Month: March 2009

March 25th, 2009: Document Freedom Day

This 25th of March, 2009 is Document Freedom Day. Although it’s not as important as starvation in parts of the world, the economic crisis or the continuous deterioration of our privacy and civil rights (in UK and elsewhere), it’s good to take a break and think about our use of electronic documents in our everyday live. Let me just give you an example …

A few days ago, I was trying to retrieve data from an experiment. As a well-formatted student, I stored my data in a then state-of-the-art, proprietary statistical software my dear statistical professor taught me to use. As long as I had this software, it was fine. Now that my university stopped to pay the license, that I didn’t installed this software on my new computer, I am stuck with a serie of 1, 0 and other delirious characters in that file. Does that mean I lost all my data? Yes.

Fortunately, I thought to save a backup of my data in a simple text file with CSV format. This saved my day because although I don’t have more information in this file, I don’t have less information than in the proprietary format either. And this simple CSV format allows me to enjoy processing my data with any spreadsheet software I want along with some more serious statistical packages like R.

What is open? by Paul Jacobson

If you want to know more about Open Documents (and more broadly about Open Standards), you can start by reading what are Open Standards. Wikipedia has a more technical article about them.

Photo credit: Slide0001 by Paul Jacobson on Flickr (licence by-nc-sa)

Some useful software for programmers stuck on MS-Windows

Sometimes, even if you mainly develop on Unix/Linux boxes, you are stuck with MS-Windows on your desktop. Moreover, although your are a developer (i.e. someone who is supposed to know how to run a computer), you have no administrator rights so you can’t install the right tools that can improve your productivity and enhance your code stability/security. This is for the sad part.

Fortunately, Free Software are there and most of them can even be run without being installed on your machine, just copy the software and use it! Here is a list of some of the software I’m using. Feel free to promote your favourite application in the comments.

  • CamStudio: record video of bugs for support (free to use)
  • Virtual Desktop Manager: many desktops on MS-Windows (free to use)
  • doxygen: automatically generate documentation from your code (Free Software)
  • Eclipse: integrated development environment with support of many languages (including old COBOL!) and version control systems (Free Software)
  • FileZillaPortable: move file to/from servers (Free Software)
  • Firefox: test web application in a popular browser (Free Software)
  • freemind: mind mapping application (Free Software)
  • GIMPPortable: edit screenshots when you encounter a bug (Free Software)
  • htmlhelp: edit help files for end-users (free to use)
  • InkscapePortable: easily draw any scheme (Free Software)
  • j2sdk1.4: support old Java applications (free to use)
  • jdk1.6: develop and run new Java applications (free to use)
  • LaTeX (MiKTeX): write your dev reports (Free Software)
  • Lynx: surf fast without distraction (Free Software)
  • Netbeans: integrated development environment with support of version control systems (Free Software)
  • PuTTY: connect to servers in SSH (Free Software)
  • PuTTY connection manager: regroup PuTTY windows (Free Software)
  • SumatraPDF: free PDF reader (Free Software)
  • TeXnicCenter: LaTeX editor working with MiKTeX (Free Software)
  • tidy.exe: tidy your HTML code (Free Software)
  • todolist: simple todolist (Free Software)
  • TOra: Oracle database front-end (Free Software)
  • VLCPortable: listen to music and watch all movies (Free Software)
  • wget.exe: easily get files without a browser (Free Software)
  • xmlstarlet: check and process XML files (Free Software)