Home of The Tiny Guide to Shorties

May 9th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

The AP reviews today, calling it a “Strong Competitor.”

Newsforge interviews Louis Suarez-Potts and Martin Hollmichel of the project about 2.0, the development process, and open source in India.

Creative Commons Search

May 9th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Want to download music and movies from the internet without the risk of being harassed or sued by a band of second-rate thugs? Fortunately, a growing number of artists want to share their works freely. The answer is the Creative Commons License family. Use the Creative Commons search site to find the digital files you want shared under a license you can live with.

“Ditching Microsoft Can Save Millions”

May 8th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Over in the UK, the Times Educational Supplement publishes the following report about the savings schools can collect from moving to open source products. (Quoted in full below.)
“Primary schools could cut their computer costs by nearly half if they stopped buying, operating and supporting products from the world’s largest software company, government research has found.

Secondaries could also slash their information technology overheads by a quarter if they moved away from Microsoft and other commercial programs, according to an analysis carried out by the British Educational Communications and Technology Association, the Government’s ICT agency.

The findings could undermine Microsoft’s hold on the education market, but they raise the prospect of millions of pounds of savings for British schools and colleges which spend around £1 billion a year on ICT.

In a report to be published next week, obtained by The TES, Becta will highlight schools which have turned to free software instead of the market leader’s products. Becta does not name Microsoft in its analysis. But almost all schools use some of the company’s products.

The association analysed costs at 33 schools which use paid-for software, and compared them with 15 which have pioneered the use of free programs, known as open source, and the pared-down hardware to run them.

Average costs, including software, hardware and support costs, were 24 per cent less per computer in secondaries using open source.”

Firefox at Oregon State University

May 6th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Activites to celebrate the 50-millionth download of Firefox continue (although its already up to nearly 52 million downloads)!

Oregon State University students came up with a fine way to join the festivities on their campus. at the University of the Philippines

May 6th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

In February 2003, the University of the Philippines issued a policy encouraging its employees and students to use open source software, namely Linux and OpenOffice.

“With full backing from no less than UP president Francisco Nemenzo and the University’s Board of Regents, the state university is now migrating its computer systems to open source technology beginning February 2003.”

“The UP Computer Center was tasked to execute the migration plan, which involved a massive information campaign as phase one and training in several UP campuses — namely Manila, Los Banos, Baguio, Visayas, Mindanao — for phase two.”

University President Dr. Francisco Nemenzo describes the motivation behind the project in an open letter to the university community. at Bacone College

May 5th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

The wholesale upgrade from Microsoft Office to carried out by Bacone College has provided a lot of publicity for OpenOffice and Open Source. (In 2003, half of the College’s computers were switched to Linux, and all of them were switched to OpenOffice.)

Mindshare via Craig’s List

May 4th, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Marketing is a Machiavellian exercise.

I suggest those interested in increasing the mindshare of OpenOffice join me in this small project: Regular postings to Craig’s List computer gigs, computer services and other appropriate sections advertising your consulting services in migrating small office/home office users from Microsoft or Corel products to We are not likely to receive many serious responses, but we will spread the name of OpenOffice throughout the Craig’s List group consciousness, and we’ll begin to reinforce the meme that many small businesses are switching right now. (“How could there be a market for geeks to advertise this service if it’s not being used?”)

I started with a post to Craig’s List New York on May 1. (This is an update of that original post.) Feel free to copy any of it you like when writing your own posts:
OpenOffice Migrations and Planning

As author of “The Tiny Guide to” and a longtime participant in the project, I can provide planning assistance and guidance to any individual or company interested in moving from Microsoft Office or Corel Office to

OpenOffice is LGPL free software, so license headaches are a thing of the past. Compatibility with Microsoft Office is very good, but extra features such as the ability to export natively to PDF and Flash make it a better option.

