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Study Recommends Gnumeric Over MS Excel

timothy posted more than 10 years ago | from the me-too dept.

GNOME 86

Jody Goldberg writes "A recent study of analytic quality, and responsiveness to problems strongly preferred Gnumeric in place of MS Excel. With new problems popping up in Office XP the case for spreadsheet users to migrate is only getting stronger. In some related Gnumeric quickies, a new stable version 1.2.6 was released, and Open has done an interview with the Maintainer."

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Gnumeric 0wns (3, Interesting)

albalbo (33890) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361306)

In a recent interview [open-mag.com] , Jody said a W32 port was the priority. I think that could actually start pushing it over the top and make some real headway, I can see why it would be a priority.

Re:Gnumeric 0wns (1)

jmccay (70985) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361847)

They should port Gnumeric & GNUCash.

Re:Gnumeric 0wns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361940)

And bash and xbill.

Re:Gnumeric 0wns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8364196)

already done! can I take the rest of the week off now?

Re:Gnumeric 0wns (1)

jmccay (70985) | more than 10 years ago | (#8376456)

Already done--atleast for bash. I don't know anything about xbill. I have run bash in various forms on my Windows boxes for a while. Currently, I am just using MSYS from the mingw project becuase I only use bash for configure scripts.

Re:Gnumeric 0wns (3, Informative)

AndyElf (23331) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362249)

If you take a look at linked page, you'd see:

gconf is our last remaining hurdle to a win32 build.

Re:Gnumeric 0wns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#8392187)

Heh. You'd think gconf would be right at home on windows, just plug it into the registry. Gconf is BRAINDEAD AND STUPID. For all the schtick KDE gets about being like windows, GNOME is the one that's windows-like architecturally.

Awful PDF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361329)

Please give us the postscript version instead, if you can't use pdflatex and get a good result.

PS. I checked, there is no .ps at that URL.

Gnumeric is great! (2, Insightful)

SkeptiNerd75 (85087) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361338)

The most recent release of Gnumeric is amazing. The only downside is that I often have trouble deciding between OOcalc or Gnumeric, and often flip back and forth depending on my mood. Both are worthy competitors for Excel.

Gnumeric's RND was *too* random (5, Interesting)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361345)

I love that one of the "failings" of Gnumeric was that the random number generator function RND was *too* random - Gnumeric uses the /dev/urandom device that generates random numbers from noise sources in the system (noise diodes, interrupt events, user input, etc.) rather than using a psuedo-random number generator with a predictable sequence.

True, there are times it is nice to have a "random" number generator that you can re-run for testing, but having a really random number generator is better for a host of problems.

Err... (3, Informative)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361695)

/dev/urandom is not /dev/random. When the entropy pool is exhausted (which will happen extremely quickly if producing a large set of random numbers for statistical work), instead of blocking it will use a hash algorithm. /dev/urandom varies unpredictably between being unpredictable and being very unpredictable.

On the other hand, when doing a study, frequently you *do* want to be able to use the same seed to produce exactly the same results. This is a legitimate failing in gnumeric. Not all random numbers are created equal. :-)

For what it's worth, I did (simple) analysis of a large set of random number generators for a high school science fair project. The Microsoft RNG (which has been used ever since at least early QBASIC days) is pretty decent, at least from a uniformity standpoint.

Re:Err... (3, Insightful)

Hadean (32319) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361991)

I'm honestly curious, what kind of study would require you to use pseudo-random numbers? Shouldn't any valid study require truly random numbers to be proven accurate?

Re:Err... (3, Insightful)

haystor (102186) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362538)

Basically while you're working on it, not when you're working with it. You'd be interested in using a set of known "randoms" so that you can test that same set for accuracy against something else.

Of course, this kind of complaint seems fairly weak to me, since you have a whole spreadsheet at your fingertips. You could just capture a whole lot of the numbers onto one sheet and use those over and over as input instead.

Re:Err... (1, Interesting)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362539)

Okay, "frequently" may be overkill. :-) I was trying to drive home the point that it's not unreasonable.

Say you want to do up a spreadsheet containing some tables that contain data based on random data. You *could* either include fifteen megs or whatever of random numbers, or you could just include a random number function with a seed if your spreadsheet uses a standard RNG. As long as the variability with different seeds isn't significant for your work, you shouldn't have a problem. However, you *may* have insignificant digits shifting around in your table, which doesn't look all that professional (a bunch of different people with slightly different tables).

The other major use for pseudo-random numbers with a known seed that I can think of off-the-cuff is in finding problems between two environments. Say Bob has a copy of Excel 98 and you have a copy of Excel 2003, and for some reason Bob is getting different numbers than you are. Possibly you're relying on something that you shouldn't (i.e. Bob has an old version of some other file that this one uses), or perhaps Microsoft broke something between versions. If you can fix the seeds, you can find where the divergence is creeping in. If you can't fix the seed, then you have no way of finding and fixing what's wrong.

Re:Err... (1)

nineoneone (748675) | more than 10 years ago | (#8368614)

I think poster was confused about the term "pseudo-random" (as opposed to genuinely random).

Re:Err... (1)

Hadean (32319) | more than 10 years ago | (#8369438)

No, I understand the difference, one being random numbers generated from a set seed, which would therefore be the same everytime you run the test, while the other type ("real") would literally be random, and so you can never know what you'll get.

Thanks to the replies, though, I can understand why having a known set of "random" numbers could be useful.. It's just nothing I would have ever used, so never even thought of. Maybe I was just more thrown off by the word "study"...

