April 20, 2014

LibreOffice, the distraction-free way

There is a growing momentum towards specialized “text editors” these days, and these tools are not meant for “geeks” or “hackers”, far from that: there are targeted at people who write long chunks of texts, and only text. You may have already guessed who they might be: fiction writers, journalists, etc. There is now a nice ecosystem of tools, most of them non free software, like Scrivener, that is in full expansion. If I’d tell you office suites can offer just the same benefits, you would call me biased. And indeed I might be. Just a tad…. But it’s true. On the other hand, people having specific needs in the way they write and edit texts are very real, from developers to fiction writers. The question is: should an office suite like LibreOffice accomodate everyone – and does it already?

I will first show how to turn LibreOffice into a distraction-free text editor -yes you can do that quite easily- and then I will try to answer the question above: should an office suite like LibreOffice accomodate everyone? in an attempt at defining what LibreOffice, and especially Writer, is and does as a tool.

LibreOffice Writer as a distraction-free text editor in a few simple steps:

The whole point of the following suggestions is to take away elements from LibreOffice’s writer interface.

  1. Get rid of the ruler: Go to the View top menu then unselect the Ruler
  2. Take away any unwanted toolbar from the same View menu (then use the Toolbar submenu), such as Drawing or WordArt bars. Don’t get me wrong: you could make every bar disappear but it’s not helpful: just get rid of what you think is clutter.
  3. In the Options menu go to Writer, Appearance, then change the Application background to a shade of dark grey (70 up to 90%). Do not mistake this with the document background, there’s a specific entry for the Writer background.
  4. The last step is  optional: get rid of the Stylist vertical integration. Many people do not have this as a default, I do because it makes me save time when I have to select styles as I’m typing a document. To me, it’s not clutter so I left it that way. Below is a screenshot of LibreOffice in distraction-free mode with the stylist nested on the right, while the second screenshot is the same configuration of LibreOffice without the nested stylist. LibreOffice_distractionfree_stylist

Why do I mention the stylist? Because using styles is pretty much the single most important tool you need to be familiar with when using an office suite. Any office suite, that’s to say, otherwise you will end up wondering why office suites are so complex when you just have to type a letter to your insurance company… although there’s certainly a huge userbase for that.


What do styles do? They structure your document visually and logically. They make the difference between a simple text with bold, underlined and italic words appearing from time to time, and an ordered document with chapters, sections, paragraphs that stands both the test of time (and format conversion) and multiple revisions or updates. They also help you create great looking documents and create templates. In a nutshell, using LibreOffice without styles is like driving a car in first gear or using Emacs only through the scratch buffer (that one’s for the geeks). By the way, the same is true for MS Office styles, but LibreOffice and its predecessor OpenOffice.org are known to handle styles in a consistently more powerful way.

But styles cannot  do everything. They cannot magically turn an office suite into a full development environment or code editor for instance. That would be pushing the enveloppe a bit too far. Which prompts the question of what an office suite like LibreOffice can, could and should do.

It is clear to anyone who used an office suite and code editors or IDEs such as Emacs, Cloud9 (code editor in the cloud) , NetBeans or Eclipse, that LibreOffice serves different needs. There is no will, and no point for anyone to turn LibreOffice into a code editor (aside the macro and dialog editor that’s already embedded in the suite, as shown on the right), because an office suite is not and will never be a development environment. LibreOffice_macroeditor

It is not rare to hear that word processors are a thing of a past, but that’s  an ill-informed opinion. It is not that the cloud is supposedly overthrowing everything, but rather it comes, I think, from several misconceptions and prejudices about office suites. Let me first hint at what word processors are not:

  • code editors: Seriously, some people need to drop that ball. I’m the first one to wish for a full blown html editor that works inside LibreOffice, but certainly not for a full suite with compilers and debuggers. These are specific tools, aimed at a specific range of uses.
  • LaTeX editors: I have good friends who use these – in short, these are powerful tools allowing you to focus on text and then frame and format the text the way you want in a programmatic way. These editors require a lot of practice and learning before you can use them. LaTex editors are used mostly in academic fields. They are not word processors, and to be honest, the notion that you must spend years of training to design a document in LaTex even in 2014 strikes me as nonsensical.
  • wordpads, simple text editors: a word processor can definitely do that, but you could of course use  something less complex, if all you need is a simple text editor such as TextEdit or WordPad.
  • online pads; if you were to implement a collaborative stack in an office suite, it could actually be turned into an etherpad/framapad type of tool, although the value of a word processor may lie elsewhere.

At this stage then, it becomes useful to try to define what a word processor does and why it matters.

A word processor edits and handles documents . Not code, not notes (although it could), only actual documents. Faced with this shockingly simple yet – in my humble opnion powerful – assertion, what do we do with it?

Word processors help you read, edit, save, open documents in a very fast and relatively easy way compared to everything else. Documents are not only made up of words and sentences. They come with a structural logic, specific formating, styles, layouts and graphical elements. While it may appeal to one of the broadest audience on the earth (people who have access to a computer and would like to write a document, such as a letter or a book or a shopping list) it does not mean that word processors or office suites are made for everyone else except developers, engineers and fiction writers. It means word processors excel at editing documents in a powerful way without much of training (compared to a full fledged academic or technical cursus in learning vi, emacs, LaTex editors…) and this uncanny ability  does not really exist among any other tool out there. Sure, if you spend four years editing a document in LaTex, you will likely learn enough to make your PhD. thesis look good. Sure, there’s a customized major mode in Emacs enabling some proper visual document to be edited, but you need to know and learn about it beforehand, customize it some more, get acquainted with the custom shortcuts, etc.

I’m not berating these tools: I’m a regular and devout Emacs user myself. But I do love the comfort and smoothness of firing up LibreOffice Writer and write that nice memo or strategic overview for the Document Foundation just by pointing on the stylist, clicking, expressing my thoughts through the text I’m wirting, changing the fonts, run the spell checker, saving the document, closing it. Tomorrow, when I’ll open it, it will look just as good, and I might even make it look crisper for the benefits of my readers. How long will it take me? A couple of minutes. Ten, if I’m in the mood of changing everything. It cannot get any easier than that. Office suites, and especially word processors are powerful tools. They help create and develop one’s intelligence, and by sharing documents enhance the collective intelligence of groups and crowds. They are meant to be what the LibreOffice project strives to provide: engines of creation, tools for intelligence.

April 13, 2014

Brendan Eich, the bigots, and Software Freedom

Last week we learnt the news of the resignation of Brendan Eich from his position as CEO of the Mozilla Foundation/ Corporation. The controversy on Brendan Eich’s donations to opponents and campaigns against same-sex marriage ultimately prompted the inventor of Javascript to resign from the position he had just been appointed to and leave Mozilla. I followed the reactions online and decided to wait for at least a week before writing my opinion in full. Am I reopening a can of worms? Perhaps, but I think what’s at stake here is people missing an important aspect of software freedom. In this sense, this post won’t be about marriage equality or civil rights in general, it will be about the freedoms conveyed by free software and what they can ultimately mean.

For starters, let me remind you of several things:

No system is perfect…. And while Free Software is made of a set of legal norms, a philosophy, a political movement, and a way to produce and expand digital commons, Free Software in itself is something that constantly evolves. Sometimes people make mistakes. Technology changes. Licence evolve. Etc. A perfect system is a fantasy and does not exist in reality.

I have gay friends… And they’re not of the alibi-type of friends. They’re actual friends, buddies, people I have drinks with, people I meet and engage in discussions, people who tell me about their relationships, their work, their lives.

I have heterosexual and socially conservative friends… And they’re not of the alibi-type of friends. They’re actual friends, buddies, people I have drinks with, people I meet and engage in discussions, people who tell me about their relationships, their work, their lives.

When the controversy about Brendan Eich’s views and activism against gay marriage spread in the news, I thought that certainly this would not go much further than people shouting on blogs. I was wrong. While I do support gay marriage, I did not think for a moment that being a CEO of Mozilla meant that your personal views on politics and society would be judged. Everyone has political views and it is, after all, customary everywhere not to voice these opinions, nor to value them, at the workplace. Of course, I have written here and elsewhere that software freedom is political; surely then the board and the CEO of Mozilla must have some political commitment about digital rights and software freedom deeply rooted in their hearts and minds. I am pretty sure Brendan Eich is no different; but aside this, people are different. They have different stories, different ideas, different political views and different sexual orientations.  Free and Open Source Software projects gather and welcome all kinds of people. In fact, the four freedoms at the core of Free Software licenses are explicit on the notion that Free Software is made available for anyone to use, study, modify and distribute as long as the software license is respected. I’m not making that up, the statement is on the Free Software Philosophy page of the FSF web site:

The freedom to run the program means the freedom for any kind of person or organization to use it on any kind of computer system, for any kind of overall job and purpose, without being required to communicate about it with the developer or any other specific entity. In this freedom, it is the user’s purpose that matters, not the developer’s purpose; you as a user are free to run the program for your purposes, and if you distribute it to someone else, she is then free to run it for her purposes, but you are not entitled to impose your purposes on her.

