Stuff I’ve been obsessing about lately

The first week of National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) has been a busy one, and all my planning (yeah, all of it) has not exactly been followed. Nonetheless, I persevere.

As the week concludes, I’ve been thinking about a lot of things. I’m not sure if this list may foreshadow future posts, or are just random doodles. I hope this will be informative; if not, I hope it will be entertaining. If you’d like to see more thoughts about any of the above, throw something in the comments.

  • Congressfolk are considering a major revision of the Communications Act of 1996.
    English: Newt Gingrich

    Newt Gingrich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    That year, the big telecom companies wrote portions of the bill while locked in Newt Gingrich‘s office. Will that happen again?

  • What email client should I use in openSUSE 13.2
  • Can I get an invitation to Ello before it becomes utterly un-cool? Have I already missed the boat on that?
  • Tim Berners-Lee at a Podcast Interview

    Tim Berners-Lee at a Podcast Interview (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    I am quite inspired by Tim Berners-Lee on most days. Especially when he calls for things like an ‘Internet Magna Carta,’ as he did a few weeks ago. Can we get that?

  • Is this guy right about OpenOffice and LibreOffice never, never, ever getting back together?
  • Deeply curious about this connected learning idea, but I have no sense of how I could participate.
  • Same goes for building mesh networks.
  • Too many organizations I belong to are fretting about attracting new people. Are real-life groups becoming a casualty of the Internet, or does economics play a role?
  • Should I learn more web code? What code (JavaScript? PHP? Python? Ruby? Something else?)? How?
  • Will the Internet remain a global haven for democracy? If not, what then?

Well, I didn’t want this to be a Top Ten list, but look how it turned out.

What are you obsessing about lately? Is this list the sign of an overheated brain?

New LibreOffice Out!

LibreOffice 3.5 is out! Many new features, and an easier install. I’ve downloaded the Windows version, and will anxiously await its arrival in the openSUSE repositories. No doubt, I’ll have more to say after some use. Meanwhile, you should check it out!

More LibreOffice: Infrastructure Expands, Beta 2 Released, and Oracle Gets Hostile

A couple weeks into the LibreOffice project, and the room is really beginning to come together. Let’s try to summarize what’s been happening:

  • October 13 marked the 10th anniversary of Sun freeing the StarOffice source code and creating the OpenOffice.org project. Luis Suarez-Potts sent this email on behalf of the OpenOffice.org community. The Document Foundation released The Next Decade Manifesto, outlining the goals of the foundation and the LibreOffice project.
  • LibreOffice Beta 2 was released on October 14.
  • On the 15th, Petr Mladek announces that “We are going to switch from the OpenOffice.org to the LibreOffice code base on openSUSE.” He does not specify this will happen in openSUSE 11.4, but that presumably depends on when the first finished release is done. Meanwhile, openSUSE users can play with Beta 2 and subsequent beta releases by adding the LibreOffice:Unstable repository to their system.
  • Mailing lists for news, discussion, and support (among other things) for LibreOffice are now available. Have to say it’s hard to find this page.
  • Assorted other contact points (IRC, social networks) can be found here. Not entirely the easiest thing to find either.
  • A LibreOffice Forum is (minimally) active, while the OpenOffice Community Forum will continue to support all flavors of the suite.
  • Jean Hollis Weber believes the OOoAuthors documentation team will also support both projects.
  • On the other hand, Oracle doesn’t seem to see things that way.  and the OOo Community Council meeting on October 14th was at least a little … tense. Suarez-Potts and Matthias Huetsch both called on council members who were also part of the Document Foundation had a conflict of interest, and should choose which project they wanted to be part of. Ars Technica has a very good summary. In the comments on the article, I think “EmancipateTheCode” has an excellent explanation of what might have happened, had Oracle opted not to be so confrontational:
  • Having a community edition that can serve as a test bed for new features without damaging the main product is also a good idea. Look at Red Hat‘s Fedora and RHEL. New features are hammered out in Fedora before they enter into RHEL. Red Hat directly benefits from having a community version of it’s project.

