Off the Beat: Bruce Byfield's Blog

Free Software Branding Fonts

Mar 30, 2015 GMT

In 2007, Red Hat released the Liberation fonts -- metrical equivalents of Arial, Courier, and Times New Roman. More recently, however, the trend has been for free software projects to brand with fonts. Since the resulting fonts are professionally designed, they not only add a touch of class to interfaces, but gift free software with some of the best-designed fonts for general use.Admittedly, these sponsored fonts are short of workday serifs that might be used for body text on a page. However, all of them are ideal for online work -- and, sometimes, give a sense of a project's design priorities, even though most users pay them little attention. CantarellDesigned by Dave Crossland in 2010,...
What will it take to merge LibreOffice and OpenOffice?

Mar 25, 2015 GMT

Ordinarily, I'm all for diversity in free software projects. However, I make an exception in the case of LibreOffice and OpenOffice. The sooner they become a single project, the better.In other cases, I'm slow to accept arguments against duplication of projects. Combining projects does not automatically make for greater efficiency or quicker development; especially in the beginning, personalities can sabotage or even reverse any gains.Besides, having more than one project encourages innovation, both from increased competition and from the fact that more perspectives find their way into development. I would never, for example, urge that Calligra Suite merge with LibreOffice, because their...
The Changing Face of Debian

Mar 17, 2015 GMT

Like a rite of spring, the annual campaign for Debian Project Leader has begun. I've been watching these elections since 1999, and reading the platforms of the current three candidates (headlined, inevitably, as apt install dpl-install), I'm reminded about how Debian has evolved over the years.Debian, of course, was one of the earliest Linux distributions, as well as the most ambitious. By the time I became aware of it, the founding years had passed, and the people involved were on their way to becoming legend. When I went to work with Ian Murdock, Debian's founder, at a company funded by Bruce Perens, the implementer of the Debian Social Contract, friends were frankly envious. Non-geek...
Nine myths about styles in LibreOffice Writer

Mar 10, 2015 GMT

As Robin Williams (the designer, not the comedian) once explained in her book title, The PC Is Not A Typewriter. Office and layout programs are not just a keyboard with a screen, but an entirely different way of working. Central to that difference is the idea of styles -- a defined set of formatting options comparable to a variable declared in code. Yet  many writers refuse to use styles, preferring to format everything manually, even at the cost of making their work slower and more laborious.Every so often, the debate over using styles breaks out on the LibreOffice mailing lists. It soon becomes obvious that those who prefer manual formatting have little idea what using styles...
Why I'm switching from GIMP to Krita

Feb 25, 2015 GMT

I consider myself neither a technophile nor a technophobe. Yet every once or twice a year, I discover a piece of software so well-designed and useful that I spend whatever spare time I have learning it as thoroughly as possible. For the past couple of months, that software has been has been the paint program Krita. Now, with the  2.9 release coming out today, suddenly I have another long list of new tools to learn -- and I couldn't be happier about having new features to learn.I haven't got far beyond the basics yet -- just enough to work on a couple of projects. However, already I can see that Krita is destined to replace GIMP for me in the near future. Not that I have anything...
Writing online and on paper

Feb 19, 2015 GMT

Yesterday, I visited the Vancouver Pen Shop. The hoarded refills for my favorite pen had run out after a decade. However, to my annoyance, the Very Fine nibs I prefer are no longer being manufactured. They are a victim of the computer age -- apparently, the number of people still using pens has dwindled to the point where a selection of nibs is no longer economical. I regret the loss, because those nibs helped determine how I wrote by hand, which is very different from how I write on the keyboard.(And no, this will not be one of those laments for lost technology, in case you were wondering.)Time was when I never would have considered writing on a computer. I wrote all my university essays...
Flash in the pan

Feb 13, 2015 GMT

I've known for several years that development of Adobe's Flash player for Linux has ended except for service updates. In the last couple of months, though, maintaining it on my Debian system has become a series of rear guard actions. Each time I update my system with the last minor release, all is well -- then after a couple of weeks, Iceweasel (Debian's unbranded version of Firefox) fills every web page is full of notices that Flash needs to be updated again. The trouble is, I've installed the latest update in the repository, and I can't update.I suppose that Mozilla means well. Updates can help to make a system secure, and by most estimates Linux accounts for only a percent or two or...

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