Now you know where good statistics comes from (1)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 10 years ago | (#8371595)

Like Douglas Adams said ... Bistromathics ... the only way to process "awful" numbers :)

Re:Err... (2, Informative)

Hasie (316698) | more than 10 years ago | (#8372702)

I once had to compare two genetic algorithm implementations, and genetic algorithms use LOTS of random numbers. The algorithms were supposed to produce the same results, but the one was faster than the other. To ensure they really gave identical results I used the same sequence of "random" numbers in both algorithms by using a fixed seed to the random number generator.

Re:Err... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8372749)

I'm honestly curious, what kind of study would require you to use pseudo-random numbers? Shouldn't any valid study require truly random numbers to be proven accurate?
For most scientific research, a good pseudo-random number generator is more useful than a non-reproducable sequence. The most important thing is that the RNG algorithm has been thoroughly tested to have the desired statistical properties. Read Vol. 2 of Knuth's "The Art of Computer Programming" if you're really interested.

Re:Err... (1)

dmiller (581) | more than 10 years ago | (#8383322)

No, often you just need numbers that meet statistical criteria of randomness (e.g. bias, spectral characteristics, etc). They don't even necessarily need to be unpredictable.

Cryptographic random numbers set the bar somewhat higher, in that they need to unpredictable too. It would be fatal for many applications if an attacker could guess the next few pseudorandom number given a little history.

E.g. a LCG is very predictable, but may be statistically random-looking enough for many applications.

To use *really* random numbers would condemn you to store quantities of real, physically-derived randomness large enough for whatever application you wanted. Alternately you could forego the repeatability that a pseudo-random number generator gives you.

These problems are pretty much solved for practical applications - there are incredibly fast non-cryptographic PRNGs and quite strong cryptographic PRNGs.

Jumping the Gun? (5, Insightful)

Peorth (719504) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361347)

It seems as if they're moving way too prematurely on this. In the article it said they posted to a Microsoft newsgroup and didn't receive a reply, and that this means that Microsoft will never fix the bug. Obviously there -may- be some tech support people roaming the newsgroups, but it would've made much more sense to simply contact Microsoft's technical support department and talked with someone directly about this error.
This is similar to having your car found defective, and then placing a flyer downtown to ask the company to contact you about options instead of picking up the phone and dialing the correct number.
I'm not a fan of Microsoftian ideals, but wouldn't that have made more sense before going all this way?

Re:Jumping the Gun? (5, Insightful)

jalet (36114) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361358)

Did you ever try to get a knowledgeable MS technician over the phone ?

I think not.

In defence of MS people (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361587)

I've e-mailed a well-informed and helpful Microsoft developer, whom I first encountered on this very forum, on several occasions. I'm told a number of bug reports have been filed against the application in question as a result of my e-mails, and some of the things I've mentioned to him have certainly been fixed in a later version of the product.

Some people at Microsoft do listen, you just have to make a bit of an effort to find them. Curiously, a comment from the developer in question was that the dev teams love direct contact with customers prepared to give them helpful information about bugs or feature requests, they just wish the PR people would stop getting in the way. :-)

Re:In defence of MS people (1)

jalet (36114) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361651)

You may be right. My last (of many unsuccessful) experience with them was in 1996, so it's possible it's better now. What is sure is that I won't call them to verify, this is not needed anymore.

Re:In defence of MS people (4, Interesting)

Spoing (152917) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362978)

  1. Some people at Microsoft do listen, you just have to make a bit of an effort to find them. Curiously, a comment from the developer in question was that the dev teams love direct contact with customers prepared to give them helpful information about bugs or feature requests, they just wish the PR people would stop getting in the way. :-)

...a perfect example between the difference in OSS and closed source.

I've worked both sides of the fence, and realize the differences. There are base motivations that drive each to do things differently. Still, I was stunned when I asked Theodore Tso a question in email a few years back, and he not only responded quickly but even sent a patch for me to try out!

Fixed in later versions. (2, Insightful)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#8363799)

Fixed in later versions means the customer had to buy a new version to get the bug fixes. That isn't support that is sales.

Re:Fixed in later versions. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8364306)

Fixed in later versions means the customer had to buy a new version to get the bug fixes.

Not necessarily. You don't pay for MS service packs, you have to pay little or nothing for new versions of several MS products, and those who've bought a support contract from Microsoft get a lot of the serious stuff for no further charges, too. I don't agree with a lot of MS practices, but your comment is simply wrong.

Re:Jumping the Gun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8362608)

OK, it's Microsoft so it has to be bad, smart thinking...

Re:Jumping the Gun? (1)

TomV (138637) | more than 10 years ago | (#8365428)

Bear in mind, this is Woody's Office Watch, not some pseudo-random bunch of reviewers. I've been subscribed to WOW for 6 years now, Woody Leonhard's a M'oft 'MVP', has written a slew of Office and Windows related books with M'oft endorsement, and the history of WOW raising serious problems in Office apps and seeing M'oft sit on its hands and do nothing is all too long. The Office 97 Excel Recalculation Bug went something like nine months and a whole Service Pack before M'oft issued and withdrew a flawed patch for it. And yet on other occasions the issues have been fixed very quickly. Over the years a pattern has formed, and the reaction to the XL2k3 RAND() bug fits the pattern for a bug that M'oft simply don't give a damn about.

This is more analogous to Ralph Nader and automotive safety, way back when.

I use excel all day (5, Interesting)

HMA2000 (728266) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361362)

I use excel at work all day and I have to say that no Open source solution comes close to providing what I expect a spreadsheet to do.

The idea that one should switch from excel to an open source solution because of a small set of statistics problems cannot be properly solved by excel seems a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water. (unless you do nothing but statistical modelling all day)

Re:I use excel all day (2, Interesting)

perrinkog (536087) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361397)

I'm in the same boat.

