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Mac OS X Leopard’s Native ODF Support

October 18th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The next iteration of Mac OS X, codenamed Leopard, will be released on October 26. Out of many new features, one mentioned on Apple’s website is native support for ODF files in TextEdit.

More broadly, this may mean that Apple has developed libraries for ODF support, which will make it easy for developers to leverage in apps they build for the Mac platform.

Once the installed base of 25 million Mac users completes the upgrade to Leopard, we’ll see another expansion of the installed base of ODF capable users come along with it!

Scoble Interviews Chandler Team

October 17th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Chandler Project has been a long term interest of mine, and it seems the same is true for Robert Scoble. He publishes a long interview “Collaborative Chandler Revealed,” covering the recent preview release of the application and the development process that has brought it to this point.

It’s a 51-minute video, so I haven’t watched it yet… but the text gives a decent overview and also links to Ted Leung’s detailed post on Scoble’s OSAF visit.

I particularly like the section where they discuss “turning email into a wiki,” since this is an idea I also had a few years ago. Basically, I use saved email messages as a database of information, so using the wiki interface to manage and modify that would work very well for me. Chandler developers and Scoble see it in about the same way.

Leung writes,

“In the interview, Robert latched onto the edit/update features of Chandler. These are still in a primitive state, but you can see the value of them already. He had a great summary of how it works – “you turn e-mail into a wiki.” Exactly. You can create and share a collection with any number of people, and they can all edit/update items in that collection and see each other’s changes, without groveling through endless e-mail reply chains. At one point in the interview, Mimi said something about e-mail being the hub of people’s usage. Truth of the matter is that e-mail is more like the glue that holds batches of information together. Collections of items with edit/update is a different kind of glue.”

I’ve been using Chandler on the desktop and via the hub service, and it is useful and very polished for a “preview”-level release. Reading about the capabilities and ideas that will emerge in its future has further reinforced my perception from regular use: this program is a new paradigm that will vastly improve my workflow and reshape the landscape around it.

Xena is Released

October 16th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Some time ago, the National Archives of Australia made the decision to use open standard, XML file formats for longterm preservation of digital data. Naturally, they chose ODF.

They developed a custom tool to help manage the archival process, named it Xena, and released it as open source using Sourceforge.

It’s a great example of the ecosystem growing around the ODF format, as well as how an open source tool developed for one organization’s needs can be shared online to help many others, without additional cost or effort.

Byfield on Rumors of a Fork

October 15th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Bruce Byfield cuts through some of the recent confusion about whether Novell is going to fork in “Novell is not forking OpenOffice“.

I am glad to see vigorous debate within the OOo community, as it means there are a lot of passionate concerned members who want the best for the project overall.

In general, in fact, it seems the OOo community has gotten a lot stronger recently, with new members IBM and Beijing RedFlag 2000, and Sun implementing new processes to better communicate with community members:

“According to Meeks, Novell is not stopping cooperation with Sun. “We contribute more than half our code to what we see as the core of OpenOffice,” Meek says, referring to bug-fixes and revisions of existing applications and subsystems. He also acknowledges that, recently, “Sun has really been improving how they deal with the community,” citing such improvements as an engineering steering committee that he says has resulted in “much faster patch turnarounds. So, on one level, that’s really encouraging.”

There is room for improvement in the way the community operates, but there is reason for strong optimism too, as the future looks ever brighter for the project.

Marketshare Memes

October 12th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

It’s considered common knowledge that Microsoft Office controls 95% of the global office suite market, but this number comes from an obsolete market analysis framework and can no longer be considered accurate.

Building on this assumption without questioning it, the W.P. Carey School of Arizona State University writes “To Pay or Not To Pay: The World of Office Suites Opens Up.” The first paragraph begins,

“The ubiquitous Microsoft Office suite claims an impressive 95 percent market share. The software giant’s business division, which includes Office, brings in annual revenues of $16.4 billion. Yet since 2000, a free suite of software that includes spreadsheet and word processing programs similar to Excel and Word has evolved, with potential to chip away at Microsoft’s market dominance. Created by an army of volunteers, the open source has attracted a lot of attention but still claims a small percentage of the market.”

A few weeks ago, their sibling site at the Wharton School provided a few key words that clarify the whole situation.

Wharton’s analysis reveals the fallacy that 95% of users (PC users or office software users, pick one market) use Microsoft Office. Instead, the oft-quoted number simply measures that 95% of the revenue collected for the sale of office suites goes to MS (according to International Data Corp.). Thus, free products including and Google Docs are not measured by this statistic at all!

