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Munich gets it right

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

The fact that the German city of Munich has been using their own version of Linux and Free/Open Source Software in its municipal day-to-day workings is not news. It’s also no secret that the city of Munich was also saving money in the bargain as well, as the Lord Mayor (yeah, they have those in Munich) reported to the council; a savings of around 4 million euros, by the Lord Mayor’s estimation, according to a March 2012 report.

The problem is that the Lord Mayor was a little off — about 6 million euros off, as a matter of fact.

An article in The H last week reported that the savings to the city of Munich, thanks to its home-grown LiMux Linux operating system and FOSS programs like OpenOffice, have saved with German city 10 million euros.

The article itself breaks down the savings very nicely, and I don’t want to get into the OpenOffice/LibreOffice debate here (though, arguably, they can use LibreOffice just as easily, in my opinion, and they’d be better off doing so).

But what it comes down to is this: If Linux and FOSS can save a city like Munich this much money, how much could it save the cash-strapped cities, counties — heck, even states and this nation — by implementing Linux and FOSS at various government levels? This is not a new question, and I know groups like Code for America get it.

Armed with this information from Munich, it’s probably a good time to ask this question at city council halls far and wide.

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy, Larry the CrunchBang Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Odds and sods

June 11, 2011 1 comment

Linux for the GNU South — it’s going on right now (if you’re reading this the day the blog appears).

Yep, that title — also the name of an album by the Who — is what the British (and, I would imagine, our Canadian neighbors) call bits and pieces; which is what we’re going to talk about today since this week was full of news and I have been staring at my living room thinking, “How the &@%*! am I going to move all this stuff?”

A difference of opinion, or . . . ? Ken Hess writes on ZDNet an item about businesses going (or maybe not going) completely virutal here, but wait — maybe you should keep one or two just in case the cloud dissipates. Contrast this laugher to Caitlyn Martin’s response here, where she calls this “the most ridiculous article I’ve read in a very long time.” Me? I side with Caitlyn — clearly. This is not the first head-scratcher Hess has produced, nor will it probably be the last. A corollary to this is Andy Updegrove’s ominous look at a “cloud-free” future forced upon us here.

Dead horse, meet foot: I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the OpenOffice.org transfer by Oracle to Apache. I’d like to think something good will come of this, but I think that since joining the two projects seems to be all but impossible (for a couple of good reasons, but some not so good), we can thank the suits at Oracle for screwing up an outstanding FOSS project. Meanwhile, for all those who have an interest in keeping what OO.o started going in the right direction, get right over to the Document Foundation and pitch in.

Name, rank, and serial . . . OK, just your name will do: First, thanks for all those who liked the list blog that ran this week. I need to point out a matter of personal policy on this blog: I don’t post responses that are anonymous or come from someone named/called/nicknamed “anonymous” or any variety thereof (i.e., “anon”). I bring this up because I have got responses from people who wouldn’t name themselves — two excellent responses that I would like to post — and I’ve written each of them to ask them to identify themselves so I can post their comments. Initials would work.

Well, I should stop stalling and start packing up.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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Like a box of chocolates

June 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Linux for the GNU South — it’s coming up so attend if you can.

A glorious day indeed, filled with a variety of thoughts: While I was out enjoying it, I got to thinking about both the grand-scheme and minutiae goings-on in FOSSland, much of which has everyone asnitter moreso than atwitter.

There’s the OpenOffice.org handoff — or as some would put it, the OO.o drop kick — to the Apache Foundation by Oracle. This comes as no surprise. If Oracle were a good FOSS citizen, they’d have given it to the Document Foundation and LibreOffice would be its rightful heir. But this is Oracle we’re talking about, right? With Oracle finally washing their hands of OO.o, it remains to be seen what becomes of it. But since the barn door has been open for quite some time and the LibreOffice horse is at home out in the pasture, I am not sure if keeping OO.o around would be worth it.

