vrijdag 2 november 2012

What Arabic, Turtle and Google have to do with each other

Time for my notes from the LibreOffice conference 2012, in Berlin recently.

The week was well organised by our friends of the German LibreOffice community. The location was at a ministry, close to station Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
And the weather was excellent, so the 10 minutes walk from the hotel to the conference venue could be done in a T-shirt. Mid October :-) So, what items do I really want to mention?

First there was the positive key-note by Jeremy Allison from Google. Included in his presentation were two slides that make extremely clear what the value of open source is for Google ..

.. and for others too!

 
A beautiful project is the localization of LibreOffice in Arabic. Because of the language structure, that needs some more attention then just doing the translating. The support for languages with what 'we' call complex text layout (CTL-support – see Tools > Options > Language settings ..) has to be improved on various points.
Various speakers and developers from Saudi Arabia were present to give explanation about the project and their work. Also about the way they contact schools and universities and about their future plans with LibreOffice. A clear and inspiring contribution!

Quite intriguing I experienced the presentation of LibreLogo ( … turtle vector graphics for everybody) by László Németh, whom we know from among others spell-checking tools. LibreLogo is fine combination of drawing, and learning to work with teh computer, commands and documents. And this all bundled in an extension that you can install easily in LibreOffice.
Give it a try - not only fun, but interesting too if you feel that education and marketing are important! And when you run in a problem trying it: no worry because for sure I'll write about it again shortly.

Further I've seen interesting topics as continues improvements and developments with Calc, work for iMac and Android, collaborative editing via the internet, building and lots of tools for developers, and QA, EasyHacks. Stopping at this point, I'm sure I forget many that deserve credit and attention too.

But we did have a pleasant event, cosy as we say, with people from all corners of the earth and topics of interest for all. So everyone that has a bit more with LibreOffice then just using: ... see you in 2013 :-)
And before that, don't miss this one!

dinsdag 11 september 2012

Now politics must focus on results with open source software

Chances to save millions, but with talking alone you won't get that far
 
My previous two blogs pointed out that when public administrations make a combined investment in open source software, migrating will become easier, that they themselves profit as well as all other (government) users will do. Governments from Germany and Switzerland already do so.
In The Netherlands municipalities can save millions of Euro's each year, with open source office software alone.
Now tomorrow, September 12, we have national elections in the Netherlands. In relation to that the topic open source has, as far as I've noticed, been touched by the parties GroenLinks and SP. Besides that, also the party PvdA mentions it and of course it's important for the Piratenpartij. [1]
 
The past has shown that for the most parties open source software (and open standards) are important. But how useful is 'attention'? It would be really helpful if the new Tweede Kamer (parliament) would come to agreement rapidly for a strong approach, specific, for e.g. the open source desktop. That would be a strong follow-up for the talk- and information-programs that we had in the last decade, that, lets be honest, just were to weak to help creating a clear turn around. Just explaining will not easily create enough power to counterweight multinationals, that also have close connections to large national companies..
 
A clear and strong approach – public bodies from Germany and Switzerland make a good example – will help the existing situation to change a bit faster, to make more advantage of the benefits of open source. Also it will prepare the path for those municipalities and provinces that have a less progressive attitude. We do have those too in The Netherlands, as is shown in a recent example about governments that bind themselves too easy in expensive contracts. This while the costs for ICT in municipalities rise.
 
In the previous article I counted that in Dutch municipalities alone millions can be saved each year with open source office software. Which as bonus will free you from cumbersome relations with vendors that tend to change license contracts (read costs) in their own favor. Also expenses for changes and improvements to the software, will result in work in the region, which is quite different from sending checks to a large company in a distant country.
Cooperation, bundling of forces, great software, paying what is needed and nothing more, freedom of choice – that is open source!

maandag 10 september 2012

Netherlands must make sound investment in open source desktop

Millions to be saved each year with the use of open source office-software
 
In the previous article I wrote about administrations in Germany and Switzerland that invest in open source software. In a combined project they improve interoperability of LibreOffice and OpenOffice with the latest file formats of Microsoft Office. These administrations almost literally put their hands at work in the important field of open source software. What can I write about the situation at Dutch administrations in this field? The use of open source software in Dutch municipalities can be seen in various parts. At the backside it is done in the form of servers and management systems for websites. And on the desktop one sees Firefox and Zarafa, that is increasingly gaining popularity as Exchange/Outlook replacer.
 
The use of open source office software is not yet widely spread and it grows slowly. It's exactly this that I want to look at further. Because of my own profession in Nou&Off, my involvement with The Document Foundation, the home of LibreOffice. And also because the previous article was just about that: open source office software, where big gains can be met in terms of freedom, control and cost savings. This is again supported by the situation in Munich, where the large scale switch to an open source desktop has resulted in a more robust system and saves millions.
 
In The Netherlands OpenOffice and LibreOffice are used for years in mostly some smaller municipalities. The number of municipalities is more then 400. With all together around 112.000 employees (7 per 1000). When the use of Ms Office costs € 100,- per person per year, then that's per year € 11.200.000 for licenses. Say 10 million every year.
So here we have a large potential for savings. Now it would be stupid to suggest that the full 10 million can be saved. Be it alone for the fact that larger organizations are likely to have a support contract for LibreOffice, which can be paid with a part of the savings on licenses. And of course a migration also asks some effort. It's positive that nowadays about all larger applications for local administrations can work together very well with OpenOffice and LibreOffice. Thanks to the efforts of suppliers (and those pushing them a bit...) most of the issues that occurred in the past, have been solved. There will be smaller areas where a migration will cost unreasonable effort or money, for example because a specific application is not yet changed. So it's not possible to get rid of all licences right away. But the large majority of users can work happily and effectively with Open- or LibreOffice. That is demonstrated by the administrations already using it and those that are about to change soon. In other countries there's also a growing number of authorities that make the change to LibreOffice. Some recent announcements:
French administrations, City of Largo, the Spanish Las Palmas, de the Itallian region Umbria, the Portuguese village Vieira do Minho, het Danish ministery of transport, the Irish Limerick, the Village Pillea-Hartiatis in Greece.
 
In my opinion its due time for a larger movement in The Netherlands. For years we have had the national projects OSOSS en NOiV, that made excellent information and education, but alas were not focused on concrete action. And of course that is needed: open source is about action. Even more, about joining in action. To speed up a larger movement, a project of for example a number of municipalities could be great. Municipalities where the introduction of new office software is coming near and that can make enough room for that in the agendas. A project with a specific task, to improve the areas in which the migration to a new office software is not so easy yet. And this is something very worth investing in.
You may remember from the previous article, that it was about an investment of € 140.000. With potential savings of many millions every year for the Dutch municipalities, in office software licenses only, amounts in this order are peanuts. Of course not for individual administrations. Maybe therefore the national authorities should step in to bundle the funding. In this way, wanted contributions to for example LibreOffice can be set up together, just as we have seen in the example of the German and Swiss authorities. This is what is made possible by a mutual project: a faster transition. But there are other benefits. Such as a clear point of contact for other software suppliers. And that partners can share information and know they do not stand alone.
 
Much can be won in terms of freedom, durability and costs. Don't forget that for a smaller community savings of say € 15.000 to 20.000 a year are very relevant. With amounts in this magnitude for example many local activities and charities can be supported. You may know the examples in your own area.
To summarize: if with bundled forces we can realize a faster transition to open source office software in The Netherlands too, it's possible to save a considerable amount of the yearly 10 million costs for the Microsoft office licenses, and more own ideas and control can be realized.

woensdag 5 september 2012

Governments invest in open source

Just before the start of the vacations the news was published about several public administrations make a strong investment in open source software. A project was started to improve the interoperability of LibreOffice and OpenOffice with the latest file formats of Microsoft Office. [1] The parties involved invest a sum of 140.000 Euro in the project.

That is what open source really is about: as user of a product you can support the development of features that are important for you. Simple, direct. The products quality growths and the value increases too, also for other users. It's logic that administrations too invest in this way in the quality of their tools.

The project that we talk about here, is about improving the interoperability. Important, because a insufficient interoperability is a source of frustration and limited freedom. [2], [3] More freedom in the use of office software is extra important, because that opens the doors to use open source for the desktop.

Open source is about freedom of choice and control of processes and content, about ownership of information. Smart organizations, and in any case public bodies, take that well into account. The administrations in this specific case, that invest in Open- en LibreOffice, are the German cities of Munich, Freiburg im Breisgau and Jena, together with the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, the Swiss Federal IT Steering Unit (FITSU) and the canton of Waadt. So there are no Dutch administrations involved in this example... Food for thought? In any case food for a next article, to be published here soon. (And of course before the elections next week ;-) )

