Welcome, “The Month in WordPress”!

Posted in Open Source, Software at 1:59 am by

I stumbled into the افكار و احلام dashboard today to make a new post, and I noticed a new item in the “WordPress News” feed: a monthly roundup of what’s going on in the WordPress project. The WordPress Blog has, for as long as I can recall, limited itself to posting about releases (new versions, betas, etc.) and the occasional other high-profile news item, so if the blog was your main ongoing point-of-contact with WordPress (as I suspect it is for most users, more-often-than-not including me), you didn’t learn much about what was happening or where the software was headed until a release featuring those changes landed in your lap. So this is a welcome change, a quick overview of big items and pointers to other things that may be of interest, but on a monthly basis to still keep the WordPress Blog low-volume (and thus low-annoyance).

It reminds me of the weekly-ish Camino updates begun (I think) in 2005 by Samuel Sidler (with assistance from Wevah), first on Camino Update and then later on his own blog, and later taken over by me when Sam got busy with other things (and it would surprise me if Sam’s fingerprints weren’t on this new WordPress monthly roundup in some way). Over the years, those updates filled an important communication need in the Camino Project. It’s important to make it easy for people interested in your software to see what you’re doing (or that you are still doing something!), especially when those tentpole events like releases have a relatively long duration between them, but to do so without either requiring those interested people to dig in to the daily activity of the project or overwhelming them with such details or project jargon. I feel like “The Month in WordPress: June 2017” strikes the right balance and hits the mark for WordPress, and I’m excited to keep reading the feature in the months to come.

So welcome to the web, “The Month in WordPress”! :)


A Strange Preparatory Footnote to the Fate of the Open Web

Posted in Open Source, Software at 5:16 pm by

…Or, what is Brent Simmons’s new project?

I’ve been meaning to write some thoughts about blogging and the open web in general for the past week or so, having seen Tim Bray’s Still Blogging in 2017 in mid-May when I went through my old “Blogs” folder in my bookmarks for the first time half-a-decade or so. (That post having been followed by Dave Winer’s Why I can’t/won’t point to Facebook blog posts yesterday, and John Gruber’s expletive-titled follow-on today. In addition, Gruber has several recent posts criticizing Google’s AMP alternative to HTML/the open web.) But I haven’t had the time to sit down and bang out my thoughts yet, and then yesterday I saw something else which would make a strange footnote to said as-yet-unwritten post…so, footnote first.

Yesterday, John Gruber “teased” the announcement of a new Brent Simmons open source software project in the Daring Fireball Linked List item for the latest episode of Gruber’s podcast. Since I think Brent Simmons is an interesting guy and often has useful things to say about software development, I was curious to see what his new project was. Since I am also a Luddite :-P and don’t listen to podcasts, I figured the project might have been (re)announced on his blog. I checked it last night, and again this afternoon…crickets. I remembered that Simmons also has a company with a website (once home to the great NetNewsWire) and eventually caused my brain to recall its name, Ranchero Software. The page has a nice heading for projects, but, no, nothing new there, either. Finally, I thought, being one of those indie Mac software guys, Simmons must tweet—and I guess he does, but not publicly. (I imagine he probably has a micro.blog, too, but at this point I was unwilling to spend time going down any more rabbit holes to learn what this new project was.)

Later, I checked out Dave Winer’s blog, Scripting News, and discovered he had made several posts about the new project, Evergreen, a new, open-source Mac feed reader (you can take away the NetNewsWire, but you just can’t keep Brent Simmons away from feed readers!).

All of which makes a funny story given the recent climate of fighting back for the open web and blogging—that the primary (and only, I suppose, unless you happen to follow Simmons on GitHub, or maybe on Twitter, at least until Winer posted) way of learning about Evergreen was to listen to a podcast! Emphasis on funny, or strange. To be clear, this is not a hit piece; it’s just telling a funny story. There may be many good reasons the project is not yet listed on Ranchero’s home page (a soft launch—it’s still very early in development—or he’s been too busy, or forgot, et cetera) or elsewhere. Indeed, had there not been this recent flurry of activity around the state of blogging and the open web, I likely would have forgotten all about the in-podcast announcement and never would have thought to write about this at all ;-)


Sunday Re-Read

Posted in Camino, Life, Open Source at 11:57 pm by

Periodically I glance at the statistics for افكار و احلام, and as I did so today at breakfast, I noticed some referrer activity from another author’s response to one of my old posts.

