[nSLUG] Open Source Desktop Apps

Michael Crawford mdcrawford at gmail.com
Thu Aug 6 17:13:22 ADT 2009

> David Potter wrote:
>> When Carrie mentioned Corel I immediately thought 'legal department'
>> because WordPerfect was usually the first choice in law offices.

Lawrence Lessig, who is best known for founding Creative Commons as
well fighting to overturn the US' Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension
Act, got his start as a clerk for the US Supreme Court, where he was
instrumental in computerizing their workflow.

He set the Justices all up with WordPerfect.

Much later on, the Supremes complained to Microsoft that the Word
Count function in MS Word was inaccurate because it didn't count
footnotes.  Some legal briefs have to be limited to a certain specific
number of words, but the legal community discovered that you could
cram lots of extra text in their briefs by putting it all in massive

As for me, I used to use QuickBooks to run my software consulting
business, but it pissed me off no end that I had to pay to get new tax
tables, when the government tax authorities - at great taxpayer
expense - distribute those tax tables for free.

Intuit could easily have provided either a UI for manually entering
new tables, or at least documented the tax table file format - but
they didn't, because that way they could nickel-and-dime small
businessmen like me.

In response I worked out a spreadsheet to do Nova Scotia and Canadian
Federal payroll withholding:


Because I was unable to get GnuCash to install on my Macintosh, I also
worked out a very elaborate OpenOffice spreadsheet to handle my
checkbook and budgeting.

Each quarter is given a single sheet, with each of my paycheck amounts
at the top, and all the items that I expect to spend money on at any
time during the quarter down the left.  At each intersection of
expense item and payday, I enter the amount that I plan to spend.

There were some problems in the design of PaysWell's spreadsheet, and
I haven't updated it since 2005, but I plan to start maintaining it
again soon: I have an idea for a new business, and will be forming a
new corporation to develop my idea.  My new corporation is going to
have to pay US Federal and California State withholding.

    (Greetings from Sunny Silicon Valley!  How I miss Nova Scotia!)

I have also FINALLY gotten GnuCash to build on my Mac, so I want to
work out an automated system to calculate a paycheck in PaysWell and
then import just that one paycheck into GnuCash.  If I can't do it
directly through GnuCash' UI, I could do it programmatically by
inserting new data into my GnuCash document - it's just a big XML
file, and its schema is well-documented.

The one gripe I have about OpenOffice is that after keeping my
personal checkbook in one massive spreadsheet sheet for several years,
I seem to have exceeded its capacity.  I have discovered a 100%
repeatible crash bug that will always occur if I paste a new formula
over an existing formula.

I can recover my spreadsheet, and then unbork it by exporting it to
Excel then re-importing it to Calc format, but it will happen again
soon.  Finally I resorted to starting a whole new Calc file with just
my most-recent transactions in it.

Michael David Crawford
mdcrawford at gmail dot com

   GoingWare's Bag of Programming Tricks

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