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Mark Shuttleworth: ODF Beats MSOOXML

June 29th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Mark Shuttleworth is unequivocal in his opinion that ODF is a superior format to MSOOXML:

“With regard to open standards on document formats, I have no confidence in Microsoft’s OpenXML specification to deliver a vibrant, competitive and healthy market of multiple implementations. I don’t believe that the specifications are good enough, nor that Microsoft will hold itself to the specification when it does not suit the company to do so. There is currently one implementation of the specification, and as far as I’m aware, Microsoft hasn’t even certified that their own Office12 completely implements OpenXML, or that OpenXML completely defines Office12’s behavior. The Open Document Format (ODF) specification is a much better, much cleaner and widely implemented specification that is already a global standard. I would invite Microsoft to participate in the OASIS Open Document Format working group, and to ensure that the existing import and export filters for Office12 to Open Document Format are improved and available as a standard option. Microsoft is already, I think, a member of OASIS. This would be a far more constructive open standard approach than OpenXML, which is merely a vague codification of current practice by one vendor.”

This is a clear and concise summary of the arguments around the ODF/MSOOXML debate that I have long been collecting here.

Further, Shuttleworth, and his company Canonical’s attitude about the world of Free Software is in strong accordance with my own. I think it is the most elegant strategic direction to follow:

“My goal is to carry free software forward as far as I can, and then to help others take the baton to carry it further. At Canonical, we believe that we can be successful and also make a huge contribution to that goal. In the Ubuntu community, we believe that the freedom in free software is what’s powerful, not the openness of the code. Our role is not to be the ideologues-in-chief of the movement, our role is to deliver the benefits of that freedom to the widest possible audience. We recognize the value in “good now to get perfect later” (today we require free apps, tomorrow free drivers too, and someday free firmware to be part of the default Ubuntu configuration) we always act in support of the goals of the free software community as we perceive them.”

More Stories of Linux Adoptions

June 28th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Walt Hucks has a few posts about both high-profile and everyday users leaving Windows in favor of Mac OS X and Linux.

He covers “influencers” in his first post on the subject: “James Robertson is giving up Windows at home, because of the administration load. He joins a growing chorus of people switching to Mac and some to Linux instead of quietly accepting the forced march to the Vista compound.”

Now he’s posted Giving Up On Vista, chronicling his own family and friends’ migrations to Linux and Mac OSes. Much of it comes from frustrations with using Vista, while other reasons include control over one’s own data, the time cost of Windows management, and, most important to me, the simple elegance of Mac and Linux systems today.

Hucks writes, “In some of my recent calls home, I learned that one of MJ’s friends, the one who has been the most pro-Vista, has decided that he wants to get rid of some of the six computers his family has (all except one running Vista) and replace them with Macs. MJ has decided that one of his two WinXP computers is going Ubuntu or Mint in the next week or two. The other one will probably be converted soon after, now that he sees that the family administrator is less and less willing to spend his evenings and weekends fighting Windows to make it obey the wishes of the computer’s owner…”

But Hucks doesn’t declare war, instead he simply calls for mutual respect: “Since FLOSS and free culture help to spread the benefits of software and arts and information to all of society, the continuing attacks on FLOSS from Redmond are attacks on consumers, citizens, and individuals, not just attacks on perceived competitors. I call upon the Softies to begin to respect us all by ceasing the anti-FLOSS initiatives.”

Sounds reasonable! The extremists and throwbacks may still be in the Windows camp, but the pragmatists and those who just want to get work done efficiently and without hassle are jumping into the Mac and Linux waters. And if you’re ready to buy a new Linux box, check out ZaReason, a great Ubuntu-based PC retailer.

eWeek Reviews OpenOffice.org 2.2

June 27th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Tiffany Maleshefski writes OpenOffice Sports All-Around Improvements for eWeek.

“Going head to head with Microsoft 2007, the latest version of the free-for-all OpenOffice.org touts across-the-board improvements in the software’s word processing, spreadsheet, database and presentation applications. However, the brightest aspects of OpenOffice.org 2.2, which began shipping at the end of March, are its price tag—free—and its impressively broad platform support.”

