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Archive for the ‘Feb 2008’ Category

An extension is a computer program that is designed to be incorporated into another piece of software in order to enhance, or extend, the functionality.  OpenOffice.org extensions are developed by individuals or organizations to add specific functionality to OOo.  These extensions are freely available without licensing costs to anyone who wants to use it.

 

Until recently,  contributors published their extensions   through individual websites, blogs, or through the OpenOffice.org extension’s wiki  ( http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Extensions) .

 

With the recent launch  of the OpenOffice.org extensions repository, 

(http://extensions.services.openoffice.org/) all known extensions for OOo are available in a single location.  The repository contains  almost 100 hundred extensions that can be sorted according to the operating system used, the application it is used with, its popularity, rating and the date it was uploaded. 

 

Note, however, that extensions are not  tested extensively  by the OOo community, so be careful when using them.  The best way to find out if the extension is suitable to you is by   reading the comments of other users. The extensions could  contain some bugs , or may not be exactly what you need.  Nonetheless, users who know a thing or two about programming could   modify them.

 

Developers are welcome to develop extensions for OOo. OpenOffice.org enables third party tools creation through UNO bridges. The principle is to create UNO packages that can be listed in the OpenOffice.org Extensions repository and installed by end-users easily.

 

The OOo extensions development page at ( http://wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Extensions_development) offers  tips  ,  tools and frameworks that ease and homogenize the development of OOo extensions.

 

The more popular extensions could  be integrated into OpenOffice.org . This is why   it is important to follow common policies from beginning to ease this merging.

 

Downloading and installing an extension

To download an extension, select the name of the extension then click “Get It”.  

To install it, launch OpenOffice.org then  choose Tools > Extension Manager (Package Manager in older versions of OpenOffice.org). Select the //My Extensions// section, and press the Add button. Select the   (extension name).oxt package , and press OK. Then restart OpenOffice.org.

 

After launching OOo, select  Tools – Add-Ons – (extension name)  to execute the macro .  

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It’s all over the news, and open source supporters are on a speculative mood. What are the implications of the imminent Microsoft – Yahoo! tie up?    Undoubtedly,    Microsoft will use this  alliance against Google, a strong supporter of open source in order to protect its products from the threat of open source  software.  

 

However, just like Google, Yahoo is   actively involved in open source efforts as evidenced by  Yahoo Inteface library, Hadoop, Zimbra , etc.  Will an eventual   MS-Yahoo tie up support or kill   Yahoo’s support for open source ?  These are the possibilities:

 

The tie up would give Microsoft  ownership of open source e-mail, projects and  code, giving it   control over Yahoo’s project, Zimbra and other open source projects that Yahoo sponsors. Microsoft could either “proprietize” the projects , chop it up and use its features to improve MS products, or kill them altogether. This will undoubtedly tick  the open source developers who built Zimbra and the customers who bought into the open source e-mail just because it was an open source alternative to  Outlook and other proprietary software.  This partnership will definitely challenge Yahoo’s business ethics.  

 

The tie up could also   give Microsoft a convenient excuse to finally embrace open source web-based applications, the open document format, and eventually adopt ODF.

 

Personally, the latter is less likely to happen. Microsoft is a company best known for its monopolistic business practices.  Since the 1980s, it had been criticized for  its business tactics, and is often associated with the   motto “embrace, extend and extinguish”.   Critics claim that Microsoft initially embraces a competing standard or product, then builds on top of that product   to produce their own  version of the software or standard that is incompatible with other competing products, and then gains enough market share to   extinguish competition that does not support its version.

 

What’s in it for Yahoo? Aside from $45 B dollars, there are other mutual benefits to the partnership.

 

Yahoo is in financial trouble due to dwindling market shares. The same is true for Microsoft. Their common,  biggest threat: Google.  AC Nielsen reports that at the end of November 2007, Google accounts for 57.7% of web searches ,  Yahoo! at 17.9% and MSN at 12.0%, and Google is just bound to take more of that market share in the coming months. 

 

Google is not only eating up both Yahoo and MS’s web search shares.  Together with Sun Microsystems, its free web-based apps  compete directly with Microsoft Office and Windows, Microsoft’s cash cow.  As more and more desktop applications get online, MS’s proprietary software will soon be  in serious trouble.  

 

Then there’s the Asian market. Where Microsoft struggles due to   software piracy, Yahoo! dominates.   Yahoo! Japan, Alibaba, and Gmarket are some of Yahoo’s best investments.  

 

There’s another popular motto attributed to Microsoft: “If you can’t beat them , buy them”.

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The worsening state of education in this country is undeniable.  As the parent of a child who is currently enrolled at a public school, I understand what the limitations of the school are in terms of teachers, resources, and facilities.  Nonetheless, I had one simple expectation– quality learning for my kids.  If public schools can not ensure that, then the educational system is all pointless.  

