Your editor is, at times, a creature of habit. Many, many years ago, back
when Tcl and Tk were new and exciting, he discovered a simple calendar
called "ical" and he has been using it ever since. ical may be old and
unmaintained, but it works
. It provides a basic calendar,
appointment book, and task list without taking up too much screen space or
system resources. Its interface is quick and does not require lots of
clicking and form filling. It does exactly what it needs to do.
Creatures of habit, perhaps, should not run Debian unstable on their
desktops. Your editor has learned to scrutinize every dist-upgrade
carefully before turning it loose, but he missed the one that deleted ical
from his system. Some investigation turned up that, in fact, ical has not
been part of Debian for some time; it had been removed as being obsolete,
unmaintained, and superseded by better alternatives. ical was able to
continue to exist for years, however, until some recent change in unstable
forced its removal.
After scrambling to copy his calendar file to another system, your editor
decided it was time to investigate some of these newer, better
alternatives. The results, it must be said, were somewhat disappointing.
The new crop of desktop calendars may be impressive to look at, but few of
them have achieved the straightforward ease of use and unobtrusiveness that
ical had almost fifteen years ago. Fortunately, the news is not all bad.
The first stop in such a search almost has to be Evolution.
Ximian's high-profile groupware system is, doubtless, highly useful for
busy people who must juggle meetings and share their schedules with
others. One of the big advantages of working for a small operation like
LWN, however, is that scheduling a meeting is a simple matter of finding a
table at a local brewpub, and Evolution can't help with that. For one
whose goal is a simple calendar manager, and who has no desire to switch to
a new email client, Evolution brings a great deal of heavyweight baggage
for little gain. The calendar interface is difficult to navigate around
in; your editor never did succeed in reproducing the calendar view found on
screen shots page. Evolution 1.4 also crashed several times while
being tested. Evolution may be an impressive piece of software, but it is
not appropriate to consider as a replacement for ical.
The word is that Evolution 2.0 will feature a much-improved calendar
manager, and the underlying infrastructure will make it easier to create
independent, standalone calendar applications.
The next logical place to look is KOrganizer, the KDE calendar
application. KOrganizer it must be said, is a nice calendar manager. The
default layout wastes a lot of space, but a bit of edge dragging fixes
that. KOrganizer allows for relatively painless entry of events, and it
understands the concept of events which are attached to a day, but which
have no particular time (e.g. "wedding anniversary: have a present or sleep
on the couch"). Alarms are nicely configurable, though your editor noted
that the alarm windows had a tendency to pop up underneath the KOrganizer
window on his (non-KDE) desktop.
There is one nice ical feature that KOrganizer lacks: the ability to add
events without dealing with dialog windows. With ical, it's simply a
matter of dragging an entry over the relevant time period and typing in the
info. With KOrganizer (and a number of other calendar managers), you have
to set the times in special dialog fields. KOrganizer 3.2 has improved
things somewhat by allowing the time range to be set with the mouse, but it
requires an explicit configuration option and still puts up a dialog for
the event description. In the modern, graphical,
direct manipulation world, the dialog window should be unnecessary if the
more complex features (custom alarms, recurrence) are not being used.
Another possibility is a package called plan, which is a calendar manager
based on Motif. Plan has the basic necessary features; it can handle
appointments (but appears to lack a task list). It requires a separate
daemon to handle
alarms, and complains if that daemon is not running when it starts up. It
has two basic views, being full-month and one week; there is no way to get
the "this month calendar and today's events" view that many other calendar
managers offer. Event entry is relatively unfriendly, requiring dates and
times to be typed into form blanks. Plan works as a basic calendar, but
fails to inspire enthusiasm.
A simple, but cute entry is gDeskCal. This
calendar is meant to sit on (and blend into) the desktop; it uses alpha
blending to make itself inconspicuous, and comes with several different
"skins" which can be used to change its appearance. gDeskCal has a simple
appointment manager, and it can read Evolution appointments as well.
Hovering the mouse over a given day will yield a transient window listing
that day's appointments. There is no alarm capability, however.
Your editor was also pointed at "xcal", which is available as a Debian
package but which appears to lack a web page. Anybody who wonders what
life was like when the Athena Widget Set was new should give xcal a try.
Anybody wanting a modern calendar application should look elsewhere,
The final stop on this tour is GNOME-PIM.
This calendar manager, like KOrganizer, handles all of the basic tasks and
provides a number of useful views. Unlike KOrganizer, GNOME-PIM allows
entry and management of calendar entries directly in the main window,
without dialogs. Also unlike KOrganizer, it lacks "no specific time"
events. Unlike ical, GNOME-PIM does not have a flag on events saying
whether that event should cause the day to be highlighted on the one-month
calendar view. There are certain types of events ("it's trash day") that
are nice to get
reminders for, but which don't really qualify as special events. GNOME-PIM
has a lot of potential, but it suffers from a big problem: development
activity appears to have come to a stop, and there has not been a GNOME-PIM
release since the end of 2002. The last thing a grumpy editor needs is to
commit himself to another unmaintained calendar application.
