Mi blog lah! Το ιστολόγιό μου

2Jun/100

Stix Fonts, eventually out.

The StixFonts project is a project to produce high quality fonts for academic publications.

It has been in progress for over ten years and there has been a beta about two years and a half ago. At the same time there had been a discussion on the relevant license for these fonts. The first draft of the license would have made the fonts obsolete as soon as they would be released. However, after public consultation, the project selected to use the Open Font License (OFL).

⬟⬠⬢⬤⬣⬲⬳⭆⭄⭃⬨⬍⬎⟲⟴✪◊▼◨◵↺↯⃟

StixFonts support mathematical symbols from Plane 1, however the WordPress post editor is not able to handle them and truncates the post when you save :-(.

Apart from mathematical characters, StixFonts support Latin, Greek and Cyrillic. Compared with DejaVu (default font in Ubuntu), DejaVu still has overall bigger coverage. You would want to use StixFonts if you write academic documents and require to use a wide range of math symbols.

You can get the StixFonts from the StixFonts project website, at version 1.0, in OpenType format. From the zip archive with the fonts, extract the *.otf files into your home directory, in a subfolder called .fonts (if it does not exist, create it). No need to restart the system; any newly restarted applications should be able to see and use the fonts. OpenOffice.org 3.2+ is required (for example, in Ubuntu 10.04) due to the OpenType format of the fonts. If you use OpenOffice.org for your document writing, it might be a good idea to create special styles for your math content and set the StixFonts as the font of those styles. You can type in those math characters using Insert → Special Character... in OpenOffice.org as shown below.

StixFonts in OpenOffice.org 3.2 (Insert Special Character)

These are the mathematical alphanumeric symbols (fraktur style) in Plane 1. You may notice that some characters are missing (such as capital N fraktur style). It's not a bug. In OpenOffice.org, you click on characters and these are added in a string. Then, when you completed the string with all the special characters you click OK and they are inserted in your document. While we wrote ubuntu as sample text, these are symbols meant for math documents. However, the potential for geekiness in the Facebooks and the Twitters is easy to describe.

The beta version of the StixFonts are already packaged in Debian/Ubuntu as 'otf-stix'. I suppose the package will be updated soon with the new version 1.0.

9Aug/0924

Laptop without Windows, an update for Dell, Asus, Acer, Compaq

It is very difficult to buy a computer without Windows (that is, to buy it with either Linux, FreeDOS or no OS) in the European market.

Why would you want to buy a laptop without pre-installed Windows?

  1. Because you are simply not going to use Windows (for example, you plan to use a Linux distribution)
  2. Because your school has an Developer Academic Alliance (formerly MSDN AA) with Microsoft and they provide the Windows software for you
  3. Because your organisation has a company-wide agreement for Microsoft software, and you do not wish to pay twice for Windows.
  4. Because you somehow have a Windows license or Windows package installation box already.

Sadly, when talking to the sales personnel of a manufacturer, it might look an easier strategy to just mention points 2 or 3. There is already some prior knowledge with the sales personnel that large organisations do not need the pre-installed Windows software.

Dell used to sell the N Series laptops with Ubuntu Linux, however they do not sell them anymore, at least in Europe. I contacted a Dell customer care manager on this issue and I was told that N Series laptops are available when you call Dell Sales by phone. I did just that, however the telephone salesperson explained that they do not have N Series laptops anymore. He verified with his own manager.

Dell does sell netbooks with Ubuntu Linux in Europe. For example, the Dell Mini or the Dell Latitude 2100. The situation with the netbooks is almost perfect, but...

Dell UK Latitude 2100, Choose early between XP or Ubuntu

What would be desirable is to provide the option, when you customize the Latitude 2100, to be able to select the operating system under the Operating System options. In this way, the customer is in a position to make a better decision between the differences of the two options.

Dell Greece, select the operating system while customizing the computer

In a regional Dell website, it is possible to select the operating system while you are customizing the computer. In this case, when you select Ubuntu Linux, you can easily see that you are saving €30 compared to the initial price.

