In my prior blog post, my intended lessons for OpenOffice vs. LibreOffice were 1. Try both. 2. Use both. 3. Use what works best for particular cases. 4. Where there is no problems with either, prefer LibreOffice for its community support. 5. I had a specific important case for my usage where I had to use OpenOffice. Now it appears my options will expand in a month.
The comments represented the general community preference for LibreOffice. Not only that, they were enough for Michael Meeks, a well-known open source developer to comment, find the outstanding bug report for it, which was miscategorized but had already been fixed in the 3.7 branch, and backport it to next month’s 3.6.3 LibreOffice release. Thanks LibreOffice team, community, and Mr. Meeks!
So now, the opposite of the last post, I am blogging a longstanding OpenOffice bug that is fixed and “just works” in LibreOffice. So will the OpenOffice community respond as quickly to fix the problem as the LibreOffice community did to my last blog post?
When I go to “print preview” in Apache OpenOffice Calc 3.4.1, (and all older releases I recall) and then hit the print button from there, it defaults to printing every single worksheet instead of just the active one, even though I carefully selected the print range on the active worksheet to print a precise area and only one sheet. In my case, OpenOffice prints 22 pages instead of just one. There is a workaround, that as long as I close out of print preview first before hitting the print button, OpenOffice will print only my selected worksheet.
LibreOffice inherited this long standing OpenOffice bug (I would dread this waste of paper and ink being called a feature.) However, LibreOffice fixed it, I think around their 3.5.0 cycle.
So a final tangent about being for below average in technical skills relative to the Linux community. Everyone recommends bug reporting, and I occasionally do that. However, I have had little success in my six years of using Linux in bug reporting. If there is a proper existing bug report already out there, I have little to add. Certainly not any programming skills to fix it. If I’m creating a new one, assuming it does not get marked as a duplicate by my failure to find the existing one, I usually don’t have enough precise details to aid in a solution or convince anyone it is important. I also say this without a solution. Maybe I need a class on bug reporting for dummies. Getting bugs fixed by getting a blog linked on a Linux news feed (Thanks Lxer.com!) is surely cheating.
Maybe if this blog post is especially lucky in drawing the right readers, someone will have an idea on fixing this 3 year old Wine bug on 15 year old software. I can at least say that I reported a bug that has stayed outstanding that long without being either fixed or closed for other reasons. That almost counts as an accomplishment, right?
Last thought: The particular usage of LibreOffice and OpenOffice on .xlsx files was not just because of desire to use open source, but because Excel 2003 to Excel 2010 have a bug that does not let me hide the full 130 columns I need hidden. Notice, despite the helpful comments for LibreOffice and OpenOffice, no one had advice on making Excel work. That, I believe, would truly be a lost cause in attempting to report a bug to Microsoft.
[Final Update: This post got a lot of notice, but I also had a follow up post that received less notice here that should be read for full perspective before commenting on this one now.]
If you are like me, you prefer LibreOffice over (Apache) OpenOffice because (1) It has a better open source license. (2) It has more community support. (3) It is more rapidly developing and releasing updates.
But at the same time, when I try to use them in a hard-core power user work environment, ideals go out the window and I use what works to keep my job. My employer briefly flirted with OpenOffice around 2005, and supposedly it was really bad experiment, but I wasn’t there at the time. So sadly, no one here contemplates a change from MS Office. Take an example spreadsheet I use. It is very complex to the point it would be better off in a database, but that’s beyond the scope of this post.
The surprising part is that MS Excel fails my needs even with working with its own .xlsx spreadsheet format. I need to hide 130 columns and Excel 2010 warns me “Cannot shift objects off sheet.” Prior Excel versions had the same problem. I’ve spent some effort looking for a solution, but the only thing I found to work is opening in an open source office suite.
MS Excel 2010:
I can open up this Excel document in either OpenOffice 3.4.1 or LibreOffice 3.6.1, and both are able to successfully hide the large number of columns I need hidden where Excel fails itself. However, LibreOffice has a bug that has persisted for many months, whereas OpenOffice just works. LibreOffice is making all comments visible by default. The only solution I’ve found in LibreOffice discussions is to manually close each one. In this case, that is an insane waste of time, as there are hundreds of comments showing, poking through the hidden columns.
Apache OpenOffice 3.4.1:
So in this case, the solution is to use OpenOffice. I’d rather point to a LibreOffice victory, but the open source community has to acknowledge failures for them to be fixed. And the bright side is that Apache OpenOffice is both still open source, and still free. There is nothing stopping people from using both office suites when necessary to see which better renders specific documents.
Update: Here is discussion where LibreOffice users have known and tried work-arounds for the past six months. I think that OpenOffice might have had a greater focus on MS Office document compatibility, while LibreOffice has focused on advancing features. I’m afraid my employer needs are squared directly over MS Excel compatibility vs. new features.
Tomi Ahomen has another great blog article that does the math, adding smartphone and PC sales to show that 2012 is the first year where Android (and thus Linux) passes Microsoft in operating system sales.
