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Contact your State Reps about ODF!

March 30th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Yesterday I emailed my New York State Assemblymember, Michael Gianaris, to suggest that the State of New York adopt open formats like ODF for state business. It’s easy to find your representatives by searching online; many states have pages like New York’s, that let you find them by your zip code and maps.

Below is pasted a copy of my message. Feel free to copy and/or modify it for your own use. You can send it not only to state representatives and senators, but to your county, city or town level elected officials too. (A city the size of New York has many more people than most states, so it is well worth communicating with cities about ODF, too.)

Dear Assemblymember Gianaris,

An issue that has started to get a lot of attention in other states is the data formats used for long term archiving of important digital information. Some formats in common use today are proprietary formulas that can only be accessed by a limited number of software tools made by monopoly suppliers.

So far, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, California and Oregon have begun looking at better alternatives to this situation. Using an open document format (the premier option is called “ODF” or “OpenDocument Format”) can allow the government to create and store data in a way that is broadly accessible to users of many different programs, including free-of-cost options.

It would be beneficial to New York State residents if we also made a similar policy. Not only would data be stored in a better archive format, but it would be more accessible. Instead of needing Microsoft Office to open a “.doc” file, citizens could use one of many options, including, KOffice, Google Docs, Zoho Writer, TextMaker, or many more to open a file saved as “ODF.”

For more information on other states concerned about this issue, please take a look at this summary article:

Thanks for your time and attention,
Benjamin Horst
Astoria, NY

Oregon Going for ODF

March 29th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

A fifth state, and the fourth in just this year, joins the tidal shift: an open formats bill has been introduced in Oregon’s legislature.

Andy Updegrove writes:

“While the Oregon bill falls into a current trend, it is in some ways less similar to the bills introduced earlier this year than they are to each other. Most notably, it would establish a clear preference for open formats that are deployed in the greatest variety of programs and services that are available as “free ware,” which it defines as “computer software made available or distributed to the public for use free of charge for an unlimited time.” Through this and other provisions, it is clear that only ODF, and not OOXML, would pass muster for the foreseeable future in Oregon. The bill was introduced by State Representative Peter Buckley as House Bill 2920.

Looking first to the central definition of an “open format,” we see that the Oregon definition is more detailed than that which is found in most of the other bills. For example, while the California formulation is very high level and would provide more flexibility in interpretation, the Oregon text is more precise, and often provides examples of what would be required in order to comply with the bill.”

Oregon’s legislation is also mentioned in a Computerworld article.

NeoOffice 2.1 Released

March 28th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

NeoOffice 2.1 was released yesterday.

This derivative of for Mac OS X has some nice features not available in the X11 variant, including a native Aqua interface, the ability to read and write Microsoft’s new “docx” file format, and to run Excel macros.

(Amazingly, Microsoft Office on Mac will not be able to read its own new docx file formats until the second half of this year or later, and it will not ever be able to run macros, as that feature has been dropped from the Mac version.)

NeoOffice can be downloaded from the project site. Please make a donation to the developers, they are doing terrific work here!

India’s FOSS Market Gaining Momentum

March 28th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Express Computer (of India) publishes a detailed investigation of the growing importance of FOSS in Indian computing, titled “OSS Diversifies as it Gains Acceptance.”

“A lot of organisations are using Open Source solutions even though they may not be running an end to end OSS solution stack. The OSS landscape in India is changing rapidly because of the demands that customers are placing on vendors to offer a business advantage, value for money and reduce the risk associated with making long-term technology investments.”

In some ways, adoption is happening the reverse of the process in the US and Europe. End user applications may be switching to FOSS first: “In India, enterprise productivity tools such as OpenOffice have become quite popular. However, to a large extent, enterprises haven’t adopted open source applications at the back-end.”

The article mentions the major factors behind Linux’s rapid adoption as cost, interoperability, stability, security, innovation and choice.

One of my key interests is open source on the desktop. And the article touches on that subject too:

“In India the adoption of the Linux on the desktop is at a nascent stage. Mass adoption on the desktop is still a dream. Pradhan says, “This is a key area of interest for Red Hat today, since we have visibly moved beyond the platform and are now making ourselves felt in applications developed around Linux.”

The Linux operating system is already making inroads in Indian enterprises with huge deployments such as LIC with 2,000 desktops. 6,000 schools in Uttar Pradesh have adopted Linux in their curriculum.”

With Red Hat doubling in size in India each year, I expect to see a lot more migrations to Linux and OpenOffice throughout the country’s educational and broader IT sectors.

