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“ODF Will Prevail”

December 30th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

PCWorld reports on the good year ODF had in 2008. Competing against Microsoft’s MSOOXML format, ODF (OpenDocument Format) seems to be extending its lead:

ODF has now been approved as a technology standard for document exchange in 16 countries, including Brazil, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Russia, and Germany, according to the report. In the Netherlands, government agencies must select ODF-supported products in technology purchases of €50,000 (US$69,920) or more, and in Brazil ODF also has been mandated for use in government agencies.

ODF Alliance Managing Director Marino Marcich also points out the wide range of applications that now support the ODF file type.

ODF also gained more support among word-processing applications from major technology vendors, Marcich said. Google Docs, Adobe Buzzword and OpenOffice.org’s desktop and portable applications all now support ODF as a file format.

With ODF a requirement for some governments concerned about transparency in their digital work processes, and a large and growing catalog of applications that can produce and consume ODF files, it’s becoming ever clearer the benefits of using open standards in the digital world: choice, price and flexibility are all getting better for software users.

Foswiki 1.0 Beta Series

December 29th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Foswiki, the heir of TWiki, has released some first betas for the version 1.0 landmark release after its forking from TWiki.

Kenneth Lavrsen emailed the list to inform us of the first beta, writing:

It is with great joy and pride that I can announce the release of Foswiki 1.0.0 Beta 1

It is a beta!! It should not be used for production sites. But it is very stable now and absolutely worth trying.

For normal users please download and install it and confirm that your
existing webs work just fine.

Development has been happening quickly on Foswiki, which I find very exciting after having watched TWiki seem to stagnate for a long time without knowing what was happening to it.

(See Foswiki’s User Guide to learn more about wikis in general and Foswiki itself.)

OpenOffice.org 3.0 Passes 25 Million Downloads

December 27th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

John McCreesh noted that OpenOffice.org 3.0 reached its 25 millionth download on Christmas Day, December 25. (See the bouncer statistics for the latest number, which is already well above 25 million, though it’s just a few days later.)

A few days earlier, McCreesh took a close look at the results of the latest user survey in “The Importance of Friends.” What most stands out in the data is that 41% of survey-takers learned about OpenOffice from a personal recommendation. The second largest group, 13.7%, came across OOo in a printed computer magazine.

From a marketing perspective, then, should we put our emphasis on making it easier for people to promote OOo to their friends and connections since that’s already showing positive results, or are we already well-enough represented there, and should thus focus on beefing up our other outreach/promotional/marketing efforts?

Change.org: Free Software for the US Government

December 22nd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Change.org (not the same as Change.gov) provides a feature where site members can suggest ideas they’d like to see adopted by the United States Government.

One suggestion currently getting attention on the site is to Support the Free Software Movement.

While this idea itself is highly open to interpretation, a site member offers more concrete suggestions for what it could mean in policy terms. Some of commenter John Zoidberg’s ideas include:

- No more software patents
- Financing and encouragement of Free Software development
- Make source code developed by public research organizations available under an OSI License/public domain/GPL
- Make all public services, government administrations use open document formats
- Make all public services, government administrations use Free Software (servers+desktop)
-Make software source code become GPL or public domain after X years

Government expenses could be trimmed by using more open source, while private sector innovation would also be increased due to competition around the best implementations of open standards. It’s a great way for the government to advance its technology innovation platform.

Open Source in Kerala’s Schools

December 18th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Kerala, in southwestern India, has been emerging as an open source and free software stronghold over the past half-decade.

Indian free software community member Srikar recently traveled to Kerala and toured its schools to see how they use open source software. Over 2,500 schools, colleges and other organizations in the state have already adopted open source and have been using it successfully for several years now.

Srikar met with Anvar Sadith, a director of the IT@School project, who described Kerala’s migration process:

It all started back in the year 2002 when IT@school mission was actually planned. In 2003 teachers were given computer training to empower them in IT. By the year 2006 many schools were completely transformed to GNU/Linux. Free software was taught to teachers by SPACE (Society For Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment). By 2007 all the schools were stabilized with GNU/Linux and IT subject was made compulsory. New text books were created that taught school children free software tools.

Srikar toured several schools to observe students actively using open source software tools. Teachers were being trained, and students were learning HTML, OpenOffice, and GIMP. When questioned about the user-friendliness of Linux and their software, students found it very comfortable.

OpenOffice User Interface Project

December 17th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

A few weeks ago, Project Renaissance was officially launched.

Frank Loehmann explains: “Project Renaissance, to rethink the graphical user interface (GUI) and interaction of OpenOffice.org, was announced on OOoCon 2008 and has been officially launched this week. Renaissance is a long running project and will start from scratch, so please do not expect to see something in OOo 3.1.”

