Tuesday Feb 03, 2009

How useful is encryption?

Well, I consider it very useful - but I really like this one :)

xkcd comic

Friday Dec 19, 2008

Configuration Viewer - a new and very useful OpenOffice.org extension

My colleague from the NetBeans team (who happened to be my SEED mentee), just uploaded his new extension for OpenOffice.org.

It's the Configuration Viewer extension.

This useful extension lets you see all key/value pairs from your configuration - even those that are not accessible via the OpenOffice.org user interface. It distinguishes between configuration items stored in the shared configuration layer and the user's custom configuration. A little checkbox on the bottom of the dialog helps you for quickly identifying configuration items which are storade in the user's configuration layer. With the Export button you can export the currently displayed configuration items into a text file.

After installing the extension (which needs Java to run), you can find it behind a new menu item: "Tools / Configuration...".

If you think this is a useful extension, let Stan know via a comment - maybe he will then continue working on it, adding other cool stuff like editing the configuration items :)

Friday Dec 12, 2008

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 finalized

WCAG 2.0 was published today as a final Web Standard "W3C Recommendation"!

This is great, since many people were waiting for that for a long time now. The first version of WCAG was published in 1999 - it mainly concentrated on HTML and absolutly didn't meet current requirements anymore. The old standard didn't allow scripting, so all Web 2.0 applications would violate that. Now scripting is not only accepted, but even included as techniques to enhance accessibility!

If you are interested in this topic (and as a web designer, author or developer you should care!), I think the best starting page is The WCAG 2.0 Documents.

Monday Nov 17, 2008

StarOffice 9 arrived

Finally, StarOffice 9 is available.

Basically it's almost the same as the recently released OpenOffice.org 3.0.

The most important differences are indemnification, and up to 3 warranty support calls included in the retail version. Some people also like our hotfixes and patches that we provide for StarOffice only, while you always have to do full installations for new OOo releases.

It's really up to you whether you want to use StarOffice or OpenOffice.org - in the end we are happy to offer different levels of services contracts for both products.

Thursday Nov 13, 2008

odt2dtbook 1.0.1

There is a new and improved version of the odt2dtbook extension for OpenOffice.org available!

For details about the changes, I suggest reading Dominique's blog, since he is one of the authors of that extension...

Tuesday Nov 11, 2008

IAccessible2, or - IBM to contribute to the OpenOffice.org 3 code line!

This was one of my personal highlights in the keynotes from the 6th OpenOffice.org conference last week:

In his talk, Michael Karasick, Director of Lotus Development IBM China, has promised that IBM would eventually contribute to the OOo 3 code line. And he especially mentioned IAccessible2.

So I hope to see this happening soon, volunteering to work together with the Team from IBM on this.

Saturday Nov 08, 2008

Traffic in Beijing

Seems I must revise what I wrote about the traffic here a few days ago - traffic is still very heavy, seems I just watched it the wrong times or places when thinking it would be better nowadays.

Today we have been on a tourists tour with around 100 participants from OOoCon, and the ride within the city took very long.

We have been to different placces, including the Great Wall. There we had the "pleasure" to have the first snow of this year...

Wednesday Nov 05, 2008


Just a quick note: Some of you might know that we have the ODF Toolkit project on OpenOffice.org for some time now.

Well, since something like an ODF toolkit should be independend from OOo, Sun and IBM just announced today at the OOoCon 2008 the ODF Toolkit project on odftoolkit.org (Press release will come some time later). This way, people can contribut to ODF w/o needing to contribute to OOo, and we use the very liberal Apache license.

In the beginning it will start with what we had on the OOo site, and the hosting system is Sun's Kenai.

I am sure many exciting things around ODF will be developed there quite soon...

China again

I am just attending the 6th OpenOffice.org conference in Beijing.

It's more more than a year ago that I visited RedFlag 2000 to teach them different things from OOo architecture, and some things in Beijing changed meanwhile, mostly because of the Olympic games.

There are many more subway lines, and the new ones are really modern.