I hope the future follows his prediction path…but I see a risk he doesn’t mention. Tomi acknowledges the telecom carriers view Skype (and so VOIP in general) as an existential threat, and this is a reason that they aren’t cooperating with Microsoft.
Although I hope the carriers can help squeeze Microsoft dry, can they really win the battle against the progress of technology, of which the much more efficient VOIP phone calls should be the future? Put me in the category of pro-VOIP, not pro-Skype or Microsoft.
Tech aware consumers would be much happier with a data only phone plan, where they could just use a VOIP phone with no meaningful loss in functionality, but a reduction of perceived excessive cellphone bills. Some people already do this and have zero call and text minutes, as VOIP calls and texts don’t count. If Microsoft were to somehow survive in the phone business for another decade, then I would presume that VOIP technology finally became the disruptive technology that broke the telecom system.
The good news is that even if that happens, Google and Android seem equally well prepared for a VOIP future without having to purchase Skype or suffer the negative fallout from doing so.
[Confession: Although my wife has a Samsung Galaxy S2 on a Sprint plan, I still refuse to have any cellphone plan. I just use her old EVO 4G as a Wifi device. We won’t renew her contract when it ends and will likely switch to Republic Wireless or Ting. Those at least represent an improved direction for carriers (MVNOs in their case) that don’t overcharge customers.]
If I combine a few news items to reach a natural conclusion, for the first time, it makes sense for a large business to fund Linux as a gaming platform.
1. L4D2 runs multithreaded at 250 – 300 fps on my Windows 7 machine. Single threaded it’s ~180 fps. On Linux it runs at 25 – 30 fps with the same NVidia GTX 580 video card (after getting them to fix some things), and around the same on a ATI 6970.
2. Good tools to track down OpenGL performance and help debug rendering issues just don’t exist.
We want to fix this. It would be nice to have people who have experience with Linux work on it.
Followers of Linux gaming have known that Valve had a few employees dabble in Linux before, but not make commitments or investments in it. So a CEO saying “We want to fix this.” Is a major change and improvement.
But why the change? Ah, this is where Microsoft is the danger to Valve. But I’ll back up to explain what Valve does to those who don’t know. Valve started as a video game developer. They saw that a game distribution platform would be useful, and since they couldn’t find anyone else willing to create one, they created their own.
This platform is called Steam and has turned out to be majorly popular and profitable. And unlike the love-hate relationship many have with Microsoft and Apple, users are pretty much in a love-love relationship. In other words, it is viewed as both a must have and good or great on prices.
Steam provides a centralized system to buy games digitally, receive patches and updates, interact with friends who play games, and find people to play multi-player games together.
Steam follows (more accurately, predates) the model of an App Store that is used prominently by Apple, Google, and Amazon for Iphones and Android devices. And unlike Apple at least, it doesn’t do hardly any ideological filtering to remove politically incorrect applications. This is also similar to the repository model of software distribution used by most Linux distros which is much older, but mostly for free without much paid software.
Microsoft’s Windows platform does not follow the restrictive App Store model, but as this model seems profitable, it wants into the format. The Android model is popular for its freedom… you get its benefits, but you can still install separately. The Apple model is much more restrictive, making it difficult to install outside of the App Store.
Microsoft, being a giant monopoly desiring company like Apple, would like to follow the Apple App Store model. It has made indications that it will push toward this model with Windows 8 and the Metro format.
This presents a problem for Valve’s Steam. It currently requires Microsoft Windows, or Apple OS X, which is also pushing the App Store model on the desktop as a future direction for profits. It is not hard to imagine Microsoft locking out or debilitating 3rd party digital distribution stores.
For comparison, think of Microsoft Windows as a government that creates the laws by which the entities (software in this case) are allowed to operate within Windows. But Microsoft does not act as a mere government, it also acts as a competing corporation within the governmental framework. Does this give it an unfair advantage? Absolutely. When Microsoft wanted to get into Office software, it went into competition with Wordperfect, a software that significantly helped make Microsoft’s operating systems valuable. But Microsoft could and did design Windows (the government) in such a way as to advantage MS Office and disadvantage Wordperfect.
There are many other examples like web browsers that could be used, but suffice it to say, such is the Microsoft pattern, and Apple is in no way better. This is bad news for Valve and Steam. If it stays dependent on Microsoft, it is likely to be marginalized to nothing within a decade.
That is where Linux offers an alternative. In the past till now, no large company had a clear and strong financial reason to invest in Linux as a gaming platform. It has developed into an adequate gaming platform, but not great. In order for Valve and Steam to offer an alternative through Linux, it must become graphically competitive.
The prime limitations include OpenGL, while in no means bad, has had its primary financial backing by companies that focus on non-gaming graphical computation, and so is not competitive to DirectX 11. Next is X.org or Wayland display driver. The first is growing archaic and the second is incomplete. These would need developers funded to include gaming performance as an important consideration.
Separately is the Wine program primarily directed by Codeweavers. Wine allows Windows programs and games to run on Linux. However, Codeweavers is a comparatively tiny company that can only improve wine slowly but surely. This is a central place that Valve would need to drastically increase the rate of improvement to provide an alternative for the many thousands of already existing Windows games that it already supports. While there may (I hope) come a time when game developers view Linux as a primary platform, I foresee no transition path without Wine figuring prominently. Nor do I see an intelligent path that does not partner with Codeweavers to rapidly expand Linux gaming.
