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ODF Debt Reduction Calculator Spreadsheet

September 30th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

In a nod to the growing importance of, Vertex42, “The Guide to Excel in Everything,” has released an OpenDocument version of its Debt Reduction Calculator spreadsheet:

“Download a free credit card Debt Reduction Calculator and Debt Snowball Payment Schedule worksheet for Microsoft® Excel® and This spreadsheet allows you to choose different debt reduction strategies, including the debt snowball effect (paying the lowest balance first) and highest interest first. Just choose the strategy from a dropdown box after you enter your creditor information into the worksheet.”

This particular spreadsheet is very relevant today as economic troubles continue to spread, but a search for “OpenOffice” on Vertex’s site reveals many available OpenOffice-compatible files for download, indicating the site’s commitment to ODF and recognition of its large userbase.

Spacewalk: Open Source Systems Management

September 29th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Red Hat released its Linux systems management toolset, Spacewalk, as open source several months ago.

It’s designed for managing installed software applications across a network from within the firewall:

“Spacewalk manages software content updates for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and other Linux distributions such as Fedora, CentOS, and Scientific Linux, within your firewall. You can stage software content through different environments, managing the deployment of updates to systems and allowing you to view at which update level any given system is at across your deployment. A clean central web interface allows viewing of systems and their software update status, and initiating update actions.”

I’d like to see it expanded to manage open source applications across platforms, to make it easy to get FOSS onto Windows clients as well (like Project Smith in some ways).

Spacewalk development is hosted in Trac at

The Ubuntu Wanted Project

September 26th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Ubuntu’s implementing another clever idea in the form of its Ubuntu Wanted Project.

The idea is to build a web collaboration space for users to submit ideas for improvements and new features that developers could then implement for Ubuntu:

“What do we need to get innovative stuff implemented?

  1. A great idea
  2. The manpower
  3. The infrastructure and toolset

(1) is now more or less successfully covered by Ubuntu Brainstorm. Concerning (3), some good infrastructures exists around here, such as Launchpad, and development toolsets are good but not yet optimal IMO (I’ll keep that for later). (2) is much more tricky.”

There’s been a discussion at of the need for something similar, as lots of people have good ideas for extensions, and lots of developers capable of making extensions are looking for popular user demands to satisfy. Maybe it’s time to build an “ Brainstorm” site!

OpenOffice in Education: Seneca College

September 25th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Seneca College in Toronto, Canada has announced its intention to get involved in OpenOffice development through the Education Project.

Seneca employee Fardad has launched an entire blog on Seneca’s OOo experiment:

“I had the pleasure of meeting Eric Bachard. He is the leader of the Education Project in OOo. He also has been doing core development for Mac OS X for more than 4 years. He also did mentoring for Google Summer of Code twice and he is a professor of Applied Physics at UTBM France.”

It’s great to see the Education Project continue to prosper (and reach out to a new continent), as this is an important vector for future OOo adoption.

VirtualBox 2.0.2

September 24th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

I’ve mentioned VirtualBox before when it first became open source. Now a major new release and some minor upgrades have brought its version to VirtualBox 2.0.2.

A review by the n*x*adm blog covers some of the excitement of using VirtualBox on Ubuntu to run those last few needed Windows programs after migrating to Linux.

“This is the new Virtualbox release that inaugurates a brand new user interface based on QT 4, which makes it look and feel great, just like a KDE 4 application…

“It’s isolated from viruses and malware of any kind, I can backup the virtual machine as easy as copying files, and it’s free software under the GPL.”

Personally, I run it on my Mac to have access to Ubuntu without needing to reboot.


Groklaw Interviews Sugar Labs

September 23rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

A new non-profit organization has grown out of the OLPC project, by the name of Sugar Labs.

Sugar Labs’ mission statement: “Sugar provides a simple yet powerful means of engaging young children in the world of learning that is opened up by computing and the Internet. Sugar promotes sharing, collaborative learning, and reflection. Through Sugar’s clarity of design, children and their teachers use computation on their own terms; they are free to reshape, reinvent, and reapply both software and content into powerful learning activities. Sugar is a community project; it is based on GNU/Linux, a free and open-source operating system.”

Groklaw interviews Sugar Labs’ founder Walter Bender about the project.

Bender says, “I think that Sugar, while still a relatively new project, has already shown great impact and even greater potential for learners. There is a growing community of Sugar users, developers, and supporters. New activites are being written on a regular basis. There have been aggressive efforts by the community to document Sugar and translate it into local languages (there was just a sprint to translate Sugar into Aymará). And as I mentioned, dialog with teachers is growing, especially in Latin America. So while there may be some loss of support for OLPC within the FOSS community, the support for Sugar seems to be growing. (I should point out that there is a dedicated team of developers at OLPC who believe deeply in the importance of FOSS to learning.)”

Great interview and a great project!

Open Source Geospatial Foundation

September 19th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Ever since I first learned of GRASS GIS many years ago, I’ve been interested in open source GIS, partly as a way to achieve liberation from the Windows platform where most commercial GIS apps are mired, and partly because of the extra innovation and broader use of GIS that open source could engender.

Enter the Open Source Geospatial Foundation, created a few years ago, and dedicated to supporting and promoting open source GIS applications, data and systems.

With an active community, informative website, and legal and organizational structure,’s mission statement reads:

“The Open Source Geospatial Foundation, or OSGeo, is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support and promote the collaborative development of open geospatial technologies and data. The foundation provides financial, organizational and legal support to the broader open source geospatial community. It also serves as an independent legal entity to which community members can contribute code, funding and other resources, secure in the knowledge that their contributions will be maintained for public benefit. OSGeo also serves as an outreach and advocacy organization for the open source geospatial community, and provides a common forum and shared infrastructure for improving cross-project collaboration.”

Berners-Lee Launches the Web Foundation

September 18th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

This week Tim Berners-Lee announced the launch of the World Wide Web Foundation, with a $5 million grant from the Knight Foundation. It has a truly important mission:

“The World Wide Web Foundation seeks to advance One Web that is free and open, to expand the Web’s capability and robustness, and to extend the Web’s benefits to all people on the planet.”

CNET also announced the launch, explaining:

“The Web Foundation will seek to foster collaboration among business leaders, technologists, government, academia, and nongovernmental organizations. The mission is to:

  • advance One Web that is free and open
  • expand the Web’s capability and robustness
  • extend the Web’s benefits to all people on the planet”

Read the transcript of Tim Berners-Lee’s speech launching the project. 3.0 in 76 Languages

September 17th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Kazunari Hirano points out that 3.0 is officially delivered with support for 69 languages, while 7 more languages are available thanks to the work of community members from, bringing the total to 76 languages.

That makes OpenOffice the most multi-lingual office suite available (I count 38 for our competitor), a fitting but not surprising achievement for an open source project with contributors from every continent and users in every country of the world.

CrossOver Chromium

September 16th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Codeweavers has announced CrossOver Chromium, a port of the open source Google Chromium browser to Mac OS X and Linux:

“Google has announced plans to support native Mac and Linux versions of Chromium, but they have yet to be released. CrossOver Chromium, however, runs the Windows version of Chromium natively on both Mac and Linux.”

Codeweavers doesn’t recommend using this as a primary browser, but has created it as “a proof of concept, for fun, and to showcase what Wine can do” (which is quite a lot)! Give it a try and get a feel for what Google Chrome is all about, without having to use that awful operating system under it.