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Comment: Re:It's TCO, not licenses only (Score 2) 279

or the feature plain sucks (track changes in Office > Libre)

Huh? Have you used a recent version of LOffice? The track-changes feature in LO is considerably more elegant than MSOffice, both visually (in page view you still see the tagged and ordered comments/changes while displaying an accurate representation of the print view), and logically (I can reply by comment on a comment in LO, and record the justification for edits as the comments are ordered in a threaded conversation. And you don't lose the comments if you select and type instead of explicitly deleting text. By contrast in MSOffice, if you overwrite a section with track changes turned on, it always deletes the comments that went with the old text -- so MSOffice only has "track SOME changes."

I know it's a minor issue, but that in that respect, LO wins hands-down.

Comment: Re:Good to hear (Score 1) 279

Visio... ugh. I have a love-hate relationship with Visio, and got off the train at Visio 2010 -- which is ok, because it runs acceptably under Wine.

Some detail: At work I have a major publication based on about 50 complex diagrams in Visio, now in its 5th edition over the past 5 years. Originally drafted using 2003, the move to 2010 was annoying but acceptable, as it brought no discernible benefit but took away no features I needed. I was also ok with 2010 because it runs acceptably under Wine, which means I can load it at home where I much prefer Linux.
Since I work somewhere near Redmond, I got pushed to 2013, and I find it completely dysfunctional. The interface is hideous, object manipulation is difficult and requires many extra clicks for common tasks... and FFS the PDF rendering is totally broken. Even our IT and product support can't get pub-quality resolution out of the v2013 PDF engine. For a while I used Visio 2013 + GhostScript to generate acceptable PDFs because the file format incompatibilities between 2010 and 2013 made it a PITA to roll back, but there were other problems with that and eventually I just rolled back to 2010.

Upshot: If you're content with Visio 2010, then I'd say to use it on Windows or Linux as you prefer.
But Visio 2013 has regressed in UI and functionality to the point where I prefer to use DIA on Linux.

Comment: Re:no thanks (Score 5, Interesting) 171

by xeno (#47510639) Attached to: Firefox 31 Released

...and I'm not alone. According to Moz's own dev feedback tools, the Australis phelgm-globber of an interface has been trending at 80%-dislike from day one after introduction..

Comment: no thanks (Score 3, Insightful) 171

by xeno (#47510623) Attached to: Firefox 31 Released

I'll install it when that godawful Australis interface is rolled back or replaced with something less eye-bleedingly bad. (And no, the craptastic classic plug-in is not a long-term solution.) For now, I'm holding at v28 (on Linux Mint or Ubuntu: "sudo apt-mark hold firefox"), and pondering what to do re security updates in the long run.

Firefox has gone down the ugly-UI-shuffle-for-the-hell-of-it route, Chrome sends an astounding amount of telemetry back to the hive-mind, and IE's performance is still a total joke even if I can see past the OS implications and numbingly-bad design. Are niche browsers all we have left?

Comment: Bose's leans into a corner... and jump obstacles (Score 5, Interesting) 243

by xeno (#47191401) Attached to: New Car Can Lean Into Curves, Literally

A couple of others have mentioned the ~2007 work that Bose did in active suspension, but nothing really clarifies the idea like pictures or video:
Leaning into a curve is one thing, but At 1:40 the car jumps a curb-size obstable. Nice.

I'm not sure it's worth the engineering complexity versus standard sway bars (for a typical diver),
but Bose's system (and Mercedes') sure as hell is cool.

And while we're on the topic of making unreasonably large cars more agile than they ought to be, I'm still pretty happy with Volvo's 4C system and oversized sway bars on a 7yo S80 V8 -- switching to "advanced" it behaves like a fat WRX or that pudgy football player you didn't think could move that fast, and in "comfort" mode it hunches down *evenly* about 6-8cm in hard curves... all with just plain old leverage, a few poly bushings, and electromagnets around the ferro-oil filled shocks. Simple is good.

