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Interview With Gary Edwards of OpenOffice.org 173

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the inside-perspectives dept.
silentbob4 writes "Hot on the heels of yesterdays interview of Sun's Florian Reuter posted on Slashdot comes a two page interview with OpenOffice.org's Gary Edwards. In this installment, Gary discusses the importance of open document formats and hints to the release date of OpenOffice.org 2.0: 'No one knows for certain when OpenOffice.org 2.0 stable will be released, but Mad Penguin's bet is that the stable 2.0 release will come before any recently purchased cartons of milk expire in your refrigerator.'"
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Interview With Gary Edwards of OpenOffice.org

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  • got milk? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayagu@NospAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @01:44PM (#13774892) Journal

    Excellent article, a bit long of a read but worth it. Read it!

    As for pending relaase of stable OOo 2.0, the article mentions:

    No one knows for certain when OOo 2.0 stable will be released, but Mad Penguin's bet is that the stable 2.0 release will come before any recently purchased cartons of milk expire in your refrigerator.

    I need more specific data. I buy Ultra-Pasteurized milk, and the carton I recently bought has an expiration date of late November! I guess I can wait until then, I've waited this long. But, could I possibly be optimistic enough to hope he only means regular pasteurized milk? That would get me OO a couple weeks sooner!

    Another interesting observation in the article:

    Gary explains, Microsoft's Word ML will only interoperate with its own locked stack, require customers to become complete Microsoft shops if they hope to achieve the same level of fluid information flow available through truly open SOAs.
    Discounting that Gary obviously completely advocating OO and probably had a disdain for Microsoft's XML implementation, I think to the extent that what he is pointing out is true, IT managers should take note . Unfortunately most won't or don't. We live in an age where decision makers chant the "nobody ever got fired for choosing Microsoft" mantra, and the threat that continued Microsoft upgrade stand to completely lock in a shop to only Microsoft products probably won't frighten them. But with slightly less myopia, IT managers should realize this pending lockin could jeapordize subsequent ability to exchange information and perform transactions with other organizations (factor in the additional pending Trusted Computing technology and this gets downright scary).

    And should you choose not to read the entire article, read this gem of a question and response from page two:

    MP: Is this lock down aimed at blunting the spread of OpenOffice.org 2.0?

    Interesting stuff...

    • Re:got milk? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:02PM (#13775052) Homepage
      I think to the extent that what he is pointing out is true, IT managers should take note . Unfortunately most won't or don't.

      I think a lot of IT managers already have taken note. Most people in IT understand that Microsoft doesn't play well with others, which leads to the idea that your best bet is either to use only Microsoft Office or not use Microsoft Office at all. However, there just aren't loads of options there. Microsoft Office is what most businesses use, so if you want to do business with them, you might want to stick with MS. Further, people are accustomed to Microsoft Office, so there's that issue.

      Finally, and this is not unimportant, even though OOo might provide a viable alternative to most of MS Office, they don't offer an Outlook clone. Many businesses are flat-out addicted to Outlook for their scheduling. OOo might do well to integrate Evolution and help Novell port it to Windows/OSX.

      Either way, I doubt that the real problem is that IT managers are oblivious to the vendor lock-in MS represents, but rather that the lock-in has already taken place, and now the question is, how do you get out? The answer may be to push MS to support OASIS.

      • Re:got milk? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by maotx (765127) <`maotx' `at' `yahoo.com'> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:39PM (#13775359)
        ...how do you get out?

        Spread the word and practice what you preach.
        I believe the problem is not as much as people don't listen but the fact that people do not spread what they preach. As a business user, have you ever given an MS Office client an OO.org document? I know I haven't. Reason being is because the recipients do not have OO.org installed nor do they want to install it. And to force clients into downloading a >100MB file to read your document is preposterous!

        What I believe is needed is a light-weight OO.org viewer that is quick to download and quick to open. Then we can give our clients OO.org documents and exclaim to them when they tell us they can't view it that we use OO.org due to its [insert fabulous reason here] and if they like they can download the free viewer here*. That or include the viewer or link with document. That way they know we use OO.org as we prefer the benefits it offers over those of MS and they are not forced to get something they're not comfortable ("opensource? my mcse guy said it's not free!")

        *Said viewer should have link too full version so they have option of downloading OO.org
        • Re:got milk? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:47PM (#13775444) Homepage
          What I believe is needed is a light-weight OO.org viewer that is quick to download and quick to open.

          If all you need is for the client to view the document, send a PDF. That's what PDFs are for, and it also diminishes the reliance on Microsoft. Best of all, almost everyone already has a PDF viewer installed.

          • Yes, I really have no idea who would be daft enough to claim or imagine that OO is locked into its own document types.
            • Re:got milk? (Score:3, Interesting)

              by nine-times (778537)
              Of course, OOo includes an "export to PDF" feature. So, even if you're on Windows and don't have Acrobat (or some other PDF generator), OpenOffice has you covered for read-only portable documents. Someone might argue that you should use OASIS because it's more open, but at least PDF is a lot more open than the Word format, and arguably more supported than Word even.

              It doesn't support editing so well, so that's the real question. When you're sending a document, do you want the recipient to be able to edi

          • Re:got milk? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by phallstrom (69697)
            Best of all when that user asks how I create those PDF's I can say I just clicked the PDF button in OO.

            I'm the only one who uses OO at work here (alongside Office) and I send out a lot of PDFs. I've had numerous people ask me how I do that especially when they know I don't have any of the Acrobat stuff...

            Sadly they then say they wish Office had that and go about their day...
            • Even sadder when you realize Office 12, coming out soon, *will* export to PDF. OpenOffice.org's gonna have to find something new to distinguish itself soon.
              • OpenOffice.org's gonna have to find something new to distinguish itself soon.

                The *only* advantage OO.o has over office is it's "export to PDF" option? What?

                Cheers
                Stor
          • And... (Score:3, Informative)

            by game kid (805301)

            ...when someone asks how you got the full version of Adobe Acrobat, one can just say, "I didn't. I just used OpenOffice.org to export a PDF. Microsoft Office can't do that without that overpriced Adobe thing, but OOo can."

            When they ask how you found that, and then why they are stuck with that $x00-$x000 piece of crap Microsoft calls an office suite, you can look at them and (before answering said questions) smile at them and yourself with pride.

            My new compy has OpenOffice.org, and no version of Micros

            • Just saw the older post [slashdot.org].
            • I meant that they (the people who want to export PDFs) will call MS Office a "$x00-$x000 piece of crap". Me, I like the smart tags, XML export and stuff of that sort, but a plain Joe Aijuswanamakeacrobats that sees a OOo PDF just wants to export nice PDFs, and would consider something big like Office worthless if it can't. (For now) Office doesn't do it on its own, and I like making a PDF once in a while.
          • Resumes (Score:4, Insightful)

            by CrazedWalrus (901897) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @03:45PM (#13776015) Journal
            I distribute my resume as a .PDF. Unfortunately, I almost always get the response: "Could you send this to me as a Word document? It's our standard format." Of course, not owning a copy of MS Word, I must try to use OO.org's converter and *pray* that it looks right on the other side.

            I've especially had this problem with recruiters, since they like to re-format the resume and put it onto their standard letterhead and preferred layout. Since I know that, I'll generally try to get away with sending them an RTF, since it tends to be less dicey.

            Distributing PDFs is a great idea, and if people were less anal about getting Word docs (many times as a matter of company policy or procedure), it'd work great.
            • The company I did intern work for over the summer received a lot of .pdfs. Problem was, their internal resume-searcher system (need a contractor with skill x? Just search for it. Very handy) could only read text, doc, rtf and (I think) html.

              I spent a couple of hours figuring out a system to handle this (hey, I was cheap labour). I ended up using the trial download of this system [solidpdf.com] which worked very well. The bonus was that it has a command line interface so it was easy to do a vbs wrapper to recurse throug
            • I also distribute my resume in PDF format. It also feels more serious to me, supplying a (relatively) non-editable file.

              Some day someone asked me why. I replied with my own reasons and added that the file will be platform independent and people not having MS Office would be able to view my resume. Also the file will be seen the same by everyone, just like I see it.

              What he (economist, likes computers, divx stuff etc.) said was interesting: "I have never seen a computer without MS Office."

              That was a
          • Not if you want to run the presentation, or recalculate the spreadsheet with different assumptions, or mark up the document with your comments (and not have to have the full acrobat).
        • What I believe is needed is a light-weight OO.org viewer that is quick to download and quick to open.

          There's a bigger picture than a viewer happening here. Did you see this quote?

          From there, there is no doubt in my mind that OpenDocument is heading to the W3C for ratification as the successor to HTML and XHTML.

          What's implied is that OpenDocument will become the driver of a much more interactive web. Google Office may be off the agenda for now, but I'll bet it won't stay that way.

      • Either way, I doubt that the real problem is that IT managers are oblivious to the vendor lock-in MS represents, but rather that the lock-in has already taken place, and now the question is, how do you get out?

        The real problem isn't vendor lock-in at the IT level, but vendor lock-in at the user level. Day-to-day users of Office don't even want to upgrade the version of Office they're using, let alone switch to a comparable but completely new product. Too many things to re-learn. That's a huge amount of

    • Stuff like "I saw some problems recently with MS XML that really discloses everything you need to know about where Microsoft wants to take you. It's not pretty." Well, that's nice to know, without any details.

      Or "To run Microsoft Office Professional 2003 right, you have to have Microsoft servers installed." Which is absolutely not true. I suspect he means that there are various features of Office 2003 that interact with Microsoft server products, but those are two very different claims. There are other to

      • market share (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bluGill (862)

        There are a lot of old computers out there that have not been upgraded. Windows 98 is still common, though mostly for kids games these days. (The games don't run on the parent's XP system, but the next kid can enjoy it just as much as the first) Many offices are still running Windows 2000 on the desktop. (NT 4.0 is still a popular server platform, though it is dieing slowly)

        Many home users are using OOo, because it is free and better than whatever came with their system. Many offices are still on Wo

      • In the quote you actually use, he doesn't say "Office XP Professional 2003", he says "Office Professional 2003" which does exist.

        http://www.microsoft.com/office/editions/howtobuy/ professional.mspx [microsoft.com]

        Due to the similarity in file formats and program functionality it's not completely unfair to use "XP/2003" as nomenclature but Mad Penguin's punctuation is not Gary Edwards fault.

        Finally, he says you need Exchange 2003/Sharepoint/Project Server etc. to use Office 2003 to the fullest - which is true because MS use
    • >> OOo 2.0

      I just want to know if the primordial version was called OOo 0.0.
    • How much does ultra-pasteurized milk cost, and where do you buy it. Also, I don't understand how this particularly helps keep the milk fresh, as the usual problem is bacteria entering your milk after you break the seal, isn't it?
      • Also, I don't understand how this particularly helps keep the milk fresh, as the usual problem is bacteria entering your milk after you break the seal, isn't it?
        Personally, I prefer my milk to include bacteria [infoplease.com]
    • "Excellent article, a bit long of a read but worth it. Read it!"

      ...

      "And should you choose not to read the entire article, ..."

      Don't let 'em off the hook. Everybody should just RTFA and I mean TWFA and NBTFA.

  • milk (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bradee-oh! (459922) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @01:47PM (#13774922)
    I have a carton of non-fat powdered milk I keep in my fridge cause I have no cabinet space... *sigh* that stuff lasts forever.
  • by adavies42 (746183) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @01:49PM (#13774937)
    I hereby proclaim the lacto-expiration the pseudo-unit of time. This fills an important gap in the pseudo-unit lineup, which includes the football field (length), the Library of Congress (data), and the Hiroshima bomb (energy).
  • by Short Circuit (52384) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @01:50PM (#13774941) Homepage Journal
    ...to joke about milk. But, after reading the other posts, that topic's already soured.
  • I just hope... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jamesgamble (917138) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @01:54PM (#13774979) Homepage
    I just hope the OO developers aren't rushing OpenOffice v2 just to give the public a version update. I would gladly wait another two months if it meant OpenOffice would have fewer issues. If milk expires, you can always buy another carton. If the product is sour when it comes out, then it's time to switch to a different brand.
    • Re:I just hope... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cybergrunt69 (730228)
      Seconded! This is one reason that I both love and hate OSS. The developers are doing what they can to make sure they produce a stable product. When it's ready, it gets released. Although I'd rather not generalize, most closed-source products are pushed to release by manangement, based on a release date - and it usually doesn't matter if it's ready to play out in userland. Most OSS releases can be held back until it's ready to go - good for them.

      However, continuous waiting for the "X" release can make

      • Why wait? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CyricZ (887944)
        Why do you have to wait until some specific version is released? Most major open source projects make frequent builds available of their development sources or before stable releases. Go ahead and use the betas or pre-release builds. Chances are the quality is suitable enough for you.

      • Good news

        I have used openoffice beta for a month now without a single crash. Although I admit I do not use it heavily.

        Bad News

        I would be skeptical of most OSS products being released early with bugs. With Sun doing QA this should not be a problem hopefully. QA is a real problem in many opensorce apps that I have noticed core dump alot on .0 versions. I do not think its a coincidence.
  • Monday! (Score:5, Funny)

    by slashflood (697891) <flow@how[ ]w.com ['flo' in gap]> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @01:54PM (#13774982) Homepage Journal
    2005-10-17
  • by Shadow Wrought (586631) <shadow.wroughtNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @01:59PM (#13775026) Homepage Journal
    Netcraft just confirmed it- your milk's expired.
  • Dang. (Score:5, Funny)

    by halivar (535827) <bfelger@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:01PM (#13775041) Homepage
    I just remembered I had milk in the office fridge from 03/05. I guess that was the Longhorn countdown milk. Here's hoping OO.o can do better!
    • by mibus (26291)
      I just remembered I had milk in the office fridge from 03/05. I guess that was the Longhorn countdown milk. Here's hoping OO.o can do better!

      That's not 03/05, it's 03105 - 1100 years from now! :)
  • Fantastic (Score:5, Informative)

    by MaestroSartori (146297) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:02PM (#13775048) Homepage
    He's finally explained in clear terms why the MS-touted XML stuff in Office 2003 isn't useful to anyone else. I'd been idly wondering for a while, and other articles/interviews seem to take it for granted. Anyone else who's curious, the answer is on page 2:

    ...the problem is the well-known binary key in the Microsoft's XML header of every Microsoft XML document. That binary key holds a great deal of the information that we need about the layout definitions of the Microsoft XML file format. We can do a content-based transformation very well. Microsoft's content is in perfect XML file format. Their styles, though, are locked up in that binary key.


    So yeah, MS have taken a completely transparent and useful XML format and munged evil hidden data into it. It can probably be reverse engineered, but still it manages to miss the entire point of having an XML data format in the first place :(
    • Re:Fantastic (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rlp (11898) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:08PM (#13775093)
      Yeah, but Microsoft defines 'interoperable' as 'able to work across a range of (current) Microsoft products'. So, by that definition XML with an embedded proprietary binary key is 'interoperable'.
    • by CyricZ (887944) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:19PM (#13775164)
      Why has everyone suddenly gone googoo over XML? As all this interoperability nonsense shows, it often is far from the perfect solution.

      At the firm I used to work at we had a rather sane policy: send short memos as plain text files, and larger documents as PDFs. Of course, the PDFs were generated via LaTeX, so the LaTeX source to the document could also be sent, too. We didn't have to worry about all this crap with MS Office.

      We'd often hear stories from new employees about the troubles they'd gone through with documents at their previous place of employment. So we were always quite glad that we avoided all that. It does take some time to use LaTeX, for instance, but after the initial learning curve (which is far shallower for most people than is widely thought) its users were far more productive.

      • by Bogtha (906264) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @03:56PM (#13776105)

        Why has everyone suddenly gone googoo over XML? As all this interoperability nonsense shows, it often is far from the perfect solution.

        Well no, it shows that if you try hard enough, you can undo the interoperability benefits of XML.

        Yes, it's not perfect, but it solves a number of problems:

        • Parsing into structure (XML)
        • Escaping special characters (XML)
        • Multilingual documents (XML)
        • Character encoding issues (XML)
        • Addressing parts of the document (XPath, xml:id)
        • Transforming the document into other formats (XSLT)
        • Web formatting (convert into HTML with XSLT on the client or server)
        • Print presentation/PDF output (XSL:FO)
        • Styling (CSS)
        • Scripting (DOM)

        ...and lots more that I can't remember off the top of my head. The point is, a lot of things you would normally have to think about when creating a new format, you don't have to think about with XML because it's all done in a standard way, and there's a huge amount of software that you can reuse in your applications.

        And, of sheer practical benefit, if you start what seems to be a "small, simple" format, you don't have to hack these things on afterwards when reality kicks in and your "small, simple" format balloons in complexity.

        XML certainly isn't a silver bullet, but it's a hell of a lot better than creating a format by hand.

    • Where did you read this? It isn't in the interview.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:06PM (#13775077)
    Please do something about the OpenOffice documentation, especially for developers. Right now it ranges from nonexistance to horrible. Attempting to do anything, and i mean ANYTHING using OpenOffice.Basic, requires hours upon hours of digging through forums, obscure, incomplete or outdated documents. I realize that the everyday user is the main target of the suite, but right now people who want to do just a little scripting are left with virtually no choice but use MS Office. I'm an above average programmer, and this lack of documentation has left me helpless and frustrated. Some kind of tutorial, or even an updated, consistent documentation from an individual developer's point of view (not someone's who has been developing Ooo for years and knows the code by heart) would be a perfect addition to an otherwise great product.

