Home of The Tiny Guide to

Colombia Chooses OLPC’s XO

May 30th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The BBC reports “Colombia Signs Up for XO Laptop.”

Initially, 65,000 children in the Caldas region will receive XO laptops, while the project will be expanded to other regions later.

BBC writes, “In a statement announcing the deal, OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte said the organisation was starting to get “good traction” from countries keen to sign up and buy the distinctive green and white XO laptops in large numbers.

“Currently each machine costs $188 and OLPC has sold about 600,000 of them.”

Motley Fool: “The Fall of Microsoft Office”

May 29th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Lots of open source and open standards tech people, including me, have long anticipated this, but now a mainstream financial site, Motley Fool, is predicting “The Fall of Microsoft Office.”

Microsoft has publicly announced it will support ODF in its Office suite. If implemented honestly (a big question for Microsoft), this throws open the doors to competition in a way MSO has never had to deal with before.

“I can’t say that Google or Sun or anybody else just won a bigger share of the office software market, and if they did, it won’t help their revenue or profits directly anyway. But it’s clear as day that Microsoft just took a serious hit, and the impact may take a long time to make itself felt but it will come.

“The company’s biggest revenue generator may be a shadow of its former self in a few years. I just hope that Microsoft has some alternative business prospects on tap — and no, tackling Google’s search hulk head-on doesn’t count.”

Microsoft’s Office is going to lose marketshare, and Motley Fool sees this as having a big impact on Microsoft’s core profitability.

From the perspective of open source users, it means Microsoft will have less money to spend on attacking us, which is a good thing.

From the perspective of all computer users, especially small businesses, it means costs will decline as the $400 price for Microsoft Office is no longer a required expense–using the free instead will be an easy alternative.

With OpenOffice 3.0 coming this fall, it’s time to expect another big jump in its user share. Let’s watch!

Ubuntu End-User Testing

May 28th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

In what he calls the The Great Ubuntu-Girlfriend Experiment, Content Consumer created a series of normal computer tasks and asked his girlfriend to perform them on Ubuntu with no guidance from him. Her ability (and occasional inability) to complete the tasks, plus her relative frustration or comfort with them, gives a rough guide of what users may experience when using Ubuntu for the first time. Matching my expectations, she was able to accomplish most of the tasks without overlarge difficulty.

The post, as of this writing, has accumulated 3,543 diggs and 577 comments. Clearly, it has resonated. And the discussion it’s generated is also informative. End user testing is an important tool to continue to improve the usability of Ubuntu, other FOSS programs, and indeed, any software, so we should always encourage more of it. Extensions: Sun Presenter Screen

May 23rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Sun’s coders have developed yet another killer extension for the Sun Presenter Screen.

Andre Fischer announces the Presenter Screen’s (beta) release on GullFOSS:

“The Presenter Screen extension supports presenters by showing information that is not visible to the audience. A typical environment would be a laptop showing the Presenter Screen and a connected beamer showing the actual presentation to the audience. Initially the Presenter Screen extension shows a live preview of the current slide, a preview of the next slide and tool bar with navigational buttons and the current and elapsed time.”

More OOo 3.0 Mac Reviews

May 22nd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Still in development and not scheduled to be a final release for almost four months, nevertheless OpenOffice 3.0 beta is garnering great reviews around the net.

Erwin Tenhumberg has recently pointed out three such reviews of the Mac OS X version:

Review One: Reviewed on The Apple Blog: “The first noticeable item is how quickly OpenOffice 3.0 beta loads, even when compared with Microsoft Office 2008. In less than five seconds you are at the welcome screen ready to create your next masterpiece.”

Review Two: From a Usenet posting you can read through Google Groups: “It is more that three times as fast as NeoOffice and more than twice as fast than both MSOffice 2004 and 2008! – And until now i haven’t had a single ‘unexpected quit’ with the last two builds of OOo3.0. – Also the fonts handling is quite a lot better than in NeoOffice and MSO2004/2008.”

Review Three: Reviewed by a reader on “I’m very impressed with the first public release beta of OO for OS X. It is both faster and more stable than the Office 08 demo I tried out. Since I’m not working in a corporate setting and don’t need absolute compatibility with Microsoft, I see no reason to purchase Office 2008 for an Intel native office suite. The presentation module isn’t near as slick as Keynote but the word processing and spreadsheets are more capable than Pages and Numbers. If you need that extra functionality then give OO a try.”

North-by-South Captures Funding

May 21st, 2008 Benjamin Horst

North-by-South, the open source nearshore development firm I’ve been following, has just closed a funding round with Launch Capital.

