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Neelie Kroes on Open Standards

June 13th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Neelie Kroes is an EU bureaucrat well-known to the open source and tech communities, because she is the relentless force bringing Microsoft’s monopolistic abuses to justice:

“Ms. Kroes has fought bitterly with Microsoft over the last four years, accusing the company of defying her orders and fining it nearly 1.7 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, on the grounds of violating European competition rules.”

The New York Times reports on Kroes’ recent suggestion that businesses and governments use open standards and avoid being tied to a single software supplier:

“Her comments were the strongest recommendation yet by Ms. Kroes to jettison Microsoft products, which are based on proprietary standards, and to use rival operating systems to run computers.

“I know a smart business decision when I see one — choosing open standards is a very smart business decision indeed,” Ms. Kroes told a conference in Brussels. “No citizen or company should be forced or encouraged to choose a closed technology over an open one.”

She also encouraged the Netherlands (her home country) to continue moving toward open standards, and praised government agencies in Germany and France that have already done so (by migrating to Linux and/or

The EU is fast escaping Microsoft’s orbit, and they may leapfrog the USA in this round of global techno-competition. Their large-scale adoption of open source will strengthen many software projects, and that will benefit software users around the world.

OpenOffice PDF Import Extension

June 12th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The famous OpenOffice PDF Importer Extension is now available in beta form for 3.0, announces Erwin Tenhumberg (among others).

From its home on the extensions website: “The PDF Import Extension allows modifying existing PDF files for which the original source files do not exist anymore. PDF documents are imported in Draw and Impress to preserve the layout and to allow basic editing. It is the perfect solution for changing dates, numbers or small portions of text.”

Not all features are complete yet, but this is a major step forward in providing very useful capabilities to OOo users.

Erwin also highlights the cool Hybrid PDF capability it provides, and which I’ve written about recently:

“Once the extension is installed, the PDF export feature shows a new option at the bottom as well. With the Sun PDF Import Extension, allows creating so-called “hybrid files”. These are PDF files that also include the ODF content, i.e. the original source document. As a consequence, everybody can view these hybrid files with a simple PDF viewer. However, users can also edit these PDF files without any information loss, since will simple recognize and open the ODF content instead of trying to import the PDF information.”

Success Stories of Free Software in Schools

June 11th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

From a post on EdTech, I was introduced to a collection of Success Stories of Free Software in Schools.

They have collected a number of links to articles about Linux adoption in schools, and also note adoptions of Moodle and other FOSS apps.

This reminds me, I have not been keeping my open source adoptions page updated lately, but it’s tough to keep track as so many places are now making the switch! (And there are many listings on the major deployments wiki page to keep track of too.)

Firefox Poised to Take 20% Marketshare

June 10th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Firefox continues its growth into a true powerhouse. TG Daily writes, “Browser war gets uglier as Firefox is set to grab 20% share.” (By uglier, I interpret the article to mean, “more intense.”)

While Firefox is growing, so too is Safari. Yet Internet Explorer continues to fade:

“The most recent browser market share numbers released by Net Applications confirm further Firefox and Safari gains at the expense of Internet Explorer. According to the research firm, Mozilla is likely to hit a milestone this month by capturing one fifth of the browser market. A closer look, however, reveals that browser makers are using sophisticated strategies to aggressively push their browsers onto computers. It seems that the browser wars are heating up once again.”

In other good news, the browser market shift is also tied to a platform shift. Mac OS X is gaining marketshare against Windows, which brings more users to Safari and Firefox too:

“Another factor contributing to the rise of Safari and Firefox at the expense of IE comes from Mac market share growth. As more people switch to Macs, they use Safari or Firefox. Mac market share gains appear to directly translate to Safari browser gains and, to a smaller part, to Firefox for Mac.”

IBM Lotus Symphony 1.0 Released

June 9th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

IBM Lotus Symphony is IBM’s office suite derived from and the Eclipse Rich Client Platform. The same tools are also available as a part of Lotus Notes 8.0+, but Symphony is the standalone version of the word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications that use ODF as their native file format.

The first betas of Symphony were released in September 2007, and have been downloaded over one million times. With the release of version 1.0, IBM’s business strategy has also been revealed: the software is free, but support options are available for companies who’d like to pay.

LinuxWorld interprets this move as a direct challenge to Microsoft’s ‘heartland’ in its article “IBM Releases ODF-Based Office Killer.”

Ebizq sees it as an indicator that ODF has reached maturity, with its already widespread implementation in OpenOffice now augmented by an enterprise product from one of the world’s largest IT companies: “Open Document Format (ODF) comes of age today as IBM announces the commercial-grade, general availability of Lotus Symphony, a suite of free, ODF-based software tools for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations.”

