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LibreOffice Calc Set To Get GPU Powered Boost From AMD

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the lightning-speed-sales-projection dept.

AMD 211

darthcamaro writes "We all know that the open source LibreOffice Calc has been slow — forever and a day. That's soon going to change thanks to a major investment made by AMD into the Document Foundation. AMD is helping LibreOffice developers to re-factor Calc to be more performance and to be able to leverage the full power of GPUs and APUs. From the article: '"The reality has been that Calc has not been the fastest spreadsheet in the world," Suse Engineer Michael Meeks admitted. "Quite a large chunk of this refactoring is long overdue, so it's great to have the resources to do the work so that Calc will be a compelling spreadsheet in its own right."'" Math operations will be accelerated using OpenCL, unit tests are being added for the first time, and the supposedly awful object oriented code is being rewritten with a "modern performance oriented approach."

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If you need it you are doing it wrong. (5, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#44177973)

If your spreadsheet needs a gpu to speed up calculations, you are probably misusing spreadsheets. I know most accountants love the spreadsheet and they make insanely complicated things using spreadsheets pushing it far beyond what these are designed to do. But if you have a spreadsheet that needs this much of cpu time to recompute, you should probably be using a full fledged data base with multiple precomputed indexing.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (5, Insightful)

Russ1642 (1087959) | about a year ago | (#44178035)

Custom database applications are expensive and inflexible. Stop trying to tell people what they can't do with a spreadsheet.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178175)

Spreadsheets are all rectangular. That's pretty inflexible. Show me a triangular spreadsheet and then we'll talk.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (5, Informative)

Kenja (541830) | about a year ago | (#44178233)

Pivot Tables can have three or more axis.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#44178461)

An N-dimensional spreadsheet probably wouldn't be too hairy to describe as a mathematical structure; but the UI might get pretty dreadful.

Right (Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong.) (3, Informative)

WillAdams (45638) | about a year ago | (#44178791)

Actually, the UI for Lotus Improv was quite nice and won some awards.

Its (spiritual) successor, Quantrix Financial Modeler seems to be selling well enough, even w/ a $1,495 price point.

I wish that Flexisheet (an opensource take on this sort of thing) would get more traction.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178799)

How is a triangle not two-dimensional?

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (4, Interesting)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#44178245)

Thats not the issue. If your spreadsheet is SO larger that on a MODERN CPU, its slow ... you're doing it wrong.

You can make insanely complex, application like spreadsheets, without noticing 'recalc' time. By the time you get to noticing 'recalc' time, you've fucked up.

Caveat: OO.org is known to have some of the crappiest code in existence, so with the case of Calc, you don't have to make ridiculous spreadsheets to notice recalc time. GPU support won't fix the problem however as its not the math thats the issue, its the shitty logic code filled with stupid crap written by clueless devs that cause Calc to be so slow.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (2)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year ago | (#44178305)

GPU support won't fix the problem however as its not the math thats the issue, its the shitty logic code filled with stupid crap written by clueless devs that cause Calc to be so slow.

Indeed. You really shouldn't need to have to get a gaming GPU to run a spreadsheet. Hopefully

"and the supposedly awful object oriented code is being rewritten with a "modern performance oriented approach".

means they intend to address that part, too, and the crappy headline is just being whiz-bang. If they're dumb enough that they think throwing inappropriate hardware at the problem is a solution... well, they're too far from the vicinity of the US Pacific coast...

The GPU is likely idle so why not use it? (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#44179331)

Indeed. You really shouldn't need to have to get a gaming GPU to run a spreadsheet. Hopefully

If you are doing trivial calculations then you are probably right. However many of us do more with spreadsheets than making grocery lists. There are quite a few [wikipedia.org] problems that benefit from parallel processing. Since the GPU is probably sitting mostly idle if you have a spreadsheet up, why not do something useful with it?

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (2)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#44178867)

Probably they had some developer mobility betwen Star Division and SAP :/ /me ducks and runs

Appropriate tool use (4, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#44179059)

Thats not the issue. If your spreadsheet is SO larger that on a MODERN CPU, its slow ... you're doing it wrong.

It is a relatively trivial matter to make calculations on a dataset slow regardless of the tool used. I work with datasets and related calculations all the time that would make for slow calculations if you hand coded them in assembler. The mere fact that it is slow in a spreadsheet as well has nothing inherently to do with it being worked on in a spreadsheet. Now if the spreadsheet can't handle 65K rows by 65K columns then it shouldn't offer that size table as an option. But most can handle datasets that size and larger without too much trouble. For rapid data modeling and ad-hoc analysis a spreadsheet can be pretty hard to beat.

When people go wrong using spreadsheets it's usually one of a few ways. The one I see the most is when they take what should be a prototype analysis and turn it into a production tool. If you need to put a bunch of buttons and other interface tools on a spreadsheet THEN you are doing it wrong. The second is when they try to take analyzed data involving more than 3 dimensions. While it can be done it rarely is a good idea. Another I see is if they try to have more than one person working on the spreadsheet. If the dataset is truly huge or you require multi-user access or you need to interface with other applications then by all means use something other than a spreadsheet.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (3, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#44178741)

Spreadsheets are good for "throwaway applications" you need to do these calculations fast or gather data, and after a few weeks you don't need it anymore.
If you are going to be following a process with a fairly rigid data sets. You are going to be better off spending the time and money to make a real application with a real database with it. That way the rigidness is to your favor to prevent incompatible creep, and allow for future data gathering abilities.