None of the open source alternatives can do what I need - VBA. That alone shoots down anything non MS (afaik).

Re:I use excel all day (5, Insightful)

Y Ddraig Goch (596795) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361463)

If you are using VBA in your spread sheet you need to move to a better solution - a dbms and a decent programming language. You are doing the equivilant of using a table knife for a screwdriver. I've used spread sheets in the fashion that you state. I've also written dll's to be called by said spreadsheet. It's MUCH faster (performance wise) to use a programming language (Delphi, Kylix, C/C++) and a dbms to achieve your results. The learning curve of programming is a language is a little steeper but the payoffs are well worth the effort.

Re:I use excel all day (3, Insightful)

Spoing (152917) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361537)

I like your analogy, though most spreadsheet users can't program in VBA let alone more serious languages. Moving to a dedicated development environment is too scary for most of the VBA users.

If you do heavy VBA, though, switching to a better tool is a wise choice.

Re:I use excel all day (4, Interesting)

blenderking (324269) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361948)

That sounds great, but I live in a world of a locked down PC controlled by my IT division. I'm a power user in Excel, using pivot tables, mild VBA, mostly for automation between linked files, and in general using the 80% of the features most people don't use at all.

True - VBA shouldn't be used for extremely complex items, but for my use, and other power uses - it's tremendous in it's automation abilities.

Re:I use excel all day (1)

GTRacer (234395) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362062)

...I live in a world of a locked down PC controlled by my IT division.

You and I need to talk. I posted an Ask Slashdot about what steps people in our position have tried and what successes they've had in getting policies relaxed for legitimate "power-user" needs.

It was Rejected of course. But anyway, I was going to post the same comment - I have to use VBA because I have no other options. Although I do all my VBA in Access (forms are way better with VBA and a control table to handle DAO lookups!).

I've got as much open-source/Free Software running as I possibly can, but I can only do so much with the restrictions they've given me.

GTRacer
- Ask me about StormWindows and LAN Escort

Re:I use excel all day (1)

haystor (102186) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362655)

I've been thinking that business areas could make use of a person that would be the equivalent of a "tools developer". There seems to be a gap between what can (or should) be done with excel/access and what requires a full blown development team.

As far as the post saying anything that uses VBA should instead being using a dbms and real language, I can only laugh. The subject matter experts need the freedom to work and do their job, which is to be experts.

Now if one of those spreadsheets grows to the point where it solidifies into a regular working system, that is when it should be viewed for replacement. For the most part though, these spreadsheets are continuous works in progress that are capturing and honing the business rules.

Excel with VBA allows the power user to explore different avenues of thought. Doing that with a full development team would just be a nightmare.

Ah, bollocks (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8362576)

Insightful my arse. Spoken like someone who has never used Excel.

Do you know what Excel is for? It's for secretaries to knock up pie graphs for the boss to bore the rest of the staff to tears with, and keep track of the office 'dead poool' comp.

The whiners fall into a few categories.

'Wah, won't hold enough data' - Store the data somewhere else then. Go use SPSS or Access, Oracle etc. Excel will handle OPAL cubes.

'Wah, Excel is M$' - Fuck off and use Gnumeric then.

'Wah, Excel doesn't have some bloody obsure stats function' - Go get MathLab or similar then. What, short of dosh? Funny that.

'Wah, Excel doesn't have a real language' - It's got VBA, aka VB6. It's enough for most office jobs. You're not ray-tracing or writing an OS, your importing a text file or updating a Word template. Hell, I wrote a 3270 screenscraper in VBA. Fuck off and write your app in TASM/Smalltalk/Lisp/Perl/C/Java/Fortran/what fucking ever. I'll be finished and gone home. don't forget the lights.

Excel fills a niche, and does it reasonably well. Don't like it then don't use it. Yeah, bits of it suck. VLookups suck. Smart tags suck. Handling named ranges suck. Hey parent, you know what any of this means? No? Funny that.

Y'know, I'm starting to like Excel. Finish the sheet, lock it, strip the toolbars etc, send it. No install hassle, just copy it. Happy user, I get paid.

Rah open source, you know the rest.

Re:I use excel all day (5, Interesting)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362897)

"If you are using VBA in your spread sheet you need to move to a better solution - a dbms and a decent programming language. You are doing the equivilant of using a table knife for a screwdriver."

However, you're suggesting we use a bulldozer when a shovel will work just fine.

I work for a Pharmaceutical company as a software developer. Our scientists use Excel spreadsheets as reports; they enter in some raw data (or it's streamed in from an external program) and a combination of VBA and Excel formulas do the rest. These spreadhseets summarize data, predict flows, highlite trouble data, etc.

THEN, in some cases (at least those that are needed), we have the ability to export the data stored in the Excel spreadsheets into Oracle tables.

The spreadsheet acts as an intermediary for the scientists. It gives them something visual. They can modify things themselves, look at graphs for select data, etc. In some cases, they've even written their own VBA code to perform certain tasks. It's a horrible language, but simple enough for someone to pick up.

Try writing software to allow them to do all of this, and to work with about 150 different macros that were written in the past. A biologist is not going to try to learn C++ or Java, because it's too time consuming and overkill for what they need. And any application, as simple as you make it, will not be as customizable and visual as Excel. You'd be robbing them of that important aspect.

Sure, VBA is a pain in the ass; I wish it would go away forever. But it's made its niche; it allows the non-computer-savvy to do complex things. Anything better would be overkill and would reduce functionality.

