Software

Reasons why Microsoft's OpenXML standard is junk

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Here's a wonderful explanation of why Microsoft's "open" OpenXML "standard" is a wolf in sheep's clothing:

In short, the specification is littered with little tidbits which say that to properly display a file you must understand details of how 12 year old software (Word 95) worked, or reverse engineer it. So here's a wonderful schematic on how to build a new house, but the kitchen won't fit unless you know how to arrange atoms at the quantum level, meagre saws won't work. And that, folks, is why I don't use Microsoft software and stopped buying their junk several years ago.

Update: Just to better explain why this is a problem, there is no guarantee that Microsoft is using its own specifications in its own software, namely Office 2007. In fact current reports state that they are doing their old tricks of using a mix of the current specifications with chunks of the older (undocumented) formats thrown in for good measure. Given this you'll have a slim chance of being able to use their published specifications and generate the same output that their own software creates. That is why people should use software that supports the internationally recognized OpenDocument format in either KDE's KOffice, Openoffice.org, StarOffice or the other programs that support it.

WindowBlinds can cause general instability

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No way! A system hack cause general instability, say it ain't so! It is true, folks, after uninstalling the bling-bling that is WindowBlinds, some nagging issues that had plagued both my home and work PCs disappeared. Gone are the general slowness, the jittery-as-a-junebug movie playback and games, and here to stay are improved load times, faster screen refresh and the ability to play any movie I want while I still work without thinking Max Headroom has taken over the world. Yay!

Content filter plugin for Firefox

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A common problem for parents is whether their children will accidentally discover unsavory content while online - an innocent search for "boobie joke" might get them more than they were expecting. There are lots of programs out there that purport to solve this, but the majority of them simply keep lists of inappropriate websites that you have no control over, which very often have political motives behind the content blocking. Enter a plugin for Firefox called ProCon which puts the control in your hands, so you can decide what is appropriate or not. ProCon allows you to block specific domains and URLs, block words that appear in the page itself, and add sites to a "whitelist" so that they're never blocked. While not the most powerful, it certainly is a step in the right direction and parents who are concerned about their children's viewing habits should definitely give it a try.

Eudora is dead, long live Thunderbird

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This past week Qualcomm, makers of phone software and telecommunications systems, announced that they were dumping their aging Eudora email program and would instead be focusing on contributing to the Mozilla Foundation's excellent Thunderbird program with a Eudora-branded & enhanced edition. While some questions remain to be answered, for example what will happen to the existing code and whether the enhancements to the Eudora-branded edition will be made available in a license suitable for inclusion into the core Thunderbird code-base, it is to all intents a major achievement for one of the world's best open source projects.

From a personal perspective, Eudora was the first email program I ever used on a PC, way back in 1995.  While I had used email apps on other platforms, on Windows it generally felt "right" and worked the way I expected an email app to work.  I continued using it over the years, but the lack of progress and the continual bloat pushed me away from it, and as it happens I migrated to Thunderbird in 2003.  Since then I've helped many other family members also migrate to Thunderbird and it has worked well for them also.  While I'm sorry to see Eudora become little more than a brand name after being the defacto standard for so many years, I'm encouraged to see my cross-platform email app of choice gain more acceptance.

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