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Author: charles (12:35 pm)
I was in a rush these last days and I forgot to provide several news updates:
OpenOffice.org 2.0 beta 2 is released! Use it with caution, but above all, have fun!
(NB: for those under Debian, I'm available if you wish to test it and install it, as there are special instructions...)
OpenOffice.org will have its OOoCON in Koper/Capodistria, Slovenia, from the 28th to the 30th of september 2005!
More on all this here: www.openoffice.org
And in a move that will please many and solve some issues we had with license visibility and rogue distributors, OpenOffice.org will now only use the LGPL license, leaving aside the SISSL from Sun.
More on this topic here:
Have a great week-end!
Author: charles (7:07 am)
If you happen to be often at pains explaining to your neighbors or friends what's so cool and so strategic about open file formats, and especially about Open Document, the OASIS, European Union, soon ISO-standard file format for documents, then this site, designed by the marketing guru and OpenOffice.org spin doctor Erwin Tenhumberg is made for you:
More exactly, it's made for all kinds of people who are not familiar with the struggle for open file formats and who may want to know more about this. It's simple, clear and effective. Don't spread the Word, spread Open Document!
Author: charles (6:24 am)
I'm very happy to announce that OOo 2.0 will let you import native SVG on the Open Draw Document (the OpenOffice.org Drawing module) and export it afterwards.
This move will satisfy the needs of may people, artists, designers or others who wanted to manipulate SVG files through OpenOffice.org but who couldn't.
For more info and if you want to help, go to : http://gsl.openoffice.org
Author: charles (7:12 am)
2004 and 2005 have seen an outstanding growth in the adoption of Free and Open Source Software (FLOSS) . Two projects have contributed in an important way to this success.
First of all, the release of the open source browser Firefox by the Mozilla Foundation has not only put an halt in the influence of Microsoft on the Internet browser market. It has also stirred an adverse movement leading to an estimasted 10% market share for Firefox and as a result, a bigger adoption by people who were not members of the FLOSS community before. Firefox has been a success because it was marketed, targeted towards the average end users and it worked. 10% and maybe more is a number that speaks for itself.
Second, the release of Ubuntu Linux has been and is instrumental in the adoption on Linux on the desktop for private end-users (corporate desktop still needs more time).
Ubuntu is essentially clean and easy-to-use Debian distro for the desktop. Thanks to Mark Shuttleworth and its foundation, free copies of Ubuntu are sent all over the world to anybody requesting it. Ubuntu is special and distinguishes from other distros in two ways. First of all, this distribution has gotten new users from many other existing and established distributions such as Mandriva. As a result, Ubuntu now ranks #1 on the Distrowatch's distros' charts, replacing Mandriva's leadership that had remained unchanged for almost three years.
But Ubuntu also chased other, brand bew Linux newbies, people who used Windows before but who were just waiting for a way to migrate easily.
The same effect has been observed for OpenOffice.org, albeit in a less intense way, but next year may see a similar rate of adoption for OpenOffice.org with its 2.0 release.
There is however a side-effect to these three successes. Those three software projects are, contrary to others, such as the Linux kernel, the X.org projects, end users projects. The software that is developped on Mozilla, Ubuntu and OpenOffice.org is not targeted for people using Emacs like others drink milk at breakfast (no pun intended). What this means is that the population of these communities is now rapidly changing due to their success.
We don't see so many people who are CLI-gods or traditionnal powerusers. There are fewer "nerds" or "geeks", fewer hardcore developpers. It's not that they leave these projects, but the mass of new users flocking these communities has started to dwarf them.
There is nothing wrong of course with getting new users for FLOSS software.
Where things start to get new and special is in the attitude of these new users.
These people tend to behave more like customers than usual community members.
The greatest majority of them believe in the values of the FLOSS communities, but they don't commit themselves as much as the others. They have a vague perception of our cause although they agree with it, they have a vague notion of the community although they feel part of it, and they have an even vaguer notion of software development, although most feel like they should have a say in it.
Let's move away from the old and rather established notion according to which "the one who codes is the one who calls the shots". These new users are at pain understanding this. They want eveything easy, everything with bells and whistles and so long for the way the internal processes of the projects that usually work.
