return to OCLUG Web Site
A Django site.
March 17, 2013

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Editing menus on LXDE

The menus are created from the foo.desktop file for each application.

To find them, you can do a couple of things.

First, using Synaptic package manager, select the package, then click on the “Properites” icon in the toolbar. Use the tab “Installed Files”.

Second, you can use this command line, where the “package-name” needs to be the name of your package. Tab completion works for Bash shell on the name of the package, if you know how it starts.

dpkg -L package-name | grep desktop

I found this out because I needed to change the “EXEC” string in “d2x-rebirth-demo” (the “Descent 2″ rewrite) to:

/usr/local/games/d2x-rebirth/d2x-rebirth -hogdir /usr/local/games/d2x-rebirth/data

January 22, 2013

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Proposed Stack Eschange site for DITA

Anders Svensson has created a proposal for a DITA Stack Exhange Site.
It’s at

DITA is an OASIS standard for XML documentation.

January 20, 2013

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» User Group Connect has a new URL

“User Group Connect 2013″ has a new URL. You can find us at

If you don’t know about UGC, it is an opportunity for User Group’s in Ottawa to get together and for the Ottawa technology community to get together to meet some of the 30 or so User Groups in Ottawa.

On Saturday February 9, from 10am to 4pm, join us in the lounge at Shopify, 126 York St. The entrance is at the back of the building, from the parking lot.

Accessibility problems – Unfortunately, this location is not wheelchair accessible. It has stairs, and the washroom is up a flight of stairs.

Also, you can still reach the User Group Connect site at the old URL.

Tagged: groups, Ottawa

January 12, 2013

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» New Java 1.7 vulnerability

I found this in my email:

I will disable Java plugin in all browsers on my machines at work on Monday. is taking this seriously:

This could be used against Linux, Mac or Android, not just Windows, if anyone cared to try. They would not have access to root without further exploits, although popping up a window that looks like your Updater, or Microsoft’s, would catch some inexperienced Linux users.

Tagged: security, software

November 21, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Paula duHamel Yellow Horn and her Snow Duck wing

Dr. duHamel Yellow Horn laid this wing on the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Nov. 11, 2012, Remembrance Day Ceremony.
She laid it to honour her father and two uncles and their participation in the Canadian war effort during the Second World War.
Paula’s father was posted to the factory that made the Lancaster bombers.
Her uncles flew Lancaster bombers over Europe.

The wing is a symbolic gift to the dead, with each part carrying a special meaning

The wing is a Snow Duck wing, with a beaded butterfly on the deerskin binding.
A Turkey feather and a Canada Goose feather are bound in with the Snow Duck wing.

This is a symbolic gift to the dead, with each part carrying a special meaning.
The Snow Duck is a reference to the Native Veterans in Canada, travelers a long way from our land of snow in that war.
The Turkey was a valued food bird in Eastern North America, and carries a prayer that those who have gone to the Spirit world may have all the good things in that world.
The Canada Goose flies high above the world, and looks down like the Eagle from high in the sky. It symbolizes a prayer that her father and uncles may grow closer to the Creator in the Spirit world.

The beaded butterfly on the deerskin symbolizes the transformation from the human form to the spirit form, like the butterfly emerging from its cocoon.

Paula made this memorial herself, with deep meaning and careful crafting, demonstrating respect and love for those who have passed on. As we move into winter, now is a good time to remember our ancestors, living or in spirit, and respectfully acknowledge how their life and work affect our own lives.

Tagged: native, Ottawa

November 3, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» World Usability Day 2012 in Ottawa

(From the CAPCHI newsletter)

CapCHI is proud to present two presentations on Tuesday November 6th, in celebration of World Usability Day 2012 (officially on Thursday November 8th).

Date: Tuesday November 6th, 2012

Time: doors open at 6:00 pm; talk begins at 6:30 pm

Place: TheCodeFactory, 246 Queen St., Ottawa, ON, Canada

1. “Mixed-media Computer Human Interfaces“, presented by Tim Moore, PhD CHFP, Ergosum Ltd.

