26 August 2005

JHU and Nvu

JHU and Nvu. Wondering why these two names are together? Keep reading...

Johns Hopkins University's online education program website, which deals with technical topics that are required to teach and support an online class, has Nvu on the top of its list of recommended HTML editors. Nvu is the only FREE WYSIWYG HTML editor listed on their web page. They recommend it even to non-technical users! Macromedia Dreamweaver, M$ Fronptage and M$ Word are also listed with their major drawbacks of steep learning curve, IE-centric features, and limited features respectively.

They also have a brief and to the point introduction to Nvu as well.

25 August 2005

Nvu Tutorial 0.4 available

Nvu Tutorial version 0.4 is now available from the usual location or via software update process described in the link. Please remember this is my crappy web server so in case you get some errors try again in a few minutes.

Changes for 0.4 include better explanations for generic font-family, uploading a web page, publishing a web page, etc. For complete change log, read here.

PS: If you have any problems installing ver0.4, please comment here.

22 August 2005

HDD crash - Final

The crashed external WD USB HDD should be in transit back to Western Digital now. The new one is working fine, and I hope it doesn't crash soon!

Before packaging the bad HDD for return I wiped it clean to remove all data. Wiping process was:

  • Write zeros on the whole disk: ~$ dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb
  • Write random characters: ~$ dd if=/dev/random of=/dev/sdb
  • Again write zeros on the whole disk: ~$ dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb

Later I realized that I could have also used shred, or after writing zeros I could have written some porn for WD as a gift ;). Maybe I will do that next time for them.

CSS builder preview & new CaScadeS

After Nvu's 1.0 release a few weeks back, now it looks like CaScadeS, the Nvu CSS editor, (original project website) development is picking up steam. Daniel announced on his blog about future CaScadeS release and new features to be expected.

New features proposed for the next version of CaScadeS are:

  • non-modal: that would be helpful to people who want to keep the CSS editor open all the time while editing their web page.
  • simpler and smaller UI: A definite yes for that as Nvu's target audience are the masses rather than professional web developers.
  • cancelable changes: didn't really feel the need for that as one can delete the selector, or remove specific declarations.
  • -moz-* declarations: Wow! That would be fun when designing for Gecko based browsers or even editing Nvu Help ;)
  • sidebar: having the present style sheet in the sidebar would be convenient. But does that mean with the editor being non-modal and also as a sidebar, we can have some kind of detachable/dockable CSS editor with Nvu? If yes, that would be a FIRST!
  • Links to CSS reference: Ah ha! We had the similar thing in mind a few months ago for an HTML reference sidebar in Nvu Help docs. But it was never plugged into the official Help. Will this give us the final push? Maybe.....

For the curious ones: check out the selector builder (Gecko based browsers only) xul application already implemented. Selector builder helps users to create selectors for their style rules using an intuitive GUI. Although some of the selectors are not even implemented in non-modern browsers, selector builder will increase the comprehensiveness of number of CSS2.1 selectors being available to the user through the GUI.

21 August 2005

WaltBren's Nvu Review

WaltBren has posted a review on Nvu. Because it is a pain to register to a website just to post a comment for a blog post, the comment is here rather than under the original entry.

I will touch upon a few of the review points which I think need attention. Here they are one-by-one:

Graphical Head Tag Editor
That is the beauty of using Gecko as your backend. Just as with Firefox, Nvu too is capable of having extensions to increase its functionality. And if you haven't looked around, there has been a graphical head tag editor extension for Nvu since version 0.8 or 0.7. Other extensions include Nvu configuration editor, Launchy for Nvu, Venkman, etc. all are available from Nvu website or Mozdev NvuExt project.
CSS editor
Agreed that learning the CSS editor process has a longer learning curve, but that doesn't mean that it is worthless. After all, it's CaScadeS version 0.40. What do you expect from an extension which was primarily created as a proof of concept and hasn't gone much development over the last year as Nvu was being improved upon? Even then it's capabilities are as good as any other CSS editor; check out the Nvu demo done by only using the GUI components of Nvu complete with div tags, multi-column tableless layout, and absolute positioning. Also, check out the few pages on geocities maintained by Nvu only! And to top it all, for those who feel its a bit hard to work with the CSS editor, check out the 15 minute guide to CaScadeS.
Advanced Layout Suppport (DIV)
"limited CSS support"....what else does one want than CSS2.1 support (minus a few CSS definitions)? Also, for the DIV and column layout, check out the links in the paragraph above. I think Nvu is more capable of DIVs and column layouts than FPE(waltbren.com) and don't forget that Nvu produces standards compliant HTML and CSS code. But I do have a features request for it: Capability to add comments in stylesheet.
No, your list is not significant as it doesn't include the most important bugs.. I can cite a few of them, but then again don't all softwares have bugs?
Online Help
Could you explain a little more in detail about wasn't available in the "online help"? Here in the Nvu community we volunteers try our best to have the documentation written in such a way that users can find the solution to their problems and that the explanations are self explanatory. Nvu includes the inbuilt Help Documentation, and then there is an Nvu user guide. Which online help were you referring to?.

