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US Navy Opens Up to Open Source

June 12th, 2007 Benjamin Horst reports Navy CIO ‘recognizes the importance of OSS to the warfighter’:

“John Weathersby, executive director of the Open Source Software Institute, told today that, effective immediately, the Department of the Navy has adopted a new policy which requires that open source software must be considered in every software acquisition the Navy makes.”

Germany May Require ODF

June 11th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Heise Online reports “Governing coalition to push for the adoption of open IT standards” in which they cover a Linux Tag presentation where “Dr. Uwe Küster, the party whip of the parliamentary group of the Social Democrats (SPD) in the Bundestag, the lower chamber of Germany’s federal parliament, said that the governing coalition would within the next two weeks submit a motion that would make open formats mandatory for the information technology of the federal authorities of the Federal Republic. This, Mr. Küster declared, would boost competition on the software market and strengthen the position of small and medium-sized enterprises.

“The focus would be on office software, where with the OpenDocument Format (ODF) an ISO standard had been created that would foster competition between office applications, he declared. During the discussion, which was organized by the team of the Open Source Annual, Dr. Küster compared the step about to be taken to the regulatory measures adopted with regard to the telecommunications market, which, he said, had improved the competitive chances of small suppliers vis-à-vis the “hegemony of the major players.”

Germany, the most populous country in the EU, seems poised to move its government office standard to ODF–this is a huge step forward for open standards, ODF, and marketplace competition. It also could be a boon for (as well as KOffice, AbiWord, and all the other ODF-compliant applications).

Europe is rapidly becoming ODF territory! The more countries adopt it around the world, the better our case for it here in the USA too (admittedly, this didn’t work with the metric system, but I remain hopeful).

We may have lost this round of open file format legislation in the US states where it was proposed, but when a country with a population of 82 million picks it up instead, that more than outweighs those temporary setbacks.

ODF Bill in New York State

June 8th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

While Microsoft fiercely resists each and every state’s attempt to adopt free and open data formats, that doesn’t stop lawmakers from making efforts to do the right thing. Most recently, Infoworld reports on New York State’s open data formats bill in New York becomes latest state to ponder ODF.

New York State Bill A08961, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman RoAnn M. Destito, proposes the state study how government documents are created, exchanged, and preserved and how these documents can be used in a way that “encourages appropriate government control, access, choice, interoperability, and vendor neutrality,” according to the text of the bill.”

While it’s exciting to see states start this process, simply introducing the bill is a long way from successful implementation. Other states that have trod this path haven’t completed the journey yet:

Bills that would have required state agencies to use freely available document formats in Texas, Connecticut, Florida, and Oregon were shot down mainly due to the pro-Microsoft lobby, while a bill in Minnesota was passed only to study the possibility of using open document formats, not to actually mandate them…

“So far, Massachusetts is the only U.S. state that has officially adopted an open documents policy that will include ODF support, though governments in other countries such as Belgium, Denmark, and France are ahead of the U.S. in mandating their agencies use open document formats.

Nevertheless, this is an important step in the nation’s third most-populous state.

While Microsoft chases back and forth across the country trying to stamp out these grassroots efforts, they’ll have that much less attention to focus on other countries moving to ODF, schools and corporations adopting ODF, new software applications implementing ODF, and on and on. Pretty soon the dam will burst and ODF will become as ubiquitous as HTML, with all the benefits a single, open standard can bring to a (soon to be) competitive marketplace!

Democracy Player Updated, to be Renamed Miro

June 7th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Democracy Player 0.9.6 has been released, the last version before the name change to Miro will take place.

Nicholas Reville writes, “We have just released version 0.9.6 of Democracy Player. It is a *big* update, with lots of new features, bug fixes, and improvements. It’s also the last version ever of Democracy Player. The next release from us will be under our new name, Miro.”

I’m looking forward to its new auto-update capability on OS X, among many other new features, and I’m also excited to have found it included in my Ubuntu package repositories for easy access on my Linux boxes (though it isn’t the latest version yet).

Boing Boing first introduced me to Democracy Player sometime last year, and they cover this most recent developmental release too.

In addition, Edward A Robinson blogs about the release from a Linux user’s perspective, and I’m sure there is plenty more blog coverage out there–it’s a great program and platform that deserves a lot of attention!

ODF as an American National Standard

June 6th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Bob Sutor discusses Microsoft’s recent vote in favor of ODF as an American Standard. He suggests that MS should support ODF, but does not believe they are doing it for anything other than to game the process.