Incidentally, LibreOffice is an outstanding program which kicks serious butt, just as OpenOffice.org did, and it’s nothing short of miraculous that the fork hasn’t missed a beat in transitioning from OO.o. So far, that’s the story of the year for 2011. I use it. I like it. I’m in their camp.

Walking among the redwoods, it’s hard to be annoyed at the new desktop wars: Not GNOME versus KDE, but the systematic “simplicity” of desktop environments like GNOME 3 and Unity. For netbooks and other mobile user interfaces, this may work and may be necessary. I don’t use netbooks or smart phones — I use a desktop or a laptop, and I’d like my desktop environment to look and function like a one. Call me old school, but desktops like KDE — which I’m using more and more as of late — and Xfce are looking better and better.

Also, I don’t assume that people who are new to Linux are complete morons who need a dumbing down of the desktop environment to convince them to join the ranks of FOSS users. But that’s me.

Finally, I live in a great area at the western foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the small range that separates the ocean from the Silicon Valley east of here. Not only is the proximity of the Valley a boon, but another of many perks in living here is having folks in the area like Cabrillo College networking professor and Cisco author Rick Graziani. Rick is opening his IPv6 seminars this month to the public — “Everyone is welcome! You do not have to be a former or a current student. All you need is to have an interest in learning more about IPv6 and don’t mind listening to me for a couple of hours,” Rick writes (though prior knowledge of IPv4 is required).

The talks are Thursday, June 23 — Intro to IPv6 — and Friday, June 24 — Intro to Routing IPv6 — at the horticultural building room 5005 at Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. Both talks run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

You do need to RSVP to Rick at graziani-at-cabrillo-dot-edu to attend. Tell him Larry the Free Software Guy sent you.

Forrest — Forrest Gump — was right: You never know what you’ll get.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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Too nice outside to blog

June 7, 2011 3 comments

Linux for the GNU South — it’s coming up so attend if you can.

Make no mistake: There’s a lot out there to write about, obviously — The OpenOffice.org handoff to Apache, the trials and tribulations of desktop environments and their continual dumbing-down for the dumbest of us, and other stuff. I’ll get to that later, as well as those in Santa Cruz getting a treat later this month with networking professor Rick Graziani from Cabrillo College taking time from the surf — the real surf, with a surfboard as opposed to a motherboard — to explain IPv6 to us.

I still have a few scripts and assorted code, with the Python book close at hand, which will someday be a Facebook app called “Lifeville” — it tells you that you’re spending too much time on the computer, gives you two minutes to save what you’re doing, signs you out of Facebook and then a minute later (just in case you forgot something) shuts down your computer — but not before giving you a message: “Do you use your powers for good or for awesome?” That last quote comes from Fedora Ambassador mentor and all-around good guy, the soon-to-be Rev. Scott Williams.

So despite the weather being quite screwy — even here, at least until today — if you look out your window and see it’s a nice day and the only thing you’re doing right now is reading this blog or being involved in some other frivilous digital endeavor (wait, let me rephrase that . . . .), shut down your computer and get outside.

I’ll make you a deal: If you are lucky enough to have a nice day and you have the time to go outside, I promise to blog later on regaring the items above. I’d do it now, but the day here is too nice.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation. He is also one of the founders of the Lindependence Project.)
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Down on the farm(ers market) with Linux

July 17, 2010 1 comment

Colonel Panik, my good friend and constant commenter to this blog, asked me to give you all some insights about what we’re finding at the Felton Farmers Market every Tuesday.

An order is an order, and Bob does outrank me.

So here’s what we’re finding in Felton:

More people are using Linux than come to the Felton LUG meeting: We’ve encountered roughly a dozen people in two weeks who live in Felton who use Linux who we’ve never seen at a meeting. My oft-echoed question, “Have you heard of Linux?” has been met with a constant “Yes,” and many of the people who have, and who have used (or are using) it are already using Ubuntu. I like to think this has something to do with the Lindependence events back in 2008, not to mention the Software Freedom Day events we’ve had here since 2007, but there’s no hard evidence to back this up. It’s just a hunch.