Comment: Re:This is so 1990s (Score 5, Informative) 132

by xeno (#47162203) Attached to: Linux Mint 17 'Qiana' Released

For a major update to this distro it is. Mint is the reasonable middle ground in a sea of partisan battles and "UX" disasters. The past couple of years has seen Shuttleworth slam Ubuntu's rudder over to starboard with Unity as the ONE-true-way, then MS followed suit with Metro as the MORE-ONE-true bastard child of Unity and IOS, and Gnome passed the Jonestown kool-aid with Gnome3 as the ONEST-true-way. I've lost count of the number of major companies and orgs that decided to shove their half-baked ideas into production; usability and feedback be damned.

By contrast, Mint's "Mr Neutral" Clem provided support for a variety of GUIs while focusing on the underlying stability and functionality of the OS. Remember way back when Gates derided the notion of an OS that just improved stability and performance without introducing a slew of new features? He said Microsoft would never do that, and this was a dumb idea. Well, Clem did the reasonable thing -- he and the team worked on stability ad performance... with a *choice* of new UI features. Take it leave it, love it or hate it, you can't deny that Mint gives you tons of operational/UI choice while resolving much of the technical bustedness that has been a weak spot for Linux acceptance.

I'm typing this on a fully configured Mint 17 system. I booted from a live USB drive at 8:38pm, and the install from bare metal was complete by 8:44. Connected to the wifi and had all updates pulled and installed by 8:55pm. A few quick tweaks that any newbie could do, and I'm up and running with a fully current system, office suite, media tools, with tunes playing in the background, and *everything* just works -- in about 20 minutes. (I played with it over the weekend on a bench full of systems, and have yet to find a recent HP, Lenovo, or Dell not fully supported.) With Mint I get the "just works" simplicity of OSX with the ass-kicking power of Linux, and in another 20min I'll have Wine installed with my genuine copy of MS Office (Visio if nothing else). And I still have the linux-just-rocks no-click configuration of my office scanner without downloading the 350mb driver package for Windows. Mint is happiness for total luddites who want stuff to look like WIn95, while maintaining compatibility and app-management consistency with faux-modern-minimalists who want the UI to look like an empty white room. Take your pick... it just works. I actually *enjoy* using Mint.... and so do the less-geeky people who just want to click and do stuff.

This is what an OS should be.

Comment: Re:Good luck with that. (Score 1) 379

by xeno (#47069705) Attached to: With the Surface Pro, Microsoft Is Trying To Recreate the PC Market

Yes, THIS.

I am stunned at how UGLY windows 8 and Office 2013 are. Last night my s.o. asked me to work on a 50-page doc on her new corp laptop with Office 2013, and the default layout/ribbon/color combo was so shockingly bad... it's hard to see the edge of the page in page layout, outline mode is hidden, strict styles are hopelessly broken, 30% of the screen is devoted to finger-pokey whitespace. Ugh. She hates the machine and usually uses it only for corp email.

So I mailed the doc to myself and picked it up on a Linux machine, and happily edited in Office 2010. But the thing that slays me is how really great MS Office 2010 (or 2003) works on top of Linux. Word 2010 is *faster* running in Wine on top of Mint or Ubuntu than it is on Windows 8 on the same hardware. Aside from corp websites that require IE10 for SSO, why in the world would I use Win 8 when it's slower and buggier than freely downloadable commie OS distros.... which have better-thought-out unified interfaces?

So the Surface is going to turn this around? With a flaccid keyboard, and a kickstand idea they ganked from Archos' android tablets 5 years ago?

I think MSFT remains in real trouble. Sure there's a mountain of money and Nadella is shuffling things like mad, but the company's become like a 10-million-horsepower Buick with a crap transmission, resulting in no torque whatever. It's comfy and we're going to coast for a long time, but nothing really interesting is gonna happen.

Comment: single biggest threat to STEM education (Score 3, Insightful) 264

by xeno (#46894601) Attached to: An MIT Dean's Defense of the Humanities

Yes. THIS.

The single biggest thing that renders useless an otherwise-great STEM education is the lack of ability to write well.

Legion are the devs who string together many words, but forget to have a verb or period at the end. Innumerable are the IT wonks who can't scrape together a coherent and concise summary of 1000-page compliance reports. I swear, the collective plural noun for some of the security analysts at work is "a shimmer of tin foil hats" or "a fuckery of subjectivism" ...and they don't even understand the nature of the criticism.

