Archive | March 11, 2007

Preserving our documentation for posterity

Recently, I received a diagram created in Microsoft Visio I wanted to examine and possibly edit. It turns out that Draw does not have an import module for the proprietary (and apparantly undocumented) .vsd format, nor can I find another FOSS product that does. This is one of the reasons to keep a Windows machine around – to read the proprietary format files. Or it should be. My version of Visio is a version or two old, and it wouldn’t read it either. I asked my co-worker to send the diagram in another format I could use. We tried a number of them. SVG (Structured Vector Graphics) is a standard format and has a filter for it. However, it turns out that Microsoft uses proprietary extensions to the format for items like word wrap and the filter won’t read them (Neither will Gnome image viewer nor FireFox nor Dia). EPS, EWF and WMF are more standard and were readable, but the graphics are reduced to primatives at that point with no larger structure. Drawing Exchange Format (.DXF), which might have come from AutoCAD, is equally illegible.

The .VDX format is XML, so I had some hopes for that. It looks like the Dia diagramming tool will work with .VDX files with a plugin. [Update: irony of ironies: the VDX plugin link is now dead. Good news: VDX is now a built-in import/export filter.]

What a disappointment. While we are not writing anything particularly profound that needs to be preserved for posterity, it would be nice to know we could read the files in a few months on our platforms of choice. Vendors need to get more serious about interoperable, open formats.

The smoke clears after the DST spring-ahead…

… and we’ll see if any news develops. Either: nothing will happen and news media will point at IT for once again crying Y2K wolf, despite a lot of sysadmins sleepless nights last week and this weekend. Or some major system will fail and the media will conclude IT isn’t taking their role seriously enough. Either way we lose, eh?

Here’s the score here at Roche Manor: a power blackout at 0045 this morning reset most of the home appliances for us, so we could just find all the stuff blinking “12:00” to reset. One Win2K laptop reset fine, thanks to our manual intervention with tzedit.exe in advance. One WinXPPro machine sprung two hours in advance instead of one. Two Linux laptops and three Linux servers Just Worked Fine. And the iMac wonders what all the fuss is about.

Update: Two WinXPPro laptops sprang ahead 2 hours. I think each was booted into Linux first, and perhaps that updated the computer’s clock before the Windows machine. Resetting the WinXPPro machines by having them synch with the internet time servers seemed to clear it up. I don’t run any software on the machines know to be DST-incompliant (Outlook, Exchange, etc.)

Now we wait to see what happens on the traditional Spring Ahead Day…

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.