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The Project

October 20, 2003

This article was contributed by Biju Chacko has been quietly working since March 2001 to improve interoperability between X desktops. Unlike ostensibly similar groups like the Free Standards Group freedesktop is not a standards organization. Freedesktop's mission is achieved by getting developers to informally hash out ways to interoperate rather than legislating formal standards documents. Its specifications are hammered out quickly on mailing lists or IRC, instantly tested in real-world code and patched accordingly. This speedy, informal approach allows developers to build interoperability specs without having to disrupt projects with interim hacks while a standard is finalized. The expectation at is that the de facto standards created this way will eventually get "blessed" by an organization with a mandate to legislate standards.

The benefits of interoperability are often ignored. Nowadays, we take it for granted that we will be able to cut-and-paste or drag-and-drop between GNOME and KDE applications. This casual acceptance is a good thing. Applications should "just work" whether or not they are on their native desktop. Thanks to freedesktop, they mostly do. Contrast this with life under very early versions of GNOME and KDE.

Standards simplify the lives of developers trying to be desktop-neutral. The standardization of desktop entries and menus, for example, allow ISVs to easily install icons for their applications without having to worry about the end-user's desktop environment. The developers of a skinned media player can be assured that their app will look and behave the same under all compliant window managers if they use the hints defined in the Window Manager Spec. has published several specifications that have wide acceptance across X desktops. For example, the Window Manager Spec, which defines window manager behavior, is supported by GNOME, KDE, XFce and many other window managers. The qt and GTK+ supported XEmbed spec is a protocol to embed one application's controls into another. The clipboard spec is a consensus on using the X clipboard.

Several draft specifications haven't been widely implemented. For example, the one that defines application menus has only been implemented by GNOME, but KDE and XFce have indicated support in future releases. The Shared MIME Database creates a common library of MIME types to be used file handling tools. It's currently implemented only by ROX Filer and slated to be part of GTK+ 2.4.

Recently, freedesktop decided to expand the scope of its work to hosting desktop oriented projects, especially those that provide needed infrastructure to desktops. The DRI project recently moved its CVS repository to, for example. Other projects hosted on freedesktop include Cairo - a vector graphics library, D-BUS - a message bus system, fontconfig and pkgconfig. A particularly interesting new project is HAL, which aims to create a standard abstraction layer through which desktops can configure and use hardware devices. It's an ambitious project, but one well worth the effort.

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System Applications

Audio Projects

ALSA 0.9.8 released

Version 0.9.8 of the ALSA sound driver is available. Change information is in the source code.

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LADCCA 0.3.2 available

Version 0.3.2 of LADCCA, a session management system for JACK and ALSA audio applications, is available. This release fixes a minor bug.

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LADCCA 0.4.0 and ALSA Patch Bay 1.0.0

Bob Ham has sent out a multiple announcement for version 0.4.0 of LADCCA and version 1.0.0 of ALSA Patch Bay. "LADCCA's now reached a state where I reckon it's worth releasing again. It's pretty stable for me, and it now seems to do what it should without any hiccups. I'm releasing alsa patch bay and jack rack along with it as the only changes are support for the new ladcca version."

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Database Software

knoda 0.6.1 released

Version 0.6.1 of knoda, a KDE-based database front end, has been released. "Main feature of this version is the scripting support in forms and reports. Hk_classes is also available as a Python module."

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phpMyAdmin 2.5.4 is released! (SourceForge)

Version 2.5.4 of phpMyAdmin has been announced. "The development team is proud to announce the availability of this version, with over 12 improvements and 20 bug fixes. phpMyAdmin is a tool written in PHP intended to handle the administration of MySQL over the http://www."

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PostgreSQL Weekly News

The PostgreSQL Weekly News for October 15, 2003 is out, with a look at some of the issues that have been found in beta4.

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Upgrading a MySQL Application (O'ReillyNet)

Russell Dyer covers database design issues relating to upgrades on O'Reilly. "Most developers design MySQL databases for their own use or for the use of their employers. Occasionally, though, a developer will design a database for use by others, for sale as an application. Since an application developer usually isn't present when his application is installed and used, he must consider many factors when designing the database."

