Ed Bilodeau

<< Back to Home

This weblog had moved: http://www.coolweblog.com/bilodeau/

# Notice (Oct 19/05): So ends my stay here on Blogger. This morning Google implemented an anti-spam 'feature' that forces me to answer a challenge phrase when I want to post to my own blog. No notice of the change, nothing. Worse is that it doesn't even work! I type the phrase, submit, "An error occured", post deleted. Damn you, Google. Chances are I will revive my blog somewhere else, sometime soon. I'll post the new coordinates here as soon as they become available. (BTW, I'm unable to post anything to my RSS stream, so I'd appreciate it if readers could spread the word and ask people to take a look at this notice)

Update (Oct 19/05, ~noon): After a frustrating few hours (and not just trying out alternatives to Blogger), I've decided that this is a good time to take a break from all this. A day? A week? Who knows. But I need to step away from it before I pass a heavy magnet over the whole mess.

Update 2: According to this post, the reason I'm seeing the CAPTCHA (challenge phrase) is that Blogger has classified my blog as spam. Thanks. User for five years and now I'm spam. I searched the Blogger site, but there is no mention of how to get the spam flag turned off. There is also no way of contacting anyone at Blogger. Wow. Spam they say I am, so spam I must be. Maybe it is time to take a break.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Thinking about switching to Open Office : After spending some time looking over the new interface in Office 12, and about Vista in general, I think there may be a change in the office application I use on a regular basis.

Right now, I'm an Office 2003 user. I've tried Open Office 1.x, but found it to be lacking polish, and more importantly, not truly compatible with MS Office. For me (at least at the time) the biggest problem was the lack of compatibility with Word's annotation features. I don't use collaboration often, but as it happens, this year I've been making extensive use of it for a program proposal I am working on.

I also felt that Open Office was creating its own silo, that my documents created in Open Office would be similarly inaccessible unless I had open office installed. I know they are in XML, but they might as well be binary for all I'm concerned.

Now, that was probably too harsh an assessment, but at the time, combined with the other problems, I felt it was better for me to go back to MS Office, and so I did.

What does this have to do with Office 12 and Vista? In my mind, Vista and Office 12 are both a break with the software that I am using now. Vista will require a new computer, both at work and eventually at home. Although the technology looks interesting, I'm still not confident that someone in MS product marketing is going to screw it up and try to position Vista as opportunity to sell me X service subscriptions for software, etc, etc. Or they are going to sell me a platform for enterprise software. I'm worried they are going to try to sell me an OS that is a platform for other people to sell me stuff. In addition, they are going to sell me something that is locked down, limiting the software and content that I can use. They are going to make me pay for it up front (and a lot) and to continue to pay on a regular basis to keep my system up to date, clean of viruses, etc, etc. Maybe that's just the future, or a future, but I don't have to like it.

Up to now, I've rationalized my choice of software based on using the same software as we use at work. However, I have to think: how often to I really exchange office documents with others? Looking back over the email I've sent since November 2004, I get the following stats:

Of 1663 messages sent: 44 .doc, 9 .ppt, 9 .xls
Of 3875 messages received: 303 .doc, 16 .ppt, 9 .xls

While not complete, I think this gives a good idea of how much office document interop I need, which is to say, not much. Consider also that all the documents that sent could be sent either as plain text, HTML, or PDFs. Similarly, everything I received from elsewhere could prob be opened in Open Office. Now, my collaboration document would still be a problem, I'm guessing, but that situation isn't really representative of how I use documents.

Having said that, I'm not planning on switching to Open Office at the moment (even though version 2.0 looks promising). MS Office 2003 is working fine for me right now. But I'm thinking about it for the future. Next year? The year after? Not sure.

What pressures will be on me? The choices made by the folks at work will be a factor. Will we go to Office 12 "blindly", or will they, like many organizations take the opportunity to revisit their decision. Choosing Office 12 will mean licensing and training costs, as well as continued lock-in to the MS Universe (unless Office 12 will be spitting out Open Document Format documents by default, which I doubt). If more governments begin to standardize on Open Document Formats, the university may feel pressure to do the same (if only in the name of interoperability). Maybe the university archives would also put pressure on the administration as well, to ensure access of university documents into the future (note to self: talk someone about this)?

The point is that the choice isn't forgone conclusion. The move to ODF is changing the requirements of office software, ones that MS Office doesn't meet. The availability of real alternatives with no licensing costs makes the selection process something more then a rubber stamp. Maybe in the future you could get fired for choosing MS Office.

Personally, I need to decide where I want to be in the change-wave. Do I want to be (a) an early adopter, and deal with all that means, but with the benefit of being ready when the mainstream arrives, or (b) part of the mainstream, and wait for the memo from the powers that be that we are making the change.

Where are you going to be?