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British Opposition Talks Up Open Source

January 31st, 2009 Benjamin Horst

The British opposition has become ever more aggressive in its support of open source software as a means to save money and, perhaps, increase the success rate of government IT projects.

George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, specifically discusses Linux and the open source philosophy as central to the new paradigms of the information age.

In an article for The Guardian, Osborne expands on the theme:

Looking at cost savings that have been achieved by companies and governments all over the world, it’s estimated that the UK government could reduce its annual IT bill by over £600m a year if more open source software was used as part of an effective procurement strategy. That’s enough to pay for 20,000 extra teachers or 100,000 hip operations.

Additional articles in ZDNet and ComputerWorld UK also discuss the growing calls for open source adoption in government IT projects and for government to model more of its processes on open source, distributed development models.

(Thanks to Alan Lord of the Open Learning Center, for providing these links.) Template Repository

January 29th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Mirroring the OpenOffice Extension repository, the project has recently set up a centralized OpenOffice template repository. It’s an easy way for non-programmers to get involved in the OOo project:

This Template Repository is a place for the submission of new templates made by you, the community!

You created a nice template? Submit it, get feedback and help others to be more productive!

Tying the suite in to more online services will continue to make it more and more web-native, and as the community of users and developers continues to focus on these add-on services, the rationale for using OOo will grow ever stronger. It’s a great positive reinforcement loop and a differentiator from competing software applications.

QGIS 1.0 Released

January 28th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

QGIS, the cross-platform open source GIS (Geographic Information System), has released QGIS 1.0.

Gary Sherman, Chair of the QGIS Project Steering Committee, announces:

QGIS began life in February of 2002, with the first release in June of
the same year. The initial goal was to create a viewer for PostGIS data
that ran on Linux. From those humble beginnings, QGIS has become a true
cross-platform application that runs on all major versions of unix,
Linux, as well as Mac and Windows. It supports editing and map
composition as well as integration with GRASS to provide powerful GIS
capability. QGIS has been translated into many languages by a dedicated
internationalization team.

At 1.0 we provide a stable API from which you can develop custom
solutions in Python or C++. Even though 1.0 is fresh, there are a number
of exciting developments underway in both the core application and
plugins. Although it took nearly 7 years to get to version 1.0, I think
you’ll find that this version is the best yet. Thanks for using
QGIS—you, the users, have played a large part in its success.

55,000 French Students to Receive OpenOffice

January 27th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Open Source Schools (UK) has a discussion thread on the recent announcement that 55,000 laptops pre-installed with will be distributed to students in Oise, just north of Paris.

France is no stranger to large deployments of open source software, as it has been adopted by the national police force, parts of the legislative branch of the government, and schools in other Departments:

After USB Key in Ile de France (220,000), and CDs in Auvergne (64,000), this is the third department to provide OOo to their students!

An announcement of the project in French can be found here.

A comment posted to the Open Source Schools discussion points out the efforts of Framasoft, a French non-profit focused on promoting open source software to schools and the public at large. (They also created the Framakey, a USB disk preloaded with portable open source applications, that has been distributed to hundreds of thousands of students in the Paris region and around France.)

Obama Investigates Open Source and Open Standards

January 23rd, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Twice before, I’ve noted instances where Barack Obama has mentioned the importance of open standards and open source for a transparent and democratic government.

(See Obama on ODF? and for the US Federal Government? — I used question marks in each post title since it was not clear to me how far these exercises might be carried.)

Now CNet reports Obama is asking industry experts for more information on the benefits of open source:

Sun Chairman Scott McNealy… has been asked by President Obama to author a white paper on the benefits the U.S. government can derive from open source.

McNealy is quoted in the BBC’s recent article, Calls for Open Source Government:

The secret to a more secure and cost effective government is through open source technologies and products.