I agree that there are a few bugs in Nvu, CSS editor is not as user friendly as it should be, source syntax highlighting isn't rendered live, etc. but the major point here is that Nvu is open source. It fills the long gaps of a true WYSIWYG HTML editor for the masses. It sticks to standards instead of giving you the code in a garbage bag. One of Firefox's brilliant feature is the ability to add new features with extensions and hence increasing Nvu's functionality. Nvu is still being developed and at version 1.0 it is already being talked in the same breadth with Frontpage and Dreamweaver.

On the other hand, I noticed that WaltBren.com's principal services include "Web Development Consultant". But they should know better to have their own website's links working in order to offer those services. Links at the bottom of the blog are broken! Do they want help in configuring their Wordpress blog?

13 August 2005

HDD Crash -- Followup

The replacement external USB HDD arrive yesterday. It took a tad long time for UPS to deliver taking into consideration that the package was created on 4th of August! I was expecting just the HDD with the enclosure in the package but WD sent the adaptor, USB cable, and the enclosure support blocks too!

I have the Thinkpad with me till the next couple of days so I though why not start it up with a Knoppix Live CD and partition the HDD using parted. I had the done the same with the earlier HDD. But this time when I committed the changes, it took more than 2 and a half hours for it to write the partition table and inodes on the 90GB partition. I heaved a sigh of relief when it finished. Now all that is left is to copy the configuration files for dirvish vaults and initialize the backups. Keeping my fingers crossed.

12 August 2005

Playing with Ubuntu Linux

I'm writing this from a shiny new install of Ubuntu 5.04 release "Hoary Hedgehog". Yes, I know that Hoary was released long time back in April, but this is the first time I got a chance to install Ubuntu. This machine is an IBM X30 Thinkpad which I have just for another couple of days so I thought why not give Ubuntu a chance.

I had ordered the free Ubuntu CDs a long while ago when they were shipping them with the Warty release. Being too lazy to download the Hoary CD, I just popped the Warty CD in and rebooted the machine. Walla, after reboot the installer started and just asked a few configuration questions and went ahead with the installation. I have to admit that the last time I installed Debian, which was just 6 weeks ago, the debian-installer didn't behave as nicely!

After installing the basic packages, the system rebooted and automatically checked for any security updates and there were many. Remember, it was a warty installation! After doing all the updates, GDM started with a very welcoming drum music. I want to have that for my Debian Unstable box too :). Logging in to Gnome had an equally pleasant. At this point, I realized that almost everything had been detected by the installer; the audio, video, and even the trackball mouse of the laptop. The Ubuntu guys have done a wonderful job to make Ubuntu an out-of-the-box operating system.

As everyone knows by now, Ubuntu comes with the GNOME desktop with the default "Human" theme. Overall I liked the artwork for the theme! I'm sure it is professional enough for OEM installs too. But in case you are a KDE person (like me), you can go to the Kubuntu website and try the KDE version of Ubuntu instead.

Ubuntu default install does not allow logging in as root but advises to use sudo command for administrative tasks. At first I was a little confused at the password to type-in for the sudo command, but when I tried my own it worked. Ubuntu gives the root rights to the user created first on the system to use the sudo command. You can also go in and set root password to su and do the admin tasks the normal way.

Now it was time for updates. I used sudo to apt-get update and then did a apt-get upgrade which had several new packages as updates. After that a apt-get dist-upgrade the Warty installation was up-to-date. Then it was time for the real upgrade, i.e. to the "Hoary". Changing all instances of warty to hoary, apt-get upgrade, apt-get dist-upgrade and about an hour later I had another shiny release on the desktop: Hoary. The upgrade went without a hiccup unlike to what I had expected. Again, full marks to Ubuntu for inter-release upgrade compatibility.

The Hoary release after an upgrade has the latest versions of the commonly used softwares like Mozilla Firefox, Open Office, Gimp, Evolution email client, etc. The Synaptic package manager and Ubuntu's Update Manager are one of the most impressive administrative programs that are easy to understand. Even newbie users won't find it hard to learn how to run them to keep their systems up-to-date and install new programs or delete unwanted packages.

Problems: Firefox keeps on spitting out XML parsing error in the JavaScript console. I lost the wireless applet when I upgraded from warty to hoary. The Ubuntu About dialog comes out in the Yelp, the Gnome help browser. It would be much better if the about dialog was independent and looked more professional. Ubuntu only installs a set of basic packages for a very minimal desktop. Packages like mozilla, thunderbird, apache, mysql, php, etc need still to be installed manually. I haven't tried the server version install maybe that might address these requirements.