I glanced back at my old post and re-read it; although it was nearly a year-and-a-half old, the post still resonated with me as strongly today as then, and it remains just as timely and relevant today.

So for today’s Sunday Re-Read, I offer up again September 2010’s If not me… for thoughtful reading.


Quoting Matt

Posted in Camino, Life, Open Source at 2:26 am by

Matt Mullenweg:

Scripting is the new literacy. A hundred years ago, the dividing line was the ability to read and write. Today, it’s between people who can code simple things, and those who can’t. It’s so liberating to have an idea and be able to bend the computer to your will. I’ve found that of the most rewarding experiences in life is to create something that provides a useful function for other people. There’s an intrinsic goodness in it, like how I imagine what a true craftsman would put into a chair, table or door. You build it for the ages.

While I disagree strongly with the beginning of the quoted passage, and somewhat with the end, the middle rings true with me. I enjoy being able to write simple things to help me accomplish a task, and sometimes those pieces of “software” are even useful to others. Like many before me, I started finding my way around the Camino codebase and attempting to pick up Objective-C and Cocoa in part to fix things that bugged me, to bend Camino to my will (to paraphrase Matt).1 And although I’ve gotten great satisfaction out of fixing some bugs that have bothered me or have required some persistent debugging to fix, the most rewarding fixes—then and now—have been ones that have helped out others. It certainly isn’t saving the world, but if some code I write solves a problem someone else is having and makes their life just a little bit better or easier, it’s time well-spent.

Wishing you all the best this holiday season.


1 The other part of my reason for attempting to pick up coding was to provide more manpower and help keep development moving—something with which nearly all small open-source projects could use a hand.


Danish is coming (Turkish, too)

Posted in Camino, Open Source at 2:17 am by

Taking another break from working on tasks for the Camino 2 release, I wanted to write a little bit about our amazing team of localizers tonight. As if someone was reading my mind, Christopher Henderson showed us this tweet he came across tonight.

Camino 2 is likely going to ship in English and 13 other languages (attentive readers will note that this is down by two from the number of languages in Camino 1.6.10, but still three more than shipped in the initial Camino 1.6 release), all translated by our volunteer localizers from the caminol10n project. New to Camino 2 will be Danish (which last appeared in the Camino 1.0 series) and Turkish, making its debut as a Camino localization.

The story of Danish in Camino 2 is particularly worth telling. At the end of September, about two weeks after we released Camino 2.0 Beta 4, Danish Camino user Allan Nyholm Nielsen posted a message in the Camino discussion forum asking why Camino 1.6 was localized in Swedish and Norwegian but not Danish, and whether Camino 2 would include a Danish translation. A member of the Camino development team replied that our localizations are all produced by volunteers and that while there had been a Danish localization in Camino 1.0.x and some work had been done for Camino 1.5, the leader of that team disappeared and the translation for 1.5 was never finished. We also pointed Allan to the caminol10n project (and to another Danish Camino user on the forum, David Munch, who could possibly help) and urged him to think about reviving the Danish translation.

The very next day, Allan had posted to the caminol10n mailing list (and back in the Camino discussion forum) stating that he had signed up and had gotten started. Two weeks after that, Allan posted a message stating that he had essentially completed the translation of Camino 2 into Danish, and, after a week of polishing the translation, he reported he had the complete translation ready.

In three weeks, we went from having no Danish translation and only an interested user who had never done any Mac OS X application localization to having a complete, peer-reviewed Danish localization for Camino 2.0! Congratulations to Allan and David on this achievement.

If you would like to see Camino in your language, you too can make it a reality. While not every language has a localization of an older version of Camino available to jump-start the process (there are a dozen languages that have shipped in past Camino versions that will not be in Camino 2.0, however), and while some teams take longer to complete a translation than others, you can still get started today and perhaps be ready to include your language in Camino 2.0.1 or 2.0.2. There are a few, relatively simple, specialized tools to learn, but for the most part all you need to know is English and your own language. There might even be other speakers of your language already interested in helping, and the existing Camino translators are knowledgeable and can help you get started with the tools.

The Danish experience is not an isolated case, either; during the Camino 1.6.x series, we added three new languages, and one of them was complete in a matter of weeks (one took a month or so, and the third we learned about only when it was already complete).

If your language is already included in Camino, be sure to thank the members of your language’s translation team and ask them if there is any way you can help; existing teams are usually looking for new members, too, to help spread the workload.