LinuxWorld on OLPC

March 27th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

In Tech innovations fuel low-cost laptop, LinuxWorld announces the planned July distribution of 5 million OLPC XO machines.

The LinuxWorld article is briefer than my average blog post, but it’s good to see OLPC continuing to get press and make progress toward its targets. Distributing 5 million laptops in July will be a big step for the organization, and will put enough units on the ground for the XO to really start proving itself.

Maemo Roadmap

March 26th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Ari Jaaksi, head of Nokia’s open source software operations, has posted a “high-level roadmap” of the next year or two of Maemo platform development.

The roadmap contains a lot of interesting features for all N800 users. Software improvements to OS2007 will be coming in several waves, and then it appears that new hardware might be planned for next year, to include WiMax support. On top of that are plans to strengthen involvement in open source community projects, and to encourage even greater participation by developers on applications for, and improvements to, Maemo itself.

The post is very encouraging, and the huge number of comments responding to it indicate how robust this community has already become. Maemo is great!

Japan’s Leading Software Distributor switches to OOo

March 23rd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Newsletter Blog reports on an interesting Japanese company’s switch to OpenOffice: K.K. Ashisuto migrated its 650 employees recently.

The founder, Bill Totten, announced this decision on his corporate blog:

“Of course we continued some Microsoft license agreements that we judged to be absolutely indispensable for responding to the needs of our customers, but on a company-wide basis, OpenOffice is now our office software standard. As a rule, our employees now use only freely-available open-source software for creating documents, spread-sheets, and presentation materials.”

Wall Street Journal Sees Linux Growth on the Desktop

March 22nd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published Linux Starts to Find Home on Desktops, in which they find Linux beginning to make inroads as a user desktop platform in corporate IT.

“Linux still goes into only a tiny proportion of the desktop and laptop PCs sold. But in a recent report, market researcher IDC said licenses of both free and purchased versions of Linux software going into PCs world-wide rose 20.8% in 2006 over the previous year and forecast that licenses will increase 30% this year over last. That compares with 10.5% growth in 2004, according to IDC.”

Why? Because of the success of Linux on servers:

“As corporate-technology chiefs become more comfortable with Linux running on their servers, they are beginning to warm to the idea of installing Linux in PCs for workers who don’t require most of the features offered by Windows and other Microsoft software, such as the Office suite of programs.”

And the rapidly-developing world is likely to be a major catalyst for increased Linux growth:

“So far, the clearest shift toward desktop Linux is happening in Asia, which “may turn out over time to be a pivotal market for Linux on the [PC] desktop,” Mr. Gillen says. Shipments of Linux for PCs in Asia in 2005 caused a surge in overall Linux licenses that year, he says.”

Overall, this is a perfect example of disruption according to the model described by Clayton Christensen. It’s fascinating and very rewarding to watch it in action!

“The lazy user’s guide to Writer”

March 21st, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Free Software Magazine contributor Daniel Escasa writes The lazy user’s guide to Writer.

It’s a fun article in style, and in substance it takes account of a very important fact: users are lazy! But we have good reason for it. There are too many tasks to do and too little time to do them.

Escasa begins, “All hail the lazy, for they will find the most efficient way to work a computer in general, and a word processor in particular. In this article, I’ll look at three lazy writer’s tricks that can relieve you of most of the drudgery involved in creating a fairly large document in Writer.”

Escasa covers creating a title page, creating a table of contents, and changing the page numbering styles. Quick bites of useful information for Writer beginners (and helpful as a reminder to old-timers, too).

It’s a useful article, and I think the name could be expanded into a book series concept in the tradition of the “For Dummies” books. He’s sharing this article under a CC-license for others to benefit from, but I think he should keep growing until he’s got a full book to publish! (There’s no reason why that shouldn’t be CC-licensed, too.)

Korean Ministry Adopting ODF

March 20th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Open Malaysia blog announces: Korea Ministry of Information and Communication adopting ODF.

That’s another one for the big list! And an important move for Korea, which has long been seen as a very enthusiastic user of everything Microsoft.

“The Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) announced on the 7th that it is intending to adopt OpenDocument Format (ODF) as its software document standard for administrative work.

In that case, software that does not support ODF will be completely excluded from the public agencies.

Currently, software from Microsoft and Haansoft that dominate the Korean market does not support ODF. However, Haansoft said that they have planned to make its product support ODF.”

This illustrates how any software program can support ODF and be allowed to compete for government contracts that require it. Microsoft’s argument against supporting ODF in its products is, once again, shown to be a red herring.