Most people are looking for digital alternatives: There are only a handful of people — I can only think of two in two weeks that we’ve had the table — that have no interest in FOSS after explaining what it is. In fact, a lot of people are looking for alternatives to the laundry list of maladies that accompany their daily Windows experience. In fact, easing them into FOSS with the OpenCD is a good way to introduce them to programs like OpenOffice.org and GIMP, and eventually we can get them to change operating systems to something — oh, I don’t know — free as in freedom and price?

“. . . I haven’t used it, but my $FAMILY_MEMBER has”: This is a common response by those who have not used Linux/FOSS themselves. This is a promising sign. Even though they may not be using it, at least they’re aware of it. Those who went home with a disk hopefully will know more about it and come back the following week with questions.

There are other things that amaze me: The Google engineer who stopped by the table — “Oh, I’d better know what Linux is.” — and others who work “over the hill,” as we call the Silicon Valley, who would stop with strawberries in hand to take a look at what we had, and take a disk or two to try out. Also, what amazes me is that a lot of youngsters — teens, of course — who have used FOSS and don’t mind spending their time at the table talking about things like “Will GIMP ever have only one window?”

Thanks for helping at the booth so far go to: Bob Lewis, my partner in Felton LUG organizing, who is one of the most sensible and passionate Linux evangelists I know; Karsten Wade, who brings his vast knowledge and rapier-quick wit, and OpenSource.com swag, to the table; Frank Adamson, the Ubuntu-using octogenarian who took his daily mile-walk to come to staff the table; and to Peter Belew, for making his talents available at the table.

See you next Tuesday. Coming up next: Reports from OSCON.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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A little healthy kompetition

June 8, 2010 8 comments

As previously mentioned in this blog — and as I tell anyone who’ll listen to me — I go back and forth between the two top desktop environments with Fedora on my Fujitsu laptop — the even numbers, as it turns out, have been GNOME and the odd (with nothing to read into this, honest) have been KDE. Since we’re now at Fedora 13, it’s KDE time.

For those Xfce, LXDE, Fluxbox and IceWM fans out there, I do have machines in the Jungle Room — the lab at Redwood Digital Research in Felton, Calif., named after the same room at Graceland — running those desktops. While I’m a huge fan of Xfce on the machines that run it, I normally don’t stray too far from GNOME and KDE.

Moving right along, though, in those instances where I use KDE on the laptop, I’ve always been impressed with the number of programs that KDE includes when downloading the KDE version of Fedora. This time around, it occurred to me that maybe I should give some of them a chance — rather than just downloading the programs I’m used to (OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc.) during the post-install phase — I should give the K its due.

But I downloaded the programs anyway. I wanted to do a comparison to see how the KDE software stacked up against the software I normally use across a variety of machines running other desktops. Bear in mind, too, that since I use KDE only six months at a time, I am clearly not an expert on it, and if I’ve missed something, by all means I’m open to correction.

Before I start, I want to sing the praises for most of the programs I’ve run that are KDE-native, and single out a quartet of KDE-native programs — specifically K3b, Dolphin, KPackageKit and KColorChooser. The first three have always been very cooperative, have been easy to use and have worked well; the fourth came in handy recently in tweaking a Web site.

Conversely, there are KDE-native programs I don’t understand. The top candidate here is Kget — what the hell is that big bouncing disk doing in the center of my desktop? — and it begs the question: Why have it when you can use KPackageKit?

So, without further adeiu and with a little fanfare, allow me to wave the green flag on a comparison and contrasting of programs supplied by KDE against those that aren’t.