Using Spreadsheets for your application needs works but it is very flimsy and over the long run you will be spending a lot more time fixing your mistakes (say a bad sort) Or a mistime change and save, or just the wrong click of your mouse you messed up a lot of data.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | about a year ago | (#44179531)

Sure, it's all easy and fun until something like this happens: http://theconversation.com/the-reinhart-rogoff-error-or-how-not-to-excel-at-economics-13646 [theconversation.com] . (I'm not saying that errors do not happen with databases, but the fact that the logic in your code is written in one bazillion copy-and-pasted formulas makes it very, very easy to screw up something. And it makes it impossible to write proper tests.)

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (3, Interesting)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about a year ago | (#44178089)

I agree. Also, if you rewrite structured code into a "performance oriented approach", you are doing it wrong.
Write code so it is easy to understand. Then compilers should understand how to make it fast.
This can only come from people who think code is for machines. Code is for humans to read and modify.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about a year ago | (#44178179)

Then compilers should understand how to make it fast.

Should but often don't.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#44178187)

Object-oriented code, not structured code.

For all I know every cell is an instantiated object held in a giant linked list, with every property another object.

It may be a fantastical design, but with real-world efficiency problems.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#44178425)

This! I once wrote a calculator program for a microprocessor programming course that employed the fact that multiplication is just repeated addition, and addition is just repeatedly incrementing one number while decrementing the other. It worked, but boy, was it dog slow.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

Chatterton (228704) | about a year ago | (#44178661)

Done the same during the algorithm course. On a turing machine you don't have such shiny operators like addition even less multiplication :)

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#44178883)

If so, it probably needs a custom allocator, that's all.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178279)

Okay, we get it, you managed to get your college degree. Now let the big boys do the real work while you sit back and draw UML diagrams.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178311)

I take it you have not tried to write an optimizing compiler any time recently, then?

HLLs makes code easier to read. HLLs also makes it easy to generate non-optimal code. Writing your HLL _just so_ might improve performance tremendously. Example: which way do you iterate through an array to apply an operation to each element? Well, _if_ you happen to have iterated through it recently, doing it backwards might be lot faster then doing it forwards due to cache locality. I'd love to see a compiler managing to take advantage of that.

Compilers are lovely, but they can only take advantage of fairly simple things. You need to write your code and data structures so that the result isn't a twisted mess that runs like three-legged dog on sedatives.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (2)

Chelloveck (14643) | about a year ago | (#44179125)

Example: which way do you iterate through an array to apply an operation to each element? Well, _if_ you happen to have iterated through it recently, doing it backwards might be lot faster then doing it forwards due to cache locality. I'd love to see a compiler managing to take advantage of that.

I'd trust the compiler to do it a whole lot more than I'd trust the programmer. Things like cache locality are going to be very dependent on machine architecture. You should not be optimizing for machine architecture on anything that's intended to be the least bit portable. Yeah, you made it faster on your machine, but what about your user's? Will it have the same cache size? The same line size? Hell, will it even have the same word size and endedness? To the extent that any of this should be optimized, it's the compiler's job to do it.

Be sure to pick your algorithms carefully. Know the complexity, and don't choose an O(n^2) algorithm when there's an equivalent one that's O(n). But optimizing hardware-level stuff? Unless you get to pick the hardware, don't do it. Every optimization you make on your machine is likely to be a pessimization on someone else's. The compiler knows the architecture it's compiling for (well, usually...) and is in a much better position to make such performance decisions.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#44178469)

Write code so it is easy to understand. Then compilers should understand how to make it fast.

Could a compiler have come up with the fast inverse square root [wikipedia.org] ?

I once got a 10% speed increase just by moving a pointer offset increment. The compiler missed that one.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#44178927)

No, because then it would have been giving the wrong answer most of the time. The fact that the wrong answer is good enough in certain situations is not something the compiler would be able to determine.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

Guy Harris (3803) | about a year ago | (#44178549)

I agree. Also, if you rewrite structured code into a "performance oriented approach", you are doing it wrong. Write code so it is easy to understand. Then compilers should understand how to make it fast.

I.e., code should be written in high-level descriptive languages, and the compiler should choose the algorithm, so that a tricky-to-understand but much-faster algorithm doesn't show up in the code as written, but shows up in the generated code?

Not all rewrites-for-performance involve low-level trickiness.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (4, Informative)

robthebloke (1308483) | about a year ago | (#44178601)

I agree. Also, if you rewrite structured code into a "performance oriented approach", you are doing it wrong.

Nonsense. One of the joys of C++, is the lack of reflection. This tends to lead apps down the route of wrapping everything into an 'Attribute' class of some description, and wiring those attributes together using a dependency graph. The problem with this (very clean OOP) approach, is that it simply doesn't scale. Before too long, this constant plucking of individual data values from your graph, ends up becomming a really grim bottleneck. If you then run the code through a profiler, rather than seeing any noticeable spikes, you end up looking at an app that's warm all over. If you're in this situation, no amount of refactoring is going to save the product. You're only option is to restructure the

The "performance oriented approach" is the only approach you can take these days. Instead of having a fine OOP granularity on all of your data, you batch data into arrays, and then dispatch the computation on the SIMD units of the CPU, or on the GPU.

Then compilers should understand how to make it fast.

Uhm, nope. Sure, if you happen to have 4 additions right next to each other, the compiler might replace that with an ADDPS. In the case in point however, you'll probably expect a generic node to perform the addition on single items in the table. As such, your "addTwoTableElementsTogether" node isn't going to have 4 floating point ops next to each other, it will only have one. Compilers cannot optimise your data structures. If you want to stand a chance of having the compiler do most of the gruntwork for you, you actually have to spend time re-factoring your data structures to better align them with the SIMD/AVX data types. Some people call this a "performance oriented approach".

This can only come from people who think code is for machines. Code is for humans to read and modify.

