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Bob Sutor: ODF is the Future

September 6th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

IBM employee and blogger Bob Sutor has been a strong champion of ODF and he weighs in this week on the victory at ISO with OOXML, the past. ODF, the future.

“Congratulations to all who worked to secure this result in the goal of high quality, non-vendor dictated open standards. The story is not over, of course, as the Ballot Resolution Meeting in February will attempt to get agreement on fixes to OOXML to make it acceptable. A lot will happen between now and then. Nevertheless, this was a truly historic vote and result.

But that was so yesterday.

What about tomorrow? Well, for starters, I predict we’ll see even more adoption of ODF by governments, large and small; by users, young and old; and organizations, both commercial and non-profit. We’ll see more active development and evolution of ODF within OASIS and all are welcome to participate in that. We especially invite Microsoft and others to lend their expertise to this important standardization effort.”

The ODF camp has always offered this olive branch to Microsoft, and even now offers them the chance to work together. What kind of corporate arrogance can have a company follow the path that Microsoft has with its recent MSOOXML efforts? Trying to hijack the international standards setting process to control it, when a perfectly usable, technically elegant, and completely apolitical format, ODF, is already available? It just does not make sense!

Cheers to Sutor and the entire world of ODF supporters for heading off this challenge and for the honest and fair way they have behaved through every step of it.

Groklaw: ISO Rejects MSOOXML

September 4th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Groklaw announces that Office Open XML is Disapproved.

“So what does it mean? If you try to fast track an unbaked format, tech folks will notice it’s not done yet.”

The official press release from the ISO confirmed it late on the morning of September 4:

“A ballot on whether to publish the draft standard ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology – Office Open XML file formats, as an International Standard by ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) has not achieved the required number of votes for approval.”

PJ also links to some of the press coverage, including this Wall Street Journal piece. (I could only read the intro, since I’m not a member…)

Zoho Writer Updated

August 28th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Zoho Writer, the online word processor with (in my opinion) the best interface, has recently released an update with support for comments and its first step toward offline support using the open source Google Gears framework.

Zoho’s blog covers the release in Offline Support & Comments in Zoho Writer.

“In Zoho Writer, you’ll now see a ‘Go Offline’ link on the top. Clicking on the link for the first time will prompt you to install Google Gears. Once the installation is complete (and your browser restarted), click on ‘Go Offline’ to make your documents (both personal and shared docs) available offline. By default 15 documents are downloaded to be available offline. You can change the options by clicking on the down arrow beside ‘Go Offline’ link to download more documents. To go back online, click on ‘Go Online’ and you’ll be redirected to the online version of Zoho Writer.”

Note that this version provides read-only mode while offline, with read-and-write offline capabilities planned for a later update.

Zoho Writer has a new comments feature as well. See their blog post linked above for a video demo.

Bug Beta Begins

August 23rd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Got a note from my friends at Bug Labs about the launch of their beta program.

“We need to test out the SDK, the environment, the interfaces, the APIs, and, yup, you guessed it, the hardware too. Now to set expectations right off the bat: we don’t have nearly enough units to go around (yet), so there’ll be quite a bit of testing in a software-only environment (which is a-okay, as we have a full emulator that gives you a Virtual BUG!). Also, we’re going to use a bit of a “staged” approach, so we will start small, then slowly expand the pool of testers as time goes on.”

For now, the units are scarce and the company needs to ramp up its ability to collect and process feedback, so they are wisely starting with a limited beta. You need to sign up on the site for consideration. But if you’re a hardware and software hacker with an idea for Bug’s modular platform, get on it!

Poland Against MSOOXML

August 21st, 2007 Benjamin Horst

I hate to keep writing about Microsoft, since the company is just not doing anything very interesting (in a positive sense) anymore. However, their vendetta against ODF does have a big impact on open data formats and their standardization around the world. So far, MS has delayed ODF’s triumph, but it has not and probably will not be able to stop the inevitable.

On that topic, another national standards body will probably be voting against OOXML standardization: Poland. announces a technical committee has voted by 80% against accepting MSOOXML as a standard.

It’s never quite this simple, and in fact, the original committee that produced this vote had been reduced to an advisory role. Now it’s on to another committee to make the final decision. Let’s hope they follow the first!

“Bug” In the Spotlight

August 15th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Last night New York City startup Bug Labs hosted an introductory meetup at Punch Restaurant‘s upstairs Wined Up bar.

Bug Labs founder Peter Semmelhack describes the company thus: “Bug Labs is developing BUG, an open, modular, consumer electronics web services + hardware platform. Designed for the general audience, not just the technically inclined, Bug seeks to bring to the world of hardware gadgets what the Internet, open source, XML and web services have brought to the world of software and media.”

Most of the online action is on the company blog, but last night Bug Labs showed its hardware publicly for the first time. Its product is a modular, Lego-like collection of hardware components and software infrastructure that you can attach together to dynamically build specialty devices to service the long tail of product users’ needs.

Marketing chief Jeremy showed off three circuit boards plugged together, in size and shape totaling about the same as a video iPod. The base board contained the primary Bug device, while the other two, each half the length of the first, were an accelerometer/motion detector and a camera, respectively. Plugged together in this configuration, Jeremy held in his hand a security monitoring system.

When product launch occurs in the fall, many other modules will be available, including GPS, cell phone, LCD screens, keyboard and more. Bug Labs will target hackers and hobbyists first, and then when a collection of third-party applications have added consumer value to the product ecosystem, they’ll be able to make sales to normal consumers too.

With a few other organizations making moves into the world of open source or modular hardware, including OpenMoko, the OLPC, Drobo, and (sort of) the Nokia Maemo platform, it looks like a new, dynamic and fascinating market segment could be on its way to emergence. Let’s hope it brings the enormous benefits of open source communities to the hardware world that FOSS has brought to software already!

Chandler Project High Level Vision

July 25th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

OSAF has outlined the high level vision of its Chandler PIM on the new project website. (Built using TWiki, incidentally.)

One particular goal that stands out to me is described as “Peeling the Onion: Process information iteratively. Define what an item is over time.” This would work very well for me, so I am looking forward to the Preview Release scheduled for August. And that’s just one of a long list of new workflow ideas that OSAF has built into Chandler.

The deep thinking behind Chandler’s development has revealed a number of problems with the way things are done today. Among the most intractable, “There is a basic assumption that information management tasks are binary. Are you Done or Not Done? Most productivity software fail to accommodate the iterative way people work with information and provide poor support for keeping track of everything in between TO-DO and DONE.”

And the overarching goal of OSAF is to redefine the way PIM-like software is used in today’s multi-project, multi-team working environments. “Our hope is that by modeling the user experience around how people work today and the substance of that work, we can be more than just another software tool and instead aspire to be a system for information management: A smarter way to work. A better environment for collaboration. And an addictive habit that’s hard to break.”

Miro Arrives

July 19th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Miro is the paradigm-changing, web, Bittorrent, and RSS-enabled video player application for all three major platforms, formerly known as “Democracy Player.”

As the primary project of the Participatory Culture Foundation, its goal is very lofty: to ensure that when television migrates to the internet, it is available in an open format, open source, open access form. This notion could fundamentally change web television in ways that make it far more egalitarian and far more democratic and far more interesting than the corporate product delivered today.

Accompanying its recent name change and version update (just shy of 1.0, they are being cautious in using that moniker), I’ve started a Facebook group on behalf of the project to help in its marketing efforts. It’s an open group, so please join in and contribute there!

Get Miro

StarOffice Built-in on Singapore Airlines

May 17th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

A quick screenshot gives a good example of the flexibility that FOSS software (and its derivatives) can provide. While I might be slightly more excited if the following link were for OpenOffice itself, StarOffice is a cool application and an important “distro” of the core OOo code.

See Chhandomay’s StarOffice 8 in Singapore Airlines.

Open Source Social Networking with Mugshot

May 11th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

A new project coming from Red Hat’s skunkworks is Mugshot, an open source social networking tool. reviews Mugshot and finds it an effective meta social networking tool with some interesting and unique characteristics.

“Mugshot provides a single entry point to popular social networking tools such as Flickr, Google Reader, Blogger, Digg,, Picasa, YouTube, and others. Your Mugshot account page allows you to easily add Web services for use with your Mugshot page; all you have to do is to provide your account information for each service. Your Mugshot user page then acts as a kind of aggregator that watches the configured services and provides notifications when they are updated. For example, if you specify the URL of your blog, Mugshot will automatically add the recent blog posts to your Mugshot page. Enable and configure your Flickr account, and Mugshot adds your photos to the Mugshot page and provides notifications when you add new photos. If you choose to enable the Digg and services, your Mugshot page will display the articles you dugg and recent bookmarks.”

ClaimID offers a similar service (in some ways), oriented toward consolidating all of your online identities in one place, with fewer of the social networking tools like Mugshot’s “swarm” feature.

Managing multiple social networking site profiles, and claiming and controlling the constellation of online content you’ve made, looks to be a new opportunity for companies to develop new web applications, tools, and services.