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Recession Helps Drive Open Source Growth

March 31st, 2009 Benjamin Horst

It’s long been common sense that economic downturns aid some businesses, even while harming most others. Beneficiaries tend to include discount retailers, as shoppers shift downmarket, as well as similar cost-conscious products and services that can replace more expensive alternatives.

Because of its price benefits, open source is now benefiting in this way, writes Eweek, in Why Recession Is Causing Enterprises to Rethink Open-Source Strategy.

Author Chris Preimesberger writes:

Budget limitations and continued improvement in software and associated services are making open-source software alternatives such as MySQL, SUSE Linux, and plenty of others look mighty good to IT managers and CFOs.

Interviewing Matt Asay from Alfresco, the article asserts that open source is starting to be seen as the safe, default option that will save a manager’s job, whereas in the past it was often considered new, untested and risky.

Is this evidence of an arriving tipping point?

Measuring’s US Userbase

March 30th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Recently, I noted the analysis concluding that OpenOffice may have 11 million users in the US.

Eike Rathke points out why this may be an undercount. He listed many aspects of the survey’s methodology that likely exclude more OOo users than MSO users. Rathke notes the survey…

– did not measure usage by pupils under age of 18 at school and home
– did not measure anything on other operating systems like Linux, OpenSolaris, MacOSX, …
– did not measure that 100% of all users of Linux and OpenSolaris do not use Microsoft Office
– did not measure the fair amount of MacOSX users using
– probably wouldn’t have been able to recruit Linux users anyway, because users of Free Software usually care more about privacy

Based on these factors, it does seem fair to say the survey did not fully count the US OpenOffice userbase. Maybe in the future we can gather more accurate numbers, but for now, at least we know its bottom boundary.

More on Document Freedom Day

March 27th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Sadly, I missed the date of Document Freedom Day and can now only write about it after the fact.

Document Freedom Day is an effort to promote open standards and free document formats, to combat vendor lock-in and monopoly abuse in software markets.

Red Hat Magazine covered the event and the movement in Happy Document Freedom Day, posted on Wednesday (March 27, when Document Freedom Day was held this year):

Document Freedom Day promotes open formats so that users can freely exchange their data no matter what software program they choose to use. Complete interoperability is the ultimate goal of those who support open standards.

Public documents stored on closed, proprietary formats require citizens to pay twice to access information that already belongs to them, once for the document creation, and again to access them.  There is also the danger of losing the information stored in those formats should the vendors go out of business, or decide that they no longer want to maintain that technology. Proponents of open document formats believe all public information should be stored using open standards accessible to all.

OpenOffice 3.0 Exceeds 50 Million Downloads

March 26th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

John McCreesh sent a note and blogged this morning to highlight the ongoing success of 3.0: it has been downloaded over 50 million times since its release last fall:

Yesterday – Document Freedom Day 2009 – we reached our 50 millionth download of from since 3.0 was released. Celebrate!

Interest in OpenOffice and its exposure to more users continues to increase, building a positive upward spiral of adoption and development of the application suite.

Miguel Guhlin on Moodle Habitudes

March 25th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Director of Instructional Technology for a large Texas school district, Miguel Guhlin shares his experience creating online learning environments with Moodle in his post Moodle Habitudes – Constructing Online Learning Environments:

Online learning is critical to our future, both for adults and children in K-12. I’d like to see a series of courses that go beyond how to design online learning–although that is certainly essential–to how to best manage resources to facilitate and enable online learning. As an administrator growing his own program, what planning do I need to put in place to ensure success for learners in K-12 environment?

Guhlin has the rare combination of technical and strategic planning skills to step back from the immediate technology and develop best practices that he can share with other school districts. This article contains much valuable advice for anyone interested in building online learning environments.

Firefox Inches Toward 50% Share

March 24th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

For ZDNet, Joe Brockmeier writes Firefox Inches Toward 50%, Safari Holds Steady.

Brockmeier reviewed the statistics from W3Schools, which draws a developer crowd and thus tends to skew more toward Firefox than many sites.

Firefox climbed to 46.4% in February, while the various versions of IE dropped by 1.2% to 43.6%.

Looking at other sites that track browser usage, the numbers for Firefox were lower, but the trend was identical. Firefox and Safari are growing in use share, while MS IE is shrinking every month.

This means the task of developing websites will get easier over time, as the standards become stronger and IE, which ignores many of the web standards, will fade to the point it can be safely ignored.

Use Stimulus to Boost FOSS in Schools

March 23rd, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Matt Hartley, writing for, suggests to the country Let’s Use Stimulus to Boost Open Source in Schools.

