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Philippines’ University of Southern Mindanao Goes FOSS

May 14th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The University of Southern Mindanao in the Philippines has chosen to adopt a completely open source platform, according to the International Open Source Network:

“In an official letter from Dr. Virgilio G. Oliva, University of Southern Mindanao (USM) president, to the International Open Source Network (IOSN) ASEAN+3, it was formally announced that USM-Kabacan will spearhead the migration of its computer systems from proprietary to free/open source software (F/OSS) at the first quarter of 2008 through its Information and Communications Technology Center (USM-ICTC) as part of its continuing F/OSS advocacy in line with the IOSN ASEAN+3 agenda.”

The migration will be supported with significant communication to the university’s users, so they’ll know what they are getting into (and why it benefits them all in the longterm).

“Foremost in its ICT roll-out planning for 2008, USM-Kabacan will conduct series of lectures, seminars, workshops and trainings for its personnel in anticipation of workflow changes and to ensure smooth transition to a forthcoming predominantly F/OSS-driven workplace.”

OLPC in the USA

May 13th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

While OLPC’s XO laptops have been appearing around the world, it wasn’t a part of the original plan for them to be used in developed countries. However, the XO’s child-centric design and constructivist learning paradigm are certainly well-suited to students here, as anywhere.

It’s exciting to see the OLPC XO being adopted in Birmingham, Alabama schools.

“The Birmingham City Council in March approved spending almost $3.5 million to buy 15,000 laptops for schoolchildren and to upgrade technology at city schools. The computer program is being piloted at Glen Iris [Elementary School], which has almost 800 students but received about 1,000 laptops, Principal Mike Wilson said.” Extensions: Writer’s Tools

May 12th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

As the library of extensions continues to grow, OpenOffice’s ability to be enhanced with extensions will become an ever-stronger “selling point” (it’s free, so they don’t actually “sell” it) for the application.

One of the most popular is Dmitri Popov’s “Writer’s Tools,” a suite of about 20 tools to simplify professional writing tasks in OOo. (Development is handled on the Google Code site.)

“Writer’s Tools is a set of utilities designed to help users perform a wide range of tasks. Using Writer’s Tools, you can back up documents, look up and translate words and phrases, manage text snippets, and keep tabs on document statistics.”

Get it; it’s really good!

Open Source and Career Advancement

May 9th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

More so all the time, open source is a great avenue for career advancement, writes Amanda McPherson of the Linux Foundation:

“Open source projects are not immune to politics, don’t get me wrong, but there is one key difference: transparency. Because your work is in the open, it’s the best way to market your skills.”

Open source lets you work on interesting projects, develop new skills, and showcase your work to the world.

Further, McPherson discusses how the skills contributors develop in open source are valuable to each individual’s career. This is in contrast to developing skills on proprietary platforms, where the owner of the platform gains as much or more value than the developers themselves:

“Because it’s open source you have a multitude of companies tied to the product and its success. In the Linux world, the platform is used by companies in the desktop, server and embedded markets. A member of the Linux community is not tied into one company since his or her skills or transferable to all of the companies who use Linux. This is in contrast to jobs in the proprietary worlds. If you’re a Zune developer, you certainly have transferable software development skills to another similar project. (Languages are languages after all.) Yet the value of your specialized knowledge and experience is of much more use to Microsoft than anyone else. That means you, as a worker, have less leverage and are more at the mercy of internal project politics specific to that company.”

Linux Journal’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2008

May 7th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Linux Journal’s annual user survey has arrived in the form of Linux Journal’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2008.

More than 5,900 readers completed the survey this January and February to voice their opinions on open source tools, programs and services.

Some of my favorite programs had very strong showings: Ubuntu was the favorite primary Linux distribution for 37.4% of respondents, Firefox the preferred browser for 86%, and OpenOffice the favorite office program of 85.1%.

Many of my other favorites appeared, such as GIMP, Eclipse, WordPress, Drupal, Frozen Bubble, the Nokia N800, OLPC XO, and more.