“During eWEEK Labs’ tests, we noted the improvements in OpenOffice.org’s popular PDF export function, as well as the progress the suite’s Calc spreadsheet application has undergone toward better matching the functionality of Microsoft Excel’s prized pivot table feature.

“IT managers looking for alternatives to Microsoft Office—particularly those unwilling to make the leap to Office 2007—will find OpenOffice.org 2.2 well worth evaluating.”

eWeek doesn’t mention the importance of the ODF file format, which I think is one of OOo’s greatest strengths. But from simply using OOo, as most people would perceive it, they do a good job of covering the basic experience. It’s great to see mainstream tech news sites recognize that OpenOffice is quite competitive with its vastly more expensive counterpart.

Now we just need a brave OEM (Dell, I’m talking about you!) to start pre-installing OpenOffice, and the tipping point will be here.

100,000 Linux Laptops Coming to San Diego Unified School District

June 26th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

eSchoolNews reports San Diego’s one-to-one computing initiative will deliver Linux laptops to each of the district’s 100,000 students in grades 3 to 12 (the district has 130,000 total students).

“Looking for a cost-effective way to deliver portable computing to every student, the San Diego Unified School District is installing machines with desktop Linux and other open-source software. In turning to open source, San Diego joins a growing number of school systems aiming to extend computing resources affordably to more users.”

The article notes that most students in the district could not afford computers at home, putting them on the wrong side of the digital divide. And as the eighth-largest school system in the USA, cost is also a major factor for the district itself. Open source thus provides the best value proposition for the district and its students.

Custom hardware from Lenovo rounds out the district’s strategy.

Meanwhile, familiarity with open source operating systems and applications will be very marketable skills in the next few years. Congratulations to San Diego on this wise move to benefit its student population!

Update: Miguel Guhlin also covers the issue in his blog.

iPhone and Safari’s Open Standards Support

June 25th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Among many interesting details of Apple’s forthcoming iPhone is its apparent strong support for web standards. The Safari browser it ships with, now also available on Windows, is considered by many to be the most standards-compliant of all major web browsers.

Roughly Drafted considers the impact of the iPhone and the importance of open standards to its development, as well as the importance its success could have on further pushing open standards for the web and for mobile devices themselves.

“The iPhone offers the Safari web browser as a third party development platform. That means IT groups won’t have to write iPhone specific ports of their custom apps… It also means that any development invested in building custom applications targeted for the iPhone will automatically be cross-platform, and work on any other mobile devices that support a standards-based web browser.”

The first part of the article covers various reactions to the iPhone, and wonders whether negative pieces may be inspired by vendors who fear the impact this embrace of open standards will have on their proprietary mobile devices. The end of the article reviews how strong support for open standards has helped propel Apple’s latest product, functionality-wise, beyond its competitors even before it has been launched.

As an Apple and open source/open standards fan, the launch of the iPhone is going to be very interesting.

Planning for OpenOffice.org 3.0

June 22nd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Martin Hollmichel writes OpenOffice.org 3.0 at the Horizon for Sun’s GullFOSS blog yesterday.

Planned for final release in September 2008 (over a year away), 3.0 will include many new features currently in development or recently finished, as well as a few that are just getting started.

New features will include:

  • the new chart module
  • report designer
  • import filters for MS Office 2007 file types
  • enhancements to the online update mechanism
  • the Mac OS X native version
  • more features installable as Extensions

For more info on OOo 3.0 and other releases, see the Product Release page of the OOo wiki.

Updegrove on State Open File Format Bills

June 19th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Andy Updegrove of the Standards Blog is disappointed in the state legislators who have failed to pass open file format legislation. It’s their responsibility, he argues, to guarantee that government data is available into the future in an accessible format.

I would further argue it’s their responsibility to be as neutral as possible when it comes to provisioning and encouraging products, even just by using said products in their workplaces.

Though this first round in US state legislatures has not been a success, I am very encouraged to see the largest setbacks have been confined to the USA. Other countries around the world are standardizing on ODF at a fast pace, while many large governments have gone even further, to roll out OpenOffice.org on hundreds of thousands of government-owned computers (Brazil and France have been particularly aggressive, for two examples).

