Index page style accordingly; click on the Page Styles tab in Styles and Formatting, click to modify the Index page style, and at the Page tab in Layout Settings select the i, ii, iii, … format. Click OK.
  6. It would be nice to have the title on the header of each page, either Index or Default. Click on Insert/Header and add a header for Index and Default. Then, place the cursor in the header for both styles and click to add the Title field (Insert/Field/Title). Would it be nice to put a line under the header? The header text has the Header paragraph style. In the Styles and Formatting, click the Paragraph styles tab and select the Header paragraph style. Right-click and choose to Modify. In the Borders tab enable a bottom line and click OK.

OpenOffice.org Writer in Style

You can download this sample document (.odt) from the link Using OpenOffice.org Writer.

I’ll stop here for now. There are more to put such as Table of Figures, Index of Tables and Bibliography.
It would be good to leave feedback if there is interest to work on this direction.

Update 15Mar2008: This appears to be a Farsi translation/adaptation of the article.

The Google Highly Open Participation Contest

One more initiative by Google to reach out to the community and promote free and open-source software is the The Google Highly Open Participation Contest 2007/2008.

The purpose of the competition is to enable young students older than 13 years old but have not entered yet the tertiary education, to participate in open-source development.

To get started, read the Official Contest Rules and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages.

There are ten projects to choose to work from, one of which is GNOME, the desktop environment found in Linux distributions such as Ubuntu Linux and Fedora.

The current list of items to work on for GNOME include several documentation and translation tasks. If there is interest to work on the Greek localisation, leave a comment at this post. The direction I propose is to help with translating the documentation of GNOME applications.

Open-source software progresses by having more people contributing. This effort by Google and also previous efforts (Google Summer of Code) help tremendously towards the wider participation.

Droid fonts from Google (Android SDK)

Update 10Feb2009: The Droid fonts are now available from android.git.kernel.org (Download tar.gz archive), under the Apache License, Version 2.0. Ascender (the company who created Droid), has now a dedicated website at http://www.droidfonts.com/ (thanks Rex!). At this dedicated website, Ascender presents the Droid Pro family which has several additions to Droid. For the open-source crowd, it is important to have the initial Droid font family dual-licensed under the “OpenFont License”, which would enable the best use with the rest of the OFL licensed fonts.

Two years ago, Google bought a start-up called Android in order to deliver an open platform for mobile applications. A few days ago the Android SDK has been released and you can develop now Android applications that can run in the emulator. Android handsets are expected at some point next year.

Even if you do not plan to develop applications for Android, you can still run the emulator which is functional, includes quite a few samples, and comes with a browser shown above. To get it, download the Android SDK for your system, uncompress it and run


An interesting aspect of Android is that it comes with a set of fonts that have been specially designed for mobile devices, the Droid fonts. The fonts are embedded in the Android image, in android_sdk_linux_m3-rc20a/tools/lib/images/system.img, a clever guy managed to extract them and a modest guy corrected me (Damien’s blog to download).

The fonts are probably licensed under the same license as the SDK (Apache License), however it is better to hear from Google first.

In the meantime, here is a screenshot of Ubuntu 7.10 with Droid.

Update: To extract the fonts from the SDK, run the emulator with the -console parameter. The emulator starts and at the same time you get a shell to the filesystem of the running emulator. You can locate the fonts in system/fonts/. Once located the full path of a file, you can extract with ./adb pull system/fonts/DroidSans.ttf /tmp/DroidSans.ttf (thanks cosmix for the tip).

Ubuntu Answers…

Free and open-source software offers many challenging tasks for you to undertake. One of them is to answer questions that newbies ask.

Offering support to newbies is challenging for several reasons:

  • the problem may not have been described reasonably well
  • you need to figure out the least amount of extra information you need, and ask easy questions to the user to fill in the blanks
  • you have to take control of the direction of solution and make sure the user follows your steps correctly
  • you have to put up with the occasional demanding user

Ubuntu offers a system that users can ask questions and have volunteers answer them. It is called Ubuntu Answers. Unlike forums, here you log in to your launchpad.net account and simply write your question. You start off with a question title, and when you click Next, you are shown with potential answers from previous questions asked and are similar to yours. Really nice.

In order to motivate people to contribute, Launchpad assigns points for every answer you give, and more points for any answer that was marked that solved the problem. This is the karma value of your Launchpad account. There is a list of top contributors for different Launchpad services.

Here are some direct links

A tip to users asking questions: it is good etiquette to respond to the answers that are given to you. There are cases that a question is answered but not acknowledged that it actually solved the problem. Due to this, the solution does not appear when a someone else asks a new question.


