October 29th, 2013 Benjamin Horst
My team and I recently launched a new web project by the name of Recourser. It’s a web directory of online courses and MOOCs, to help people find courses and even careers that fit their interests.
We’re building something that we think will be fun and useful for many people and we’re quite excited about it.
The site is new (and very beta) and will have some bugs and missing pieces but we’d love to share it and hear folks’ input. Please take a look around and let us know what you think and where we can improve. All of your ideas and feedback are welcome!
February 27th, 2011 Benjamin Horst
The iPad and forthcoming tablets from Android (and perhaps WebOS) are likely to displace PCs, at least in the developing world where the installed base of either is currently very low. The first country to watch is China, while India and much of Southeast Asia won’t be far behind. Since Android is open source, it will probably become the largest platform, but iOS devices are likely to take the prestige/luxury niche.
James Allworth discusses much the same idea on his blog post “The Fall of Wintel and the Rise of Armdroid.” Reporting on the Consumer Electronics Show, he writes,
The iPad and its many clones were not really the main story of the show. The main story — which almost nobody covered — was that this year’s CES marks the beginning of the end for Microsoft and Intel.
This transition has been a long time coming in the PC industry. Ironically enough, both of these two big players have seen the writing on the wall for almost a decade. But as is so often the case, incumbents find it immensely hard to disrupt themselves.
Allworth predicts tablets will undermine the sale of PCs to the point of extinction, and points out major milestones that have already occurred on that path:
At CES, for the first time, almost all of Microsoft’s OEM partners abandoned Microsoft exclusivity; and Microsoft’s next-generation operating system has abandoned Intel exclusively for the first time. There’s no reason to believe that either of the two companies are going to be able to turn this around. On one hand, ARM processors are perfect for powering these handheld devices. Manufacturers can customize to their heart’s content. And Android is on track to dominate the operating system space (though maybe not profitably). Both ARM and Android — Armdroid — are providing everything that tablet manufacturers need, and doing it more effectively and at a lower cost than Microsoft and Intel are able to.
We will be able to look back and say that this was the CES that saw Wintel fall and Armdroid rise up.
This outcome seems likely, though I don’t imagine PCs and laptops will disappear from offices and homes in developed countries for quite some time. However, in the developing world, this will become another case of technological leapfrogging–just as China jumped over landline phones directly to mobile phones, I think they’ll jump over PCs to arrive at tablets. The same for India and other countries in their rapid-growth phases.
As a participant in the LibreOffice project, then, I cannot sufficiently emphasize the importance of developing ODF editors for these upcoming platforms!
February 21st, 2011 Benjamin Horst
Evan Prodromou asks, “Can Montreal Become an Open Source Startup Hub?”
“Montreal has the opportunity to be the best ecosystem in the world for Open Source software startups. We’ve got a good cadre of entrepreneurs here who’ve had experience with building Open Source companies. We have investors who’ve been through the process of investing in and nurturing Open Source companies. And we have the all-important talent pool of people who’ve been part of the process.
More importantly, there’s not another leading Open Source city on the globe. San Francisco and Boston have a few companies, but they’re definitely not hubs. The commercial Open Source landscape is spread much further across the globe – from London to Utah to Germany to Austin.”
Whether Montreal, Boston, Portland Oregon, or another city, this title could confer significant economic benefit to the winner.
January 30th, 2011 Benjamin Horst
Recent encouraging news comes from OSOR by way of Freiburg, Germany and Helsinki, Finland.
Freiburg has found that migrating to OpenOffice.org for its standard office software package reduced its cost by 75% compared to the cost of a proprietary office suite.
In “DE: Freiburg: open source office three to four times cheaper,” OSOR reports:
Rüdiger Czieschla, head of IT at Freiburg, presented on the city’s use of OpenOffice on 1 December, at a conference in Badajoz organised by Osepa, a project to increase awareness on the advantages of free and open source software. According to him, using OpenOffice cost the city 200,000 Euro. The proprietary alternative would have cost between 600,000 for just a text editor and 800,000 Euro for the proprietary office suite.
ODF compatibility and powerful features like PDF-export also weighed heavily in the city’s decision to adopt OpenOffice.org in 2007, where it is now installed on 2,300 desktops.
Next, the city council of Helsinki in Finland has determined to undertake a pilot project to implement open source software within the city administration. OSOR’s article titled “FI: City of Helsinki to start open source desktop pilot” explains how the city council voted to initiate the project:
[Johanna Sumuvuori]’s resolution, that tells the city to start a pilot, got the support of sixty council members. “We want the city to get some experience with open source and to find out if we can use it, for instance, to save money. The city is wasting more money every year on proprietary software licenses.”
