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Michael Meeks Says OO.o Project is "Profoundly Sick"

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the important-alternative dept.

Software 676

unassimilatible writes "Michael Meeks, who works full time developing OpenOffice, writes in his blog that the project is 'profoundly sick.' 'In a healthy project we would expect to see a large number of volunteer developers involved, in addition — we would expect to see a large number of peer companies contributing to the common code pool; we do not see this in OpenOffice.org. Indeed, quite the opposite we appear to have the lowest number of active developers on OO.o since records began: 24, this contrasts negatively with Linux's recent low of 160+. Even spun in the most positive way, OO.o is at best stagnating from a development perspective.'"

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676 comments

It's 2009 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248253)

Do users really need an open source desktop suite when they can meet their needs using a server based suite? Broadband is cheap.

Re:It's 2009 (5, Interesting)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248339)

I read the article yesterday and said "Duh!" Everyone has known that OO.o was a screwed up project since it was open sourced. Very few commits have come from outside Sun -- the requirements to dual-license contributions and the messy code base from when it was closed deter people from getting involved.

The statistics in the article are interesting, but its conclusion isn't:
  • Sun has always been the major contributor to OO.o.
  • Sun is controlling of the project.
  • Sun is now hurting and people claim heading into bankruptcy.
  • OO.o is now in big trouble.

Anyone who has been following the project knows what's up. It's just sad that OO.o gave people the impression that other office projects (which could have flourished in the time people were using OO.o) weren't very important. I'm looking at Gnome Office and KOffice.

I almost never use OO.o, though, because I do almost everything in Google Docs or Latex.

p.s. Of course, Meeks is promoting Novell's Go-oo, so people can claim he has too much bias to be an accepted critic.

Re:It's 2009 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248397)

How can Sun control an open source project? Do they have ties to the mafia? Or how else do they keep all the outside developers who would like to contribute from forking?

Re:It's 2009 (4, Informative)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248513)

Easy. All they have to do is refuse to take contributions from the rest of the community. Kohei's solver module is a case in point. He had a fully functional solver, and what did Sun do? They wrote their own.

Re:It's 2009 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26248621)

I don't use OO.o, but here's my story:

I dropped a brown rope this morning the size of a small black child. At one point, I wasn't sure if I was taking a shit, or it the shit was taking me. And while I'm on that point, what's the deal with taking a shit? Shouldn't it be leaving a shit? I'm certainly not taking anything with me when I'm done.

But back on topic, OO.o sucks ass

Re:It's 2009 (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248521)

How can Sun control an open source project?

Name recognition, and the time investment in becoming the maintainer of a codebase of this size.

Re:It's 2009 (5, Insightful)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248569)

Sun requires commits be dual-licensed so that Sun can use the code in the commercial version, Star Office. That's how they control

Of course, anyone can fork, and they have. Novell has Go-oo (which Meeks is silently promoting in this article), IBM has Symphony, and there's NeoOffice for Mac.

Nothing was stopping anyone from forking XFree86, either, and they did. Xorg lives on and XFree86 is for all intents and purposes dead.

Sun is going to control OO.o right into the grave.

Re:It's 2009 (5, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248353)

Do users really need an open source desktop suite when they can meet their needs using a server based suite? Broadband is cheap.

But it's not ubiquitous. For some of us, broadband access is not available at work.

In addition, in some cases, what we are working on needs to be kept secure and not broadcast over broadband.

The ability to pull out a laptop and do real work, without having to try to connect to a server to gain access to productivity tools, is valuable to alot of users

Re:It's 2009 (5, Insightful)

dna_(c)(tm)(r) (618003) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248365)

Do users really need an open source desktop suite when they can meet their needs using a server based suite? Broadband is cheap.

Yes.

  • Availability
  • Mobility
  • Privacy
  • Reliability

Re:It's 2009 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248369)

Do users really need an open source desktop suite when they can meet their needs using a server based suite?

