It looks like there will be a fully native version of OpenOffice 2.0.for the Mac coming within the next few weeks. This is excellent news, although it’s still worth mentioning that if you want a functional version of OOo 2.0 for Mac right now, NeoOffice works well.
Passed on without comment…
Google CEO Dr. Eric Schmidt Joins Apple’s Board of Directors [Apple press release on Yahoo]
One of the occasional complaints that I’ve heard is that there’s no truly native version of OpenOffice for the Mac. The official version requires X11 to be installed, rather than running natively under the Mac’s own windowing environment, and while NeoOffice is a great attempt at getting a more “Mac-like” experience, it often seems to be a release behind the main OpenOffice version – which isn’t all that great.
It’s been quite some time since I first attempted to use OpenOffice running under Mac OS X’s built-in support for X11 applications, and so I was pleasantly surprised when, having head good things about the Intel X11 version, I took the time to actually try it out.
Actually, “trying it out” involved one quick issue. As far as I can tell, Apple no longer makes X11 available as a download from its site for Mac OS X 10.4 or later, including – of course – the Intel versions. You need to install it from the OS disk that came with your Mac, and you’ll find it in the “Applications” folder there. This instantly confused me, as I was expecting it to be with the System software – X11 is system stuff, right? Not on OS X, which treats X11 as an application running on top of the system, at least conceptually for the end user.
Once you’ve got X11 installed, though – and it’s a very easy install, with nothing to configure – you’re on your way. OpenOffice 2.0 can be downloaded for free from the OpenOffice.org web site, in versions for more operating systems than you’re likely to want to run unless you’re a geek.
The first thing to note is that the port itself has come a long way since the early days. Although the familiar “X” logo appears in the menu bar, and each window has its own menus rather than following the Apple style, OpenOffice now looks much more like a Mac application. It uses the Mac fonts, which render properly. Things like the Styles and Formatting palette are separated out in their own window, as you’d expect. And, for many of the functions, pressing the command key does the job of the control key – all very Mac-like.
In fact, OpenOffice is treated pretty much like any other Mac application. OpenDocument format files have their own icon, and double-clicking on them launches OpenOffice (and X11 if necessary). There’s no additional complication for anyone using it, other than an occasional issue with knowing whether to press control to do something or command. Command-S is save, for example, but Control-X is cut. And yes, you can cut and paste perfectly well between OpenOffice and non-X11 applications.
But what impresses most of all is the speed. Where OpenOffice on the last machine I tried – a PowerPC G4 tower – was sluggish and unresponsive, this is crisp and fast. Subjectively, you’d almost never know that it’s actually running with X Windows as a layer between it and the “native” Mac windowing system – it’s that quick.
I have to say that I’m impressed. Despite owning Apple’s iWork suite, I’d certainly rather use OpenOffice for writing text documents, although Keynote still wins out for presentations. If you’re looking for an office suite, are prepared to put up with a few rough edges, and want to minimise the cost, then I’d really recommend looking at OpenOffice again.
Doc Searles has a long and interesting post about what Dave Winer’s “River of News” concept is really all about. He makes the point that a lot of those saying “so what?” about it – myself included – are missing the point.
My point is that Dave isn’t just coming at this as a technologist. He’s coming at this as a publisher. Specifically, he’s proposing River of News as a new format for publishing. Or a new approach to it. His message with River of News isn’t just for geeks like us. It’s for the NYTimes and BBCs of the world, as well as for bloggers whose output is frequent and texty and newsy enough to work, as Paul Kedrosky says, like a newswire. But unlike the old newswires that went from AP and UPI to newsrooms at newspapers and broadcasters (or to professionals at workstations at brokerage houses), River of News goes directly from writer to reader. In other words, its a new, phone-friendly approach to publishing.
There are a couple of points in answer to this. The first is that the notion of creating a site explicitly for mobile users isn’t new. The BBC, for one, already does it – a service that I use pretty much on a daily basis.
But that isn’t the only thing about River of News. The other aspect of it is that it treats all forms of content in the same way: with the time of posting as the only heirarchy. There’s no attempt to define something as “top story” or sectionalise the content beyond the raw RSS feed. Of course, this has technically been done before too – NewsGator lets you convert any feed or set of feeds into a Mobile-friendly format – but the point that both Doc and I believe Dave are making is that this “River of News” approach is the best method of working on small-screen devices, as it intrinsically divorces the content from that Doc refers to as “stuff”.
As Doc puts it:
Mobile feeds and systems for looking at them on phones may not be new. But getting publishing in alignment with the needs of Web users with cell phones is new. That’s why River of News is a business hack. It’s not a social hack, because the users are already there. The River of News idea calls attention to an opportunity opening up for everybody who produces news. Not just for those who consume it.
The thing is that the reverse-chronological approach isn’t the best way to consume news for most people, because it lacks one of the main things that readers expect from publications: context. The only editorialising is time-based: the latest story is the one on the top. Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually tell you what is and is not “news”, because news means more than simply what is new.
Take a look at Dave’s BBCRiver.com site, and compare it to the main BBC News Mobile site. As I write, the top story on the official BBC site is “13 Obese Adults by 2010″ – the same as the top story on the main BBC page. On BBCRiver, this is the sixth story down – top story is “Wembley Casino plans axed”.