In the resolution, the council members refer to other public administrations in Finland that are using open source. According to the council members, the ministry of Defence has been using Linux and other open source software for years to develop some of its critical applications. They also point to the Finnish judicial system that has switched to using open source office applications. “Many schools have already switched and in the city of Lappeenranta they estimate this will help to save some 70 percent on the schools’ IT budget.”
With 20,000 desktop computers in Helsinki’s system, adopting open source software could have a significant financial benefit for the city.
January 8th, 2011 Benjamin Horst
I’ve made a major update to the LibreOffice Paper Plane design, which you can download here: LibreOffice Paper Plane 2 (ODG) or PDF.
The folding instructions are now included within the ODG file on a second page, and I’ve included photos of each step in the folding process. This should help clarify some of the more tricky steps, and show what the final result is intended to look like!
This file is sized for US Letter, but stretching it to print on A4 should work equally well. Further, the lines run right to the edge of the paper, which many printers cannot accommodate; however, on all test printers only a small amount of non-essential information has been lost, which does not harm the plane creation.
Feedback and custom variations are welcome! (This file is licensed CC-BY-SA. Please link to this blog post if you share derivations online.)
December 21st, 2010 Benjamin Horst
Based on recent LibreOffice discussions regarding a new logo and associated marketing/promotional opportunities, I’ve created the following paper airplane template. This is a draft, so please download it and let me know how well it works for you.
- Fold the page toward yourself along its long axis, shown as line 1. Flatten the paper again, to leave a crease.
- Fold the top corners to the center line crease you just created. (Lines 2a and 2b.)
- Fold the now-triangular top section of the page toward yourself along line 3.
- Fold its triangular nose back toward the far side of the paper along line 4. (Line 4 is on the paper behind the piece you will fold–use its edges to determine where you’ll fold the triangular nose.)
- Again fold the far side into triangles along lines 5a and 5b. Undo these two folds to leave a crease for each.
- Fold toward yourself along lines 6a and 6b.
- Fold again along lines 5a and 5b. Tuck the flaps created by lines 6a and 6b under the triangular nose formed by line 4.
- Fold away from yourself along lines 7a and 7b.
- Fold toward yourself along lines 8a and 8b to form triangular stabilizers.
- To launch your new plane, hold it from the back and push gently forward while pointed very slightly down.
Download this ODG file: LibreOffice_PaperPlane
- Add a second page with final instructions and pictures to clarify the folding process.
- Update the logo and text to satisfy marketing requirements based on community feedback.
- Upload to the LibreOffice wiki to share widely.
November 12th, 2010 Benjamin Horst
Earlier this week, The Document Foundation released an email titled “The Document Foundation Offers a Preview of Future Product and Technology Developments.”
Here are its full contents:
The Document Foundation offers a preview of future product and technology developments
The document at the centre of a developers’ friendly environment
The Internet, November 9, 2010 – “The Document Foundation is about documents and the associated software is pivotal to create, exchange, modify, share and print documents”, says Thorsten Behrens, a software developer and a member of TDF Steering Committee. “LibreOffice 3.3 is the first flavour of this long term strategy, but the journey has just begun, and the enormous advantages of our developer-embracing environment are not yet fully reflected in the upcoming software release”.
LibreOffice 3.3 is based on OOo 3.3, with code optimisations and many new features, which are going to offer a first preview of the new development directions for 2011 and beyond. TDF founders foresee a completely different future for the office suite paradigm, which – in the actual format – is over 20 years old, to be based on the document (where the software is a layer for the creation or the presentation of the contents).
TDF developers are working full steam at improving the overall quality of OOo code, which is a good starting point, and making easy testability of the code and quality assurance a priority. This is an area where new developers and code hackers, whose number has grown to over 90 in just a month, are instrumental for the bulk of the activity.
In addition, each single module of LibreOffice will be undergoing an extensive rewrite, with Calc being the first one to be redeveloped around a brand new engine – code named Ixion – that will increase performance, allow true versatility and add long awaited database and VBA macro handling features. Writer is going to be improved in the area of layout fidelity and Impress in the area of slideshow fidelity. Most of the new features are either meant to maintain compatibility with the market leading office suite or will introduce radical innovations. They will also improve conversion fidelity between formats, liberate content, and reduce Java dependency.