I don't like being beholden to an always-on internet connection, availability, and continued business success of a remote host than I like being beholden to Microsoft's dedication to backwards compatibility. I want an office suite and a document format that I'll be able to use for 10 years, or 20.

Re:It's 2009 (1)

Daniel Phillips (238627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248389)

Do users really need an open source desktop suite when they can meet their needs using a server based suite?

I can't meet my needs with a server based office suite, so I need an open source desktop suite.

Re:It's 2009 (0, Flamebait)

ozphx (1061292) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248423)

They were talking about contributors to the project, not users.

I think the main question is "Does OO expect to attract professional developers when they pay them with 'a free Office equivalent, which I guess you could just download anyway'".

Its not like people are going to be rolling much OO code into their own projects - which is where the GPL licensing breaks down. The cost (giving up your entire codebase) is probably "high" when its likely a small fraction of OO code that is wanted (say some paragraph breaking logic). If the project was under a more commercial friendly license, such as BSD/Apache then I suggest people would be happy taking small pieces and contributing their changes back.

In the case of BSD code I have used at work and changed, I give the changes back. My client doesnt want to maintain them anyway. Using GPL is usually completely out the question - even if they don't care now they worry about needing to care in future. BSD code is very free in all senses of the word, and its utility is therefore higher.

Complain about how companies should always provide source all you like, and use viral licensing to force them to release code if they use yours, sure. Don't come complaining when people think the cost is too high, and nobody is interested on pushing your ideals when they could just be getting on with doing business.

OpenOffice.org is LGPL (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248547)

Its not like people are going to be rolling much OO code into their own projects - which is where the GPL licensing breaks down. The cost (giving up your entire codebase) is probably "high" when its likely a small fraction of OO code that is wanted (say some paragraph breaking logic).

OpenOffice.org software is under the GNU Lesser General Public License version 3 [openoffice.org] , which allows it to be combined with proprietary software. I don't see how use of LGPL modules in your code requires "giving up your entire codebase", unless perhaps you're on a platform that requires code signing and forbids end users to sign their own compiled apps.

Re:It's 2009 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248445)

Oh yeah, why keep your documents private if you can send them to a company to create a better index for your advertisement?

Re:It's 2009 (4, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248459)

Well, using the desktop suite means that you fully control the access to your documents. On the other hand, a "server-based suite" like Google's forces you to relinquish the control of your documents to a third party, which means that you explicitly give vital information on your business to an external party subject to the control of a foreign country. Having economic [businessweek.com] espionage [theregister.co.uk] fresh in the collective memory, including ECHELON [wikipedia.org] , that is a very dumb thing to do.

So yes, users do really need an open source desktop suite, no matter how cheap broadband is at the moment. It's all about control.

Re:It's 2009 (0)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248525)

Broadband is cheap.

Not for the people who produce the food that you eat. The closest one can get to broadband in a rural area is 3G cell phone. (Cue the AT&T commercial where Bill Kurtis finds the Internet [youtube.com] .)

But isn't that the idea? (5, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248255)

Sun wants give the impression of making the software open but at the same time they need tight control over the copyright so that they can continue to sell Star Office.

The code is notoriously difficult to work with and the the owners of the copyright use this to limit the number of players.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248293)

Sun wants give the impression of making the software open but at the same time they need tight control over the copyright so that they can continue to sell Star Office.

Thats FUD. There is essentially no difference between StarOffice and OOo. Star Office is just an alternative model to offer services to customers for Sun (sometimes organizations have budget for licenses, but not for services).

Re:But isn't that the idea? (3, Insightful)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248295)

How likely is that conspiracy theory? I mean does *anybody* actually own Star Office? And if they did, what feature could it possible have that Open Office doesn't? In fact other than worthless bloat what does OO.o lack period? Microsoft Office finished in 98 or so, and just adds bloat. OO.o is to that point now.

