Archive for June, 2007

June

27

by Kaj Kandler

The campaign for MS-OOXML as ISO standard has been pushed forward by Microsoft for a while. Now the opposition does collect signatures to say No to MS-OOXML’s adoption as an ISO standard.

The critics do not want two standards and they do not want standards that have no reference implementation, do not make use of other ISO standards or do not fully describe what actually is the standard. The later point preventing anybody from complying

June

27

by Kaj Kandler

According to the latest Consumer Reports Tech support Survey (subscription required), independent technical support is better than the offers by manufacturers.

While manufacturers’ free support on average were able to resolve only 53% of issues, the same organizations increased their hits to 59%, when paid. Notable exceptions where Apple (80%) and Lenovo (80%), the former IBM Consumer PCs. However the support services affiliated with major retail chains did solve 84% of issues and other independent tech support organizations solved 93% of tickets. Independent and paid services were also more responsive to pick up the phone and had more knowledgeable staff.

Lets speculate, this could be a phenomenon of “I get what I’m paying for” and users of paid services are more satisfied than if it is for free. On the other hand this could be a real observation that independent tech support is better and more qualified.

I guess there are multiple effects in play. First, an independent shop can’t point the finger to some culprit outside of their jurisdiction. It is so common that the hardware manufacturer blames the OS and the OS blames the application and the application blames the driver from the hardware manufacturer. If you are independent you need to focus on solutions and not on blame.

Also, if you are paid by incident, you need to pick up the phone before the customer walks away, resulting in faster response times. In addition, if the client needs to pay for every incident, he will only bring up the really important issues, cutting down on perceived issues that a customer might have. Some folks have the attitude, “lets ask, it doesn’t cost me any extra” and in reality they ask the impossible. It would be interesting to filter out from the survey the group of people that has used both, manufacturers and independent tech support. These answers would be the best to decide who is better. For the moment I’ll give independent the benefit of the doubt and the survey results. I guess if you need to compete for each incident, you got to deliver some value.

June

22

by Kaj Kandler

Dell Computers is further responding to its customer’s public request. After offering some of their PCs pre-installed with Ubuntu Linux, they now offer an increasing number of PCs with only a minimal set of pre-installed software packages. Gone are the AOL installers, the music players, the DVD player programs, if the customer wishes and specifies so at the time of order.

However three programs remain:

  • Google Tools – for correcting misspelled URL’s
  • PDF Reader – To read documentation delivered in this format
  • Anti Virus Software (trial versions) – “Because customers expect their computers to be protected at first boot”

To me only the Acrobat Reader makes sense, as not being able to read the documentation is not very helpful. Although one could offer the documentation either in MS Help format or in HTML, both being universally accessible with the plain operating system. Although HTML could be debatable, once IE is stripped. but in most cases some kind of browser would be installed.

The utility of Google Tools just for mis typed URL’s strikes me as odd. I don’t like this kind of technology, because it tries to guess what I want and the guesses are more often than not correct.

Last, but not least, trial version of Anti Virus Software, because customers expect it to be installed? You must be kidding me! Doesn’t the current versions of MS already include such protective software? So why need another trial version installed? I don’t like and use any of these resource killers. But this argument does not hold water for me.

So I guess Dell simply has long running contracts with these vendors and it can’t easily bail out of them. With Dell’s responses to its customers wishes, I’m hopeful, sooner or later these things will be gone as well.

It will be interesting to see how this will change the landscape. Removing such programs from PC’s will certainly be not too good for Dell’s bottom line in the short run, as the vendors of these pay a hardware manufacturer to install them. It also should have impact on the companies that use these methods to market their products. One option we might see, is that Microsoft, the still predominant player in this market either needs to lower its prices to make up for the lost revenue or it will integrate these into the OS upfront and make up for its shrinking share of business. However, Microsoft is expanding the OS functionality into anything that has successfully be developed by others. MS included web-browser, anti virus, firewall, multi media player, video creation, and much more and bundled it as part of the OS. We all know what followed.

