December 10, 1998:
love this business! Star Division (a German software developer) has
just made the Windows version of its Star Office product available without
charge for personal (not corporate) use. The product (which I downloaded
and tested earlier today) is interesting on several counts. First of all,
it's a Java application, and is available on any platform for which a good
Java VM exists. Second, it's file-compatible (more or less) with Microsoft
Office '97. It will load Word 97 .DOC filesif they were saved
without Word's "fast save" option. Third, it's fastwhich surprised
me, given its Java parentage. But on a 200 Mhz PII (hardly a weightlifter
in today's box olympics) it was every bit as responsive as Office 97. Fourth,
it's shipped on every Caldera Linux distribution CD, and runs beautifully
under Linux. So some real business applications are beginning to appear
for Linux, and they're just as free as Linux is. There are some weaknesses
in Star Office, vis-ŕ-vis MS Office 97. You can't drag highlighted texta
Word 97 feature most editors, I'm sure, use almost without conscious thought.
The fast-save problem is irritating, too. But overall, I'm amazed. It's
free. Yikes. Go grab it and have a look: www.stardivision.com.
One caution: The download is 53.5 MB. If you have a slow Net link, you can
order a CD for $39.95. Details on their site.
December 9, 1998:
announced Gecko yesterday, so plainly things are moving in the right direction.
Gecko is an open-source browser "engine" rather than a complete Web browser.
It's intended for software developers, allowing them to build browser functionality
into applications. I haven't downloaded it yet (the final release is not
yet ready) so I don't know what form it's in. My guess is C++ source rather
than any formal component format…but it seems to me it should be possible
to put wrappers around Gecko to make it an ActiveX, Delphi VCL, or Java
Bean component. If anyone ever does this, please let me know. Components
rule…and this should be so even in the open-source world.
December 7, 1998:
installed Caldera's Linux at Coriolis today. I have used Linux before, but
never a "commercial" distributionalways the "raw" Linux downloaded
from the Net and pieced together with a tweezers, and always in text mode.
While not as trouble-free to install as Windows NT, Caldera's wizard-based
installer allowed it to come together in an hour or so, and sheesh, there
it was. I was most intrigued by my first look at the KDE graphical desktop,
which is a shell that runs most X applications. It's fast, and completely
comprehensible to anyone with more than an hour's tenure on Windows. There's
a constellation of four buttons on the task bar that allow you to snap instantly
among four completely independent desktopsfine idea! As people who
have read me over the years doubtless remember, I don't much care for windowing.
Screens are never large enough, and I always maximize whatever I
happen to be using. One desktop per app is a fine idea, and KDE makes it
easy to pop between them. I haven't done much with the system yet, but I
will be poking at it over the coming months, as we prepare a slate of books
on Linux and other major open-source software products.
December 4, 1998:
decided to update my increasingly gray-haired assembly language book, Assembly
Language Step By Step. The book was published in 1992 and is still sellingand
even then, the 1992 title was a revision of Assembly Language from Square
One, which first saw daylight in 1989. I'd like to extend the book to
cover Windows NT console applications. Anybody got any pointers to information
about that arcane little topic? I'll be focusing on NASM, the Net-Wide Assembler,
for the new edition. Suggestions and goodies to toss onto the CD are hereby
solicited. Let me know what you want to seeshort of full Windows app
development in assembly. That's grist for a much larger (and more advanced)
mill than this.