There's such a thing as finished software.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (3, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248323)

I mean does *anybody* actually own Star Office?

According to the article:

Distance the project from Sun: perhaps less branding, certainly less top-down control, reduce the requirement to 'share' all your rights over to Sun before you can contribute to the project. Better still, share ownership of the code with a non-profit foundation to guarantee stability and an independent future for the code-base.

...Sun owns open office.

There's such a thing as finished software.

Yes.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248441)

I mean does *anybody* actually own Star Office?

...Sun owns open office.

And if it wound not be owned by one orginization, the move to LGPL3 would be damn near impossible.
OpenOffice is a bit too big and too important to be under the copyright of millions of different people.
Novell is trying to hijack the OOo-brand with their own fork and so far that isnt going to well. So I guess Michael Meeks needs scapegoat and Sun is an easy target.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (3, Insightful)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248607)

OpenOffice is a bit too big and too important to be under the copyright of millions of different people.

Sure, because that held Linux back.

Novell is trying to hijack the OOo-brand with their own fork and so far that isnt going to well. So I guess Michael Meeks needs scapegoat and Sun is an easy target.

No arguments there.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (5, Interesting)

Firehed (942385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248363)

Maybe in terms of feature-completeness, but IMO Microsoft really did Office 2007's new UI really well (though I certainly see why some people would hate it). My understanding of the Ribbon was that their goal was to expose functionality that's always existed but was hidden too deep to ever be of use - and they certainly did that. Plenty will call it pointless eye candy, but I for one consider it a huge step forward in usability for a product that I too had long considered finished.

Maybe adding in additional features to OO.o would be bloat. Honestly, I don't use any word processors often enough to say (though it handled what I needed the last time I used it). But speeding it up and polishing the UI could go a long way in any software, and twice as much in OpenOffice.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248549)

Then maybe you can answer me one question, and it's a honest one, I couldn't find it: How do you print in MSO 2007?

Re:But isn't that the idea? (3, Informative)

Computershack (1143409) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248571)

Then maybe you can answer me one question, and it's a honest one, I couldn't find it: How do you print in MSO 2007?

You're shitting me...See the big fucking round button on the top left corner with the office logo on? When you click on it, a menu comes up with file and print functions....

Re:But isn't that the idea? (5, Insightful)

paimin (656338) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248617)

Yeah, that's perfectly obvious, a big glowing yellow MS logo orb for print. Nobody could figure that old File menu out.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (2, Insightful)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248583)

How do you print in MSO 2007?

ALT-F, P. Or, click on Office icon in top-left corner, click on print...

Re:But isn't that the idea? (1)

MrZaius (321037) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248655)

Or, and this should have been done by default when it shipped (although agree with the grandparent post - Great slightly-better-than-Mac style GUI):

Drag the print icon from the shared Office menu (what you get from the top-left corner) into the title bar of the application, for easy access. PITA the first time, fine all subsequent times.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26248585)

Click the little button on the title bar next to the Undo/Redo pair. Select from the resulting menu "Quick Print". Wow, you now have a print button for those times when both the office menu and Ctrl-P are broken.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (4, Insightful)

paimin (656338) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248605)

If they had done that without obscuring an equal amount of useful features that were previously perfectly accessible, like oh say Print, then maybe it would have been worth it. I'm glad you like it, but roughly 100% of users I've talked to find the new design utterly infuriating. And it's not just a matter of getting used to it, I'd say.

The talent MS has for causing human suffering through user interface is truly breathtaking. Then again, these are the cursed ones who gave birth to the demon clippy, so who's surprised?

Re:But isn't that the idea? (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248647)

Ehrrm, after spending a few weeks with the new UI when it first came out, I love it compared to the old versions.

You know what they say though, 90% of statistics are made up on the spot.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248411)

Yes, Sun *does* own Star Office. And they want to make a profit on it, much like Redhat does with their Linux distro: give the basics away for free, and charge for extra features and support for the "enterprise" edition.

