Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New LibreOffice turns up the heat on Microsoft

Open source is keeping pressure on Microsoft with new release of LibreOffice productivity suite. It took a village to build it

Today saw the release of a landmark update of LibreOffice, the community successor to OpenOffice.org that's developed by TDF (The Document Foundation) and its global volunteer community. LibreOffice version 4 looks fresh, includes new enterprise features, and offers improved performance.

TDF is a nonprofit that allows a wide range of corporate sponsors to join with individual volunteers to build, localize, and test LibreOffice. I spent some time with core developer Michael Meeks of Suse to understand the highlights of the new release.

Raising the stakes on features
The biggest news concerns enterprise content and document management integration as well as file format interoperability features. The CMS integration is achieved using the CMIS standard created by multiple vendors at OASIS. It allows easy integration with a wide range of systems -- Meeks told me the Suse team has tested Alfresco, IBM FileNet, Microsoft Sharepoint, SAP Netweaver, and more -- and should work with any system supporting CMIS. The file format compatibility includes improved support for DOCX and RTF (which has been rewritten from scratch) as well as support for Microsoft Publisher and Visio 2013.

The spreadsheet now includes the ability to import arbitrary XML-formatted data and includes support for conditional formatting, including in-cell shading. There's new OpenFormula support and export options, and the whole thing is snappier, with multiple speed improvements and support for up to a million spreadsheet rows.

On Linux, there's new integration with Ubuntu Unity, and there's support for a new Android remote control app for presentations (which will be added to the Windows and Mac versions of LibreOffice in the next release). There are some more playful features, too. You can now personalize LibreOffice using themes downloaded from Mozilla's Firefox website, and there's a tiny built-in implementation of the Logo programming language so educators can teach programming with just LibreOffice installed.

Technical depth
Meeks was keen to point out work behind the scenes to deliver performance and stability now and set the stage for improvement in the future. Notably, the display code has been reworked to use layouts rather than hard-coded dialogs. This means user experience designers will now be able to easily customize and improve LibreOffice, and localizers will not have to worry about breaking the display of text.

According to Meeks, the code has been cleaned extensively, and new techniques for debugging huge code bases have been devised. He cautioned there's still much to do, but maintained that LibreOffice development is now within reach of even the most elementary programming and testing skills.

The project is also working to play well with the wider open source community. Features like the CMIS integration and the file import filters are intentionally designed as free-standing libraries so that other projects can use them without needing any understanding of LibreOffice or borrowing its code. Meeks told me several other projects are already sharing these libraries.

In the wake of concern about the Java platform, some people have been concerned that LibreOffice is dependent on it. While taking pains to note that Java is an important technology that will continue to be supported, Meeks explained that LibreOffice has been reworked so that almost nothing fails if Java is not available. There's now a non-Java grammar checker, and most wizards are being recoded without Java. While all existing Java-based plug-ins for OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice should continue to work, unused Java APIs are also being removed to reduce the dependency surface.

Overall, LibreOffice 4.0 promises to be a significant step up from previous versions (InfoWorld will post a complete review next week). LibreOffice 4.0 is available for Windows, Mac, and most Linux distributions, and it will be available in most of the world's languages and for BSD. LibreOffice -- and OpenOffice.org before it -- have helped compel Microsoft to avoid complacency and has driven the company to use open formats. Let's hope that push continues.

Source: InfoWorld

Java Wins Programming Beauty Pageant, But C and Objective C Gussy Up

The Java programming language, bolstered by the adoption of Android-based smartphones and tablets in the market, has regained the crown as the top language in the Tiobe Programming Community Index put together by programming tool maker Tiobe Software.

The index is based on a number of different factors, including the availability of courses and training, the popularity of searches in Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, YouTube, and Baidu search engines, and the number of engineers with specific programming skills based on their employment and job searches. The Tiobe Index has been around for more than a decade, and it is as much for fun as it is for information.
Java was the number one language in the Tiobe Index for February, with a rating of 18.4 percent, up 1.34 points over the past year. C was second with a 17.1 percent rating and climbing 56/100ths of a point, followed by Objective C, with a 9.8 percent rating but climbing 2.74 points. (Objective C is the variant of C that is used on Apple iOS.) Objective C has jumped two spots, passing by C++, the new-and-improved, object-oriented version of C that stopped short of becoming Java, and C#, which is Microsoft's Java-C mashup for its Common Language Runtime that was supposed to be enough like a JVM to make everyone happy except Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) and IBM. Python, Ruby, VisualBasic.NET, Pascal, Bash, Matlab, and Assembly are all climbing among the top 20 programming languages in the February ranking.
Venerable COBOL has a rating of 0.514 percent among the top 50 languages and ranked just behind the SAS statistical programming language and just ahead of Fortran (used in supercomputers) and the R open source statistical language. Good ole Report Program Generator for IBM i and OS/400 ranked number 38 on the February 2013 list, with a rating of 0.247 percent. It jumps around a lot, sometimes kissing 1 percent. This time around, it is behind Smalltalk and ahead of OpenCL.

