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Going Away for Two Weeks

June 26th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Quick note: I’ll be getting married on Saturday, and will be traveling to Istanbul and the Turkish coast for the following 12 days.

I may get the chance to post here, or perhaps not, but I should be back in New York City on July 12. See you then!

ODF Wiki

June 25th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Combining two of my interests, Kay Ramme of Sun has created “ODF@WWW,” an ODF Wiki. It includes some of the capabilities I had envisioned in my post about an OpenOffice wiki extension, and adds some cool new ideas of Ramme’s own.

Thinking about the rich editing ability of OpenOffice, and the lightweight collaboration of a wiki, Ramme “understood that these two approaches may be married to become an “ODF Wiki”, combing their strengths – simple editing and simple publishing – while eliminating their weaknesses…”

He jumped right into the project: “I installed an Apache webserver, enabled WebDAV, did some (hacky) bash scripting, and got the following.”

It’s a great start, and I am looking forward to what Ramme develops next with this project.

OpenOffice Download Boom

June 24th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Frank Mau observes a rapid increase in downloads of He writes, “Looking back on our last download numbers we can see them increasing version by version. We grew over 20% from Version 2.3.1 to 2.4.0. Now the 2.4.1 started and it looks good to beat our own record.”

He credits the quality of the software, and the new, more easily navigated website as major reasons for this increase. is a good product, for free and localized in many languages. We have extensions to extend office functionality if needed…

“Another factor is the one-download-click that enables the user to get the download starting with one-click from the homepage or the download main-page. In numbers, before we started with the one-click and the redesign of the pages 10% of visitors started a download of after visiting the homepage. After the introduction of the one-click and the other web-changes 20%.”

I’d add that OpenOffice is approaching a tipping point. More and more users are telling their friends, requesting it at work, or even standardizing on OOo across their entire company. This creates significant knock-on effects and substantial longterm growth.

With the upcoming release of version 3.0 (beta available now for testing) that includes a native version for Mac OS X, I expect these numbers to reach yet another plateau.


June 23rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

I just invented the word “sinofacture” yesterday.

It means to outsource manufacturing of something to China. I think it would sound good in a cyberpunk novel: “We needed to make it cheap, so we sinofactured the whole thing to a sprawling factory on the outskirts of the Shenzhen special economic zone.”

John Paul then pointed out an article in The Atlantic about sinofacture, though not calling it such.

Do a Google search for sinofacture and see what you get. Not much. Yet.

ODF Victory News Roundup

June 23rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Erwin Tenhumberg is (sadly) leaving Sun and this may be his last blog post there. It looks like he’s following a good opportunity at another company, and he hopes to continue blogging about open source in some form.

Today, he points out a number of ODF and successes, such as a download average in 2008 of 1.2 million copies of OOo per week (with recent weeks averaging closer to 2 million). He also writes:

“In addition, Asus, Acer and HP are now shipping laptops with pre-installed, and more and more organizations deploy in a large scale. Finally, according to Google file type searches like this one and this one, ODF is still clearly the market leading editable XML document file format. Thus, I’m sure ODF and have a bright future!”

All this he reports in the context of an “ODF Workshop” Microsoft will hold at its headquarters in the near future. Skepticism is healthy with Microsoft, but if they implement ODF honestly and completely (with none of their “embrace, extend, extinguish” behavior), this really is the victory bell for the ODF format.


June 20th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Ironically enough, despite MSOOXML being (controversially) accepted as an ISO standard, most of the media is triangulating on the conclusion that ODF has already won the next generation format war.

Infoworld reaches this conclusion in “Red Hat Summit panel: Who ‘won’ OOXML battle?

They even find a Microsoft employee saying as much:

“ODF (Open Document Format) has benefited from the two-year battle over the ratification of Microsoft’s rival OOXML (Open Office XML) standard, which is native to its Office 2007 suite, Microsoft’s national technology officer said Thursday during a panel discussion at the Red Hat Summit in Boston.

“ODF has clearly won,” said Stuart McKee, referring to Microsoft’s recent announcement that it would begin natively supporting ODF in Office next year and join the technical committee overseeing the next version of the format”

This could certainly be a ruse on the part of Microsoft, but with several functional ODF suites already available, it will be extremely difficult for MS to support ODF in a broken way and then blame ODF for that failure. (As they’ve done with other standards in the past.)