    There are any number of models that Oracle could have taken with the TDF. The easiest would have been to follow in Red Hat’s footsteps and use LibreOffice as a test bed. The could have allowed the fork and brought the improvements back into O^3, which would in turn go into StarOffice (which Oracle still sells.)

It will probably come as no shock to discover that I welcome all new open source software projects, especially for the desktop. More projects means more choices for the user. If they can’t reconcile (which I still don’t completely rule out), I hope LibreOffice challenges the remaining OpenOffice team, the KOffice team and everyone else in making innovative, useful and amazing productivity tools for all of us.

Welcome LibreOffice!

It’s been more than a week now since the Great OpenOffice Fork of 2010, and the dust is beginning to settle.

If you haven’t heard, last Monday a large chunk of the  OpenOffice.org (OOo) development community announced the formation of The Document Foundation (TDF), and would create a new office suite based on OOo, called LibreOffice. The announcement carried endorsements from many heavy hitters in the open source and corporate worlds, including Google, Novell, Red Hat, and Canonical. Even the GNOME Foundation (while noting the existence of its own small suite) had nice things to say at the launch.

Absent from the party were a pair of giants: IBM and Oracle. The latter was not surprising, as the database company put this train in motion by acquiring Sun Microsystems, the firm who had released OpenOffice into the wild some years back. TDF invited Oracle to participate in the effort, and expressed hope they would release the copyrights to the OpenOffice name. Yep, that was going to happen. Monday, Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols reported that Oracle has officially declined to participate in the Foundation.

With more than 100 million users, we believe OpenOffice.org is the most advanced, most feature-rich open-source implementation and will strongly encourage the OpenOffice community to continue to contribute through www.openoffice.org.

Today, Italo Vignoli of TDF reports, among many interesting numbers, that the LibreOffice beta has been downloaded some 80,000 times in its first week of existence. The beta consists of rebranded OpenOffice v3.3 code. There’s a support forum for those users now running too.

Here’s a sample of some of the best reporting and thinking I saw, outside of the mainstream tech press, on the announcement:

Now comes the fallout, as the rest of the OpenOffice community has to pick sides. Eric Bachard of the OOo Education project initially posted a skeptical article called “No LibreOffice for Me” to his blog, but apparently pulled it in the intervening time. Jean Hollis Weber of the Documentation Project (close to my heart, of course) wondered about the future: “At this point I’m not quite sure what this will mean for my role as Co-Lead of the OpenOffice.org Documentation Project, given my enthusiasm for the Foundation.”

While most of the coverage and blogging about LibreOffice and TDF was quite positive, Matt Asay of Canonical expressed a dissent that I saw a lot of in roaming around online in his essay for GigaOm: “LibreOffice: An Idea Whose Time Has Come (and Gone).”

It’s unclear what a web-light, client-heavy Microsoft Office clone can hope to achieve in terms of real innovation. And why are we worried about replicating Microsoft Office functionality, which has long been the aim of the OpenOffice community? While some Excel spreadsheet jocks may live in Microsoft Office, very few of the rest of us give it more than a cursory glance on a regular basis. It’s not that we’re not engaged in “office productivity,” either. We just work differently now.

While I don’t begrudge Asay’s ability to work with Google Docs and Zoho in his day job, I can tell you that there are millions of us still using word processors and the like installed on a desktop, safely behind a corporate firewall. Maybe that will change over time, but for now, I’d much prefer using LibreOffice than that other dominant suite.

I wish the LibreOffice team the best of luck building their new suite, and devising many new and effective ways of communicating. Keeping KOffice on their toes as well!

As we watch this community grow, I hope the openSUSE community can learn some lessons as well. One thought from this corner: Suddenly the idea of an independent foundation to manage the community doesn’t sound so out in left field. With the openSUSE Conference coming up, there’s a lot to discuss.