Archive for the 'OpenFormat' Category

Creating an email sized PDF newsletter with Scribus on Kubuntu (Ubuntu) 7.04 (Feisty Fawn)

Here are some notes I took while learning how to use Scribus to create our first family email newsletter.

Here’s a little bit about Scribus from the home page:

Scribus :: Open Source Desktop Publishing for Linux, Mac OS® X and Windows®

“Scribus is an open-source program that brings award-winning professional page layout to Linux/Unix, MacOS X, OS/2 and Windows desktops with a combination of “press-ready” output and new approaches to page layout.

Underneath the modern and user friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation.” (

Basically what follows is an emphasis on optimizing the output for an email sized attachment after I enjoyed using Scribus to do the layout of the newsletter.

  1. Layout newsletter
  2. Install latest version of Ghostscript
    sudo aptitude install gs-gpl
  3. Export as PDF (1.3 or 1.4)
    1. General Tab:
      1. Resolution for EPS Graphics: 300
      2. Compress Text and Vector Graphics: [X]
      3. Compression Method: Automatic
      4. Compression Quaity: Maximum
      5. Resample Images to: 115 dpi
    2. Fonts Tab:
      1. Embed all fonts
    3. Save file to news.pdf [~ 315KB]
      1. If size and quality are good enough then you are done, else
      2. Re-process the pdf file through ghostscript [~70kB]
        gs-gpl -r115 -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOutputFile=newsletter.pdf news.pdf

        (-r115 sets the resolution or DPI to 115 pixels per square inch)

  4. If you feel like it, you can also use pdfopt to linearize the PDF, so Acroread can start showing the first pages while the rest is still being downloaded.

Comparing Pseudo OpenXML to the Open Document Format

Hi everyone: I just came across the following paragraph in a review of word processors I felt was pretty compelling:

  • “Let us be clear: the choice is not between being able to interoperate with Microsoft— thanks to Novell and Corel doing interoperability work for them — or being stuck in some ODF ghetto, unable to read Microsoft documents. Everyone wants to interoperate. The question is how. The problem is Microsoft. The solution lies with Microsoft. It’s 2007, and it’s time that Microsoft followed the same standards everyone else, instead of insisting the world bend to their ways. Microsoft’s OXML doesn’t disrupt this propensity. It’s not only unacceptable, but quite strange that even now we can’t all freely share documents with one another, no matter what operating system we like to use. We can send each other email, read each others’ blogs and websites, even if you are on Windows, I’m on Linux, and Uncle Fester is using OS X. Why isn’t that the norm for everything? It ought to be. The bottleneck is Microsoft. FOSS software is happy to interoperate with any other software. Why won’t Microsoft? That is the $64,000 question in 2007. All this only matters if you intend to use Microsoft Word. The good news is that there are many good alternatives” (, 2007.02.16).

What do you think?

Cross-platform Video Editing with the XviD codec

Another situation I regularly see many users struggling with is trying to embed movies in PowerPoint presentations at home, taking their presentation to school, and finding out their videos won’t display properly.

Put simply, the problem most often comes up because they created their videos for PowerPoint on an Apple computer at home, and then brought their presentation to school to present on a Win32 computer. Sometimes though, even the Win32 machine they started on just simply used different codecs than the one they wound up using for their presentation. What’s going on here?

Commercial vendors have a vested interest in locking you into a dependency of licensing “their software” for creating and viewing “your” content. The problem is practically no vendor will provide the means to do all of this in a platform neutral manner–that would mean they would have to potentially “share” their customers.

What we need then is a recipe, a path to follow if you will, that will help us navigate the process of creating content that is platform neutral, and the Xvid data format provides us with just that. Why? Because XviD is opensource, a product of community effort, and a gift without any strings attached.

Here is how to get started with Win32 so that videos created in this manner will be both viewable and editable within Linux or OSX. Later I hope to provide the same type of recipe for Linux and OSX, but for now this will meet my immediate need to help some users that are currently having difficulties in the Win32 environment.

  1. Install XviD: “XviD is a video codec for PC, whereas codec is an abbreviation for [co]der/[dec]oder, hence describes a program to encode and decode digital video. The purpose of encoding video data is to reduce redundancies – that means to make it smaller for faster transmission over computer networks or for more efficient storage on computer disks. Xvid is open-source software published under the GNU GPL license” (
  2. Install 7-zip (optional)
  3. GSpot is a program that will allow you to determine exactly what codec is required to play a particular video file.
    1. Download GSpot and unzip files to a folder to run from (ie. c:\apps\GSpot).
    2. Do the same thing for C:\apps\GSpot\GSpot.exe and drag that shortcut to your desktop.
    3. Double-click on your new shortcut for GSpot and run it.
    4. Click on Options, then uncheck and re-check the third box from the bottom (Add [or remove] GSpot “Open With”. This will add GSpot to the list of applications to choose from when you right-click on a video file.
    5. Right-click on a video file and choose “Open With: Choose Program”
    6. Choose GSpot from the list.
    7. Now anytime you find yourself wondering what type of file format a video is in, just right-click on a video file and choose “Open With”, GSpot will be listed along with the short-cuts.
  4. “VirtualDubMod is a unification of several popular modifications of the famous video editing software VirtualDub by Avery Lee. It started out as a unification of three projects, VirtualDubMPeg2, VirtualDubOGM and VirtualDubAVS. But since then a lot of new features have been introduced” (FAQ).
    1. Download VirtualDubMod and unzip files to a folder to run from (ie. c:\apps\VirtualDubMod).
    2. Right-click on C:\apps\VirtualDubMod\VirtualDubMod.exe and choose “create shortcut” and drag it to your desktop.
    3. Run VirtualDubMod and open a Quicktime or other proprietary video file from the menu.
    4. Now click on the File menu and select “Save as”.
      1. type in the desired filename
      2. Click on button to “Change” the “Compression” to XviD MPEG-4 Codec (XVID).
      3. Select XviD MPEG-4 Codec
        1. Click on Configure and note that you can also adjust the quality (ie. filesize) of the output.
      4. Output your shiny new cross-platform video!
    5. Done.

Next time I will show you how to do the same thing using Linux. :-)