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California Open File Formats Bill Introduced

February 28th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Computerworld writes California may join rush of states toward ODF.

“A California legislator last Friday introduced a bill that would mandate the use of open, XML-based document file formats by the state government starting next January. It is the third such state-level legislation to be introduced this month.”

This follows Massachusetts’ move to ODF (not by a state law, but by a decision of its IT agency), and bills introduced in Minnesota and Texas to adopt an open format for state agencies as well.

“Like the other two measures, the bill in the California Assembly doesn’t list any specific document formats that could be used. But as in Minnesota and Texas, the introduction of such a bill appears to be another potential win for backers of the OpenDocument Format (ODF) for Office Applications.”

If you put these four states on a map, you’ve got the compass points covered: Massachusetts in the East, Minnesota in the North, Texas in the South, and California in the West. We just need to fill the in-betweens!

Also, California is the most populous state (37 million people, more than 12% of the entire USA), and Texas is second (24 million people, about 8% of the US population), meaning that a large number of Americans will be affected by these bills.

Further, California, Massachusetts and Texas contain important high technology nodes; where they pioneer tech issues, other states are likely to follow along.

Any way you slice it, this is good news for open formats, ODF, and data liberation! It is bringing the entire country very close to the digital tipping point.

Also see a post on Andy Updegrove’s Standards Blog for more information and analysis:

“It was 18 months ago that Massachusetts began this trend, when its Information Technical Division revised the Enterprise Technical Resource Model (ETRM) upon which its IT procurement is based.┬áThat revision not only required open standards and welcomed open source in its procurement, but also blessed an open document format standard called OpenDocument Format, or ODF.┬áSince then, government procurement based on open standards in general, and the role of ODF in particular, have been very much in the spotlight.”

OLPC to Support OpenDocument

February 28th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

AbiWord will be available on the OLPC platform, and it was just improved with support for ODF.

The linked article was just a quick note, so if you want to skip the link, here’s the full text:

“I’ve just added support for the OpenDocument file format to the “OLPC version” of AbiWord (it already supported .doc, .rtf, (x)html, .txt, and of course .abw). Given that AbiWord hacker and supreme bughunter sum1 just fixed an annoying OpenDocument RTL bug, OpenDocument import and export should be useful for our Bi-Directional-Multilanguage-ODT-loving friends as well :)

Denmark: Open Standards Mandatory

February 27th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

An open document standard, though not explicitly ODF, will become mandatory in Denmark beginning January 1, 2008.

Sam Hiser says not to worry, as MSOOXML cannot stand up to ODF in a fair comparison:

“This gives me no anxiety whatsoever. MSOOXML has already been thoroughly de-bunked vis a vis its repudiation of other existing standards; it is in perhaps a perpetual deep-freeze at ISO (from which Microsoft will not seek or wish to remove it, since “ISO status pending” is all they need to sell it; the alternative is to re-wire their entire new catalog of software); under further use testing and scrutiny in Denmark, its repudiation of the basic intentions of XML will be highlighted; and under scrutiny in Denmark the thorough dependency of MSOOXML documents upon the Microsoft stack (Vista, Exchange, Sharepoint, Outlook, MS SQL Server, IE7, Office 2007, Groove, etc.) and their lack of interoperability & compatibility outside the new Microsoft stack will be underscored and well understood. The Danes will find that MSOOXML is no solution.”

Zimbra is Rising

February 26th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Zimbra is coming up from behind to challenge the Exchange behemoth, and it has a lot of advantages Exchange cannot match. Very interesting to me is that it plays nicely across platforms: Zimbra can be run from Linux and Mac OS X servers, and it gives equal support to lots of client apps on all three major platforms (including Evolution, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook, and its own excellent web client).

A recent review of the development process shows how the team has gone out of its way to help its users.

Zimbra comes in open source and for-pay versions that include a support contract.

How about that? Instead of submitting to MS Exchange and slowly being forced to migrate all your desktops to Windows, you can run Zimbra and use as many Mac and Linux machines as you like without sacrificing email, contact, calendar sharing, VOIP, and document management! That’s more features than Exchange offers, at a much better price (free, if you choose the OSS option).

Zimbra even includes “over the air” synching with mobile devices, but in true Zimbra fashion, you are not limited to just one mobile platform. Zimbra Mobile works with Windows Mobile, Symbian and Palm devices with no extra server needed. (Blackberry requires a little bit of extra work.)

