Archive for the ‘Organization’ Category

November

16

by Kaj Kandler

In the recent months I noticed hat I had rather slow ping times to www.google.com or mail.google.com. The latency to Google’s servers was in the 200 – 300 ms. In addition I noticed that when my workstation was on the Corporate VPN, I had *.google.com pings of < 40ms. As Google these days is the network contacted by so many websites for analytics or as CDN for JavaScript, etc. , it is of vital importance to have a fast connection to Google. Some quick analysis revealed, that a typical traceroute to www.google.com from my home went through 12 hops of Internet and then another 17 hops in Google's network and the latency jumped by 100ms four hops into Google's network. I found that rather odd. However, when I'm on the corporate VPN, the number of hops inside the Google network shrinks to 6-8 and their latency is much smaller. I also noticed that www.google.com had a different IP address if I used the corporate network. Measuring the latency to the IP address that I got when on the VPN showed similar latency and traceroute results. So my configured DNS servers were to blame. Back when Verizon started to break the DNS protocol in their servers I had configured some public DNS server from Level 3, namely 4.2.2.2 and 4.2.2.5 as they had the best latency at the time. I had to reconsider that decision. Armed with a free open source tool named namebench I found the fastest DNS server’s available for my connection. But it turned out that their IPs for *.google.com were as bad as the previous one’s. So I tested the two name servers that Verizon configures automatically and they provide IP addresses with 20 – 40 ms ping times and much shorter traceroutes. I guess with multi homing the Internet’s architecture has fundamentally changed. That said, Verizon still uses an intentionally broken implementation of DNS, which does not return a failure if a request can’t be resolved, instead it returns it’s own web server. I almost considered to leave it at that, as better performance seemed more important then a broken DNS. However, the usability of this “helpful” Verizon server is horrible, as it redirects to its own URL, so if I make a typo I have to essentially retype my address or edit the original request in my URL bar to correct it.

As a last resort, I tested Google’s public DNS servers 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4. While Google’s DNS servers do not answer as fast as my local verizon servers, they are only marginally slower and can deliver the proper IP addresses for the Google network without breaking the DNS protocol in the process.

March

16

by Kaj Kandler

Tonight I happened to read an article that made a claim about the BestBuy.com website and its use of certain semantic web technology. I was curious how they employed the technology so I looked at one of their web pages for a random TV.

I was amused that even such a large retailer could make some simple mistakes. I found numerous places where invalid HTML was used, due to using reserved characters in regular text. Proper HTML should use substitues called entities. The error is triggered by a TV’s screen size being measured in Inches, which is often expressed with the double quote sign (“). However the double quote is a reserved character in HTML and so needs to be replaced by " where ever it is used.

Here are a few examples from BestBuy.com

<meta name="keywords" content="DYNEX, 42" Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV, DX-42E250A12, 30"+ Televisions, Televisions" />
<meta name="description" content="DYNEX 42" Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV: 2 HDMI inputs; 1080p resolution; 160-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles" />


<li class="property included-item">Dynex&#153; 42" Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV</li>

Its funny that the page encodes one special character properly (the Trademark symbol as ™), but not the other. But then in other places it messes up the trademark symbol and encodes the double quote correctly

<meta content="Dynexâ„¢ 42&quot; Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV" itemprop="name"/>

As it happens this error is in the area of code I was interested in. And yes, in one place both are correct.

<title>
Dynex&#153; - 42&#34; Class / LED / 1080p / 60Hz / HDTV - DX-42E250A12</title>

If you read the source code it is peppered with things like tracking codes and semantic web data to make it attractive for search engines and other programs that analyze code automatically. I think these encoding mistakes do mitigate those efforts to a certain degree.

For that reason I check all (most of) my pages with an HTML syntax validator. Not that I correct all mistakes, because most browsers can handle some of the mistakes just fine (including this one, except for the third example). However, every browser (and other programs reading HTML, such as search engine crawlers) is different in their ability to handle invalid code. So I try to take as little chances as necessary.

February

23

by Kaj Kandler

The Document Foundation has released LibreOffice 3.5. The new release has above all improved performance due to the elimination of dead code that is not used anymore or not really needed. This made the application lighter and faster. The most gained has LibreOffice Calc, the spreadsheet application.

Another focus has been interoperability, that allow documents from the Microsoft Office suite and Office Open XML documents to be read. Especially, scalable symbols from PPTX files are not imported correctly and various SmartArt is understood by LibreOffice 3.5. I’m sure that many office users will welcome the new ability to import Visio diagrams and reproduce them correctly. Also the import of RTF formatted documents has been improved.

LibreOffice 3.5 does now also support more completely the Open Document Format specification 1.2. Various graph forms are smoothed better, new data point and line ending symbols have been added. Unfortunately documents saved in the new version of the format are not yet recognized as valid by the Microsoft Office family. Lets hope the “leading” office suite does make its product interoperable soon.

Another major addition is a new and improved grammar checking tool, packaged with the Libre Office suite.

January

03

by Kaj Kandler

I recently decided to replace the lucene based search engine on Plan-B for OpenOffice.org with a Google Custom Search engine. At first glance this seems to be an easy task. Remove the old code and replace it with some Google Java scripts. However this is not how it turned out to be.
I targeted a layout, where the search box is part of the general navigation menu bar and results appear on their own page. However the HTML/CSS code generated by Google is rather inflexible. The two page template came the closest as it generates two separate code snippets, one for the search box and button and one for the search results.
So I had to add some CSS to make the divs and its generated child elements inline elements

div#cse-search-form {
display: inline-block;
zoom: 1;
...
}
div#cse-search-form * {
display: inline;
...
}

Another inconvenience is that the JavaScript includes an absolute URL for the results page. But it also works when I omit the protocol and hostname part

options.enableSearchboxOnly("/search/index");

January

03

by Kaj Kandler

I have replaced the Plan-B for OpenOffice / LibreOffice search engine with Google Custom Search.