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Mail Software

Hotwayd 0.7 released (SourceForge)

Version 0.7 of Hotwayd, a POP-3 to HTTPMail gateway daemon, is out. "This release introduces fully functional proxy support. This means that should your ISP require that you use a proxy server you can now tell hotwayd about it and it will route all the HTTP requests via the specified proxy server. It is now possible to download folders other than your inbox by specifying it as part of your user name."

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milter-sender version 0.41 released

Version 0.41 of milter/sender, an email spam filtering system, is available. "It has some significant modifications namely -m is removed, auto-whitelist added, and successful sender cache expire policy changed."

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POPFile v0.20.0 release (SourceForge)

POPFile v0.20.0 has been announced on SourceForge. "POPFile is an email classification tool with a Naive Bayes classifier, a POP3 proxy and a web interface. It runs on most platforms and with most email clients. v0.20.0 is a major update to POPFile with the focus being on performance."

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New GhostScript Software

The GhostScript site lists new versions of GSview, a PostScript previewer, and Epstool, which adds and removes previews from Encapsulated PostScript files.

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Common UNIX Printing System 1.1.20rc4

Version 1.1.20rc4 of CUPS, the Common UNIX Printing System, has been announced. "In accordance with the CUPS Configuration Management Plan, you now have until Thursday, October 30th to test this release candidate to determine if there are any high-priority problems and report them using the Software Trouble Report form".

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Web Site Development

The Atom API

Mark Pilgrim looks at the Atom API on O'Reilly. "Atom is an up-and-coming format for editing, syndicating, and archiving weblogs and other episodic web sites. The final details are still being hashed out, but that's never stopped me before, having written several articles about XHTML 2. To understand the problems that Atom is designed to solve, we should look briefly at what came before it."

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mod_security 1.7 released

Version 1.7 of mod_security is available. "Mod_security is an Apache module whose purpose is to protect vulnerable applications and reject human or automated attacks. It is an open source intrusion detection and prevention system for Apache."

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Create Web applets with Mozilla and XML (IBM developerWorks)

Nigel McFarlane covers XML web applications on IBM's developerWorks. "To go beyond simple HTML, historically the only options have been to use Java technology or plug-ins. Now, you have a new way -- write and display applications natively in XML. The Mozilla platform provides such a mechanism. In this article, Nigel McFarlane introduces XUL (the XML User-interface Language). XUL is set of GUI widgets with extensive cross-platform support that are designed for building GUI elements for applications that have traditional, non-HTML GUIs."

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Albert 0.4.7 released

Version 0.4.7 of Albert, a Common Lisp DocBook documentation generator, is available. "This version provides control of symbol presentation based on package export, support for including license boilerplate, more user-configurable settings, support for MK-DEFSYSTEM and CLISP, and several more fixes."

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Desktop Applications

Audio Applications

Announcing Gnomoradio (GnomeDesktop) has an announcement for the initial release of Gnomoradio. "Gnomoradio is rapidly becoming a fully-featured music playing system for Gnome. In addition to playing mp3s, it can read Creative Commons licenses in RDF format, and download and share music that is freely available."

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Helix Player 1.0 Milestone 1 release

The first Helix Player 1.0 milestone release is now available. "The Helix Player is designed for Linux and Solaris desktops, built using GTK+, and includes a Mozilla browser plug-in. It supports local file playback and streaming over RTSP/RTP, RTSP/RDT, and HTTP. It supports video zoom in original, double size and full screen, and has support for the following media types in open source: SMIL 2.0, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, H.263 video, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and RealPix. Additionally, RealVideo (RV9, RV8, RV7, RVG2), and RealAudio (RA8, G2 audio) are available in binary form." This is still a testing release; the project hopes to get a stable version out early next year.

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Desktop Environments


The KDE.News summary and comments for the October 17, 2003 KDE-CVS-Digest says: "Disconnected IMAP fixed in KMail. KHTML now supports jng image format. KDevelop has a Subversion plugin. KDE has global settings for mouse gestures. Kopete has new "Away" and plugin configuration dialogs. KControl has a new style configuration dialog. Plus many bugfixes in KMail and KHTML."

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New Module Proposal Time (GnomeDesktop)

Developers who wish to include new modules into GNOME 2.6 should read this announcement on

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GSwitchIt XKB toolkit 2.5.0 is released (GnomeDesktop) has an announcement for a new release of GSwitchIt. "In the preparation of merging into GNOME 2.6, the very first release in 2.5 series of GSwitchIt is out. International GNOME users get real hope for proper xkb support straight out of the GNOME box".