2. “The Gist of NIST“, presented by Lorraine Chapman, Director of UX Research, Macadamian

Here is the CAPCHI web site:


Tagged: Ottawa, user groups

October 8, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Template Files in DITA Open Toolkit may not be needed

I learned in Eliot Kimber’s “DITA for Practitioners”, after some re-reading, how the integrator.xml ant script works. It looks for template files and creates the corresponding file from it. When the integrator script creates the corresponding xml file from the template, it inserts “stuff” (different for Ant files or SXL files) from all the places that add to that extension point.

As far as I can tell, and this is not explicit in any documentation I have seen, including Kimber’s book, you only need to create a template file in your new plugin when you have defined a toolkit extension point in it. For plugins that you are sharing, you probably want to add extension points to your plugin. For plugins only used in your own DITA deployment, you probably don’t need to do that.

Tagged: DITA, software

October 7, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Review: DITA for Practitioners, Vol. 1

Author: Eliot Kimber, XML Press

I will start this review with my conclusion:
I recommend this book for the DITA developer, and also for the person designing your DITA Information Model. Some parts are useful for the writer who is using DITA, but there are other books for them.

In this review, I will describe how I think the software developer for a DITA implementation, someone whom Kimber would call a DITA Practitioner, should use this book for the first year or more of their first DITA deployment. Then I will describe what parts of the book I think an Information Model designer should concentrate on.

For the DITA developer:

When I got Eliot’s book in April 2012, I thought I had a good grounding in DITA development.
However, I found in “DITA for Practitioners” a lot of useful data that I had not seen before. In some areas, I thought the writing was a bit pedantic, but I often found that valuable nuggets of information are hidden inside even those parts.

First, Chapter 1 is a good summary about DITA. I refer new DITA developers to it. It helps define what you need to know when you move to DITA from other technologies. It explains that DITA looks very differently at XML processing compared to previous systems. DITA especially treats all processing with the goal of extending DITA while allowing data interchange with other sites. This is further explained in Chapter 5.

Chapter 2 is about setting up your DITA environment. I did not set my systems up exactly the same way as Eliot did, but I made some changes after reading this chapter.

I wish I had been able to read Chapter 3 before I set up my company’s DITA prototype setup, because I would have set up new local Shell Document Types (DTD’s). It would have been better than modifying the existing DTD’s for our use. For instance, when we later opened files from our first DITA prototype, we could not immediately process them, because our DTD’s removes some elements that were used in those DITA files. By immediately setting up new DTD’s for our own use, we would have avoided that problem.

Chapter 3 has a lot of information for authors, but don’t skip it. Like most of the book, it is mainly for DITA implementers, and there is a lot of useful information squirreled away here that the authors don’t need. In particular, don’t skip the last half of this 100 page long chapter. Task steps for conditional processing (Authoring Step 15), and using DITAVAL’s (filtering) (Authoring Step 16) are hidden here. Guidelines for CCMS requirements are also hiding there.

In Chapter 4, you need to read “Introduction to Open Toolkit Customization and Extension”, pages 145-154, even if you have already written one or two plugins. It describes the XML elements of several plugin files. After reading it while creating my first plugins, I still refer to it occasionally.

When you are planning a new plugin, the examples at the end of Chapter 4 for HTML and PDF are required reading. They are sufficient to create simple working plugins, a bit more than what you need for “Hello World”.

Chapter 5, “Vocabulary Composition and Specialization”, tells how DITA creates the vocabulary of elements you use in your DTD’s. This is very useful background information, but to create a new DTD Shell yourself, you need the information in Eliot Kimber’s tutorials online, which will be in Volume 2 of this book. Read this chapter before you start, then keep it handy when you are using those aids. The last section, “DITA and Namespaces”, is academic material only useful when you care to know why DITA uses namespaces in some cases but not others.

Chapter 6 “Maps and Topics” is mainly theoretical. Skim it anyway. It starts by describing why the DITA approach is so different from previous XML document standards. It describes the importance of splitting topic order and linking (maps) from topic content, metadata use and precedence, generating several files from one input file and vice versa, and the various elements found in maps. You should find and read sections of it in detail when you use those parts of DITA.

Chapter 7, “General Structural Patterns in DITA” describes how DITA files are organized, presenting theoretical data for practical use. First key take-away: just because the DTD let’s you do it, doesn’t mean you can do it in DITA. This is a good summary of how DITA files are structured, and why these choices were made by the DITA standard. Read this chapter once.