My guess is that there are around 15 million or so programmers in the world--meaning people who get paychecks for their work--so if you apply the Tiobe numbers to this figure, you won't get anything that makes sense. It is commonly believed that there are around 10 million Java programmers in the world, and if you multiplied the Tiobe index against the raw population, you would bet something on the order of 2.7 million Java programmers. Like I said, this is more for fun than fact.

As for RPG, if there are 150,000 customers worldwide as IBM has told us, and the average shop has between two and three programmers (with the so-called CIO being a programmer with system administration and budget responsibilities), then there should be maybe on the order of 300,000 to 450,000 RPG programmers in the world (okay, so maybe 5 percent to 10 percent of them are actually COBOL programmers on the IBM i platform. If you use the Tiobe numbers percent against the raw number of 0.247 percent for RPG, you get a number that is an order of magnitude lower than this. Again, this was meant to be fun.

Source: IT Jungle

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Game Blocks offers free, open-source game creation for novices

Sheldon Pacotti, writer of the original Deus Ex games and indie developer in his own right, created Game Blocks, an open-source library for making games, for the students in his video game writing course at the University of Texas. Game Blocks is designed to help novice developers craft their stories, animations and physics effects with a simple, snap-to interface, as demonstrated above.

Game Blocks is able to compile platformers, adventure games, simulation games and arcade shooters for PC and Mac, and makes it easy to organize dialogue and story. Best of all, it's completely free. Anyone interested in messing around with game design or interactive storytelling, download Game Blocks directly from Pacotti's New Life Interactive.

Source: joystiq

SAP achieves Java Enterprise Edition 6 Web Profile Compatibility

SAP AG has achieved Java Enterprise Edition, or EE, 6 Web Profile Compatibility for SAP NetWeaver Cloud, a Java-based platform-as-a-service, as part of the SAP HANA Cloud platform.

SAP NetWeaver Cloud enables customers to extend existing SAP systems with new cloud-based applications - developed or provided by customers, SAP partners or SAP.

Compatibility with Java EE 6 Web Profile will enable SAP customers and partners developing applications on SAP NetWeaver Cloud to measurably speed up their development and delivery time.

Java EE 6 is the first version of the Java Platform, Enterprise Edition, to define a focused Web Profile subset on which vendors can certify. This subset includes the major technologies of the full specification, is used for developing enterprise Web applications and simplifies the Enterprise Java programming model.

"We developed this technology together with the open source community in the Eclipse Virgo project," said Bjoern Goerke, executive vice president, Technology & Innovation Platform Core, SAP.

"This achievement is a result of SAP's ongoing engagement in open source communities and our commitment to open standards. Our strategy is to support and enable new technologies - first in the cloud - and then make them available to our on-premise customers."

Source: equities.com

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ubuntu Increases Reach with Language Translations

English may be the uncontested lingua franca of most development communities in our (post-?) Pax Americana age. But for developers who prefer working in other languages, the Ubuntu world has taken a big step toward making it easier to contribute without understanding English. That’s a particularly smart move for an open source project such as Ubuntu. Here’s why.

As Ubuntu developer Daniel Holbach discussed recently, translating documentation on Ubuntu development into languages other than English has long been a goal of the project. That vision has finally become reality with the release of the first non-English version of the Ubuntu Packaging Guide documentation, which explains how to make software contributions to Ubuntu.

For now, the only complete translation available is Spanish. But the story is bigger than that, because this sets a precedent for offering development documentation in many other languages via a new system that will make it easier to translate the guide, and keep translations up-to-date as information changes.
Beyond the Spanish version, progress has also been made for translating the Packaging Guide into several other languages. Of these, the version nearest completion, interestingly enough, is Russian. Brazilian Portuguese follows not too far behind.