 

I was surprised to learn that some of my friends who had kids in posh private schools had dilemmas the same as mine. The main concern – inexperienced or unmotivated teachers, who often assign pages and pages of homework from workbooks they haven’t even covered in class, thus expecting parents to pick up where they slacked off.  Because of this, I am seriously considering homeschooling. 

 

As I researched online about educational resources that I could use if and when I decide to take my kids’ education into my own hands, I found quite a number of websites . Most notable is the Curriki website, a global education learning community  that  provides  free curricula and instructional materials for students from kindergarten until high school.  It is a community of educators, parents and students who work together to develop interesting, creative and effective educational materials for everybody to use.  

 

Curriki is a play on the words ‘curriculum’ and ‘wiki’ , which is the technology it uses to make education universally accessible. It is a nonprofit organization originally created by the founders of Sun Microsystems in 2004.   It was conceived from the idea that technology can play a crucial role in breaking down the barriers of the Education Divide – the division of inequality that prevents children worldwide from having access to quality education. Curriki’s mission is to make learning possible for anyone, anywhere in the world. 

 

Its initial focus is on  curricula in the areas of mathematics, science, technology, reading and language arts.  Users can search the repository by keyword,  subject, file type, level and instructional type.  It provides lesson plans, videos,  notes, slides and  reviews  of the course materials.   Anyone can download   as well as upload   educational materials.  These materials are reviewed for content by the community. Some materials are  reviewed by a department of education or university and  labeled as premium content.

 

Curriki applies the open source process to education to  empower educational professionals to become active contributors  in the creation of world-class curricula.  As such, Curriki is a focal point for the “open sourcing” of education.  It provides educators and students with  access to a platform that is specifically designed to provide the educational support needed to develop open source curricula.  

 

Indeed, delivering  open content in a cost effective and sustainable fashion is critical to success in eliminating the Education Divide.    

 

Curriki continues to gain prominence among educators. It recently won the  2007 UNESCO King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize  for the use of  information and communication technologies (ICTs) to enhance learning, teaching and overall educational performance.    UNESCO is an active supporter of open source communities.

 

“It is clear that open source methodologies have been essential to the Internet revolution  and to the explosion in technological advancement. … Curriki will be a digital crossroads for those who want to teach and those who  want to learn.  Together we can eliminate the Education Divide.  Freely sharing through community is the right thing to do for educating an increasingly interdependent global population in the Participation Age.”  Dr. Barbara – Bobbi – Kurshan, Executive Director of Curriki.

 

I am not alone in my belief that our educational system fails to provide quality learning to our kids.  Maybe technology can  improve the way parents and teachers impart knowledge to our most valuable resource.

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The more corrupted a country is, the more likely it is to vote for approval of the OOXML standard proposal.  This was the conclusion of  Electronic Frontier Finland , which studied the relationship   between   corruption levels and  the voting behaviours of  countries who participated in the voting process on the  ISO (International Organization for Standardization )  standardization of OOXML . 

 

Office Open XML ( OOXML) is an XML-based file format specification for electronic documents such as spreadsheets, charts, presentations and word processing documents. Developed by Microsoft,  it is a successor to its binary Microsoft Office file formats .  The specification failed to  get sufficient approval from ISO/IEC national body members   as a full International Standard during the voting process that took place in September 2007.  

 

EFF used data from Transparency International’s  2006 CPI index (Corruption Perceptions Index) as basis for measuring corruption levels among participating countries. The CPI index is a number between 1 and 10.  It indicates the degree of public sector corruption as perceived by business people and country analysts.  A small CPI index means that the country is perceived to be very corrupt , while a large CPI index means that the country is perceived to have little corruption.

 

Among the  70 votes received by the ISO in September 2007,  77 %  (23 countries)   of countries with CPI indices less than 3.95 voted for approval  or approval with comments while only 23 %  (7 countries) voted for disapproval.  Countries which voted for approval include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh,  Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Côte-d’Ivoire,  Jamaica,   Kazakhstan and  Lebanon.  Among countries with CPI indices more than 3.95 (least corrupted ), 54% (13 countries) voted for approval and  46%  voted for disapproval  or abstained.   The conclusion was that  the corrupted countries were more likely to vote for approval of OOXML.

 

The study is limited to  finding the  correlation between corruption indices and voting behaviours. Thus,  although there is a strong  correlation between the two variables, there could be a number of other unexplored variables affecting voting behaviour.  To get more closer to the truth, one needs to look beyond quantitative data and take a look at the bigger picture.  For example,  consider that Microsoft  allegedly ”convinced” Swedish representatives into voting “yes” during the voting process, causing controversy that eventually caused its vote to be  disregarded.  

 

What about accusations of  ” ballot box stuffing” ?  ISO membership had reportedly grown   before the vote , and suddenly the room was overcrowded with  Microsoft ‘yes’ men.  Special interest groups were also allegedly   formed by Microsoft in Europe and  in other countries to speed up the approval process.