Bullshit. This can only come from experienced software developers who understand that the only approach to improving performance of a large scale app, is to restructure the data layout to better align it with modern CPUs. There is *NOTHING* about this approach that makes the code harder to read or follow - that's just your lack of software engineering experience clouding your judgement.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (0)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#44178911)

I wholly agree.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44178699)

I agree. Also, if you rewrite structured code into a "performance oriented approach", you are doing it wrong.
Write code so it is easy to understand. Then compilers should understand how to make it fast.

Except code can end up going through so many layers of abstraction, with some of those layers doing things in the most inefficient manner possible because terrible assumptions were made.

Sometimes, you need to plan for both performance and well structured code -- or you can end up writing garbage which makes heavy use of code which does extremely stupid things.

Most people nowadays are so far removed from knowing what's happening close to the metal that they don't often realize you're essentially running thousands of lines of code to do something trivial as heavyweight libraries wrap everything up.

At a certain point, someone needs to be able to determine if the code is the reason your stuff is so damned slow, and if the bloat has gotten out of hand. Sometimes, you really do need to look at your own optimizing.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#44178421)

If you need it you are doing it wrong

That's begging the question, sort of. Who said anything about needing it?

If your spreadsheet needs a gpu to speed up calculations, you are possibly misusing spreadsheets.

FTFY. If a spreadsheet is capable of doing what someone wants, who are you to say it shouldn't be done that way?

But if you have a spreadsheet that needs this much of cpu time to recompute

Again with the "need." This isn't being done for the people who need fast spreadsheets. It's being done so all spreadsheets can go faster. Who wouldn't appreciate a spreadsheet recalculating in 0.1s instead of 0.5s?

you should probably be using a full fledged data base with multiple precomputed indexing.

Well, now you can draw your arbitrary "this is too slow for spreadsheets" line further away from Calc. That's all.

Libre Office Calc isn't that good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178427)

Engineers use spreadsheets for data analysis, data scientists, you name it - and of course accountants.

Why?

Because when you are doing a very specific task spreadsheets are the best tool. Having to code a Python or Perl script isn't worth it and to do what a spreadsheet was designed to do requires a bunch of libraries with their own API. Why go through all that coding when a spreadsheet can do it. I am doing one off ananlysis and to write programs that I'm gonna never use again - spending all that time debugging, testing, etc .... for something that I'm going to use once? Forget it.

I know most accountants love the spreadsheet and they make insanely complicated things using spreadsheets pushing it far beyond what these are designed to do.

If they weren't designed to do things then they wouldn't be able to do them, would they?

I do a lot of analysis and I've used various spreadsheet programs. I work mostly on Linux and I use Gnumeric - it's MUCH better than Libre Calc. Especially when you're importing CSV files. Libra calc just shows some Asian characters.

The Gold standard is MS Excel and if MS had a Linux version of that, I'd be on it like a sailor on a $2 whore who's been out to sea for a year - the sailor who's been out to sea - not the whore.

I don't want to say Libre Office Calc sucks, but it's not the best spreadsheet out there.

Re:Libre Office Calc isn't that good. (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year ago | (#44178667)

Gnumeric is great, tends to focus on accuracy too whereas msexcel truncates numbers over a certain size (among other weirdness) and libreoffice seems to copy it...

However...

If they weren't designed to do things then they wouldn't be able to do them, would they?

I could use a 40 ton truck to deliver a single letter, i could drive myself to work in that same truck, and if all i had was a 40 ton truck and i only wanted to do the journey once or twice i might even do so, despite how awkward it would be driving such a large vehicle not to mention the fuel usage.

On the other hand, the more often i did these things the more inefficient it would be to use a 40 ton truck for such things, and i might be better off buying a regular car or even a bike.

An unsuitable tool might do as a temporary substitute, but long term you really want to use an appropriate tool for the job.

Re:Libre Office Calc isn't that good. (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44178955)

An unsuitable tool might do as a temporary substitute, but long term you really want to use an appropriate tool for the job.

Look at it this way ... the 40-ton truck in your metaphor (Excel or something like it) is provided to everyone in the company from day 1. From the receptionist to the CEO, everyone gets a 40-ton truck. You know that everyone can carry the same stuff in their 40-ton trucks because they are all pretty much the same.

Furthermore, before you even leave highschool, people tech you how to use that 40-ton truck.

Now, imagine that you need to solve a new problem, which is shockingly similar to problems you've already solved.

So you could go through 6 months to a year of fighting to get someone to help you build a station wagon with a baby seat and tinted windows, because the 40-ton truck is overkill. And you need to convince someone help pay for the station wagon since they didn't budget for one of those.

After you've gone through all of that process, the station wagon has never materialized, the cost overruns make it look like you're buying a gold-plated Rolls Royce, but the engine is still a cardboard mock-up, and the people building it for you have forgotten to include headlamps, windshield wipers, turn signals, seatbelts, and a speedometer. But if you will submit a change order to have them build those, you can wait another period of time (and even more money).

Or, you take the 40-ton truck to do what you need, take a little extra time to find a parking spot, and in the end you've got something which covered your needs in a shorter period of time and for no extra costs except your time. You can get to the grocery store and back in a few hours, and you're done.

That is why people use spreadsheets and don't always jump straight for the custom application.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44178541)

you should probably be using a full fledged data base with multiple precomputed indexing

Well, you can put together a spreadsheet in a few hours.

What you're describing is likely months of custom development and design, and a whole new thing to maintain.

Spreadsheets are popular because they're easily deployed, don't require any extra licensing, and the people who know how to use them can likely do things with them that some of us would be astounded at.

I know people who use spreadsheets for pretty much everything, because it's available to them readily, and they've been using them for a long time.