A problem is that many people do not need the extra features or the support...

Re:But isn't that the idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26248527)

Saying that software is "finished" means that nothing can further be improved. That is both arrogant and naive.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (5, Insightful)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248391)

Indeed that is a problem that affects OpenOffice since it's inception. To make matters worse, it's recent migration from a 2.0 to 3.0 was apparently made with a conscious decision to keep the code as unlearnable and unwriteable as it was. You can't have a flourishing developer community if your project purposely obscures the code.

Moreover, you don't make many friends or any inroads if you manage a project in such a way that you expect volunteers to contribute their work for free in such a way that a company keeps the rights to that code and incorporates it in a proprietary product while the original developer gets squat.

Having said that, let's not forget other FLOSS MS-Office clones out there such as KOffice. It would be nice to compare the community participation.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (2, Insightful)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248581)

It seems like Sun is licensing a lot of their stuff under the GPL. I agree with the comments concerning the licensing issue. If Sun wants to be the maintainer, that's fine. Let them make it like Red Hat does: work with GPL, insert company branding and lead the project with proper maintenance. Dual licensing doesn't seem to meet the needs or the interests of the developers. Removing the requirement for developers to give ownership of the code to Sun would attract more developers to tackle the bugs, clean up the code with better organization and documenation, and let developers know that their code is still their code. As far as I can tell, dual licensing the code for OO hasn't worked out too well other than that we do get a fairly good free office suite. Simplifying the project by using just the GPL would very likely be the change they need to make to take care of the complaints.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (2, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248657)

Until KOffice has a NATIVE Windows port I doubt you will be hearing much more about them even if OO.o ends up in the toilet. That was one of the nice things about OO.o, that I could hand it out on a nice freeware CD and folks could install it just as easy as any other Windows app and have a usable free office suite. I was just hoping that it would improve, because for me OO.o has always been slower and more unwieldy than my MS Office 2K. But when I tried OO.o 3.0 it seems to have gotten even slower than the 2.xx!

If I need to whip off a doc I don't want to wait 20-30 seconds just to have the GUI open and go through bursts where I type and nothing shows up on the screen for several seconds and then it all just pours out, which is what I experience with OO.o. And while folks here like to point out the high cost of MS Office I simply doubt that most users are paying retail. I picked up my MS Office 2K Pro for around $50 years ago and I got MS Office 2K3 for free from school. But I do hope that someday they come out with a native KOffice just so there is competition and I'll be able to give my customers choice with my FOSS CD. But the second you start talking about Cygwin or having to install the entire KDE underpinnings just to get KOffice you have lost 99% of the Windows users out there. And like it or not, Windows still commands the lion's share of the world's desktops.

Re:But isn't that the idea? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26248591)

Forget the code. Just getting the right things together to meet the build requirements was a nightmare. The instructions on the wiki were fscking wrong! Once I got it to build (with the help of people on IRC and hours of troubleshooting), I had to patch the wiki. And I'm a seasoned developer for pete's sake! No wonder nobody is contributing.

That's because there DONE! (2, Insightful)

John Sokol (109591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248257)

What more do you want them to add.
The rest of the stuff Microsoft has, no one cares about enough to add it.

Re:That's because there DONE! (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248315)

Does the word processor have outline mode in the latest version?

Propper outline mode, just like Word?

Re:That's because there DONE! (1)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248505)

Outlining works very well for me with OO.

Re:That's because there DONE! (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248619)

This bug is to implement the feature I want, and has alot of input from others who want it too http://www.openoffice.org/issues/show_bug.cgi?id=3959 [openoffice.org]

6 years old, little progress - I think most people would agree this lends credence to Mr. Meeks assertion of project stagnation

Re:That's because there DONE! (1)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248603)

Sure, it's called vi.

Re:That's because there DONE! (1)

GFree678 (1363845) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248375)

What more do you want them to add.