“The Document Foundation is going to be at the heart of the Free Software universe, where users want to build a different future for office suites, working together with developers”, says Italo Vignoli, a digital immigrant, and the oldest member of TDF Steering Committee. “Users read, write, modify and share documents, and are focused on contents rather than software features. After 20 years of feature oriented software, it is now the right time to bring back content at the centre of user focus”.
The house of The Document Foundation is at http://documentfoundation.org.
The Document Foundation has the mission to facilitate the evolution of the OOo Community into a new open, independent, and meritocratic organization within the next few months. An independent Foundation is a better match to the values of contributors, users and supporters, and will enable a more effective, efficient, transparent, and inclusive Community. TDF will protect past investments by building on the achievements of the first decade, encourage wide participation in the Community, and co-ordinate activity across the Community.
Florian Effenberger (Germany)
Mobile: +49 151 14424108 – E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivier Hallot (Brazil)
Mobile: +55 21 88228812 – E-mail: email@example.com
Charles H. Schulz (France)
Mobile: +33 6 98655424 – E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Italo Vignoli (Italy)
Mobile: +39 348 5653829 – E-mail: email@example.com
November 3rd, 2010 Benjamin Horst
The French Gendarmerie (national police force) has been gradually moving its software infrastructure to open source over the past several years, starting with the adoption of OpenOffice.org on Windows, and now moving to Ubuntu for more and more of its desktop computers.
While some governmental migrations have surprisingly cost more than proprietary software (due largely to training expenses and ancillary software, I suppose), the Gendarmerie has realized huge cost savings from the beginning of their migration.
Canonical discusses this example in their case study, French National Police Force Saves €2 Million a Year With Ubuntu.
After switching from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org and Internet Explorer to Firefox, the police force decided to upgrade 85,000 PCs to Ubuntu Desktop Edition, removing its reliance on the Microsoft operating system almost completely. As well as simplifying maintenance and improving ease of use, Ubuntu Desktop Edition is saving the police force €2 million a year in licence fees alone. By repurposing 4,500 machines to act as local servers, it has also dramatically reduced its hardware expenditure.
October 11th, 2010 Benjamin Horst
LibreOffice was announced a few short weeks ago, and time has flown by since then, as community members work feverishly to build out the project infrastructure for the future.
Late last week, Florian Effenberger sent the following email summarizing some of the successes of the first week:
Strong support for the first week of The Document Foundation
The Internet, October 6, 2010 – One full week has gone by since the
announcement of The Document Foundation, and we would like to share some
numbers with the people who have decided to follow us since the first
The beta of LibreOffice has been downloaded over 80,000 times. The
infrastructure has expanded dramatically from 25 to 45 working mirrors
in 25 countries (in every continent), including islands in the Pacific
Ocean. This number is close to half the mirrors achieved by
OpenOffice.org during ten years of history of the project.
People have started to contribute to the code, suggesting features,
committing patches and filing bugs. In just one week, around 80 code
contributions (patches, and direct commits) have been accepted in
LibreOffice from a total of 27 volunteers, several of them newly-won,
with around 100 developers hanging out on the #libreoffice irc channel
which is buzzing with activity (around 14,000 messages sent).
Turning to the wider community, 2.000 people have subscribed to the list
announce@ to keep up with the latest TDF news, and 300 people to the
discussion list discuss@, where there has been an average of 100
messages per day.
To round up the numbers, there are nearly 600 people following TDF
tweets, over 150 following the identi.ca TDF account, and over 1,000
fans on Facebook. The traffic on the server has been in the region of
In its only official response to the creation of the Foundation, Oracle
has stated: “Oracle is investing substantial resources in
OpenOffice.org. With more than one hundred million users, we believe
OpenOffice.org is the most advanced, most feature rich open source
implementation and will strongly encourage the Open Office community to
continue to contribute through www.openoffice.org.”
The Foundation understands from this that Oracle has no immediate plans
to support the Foundation, or to transfer community assets such as the
OpenOffice.org trademark. However, the Foundation hopes this position
will change as the company sees the volunteer community – an essential
component of OpenOffice’s past success – swing its support behind the
new Foundation. In the meantime, the Foundation will continue software
development under the LibreOffice brand.
May 16th, 2010 Benjamin Horst
Christoph Noack writes about user experience prototyping strategies, based on a presentation he attended at the CHI conference a few weeks ago. He covers the importance, in wireframing, of capturing essential elements while avoiding distracting detail that is not relevant to the design stage.
Current efforts to improve the OpenOffice.org StartCenter are in this process now. (My concept for the Dashboard is described here.)