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Solveig Haugland on Switching from Microsoft to OpenOffice

February 29th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Solveig Haugland, author and trainer, has written Switching Office Suites from Microsoft Office to for Fanatic Attack.

She covers the technical and social aspects of making the change, using techniques she has learned from helping many companies around the USA over the last several years.

In this article, she focuses on the essentials; her goal is to “give you what you need to make getting to know easier. I can give you settings to apply that will keep you from having problems in the first place. Not all of them, of course, but with a limited amount of information on how to set up the program, I can help you have a smoother, more enjoyable experience with the program. So that’s what this is: setting up to make it work for you.”

SCaLE 6x: The Best Yet

February 28th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

LinuxWorld calls SCaLE 6x the “Best Yet.”

SCaLE is a very community-oriented event that fosters a lot of nuts-and-bolts interaction. “The goal of SCaLE has always been to serve Southern California by bringing together as many regionally relevant community groups, Open Source project advocates and enthusiasts, plus curious outsiders, to Open Source together as possible. SCaLE is a local tradition, organized and managed year around by a core committee of dedicated local volunteers…”

I attended SCaLE 4x, two years ago, and had a great time. It’s great to see non-profit projects with booths just as big and given equal treatment among those of large companies like Google and IBM. And it’s good to see the big company booths happily coexisting and attracting lots of attention from the individual open source enthusiasts and project developers, just like the small project booths do.

5 Sub-$300 Laptops Compared

February 27th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Jessica Hupp writes “Top 5 Sub-$300 Laptops Compared” on the Virtual Hosting Blog. “Armed with efficiency, open source software, and durable design, these devices have a lot to offer. Children, road warriors, and curious gadget freaks would love any one of these laptops.”

The OLPC XO and the Asus Eee have been on my radar for a while now, but the Elonex ONE is completely new to me. The Intel Classmate PC and Zonbu round out the group of five.

As a category, very low cost subnotebooks running Linux and open source are a major development of the last few years. The XO created this market and still leads it, with the best hardware and an extremely innovative software platform. However, since almost all of these run Linux, it is clearly the start of a new market that will eat into sales of PCs for many home users, and gradually displace Windows from below.

Google’s Zaheda Bhorat on ODF

February 26th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Google understands the importance of open file formats, and

She summarizes the issue succinctly: “The subject of open document standards grows in importance not only for the technically- minded, but for anyone who uses a computer to work on editable documents. Across the board, standards are crucial. They ensure that the devices and technology you use today will continue to work tomorrow, that your DVDs will play in your player, that your calls will go through to any network, and that your documents will be accessible from whichever system you choose today and in the future.”

Support for ODF is especially important now, as Microsoft’s major effort to undermine it is approaching its climax. The ISO will vote again next month on whether MSOOXML can also be an international standard alongside the already-approved ODF. But MS has attempted many unethical tricks to rig the process, and these seem to be catching up to the company as their publication in the media has galvanized opposition to keep them away.

Students Blogging about OpenOffice

February 25th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Ian Lynch, creator of the INGOTs, recently emailed one of the mailing lists to give a little update on the project.

INGOTs stands for “International Grades – Open Technologies” and describes itself as “qualifications designed to motivate students and reduce administration through innovative use of the internet. Ingots are accredited in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

By encouraging students to participate in web 2.0 communities, the INGOTs helps them learn new software skills, as well as the ability to be self-directed in their learning experiences, something extremely valuable in a field with the innovation and rapid change of internet software and open source tools. On top of this, the students receive accreditation that can be used toward their school requirements.

Lynch’s latest email alerted us to student blogs about learning and teaching younger students OpenOffice skills. This demonstrates the project functioning as a self-sustaining community, as well as reinforcing students’ learning process as they go on to share it with others.