Interesting that you have to put your luggage into some X-Ray machine when you enter the train system. I guess they started it for Olympics games, and didn't give up afterwards.

I have the feeling that the traffic situation has improved. People are still driving like crazy, and as a pedestrian you better be very careful, but it seems there are less cars – people probably prefer the train now, which is fast and really cheap (~ EUR 0,25 for a one way ticket, distance doesn't matter).

I will stay here until the week end, because we will have some guided tourists tours then. I have seen most places on my last trip, but: Last time I was here on my own. This time, I am here with 35 colleagues! This will be fun, and I tend to compare it with a “school trip”.

More to come...

Wednesday Oct 22, 2008

Java 6 Update 10 arrived - now officially!

Java SE 6 Update 10 is more than a normal update, it brings a lot of improvements: Faster, smaller, better Direct3D support, Next Generation Java Plug-in,  ...

And FWIK, future updates (on Windows) will really update the current JRE, instead of installing the new release next to the old release.

For more details, see the release notes.

Tuesday Oct 21, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin

I am just attending the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin.

After more than 17 years of mainly C++ software development, I thought this would be a good opportunity to get more in touch with all this Web 2.0 technologies and products.

I just enjoyed the keynote (which was held AFTER the workshops) from Tim O'Reilly.

After that, six start ups had the opportunity to talk about their new products.

One of them was aka-aki. This is an interesting product, I think. Nothing I would need personally, but I am sure kiddies, teens and students will love it.

It's also interesting from the technology standpoint of view - can use blue tooth, GPS and/or GSM cell information for phone/friend detection.

Aka-aki will launch tomorrow here in Germany, this fall internationally.


OpenOffice.org version 3 is available for 1 week now, and was already downloaded more than 3 million times!

And this is only what we can count - it doesn't include torrents and other ways of distributions.

More information and links in this blog.

Friday Oct 17, 2008

Open Source Accessibility Funding

Working on open source accessibility for more than 7 years now, I am happy to see that the AEGIS project will invest €12.6m into accessibility, with the vast majority of it focused on open source solutions.

Leading our OpenOffice.org accessibility efforts since 2001, I can tell you how difficult it can be to convince people to spend time and resource to work on accessibility related stuff "under the hood", since probably more than 99% of the users won't recognize anything from it.

Now with the AEGIS funding, I am sure a lot of wonderful things in the area of accessibility can be achieved in different projects.

More details about the AEGIS project can be found in Peter Korn's blog, where you can also find some details about Sun's accessibility efforts...

Thursday Oct 16, 2008

Review of OpenOffice.org 3

You might be interested in the Computerworld's review of OpenOffice.org 3.

"...Given that the full suite is free, this is one of the best deals you'll find in all of computing. It'll do just about anything you expect from an office suite..."

Just one point I would like to clarify: The statement "... It won't, however, work with the newest Office 2007 formats such as .docx..." is not 100% correct. You cannot save as docx, but you can open docx files.

So this gives you the ability to salvage all the documents you created with your pre-installed MS Office 2007 trial version, which only stored your documents in this format and you don't know how to open them now w/o buying MS Office ;)

Beside the review itself,  the blog has many users comments worth reading...

Monday Oct 13, 2008

OpenOffice.org 3 is there... somewhere!

Well, when you try to get it from the official site (www.openoffice.org) NOW, you probably won't see it because too many people are trying to get it now.

But it's there, and the new release comes with many new exciting features.

The biggest addition probably is the native support for Mac OSX, but there are also many other great new features like a PDF import, import of Office 2007 documents, a multi page view in Writer, native tables in Impress, a Solver in Calc, and much more...

When the web site is fully back to live, you should find a feature guide here

So the new version is absolutely worth updating your old installation, or finally start using OpenOffice.org at all.

Thursday Oct 02, 2008

odt2dtbook - a DAISY export extension for OpenOffice.org

If you are interested in DAISY export, this extension for OpenOffice.org might be your friend. 

Vincent Spiewak and Dominique Archambault won Gold for their work on this extension, as part of the Innovation in Open Source Community Award Program.