Microsoft has hinted that Windows on ARM will be locked down to a Metro application store with likely no opportunity for Valve’s current business model for Steam. The potential future lock down on x86/x86-64 as well is a noose around Valve’s future on Windows. It is possible that ARM could continue its expansion against Intel and AMD processors and limit Valve in that direction even if x86 Windows never locks down 3rd party application stores. If so, then Wine on ARM may also be a future focus of Valve to secure its future destiny.
There has been recent discussion that Valve might create a “Steambox”, an alternative to the Playstation and Xbox consoles. While it acknowledged no such immediate plans, if it were to do so today, it would basically be a Windows PC already configured for gaming. If we were to go out maybe 5-10 years in the future, a Steambox could be a Linux based x86-64 or ARM PC that could run the majority of 20+ years of x86 Windows games, and most of those at high frame rates without glitches.
Someone may think that Valve may eventually target Android instead of standard Linux, but the two are compatible enough that converting between the two is far easier than the conversion from Windows. Wine and OpenGL are much bigger challenges necessary for a focus on either standard Linux or Android.
As a post script, Valve is further an interesting subject for this blog because they may be the most decentralized moderately large business in America. If you can believe it from their own statements, they have no management and effectively no job titles.
[POST SCRIPT EDIT: There is further confirmation that most of what I said is in the right direction. Valve CEO Gabe Newell is directly seeking work on Linux and OpenGL. Also note “his negativity towards Windows 8″ seems to reaffirm the threat of a Windows lockdown. However, Wine doesn’t seem to be figuring into their current equation. Software built directly on Linux without Wine is the best end-stage option if they focus primarily on future games, but I am equally interested in the back catalog of thousands of games.]
In 2008 I made this blog post about corporate corruption at Motorola and an incompetent CEO. Since then, Motorola somewhat recovered by a partnership with Google and focus on Linux/Android. Google still had to buy them out in the end.
Well now Nokia has a puppet CEO Stephen Elop, formerly from Microsoft, and as shown, still showing loyalty to Microsoft against his duty to his new employer. There isn’t much to say beyond this very detailed analysis by award winning industry veteran writer and consultant Tomi Ahonen. What did Elop do? 1. Burn all bridges with partners. 2. Destroy existing ecosystems long before dead or with something ready to replace them, 3. Fire all his best sales teams. 4. Throw Nokia’s fortune all under Microsoft’s platform which they couldn’t control, fix, or improve. 5. Replace experienced veteran employees with ex-Microsoft employees unfamiliar with a very detailed business. 6. Not allow sales of highly rated products in most markets so he could 7. promote Microsoft Windows Phones that didn’t yet exist and ended up being rated as inferior to the products he refused to sell.
Tomi’s article is too long and detailed unless you, like me, want to learn lessons on corporate corruption that places way too much power centrally in a CEO. That article is 4 months old and still applies without any counter-developments. Nokia is still sliding fast. It will be interesting to watch what type of bottom it will reach in its slide. I highly doubt it would be liquidated, the most extreme option. Could Microsoft have to buy it and bail it out? Could Elop face punishment for violation of fiduciary duty?
It would be a popcorn worth period if it wasn’t destroying jobs at a company that was on the verge of meaningful decentralized business progress with FOSS software like Qt and Meego products before hiring Elop for CEO.
Additional Tomi quote from a different post of his:
Elop Effect – A CEO’s statements that annouce that your products are obsolete now, and commit to producing several new products on the obsolete basis before replacements are to be made; all while calling your own products crap, even adding claims of imagined faults that your products do not have. That is the Elop Effect and it will destroy your company in less than a year, guaranteed.
I try to be vigilant to understand the nature of corruption inherent in centralization, and the megacorporations occasionally provide good examples that escape the secrecy of executive board rooms. An insider within Motorola has provided just such an example. Unlike Enron or WorldCom disclosures of corruption, this is about a company that is not on its dying gasp. It could turn around. Whether it does or not may make an interesting case of corporate inertia where, in America at least, Managerialism has replaced Capitalism. The shareholders are the suckers and executive management gets paid enough that whether they succeed or fail really doesn’t matter. They are set for life.
Here is more about their wasted opportunities that also relate to Motorola’s Linux effort on cellphones:
I previously wrote a pro-libertarian pro-Linux article. Gary North had in 2004 written anti-Linux articles, and I countered his arguments. I thought I would check to see if he had written on the issue since by a Google search on “Gary North” and Linux. While I didn’t find any updated position written by him, I did find a very different article on his website. He allowed another writer to publish a “how to switch to Linux” article which includes statements quite contrary to North’s original 2004 articles. The article is undated, but by mentioning that you can get Linux preloaded on Dell computers, the article can’t be more than a few months old.
I guess change can be thrust upon even those who still use DOS as a primary operating system. It would be interesting if he studied all the SCO vs. Linux controversies, he is usually insightful with commentary even when he is wrong.