KWord/KPresenter vs. OpenOffice.org Writer/OpenOffice.org Impress: KDE gets an A for effort on this one. Though not as slick as the OO.o Writer, KWord does open other files and offers the option of exporting a document to a Portable Document Format file (a clear advantage that both have over any Redmond product) and it performs admirably when used. The downside of KWord is that you can only save a document in one format — albeit the most important one (.odt) — whereas with OO.o Writer you can save it in various formats, even if need be in WordStar (which is a Solaris holdover, I know, but still). OO.o Writer also has a huge library of templates for use.

KPresenter, however, stands shoulder to shoulder and goes the distance with OO.o Impress on usability and functionality, to the point where in the past I’ve actually given talks using my Impress file running, unbeknown to me until later, on KPresenter. Like KWord, the slickness factor is lacking in KPresenter, but all the trappings for making a great presentation are there.

Advantage: OO.o Writer clearly over KWord, but KPresenter and OO.o Impress tie.

Konversation vs. XChat: While I get a handle on Irssi, I should say that I’ve always been a XChat user. Go ahead and mock me with the training wheels jokes, but it has served my purposes well over the past several years, to the point where I never used Konversation when running the KDE desktop. Konversation v1.2.3, however, may eclipse XChat for my IRC purposes. Its ease of configuring is a huge plus, as is its putting action messages on the screen you’re in as opposed to in the server screen only (i.e., when you mark yourself away in XChat, for example, it appears only on the server window; in Konversation, it appears on the window you’re in — minor, I know, but enough to sway the simpletons like yours truly).

Advantage: Konversation (but we all know that Irssi is what the cool kids use).

KMail vs. Thunderbird: I have used Thunderbird since it’s inception. I like Thunderbird. No, let me rephrase that: I love Thunderbird. So analyzing this one may not be fair, but using KMail to get my fedoraproject.org mail on the laptop has been a pleasant surprise. One feature that takes getting used to, but is logically sound and advantageous once you get the hang of it, is that KMail will nest responses to e-mails, tree-like, under the previous topic’s message. To me, it was disconcerting at first, but once I got used to it, it becomes a huge time-saver in following e-mail threads. Being able to see the details of an e-mail by running the cursor over it is also a plus.

Advantage: Thunderbird, because we have a history, but KMail gets high marks and more than likely I’ll continue to use it after Fedora 13.

Konqueror vs. Firefox: I really want to say something nice, and find something I genuinely like, about Konqueror. Really and truly, and cross my heart, with all my being I truly hope someday to find something to like. But other than it’s an adequate file manager and document viewer, it really stops there and I can’t say much more for it. Meanwhile with all the other browsers out there — coupled with the fact that KDE comes with Dolphin (a file manager) and Okular (a document viewer and an outstanding program that, unfortunately, I had nothing to compare it with) — Konqueror seems to be just a niche browser compared to others.

Advantage: Firefox, by default.

Meanwhile, you can still go get Fedora 13 here. And don’t be afraid to go try the KDE spin, if you’re thinking about it.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs Redwood Digital Research in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
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Coming up in 2009

December 29, 2008 11 comments

A lot has been written so far about what to expect next year — some valid, some not.

But has that ever stopped me from joining the year-end pile-on? Perish the thought.

So here are 10 things to expect in 2009.

Or not.

Remember, objects may be closer than they appear, and your mileage may vary.

10. 2009 will be the year of Linux. But so will 2010, as well as 2011 and 2012. In fact, by 2013, the last pair of eyes on the planet will finally glaze over when a Linux writer proclaims the following year to be the year of Linux, and the more thoughtful pundits will just know that it’s now understood that the next year will be our year, for whatever reason, and they’ll write about something a tad more significant.

9. Fedora 11 will outshine Fedora 10. As hard as it may be to believe — and after a month I still can’t find a flaw with Fedora 10 — Fedora 11 will be an encore performance of what can best be described as a rock-solid distro, even for machines that go back a few years (in my case, a Dell 5000 Inspiron laptop and a Dell Optiplex desktop). Sadly, people will continue to be under the mistaken impression that Fedora is too “cutting edge” for anyone other than the most experienced superuser who might be too lazy to negotiate the Gentoo labyrinth (yes, that’s a gauntlet thrown at the feet of my Fedora colleagues to work next year on dispelling that stupid myth . . . ).