It is not clear why Dell UK and Dell Germany do not provide the facility that we see with Dell Greece. Normally the localised editions of a website take any changes later than the main languages (English, German).

Updated (soon after posted): It is possible to get the Dell UK page for the Latitude 2100 so that both pre-installed Windows and Ubuntu appear in the same section. It might be an update that has been rolled out just recently. When you visit the Customise page,  you can now see that by selecting pre-installed Ubuntu Linux, you save £24 compared to pre-installed XP.

What would be ideal is for the consumer to have the option to avoid the pre-installed Windows, in a way shown above at the Dell Greece website for the Latitude 2100. Having options for Ubuntu Linux or FreeDOS (for those who already have a Windows license) would be the best value for the customers. This would make Dell the best company around.

So, what's going on with the other laptop manufacturers?

Acer, Asus, Compaq and HP do not appear to sell computers without pre-installed Windows to the European market. I have not been able to locate retailers that would sell a laptop with FreeDOS, let alone a Linux distribution.

Is this the case with Acer, Asus, Compaq and HP in other markets?

Acer Laptop with FreeDOS (SE Asian market) Asus Laptop with FreeDOS (SE Asian market) Compaq Laptop with FreeDOS (SE Asian market)

This is an example of laptop models from the SE Asian market. The laptops come with FreeDOS and if you want pre-installed Windows, you pay extra (€53 or $74). The quoted price for the laptop is not subjected to local tax for the specific SE Asian country. Here is the price equivalent for each laptop,

Acer: €325 or $460

Asus: €525 or $745

Compaq: €365 or $515

Manufacturers such as Lenovo and Toshiba appear as black sheep to me, regarding the European market. Lenovo is supposed to sell laptops with SuSE Linux, however I could not find an example. Toshiba is completely out of the radar. They might not be a big laptop manufacturer.

What would be great for the European customer is to have the option to buy a product without pre-installed Windows. And this option of buying a computer without pre-installed Windows should be a visible and accessible option.

16Nov/078

Droid fonts from Google (Android SDK)

Update 10Feb2009: The Droid fonts are now available from android.git.kernel.org (Download tar.gz archive), under the Apache License, Version 2.0. Ascender (the company who created Droid), has now a dedicated website at http://www.droidfonts.com/ (thanks Rex!). At this dedicated website, Ascender presents the Droid Pro family which has several additions to Droid. For the open-source crowd, it is important to have the initial Droid font family dual-licensed under the “OpenFont License”, which would enable the best use with the rest of the OFL licensed fonts.

Two years ago, Google bought a start-up called Android in order to deliver an open platform for mobile applications. A few days ago the Android SDK has been released and you can develop now Android applications that can run in the emulator. Android handsets are expected at some point next year.

Even if you do not plan to develop applications for Android, you can still run the emulator which is functional, includes quite a few samples, and comes with a browser shown above. To get it, download the Android SDK for your system, uncompress it and run

./android_sdk_linux_m3-rc20a/tools/emulator

An interesting aspect of Android is that it comes with a set of fonts that have been specially designed for mobile devices, the Droid fonts. The fonts are embedded in the Android image, in android_sdk_linux_m3-rc20a/tools/lib/images/system.img, a clever guy managed to extract them and a modest guy corrected me (Damien's blog to download).

The fonts are probably licensed under the same license as the SDK (Apache License), however it is better to hear from Google first.

In the meantime, here is a screenshot of Ubuntu 7.10 with Droid.

Update: To extract the fonts from the SDK, run the emulator with the -console parameter. The emulator starts and at the same time you get a shell to the filesystem of the running emulator. You can locate the fonts in system/fonts/. Once located the full path of a file, you can extract with ./adb pull system/fonts/DroidSans.ttf /tmp/DroidSans.ttf (thanks cosmix for the tip).

25Jun/071

Say No to OOXML

Click on the image above to visit the petition page.

I copy here the terms of the petition to say no on the standardisation of MSOOXML at ISO.