It's all well and good to suggest that they use a full-fledged database -- but in reality, they can probably get something useful in a few days for a fraction of the cost.

It sounds like in this instance, the code was just horribly inefficient.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#44178951)

Months to put together a bit of SQL and some front end for it, using, say, oh horror of horrors, Excel? Next you're going to tell me that it takes a man-month to write a hello world.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44179067)

Next you're going to tell me that it takes a man-month to write a hello world.

Not at all, but I will flat out tell you that I've seen domain specific spreadsheets which have surprisingly little to do with adding numbers, and which if you tried to replace it with a DB application would take you months (or years) to do -- and you'd end up with something you still have to maintain.

Spreadsheets have the really nice feature of still mostly working when you upgrade the version of the software.

I'm not saying they're always the best solution, but surprisingly often it covers the "good enough and within budget" requirements.

I suspect in a lot of corporations if you handed down an edict saying "thou shalt not use spreadsheets for the following things", stuff would grind to a halt for a little while, and everyone would say the hell with it and go back to using them because they work well enough and are readily available.

Don't underestimate just how much business critical stuff is managed in spreadsheets. You might be shocked.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (0)

Jawnn (445279) | about a year ago | (#44179447)

It's all well and good to suggest that they use a full-fledged database -- but in reality, they can probably get something useful in a few days for a fraction of the cost.

It sounds like in this instance, the code was just horribly inefficient.

And if that were the end of it, we'd be in agreement. Delivering effective tools to users is what made the PC take off. That has not changed. Nevertheless, there are those who will, usually unwittingly, misuse those tools and, predictably, want to know why it doesn't work anymore. The fact is that there most certainly are times when a more sophisticated approach is called for.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#44178577)

In the late 80's I developed some relatively complicated models on the first version of Excel. The big concession I had to make was turning autocalc off. The longest process was actually printing the report. And, btw, this including exporting and importing data into a database outside Excel. This was on an original Mac. A few years later I was working with huge telemetry data sets that had to be scrubbed, reorganized, and plotted. I had been on the spreadsheet binge for years, so I started off with some C++ for scrubbing then importing it into Excel for organization and graphing. After a couple days I thought how stupid this is, found gnuplot, and had it done, so, once again the longest task was waiting for the pen plotter to finish the pretty pictures. So yes, it is a matter of the right tool for the job. Of course so many people only know how to use a spreadsheet, so asking them to use a more efficient tool is out of the question. In reality clock cycles are infinitely cheaper than people, so it is often good to figure our how to maximize the clock cycles rather than change the people. Look at the GUI interface. An incredible waste of clock cycles. But for many things it allows the use of cheaper less qualified people, and sometimes allows more expensive people to work more efficiently. So win-win.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a year ago | (#44178713)

You are correct for business applications. But often what spreadsheets are used for is: "I need this quarterly report figured out for the meeting on Friday and then I'm going to delete it forever." Going out an building a full fledged database for that would be stupid. Having a very complicated spreadsheet that solves a problem isn't bad... using that spreadsheet over and over as part of your business process is.

Live a day in my shoes (5, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#44178793)

If your spreadsheet needs a gpu to speed up calculations, you are probably misusing spreadsheets.

Or it just means that you have some pretty complicated calculations. More computing horsepower never hurts.

I know most accountants love the spreadsheet and they make insanely complicated things using spreadsheets pushing it far beyond what these are designed to do.

I happen to be an accountant as well as an engineer. What pray tell do you think spreadsheets were designed to do? (hint - it involves rapid data modeling) They aren't much use if the only problems you solve are toy problems. Plus they require relatively little training to use effectively. Someone can be trained to solve real world problems MUCH easier than with most other tools. Most of the problems I'm asked to solve are ad-hoc investigations into specific questions. I shouldn't need a four year degree on Comp-Sci to accomplish a bit of data modeling.

But if you have a spreadsheet that needs this much of cpu time to recompute, you should probably be using a full fledged data base with multiple precomputed indexing.

I use some rather complicated spreadsheets. A database would be of no advantage whatsoever for 99.9% of what I use a spreadsheet for. Furthermore a database would be a lot slower to develop, harder to update, and require significant user interface development. If I'm crunching sales data or generating financial projections a spreadsheet is almost always the easiest and most useful tool for the job.

Databases come into the picture when: A) other applications need to interface with the data, B) the dataset becomes truly enormous, or C) the number of dimensions in the data exceeds 2 to 3. Sometimes I use databases. Most of the time they would be a waste of money, brains and time. Frequently when I actually need a database I'll create a mock up of the tables and calculations on a spreadsheet first which lets me work out the structure much more easily.

While it is certainly possible to use a spreadsheet inappropriately, a spreadsheet should be able to handle a rather large amount of data and calculations before it chokes.

Re:Live a day in my shoes (2)

tibit (1762298) | about a year ago | (#44179219)

You should know basic programming upon exiting high school. Yeah, the sad state of K-12 curricula are something to lament another time.

So, what tool do you use to diff your spreadsheets? How do you ensure that there isn't a bug in a column of otherwise "identical" formulas? How do you ensure that whatever column you've filled with imported data still has this imported data in it? Where's your log that shows that you haven't unlocked some cells by mistake and messed them up "subtly"?

Spreadsheets provide a semblance of productivity and an illusion of efficiency. Once you go from fucking about with it to being serious, spreadsheets are a gift from hell. It takes very little to audit a couple pages of code. Good luck auditing a spreadsheet that has tens of thousands of cells filled with formulas.

Once you use spreadsheets in an auditable and professional way, you end up with a VBA script that starts with a blank slate and does everything you'd otherwise do by hand. At that point you may as well write it in Python and generate the xlsx, ods or maybe just pdf for printing/visualization.