The local search engine based on lucene was heavy on resource consumption and did require a lot of effort to keep up the indices with new or changing content. So I decided to switch to a Google Custom Search Engine.

I hope this change makes the site an even better resource or OpenOffice and LibreOffice users. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on how to improve search on the site.

June

29

by Kaj Kandler

For over 8 months I have been working on a Mac Pro now. Let me share some of my experience with the you.

First I ran the beast with Windows XP on it. And this machine is a beast! It’s quad core server type processors are fast and the box in itself is put together in a way that it deserves the “Pro” for professional in its name. After realizing that memory under Windows XP was limited to 2 GB for some reason and we could not get it to even accept 3 GB of the 6 that it was configured with, I decided to switch to its native Mac OS X.

Let me share a few of my impressions to use a Mac OS X for programming, lots of reading/browsing, e-mail and Office work:

  • It does use memory economical. I can run way more apps at the same time than on my Windows XP laptop with the same amount of RAM (only 4 GB of the 6 GB it originally had). Not to mention that is stays responsive even with my usual 20 – 30 tabs in Firefox.
  • It is rock solid. It runs weeks w/o reboot, unless I start Windows in Parallels. The Windows VM does bring the machine to a crawls after a day or two. Don’t know if it is Windows or Mac OS X.

More in my next post.

March

12

by Kaj Kandler

According to InfoWorld, Walmart discontinued selling its $200 gPC from Everex in stores.

The $200 PC loaded with Google applications will continue to be available at the Walmart.com website.

As reason, Walmart’s spokes person, O’Brien said “The idea was to see if shoppers in our stores would respond as they do online to the offering. The answer is that customers did not respond to expectations, so we decided not to restock.” This is an interesting contrast to the many reports that the low cost, low energy PC has sold out in some stores and Walmarts pride to be able to manage inventory best. Also, Paul Kim, director of marketing at Everex, says “The sell-through [at Walmart stores] was brisk, I am surprised at the decision,” said Paul Kim, director of marketing at Everex.

Interestingly, O’Brian felt compelled to say “We did not ‘pull’ Linux from our shelves or make any kind of ‘announcement’ on this,” she said.

January

31

by Kaj Kandler

Sun Microsystems wants to encourage more participation in the Open Office community. For that purpose Sun sponsors a contest for contributions to OpenOffice.org offering $175,000 in price money and public acknowledgment of achievement.

The contest asks not just for development contributions, such as source code or extensions. The contest also solicits documentation, artwork, marketing materials and methods, tools to improve the community in areas such as distribution, translation, etc. It even accepts improvements to OpenDocument Format (ODF) and other creative ideas.

There are a few conditions for entry: You must create original work free of other people’s rights and be of legal age. You also must be a member of the OpenOffice.org community (registered at OpenOffice.org). For the cash prizes you need to live or be a legal resident of certain countries and territories. You can enter the contest as an individual or a group.

If you are interested, read the rules carefully. Determine if you are eligible for cash prizes. If you live in Austria or the Philippines, you are out of luck in this category. Also make sure that what you produce does comply with the licenses of OpenOffice.org and can be contributed to the OpenOffice.org project under the Contributer Agreement (different from the licenses). You should also be willing to have Sun Microsystems use your work for publicizing the Contest and the OpenOffice.org software.

November

21

by Kaj Kandler

Today I had to read a proud account of Plaxo that its new Plaxo Pulse Web 2.0 networking platform has seen a traffic surge since it announced to offer the OpenSocial API.

My personal experience with Plaxo Stream is rather negative. For several weeks now Thomas Power, Chairman at Ecademy and Owner, Ecademy.com sends to my Plaxo account and my Inbox messages reading:

Thomas Power shared something with the Jon… Network group.

You can view it here: http://pulse.plaxo.com/pulse/events/…/

Thanks!
The Plaxo team

I don’t find this funny in any way. It is plain and simple spam. I don’t know the guy and as a spammer I will certainly not network with him.

Plaxo, fix your spamming issue and while you are at it fix your broken plugin for Thunderbird, which produces duplicates, if you want to do some good for your services.

November

08

by Kaj Kandler

While Everex started selling its low cost PC for <$200 at WalMart, it now offers the motherboard, CPU and OS bundled for $60. Add some memory and a hard drive ($40) and salvage an old computer case, power supply, keyboard and mouse ($0) and your are up and running for $100 and a little sweat equity. LinuxDevices.com has an in depth report about Everex’s plans for its Linux and Google applications based $200 PC. LinuxDevices reports that Everex hopes to sell 50,000 to 60,000 PC’s through WalMart. The main concern for profitability are the support costs, which Everex hopes to keep under $30 per sale.

The developer board comes with the CPU and a DVD containing the ready to install gOS Operating System. According to the article, gOS is an Ubuntu based Linux distribution with the Enlightenment Window manager for the low cost PC is called gOS like in Google OS for its inclusion of all Google online tools available and pre installed. The vision is to use online Google tools for Search, E-Mail, Calendar, Bookmarks, Text Documents, Spreadsheets, and more. If needed local applications, such as the office suite OpenOffice.org are included as well. gOS is also open source and available for download, but it appears the version delivered with the board or the PC is pre configured to the hardware and adds programs for multimedia (playing mp3, DVD, etc.). You can’t expect an abundance of performance from the Via C7 processor, however, it does a good job with web browsing and running basic applications and multi media playback.