Can I *PLEASE* have a critical thinker and good writer in the house???? Anyone??

Science does no good if you cannot express a coherent hypothesis, imagine a threshold, or string together a sequence of actual actions for testing. In medicine this costs lives.
Technology is an interchange, it does no good if you cannot listen to a problem, and express understanding back. At this moment in software, we're awash in UX implementations that aren't traceable to a functional problem.
Engineering compounds the problem later without functional expression and holistic and temporal views. Ask a Boeing maintenance tech about the plethora of could-have-been-shared 1-off components in 20-40 year old jets.
Math does no good if you cannot draw a picture. Ask the Morton Thiokol guys about their reports on the o-rings on the space shuttle.

Among other "humanities" like history and writing/composition, Tufte ought to be mandatory for high-school seniors in a STEM program.

Comment: Re:I use Ubuntu (Score 5, Interesting) 55

by xeno (#46894243) Attached to: Canonical (Nearly) Halts Development of Ubuntu For Android

Anyway, you know what I wish Canonical would work on? Ubuntu for Computers. ....... You have a core product, focus on it.

That would be Mint Linux.

No soapbox, no high-minded reasons here, just pure practicality: One of the places I've volunteered for a long time is a shelter for abuse victims. This county-funded program receives and triages women (mostly) and children into appropriate programs and mid-term housing, and provides courses ranging from home-ec and job training to computer literacy and online privacy before sending them back on their own. For several years those who completed the computer literacy program were given a good-spec laptop with Ubuntu + many apps, configured for security and privacy in the same way we'd done the training. We saw them all: hopeless tweaker prostitutes who went back and gave everything to their pimps, to beaten trophy wives hell-bent on recovering their independence after disconnecting the GPS tracker on the mercedes. After the first few months, the success rate surprised even us: Of those who were given a modern-spec PC with Ubuntu, more than 2/3 were still in active use a year later (still with Ubuntu, and usually with separate accounts for the kids). We probably had 250 Ubuntu PCs in the field at any given time.

Then Shuttleworth jammed Unity forward. Ubuntu's shift to a Metro-esque gui was a disaster with this novice audience. We had people decline a free computer because they couldn't make sense of Unity. Others installed XP over it and called us when it broke or they discovered you had to pay for Office. Others called over and over for basic navigation support. In general, the answer was "no thanks" to Ubuntu.

Switching over to Mint (first with Mate, then Cinnamon) rescued our program, and was a huge hit with the end users. Several years of .deb and ubuntu-based config & tuning was re-usable on Mint, and the interface didn't scare off the novices. Similar enough to the older W95/XP/7/OSX interfaces that they knew were to start, but modern enough for good security and functionality. Just to be clear *I* like playing with the latest and weirdest geekery, my s.o. does malware reversing to calm her nerves (so hot!!), and my home has kids who think nothing of reflashing cyanogenmod on their phones and argue over whether to use Win8+visual studio or Mint+Eclipse for their homework. But that's not the world most people inhabit, and it's really important to recognize that /. readers are not the norm or a good baseline for what is useful and usable to the general populace.

Clem's just a regular guy solving regular problems.
Shuttleworth is a philosopher of the future, with some distinctly reality-adjacent ideas of what ought to be, and enough monetary thrust to make his pigs fly just fine.
I'd rather live and help people in the present. So yeah.... "Ubuntu for Computers" is Linux Mint.

Comment: Re:And the US could turn Russia into vapor (Score 3, Informative) 878

by xeno (#46511017) Attached to: Russian State TV Anchor: Russia Could Turn US To "Radioactive Ash"


All common loans (mortgage, credit card, signature loan, auto loan, etc) in the US are fixed principal. E.g. Say you borrow $200,000 for a house, and you get fees tacked on, plus the cost of financing ata fixed rate... you could pay ~3x the original loan but only as a result of compounding. The loan terms never change even if the value of the dollar completely tanks or shoots up. It is a common option to have a variable interest rate, making it possible to have the interest rate tied to the prime rate and have that skyrocket.. which could get me into trouble over the long term of I cannot afford adjusted monthly payments. But otherwise it's the same story: the principal amount is *never* adjusted for the value of the dollar. I'm quite sure that would be illegal (but IANAfinance lawyer), and if it's not, any creditor exercising that kind of option would find their buildings burned down by morning, Venezuela style.