Most people, evidently yourself included, use spreadsheets like if they were a magical object that's guaranteed to read your mind and do exactly what you want. It's all too easy to fuck up if you're not careful, and unfortunately Excel by default doesn't come with policies that prevent you from fucking up. How one earth can anyone be sure that your projections aren't just line noise? Excel promotes development with no process, where there's no assurance about anything. That's one little reason why our financial industry is so fucked up. People trust Excel results, no questions asked.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (2)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#44178897)

If the tool you're using isn't an exact fit for the application you need it to do - though only because of speed, but it does it anyway, you should use another tool even though...

1. You're not familiar with it
2. It's not your area of expertise
3. The lack of suitability means you're wasting whole minutes a day. However, you'll need to hire a programmer or else take a course likely lasting months to get the skills needed to use the alternative tool.
4. Your tool, the one that was designed to be easy for someone in your profession to make use of, does, ultimately, do the job you need it to do.

No.

No, no, no, no and again no. You're a developer. Good for you. Good for me too. But our jobs are not to make patronising unrealistic suggestions to smart people who don't have our particular skillset. Our job is to make it easier for other people to do their jobs. Telling them to hire programmers or run off and learn our skills isn't "making it easier".

If the only thing wrong with the way they're doing is that their computer runs slow when doing it, the solutions we should be presenting are the easiest. Upgrades and better underlying office suite code. Good for the LibreOffice people that that is what they're doing.

Re:If you need it you are doing it wrong. (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about a year ago | (#44179339)

You're a developer. Good for you. Good for me too. But our jobs are not to make patronising unrealistic suggestions to smart people who don't have our particular skillset. Our job is to make it easier for other people to do their jobs. Telling them to hire programmers or run off and learn our skills isn't "making it easier".

This. A thousand times this.

Somewhere along the way, our industry has developed a collective mentality "we're smarter than you, and we will give you what we want even if we have no idea of what you need".

Once you get a little further removed and realize that the stuff we're writing/supporting is intended to help the people who do the real, bread and butter parts of the business -- you start to realize if we're an impediment to them, it's worse than if we weren't there at all.

They're not interested in some smug little bastard looking down his nose at them because they couldn't possibly do what he does. They're interested in getting their stuff done as quickly as possible.

I can tell you there is nothing more frustrating and counterproductive than some kid straight out of school who thinks the world needs to bow at his feet and stand aside to allow him to tell them how they should do things. Sadly, I've also met developers who have been in the industry a long time who still act like that.

In many industries, the people who do the real work of the company have highly specialized knowledge, and software is just a tool. And that tool is either helping them get stuff done, or frustrating the hell out of them.

Acting like we know better than they do (when we in fact know nothing at all about their domain expertise) is at best condescending, and at worst an impediment and a liability.

Clarification (4, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about a year ago | (#44177993)

From the article:

Calc is based on object oriented design from 20 years ago when developers thought that a cell should be an object and that creates a huge number of problems around doing things efficiently.

The problem isn't that Calc is object-oriented but was designed such that many things depended on the spreadsheet cell.

Re:Clarification (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#44178045)

Yeah, and it sounds like the GPU angle is really just a hook to get AMD funding. The more important improvements will be refactoring the representation so it doesn't suck in the first place.

Thats the OOP mentality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178617)

From the article:

Calc is based on object oriented design from 20 years ago when developers thought that a cell should be an object and that creates a huge number of problems around doing things efficiently.

The problem isn't that Calc is object-oriented but was designed such that many things depended on the spreadsheet cell.

The OOP mentality is that you make everything an object. And when you have developers who drank the OOP Kool-Aid, you get problems like this.

Re:Thats the OOP mentality (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about a year ago | (#44179179)

And what other model should they have used? Procedural? Assembly? The approach that was picked 20 years ago needs to be revised. It isn't about whether or not to use OOP.

Re:Clarification (3, Interesting)

should_be_linear (779431) | about a year ago | (#44178681)

Cell should be an object even today. Their problem is probably, that Cell object contains something like string object, so creating 1 million of cells meeds million pointers and allocations to million of strings, which is performance killer. What they need to do is: instead of string, put int handler of string into cell, and have all strings in single huge allocated blob (like: StringBlobMap object). Going away from objects to improve performance is rarely good idea.

darthcamaro writes (-1, Offtopic)

Aditi Kumer (2970529) | about a year ago | (#44178013)

thanks for text.Read more...click here....http://healthyfoodsbd.blogspot.com/

Slashdort, listen up (-1, Offtopic)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year ago | (#44178085)

Attention Slashdort shoppers: this is your LORD GOD speaking, reminding you to WORSHIP ME OR BURN IN HELL FOREVER, because I LOVE YOU ALL. Also, SAVE BIG FOR THE FOURTH OF JULY HOLIDAY AT SHOP-RITE! Remember, I am your one and only LORD GOD, creator of all things and ruler of the universe. Shop and save with great values and the best quality at SHOP-RITE! Go in peace!

Re:Slashdort, listen up (0)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about a year ago | (#44179031)

All GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!

How is it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178091)

Why is it that all the FOSS goose steppers run around here chirping that LibreOffice is just as good as MSO? Obviously this isn't true or this "fix" wouldn't be headline news around here. You people really need to get real about software but I know that would hurt your little heads to admit that open source not only rips off most of their "innovations" from closed source software but that they can't even do a good job of ripping off other people's ideas.

Poor FOSS losers.