“The press release is a PR stunt, sorry to say. The real message is in the middle where Microsoft tries to advance the case for OOXML. That is, this is OOXML promotion using ODF as the vehicle. I think this is obvious.

“I’m not a cynical person by nature and I tried to watch my tone here, but a stunt is a stunt. I had hoped for better.

“Finally, it’s excellent news that ODF appears to be on the way to being an American National Standard!”

Solveig Tests the New Chart Tool

June 5th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

If you’ve been following its development process, you’ll know that a reimplemented chart tool is due to be released with 2.3, scheduled for early September.

Solveig takes a look at the new chart tool on her blog.

I’m not highly familiar with the chart tool, so unfortunately, I can’t clearly explain what has been changed in this upgrade. But Solveig’s got a nice screen-by-screen walkthrough with plenty of details that will prepare you for this coming upgrade.

Dell Offers Ubuntu, What About OpenOffice?

June 4th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Due to an outpouring of popular demand through its IdeaStorm website, Dell came to realize that a large number of people would like to purchase Ubuntu preinstalled on new computers. Breaking its long-held “Windows or die” stance, Dell went forward and made it available. Great work, Dell! (See the page for all IdeaStorm-generated ideas they have implemented.)

Now, there are some caveats. Only a few systems are available, it’s only available in the US right now, and Dell includes some language to dissuade unsavvy users from making the Ubuntu choice. These issues are fine in the short term, though, especially if you consider this a proof of concept experiment for the company.

However, one of the other top ideas on Dell’s IdeaStorm website was to preinstall OpenOffice (and Firefox, and some other FOSS apps) on the Windows boxes Dell sells. From a simple end user standpoint, this option would benefit a larger number of Dell customers: it’s easier for a user to learn new desktop applications than to switch OSes entirely, it would be easier to find on the website when purchasing a new computer, and it’s easier for a user to see that OpenOffice might have a cost of $0 in Dell’s online store, but if he or she chose Microsoft Office from that same dropdown menu, another $150 or more will be added to his or her system’s final price.

Simply put, OpenOffice preinstalls would save more customers more money. It would probably quickly show that most users don’t need Microsoft Office at all. However, there’s at least one company that does not want that to become apparent. I wonder if Microsoft would be above putting pressure on Dell to block this idea? Probably not.

OpenOffice would obviously benefit through marketshare increases if Dell were to offer it as a preinstalled option. But the primary benefit would be to new users–those who don’t even know it exists right now, but will be willing to try it when cost and convenience factors make it easily available to them.

According to the IdeaStorm website, pre-installed OpenOffice is “Under Consideration,” which appears to be just below “Coming Soon” in their hierarchy of possible implementation. Let’s hope it moves to “Already Offered” soon!

New Zealand Saves $100 Million by Dropping Microsoft Office

June 1st, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Erwin Tenhumberg talks about what New Zealand can do with the $100 million it will save over ten years since its schools have partially abandoned Microsoft Office.

He’s referring to a post by fellow Sun employee Ken Drachnik, titled New Zealand Rejects Microsoft Office for 25,000 Macs! Drachnik writes, “Today, New Zealand Herald reports that the government of New Zealand rejected the bid from Microsoft to upgrade 25,000 Macs in their education system to the next version of Microsoft Office. Supposedly, the government couldn’t justify the cost of $100 Million over ten years (yes Dr. Evil, that is 100 MILLION) for the Macs! Bully for New Zealand. Go download NeoOffice for free now and upgrade to the version for the Mac when it is released in December of this year! Save the taxpayers $100 million and spend it on more books, better hospitals, education for more open source programmers.”

The original article in the Herald seems to take a negative slant on the news, despite the outrageous demands Microsoft made–that New Zealand schools pay for licenses of MS Office they don’t even have!

“Education Minister Steve Maharey said Microsoft insisted the Government pay a licence fee for all Apple Macintoshes in schools to use Microsoft Office.

“But the programs were used on only half the machines.

“The ministry could not justify the extra $2.7 million being given to Microsoft for software that would not be used,” said Mr Maharey.

“He said Apple supplied a program similar to Microsoft Office, and NeoOffice, an open-source program developed by volunteers, was also available.”

Microsoft has long been double-dipping; charging customers for products they don’t use or even own, or charging them twice for the same program. For example, many schools and corporations have site licenses for Windows, so they have paid for each copy of Windows they run. However, each time they buy a new computer with Windows pre-installed, they’re paying separately, and again, for that copy of Windows!

With this in mind, it’s clear that Microsoft’s income is skewed and its marketshare is also probably overcounted. Not to mention that schools and corporations are paying twice for the products they purchase! What a ripoff.