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Solveig Haugland’s Five Principles for a Successful Transition

April 16th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Solveig Haugland has published a great article for companies, schools and other organizations preparing to transition from Microsoft Office to, “Five Principles for a Successful Transition.”

She’s been a premier consultant in this field for 6 years now and has seen many migrations, both good and bad. It’s easy to forget sometimes that not everyone transfers seamlessly from one software program to another, since most people just want to get their jobs done. End users often don’t care about the cost savings or longterm benefits of open source: “The big picture of saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and the principles of open source don’t seem to matter as much to the soldiers on the ground who at 7 PM are wondering why that text box is overlapping their graphic when it looked fine in Word.”

Change management is more about people than it is about technology. Solveig suggests the following principals for your best chance of a successful migration: a good pilot program, support from the top, tough love, proactive support and training, and providing templates, clip art and fonts.

She summarizes, “Switching to an entirely different piece of software is a big deal. The interface is similar and the price is free, so it seems at an unconscious level like it ought to be just a matter of installing new software. It won’t be. But if you want to save a huge amount of money; if you want to use software that everyone can install at home for free; if you think that saving the soccer program or the music program is important; then it’s worth it.”

See Solveig Haugland’s site for her training and support services.

Ecuador Adopts Free Software

April 15th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Ecuador’s president signed a decree the government will adopt open source software for its administration, writes The Digital Standards Organization.

“On April 10, 2008, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa Delgado signed a decree ordering that the software used by public administrations in the country be free software (and implicitly based on open standards).”

The remainder is in Spanish, but this seems an adequate summary.

Notes on 3.0 Beta

April 14th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Sun’s GullFOSS blog is a great place to see what development is happening for upcoming versions of OpenOffice. Lately the buzz has been the upcoming 3.0, and an OpenOffice 3.0 beta version is due to be ready soon.

Some of the new features include a long-needed fix to notes in Writer, a cropping tool in Impress and Draw, multiple page view in Writer, and a start center when you launch OOo without opening a document.

One of the biggest features will be PDF editing, but I believe that will be implemented as an extension to be bundled with OOo.

See a technically-oriented list of features and enhancements on the wiki.

Mark Shuttleworth on Wubi and Open Source on Windows and Mac

April 12th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Mark Shuttleworth blogs about Wubi, a new tool for easily installing Ubuntu on a Windows machine.

He points out the value of making it easy for users to access Free Software, even if they run it on Windows: “I believe in bringing free software to people in a way that is exciting and empowering to them, and one of the key ways to do that is to show them amazing free software running on their familiar platform, whether that’s Windows or the Mac OS.”

Once again, Firefox has broken ground for the cause of all open source software. Shuttleworth writes, “Firefox, for example, is an inspiring free software success story, and I’m certain that a key driver of that success is their excellent support for the Windows environment. It’s a quick download and an easy install that Just Works, after which people can actually FEEL that free software delivers an innovative and powerful browsing experience that is plainly better than the proprietary alternatives… And users love it – users that may then be willing to take a step closer to living in the GNU world entirely.”

This gives me a renewed impetus for Project Smith, which I have picked up to work on once again.

Dimdim Public Beta Starts Today

April 10th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Dimdim (maybe not the best name, but it is memorable) has announced its public beta today. Dimdim is a free, GPL-licensed web meeting software/service that offers screen sharing, slideshow broadcasting, text and voice chat, and video broadcasting capabilities.

From an email they sent to private beta testers yesterday, “Since we launched our private beta program in September, Dimdim has been used in 165 countries by over 350,000 people. And thanks to your feedback we have upgraded our service to provide better screen sharing, dramatically enhanced our video and audio chat and introduced the MyDimdim meeting portal where you can host, schedule and search your meetings.

“We thought you would like to know that tomorrow, April 10, we will open our Dimdim public beta to the rest of the world. Now anyone will be able to host their own Dimdim Web Meetings for free.”