What I recommend is to try out Ubuntu Answers. Either ask a question or help with answering questions. It is a good experience.

One-line hardware support (USB Wireless Adapter)

I got recently a USB Wireless Adaptor, produced by Aztech. It was a good buy for several reasons:

  • It advertised Linux support
  • It was affordable
  • It had good quality casing; you can step on it and it won’t break
  • It had the Penguin on the box and was really really cheap

When I plugged it in on my Linux system, it did not work out of the box. The kernel acknowledged that a USB device was inserted (two lines in /var/log/messages) but no driver claimed the device.

With the package came a CD which had drivers for several operating systems, including Linux. Apparently one would need to install the specific driver. I think the driver was available in both source code and as a binary package (for some kernel version).

The kernel module on the CD was called zd1211, so I checked whether my kernel had such a module installed. To my surprise, there was such a kernel module, called zd1211rw. I hope you have better chance with the URL because now the website appears to be down (Error 500).

Therefore, what was wrong with my zd1211rw kernel module? Reading the documentation of project website, I figured out that you have to report the ID (called the USB ID) of your adapter  so that it is included in the kernel module, and when you plug in your device, it will be automatically detected.

You can find the USB ID by running the command lsusb. Then, it is a one-line patch for the zd1211rw driver to add support for the device,

— zd1211rw.linux2.6.20/zd_usb.c      2007-09-25 14:48:06.000000000
+++ zd1211rw/zd_usb.c    2007-09-28 11:35:51.000000000 +0300
@@ -64,6 +64,7 @@
{ USB_DEVICE(0x13b1, 0x0024), .driver_info = DEVICE_ZD1211B },
{ USB_DEVICE(0x0586, 0x340f), .driver_info = DEVICE_ZD1211B },
{ USB_DEVICE(0x0baf, 0x0121), .driver_info = DEVICE_ZD1211B },
+       { USB_DEVICE(0x0cde, 0x001a), .driver_info = DEVICE_ZD1211B },
/* “Driverless” devices that need ejecting */
{ USB_DEVICE(0x0ace, 0x2011), .driver_info = DEVICE_INSTALLER },
{ USB_DEVICE(0x0ace, 0x20ff), .driver_info = DEVICE_INSTALLER },

What Aztech should have done is to submit the USB ID to the developers of the zd1211rw driver. In this way, any Linux distribution that comes out with the updated kernel will have support for the device.

It is very important to get the manufacturers to change mentality. From offering a CD with “drivers”, for free and open-source software they should also work upstream with the device driver developers of the Linux kernel. The effort is small and the customer benefits huge.

Update on planet.ellak.gr

Planet EL/LAK (πλανήτης) is a blog aggregator of Greek-speaking users that work on free and open-source software. Though the users speak Greek, it is OK to write in English as well.

We started in 2004 at http://xnum.sourceforge.net/PlanetHellas/ and quickly realised we had to move somewhere else. We enjoyed hosting at hellug.gr and in February 2007 we moved to the current location, planet.ellak.gr.

In the free and open-source communities, the purpose of a planet is to provide a common location where one can read what the people behind the community are doing, thinking, and so on.

In planet.ellak.gr we use the venus variation of the Planet software. Quite shortly, venus will become the official Planet software.

The planet’s feed is being managed by Feedburner. When you access http://planet.ellak.gr/rss20.xml, you get a normalised feed from Feedburner.

The last three blogs added are

  1. Blog of Δημήτρης Τυπάλδος
  2. New blog of Athanasios Lefteris
  3. MyDrupal.gr Greek Drupal Community, (welcome to planet!)

We use Google Coop as a means to search the websites and blogs that are shown here. At the top-right of the planet you can see the special search box. If you read something interesting on the planet at some point in time, you can search it through this search box.

Our latest stats for August show that 50% of our visitors use free and open-source software.

Mozilla Firefox has a 80% lead and is the most popular browser. IE is down at 11% and the rest is distributed to many open-source browsers and also accesses from mobile devices.

The vast majority of the visitors (84%) come directly here (either bookmark, or just typing planet.ellak.gr or they just disabled referrers). 8% comes from search engines and the last 8% come from friendly websites (top referrers include www.ellak.gr and BizWriter (Greek). Top keywords are greek, ubuntu and cyprus.

We maintain this planet in an open fashion; see the Planet-ELLAK Google Group, for past discussions, and information on getting your blog/community listed on planet.ellak.gr.