Category: Open Source

  • Connected Calendar Tipping Point

    It’s becoming quite obvious that the connected calendar is reaching a sort of tipping point. There have been all kinds of blips on the radar about calendars, calendar programs, calendar servers, calendar services, and just about anything that has to do with calendars. Frank lists the attributes of a perfect calendar in reaction to Jeremy Zawodny’s post on the subject. They’re both spot on. The world is in desperate need for calendars that sync to and on multiple paltforms, allow easy sharing, public and private events, access anywhere, and interop nicely. To put it bluntly we really need a calendaring system that doesn’t suck.

    There are a lot of calendars out there, many of them quite good. But when you get down to it they all suck in one regard or another. Some are paltform specific. Others work well as long as you stay within walls of their system. Others sync with half the platforms that you’d like but not the other half. Heck, I even hear that Hula is getting some people laid.

    I’ve looked at a lot of different calendaring systems and would rather not laundry list them. Some have been very close to being ideal. I set up calendar sharing over WebDav with Sunbird after its first public release. I tried Hula the day it came out. I tried unsuccessfully to compile and install Open-Xchange. Webcalendar is a solid webapp written in PHP, but it’s lacking in sync.

    Like I said, we’re at a tipping point. We could go over the edge if Google really is working on a rich-web UI calendaring system that rocks. I doubt that they would be able to work in the synchronization that I’d really kill to have, but you never know.

    Until the killer calendar comes along and slaps me in the face, I’ll be trying each one that has promise in hopes that it’s “the one.”

  • Hula!

    I was excited to hear Nat and Miguel talking about The Hula Project yesterday as I was catching up on my feeds.

    Hula is an email and calendaring server. I think they’re taking the right approach: instead of trying to do everything for everybody they’re going to focus on email and calendar. They’re going to try to make the best darned email and calendar server out there. They’re also looking to make of Javascript and DHTML to create a rich web UI.

    I have to say that I’d love to have something like this. A month or two ago I spent a few weeks off and on banging on OPEN-XCHANGE. I tried several times to get the prereqs right so that I could build slapd from source and then build OPEN-XCHANGE in order to be able to configure all of the stuff that needed to be configured. At first I got stuck near the top of the Debian install instructions. Then I got stuck in the middle, and by the time I had written a shell script to do most of the dirty work, I got stuck at adding the LDAP user. I also looked at installing OpenGroupware but a lackluster attempt at figuring out what to do with nightly build .debs I gave up.

    I’m going to repurpose a box and put Debian unstable on it (testing has an older version of automake) to play with Hula, as it seems like it has the easiest build/install process so far:

    su make install

    Granted there is some configuration to do after that, but from what I’ve heard in #hula on freenode the process is quite easy.

    That’s not to say that I’ve stopped looking at alternatives to iCal-over-webdav or Exchange or an exchange workalike for my calendaring and general togetherness. I’d love to see a livecd with openexchange already running on it. For now I think I’ll build Hula and see what the buzz is about. I’m confident that it’s going to progress and improve quickly.

  • VLC Media Player (Formerly Videolan) Rocks!

    Codecs and Linux distros don’t mix. A few years ago, Red Hat stuff stopped playing mp3s. I love my debian Sarge desktop, but Totem just doesn’t support enough codecs out of the box. It’ll handle the basics fine and keeps in line with the minimalistic clean-lines Gnome philosophy. It just won’t handle everything that I throw at it.

    Enter VLC.

    Man, this thing does it all. It can stream just about everything, and it handles a lot of the Windows-based formats that other players throw ugly codec errors on. It may not be as pretty as Totem, but it sure as heck gets the job done.

    Installation was cake on my Debian box. I followed these instructions but opted to install most of the related optional and suggested packages. I also went the sid route as opposed to the woody route. VLC was downloaded and installed in just a few minutes, tho I didn’t get a chance to try it out right away. Sure enough I threw some .wmv and .avi files at it and it handled them perfectly. I don’t have speakers on this box so I can’t vouch for sound decoding, but the video looked just fine.

    I’d highly recommend VLC in addition to whatever media player you’re using now under Linux. There is also a Win32 and Mac OSX version. Take a look at it, I think you’ll like it.

  • Open Message Queueing: The Next Big Web Services Thing?

    Slashdot links to an eWeek article detailing the plans of John Davies at JPMorgan Chase & Co to release an open source message queueing system. Amazon already has its Simple Queue Service. Codehaus has its ActiveMQ. There is a lot of room in the marketplace for queues of varying openness and closedness. I’d love to see several queueing systems thrive, especially if they end up being as open as it looks like they may be.

