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Andy Updegrove Interviews OpenOffice Team Members

May 15th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

On the Standards Blog, Andy Updegrove writes “The Evolving ODF Environment Part II: Spotlight on OpenOffice.”

I think the concept behind this article, and the series it’s part of, is really clever and very important:

“Just over a week ago, I posted the first of what I hope will be a complete set of interviews with the developers of the major open source and proprietary software suites that implement ODF. That Interview was with KDE’s Inge Wallin, and addressed the KOffice suite – one of the two best known open source implementations of ODF. Today, it’s the turn of OpenOffice – the other well-known open source implementation of ODF, and the most implemented of all software packages that support ODF. The interview that follows is with Louis Suarez-Potts, OpenOffice’s Community Manager, and John McCreesh, Marketing Co-Lead.”

“The purpose of this series of interviews is to provide a comparative picture of the evolving ODF landscape, highlighting the strengths (and weaknesses) of each current implementation, so that potential users can judge which alternative is right for them. At the same time, it will illustrate the fact that a standard such as ODF, far from limiting innovation, can instead enable a rich set of products that distinguish themselves with additional features to attract users to their particular flavor of the same software tool.”

Google Talk Coming to Nokia 770

May 13th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Wow! I had this same idea last week–it looks like I am on the Google wavelength:

The Seattle P-I writes “Google teams with Nokia for Wi-Fi mobile phone service.”

“Google Inc. is making its first foray into mobile telephone calls in a partnership with Nokia Corp., the largest maker of hand-held mobile devices… The agreement calls for Nokia to introduce a hand-held device that comes loaded with the Mountain View, Calif., company’s Google Talk, an instant messenger and Internet calling service.

Cellular signals will not be used for the calls. Instead, the calls will be made using a wireless Internet network…”

The story is also picked up by Slashdot.

Now I just need to talk to Google about my idea for the Google Vending Machine…

Mad Penguin Interviews Google’s Chris DiBona

May 11th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Mad Penguin recently interviewed Chris DiBona. DiBona is the liason between Google and the world of open source (or at least, many of the communities that make up that world). He manages the Summer of Code project, about to enter its second year, and also works with Apache, the Linux kernel,, Mozilla, OSU’s Open Source Lab, and many others.

DiBona’s favorite distro is Ubuntu, and he reports that well over half of the desktops within Google are running Linux.

Newsforge on Nokia 770

May 10th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Newsforge discusses the state of applications available for the Maemo platform in “Linux-powered Nokia 770 handheld applications.”

Rob Reilly gives Maemo a thumb’s up:

“Judging from the number of current extra packages available, it looks like there’s a fair amount of developer interest in the 770 platform. Downloading the binaries is easy and painless.

Past attempts to market Linux-based handheld computers have not been very successful, a prime example being the Sharp Zaurus. The 770 may do better, because Nokia has funded the tool-up for the hardware and set up a development environment that encourages experimentation and customization. Companies and vendors that want to leverage handheld, wirelessly-networked, server/client technology should definitely be interested in the 770.”

Templates for Impress

May 9th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

The Linux Box has created a handful of Open Source Presentation Templates that Will Make Proprietary Office Suites Jealous.

They are distributed as ODFs (specifically, “.otp” files), and some of them also have freely-shareable fonts that you can download to go with them. I particularly like “Chalkboard” and “Letterpress.”

ODF Plugin for MS Office

May 8th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Linux-Watch reports on the new ODF Plugin for MS Office, allowing MSO to read and write ODF files as if it were native. Widespread distribution as a part of the Google Pack is being explored.

The original news comes from Groklaw, where PJ writes “OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin.”

Gary Edwards of the OpenDocument Foundation tells Groklaw: “The OpenDocument Foundation has notified the Massachusetts ITD that we have completed testing on an ODF Plugin for all versions of MS Office dating back to MS Office 97. The ODF Plugin installs on the file menu as a natural and transparent part of the open, save, and save as sequences. As far as end users and other application add-ons are concerned, ODF plugin renders ODF documents as if it were native to MS Office.”

“The testing has been extensive and thorough. As far as we can tell there isn’t a problem, even with Accessibility add ons, which as you know is a major concern for Massachusetts.”

Elsewhere on the web, we’ve got some more reports and discussions on the subject:

Freeze Peach

May 6th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Freeze Peach is an internet cafe in Astoria, Queens that runs Ubuntu on all of its public computers! The cafe also maintains a not-for-profit community site called

It reminds me of “linuxcaffe” in Toronto.