Finally, it is with sadness that I report that Catalan, Czech, Polish, and Portuguese (pt-BR) will be missing from Camino 2.0, so if you are a Camino user who speaks one of those languages, now is the time for you to get involved. Register with the caminol10n project, join the mailing list, and bring your language back to Camino.


Putting code where your heart is?

Posted in Links, Open Source, Software at 2:37 am by

Marc “uwog” Maurer, a leading AbiWord developer, on AbiWord’s 2008 Google Summer of Code projects:

Interestingly, we did receive quite a few applications about improving OOXML support, while we got zero OpenDocument related proposals. Apparently the support for the OpenDocument ISO standard isn’t strong enough in the F/OSS community to actually make an effort to improve support for it. Even when paid. Food for thought.

Both sad and disturbing for advocates of truly free and open standards for document formats (of which I am one).


New in NeoOffice 2.2.3

Posted in Open Source, Software at 8:54 pm by

Last Monday NeoOffice.org (aka Patrick and Ed, with bits of help from the rest of us) released the latest NeoOffice milestone, 2.2.3. Although this version is still using the OpenOffice.org 2.2 codebase, 2.2.3 is packed full of new Mac goodies you won’t find in other open source office suites for the Mac.

We’ve long been “spoiled” on the Mac by having things “just work”—often through the hard work of Apple engineers designing APIs and “for free” features of standard objects, but also through the hard work of application developers themselves. When porting an application from another platform, many of these things that “just work” in born-on-the-Mac apps don’t work. Because of our high standards as Mac users, it’s hard to build a good Mac app, and even harder to build a good Mac version of a cross-platform app.

NeoOffice began its life as an application that was hard to call even Mac-like (in comparison to OpenOffice.org, which only ran under X11, it was a gem; in comparison to Microsoft Office X, not so much), and development tackled the important tasks of stability and functionality (printing! native fonts!) first, gradually adding more characteristics of a standard Mac application and culminating in the “fully Aqua” NeoOffice 2.1 release last April. Of course there’s always more to do—another non-Mac-like bit to polish, another new Apple feature to include—and over the last year more standard Mac features were added (though at a slower pace, as feature size increased).

With NeoOffice 2.2.3, Ed added support for Mac OS X 10.5’s grammar checker to the existing support for the Mac OS X spell-checker (the support is fully pluggable, if anyone knows of any other grammar-checking backends). Patrick finally got the pop-up file hierarchy working in document titlebars (one of those “you don’t miss it until you go to use it and it’s not there” features). The lack of application menus when no documents were open became a thing of the past; your File menu and recent documents are always a click away now. The team ripped out OpenOffice.org’s arcane and crippled scanner support and replaced it with native Image Capture support for importing images from scanners and cameras. Our dedicated team of icon artists replaced a few dozen more ugly platform-generic icons with new Akua versions, bringing NeoOffice that much closer to the 7K+ figure required for a complete icon set.

By far the largest feature in 2.2.3, however, is support for embedded video playback. QuickTime is one of those ubiquitous Mac technologies that everyone expects to “just work” in every program; it’s in your web browser, your jukebox, and your presentations (don’t ask me why; maybe you want to spin around a model of a molecule or fly through a room in your building design?). Now it’s in your open source office suite, too, playing any non-protected QuickTime-supported format on Mac OS X 10.4 and above (and spinning your molecule models until your battery runs out), just like all of those other Mac apps you love.

What’s to come in the future? The OpenOffice.org 3.0 codebase, that much is for sure. Beyond that, we’ll have to see what other tricks Patrick and Ed have up their sleeves (Ed likes to tease everyone with screenshots of his machinations), but the OOo 3.0 upgrade will be huge in itself, thanks to the work of Sun’s OpenOffice.org and Novell’s ooo-build engineers.

One final note: if you’re a NeoOffice user who will be near Milan in late May, FreeSMUG.org will be hosting a NeoOffice event with Patrick and Ed. See the NeoWiki for more information.


libwpd-0.8.12, the Mac, and you

Posted in Life, Open Source at 12:43 am by

Not too long ago, someone emailed me looking for a Mac OS X version of the excellent libwpd tools for converting WordPerfect documents. Said correspondant had found my email and a now-404ed URL from a message in a mailing list archive, but couldn’t find a live version of the tools. After that, I told myself I needed to do a better job of blogging about libwpd and our releases, so that there would be fresher hits and valid URLs in search engines.

