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Lifehacker on OpenOffice 3.0

September 15th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

A few weeks ago Lifehacker posted a screenshot tour of 3.0 RC1: “Let’s take a look at the notable features so you can decide if it’s worth taking another look at as an alternative to Microsoft Office.”

It’s especially important for the OpenOffice project to receive attention from publications like Lifehacker, that are not specifically targeted at open source geeks. The major problem for OOo to overcome now is to cross the chasm from early adopters to early mainstream users, and this is always a challenge for software programs of all kinds, open source or proprietary.

Lifehacker fits the category of a smart audience that wants new tools to simplify their lives, but who are not necessarily aware of the latest open source releases. A perfect media outlet to spread word of OOo to new users.

Lifehacker mentions the major new features, Mac support, greater focus on extensions, etc, and seems positive on the program. And, with over 62,000 views of the article, it’s definitely getting the word out!

COOoder Extension: Syntax Highlighting in

September 12th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Cedric Bosdonnat introduces the new version of COOoder, an OOo extension that automatically highlights programming code in OpenOffice documents. The new version brings a handful of new features to the extension.

Combining text editor functionality into a word processor sounds like it could be an awkward hybrid, but Cedric suggests its primary use is to place code snippets into word processing documents in a more readable format, and that sounds like it could be useful for a lot of programming teachers, among others.

Laptop Mag on OLPC XO-2

September 11th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Laptop Magazine has an article (some months old) about design mockups for OLPC XO-2, not due for release until 2010 but already remarkably creative in its design ideas.

“Negroponte didn’t share many details about the XO-2’s hardware, but the new system has two touch-sensitive displays… The XO-2 will be much smaller than the original machine (half the size, according to the press release) and will have a foldable e-book form factor. “The next generation laptop should be a book,” Negroponte said.”

Having created a new product category (the “netbook”) and reached hundreds of thousands of children with its first generation XO, it appears OLPC is going to follow that up with an even greater impact for the world when it releases the XO-2. They’ll also continue the Give One Get One program, meaning interested geeks in the developed world will have the opportunity to acquire OLPC machines for their own use too.

ODF Becomes Swedish Standard

September 10th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

According to the Open Malaysia blog, Sweden has chosen ODF as its national document standard format:

“See the report by Peter Krantz, and the SIS page (in English) that describes SS-ISO/IEC 26300:2008… Great stuff. Congratulations, Sweden!”

Boycott Novell chips in with some more info about Sweden’s adoption and Brazil’s continually strengthening ODF support.

Sweden is another important country to adopt ODF, bringing it another step closer to global acceptance.

Open Source Robotics

September 9th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The robotics community is finding new momentum as it commits more and more to the open source ethos, as OStatic reports in “Open Source Roboticists On a Path to C3P0.”

“In the open source community, there are several efforts to develop robots that look and/or act like humans, performing interesting and useful tasks. They’re not C3PO at this stage of their development, but they show tremendous promise, especially if more open source contributions are made to the projects.”

The current state of robotics reminds me of the Homebrew Computer Club, where Woz got his start and invented the personal computer. Personal robotics will probably follow a similar trajectory from hacker playground to commercial usefulness to ubiquity in the developed world.

One of the standouts in this community is the open source group Willow Garage:

Willow Garage is an open source robotics project that originated at Stanford University. Robots being developed with the project run ROS (Robot Operating System) software. The operating system comes complete with tutorials, a developer’s guide, and more–all at the link just provided.

“PR2 is the mobile hardware design for Willow Garage robots, featuring stereo and laser sensors… Stanford hosts a series of highly entertaining and interesting videos here, showing PR2 robots performing tasks such as tidying up a room and retrieving beer from a refrigerator.”

Personal robotics could be the next big growth industry. Keep an eye on this space!

The $98 Linux Laptop

September 8th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

I’ve long been a fan of the OLPC XO, the original “$100 laptop.” It had such a broad influence that it spawned the entirely new product category of “netbooks,” and even though the XO itself still costs more than $100 (though falling), one of those it influenced has just broken that barrier.

Combine the drive to break the hundred-dollar barrier with the power of sinofacture, and the $98 Linux laptop, the HiVision miniNote, is here. (While the capitalization pattern of its name is nearly inscrutable, the machine is significant for its other aspects.)