Web Worker Daily reviewed Dimdim last week and was impressed: “While he was on a PC using Internet Explorer and I was on a Mac using Firefox, as soon as I clicked the attend link in his email, it just worked. Fast. No fuss, no muss. None of the death by lag or weird color shifts I’ve been tormented with by other web collaboration services. DimDim takes care of the plumbing so you can actually spend your time collaborating, or reviewing, or learning.”

Free conference sessions can have up to 20 attendees, while the Pro service, at $99/year, allows up to 100. And since it’s open source, it can theoretically be integrated with online learning tools like Moodle (that would be awesome for remote learning!), CMSs like Drupal, and other collaborative online tools.

OpenOffice on 41,000 Australian School Computers

April 9th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Erwin Tenhumberg points out that will be installed on 41,000 computers in schools in New South Wales, Australia this year.

He discovered it via Computerworld New Zealand’s article, “NSW Education Downgrades Microsoft Deal:”

“Technology chief Stephen Wilson announced the department will install a free alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite…, OpenOffice, on 41,000 computers due to be distributed to schools across the state by the end of 2008… “For the first time we’re going to install OpenOffice on every computer under our Technology 4 Learning programme,” he says.”

In addition, they have been replacing Vista with Windows XP on new machines they purchase, most likely in order to get more out of cheaper hardware and to avoid software incompatibilities with programs they are running.

Hacking the XO Laptop

April 8th, 2008 Benjamin Horst has a great article titled “Hacking the XO Laptop.” They cover both hardware and software hacks, building and using cool new external devices, installing new software applications and making use of online services like that have been set up by others. Full of pictures, screenshots and detailed instructions, this is a great, informative post.

Author Joel Evans writes, “I took advantage of the G1G1 program and have had one for a while now and recently had a “geek” session with Brian Jepson of HackZine and O’Reilly. Brian is a seasoned geek and a quality Linux hacker, so we had a good time playing around with the XO. I should also mention that we generated some interest in our local Panera as we completely took over an area by a fireplace and had some strange gadgetry flying high.”


April 7th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

OpenDisc is a downloadable ISO containing installers for major open source applications for Windows users.

Spun off from TheOpenCD project (which is no longer under active development), OpenDisc contains applications including: Filezilla,, Blender, ClamWin, Pidgin, WinSCP, Firefox, Tux Paint, Dia, GnuCash, Sumatra PDF, VLC, TrueCrypt and many more.

The project describes itself:

OpenDisc is a collection of high quality open source software for the Microsoft Windows platform… The two goals of the disc are to provide free alternatives to otherwise costly equivalents, and to educate people about the Linux operating system. The disc will be updated periodically as new versions of software are continually released, and users are encouraged to volunteer in a number of ways, including suggesting new software to add to future versions to translating the text into different languages.”

Geneva Schools Adopt Open Source

April 4th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Erwin Tenhumberg points to a German article announcing the migration of 9,000 school computers in the Swiss canton of Geneva to Linux and

400,000 OLPC XOs for Peru

April 3rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

MIT’s Technology Review discusses the largest project implementation to date: Peru rolls out 400,000 OLPC XOs to 6,000 schools.

“Success of OLPC now depends largely on frontline teachers and, of course, parents and kids. Peru’s effort, if successful, would be a model for other nations. In the training now under way, teachers must become versed not only in how to operate and maintain the laptops, but also in how to do their jobs within a newly laptop-centric educational model. The laptops will contain some 115 books, including textbooks, novels, and poetry, as well as art and music programs, cameras, and other goodies.”

The majority of sites will not have internet access, so teachers will update content the old-fashioned way.

“In these villages, any updated content will be delivered to the machines by what OLPC president Walter Bender calls “sneaker-net.” Each month, when the teachers visit regional education offices to pick up their paychecks, they will have the ability to tap Internet connections to load new content onto thumb drives and bring them back to their classrooms.”

What an exciting implementation this will be!