Congratulations! :)

Tuesday Aug 05, 2008

Evilgrade and OpenOffice.org - Online updates realy can be dangerous

Many people are discussing Evilgrade today - a toolkit for exploiting products which perform online updates in an insecure fashion.

The idea of the attack is well described on page 9+10 in this PDF document:

  1. An Application is checking some update server for updates, using some domain name
  2. The attacker has control over the DNS resolution and returns an IP from a server he controls
  3. The application downloads something which should be an update, but in reality is some back door software or other kind of Trojan horse
  4. The application executes or deploys the binaries it received

Step 4 is the real issue here.

All security aware people know that they NEVER should install any software when they don't know the origin, and without verifying the integrity of the package. This can (and should!) be done by verifying hash sums with values you get from the project's download page. Signing the installation packages would make this step a little bit easier and nicer, but we don't have that right now.

So when people should do that, applications of course also MUST do that - unfortunately many, including OOo, don't do it...

I hope we will have signed packages for OOo soon: While people can work around the issue with verifying MD5, OOo shouldn't contact some server for getting MD5 values, because the server could be compromised. ( I must admit that this can also happen with the user visiting a fake server which looks identical to the original server... )

Signed update packages seems to be the only viable solution to me. Using HTTPS for contacting the update server would also be a good thing. But that alone wouldn't help, since, even if this is quite unlikely, the faked server could also have some valid certificate.

As long as we don't have signed packages, it might be reasonable to use the update check in OOo only to check for updates, and maybe also for downloading them, but not to use the install feature without checking the MD5 sums manually.

MD5 sums for OOo releases can be found here: http://download.openoffice.org/md5sums.html

This was the technical stuff, so you see the problem is real.

The open question is: How likely is it that someone really will be able to control your system's DNS resolution?

In the inranet of a company it's very likely, but only the IT department should be able to do that (in theory).

For people at home I don't think that the risk is sooo big, but maybe I underestimate that. For home users, it's more likely that they download and run some Trojan horse which does the DNS resolution manipulation locally by modifying the hosts file or running a local DNS server. But then, it's not the next update from some software you have to worry about - you system is already compromised since you did allow some malicious software to run on your system...

Wednesday Jul 23, 2008

Sun Java Communications Suite 6 - now with Convergence AJAX client

Jim Parkinson has just blogged about the availability of the new release from the Java Communications Suite.

Our messaging server is already well known for being rock solid and for it's great scalability.

The new release offers interesting new features for mobile messaging (LEMONADE support).

For me, as an end user in this case, the most interesting new feature is the web based mail and calendering client - Convergence.

If you are interested, you can find many more details in Jim's blog.

Thursday Jul 17, 2008

StarOffice 9 Beta 2 available!

StarOffice 9 is ready for beta testing.

If you want to give it a try, you can download it here

One of the biggest "features" is the native Mac support. This is something the people really wanted to have for a while now. You can find some interesting blog postings about the efforts on GullFOSS.

Some people might be more interested in the new PDF import, or the nice presenter console.

Writer learned a dual page view and has improved handling of notes.

Impress has native support for tables now, as defined in ODF 1.2.

Calc has some features for collaborative editing, a new solver tool and improved charting functionality.

You see - many improvements worth updating to the new version.

Monday Jun 02, 2008

Big Buck Bunny and Network.com

You might have seen all the news about the new open movie called "Big Buck Bunny".

I just got aware that it was rendered on our Network.com platform!

This is great. You can find a description about how they made use of our computing platform in this article.

Friday May 30, 2008

OpenOffice.org 3.0 on Mac OSX Accessibility

Our engineers here in Hamburg are spending a lot of efforts into the native port of OpenOffice.org for the Mac platform.

One part of these efforts is to implement the Mac Accessibility APIs, to make OOo as accessible as possible with AT tools.

My colleague Peter Korn just wrote a very good blog about this, so instead of duplication all the information, I recommend reading that one if you are interested in the details.