Why does this matter? Because people go to a news site to find out what’s happening, and part of finding out what’s happening is seeing instantly what the most important thing occurring at that moment is. Chronological reverse order tells you what the latest news is – but not the most important.
With mobile access, the need to show what the most important story is is doubly important, because access is likely to be sporadic. I spend five minutes checking the news on the bus. I spend ten minutes reading while getting coffee. I don’t have the news constantly trickling in, and I don’t want to have to wade through all the latest minor stories in order to find the major ones.
The River of News approach works when content is fairly slow, when there are (at most) five-ten stories per day. But for an organisation like the BBC, which produces hundreds of stories and story updates across a huge range of subjects, it is at best confusing at at worse unusable as a coherent news source. Far from being phone-friendly as Doc claims, it’s phone-unfriendly – you don’t want to have to scroll down five screens of local news stories and sport in order to find out that a plane’s been blown up. The comparison with an AP feed that Doc makes is quite a good one: 80% of newswire stories get dumped by editors unless it’s a slow news day or they have specialised interest. Because River of News has no one editing it, no one saying “this is the top story” it fails as a coherent news source.
File under “least surprising legal development of the day”. Apple and Creative have settled their big patent dispute – and it looks like a pretty clear win for Creative. As noted in Apple’s press release:
Apple will pay Creative $100 million for a paid-up license to use Creative’s recently awarded patent in all Apple products. Apple can recoup a portion of its payment if Creative is successful in licensing this patent to others.
Ouch. However, Steve Jobs does manage to get in what sounds like a slightly bitter comment:
“Creative is very fortunate to have been granted this early patent,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.
You have to admire him. Only Jobs would make it sounds like Apple was somehow granting a poor neighbour some chump change.
The sting in the tail? Creative is going to be working on accessories for the iPod:
In addition, the companies announced that Creative has joined Apple’s “Made for iPod” program and will be announcing their own iPod® accessory products later this year.
I’d love to know what that is. But with Microsoft effectively pulling the rug from underneath Creative with Zune and what’s likely to be the slow death of the Plays For Sure system that underlies Creative’s own players, the company will desperately be casting around for alternative revenue streams. So perhaps, while Apple has lost the legal battle, Creative has finally admitted that Jobs and Co have won the war.
Make no mistake, Writely offers all the basics and easily can meet the “good enough” threshold for many consumers or small businesses. Writely fully responds like a desktop application, even though all writing and formatting takes place in a Web browser. There is a right-click context menu for the insertion of formatting or photos and copy, cut and paste. The functions are well organized in the menu bar, and they are task oriented. There also is a “Collaborate” function and another to “Blog.” Not surprisingly, Google’s blog service is on the list, but not Microsoft’s.
You should, in fact, be able to blog from Writely to Live Spaces – both support the MetaWeblog API. But it’s no surprise that Google is making it a whole lot easier to blog to Blogger.
Interestingly, Joe compares Writely to Windows Live Writer – a nice, non-obvious comparison.
I’m finding myself utterly, completely baffled over the spreading hype over Dave Winer’s “River of news” reinterpretation of web sites. Doc Searles chimes in with a claim that “The river metaphor makes me look at the supply side of blogging from a whole new perspective.” Dave himself, of course, is piling up the links to show that his approach is great.
But what does it actually appear to amount to? A method of converting an RSS feed to a static HTML page, shorn of its graphical elements.
That’s been around for about as long as there have been mobile devices and RSS. NewsGator’s Mobile edition does it perfectly well. AvantGo sure did it.
So what’s the big idea? I really don’t see that there is one.
I’ve largely refrained from commenting on the whole issue of whether Apple’s Airport hardware is vulnerable to the security hole that was demonstrated at Black Hat by Maynor and Ellich, and initially reported by Brian Krebs of the Washington Post. The reason that I’ve refrained is largely because I don’t know enough to meaningfully contribute to the debate: this kind of hacking is well outside my experience, yet alone expertise. Although I know a thing or two about viruses, I’m not in any way a security analyst.
What’s more, there’s been an awful lot of noise and not enough meaningful information. A lot of Mac users seize on any challenge to the idea that the Mac is totally secure as if it were a threat to their lives. There’s an awful lot of sound and fury, and not enough smart analysis.
Which is why I’m pleased that there’s been not just one but two pieces of very smart analysis on the subject that shine out as the best writing on the subject. If you’re a Mac user, I recommend you read them both, in order.
First of all, there’s John Gruber’s excellent post on “The Curious Case of the MacBook Wi-Fi Hack“. In this, John looks at the claims made by Krebs, Maynor and Ellich, and concludes that the whole thing is bunk – the whole thing smells as bad as the breath of the Kraken. Incidentally, John the one of the finest writers on the Mac today, and if you haven’t already done so you should send him money so he can carry on doing it full-time. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s never less than excellent. Go on – get off there and send him money.
Back yet? Good. After you’ve read John’s piece, head off to Securosis.com, and read “Another Take on the Mac Wireless Hack“. This takes John’s work as a starting point, and shows how you can reach almost exactly the opposite conclusion – that there is a problem, and it’s a big one – from the same premises. It’s smart, sharp, well written and overall brilliant stuff.
So who’s right? The fact is that it’s simply too early to say. The good news is that Securosis has already been exchanging emails with John, so hopefully there will be some more discussion between the two. But what we’re really all waiting for is a categorical statement from Maynor and Ellich, and that will come only when the security hole – if there is one – is patched.