And building a business on top of open source software helps expand the software’s community as well as make an ongoing living for the business. It’s a great project, and I am glad to see it thriving. at FOSDEM

February 23rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

FOSDEM, in Brussels, EU, is a huge and important annual open source conference happening this weekend. According to its site, “FOSDEM ’08 is a free and non-commercial event organised by the community, for the community. Its goal is to provide Free and Open Source developers a place to meet.” is at FOSDEM with a developer room for hacking, and plenty of coders and others to represent it and work together on projects small and large. It’s a great opportunity to start or increase your involvement with the OOo project.

Linux on Lenovo and ODF Status Report

February 21st, 2008 Benjamin Horst

A few old news articles that I’d nevertheless like to catalog here today:

InformationWeek writes, in mid-January, of Lenovo preinstalling Linux:

“Starting Jan. 14, the T61 and R16 Centrino ThinkPads will have the option of shipping with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10, with included. A news item over at revealed that the T61 will sport a Core 2 Duo T7205 2.0-GHz processor, 1 Gbyte of DDR2 RAM, an 80-Gbyte 5400 RPM hard drive — all for $949.” (Incidentally, choosing Linux will save a buyer $20 over Windows on the same hardware.)

Erwin Tenhumberg writes a status report on ODF that he titles “Dispelling Myths Around ODF.”

A very thorough article that debunks some of the FUD Microsoft has been spreading around ODF (though personally, I have not seen as much MS FUD as I expected–maybe their energy isn’t what it once was).

My favorite section is where Erwin lists some of the prominent applications that use ODF as their default, or one of their primary, formats. These include KOffice,, StarOffice, IBM Lotus Symphony, Corel WordPerfect, Apple TextEdit, Google Docs, and plenty more.

50 Open Source Alternatives

February 20th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

WHDb writes “The Top 50 Proprietary Programs that Drive You Crazy–and Their Open Source Alternatives.”

Most of these programs are familiar old friends, like Ubuntu and OpenOffice, but the list includes some that are new to me, such as Archimedes CAD.

The list is mostly focused on open source programs to run on Windows, though most (yet, not all) of the key applications are cross-platform for Linux and Mac as well. (I maintain a list of my preferred FOSS programs for Mac OS X here.)

Groklaw Interviews Nicholas Reville About Miro

February 19th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Groklaw interviewed Nicholas Reville about Miro and open online media. Miro, developed by the Participatory Culture Foundation, is an open source video player, BitTorrent client and podcast subscription tool based on the Mozilla platform.

In Reville’s own words, “It’s free; it’s open source; it’s made by a nonprofit which is the organization that I work for. And the idea behind Miro is to give you a comprehensive TV-like experience on your computer. And we’re trying to do that not just because we want to have a great experience for our users, which we do, but also because we’ve built the software in a very open, very democratic, very accessible way. The goal is to open up video online, to not have the same kind of gatekeepers and restrictions that creators face in traditional broadcasting, to not have those as television moves online.”

Miro was downloaded over 2 million times in 2007, and aims for 5 million downloads in 2008.

Reville has an expansive view of the mission of Miro. Beyond its core purpose, Miro also hopes to lift up other open source projects along with its growth: “What we’re really hoping is that open source, various open source projects can find ways of supporting each other, can connect users to other tools and projects that are going to be useful for them and can really raise each other up together. And so our collaboration with Mozilla is certainly doing that for us, and maybe someday we’ll be able to do that for another project.”

What a beautiful, useful program, and a model of the best of open source in its development process and its final product!

CNET’s #1 Download for 2007 is OpenOffice

February 15th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

CNet has posted a video of their picks for the Top 5 Downloads of 2007.

I’ll destroy the drama of their countdown to say the number one spot is occupied by OpenOffice. Following that, the list contains several other of my favorite open source applications (in order):

  1. OpenOffice (office suite)
  2. Audacity (audio editor)
  3. Miro (internet video player)
  4. Pidgin (instant messenger)

It’s notoriously hard to estimate the current number of global OpenOffice users, but it is likely in the range of 100 million, with marketshare/usage share possibly as high as 20%.

After a very strong year in 2007, and recognition like CNET’s, I expect 2008 to be another record-breaking year for the suite.