  • Open Source PBXes

    The most interesting article (to me) in the Jan 31 edition of InfoWorld was one titled Open Source PBXes: Free Flexibility. I’ve been tracking a few open source PBX and softphone projects for awhile now. After reading the PBX article I thought I’d take another look.

    The InfoWorld article looks at Asterisk by Digium and SIPxchange by Pingtel. Asterisk is probably the most well known open source PBX package and can run quite well in its open source form. Pingtel has a much more corporate feel. Its core, sipX, is open source, but it appears that that to do anything useful you need commercial extensions from Pingtel. I can’t fault Pingtel for that either. A company has got to make a buck somehow, and some open source is better than no open source at all, I think. There appears to be a nice community growing up around sipX at

    If I had to choose one open source product over the other, I’d probably have to go with Asterisk, as it handles many protocols (SIP, H.323, MGCP, IAX, SCCP) while SIPxchange/sipX focuses exclusively on SIP. The commercial SIPxchange is probably going to be the easiest to administer with its graphical user interface for confiuration and management. On the other hand, if you have a linux guru on staff you should be able to pull off an Asterisk configuration without too much trouble.

    Most (if not all) PBX systems require some sort of hardware to interface with your external lines and internal network. These open source alternatives are no different, although the processing power requirements are very low. InfoWorld tested out these PBX systems on surplus Pentium desktop systems and they performed just fine. You’ll need some sort of hardware to hook in to your phone lines and phone system, but open source PBX software running on modest hardware can quite proably reduce the costs of your PBX.

    Update: I really should have dug a little deeper, as I forgot to mention GNU Bayonne, which has probably been around longer than most. Erik also pointed me to Voicetronix, which looks like a good place for hardware as well as open source PBX software.

  • Freshmeat\’s Revamped RSS Feeds Rock!

    Freshmeat offeres several XML feeds of new project releases as well as an RDF representation of its software map and all releases. Until recently the Freshmeat RSS feed that I was subscribed to was a no-nonsense short list of projects with new releases. To view information about a particular release, I just CTRL-clicked on the project name to get more information in a new FireFox tab.

    That has obviously changed recently. I’m pretty sure that the barebones feed has gone away, and I’ve now been redirected to fm-releases-global.xml. Here’s a quick list of available feeds:

    The release feeds are RSS 2.0 generated by PyRSS2Gen and are just beutiful. The new feeds provide most of the critical information that I would want to know about a new release: project name, branch, version, project description, changes for this version, and a screenshot if available. That totally rocks! Here’s an example from a release that hit my aggregator this morning:

    Title: gnormalize 0.12 (Default branch)



    Screenshotgnormalize is a graphical front end to normalize. It decodes the MP3/OGG files to wave, then normalizes the wave and re-encodes it to MP3/OGG. It can also convert audio format between MP3 and OGG, change the encoding and ID3 tag properties of final normalized files.

    This release can now convert audio format between MP3 and OGG.

    Thanks, freshmeat. You’ve totally made my morning!

  • Research and Development

    I was joking with a friend about Fortran Server Pages and how silly that would be the other day. A quick google search didn’t reveal anything, although it did unearth some Fortran CGI from the FCC (with source code). While investigating further, I found myself arriving at the R&D sections of a few different companies. I thought I’d collect my findings for you:

    This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but there are a lot of amazing research projects, downloadable software, and amazing papers on the other end of those links. If you have some free time, you should look around a few of them.

  • All Your OpenOffice Base are Belong to Us

    Speaking of, I recently checked out a pre-2.0 snapshot and was suprised to see something called “Base” show up in my OOo menu.

    After scratching my head for a few minutes, I concluded that Base 2.0 must be the Access workalike that will debut in OOo 2.0. Sure enough, it is. Reading though the Base 2.0 page is quite fasinating. It looks like there were some licensing issues at first, but I’m really glad to see HSQLDB powering an open source database for the masses.

    I’ve got to admit that I was completely unaware of Base 1.0. It looks like it is more of a database access library to be used within OOo than a standalone application. I’ve only poked around Base 2.0 a little bit, but from what I can tell it’s an ample Access workalike at the very least, and hopefully will be a platform that do much more. In the future I would love Base 2.0 to support other database backends, though the reasoning for going with HSQLDB makes sense.

    My hat is off to the team!