Mobile Computing from Nokia

June 15th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Nokia’s development of the 770 and N800 based on its Maemo platform could be testing tools for a future strategic shift to mobile computing, writes Michael Mace at MobileOpportunity.com.

“Not smartphones, not converged devices, but full-on mobile computers intended to replace both PCs and mobile phones. Nokia says it expects these devices to eventually sell in the billions of units, and to become the world’s dominant means of accessing the Internet.

“Even though these future devices will still be mobile, if you take all of Nokia’s statements at face value the changes from mobile phones will be so extensive that it’s fair to call it a new business.”

As an open source fan, I am glad to see this. When Linux (or other open source)-based devices define a new market category from its very beginning, there will be almost no chance for proprietary software and monopoly control to get its foot in the door (analogous to the web server market, where Apache started early and holds about 70% marketshare).

Collaboration on the base platform is logical, and allows for faster and better innovation on top of and around it. I’ve long thought the Maemo platform, and the web tablet concept, are headed for significant future growth. Yes, we will see them replace many of the current uses of laptops and desktops and other small devices, though of course not every one.

Ubuntu vs. Windows: It’s no Contest

June 14th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Paul Nowak writes for AjaxWorld magazine, After Ubuntu, Windows Looks Increasingly Bad, Increasingly Archaic, Increasingly Unfriendly.

“There are many night-and-day differences between Windows and Ubuntu and, for a guy that does 80% standard office tasks and the rest of the time I’m doing Linux admin tasks, it was nearly all in favor of Ubuntu after the first few weeks of the transition. Overall, my productivity and the scope of things I can do with Ubuntu far exceed what I could do with Windows.”

Interestingly, Nowak, a Linux sysadmin, had attempted to migrate before without success: “Three prior attempts over the years at using Linux as my daily desktop OS had me primed for failure. Well, Ubuntu takes Linux where I’ve long hoped it would go – easy to use, reliable, dependable, great applications too but more on that later. It has some elegance to it – bet you never heard that about a Linux desktop before.”

One of the most immediate annoyances with Windows is the difficulty of installing applications. Not that the process is hard, but rather it is not automated like Ubuntu’s Synaptic tool, and becomes much slower when installing and updating many applications at one time. He compares, rhetorically asking:

“MS Windows with a factory install disk, separate disks for Office and for Virus protection and then a lot of hunt-and-peck downloading for various apps like Thunderbird, Firefox, SSH, and Calendar or….Ubuntu with one CD and an OS that includes an integrated, extensible, and slick software package manager where all the software is approved and tailored to the installation?”

No contest. Ubuntu is better, and progressing faster. The next few years are bound to see a global sea change!

Introducing the £100 Laptop!

June 13th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

A new period of innovation is opening in the world of mobile computing, possibly inspired from ideas boldly implemented by the One Laptop per Child project, and diffusing across the commercial world from there.

In this vein, PC Pro announces the introduction of Asus’ £100 laptop:

“The notebook measures roughly 120 x 100 x 30mm (WDH) and weighs only 900g. We saw the notebook boot in 15 seconds from its solid-state hard disk. The huge auditorium then burst into applause as Shih revealed the astounding price tag. Dubbed the 3ePC, Shih claimed the notebook is the ‘lowest cost and easiest PC to use’. As the crowds rushed the stage, we sneaked off to the Asus stand to take a closer look.

The notebook uses a custom-written Linux operating system, much like the OLPC, though unlike the OLPC, Asus has chosen a more conventional interface. The desktop looked fairly similar to Windows and we saw Firefox running on one 3ePC. A spokesperson from Asus told us that the notebook would come with “an office suite that’s compatible with MS Office”, though he refused to confirm or deny whether that meant OpenOffice.”

Flash-based hard disks are probably going to become standard in a new breed of subnotebooks like this. As will Linux-based operating systems and open source desktop software stacks. Many new uses will be devised for this form factor, and probably an entirely new market will come into existence. Freedom from proprietary software is a strong contributing factor behind this wave of creativity.