Chapter 8, “Pointing to things: Linking and Addressing in DITA”, describes DITA’s various linking methods and how to use them. You need to know this, to allow you to constrain out only the elements your organization doesn’t need, and to help your writers.

Chapter 9, “Reuse at the Element Level, the Content Reference Facility”, is about reuse. My team avoided using conref’s until we had tried out DITA on a prototype project. That still seems like a good decision to me. Add it when you are comfortable with DITA.

Chapter 10, “Conditional Processing: Filtering and Flagging”, describes a topic that will inevitably arise in most writing teams. Again, like conref’s, we put it off at first. You need to learn how to do it, to implement examples, and help the team decide when to add it to your DITA implementation.

Chapter 11, “Value Lists, Taxonomies, and Ontologies: SubjectScheme Maps” is one I have only begun to understand. However, I think it addresses a problem I see at work, where we want to have different lists of “conditional” topics for different projects. I need to point it out to my Information Model Designer, and see if it solves our problem.

Appendix A: “Character Encodings, or What Does UTF-8 Really Mean?” presents useful information about character encodings. Kimber starts it as a rant, with the most useful information at the end of the chapter.

Appendix B: “Bookmap: An unfortunate design” is valuable reading for a Sunday afternoon, but in Technical Publications, you probably want to start out by using Bookmaps as the top map of your document. The bookmap should include only other maps, so it is one small file in each project. You can replace it with something better if you run into its limitations.

For the Information Model designer:

There is a lot of information here that isn’t in the books for DITA writers, but which is very useful, or required, for the Information Model designer.

If you are the Information Model designer, or the first DITA author on your team, you need to read Chapters 3, 6, 7 first. When you want to worry about links, read Chapter 8. Chapter 8 also introduces re-usable strings, because DITA uses the linking technology as one way to store strings. Because these strings can be used conditionally, as described in Chapter 10, Chapter 8 also spends a couple of pages describing Conditional Processing as it applies to keys.

For content reuse, read Chapter 9, about “conref’s”, the Content Reference facility. You use conref to reuse whole topics and common portions of a topic. This includes DITA’s second method for storing strings, this time strings that can contain other XML elements.

You will need to consider Chapter 11 when you have lists to track that are used in XML editing. This would include different lists for each of your projects to use for conditional processing.


I find this book is often a better choice than searching the web, because it presents information that is not described or summarized as well in the DITA Users list or other venues. It has a mass of reliable, usable information. If you are a DITA developer, you need this book. If you are an Information Model designer, you will also find information here that you need and won’t get elsewhere. Your DITA developer will almost certainly forget to tell you about some of it, if they actually know about it. I know I found info while preparing this review that my Information Model designer needs!

Tagged: DITA, software, software team, tools

September 10, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Rob Echlin

I installed Ubuntu 12.04 on a machine at work, using the WUBI installer. When I did an update, it complained like this:

W: A error occurred during the signature verification. The repository is not updated and the previous index files will be used. GPG error: precise-security Release: The following signatures were invalid: BADSIG 40976EAF437D05B5 Ubuntu Archive Automatic Signing Key <>

It turns out that i was not authorized on the WIFI when I tried to do the update, so of course it failed. The real issue is that it managed to mess up the APT cache, so it kept on failing, even after I had the WIFI running.

The fix, from Ubuntu Forums, was to clear that cache.

cd /var/lib/apt
sudo mv lists lists.old
sudo mkdir -p lists/partial
sudo apt-get update

June 18, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» OCLUG and “The Art of Community” by Jono Bacon

I have started reading this book, I am about half way through.
I have already found useful info that I can use in OCLUG.

I consider my role as President of OCLUG to be similar to the role of Community Manager that Bacon describes. The committees that we struck at the AGM have “objectives” that would be “objectives” for the club, as the book defines them. We would need to add other objectives as defined at the AGM and in recent board meetings, but this is a great start on a “Strategic Plan”.

As someone said in a committee meeting recently, “talking about mission … again”. Well, maybe. Jono Bacon considers a Mission Statement to be useful, but I think we have one already. It’s somewhere in the minutes and I will make it more prominent Real Soon Now(tm, but not by me).

The book is a detailed how-to, a tool for planning, executing on the plan, tracking progress on the plan, and reporting. In fact, I intend to take his notes on “Reporting”, and use them at work. I will also apply his recommendations on reporting transparently at work and in the club.

