27 October 2008

Getting Started with OpenOffice.org 3

I've been spending a lot of my time recently working on the Getting Started guide produced by the OOoAuthors group, especially the printed edition published by the Friends of OpenDocument Inc. through Lulu.com.

Getting Started with OpenOffice.org 3Getting Started with OpenOffice.org 3 (October 2008); a free download is available from the same page.

A version of this book, formatted for onscreen viewing of two pages side-by-side, was published earlier and is available on the OOo Documentation Project's website, along with PDFs of the individual chapters of the book.

22 October 2008

Rats revisited

We took the car to the auto electrician, who inspected it and said that he couldn't find any exposed wiring or other obvious problems, so the next thing to do was have it checked by the computerised system at—you guessed it—a Subaru dealer. Subaru doesn't make the necessary software available to other fixit places (at least not until a car model is at least 3 years old, which is when the basic warranty expires), so it's a dealer or nothing. The electrician said the car was safe to drive, but we of course could not trust any of the instrumentation. He didn't charge us anything for the inspection, either. The first chance we'll have to get the car looked at is the week of 17 November, so that's when we're going to Townsville; we wanted to go there anyway around that time. After we left the electrician's, we stopped at a service station to top up the fuel. It took very little, thus confirming that the fuel level was what we'd thought it should be. Of course, the gauge is still showing empty. Meanwhile one of our neighbours gave us some rat poison to put in the engine compartment. I hate rat poison, because some animal or bird might eat the dead rat and be poisoned in turn, so I'm reluctant to use it.

20 October 2008


When I returned on 9 October after a week away, I discovered that the car was showing an "out of fuel" light and the gauge was at the completely empty end of the scale. I speculated about whether it really was out of fuel or if a sensor had failed; and if it was really out of fuel, why that might be: a leak? thieves? I knew that we'd not driven enough since the last refuelling to use even half a tank. Well, after Eric got home from his travels (a week later), we put another 10 litres (2.5 gallon approx.) into the tank, but not only did the light not go out, but other warning lights came on. Scary ones, that the owner's manual said meant "contact Subaru immediately". So of course we didn't want to drive it anywhere. Today, Monday, I called the service department at the Subaru dealer from whom we'd bought the car, and he said "can't tell without putting it on to the computer; you'll have to bring it in to a dealer, but probably best to go to the closer one in Mackay" (only 150 km away instead of 300 km). So I phoned the Mackay dealership, who said much the same thing, agreeing that with no idea of the cause, they couldn't say whether driving it would be safe or not. They suggested calling the auto club, which I had considered doing in the first place. So I did. The auto club bloke arrived, checked fuses, hmmmm'd a bit, opened the bonnet, took one look, and immediately said: "There's your problem: rats!" showing us a piece of chewed insulation (teeth marks clearly visible). "If you don't drive it a lot, they come down the hill and build a nest in the car, often on top of the fuel tank, and chew the insulation on the wiring. We see a lot of that here." He said the car was safe to drive, but there was no need to take it to the dealer as the local auto electrician could deal with it. So I phoned the auto electrician, who laughed ("We see a lot of that here!") and made an appointment for us to bring it in on Wednesday. I guess we should drive the car more often!

13 October 2008

OpenOffice.org 3 is here!

OpenOffice.org 3 was released today. It is much improved, with some great new features, although its appearance hasn't changed much. I am among those who are really happy that it has only minor changes in the user interface (related to functional changes in the program) and not cosmetic changes to make it look more "modern"—but others disagree. You can get OOo version 3 from the OpenOffice.org website. Take it for a test drive. If you like it, keep it! No license fees or other charges. Thanks to OpenOffice.org Ninja for a summary (with screenshots) of new features.

12 October 2008

Ubuntu on the Asus Eee PC

In March I mentioned buying an Asus Eee PC running Xandros Linux. Today I replaced the Xandros with a special Eee version of Ubuntu, the Linux flavour that I run on my main laptop. A member of the Ubuntu Australia group kindly sent me a CD with the operating system on it (so I didn't have to download it), along with instructions for putting the program on a USB stick so I could install it (the Eee doesn't have a CD drive). This involved downloading some small programs and running them, to make the USB stick bootable and unpack the Ubuntu program files. Unfortunately, I couldn't install from my USB stick (it kept giving error messages), and I didn't have a spare one to try, so I used the same instructions to put the files on an SD card and it then installed with no problems. I'm much happier with the Eee now that it has a more familiar (to me) operating system on it, and the screen seems more readable to me, so I'm playing around with it quite a bit more than I did before. I've got an 8GB SD card in it to supplement the 4GB that comes with it. While at a science-fiction convention in Canberra over the weekend, I spotted two people with 7-inch Eee's (the model I have). One was running the supplied Linux, but the other had an alpha of Ubuntu 8.10 on it.