One of the most important features of netbooks that helps them remain so low-cost is they usually run open source Linux operating systems (a retail copy of Windows is generally more expensive than these entire systems) as part of a complete stack of open source programs.

They also exclude unnecessary hardware: “HiVision makes the world’s cheapest Linux laptop at $98 using a new cheaper MIPS based processor, WiFi, 1GB flash storage, it runs Linux, has 3 USB ports, Ethernet, SDHC card reader, audio in and out, voice-chat, skype, multi-tabbed Firefox browser support and Abiword for word processing.”

Follow the link above to see a video of this new netbook as well.

Screenwriter “Extension” for OpenOffice

September 5th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Alan C. Baird has developed Screenwrite(R), an template for formatting screenplays, which is distributed for free on the OpenOffice extensions site.

Unlike most of the extensions on the site (which are actually extensions), this is just a formatted template you download and add to your OOo installation. I’m not sure whey it’s distributed here, but it’s pretty cool and quite useful for film folks, anyway.

For very detailed instructions on finding and installing OpenOffice templates, check out HowtoForge’s article, “Using and Customizing Templates in”

Dutch City of Enschede Piloting

September 4th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Enschede, the 13th-largest city in the Netherlands, will cancel its annual subscription licenses of Microsoft Office and Windows to save money and better serve its 155,000 inhabitants, the Open Source Observatory announces:

“The city council was contacted by Microsoft a few months ago to renew the licence contract for MS Office and MS Windows, for which the city pays some 450,000 euro per year. According to Hans Koenders, IT-policy adviser for the city council, renewing the contract would enable the city council to migrate to the latest version of Office and Windows. “That is not very compelling, for we are not planning an overhaul of our desktop software.”

“The city’s licence ran out on Monday. However, not renewing still gives the city administration the right to continue to use its current version of Microsoft Office (2003) on all of its 2,000 desktop PCs, for the next three years.

“The city council wants to use this period to test OpenOffice… [and] to slowly increase the amount of Open Source software, reasoning that this will strengthen local IT service providers. “It is possible that migrating to Open Source ends up not being cheaper than using proprietary software. However, it is likely that this way we will be paying a local company, instead of sending our money overseas.”

Enschede is entering this project with the wisdom collected from many previous migrations, and with a deep understanding of the obvious and hidden benefits it can expect to accrue from the adoption of OpenOffice and other FOSS applications. Furthermore, paying 225 euros per year per PC, I am sure they will save money right from the start with this change. (That monopoly license cost, just for renting software, is obscene!)

Congratulations and good luck to them!

Open Malaysia Blog Predicts MSOOXML’s Failure

September 3rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The Open Malaysia Blog predicts “OOXML won’t be accepted in South America.”

“In the International Congress of Society and Electronic Government (CONSEGI) 2008; Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay signed a joint declaration against the latest decision by ISO to ignore the appeals.

“They reiterate the issues of ISO “bending of rules” to fast track DIS29500, ignoring the contradictions with ODF, the growing and widespread use of ODF based applications in these countries, and questions the “vendor neutrality” of ISO, where its reputation and relevance is now suspect.”

If Microsoft’s plan was to create an international standard approved by ISO, they succeeded, barely. But both Microsoft and ISO took a great deal of collateral damage along the way to achieving this Pyrhhic victory, and may be in a worse strategic position than when the process began. MSOOXML is widely seen as a mere rubber-stamped fake standard, and the depths to which Microsoft sank in order to get its approval, as well as ISO’s failure to follow its own procedures, has sullied both organizations.

“Even though Microsoft may have gotten the ISO certification it desperately needed, the damage done has been considerable. The past two years brought together the international community, raised more awareness to real open standards than before, and unfortunately for them, pinpointed them as a common “enemy.” It looks like countries south of the equator have clearly indicated that OOXML will NOT be recognised as any form of government interoperability format.”

Ubuntu Pre-installed in Poland

September 2nd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Computer users are naturally a bit hesitant to reinstall operating systems, so the strategic impact of having open source pre-installed on consumer PCs is very high. Many folks will happily use whatever comes on their new machines, so it’s a great opportunity to provide high-quality open source solutions instead of the problematic proprietary systems commonplace today.

In this vein, Hugh’s Space notices Ubuntu pre-installed on retail laptops in Poland.

He writes, “I’ve read about many companies doing this but it is the first time I’ve seen it in a shop here. I managed to snap this photo on my camera phone…”