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EFYtimes Interviews Matthias Ettrich

March 17th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Swapnil Bhartiya, of the EFY News Network, interviews Matthias Ettrich, the founder of KDE.

Ettrich talks about how he started KDE in 1996 to provide a Free Software answer to Windows 95, and how it has grown until today, when KDE offers a generally superior environment to Microsoft’s: “Try to compare Windows XP with KDE 3: nobody in their right mind would choose Windows over GNU/Linux based on the desktop experience alone.” (Why he specifically mentions the previous version of each desktop environment, I’m not sure.)

He also points out some of the remaining obstacles for Free Software: “Microsoft Office is still a major hurdle; we need more governments and companies to have the bravery to standardise on truly open formats. A proprietary undocumented text format as the de facto standard — and that’s what .doc is — is a shame for all parties involved. It’s like using a special patented ink that can only be read with special patented sun glasses.” (KDE is promoting ODF, as one of its earliest and strongest backers.)

He’s also optimistic about India’s future as an open source powerhouse. “India is a major commercial software development centre, home to some of the world’s largest software companies, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t play a similar role in the Free Software space.”

OpenOffice + Alfresco = Crazy Delicious

March 14th, 2008 Benjamin Horst and Alfresco can be used together for powerful Enterprise Content Management. Erwin Tenhumberg points out a handy new OpenOffice Extension that provides deeper integration between the two applications called the “ Plugin for Alfresco.”

While rereading parts of Alfresco’s site, I found the latest release of “Alfresco’s Open Source Barometer Survey.” Of particular interest is their findings for office suites (among an admittedly self-selected sample of users): “When it comes to content it comes from Microsoft Office. However, users in Germany and France are twice as likely to use OpenOffice than in the US or UK. Microsoft Office 66%, OpenOffice 24%.”

This is the highest usage share I’ve yet seen for OOo, but it keeps growing everywhere and every time I look.

Linux Foundation Interviews Mark Shuttleworth

March 13th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Jim Zemlin interviews Mark Shuttleworth for the Linux Foundation.

It’s a very thorough and valuable interview. A few choice quotes:

Shuttleworth on his decision to start Ubuntu: “I had sort of assumed that Linux would power ahead to become more part of the every day sort of computing experience and when I saw the folks who were driving Linux at the time in 2004 weren’t really interested in taking Linux to the mass market, I thought there was an opportunity to do that… And that then led to the genesis of Ubuntu.”

Shuttleworth also explains what he thinks it takes to create a successful open source community: “If you look at the projects that are successful, that produce inspiring work and that produce it predictably and address issues and manage change well, I think they do two things very well and the first is, obviously, they have very good technical leadership.

“Whether that comes from a company, whether it comes from an individual or whether it comes from a collection of individuals, it’s really important that there be a meritocratic process of letting the best thinker, the best idea, the best work effectively bubble to the top.

“But they also do something else and that is that they manage a very positive social process. I think the best projects recognize that they have to maintain really constructive, positive relationships internally and with other projects if they want to continue to have really good ideas and get really good input.”

Shuttleworth’s Ubuntu project has mastered both sides of the open source coin, and it shows in the quality of Ubuntu releases and the enthusiasm community members and Ubuntu users share for the software.

“Use Drupal to Empower Your OSS Project Community”

March 12th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Jorge G. Mare writes “Use Drupal to Empower Your OSS Project Community” for

It’s an overview of some of the tools Drupal can provide to support an online community not just of users, but of participants. As an open source application itself, and with such a strong toolbox, Drupal makes a great platform for the online presence of other open source projects.

In fact, Drupal has been used since 2004 to power the Spread Firefox community site, which has been a resounding success for the growth of Firefox and open source overall. It’s also used to power Ubuntu’s website, and many, many more. to Adopt LGPLv3 License

March 11th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The news first arrived last week that will adopt LGPLv3 as of OOo 3.0 beta.

This change and some other improvements are described in Simon Phipp’s post linked above.