I ask the national members of ISO to vote "NO" in the ballot of ISO DIS 29500 (Office OpenXML or OOXML format) for the following reasons:

  1. There is already a standard ISO26300 named Open Document Format (ODF): a dual standard adds costs, uncertainty and confusion to industry, government and citizens;
  2. There is no provable implementation of the OOXML specification: Microsoft Office 2007 produces a special version of OOXML, not a file format which complies with the OOXML specification;
  3. There is missing information from the specification document, for example how to do a autoSpaceLikeWord95 or useWord97LineBreakRules;
  4. More than 10% of the examples mentioned in the proposed standard do not validate as XML;
  5. There is no guarantee that anybody can write a software that fully or partially implements the OOXML specification without being liable to patent damages or patent license fees by Microsoft;
  6. This standard proposal conflicts with other ISO standards, such as ISO 8601 (Representation of dates and times), ISO 639 (Codes for the Representation of Names and Languages) or ISO/IEC 10118-3 (cryptographic hash);
  7. There is a bug in the spreadsheet file format which forbids to enter any date before the year 1900: such bugs affects the OOXML specification as well as software versions such as Microsoft Excel 2000, XP, 2003 or 2007.
  8. This standard proposal has not been created by bringing together the experience and expertise of all interested parties (such as the producers, sellers, buyers, users and regulators), but by Microsoft alone.

This project is an initiative by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), the non-profit that helped achieve the rejection of the EU software patent directive in July 2005.

Update #1: Currently (26Jun07 - noon) there are 8805 signatures.
Update #2: Currently (26Jun07 - evening) there are 9481 signatures.
Update #3:

IT IS URGENT THAT YOU CONTACT YOUR STANDARDISATION BODY IN YOUR COUNTRY AND EXPLAIN THEM WHY OOXML IS BROKEN; SENDING A NICE LETTER TO YOUR STANDARDISATION BODY IN YOUR COUNTRY IS MORE IMPORTANT THEN SIGNING THE PETITION

20Jun/070

OpenVistA information system for hospitals and medical care

It is quite common to expect the availability of free and open-source software for common needs, such as an operating system and an office suite. What is the situation when your needs are much more advanced? Such as, when you are looking for an information system for a hospital?
Luckily, there is such a software package for an information system for hospital needs, called OpenVistA. OpenVistA comes from VistA, a public-funded medical system for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Due to the source of the funding, the source code of the medical system has been available with a liberal license, and gave birth to OpenVistA.
An interesting issue with OpenVistA is that the backend is written with the MUMPS programming language. This programming language is quite old with syntax dissimilar to modern languages. However, MUMPS has become popular in medical care systems and especially VistA. There are people that criticize the programming language; it is important to understand that a big piece of software working well has much more weight over the language preferences. In addition, the front-end is what the end-user uses, and in our case it is written with modern programming languages.
Screenshot of Mono frontend of OpenVistA
Traditionally, the major front-end of OpenVistA was written in Delphi. Quite recently, a new front-end has been written, in Mono. Thanks to Mono, the front-end is cross-platform and supports i18n (the front-end can be translated in many written languages).
You can try out OpenVistA straight away by downloading the OpenVistA VMWare appliance (image file that contains an installation of an operating system, configured and ready to use). The specific VMWare appliance is based on Xubuntu.
Software for hospitals is quite expensive, and is a lucrative business for software houses. However, when one takes into account that in many countries hospitals are public-funded, it is easy to understand how important it is to use free and open-source software in this case. Sadly, in many cases, hospitals make ad-hoc agreements for such software, resulting to inefficient use of public funds.

27Feb/070

Open Font License (OFL) 1.1 Released

Dear OFL friends and reviewers,

We're pleased to finally announce the completion of the SIL Open Font
License version 1.1. This free and open license has been updated to improve
clarity, remove potential ambiguities, and make it easier to use for both
authors and users.

Visit the OFL web site for more information:

http://scripts.sil.org/ofl

A detailed list of changes can be found on the review page:

http://scripts.sil.org/ofl_review

The only notable change in usage is that authors must now explicitly list
any names that should be Reserved Font Names. The original name of the font
is no longer reserved by default.

Thanks to all of you who have helped us refine this license and make it even
easier to use and understand.

