iTWire: It wasn’t long ago that Gutsy Gibbon was in the news; Ubuntu’s last release was touted as the easiest and most reliable Linux ever. Yet, some found it pretty gutless, or even just gusty, with hardware compatibility still a major bugbear. Linux 8.04, Hardy Heron, is now on the horizon. Does it look any better?
Archive for March, 2008
iTWire: This week, the covers were lifted on North Bridge Venture Partner’s annual Future of Open Source survey. The results present a clear picture where pundits expect open source to make huge inroads as well as where proprietary software is likely to retain dominance. Other interesting insights came up. Here’s what the future of open source looks like.
I periodically travel through Sydney. I don’t live there and do not have an e-tag which is a terrific device that saves time at toll booths, but has a monthly fee.
Consequently, I generally sign up for a temporary electronic pass when visiting. Imagine my surprise to receive some penalty notices when it turned out my e-pass for the M7 through Roam Tolling does not cover me for travel on the Lane Cove tunnel, operated by Roam Express.
It’s a bit confusing for non-residents to have different operators handling different parts of the roadway, especially when they both call themselves Roam!
iTWire: A lot has been said of late concerning the way Apple slipped in a brand-new Safari installer into the Apple Software Update used by many hundreds of thousands of iPod-wielding Windows users. Let me offer a new perspective, from the open source point of view – why what Apple did was bad, and why open source developers wouldn’t do it.
Microsoft have often been accused of dirty tricks – there have been allegations in the past that Internet Explorer would cripple Netscape Navigator, Windows Media Player would cripple Real Player and so on.
Whatever the reality may be, Apple have won no fans in the Windows world by foisting their Safari web browser upon its legions of PC-based iTunes users. It’s bad enough that you don’t seem able to install iTunes sans QuickTime but this last week the Apple Software Updater popped up that it wanted to install the Safari web browser.
Now, many Apple fans have been quick to point out how effortless it is to uncheck the “Install” box. Yet, that’s not the point. The issue is the principle of the matter. Apple’s tool was not offering an update to an already installed product. It was attempting to install an entirely new product. I find this an affront and a disappointing move by a company who, like Google, have tried to portray themselves as the do-n0-evil “good guys” but – again, like Google – have a lot of darkness under the covers.
EDIT: My iTWire colleague, Alex Zaharov-Reutt, has blogged on this too.
In 2002 I joined a company who had an abysmal payroll product (called “Sapphire One”.) After evaluating the payroll scene I selected and implement MicrOpay Payroll Manager in 2003. This was a text console type application which was dead fast to use and best of all, accurate in its outputs and up-to-date with legislation.
Some people didn’t like the look-and-feel but I’ve never had any problem with text-based payroll apps; all the payroll people I’ve worked with have been super fast on a keyboard and at numeric entry. Pulse Mining Systems is another like this which, again, was text-based but as a direct consequence a regular user could fly through its screens and it was also extremely light on network resources.
What I did have a problem with was the horrible, basic, payslips produced by Payroll Manager. I wrote my own Delphi app to parse a text file generated during Payroll Manager’s payroll processing and produce a much nicer formatted payslip with our own logo, better use of fonts, bezels for grouping and so on. (I also wasn’t keen on Payroll Manager’s locked proprietary database which limited ad-hoc reporting. Neither of these criticisms are, I’m sure, unexpected to MicrOpay and certainly I raised them with them at the time – but let me be clear; the good far outweighed these two issues.)
I kept thinking this may be a useful app to other MicrOpay customers. I kept planning to make the code more generic (eg instead of having a logo embedded into the code, allow the user to import their own and so on.) Consequently, on my “Software” link on the side I had an entry for “MicrOpay payslips” but without an actual download.
Fast forward to 2008. My current employer again has had a need for new payroll products. When I came in, one system in use was 2Clix. Some of you may have heard of it; this company went into liquidation last year spectacularly placing the blame on their vocal users who spread bad word of mouth about experiences with the product. Rather than fix the software, 2Clix chose instead to criticise its own users. An attempt to resort to the courts failed with monumental international bad press and 2Clix then closed their doors, re-opening under a new name with the same product and management team. But I digress …
Once again, after a review of the payroll scene I returned to MicrOpay and have implemented and gone live with its more modern Meridian package. Pleasingly, this uses Microsoft SQL Server under the hood meaning the data is far more accessible. Additionally, it still maintains its excellent outputs, accuracy and legislative compliance but in a friendlier-looking package. This includes a graphical report writing module which lets you modify the payslip format, among many other uses.
Thus, I’ve killed off the link to my MicrOpay payslips product which never even materialised in a generic form anyway.
Suprisingly, I got a call from MicrOpay about my link. While it had sat there for years, they only noticed it when I returned as a customer and were alarmed by the reference to terrible payslips. Happily, this was easily resolved when I explained I was referring to the Payroll Manager product. However, I also wanted to take this opportunity to let any others know that MicrOpay’s current flagship product is definitely not suffering the few shortcomings I felt the previous product contained.
Again, do let me stress, the good points of MicrOpay far outweighed the two items that I felt were underperforming. In fact, while performing parallel pay runs we noticed that 2Clix didn’t even balance between its own reports. It reports a different amount paid to employees than sent to the bank – due to rounding issues on one report but not the other. Thank the deity of your choice for good software.
iTWire: “Grok” is a word that you may not know, but it has been in use since the 1960′s. It is commonly taken to mean “understand” but it is so much more than that. Do you grok open source? The word is the key to understanding why talented developers give of their time.
iTWire: Software is only as good as the people that work on it. All of the great open source projects had great project teams. If you want to be the next big thing in open source a good team is essential. Here’s the low down on getting a gang together as well as the non-coding roles you’ll want.
ITWire: Nobody wants to lose their e-mail. So, for Gmail users, G-Archiver seemed like a great buy. For $US 29.95 this shareware app will make a duplicate of your Gmail account on your hard disk, for as many accounts as you like. What its users didn’t count on was that G-Archiver’s authors helped themselves to your Gmail username and password too. Here’s the scoop.
ITWire: So you’ve got an idea for a great app and you’re thinking of making your own open source project? Here are some items to consider and some sites that will help you on your journey. We’ll also see how some well-known open source teams did it.