Re:How is it? (4, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44178257)

I don't think most people say Calc is just as good as Excel - they say that it is good enough for most people. And that is probably true. I think my boss uses excel for simple formulas and for lists. I use Excel for anything not quite worthy of a Matlab script, so OpenOffice doesn't quite measure up for me but should work fine for my boss.

Re:How is it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179147)

My favorite excel function used to crash both LibreOffice and OpenOffince.The function in question is ={FREQUENCY(data ref,bins ref)} [microsoft.com] , but I do not know any other excel users that use array based functions. So for a long time, I naively thought that my use case was special, and that nobody but a few specialized workers needed Excel. I hold that pious but erroneous belief until I had to email a worksheet to a colleague running Linux. Sure, according to OO documentation that function is supported but it is was crashing his LO nonetheless...
LO should really put some work into that refactoring, being a sub par Excel is a far bigger adoption turn off than all the other LO/OO MsO compatibility problems.
Almost all executives do not care about a paragraph margin wrong by 2px but they all care about wrong numbers especially when those numbers are about money !!!

Re:How is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179333)

I migrated to OO and then to LO and my financial spreadsheet worked great. Then came the updates and my file would no longer open. I bought MS Office through work for a very reduced price (we're talking $11) and the file opened just fine. Unfortunately, the stability issues I experienced were enough to turn me off those open-source options for at least a year or two more of development.

Re:How is it? (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | about a year ago | (#44178939)

I use Calc all the time at home, and Excel all the time at work. Calc is great, but it's not as polished or feature-rich as Excel by a long shot.

Calc is good enough (more than good enough, in fact) for home use; it does everything I need it to, as quickly as I need it to, with features to spare. But Excel is still the better programme. If I had to do serious data crunching in Calc day in and day out, I'm sure it would drive me nuts.

Arguably, Excel is the only truly good programme in the MS Office suite (possible exception of Visio). I mean the rest (notably Word and PowerPoint) are fine and all, but there's just no clear benefit to them over the competition. There is literally not a single feature in Word that I can think of that is both useful to me and missing from LibreOffice; maybe there are word processor "power users" out there who might disagree with me, but for my usage I could easily live without it.

Re:How is it? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179329)

Access is the single most robust fast and dirty DB out there. Nothing else comes close to it on any platform.

Refactor? APU? (3, Interesting)

JBMcB (73720) | about a year ago | (#44178139)

If the refactor is done properly I don't think the OpenCL acceleration would be necessary. Heck, 1-2-3 running on a 486 was pretty speedy.

Re:Refactor? APU? (2)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about a year ago | (#44179221)

486, Bah humbug.
I ran Lotus Symphony on a 286. It was the job that convinced me to go back to school for a career in IT.
Also, get off my lawn.

Re:Refactor? APU? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#44179541)

If the refactor is done properly I don't think the OpenCL acceleration would be necessary.

They are going to need it for the flight simulator function. [eeggs.com]

Non-linear solver engine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178143)

Will it finally have a non-linear solver engine for double-checking code output against a spreadsheet??

Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178147)

To be more performance? Good to see the "editors" are as incompetent as always.

Re:Huh? (1)

Cyko_01 (1092499) | about a year ago | (#44178533)

Good to see the "editors" are as incompetence as always.

There, FTFY

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179129)

Slashdot has editors?

the problem with OpenOffice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178153)

There has to be a substantial, paid, fulltime project team to do UI, feature work, localization, QA and regression testing, doc, and document interoperability/backwards compatibility for each release. Testing has to cover many OS releases, video drivers, and targeted display devices as well as end user natural language, and include reduced RAM/swap space installations. That's what Microsoft has. That's why I don't consider OpenOffice a bargain even for free.

Re:the problem with OpenOffice (2)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year ago | (#44178309)

And despite all this, and the fact they target far fewer platforms, MS still puts out an extremely buggy application, with poor forwards/backwards compatibility, virtually no intentional interoperability with anything else, and major inconsistencies between the 2 platforms that they do support.

The only difference with MS bugs is that users have come to expect them and know the workarounds. Ask anyone who uses ms applications heavily and they will have all kinds of kludgy hacks memorised to get around functionality which doesn't work correctly.

Re:the problem with OpenOffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178379)

How does office have poor forwards and backwards compatibility? Troll much?

Re:the problem with OpenOffice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178595)

Troll yourself. try open an Office 5 document with your shiny Office 360. Good luck with that.

Re:the problem with OpenOffice (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44178735)

How does office have poor forwards and backwards compatibility? Troll much?

well in the usual way that you need to keep overlapping versions around.

though, the anon gp is putting a wee bit too much on how much ms puts effort into their things... ms doesn't run tests on 256mbyte ram hw just for seeing that there's not enough memory. I seriously doubt ms even tests different video drivers since they have little to do with office itself(and if the driver passed certification it should run it). on arm side ms just dictated what hw it can run on so not that much testing to be done there either(except that using it on the touchscreen sucks).

Re:the problem with OpenOffice (5, Informative)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year ago | (#44178819)

It's well documented, you can find examples all over google, eg:

http://hints.macworld.com/article.php?story=20111230095628470 [macworld.com]

Infact there are many people who use libreoffice to open and convert corrupted (or very old) files which are making msoffice crash, libreoffice is far more tolerant of unexpected data in the input files as unexpected data is a given when attempting to reverse engineer undocumented formats.

And to give one personal example, msoffice 97 onwards had a bug in the macro function whereby the line counting function ignored lines with bullet points, so we had an extremely kludgy macro which counted the lines and then iterated through looking for bullet points and increased the line count accordingly... MS decided to fix this particular bug in a "security update" for office 2003, but then reintroduce the bug in 2007... Obviously this kludgy macro catastrophically broke the day that patch got rolled out.
I could understand if it broke going from 2003 to 2007, but not for what is supposed for be a security update to change something like that.