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gEDA News

The latest news from the gEDA project includes the release of new versions of the Covered Verilog code coverage analysis tool, the Gerber viewer, and the Icarus Verilog compiler.

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Gnocatan 0.8.0 Released (GnomeDesktop)

Version 0.8 of Gnocatan, a clone of the game Settlers of Catan, is available. "The program was ported to GTK2/GNOME2, among many other changes found in version 0.8.0."

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New Dia release (GnomeDesktop) has an announcement for version 0.92 of Dia, a graphical diagram, graphing, and chart tool. "Dia 0.92 has been released featuring numerous bug fixes a new features."

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GStreamer 0.7.1 Released (GnomeDesktop)

Version 0.7.1 of GStreamer has been announced. "The new 0.7.x branch has a lot of improvements compared to the 0.6 branch, especially for video applications as it supports more formats both for decoding/demuxing and for muxing/encoding. It also features good error handling, better typefinding, a framework for interactivity to handle such things as DVD menu's and Flash and soon a new metadata system."

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XMMS GTK2 Port (GnomeDesktop)

A preview release of the XMMS multimedia system has been announced for GTK2. "Here's a 'preview' release, since many things aren't done yet, but it compiles and works, and if you currently don't need more than OSS output and vorbis and MP3 playing, you're ready to go."

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Music Applications

ALSA MIDI Metronome 0.4 available

Version 0.4 of ALSA MIDI Metronome has been released. Change information is in the source code.

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RTSynth 1.9.2 released

Version 1.9.2 of RTSynth, a midi event triggered musical synthesizer, has been released. "This is mainly a clean-up and speed-up version."

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Digital Photography

libgphoto2/gphoto2 2.1.3 released (SourceForge)

Version 2.1.3 of libgphoto2 and gphoto2 has been announced. "libgphoto2/gphoto2 2.1.3 are out, featuring support for lots of new cameras and bug fixes. gPhoto is a program and library framework that lets users download pictures from their digital cameras."

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Web Browsers

Mozilla 1.4.1 Released (MozillaZine)

According to MozillaZine, version 1.4.1 of Mozilla is available. "Mozilla 1.4.1 contains around 100 additional bug fixes but no new features." Despite that statement, a new spell checker has been included in this release.

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Word Processors

AbiWord Weekly News

Issue #166 of the AbiWord Weekly News was published on October 19, 2003. Here's the summary: "More on the new features, no bloat AbiWord and dependency hell, Johnny Lee's final speed-up patch, Win32 in a week or two and some CVS bragging. Plusse, editor negotiates AWN readability."

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Disc-O-Matic 0.3 Released (GnomeDesktop)

Version 0.3 of Disc-O-Matic, a GTK+ DVD/CD-ROM archiving tool, has been announced. "In release 0.3 glade has been removed in favor of pure gtk. It now also supports DVD's through dvdrecord, and basic error checking for burning has been implemented."

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Languages and Tools


GCC 3.3.2 has been released

Version 3.3.2 of GCC, the GNU Compiler Collection, has been released. See the changes document for a long list of fixed bugs.

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Caml Weekly News

The October 14-21, 2003 edition of the Caml Weekly News has been published, take a look to see what's been happening with Caml this week.

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JBoss 3.2.2 released (SourceForge)

Version 3.2.2 final of JBoss, a J2EE based application server, is available.

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Magic with Merlin: Dynamic event listener proxies (IBM developerWorks)

John Zukowski explains Java's EventHandler class on IBM's developerWorks. "Many developers create anonymous inner classes for event handling. For simple event handling, inner classes can be a real hassle. Luckily, Java 1.4 introduces the EventHandler class, which relies on the dynamic generation of listeners to ease the task at hand. Though the new features are typically meant for the IDE vendor to use, in this article columnist John Zukowski shows you how you can use them for hand coding, too."

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Configuration Blues (O'Reilly)

Craig Castelaz covers Java application configuration issues on O'Reilly. "Have you ever noticed how some applications seem to configure themselves? I don't mean that they auto-detect their settings; rather, the configuration process and tools are so well designed that they are a pleasure to use. Like most things in development, this level of functionality didn't appear by accident. 'Application configuration deserves careful design -- perhaps even more than application code.' (Halloway, 02) If we want to offer a similar experience to all our users, we need to stop treating configuration as an afterthought."

