Office 2007 will support ODF

May 5, 2008

After a brief news hiatus by us, upon our return to monitoring open source issues, we see that:

Microsoft today announced that it would update Office 2007 to natively support ODF 1.1, but not to implement its own OOXML format. Moreover, it would also join both the OASIS ODF working group as well as the ISO/IEC JTC1 working group that has control of the ISO/IEC version of ODF....Suddenly, it appears, Microsoft has found that indeed its customers really do want usseful native ODF support - something that it had steadfastlly denied for years.
Needless to say, if you've been following our short roundups last month, you would have assumed that ODF was on the down-and-outs. Fortunately, Sun has provided an Office plug-in for ODF for a while. However promises of things like implementation before the OOXML ISO spec and default document format selection should certainly draw interest from anyone interested in interoperability. More detailed information can also be found here.

Profits are out the door...

April 20, 2008


VIA Technologies is giving away 16, 434 lins of code. Here's another example of a company learning that there is true power in open sourcing software. Some of our news items would appear to be anti-corporate, but that is not the case.

They still have a lot of work left to do to mend relations with the Unichrome and OpenChrome projects and focusing upon 3D and video playback work, etc. However, this is a step forward in showing that VIA may actually come around this time and play ball with the open-source community. [after promising to do so]
Seeing corporations embracing a model of give-and-take from the community is a great thing, and proves that this business model can exist and be profitable for everyone involved.

Giving Leads to Giving

April 20, 2008

Many of our clients are non-profits, so naturally we're interested in the concept of philanthrocapitalism and the theory of The Long Tail, espcially when applied to non-profits.

There are 2 great essays availble looking at both sides of the coin:

Although the second isn't really a long-tail article, it does speak of the power of the masses helping themselves, rather than depending on single giant players for large scale philanthropy.

News from ISO on OOXML

April 16, 2008

With everything that's been happening in the document format arena, let's take a quick look at the newest information that the ISO is providing us in their OOXML FAQ. A major area of frustration is the "decision" of the ISO/IEC to approve both ODF and OOXML as ISO standards; after this, apparently the market is supposed to decide which one gets to stay.

This is discussed well in a blog posting by Walt Hucks over at ZDNet Asia (back in 2007). There are, of course, a myriad of IP law issues here; all backers of ODF have provided their patents available freely, while all patents concerning OOXML are owned by Microsoft. They have made the appropriate declarations to the ISO that these will be provided on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions, but the real fear thatthese conditions may be incompatible with Free and Open Source Software licensing remains.

Harvard jumps on the bandwagon

April 10, 2008

Yep, we mean Harvard University. You might expect Universities to start teaching open source management from a computer science related major, but that certainly doesn't preclude a world-famous MBA program from offering an education in open source development/business models.

What is a Hardy Heron, anyway?

April 10, 2008

It's the wicked new distribution of Linux from Ubuntu. There are numerous organizations out there that take the Linux operating system, a bunch of great OSS utilities, productivity applications, games and graphics packages and put them together in different distributions that all of us can download for free and try out on our computers.

We run several servers (and desktops) on various flavors of Ubuntu, including Kubuntu and Xubuntu, and this release brings all kinds of updated applications and functiontality. We like the Ubuntu distributions because they're well engineered, updated every 6 months, and have utilize the easy-to-use Debian package system. Check the link below for more details on the newest release!

Wait, Open Source is the new Microsoft?

April 5, 2008

Everybody uses Microsoft to power their office, right? Well, a certain well known analyst group has pointed out that open source software is already in so many places, that "IT managers may be unaware of it" and not even know about its use in their organization. The report discusses free licensing as simply cutting the cost of ownership, but commentator Mark Taylor notes that:

"Licensing is only a slice of the total cost, but historically, companies have only bought as many licences as they can afford. If you remove the licence cost, you may only remove three percent of the of total cost of the existing project, but you also remove the brakes - you massively expand the numbers that project can be rolled out to at no extra cost."
That's why we love open source. No brakes.

Microsoft is Open Source Friendly

April 4, 2008

While the Open Source community and Microsoft continue to spar on the qualifications of document formats, MS is certainly isn't rejecting OSS. Their flagship product remains Windows of all shapes and flavors, and as long as as much software runs on it as possible, they can continue to sell it. Many open source applications are built on libraries and frameworks that are available on Macintosh, Linux, and yes, Windows, and so it remains a perfectly viable development and user platform. Recently Microsoft has been embracing their open source cousins by offering open source interoperability certification for the Windows platform. This is an effective marketing maneuver that actually contains real value.

News not involving OOXML or ODF!

April 2, 2008

We've been covering the document format debate for a while now, so it's time for something new. A lot of developers wonder how to keep their discoveries available for future use without going through the whole process of filing a patent. There's a nice, and fairly clear, lawyerly description of patentability from the Cornell Law School's web site. Obviously, there are any number of legal arguments that go into determining if an individual or company can receive a patent, and this is only the initial basis from which to start an argument. Truth be told, any developer in this situation should go get some serious legal advice from a good patent lawyer. The way the patent law currently stands in the US, the lawyers are the only ones bound to give you any kind of decent advice.