By now you may be wondering where I’m going with this. The point I feel very few people made in the controversy surrouding Brendan Eich is that Free Software does not care who you are voting for as an individual or even as an organization. What matters is respecting the license the software you are studying, using, modifyng and distributing, and to a broader extent, that the development community you are contributing to -if that is the case- is not deprived from its freedom. Now let’s take a few real, yet general cases of Free Software usage around the globe.

  • Free Software such as Linux or Firefox, or LibreOffice (or BIND, or TCP/IP, etc.) is used by corporations actively engaging into child slavery
  • Free Software (again, same example) is used by the U.S. Government for various needs, some of them being of the military and data collection kind. This statement is public knowledge of course. There are some parts of this world where the U.S. Government is not hold in high regard by some peoples and / or their government
  •  Some people from extremist parties around the world use Firefox and LibreOffice
  • Some opponents of same-sex marriage, in the US  and elsewhere, are using Firefox, Thunderbird, LibreOffice, Evolution, Linux, etc.
  • Some proponents of same-sex marriage use the same software.

Where does that take us? For one thing it is abundantly clear that anyone can use and uses Free Software on a daily basis. Even people who you may not agree with on political or social  ideas. Even people you think should be publicly blamed for their ideas or their actions. Back to Brendan Eich. It is easy to point out that he is or was not just a mere user, but was appointed CEO of Mozilla. Before that, for the record, Brendan Eich was the CTO of Mozilla and the inventor of Javascript. Some people demanded his resignation on the basis of his political ideas and asserted that such ideas ought to be banned from Mozilla. Somehow the moral demand made to Mozilla is more important than the one made to other entities. I do not buy that, at least not when it does not concern software freedom and digital rights. Besides that, Brendan Eich as a CEO would not be Mozilla himself. Mozilla is fortunately much bigger than Brendan. The fact that someone denies equal rights to others may make some people uncomfortable. Some others would find such a position outrageous. But Mozilla is not changing because of the political colours of its CEO. Heck, it’s not even voting.

In this regard, I’m afraid I have bad news for all the people who thought Brendan Eich was unfit to be CEO of Mozilla: I know for a fact that there is one contributor of a major Free Software project who is an extreme right activist. He was seen by a friend per chance in an extreme right demonstration, as this friend was crossing a street in Paris. I know for a fact that projects such as LibreOffice have people who have, let’s put it that way, a rather traditional vision of marriage. I know for a fact that there are people who are actively campaigning in favour of gay marriage all around the world and who are active contributors to LibreOffice as well. And I could go on and on.

If you want to deny leadership positions to people who may have completely different views on marriage, gender and race equality inside Free Software projects or foundations, be ready for a witch-hunt. And then ask yourself the question of whether the same people should be expelled from the project. Then the next thing you should consider would be to only accept people who have been individually cleared from any dubious ideas into your project. You may not want to stop there: get new software licenses prohibiting Free Software to be used by certain kind of people. Someone tried this before and the FSF rejected it, by the way, as it was a blatant denial of software freedom. On top of this, you may want to impose a worldwide censorship and surveillance of the network just to make sure people who may have unacceptable ideas never get around to contact your project. What a fine world this would be, wouldn’t it?

Yes, even people who are outrageous bigots and blatant racists have a right to join, participate and use Free Software. We may not love everyone, but we do work with everyone and serve all of them. Free Software is not a party, it is a much bigger and broader movement encompassing technology, society, law, software and hardware, and ultimately some of our most human qualities: empathy, communication, cooperation, and sharing.  The day this will change, software freedom will die – and the true freedom haters, the censors, the real bigots, the extremists will have won.

Caveat Emptor: This post reflects my personal opinion only and not the views of the Document Foundation nor my employers, past and present.

April 04, 2014

Keeping a promise made a long time ago

Some time around 2009 or 2010, the OpenDocument community realized that while it had won the moral battle over Microsoft and its dubious OOXML standard, it had lost the adoption and ecosystems war.
Microsoft Office had been released and with it an undocument format called OOXML which, as far as experts were concerned, had little to do with the ISO 29500 (aka OOXML) standard. While Europe and Brazil were struggling to migrate their public sector’s documents to ODF, any company or government, let alone any individual acquiring Microsoft Office 2010 migrated to the new and shiny OOXML, officially without remorse or complaint. The ODF advocacy groups here and there were launching all sorts of events and meetings to guide and assist migrations to ODF. Results were mixed. We had victories. We had defeats. At the end of the day what was at stake was fear of failure and change from CIOs and IT services. That’s still the case today. But while these are mostly human factors, there is one thing we hadn’t tried yet, or at least hadn’t been tried enough: turning the hundreds of thousands of files that are out there and locked up in various proprietary file formats to ODF documents.Docliberation

This week the Document Foundation announced its second major project, the Document Liberation. Its aims is to pool and collect every file format filters we have and that people are willing to contribute and develop them so that they not only keep improving but are distributed in the largest number of applications. The aim of the Document Liberation is thus simple: to enable everyone to own its content and to bring a solution to vendor lock-in and undocumented file formats. In doing so, the project is keeping a promise made a long time ago, specifially by ODF. But ODF is a format itself, and while it is enjoying a pretty widespread adoption, it has not done what Microsoft did with OOXML: propose a smooth transition through a change people can accept. In the case of OOXML, as lousy as it seems, people accepted the change because they didn’t know better: Microsoft does this for a reason, so things will pan out all right in the end. They’re taking care of my documents. The industry will follow.

In the case of ODF, no one was in such a position, except perhaps Microsoft. The approach we’re taking today is to offer a solution to a very real problem millions of people have: they don’t know what to do with their files if they haven’t migrated them to a more modern, but not necessarily more standard or more open file format. To these users, we offer a range of choices depending on their “predicament”. We will add more filters as time goes by and the community grows. To developers we offer an exciting place to contribute code by improving existing format filters and proposing new ones. To everyone we offer code that will ensure the continuity of access to content locked in countless files scattered across the Internet, personal computers, corporate, academic and governmental archives. In doing so we not only help ODF keep its promise to liberate documents once and for all, we help make the world a better place by empowering everyone to access and create more digital knowledge and unleash creativity. This promise lies at the core of the Document Foundation’s mission.

March 30, 2014

Eyes and Ears

Welcome to this month’s Eyes and Ears issue on the Moved by Freedom Powered by Standards blog!  Today we have a set of electronic tracks that are issued mostly by one artist, “Dreamium”, aka Sam Z. from the US. I’ve discovered this artist and also found out he does not just mix and compose electronic tracks, as he’s a guitarist and a pretty good one too.

The last track is from Laurent Garnier and is called the Man with the Red Face. This is almost a classic but  at the same time it does not sound as minimalistic as his other productions. Enjoy!


March 28, 2014

我的老娘(八):我佛慈悲 普度众生














 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

March 27, 2014



















 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

March 26, 2014


















 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

March 22, 2014

Freshly Stable

With the release of our new LibreOffice 4.2 version and the new website, people have noticed a small yet quite visual change in the way we label the versions of LibreOffice. You now have the choice between downloading LibreOffice “Fresh” or “Stable”. Of course the version numbers do not go away, however it is expected that the first  information anyone might receive about downloding LibreOffice would be these two tags, Capture du 2014-03-22 12:43:51and not numbers. Let me explain a little bit what we are trying to achieve here, as this is at this stage somewhat of an experiment.

LibreOffice release model works according to a time-based scheme and relies on two distinct production branches. This means that we do release versions that are stable and ready for use by anyone based on a pace and a set of dates that have been agreed upon and planned beforehand. By looking at the diagram on the release plan, one will also notice that these two production branches are both stable, but stand at a different stage of their lifecycle. One of these branches has seen her first stable release (4.x.0) some time ago and has seen several updates and patches. This version is now, say, in its fifth iteration (4.0.4) and is thus very stable, very patched and will see almost no changes anymore. In a Microsoft world we would call this “Service Packs”. Around the same time, a new branch has been open, but it is not a development branch, an unstable branch for development: each of the two branches has its daily testing versions, its pre-releases such as betas and release candidates. These two branches are stable no matter what. But let’s go back to the new branch. It will be released roughly around the same time that the older branch reaches its fourth or fifth iteration, and the first version of its new branch will have a .0 at its third decimal. It will then take one the same lifecycle that the older branch, until it reaches its sixth or seventh iteration at the latest. Then this branch will be entirely discontinued in favour of its successor, and so on.