Network Computing on Moving to OpenOffice.org from MSO

February 23rd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Network Computing publishes a detailed guide on when and how to migrate from MS Office to OpenOffice.org.

“From our perspective–both from speaking with organizations that have made the move and from having gone through sacred-cow change processes like this–it’s not so much a question of whether organizations should use free office-suite software, but rather how much to use and when. When you consider the cost of the incumbent Microsoft software (a couple of hundred dollars per license) and multiply that by hundreds or thousands of licenses, it becomes clear it’s not a matter of justifying the switch, but rather explaining the additional expense of keeping Microsoft Office around.”

Russian Schools Moving to Linux

February 22nd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

After a high-profile accusation of piracy threatened a schoolteacher with a Siberian prison sentence, many Russian schools will move entirely to open source software, from Linux to OpenOffice.org and the rest of the FOSS stack.

“Schools in the Perm region will soon quit buying software from commercial companies, said the region’s Education Minister Nikolay Karpushin. The announcement was made in line with the report on ensuring ‘license purity’ in the region’s schools.

According to Karpushin, schools would start using freely distributed software like the Linux OS, Russky office and OpenOffice desktop apps.”

Russia is one of the largest countries where I had not heard a lot of news about FOSS adoption, so this story caught my eye. Russia is, fairly or not, famous for digital piracy. Maybe instead they can become famous as a powerhouse of open source!

Dell Customers Want OpenOffice

February 21st, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Computer assembler Dell has launched a new site for collecting customer feedback, called Idea Storm. (The name’s a bit hokey, but the intention is good.)

Users can submit their suggestions or ideas, and other site visitors vote on the ones they’d most like to see implemented. It’s a good way to get a company’s most passionate users really communicating with each other and with the company itself.

Unsurprisingly, this site has shown as untrue earlier claims by Dell (and other hardware makers) that there is no demand for pre-installation of Linux and open source software on the machines they sell: a user suggestion that Dell “offer the 3 top free Linux versions for free pre-installation on all Dell PCs,” has received over 62,000 votes in the past five days.

That’s cool, but something even easier to implement has come in at #2 in total votes cast: pre-installation of OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird, and a bevy of other FOSS desktop applications on top of Windows. In three days, this idea has garnered over 37,000 votes.

Many other open source-related ideas have filtered to the top of the list. (While it appears an MS astroturfing campaign has begun in the comments section of these ideas, they cannot reduce the votes that have been cast in favor.)

If you’re a Dell customer, or potential customer, let them know what you want!

Production of One Million OLPC XOs to Begin

February 21st, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Network World reports that Quanta has received orders to produce the first million OLPC XO laptops for the One Laptop per Child project.

One million computers is just the beginning:

“Quanta said it could ship between 5 million to 10 million units this year because seven nations have already signed up for the project. That may be enough to reduce the costs and meet the $100 goal sooner than expected.

The governments that have committed to buy laptops for their schoolchildren include Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Thailand and Uruguay.”

Jonathan Schwartz on ODF

February 20th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Jonathan Schwartz, chief executive officer and president of Sun Microsystems, blogs about the importance of ODF:

“If you write a law or a medical history or a regulatory filing in a word processor that supports ODF today, and need to gain access to it at any point in the future, you’ll have the freedom to do so on your terms. Without being held up by an application provider. ODF is a true open standard (PDF link), adopted and implemented by a diversity of vendors (from IBM and Sun, to Google, Red Hat and now even Microsoft), and embraced by an amazing spectrum of the planet. And it’s royalty free.”

ODF has been a major project for Sun and many other contributors, but this is the first mention of it at such a high level from Sun (that I have seen).

50,000 New Linux Desktops in Brazil

February 20th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Government-supported efforts to get low-cost desktop computers into the hands of Brazilians has led to 50,000 Linux desktops deployed so far, growing by 10,000 a month.

“The Computers for All project is part of the Brazilian federal government’s “Program of Digital Inclusion,” initiated in 2003. The project’s objective is to provide low-cost computers to the population and to boost technological development, EnabledPeople said.

Linux XP Desktop is described as a user-friendly desktop operating system for home and office users. With a preinstalled version, a user gets an application set that includes the OpenOffice.org office suite, the Evolution email client, the Firefox web browser, and the GAIM multi-protocol instant messenger, among other software. According to EnabledPeople, Linux XP Desktop is a Red Hat-compatible operating system, and is compatible with Red Hat’s application set.”