8. The UFC pits Linus Torvalds and Richard Stallman against each other in a feature bout. What happens though is not one of those ridiculous near-death experiences for some poor troglodyte who normally gets suckered into the ring, but an epiphany for the entire FOSS community: Stallman and Torvalds meet at mid-ring and circle each other warily. Stallman opens the bout by saying maybe he was a little hasty in demanding GNU be stuck on the front of Linux, but Torvalds comes back with openly welcoming the option of joining the two names. Barriers between open source and free software dissolve. GNOME and KDE advocates embrace in a worldwide “kumbaya.” Planets align. Then I wake up.

7. Zenwalk increases the pace of its development. It becomes Zenrun, and in finding that they can add and release improvements to an already above-average distro at an even faster pace, they rename it Zenfly in 2010.

6. Lindependence comes to Redmond, Wash. The hall is rented, the fliers posted, and the riot police stand at the ready, but they remain wary since they don’t want to repeat the WTO fiasco in Seattle a decade ago. Nevertheless, yours truly — in a tribute to another overweight bald guy in the digital industry — opens the event with an insane onstage monkey dance that also brings him to within inches of a heart attack while Ken Starks unsuccessfully diverts the press’ attention. The Digital Tipping Point’s Christian Einfeldt, however, gets it all on video. Meanwhile, Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, OpenSUSE and Ubuntu reps — along with others who choose to join Lindependence in 2009 — hand out live CDs and demonstrate their distros. Yes, that’s Red Hat’s “Truth Happens” video (click here for Quick Time fans) looping in the background all the while.

5. Mandriva gets in touch with its feminine side. This distro renames itself Womandriva and becomes a more reasonable, nurturing distro, finally dropping the adolescent Mandrake zeitgeist from its early days. The distro’s leadership also realizes what a huge mistake it was to let Adam Williamson go and rectifies that situation, adding a huge bonus to his salary.

4. The Madagascar Penguins join Tux as the Linux mascots. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and the Private make Tux one of their own in their commando unit. Incidentally — this is true (you can look it up) — on the Madagascar DVD, the penguins provide their own commentary on their scenes. When Private is struggling to operate a computer while taking over the ship, Skipper comments, “What are you doing up there, playing Tetris? You told me you knew Linux, Private!” Just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.

3. Windows 7 will be worse than Vista, as hard as that may be to believe. This development will result in yet another $30 million Microsoft ad campaign diverting attention from this latest offering. Realizing they picked the wrong Seinfeld character in their first campaign, the ad agency casts Jason Alexander with Bill Gates, making Gates look like the “cool one” in comparison.

2. Everyone joins the Ubuntu family. In an effort not to confuse brand new GNU/Linux users with the daunting tasks of trying to wrap their minds around 350 different distributions, distros give themselves new names: Fedbuntu, Debuntu, openBUNTU, Sabayuntu, Damn Small Buntu, CentBuntu, Dreambuntu, Slackbuntu, Pupbuntu, Mepbuntu, gNewBuntu, among others. Solbuntis and OpenSolbuntis also join the ranks.

1. Linux Foundation’s “I’m Linux” video contest’s winning entry grabs an Oscar. After Apple’s “I’m a Mac” ad campaign, and Microsoft following with a painfully original “I’m a PC” theme, the Linux Foundation garners thousands of entries in its “I’m Linux” video contest. The Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences nominates the winner, which ends up awing those judging and the statuette for Best Short Film goes to the winner.

There are other developments, like the conflicts that the new OpenBSD Christian Edition causes, which may be addressed in a later blog.

Have a happy and prosperous new year.

[FSF Associate Member](Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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