The winner is fairly clear: the only application which is competitive
as an ical replacement appears to be KOrganizer. The KDE developers have
done a top-quality job of creating a focused, highly-configurable calendar
manager which brings in a (relative) minimum of unneeded baggage. Your
editor will miss the quickness and simplicity of ical, but KOrganizer will
get the job done. Let us hope, however, that the developers of graphical
applications will not forget the users who are not interested in massive,
do-everything applications. It should always be possible to find, say, a
reasonably functional calendar without dragging in email clients, web
servers, and other unrelated stuff. The old Unix guideline - a tool should
do one job, and do it well - is best not forgotten.
Comments (71 posted)
Progeny is proposing a different way
to look at Linux distributions. According to
Progeny's Ian Murdock, the traditional Linux distribution follows a
"top-down" "one-size-fits-all" model that doesn't meet the needs of many
For those who view Linux not as a product but as a platform on which to
build their own products, the monolithic nature of the typical distribution
is a particularly bad fit. The typical Linux-as-product distribution
optimizes for breadth--because it is "one-size-fits-all", it needs to
include a huge assortment of features and technologies to satisfy the
widest possible audience, only a few of which may be important to any given
project (and the few that are important will always vary). Ideally, for
Linux-as-platform users, a distribution should optimize for depth, i.e., to
excel in those few features and technologies important to the project at
The new approach, then, is to "componentize" Linux by allowing the user to
choose only the bits that they need. We spoke with Murdock about Progeny's
plans for componentized Linux to see where the company is headed. Is
componentized Linux yet another Linux distribution?
Emphatically not, according to Murdock:
One thing that's very important to point out, it's not a distribution per
se -- it's more of a template above an existing distribution like Red Hat
or Debian...someone can come in and say 'this is what I want' and then it
becomes a question of 'which distribution foundation do I want under that?'
... It's a much smaller job to come in and say 'I want an LSB 2.0-compliant
runtime and Active Directory integration module' instead of having to go in
to Debian to figure out what packages you need.
Besides, Progeny has already been there and done that with regards to the
distribution business. The company started with Progeny Linux, a
"commercialized" version of Debian, and eventually moved on to a business
model of helping other companies customize Linux to fit their
needs. Customization, according to Murdock, often involved a lot of time
removing components from "monolithic" distributions that their customers
had started with -- which in turn led to the concept of componentized
For users who are interested in seeing componentized Linux in action,
Progeny has released "Componentized Linux Core" ISOs based on Debian
Sarge. There are two ISO images available, only the first is necessary to
perform an install -- the second contains the remainder of source code for
the distribution that didn't fit on the first ISO. They provide an early
glimpse of the concept, though the release is a bit short on actual
components. The Componentized Linux Core uses Progeny's Anaconda for Debian
installer and allows the user to install a short list of components:
XFree86 4.2, GNOME 2.4, a 2.4 or 2.6 kernel, and an LSB runtime and devel
Why is Progeny making Componentized Linux public now? For one thing, the
company is looking to highlight Progeny's approach to customizing
Linux. Murdock also said that he's noticed a number of people developing
custom distributions, and that they'd like to give something back to the
community -- and to prevent others in the community from having to re-do
the same work that Progeny has already done. He also said that he hopes
that Progeny will be able to build a community around Componentized Linux
that will help the project evolve to everyone's benefit. Murdock noted that
the response thus far has been positive:
I think it's a concept that resonates with people, because Linux is a
fundamentally different OS. The leading commercial distributions are
looking more and more like the proprietary OSes that they are
replacing...people are looking at this and saying 'it's a good fit, and
it'll save me a lot of time.'
Though Progeny's first release is based on Debian, Murdock said that the
company also hopes to have a Fedora-based Componentized Linux and
"possibly more than that."
It will be interesting to see if the à la Carte approach gains
widespread appeal. No doubt, part of the distribution proliferation problem
stems from the difficulty of customizing "major" distributions to specific
tasks. Instead of seeing hundreds of different Linux distributions -- each
with their own installer, administration tools and assorted quirks --
perhaps we could look forward to a day when most distributions utilize a
single common core and distinguish themselves through package
repositories. For users who have had to master multiple distributions,
package formats and admin tools, it's an attractive prospect indeed.