Confused by the version numbers? We thought so too. This is how the idea of introducing names that would label the two distinct branches came up. Mind you: this is not about the newest release as some people thought at first. It is about drawing the line between the two current branches of the LibreOffice production. We thus  picked “Fresh” and “Stable”. it is not entirely clear whether these are the best terms, but we feel they’re working well so far in that they’re conveying complex concepts with simple terms. These also help us avoid rather long and difficult discussions with people who tend to think that we need to release one stable version when it’s ready (what used to happen and not work too well with OpenOffice.org) and people who think that the new branch was a “dangerous” “development” branch only made for people living precariously on the edge. Nothing of that was and is  true; if one wants to try really unstable versions our development builds, and to a lesser extent the betas are here for that. But it is  true that the new branch introduces the new features, while the older one receives rather corrective bugfixes.

In the end, we hope this new naming scheme will bring clarity while combining freshness and stability for the benefit of all. Let me know what you think!

March 21, 2014














 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

March 20, 2014

我的老娘(四):端午节 雨中游北戴河

四、端午节  雨中游北戴河












 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

March 19, 2014

我的老娘(三):五一团聚 脑部放疗

三、五一团聚  脑部放疗




















 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

March 18, 2014

我的老娘(二):雨中的欢乐  西湖游

二、雨中的欢乐  西湖游







 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

March 17, 2014


一辈子 真的只是一辈子





















 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

March 12, 2014

Document Freedom Matters

As the Document Freedom Day is approaching I realized that we don’t push ODF and open standards as loudly as before. Certainly most of the battles for the mind and market share are past, at least when it comes to office file formats. But the recent public consultation of the UK government brought back some of the most crucial issues surrounding ODF and it’s useful, I think, to check where stand these days on these matters. dove-logo-2012

Shortly after OOXML had been given the ISO label in the weirdrest and most outrageous way, a representative from Microsoft spoke at an IT conference in Brussels and bluntly declared “ODF has won”. Well, it is true in the sense that the OOXML standardization process had highlighted the -probably terminal- inability of the ISO to tackle IT standards and transparency in an effective way. In this sense indeed, ODF had won the “moral” battle. On the other hand, Microsoft had reached its main goal: to get the ISO’s stamp of approval on the half-baked OOXML specification. What it never achieved however, was the actual mass adoption of OOXML by the users of Microsoft Office and beyond. What’s that you say? OOXML has not reached mass adoption? Well, the actual specification, the standard, has not actually been implemented as the default file format until MS Office 2013, and yet, as an odd, end of the list option called “OOXML – strict”; OOXML – Transitional being a rubberstamp for every undocumented and unpublished sub-spec and binary blob necessary for Microsoft Office’s secret sauce to work its magic.

Of course, it is sad, yet true, to notitce that the mass adoption of ODF has failed until now, and that most companies and government use Microsoft file formats (xml based or not) as their default format. This alone would be enough to claim we haven’t moved an inch closer to true document freedom. At the same time, the IT and the way we use software and data has changed in 5-6 years.

More and more data
Data, big and small has become the new black. It’s all about data these days, and yet amidst all of it, the world does not seem to care a lot about digital documents. Any true reality check would have anyone notice that office suites are used everywhere, not less, not more, but in addition to any online collaborative, social and multi-device service and platform outt here. But most of this data is not wrapped in an office document format though: the office document is an aging, yet useful metaphor that is currently not explored too much. In this sense, the mission statement of OOXML goes against the wind: a standard to represent and encapsulate the information and its representation contained in proprietary documents is not a solution. It’s one more layer of complexity: better open up all the specs of the former proprietary file formats instead!

No growth in the ODF ecosystem
Like it or not, there has not been that much investment in the ODF ecosystem. Of course, work on the further development of the ODF specification has continued at the OASIS Consortium. But that alone is not enough. Once you have about 4 office suites implementing ODF in an good or excellent fashion, you need tools, and you need middleware. I know a few tools, some of which my former company, Ars Aperta, has contributed to, but you also need middleware such as content management systems, specific application servers, data busses, etc. to implement and support ODF. Beyond that, you need good mobile support for ODF. To this day, this has not happened yet. Although I know of serious attempts, this is just not available and won’t be, I guess, until the Document Foundation releases its own ODF viewever for Android and iOS, which is thankfully actively developed. Once you have all this, entities migrating to suites like LibreOffice need to have an actual document exchange policy that takes into account exchanges inside the organization and outside of it. Most of the migrations I know of do not integrate this and as a result I have heard of successful migrations to LibreOffice with no or only partial document migration to ODF.   In a nutshell, ODF is no icebreaker. It is an asset, it is an opportunity and a great standard for office file formats, keeping your data safe, accessible for edition, consultation and archival. This alone is a major advantage. But what was seen as the strategic weapon against Microsoft dominance on the market seems to have failed.

Reasons to hope and fight for
In all this rather grim description, one can wonder why we even have a Document Freedom Day at all. It is perhaps important to realize, first of all, that this is not a grim picture. The very fact that the ODF ecosystem stands the way it does today and has survived until today in the face of aversity and corporate friction (monopolistic practices, poor procurement policies, Sun’s acquisition by Oracle, etc.) is the living proof of the ODF’s ecosystem resilience and strength. Second, ODF is being adopted in many places around the globe, and it works. The Brazilian Government, entire parts of the German public sector including the famous migration of the City of Munich, the French Gendarmerie, the Portuguese and Italian Governments and other public sector agencies all around Europe, as well as small and large companies here and there do use ODF. You can send letters in ODF to most of the European public sector including the European Institutions and they will be read and handled just like .doc or .docx formats. What this means is that while ODF may not have won over proprietary formats we now have a growing place and use for opens standards like ODF. And as the current IT trends towards the reuse and digitization of cultural and public data go, the open data movement as well as major projects such as the Preforma FP7 project are true opportunities for growth, change, software and document freedom.
Last but not least, the advent of the LibreOffice project is probably one of the best news for the advancement of ODF. Because it was succesful in getting rid of the corporate overlords dominating the old OpenOffice.org project, LibreOffice managed to set up an increadibly fast growing project and community that managed to develop innovative features that ultimately benefited ODF and software freedom as a whole. But we cannot stop there.

Software Freedom matters, today perhaps more than ever. We need to regain control of our software, of our data, where it goes, what it says about us, whether we will be able to use this data in 30 years from now  and what we can do with it today. We need Software Freedom and we need Document Freedom. Let’s fight for them.

March 03, 2014

Suffolk County Council’s Nacton Road/Ransomes Way plans are dangerous to cyclists and walkers

Suffolk County Council currently have a consultation running about Nacton Road and Ransomes Way corridor. It is “to meet the projected increase in traffic associated with development in this corridor”. You can find out more on the Cyclescape thread.

Please find below my response to the consultation. I’m hoping that many more people respond with a similar response before the consultation ends on Wednesday 5th March 2014.


Nacton Road and Ransomes Way corridor consultation

General comments

Quality of cycling facilities

Has any consideration been given as to why people are driving here even so there are cycling facilities? Could it be that the cycling facilities are of poor quality? Could close passes by motorists be putting cyclists off? Could people annoyed at being put in conflict with another vulnerable road user group? Are people driving between the shops rather than cycling and walking? Cycle Ipswich members are aware of people who have given up cycling due to unclear cycling facilities, or too many near misses or close passes.

The nearby Ravenswood estate is just off the Nacton Road, it has a high level of cycle to school, yet few people will venture out of the estate on their bike to do something like shopping. Why are these people not venturing out of the estate much by bike? You need to look at these issue before implementing designs which will induce even more traffic.

Throwing cyclists on to the pavement with pedestrians should be a last resort, rather than a default action that it seems to be in Ipswich. This creates conflict with pedestrians and doesn’t create a pleasant cycling experience as you have to cycle slowly if there are pedestrians about. Dedicated space for cyclist, and no I’m not talking about a white line down some legalised pavement cycling is what is needed. If shared use pavements, or legalised pavement cycling as I prefer to call them worked so well, significantly more people would be cycling in Ipswich. Light segregation which will be in the next version of London Design Standards, and has already been implemented on Royal College Street in London for example is an option to increase flexibility, and is also fairly cheap to implement.

