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Extremadura, Spain: 80,000 Linux PCs

November 14th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

OS News reports on the state of Exremadura’s “Linex” project:

“With the goals of ensuring the accessibility of every citizen to the Information Society and promoting the digital literacy for everyone, both in urban and rural areas, they created what they call a “Regional Intranet” which consists of a big regional network with more than 1400 points with a bandwith of 2 Mgbps. In this way all the schools, health centers, hospitals, employment offices, etc. have a broadband connection to the Internet. Since every town in Extremadura has a school, they are also able to enjoy this high speed Internet service even in the smallest town of the region.

Another essential component of the network are the end user terminals. These were made from PCs running a localized version of Linux called Linex (compound word from LINux and EXtremadura) which they tailored to their specific needs and changing the name of the programs to more accessible ones to the people in Extremadura. For example, the Gimp image processing program was renamed to Zurbarán, a famous Spanish painter. Besides building one of the best known Linux distributions, Linex, they have achieved the amazing goal of having one PC for every two students in their schools. Yes, you read it correctly, one PC per two students.

In total they now have some 80000 desktop PCs running Linux. Of them, 66000 are in schools and education centers and the rest, 14000, are in other public administration buildings. Although not 100% of all Extremadura’s public administration departments have been switched to Linux desktops, this numbers certainly indicate that they are in the right path to reaching this goal.”

80,000 French Desktops to Migrate to

November 11th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

ZDNet UK reports, French tax agency plans massive OpenOffice deployment. The agency has calculated savings of tens of millions of euros, with very little disruption or migration pains expected.

“The French tax agency, which manages the taxes of all states and cities in France, plans to deploy the open source office productivity application on thousands of its PCs…

Jean-Marie Lapeyre, chief technical officer at the French tax agency said it plans to migrate 80,000 desktops from Microsoft Office 97 to next year.

The migration is expected to cut the agency’s costs by €29.3m, compared with the cost of switching to Office XP. The agency has calculated that it will only take three man-years to be “completely independent” of Microsoft Office, according to Lapeyre.”

This is only part of a much larger migration to open source tools within the agency.

Today’s Articles on ODF and Massachusetts

November 10th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Two very thoughtful articles about Massachusetts’ OpenDocument Format (ODF) decision have come to my attention today.

The first, by Bernard Golden on, summarizes the Massachusetts decision and the recent counter-attacks orchestrated against it. In The real story behind the Massachusetts ODF flap, Golden writes,
“Using a standard format to store documents increases the likelihood that it will be possible to view them in the future since many different applications can access the files. Proprietary vendor-specific formats run the risk of being abandoned as vendors update or abandon their application, leaving no viable way to view the documents.

While ODF is mandated, the application used to create documents is not; any application that can read and write ODF can be considered for use by state agencies.”

He explains the reason Microsoft feels threatened by this move, since its monopoly could possibly be under threat:
“Microsoft quite clearly understands that controlling the file formats of documents is a life-or-death proposition. If it is forced to support an externally defined standard, the company’s office products become one of a number of potentially acceptable applications for office productivity requirements. For Microsoft, the ODF decision by Massachusetts is the thin end of a wedge that will splinter its desktop monopoly.

Furthermore, Microsoft wants its office products to be part of an all-Microsoft IT infrastructure. Office-created files will be shunted around .NET-based applications, made available by Microsoft-based SOA services, and stored in Microsoft-provided databases. Without special Microsoft file extensions, the whole hairball becomes significantly less intertwined. Standard file formats enable a mix-and-match infrastructure.

Finally, of course, Office is a huge business for Microsoft. It is one of its two franchises, bringing in billions of dollars of profit to the company. Reducing the torrent of Office cash threatens the entire panoply of money-wasting Microsoft initiatives.”

It’s a great summation of the situation, and of the larger conflict between broadly-supported standards and proprietary standards imposed by a single organization for its own greatest benefit.

The second article, by Gary Cramblitt, is titled, An Open Letter to Massachusetts Residents with Disabilities.

He discusses and debunks what would have been the only valid complaint about Mass’ decision, except that an explicit exemption to the ODF rule was made clear by Peter Quinn at the beginning of the process.

Cramblitt begins,
“If you’ve been following the debate in Massachusetts concerning adoption of the Open Document Format (ODF), you might be aware that a number of people and organizations have expressed concern over the impact of this decision on people with disabilities. Basically, the (flawed) logic goes: 1. This decision forces me to switch to open source software. 2. Open Source software isn’t accessible. 3. Open source software is business unfriendly, and therefore nobody will develop assistive technologies for it, and 4. We, people with disabilities, will be victims of the decision.

Let’s set aside for the moment that 1) this decision does not force the use of open source software, 2) the MA Information Technology Division (ITD) decision does not mandate any particular software, 3) the ITD has already stated that the needs of disabled persons trumps the policy, 4) open source software that reads and writes ODF is already quite accessible and can even be used with the very same JAWS product that blind users currently run, and 5) is licensed under the GNU Lesser Public License, which does not exclude businesses from developing proprietary software on top of or along side of it. (Indeed StarOffice is a commercial product that shares the same code base as”

Overall, this two articles represent the majority opinion that the Massachusetts decision is a solid step to improve technology in the state and will benefit its citizens far more than the current system. These and other strong supporting arguments outmatch any the opposition has been able to raise.

DTV, CommonMedia, and The Daily Show

November 9th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

With a new beta of DTV released yesterday, content sites are already adapting to this fascinating application. CommonMedia has put together a special RSS feed of Daily Show clips they’ve collected, which is formatted specifically to work with DTV. (They’ve also created several other interesting feeds available on the linked page.)

DTV is a GPL-licensed application that feels like iTunes, but for internet video. Users can subscribe to feeds or download individual files of interest, as well as save and organize them locally.

“Standards Blog” on ODF

November 8th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Andy Updegrove collects the latest news on ODF in the Standards Blog.

From the linked post: IBM is heavily involved in promoting ODF (OpenDocument format), some anonymous legislators in Massachusetts are trying to create new laws to mess with the process of standardization there, ZDNet and Groklaw are continuing to provide analyses of the situation, and more…

“Open Source Turns Money-Spinner”

November 7th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Evidence that knowledge of open source software is quickly going mainstream in many parts of the world is found in a BBC news article titled, Open Source Turns Money-Spinner.

From the article:
“Karl Fogel, from software distributor CollabNet, said: “We now have a world that has distribution costs of zero. We have just built a world-wide copying machine called the internet.

“People who learn to use that copying machine for what it is are suddenly discovering that they can have a great deal of success in traditional business economic terms.

“Freedom is a business asset, under certain circumstances.”

Solveig on “Transitioning a Team to”

November 4th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Solveig Haugland, author of many OpenOffice books and one of the most knowledgeable OOo experts in the field (and of course, technical editor of The Tiny Guide to, has generated a list of tips for transitioning a team to She wisely points out that while migrating one person to OOo is simple, when the number grows to 10, or 100, or 1,000, the process changes dramatically. This post on her blog is very handy to keep as a reference.


November 3rd, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Visioo-Writer is an OpenDocument file viewer aiming to be multi-platform, multi-language, fast and simple to use. It’s relatively new, but showing promise.

I’d like to see Mozilla Firefox incorporate an OpenDocument viewer, since it has been so broadly distributed and it can already read somewhat similar files (XHTML, etc). Then we could send OpenDocument files to anybody, and if they didn’t have OOo or a compatible suite, they could just read the files in Firefox.

OpenOffice Newsletter – October 2005

November 2nd, 2005 Benjamin Horst

There’s plenty of news in October’s Newsletter.

(Read daily updates on the newsletter blog here.)

Among the announcements:

  • Writely, an AJAX web word processor, will support ODF by the end of November.
  • The government of India has begun distributing OpenOffice and other open source apps on CDs in the Telugu language.
  • Many articles and opinions about Massachusetts’ decision to use OpenDocument, and Microsoft’s attempts to quash it.
  • Google is increasingly talking about OpenOffice.
  • The Sydney Morning Herald recommends OpenOffice to its readers.
  • Much more!

Comments on Microsoft’s Letter to Massachusetts

November 1st, 2005 Benjamin Horst

After Massachusetts made the decision to standardize documents produced by its Executive Department in OpenDocument format, it seemed that everyone in the world except one entity lauded the decision. That entity, of course, was Microsoft, which whined and complained but refused to actually do anything useful. It sent a disorganized and illogical letter to Massachusetts to protest the decision.

While the Microsoft letter’s arguments are basically junk, David A. Wheeler carefully refutes each one so that it cannot become commonly-quoted FUD. His excellent response is posted on Groklaw.

This article is the one to read. It’s long, extremely thorough, and it exposes Microsoft’s flimsy arguments as the cheap propaganda they are!