Archive for November, 2005

Open Documents

A long time ago on a computer far, far away I used to use a Word processor called KindWords. If there was a way of opening the files for that word processor nowadays I might get a giggle from the nostalgia value but not a lot else.

In 50 years time however I do want it to be possible to open documents containing minutes of government meetings or the first draft of the (then historic) eighteenth Harry Potter book. This is part of the reason why file formats that only one company can change (or can even completely understand) are bad. What if they disappear?

The other part of the reason why open standards are so good is that you should be free to choose a word processor because it is the best word processor, not because it is the only one that can open the files with its secret sauce.

Well rejoice, there is an open standard, the Open Document Format, and there are Office Suites that use it, for example the free OpenOffice 2.0 which runs on Windows, Linux and (in an altered form) the Mac. Shouldn’t you use it or another program that supports the standard? If such a standard becomes established it’ll not only drive competition in office suites it will also allow anyone to help create a whole array of little utilities and add-ons

In other news, if you are obsessively reading info on the debate about open standards (and specifically whether public organisations like the government of Massachusetts or the European Commission should mandate that their employees use then) then a key source of info is the Standards Blog. What I find most intriguing is that you never see the Standards Blog’s Andy Updegrove and the Guardian’s/Radio 4’s Simon Hoggart in a room together.

Radio 4: Simon Hoggart
Simon Hoggart or Andy Updegrove, who can tell?

It was a dark and stormy night…

…as I walked home from work last night. Often walking in the rain can be unpleasant but sauntering along a quiet country road in a big, thick, free coat listening to a combination of Jack Johnson, my cousin, Ben Folds and Gomez using my phone, I felt wonderful. Ahead of me, Winchester caused the sky to glow and the rain on my hood was somehow comforting.

I don’t walk to work often but sometimes it is a great time to reflect on the week. I haven’t achieved everything I wanted to do this week, for example I haven’t updated this website but on balance I am satisfied; at work I’ve made good progress (and really enjoyed it) and last weekend I visited old friends in Durham. While in Durham, we decided we’d go and watch football in a pub and we each put a bet on at the bookmakers before hand. I bet on an accumulator – Wigan, Reading, Newcastle and Wolves all had to win. Despite the better than 18-1 odds I was given (I bet £5) all the teams won, sometimes life just works that way.

P.S. quite a few people at work are writing a big collaborative blog which I’ve just posted to talking about Linux. Calc: Copying formulae

Things are ticking along nicely. I’m currently not programming very much outside work – the desire to do so comes and goes. I’m still fiddling with computers though.

I was trying to make a spreadsheet with a few formulas in. When I copied them into each cell in a column Calc “helpfully” updated the cell references. Some of the cells I was refering to were fixed i.e. I wanted all the the cells in the column to refer to the same cell. I found a page explaining how to fool the software so none of the references in my formula were updated but I wanted some of them to be. Simple – but not obvious if you don’t know how

The concept I was missing (or had forgotten – it has been ages since I used Excel but presumably it works the same way there) was absolute and relative addresses, (which you can look up in Calc’s help). Basically a $A$0 will always refer to A0, $A0 will always refer to the A column but the row will be relative to the cell it is pasted into and A0 is entirely relative. (A much more complicated way of doing it would be to use the ADDRESS function).