If you measure marketshare as the number of computers with the software installed, as a percentage of all computers, then Microsoft has far less than 95% and OOo has a good slice: Microsoft claims to have about 400 million MSO users, and some estimates place OOo users at 100 million. With these simple numbers, MS has 80% marketshare and OpenOffice has 20% (obviously excluding other players and overlap; these numbers could be refined).

When potential users see that MS has 80% marketshare and OOo has 20%, it will be clear to people that MS is vulnerable and competitors are growing strongly and quickly. This will accelerate adoption of, as those who are afraid to use it because they fear it’s not widely used, will see it is in fact very popular.

More accurate measurement tells a different story than what has been propagated so far, and the entire evolution of the marketplace could change because of it.

Solveig on 2.3

October 11th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Solveig writes a detailed introduction to the new features and functionality introduced in 2.3.

She begins with a list of major new features:

  • “A bunch of new and enhanced features like restoring the user-defined movement path in Impress and applying better default print settings in Calc. Check the release notes for complete information from
  • A significantly different chart tool.
  • New extensions provided by Sun and other vendors. You will need to run 2.3 for the extensions to work. Read more about the new extensions on the web site.”

Filled with screenshots and clear descriptions, this article is really valuable for users adopting or upgrading to OOo 2.3. It also covers the new chart tool and extensions capability very thoroughly to help us all get familiar with these two large feature upgrades.

OpenProj Exceeds 100,000 Downloads

October 10th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Projity’s press release announces that OpenProj has already been downloaded 100,000 times, and InfoWorld also covers this milestone in “Preview: OpenProj brings free, robust project management to the desktop.”

I like InfoWorld’s summary of their review:

OpenProj performs all the essential tasks you’d do with a desktop project management application. That, and cross-platform availability, would justify Projity charging even a portion of Microsoft Project’s $999 price tag. But with OpenProj’s free access, it’s just one more compelling case for going open source on the desktop.”

And InfoWorld’s final verdict,

OpenProj, an excellent open source desktop alternative to Microsoft Project, reads native Project files while providing an especially precise scheduling engine. The OpenProj solution has essential project management tools, including Gantt Charts, Network Diagrams (PERT Charts), WBS and RBS charts, Earned Value costing – all surrounded by a customized user interface.”

You can download OpenProj for all platforms from Sourceforge.

Thoughtfix Compares N800 and iPod Touch

October 10th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The prolific tablet blogger Thoughtfix has written a thorough side-by-side comparison of Nokia’s N800 and Apple’s iPod Touch.

In my opinion, both are great devices (I only have an N800 though), and Thoughtfix agrees on that point. However, he tests and compares which is preferable for varied use cases, and finds that each has its stronger niches.

“The iPod touch paired with iTunes will be my media player of choice… The Nokia N800 is far more powerful as an Internet device.”

Hopefully both will thrive, and help establish this emerging category of tablet devices that may one day be as important as PCs or cellphones are today!

Sun and Novell and

October 9th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

There has been a recent series of discussions and blogs about the relationship of Sun and Novell within the community, and the particular roles they play. Some writers have announced the Novell is going to produce a new “fork” of OOo, while others have indicated the current status quo is not going to change much.

Charles H. Schulz, longtime member of the OOo community, attempts to clarify the situation in a piece for Groklaw.

My own opinion is rather relaxed. Sun, the project founder, has discussed their expectation that different “distros” of OOo would emerge over time. In fact, IBM’s Lotus Symphony and Red Flag 2000’s RedOffice are two new distros announced in the past few months. If Novell builds another one, I don’t see a problem. Just as competition among Linux distros has been a major reason for their rapid improvement and encouraged differentiation to serve niche markets, the same will come from a multitude of OOo distros. If each variant can read and write ODF files, compatibility will be maintained and nothing will be sacrificed for the end users.

David Pogue on the OLPC XO

October 8th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

David Pogue reviews the XO for the New York Times.

“The XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000.”

Pogue immediately sees the potential of the XO, especially through the way it has created new network- and group-centric paradigms of working and learning.

“Most of the XO’s programs are shareable on the mesh network, which is another ingenious twist. Any time you’re word processing, making music, taking pictures, playing games or reading an e-book, you can click a Share button. Your document shows up next to your icon on the mesh-network map, so that other people can see what you’re doing, or work with you. Teachers can supervise your writing, buddies can collaborate on a document, friends can play you in Connect 4, or someone across the room can add a melody to your drum beat in the music program. You’ve never seen anything like it.”

As many had hoped, developed world customers can now buy one of their own (more accurately, you can buy two, one shipped to you and one to a child in the developing world).

The XO is a formidable testament to the power and promise of open source, and a huge vote of confidence in the potential of millions of people around the world that have so far been left out of the information age. Its release is clearly going to be a world-changing event.