Would you be happy to have your 8 year old child using these roads on their own or would an 80 year old be happy using the roads? If not, the facilities on the roads aren’t good enough.

You should take a look at the video and information at http://www.protectedintersection.com on protected intersections.

Number of lanes to cross

There are many junctions in the proposals where cyclists and pedestrians are expected to cross two or three lanes of traffic. This is something that is really hard to do, especially if you get one stationary lane and another with faster moving traffic. You end up waiting in front of a stationary vehicle while a gap in the passing traffic opens up, and then the driver gets annoyed as they can’t continue due to the traffic causing them to be stationary having moved on.

The Dutch have spent a lot of time looking into the safety issue of cyclists and pedestrians crossing multiple lanes at an uncontrolled crossing. For any uncontrolled junctions they now narrow the junction down to a single lane so that you only need to cross one lane at a time, and motor traffic is slowed so that it is safer for everyone, thus there are fewer collisions. It also makes it subjectively safer for pedestrians and cyclists thus more walk and cycle. If multiple lanes are needed, a controlled crossing is used, however the timings are very dynamic with very good detection of cyclists and pedestrians, and avoid them waiting for a long time, as currently often happens in Ipswich.

Dog leg crossings

There are many dog leg crossings in the proposals. As both a pedestrian and a cyclist, especially having used a trailer in this area for transporting good from the shops, I find them a total pain to use. Have any of the people proposing these taken a look at how people currently use them. They’ll find that many people just ignore the zig zag and cross straight over and walk over the kerb stones using a more direct route, often ignoring the second signal.

I find it extremely unfair that motor vehicles don’t get the same treatment as pedestrians and cyclists when going through junctions, I’d really like to see a motor vehicle junction where they arrive and have to wind down the window to press a button and then get a green after a bit more waiting. The driver then has to do an awkward maneuver to get through the junction, even if they are going straight on, including pressing another button to complete the passage through the junction.


The on the first page could have a more up to date map background, for example OpenStreetMap is much more up to date, with no costs or requirements other than attribution.

Specific comments

A14 junction

As the National Cycle Route 51 travels under the A14 and across the slip roads, consideration needs to be given here too, to make it safer for cyclists crossing the slip roads as it can currently be quite difficult. The slip roads need narrowed to slow motor vehicles and priority is given to cyclists, which is part of the Dutch strategy at encouraging cycle usage, and is perfectly possible to implement here.

Nacton Road (A14 to Thrashers roundabout)

Will cyclists using the legalised pavement cycling have priority over turning vehicles at the junction into Orwell Country Park?

The is the only section where I will accept a shared pavement as a solution for space for cyclists due to it being almost wide enough the whole way, and there are very low expected demand from pedestrians.

Thrashers roundabout

The dog leg crossing needs removed, see explanation above.

Where there’s an uncontrolled crossing there ideally needs to be only one lane of traffic for cyclists and pedestrians to cross, or an absolute maximum of 2 lanes, whereas in places there are 3 lanes. The lanes also need to be kept as narrow as possible to slow motor vehicles to increase safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Minimisation of lane switching is also needed.

The wide corners that can be taken at speed, which makes it even more difficult to cross the road, especially when combined with the number of lanes that need to be crossed. There needs to be clear space for cyclists, without mixing them with pedestrians or motor vehicles. Motor vehicles need to be slowed to prevent collisions. Tighter corners are needed to slow down vehicles and improve sight lines so that drivers can see cyclists and pedestrians and reduce the risk of them being in the driver’s blind spot.

Ransomes Way

Where is the space for cycling along this road? Has anyone questioned why there are so few people walking and cycling along here to access the shops? Will the speed limit be reduced to 30 mph from the current 40mph?

The current legalised pavement cycling is horrible for both cyclists and pedestrians. The Cranes to Felixstowe Road section is particularly bad due to the narrowness particularly on the west side of the road as it gets close to the railway bridge. I’ve cycled along there with a bike trailer on a Brompton and had to wait at a wider section for pedestrians to pass. This places cycling as a second rate mode of transport. Instead of 3 lanes of motor vehicles, there should be some light segregation used to create a safe cycle lane. The light segregation is relatively cheap to install, and will be in the upcoming London Cycle Design Standards. This will do far more to promote cycle use than the current shared footways which discourage many people from cycling as they are so inconvenient.

Why can’t pedestrians and cyclists get from John Lewis on to Ransomes Way using a more direct route that means that they don’t have to go the full length of the car park first?

Ransomes Europark/Cranes

The dog leg crossing over James Bennett Avenue need to be changed to straight over crossing, ideally without having to stop in the middle and press the button again, otherwise you are designing the road environment to promote motor vehicle use instead of sustainable modes of transport.

Similarly the crossing over Ransomes Way needs to be timed that you can cross straight over without stopping. By reducing the length of the middle roundabout, that will help shorten the distance that cyclists have to cross, thus reduce the time for them and the waiting time for motor vehicles.

Ransomes Way/Felixstowe Road roundabout

This is a horrible set of changes for cyclists. As someone who has recently cycled up the west side of Ransomes Way to cross over Felixstowe Road to get to Sainsburys and Homebase with a trailer on the bike, it was a horrible experience. I got stuck in the middle of the road fearing my trailer would get damaged by vehicles passing behind me. The new plans make it even more difficult for cyclists as there will be no crossing on 2 sides of the roundabout. This means that if a cyclist happens to go along the wrong side of Ransomes Way they either have to take a long detour up Felixstowe Road to cross, or dart across the fast traffic, or go back they way that they came.

Crossing the two lanes entrance and exit to the Sainsburys car park is also horrible currently as the cars go so fast, this needs improved for cyclists trying to access the cycle parking for Homebase. There should be a maximum of 1 lane in and 1 lane out of the car park for the best possible safety.

I would recommend changing Murrills Road to be a bus gate near the Homebase, thus reducing traffic at this junction. It also encourages more people who live in the local area to walk and cycle to these shops, as the bicycle or walking is journey is shorter and more pleasant. I don’t see why there needs to be a through road here private motor transport. This is standard practice in The Netherlands.

None of the changes at this junction will encourage more people to get on a bike to get to the shops here, rather it will put them off, and induce even more motor traffic. The position of the pedestrian crossing is significantly off the desire line, thus I expect some pedestrians to be crossing closer to the roundabout.

Lindbergh Road/Nacton Road

I’m concerned about the width of the cycle lane here. Will it be 2 metres wide, thus giving enough space for cycling? Far too many cycle lanes in Ipswich are so narrow you can’t even fit the bike in them while cycling, never mind the passing space so that cyclists feel comfortable with vehicles passing. I’m concerned that there will be pinch points created and many vehicles will pass cyclists too close, thus discouraging people from cycling along this section of road. This road has plenty of space to put in real dedicated space for cycling, whether it be a separate track (not the pavement, which is for pedestrians), or light segregation.

Is the island in the middle of the crossing really needed? Surely giving more time for pedestrians to cross in one go will encourage more people to walk, than if they may need to stop half way on the refuge.

Landseer Road/Nacton Road

As there will be an increase of traffic on Landseer Road the whole of Landseer Road will need to be looked at too. There currently is issues with the cycle lane being too narrow, and in places gets a build up of leaves in the autumn, particularly where it goes past the park. Floating bus stops, where the cycle track goes behind the bus stops are also an option along these roads.

The dog leg crossing needs to be a direct straight across type instead.

Will cyclists turning left be protected from vehicles cutting the corner when turning left? I would much prefer the space used for the right turn to continue on the Nacton Road towards the town centre to be used to protect cyclists going round the corner, however it also needs to be designed to allow them to safely get across and continue on the Nacton Road if they wish to do so.

Nacton Road/Ransomes Way

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March 01, 2014

LibreOffice: My birthday wish list

This post is a bit unusual. Let me explain: LibreOffice is a bit like my baby, and when I blog about it, I write with passion but also with the notion to get specific points across.
Now, it does not mean that this post will be different in this regard, but that what’s below represents my very own, personal view as a LibreOffice user who, just like many others, has a more or less long wish list for its favourite office suite. And yes I know: if I want something done, I should submit a patch: but I neither have the time nor skill to do it, this is why my post is not a rant, but only a wishlist. And besides, it’s my birthday in two days, so  bear with me.