Speaking of work – Bacon even tells a story of what not to take from work and apply to community, thereby highlighting that this can be an issue, and to remember it.

I appreciate the work that Jono Bacon has put into this book. It will be a reference that I will keep and refer to, and recommend to others involved in leadership of any sort of community, from festival to software project.

I must note that my copy is missing all its “Figures”, which probably means it is a pre-release copy. I am curious to see several of them, (What does the “dot” family look like?) but it has not hindered my learning.

I have learned about organising a group from one of the best – Toastmasters International – and from numerous short training courses. This book brings together a lot that I have learned, packages it for theoretical consistency, and adds new material that I can act on. And I still have half of it to read yet.

Tagged: process, review, team tools

May 17, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Search in DTD’s on Windows – Fail!

So you have some DTD files: the main DTD files, model files, and entity files, in a number of folders and sub-folders on Windows XP.

They have extensions as follows:

  • dtd
  • mod
  • ent

Search for something using Windows Explorer, in it’s Search pane. Tell it to search all files and folders. Results? Only from some of the files, not all. Why?

Look at the no-search, no-folders mode of Windows Explorer. It offers to help you view videos, but can’t actually find any to show you. Odd, but related. This is because Windows is aware of a video file type with an extension of “mod”. So it won’t search those files.


Let’s try the command line! You can use “find” to search the contents of files, but only in the current folder.


Fix it with GetGnuWin32! And use grep to find your stuff.

Tagged: Gnu, Linux, software, Windows

February 29, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» paranoia part 2

The software isn’t out to get me, it got me already.

Tagged: humor, software

February 26, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» It’s not the “Sound” app, it’s alsamixer

Finally got the sound working on my laptop, running Mint 12 and Cinnamon.

The fix was to go to the Gnome Alsa Mixer and uncheck “External amplifier”. The “Sound” app on the system bar seemed to allow the same change, but it didn’t seem to stick.

I first tried adding more gStreamer plugins. No effect. There were already some gStream plugins installed, but there are lots and lots of others to distract you!

Tagged: frustration, Linux, Linux sound problem, software

February 25, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Federal layoff-ment

In the last couple of weeks, I have heard from three people facing layoffs in the federal government. Two are employees. One is in a department that is going to lay off about 8 of 25 workers in the new fiscal year, because their budget went down that much. The second is in a smaller department with fewer layoffs. Apparently there are people calling from other departments because they are in the same boat, looking for a new department. None have official notice yet, as far as I know, but I expect that will arrive at the end of March.

Granted, the larger department might have lost some positions even if the new budget was not cutting jobs, but the message is clear: lots of departments are losing payroll next year.

My other caller was a contractor with a contract renewal at the end of February, expecting to renew until June or July, but the contract is “slow” coming back. Given the employee news, are the contractors likely to be renewed? Some would say yes, but I am not optimistic. I think the contractors will be hitting the streets real soon now, looking for private sector work.

The employees apparently have contracts that allow them some period of months looking for a job in another department before their pay ends. Some of these people will not look to the private sector for some time, so the flood of former government employees may not hit for months, may in fact be a trickle over a year or more. Yeah, that would be great!

Good luck to all those affected, including you and me.

Tagged: computer industry, Ottawa

February 23, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» delete .gconfd to fix missing panels

I have had to fix missing panels before in previous versions of Ubuntu and Xubuntu.

Previously, you deleted .gconf from your home directory.

Now you have to delete .gconfd.

“Now” means Xubuntu 10.10.
I am a little out of date on the family computer in the kitchen.

Tagged: Linux, ubuntu

February 20, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» jackd out, sound came back

I have had a real problem with sound on Xubuntu for the last week.

The system says  “Welcome to Xubuntu 9.10″ in the web page reached with “Applications > Help”, and “Update Manager” says “11.04″ is available, so I think this is the system that was originally installed a s 9.10, and upgraded to 10.04 and 10.10.

There was no way for me to get sound out of this system. Many tweaks and such did not help. Windows runs sound fine.

I looked to see if I installed anything recently, and “Synaptic” said I had installed jackd – way back in October. I uninstalled jackd, and now I can output sound. I am able to record from a USB webcam, but won’t use it.

One thing at a time.