vrijdag 6 juli 2012

Moments of Joy

After several months of working on LibreLex, it was time to test it on MacOS. After all, we claim it does work there too :-)
The fiends in the FourDigits office were so friendly to hand me an old Mac. Starting the Mac, browser.. OS-crash.. I remarked: "Hmm, long time ago that I worked on Windows" which of course must be painful to hear for real Mac-fans ;-)
So the FourDigits guy was so friendly to lend me his new fast Macbook for a moment. Colleagues already started to mumble ...
"how much of your work time will that cost..."
OK, LibreOffice was already installed. So we put the folder with the templates and config-files in the user work-path. Double-click on the LibreLex extension to install.. ah, there is the LibreLex tool bar. Start New document with LibreLex.. great. Print with /without logo.. looks good. Dialogues Place and Mail.. fine too. So that's it. Works. Thanks for your help!
Two minutes and it just works. "Huh.." Why huh, what's so special about that?! Moment of great joy :-)

* Moments of Joy, 1975, by Kayak, one of the greatest Symphonic Rock bands

3.6.0 looks cool!

A very subtile nice gradient :-)
(looks best when you install it yourself
- LibreOffice 3.6.0 beta 3 will be available very soon!)

woensdag 27 juni 2012

Heading for LibreOffice 3.6.0

Roughly a month to go before LibreOffice 3.6.0 will be finished. So it's time for a little excitement :-)
An overview (in progress) of the new features is available on the wiki.
The community – users as you and I – is of course assisting with tracing the bugs in the beta releases. Therefore there will be an international bug-hunt party organized on July 6 and 7!
According to the plan - and with LibreOffice the plan is usually met - the release will be in the first week of August.
Such a first release is of course perfect to give it a good try, but obviously not to deploy immediately in all business processes. Just be careful ;-)
The 3.6.0 – I'm looking forward to it!

vrijdag 25 mei 2012

The open Dutch government – congress on May 31

I am one of a generation in which openness grew. Open communication, and still attempting to be true. Those themes were 'hot'. And luckily, such a period is not unique. Of course there always are processes in which it is impossible to be fully open at any moment. Some topics are sensible business wise or political and can better be traded with in a small committee.
It went pretty well with the 'openness' as far as I am concerned. Also in hierarchical relations: child – parent, employee – boss, citizen – government. I wanted to talk a bit more about that government. Not with thoughts about 'open politics' and 'behind closed doors' being objectionable or not. That's something I can do at other places.
Here I want to talk about our authorities and open data and open tools. As a result of the growing awareness in the society around IT and the costs and risks of closed software and closed file-formats, the Dutch Parliament in that time expressed itself in the famous resolution "Vendrik": open source and open standards are important and the government has to promote those. That has been nearly ten years ago, November 2002. Since then, there have been two government programs promoting open source and open standards: OSOSS en NoiV. The projects did contribute a lot to the awareness of these subjects. We did not see, up until know, a strong government program that really pushes the case, shows more doing then talking. A lot did happen though the past years. And developments will not stop. A good opportunity to see that, is the forthcoming congress Open Overheid (Open Government), May 31 in Utrecht.
Your reporter will be there with his company Nou&Off, contributing strength to the open source office-part. And there are other important subjects. What would you think of "Economical impact, How open standards and software can contribute to economical growth and cost savings"? To me that looks as an extremely useful theme is these times of economical transitions. There are many talented people in our country that are well equipped to write ad improve software. And then of course I mean open source using free open standards. That work can be much more profitable for authorities, administrations and other organizations then already is the case now. A smart government makes such very clear, invests in this direction, rather then shipping millions of Euro's each year.
Hey, while finishing the last sentence, someone points me to this petition: responsible use of resources by public administrations. Pls, do sign it!

zondag 15 april 2012

8 years OpenOffice LibreOffice Professional support

(read this blog in Dutch) Today 8 years ago I launched my company Nou&Off: dedicated to support for OpenOffice and the last years of course increasingly LibreOffice.
Before that, I worked in a company providing consultancy for larger projects in Ms Word. But my ideas about fair policy did not really match with that from the guys in Redmond. So after a while, I ended up in the open source market. Relatively new too me, so I learned a lot.

8 years also means quite some projects in larger and smaller organisations, which adds some experience too. I've seen successes and failures in migrations. Of course the complexity of the automation always is a factor that has large influence on all that has to be done. And the focus of the involved employees in the project, is a key for success or failure. Sometimes the idea settles that it's not important to look early and consistent at certain possible issues. Or unexpectedly other (more important?) projects take the focus from the office-migration project which then is at a side track. And in general that is not the recipe for success..