    • by CyricZ (887944) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:26PM (#13775219)
      It's not just the OpenOffice project that suffers from a complete lack of quality developer documentation. I recently was doing some work with embedding Mozilla's Gecko engine, and I ran into the same problems that you did. Assuming you can even find documentation, it is often years old and out of date. Sure, there are examples, but they're horribly commented and not very useful to learn from.

      We don't have time to go digging through the Mozilla source to find out each and every little nuance that wasn't mentioned in the three-year-old documentation. So please, Mozilla and OpenOffice.org developers, provide us with some recent, useful documentation and examples! That is perhaps the greatest favour you could do at this time.

    • You need to download the SDK for documentation. There is none by default. What I have seen is the 1.x version of Uno and its the most complicated thing I have ever seen.
  • Stable sort in calc (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dbhankins (688931) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:11PM (#13775114)
    It may seem like a nit, but I believe one of the factors slowing acceptance of OpenOffice in many departments and small businesses is that Calc doesn't have a stable sort (i.e. a sort that preserves the order of rows that are unaffected by the sort) while Excel does.

    Many shops use spreadsheets as a kind of quick-and-dirty database, and they rely on the ability to sort on 4 or more columns. Calc can only support sorting on 3.

    Unfortunately, 2.0 won't fix this as the bug was marked as a "do later".
    • I believe one of the factors slowing acceptance of OpenOffice in many departments and small businesses is that Calc doesn't have a stable sort

      And you're using OO Calc why? Gnumeric is far and away the better spreadsheet.

      Many shops use spreadsheets as a kind of quick-and-dirty database, and they rely on the ability to sort on 4 or more columns. Calc can only support sorting on 3.

      Again, see Gnumeric [gnumeric.org]. Now available for Windows, too.

  • by digitaldc (879047) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:26PM (#13775216)
    Tell him that that his new workplace is casual dress.
  • Oh, crap! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Descalzo (898339)
    but Mad Penguin's bet is that the stable 2.0 release will come before any recently purchased cartons of milk expire in your refrigerator.

    Looks like I picked the wrong week to buy Parmalat.

  • Non-free? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Markus Registrada (642224) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:31PM (#13775271)
    I'd like to hear about Java-free builds. In particular, I wonder whether anyone has made progress plugging in SQLite in place of their Java-dependent database engine. Database access seems to be the only important feature in 2.0 that depends on Java.

    While an OOo built with Gcj and Classpath is, apparently, legally unencumbered, the future of the language is uncertain. Some us would prefer, for a variety of reasons, to have OOo not dependent on Java for core features.
  • ETA 2005/10/20 (Score:5, Informative)

    by hexene (68121) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @02:41PM (#13775379) Homepage
    A showstopper (#i55330#) has come up, and as a result there will be a third Release Candidate. So estimated time of arrival has gone from 13 October to the 20th.
  • Dave Winer [scripting.com] seems to some sort of bee in his bonnet over OpenDoc. He doesn't seem to say why.
  • From p2
    OpenDocument is now before the ISO (International Standards Organization) board for ratification. From there, there is no doubt in my mind that OpenDocument is heading to the W3C for ratification as the successor to HTML and XHTML.


    Seriously, WTF?

    OpenDocument isn't a web markup. It's an office document format.
  • by Lispy (136512) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @04:04PM (#13776182) Homepage
    Personally I'd be happy if my milk woulnd't get sour everytime I fire the beast up.
    OO.orgs speed issues is the major showstopper for me. And I am running it on Windows AND on Linux. Linux is even worse, sadly. Not exactly good advertising when trying to talk someone into switching OSes.
  • I'm looking forward to a new release of OO as much as anyone, but there are some serious issues mentioned in the issue database that are over 3 years old and still unresolved. Why are they saying that 2.0 is at release candidate status?
  • The 2.0 RC download link does not work, it's got an invalid hostname. If you change: http://download.services.openoffice.org/2.0.0rc/in dex.html [openoffice.org] to http://download.openoffice.org/2.0.0rc/index.html [openoffice.org] it will work.
  • The sad thing is that MS will probably market their incompatible version of XML as "XML - Extended version" or "XML Plus" or some other fantastic non-descript name. They will tout its interoperability with their own products and point out how nothing from OpenOffice will correctly open their files. In addition, the fact that MS Office won't open files from OpenOffice will make people think that OpenOffice is not sharing information. Remember, the game is all about perception. 90% of the people don't car

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