The project’s mission statement reveals its ambition and reflects its importance: “Create a User interface so that OpenOffice.org becomes the users’ choice not only out of need but also out of desire.”

While I think the current interface is already very good, I’m interested to see what results from this effort to create a next-generation UI. Lotus Symphony, for example, has implemented some improved UI features that OOo itself might learn from.

Follow the Project Renaissance details on the OOo wiki.

“OpenOffice Skakes Microsoft”

December 16th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Australian IT publishes “OpenOffice Skakes Microsoft,” reviewing and promoting OpenOffice to a mainstream tech audience.

With OOo 3.0, most normal users will find OpenOffice a complete replacement for MS Office: “Here at Doubleclick we’ve been using OpenOffice 3.0 for some weeks and we must say it’s getting harder and harder to see why average users would want to shell out several hundred dollars for MS Office.”

That’s great for software users, but why does it “skake” Microsoft? (And what does “skake” mean, anyway?) Here’s author David Frith’s answer:

Steve Ballmer recently told a US business users’ conference OpenOffice is the only one that Microsoft regards as serious competition.

A “thermometer” on the OpenOffice.org website shows why.

In the first four weeks after release, OpenOffice 3.0 was downloaded more than 12 million times.

That’s probably at least $2.5 billion lost to Microsoft, and mounting at $600 million a week.

So now you know why OpenOffice’s existence gives Steve Ballmer the shivers.

Don’t look at these numbers as money Microsoft has lost (that would be cruel and unnecessary). Look at these numbers as money everyone has collectively saved, and that is a great thing in an economy like today’s!

Information Week Compares Open Source Office Suites

December 15th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

It feels like InformationWeek is writing more and more about open source lately, perhaps because the open source tide is rising ever higher. Last week, IW’s Serdar Yegulalp published Open-Source Office Suites Compared, which reviews OpenOffice.org, StarOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, KOffice and AbiWord:

“In this review I’ve taken a look at OpenOffice.org’s most recent release, along with the commercially-supported StarOffice from Sun, IBM’s reworking of OO.o as Lotus Symphony, the KOffice suite for Linux, and the minimal but still useful AbiWord. Talking about how these would entirely replace Microsoft Office would be misleading, since not everyone might be doing that — so I’ve looked at each product as far on its own merits as possible.”

Each suite has its unique strengths, and Yegulalp does a thorough job comparing their primary advantages and the factors that differentiate them.

Overall, the presence of these five major office suites as competitors, and cooperators that all support the open ODF file format, helps to encourage robust experimentation and innovation which the market has sorely lacked for well over a decade.

“Compatible competition” will bring better value and technology to all of us using these types of software tools.

Germany to Support ODF

December 12th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The ODF Alliance catalogs some big achievements for the OpenDocument Format in its latest newsletter. (They provide the newsletter as a PDF, so to just read the text you can check out Boycott Novell’s mirror, “ODF Alliance Newsletter – 10 December 2008.”)

What’s big about it? Germany: “Germany has decided to implement use of ODF. According to the announcement made by the federal government’s IT Council, German federal agencies will be able to receive, read, send and edit ODF documents beginning no later than 2010.”

This brings significant additional mass to the movement: “To date, 16 national and 8 provincial governments have now formally recommended or required the use of ODF by government agencies and with the public.”

Among those other adopters are the Dutch, where the government has recently “published instructions in the country’s National Gazette regarding making open standards-based procurement the default – a policy which has been in force since 1 April 2008 – now that the European Commission has given its seal of approval. According to the announcement made on November 24, 2008 by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, this means in principle that for public purchases of IT worth more than 50,000 euro, the use of open standards such as ODF is now mandatory for government bodies in the public and semi-public sectors (“comply or explain” why not).”

Further, the newsletter points out the new ODF Toolkit, jointly developed by Sun and IBM, to build and share libraries that can read and write ODF files for use in developing new software applications.

JavaFX 1.0 Launches

December 11th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Sun recently released the 1.0 version of JavaFX, an open source Flash competitor, providing a “unified development and deployment model for building rich client applications that integrate immersive media including audio and video, graphics, rich text and web services.”

I would like to see an open source Flash competitor gain traction, even as Adobe has open sourced parts of Flash, although it feels less urgent now that the overuse and abuse of Flash–such as when it’s used to implement entire websites–has subsided. (I’ve also installed Flashblock in Firefox, to make pages load faster and eliminate the most annoying ad banners.)

We’ll see if JavaFX can make an impact on the market, and if it offers something interesting and unique beyond what Flash can already do.