Re:I use excel all day (1)

Y Ddraig Goch (596795) | more than 10 years ago | (#8363056)

As I stated earlier I'VE USED SPREADSHEETS IN THAT MANNER. I wrote several dll's for Quatro Pro back in 1995 (Excel was a POS at that time), used dbIII and alot of macro programming to get my job done. BTW it took 45 min. for the spreadsheet to recalculate on a 386DX33 with a math co. All of this in a process that ran once a month. It would have been much better if I could have used the proper tools. I understand that management ties the hands of the users and insists on using the tools that THEY provide. But, maybe those biologists might use something more complex if it enabled them to do better research...

Re:I use excel all day (1)

perrinkog (536087) | more than 10 years ago | (#8363164)

Responses in line :) Before reading, please not the tone of this response: Amused but not angry/flamethrowing.

"If you are using VBA in your spread sheet you need to move to a better solution - a dbms and a decent programming language."

I'm not in an IT department. I just make my life (and my co-workers lives) easier with some code here and there.

"You are doing the equivilant of using a table knife for a screwdriver."

I'll use the same metaphor. In a lot of cases I'm using 30 lines of code to copy files, move values and perform simple calculations... Using dlls and dbms systems for something like that would be akin to using a industrial-mammoth-XOBX sized screw driver for a microscopic screw.
It can do a lot better than the table knife, but only in the appropriate situation.

"I've used spread sheets in the fashion that you state."

I didn't say how I used it.

"I've also written dll's to be called by said spreadsheet. It's MUCH faster (performance wise) to use a programming language (Delphi, Kylix, C/C++) and a dbms to achieve your results."

Since I didn't say how I used it, this is a rather unqualified statement.

"The learning curve of programming is a language is a little steeper but the payoffs are well worth the effort."

VBA is not:
the best programming language
perfect
fast

But, I've saved hundreds (if no thousands) of hours of my co-workers time (which directly translates into $$$ for my employer).

Anyhow, thanks to Trelane's response to my prior post, I'll now investigate StarOffice/OpenOffice's StarBASIC language.

Performance? Feh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8364911)

If you are using VBA in your spread sheet you need to move to a better solution - a dbms and a decent programming language.

Who said anyone needed a dbms?! I save my data in a spreadsheet. My macros, also in the spreadsheet file, operate on it. It's all very self-contained and it allow me to mail it to my clients and coworkers without worrying about dependencies, data connections, DLL hell, etc.

It's MUCH faster (performance wise) to use a programming language (Delphi, Kylix, C/C++) and a dbms to achieve your results. The learning curve of programming is a language is a little steeper but the payoffs are well worth the effort.

I've never seen a VBA macro that took enough time to actually consider optimizing it. I suppose that they exist though. So if you've convinced your boss that optimizing spreadsheet macros by pushing them down into a compiled DLL is worth his time and money, then good for you! Yay! I'm assuming you are either an employee or consultant, since I'm confident you would not waste time on such tasks if YOU were paying the bill. Show me a business that is actually constrained from making money by the speed of its spreadsheet macros.

Re:I use excel all day (2, Informative)

Trelane (16124) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361795)

FWIW, StarOffice/OpenOffice has StarBASIC, which is very similar to VBA.

Gnumeric is scriptable with Python.

Re:I use excel all day (2, Informative)

KeyserDK (301544) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361415)

Have you actually tried gnumeric 1.2.x?

Other than VBA stuff i don't think there is anything excel does that gnumeric can't.

Re:I use excel all day (3, Interesting)

Trelane (16124) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361820)

IIRC, Gnumeric doesn't do PivotTables(Excel)/DataPilot(OOo/SO). And the pie charts don't have labels (yet; being actively worked on).

That said, it's great for 90% of what people want to do, and it gets the answers right.

Re:I use excel all day (2, Interesting)

nempo (325296) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361432)

May I ask when the last time that you used an open source alternative was ?

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8374365)

Then next time you take a class from me at a university, I'll assign grades for you using Excel.

Seriously, though: I used to calculate grades in Excel until one day I discovered it making a mistake in its calculations. People's grades were off by one letter in certain cases, depending on what their grade was.

I never use Excel for important calculations anymore.

It's true that open-source spreadsheets may not provide the same functionality--although I'm not sure of that. However, there's nothing trivial about getting correct results from what you are using. Isn't that why you're using the spreadsheet in the first place? To get correct results?

3.1 StRd (0, Offtopic)

eddy (18759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361392)

Anyone understand this table? The text doesn't match the table, where gamma-S log relative error, unless I'm an idiot (which is entirely possible), is actually worse in v1.1.2 than v0.67?

Re:3.1 StRd (2, Interesting)

sir99 (517110) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361487)

It looks like Gnumeric improved or stayed the same on every data point except Pidigits, Numacc2, and Origin1 (whatever those are). Note that the LRE is the negative of the log of a value less than one, so a larger LRE means a smaller relative error. It's just the number of digits that agree with the correct answer. Really bad values would even have a negative LRE.

Re:3.1 StRd (2)

eddy (18759) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361640)

>[...] a larger LRE means a smaller relative error

Precisely.

>It looks like Gnumeric improved or stayed the same on every data point

So far so good...

> except Pidigits, Numacc2, and Origin1[...]

... where the new version scored worse according to the table; lower numbers meaning fewer correct digits.

Even so the description reads:

"As can be seen, Gnumeric 0.67 used an unstable algorithm for computing the sample standard deviation, and on this basis its performance can be considered unacceptable. This was fixed in Gnumeric 1.1.2." (my emphasis)

This to me is inconsistent, but I'm still open to the possibility that I'm misunderstanding something.