His argument, in summary, is that the stimulus funds to be delivered to schools gives those schools the perfect opportunity to address the upfront costs of switching to Linux and an open source software stack. Then, for years and years after, the schools will benefit from the lower cost and longer lifespan of hardware and software running the open source stack.

This stimulus bill may be the only shot of fresh federal funds education is going to get for a very long time. This means whatever approach US education opts for regarding technology, it had better be something that can be sustained when the stimulus funds run out. This is where I see open source software and Linux stepping up to the challenge in a way that’s not practical for Windows.

Hartley also points out that at least two states have already made significant investments in open source, paving the way for others to follow: Indiana and Ohio.

Indiana installed 22,000 computers with Linux and open source in 2006 in a program to cut costs per machine so it can work toward a one-to-one student to computer ratio. In 2007, an Ohio school district began migrating all of its computer systems to Linux and open source as well.

UK’s Guardian on Open Source Apps

March 20th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

The Guardian publishes Open Source Apps are No Small Free Beer, analyzing how their free cost is leading to a major boost in interest during this great downturn.

There cannot be a corner of the industrialised world that doesn’t rely on some form of free software. But free software, and the open source movement it inspired, has so far affected mostly the back-end world of servers and databases, or taken over from software, like the web browser, that was already available at zero cost.

Until now, suggests the Guardian, looking specifically at

Take OpenOffice, the leading alternative to a paid-for “proprietary” software application. As the downturn started, its download figures began to rocket. According to Oregon State University, since it launched its third version in mid-October, OpenOffice has been downloaded more than 42m times. That’s roughly four times (3.75) every second.

Recent efforts have been made to analyze usage share of OpenOffice to see whether it is displacing users from Microsoft Office.

In November, the US analyst Clickstream reported ( that 5% of internet users used OpenOffice in the last six months. By comparison, 51% used Microsoft Office, suggesting that Microsoft had 10 times as many users as OpenOffice. But this also suggests that Microsoft’s dominance could be declining, as three years ago it enjoyed 95% of the market.

Not only is OpenOffice showing strongly in  competition with MSO, but this information also shows MSO has a much lower usage than many IT analysts assume, if only half of internet users are opening it in a six-month period.

In the public sector, for governments around the world, OpenOffice is proving to be even more popular.

From Birmingham to Brussels, local and regional governments are switching to OpenOffice in a bid to confront the hegemony of Microsoft. “The idea of using open source software not originated by an American multinational corporation seems to go down particularly well in the French public service,” says John McCreesh, marketing project lead of

France’s Gendarmerie Saves Millions with Open Source

March 19th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Several years ago, the French Gendarmerie police force began its migration to open source for the 90,000 desktop computers used by its 105,000 police officers. In a recent followup (Gendarmerie Saves Millions With Open Desktop and Web Applications), finds the Gendarmerie continues to succeed with its open source strategy:

The French Gendarmerie’s gradual migration to a complete open source desktop and web applications has saved millions of euro, says Lieutenant-Colonel Xavier Guimard. “This year the IT budget will be reduced by 70 percent. This will not affect our IT systems.”

The migration still continues now, as new systems are bought to replace older machines. In this way, change is managed as a gradual process, while the general rule against buying new software licenses (using legacy licenses until they are replaced with open source) means that money is being saved immediately.

“If one of us wants a new PC, it comes with Ubuntu. This encourages our users to migrate.” Guimard estimates Gendarmerie since 2004 has saved 50 million euro on licences for standard office applications, hardware and maintenance.

The decision in 2004 to move to open source, was raised by one of the Gendarmerie’s accountants. “Microsoft was forcing us to buy new software licences. This annoyed our accountant, who tried OpenOffice.” According to Guimard the proprietary software maker then started lobbying the Gendarmerie, which is how the general manager found out about the experiments. “When he saw OpenOffice worked just as well and was available for free, it was he that decided it should be installed on all 90,000 desktops.”

After sampling open source with OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird, the Gendarmerie took another step and migrated to Linux as well.

In 2007 the Gendarmerie decided to replace even the desktop operating system. Guimard: “Moving from Microsoft XP to Vista would not have brought us many advantages and Microsoft said it would require training of users. Moving from XP to Ubuntu, however, proved very easy. The two biggest differences are the icons and the games. Games are not our priority.”


March 17th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

An open source lifestream software, Sweetcron, has been created by Tokyo-based web producer Yong Fook. Sweetcron can be seen in use on his site

Similar to FriendFeed, Facebook’s activity stream, Twitter, Mugshot, and other services, it’s great to see a fully open source, distributed version of the concept arise. I am looking forward to experimenting with it further.