Victor Gaultney & Nicolas Spalinger

Source: http://openlists.sil.org/archives/ofl-discuss/2007-February/000160.html

The OFL is a free and open-source license specifically designed for the licensing of fonts.

4Oct/060

Greek Font Society fonts (re-)released under the Open Font License

Several of the Greek Font Society fonts have been released under the Open Font License.

This includes GFSDidotOT, GFSOlgaOT and GFSPortonOT.

Thank you Greek Font Society!

12Jun/060

Can you read Coptic?

Coptic is the most recent phase of ancient Egyptian. It is the direct descendant of the ancient language written in Egyptian hieroglyphic, hieratic, and demotic scripts. The Coptic alphabet is a slightly modified form of the Greek alphabet, with some letters (which vary from dialect to dialect) deriving from demotic. As a living language of daily conversation, Coptic flourished from ca. 200 to 1100. The last record of its being spoken was during the 17th century. Coptic survives today as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Egyptian Arabic is the spoken and national language of Egypt today.

Source: Wikipedia on Coptic Language

Coptic, as used today, has signs of influence from the Greek language. If you speak Greek, you should be able to recognise every entry in the screenshot (it comes from the dictionary that is available from http://copticlang.bizhat.com/).

There is a Coptic Unicode block and there are at least three Unicode fonts available with Coptic glyphs.

I am not aware of a keyboard definition to write Unicode Coptic; Coptic uses several combining diacritical marks (accents) and appears to surpass even Ancient Greek/Polytonic in this respect. An easy way to create (easy to write with?) method would be to start from the Greek keyboard layout and replace the codepoints with the Coptic ones. For the 9 combining diacritical marks, three keys should be dedicated, accessible through 1) pressing as is, 2) pressing with shift, 3) pressing with Alt. To avoid using dead keys, there would be a requirement to type first the letter and then the diacritical mark.

In modern Greek we use the ";:" key (on the right of L) to produce the acute and the diaeresis (with Shift) accents. The second suitable key could be the ' " key while the third the "/?" (debateable).

There are several efforts to convert non-Unicode fonts distributed by the Coptic Church. website. Moheb added the Coptic glyphs to the Freefonts. There is more work required to get them added by default to Linux distros. There is a discussion forum on Coptic.

Therefore, the most important task is to create a keyboard layout so that one can write in Unicode Coptic.

Then, existing (non-Unicode) text should be converted to Unicode Coptic so that there is material available. Moheb created support for this in iconv (glibc). There should be a bug report at http://sources.redhat.com/bugzilla/ under product glibc, component libc.

Source: Wikipedia (Coptic script)

There exist free Unicode fonts already to have the text displayed. The conversion of the Coptic Church fonts to Unicode would be beneficial as well. To have them included in Linux distros, the distribution license should be set to one of the FLOSS licenses. An option could be to add to the DejaVu fonts (allowed by the license) so that there is a general purpose open font that is easy to work with.

I, for one, would love to write Greek using a Coptic keyboard layout and a Coptic Unicode font. :)

Update: Screenshot that demonstrates how well Unicode Coptic fonts behave when combining marks are used.

Update #2: You can test the above on your system by opening this OpenDocument file using OpenOffice.org or any other OpenDocument-compatible application. OpenOffice.org was verified that it can show combining marks. Your mileage may vary, your comments will be appreciated.

Get Unicode fonts with Coptic coverage.

11Mar/060

Greek Polytonic HOWTO

Dimitri Marinakis has written a HOWTO on Hellenic (Greek) Polytonic in free and open-source software, licensed by the GNU Free Documentation License.
It gives a background in Ancient Greek and describes how to use Greek Polytonic (read and write) in your Linux system.

9Mar/062

Taxis and security

It is quite encouraging that citizens taxed in Greece are able to file their tax reports through the Web, at the Taxis Website. Sadly, it has been reported that standard-compliant Web browsers are not supported by the Taxis Website. If you are affected, do complain about it! If you file taxes and you are affected, file a report.
Let's see some more issues.

