Last week's review
diagram editors attempted to be comprehensive, but, inevitably, a few were
missed. Here, your editor will attempt to do penance by looking at a few
tools which were passed over last time.
Kivio had actually
been considered for the previous article. Your editor, however, had seen a
tool which, apparently, could only draw lines and text. Thinking that
kivio must be a little too young for a real review, your editor set it
aside and moved on. Kivio users will understand the problem at this point:
your editor missed the little icon
(shown at left)
in the toolbar which loads stencils into the system. Kivio, the main
purpose of which is the creation of flowcharts, is all about stencils. A
large set of stencils is provided with the program; they include the full
library of shapes from Dia, national flags, a map of Belgium, UML symbols, and
"people shapes" including a woman in a bikini. Working with kivio is
really a matter of finding the stencils you like, dragging them onto the
screen, and drawing lines between them.
Strangely, there seems to be no mechanism built into kivio for the
creation and editing of stencils; they all would appear to come from the
outside. Nothing in the menus or online documentation says anything about
how to get stencils into the system. Unless, of course, you want to buy
the proprietary stencil
builder or get some
stencils on a per-seat license from theKompany.com.
Kivio has a number of the features your editor was looking for, including
layers, attachment points, etc. But the simple fact is that kivio is an
awkward and difficult tool to work with. Attributes (colors, line widths,
arrowheads, etc.) must be set individually for every object; there appears
to be no way to get kivio to apply user-specified attributes to new
objects. There is no way to adjust the dimensions of arrowheads (and,
interestingly, the "start arrowhead" appears at the second point of the
connector). Connectors can only be straight lines. Alignment operations
are done via a separate, popup dialog. The "docker" feature, which puts
tools like the layer manager on the edge of the diagram, looks cute, but
the tools are forever popping in and out when the diagram is being edited.
Kivio cannot export to an image file; it is limited to KOffice format or
(via the print operation) PostScript or PDF.
Kivio is a reasonable tool for some simple tasks now, and may well develop
into a capable, general-purpose diagram editor eventually. But it is not
up to your editor's needs at this time.
"sketch") was highly recommended by some LWN commenters. Skencil, in its
stable version, is a Tk-based vector drawing package. This tool is
currently being reworked to use GTK instead, but that version is not yet
ready for release. Skencil has many of the typical drawing functions, and
it supports layers. It does not support attachment points, and it cannot
export to image formats.
Once again, your editor found this tool to be awkward and frustrating to
work with. The interface is highly modal and confusing at times. Changing
the default attributes of objects is hard. The arc-drawing tool is very
confusing to use at the outset (though, once you get the hang of it, it
turns out to be a powerful tool). The alignment operations require dealing
with a separate dialog.
On the other hand, skencil has some slick features, such as the ability to
draw text along an arbitrary path. There is a plugin mechanism allowing
the addition of new features programmed in Python. Skencil also can import
images in a number of formats. It may well be a useful tool for those
engaged in more artistic pursuits; it is not, however, the best diagramming
tool out there.
Finally, your editor took a look at inkscape. As a drawing tool, inkscape has
a nice feature set; it has a reasonable set of drawing options, a full set
of path operations, etc. Perhaps the biggest omission is the lack of
support for layers. For the creation of diagrams, however, inkscape is not
the right tool. There are no attachment points, no arrowheads, and no image
export. Inkscape's priorities are simply elsewhere.
Worth a quick mention: if your main interest is the creation of UML
diagrams, Umbrello may
be worth checking out. It is, however, very much a special-purpose tool,
with UML assumptions wired deeply into it; as such, it's not suitable for
more general purpose diagramming.
To conclude: your editor will stick with dia for now for his cheesy diagram
creation needs. Of all the tools reviewed, dia stands out for its focus on
this particular task, the quality of its output, and its ease of use.
There is a lot of development happening in this area, however; the
situation could well be different next year.
Comments (17 posted)
The 2004 GCC & GNU Toolchain
will take place June 2nd through June 4th in Ottawa,
Canada. GCC developers from around the world will get together to discuss
the "state of the art
," and the long term roadmap for GCC.
The conference presentations give some insight into the focus of the
developers who are working on GCC, and technical direction for the
project. For example, last
year's GCC Developers' Summit included three talks on support for
64-bit systems, including the IBM's S/390 and x86-64 architecture. If last
year's Summit is any example, you can expect GCC to include many of the
features that are being talked about this year at the Summit.
One heavy focus that's carried over from last year is testing and
benchmarking code produced by GCC. Árpád Beszédes of
of Szeged will be speaking about the Code-Size Benchmark
Environment (CSiBE) for GCC, which is used to measure the size of code
produced by GCC. (Beszédes's paper from last year is
available for those who are interested.) Paolo Carlini of SUSE is also
focusing on performance in his presentation, on approaches being used to
improve performance in the GNU Standard C++ Library v3
David Edelsohn will present a paper on loop optimizations for GCC using
high-level loop transformations. The loop optimizations described by
Edelsohn are implemented on top of Tree
SSA, which was an up-and-coming project for GCC when described at last
year's GCC Developers' Summit. (Slides in PDF are
available.) Now it's headed for inclusion in
GCC 3.5. (See this week's Development
Page for more information on Tree-SSA).
