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IBM “Productivity Tools” in Lotus Notes

August 17th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

IBM will introduce new “productivity tools” in Lotus Notes 8. Basically, they’ve embedded into Lotus, allowing users to create ODF documents from within Notes 8.

Looks like a very interesting direction to be traveling. Wouldn’t a big organization jump at the chance to eliminate some of its MS Office licenses once document creation is integrated into other existing systems? License cost and administration complexity could be reduced by combining these two major application sets into one!

I also like some of the UI changes, where they’ve moved certain toolbars into tool palettes shown to the right of the main working area. (I don’t like the pale blue in the screenshots; too default XP-ish, but maybe that’s just Windows.)

Malaysia Chooses ODF

August 16th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Great news comes from Malaysia this week: the government appears to be adopting ODF as its standard document format.

ZDNet Asia announces, “Malaysia formally embraces Open Document Format.”

“The decision taken has been deliberated carefully for a considerable amount of time, and much thought process has been put into it,” Nor Aliah Mohd. Zahri, ICT deputy director general at MAMPU, said in a statement.

“These discussions centered on open formats, particularly as they relate to office documents, their importance for the current and future accessibility of government records, and the relative ‘openness’ of the format options available to us,” Nor Aliah explained.”

“Bug” In the Spotlight

August 15th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Last night New York City startup Bug Labs hosted an introductory meetup at Punch Restaurant‘s upstairs Wined Up bar.

Bug Labs founder Peter Semmelhack describes the company thus: “Bug Labs is developing BUG, an open, modular, consumer electronics web services + hardware platform. Designed for the general audience, not just the technically inclined, Bug seeks to bring to the world of hardware gadgets what the Internet, open source, XML and web services have brought to the world of software and media.”

Most of the online action is on the company blog, but last night Bug Labs showed its hardware publicly for the first time. Its product is a modular, Lego-like collection of hardware components and software infrastructure that you can attach together to dynamically build specialty devices to service the long tail of product users’ needs.

Marketing chief Jeremy showed off three circuit boards plugged together, in size and shape totaling about the same as a video iPod. The base board contained the primary Bug device, while the other two, each half the length of the first, were an accelerometer/motion detector and a camera, respectively. Plugged together in this configuration, Jeremy held in his hand a security monitoring system.

When product launch occurs in the fall, many other modules will be available, including GPS, cell phone, LCD screens, keyboard and more. Bug Labs will target hackers and hobbyists first, and then when a collection of third-party applications have added consumer value to the product ecosystem, they’ll be able to make sales to normal consumers too.

With a few other organizations making moves into the world of open source or modular hardware, including OpenMoko, the OLPC, Drobo, and (sort of) the Nokia Maemo platform, it looks like a new, dynamic and fascinating market segment could be on its way to emergence. Let’s hope it brings the enormous benefits of open source communities to the hardware world that FOSS has brought to software already!

Shuttleworth and Ars Question MSOOXML’s Chances

August 14th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Two industry heavyweights have noticed MSOOXML is now struggling in its cakewalk to ISO approval.

Ryan Paul, for Ars Technica, reports that MS OOXML might not succeed in the fast-track process in Microsoft one vote short of fast-track OOXML ISO standardization:

“Executive board members of the International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), the organization that represents the United States in ISO standardization deliberations, recently held an internal poll to determine the position that the United States should take on Microsoft’s request for Office Open XML (OOXML) approval. With eight votes in favor, seven against, and one abstention, the group was one vote short of the nine votes required for approving OOXML ISO standardization.”

In his personal blog, Mark Shuttleworth wonders if there is an Emerging consensus in favour of a unified document format standard?

“It’s too early to say for certain, but there are very encouraging signs that the world’s standards bodies will vote in favour of a single unified ISO (“International Standards Organisation”) document format standard… In the latest developments, standards committees in South Africa and the United States have both said they will vote against a second standard and thereby issue a strong call for unity and a sensible, open, common standard for business documents in word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.”

Shuttleworth identifies three highly compelling arguments that the world implement one, single standard:

  1. This is not a vote “for or against Microsoft”
  2. Open, consensus based document standards really WORK WELL – consider HTML
  3. A SINGLE standard with many implementations is MUCH more valuable than multiple standards

ODF is an important standard that could one day be as significant as HTML. Current efforts to derail it are coming from one source that sees it as a threat to its monopoly–but whatever your feelings toward that company, everyone is better served in the long term by building the best infrastructure today. And that digital infrastructure is ODF, not MSOOXML.

Mac Moving To Cocoa

August 13th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

On Friday, Philipp Lohmann reported on the progress being made in moving the Mac port of to the Cocoa framework.

Sun has moved aggressively in its efforts to support OOo on the Mac, and we’re already seeing great progress after just a few months.

Lohmann agrees, but also cautions that this is still a small step: “So the Mac port continues to thrive, but even with all we have already there is much yet to do. Any developer willing and able to help is welcome (please find build instructions here), Sun even offers a job in this area for people willing to work in Hamburg.”