  • Turn the LibreOffice HTML editor into a nice and powerful web editor

This is something anyone who even knows that LibreOffice has an embedded html editor will know: this tool (a subset of Writer) hasn’t gotten much love since… OpenOffice.org 3.0 something. Which means a very long time. It’s not just about improving the html editor itself, although that improvement alone would be nice. Rather, I was thinking that this editor could have HTML 5, CSS and Javascript added , and perhaps something like a live preview of the page that’s being worked on.

A possible question at this stage would be the reason for such an improvement: After all I don’t use LibreOffice to edit html pages (few people do). Why then? Because I think it’s a feature gap that LibreOffice ultimately suffers from, and it does not have to be excellent at it, but only being able to cater to most common needs in this field. Besides, LibreOffice has an actual IDE that one can use to develop macros and scripts in other languages. I think an improved web editor would complement the IDE just fine as well.

  • A Twitter client for Writer

Yes you’re reading that very well. A Twitter client for LibreOffice Writer would probably be a gadget to many, but a handy tool to some. The idea first appeared during FOSDEM 2013 when Chris Anintscyk, head of Open Source matters at Twitter came to the LibreOffice booth to pick up something (I don’t remember what actually), and we started to joke about that idea. But then I thought about it, and didn’t find the idea to be stupid at all, at least for Writer. The client would be integrated in Writer and be used to tweet entire sentences contained in the document opened by LibreOffice Writer at that moment. So instead of tedious copy and paste operation, the client would have a tool selecting the text and then posting immediately to Twitter. Think “quote of the day” twitter handles etc.

  • A true calendar for Calc

Calc is becoming really powerful with LibreOffice 4.2.x and we’re only discovering the crazy stuff we can now do with LibreOffice Calc. Yet I’m talking about something more “static” in this case. Of course, you can find several calendar templates online for LibreOffice (link) but that’s not really what I have in mind. the idea would be to have a calendar with the ability schedule and mark events, meetings, etc. and notify contacts directly from Calc. On top of this, Calc would be able to export calendard or events as .ics files.

  • STL file export for Draw

If you have never heard of STL don’t worry, only people who are in 3D printing have. (This STL file has nothing to do with LibreOffice STL files, by the way.) Basically, before printing anything in 3D, you need to design your object, and the way you do this is though software. Now I know that there are more powerful graphics and design software out there (the GIMP and Blender being two examples) but frankly today Draw can perform quite well in this field too. Once you have your 3D model of your desin on your computer you need to export it in a file format that will convey the required data for the layering process used by 3D printers. One of the most common, if not the only one, is STL. Ideally then, Draw would be able to have an export to STL, but also perhaps the ability to export to popular 3D modeling formats as well (AMF, DWG or Blender files) . That would not change the need to export everything to STL before turning the design into yet another format (a binary one) : GCode. But it could really be handy.

  • Pattern editor for Draw

I’m not done with Draw. We never seem to be pushing this graphics editor much although it is being actively developed but many people don’t try it and just think it’s something like MS Paint. Back to my wish: a pattern editor for Draw is a tool that lets you edit patterns, aka clothing designs. With these designs you can then start to procure clothing material and then move on to the actual knitting/cutting/ making of clothes. Why does it matter? I don’t cut and design my own clothes but I know many people around the world still do or would like to learn that. A Free and Open Source tool like LibreOffice ought to be able to offer that ability to, well, pretty much everyone out there with a computer and do it with open formats and standards.

All in all, this list would not significantly change the userbase of LibreOffice; but it would also position LibreOffice in places and circles where it’s not really used either, and I feel it’s a welcome set of suggestions that differ from the usual Android/iOS porting and cloud based office suite. On a deeper level, I think it also means that LibreOffice as a tool and office suites in general can change and grow to adapt to new usages even today.

February 28, 2014






     《决定》指示“各地区、各部门要抓紧做好取消和下放管理层级行政审批项目的落实和衔接工作,并切实加强事中事后监管。要继续大力推进行政审批制度改革,使简政放权成为持续的改革行动。要健全监督制约机制,加强对行政审批权运行的监督,不断提高政府管理科学化、规范化水平。” 据新华网《简政放权国务院进一步激发创业主体积极性》新闻报道:工业和信息化部称,“计算机信息系统集成企业资质认定”、“计算机信息系统集成项目经理人员资质评定”和“信息系统工程监理单位资质认证和监理工程师资格认定”等资质取消后将有利于减轻企业负担,降低准入门槛,增加市场活力。同时工业和信息化部将抓紧制定出台相关标准,发挥第三方机构作用,加强事中事后监管。






 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

February 18, 2014

The quest for the perfect Twitter client on Linux

twitterbirdAfter a few years of announcements, releases and online reviews, I am still out there looking for the right, if not the perfect, Twitter client on Linux. And believe me, this quest is frutstrating.

Why would I want to use a Twitter client on my desktop?

That’s a good question. I could just open a new tab on my browser and have Twitter there. Let’s face it: a good twitter client should bring more value than the web page of Twitter while developing what I feel is the actual raison d’être of an actual client: to make it easy and pleasant to tweet and read the twitter feeds outside of a browser as if Twitter was a separate network. In practice, this means that the way notifications are carried on to the user matters a lot: they must be at the same time non-intrusive yet informative enough while being customizable by the user. The interaction with the browser should be no problem at all while the interface ought to display the twitter feed and a clear interface with additional information (retweets, replies, conversation, favorites…)

If a client is not gearing towards these aims then I actually wonder what good it could provide on the desktop, if any.

In my experience with such Twitter clients on Linux, the issues I faced were often different, and that what contributed greatly to make this a frustrating experience. Basically, several Twitter clients I used had these drawbacks, either several of them at the same time, or at least one of those:

- poor and slow refreshing of the feeds (and I have a fast bandwidth)
- general instability
- inability to customize notifications
- unclear interface
- no real notifications mechanisms

Add to this the fact that for years I really wanted to have a “dual network” client, meaning, I needed to follow both Twitter and Identi.ca . I kind of dropped Identica since last year and I’m now mostly on Twitter (sorry Evan). With this requirement dropped off the choice of clients gets a bit broader but does not significantly change the situation. Let’s turn now to the actual Twitter clients for Linux I’ve tinkered with.

The deskbar

Many years ago, by which I mean those heroic times where people used Gnome 2 and Ubuntu was progressing to the point of reaching the most used Linux distribution on the desktop. There was no Unity, and a bunch of volunteers came up with something really nice for the Gnome DeskBar, which at that time could let you search many things in your system, but not much else. So they developed the ability to tweet from the deskbar, and not just tweet, but dent as well. It worked well… for a while. For one thing, you could not see your twitter feed, but you could post. And then Gnome 3 came in and terminated the deskbar by replacing it with a more central search bar in its new interface. Gone was the deskbar twitter client.

The StatusNet client

Now it was a nice client for the time, but it was only working with Statusnet microblogs and networks, and while it looked sleek at that time, it was also rather slow.
At some point it became obvious it was also not actively maintained. So I went to look elsewhere.


Gwibber appeared as “the” twitter client from Ubuntu. And it works really well on it too. It has a nice integration with Ubuntu’s interface and the client works with Twitter, identi.ca and several other services. In fact it is one of the most complete Twitter client out there. The problem? I don’t use Ubuntu, I use ArchLinux. Arch Linux does not tweak or customize its Gnome desktop in anyway; what is packaged is what comes out of the Gnome project. Gwibber, however, is packaged in the Arch User Repository (AUR) and I can honestly say that in 4 years I have only seen Gwibber’s integration with a vanilla Gnome desktop improve marginally. In other words: Gwibber is at best extremely unstable but most of the time, will just not start. There’s always some component missing or broken, but surely 4 years areenough for either one of the project to fix that mess? While I cannot speak for users of distributions such as Fedora, Debian, OpenSuse, Mageia, etc. Gwibber seems to be working fine on Ubuntu only, just like it took a long time get Nepomunk’s integration working on distribution other than Mandriva Linux. At the end of the day; Gwibber is not usable today for me. Moving on.


Pino was an interesting attempt, and I’m not sure its original developers ever intended to give it the political twist of being the Twitter client for “the rest of us who don’t use Ubuntu”. Pino is written in Vala, and as such was working pretty well. Helas, it also became rather quickly unusable to the point where it would not start, but reinstalling it would fix that until the next refusal to start, or the next fatal crash. I haven’t tried Pino for a while but perhaps it’s just that I got tired of it.