They want to eat and get served when they want it and if the project can't satisfy them, they're ready to fork the community. Of course, most of them can't fork the software, thanks to their lack of skills and knowledge.
These new users are forming a new class in our community. You may call them middle-class, I dare to call them bourgeoisie: weak foundations, shallow values mixed with a deep sense of self-comfort and self confidence.
That said, we've been all advocating for more ease-of-use, user-friendliness and bells and whistles for software. Indeed, FLOSS needs to grow in that direction if it wants to be ultimately successful. There seems however to be a price to pay for that: dealing with people who can't integrate very well with our community. The point is not divide the community between developpers and non-developpers. I know many people who don't code, but who write documentation, work on marketing and users support who belong to the community and not to the "middle class". It's just a problem of attitude, not a problem of status.
I'm confident however that things may get solved with time; surely and rather cynically, I'm confident that we'll see two kinds of communities. One will be the one we know, true to its roots, working on real projects and helping FLOSS. The other one will be made of this Bourgeoisie, with nicely laidout websites and forums (just like the other community) but with no ambitions, no leadership nor stewardship on the code, no real freedom except the one of belonging to a vaguely-identified communities of social values.
Things always tend to have two sides; I think we just found out that our community had its own ones too.
Author: charles (12:07 pm)
Something weird happened to me, my laptop and a remote server very recently. I hope you can help me understand what's been going on.
My company has a server on .org (www.arsaperta.org) that is intended to host FLOSS projects as a convenience for some communities (we have no involvement and no business with them).
The remote server runs Sarge, my laptop runs an etch (debian testing).
I access the server through ssh and I check what's on it; primarily, nothing. I run some apt-get installs and then I decide to add some new mirrors in case our local one (around Paris) fails.
Because I'm lazy, I won't edit the /etc/apt/sources.list with vi or gedit. I just run a nice apt utility called apt-setup. It's a ncurses interface allowing you to pick and and add new mirrors for Debian. The thing is this: it detects the distro you're on and then proposes the servers list accordingly. So I run apt-setup, add mirrors, and the morning after that, I discover with horror that the mirrors that were added were for Debian testing.... Now, we just stop the update process but I wonder how could I have possibly mess up the server while being on ssh? ssh tunnels you to the remote server and has no interaction with the local machine...
Author: charles (11:06 am)
Apologies for my rather long silence; I just spent some great vacations in Bulgaria, a country I had never visited before, and it was great. We even had that very pleasant mix of beach and culture, even though it was hard at first glance to get.
Today I'd like to tell you about the Croatian OpenOffice.org community. Or rather about the Croatian FLOSS community who needs more arms and volunteers!
They are in need of more volunteers working for OpenOffice.org but they released their localization of the Openoffice.or 2.0...
The community has three entry points:
Don't hesitate to contribute to Free Software in Croatia!
Author: charles (9:20 am)
Victory in Brussels, Horror in London, that's how I could best sum up this week for Europe.
I'll talk about London first. Some friends from France, UK, USA and other parts of the world are now telling me that we should get used to those terrorist attacks, as they will occur more and more frequently. Scary isn't it? And besides the horror of the London bombings, the fact that I'm living in Paris doesn't make it any less scary for me.
London and Paris are not very far from each other. It's like NYC and Washington, Tokyo and Osaka, SFO ad LA, Roma and Milano...
Both cities have the oldest subways in the world, and guess what, I'm using the submay (the metro) in Paris almost everyday. That's even scarier for me now!
In the midst of this tragedy, we had a victory though. When I say "we", I mean the FOSS community of course.
The draft of the Software Patents directive has been repealed and cancelled by the EU Parliament.
What this means however is not the "final victory" that so many of us expected.
On Wednesday morning, pro-patents MPs and lobbyists were working hard on the Parliament in order to repeal the draft. The fact is that 21 amendments had been previously added to the draft by anti-patents MPs and the outcome of such an amended text would have been the death of software patents in Europe.
By repealing the draft, the Pro-Patents lost a tactical battle that had its importance, but thy didn't lose the war.
What this means for us is that we have to stay aware more than ever. I'm expecting a hidden pro-patents text to be bundled with a non-important directive draft as soon as this summer or fall.
But this was some real good job, folks, and I'd like to express my thanks to the MPs who have stood against this directive and FOSS folks who have been battling heavily against it in Brussels and all over the EU.
Tough days are ahead, folks.
Author: charles (6:23 am)
A few days ago, Daniel Robbins, founder of the Gentoo distribution, left the Free Software Community for Microsoft.
He did that in a very clean way, though. He made sure to transfer every IP assets to the Gentoo Foundation before going to Redmond.
Now, the question we all had on our lips for more than one week was: "why the hell did he accept this job from Microsoft?"
Daniel's move is troubling. His job will officially help Microsoft better understand the Free Software world.
But why did he go to Microsoft when his resume was so self-speaking? He could have gotten hired by Novell, IBM, Sun or smaller companies...
I've heard that at some point Daniel got flabbergasted and couldn't make the two ends meet. Indeed, the Gentoo Foundation was accepting donations, and so he was kind of living on them, but it wasn't enough to feed his family.
So, here's what I think happened to Daniel. He suddenly faced one of the hard facts that few FOSS companies (or companies pretending to have a FOSS-based business) ackowledge: greed, jealousy, personal pressures, lack of focus, structural hypocrisy strain these businesses and as a result, fail to hire the best and when they do, usually do not manage to keep them hired for a long time.
I don't consider myself to be among the best. But I know dozens of people who are enfeoffed and recognized "hackers" (in the FSF sense) that are experiencing, or have experienced similar situations. I myself have been suffering from a position inside the OpenOffice.org community that made me find some jobs that were interesting on the paper but fell short of expectations when it came to the reality. Oh, to be sure, I may not have been very interested and productive when I was hired as a "Sales manager" by a Red Hat reseller and found myself in a ... call center calling prospects the entire day. Another experience also showed that people can get scared at the very idea that a "guy from the community" would come over and work with them. I worked once in a marketing dept from a very famous software vendor who is shifting its business model and coming to the "open source model" . The marketing director, who was my boss (and me his only assistant) started to make my life impossible because, and I learned that afterwards from his own boss, he was scared as hell to be fired because he didn't know anything about open source and I knew so much more than him...
So probably Microsoft turned out to be Daniel's right choice. I'm not mad at him finally. I understand and can imagine all these "nos" he went trough, all those "sorry but we don't really understand who you are" or even these" would you agree to put your name and your charisma at our service?".
Daniel went to work for a good employer.
I'm not going to work for Microsoft though. I was priviledged enough to keep the contact with my former bosses at MandrakeSoft, now Mandriva, and we have founded our own company, Ars Aperta . Our web site sucks but we'll fix it soon. We provide strategic consulting and advices on FOSS-related issues to large accounts, governments, and high-tech companies. We do not provide any technical expertise, only strategical studies and advices.
We went through all the paperwork and brainstorming since January, and we're now set up and operating since the very beginning of June. It's good to be his own boss. It's also risky. But there's more than comfort in life.
Author: charles (6:46 am)
I have to say that this time MS really managed to come up with something utterly... not genuine. Folks, you are watching one of the greatest example of the famous "Embrace and Extend" strategy from Microsoft.
A few days ago, this engineer from Microsoft wrote in his blog that the future MS Office 12 would use XML-based file formats. That is actually not supposed to be something new, because MS Office 2003 has wide XML capabilities (or so they say).
Reading through the blog, the OpenOffice.org community, myself, Sun, the FOSS community at large, and, what's maybe even more important, some renowned IT journalists and CIOs, discovered what seemed unthinkable even a week ago: MS is adopting open XML-file formats.
Hum! Wait, wasn't there a small project, called "open office" something, that has been using and developing an "open xml-based file format" for some years? Well, that sounds familiar to me and apparently to a great part of the IT press. But let's go on reading Brian's blog.
MS Office 12 will use an open XML format that is a ZIP archive. If you open any MS Office Document in the future, this means that you will be able to unzip it and inside you will find xml compressed xml files, such as "styles.xml, content.xml, author.xml, etc."
But there's more to it. According to Brian and Microsoft in general, these new file formats will have new extensions names.
For instance, you will have *.docx *.xlsx and *.pptx extensions for the new Word, Excel and Powerpoint versions. Other extensions will be used if the document contains VB macros. You will hence get "*.docm" or "*.xlsm" extensions for these documents.
What this means is that Microsoft wants to migrate its userbase to these new file formats that are, according to Redmond, open, compressed, robust, secure, backwards compatible and royalty-free. Now here you go. Microsoft is innovating. In the year 2005, it has announced that its next versions of Office would use an open, zipped, xml based file format, unlike OpenOffice.org, who, as everybody knows, doesn't use an open, OASIS-approved, standard, zipped and xml-based file format.
Is there something going on at Redmond?
I think there is. When asked about why Microsoft did not implement the OASIS standard for office file format (remember, it's called Open Document, but now that MS has a new one, I guess it doesn't matter anymore), Jean Paoli, an XML expert and MS executive answered that MS had a huge userbase to migrate, unlike Sun who managed to make a standard of its own file format.
Waow. Yet another good news for MS Office users! MS will provide a patch for every MS Office versions (Office 97, Office 2000, Office XP) that will allow them to migrate to the new file format smoothly. Is it too good to be true?
Wait for this one: OpenOffice.org shall have free access to the "Open XML" file format!
For the ones who are still not believing in MS's good faith and will to save humanity, I'd like to tell them that they are right.
I urge anybody interested to read the two .doc documents available for download on Brian Jones' blog. Aside being an outrageous apology for what OpenOffice.org has been working on for more than 4 years (some parts of the documents seem to be a copy and paste of the own OpenOffice.org's file format advocacy documents), one of the document mentions quickly that the license covering the use and the modifications of the MS Office XML reference schemas is the same that is applied for the ones of MS Office 2003 XML schemas. Basically, it means that it is a royalty-free proprietary license that can be tweaked and changed by MS anytime it wants and according to its wishes. Of course it's perpetual. But the devil is always in the details. Ultimately, you would have to use MS software to gain advantage of of all the XML schemas capabilities.
Now, MS doesn't play the "openness" game. I don't even ask them to play the open source game; but I think I have guessed what the folks at Redmond are up to. It's called "Embrace and Extend". They're going to position their new office suite as a complete XML editor, capable of doing much more than a mere office suite role.
In fact, in the fast-changing office market we are today, this positionning is smart and relevant. But in doing this, MS positions its office suite as a neutral but efficient tool to edit XML and manage content, while OpenOffice.org, an open office suite that already has the same capabilities, would be seen as a mere competitor to MS Office. By letting its competitors use and have a sneak peek to "open" XML reference schemas, MS tells its customers that they're just as open as OpenOffice.org, only more feature-rich and more customers-aware. Then, in a smart and sneaky pincer move, they will just leave the users decide what file format to use. MS or Open Document? You choose. But if both of them are open, then there's no need to use OpenOffice.org and Open Document any more. Just use MS software. Nobody ever got fired for making this choice, after all.
For the ones who are interested in this topic, check out here several documents on OpenOffice.org file format specs and compare them with the "new" MS file formats: http://xml.openoffice.org/general.html
Here you will find more info on Open Document, the new standard file format of the OASIS consortium that has worked with OpenOffice.org in order to release this file format (available in OpenOffice.org 2.0, KOffice, and more to come):
Don't hesitate to talk back to me. I will be happy to answer and spread the truth about this affair.
UPDATE: check out : http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2005/06/13/428655.aspx
Brian Jones is answering to the claims that the new MS file formats culd somehow be copied from Open Document file format. It's too good to be true...
Author: charles (9:45 am)
The third international OOoCon will be held this year from 28 to 30
September in Koper (Capodistria), Slovenia.
Make your plans now!
As in previous years, the conference will bring together developers
and distributors, users, businesses, and governments from all parts
of the globe. It's OpenOffice.org's major conference and should not
be missed. Thanks to the Slovenian and Italian teams for putting
together the winning proposal.
To learn more about the conference, go to
If you wish to sponsor or contribute assistance, send a message to:
* [email protected]
The OpenOffice.org Team"