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Counting Users

April 27th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Just as with other freely-downloaded and freely-shared open source programs, it is very difficult to estimate the number of users around the world.

Sun counts the number of downloads from the main website (at the stats page), which has exceeded 81 million to this point, and is running at about 500,000 per week. However, there is no way to know if people are completing the download and going on to install and use OOo. On the other hand, they may download it once to install on hundreds of computer lab machines, or people may acquire it from peer-to-peer distribution, inclusion with a Linux distribution, or from another mirror site, none of which would be counted in Sun’s figures.

Estimates of the number of real users range from 40 million to 100 million.

Now, with a new auto-notification feature for software updates in the newest version of OpenOffice, more solid numbers should start to come in. The system just went live recently, but over the coming months should begin to provide usable information (while allowing users to remain anonymous, too). Tracking how many users are running OpenOffice around the world will help to further promote the software and allow project members to refine their efforts. Installations should continue to grow at an accelerated rate!

Support OpenOffice: Add it to Your Resume

April 26th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

For a long time I’ve been listing as a software application among those on my resume. I figure those who don’t know it will ignore it, while those who are aware of open source will be excited and consider it a standout feature (not necessarily that I know how to use it, since it’s pretty easy, but that I’m proud and brave enough to call attention to it).

No longer am I so unique though. More and more friends and coworkers are also adding as a point on their resumes. Two have mentioned it to me in the past few weeks! And as more people make note of it, employers will start to pay attention as well.

I’ve recently seen it from the other side, too: At my day job, we received an application for a sysadmin who listed (he called it “Open Office,” but I’ll let that slide) as a part of his software arsenal. This stood out to me and with his other positive attributes, I lobbied for the candidate! (The process is still ongoing, so hush!)

If you know or use OOo, you can promote yourself and subtly promote open source and open data formats at the same time. The process could not be simpler: just mention your knowledge of OpenOffice on your resume or CV! You’ll look smart, differentiate yourself from other candidates, and maybe even find a more comfortable, open source-friendly work environment at the same time.

Open Malaysia blog: “Why OpenDocument Format Matters to Texans”

April 25th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Open Malaysia blog writes a post on Why OpenDocument Format matters to Texans.

It’s based on testimony delivered to the Texas House and Senate by Bob Sutor in March. It’s detailed, it’s thorough, and it is relevant to Texas and any other regional, national, or local government that deals with digital data (thus, all of them around the world).

Sutor considers Microsoft’s monopoly on the current generation of file formats a hidden “tax” that is levied on everyone using it, and even affecting those who do not:

“When you and your citizens are effectively restricted to a single software supplier to access government information, you and they pay what I would consider taxes. Open standards avoid this.

“The first tax is the difference between what you must pay to that supplier vs. the lower cost if multiple suppliers existed and prices had to be competitive. You would also pay an innovation tax. The sole vendor has limited reasons to improve the product. Fresh ideas from new players such as Texan entrepreneurs are kept out of the product category. This is bad.”

It’s a clear argument that should be easy to understand. Competition in the marketplace has proven itself time and again, and software and data file formats are no exception. And open formats are the very essence of what led to the success of the world wide web (HTML, etc). The web is an unbeatable argument in favor of open standards–remember how quickly it overwhelmed the walled gardens of AOL, MSN, and others?

Sutor continues, “EVERYONE can implement a true open standard. This bill is about choice. ODF and open standards for file formats will drive choice of applications, innovative use of information, increased competition, and lower prices. Personally, I think these are good things.

“The world is shifting to non-proprietary open standards based on the amazing success of the World Wide Web, a success that was far more important than any single vendor’s market position or ideas for what was right for the world.”

Unfortunately, I’ve been hearing reports of open format bills being watered down in California, and being blocked by Microsoft lobbyists in Florida. Let’s hope that Texas’ bill avoids such a fate, and that other states (including my own, New York) start to move in the open data format direction as well.

OOo Conference Call for Papers

April 24th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

This year’s Conference will be held in Barcelona. I’m hoping to attend!

The Call for Papers was recently issued, so if you’re interested, get your submission in soon (they are due June 1).

I am hoping to present a description of the OOo Metro Ad project I organized last summer. Now I’ve just got to get organized and submit this proposal!

Google Summer of Code and OOo

April 23rd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

To recap some important news from last week, Google has accepted 10 OpenOffice-related projects for the Summer of Code 2007!

Some really cool ideas in here, from general UI improvements, to improved Aqua support on OS X, to integrating R with Calc, to SVG import (I’ve wanted this for a while), RTF support, and others.