ESR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361414)

Eric smiled, a bent grin freezing over his lips. His cheeks were flush and his heart fluttered. Not only had he just finished his nightly bottle of Jgermeister, but his Match.com flame from Kansas City had just emailed him back with her address.

Hello Eric ;)

Here's my address. I just can't wait to meet you! It's not hard to get here especially since you've been here before.

4800 Kaw Drive
Kansas City, KS 66102-4165

I'll clean the place up for your visit. It's a real dump! ror!

Hope to see you vary soon! Bye!

Stuffing the printout of the email into the left breast pocket of his teal polo shirt, ESR shoved his chest out and stuck his shoulders back up as he spoke to himself, an aura of chirpy optimism about him.

"Alright. Let's get a move on!"

Several gym bags littered the floor around his kitchen table, all of various brands and colors. Each was filled to bursting point and was labeled in bold black marker. One said CLOTHES, a second had TOILETRIES scribbled on it, the third read LARP, and a fourth read GUNS. Eric had all the bases covered, he noted, save for his laptop.

Eric's laptop, several penguin and LNX stickers adorning it, was slowly but surely booting. Eric beamed at his pride and joy. Eric had visited Wal-Mart the night before and purchased a tape adapter. He had ripped Stallman Does Slovenia, a compilation of RMS's flute concerts performed in the Eastern Bloc, into Ogg Vorbis format and wanted to listen to it on the way to Kansas.

Finally bagging and slinging the laptop over his shoulder, Eric hunched over and grabbed two gym bags, shoved them in his car, and came back for the last two. He awkwardly dragged his foot several times before he dropped the bags on his doorstep, turned, and locked his door. Tugging one last time to make sure he had all five of his deadbolts secured, he piled into his 1985 maroon Dodge Omni and slammed the door shut.

A childish look of glee tightened Eric's face into a leering smile as he patted the steering wheel lovingly.

"Alright, ol' Bessie! We're going to Kansas City, Kansas City here we come! This is Manifest Destiny! This is fate! This is sex with a stranger from the Internet!"

At this Eric jammed his key into the ignition and turned it. The car jolted violently to life, gasping and coughing as the engine struggled to turn over. Dense blue smoke wafted from the tailpipe and hood while the sickly sweet smell of antifreeze filled the compartment. Coughing, Eric pumped the gas while he rolled down his salt-streaked window. With a few more knocks and pings the Omni jerked clumsily into gear and sputtered some gravel as it started down ESR's dirt driveway. Eric silently wondered if it would have been worth replacing the head gasket after it blew last time.

Whipping down his street toward the highway, Eric fiddled with the controls on his laptop as the sounds of RMS's gentle flute filled the car, drowning out the sound of his sputtering engine. In his toil ESR clumsily sideswiped a large yellow school bus full of children that had stopped in front of him, tearing the STOP sign from its side. As the bus driver shook a fist at him, ESR smiled and licked his lips, tasting the last few drops of the Jgermeister he had just finished.

Eric pushed the accelerator to the floor and his Omni climbed to 60 MPH as it sped West on Interstate 80. There was quite a drive to go, Eric thought, as the sun set ahead of him. He whistled quietly along to the music and locked his crooked eyes on the road. His only thought was of 4800 Kaw Drive.

Re:ESR (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361735)

more please

leiomyosarcoma (1, Offtopic)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361444)

A leiomyosarcoma is a rare malignant tumor consisting of smooth muscle cells and small cell sarcoma tumor.
ref [nih.gov]

A less than flattering release name.
Thought it might have meant "cancer of my flower necklace" or something.
What of the programmability? The killer feature of MS Office isn't the applications themselves, but VBA.

Re:leiomyosarcoma (1)

Jody Goldberg (61349) | more than 10 years ago | (#8363291)

Just my way of hoping some surgery this morning went well.

Conspiracy!! (4, Funny)

bruthasj (175228) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361495)

Someone had to pay for this [slashdot.org] little Gnumeric study! Get out the torches ... oh, wait.

Not really the battle (5, Insightful)

biodork (25036) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361501)

The reason people won't switch away from MS Excel has nothing to do with technical specs and everything to do with the very large number of Macro's and templates already written. There is an awful huge installed base for whom Excel works fine, and they don't see the problem. Most of the financial services sector for example. From there point of view, it's not broke Why fix it?

If TODAY everything was equal, there would still be a 10 year lag until a change happened, as that is the roll out time, and the time to convince people they 'want' to change. It better have some kick butt feature that they don't have in Excel, or they are going to resist change. That is just the way people are

Re:Not really the battle (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361611)

If I weren't posting on this thread, I'd mod that up as Insightful.

Advocates of new software, particularly OSS, often seem to forget that market share counts for a huge amount. Some studies we looked at back when I was in academia suggested that you need the "10x factor" to force a switch from an established product: your alternative must provide 10x the perceived benefits, or be 1/10 the price. That's a very big barrier to entry, and having a product that's only just become a challenger on technical merit and reliability is nowhere near it. (It's a good start, though!)

Inertia a two-edged sword (5, Insightful)

0x0d0a (568518) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361659)

Keep in mind that inertia works both ways. Yes, there's a lot of folks that don't want to move. However, it's equally difficult (possibly worse) for Microsoft to regain any customers that do move. Also, actual movement tends to lag decision-making for a while, so visible market share lags actual inertia by some amount.

Finally, keep in mind that even upgrading from one version of Excel to another can break compatibility. The office world has very strong backwards-compatibility requirements. Gnumeric may not fill those requirements, but we also know that Excel doesn't do so.

Re:Not really the battle (1)

GOD_ALMIGHTY (17678) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362193)

"you need the "10x factor" to force a switch from an established product: your alternative must provide 10x the perceived benefits, or be 1/10 the price"

Since it would be difficult to build a spreadsheet that has 10x the features of Excel and still call it a spreadsheet, obviously Gnome should start charging $10 a copy for Gnumeric if they want to increase their marketshare.

Quite frankly, I'm more inclined to say that Gnumeric doesn't have the feature matching needed to get most users to switch. The charting and VBA macro stuff really is important. I remember Miguel stating back in 1999 that Gnumeric was supposed to be bug for bug compatible with Excel. Until I can slap any old Excel spreadsheet into Gnumeric (or OOo for that matter), and that version has been certified by a vendor (like Dell, IBM or RedHat) as compatible I don't see a rush to switch.

Re:Not really the battle (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8365655)

Since it would be difficult to build a spreadsheet that has 10x the features of Excel and still call it a spreadsheet, obviously Gnome should start charging $10 a copy for Gnumeric if they want to increase their marketshare.

Sorry, I think you misunderstand. The 10x doesn't have to be feature count; in fact, typically it's not. It could also be, for example, due to usability improvements that make staff using a product at your company more productive, or better support for automating existing features, perhaps by a central support group rather than individual users, so that they can be used more efficiently in the context of your own organisation. IMHO, this is where OSS has a chance to overtake MS, not in a straight feature-for-feature cloning exercise.

Re:Not really the battle (2, Interesting)

file-exists-p (681756) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362410)


Doing correct computations seems to me to be a huge benefit.

If I had to use MS-Excel to manipulate serious figures, for instance huge budgets, I wonder how well I would sleep. And if I had people under my responsability who manipulate serious numbers, I would ask them to prefere accuracy to spectacular pie-charts. Am I that weird ?

By the way, if your business goes into troubles because of MS-Excel bugs which have been well known for years, can you sue MS ? Of course, the EULA tells you you can't, but in the real world?

--
Go Debian!

Re:Not really the battle (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8365588)

If I had to use MS-Excel to manipulate serious figures, for instance huge budgets, I wonder how well I would sleep.

Hopefully if you were manipulating serious figures, you'd be using serious tools and serious techniques, starting with redundant cross-checking of any calculations. It doesn't matter whether it's Excel's RAND() function, Pentium's inability to divide or Pentium IV's inability to calculate sines properly, you're always at risk of a numerical error when using computers, and much more so if you rely on a single method of calculation.

By the way, if your business goes into troubles because of MS-Excel bugs which have been well known for years, can you sue MS ?

If the bug's been known for years and you still let your business depend on its non-existence, it's your own fault if you kill the business. Risk management is a key skill in running any commercial organisation, and you failed at step one: doing your homework.

Re:Not really the battle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8366109)

Hopefully if you were manipulating serious figures, you'd be using serious tools and serious techniques, starting with redundant cross-checking of any calculations.

Well stated. People who are serious about statistics use a custom statistics package. The old argument about macros isn't true of hardcore statistics. Most of the people I know/knew who did lots of statistics would never consider excel. Most of them use SAS, or something equivalent. My definition of statistics is running historical analysis of stock data for 10 yrs to extract market patterns. Back when I worked in the university computer lab for the business school, I knew two people who did exactly that. They wrote log complex scripts for SAS to perform historical statistics on stock data. It also took over a month to run on the VMS machines. Anyone silly enough to try something of this magnitude in Excel would be retarded.

Re:Not really the battle (1)

file-exists-p (681756) | more than 10 years ago | (#8366515)

Hopefully if you were manipulating serious figures, you'd be using serious tools and serious techniques, starting with redundant cross-checking of any calculations.

For many people, MS stuff is serious.

If the bug's been known for years and you still let your business depend on its non-existence, it's your own fault if you kill the business. Risk management is a key skill in running any commercial organisation, and you failed at step one: doing your homework.

And if the bug has been known by people who sells and make software, not by me ? Am I supposed to be competent in everything ? I guess that from that line of reasonning, if tomorrow we learn that there is rat poison in coca cola and people making soda have been knowing it for years, I can't complain neither ?

--
Go Debian!

Re:Not really the battle (1)

zulux (112259) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361689)

It better have some kick butt feature that they don't have in Excel, or they are going to resist change.

One can always make it easy for employees:

The hace have Gnumeric/OpenOfice or they can have Excell.

If they choose Excell - they an two exrea features:

1) Clippy.
2) Their pay docked by the purchase price for Excell.

Re:Not really the battle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361852)

It's a good job that both packages have excellent spell checkers.

Re:Not really the battle (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362629)

Oh please - 90% of the people who use Excel don't even know how to SPELL macro or template. It's called 'laziness' and 'ignorance' - people buy a computer with MS Office installed, and that's what they use because that's what it came with. Most couldn't tell you the difference between hardware and software if you held a gun to their heads. Fortunately, for the most part, these people can be easily identified by their email addresses. :)

Get garnome! (3, Informative)

MooKore 2004 (737557) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361677)

The easiest way to get new versions of Gnome software is via garnome!

Garnome 0.30.1 was just released and it features the latest version of Gnome (2.5.5), The new, non ugly file dialog (but not all programs use it yet) and of course, Gnome Applications, including Gnumeric 1.2.6.

It is designed for IA-32 Gnu/Linux, but it should work on most OS's. Download it now [gnome.org] .
And if you liked the power of garnome, you may be interested in the power of Gentoo Linux [gentoo.org] , which is like garnome for your entire distribution!