Kerala, India Strongly Goes for FOSS

May 6th, 2008 Benjamin Horst points out in Kerala Blazing the Trail for FOSS in Schools that Kerala, India’s, support for open source has become extremely strong:

“Kerala is all set to become the first state in the country to completely banish Microsoft and allow only GNU/Linux free software to be used in the mandatory IT test at the state SSLC examinations that half a million students took in March. Till last year, they could take the exam using either free software or the Microsoft platform. Not anymore.”

Kerala is also rolling out broadband internet access to all of its high schools, after its successful introduction of open source over the past year:

“Since last September, some 15 lakh [1,500,000] students have been busy training on or migrating to free software on 40,000 computers put up in 2,832 high schools watched over by over 60,000 IT trained school teachers (some 86 private training institutions train the teachers) besides 161 master trainers and 5,600 school IT coordinators. “We checked. It’s the world’s biggest mobilisation of its kind,” says K Anwar Sadath, executive director of the state government’s IT@Schools mission.”

Firefox Marketshare Grows

May 5th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

XiTi Monitor’s regular browser report has been released, and it shows Firefox at nearly 29% use share in Europe.

“After a slight dip monitored in October 2007, the free browser’s visit share recovered strongly at the end of the year, stabilized in January 2008 and began a new upward trend in February and March 2008. Thus, Mozilla Firefox’s use share, on average for a European country, is 28.8% in March 2008, 0.3 points higher than February and up 0.8 points from January 2008.”

The top countries are Finland at 45.9%, Poland at 44.0% and Slovenia at 43.7%. Two other countries, Slovakia and Hungary, also exceeded 40% use share for Firefox.

In most of the rest of the world, Firefox also keeps growing:

“Although the average visit share for Mozilla Firefox is higher in Oceania (31.2%) than in Europe (28.8%), growth has been flat over this past month, while the European figure has increased.

“The browser lost a small amount of share in North America (-1%), while its trends in South America and Asia are comparable to those in Europe. It was in Africa that Mozilla Firefox posted the strongest gain for March 2008: 17.9% in visit share compared to 17.4% the previous month (+3%).”

Open Source Social Networking with Elgg

May 2nd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Elgg is a fairly mature, distributed open source social networking application (you can install it on your own server, and your users can connect with those on other servers as well).

A roadmap for Elgg 1.0 has recently been posted:

“To date, Elgg has been a great tool for creating a web-based social network. It was the first social networking platform to include OpenID support, and through its support of standards like RSS, FOAF and XML-RPC, as well as its highly extensible architecture, provides functionality unique to the market. If you want MySpace in a box, you can do it with Elgg; if you want a customised network with functionality specific to your niche requirements, you can do that too.

“Elgg 1.0 takes this flexibility as a starting point and supercharges it… Elgg 1.0 acts as a social application engine; a way to power any socially-aware application, whether it’s on the web or not.”

Elgg has a few open source competitors I know about, including NoseRub and Appleseed. There’s also some other related tools and protocols like OpenID that offer the possibility of the entire web becoming socially-enabled in the future (which I think is inevitable, in fact).

However, Elgg has already been very strong in providing self-hosted social networking sites used by several large UK universities, and seems to be the most complete of the above competitors.

Here’s my profile on Elgg.

EuroOffice: An OOo-Derived Suite

May 1st, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Developed in Hungary, EuroOffice is a suite derived from with the addition of several custom features.

The project is working hard to address specific market needs while playing nicely in the OOo development ecosystem:

“Since it is open-source we hope that these additions will be considered improvements by our users and adopted in the future by developers. We have signed the JCA, so nothing stands in the way of adoption.”

Some of its unique features include a dictionary toolbar, map chart, solver and adaptive interface. EuroOffice looks like a solid product.

“EuroOffice is developed by MultiRacio Ltd., a Hungarian firm with a past in economical statistics and of course office application localization and development.”