Perhaps I can donate my spare copies of TheOpenCD for distribution at Freeze Peach.

Westchester PC Users’ Group Talk

May 5th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Last night we traveled up to White Plains Middle School to deliver my “OpenOffice Workshop and Installfest” (links to PDF) talk to the Westchester PC Users’ Group.

It went very well, with an attendance of about 60 people. I sold every copy of The Tiny Guide to that I had brought, and distributed about a dozen copies of TheOpenCD for attendees to install OpenOffice and other FOSS apps on their personal computers.

The audience had a high level of interest in actually using OpenOffice. They asked a number of good and detailed questions, and many who are already using OpenOffice shared some of their experiences too.

ODF Approved by ISO

May 4th, 2006 Benjamin Horst

Big news from the Standards Blog: Andy Updegrove writes, “OpenDocument Approved by ISO/IEC Members.”

Updegrove begins, “The six month voting window for ISO/IEC adoption of the OASIS OpenDocument Format (ODF) standard closed on May 1, and at midnight (Geneva time) last night it was announced internally that ODF had been approved by the ISO members eligible and interested in casting a vote. The vote passed with broad participation and no negative votes (there were a few abstentions), and ODF is now ISO/IEC 26300. While there are still some procedural steps internal to ISO/IEC that are required before the official text of the standard will be finalized and issued, these steps (described below) are formalities rather than gating factors.”

“With adoption of ODF by ISO/IEC now assured, software that implements the standard will now become more attractive to those European and other government purchasers for whom global adoption by ISO/IEC is either desirable, or required. Given the ongoing unhappiness in Europe with Microsoft over what the EU regards as unacceptable bundling and other practices, this may be particularly significant, especially when taken with the desire of many European and other purchasers to use open source products whenever possible. Offerings such as OpenOffice and KOffice therefore should receive a boost in appeal and usage, as well as for-sale versions, such as Sun’s StarOffice and IBM’s Internet-based offering.”

The team also issued a press release on ISO approval today.

“MS Office Users Ready to Jump Ship” (to OpenOffice)

May 3rd, 2006 Benjamin Horst

According to an (Australian) ITWire poll, readers were asked the question: “Would you try instead of buying MS Office 2003?” Of the 441 respondents which voted in the space of 18 hours, 381 (86.4%) voted yes while just 60 (13.6%) voted no.”

“Microsoft believes it will be able to convince pirate Office users to pay to upgrade to legitimate versions through its proposed Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) program. OGA, modelled on the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program, which Microsoft claims has been a success over past months, identifies users of pirate copies of Microsoft software when they download the necessary critical security updates. Once identified, Microsoft sends continual alerts nagging users to chuck their illicit software and pay for the real thing.”

“While WGA may have been a success, however, there is one big difference between sending users verbal barrages to pay for Windows and sending similar alerts to Microsoft Office users. The difference is that Microsoft Office 2003 users can easily download 2.0 and be up and running with a similar product, with a similar look and feel and all their data and functionality intact, for absolutely free. So most would prefer to give that a try rather than shell out hundreds of dollars for MS Office.”

Stan Beer broadens the same train of thought with another article two days later: Microsoft knows Windows and Office can’t deliver growth.

He writes, “Other than the business segments containing Windows and Office, Microsoft only has two other business segments of any size – Server and Tools, and MSN. While Server and Tools is travelling nicely, with good growth, MSN, which includes Microsoft’s search engine business, is in a sick state. MSN revenue has actually declined by nearly 2% in the first three quarters, while earnings dropped by nearly 64%, which included a loss in the 3rd quarter.”

MSN is the business segment competing with AOL and Google and many others. It appears its fate is tracking AOL’s dial-up business much more closely than it is emulating Google’s successes.

Beer discusses the extra emphasis this places on the need for successes in its core areas, and Microsoft’s challenges cropping up here as well: “While Windows will likely continue to chug along with single digit growth rates after Vista is launched, however, Office 2007 will be a much tougher sell. There is little incentive for people to upgrade from what they already have and compatible free open source products are now available. Promises of a slicker interface and more powerful features are unlikely to convince existing users or new users to part with their money and swap from what they already use, especially if there is a learning curve involved.”

Now is the time for Google to strike a blow against Microsoft Office (by heavily promoting OpenOffice), spread disarray through that company, and continue its utter dominance over Microsoft in Google’s areas of core competency. Long term strategy demands that you prevent your opponent from building a power base that you cannot touch, while he attacks your core strengths. Take the fight to him! (Paraphrased from Sun Zi.)