Even though Ubuntu seems to be so much easier to setup and maintain, I will still keep Debian GNU/Linux Unstable on my desktop PC. But testing out Ubuntu had definitely made it a highly probable Linux flavour for my laptop (when I buy it!). And the best thing is even if I use Ubuntu, I will still have all the advantages of Debian :)

11 August 2005

Mozilla Store Reopens

Great news for Mozilla/Firefox fans: Mozilla Store has reopened!

I was almost going to buy a shirt to support the project but couldn't do that because my browser Mozilla does not recognize the security certificate of the website https://store.mozilla.org. Should I be using a different browser like IE to buy stuff from Mozilla Store?.

9 August 2005

MS loves Linux

Check out this repot on Slashdot. I had read about the javascript hack for WGA on boingboing.net, but Wine+Linux+WGA is too much ;).

8 August 2005

Nvu + SkyOS

Being based on Firefox, Nvu is available for various OSes like MS Windows, MacOS, Linux (different flavours like Fedora, Debian, Linspire, etc.). I just found out from the changelog of SkyOS that they have ported Nvu to SkyOS!. This just proves that Nvu (and hence mozilla based applications) is truly portable to different operating systems.

Check out their screen shots on their main page where you can see open source applications like Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird, Nvu, etc. in action. A closed source operating system other than MS Windows running open source applications....Intersting!

4 August 2005

HDD crash

It seems that my external USB hard disk drive(HDD) crashed today. It was making loud humming noise along with periodic clicks. After checking all the processes running, I noticed that the regular backups were still not finished. Normally, they take less than a minute as they are differential ones rather than full backups. The cron job had started at around 04:00hrs and was still running when I discovered the noise i.e. at around 09:00hrs.

After trying to stop the task and then kill it, the HDD was still making the noise. So I decided to reboot and check it. The PC did not shutdown as it was waiting for the USB HDD to unmount first. The USB HDD was not responding and in the end I just turned it Off.

After rebooting the system did some journal correction and said everything was fine. However, the clicking noise was still there! To test it with the Western Digital software, I had to boot in windows and did the quick test and the extended test. No error was reported, but the clicking sound was still there. So I called up WD as the disk was still under warranty. WD's 1-800 number does not have that many choices and the best one I could find was "1" = RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization). To my surprise the person at the other end just asked the serial number of the drive and said that it was still under warranty and I just needed to give my shipping information to them so that they can send me a new one.

Yippie, I will be getting a new HDD and I just hope it doesn't die on me like this one!

3 August 2005

Hiroshima: Then and Now

A very touching presentation of comparison between Hiroshima in 1945 and now. Another fine example of the strength of mankind(esp. Japanese) to rise up after such a disaster.

MoFo Reorganization

The Mozilla Foundation (MoFo) has annouced a reorganization plan. In this reorganization Mozilla Foundation has created a wholly owned subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation. The new Mozilla Corporation will focus on Firefox and Thunderbird (,etc.) branded products whereas MoFo will continue to just focus on the Mozilla project.

Read more about this: here, here, here, and here.

2 August 2005

New Nvu Extension

I almost forgot to mention about the new Nvu extension: Site Manager Extender 0.2, but a quick glimpse on Daniel's post prompted me that it deserves an entry. The extension mainly adds (a little bit of) much needed functionality to the inbuilt site manager.

WYSIWYGly Nvu Demo

A few weeks ago Gerv had blogged about a tutorial on Nvu. On reading it in my free time I noticed the following:

Since Nvu 0.90 does not allow you to arbitrarily position text and graphics on your web page, nor does it allow you to create multiple columns using Cascading Style Sheets (...snip...) from the WYSIWYG interface, you will have to use an old webmaster trick to accomplish this.

The tutorial goes on to use tables for a multi-column layout, urgghhh. However, the truth is that Nvu has been quite capable of creating multi-column layouts using just its WYSIWYG interface i.e. just the GUI without any source-view editing.

So, to prove my claim about Nvu's capabilities I cooked up a page a few days ago which uses pure CSS for the multi-column layout. Nvu's in-build style sheet editor, CaScadeS, was used for the layout generation. At no point during the creation the of the demo was it required to edit from source-view. I know Nvu's style sheet editor has its short comings in user-friendliness, and unimplemented CSS2.1 rules, but still it is feasible to create multiple column layouts with Nvu.

The demo features on Nvu's demo repository.


1 August 2005

Note To Self

Pineapples have a small shelf life. If a ripe one is bought, use it within 2 days or it will decay.