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CL-PDF 2.0 released

Version 2.0 of CL-PDF, a Common Lisp library for generating pdf documents, is out.

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This Week on perl5-porters (use Perl)

The October 13-19, 2003 edition of This Week on perl5-porters has been published. "What happens in the post-5.8.1 world ? Read about the plans for the (nearest than you may think) 5.8.2, 5.8.1-specific problems, and other Perl language and implementation questions."

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PHP 4.3.4RC2 released

Version 4.3.4 RC2 of PHP has been released. "This release candidate is hopefully the final release candidate prior to the 4.3.4 release and should be very stable. Please test this release as much as possible, so that any remaining issues can be uncovered and resolved prior to the final release."

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PHP Weekly Summary for October 20, 2003

The PHP Weekly Summary for October 20, 2003 is out. Topics include: PHP 5 Beta 2 coming, BIND 9 problems, Documentation translations, Adding a regex operator?, WDDX 64-bit test, ZE2 Memory Cache.

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The PHP Scalability Myth (O'ReillyNet)

Jack Herrington addresses PHP Scalability issues on O'Reilly. "PHP scales. There, I said it. The word on the street is that "Java scales and PHP doesn't." The word on the street is wrong, and PHP needs someone to stand up and tell the truth: that it does scale."

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PHP Performance Profiling (Linux Journal)

Jonathan Oxer writes about PHP performance profiling on Linux Journal. "Due to the incredible growth of PHP in the last couple of years, it's now being used for tasks ranging from tiny scripts to large-scale Web applications. Some Web applications contain hundreds of thousands of lines of PHP code, and the fact that PHP can scale to these levels is a great testament to its design and the efficient Zend Engine that actually manages PHP code execution. Of course, bigger and more complex projects result in more load on your servers, and when you throw a database into the mix you have even more potential performance bottlenecks to track."

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This week's Python-URL

Dr. Dobb's Python-URL for October 22 is out; it looks at Python performance, portability, Powerpoint-like applications, and more.

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PyUMLGraph initial release

The initial release of PyUMLGraph, a Python-based debugger, is available. "PyUMLGraph is a Python debugger that produces UML diagrams by inspecting running Python programs. The output is in Graphviz's dot language, and dot can produce pictures in many popular formats, such as PNG, PDF, SVG, and others. The UML diagrams can contain information about class inheritance relationships, references to other classes, class methods and return types, as well as class attributes and types."

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Dr. Dobb's Tcl-URL!

The October 20, 2003 edition of Dr. Dobb's Tcl-URL! has been published. Take a look for a summary of the week's Tcl/Tk development news.

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Three More For XML Output (O'Reilly)

Uche Ogbuji examines three more Python-based XML tools on O'Reilly. "This column has touched on some advanced XML processing topics, but I keep coming back to basics. The reason for this is that the two most common XML processing tasks for Python users are to extract particular data fields from XML files and to generate XML in order to feed another program."

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XML security: Implement security layers, Part 1 (IBM developerWorks)

Manish Verma discusses XML security issues with part one of an IBM developerWorks series. "This article focuses on the basic plumbing technologies, defining security in an XML context, XML canonicalization, and PKI infrastructure, and providing a step-by-step guide to generating keys."

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microdom: an XML DOM Designed For HTML (O'Reilly)

Itamar Shtull-Trauring Introduces microdom on O'Reilly. "This article introduces microdom, a XML DOM implementation written in Python which was designed for dealing with HTML's legacy issues both when parsing and when generating documents."

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Cross Assemblers

gputils-0.11.7 Released

Version 0.11.7 of gputils, a cross-assembler and tool set for Microchip's PIC processors, has been released. The Changes statement says: "Fixed 18xx gplink bugs and added support for 18xx config and idlocs sections in gpasm."

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Leo 4.0 final released

Version 4.0 of Leo, a programmer's outlining editor and flexible browser, has been released. This version brings a long list of changes including an improved derived file format, better error handling, new commands, and more.

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Smashing performance with OProfile (IBM developerWorks)

Prasanna S. Panchamukhi explains OProfile on IBM's developerWorks. "Analyzing the performance of the Linux operating system and application code can be difficult due to unexpected interactions between the hardware and the software, but profiling is one way you can identify such performance problems. This article looks at OProfile, a profiling tool for Linux that will be included in the upcoming stable kernel."

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