Thanks, Google, and good luck to all the participants!

XOs in Nepal and Brazil

April 19th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The OLPC XO machine is starting to reach more test sites including one in Nepal and another in Brazil.

A team of OLPC volunteers traveled 9 hours by bus to the village of Jiri, Nepal, to demo 4 XOs to a group of school kids there. The demonstration went extremely well:

“For many children the first response was “what is that green box?”. Rather than an explanation, a simple demonstration of how to move the cursor and click on things was all that was needed before the first batch of experts were on their way! It wasn’t long before these kids were then eagerly teaching their friends whilst the OLPC team simply sat and watched in satisfied silence.”

And in Porto Alegre, Brazil, both teachers and students were very interested in working with the XOs:

“Here, in this school, with a library no bigger than the size of a small classroom mostly filled with desks, we found enthusiastic children happy to see us. Now with the laptop and the Internet, children in the school have access to information which would fill their library a hundred times over.”

Both posts, especially the latter, have great photos worth a closer look, so follow up on those links to see the XOs getting used by students in the real world!

Hucks on ODF in California

April 18th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Walt Hucks posts another fusillade supporting efforts by California to set ODF as its default office applications format. He thoroughly destroys the FUD coming out of Redmond. (It’s not hard to counter their claims, since they are so outrageously wrong, but Hucks thoroughly takes them on, one-by-one, and links to a wide bibliography of information to back his arguments. He’s made a very useful resource for documenting the issue.)

I completely agree with Hucks when he titles his post “AB-1668 is Good for California.”

And I completely agree with his succinct and clear summation of the importance of ODF and open file formats:

“ODF being an industry-standard format that is not controlled by any vendor will greatly reduce the costs of software to the end-user and purchaser, while simultaneously enabling new and unexpected solutions to be created by ISVs, ASPs, corporate IT departments, and independent software houses. If Microsoft cares about consumer choice and innovation, let them fully-support ODF in their software, so that users will have choice where it matters to users, in the applications that they use, rather than choice in file formats, which only matters to vendors.”

NeoOffice 2.1 Review

April 17th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Newsforge reviews NeoOffice 2.1, the distribution of specifically for Mac OS X.

The review is positive, but it is balanced with recognition of some of the software’s shortcomings.

Newsforge concludes, “All in all, NeoOffice 2.1 is an incremental improvement over NeoOffice 2.0 Beta 3. Microsoft Office OpenXML compatibility is still a weak point, and if you are looking for help, you are better off avoiding the inconsistent and outdated documentation on the wiki and heading directly to the discussion forum. Nevertheless, NeoOffice remains far superior to the X11-based Mac builds of The OS integration work is impressive, and the new features make the suite as a whole all the more indispensable.”

I’ve been using NeoOffice 2.1 since its recent release and am very pleased with it myself. I strongly recommend it over spending money on its MS competitor for Mac users. And I very strongly recommend avoiding the MS OOXML (“Office Open XML”) file format and using the ISO standard ODF instead (which is the default format for, NeoOffice, KOffice, and many other applications).

Louis in Brazil

April 16th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Louis Suarez-Potts blogs about his experience at FISL 8.0 in Brazil this year.

He sees several corporations in Brazil, including IBM, are beginning to “tell employees and would-be employees that knowing about free software, Linux, OOo, etc., is a real advantage, not just a gesture of personal (and possibly useful, but probably indifferent) accomplishment, but rather something that can lead directly to a job, middle-class things, security. Free software comes of age when the knowledge itself of how to use it is itself a commodity, something that can be exchanged, ultimately, for money.”

Louis feels the growth of FOSS is particularly important in Brazil and other rapidly-growing economies, “fisl is the most important free software event of the year, for the future lies, in development and distribution and use, not with the developed nations but the developing…”

A perfect illustration of this is the Brazilian distribution of, “,” which is at the forefront of OOo development in a number of areas. CoGroo, a grammar checker for Brazilian Portuguese, was developed by this team and is presently being expanded to support English and other languages.

Free and open source software showcases the talents of the world, illustrating that great code can be developed outside of the “developed world” and can compete with software made anywhere.

Make it with Mono Contest Ideas

April 13th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Linux Format Magazine (from the UK) and Novell are running a contest to gather ideas for new software applications to be written in Mono and distributed as open source code, called “Make it with Mono“.

I submitted two ideas: an Wiki Extension, and the Smith Package Manager.

Please vote to support my ideas!

OOo Wiki Extension:

Smith Package Manager: