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Linux Identity on 3.2

April 5th, 2010 Benjamin Horst

Linux Identity has released its annual special issue, and I can happily announce that I’ve written four articles in this one. My pieces include the editorial/intro to the issue, new features in Calc, web based resources for OOo, and popular and useful extensions.

You can order a copy from the Linux Identity web store or pick it up in Border’s bookstores.

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.

Groklaw on Oracle-Sun

April 22nd, 2009 Benjamin Horst

With all the press about the Oracle buyout of Sun this week (and not much information for those of us watching closely), I turn to Groklaw for intelligent analysis.

No one really knows how it will shake out, but at this point all we can do is hope for the best.

JavaFX 1.0 Launches

December 11th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Sun recently released the 1.0 version of JavaFX, an open source Flash competitor, providing a “unified development and deployment model for building rich client applications that integrate immersive media including audio and video, graphics, rich text and web services.”

I would like to see an open source Flash competitor gain traction, even as Adobe has open sourced parts of Flash, although it feels less urgent now that the overuse and abuse of Flash–such as when it’s used to implement entire websites–has subsided. (I’ve also installed Flashblock in Firefox, to make pages load faster and eliminate the most annoying ad banners.)

We’ll see if JavaFX can make an impact on the market, and if it offers something interesting and unique beyond what Flash can already do.

Over 3 Million 3.0 Downloads in One Week

October 20th, 2008 Benjamin Horst 3.0 was released one week ago today. John McCreesh writes:

“From the official announcement on Monday 13th October at 09:00 UTC, to midnight on Sunday 20th October, 3.0 recorded an astonishing three million downloads via the Bouncer. That’s:

  • 221,230 GNU/Linux users (who might be considered obvious users of the world’s leading open-source office suite)
  • an impressive 320,622 Mac OS X users (enjoying with a Mac “look and feel” for the first time), and
  • a staggering 2,449,863 Microsoft Windows users.”

Another of John’s posts provides additional information and analysis.

“If you download from the download page, you will go via the Bouncer, and your download will be logged. These logs are the only figures we are able to quantify accurately, but they are a considerable underestimate of the actual number of downloads…”

So how many people are already using 3.0? No-one knows. We know that the Bouncer figures underestimate the number of downloads. We know the number of downloads is considerably less than the number of installed copies. So five million users already?”

The release of OOo 3.0 is definitely its biggest to date. The userbase is clearly expanding, and now Mac OS X can be a part of that, as in this first week its downloads represent a healthy piece of the total, at almost 11%.

Open Malaysia Blog Predicts MSOOXML’s Failure

September 3rd, 2008 Benjamin Horst

The Open Malaysia Blog predicts “OOXML won’t be accepted in South America.”

“In the International Congress of Society and Electronic Government (CONSEGI) 2008; Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay signed a joint declaration against the latest decision by ISO to ignore the appeals.

“They reiterate the issues of ISO “bending of rules” to fast track DIS29500, ignoring the contradictions with ODF, the growing and widespread use of ODF based applications in these countries, and questions the “vendor neutrality” of ISO, where its reputation and relevance is now suspect.”

If Microsoft’s plan was to create an international standard approved by ISO, they succeeded, barely. But both Microsoft and ISO took a great deal of collateral damage along the way to achieving this Pyrhhic victory, and may be in a worse strategic position than when the process began. MSOOXML is widely seen as a mere rubber-stamped fake standard, and the depths to which Microsoft sank in order to get its approval, as well as ISO’s failure to follow its own procedures, has sullied both organizations.

“Even though Microsoft may have gotten the ISO certification it desperately needed, the damage done has been considerable. The past two years brought together the international community, raised more awareness to real open standards than before, and unfortunately for them, pinpointed them as a common “enemy.” It looks like countries south of the equator have clearly indicated that OOXML will NOT be recognised as any form of government interoperability format.”


August 27th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

O3Spaces is a companion tool for users in need of collaboration space.

Offering document management and collaboration, it competes with programs like Alfresco and Sharepoint. O3Spaces focuses on interoperability with as well as Microsoft Office and StarOffice, but has focused on OOo first and foremost.

Free community versions of O3Spaces are available. (Packaged product versions, and support subscriptions are also available, as revenue sources which provide the company’s business model.)

RepRap: Open Source Meets Hardware

August 5th, 2008 Benjamin Horst

Readers of The Diamond Age and viewers of Star Trek: The Next Generation are familiar with the idea of replicators. Indeed, architects and product designers have been working them into their design and rapid prototyping processes already, yet the home market is still nascent.

A big step in making replicators as ubiquitous as personal computers was taken by tinkerers Adrian Bowyer and Vik Olliver when they built the RepRap, a rapid-prototyper capable of replicating itself.

A particularly great feature of their work is the licensing model they have chosen: open source. Their stated goal is “to develop and to give away the designs for a much cheaper machine with the novel capability of being able to self-copy (material costs are about €500). That way it’s accessible to small communities in the developing world as well as individuals in the developed world. Following the principles of the Free Software Movement we are distributing the RepRap machine at no cost to everyone under the GNU General Public Licence. So, if you have a RepRap machine, you can make another and give it to a friend…”

This is going to be extraordinary!

RepRap connected to an Ubuntu Linux machine.


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.