Re:Get garnome! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8361923)

STFU, NEO TROLL FAGGOT

Re:Get garnome! (0)

anonymous coword (615639) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361973)

Yes, Garnome is really useful! I also like Konstruct, which is the KDE equivilent! I used to run Gentoo as well, but since I don't compile all my programs I just use a Konstruct/Debian hybrid! Release the packages in unstable for KDE 3.2 already!

Re:Get garnome! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8362276)

STFU, NEO TROLL FAGGOT

Finally, some sense! (4, Interesting)

redelm (54142) | more than 10 years ago | (#8361902)

I've been using spreadsheets for over 20 years, since Lotus-1-2-3 ver1A on a 128 KB (sic) 8088. I think MS-Excel is unsuitable for any serious use. Aside from ease-of-use issues (regression and other stats not easily accessible) there seems to be serious defects in the core calculation engine.

I've seen spreadsheets where MS-Excel would miscalculate results by 20%. MS-Excel also has enormous problems handling circular spreadsheets. Both are probably related to defects in the order-of-calculation algorithm.

Re:Finally, some sense! (4, Interesting)

mschaef (31494) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362876)

Excel also has (had? this might be fixed in 2003) some problems with things like standard deviations, etc. Run a standard deviation of 666666666123, 666666666246, and 666666666369, and you won't get the expected value of 123. Rather, you'll get 0. The high absolute values of the three numbers causes rounding problems by pushing significant bits out of the mantissa of IEEE numbers.

Despite the fact that this has an easy fix (mean center the data before computing the deviation), Excel has had this problem for years.

Re:Finally, some sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8371645)

This bug has actually been fixed in Excel 2003.

Re:Finally, some sense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8376599)

In an early version of Excel, I tried to do some Fast Fourier Transform calculations and, while the calcs were right, as far as I know, the time it took to produce the results led me to beleive that it was NOT a Fast Fourier Transform, but rather a naive direct implementation of the Fourier formula.

So a 4096 point transform took several minutes on a 200 MHz pentium. DLL's written by knowledgeable coders could, on similar hardware, do many of these transforms per second. I'm sure the bug was fixed long ago, although I haven't had occasion to use that feature in excel since.

Microsoft? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8362031)

Alright, who did Microsoft forget to pay?

Maintainer? (4, Funny)

Chromodromic (668389) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362445)

Can we please not capitalize "the Maintainer"? It's a bit too "Logan's Run" for me, or for anyone I think. Geekness has overstepped boundaries when Those Who Are In Control of Software are afforded the same nobility in print as the King, the President, and the Messiah. Let's remember that software engineering is a discipline, a job, and that we, as a group, can't produce bugless office software, much less achieve such status in society that we must be addressed by our titles, that those titles must be honored, that the masses must gaze upon us and tremble ... which, by and large and not incidentally, they do---but only geeks would assume that it's in awe of our deep knowledge of C++ and Java ...

Stupid Rant (4, Interesting)

j-turkey (187775) | more than 10 years ago | (#8362480)

I didn't read all of the linked article -- so whatever...however, I will say this: Anything that makes Microsoft Office look bad and (insert cheaper solution here) look better, I like.

For a $1000 computer, I pay ~$400 per license for MS Office Professional -- that's 40% of the cost of the computer. If I could convince management and our user base, I'd change to anything else because anything else would be cheaper (Star Office, Lotus Smart Suite, OpenOffice, whatever). I checked out Open Office with one of our accounting guys, and it worked just fine with all of his macros. Peace of mind against FUD just isn't worth that much. MS Office is a fine product, just not worth the price. If there was anything with a remotely competitive amount of market share, I'm sure that MS would drop their prices to stay competitive.

Re:Stupid Rant (2, Informative)

kannibal_klown (531544) | more than 10 years ago | (#8363073)

Fortunately, for home users, we can get the Academic version for about $150. It comes with everything except Access (which I could care less about anyway... I use MySQL).

Granted, you can't use it for commercial purposes, but it's fine for home users that just need to read / write Word and Excel files. The Academic version in retail outlets no longer requires you to provide proof-of-acadmic-status. You just pick it off the shelf, and pay for it at the register.

However, I can't justify a constant upgrade cycle of $150 per version, especially considering how little changes with each revision. But if you're buying a new PC, it's not so bad (damn that product activation).

P.S.
Office: Mac ver. X is by far the best Office I've used on any platform.

Re:Stupid Rant (1)

j-turkey (187775) | more than 10 years ago | (#8363587)

Fortunately, for home users, we can get the Academic version for about $150. It comes with everything except Access (which I could care less about anyway... I use MySQL).

I appreciate the advice, but since we're in a corporate setting, I can't do that. Furthermore, I consider managing software licensing part of my job...ya' never know when a disgruntled employee (or former employee) will call the BSA and start an audit.

I probably wouldn't have the same problem if the license costs were only a one-time thing, but I buy a whole lot of PC's for my company and those numbers add up. I mean, that's $10,000 for every 25 PC's. It's too much...I guess it's time to start showing those numbers to my CFO.

Re:Stupid Rant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8364312)

I probably wouldn't have the same problem if the license costs were only a one-time thing

Two words: Site License

If you manage licenses for your organization, you owe it to yourself and your comapny to invest in a site license for whatever MS products you use. It will save you money and help you sleep better at night.