Translation and Open Source

In many senses, open source software has long been more friendly toward the non-anglophone world than its proprietary alternatives. Because the open source model makes it easy for anyone to translate applications into the language of his or her choice, users are not restricted to the language versions made available by developers themselves. It’s no surprise that Ubuntu supports many more languages than Windows.
And if open source products are appealing to non-English speaking users for this reason, they also theoretically enjoy a leg up with programmers who prefer to work in a different language. Ubuntu developers are thus doing the smart thing by acknowledging that not everyone who stands to make technical contributions to the operating system works primarily in English. Addressing this need helps to strengthen the Ubuntu community while also ensuring that as many programmers as possible are able to volunteer their expertise to advance Ubuntu development. In a channel where voluntary labor is so important, removing linguistic barriers is crucial.

Of course, although I don’t have any statistics, I highly doubt there are legions of skilled developers out there who have previously not considered contributing to Ubuntu purely as a result of language issues. Most educated programmers can likely read and write English well enough to participate if they choose–after all, since most programming languages are filled with English words, it would be pretty difficult to become an excellent developer without learning some English along the way.

Still, the efforts that Holbach and his team have undertaken to assist developers whose first language is not English sends a positive message about Ubuntu’s openness toward participants of all backgrounds. And they just may draw in some valuable contributions from programmers who would otherwise not go to the trouble of wading through English-only documentation.

Source: The Var Guy

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

3Scale Launches Open Source API Proxy Providing Enterprises On-premises and in the Cloud API Traffic Management

3Scale, a leading Plug and Play SaaS API Management platform and services provider, has just announced the launch of a new Open Source API Proxy that provides Enterprises API traffic management on-premises and in the cloud.

3scale’s Open Source API Proxy is built on the NGINX Web Server, a popular, open-source, HTTP server and reverse proxy that currently powers a number of well known sites including Eventbrite, Facebook, GitHub, Heroku, Pinterest, TechCrunch, and WordPress.com.

The Open Source API Proxy when used in conjunction with the out-of-the box API Management solution 3scale provides, makes it possible for API providers to easily open and manage APIs without the need for programming skills and can take “less than 5 minutes” to get started. Additional benefits are described in the press release as follows:

Easily (and securely) open and manage APIs.
Launch APIs with the fastest time-to-market.
Keep control on their API architecture and.
Use proven technologies in the most demanding production environments.
The Open Source Proxy product site provides additional information about what is included with the 3scale/NGINX setup as well as detailed documentation.

The documentation explains how to setup the integration using “proxy mode.” Using proxy mode, integration with 3scale’s management platform can be done without having to make any modifications to the API source code or the need to re-deploy the API.

Source: Programmable Web

New Book Teaches Kids Open Source Programming

You know your programming language is a hit when it becomes the subject of a children’s book — or, at least, a book written for kids. Python, the popular open source programming platform, can now claim that title, with the recent release by No Starch Press of Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming. Will the book assure your kid’s success as the next prodigy of the computer world?

There’s no shortage of books and other guides — such as the extensive documentation and tutorials on the Python website itself — about Python, which enjoys enormous popularity among programmers, especially in the open source world. As a flexible, extensible language that also encourages users through its very design to follow good programming practices, it deserves that attention.

Book titles intended to introduce children to programming, however, are rarer. There are a few examples out there, but by and large, the market for published programming guides has yet to converge with children’s literature.
In a sign of change, however, No Starch Press — whose products are distributed in the United States by O’Reilly, a huge name in technology and science publishing — recently introduced a guide to Python for kids written by Jason R. Briggs. This is the first children’s title from Briggs, a developer who lives in either England or New Zealand, depending on which source you consult.
According to the publisher, Python for Kids tailors to a young audience with examples that “feature ravenous monsters, secret agents and thieving ravens,” as well as “wacky, colorful art by Miran Lipovańća.” Through this medium, the text communicates the fundamentals of working in Python, including dealing with data structures, using functions and modules, handling control structures and more.
To me, learning to program from a book feels ironically old fashioned in the age of the Internet. It’s kind of like using a horse and buggy to tow your car. But for those readers who feel more at home with ink on pages than pixels, Briggs’s book should fit the bill. (For now, the title is available only in print, not digitally.)
What’s more, Briggs and No Starch seem to be latching on to something pretty new. Unlike IT publishing in general, programming literature for kids is a nearly untapped market with plenty of potential consumers. It could be a productive new frontier in IT education, especially in an era when every parent wants her kid to follow in the intellectual paths of people like Bill Gates and Richard Stallman. (Whether one should encourage emulation of the personal choices of such figures, of course, is a separate issue.)

Source: The Var Guy