I’m still waiting for OpenOffice.org as optional install.

June

21

by Kaj Kandler

Most user of Plan-B for OpenOffice.org don’t notice, but we do deploy Google Analytics to track visitors and a myriad of other data.

However, I’m a bit disappointed about Google Analytics last update. While the added features are much appreciated, I have to notice that a lot of buttons and links getting to this functionality are broken. I can’t set my own date range for the analysis anymore and I can’t click on the link for the new (re-appearing) hourly view.

I guess I’m getting what I’m paying for. After all this service is free.

June

18

by Kaj Kandler

While Dell has listened to its customers’ proposals on IdeaStorm and now offers some PCs with Linux (to be precise, Ubuntu), it has not yet replied to the request to offer OpenOffice.org preinstalled.

But why buy a Dell computer, if you can have your Windows XP virtually online from Nivio? And Nivio offers OpenOffice.org as its default office suite.

But wait a moment, how do I access an online virtual Windows XP desktop? Right I still need a computer with some sort of OS and that can then run OpenOffice.org natively and Windows XP as well. Not sure why I really need this Nivio.

June

13

by Kaj Kandler

The OpenOffice.org community released today OpenOffice.org 2.2.1. This release does not contain new features but a list of many bug fixes from reading fields in Word® documents to adhering to the schema for ODF documents.

Upgrade is highly recommended for anyone who already uses release 2.2. You can download this latest release for free.

June

13

by Kaj Kandler

If you are a Writer, using OpenOffice.org as you main tool, Dimitri Popov’sWriter for Writers and Advanced Users” might be the book for you to read. And Dimitri does know his OpenOffice, as he also publishes the “WriterTools” extension. WriterTools in version 0.7.1 includes features such as:

  • Lookup Tool – select text and lookup it up in several online references, including Cambridge Dictionaries, WordNet, and Google Define.
  • Google Translate – select text and translate it to different languages using the Google Translate service.
  • Email Backup – Backup your currently open document per E-Mail.
  • Multi-format Backup macro – saves the currently open text document Writer) as Word, RTF, and TXT formats in one command.
  • Open FTP Document – open a document stored on an FTP server and work on it locally.
  • Convert to DokuWiki converts the current document into DokuWiki format.
  • Start/Stop Timer – keep track how long you work on which document and save the data in the accompanying WriterDB database. Use it as you please, such as for billing etc.

This set of tools utilizes the new OpenOffice.org extension infrastructure. Which seems to gain momentum in general.

I find the DokuWiki macro real nifty. I bet, if it would be MediaWiki as output, a lot of Wikipedia authors would become OOo converts.

June

13

by Kaj Kandler

Bruce Byfield has published another article about “Desktop Publishing with OpenOffice.org.”

Bruce does make a point that when it comes to replacing mid level DTP applications like Microsoft Publisher® one does not need to look at Scribus. OpenOffice.org Writer in combination with Draw do the trick pretty well. He thinks Writer is especially suitable for long texts like books, manuals or thesis. Those documents tend to be text heavy with moderate variability of page design. In case you want to be more graphic heavy with little text, such as brochures, fliers or other marketing material, he recommends to try Draw.

I think Bruce should know, after all he is an accomplished book author and writes frequently articles.

June

11

by Kaj Kandler

While other states’ attempts to safeguard their documents by using open standards seem to have stalled for now, New York is the next one to try. Assembly woman RoAnn M. Destito (Democrat), proposes the state study how government documents are created, shared, and archived and how these documents can be used in a way that “encourages appropriate government control, access, choice, interoperability, and vendor neutrality,” in Bill A08961.

This means more consideration of open standards like ODF and ISO 26300, to avoid perfectly preserved digital garbage that can’t be read because the format is not documented and the sole keeper of the application creating it went out of business.

June

09

by Kaj Kandler

Plan-B for OpenOffice.org celebrates the milestone of 100 help topic screencasts for OpenOffice.org Writer.

This week we added some topics around paragraph formatting and using tab stops. The latest batch contains the following help topics: