Archive for the ‘Open Source’ Category



by Kaj Kandler

Sun Microsystems wants to encourage more participation in the Open Office community. For that purpose Sun sponsors a contest for contributions to offering $175,000 in price money and public acknowledgment of achievement.

The contest asks not just for development contributions, such as source code or extensions. The contest also solicits documentation, artwork, marketing materials and methods, tools to improve the community in areas such as distribution, translation, etc. It even accepts improvements to OpenDocument Format (ODF) and other creative ideas.

There are a few conditions for entry: You must create original work free of other people’s rights and be of legal age. You also must be a member of the community (registered at For the cash prizes you need to live or be a legal resident of certain countries and territories. You can enter the contest as an individual or a group.

If you are interested, read the rules carefully. Determine if you are eligible for cash prizes. If you live in Austria or the Philippines, you are out of luck in this category. Also make sure that what you produce does comply with the licenses of and can be contributed to the project under the Contributer Agreement (different from the licenses). You should also be willing to have Sun Microsystems use your work for publicizing the Contest and the software.



by Kaj Kandler

Matt Asay asks the question “What to do when open source is not good enough?” in his CNET blog.

He argues that he sometimes encounters cases where his choice of open source software does not fulfill his desired feature set and so he resorts to proprietary, closed source, binary only applications. For example, Asay switches from Adium to iChat when he needs video chat capability and from Impress to MS PowerPoint, when he needs video embedding. He concludes it is o.k. to use binary only applications in these cases and I would not disagree.

However, I’m not quite sure if Asay asks the right question or answers the question he asks.

Open Source is there so you can improve on the software you got, as opposed to a binary license that does prevent you from even pin pointing (debugging) a problem. The core freedom of open source is being able to add/modify/fix what is “your itch”. That the software is it also “free as in beer” is more of a side effect.

The better answer to Asay’s question is “If open source is not good enough, then improve it.” Sure not everybody is a programmer, but everybody can hire someone to do the job.

That is where it becomes clear that the “free as in beer” is only for making a copy of the software. If you really want to get the best out of it and solve your specific issue, then you have to invest like in anything else. You don’t even have to share (publish) the fruits of your investment. Only when you want to give it to someone else (for money or for free) you have to give that person the same rights you got (under the GPL at least).

So now it is your decision if you want to invest your money/talent/time into proprietary software that does not give you these freedoms or in open source that does. I’m not saying OSS is the only solution, but I’m saying it is equivalent to closed source and even better in some cases.

Ask yourself how would you answer the question “What to do when closed source software is not good enough?” I’ll think you’ll come to the same answer, use a competing application that does do what you want. Now in case of proprietary binary only software, you are at the mercy of “the market.” If you can’t find the app with the features you need, you are out of options and have to start from scratch to build the software you need. In case of open source you can take the package that comes the closest to your needs and add/modify/fix.

It’s all about options, you choose yours.



by Kaj Kandler

Today I visited the Sun Tech Days Boston for day number one. Sun Microsystems put on a big program at the downtown Sheraton hotel with three major tracks:

  • NetBeans and various Java related technologies
  • OpenSolaris and its community
  • University a cross section for students, introductions to almost every Sun developer technology

I peaked in to the introductions for OpenSolaris. What I and a moderate crowd listened too was core developers who focused on the developing community of OpenSolaris and how it becomes more than Sun employees developing with everybody else watching. In many ways OpenSolaris does catch up with many other *nix like OS distribution. The word “modernize” was used often in describing the efforts to create new installers,
updated shells, new packaging system, more drivers, etc. OpenSolaris really seams to be a train picking up steam.

I was surprised, how undecided the road map was for the various projects and initiatives. It often was unclear when a certain feature would arrive in which release of OpenSolaris or Solaris the commercial distribution of Sun Microsystems. As an engineer I like things to be finished and done right, instead of rushed to meet a deadline. But from the business perspective, it is not a good thing, that many processes, and I mean decision processes, are not yet decided on. I’m well familiar with such mixed messages from the OpenOffice/StarOffice project, I’m more involved with. If I would meet Jonathan Schwartz, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, I’d let him know that Sun’s positioning of the commercial Sun products versus the open source products is not clear and that it is hurting Sun.

Back to the Java track, where I peaked into sessions about Ajax frameworks and upcoming Swing technologies. It appears Sun does not take sides with the various Ajax frameworks, other than trying to support them all in NetBeans. NetBeans 6.0 impressed me with its ability to not just syntax color and code assist but also to have many wizards that generate code for your from a few questions. This was especially apparent in the session about Swing Application Framework and Java Beans Binding. NetBeans supports these brand new frameworks with code generation that can rival Ruby on Rails scaffolding, although for pure Java apps.

Speaking of Ruby on Rails, or better Jruby on Rails. This session was rather disappointing, as the speaker was jsut a few days into Ruby and Rails and basically did talk about her own excitement about a dynamic language and the impressive meta programming Rails style. I would have hoped for more hard facts on how JRuby does vs native Ruby and what the challenges are and how they are overcome.

