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“9 Must-Have OpenOffice Extensions”

December 1st, 2008 Benjamin Horst

OpenOffice’s Extensions are getting a lot of attention lately. Several articles in the latest Linux Identity special issue describe extensions, including my own (The Top OOo Extensions, second from last in the list).

In addition to these,’s Damien Oh writes 9 Must-Have OpenOffice Extensions, which offers another take on some of the best. Among his favorites are the Sun PDF Import Extension, Professional Template Pack II, OpenOffice.org2GoogleDocs, Writer’s Tools, LanguageTool, and several more.

High Priority Free Software Projects

November 19th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The Free Software Foundation maintains a list of High Priority Free Software Projects, where it has identified important technologies that need a free software implementation or need greater community support for an existing implementation.

As the key ideological driver of Free Software, the FSF plays an important role in its continuing development and also to keep it true to its roots. The intention with this project is to make sure no choke points develop in which the internet or the free software world can be controlled by proprietary and closed products.

From the project’s page:

“Our list helps guide volunteers and supporters to projects where their skills can be utilized, whether they be in coding, graphic design, writing, or activism. We hope that you can find a project here where your skill, energy, and time can be put to good use.

“Some of the most important projects on our list are replacement projects. These projects are important because they address areas where users are continually being seduced into using non-free software by the lack of an adequate free replacement.”

Ubuntu Linux’s 8 Million Users

November 5th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Estimating the usage of most open source programs is difficult, if not impossible. However, it’s important to try to understand the size of the userbase and what their greatest needs are. reports that Ubuntu Linux has 8 million active users:

“In terms of numbers we’re very confident this is an 8 million plus user base of active users,” Chris Kenyon, director of business development at Canonical told “That is a hard thing to count and there are lots of issues about methodology for counting but I have seen nothing that sheds doubts on that.”

Ubuntu and Canonical are also healthy and growing in terms of their developer communities:

“There are other key metrics that Canonical is keen to point out, among them is their growing headcount of contributors and staff. Kenyon claimed that the number of people that are actually contributing lines of code continues to grow.

“We now have over 400 active contributors,” Kenyon said. “That’s on top of our own internal development team that is now at 120 plus developers.”

A Post-Windows World

November 3rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Fortune Magazine’s Big Tech blog predicts the coming decline of Windows in “PC makers move closer to a post-Windows world“:

“In January, Hewlett-Packard will introduce a glossy black mini-laptop at retail for a mere $379. When it does, it will become the first major computer maker this decade (besides Apple, of course) to push a non-Windows PC in stores… This Linux-based version of the HP Mini 1000 will not slay Microsoft Windows. But it will add to a growing sense that the iconic operating system’s best days are behind it.”

Author Jon Fortt credits the “Windows Vista flop,” Apple’s enormous growth, competitors in the smartphone market and mini-laptops (“netbooks”) for breaking open major cracks in the Microsoft fortress. Specifically regarding netbooks, Fortt writes, “more than 35% of today’s mini-laptops run a non-Windows operating system,” which means this new fast-growing market segment will probably never come under the thumb of Microsoft. HP sees it as an opportunity to develop its own brand, instead of just the brands of others that make processors and operating systems, putting them in a better longterm position in the market.

“This is the part of the Windows Vista backlash that really matters,” said IDC analyst Richard Shim, who had recently seen HP’s Linux mini-laptop.”

A newly competitive marketplace for operating systems will bring out much more rapid innovation (look to the smartphone industry for a precedent), lower prices and more opportunity for new startups and existing companies to grow. I expect it also to boost open source, as a great way to quickly implement new products and services.

Open Source Desktops Have Lowest Maintenance Cost

October 31st, 2008 Benjamin Horst

That open source is more cost effective in initial deployment and ongoing maintenance is not surprising to anyone who uses open source software, despite the premise being attacked by Microsoft (and some people apparently do believe MS’ marketing).

The experience of the German Foreign Ministry is that open source desktops cost less to operate and maintain than Windows and Microsoft Office-based systems, reports Metamorphosis:

“Open Source desktops are far cheaper to maintain than proprietary desktop configurations, says Rolf Schuster, a diplomat at the German Embassy in Madrid and the former head of IT at the Foreign Ministry.”

This is an informed opinion, as the Ministry has been working with open source since 2001, and is currently midway through a complete migration to FOSS.

“The Foreign Ministry is migrating all of its 11,000 desktops to GNU/Linux and other open source applications. According to Schuster, this has drastically reduced maintenance costs in comparison with other ministries. “The Foreign Ministry is running desktops in many far away and some very difficult locations. Yet we spend only one thousand euros per desktop per year. That is far lower than other ministries, that on average spend more than 3,000 euros per desktop per year.

“The ministry has so far migrated almost four thousand of its desktops to GNU/Linux and expects to complete the move by the summer of 2009, Schuster said. About half of all the 230 embassies and consulates have now been switched over. “It is not without problems. It took a while to find a developer in Japan to help us with some font issues we had in OpenOffice.”

The groundwork of the past few years is beginning to pay off for a large number of first-movers around the world. I expect the migration trend will continue to accelerate as more and more case studies help to sway the slower adopters.

Case Study on Non-Adoption of Open Source

October 30th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The following study has been making the rounds lately, but it’s also worth keeping track of here, for future reference.

Living in a world where most companies and small businesses I know are comfortable with open source and most already use it to a greater or lesser extent, it’s even more important to understand those who don’t use it and the smaller set of those who deliberately decide not to adopt open source yet. This knowledge will hone our development and promotion efforts to address those users’ needs in future revisions.

An academic paper written by Huysmans, Ven, and Verelst entitled Reasons for the Non-Adoption of in a Data-Intensive Public Administration is an informative resource for this purpose.

The paper’s abstract reads:

“Several academic studies have already been conducted to investigate the reasons influencing the adoption of open source desktop software such as Linux and However, few studies have been devoted to determine the reasons for not adopting open source desktop software. In order to address this issue, we present a case study on the Belgian Federal Public Service (FPS) Economy which considered the use of, but eventually decided not to adopt as their primary office suite. This decision was to a large degree influenced by the fact that a large number of users within the FPS Economy perform data–intensive tasks such as statistical data analysis and reporting on a daily basis. Notwithstanding the fact that several reasons were actually in favor of the migration, we have identified several barriers that may discourage the use of in similar environments.”

The entire paper is available online at the link above for a detailed reading.

All Russian Schools to Use Free Software

October 29th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

For ComputerWorld UK, Glyn Moody writes, “All Russian Schools to Use Free Software.”

“It began with a few pilot projects, and apparently these have been so successful that the Russian government has now decided to make it the standard for *all* schools.”

Most of Moody’s links lead to articles in Russian, so I cannot glean anything from them. However, when he runs them through software translation, Moody discovers that Russia plans to have one million computers in schools by 2010, and their default software platform will be locally-customized open source applications (presumably including Linux, OpenOffice, etc). After a three-year period, schools will be permitted to switch back to proprietary programs, but they’ll have to pay the licensing fees on their own. I do not expect many will be interested by that option.

Ubuntu Netbooks from Dell

October 22nd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The VAR Guy points out that in Dell’s netbook line, they now advertise that some models run Ubuntu:

“It’s one small step for Dell and consumer Linux — and one giant leap for Canonical’s Ubuntu Linux efforts. Specifically, Dell is spending advertising dollars to promote PCs with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled. The move has significant implications for the business world as well.”

Potential customers can see the same machine (with almost identical hardware) for sale in two versions: Ubuntu and Windows. And the clear and obvious price difference favors Ubuntu.

In the flyer the author found in his newspaper, in fact, only the Ubuntu version was shown!

As netbooks grow and Linux maintains a strong foothold in the segment, more people will become familiar and comfortable with it. This will lead to its growth in other business markets too, as users will want Linux’s power and usability on their primary work machines as well:

“If Ubuntu can impress consumer Netbook users, that positive first impression could help Canonical’s operating system push deeper into the corporate market.”

Boot Linux in 5 Seconds

October 7th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

One of the joys of open source is its mutability. If someone has a great idea and the right experience, they can make fundamental changes for the better. With this mindset, two Linux developers from Intel modified Fedora and Moblin to boot from a solid state drive (on the Eee PC) in only five seconds. announces: “At the Linux Plumbers Conference Thursday, Arjan van de Ven, Linux developer at Intel and author of PowerTOP, and Auke Kok, another Linux developer at Intel’s Open Source Technology Center, demonstrated a Linux system booting in five seconds.”

Lots of further tech details in the article, but in short, it’s great to see how fast Linux can boot when developers take it upon themselves to make it happen.

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