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Mark Shuttleworth Interview on Slashdot

May 31st, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Mark Shuttleworth, South African internet entrepreneur, astronaut, open source promoter and philanthropist, is interviewed by Slashdot.

Nokia 770

May 30th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Nokia has been described as the largest computer maker in the world. They hold roughly 30% marketshare in the mobile phone market, which is expected to reach 700 million units in 2005. This means that Nokia sells more mo-phones each year, than personal computers are sold by all computer makers combined.

So, when Nokia announces a Linux-based internet tablet called the Nokia 770, it means a tectonic shift is underway.

The list price for this device is $350, according to reports. I think we’re looking at the machine which will shortly become the “$100 computer” desired by MIT and others to crack the developing world’s market. This has the potential to be almost everything a normal person needs in a computer, relegating desktops and even laptops to a niche. Running Linux, hackers will have a ball with this device, extending it in ways we can’t imagine yet, and increasing its value with every new application they create.

OpenOffice Case Study in Detroit

May 28th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

The University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy converted nearly every computer on campus to OpenOffice (close to 300), and about half to Linux. This alternative saved the school over $100,000 compared to upgrading to the latest Microsoft Office and Windows combo.

Slashdot adds some worthwhile annotation to this news.

An interesting bit from the discussion:
“Microsoft properly asserts that is not 100% compatible with their product. Microsoft, however, has apparently decided not to support the formats either, for which they have no excuse: the standards for documents are publicly available, whereas Microsoft makes it a habit to sue people for reverse engineering their own formats.”

Bristol, UK, Migrates 3,500 Computers

May 27th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

The Bristol City Council, in the UK, will roll out StarOffice (an OpenOffice derivative) to 3,500 city desktop computers, following the succesful completion of a six-month trial.
“For the past six months we have been in a detailed preparation phase, testing the product in the council’s various IT environments and educating end-users,” said Gavin Beckett, the council’s principal ICT strategy officer.

The roll-out will take a year to complete. “People have been concerned that we are getting rid of Windows, which is not true. When we go into offices and show them the product, we see them relaxing,” Beckett said.

University of Arkansas and OpenOffice

May 27th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

The required textbook for the University of Arkansas’ CSCE 1012 College Computing Skills course is The Tiny Guide to!

Also, the School of Architecture lists OpenOffice as a supported program for its students.

OpenOffice Booming in India

May 26th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

ZDNet UK reports India’s project to distribute FOSS CDs to its citizens continues to thrive. A CD containing Tamil-localized versions of OpenOffice, Firefox and other FOSS desktop apps will be distributed to 3.5 million Tamil speakers around the globe.

On June 21, a Hindi version of the CD will be released, with a much larger number of copies to be produced.

All 22 official languages of India will eventually have their own FOSS CD. Tens of millions of people will receive them.

(See the Technology Development for Indian Languages project site.)

MIT Technology Review on OpenOffice

May 25th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

It’s nearly impossible to measure the number of users of OpenOffice, since it can be downloaded from many sources (only a few of which keep count), shared or sold on CD, or distributed via peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent. However, one rough proxy is to measure the impact it has had on its competitor in this two-horse race.

Charles Ferguson, in How Linux Could Overthrow Microsoft, implies that OpenOffice has begun to affect the bottom line of Microsoft’s office division: “OpenOffice runs on both Windows and Linux and, though presently a tiny player, is increasingly being adopted by individuals and businesses worldwide. Conversely, in the last quarter of calendar 2004, Microsoft’s revenues from Office and related software declined 3 percent relative to the year before, according to Microsoft’s publicly released financial statements.”

However, OpenOffice is also replacing uncounted numbers of pirate copies of Microsoft Office, probably at a much faster rate than it is replacing purchased copies. This is good for Microsoft, as they have to worry less about IP theft. It is also bad for them, as their strongest competitor expands its userbase.

Open Source in Southeast Asia

May 24th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

CNET Asia reports on the rapid growth of open source in government and the private sector in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and India.
“This confidence stems from the abundant anecdotal evidence that OSS benefits both government and commercial organizations. In Asia, Singapore’s Ministry of Defence (Mindef), for instance, saved S$15 million (US$9.3 million) by deciding to let its existing licenses for Office 97 software lapse and to migrate to OpenOffice instead.

Thailand’s National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC), the nation’s IT development agency, has been replacing its fleet of proprietary software with freeware and open-source applications such as GIMP, OpenOffice and Irfanview. NECTEC director Dr. Thaweesak Koanantakool reckons that at a nationwide level, using OSS saved Thailand US$45 million in 2003.

The state-owned Central Bank of India saved US$4 million a year, or reduced 30 percent of its IT expenses, when it adopted Linux to run Oracle applications last year.”

Daniel Explains OpenOffice and FOSS

May 22nd, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Daniel Carrera posted the following email as a response to a new and interested user on an OpenOffice mailing list. It’s a succinct introduction and bears archiving here.
Hello Patrick, is free and will always be free. I’ll try to explain. is “open source” software. Roughly speaking, this means that anyone can contribute to the software, not just one company. By sharing the workload among several companies and several volunteers, the cost of development is lowered significantly. This is the first step towards being able to provide it for free.

Sun Microsystems is the primary sponsor of But there are others (Novell, Red Hat, etc) and a large group of volunteers. Each one gains something or another from contributing to this software. For example:

1) Sun Microsystems sells Solaris computers. makes those easier to sell. Sun also sells a commercial product called StarOffice which is based on

2) Novell and Red Hat sell Linux distributions, as well as a suite of services for Linux. is a crucial component in making Linux desktops a high-value offer.

3) Some companies provide training services. For example, for companies that want to migrate to

4) Some individuals are writers who sell books on

Here you have 4 categories of people who financially gain from without actually selling it. You can see how these groups have much to gain from collaborating on a free office suite.

There are other reasons why one might contribute to an open source project:

1) Say you are a competitor of Microsoft. Half of Microsoft’s money comes from MS Office. By providing a lower-cost alternative, you make it harder for MS to charge its exorbitant prices. This is not a rare form of “competition.” Provide a cheap alternative to your competitor’s most lucrative line.

2) A lot of us are simply volunteers. For example, I am. is not simply a software product, it is a community. A lot of us work here on our spare time simply because the project is interesting.


Mad Penguin Review of “The Tiny Guide”

May 20th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

My book, “The Tiny Guide to,” is reviewed on Mad Penguin.

The Tiny Guide to constitutes an ambassador to the world of and open source software. Its best use may be as a gift for friends, family and co-workers, to draw them into a world of new and superior computing. Also, though, it serves as a handy and portable reference for the rest of us geeks who just might need a little mental prodding from time to time, even when using an old standby like In short, Horst’s book gives some good ammunition for bringing new users into the open source world.”