In other NxS news, they interviewed Marcos Mazoni about FOSS’ continuing expansion in Brazilian government agencies, showing once again how Brazil is becoming an open source superpower.

Mazoni discusses the different method used to select an open source program from the analytical method used when purchasing a commercial, off-the-shelf program: “To choose the product I’m going to put in my network, I’m going to see which one more fits my needs and I’ll also find myself as an active element in the construction of the product, returning these changes to the community as well. So, we focus on more than just technological metrics, sometimes it isn’t about which product does more. This difference — of creating things together, sharing and non-competition is the big change that comes with the free software philosophy.”

Government agencies in Brazil have moved from developing many of their core technologies exclusively in-house, to cooperating across disparate groups of government, private sector, and individual collaborators. This lets their projects progress faster and introduce innovative new features that otherwise might never have been invented.

“We also started to introduce the thought that cooperation is the best thing in the free software world. It’s not the matter of the technology itself, but the co-operation, working together beyond the boundaries of my organization, and that I don’t need to have the brand of my organization on every product. I have to have a good product that works, that has a permanent life cycle. This is the logic that free software shows us as a great organizational innovation.”

OpenOffice 3.0 vs Microsoft Office

May 20th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Preston Gralla of InfoWorld tests the current beta of OpenOffice 3.0 and asks “Can OpenOffice 3.0 finally replace MS Office?

Grandiose headline notwithstanding, the article is a useful comparison of the two competitors. Gralla ran into instability and bugs that I have not personally encountered in the Mac version I’ve been testing, but is nevertheless quite impressed:

If you’re not working in an enterprise that has standardized on Microsoft Office, you should think twice before paying full freight for Office, and give serious consideration to this free alternative when the final version is released.”

In conclusion, Gralla sums up:

“For most of what you use an office suite for, you’ll find that OpenOffice 3.0 will more than fill your needs. Whether you’re creating documents, spreadsheets, or presentations, the suite offers all the basics and much more. There are excellent formatting tools, mail merge, macros, solid charting tools, and the ability to easily create presentations.

“If you’re thinking of switching to OpenOffice from Microsoft Office, expect practically no learning curve. Many keyboard shortcuts are exactly the same, as are many menus and toolbar choices. You’ll be able to import your existing Office documents, and create them in Office formats as well.”

Gralla recommends OpenOffice to home users, students, and small businesses. In my own estimation, at least 90% of current Microsoft Office users could switch to OpenOffice without significant interruption to their work processes.

Open Source Virtualization

May 19th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

This weekend I installed and tested an open source desktop virtualization software, VirtualBox. In fact, according to its own website, it is “the only professional-quality virtualization solution that is also Open Source Software.”

VirtualBox is now owned by Sun, which probably has the largest arsenal of open source software anywhere.

In my testing, I installed the latest Ubuntu, 8.04 Hardy Heron, which runs beautifully in VirtualBox on my MacBook.

Mako on the OLPC and Free Software

May 16th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Benjamin Mako Hill writes a post called “Laptop Liberation” on the importance of Free Software as the platform for the OLPC project.

Mako writes, “I gave a talk at Penguicon called Laptop Liberation where I talked about why I thought that OLPC’s use of a free software operating system and embrace of free software principles was essential for the initiative’s success and its own goals of education reform and empowerment. I’ve been saying similar things for some time.”

He points out the similarities between the OLPC’s educational philosophy of Constructionism and the way the Free Software world itself functions–they’re largely identical:

“Constructionism and free software, implemented and taught in a classroom, offer a profound potential for exploration, creation, and learning. If you don’t like something, change it. If something doesn’t work right, fix it. Free software and constructionism put learners in charge of their educational environment in the most explicit and important way possible. They create a culture of empowerment. Creation, collaboration, and critical engagement becomes the norm.”

Keeping control over one’s technology means keeping control over one’s destiny. This is the promise of open source/free software, and of the OLPC project.

“We can help foster a world where technology is under the control of its users, and where learning is under the terms of its students — a world where every laptop owner has freedom through control over the technology they use to communicate, collaborate, create, and learn.”

Sumitomo Corp Adopts OpenOffice

May 15th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Kazunari Hirano blogs “Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. Adopts OOo Company-Wide.”

The company began pilot testing of OOo in April, and on May 12 announced (Japanese announcement) they would migrate completely. They plan to download OpenOffice to their existing computers, and pre-install it on all new PCs the company deploys.

I’m not sure how large this migration is in total, but Hirano reports that just “One of SEI group businesses, Sumitomo Electric Information Co., Ltd., maintains 15,000 PCs within SEI.”

While 2007 saw many large government migrations to OpenOffice, 2008 seems set for even more large migrations in the private sector.