06 January 2013

Free vs. Proprietary software

2012 was the year when I bought the most proprietary software licenses.

Such purchases were mostly prompted by special needs that seemingly could not be answered by available free software.

I bought a license for Infix (PDF editor), for Abbyy FineReader Express and Readiris (Japanese and English OCR), for Antidote (French spelling and grammar checker), for Pdiff (visual comparison for PDF files), for Kaleidoscope (visual comparison for image files) and for Transform (XSL transformation).

Antidote from Druide is the software that I use the most often, after OmegaT. I could not work without it.

Infix from Inceni comes as a very distant second. I use it on some PDF files that I need to translate as PDF. I export the contents to Infix export format and translate that file in OmegaT thanks to the Infix XML filter that was developed a while ago. Infix does not come without problems (crashes, clunky user interface), but it works most of the time.

Abbyy and Readiris were bought when I needed to OCR a few important files, sometimes PDF, sometimes plain images. I then translated the exported files with OmegaT.

I bought Kaleidoscope from Black pixel because I needed to compare a set of multipage PDF documents. Kaleidoscope does not support PDF, but I thought I'd be able to easily convert the files to a compatible image format. That was not the case. Even though my machine is quite powerful, I could not find a practical way (free software or not) to convert two 400 pages PDF files into a single image file with a good enough resolution to process the file set in Kaleidoscope.

Then I bought Pdiff from Csci. Since there was no trial version, I asked the developers to try it on my file set and send me an excerpt of the result. What they sent me was very satisfying, but was made in the "pro" version that had an Export to PDF feature for reports, while the "lite" version had nothing like that. I bought the lite version anyway, but its report function was nowhere close to what the pro version offered at a priced that did not justify a purchase (999€). There is no way to export the report in the lite to anything useful and there is even no way to copy it for conversion to a different format.

Eventually, I did the comparison with diffpdf a free software from Mark Summerfield. diffpdf has a problem: it does the comparison page by page but does not notice when data is spread on 2 pages. To fix that, you have to manually add white pages in places where you want diffpdf to do a dummy comparison so that most of the pages are kept in sync. This is slightly cumbersome but took only about 1 hour to complete on the 400 pages x 2 pages set. The resulting comparison report in PDF was easy to read and exactly what I needed to proceed with my work.

Transform is from Neil Lang, an individual developer. I was being lazy and I wanted something more than what XSLPalette offered so I checked the App Store and found Transform. I paid the license, installed it, tried it, send a request for feature to the developer who promptly answered by telling me that the feature was already there, but "hidden" from the eyes of the user. After playing with it a bit I decided to use xsltproc on the command line to proceed with my work.


I learned 3 things:

1) Free software ended up being good enough for what I needed and I wasted money on software I did not really need.

2) Good proprietary software does not come in "lite" and "pro" versions. Either it does what you need it to do, and it does it well, or it is not worth bothering.

3) There is a business selling software output when users don't want to buy a license to a software they'll use only once every few months. I could see myself spending a few (dozen ?) euros on a nicely output PDF comparison report, or on some nicely OCRed files.

27 October 2011

Oracle JDK7 for OSX

You remember when Apple said they would not maintain Java anymore ? That was just 12 months ago:

Java is dead! Long live Java? (on this blog)

I just noticed that Oracle released a new preview edition of JDK7 for OSX yesterday (b215).

http://jdk7.java.net/macportpreview/

I installed it and after changing my Java preferences (search for "Java Preferences" in SpotLight), I tried the preview version of OmegaT.

The result ?


54443: Info: OmegaT-2.5.0_1 (Thu Oct 27 15:05:55 JST 2011) Locale en_US
54443: Info: Java: Oracle Corporation ver. 1.7.0-ea, executed from '/Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/JDK 1.7.0 Developer Preview.jdk/Contents/Home/jre' (LOG_STARTUP_INFO)


It works !

No crash yet so I think I'll finish the current job with that new version of Java.

Be extra cautious though when you use preview versions of software. A bug can bite you in the middle of a job...

Update (a few hours later)
It works, but there are a few issues that make it not practical to work with this preview right now. I've reverted to Java 1.6 until Oracle delivers something closer to a release candidate :-)

Detailed information is here:

http://wikis.sun.com/display/OpenJDK/Mac+OS+X+Port+Project+Status

Update (a few days later)
Apple has just released a new update for Java 1.6 for Snow Leopard and Lion. Check software Update. The JDK7 port just released a new build: b217.

New fun to come with OmegaT 2.5...

OmegaT 2.5, the preview version that you can get from:

https://sourceforge.net/projects/omegat/files/OmegaT%20-%20Latest/

includes a really nice new feature that, unfortunately, is not yet available for Mac users...

(Nov. 10 update: the latest version of the plugin works fine on Mac now)


If it is not, then you can rightly ask why bother mentioning it here at all ? Well, the answer is simple. It is kind of available, but because of an user interface design issue, the buttons that make it run are not available on Mac... This is going to be fixed real soon. In the meanwhile, get ready for...

A scripting interface to OmegaT's internals.