  • Why OS X Needs a Native OpenOffice Port

    MacMerc pointed to a status update on the native OSX port of

    It’s been over a year and a half since this page was last updated, and as of recent memory, all engineering for Mac OS X has been focused on X11 graphics, that is, Mac OS X (X11). Without significant contributions of time and talent this will most likely remain the case.

    No engineering work has been performed on Quartz or Aqua development within the project since mid 2003. For the last year and a half all engineering work focusing on a native Mac OS X version has been concentrated in the NeoOffice/J project, using a combination of Java and Carbon technologies to replace X11.

    This is a bit of a bummer for Mac OS X users. I can’t tell you how valuable it is to have a clean and solid office suite with good data interchange that runs on Win32, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, and Mac (using X11). The problem with requiring OS X users to have X11 installed is that most don’t. Of course the hardcore geeky OS X users know of Apple’s X11, XonX, and fink. Unfortunately the people that should really see this amazing suite: the non-technical masses, aren’t going to see it en masse until it’s a point and click native install.

    I totally understand the arcitectural decision for the mainstream OOo release to rely on X11. It’s solid, it’s standard, it’s tested, and it’s going to be around until the end of time. At the same time, Mac users really need a native, sexy port of their own. I’m hoping that NeoOffice/J, with its GPL license and associated political issues, can fill the void. They’re using Java and some other fancy bits to get around the need for an X server. They also seem to be very early in their release cycle, but I’m hoping that NeoOffice matures quickly and becomes that native free office suite that I know that OS X users need.

    Of course right now you’re thinking that with iWork who needs anything else? I guess that’s right as long as you don’t need a spreadsheet or if you don’t have $79 to shell out for iWork, or if you’d rather use an open source product.

  • /me is back.

    It’s been a long couple of months and I apologize for the hiatus. It’s a long story for another day, but lets put it this way, I’m back! I’ve moved from Radio Userland to WordPress. I promise that I’ll share my (semi-painful and procrastination-ridden) migration process in due time.

    The .css that is currently driving the site is Dots by Alex King, which I’m currently tweaking. I’ve still got some random bits that I need to find and url rewrite to fit the new engine, but I’ve done my best to keep the old permalinks. If you find something that’s whacky, please drop me a line at matt at the domain Thanks!

  • PearPC 0.3.0

    Excellent!  There is a new release of PearPC out.  It’s great to see things like idle-sleep, SDL, and speed enhancements hit a mainstream release.  I’ve been using pre-built 0.3.0-pre binaries for awhile now, but I’m always excited when stuff like this sees the light of day.  I absolutely love the fact that my laptop is no longer on fire while I’ve got PearPC running but idle.  For more info, check out the changelog.  It looks like they’ve tweaked the config file format just a bit, but you can handle it.  After you’ve looked at that stuff, snag it and run.

  • Open Source Exchange Killers


    Netline Internet Service announced today that it would contribute its OPEN-XCHANGE Server, the core technology underlying the industry’s top-selling Linux-based groupware, collaboration, and messaging application, under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

    This is definitely good news.  I saw an OpenExchange sales pitch a few years ago at Linux World New York and I must say that I was impressed.  The online demo looks pretty good, but having Outlook “just work” is killer.  And that should be no problem according to an article at ZDNet.  The web interface feels a bit less cluttered than OpenGroupware, and I’m hoping that it rocks.  I hope to find the time to take a look at this bad boy.

  • Open Source Wi-Fi Analysis pointed to a great roundup of open source WLAN analyzers this morning.  If you’re looking to do some access point sniffing, rouge AP hunting, or just a general security check, this collection of tools is great.

  • Linux and Open Source in Iraq

    Todays edition of The World featured a story about Linux and open source software in Iraq:

    In Iraq, a group of computer users has started writing open source computer code. They’re Linux enthusiasts. The idea is to make low-cost, home-grown software and is said to hold great promise for developing countries. It could leapfrog Iraq into a more competitive future. The World technology reporter Clark Boyd reports.

    It is amazing that people will work on open source software in a country where the power may go out at any time and you have to worry about suicide bombers and IEDs while outside. My hats are off to these Iraqi coders that are trying to bring the penguin to the desert.

  • Geronimo!

    Via Matthew, OETrends takes a look at the current state of Apache Geronimo, as well as what to expect in the future.  It looks like things are progressing quickly.  Congrats to the Geronimo team!

  • Open Sourcing Solaris: GPL? BSD? A Good Decision?