Cross your t's and dot your i's, just as if you were writing good code! Follow the link below for info on the Statutory Invention Registration, a half-decent initial alternative.

OOXML Thumbs UP!

April 1, 2008

Well, this could be good news or bad news. While voting is over and the ISO has officially ratified OOXML as a standard, we're not entirely sure what's going to happen next. This news hit us pretty quickly after the news of possible voting manipulation in Poland on the 28th, so we're not *actually* sure if the process is complete, but have to assume it is. We'll just have to wait and see what happens in the coming month.

Letter to the editor everyone

March 26, 2008

Many of the best (and sometimes most incoherent) topics and discussions concerning OSS can be found on everybody's favorite geek news siteSlashdot. A posting today attempts to point out the interoperability, and apparent codependence, that ODF has on OOXML. One comment clarifies an important point:

I don't think people want ODF to be a magic bullet, and everyone knows that ODF is feature thin compared to OOXML. However, I think after decades of shifting vendor to vendor as corporate interests take turns in the gang-raping that has been the software industry for as long as I can remember, people have realised that open standards are better than extra features, provided that the basics are covered. That, to me sums up the ODF vs OOXML debate; format stability vs edge case features.
The letter itself seems to state that OOXML and ODF cannot *both* be ratified as standards if they are different (which they are). The quoted commentator attempts to inject some sanity into this debate, and clarify the fundamental issues between a user's wants and needs, and how to accomplish both well.

Voting on OOXML

March 22, 2008

With the news of India's official vote for OOXML as an ISO standard being a thumbs-down, it's important to know how to vote, or more importantly, *change* your vote for or against OOXML. Groklaw, most famous for its SCO v Linux coverage, has the instructions if you have paid your dues to ECMA.

Good news early. Period.

March 19, 2008

While we love the OpenOffice 2 series (it's a big step up from 1.0, right?), we're of course eagerly awaiting verion 3. And Ninja has the scoop. Follow the link for screenshots, feature highlights, commentary, and more.

Don't forget to peruse the rest of the site for tips, tricks, and developer's details for OpenOffice.

How far does OOXML have to go?

March 18, 2008

In the OSS community, it is widely recognized that every piece of software has flaws, and many data formats can be quirky at best. These are the reasons we have certain standards as defined by the ISO and the W3C. We all trust the ISO with specifications from CD formats to railway engineering to "wood technology", so why shouldn't we trust it with our data. Well, the OOXML format has been put on the ISO fast-track to becoming an official standard. What's the problem with this? There are a lot of defects left to fix in the standard before we can truly trust it. Rob Weir has begun a study of the integrity of OOXML. From the article:

I'm not done with this study yet. I'm finding so many defects that recording them is taking more time than finding them. But since this is topical, I will report what I have found so far, based on the first 25 random pages [of the Ballot Resolution Meeting], or 1/8th completion of my target 200. I've found 64 technical flaws. None of the 64 flaws were addressed by the BRM. Among the defects are some rather serious ones such as:
  • storage of plain text passwords in database connection strings
  • Undefined mappings between CSS and DrawingML
  • Errors in XML Schema definitions
  • Dependencies of proprietary Microsoft Internet Explorer features
  • Spreadsheet functions that break with non-Latin characters
  • Dependencies on Microsoft OLE method calls
  • Numerous undefined terms and features
The OOXML format isn't bad per se; as long as defects are repaired and it works as expected, it's simply a format that's a bit more difficult for developers to code for.

Dirk Riehle and the "Total Growth of Open Source"

March 14, 2008

Dirk Riehle has posted an excellent blog entry discussing open source software and exactly how the industry may be fundamentally changed.  In the article he presents a very clear analysis of why and how, addressing growth rates of different projects, the inroads being made to various industries (including commercial software development), evolution of software progress models, and of course the size and frequency of code contributions. It's not very often that a statistical view of software development is available that remarks clearly on how a specific development model will affect the industry as a whole, and is thus worth a thorough read.

Open Source Software of the Day

March 6, 2008

Here at Skipper Group, we love quality software, especially when it's free and open source. Here's some that we just can't live without... GnuCash. GnuCash is an absolutely fantastic accounting application that we've been using to manage our company's finances for the past 5 years. As far as features go, it ranks somewhere in between Quicken and QuickBooks, but the primary reasons we use it are:

  • Ease of double-entry accounting
  • Works on Windows, Mac and Linux
  • Networkable with the Postgres database
  • In use by larger companies (like PNC Bank)
And of course...
  • It's Free and Open!
There was a recent article on it over at in which Mr. Rankin discusses the differences between GnuCash, MS Money, and Quicken.
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