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Author Topic: OpenOffice at the crossroads  (Read 2167 times)

zridling

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OpenOffice at the crossroads
« on: June 21, 2010, 10:39:38 AM »
Developer Michael Meeks takes a look at the myriad licenses and bad code among the various versions of OpenOffice floating around.

openoffice200-7234852c47cbb723.png

Meeks contends that Novell and IBM have done admirable jobs at making things better, with Sun (now Oracle) controlling the copyrights, developers will only go so far to improve it. Interesting backstory to say the least on why OpenOffice isn't doing better than it is.

OpenOffice.org is a flagship for free and open source software, released under free software licenses and achieving downloads in the hundreds of millions. OO.o is a success by most measurements, but there have long been murmurings of discontent among developers resulting in complaints of "non-responsiveness and lack of leadership" on the project. The argument is not that the project is a failure, but that OpenOffice.org could be so much more, given a less top down approach to project management and a looser rein on developers' ability to get involved.

The code of OpenOffice.org is released under free software licenses but the copyright for all internal and third party contributions are assigned to Oracle/Sun, and the OpenOffice development team within Oracle/Sun dictates the rate of progress.... The most vocal critic of the process has been Novell employee and long time GNOME and OO.o developer, Michael Meeks. Meeks argues that copyright assignment discourages external contributions, and that over zealous control of the project inhibits developer initiative.... Meeks has long contended that OpenOffice.org has failed to attract and keep individual and corporate developers due to "a half-hearted open-source strategy that is not truly 'Open'" and lacks transparency. This has inhibited the potential of OO.o to be "even greater" than it already is.

40hz

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Re: OpenOffice at the crossroads
« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2010, 11:55:49 AM »
I think his is just one more example of how the FOSS well is getting poisoned by people and companies who are doing their level best to ruin it, either through ignorance or design.

Open means OPEN.

Not half open,
              
     or sorta open,

         or partially open

               or virtually open...

Or BSD licensed for that matter.

And it especially doesn't mean you can create a proprietary product, release it under the guise of being open, but with the intent of someday closing it back up again after you get a few million in saved development costs, coding, and debugging from the community that believed you.

And to the businesses that are still trying to run this play past the open source community, might I suggest that anybody who is smart enough to work on your project is also smart enough to know a scam when they see one?

Fortunately, there's a fairly simple solution: FORK.

Go-oo.org is a step in the right direction. But an even better solution would be a version that wasn't hosted in the backroom of some commercial software company like Novell. Novell was among the most 'closed' of all software developers until Microsoft went and pulled the rug out from under them with their own proprietary product line. It was only once they realized they couldn't compete with Microsoft (and nearly went under) that they were suddenly all for "open" software.

Yeah right... ;D

Same goes for Sun. And Oracle. And especially Microsoft's hokey double-talk and  newspeak about how they're completely in support of open software as long as they get to define what open really means. (And please ignore Steve Ballmer's patent litigation threats. He's just venting. Really! Cross our hearts!)

If you want a product to be "open," then make it open.

If you don't - then don't. End of story.

The open software community can respect your wanting to remain proprietary a lot more than they can accept your being a hypocrite.

That's my tuppence, anyway.. 8)




JavaJones

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Re: OpenOffice at the crossroads
« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2010, 04:02:54 PM »
This makes a lot of sense. It has long been clear to me that OOo's problems aren't purely technical, and perhaps even the biggest problems are not technology-related at all but rather political. It's a shame as it's a product with a ton of potential and the ability to go even beyond where MS has gone with Office.

Perhaps a fork is the only way forward, I just hope the community can rally around one fork rather than having to decide between a whole ton of different mostly-but-not-completely-compatible versions, each with their own semi-proprietary (but "open") plugins and features. Nobody wants to see a situation where if you want the best calculation support, you go with open source option X, but if you want the best text functions you need option Y, let alone having great table of contents support in Y, but inferior styling, whereas option Z has great styling but poor ToC. We need a single truly open solution to rally around.

- Oshyan

zridling

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Re: OpenOffice at the crossroads
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2010, 06:41:28 PM »
And my friends wonder why I'm still a text editor guy for 90% of everything I write! Couldn't have said it better, 40hz.

The problem is -- as we all know -- is that projects as complex and layered as an office suite or a Photoshop-level graphics solution require vast and long-term commitments from someone/anyone who's going to pay developers to stick with them for years. A Mozilla-like foundation and its main funding source could perhaps work, but even then, you'd need a lot of patience.

Innuendo

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Re: OpenOffice at the crossroads
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2010, 08:45:19 PM »
40hz, you took the words right out of my mouth.

When you talk about open software, Novell & Oracle are two of the absolute worst companies that should be leading the charge. They know absolutely nothing about open software & have in times past have gone out of their way to try to squash it.

Then when you go talking about showing some actual innovation with a piece of software & doing things in a radically (better?) way, Novell & Oracle are not your go-to guys in that department, either.