News about OpenOffice, AJAX, and the future of PC's and the Internet
As someone that lives on a Linux desktop full time, and uses Apple OS.X at the house, I have to deal with all the MS specific things that come my way: obvious stuff like MS Word docs, MS Excel spreadsheets, MS Powerpoint presentations, "Web" sites that are created by tools that default to MS specific, non-open-standard layouts and content... on and on, I am always watching the news for items of interest to let me know that this situation is not a permanent one.
The first thing I saw that received wide press was the articles and articles about the fact the the State of Massachusetts had closed the books on using closed document formats. One of the best articles I read there was by David Berlind over at ZDNet: Microsoft called Massachusetts' bluff -- and lost
I found this article to be fascinating, especially in the amount of information David provides about the possible domino effects of this: The same levels of inter-connectedness that has in part driven MS Office adoption working against it now. MS denies they will do this, but it seems like OpenDoc will be something that MS will have to do at some point in the very near future. It's a great read, and it feeds into my "perfect world" scenario in that use of OpenDoc formats means I can use whatever platform I happen to be sitting at to look at information I need.
At the current time, thanks to Sun and the OpenOffice folks, MS formatted documents are not all that hard. But a lot of people having byte by byte unwound the file formats is not the same thing as just having a published, open standard for the file format that can be referenced for as long as the documents are electronically readable. How long they stay readable is another problem: We had that one at NASA when backup tapes fit tape machines we no longer had.. and that no one in fact had. But I digress.... OpenOffice 1.9.125 (I see RC1 is out yesterday, which I loaded on my Xandros laptop and which internally now calls itself 2.0) handles everything in the document decoding business beautifully for me right now (PC Magazine liked), with some exceptions over in the spreadsheet world. And it is easy to use and installed on all my platforms. I use Neooffice on the iBook, but the idea and a lot of the source code is the same.
I came across another article that I can not for the life of me find right now about someone that put up OpenOffice.org 2.0 Beta and went to work using it. They never opened a manual or posted a question: they just started using it. Their point was that the whole learning curve FUD is overdone, and it echoed some things I wrote about a while back for LinuxWorld Magazine . Since the author agreed with me, I thought he was a genius :) . The good news for the end users is probably not such good news for all the folks writing “OpenOffice.org for Goofballs” type books though.
Wordperfect, my first and formerly favorite word processor will someday have OpenDoc: eWeek: WordPerfect Will Support OpenDocument... Someday It is my formerly favorite only because I don’t want to use the current version off WP Linux at the moment. The copy I have was the re-working of Version 8 that Corel did a while back. It runs on current distros, but .... it just is way behind the MS Windows version, and OpenOffice is now "Good Enough" (tm). I do miss “Show Codes” though.
I came across this article “TextMaker 2005 Beta - now with OpenDocument compatibility” while poking around in an unrelated search: I have seen others about many other platforms headed there as well. This one interested me in part because is was a MS Windows only word processor.
StarOffice version 8 shipped to some pretty high praise from eWeek: eWeek: StarOffice 8 Is Office's Toughest Rival Yet
Another area of interest for me has been the recent but massive development of AJAX technologies. I love Google mail: It is the first AJAX application I have spent any time with, and it is far and away the best web mail package I have seen. And it looks and acts the same from Safari, Opera, or Firefox on my iBook, Opera, Konqueror, or Firefox on Linux, and even Firefox on MS Windows. I had hoped we’d see other web mail clients going to this soon: Further I hoped they would be something that could be used in the glass house to replace the MS Exchange server “experience”: I personally find the web mail interface to MS Exchange to be suboptimal, especially relative to Gmail.
I had no idea how quickly AJAX based Office and collaboration applications were going to appear: A flurry of interesting articles related to this:
- Zimbra Collaboration Suite Launched
- Early AJAX Office Applications
- Zimbra leads a path to AJAXed apps
- Roadmap for merging Calendaring into Mozilla's Thunderbird
OK: That last one is not AJAX based as far as I know, but it is all somehow tied together, at least in my head. And nothing in there about an AJAX alternative interface to MS Exchange either, but still it was interesting to see how fast these applications have appeared.
The Gordian knot of the desktop is really calendaring. Email is pretty much easy to do these days, if you leave aside the massive amount of work one has to do to filter out all the Spam and Phishing (like most places, 70% of the email that arrives on BMC’s electronic “doorstep” is spam). But that is a whole other blog, probably called “The Trials and Tribulations of Evolution”
Finally, found today was "It's the end of the PC as we know it" which is a commentary piece by CNET News.com's Charles Cooper. I am still thinking about it, One thing I thought about was the Dynabook they mention in the piece, and all the mobile devices that we are going to be using to tap into the application cloud that is the Internet and the Internet-to-be, and that the AJAX technologies mentioned above could be a big part of. But then I think about how I personally interface to this technology. I am not a touch typist, but the keyboard is the way I go: full size, with the “Caps Lock” key turned off in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. I have tried voice typing, but I found it accessing a different part of my brain, not to mention that is didn’t work very well on all the technical jargon. I am not at all fast on text entry on mobile phone keyboards, although my Son is blazingly fast.
Earlier this week, I tried to resurrect my HP 620LX, an MS Windows CE device, thinking it would be nice to carry around to jot down things for this Blog with. While the hardware is fine even though it is over 7 years old, the SynCE project does not support it. It has a small but usable keyboard which was why it was attractive for this purpose, but anything I do on it is stuck there for now. So I wonder... Even if the PC as we know it goes away, how will we interface with this brave new world? Maybe those Star Trek Data PADD’s are going to be all the rage soon. Cell phones are already smaller and do more than the original Star Trek shows communicator. Well.. leaving aside that whole talking to geosynchronous orbit without a cell tower thing...