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OpenOffice 3.1 Feature Overview

April 28th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

With 3.1 due for release very soon (I’m not exactly sure when), the 3.1 Features page has gone live, explaining what improvements and additions are in store.

You can download a release candidate of 3.1 now, which has been very stable for me.

Lots of features have been added across all of the OOo components, so check it out now to whet your appetite for the coming release of OpenOffice 3.1!

Tor: Protecting Political Speech Online

April 27th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

MIT’s Technology Review discusses the importance of anonymity software to political speech online, where it can save people in repressive regimes the threat of prison, or worse, for expressing their opinions on government and culture on the internet.

Dissent Made Safer discusses Tor and its importance for political dissidents in Zimbabwe, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries.

Tor is an open-source Internet anonymity system–one of several systems that encrypt data or hide the accompanying Internet address, and route the data to its final destination through intermediate computers called proxies. This combination of routing and encryption can mask a computer’s actual location and circumvent government filters; to prying eyes, the Internet traffic seems to be coming from the proxies. At a time when global Internet access and social-networking technologies are surging, such tools are increasingly important to bloggers and other Web users living under repressive regimes.

Many pages of detailed information should satisfy your curiosity about Tor–and perhaps even encourage you to install and use it, in order to support those whose lives could depend on it.

Ubuntu 9.04 Hits the Streets

April 23rd, 2009 Benjamin Horst

That’s right, today is the release day for Ubuntu 9.04, Jaunty Jackalope!

Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. It contains all the applications you need – a web browser, presentation, document and spreadsheet software, instant messaging and much more.

One of the most user-friendly Linux distributions, Ubuntu’s combination of an attractive user interface, strong community of developers and users, and backing by a well-capitalized company (and leader), have pushed it to the forefront in recognition and into a true competitor to the longstanding dominance of Windows and other closed-source software.

Further, as a small taste of what the future will bring, the agility of open source is demonstrated by the quick creation of a mature netbook-tailored version in the Ubuntu Netbook Remix.

Open Source for Washington State?

April 20th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Josh Dressel, an employee of Washington State has begun reviewing, discussing and analyzing the potential impact of a migration to open source (especially and Zimbra) as a way to save his department money and prevent impending layoffs.

ZDNet discusses Dressel’s efforts on Dana Blankenhorn’s blog and seems concerned his efforts may put him at risk to lose his job.

Dressel has expanded his proposal to using Zimbra as well as OpenOffice, which he says will save $1.8 million. Zimbra would replace the department’s present Exchange Server, OpenOffice would replace Microsoft Office.

He says the initial cost of doing all this is not monetary, but staff time, and the department has staff. He concludes, “The status of IT at the DNR is we continue to be a Microsoft shop without any sound data to back staying this course.”

It will be interesting to see if Dressel’s name is on the lay-off list, and whether the local press picks up on his crusade.

Open Source Games: Widelands

April 15th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Widelands is an open source real-time strategy game, inspired by Settlers I and II.

The screenshots look good, and I’m downloading the game now and hope to try playing it over the next weekend.

Hungary and Tatarstan Choose FOSS

April 13th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Our friend Christian Einfeldt reports on Slashdot that Hungary and Tatarstan (in Russia) have made strategic moves to adopt Free and Open Source Software.

On April 2, the Hungarian government announced that it will be modifying its procurement rules to mandate that open source procurement funding match expenditures for proprietary software, according to Ferenc Baja, deputy minister for information technology. In Tatarstan, a Republic of 3.8 million inhabitants, the Deputy Minister of Education announced that by the end of this school year, all 2,400 educational institutions in Tatarstan will have completed a transition to GNU/Linux, following a successful pilot program it rolled out in 2008.

With the 2010 annual conference to be held in Budapest, Hungary, this is especially timely news.

101 Great Open Courseware Projects

April 10th, 2009 Benjamin Horst posted a list of 101 Killer Open Courseware Projects from Around the World: Ivy League and Beyond.

The following list of 100 open courseware projects are designed to offer readers access to supplementary materials for education. They are free (hence “open”) and available to anyone who has access to the Internet. The downside to these courseware projects is that you cannot earn credits; however, a few colleges do offer tuition-paying students a chance to earn credits by completing some projects online.

The list is quite sizable and not organized into subcategories (though each entry is annotated), so there’s still work to do if you want to understand it and choose a program and/or individual courses.

To my knowledge, the one university that created Open Courseware and appears to have placed all of its 1,800 courses online, deserves special mention. That university is MIT.

Many other great resources make this list essential to bookmark. Enjoy! 3.1 with 100 Languages

April 7th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Frank Mau writes Pootle and, in which he discusses continued refinements to the translation tools available for OOo native language communities. Among those tools is Pootle, which helps to manage translation project teams.

Of interest to the whole community, is the vast breadth of translations that have already been completed for the development branch of OpenOffice 3.1. Mau announces: 3.1 is knocking on the door and we are proud to deliver more languages than ever before. I’ve seen near by 100 full install-sets for m5 testing! Great to see this engagement by the community, big thanks to everyone.

Open Video Conference

April 2nd, 2009 Benjamin Horst

This June 19th and 20th, New York City will play host to the Open Video Conference.

Open Video is a broad based movement of video creators, technologists, academics, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, activists, remixers, and many others. When most folks think of “open,” they think of open source and open codecs. They’re right—but there’s more to Open Video than open codecs. Open Video is the growing movement for transparency, interoperability, and further decentralization in online video. These qualities provide more fertile ground for independent producers, bottom-up innovation, and greater protection for free speech online.

As important as the openness of HTML and web protocols, is the importance of open video, for the future of the web. The web’s greatest strengths include decentralization and the free playing field provided by open standards and open formats. As video becomes ever more intrinsic and central to the web and internet, it’s of great importance that the founding values of these media are maintained and strengthened.

The Open Video Conference, organized in part by the Miro project, should be a milestone in ensuring we achieve this future.

More on Document Freedom Day

March 27th, 2009 Benjamin Horst

Sadly, I missed the date of Document Freedom Day and can now only write about it after the fact.

Document Freedom Day is an effort to promote open standards and free document formats, to combat vendor lock-in and monopoly abuse in software markets.

Red Hat Magazine covered the event and the movement in Happy Document Freedom Day, posted on Wednesday (March 27, when Document Freedom Day was held this year):

Document Freedom Day promotes open formats so that users can freely exchange their data no matter what software program they choose to use. Complete interoperability is the ultimate goal of those who support open standards.

Public documents stored on closed, proprietary formats require citizens to pay twice to access information that already belongs to them, once for the document creation, and again to access them.  There is also the danger of losing the information stored in those formats should the vendors go out of business, or decide that they no longer want to maintain that technology. Proponents of open document formats believe all public information should be stored using open standards accessible to all.