Hotot seemed nice, but by that time I was starting to get wary of these new Twitter clients for Linux. I tried several versions of Hotot, some were a bit problematic, but tended to work. My main pet-peeves with Hotot? It takes a while to refresh and to load feeds, while its interface does not make it clear what became of the message you just tweeted. What ultimately cut it for me was the actual development of Hotot. If you go to the project’s page today you will see that it did stop at some point. It was however unclear to me even at the time of Hotot 1 and 2 what exactly was happening, as the development started of really fast, then seemed to go through a complete code rewrite that generated some more instability. At the end of the day, I still have hotot somewhere on my systems, but I hardly use it, and it seems to be broken anyway.


This used to be a nice Twitter client. Because it was made on Qt, it was working well on my Mac and my Linux systems, and that made it really interesting. The development stopped though; but the take away here is that its strong points are the fact that it is (was) multi-platform and that its notifications work well. It was however rather unstable (crashes) on Linux.

Let me make it straight in one sentence: Choqok works, works well and works fast, it’s too bad it’s not Gnome software as I’m a primarily a Gnome user. But Choqok fits the bill in almost all of the criteria I’ve mentioned above. It’s only issue, I think is that its notifications are just not that relevant. At least, when using KDE it will the number of tweets that are arriving, but in the notification area of the KDE desktop, and that’s about it. I’m sure I could customize it, but I have not found how. So Choqok, which I do use often, is really the client…. if it was not primarily a KDE client.


So far, Birdie is a really nice Twitter client for Gnome; and it is really customizable. It does have some instability but the options are really powerful and I’m sure I haven’t taken advantage of everything it can offer yet. I might be wrong but it seems it is a rather young project started in 2013, and one will have to see its “endurance”. I really wish they can improve their stability, but to me Birdie is the hot ticket of the moment for Twitter clients.

Caveat Emptor: this post is not intended as a way to start a flamewar, but only recounts my personal experience with each of the software I’ve mentioned. Something I’d really like to see would be a LibreOffice Twitter client… more on this later. 

February 17, 2014



























 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

February 09, 2014

Eyes & Ears

This week I have picked up two very nice mixes and one nice video of an installation by two artists, Romain Tardy and someone hiding behind the “Squeaky Lobster” pseudo. It’s called the Ark and it’s a beautiful combination of lights, water reflections and structures. Let’s start with these guys:

A site specific installation by Romain Tardy and Squeaky Lobster
Proyecta Oaxaca, Ethnobotanical garden of Oaxaca, Mexico

Café del Mar Summer mix 2013 by Toni Simonen

I’ve written here that I felt José Padilla and a couple others were the only ones who were able to capture the essence of Balearic music. It does not mean others do a bad job, and Toni Simonen is definitely up to something in this mix.

Café del Mar Summer 2013 Mix by Toni Simonen by Café Del Mar Music (Official) on Mixcloud


Manuel Göttsching – E2-E4 (part 1)

Now this is a true rarity. It’s been released in the nineties and listening to it will unveil the very soul and underlying characteristics of Balearic music. It’s all in there, in its most abstract, yet crudest form. Only AMCA ( a man called Adam) comes close to this level.


That’s all for now, thanks for listening folks!

February 01, 2014

Why LibreOffice 4.2 matters more than you think

On Thursday the Document Foundation released its newest stable branch, LibreOffice 4,2. Don’t let be misled by its number; if we weren’t on a strict time released scheduled alongside a clear number scheme without any nickname for each release, I would have called this one the 5,0. Yes, you read that right, the mighty Five. Why? Mostly for two big reasons.

This is a major code overhaul

Do you remember one of my first posts about LibreOffice, at the end of 2010? I had hinted that one of our goals was to develop a brand new engine for Calc, which had stayed pretty much the same since 1998. Well, the 4,2 just got that: Ixion has been integrated as the Calc engine and that, among other things, such as real-time integration of data feeds, is about to change a lot of things, and not just in terms of performance boosts (over 30% of improvement depending on the cases). This might actually open the door for brand new types of users in professional and scientific venues for instance.

Alongside this rewrite, we also have a major work on the user interface layout and dialog rewrite. As Michael Meeks explains it, we had introduced this rewrite with the 4.0 but now quite many of our dialogs and widgets have been rewritten. Other user interface improvements such as a brand new iconset, document snapshots on Windows bring a fresh and refined user experience to LibreOffice.

More Enterprise-ready than many others

We have heard this song here and there. You cannot be innovative and be successful as an enterprise solution. You cannot be the right choice for companies if you haven’t a major American corporation as your main sponsor/steward/overlord/friend. You cannot deliver a professional grade office suite if you work along a time-based release system. I think that these theories have already been proven wrong, unless you have a twisted definition of what the enterprise market  needs. But with the 4.2, we also have some nice and immediately actionnable features that will appeal specifically to the enterprise market:

  • Integration of the CMIS stack allowing you connect to document repositories on SharePoint, Nuxeo, Tibco, Alfresco, Google Drive and many other CMS.
  • Expert configuration options now all put in one place
  • Advanced deployment options
  • Better group policy controls for deployment and installed user base
  • Improved Microsoft Office (.docx, etc.) and RTF document filters
  • Improved look and feel on Windows
  • Change tracking on ODF and even on OOXML documents

I’m not listing a good dozen of other improvements of importance, but here’s the complete list.

It’s not about success. It’s about what comes next.

And now, I’m going to really explain why LibreOffice 4,2 matters more than what meets the eye. The amount of code clean-up, refactoring, write up, the inclusion of new features and the continued growth of contributors between the moment the Document Foundation released LibreOffice 4.0 and the 4.2 is truly amazing. The 4.0 was a major accomplishment, but this time we did even more, seemingly with less effort (although this comment does not diminishes everyone’s accomplishments for this release).

What’s going here? A giant in Free and Open Source projects is emerging and we are witnessing this unfolding right under our eyes: a growing development powerhouse, increased funding, an effective structure, overworked but growing contributors, an increased presence on worldwide events, improved processes on localization and quality assurance… I guess many observers as well as several insiders were thinking that once we had set up the Document Foundation as a structure and released the 4.0, things would take a course and a pace of their own. That hasn’t happened. On the contrary the word around the project was “Up!” and has not changed ever since. Another  possible reason is that once the founders -with some hindsight, I start to see it more clearly- got the structure, the governance, the main processes going, priorities started to change for the best: Discussions started to be more about resources, funding, sustainability, but the minds were freed from the worry of the next day and were able to focus on developing something great. I realize I’m painting a very nice picture, but I know that the road won’t be short and it will not be easy eiither, but judging by what this community has already overcome I am confident the Document Foundation is going to push the enveloppe on many levels in the years to come. I am truly proud of what we have accomplished so far and I would like to thank everyone who made this release possible. Happy FOSDEM!

January 30, 2014

BBC Reporting Scotland not covering the space to overtake issue on ASA ruling

This evening I happened to catch the short BBC Local News at 20:00 on BBC 1 Scotland between programmes this evening. One of the items featured was the ASA adjudication regarding the Cycling Scotland advert to improve cycling safety.

I then later recorded and watched the late evening news, which covered it in more depth (video below). It’s great that Reporting Scotland has picked up on the story, however it would have been better had they covered the “cycling in the middle of the road” issue much more than the passing remark. As someone who has had many close passes, including being knocked off my bike due to close passes, I have a significantly increased fear of being knocked off my bike by an overtaking vehicle. I am annoyed that the BBC didn’t pick up on the road positioning point more. This is rules 212 and 213 of the Highway Code, and is something that needs to be emphasised more, as often cyclists have to ride further out to avoid pot holes or to prevent a motor vehicle for passing so close that they knock the cyclist off their bike.

KT on twitter has done a little annotation of a video still to highlight why the rider in the advert is as far out as they are:

Namely so that they aren’t riding on the pavement nor in the gutter and are avoiding the potholes as per the highway code, whilst not riding on the pavement, which I’m sure someone else would complain about.

This tweet from icycleliverpool sums this space for cycling issue up succinctly:

I’ve made the relevant segment of the BBC Reporting Scotland late evening news at 22:25 available on YouTube:

It’s also worth noting that much of the cycling blogging community had complained about the original Nice Way Code adverts, however have become united against the ASA, due to both the plastic hat and road positioning issues, as pointed out in these two tweets:

Bez has made a great post on the  problems with the ASA ruling, including links to the original background, thus I don’t need to repeat them all here.

January 29, 2014

Eyes & Ears – February 2014

This month’s Eyes and Ears will not be about books, only about good music and videos.

  • Hanoi: 17 years ago, I made a student trip to Vietnam that lasted 1 month and half.

Hanoi from Matt Devir on Vimeo.