Maximum PC Suggests You Try Ubuntu

August 10th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Ubuntu train keeps gaining speed as it starts to gain riders from the world of mainstream computing.

We all know about Dell selling Ubuntu systems, and recently expanding that offer to European customers. We’ve seen the emergence of small PC shops that specialize in selling pure Ubuntu systems (ZaReason and System76), and we have been aware of the good press Ubuntu continues to receive from sources all around the world.

On that front, one of the most recent comes from Maximum PC magazine, writing “Why (almost) Everyone Should Try Ubuntu.”

It’s a good piece, and summarizes some of the major reasons why using Ubuntu is a good idea: “The arguments for choosing Ubuntu fall into two categories: immediate practicality and long-term viability. For sheer practicality, Ubuntu is a no-brainer. It installs in minutes, recognizes most hardware immediately, hides root from those who have no business messing with it, and comes pre-configured to let you get to work right away. For long-term viability, Ubuntu offers a well established coalition of developers, rapid growth among OEM vendors, and – most importantly – a massive base of users around the world.”

More on OOo 2.3’s Chart Tool

August 9th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

GullFOSS reports details of the charting tool forthcoming in 2.3.

Its 3-d functionality makes charts and graphics more readable (and its new default color palette helps too).

Author Bjoern Milcke writes, “The first thing I want to show here is the “right-angled-axis” Feature. This means you get a 90 degree angle between  the x-axis and the y-axis in the 2d projection plane. Sounds complicated, but is quite easy to understand, especially with a picture.

Right Angled Axis Feature

What this feature does, is combine the accuracy of 2d charts and the niceness of 3d charts. You are still able to read and compare the values nicely, but also have this impression of some more real columns. What you also see here is the “simple” 3d look, where the shading is done flat, i.e. every plane gets one shade and not a gradient. The more “realistic” look might look cooler, but again, when it comes to readability, the simple look might be the better choice.”

All-in-all, it’s a solid new feature that will make OOo 2.3 an important upgrade when it comes out this year.

OpenProj Officially Unveiled

August 8th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

At LinuxWorld on August 7, OpenProj was officially unveiled.

Projity introduces the new app to the world: “OpenProj is ideal for desktop project management and is available on Linux, Unix, Mac or Windows, even opening existing Microsoft or Primavera files. OpenProj shares the industry’s most advanced scheduling engine with Project-ON-Demand and has Gantt Charts, Network Diagrams (PERT Charts), WBS and RBS charts, Earned Value costing and more. There is literally no time or effort involved in switching to OpenProj and your teams can manage projects in Linux, Unix, Mac or Windows for free.”

Adding detail to my earlier post on OpenProj, Computerworld announces LinuxWorld: SaaS rival to Microsoft Project goes open source.

“Called OpenProj, the still-in-beta software will be bundled with several leading flavors of the Linux operating system, according to an interview last week with Projity CEO Marc O’Brien. Confirmed distributions so far include Mandriva, Mint and the Gentoo-derived Sabayon… O’Brien hopes these moves will help OpenProj eventually win between 7 million and 11 million users — making it a true rival to Microsoft Corp.’s market-dominating Project software, which currently claims 20 million users.”

Educators Recommend

August 7th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Christopher Dawson blogs about IT in education for ZDNet.

Recently he provided advice for parents interested in purchasing laptops for their children, and recommended they select instead of Microsoft Office.

In the last paragraph he writes, “Finally, I tell parents not to bother springing for Microsoft Office. This can take a $499 laptop and increase its price by at least 20%. OpenOffice is a bargain-hunter’s friend and I make sure that teachers can support it if they receive files electronically from students.”

The majority of comments seem to support this approach as well.

PDF Import and Edit Capabilities Coming to OOo

August 6th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

One of the most renowned and unique features of is its built-in PDF export capability. From either File > Export as PDF, or the toolbar button, it takes no time to generate a PDF from a document within

Now, however, the development team plans to extend this feature into even more groundbreaking territory. will soon be able to open and edit PDFs, too!

To my knowledge, there is no Free or cost-free software that can do this today. While KOffice is supposed to have this feature, I have not figured out how to make it work. And KOffice is not cross-platform like OOo, restricting its utility even if I could get it to work.

Kai Ahrens, the Sun developer who first broke this story on his blog, received such a great response that he posted a follow-up.

The new PDF import feature will be available as a downloadable Extension for OpenOffice. Kai explains that the new code “imports the PDF content as an OOo Draw/Impress document. With this solution, we’ll have the full benefit of a page-oriented, fixed layout. All graphical elements will be at fixed positions given in the PDF file and text portions will be combined as much as possible to be anchored in text shapes, ensuring that text portions preserve their exact given position, but are still editable by the user.”

Kai also comments on the schedule, saying PDF import is planned for 3.0 (though I don’t believe the exact timing and featureset for that release has been determined yet).

Overall, this is a killer new feature that will further separate from its competition. Yet another reason for those on the fence to abandon Microsoft Office in favor of OpenOffice instead.