Diego Novillo will be speaking about the design and implementation of Tree
SSA this year. According to Novillo, several other GCC optimizations are
being implemented on top of Tree SSA as well. Dorit Naishlos will be
speaking about another optimization technique, automatic vectorization,
that is implemented on top of Tree SSA.
Users of the GNU Compiler for the Java
Programming Language (GCJ) may be interested in Andrew Haley and Tom
Tromey's paper on the new GCJ binary-compatibility ABI which will
"let us upgrade the compiler and runtime library in many useful ways
without requiring any application-level recompilation," instead of
breaking binary compatibility with each new release. Nathan Sidwell's
presentation will make the case for implementing statically typed trees in
GCC, with an outline for a full conversion from dynamically typed trees.
In all, there are fifteen scheduled presentations, and two Birds of a
Feather session, for the Summit. Abstracts for all of the paper
presentations are available
on the GCC Developers' Summit website. For those with a little extra time
on their hands, registration for the event is open and it promises to be a
fun three days for anyone interested in GCC and compiler development.
Comments (none posted)
SCO's suit against Novell had a day in court on May 11, when two
motions were heard. SCO is trying to get this case moved back to state
court, where it expects a more friendly hearing and where certain awkward
issues, such as whether copyrights were actually transferred from Novell,
cannot be considered. Novell, meanwhile, is opposing the move and is,
instead, trying to get the whole case dismissed. Judge Kimball - the same
judge presiding over the IBM case - has not yet ruled on either motion as
of this writing. Groklaw has an
of the proceedings.
The $50 million in capital which was pumped into SCO last October is
usually termed the "BayStar investment," but, in fact, $30 million of
that total came from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). RBC made a couple of
interesting moves last week:
- $10 million of that investment has been
converted into ordinary SCO shares at $13.50 per share. The value
of SCO's stock on the market was less than half that figure at the time,
and has declined since; RBC, in other words, is taking a big loss on
part of its investment.
- The rest of RBC's investment has been sold
to BayStar at an undisclosed price.
From RBC's point of view, the moves are perhaps understandable. The
chances of ever getting the original investment back from SCO were small
and shrinking; RBC (or whatever investor is hiding behind RBC) decided to
cut its losses and get out while it still could.
BayStar's motivation is a little harder to comprehend. After all, BayStar
stated last month that it wanted to redeem its investment in SCO and get
out; now it has, instead, doubled the number of preferred shares it holds. One
assumes that BayStar got the shares for less than their original price,
but, given BayStar's public lack of confidence in SCO and its management,
why is it increasing its stake in the company?
One possibility which has been raised is that BayStar wants to increase its
leverage over the board of directors and thereby improve its chances of
forcing management changes on SCO. The RBC shares, if converted, would
give BayStar an approximately 20% stake in SCO; enough to be heard, but
still nowhere near enough to dictate changes. Alternatively, BayStar may
think that, by way of court, it can extract the full $40 million
represented by those preferred shares from SCO.
The most ominous possibility, perhaps, is that BayStar may be maneuvering
to take possession (or, at least, control) of the IBM suit after SCO
collapses. That suit is, after all, the one SCO asset that BayStar sees as
being worthwhile. In this scenario, the case could continue long after SCO
collapses. BayStar could, conceivably, apply more financial resources to
pursuing this case. But no amount of money can make SCO's claims any more
Finally, SCO's second fiscal quarter ended on April 30; an earnings
report is due within the next few weeks. One assumes that its results will
be something other than spectacular. Expect the usual theatrics as SCO's
management attempts to distract attention from the fact that the company is
losing its traditional customers, is not selling "Linux licenses," and
continues to bleed cash.
Comments (8 posted)
Page editor: Jonathan Corbet
Inside this week's LWN.net Weekly Edition
- Security: The market in compromised systems; New vulnerabilities in apache, clamav, exim, SUSE 9.1 Live CD.
- Kernel: Magic groups; 4K stacks; Quick, safe timer deletion.
- Distributions: Knoppix 3.4 Has Landed; Astaro Security Linux 5.0; SUSE LINUX 9.1; new - OpenLab GNU/Linux; reviewed - SuSE Linux 9.1,Sun Java Desktop System
- Development: GCC gets a new Optimizer Framework, new versions of Samba, libxml,
LPRng, Bricolage, OpenPSA, UnCommon Web, Audacity, Ecasound, WaveSurfer,
GDM, Metacity, SQL-Ledger, gimp-gap, Wine, Quanta, PyAlsa, MlView, OProfile.
- Press: GNOME 2.6 trashed, Bad laws, filesystem benchmarks, Linux Audio Conf. coverage,
lots of interviews, XFce4 review, Perens joins OSRM.
- Announcements: CrossOver Office 3.0, Novell tech support, Green Hills FUD,
PyZine, GUADEC Speakers, The Desktop Developers' Conf., SciPy 2004,
KDE Community World Summit CFP.
- Letters: Separating political and technical news.