So the energy and enthusiasm to continue in this tough market (The Netherlands is way back in market acceptance compared with surrounding countries) has to come from something else. Yes, from the successful projects obviously. Small and larger. Where managers and users are glad or just fine with the change, profit the advantages of their open source software: features, price, freedom.

8 years is a long time, when you look forward from the moment that you start. Looking back, there's been a whole lot of things that happened. With Nou&Off as a constant factor in this market for OpenOffice and LibreOffice, and a dedicated contribution to the open source project behind these. Ah yes, the start of LibreOffice September 2010 is an important mile stone, which delivers more quality, better compatibility and easier accessible 3rd level support with direct results in features and improvements in the product.

Not directly related to this anniversary, but still interesting, are the news that Nou&Off will publish the next month, on a product, business cooperation and finished projects. Keep in touch!

woensdag 4 april 2012

report Dutch community Hacking & Writing event

On Saturday, March 31, six members of the Dutch Language community gathered for a next Hackers event. Alas, due to family circumstances I was unable to join, but Luc kindly send me this report of the event:
" The session was hosted by Hans de Vries, in his office near Utrecht, Netherlands, quickly after arrival we fired up our laptop's got the Wifi going and departed on our journey.

Two streams of activities quickly developed, one on hacking the code itself, another one around documentation. We worked on both during the whole day, spend a significant amount of time on getting to know each other: "who are you", "what is your background", etc.
Code work was done on some patches for code improvement and curing build errors in debug mode.
Working from home via the Internet this personal contact is valuable and helps to speed up the interaction and hence our output!

We left late afternoon with our personal batteries charged and thanked Hans for his hospitality.
A next event is planned for the autumn, tentatively located near Antwerp, Belgium. In mean time there are different events to attend and present our selves on smaller scale.

A poll by the members, who have many LibreOffice users in our environment, revealed a fast and firm conclusion to the question "what should LibreOffice focus on": product quality! For the short term do not focus on new features, but focus on a robust product. We will help ! "

So stay tuned, and don't miss them: there will be new meetings during this year! But of course first try to join the Hamburg Hackfest, April 14 & 15!

donderdag 29 maart 2012

Document freedom - also something for these day's

When I'm sitting in the train, or even better, on a sunny terrace, I see many heads bound, The thumbs and fingers move swiftly over de screens of the newest gadgets, that are used nowadays to share our information. Little tweed, Apps, site here and there... Who talks about sustainability of digital documents in this world?
Still there is the DocumentFreedomDay. For years already. And I was invited there to present LibreOffice.
It makes fun and is challenging in a time, as is sketched with the first sentences, to be invited to explain why it is important that we, I, you, our society in twenty, sixty, three hundred years still can have access to the information that we currently consider important enough to spend our precious time on. And that you will be able to use these documents, also now, without being forced to spend money to do so.
To me, that always is the linking step to the need of a powerful office-application that works with free, open document standards. So that people and organisations just do not have to work with an office-application that typically saves documents in a non-free, not open format. Briefly: why we need LibreOffice. That will definitely put an end to the sending around of .doc-files.

The presentation is the right moment to show with some graphs (here and these too) why it is good that LibreOffice has succeeded OpenOffice. How much stronger, more diverse the development-community is. And to show some of the beautiful new things that are to come, as we can see in the prototypes for the web-version, real-time collaboration, and the ports for iOS and Android.
At the end of my talk, I took the opportunity to discuss the promoting of PDF file with embedded open document: from LibreOffice directly into one single file. Each is able to open it as PDF, and everyone with a proper office-suite can edit it directly and the save again as rich-PDF. Nice subject, various opinions. Maybe something to write about again later :-)

vrijdag 23 maart 2012

'Hacking and writing' for LibreOffice

Free software exists thanks to the involvement of users. For that reason we have regular meetings in our Dutch language community. Working on the items that you like. Or that you consider important. And this is an open, relaxing atmosphere.
So, on March 31 there will already be our sixth 'hackers-event'. But since there is a equal amount of people with interest for documentation, I just call it 'hacking and writing'. Well, thinking of the effort that a writer spends on a good text, how strong he must hack in possible features, examples, explanations... One could call that a sort of hacking, isn't it?
Don't let the real hackers, the ones that dive diep in all the code, dependencies and more, read this ;-)
Ah yes, more information (in Dutch) via this link!

donderdag 16 februari 2012

"LibreOffice Best Free Office Suite Ever" in het Nederlands

If you would like to read the Dutch version of the announcement and see the translated text on the great graphics by Italo Vignoli ... it is here on my Dutch language blog!