As you can see it was a busy day, and the program only started in the afternoon. I look forward to tomorrow.



by Kaj Kandler

Most users know that Sun Microsystems is the main force behind and its development community. Historically they did buy StarDivision and release Open Office as open source. Today, IBM announced to commit to the development community with a team of 35 developers in China working full time on the project. IBM also contributed today a chunk of code making the open source office suite more accessible for users with disabilities.

While IBM has developed the accessibility interface called iAccessible2 for a while and also supported ODF (ISO 26300) in its Lotus Notes products, this announcement is a long term commitment to develop as a competitive suite.



by Kaj Kandler

On the GullFoss blog, Matthias Mueller-Prove has bravely assembled a nice graphic of users in the various sub projects. Makes for a great graphic and on first blush one does think it does tell you something.

However, Matthias immediately came under critic that the number of members signed up in the project website tells little about involvement and most likely contains a load of “dead” members. and Matthias readily admitted that this might be so. He volunteered to assemble a similar graphic with better data if someone could point to a better metric. If you have an idea, please help him out.



by Kaj Kandler

The Linux distributer TurboLinux has announced it will participate in the project to convert ODF files into MS Office 2007 compatible versions. TurboLinux will offer its expertise in Asian languages such as Chinese and Japanese for converting documents.

The ODF converter is a Microsoft sponsored open source project that wants to bridge the interoperability gap between the new ISO standard format ODF and the proprietary world of MS Office. Its development is behind the abilities of Sun’s MS Office plug-in, only supporting text documents at this time. However it supports Office 2007.



by Kaj Kandler

Apparently, interest to use as a tool to other means is growing. I just discovered that OpenMRS, an open source Medical Record System framework, plans to use as an alternative Data Entry mechanism.

More precisely, Matthew Harrison proposed this project for the Google summer of Code challenge, and apparently got accepted. Michael started blogging about his project. Currently he is reading up on macros programming and XForms, which he intends to use for formalized data entry.

Google’s summer of code
pays student interns for the summer to create open source code for many open source projects. It has been quite popular with students from around the world. While the stipend of $4,500, is nice compensation for something a student might do anyhow, it is a lot of money to many students in other countries. In any case it does help many open source projects to get some additional resources which they mentor and help to achieve the project’s goal.

OpenMRS is an initiative to build a much needed medical record system framework, that is affordable for developing countries to manage their are number of patients or such diseases like AID/HIV. Impressively, the project is only one year old, but has implementations in seven countries and collected millions of patient observations.



by Kaj Kandler

Sun and the community found an agreement Pentaho to integrate business intelligence features into the next release of Pentaho has recently integrated formerly separate open source projects JFreeReport, Mondrian, Kettle, and Weka to a powerful business intelligence server complete with reporting, analysis and OLAP capabilities.

The project offers a J2EE compliant reporting server, that can connect to many data sources and integrates workflow to create and distribute important report information to the authorized people in an enterprise. The project also offers a powerful report designer based on Eclipse and is modular so it can be integrated into other applications.

Apparently, Sun has decided it will build a Report designer of its own that defines reports in Pentaho’s formats. These reports will draw data from the Pentaho business intelligence server as well as from other sources.

If you want to see how example the integration of OLAP features into an Excel spreadsheet could look like, watch the demos of Jedox Palo Server a repository and OLAP server for Excel spreadsheets. These demos cover a specific case of OLAP and Spreadsheet integration, which I think is one possible use of the Business Inteligence integration project. However, it makes the abstract term of business intelligence more concrete. By the way Palo announced at the beginning of the year that it seeks sponsors to build a spreadsheet server for OpenOffice Calc. The sponsors role is to help cover the cost of open source development and to become first users.



by Kaj Kandler has lately been on a fairly short release cycle of 3 month. Martin Michlmayr, researcher on the topic of open source development, points out in his journal, that this has not always been this way.

Originally, when Sun made StarOffice open source under the new name, it planned for a release cycle of 18 month. The cycle was so long, because it needed to incorporate all changes into StarOffice as well. However, this did not atisfy teh users who had to wait long time for new features and it did not satisfy the developers, who saw the fruits of their work only after years.

After the 2.0 release was delayed by nine month, the OpenOffice community adopted an agile approach of fixed release dates and variable feature sets. The release ar now pegged at every three month. See Martin’s journal entry for details.



by Kaj Kandler is a popular office suite. As it is open source and available for free it is very attractive to institutions that want to save some money. This is especially true for institutions of higher education, that also want to save some money for students.

How popular is at the nations colleges and universities? That question has been researched by Benjamin Horst a NY based open source advocate. If your college uses OpenOffice and it is not on the list, drop Ben a comment.

Also, Digg this story so more people read about it and we get an even better list.