Comments (7 posted)
Mark Barrenechea, a senior vice president in charge of product
development at CA, said the SCO licenses weren't bought but were
"thrown in" as part of a settlement CA reached last August with
The word from CA would appear to be clear: the company did not go out
looking for "Linux licenses" from the SCO Group. Instead, the Canopy
Group, SCO's largest stockholder, decided to toss the licenses in as part
of an apparently unrelated settlement some months ago. It must have seemed
like a good idea at the time; it was an easy way to claim that a large
company had obtained licenses from SCO.
Given the subsequent revelations, one would expect the press to be looking
into false statements of "Linux license" sales. There is also the
interesting question of just why the Canopy Group felt the need to push
Linux licenses in this way. Canopy claims to not be a part of SCO's
crusade, but events like this suggest otherwise. Instead, however, we got
For quite some time now, the SCO Group has been very well treated by the
media. Many of its claims have gone unchallenged, and even the company's
goofiest statements get wide coverage. Thus we hear that Darl
McBride's enemies are out to kill him, but important little details,
like the fact that SCO dropped the trade secret claims that were at the
core of its initial suit against IBM, somehow don't get covered. One can
only guess that SCO v. IBM as a "David v. Goliath" story makes for better
Even so, the world beyond the free software community is clearly beginning
to figure things out. Consider the latest from
the Motley Fool:
With dwindling cash and the entire industry ready to fight, the
company looks like it's treading thin ice during spring melt. Given
the ham-fisted efforts of its law team, and its haphazard legal
strategy, I wouldn't bet that any amount of litigation will keep
SCO above water.
The questions asked by reporters at the March 3
conference call are also telling: they aren't buying it anymore. To
really see how the SCO PR battle is going, however, one should take a look
at the company's stock price.
Anybody who was paying attention during the dotcom bubble knows better than
to attribute too much rationality to stock prices. That notwithstanding,
a stock market is an efficient machine for integrating the opinions of a
large number of unrelated people. SCO's stock price peaked briefly at
$22.29 in October, when the BayStar deal was announced. At that time, the
company's market capitalization was a little over $300 million. Given
that SCO has no business left other than its Linux-related litigation, its
stock can be seen as a sort of call option on SCO's lawsuits. Even at its
peak, SCO's stock price represented a perceived chance of collection of
less than 10%. If the company were truly set to collect billions, it would
not be valued in the millions.
As this article was being written, SCO's stock has fallen below $10/share
for the first time since July. The value of the call option is clearly
Since stock prices are interesting as an indicator of public perception, we
have prepared an annotated chart correlating
the company's stock price against various events from the last year. It
shows how the public view of SCO has gone up and down and the correlation
with the actions of SCO and others. SCO may yet manage to engineer another
increase in its stock price, but it seems unlikely to get anywhere near the
highs of last October. If SCO's actions are truly part of a stock scam, it
would appear to have failed.
Most readers will be familiar with the Halloween X
memo leaked to Eric Raymond. The memo is for real, but SCO claims that
its author, outside consultant Mike Anderer, misunderstood the situation.
It has, regardless, caused the wider world to look again at Microsoft's
relationship to SCO, and may have played a part in the recent stock
Meanwhile, SCO has filed its memo
in opposition of Novell's motion to dismiss the "slander of title"
suit. SCO maintains that the asset purchase agreement was sufficient to
transfer the Unix copyrights, and that it has, indeed, suffered damages
from Novell's actions. SCO is also trying to get the case moved back to
Utah state court after Novell moved it to the Federal court. The Federal
court is the same one which is hearing the IBM case; perhaps SCO has
decided it no longer wishes to try its luck there.
Comments (4 posted)
On March 9 the European Parliament passed, without amendment, the "Intellectual
Property Rights Enforcement" directive under fast-track procedures. This
directive, which worries free software advocates and others (see this FFII page
the details), is expected to be passed by the European Commission shortly.
At that point, the battle shifts to the individual EU member states, each
of which must pass its own implementation legislation. Concerned Europeans
will certainly want to pay attention to what is happening in their
countries as this process goes forward.
Comments (none posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: Fighting spam in the courts; New vulnerabilities in kdelibs, mozilla, python, wu-ftpd, ....
- Kernel: Virtual memory special; No more global queue unplugging.
- Distributions: A First Look at Mandrakelinux 10.0; Trustix Secure Linux 2.1; FreeSBIE; ROCK 2.0
- Development: The BitTorrent File Copying Tool,
new versions of alsa-lib, PostgreSQL,
KDE, GNOME Platform Bindings, SQL-Ledger, GTK+,
GenChemLab, Epiphany, AbiWord, BloGTK, Tcl/Tk, Bugzilla.
- Press: Spam anniversary, Cell phone programming, Microsoft And SCO,
EU cracks down on piracy, Inside TLDP, Next-Generation File Sharing.
- Announcements: Desktop Linux Conf, developerWorks Live, GIMP 2.0 User Manual,
Python tutorial, Penguicon.