To that end, we released libwpd-0.8.12 earlier this month (it’s been a busy one for me, hence the delay). The main addition in this version is Fridrich’s fine work in bringing support for tabs and text alignment in WordPerfect 5 and WordPerfect for Mac 2.x and 3.x documents. Tabs and text alignment are probably the last common, “daily-use” features that were not converted in these document formats, and they are now supported more-or-less on par with WordPerfect 6/7/8/9/10/11/12 documents. This release is great news for Mac users who formerly used WordPerfect, as document fidelity should be much improved. In addition, for the first time ever, the Mac OS X versions of the tools are Universal Binaries.

Meanwhile, Fridrich is pushing forward on support for converting text and image boxes for the 0.9 series. Great things are in store for the future.

In the meantime, you can download the libwpd command-line tools (and an AppleScript wrapper for wpd2sxw) for Mac OS X from the project site and go convert documents with tabs until you’re blue in the face. Enjoy!


Taking aim at the walled gardens?

Posted in Camino, Open Source at 12:20 pm by

In the beginning, there was email. It was open, it was interoperable, and all was well.

Then came the web, and, for a while, it, too was open and interoperable, and all was well.

Then came “online services,” walled gardens that kept their users from the web and interoperable email. They were closed, proprietary ecosystems; interoperability was a late, shoehorned addition. All was not well for users locked inside these gardens.

Then came the days of the lawless, “Wild West Web,” where interoperability was bleeding on the main street outside the saloon after the duel with browser vendors determined to make the web something that only worked in their browser. Users, citizens of this internet junction, were suffering.

Then a new sheriff rode into town, on a fire-breathing red lizard. It was Mozilla, determined to make the internet, all of it (as witnessed by its flagship product, an all-in-one suite of internet applications), open and interoperable again. Lawlessness was at an all-time high, but slowly the sheriff gathered a set of deputies, chief among them Chimera and Phoenix, and later Thunderbird, to help reign in lawlessness and make the internet open and interoperable again and to promote the public benefit. Citizens rejoiced.

Now we are seeing a rise of new walled gardens, the last refuges of those who would partition the internet into tiny fiefdoms where they might lord over their users like serfs. These walled gardens are not open or interoperable; one cannot be in one walled garden and talk to someone in another. They merely leverage the hard-won openness of the web to erect their redoubts and then lock their massive gates. Citizens are beginning to feel the burden of rushing from one walled garden to another in order to communicate with each other.

Who will lead the fight against these new walled gardens, to ensure we do not face another dark era of lawlessness on the internet where communication becomes an impossible or arduous task? The outcome of the Great Thunderbird War will tell.

We must hope the noble and just will win, or we face a dark, uncertain future of walled gardens looming over the open web, and open communication will be only a faint, fond memory.


Picture Perfect

Posted in History, Open Source, Software at 2:07 am by

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy, er, back in the late 80s and early 90s, WordPerfect was the dominant word processor, ubiquitous (try finding commercial software today available on that many platforms) and powerful. The Mac version was Mac-like, a good citizen, easy to use and uncluttered yet still powerful (in fact, in 2007, the last released version, 3.5, dating to 1995—with a small but not insignificant update to 3.5e in 1997—does everything I’ve ever wanted to do with a word processor, save Unicode, and I’ve wanted to do some above-average things).

If you’ve been using computers since the late 80s or early 90s, or perhaps went to school in the mid/late 90s at an institution with a Novell network, chances are you have a collection of old WordPerfect documents. Fortunately (if you have any need of the data in those documents), some fine folks have created a very good file format translator (libwpd) for WordPerfect documents, which is available stand-alone and is also incorporated into open-source programs such as AbiWord, KWord, NeoOffice, and OpenOffice.org, and commercial products such as Nisus Writer Express. Currently libwpd supports most features of most common WordPerfect file formats, but the big missing piece was images. After all, everyone has some sort of images in their documents: logos in company letterhead, figures in reports or papers, clip art in family newsletters.

Last summer, the file format translator (libwpg) for the WordPerfect image format really took off, thanks to Ariya, but there was still no way to get a WordPerfect document with an image to open in any of those other applications and include the image. So close, but so far away….

This week Fridrich has been working on finally bringing libwpd and libwpg together, so that WordPerfect documents with images can be opened by other applications and retain their images—and the result looks good! Things are still rough, and and some images still won’t be converted properly, but you can see it with your own eyes; a new hope for old WordPerfect documents with images.

Thanks, Fridrich, Ariya, and all the other libwpd and libwpg hackers; this is indeed an exciting day!