See the announcement here:

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/OmegaT/message/22988

People who know what they are doing can already check this Java documentation page:

Scripting for the Java Platform

According to the scripting plugin source code, the possible languages for use in OmegaT are:

  • JavaScript
  • Jacl
  • NetRexx
  • Java
  • BML
  • VBScript
  • JScript
  • PerlScript
  • Perl
  • JPython
  • Jython
  • LotusScript
  • XSLT
  • Pnuts
  • BeanBasic
  • BeanShell
  • Ruby
  • JudoScript
  • Groovy
  • ObjectScript
  • Prolog
  • Rexx


There are already plenty of exchanges on the OmegaT mailing list regarding the scripting extension. Check this thread for example:

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/OmegaT/message/23260

We'll have an announcement here when the feature works on Mac...

Dennis Ritchie and John McCarthy too...

A few days after Jobs, Dennis Ritchie and John McCarthy passed away too, but that did not trigger international interest.

Dennis Ritchie is called the "father of C", C as in "C language". Everyone who's done a little bit of programming knows about the importance of C in the computing world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C_(programming_language)

A few days after Ritchie, John McCarthy, the "father of Lisp" passed away too. Lisp is the language that was mostly used for artificial intelligence works "back then".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisp_(programming_language)

Lisp is 11 years older than C. Lisp was born in 1958 and C in 1969. But both languages are still commonly used in computing today...

Of course, both languages can be used on Macs. If you install the developer's tools that come with your DVD, you have access to a C compiler. Lisp, being a family of languages, requires to make a few choices (either get an ANSI standardized Lisp, or a Scheme, or a new Lisp like Clojure, that runs in Java etc.)

As for introductory books, "Land of Lisp" by Conrad Barski, M.D., from No Starch Press has been very well reviewed.

http://nostarch.com/lisp.htm

"Practical COmmon Lisp" by Peter Seibel from Apress is really nice too and sparked a renewed interest in the language. Plus, the PDF is freely available.

http://www.gigamonkeys.com/book

As for C, well, there are so many books about C programming that the only one I can think of is Kerninghan and Ritchie's "The C Programming Language, Second Edition" from Prentice Hall.

http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/cbook/

Objective-C is a strict super-set of C and is mostly known for being the language behind OSX applications.

A good introduction I found is "Programming in Objective-C" by Stephen G Kochan, from Pearson Education.

http://www.pearsonhighered.com/educator/product/Programming-in-ObjectiveC-3E/9780321711397.page

Of course, you can find plenty of free tutorial that can get you started in both languages.


Programming is fun and if it is not already the case, you should really give it a try.

06 October 2011

Steve Jobs passed away

It's going to be analyzed all over the world. Daringfireball linked to Job's Commencement Address in 2005. Here it is:

'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

19 May 2011

Virtaal running on Mac ! Part II

After the previous post, it appeared that Virtaal has problems with my configuration. Some testing and a few mails later here is a new announcement from the Virtaal team:



From: Dwayne Bailey
Date: 19 mai 2011 08:40:17 UTC+09:00
To: translate-devel@lists.sourceforge.net
Subject: [Translate-devel] Mac builds for Virtaal 0.7.0 rc1


You can get Mac OS X builds for Virtaal 0.7.0 rc1 here:
http://translate.sourceforge.net/snapshots/virtaal-0.7.0-rc1/Virtaal-Intel-0.7.0-rc1-1.dmg

Fixes since the beta 5 for Mac:
* The build uses its own Python (should solve your problem JC)
* Spell checking works - like Windows builds we download the spell checkers
* TM server is now running

Issues:
* We get a solid hang with some keyboard shortcuts e.g. Ctrl-W to close
the translation file.  Navigation seems to work
* The installer is massive 43M, we'll put it on diet when we've got
stable builds
* The keyboard shortcuts are still mapped to Linux/Windows and haven't
been remapped to Mac
* Doesn't seem to work at all on 10.5 (Leopard) - well it does start but
you can't open anything
* Pango is still messing up Arabic


Basically Virtaal launches properly now. Welcome to the world of Mac Virtaal !

(Update: rc1-1 still had problems but rc1-2 worked fine. Check the snapshots located here to get the latest file: http://translate.sourceforge.net/snapshots/)

15 May 2011

Virtaal running on Mac !

From Dwayne Bailey, on the Translate Toolkit development list:


Hi Virtaalers,

I've just got Virtaal running on a Mac, in a bundle and in a disk image.

It needs a testers love so please head over here and get your disk image
http://translate.sourceforge.net/snapshots/virtaal-0.7.0-beta5/Virtaal-Intel-0.7.0-beta5.dmg

I'd love to hear your feedback

To install:
1) Download
2) Click on the disk image
3) Either drag Virtaal to your applications folder or run it directly
from the folder

Testing:
1) Try to translate things, looking around is great but real work brings
out the bugs
2) Report any bugs at bugs.locamotion.org

What works:
* The file menu is integrated like a Mac app
* Translating works
* TM and MT

What doesn't work... yet:
* Spell checking - we'll probably need to use the approach we're doing
in Windows to download
* The menu appears in the application window
* No fancy installer
* Keybindings are not Cmd+ but still Ctrl+ - some don't work like
pasting placeables.