A. The main login page is not configured properly with regards to the autocomplete feature found in modern browsers; as is, your username and password get saved by default in your browser. If your computer is stolen or a trojan horse gets installed on your computer, your tax details are gone! :(

The Web developer should modify the HTML code from

< span class=“textblue2″>< b>user name: b>span>
< input type=“text” name=“username” maxlength=“40″ size=“15″ value=“testing”>
< P>< span class=“textblue2″>< B>password:B>span>
< input type=“password” name=“password” maxlength=“40″ size=“17″ value=“testing”>

to

< span class=“textblue2″>< b>user name: b>span>
< input type=“text” name=“username” autocomplete=“off” maxlength=“40″...
< P>< span class=“textblue2″>< B>password:B>span>
< input type=“password” name=“password” autocomplete=“off” maxlength=“40″...

B. The page http://webtax.gsis.gr/taxisnet/login.do claims that users are protected by Verisign (SSL/TLS). Quite sadly, the intent has probably been that users will connect through the proper URL, at https://webtax.gsis.gr/taxisnet/login.do. Dear Taxis, you should place an HTTP redirection to move all users to the SSL/TLS-protected URL. You are in breach of your Verisign license!

The image “http://static.flickr.com/55/110197352_d60be48ab3_o.png” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

I will follow on the above report here.

Actually, it would be much better if the web server is SSL/TLS only (no plain HTTP version available). The web server should be configured at any access to a URL under http://webtax.gsis.gr/... should redirect to https://webtax.gsis.gr/.
C. What is worst of all, the website provides content in the 8859-7 8-bit legacy encoding. It is much better to convert to Unicode and UTF-8. I do not know if users have to write text in Greek for their tax forms...
I don't file taxes so I am not sure if there are more issues once you logon.

Update: The http://webtax.gsis.gr/taxisnet/login.do URL does not work anymore (it forwards to another Website which is down). I did not hear back from Verisign; it's possible that the two events are linked together.

4Feb/060

Νέες ελεύθερες γραμματοσειρές από SIL International

Δύο νέες γραμματοσειρές έγιναν διαθέσιμες από το SIL International,

Charis SIL

Doulos SIL 

μέσω της άδειας διάθεσης γραμματοσειρών Open Font License (OFL),

The image “http://scripts.sil.org/cms/sites/nrsi/media/OFL_logo_rect_color.png” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Όπου βλέπετε το σήμα ofl, είστε σίγουροι ότι η γραμματοσειρά είναι πραγματικά ελεύθερη.

Οι δύο αυτές γραμματοσειρές δεν έχουν πλήρη υποστήριξη για ελληνικά (μονοτονικό). Περιλαμβάνουν όμως μεγάλη ποικιλία από άλλους χαρακτήρες.

27Nov/050

SIL Open Font License (OFL)

Είναι πολύ θετικό που το SIL International προωθεί την διαδικασία δημιουργίας μιας ελεύθερης άδειας διάθεσης γραμματοσειρών.

Δείγμα με την γραμματοσειρά Gentium
Σκοπεύουν να την χρησιμοποιήσουν για την διάθεση κάποιων γραμματοσειρών και ελπίζω μια από αυτές να είναι η Gentium, διότι περιλαμβάνει ελληνικά (μονοτονικό και πολυτονικό). Πάντως η γραμματοσειρά Doulos SIL θα διατεθεί με τη νέα ελεύθερη άδεια.

Από το SIL έχουν ξεκινήσει επικοινωνία για τον καθορισμό της άδειας διάθεσης. Για παράδειγμα, δείτε την συζήτηση στη λίστα debian-legal καθώς και την επίσημη σελίδα συζήτησης ofl-discuss. Δείτε τα σχόλια του Jim Gettys για τις ελεύθερες άδειες διάθεσης γραμματοσειρών.

Είναι σημαντικό να στέλνει κάποιος γράμματα σε οργανισμούς όπως το SIL International για την ελεύθερη διάθεση γραμματοσειρών. Οι στόχοι του SIL International δεν απέχουν πολύ από αυτούς του ανοιχτού λογισμικού.