Reply by email or see my site ( for more information.
– Ben
At its outset, I have thought over some of the positive and negative aspects of this effort. I have also considered whether this could be considered spamming Craig’s List, but I feel it is not. With many of us participating, offering these migration services as a real product, we’re in good faith. (You have to be ready to provide the service if you do get a serious inquiry. But it’s easy! Just talk about OpenOffice like we do every day.) Also be sure to change your text enough so that automatic processes don’t tag us as spam. Remember, posting up to three times a week in your local market is fair, but don’t post halfway around the world or multiple times a day!


  • Extremely easy and fast to generate posts.
  • No coordination required.
  • Some income-earning potential to participants.


  • How to measure effectiveness?
  • Little immediate gratification.
  • Long-term, consistent involvement is required.

Guide to Open Source Software for Australia

May 3rd, 2005 Benjamin Horst

The Australian Government Information Management Office released a Guide to Open Source Software for Australian Government Agencies. (Follow this link and download the report as a PDF file.)

Space Elevator Development Continues

May 2nd, 2005 Benjamin Horst

The LiftPort Group announced today the opening of a facility in Millville, New Jersey, where they will manufacture carbon nanotubes for use in their future space elevator project.

Wisely, the company has a plan to develop and sell intermediate products while perfecting nanotubes for the space elevator: “LiftPort Nanotech will make and sell carbon nanotubes to glass, plastic and metal companies, which will in turn synthesize them into other stronger, lighter materials (also known as composites) for use in their applications. Already being used by industries such as automotive and aerospace manufacturing, carbon nanotube composites are lighter than fiberglass and have the potential to be up to 100 times stronger than steel.”

The Dangers of Microsoft Word

May 2nd, 2005 Benjamin Horst

Today, in the EdTech mailing list, I received the following:
From: Randy Edwards

While reading a recent message in EdTech of someone raving about Microsoft Word and a couple of its features, as usual, I shook my head.

It’s been long known that Word buries your Microsoft-issued “Globally Unique Identifier” (GUID) into its proprietary *.DOC format files, along with many other potentially privacy-violating features. While many people enjoy Word’s plethora of features, these do lead to more bugs and, even worse, even the most experienced Word users often forget that Microsoft does not code software with anywhere near adequate security.

Case in point. In a startling revelation, Italian journalists have learned additional censored details of the US report regarding the US killing of an Italian intelligence agent following the rescue of kidnapped journalist Giuliana Sgrena.

This magnifies a political incident of international scope. The US and Italian gov’ts already disagreed over facts involved in the killing. But now some of the nitty-gritty details are known. How was this feat of journalism accomplished? With “deep throat” style informants and following the money?

No, just from the fact that the gov’t officials that wrote the report were foolish enough to use Microsoft Word. Worse, the authors weren’t aware or conscious enough of all of Word’s security flaws.

In this case, the Italian journalists simply copied the “hidden text” from the publicly distributed *.PDF file and they then pasted it into a word processor. Since the original document was made with Word — voila! — a journalism super-scoop.

(FYI, if you read Italian, you can read about the scoop here or download the uncensored English *.DOC file report here.)

Now, if you think this type of bungling happens only to American report writers, you’re wrong. This is an international problem. Back during the buildup for the Iraq invasion, British Ministry of Defense officials released a document of a report to journalists who were able to recover text to learn who the original author of the document was; and the author had some very embarrassing statements to make about the Blair government’s war claims. Again, all because of Microsoft Word.

So, a word (no pun intended:-) to the wise: When using Word, be sure to keep these “features” in mind or just use a different tool that’s more secure and appropriate to the task.

A bit of followup led to this post on vowe dot net, where you can download the original PDF document involved, to see for yourself how easy it is.

It looks to me like the problem wasn’t with Word in this case, but rather with the way it was saved as a PDF. The other story Randy mentions, however, about the British document error, was definitely a problem due to Word. Information deleted from a Word document usually remains stored inside it, and with a little bit of practice, can be extracted by any interested party. To be safe, you need to use plain text, or stick with a format that you can verify, like OpenDocument.