Tagged: frustration, Linux, software

February 17, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Your daily tools: Tortoise and ls

Gui is cute, and sometimes productive, but GNU command line saved my sanity today.

Tortoise is a good GUI for using Subversion on Windows. It nicely flags all the files with status symbols on their icons.


Sometimes it gets confused when a change is made 2 or more folders deeper, below the one on display. I don’t know whose cache is causing this – Microsoft’s or Tortoise’s, but it’s a minor issue.

It’s been worse since I upgraded to Tortoise 1.7.5. I jumped from 1.6.x to 1.7.5 the other day while writing docs for some tech writers, including how to install Tortoise.

I have several checkouts (OK, working copies) from the same corporate repository, all checked out in C:\svn. (OK, creativity didn’t seem necessary in this case, OK?)

Today the checkout I am most interested in was mostly not displaying its status icons. Yesterday I wasn’t as worried about it. Usually the entire tree was unaccented. Sometimes a folder would light up until I changed something. Then I noticed that all the “.svn” folders were missing, except in the top folder of the tree. Weird. I checked settings on a couple of things to make sure hidden folders were visible. For a while I had a grain of doubt that maybe the .svn folders were really gone.

So I went to the command line. “dir” didn’t see any .svn folders at all. That was because they were “hidden” by a Microsoft flag on them. “dir /ah” showed them, but not any of the other files/folders. Two dir commands required. Painful.

I have GNU Win32 tools installed, which is a port of the regular GNU tools to Windows.

So the answer was “ls -Al”, or “ls -A” for that economical look.

Thanks to all the GNU developers and those who ported and packaged it for Windows. You help me stay sane on the MS platform.

The site to download for Windows is

Tagged: frustration, Linux, software, tools, Windows

February 10, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Numeric-only date output? Fail!

Yesterday, I donated blood again.

They have been asking you questions on the computer for the last year or so.
Example: “Have you eaten any pogo sticks in the last 30 days (since 09/01/2012)?”
The accompanying voice asks without telling you what the date was a month ago, fortunately. It was enough of a distraction that they used a different reader or a different room when they added new questions; a computer generated voice would have been actually irritating.

So there was the date, to me it meant Sept 1, and my fast read of it ignored the year which would have made that a future date. The fact that I can’t read is hardly relevant here. :-) The real point is that they used numeric dates, which are always ambiguous.

Take this home and tell your friends:
Complain when computers don’t display or print dates with a 4 digit year and a text month that is at least 3 letters long. Maybe we can get a culture going that actually communicates clearly.

And please take any managers you know from Canadian Blood Services to CapCHI meetings on the third Tuesday of the month at The Code Factory. then buy them a beer afterwards at whatever pub we go to.

Have you ever filled out a date field  in DYM or MYD order? Shame on you! :-)

Tagged: computer, frustration, humor, software, software humor

January 23, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Blog tools in Linux

I decided to look at what blog tools are available in Linux. I want to  use them with my blog, of course, so that is how I tested them.

I have only checked out a couple of tools, but I find them mostly not working very well with The only one that has worked at all is QTM, so far.


This is the recommended tool for Linux, according to the WordPress site. It won’t install in Oneiric. I expect I could make it work if I fiddled with some settings for apt-get, maybe. But the author is not working on it, so no real desire to try.


Broken. Intended for Gnome 2. One of the libraries is not compatible with Gnome 3: “python-gnomeapplet”. Maybe there is no concept of applet in Gnome 3?


I tried it. Editing a new post worked. There were error messages connecting to I was not able to post the blog because it could not get permission to write.


This one was able to post a message, but left the message in the “draft” state on That may be my fault – there is a “draft/publish” drop down on the app.

Because it was “posted”, it put the file into some sort of archive state, so that the next time I went to edit, I had to fiddle around to be able to see it. Finished editing the post on

Other options

There is at least one plugin for FireFox for editing blogs. But I was looking for tools for Gnome so I can try out Gnome 3, so I haven’t tried it yet.

Tagged: Gnome3, Linux, software review

January 18, 2012

Rob Echlin
Talk Software
» Wind River layoffs

Sorry to anyone I talked to about working at Wind River.
We were hiring, now we are laying off.

We have all seen that before…

High tech. Gotta love it!

I am still working at Wind River, in the same position.

Tagged: company, computer industry, frustration