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Archive for October, 2012

Windows 8 will be just fine

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 25th October 2012

Windows 8 logo

Microsoft® Windows® 8 logo

In spite of the controversy, the Windows 8 Modern Interface will do just fine. Some people are saying that Microsoft is making a mistake by radically changing the Windows user interface, and that people will not be able to get used to it. I don’t think so.

When I teach Windows to people who have never used a computer, they learn everything from how to hold a mouse, pointing and clicking, dragging and dropping, opening and closing windows, to using applications after about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice. Lots of people are still hesitant, but after a three-hour class they have functional computer skills.

The same is true when I teach Microsoft Word for beginners. After about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice, they can create a letter or write a story, colour the text, change the font, and format paragraphs. They may not be proficient enough to join a secretarial pool, but they have functional word processing skills.

I’ve also taught Microsoft Word to people taking the Microsoft Office Specialist certification. Often these people are familiar with older versions of Microsoft Word (which used toolbars and menus) but now they’re learning the new interface, which uses the Ribbon. After about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice, they can find most of the functions to colour, size and format text. They may need many more hours of instruction and practice to pass the certification exam, but they’ve adapted to the new interface.

So, by analogy, I expect that people first introduced to computers on Windows 8 will take about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice to become competent with the Windows 8 Modern Interface, and people with experience on Windows XP and Windows 7 will take about an hour of instruction and a couple of hours of practice to become competent on the Windows 8 Modern Interface. The difference? People used to previous versions will grumble and complain about it a lot more. I’ve done that myself; after spending well over two decades using toolbars and menus I still occasionally flounder to find the equivalents in the Ribbon. It is frustrating to unlearn old habits, or to learn new things. But Microsoft is not just making changes for the sake of making changes. The Windows 8 Modern Interface works perfectly well on desktop computers, and much better on touchscreen computers, tablets and phones. The old desktop interface that requires scrolling and clicking with a mouse just doesn’t work with a touchscreen. But for people who don’t want to make the switch the old desktop interface is still available.

While it may be funny to see people using Windows 8 for the first time without any instruction, it’s not a very real scenario. Someone who has never used a computer is unlikely to buy one without getting help, either from the retailer, a community course, or helpful friends and relatives. People who have used a computer before may struggle a bit, but if they already know the basics (scrolling, clicking, dragging) they will figure it out after a couple of hours of practice.


Update 27 Oct 2012: At the Windows 8 Launch Party it was made clear that the word “Metro” is no longer to be used; it is now called the “Windows 8 Modern Interface”. So I’ve updated this post.

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Posted in Microsoft Windows, Operating System, Software | 2 Comments »

Pictures from the KW Ubuntu Release Party

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 21st October 2012

The Kitchener-Waterloo chapter of the Ubuntu Canadian Team had a wonderful Ubuntu Release Party today. Laurel Russwurm baked a cake and I made some devilled eggs:

Quantal Cake and Devilled Eggs
Quantal Cake and Devilled Eggs

If you squint a little you can make out the Ubuntu logos…

Ralph brought the official Ubuntu banner:

People at the Ubuntu Release Party behind an Ubuntu banner
At the Kitchener Quantal Quetzal Ubuntu Release Party

That’s Jeff, Sergiane, Raul, Ralph, Karim, Bob, and Henrique.

Then it was time to cut the cake:

Bob Jonkman cuts the cake
Cutting cake is serious business!

And the second shift finishes it off:

The rest of the partygoers
The rest of the partygoers

That’s David, Gord, Bob, Ralph, and Darcy.

Many thanx to Paul for hosting and The Working Centre for the use of St. John’s Kitchen!

Pictures taken by Laurel L. Russwurm and used under a CC BYCreative Commons — Attribution — CC BY license.

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Posted in FLOSS, GNU/Linux, Operating System, Software, Ubuntu | 2 Comments »

KW Ubuntu Release party, 20 October 2012

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 15th October 2012


Hello Everybodee! I’m happy to announce that we’ll be having the Kitchener-Waterloo Ubuntu Release Party for the version named Quantal Quetzal, v12.10 at St. John’s Kitchen this Saturday.

The best parties always happen in the kitchen. Although we won’t have access to the cooking facilities, bring along some snack food to share, maybe some blank DVDs, and your laptop or netbook.

Map to St. John's Kitchen

St. John’s Kitchen, 97 Victoria St. N.

Here’s the details:

Saturday, 20 October 2012 from 4:00pm to 8:00pm iCal

St. John’s Kitchen Map
97 Victoria Street North
Kitchener, Ontario Canada

Automobile parking is available through Heit Lane in the Worth A Second Look parking lot; bicyles can be locked to railings at the entrance to St. John’s Kitchen.

Event link:
(Registration is optional, but appreciated)

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Posted in Events, GNU/Linux, Operating System, Ubuntu | 1 Comment »

Calendaring Server Software

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 12th October 2012

I’m looking for a free/libre calendar server to run on a GNU/Linux server.

It needs to have CalDAV connectivity, so that I can use Evolution, Sunbird or Thunderbird/Lightning as my only client. Ideally, it will also have a Web interface for both administration and calendar viewing, exports to iCal (.ics) files, supports iMIP, and offers Atom/RSS feeds of calendar items.

Here’s what I’ve found so far. If you know of others, please leave a comment.