Also even moving files between the exact same patch release of msoffice on different machines can cause problems with formatting, as it reformats depending on available fonts and printer settings.

Re:the problem with OpenOffice (1)

ledow (319597) | about a year ago | (#44179411)

Publisher. For YEARS. Maybe the very new versions are different, but I have this every day with people bringing in old/new versions of Publisher files.

And no import filter is ever perfect, even if it was written by MS, for opening MS formats, for a MS application.

Re:the problem with OpenOffice (1)

dugancent (2616577) | about a year ago | (#44178579)

Poor backward and forwards compatibility? Really?

I recently opened a few documents with Word 2011 on my Mac that were authored with whatever version of Word that was available on Windows 3.1/3.11. After a quick conversion, they loaded perfectly. I regularly send and receive documents with a friend who is still running Office 2003 on XP, again, no problems at all.

Re:the problem with OpenOffice (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#44179189)

There has to be a substantial, paid, fulltime project team to do UI, feature work, localization, QA and regression testing, doc, and document interoperability/backwards compatibility for each release. Testing has to cover many OS releases, video drivers, and targeted display devices as well as end user natural language, and include reduced RAM/swap space installations. That's what Microsoft has. That's why I don't consider OpenOffice a bargain even for free.

Wise words, my brother. That's exactly the problem with many OSS projects. Modern software is so complex that you really want solid funding and good bunch of full-time developers and quality assurance people to make a perfect product. If this was the case with OpenOffice too, it would have already steamrolled MS Office.

Spreadsheet applications shouldn't need GPU!! (1)

MetalliQaZ (539913) | about a year ago | (#44178251)

Am I the only one that notices how crazy that sounds?

Re:Spreadsheet applications shouldn't need GPU!! (1)

robmv (855035) | about a year ago | (#44178355)

OpenCL doesn't mean it will need a GPU but that it can use one if available. OpenCL can use your CPU and there will be performance advantage on those cases too, they can use tuned OpenCL libraries instead of rewriting everything inside LibreOffice

Re:Spreadsheet applications shouldn't need GPU!! (1)

camperdave (969942) | about a year ago | (#44178483)

On the other hand, massively parallel computation is what spreadsheets are and what GPU is good at.

Re:Spreadsheet applications shouldn't need GPU!! (0)

corando (2785235) | about a year ago | (#44178987)

On the other hand, massively parallel computation is what spreadsheets are and what GPU is good at.

^^^ This. Although not always, but often enough.

If you have multiple columns performing the same action for each cell accost a few thousand rows, it could make a difference.

Re:Spreadsheet applications shouldn't need GPU!! (1)

tech.kyle (2800087) | about a year ago | (#44178529)

Sure, rewriting the code to be more efficient and then throwing in OpenCL acceleration IS a bit of a redneck approach to things, but at the end of the day, why wouldn't you want the metaphorical V10 crammed in to your spreadsheet software? If it can be done gracefully, why not?

Worth mentioning that Good Guy AMD isn't making it proprietary.

Re:Spreadsheet applications shouldn't need GPU!! (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#44178757)

Sure, rewriting the code to be more efficient and then throwing in OpenCL acceleration IS a bit of a redneck approach to things, but at the end of the day, why wouldn't you want the metaphorical V10 crammed in to your spreadsheet software? If it can be done gracefully, why not?
Worth mentioning that Good Guy AMD isn't making it proprietary.

well, given their track record with performance it would be better if they first sorted out the performance bottlenecks elsewhere and then brought in opencl for doing raytrace calculations from the spreadsheet.

Re:Spreadsheet applications shouldn't need GPU!! (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#44178567)

No-one's saying spreadsheets need GPU acceleration. But why shouldn't the GPU be taken advantage of?

Re:Spreadsheet applications shouldn't need GPU!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178933)

Hey, it boosts the performance of the built-in FlightSim easter egg.

Oh wait, that was Excel.

Parallel computing (1)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#44179137)

Am I the only one that notices how crazy that sounds?

Why should it sound crazy? If you've got some parallel computations to make you'd be a fool not to use the GPU. There are many problems [wikipedia.org] that could take advantage of the extra computing horsepower that are perfectly appropriate to do on a spreadsheet.

Why not Javelin? (2)

jabberw0k (62554) | about a year ago | (#44178437)

Spreadsheets lead the inexperienced, down the garden path of "Oh, this looks easy..."

At some point you think, Oh, let me just sort this column. And you fail to realize some formula on sheet 27 presumes a linkage between column C on sheet 5 and column F on sheet 13. So now your entire model is garbage.

In all these decades, hasn't anyone resuscitated Javelin [wikipedia.org] with its time-oriented models, where what looked like a spreadsheet was just a view of the underlying model? "Javelin understands the arrow of time" -- 1985 slogan

Re:Why not Javelin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178821)

Spreadsheets lead the inexperienced, down the garden path of "Oh, this looks easy..."

At some point you think, Oh, let me just sort this column. And you fail to realize some formula on sheet 27 presumes a linkage between column C on sheet 5 and column F on sheet 13. So now your entire model is garbage.

In all these decades, hasn't anyone resuscitated Javelin [wikipedia.org] with its time-oriented models, where what looked like a spreadsheet was just a view of the underlying model? "Javelin understands the arrow of time" -- 1985 slogan

because not everyone uses an spreadsheets as accounting sw?