  •  La Grande Dune, by Lemongrass on its Papillon release, one of my favourites so far.

  • Blank & Jones: Don’t let me pass you by, a refine deep house track that shows the variety of genres this duo can come up with. A real massage for the ears!


January 28, 2014

BBC London News highlighting confusion of Bow traffic lights

The BBC London news this evening (27 January 2014), had a segment on the new eye level cycle lights being introduced at Bow Roundabout today. I think it’s great that they are starting to be used, however the design of the traffic lights at the junction needs an overhaul as it’s extremely dangerous.

The first part of the correspondent Tom Edwards talking about it, highlights the confusing nature of the lights, whereby an average person sees a green cycle light and believes that they can proceed through the junction, as is the case with most junctions in the UK, and doesn’t realise that they have to stop at the second traffic light a few metres later. This is a horrible design and needs to be changed urgently so that it is not confusing to the average user, before someone else is killed at this junction. If the design is not changed I fear there will be another death here as it’s too confusing for the average person. A random person should be able to easily understand the design of the junction and be able to safely navigate it, otherwise the designers have failed.

The current 4 second head start is split into two parts. It’s based on 2 seconds to let the cyclists set off and another 2 seconds between the motorists setting off and getting to the traffic line. If there is a lot of cyclists, there is still potential for a motorist to crush a cyclists if they are turning left.

Ideally a new design for the traffic lights is used, which makes it safe for cyclists and pedestrians. By holding motor vehicles while cyclists get a turn, and vice versa means that pedestrians will also get a chance to cross. It will add a very small delay to motor vehicles, however if the subjective safety of the junction is improved enough then the number of motor vehicles will reduce.

The separator between cyclists and motor vehicles needs to be extended to the final stop line before the roundabout thus increasing the safety for cyclists. Also the traffic lights should be able to be phased dynamically based on the traffic levels. For example if there are suddenly a lot of cyclists and not many cars, give the cyclists more time. If there happens to only be 1 cyclist, then it’s best to change for them with minimal waiting time, but you only need to stay green for a very short time so that they can clear the junction. It will require reliable detection of bicycles, which isn’t the norm in this country at the moment, however will make a huge difference.

Finally when there is heavy rain, giving cyclists and pedestrians more time is a great idea, as it means that they’ll get less wet, and be happier cycling. The people in motor vehicles will stay dry, thus can wait a little longer with no detriment.

BBC London News report:

ITV London News report:

Bow Roundabout

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January 24, 2014

A new web site for the LibreOffice Project

When we first started the LibreOffice Project, we had a gazilion tasks to work on. Among them, we had priorities, most of them involving the code readiness of our first version, LibreOffice 3.3. Another priority was to make sure that the native-lang communities of the now defunct OpenOffice.org project would be able to find the tools needed to work on the releases, (re)create documentation, QA of their localized builds and several other important tasks. These were some of our most crucial priorities; yet among them, you would not have noted “design a nice website”.


Of course we already had a website -but beyond showing what LibreOffice was about, and presenting what the Document Foundation was about, there was no real reflection. Perhaps more damaging than a lack of in-depth thinking about it, the LibreOffice project had to integrate newcomers early on who ended up having no other interest than imposing the use of one specific CMS platform -and not just for the website, but for pretty much any other community tool. Such an option was the strongest evidence of a complete misunderstanding of community processes, as the LibreOffice project has several online tools used for specific tools (check out a few of them here and there) and keeps on deploying new ones. Long story short – we ended up with a three tiers online presence:

  • “user” or “front facing” website : LibreOffice.org and a smaller one specifically for the Document Foundation.
  • Wiki, + Communication channels such as mailing lists and IRC
  • Online production platforms: Pootle, Moztrap, Gerrit… and a few others.

The first tier, the front facing website was developed by the small website team composed of volunteers who on top of this had other tasks to work on, such as the set up of the wiki, etc. Judging by what we have now, they did a very good job coming up with a proper website. The content was the result of more incremental process. But the content was also, in part of because of a lack of focus or vision, verbose to the extreme, turning what could be a simple page with pointers into a long page of Victorian-age litterature.

Attracting Users and Growing the Community

After a few years, the limitations of the website became obvious. Perhaps more evident was the absolute lack of messaging coherence and focus. We had a standard presentation of the office suite applications; we also had a “Why” page, a concept of inherited from the old days of OpenOffice.org ; but this page was not actually accessible from the menus until you knew its exact URL; and the detailed information on it blurred the frontier with the wiki where you can pretty much find all the content of the website, only three times more detailed. As a result, you could not really tell what was special about LibreOffice until you would be reading pages and pages of text on a website. By the time we released the 4.0, new volunteers worked on a set of additional pages initially made for the release of the 4.0 that aimed to give the website a more attractive and synthetic look, announcing the 4.0 release and presenting the most salient features in an attractive way.

But this new set of pages was a temporary solution as we needed to completely redesign the website. We started with three initial points:

  • keeping the initial base: we sticked to SilverStripe, this time in the 3.0 version
  • we need a really attractive messaging, a simpler and quicker way for people to learn about LibreOffice
  • we want to use this website to attract potential contributors and grow our community.

The Making-Off

Given the amount of work that was needed the Document Foundation decided that to fund this effort. Part of it was the selection for a graphics designer. Our first surprise was that the candidates were for the most part not contributors of the LibreOffice project, but professionals who had heard our call online. We ended up picking the only Italian among the candidates, and we are very pleased with our choice. Eleonora Anzini has been working with me and Christian Lohmaier to develop this website in a relatively short time. In less than three months the specs and sketches were drafted by yours truly, published, feedback collected, a new instance of Silverstripe created so the website was ready to be developed. You can see the result today:

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The hurdles we faced were, among other things the complexity of the SilverStripe CMS, which is quite powerful and very effective. It becomes rather complex however for special views and pages creation, although it is very easy to use for daily maintenance and content edition. The other hurdle -although it’s more a challenge than a real difficulty, was the relatively low input from the community. When we showed the website in its staging area -where it still is at the moment I’m writing the blog – most of the people actually discovered it, despite having been presented with specification documents, specs and asked all sorts of questions for several weeks. Granted the URL was not public, but some of remarks clearly came from people who had never even taken a look at the plans. At the very least, growing our community seems like a goal we must achieve, and improving our internal communications and marketing is actually going to be part of that.

Beauty & Style

I do not pretend I can create beauty and style on a website with a snap of the fingers, nor would I claim that I have great taste. But I know what’s bad taste, and I know when it’s time to get serious on style. Many Free and Open Source projects have trouble coming up with beautiful presentations and website; while ours was not bad, it could really be improved given the size and standing of the LibreOffice project. This time, we really tried to achieve just that: beauty, style, but also clarity, simple and appealing information bits, easy access, and lots of pointers to our community platforms and online tools. And while we did not focus too much on screenshots (surprisingly, not a lot of software websites have these) we tried to be really creative with getting to the point and getting our message through with nice and appealing images. So far we have some great feedback and we’re very happy about this. Next week (very likely) the website will be upgraded and enter in production. It’s been weeks of hard work but we’re proud of presenting you this new website, designed in Italy, written and planned in France, forged in Germany… and made for everyone.

January 14, 2014

Good Bye Mandriva

I am no longer working for Mandriva S.A. since the beginning of the year. I was working as a consultant on marketing as well as on the Open Source relations for the company since 2012 and it is time for me to move forward. I had a great time at Mandriva; I met a lot of great people and I learned a lot. I helped reposition the company towards a more professional audience and deeply refresh its image. But I would also like to say a few words  about the OpenMandriva project which I helped build and foster.

The beginnings of the OpenMandriva project were rough. The very rationale for the existence of OpenMandriva were not overly clear to many people. After all, the Mageia project was already booming and the justification for such a project that was aiming at building upon the Mandriva Linux legacy was weak. On top of this, the team behind the project was small, and the mission was overwhelming: to continue, as a community, the development of the linux distribution formerly known as Mandriva Linux. I will not really go into details as to how the project evolved, but  I am proud to have contributed in a significant way to build the home for this project, namely an independent French NGO (the OpenMandriva Association) and to have helped the community with establishing its governance and some of its sound principles and processes. But the question remains: why does the OpenMandriva Project matter? Why should we care?