    Sun Microsystems Inc. may be selling servers running Linux, but that doesn’t mean it is cutting back on the evolution of Solaris. Among its plans, the company is considering offering a free, open source version of its flagship operating system, said Jonathan Schwartz, the company’s recently appointed president and chief operating officer.

    “Maybe we’ll GPL it,” Schwartz said of Solaris, referring to the GNU General Public License under which the Linux operating system is distributed. “We’re still looking at that.”

    Those are not words to be thrown around lightly.  Of course it would be more logical for Solaris to bre released under a BSD-like operating system, as it was derived from BSD code.  It is encouraging to see Sun thinking about such things.

    Solaris no longer has the clout that it used to.  People use it, sure, but many have migrated away from Solaris on Sparc hardware to a flavour of Linux on x86.  I’m sure that an open-source version of Solaris would give it a lot of publicity.  It may need such publicity in order to survive.

    Solaris 9 (and a preview version of 10) can be downloaded for free, but a per-seat commercial license does apply.

    Here’s another interesting tidbit:

    Sun will likely move “very quickly” to a free licensing model where Solaris revenue would come from a paid subscription, Schwartz said. He wasn’t specific about when this might occur or what the pricing of such a model might be, other than to say it would be “less than Red Hat.”

    “Less than Red Hat” still leaves a good bit of room to be overpriced though.  Once again, I’m really stoked that Sun is thinking about such things, given how anti-open source they’ve been about Java.  Keep up the intelligent decisions, Sun!

  • Freshmeat Tracks SymbianOS Ecosystem

    While browsing freshmeat today, I saw that they have a new Operating System listed: SymbianOS.  I don’t know how long the category has been there, but it was refreshing to see it there.  It also allowed me to stumble upon a few projects that obviously slipped passed my radar:

    • BarcR UPC Code Reader: pretty much in the proof of concept stage, but it has potential.
    • Bemused: control Winamp, Windows Media Player, or Powerpoint via Bluetooth from your Series 60 or UIQ phone.
    • Bomber is a J2ME app designed for Series 60.  It reminds me of a classic bomber game that I played under various names on various platforms when I was a kid.
    • WabbelLab simulates that annoying but addictive game where you try to get the marble through the maze without having it drop in any of the holes.  You can play by tilting your phone.  Tracking is done via the camera.
  • The Open Source Vulnerability Database

    Via El Reg, the Open Source Vulnerability Database hopes to keep track of security threats with an open source spirit.  They hope that their database will be comprehensive, and pledge to keep the information in that database free and accessable to all.

    OSVD is also experimenting with several alternative distribution methods:

    An XML-formated version of the database, facilitating automated querying processes, is in the works.

    The OSVDB system will also prototype automated posting of vulnerabilities through an RSS-like push mechanism. Subscribers will receive each new vulnerability at the moment it is cleared into the database, and can choose to set customized filters to receive a subset of those records as needed.

    These ways of accessing data are great, but why not use RSS too?  It would be great to have vulnerability data show up alongside the other news that I read throughout the day.  I’d also love to see an Atom feed for this data while I’m at it.

  • Fishing at Freshmeat

    Today is one of those days that I scrolled down the listing at freshmeat and saw several projects that looked pretty interesting:


    TinyButStrong is a library that enables you to create HTML pages dynamically. It’s a Template Engine for the PHP language. It enables you to easily display information from your database, but also to seriously harmonize and simplify your PHP/HTML programming.

    I have not looked too deeply, but this looks kinda neat.

    Big Medium:

    Big Medium 1.3.3 is an affordable, full-featured web content management system that allows non-technical staff to add and edit web page content without knowing HTML. Big Medium frees web professionals from tedious page updates and empowers writers and editors to make website changes directly.

    It always throws me off when non-free sotftware ends up on freshmeat.  Licensing is $129 per server.  That’s a little to rich for my blood, but before I knew it cost anything, it looked pretty neat.

    Tasks Pro:

    Tasks Pro is the multi-user version of Tasks: a powerful web-based task manager (to-do list manager) that allows you to organize your tasks in a hierarchical structure. Group controls allow projects to be set up only for people who need to see them.

    Hmm, $125 for 5 users.  I’m having a bit of a non-free day on freshmeat.  Tasks seems to be donateware though.  Must. Pay. Bills.

  • Mozilla 1.7 Beta

    Via Slashdot, Mozilla 1.7 Beta appears to be faster and lighter weight.  Of course, those of us who really like to make the Moz fly use Firefox.