Re:Stupid Rant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8363480)

I sort of agree with you, and perhaps this is a bit off-topic, but a lot of people buy from reatil stores like Best Buy, Office Max, Fry's Electronics, etc., etc.... I agree that most people will not change because of what I guess you'd call User FUD, the fact that its different might make it inferior, and its really hard to convince people otherwise. Hey, I'm a salesperson at one of the above-named stores(Note Anony. Cward posting). People are afraid of things going wrong if the use Star Office 7(out in Retail now), incompatability issues, and whatnot..what if they are using Access? Will they be able to work with Access with the Adibas Database? I can't really say yes or no, because I really *don't* know...and what about Excel files? Is it guarunteed to open every single file w/o any problems? Thats the kind of barrier open-source(or ANY kind of solution, for that matter) is against. There is yet another reason I'd like to interject as to why MS's marketshare is so dominant, and that is the profit motive of retail(note that, again, a lot of people, not sure about most, but a LOT of people buy from retail). The reason retail shops aren't promoting great products like Star Office(or any other MS Office competitor) is because it dosen't make near as good of a profit margin than MS's products do, and as to the parent poster's statment, "If there was anything with a remotely competitive amount of market share, I'm sure that MS would drop their prices to stay competitive," well, it will never be that way until retail gets a bigger chunk of change from the competitors. Retail will push potentially junk products onto people simply for the fact that it makes them more money. I *try* and push Star Office or some other competitor to MS, but what does my employer want me to do? Push the MS Office Student and Teacher Edition or MS Office itself, because it makes more money. I was actually told by a company guy in a meeting, in a reeally, sllowww, patronizing tone "Don't sell the products you like, sell the products that will make more money"(extra slow on the word money, to make it seem that he is talking to someone stupid) I think MS Office is poised to keep their uncompetative market share and here's why: Microsofts newfangled flagship Office 2003 now can upgrade from MS Works. The Student and Teacher Edition has a 3 computer license, is upgradable and ...do they check on whether you're a Student or Teacher? NOPE. I've talked to at least 2 MS Reps and me and my co-workers are told that the Student and Teacher Edition IS ON THE HONOR SYSTEM. And we, as salespeople, are told to push it, regardless of whether the people are students OR Teachers, and MS Office over anything else, agin, because of monetary considerations, and I have a feeling thats the way MS wants it: Get more people on their peroduct and make it harder to switch(uhmm...remember the Applications Barrier to Entry in the 1999 Anti-Trust ruling? hrm...), either because of file formats and features or because sales-people that are looking at the bottom line won't or are less likely sell it to you. Wanna know something else? Its very difficult for my employer(and I'm assuming other retail chains that sell software) to get Star Office in stock...it took us at least 3 or 4 months to get the new copy of SO 7 in after SO 6 was discontinued. The reason? Negotiations had to be made to sell it at the price they were bought at, at least thats what I remember being told. Sun and others need to give retail more profit, IMHO, because once you give retail a whiff of the profit, and convince them its sellable, they'll sell your product like a dog laps up water! lol
Its just my two cents on the whole situation. Mod away....people prolly won't see this post anyway...

great point! (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 10 years ago | (#8364720)

You make a number of great points as barriers to OSS.

1. When you say "retail" you really mean "megacorp". I don't bring it up to be mean, but again, they're only about selling the things that make them the MOST money...not about providing a wide variety of options unless they profit from it. MS is a great bed-buddy for them because they speak "profit-speak" I've been noticing at by local BB how more shelf space is being give to a fewer number of vendors....with fewer products on display!
2. MS will do anything to "sell" office! Your comment about the "honor system" is great. Of course MS will use certian % of the sales as ammo for the "piracy" campaigns too. And that's the point really. They have the BSA to muscle businesses into using "pro" versions...while basicly "dumping" the basic version on the market to keep the 3. retail software is dead...and there's not a good way to bring OSS on to the shelves. The biggest problem in particular with OSS is out-of-date software!!! Most retail customers like my parents don't care for high-speed internet even if it was cheaper! that means they can only buy what's on the shelf...or the kids "bring over" for them. I could see a Fileplanet model [choosing, burning, and mailing downloads] maybe working...except that again, most people still don't use their CCs online! People want to pay $$$. You need a kiosk method of software distrobution. But you'd have to gaurantee $2000-3000 per month gross per location to make it break even!!! If you could go to a store like compUSA and hit a "sourceforge" kiosk that mirrored files off the web you might have something. You'd have to keep the overall price to $9.99 per session/CD or less to gain sales, but it could be useful even for /.rs! You could even make a system to pick your file list online...or even make "subscriptions" ala "slashdot favorites" to be picked up monthly! The only problem is that so much free stuff online is still "bottled" up where people don't want to share in such a situation...even though it's already free to download!

Re:Stupid Rant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8370310)

One thing to point out regarding the concerns of the customers (will it open all Excel files without a hitch, etc): I have a heck of a time opening Office documents from one version to another. I run into format issues out the wazoo similar to what I run into running StarOffice.

Solver:? (4, Interesting)

rangek (16645) | more than 10 years ago | (#8366697)

The only thing I use Excel for is Solver. Solver turns Excel into the worlds easiest to use linear/non-linear optimizer for ANY function you can put in a spreadsheet. I use Gnumeric a lot, but I always have to go back to Excel for Solver...

Re:Solver:? (3, Informative)

Jody Goldberg (61349) | more than 10 years ago | (#8369338)

Gnumeric has both goal seek and solver. Indeed it has several variants of solver included.

Re:Solver:? (3, Insightful)

rangek (16645) | more than 10 years ago | (#8376458)

As of gnumeric 1.2.1 the solver i gnumeric is not nearly as capable as the one in Excel. I am not bashing gnumeric. It has come a long way, and is probably great for 90% of what 99% of people do with their spreadsheets. But the only thing I really do with spreadsheets is use Solver, and I can't do it with gnumeric the way I can with Excel...

If I had the time and energy, I would help you guys write a solver work-a-like, but grad school, work, family, you know...

Keep it up though...

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