Wanted: unsyndicated web mail service - say Google Mail and you're dead

A few days ago, I woke up to the fact that Google has become yet another MSN. The stupid opt-out policy of their latest gadget, Google Buzz, means that I can no longer entrust Google with anything.

In case it wasn't obvious to the idiots at Google, no, I do not want every single person that ever sent me a random e-mail to suddenly get automated access to whatever on-line content I'm producing; I want to choose who will get access to what and be able to change my mind about what any particular individual will get access to at any given time. Most of all, I want this to be opt-in by default. That is, unless I explicitly enabled access to some specific content to a specific individual, the assumption shall be that nobody has access to anything that I produce. Alas, it seems too much to ask from Google.

So now I'm looking for a reliable no-frills webmail service that is too boring to ever get under the radar of any media content giant. First, it was Hotmail no more, now it's Google no more. I also have another simple request: that the selected e-mail address can include hyphens and periods. If anybody knows of any such simple and reliable on-line webmail service, please drop me a line via this blog article's comments. Thanks!


Ubuntu/Lucid: recovering from yesterday's messy update

Yesterday a silly oversight in the packaging of udev in Ubuntu/Lucid produced a breakage that consistently makes dpkg barf. Here's a simple command line recipe to recover from it. In your terminal application, type:

sudo sed -i 's#copy_exec /lib/udev/firmware.sh#copy_exec /lib/udev/firmware#' /usr/share/initramfs-tools/hooks/udev && sudo dpkg -a --configure && sudo aptitude update && sudo aptitude safe-upgrade

...then press enter. You should be able to resume normal operation right after.

PS: as suggested by others, I revised the above snippet to use sed locally, since not everyone has patch installed.


OpenOffice's style editing dialogs suck!

Working on some document today, it occurred to me, once again, that OpenOffice's method for designing and applying documents styling totally sucks!

Granted, this was not the first time that I cam to this conclusion but, today, I've come to realize that OpenOffice's paradigms constantly make me waste time trying to form a mental image of how every style element is suppose to relate to the other one, yet without having the full picture available within a single, easy-to-read document. Also, there is a complete lack of consistency in how style elements work. Some want to be defined in millimeters, while others want to be defined in points, while other still in number of lines. What a mess!

In short: to become remotely usable, OpenOffice needs to approach document styling via the "HTML document with a separate CSS style sheet" paradigm. In other words, I need to be able to edit styles globally, as a group and separately from the document content itself, rather than having to click my way through a multitude of dialogs, for each and every type of text elements.

To compare this with web design, there, I can focus on the actual content, formatted around semantic text elements (headers, paragraphs, block quotes, etc.) and then decide on the presentation styling as a separate global process by attaching a CSS style sheet, in which the relation between each type of text element and how it will be displayed is crystal clear, because it's handled as a unified style editing process.

I think that this is one area in which Free Software could innovate in a positive way, by distancing itself from the Redmondesque practices of Microsoft Word, from which OpenOffice borrows too much. How about having a proper Style Editor application (similar to a CSS editor), within the OpenOffice suite, while Open Writer itself would only be allowed to load the style sheets produced by it and to apply them to semantic text text elements?