There’s also a list at CalConnect’s CalDAV Servers

Name WebUI Export iCal (.ics) CalDAV
Admin View Edit iCal (.ics) iMip Atom/RSS
phpGroupWare       No     No
Chandler Project              
Zimbra Yes, but.. Yes Yes Yes   No Outlook only
EGroupware Community Version              
WebCalendar             No
Darwin Calendar Server              
Tryton Calendar              
ownCloud Yes Yes, but not Public, Read-only Yes No No No Yes
Citadel ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Baikal ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Horde ? Yes Yes Yes ? Maybe Yes

WordPress Plugins

The other calendars I’ve been trying are WordPress plugins. There is much promise in their description blurbs, but so far I’ve rejected most:

Name Export iCal (.ics) CalDAV Notes
iCal (.ics) iMip Atom/RSS
Calendar JCM         Rejected: no longer supported
Event Calendar / Scheduler         Rejected: missing .php modules when running
The Events Calendar         Rejected
WP Events Calendar Yes, with iCal for Events Calendar plugin   No No Works
My Calendar Only lists current month   Partial  
CalPress Pro ? ? ? ? This is a commercial plugin;
All-in-One Event Calendar by Timely By tweaking the “Add to Google” URL ? ? WebCal Possible privacy concern
  • 11 January 2011
    Originally posted
  • 26 March 2011
    Added Linuxaria’s suggestions
  • 16 April 2011
    Added WordPress plugin info; added CalDAV column; filled in some attributes
  • 11 October 2012
    Updated feature list for Zimbra
    I’ll be writing a review of Zimbra Open Source Edition soon, detailing some of my experiences (eg. requires Flash for the administrative Web interface)
  • 12 October 2012: Put WordPress calendars in table format, added My Calendar
  • 5 November 2012: Added Dosch’s suggestions
  • 16 November 2012: @Encyclomundist dents about
  • 26 September 2013: I’ve started to use ownCloud 5.0 as a calendar repository accessed with Lightning using WebCal. ownCloud doesn’t publish an iCal feed or have a public read-only view, but since it’s Free Software constantly under improvement I’ll stick with it for a while.
  • 9 November 2013: I think @postblue turned me on to Baikal: Using #Baikal to sync tasks, contacts and calendars
  • 9 November 2013: I’m now using Timely All-In-One on some blogs, will be upgrading others. It’s not the perfect iCal plugin, but the best one yet.
  • 9 November 2013: @McScx and @lxw37 both introduce me to Horde.
  • 13 August 2015: Just discovered Blaise Alleyne’s post on Degooglifying (Part IV): Calendar. This is pretty much the same solution I’ve settled on; ownCloud + Thunderbird and Lightning. I’m not quite as advanced as Blaise on the mobile front, though.

This is a “living” post, so it will float back to the top of the blog as I update it.


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Posted in Calendars and Schedules | 11 Comments »

How To Use OpenStreetMap with Thunderbird’s “Get Map” button

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 9th October 2012

Thunderbird’s address book has a “Get Map” button to show an address location on a map. By default, Thunderbird uses Google Maps to display a location. Wouldn’t it be nice to use OpenStreetMap in Thunderbird instead? Here’s how!



OpenStreetMap uses Nominatim to search for and display a location. The Wiki tells us the URL query is processed left-to-right, and the example shows the address elements from greatest to least resolution:,+birmingham&format=xml&polygon=1&addressdetails=1



The Thunderbird Knowledgebase for Mail and News settings gives us the following address-related parameters:

Substitution variables:
@A1: address, part 1
@A2: address, part 2
@CI: city
@ST: state
@ZI: zip code
@CO: country

Now we combine the two in Thunderbird’s configuration file prefs.js:

user_pref("mail.addr_book.mapit_url.format", ",@A2,@CI,@ST,@CO");

If you prefer not to edit the pref.js file, here’s a step-by-step procedure to do it with the graphical interface.

If you’re using Linux, select Edit, Preferences from the Thunderbird menu. On Thunderbird for Windows select Tools, Options. Click on the Advanced toolbar button, then the General tab.

Screenshot of the Preferences window, Advanced tab

Click on the Config Editor… button.

Screenshot of advanced configuration warning

Click on the I’ll be careful, I promise! button.

Screenshot of Thunderbird advanced configuration window

Type mapit in the Search field,

Screenshot showing the mail.addr_book.mapit_url.format setting

Double-click on the line for the mail.addr_book.mapit_url.format parameter.

Screenshot of input dialogue

Delete what’s there, and type,@A2,@CI,@ST,@CO

Screenshot of input box with OSM value

Click OK, close the about:config window, and close the Preferences window.

Now we need to find an address book entry with enough data to generate a map.

From the Thunderbird menu, select Tools, Address Book, and double-click on an entry. Click New Contact if there’s nobody in your address book (and you can enter your own address).

Screenshot showing address book general info entry form

Click on the Private or Work tab to show the screen for address entry.

Screenshot showing address book work info entry form

At minimum, fill in the Country field. Adding State/Province, City and Address will improve the resolution of the map. If you do fill in higher resolution fields (Address or City) then you also need to fill in the lower-resolution fields (State/Province and Country), or the Nominatim search won’t work.

Note that the Nominatim URL query doesn’t include the @ZI variable, so the ZIP/Postal Code field isn’t used to create the map.

When all the data is entered, click OK.

Screenshot of Thunderbird Address Book showing Bob Jonkman

With any address field filled in, the address book entry now displays a Get Map button.

Go ahead, click it!

Screenshot of OpenStreetMap

And there we have it! An OpenStreetMap of the address in the Thunderbird address book.

If you’ve done this, or have suggestions for improving these instructions please let me know in the comments or by e-mail at


All screenshots taken by Bob Jonkman, and freely available for re-use (CC0CC0).

The new OpenStreetMap logo by Ken Vermette from, used under a Creative Commons LicenseCC BY-SA license.

The Thunderbird Logo and Wordmark are used according to the Mozilla Foundation Visual Identity Guidelines for Thunderbird.

Maps © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC BY-SA

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Posted in FLOSS, Google Free, How To | No Comments »

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