2014-04-17

100,000,000 Downloads of Apache OpenOffice

The Apache Software Foundation Announces 100 Million Downloads of Apache™ OpenOffice™ : The Apache Software Foundation Blog



This is an impressive number for a few reasons. One of them is that we actually have taken pains in the quantity. It really is 100M. When I did stats for OpenOffice.org, we lacked the necessary technology to be able to assert, with any real accuracy, just how many total downloads. Towards the end, we were able to claim more confidence, as we had better means of calculating the quantity, and so we could point to anywhere from 250M to 500M. (We could also evaluate how many around the world were using OOo, or ODF, which is the native format for OO: a lot, and somewhere north of 250M, by now, though they also probably use other apps, too.)



The other important point is that this huge number really represents just a sliver of the estimated total. It's also mostly Windows users. Why? Well, one of the most popular Linux distributions, Ubuntu, has sided with LibreOffice and includes it with its installation packages. Putting Apache OpenOffice on it is by no means impossible but it does entail effort, and for the naive Linux user (of which there are some, I am sure), a considerable effort. One also has to know about it, and understand that OpenOffice really is different than LibreOffice.



So those who have downloaded it 100M times (since inception of the project, mind you) are doing it largely on their own recognizance. What about downloads that are then installed in massive enterprises, as we can find in Brazil, for instance, but also in other national and sub-national polities? Those may well be counted as... 1 (one) download.... which is then multiplied a million-fold.



Now, the fun: Does this mean that open source has "arrived" and the desktop (or workspace) is now "free"? Yes and no. For the last 5 years, at least, it's been as free as users want it to be. More to the point, the data suggest that users are able to see beyond the obligatory application choices they have gotten used to.



The next step: let's make a community out of those who have chosen to use the software. We love them. We would also love their input and ideas.




2014-04-14

Heartbleed: Open source's worst hour | ZDNet

Heartbleed: Open source's worst hour | ZDNet



This is actually a very good essay. It is not an attack on open source, not a jeremiad, and it was written by someone who has been reporting on the phenomenon pretty much since it started. Rather, it is a call to attention.



Why, given open source's vaunted transparency to flaws and supposedly eager communities, did this serious flaw go so long unnoticed? Vaughan-Nichols:




I think I know why and I can sum it up with one phrase: "Magical Thinking." We think that because open source code can be more secure, it is more real secure. Wrong!
Everyone just assumed that OpenSSL must be perfectly safe because, well OpenSSL has a reputation for being safe, therefore it was safe. Developers, website developers, security experts, one and all, it seems no one ever thought to actually use those eyeballs that successful open source relies upon to check the code to see if it really was safe.
We were idiots.
We thought that because OpenSSL was open source that everyone was actually using open source methodology to make sure its code was correct. In reality, no one, after that initial approval years ago, ever bothered to check up to see if the code was both right and secure.
The open source method remains as good as ever when used correctly. When it's not, when we simply assume that all the t's have been crossed and the i's dotted, then we're relying upon faith and not testing and that's doesn't work for any program.

2014-01-10

EC recommends supporting open document format | Joinup

EC recommends supporting open document format | Joinup

The title says it, but to snip:

All European institutes should be able to use the Open Document Format (ODF) in exchanges with citizens and national administrations, says Vice-President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič, in response to questions by member of the European Parliament Amelia Andersdotter. "There is no lock-in effect whatsoever, and no contradiction with the Commission's strategy on interoperability."
---
"Generally, selecting a single, open standard is the best way to achieve interoperability and unrestricted re-use of public documents", says Brunet. 
"In our experience, ODF is not always fully supported by the European institutions in their external exchanges. For instance, EC public consultations are sometimes only released and/or answerable in PDF and Microsoft's version of OOXML. In such cases, ODF is supported only upon request and the documents may contain formatting errors. This is a problem for citizens and public administrations that choose to use an open standard for document editing."
 Official support
The Swiss Open Systems User Group welcomes the Commission's statement of support for ODF. Matthias Stürmer: "Although Switzerland is not a member state of the EU, we hope that the Swiss government and also the Swiss cantons follow this suggestion to officially support ODF documents."
Stürmer points to the country's highest court, the Federal Court, as an example. The court is using ODF for all of its electronic documents, and has been doing this for more than ten years. "This should help to convince other public administrations to also use ODF."

I find this really affirming. Yes, to be sure, it's policy not fact; yes, it's not stated what the path to enact it will be; yes, it's the case that we've seen versions of this before, even on a transnational level. But this policy declaration comes at a time when the idea of a monopoly on the desktop--Microsoft's and its formats--is increasingly seen as close to irrelevant. That's not because Linux has won the hearts and keyboards of the world (or Europe). Nor is it because Apple's OS X has. It's because the mobile environment is seen as pretty much the future environment. That's not to say that the desktop is about to follow the word processor and typewriter, nor is it to declare that we must all get used to using cramped virtual keyboards on small smudgy screens. But it is to say that the mobile devices that will come in the next few years will be replacing--and also adding elements none of us can really foresee--that 20th century icon, the desktop.

But for this kind of future to work, where documents of whatever sort can be created and shared among mobile and desktop devices, requires open standards. An open standard does not lock the user or buyer into a particular vendor's brand. One can use either open source or not, however one wishes. ("One" including the enterprise class buyer.) It means, too, that municpalities--all polities, really--need to be mindful of the software choices they make. By this, I don't mean to suggest that there should be a disruption of purchasing, which is asking for trouble and intractability. It would also be difficult to plan future purchases and maintenance if the applications and their status were always uncertain. (Let alone ask for reasonable support and training.)

Rather, an emphasis on open standards and applications implementing them to an agreed-upon degree would provide both for application flexibility as well as device interoperability.

But what mobile devices actually support ODF editing today? (I mean natively, not just via HTML5 or equivalent.)