Wednesday May 21, 2008

Office 2007 won't support ISO's OOXML

Reading the announcement that Microsoft will implement ODF in Office 2007, it's also interesting to read that they will NOT support the ISO version of OOXML in Office 2007.

Note that, for good reasons, also OpenOffice.org doesn't claim to support OOXML, but to implement import filters for the MS Office 2007 document formats.

The new filters will become available in OpenOffice.org 3.0, which is already available as a beta version.



Microsoft to implement ODF in Office 2007

Here are the news!

Sure we can't know how good their ODF support will be, but it's great that they start a native implementation for ODF now, coming with SP2 first half of 2009.

Seems, for now, they only plan to have ODF for Word.

If this is not enough for you, you are still invited to use our free ODF Plugin for MS Office, which gives you high quality ODF support in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Monday May 19, 2008

A better Favorites Menu for OpenOffice.org

Some time ago I posted my solution for a favorites menu in OopenOffice.org.

This worked fine for me, but was somewhat like a quick hack. You had to configure the menu items in a basic Script - no GUI was assisting you in this.

But somebody got aware of it, and started creating a neat bookmark solution with some GUI.

I just gave the Bookmarks Menu Extension a try and decided to get rid of my own script -

Monday May 05, 2008

Sun ODF Plugin 1.2 available now

We have just released version 1.2 of our Sun ODF Plugin for Microsoft Office.

There are many improvements to the filters, especially in Word, so it's  really worth downloading it.

Wednesday Mar 26, 2008

Document Freedom Day

Today is Document Freedom Day

This is great. And because it is about open document standards, it's mainly about ... yes, the Open Document Format (ODF), as you can read at the Document Standards page.


Thursday Mar 20, 2008

Back from CSUN

Last week I was attending the CSUN conference - probably the biggest and most exciting Accessibility conference in the world.

The different presentations made it clear: Web Accessibility, ARIA and AJAX are still very hot topics.

For Windows Accessibility, IAccessible2 is still making a lot of progress. Some Screen Readers already have support for it, and I hope we will have it in OpenOffice.org soon.

I gave a small talk in an IAccessible2 session, my presentation can be found here.

Of course I have used the cool PDF export in OpenOffice.org, which allows you to create well accessible, tagged PDF. Unfortunately, creating tagged PDF is not the default, because of the increased file size. I hope we will change the default eventually. For now, use the "Export as PDF..." menu item in the file menu, which will give you a dialog where you can check the option to create tagged PDF. The tool bar item skips this dialog.

In parallel to IAccessible2 on Windows, we are also working on support for the Mac OS X Accessibility Framework!

We have shown the latest builds to some AT vendors, and it seems they are very exited about this. From what I heard, not many applications on Mac OS X have good support for this right now.

So with all our Accessibility work going on, I am very confident that OpenOffice.org 3.x will be very accessible on many different platforms, with native support for the platform specific Accessibility frameworks!




Thursday Mar 06, 2008

OpenOffice.org goes LGPL v3!

OpenOffice.org will switch to LGPL v3 with the upcoming OOo 3.0 Beta.

Beside that, we will also exchange the old Joint Copyright Assignment (JCA)  with the Sun Microsystems Inc. Contributor Agreement (SCA), which has some advantages for contributors. This change is effective immediately.

More details can be found here.

Thursday Feb 07, 2008

OpenOffice.org runs on OLPC!

J David Eisenberg wrote an email to the OASIS OpenDocument Format (ODF) Adoption TC, confirming that OpenOffice.org can be used on the OLPC.

So you can use all kind of documents on your OLPC, since OpenOffice.org has filters for many  different formats!

Needles to say that of course this includes ODF files, even in a stripped down (USB stick optimized) OOo installation, since ODF is OOo's default file format.

BTW: Most likely you don't need the JRE - OpenOffice.org uses Java only for some of the seldom used Wizards. So if the JRE doesn't fit on your USB stick, just go without it.

Monday Jan 14, 2008

Nice ODF article

I just stumbled over the article  "Dispelling Myths Around ODF" from Erwin.

Really worth reading, IMHO...




Malte Timmermann


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