“Panelist Douglas Johnson, an official involved with corporate standards at Sun Microsystems, said the attention caused by the debate has enabled other office-suite products to be competitive.

“The office-suite market has been ruled by one dominant player after another, but those markets were never governed by good open standards practices,” he said. “What has happened is that this dominant-player market has actually been upset and opened to competition that didn’t exist before.”

A competitive office suite market is a fundamental change that will benefit consumers and competitors going forward. It’s an important step in the ongoing effort to establish digital freedoms world-wide.

Mail Merge in

June 19th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Free Software Magazine collects several years of experience into an article detailing how to Mail Merge in

“In OOo there are lots of different ways to do mail merge. It took some trial-and-error to find the best methods for us, and that is what I will be describing here. The first choice to make is database format… I ran across a suggestion to use dBASE files, which have been the perfect solution.”

While writing the letter, you’ll enter variables that are custom-filled for each recipient.

“You may either type your entire letter first and then add the fields to be merged, or you may add the fields as you go. There are (at least) two ways to add fields. Using View→Data Sources, you may click on a column header (field name) and drag it to the letter in the spot where you want the field… The other method is to place your cursor where you want the field, and go to Insert→Fields→Other…, which opens the Fields dialog box (see figure 2). Go to the Database tab, and click on “Mail merge fields” on the left, then open up your table on the right and select the desired field.”

The second page in the article covers using mail merge to print envelopes, a particularly tricky but important task.

The third page covers printing labels from a mail merge, which is what I use mail merge for most frequently.

Lotus Symphony: A Rave Review

June 18th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Lotus Symphony is getting great reviews, including CRN’s “Symphony Sings as Office Clone.”

They found it preferable, in their review, to

The Test Center found Symphony a snap to use, and switching to Symphony after years of using Microsoft Office was painless. While OpenOffice was a nice alternative, Symphony looks and works much more elegantly while keeping the free price tag.”

A Mac version is not yet available, but is promised later this summer, and Symphony 2.0 (unclear when it is planned for release) will “update the base code engine and also include more features, such as an equation editor, database software, and a drawing program.”

Symphony’s arrival on the scene makes a good complement (and friendly competitor) to OpenOffice. It helps legitimize the idea of using ODF as a format for interoperability, and it helps sell ODF to enterprises. It’s also been imaginative in testing new user interface ideas, which will help move the industry forward much more than MS Office 2007’s dubious new choices.

Seattle P-I vs Microsoft

June 17th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

In response to Steve Ballmer’s prognostication that newspapers will be dead in less than 10 years, Bill Virgin of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer counters with a prediction that Microsoft will be dead in 10 years.

Ballmer’s original statement was: “There will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network,” Steve Ballmer told The Washington Post. “There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form.”

Bill Virgin finds such sweeping statements tiresome, and strikes back, writing “A far more compelling and convincing business case can be built to support the view that Microsoft will be kaput in 10 years than to expect the extinction of the American newspaper in a decade.”

He elaborates: “Even the core business could wind up being a bit shaky. Windows still dominates in personal-computer operating systems, but even Microsoft isn’t thrilled with Vista; Apple is slowly moving from a few niches to greater acceptance in the corporate world and Linux or something similar could grab more market share.” And their forays into other businesses have been mostly unsuccessful, requiring significant subsidies to continue operating.

In short, it seems more and more likely that Microsoft’s influence will wane and perhaps even disappear, so Bill Virgin’s prediction isn’t all that crazy at all. And he doesn’t even mention OpenOffice or OpenDocument Format, and their emancipating effects on the industry!


June 16th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The OLPC project has an active community right here in New York City. This past weekend they held a “Grassroots Jam” event including a code sprint to develop a new server for the platform:

“According to LXNY secretary Jay Sulzberger, the server will provide “automatic backups, end-to-end encryption and authentication of email, extra processing power for individual and group tasks, convenient Bitfrosting (working with the default OLPC security platform), and [working] with programs which today do not yet run on the XO-1 [laptop].”

See more information on the Grassroots Jam at the OLPC wiki site.