 

It is interesting to note  that the Philippines , with a low CPI of 2.5, voted against the approval of OOXML. Based on the study cited above, this is uncharacteristic of a country with high perceived corruption levels. This leads me to conclude that the   Department of Trade and Industry,   the National Computer Center,  and other decision makers have been quite judicious despite mounting pressure from those  who stand to gain from the approval of OOXML. My hope is that the  Philippines will continue to vote with integrity and act to the best interests of the country when OOXML  undergoes a final and definitive voting  in  March 2008.  

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OpenOffice.org  Impress, the presentation application of OpenOffice.org, has a few cool, new extensions that you might find very useful. If you’ve been using  proprietary presentation applications and find  OpenOffice.org Impress lacking in the  bells and whistles that you used to enjoy , I am sure you will find these extensions helpful in closing that functionality gap.

 

eVoice

 

eVoice 1.0.0 is an extension that lets users   add  sound clips to each slide.   While it is ideal  for adding narration,  you can also use it to record sound clips directly from a sound system or MP3 player.   All you need is a   microphone and  sound card , and  a two-way jack to input the music.  Once you install eVoice, the  eVoice item appears on the top level of menus. To use it,  select Insert . A dialog box appears  with options to Record, Stop, Play, and Pause.  

 

Recordings are represented by  a gray object that can be  dragged and dropped around the slide as you   design your slide layouts.  When you run the slide show, the gray object becomes invisible . The limitation with adding sound files is that eVoice only allows  one sound clip per slide.  Adding  a second  sound clip will delete the first. 

 

eVoice  will work on  OpenOffice.org 2.1 and   StarOffice 8 Update 5 or higher running on Windows and  Linux operating systems. Its filesize is less than 200 KB.

 

Sun Presentation Minimizer

 

Sun Presentation Minimizer by Sun Microsystems, Inc. reduces the size of a presentation. Minimizing the file size results in maximizing the speed of your slide show . It also  makes your presentation easier to upload onto a web site and faster to download.

 

When you install Sun Presentation Manager, you will find an item on the Tool menu which you can access easily. When you click on this option, a wizard appears, which provides   step by step directions for   reducing the size of your slide show. Files are compressed by   removing unnecessary items, such as unused master files or hidden files and the cropped areas of photos. It  reduces the resolution of images and graphics and converts OLE objects into  static images , which makes them uneditable.

 

You have the option of specifying  which of these file-reducing measures to implement. There are also pre-set options from the first slide from which you can choose. You can even   save your own current options as a pre-set.

 

Generally, the Sun PPT minimizer  is most effective on slide shows that are packed with embedded objects and graphics.  The sizes of  presentations can be reduced from   15-75% of the original size, depending on the contents of the original slide show. The amount of space you are saving is indicated in the wizard.  It  saves the reduced file under a different filename so you do not accidentally overwrite the original.

 

It is compatible with OpenOffice.org 2.3 and StarOffice 8 Update 8. The file sizes vary from 300 KB to 1 MB depending on the operating system .

 

One more thing- the Sun Presentation Minimizer  also works on Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.

 

PhotoAlbum

 

PhotoAlbum 0.4.0 lets users  convert a set of photos saved onto a folder into a simple slide show in  just four clicks.

 

To begin using it,  download the extension, open the PhotoAlbumInstaller_1-2.sxc file, and press the Install button. The Photo Album menu is added by  default as Top Menu ‘Photo Album’ . Then restart OpenOffice.org. If the Photo Album menu doesn’t appear, quit OpenOffice.org and the Quickstarter, then launch them again. 

 

Make sure that   the images you plan to include in the slide show are saved  into a separate directory.   Images are embedded  in numeric then in alphabetical order so ensure that you arrange the images accordingly (e.g., in numerical order such as 1.jpg, 2.jpg,…and so on  or according to  alphabetical order , such as a.jpg, b.jpg,…..and so  on. )

 

Access  OpenOffice.org then go to Photo Album- Create Photo Album. Note that the “Photo Album” menu appears on all OpenOffice,org applications – not just Impress.  Select the  directory where you saved your images. The extension automatically  creates an album for you on Impress with one image per slide, and filling the entire slide. 

 

Slide transitions are set to display random transitions and is set to loop constantly by default.  Nonetheless, you can edit these settings after you create the album. Slide transitions are set from Slide Show – Slide Transitions, and the loopback from Slide Show – Slide Show Settings – Type.

 

PhotoAlbum makes it easy for you add multiple  images to a presentation. Thus, it saves you the trouble of having to  select Insert – Picture-From File for each and every image.   Photo Album is system independent and is only 5.88 KB.

 

OpenOffice.org extensions can be downloaded from the OpenOffice.org extensions repository at:

http://extensions.services.openoffice.org/

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