If the value of my work stays steady, a strong dollar actually makes it harder for me to pay my mortgage, but a weak dollar lets me pay off my loans faster. Imho this sort of relationship has a stabilizing effect on the US economy and dollar.

Comment: the androidness of it all (Score 5, Interesting) 303

by xeno (#46074901) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Life After N900?

Congratulations, you made it far longer than I did. My N900 started to show hardware problems about a year ago, and radio problems/disconnects were the last straw. I loved the versatility and control, but ultimately I needed the damn thing to make calls and browse. I nabbed a Nexus 4 when they got cheap, and have adjusted reasonably well. I had a fair look at the iDevices, but wanted something faster and with a bigger screen. I coveted the Galaxy Note series, and might have been happier that way, but I wanted something closer to the N900 size. Recently got my kid a Moto G -- and currently it seems to be the best deal reminiscent of the size/screen of the N900. But still there is the lack of a hardware keyboard... there's just no substitute for input-intensive apps. Maybe Jolla will solve that.

If you do head in the direction of Android, these might make it easier:
- Have a look at Cyanogenmod, and see if you can find a sweet spot with hardware you like and a recent version.
- Read up on App Ops, the utility that allows one to have granular permissions for applications, and restore a modicum of privacy control.
- Don't be afraid to disable all the default apps/Google+/hangouts/crap. Android works just fine with the processes disabled.
- Have a look at bare android/Samsung's overlays/cyanogenmod before you commit to them, there are significant differences.
- Try getting an older phone and experimenting with it before you jump. I obtained a Galaxy S1/Vibrant, learned all about the boot loaders, firmware, and OS installation, and tried out various roms before settling back on Cyanogenmod. (Then I taught the kids how to do it, and gave the phone to my 10yo -- never too early for mobile hacking.) All of the features aside, the process restored some of the sense of control that I had with the N900. Some of it real, some of it not, but at least I knew were I stood wrt the device I was using most frequently.

Comment: Re:I'm about to give up on Gmail... (Score 3, Insightful) 339

by xeno (#45914367) Attached to: Google Begins To Merge Google+, Gmail Contacts


I have my own domain and a small rack in the basement, with mail I haven't used much in a while.. but this G+ stupidity might just roust me out of my slumber. I've stayed with Gmail out of inertia mostly; the handy features just barely outweigh the irritation. But it's really, really close. The Gmail interface changes from a year ago still suck. Badly. Google+ is an irritating solution to a problem I don't have, and becoming terribly intrusive. Youtube integration is actively conterproductive, a constant intrusion of personal browsing into potential business activity. When I log into gmail and open up a youtube tab, it constatntly pops up a link to some warplane videos I watched a year ago. So... I can't browse youtube because if I use gmail to communicate with clients for moonlighting gigs, because those who use g+ might see that and think I'm a nut? No thanks.)

Gmail is a handy web interface to email functions I had thru IMAP a decade ago, nothing more. I could easily switch back. Better yet, I could update the whole mess and run it in a couple of VMs at AWS for pennies a day.

I hesitate because Google docs is handy for helping my kids on their school reports, annotating, correcting, making suggestions as they work on it.. but really it's a nice-to-have. I would miss it, but if the price for docs is forced use of Google+, it's not worth the hassle.

Comment: Re:onenote... is a ripoff of 1990's lotus organize (Score 1) 133

by xeno (#45833037) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Life Organization With Free Software?


Iirc running Org 97 thru 6.1 (on Wine on Mint 14-15) there were a few artifacts -- maybe once every 15 minutes a border would render a pixel off, or something like that -- but no functional or data handling problems. Because it's so small, it'll also run ok under some iffy win32 emulators -- just for giggles I once got it running on my N900 phone. Let me know if you try it on Android.

Comment: onenote... is a ripoff of 1990's lotus organizer (Score 2) 133

by xeno (#45832375) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Life Organization With Free Software?

It's funny to see comments praising OneNote as the best thing since sliced bread...

Don't get me wrong, I like OneNote, and use it at work. But in a moment of snark I dug up a copy of Lotus Organizer 6 (from 1999) and installed it on my Win8 work machine. Lo and behold, I can keep notes in a multi-tabbed interface. I can format them all kinds of ways, add pictures, embed doc and ppt files, share the org file with other users, and generally do anything OneNote can do. I can keep a full calendar, manage contacts, track tasks, and keep linked notes. .. And then there are the things Organizer does that OneNote couldn't do... until v2013. In OneNote 2010, if you pasted in a table, you couldn't even select a column to format it -- OneNote mishandles it as line text. Track changes (which Organizer doesn't have at all) broke all the time in 2010 and doesn't survive more than a couple users in 2013; OneNote still totally trashes style data from other Office products, so you can't roundtrip text from a mildly complex word doc back into that doc without hosing the final. Embedding a ppt or xls table into OneNote would consistently get corrupted from editing collisions on a shared .one file. But Organizer would defer to the linked file and survive multi-user editing. Hah, funny.

Everything old is new again, with Redmond's fresh coat of pastels and waaaaay too much whitespace in the UI. Then again, these products are sinkholes for data -- from the latest .ONE file format back to the decade-plus-old .ORG-.OR6 file formats -- it's difficult to extract your stuff in usable ways when the format dies. Not that Microsoft, Google, IBM/Lotus, or other big companies would do that. Repeatedly. Predictably. Dependably. (E.g. Microsoft Office has trouble importing ... Microsoft Office files from 15 years ago, produced while working *at* Microsoft, FFS.) Tho it's much more limited to notes, Zim is really attractive in that regard: everything is saved in an open/documented non-binary format that'll be readable/recoverable when there's time to dig thru this crap when I'm old/near death.

Meanwhile in the real world, for just making notes and getting crap done quickly and effectively, the ubiquitous lab/moleskine/black notebook is the way to go.

Comment: Seattle bike lanes=10%use, cyclists=90% douchebags (Score 1) 947

by xeno (#45228021) Attached to: How Safe Is Cycling?

The soon-to-be-ex-mayor of Seattle is pushing hard for bike lanes everywhere, but it's probably the single issue that will cause him to be thrown out of office.
Seattle'c cyclists have an overwhelming culture of disregard for traffic laws, disdain for pedestrians, and no respect for other vehicular traffic. For example, on one of the major arterials I commute through, fewer than 1 in 5 cyclists stop for ANY red light over the busiest 2-3 miles. If traffic is busy, around 1 in 4 will just ride on the sidewalk thru groups of pedestrians (which is illegal) without signaling (which is illegal) without following traffic OR pedestrian signals (which is illegal). No one knows what the green bike lanes mean to vehicle traffic (there's no clear law), and the "sharows" (chevrons + bike icon painted on the road) are intended to encourage lane sharing... but there's no public guidance or traffic law specific to them, and they've been plunked down all over the place with little planning (e.g. on narrow high-speed roads for which NO slow vehicle is appropriate) -- which leads to confusion from motor vehicles and even more reckless behavior by cyclists. And to compound the whole mess, cycling is very seasonal here (it rains some in Seattle, and the city is only slightly less hilly than SanFran)... so most lanes are very lightly used (zero to maybe a couple dozen riders a day) outside of summer months. It's funny how the mayor's cycling lobby is really loud about how many miles of bike lanes implemented (i.e. motor vehicle capacity reduced, and idling/pollution increased), but dead silent on usage metrics (which isn't a little low, it's a lot low... like an order of magnitude low WRT justifying removal of MV capacity).

I have a decent bike, and I ride. My adult-size kids commute to school by bike+bus. I *like* cycling. But ironically Seattle's inane and badly-planned bike-lane implementation, combined with the reckless/arrogant road behavior encouraged by the likes of the nutbag Cascade Bicycle Club*** has created such confusion and hostility on the road that I don't feel safe riding anymore.

(***Just because I ride does not mean that these arrogant idiots represent me. If you live around Seattle, think about that next time you see my kid riding home from school, after you've been stuck behind a Cascade-sponsored rolling roadblock. And think about your vote for Mayor, as you sit idling on Greenwood Ave, recently cut down to one single lane, in a 3-block backup ... and no cyclist in the bike lane as far as the eye can see. )

It's not so hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground. -- Daniel B. Luten