He explains: “’s license will change to LGPLv3 as part of a broader set of changes intended to improve the community for everyone. Those changes also include a switch to the latest version of the standard Sun contributor agreement, with an addendum specifically tailored to the needs of the community. There’s increased latitude for documentation writers to publish their work on And in future, plugins for may host their source code directly on the community site without copyright being shared, helping collaboration within the community.”

Case Studies of FOSS in Education

March 10th, 2008 Benjamin Horst has a great collection of Education Case Studies.

The studies are written by the teachers and educational technologists implementing these projects every day, which demonstrates the grassroots nature of the migration, even in the USA, of educational institutions to open source software. It also shows the vast array of possible creative solutions to computing infrastructure, with migrations to Linux on fat clients, thin-client networks, or smaller migrations to open source applications on legacy Windows operating systems all occurring.

SchoolForge itself is a great community, describing itself thus: “SchoolForge’s mission is to unify independent organizations that advocate, use, and develop open resources for education. We advocate the use of open texts and lessons, open curricula, free software and open source in education.”

VentureCake on OpenOffice 3

March 8th, 2008 Benjamin Horst 3.0 is coming this fall, and many people are already starting to get excited about it. VentureCake is excited about its PDF import, native Mac OS X Aqua interface, and more:

“We love, hereby referred to as OpenOffice like normal people do. We like the fact it does pretty much everything we need for free, we like the out-of-the box PDF and Flash support, its better-than-Word ability to work with large documents, and the joys of using a standard file format that’s actually, you know, a standard.”

The article lists a boatload of planned new features that will be really cool, including the PIM (Thunderbird + Sunbird), support for saving files in wiki syntax (MediaWiki is already supported), hybrid PDFs, and others.

Hybrid PDFs in particular seem interesting. VentureCake states “The whole Openoffice suite can save ‘hybrid’ PDF documents that can be viewed as PDFs or edited as OpenDocument files.” This should bring even greater compatibility to the suite and make it much easier to work with companies still using legacy applications like Microsoft Office…

Finally, the extensions user experience will be upgraded to make it feel much more like Firefox’s, which I think will make it far more popular among OOo users.

This is going to be a major upgrade, possibly as significant as the move from 1.x to 2.0, and it should bring legions of new users along with it.

Ubuntu’s Brainstorm

March 7th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Ubuntu has launched a new public feedback website called Ubuntu Brainstorm. Based in part on Dell’s IdeaStorm website (which led to great public demand for Dell to ship Ubuntu-based computers), Ubuntu Brainstorm is an easy way for people to submit suggestions and ideas to the project, to comment on other submitted ideas, and to vote for those they would like to support.

Interviewed on “The Technology Beat”

March 6th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

My friend and former intern Matt Leung hosts a weekly radio show on Vassar’s WVKR radio station called “The Technology Beat.”

He interviewed me recently to discuss open source software for musicians and students, and we discussed applications including, Firefox, Miro, Jokosher and others. (See the site above to listen online, or download an MP3 of the interview here.)

Matt’s show has focused on open source software and Creative Commons licensing for creating and sharing music. I’m the first interviewee who is not a musician, so check out some of the other shows to hear a lot of great songs from smart bands, including my friends Dave Michalak and Jay Olin’s band “Toxic Waste.”

Drupalcon Boston’s “State of the Union”

March 4th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Today is day two of Drupalcon Boston, at the new Boston Convention and Expo Center in South Boston. Sessions are just getting started today, but yesterday had a really great keynote by Dries Buytaert about the Drupal “State of the Union.”

Drupal 7 will be developed over the course of 2008, and will focus on making Drupal fit into the semantic web in a very natural way. In fact, Drupal’s embrace of semantic web principles could really help to accelerate the emergence of the semantic web itself, especially as “taking Drupal mainstream” is another goal of the Drupal 7 release.

According to Dries’ interpretation of Tim Berners-Lee, the WWW is evolving into the “GGG,” the Giant Global Graph. The GGG is like the social graph Google, Facebook and others are working on, but instead of connecting people to each other, it connects people and everything else (data and so much more), using semantic web concepts and tools like RDF, FOAF and others.