Friday Jun 10, 2011

Apache, day 10 catch up

10 days ago, Oracle had announced that they would contribute the code to the Apache Software Foundation.

Too bad that I was on vacation then. I first did read this on Monday 6th, when already 800+ mails have been sent to Apache's incubator mailing list, and it became 1400+ until I finally caught up reading them all. On average, there seem to be 400 mails per month. Now with the contribution, there are 1400 in 1/3 of a month. Seems the interest is (of course) really huge!

In the beginning, there have been many discussions on why Oracle didn't contribute the code and trademark to The Document Foundation (TDF) instead of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), and whether or not this step would split communities, which project developers would prefer and so on.

Of course there also have been many licensing discussions about having a very permissive license like ALv2 vs. a copyleft license like LGPLv3.

There are good arguments for both of them. A very permissive license like ALv2 allows people to create commercial products based on that code, without the need to contribute changes to the code back to the project. This can have the positive effect that companies contribute a lot to the project, to have a stable base for their own product, but it can also result in companies only taking code from the project, and never contributing back anything. Having a copyleft license means that companies might not be able to build their commercial products on that code base, and therefor wouldn't spend any resources at all.

I think ALv2 was a very good choice. This way, can become the base for many commercial products as well as for other open source products.

The only issue is that OOo makes use of some LGPL code. This needs to be cleaned-up before Apache can provide a full featured version of OOo. But others can combine the ALv2 licensed code base of OOo and complement it with the missing LGPL libraries. The licenses are one-way compatible. It needs to be discussed how new releases of can be provided in the near future.

So what will come next?

First, Apache OpenOffice(.org) is not an Apache incubator project yet. The proposal is available, and is being discussed on the general incubator mailing list. Soon there will the voting whether or not it really will become an incubator project.

It's also unclear what the name could be. Some call it "Apache OpenOffice", and some want to keep the name "". The first name is missing the fact that the registered trademark is, not just OpenOffice. The second one is missing the fact that an Apache project needs to have the name Apache in it. It needs to be seen what the final name will be.

Please forgive me if I got anything wrong with all the Apache rules - this is also new to me ;)

Here are some references that I found in the various emails which might be useful for understanding the Apache processes:

Once the project is accepted as an incubator, and the necessary infrastructure is in place, the initial code hand-over can happen, and all people interested can help with many different kind of tasks. Feel free to join :)

Thursday May 12, 2011

HyperBraille ready for production

Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, HyperBraille is a project engaged in developing a touch-sensitive tablet display for blind and partially sighted users. On SightCity in Frankfurt, it was just announced that the device is ready for production now!

Some videos of HyperBraille can be found here.

Wednesday Feb 02, 2011

FOSDEM 2011, minor update

Just a minor update to my previous blog post: One presenter had to cancel his trip on short notice, so a slot in the accessibility devroom needed to be filled.

I initially didn't want to give a presentation, but to fill the gap, I will now step in and give a presentation related to, Accessibility and IA2 on Sunday, 10am.

The schedule on the web site should be updated soon.

Monday Jan 31, 2011

Going to FOSDEM 2011

This year I will be at the FOSDEM in Brussels, February 5-6.

Working on one of the largest open source projects,, for more than 10 years now (and of course many more years before the source code of StarDivision's/Sun's StarOffice went public), this is actually my first FOSDEM! Unbelievable, isn't it?

I wont give a presentation there, but I will participate in the Accessibility Dev Room on Sunday.

I guess this will be a great opportunity to meet people working on accessibility related stuff :)

Friday Aug 13, 2010

Speech recognition for Writer

Eventually, Nuance decided to add support for Writer to Dragon Naturally Speaking!

The current version 11 has support for dictation, correction, selection, and playback in Writer.

This is great news. People asked for a OOo speech recognition solution for a long time now.

Thursday Aug 05, 2010

odt2braille - An Writer Extension for producing Braille

An other great extension for has just been released: odt2braille.

See the press release for details.

So now you not only can export to DAISY with, but also create braille - this is really cool.

Thursday Nov 12, 2009

Odt2DAISY - create DAISY Digital Talking Books with!

Vincent Spiewak has finished his extension for converting ODF text documents to DAISY Digital Talking Books - you can find the press release here.

The extension not only creates XML content, but also can make use of different text to speech engines, so you will have fully featured talking books.

I recommend this extension for everybody who wants to create DAISY books. Binaries and source files are available on sourceforge, the license is LGPL 3.

If you never heard of DAISY before, you might want to look at the screen casts which will show you how it works.

Thank you very much for this great extension!

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.

Thursday Nov 13, 2008

odt2dtbook 1.0.1

There is a new and improved version of the odt2dtbook extension for 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 3 code line!

This was one of my personal highlights in the keynotes from the 6th 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.

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 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 02, 2008

odt2dtbook - a DAISY export extension for

If you are interested in DAISY export, this extension for 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! :)

Friday May 30, 2008 3.0 on Mac OSX Accessibility

Our engineers here in Hamburg are spending a lot of efforts into the native port of 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.

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 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, 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 3.x will be very accessible on many different platforms, with native support for the platform specific Accessibility frameworks!




Monday Aug 20, 2007

Accessibility on Linux via Orca - and other...

Darragh Ó Héiligh, a blind Linux user in Ireland, has just posted an audio introduction of Fedora Linux with Orca.

My colleague Peter Korn has a nice summary of this in his blog.

Orca Screen Reader Symbol 

I especially like the final comment. After noting the responsiveness of Orca with TTSynth and "It's just getting the job done faster than it is in Windows."

I like it for many reasons

  • Orca is e great screen reader - and it is open source!
  • It shows that it was worth spending some extra time in the  native UAA/ATK bridge, which we have introduced with 2.0.1.
  • It shows that a good accessibility architecture, like available with GNOME, pays off

Friday Dec 15, 2006

IBM has announced IAccessible2

Yesterday IBM has announced "IAccessible2".

IAccessible2 is an API (application programming interface) designed for Windows.
It fills the gap between existing Accessibility API called MSAA or IAccessible, which is not very complete, and full featured Accessibility API like in GNOME (ATK), Java (JAA) or (UAA).

Actually, the work is directly derived from the UNO Accessibility API, as you can see on the Sun copyright in the IDL files.

The API is not proprietary, but given to the Free Standards Group for further standardization.

Because of IAccessible2 is just extending IAccessible, not replacing it, AT vendors should be able to support that quite easily. This should result in much better support from a broader range of Assistive Technology on Windows for Mozilla and in the future!

Monday Jul 31, 2006 Conference 2006

The schedule for the Conference (OOoCon) is now available on

The conference will be in Lyon (France), the general sessions take place September Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th.

There are a bunch of ODF sessions on Wednesday

My session about OOo and ODF Accessibility is scheduled for 3pm.
Directly after my presentation is the coffee break, so if you want to meet me for some discussions, just contact me after my presentation.

Monday Jul 10, 2006

StarOffice, and Accessibility

It happens very often that people think they can't use StarOffice or because they need Assistive Technology (AT).

This is not true!

StarOffice or have a lot of built-in support for Assistive Technology.

The UNO Accessibility API (UAA) delivers all information that AT needs.
Currently no AT has built-in support for UAA, but the UAA is bridged to Java Accessibility, so every AT that supports Java Accessibility also supports StarOffice and automatically.

So if you re unsure if StarOffice or works with your AT, just download for free, and give it a try!

Some configuration hints can be found on


Malte Timmermann


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