The claim comes from one of Silicon Valley’s most respected business leaders Scott McNealy, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

Particularly memorable is the BBC article’s discussion of open source as an improved form of government behavior, pioneered during Obama’s campaign:

Errol Louis of the New York Daily News seemed to agree.

He described Mr Obama as “our first open source President, a leader willing to let anybody and everybody figure out how, when and where they want to get involved.”

He noted that the strategy popularised by computer software companies in giving away software to get others to improve on it has now been applied to politics.

Indeed the new website is said to be a portal for “interactive government” and “open source democracy.” 3.1 Tour

January 22nd, 2009 Benjamin Horst Ninja takes an early look at New Features in 3.1, due to be released in two months.

True to its practice of frequent releases, OOo 3.1 will follow OOo 3.0 by six months (with the bugfix release 3.0.1 midway in-between).

Lots of visual improvements are included in this release, including antialiasing in drawings, solid dragging of graphical elements, and translucent selections in Writer (like 3.0 introduced in Calc). Some other notable feature improvements include replying to notes in Writer, better integration of grammar checking through the LanguageTool extension, right-to-left (RTL) text improvements for Arabic and Hebrew users, and hundreds of bug fixes.

It looks like another excellent release!

Mail Merge in

January 21st, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Mail merge can be a hassle, and is usually an adjustment for new OOo users. I’ve collected a list of articles on performing a mail merge with OpenOffice before, but a new one’s just been published that bears review.

For the blog, Solveig Haugland writes Mail Merge in Everything You Need to Know.

If you don’t know what exactly a mail merge is, Haugland explains:

A mail merge is a way to take a letter you’ve written and send it to a whole bunch of people, personalizing it with information about them so they might think that you typed that letter personally for them. A mail merge can also be a quick way to take a list of people’s mailing addresses and generate labels or envelopes with the address for a different person on each label or envelope. In short, it’s a way to be personal, yet efficient. It’s essential for any person or organization that has a lot of clients, partners, parents and children, or other people to communicate with.

Because there are many details and possible custom options you may want to experiment with, it’s a long article. Fortunately, numerous screenshots and a good organization of the content keep it clear and readable. Extension Count

January 20th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

If you’re wondering about the number of extensions currently available for OpenOffice, look no further than the Content Statistics page of the Extensions Repository.

As of this writing, that number is 270.

The name and basic description of each is available from the above page as well as the overall count.

Open Source Saves Malaysia…

January 16th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Open source saves Malaysia… money!

Colin Charles discusses the issue in his post “Open Source Saves Malaysian Government RM40 Million.”

(That’s $12 million US, a pretty impressive amount coming from software license fees.)

Charles’ source is the Open Malaysia Blog, whose original article I cannot access at the moment.

Fortunately, Charles provides the following informative quotes:

Savings on licensing fee alone by adopting have already exceeded RM12 million, which is based on the total installed seats of 12,760 at public sector agencies.


The top three applications being considered by most Public Sector Agencies are:
1. – Office Suite
2. Firefox – Web Browser
3. MySQL – Database using Open Source Technology

Open Source Browsers Keep Growing

January 15th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Two recent reports on web browser usage share show that Firefox and its open source friends keep increasing at the expense of Internet Explorer.

In IE Continues Losing Market Share to Open Source Browsers, Ars Technica looks at Net Applications’ Market Share statistics worldwide, which show Firefox reaching 21%, Safari at almost 8%, Chrome at 1% and IE at just over 68%, its lowest point in many years.

Ars also noted a decline in the use of the Windows OS, writing: “web surfers’ usage of Windows decreased to about 89% in November.”

For an even rosier picture of open source success, turn to Europe, where XiTi Monitor published its browser barometer for November (2008).

From XiTi Monitor’s European data set, IE has sunk to 59.5%, Firefox climbed to 31.1%, Opera reached 5.1%, with Safari at 2.5% and Chrome at 1.1% share.

The relentless rise of Firefox and other open source browsers continues around the world.