IBM is also using Symphony as a core part of a new stack of Lotus software aimed at small businesses called IBM Lotus Foundations, which looks very interesting itself.

ISO Battle Isn’t Over

June 6th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The highly irregular and foolishly mistaken decision of the ISO to approve Microsoft OOXML as a standard does not appear to be over yet. Groklaw is following the aftermath, in which already four countries are appealing OOXML’s ISO approval.

Groklaw quotes ZDNet: “After the two-month appeal period, we now have four appeals — Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela,” Jonathan Buck, the director of communications for IEC, told on Monday. “The appeals are now with our CEOs, IEC General Secretary Ronnie Amit, and ISO Secretary General Alan Bryden, who have a 30-day period to make sure appeals conform to directives.”

Other countries, such as Denmark, have found problems but their standards bodies did not make formal appeals.

Quite possibly, we’re in the midst of a market shift as ODF continues to gain traction globally while MSOOXML stalls and sputters.

Eee Could Sell 10 Million Units Next Year

June 5th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Asustek, creator of the innovative and highly-popular ultra mobile Linux-based “Eee PC,” expects to double its sales next year (2009) to 10 million units. (Some models now use Windows XP instead of Linux, unfortunately.)

The Linux versions all include OpenOffice, which means millions of copies being distributed to new users around the world.

The new market it has defined, “ultra mobile PCs” is also set to explode: “The company, which had previously estimated that it would sell 5 million Eee PCs this year, forecasts low-cost PC sales are set to hit 20-30 million units globally in 2009, Asustek’s Chief Executive Jerry Shen told reporters.”

Many other companies have introduced Eee competitors, collecting marketshare on the margins, but the good news is that most of them also offer Linux as the default (or at least an optional) OS.

Import and Edit PDFs with

June 4th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Andrew Ziem, of Ninja, writes about OpenOffice’s upcoming PDF importing and hybrid PDF capabilities.

The capability will be delivered as an extension and will let you open and edit any PDF. It also supports a new format called a Hybrid PDF, which can be displayed by PDF viewers but edited by ODF editors.

Ziem gives credit where it’s due with regard to editing PDFs: “ did not pioneer PDF import—not even in the open source market. Some of the work in is done by xpdf, a PDF viewer. To import PDFs, open source alternatives include pdftohtml, Abiword, KWord, and Inkscape. Adobe Acrobat Reader includes a text extractor and an image scraper, and there are a host of commercial applications. What makes stand out is hybrid PDFs.”

Hybrid PDFs provide the best of both worlds: consistent display anywhere via its PDF component, and editability via its ODF component.

“Most applications (such as Adobe Acrobat Reader) ignore the ODF bits and treat the whole hybrid file as a normal PDF. Presentation is pixel perfect. Wait. That’s not all. 3.0 with this extension treats the hybrid as a normal ODF, so the ODF document opens in Writer, Impress, Calc, or Draw according on the original. (You didn’t just expect Writer, did you?) Now you have lossless, editable, round-trip PDFs.”

The extension is still in development, but will be available on the OOo Extensions site when it’s ready for mass deployment.

Two Ubuntu Links from ZaReason

June 3rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

ZaReason‘s weekly newsletter alerted me to two interesting articles on Ubuntu last week.

  • It’s Time to Retire ‘Ready for the Desktop‘” writes Jeremy LaCroix for (“The fact is, there are just as many people out there who have difficulty using Windows as there are who have trouble using Linux.”)
  • Joey Stanford writes about his new Eee PC 900, on which ZaReason installed Ubuntu 8.04 for him. (“On the order form it says Xandros but I mentioned in a comment that it would soon be running Ubuntu. Within two minutes of placing the order they replied saying they can put a basic Ubuntu install on it, so I said “heck yeah!”. So, today when I opened it up, it booted Ubuntu out of the box. :-)”

OpenOffice Migration of the Week: Aizuwakamatsu City, Japan

June 2nd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Kazunari Hirano mentions this week’s OpenOffice Migration of the Week: the Aizuwakamatsu City Government in Fukushima Prefecture in Japan, which is moving 850 computers from Microsoft Office to

The city expects direct savings of 15 million yen over the next five years, and anticipates the benefits will spill over into the private sector, as citizens will also be able to adopt open source instead of expensive applications at home:

“The Mayor said that they can not only cut the cost but also accommodate the long-term preservation of their documents: “We often met problems with the latest office software to open and read our documents created in the past. But now we can use the international standard file format, ODF, so that we will be able to use and preserve our documents over many years.”

“It happened that our citizens had to buy the office software when they received documents from the city government.”

“ODF, which can be used from the free software,, will help reduce the burden on our citizens,” he said.