In the world of linux  distributions you will find dozens of “me-too” distributions and other projects whose goals are ones of a niche audience, to put it lightly. But regardless of what I and others might think of these goals the important part is that the sheer existence of these distributions is a brilliant testimony to software freedom. As such we must respect that. But I do not think the OpenMandriva project is either a me-too project or caters only to a small audience of users. This project was able to build an innovative technological base (different from Mageia) around a highly customized KDE and a unique packaging format that end up giving an innovative, general purpose and user-friendly linux distribution, supported by a friendly and warm community. Will it  hurt Mageia? I know some of the Mageia people very well, and I don’t think so. I don’t even think they think that it could be the case. For one thing, the two projects are at very differtent stages of their growth and lifecycle. Another reason is that while the two projects aim at creating a very user-friendly distribution, they actually managed to do it in different ways (try both, and you will see the differences) which carves out distinctive approaches and “feels”. Assuming the two projects are fundamentally direct competitors would end up meaning that since OpenSuse and Fedora or Ubuntu also cater to broadly similar audiences only one should survive, but it would then prove a deep misunderstanding of how linux distributions work and how, again, software freedom matters in empowering anyone to code and share its code with the human kind.

I wish success and good luck to the OpenMandriva project. The folks there deserve it and I look forward to their rapid growth and a lot more exciting releases.

January 09, 2014

胡才勇:合力共推 智慧城市建设渐入佳境

合力共推 智慧城市建设渐入佳境

媒体:高新技术产业导报  本报记者  张伟报道  发布上架:2014-1-6

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  “帮助优秀企业推介优秀的示范工程、发掘一些智慧解决方案、激励为‘智慧北京’做出突出贡献的单位和个人、搭建‘智慧北京’的产业平台、促进 ‘智慧北京’的需求和产业对接,是我们努力的方向。”胡才勇说,不遗余力地推进“智慧北京”的落地,是北京软交所的责任,也是其义务所在。










 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

January 07, 2014

A New Board for a New Year

Around the turn of the year, starting in fact in November  2013, the Document Foundation had its second election for its board of directors. While this election went well it was not overly advertised either in the press, the blogosphere and even by the Document Foundation itself. It  was however a significant moment in several ways.

The board of directors of the Document Foundation is a very important body and central  point of our governance. Yet you may not  see  it in action everyday, which I tend to believe is a good thing. Basically, the board of directors is made of elected members of the Document Foundation, the actual entity behind the LibreOffice  project, and these board members are in charge, at least formally, of important decisions and of the protection of the LibreOffice project and its assets. As such it puts an important responsibility not just  on the board collectively but on each director as well.

These directors are members of the Document Foundation, and are elected by the members of the Document Foundation themselves. You can see here how you can become a member of the foundation on this page. The duties of the directors are explained in this rather boring, yet fundamental document that is our statutes.

It may be worth pointing out that several directors and founders of the LibreOffice project and the Document Foundation did not run for a second term. The reasons tend to vary among each of them, but  one of them was that as we receive funding to work on specific tasks on behalf of the Document Foundation, it is important we  separate the execution from the decision level and prevent any conflict  of interest. Another reason is that, at least from my perspective, it’s time for the “Founders” to let the ship’s command and steering wheels to our most active and talented contributors. The Document Foundation is  after all not a personal appreciation society, and renewing our directors, even partially must be taken as a good choice and as a sign of  confidence and healthy project. Because of this, this election was not just the only second election ever since the formal incorporation of the foundation (after the glorious time of the “Steering Committee”), it is also the first time where the founders start to withdraw and let the project run itself, so to speak.

Of course the day I wasn’t a director anymore, I felt a bit odd and was unsure about my feelings. But  I must say that I’m truly happy to be helping the project in my capacity today, and I’m just as happy and proud to see this new board elected. They’re all bright and great people, and I’m confident they’ll  continue  to grow and improve our project and Software Freedom on a global basis. Me? Whatever I’ll do, wherever I’ll go, I’ll always  carry LibreOffice and the Document Foundation in me. There are badges that don’t go away, but it’s so much better when you’re proud of them.

Happy New Year everyone!

PS: a big thanks to the other important body of the Foundation, the Membership Committee for its tremendous work during the election!










  受主办方邀请,北京软件和信息服务交易所总裁胡才勇先生作为软件产业的代表,出席了本次论坛,并参加“中国实业转型升级的战略选择”高端对话,与新兴际华董事长刘明忠、格力集团董事长董明珠、中国北方机车车辆工业集团公司副总裁余卫平、曙光信息产业股份有限公司总裁历军、蛟龙号总体与集成课题第一副总设计师崔维成等产业领袖一起,围绕实业转型升级的驱动力、实业创新的 “高铁模式”、 创新技术如何推广以及实业与金融的互动创新等话题开深入讨论。









 青春就应该这样绽放  游戏测试:三国时期谁是你最好的兄弟!!  你不得不信的星座秘密

December 28, 2013

Something new in the land of Linux distros

If you have been following the news and stories on Linux  distributions since over ten years like I have been, you tend to have  a fairly standard view -yet an educated one- about what’s going on with them, why every year since about 2002 this could have been the year of the Linux desktop, how Mandriva almost made it but  was beaten off by Ubuntu, and why Android and likely Ubuntu are triomphing not on the desktop itself but on the phones and tablets.

Going even into more details, the land of Linux distributions is a fertile place where a few seeds give an abundant harvest of derivatives, many of them focused on a particular audience or usage, others ending up becoming something completely different. Usually, this land has its big cities, the Red Hats, Suses, Debian and Ubuntu ones. Around them you’ll have the derivatives. Other distributions exist and also count for  an exciting and important part of the landscape: ArchLinux, SlackWare, Mageia, LFS, and I’m forgetting several of them here. So what’s new?

Some exciting new distributions are  coming of age, but  the best part is that in some sense these new projects validate the way the distribution model and the “economy” of Linux distributions has always been about. Let me introduce you to three new distributions I am excited about: Elementary OS, Nitrux and the Maui Project [full disclosure: I use Arch on my two machines, I've tried and installed Elementary OS several times; the other initiatives I'm talking about here are projects with no stable versions yet].

Elementary OS

Elementary has been around for some time; at least since 2011. Elementary is not yet  another re-spin of elementaryUbuntu “designed to be user-friendly”, to quote the polite description you find on several distros on DistroWatch. Elementary is indeed based on Ubuntu LTS but the top tier is very different. A new graphical stack, carefully selected software (such as Geary and Midori), new ones fully developed by the Elementary team such as the Scratch editor, a new music application give the most polished and beautiful impression a Linux distribution I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot, including my own desktop that I tend to tweak a lot. In the end, Elementary comes with a full installation. The system is light-weight and manages the difficult task to create an “Apple-like” experience by not being a clone of Apple. I have installed Elementary OS myself for close friends, and I can say the system is very stable and highly polished. Additional software can be added; in fact you can use the Ubuntu repositories and PPAs with Elementary which should give you no trouble in terms of software choice.


Nitrux seems to have started sometime in 2013. Nitrux is really three things at the same time: a Linux 409a8455f5ac2fd850a3a259a61ddb56-d52t5jjdistribution, a hardware appliance on which this distribution runs and a company. Now that is an ambitious goal to start with, and I wish the Mexico-based company a great success. Nitrux essentially focuses on the user experience to deliver an all in one “package”: an appliance with a beautiful software interface and applications that would ideally fit in a living room. Interestingly, the graphical stack  is based on Qt5 which should make things interesting and maybe somewhat KDEish. At the moment not much aside the appliance itself and part of their business model is visible: Nitrux will give back some of its revenues to the Qt5 developers.

The Maui Project

Technically speaking, the Maui Project seems to be somewhat related to Nitrux, in that its graphicalmaui stack is based on Qt5. Maui claims they’re using Wayland which is also an interesting point. It  is  unclear to me what Linux distribution base, if any, they’re using. I see their roster has several Fedora packagers, but I also see that they have some sort of an “overlay” (to speak in Gentoo terms) for Arch Linux, allowing you to essentially turn your Arch distribution into a Maui distro without installing the actual Maui project disk image. The Maui project also produces icons that are available for pretty much everyone in the Linux community – I should add that so are the Nitrux icons. I’m looking forward to try this Maui overlay on Arch as soon as I’ll have more time .

I am very excited by these three projects because they actually deliver a great user experience to the user, because they’re fun and innovative and because they fare much better than any recent Windows 7 or 8 experience in my opinion. Quite interestingly, their net contributions to the Linux stack works the same way than distributions such as Ubuntu started: the highest-level stack including all the desktop polish and applications receive all their energy and attention, while the lower level stacks such as the distribution base itself comes from elsewhere. After something like 20 years, I am amazed this upstream – downstream model still works, and works well.

Happy New Year to all of you!