Re:Why not Javelin? (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about a year ago | (#44178841)

Agreed. It kills me that one has to shell out $1,495 to get Quantrix Financial Modeler to have that sort of interface w/ the numbers, and it's still bizarre to me that Lotus Improv didn't succeed.

and still no "normal view" (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#44178439)

Why oh why can't the bleeptards at LibreOffice recognize that proper document editing is done in a "Galley View" which MsoftWord refers to as "Draft" (previously "Normal" ) view? Displaying page boundaries, headers & footers, etc is of exactly zero benefit while one is composing the text of the document.
Personally, I'd like not to see text formatting either (bold, font size, etc) but I can live with that. At least until I find a company that supports LaTex, anyway. For that matter, why couldn't LibreOffice (and Micrsoft too) have a twin-pane editor like TexMaker? Do your typing in one pane and observe the fully rendered page in the other as desired?

grrrrrrumble

Re:and still no "normal view" (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#44178551)

Displaying page boundaries, headers & footers, etc is of exactly zero benefit while one is composing the text of the document.

I beg to differ, sir!

It is not exactly zero benefit. It is actively distracting, and hence of negative benefit.

Incidentally, there's an 11-year-old bug report with 281 votes [apache.org] (there are only two bug reports with more votes) if you want to add your voice. I rarely use word processors (Latex here, as much as I hate it there's not really anything better for what I need), but if I did, I'd use Word almost on account of the lack of a normal view alone.

Re:and still no "normal view" (1)

WheezyJoe (1168567) | about a year ago | (#44178649)

Why oh why can't the bleeptards at LibreOffice recognize that proper document editing is done in a "Galley View" which MsoftWord refers to as "Draft" (previously "Normal" ) view? Displaying page boundaries, headers & footers, etc is of exactly zero benefit while one is composing the text of the document. Personally, I'd like not to see text formatting either (bold, font size, etc) but I can live with that. At least until I find a company that supports LaTex, anyway. For that matter, why couldn't LibreOffice (and Micrsoft too) have a twin-pane editor like TexMaker? Do your typing in one pane and observe the fully rendered page in the other as desired?

grrrrrrumble

C'est a little off topic, but I so very much agree. Top reason I can't cut the M$Word cord for Writer. Please, LibreOffice people, please?

Re:and still no "normal view" (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year ago | (#44179105)

This is why I loved WordPerfect 5.1 so much. Because of the simple text based interface, you didn't spend so much time worrying about how your document looked, and just spent time typing up the actual document. All the features were available from the keyboard which meant that it was faster to do any kind of formatting that you needed to do because you never had to move your hands away from the keyboard.

Re:and still no "normal view" (1)

jkflying (2190798) | about a year ago | (#44179155)

My version of LibreOffice has this (4.0.3.3).

Menu --> View --> Print Layout toggles the behaviour.

Re:and still no "normal view" (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#44179243)

My version of LibreOffice has [an equivalent to normal mode] (4.0.3.3).

No it doesn't. [slashdot.org]

Re:and still no "normal view" (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year ago | (#44178901)

LibreOffice refers to this as "web layout", and its right there in the view menu.

As for why it doesn't work like LaTeX, i guess thats because its aiming at a totally different market... Most people simply don't understand the idea of formatting being separated from content, they just want to lay the page out as they see it - as if they were doing it by hand. Also modern word processors have moved more towards traditional DTP applications, where there is a focus on layout rather than on typesetting a large body of text.

Re:and still no "normal view" (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#44179153)

LibreOffice refers to this as "web layout", and its right there in the view menu.

No. LibreOffice's "web layout" is the same as Word's "web layout", which is different from Word's draft/normal view. And (at least IMO) it's even worse than page layout.

Page layout displays the page to too great of fidelity, because the top and bottom margins break up the flow of text. Web layout goes too far in the other direction, completely reflowing the text to the width of the window.

Re:and still no "normal view" (1)

EvanED (569694) | about a year ago | (#44179195)

...reflowing the text to the width of the window

And to finish my thought, the reason this is bad is because the text area is then too wide unless your window is too narrow to contain full toolbars.

Re:and still no "normal view" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44179175)

Agreed. It should be possible to start the editor in a simple, clean, typesetter-concern-free mode that has as little clutter and distraction possible. That the default mode looks like something only a SolidWorks user would appreciate is a giant fail.

QA Testing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178627)

This sounds neat, but you know what's a lot more important to me: quality assurance and testing. I use Calc for a variety of things, and just this past week tried using LibreOffice but I had to switch back to OpenOffice because LibreOffice was riddled with bugs. Most egregiously, after saving documents in LibreOffice I could not open then in OO. I also noticed that a lot of formatting setting were not preserved that worked in OO. And this was after only spending a few hours playing arond. I'm sticking with OpenOffice.

Slow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178653)

What I find interesting about this is the assumption Calc is slow. I have used OpenOffice and LibreOffice for around a decade and performance has never been an issue. Granted, my spreadsheets aren't huge, they're mostly just columns and 2-D tables, but even on lower-end hardware I've never noticed a performance issue. I think it's great that they are looking at speeding up the application, but I don't see it as something which needs doing.

Proper analogue for Visio next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44178725)

Tangential, but... LibreOffice "Draw" is not a good substitute for Visio. It barely does the most basic functions. Can AMD fund them creating a _good_ alternative to Visio please?

Back on topic - I've seen some issues with Calc. Most of the time it does most of what I need, but usually does it with different names for the function calls. Hopefully a good refactoring will make it easier to add/improve features.

I like it (1)

Deathspawner (1037894) | about a year ago | (#44179327)

It's times like this when I wish I actually had a need for such a thing. If LibreOffice ever allowed me to create prettier graphs like Word does, I'd consider moving on over. As much as Microsoft is hated on around here, Office is pretty damned polished (that isn't to say there are no problems... there are still many that drive me bonkers, but they are software features, not performance and the like).
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