Speed. A slick interface. Etc.

Re:That's because there DONE! (1)

Lorien_the_first_one (1178397) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248523)

I don't know why anyone would be griping about speed. On my machine (new HP a6600f, dual core, 3 GB RAM), Open Office opens in about a second or less without the quickstarter application running. Even on my older machine (P4, 512 MB RAM), it only took about 3 seconds to launch with the quickstarter application running. The speed has been just fine for me.

Re:That's because there DONE! (4, Informative)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248377)

How about fixing some of the 12058 [openoffice.org] open bugs?

Re:That's because there DONE! (1)

reallyjoel (1262642) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248457)

If bugfixing is all that's left to do, of course no-one new joins the project.

Re:That's because there DONE! (1)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248493)

If bugfixing is all that's left to do, of course no-one new joins the project.

That's not the point. The point is that there is most definitely still work to be done to make OpenOffice usable in a major business environment. And by "usable", I mean "PHBs will be willing to use it instead of MS Office".

Re:That's because there DONE! (1, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248383)

What more do you want them to add. The rest of the stuff Microsoft has, no one cares about enough to add it.

That viewpoint, I believe, is one that limits open source's potential. Just because a developer does not find a feature useful does not mean a broader user community feels the same way. When they find features they need lacking in an OSS package they simply stick with the existing closed alternative.

Having a small developer community acerbates this problem, since it's less likely one of them would also want some feature that the others find unnecessary.

Re:That's because there DONE! (5, Interesting)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248501)

This is not true at all. Sure, you can type stuff in, mark some stuff bold, spell check it, and print it out -- but there's no need for an office suite to do that, and if that's all you intend to do don't call yourself an office suite.

Here's something I ran into yesterday. There's a "Compare Documents" feature under the Edit menu. It doesn't compare the contents of tables. The bug reporting this [openoffice.org] was opened in July 2003, and nobody has seemed to care yet. In 2007, someone had a patch, which was committed and not added to the next release's codeline because "I don't think that this issue fulfills the criteria for 2.3.1". This may it was retargeted for 3.1 and rejected in November because There are too many open questions to finish in 3.1." People complained again in 2004 [openoffice.org] and 2008 [openoffice.org] ; I don't think you can say in good faith that "no one cares enough".

It occurs to me that your exact phrasing was "no one cares enough to add it", which is completely right. Nobody cares enough to develop OpenOffice.org to where it should be.

If you ask what more, are they not done, then I'll ask the same thing about the Linux kernel -- isn't it done? What benefit is there to running the latest 2.6.28 or whatever instead of 2.4, which worked fine for everyone a few years ago? But yet who in their right mind would (all other things being equal) set up a new system with 2.4 instead of some kernel released this year? And you'd laugh if I suggested the Linux 1.x tree, but that can open and close programs and files just as well as any other OS, can't it?

Re:That's because there DONE! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26248633)

The reason why Compare Documents doesn't compare tables is that OpenOffice.org still does not track changes in tables. Compared to Microsoft Word and TextMaker, OOo's change tracking is sucky.

Re:That's because there DONE! (2, Informative)

slugtastic (1437569) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248629)

Heres OO.o ToDo Page [openoffice.org] . Found some interesting things there.

FIRST PROST (-1, Troll)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248259)

WOOP DE WOOP NIGGA WHAAAT

Stagnating? Really? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248263)

No one can compete with M$ for bloatware and useless feature exploits... so why try?

I'm of the somewhat biased opinion that if an app gracefully does what it's supposed to do, it's done.
OO does this, in my experience. Why try to feature-add anything but security improvements?

Re:Stagnating? Really? (1)

Ossadagowah (452169) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248291)

Open Office is generally fine for writing papers. Sometimes I have to make two pdfs with it and then combine them to get over the hurdle of page numbers in particular places, but this is not a major concern.

Re:Stagnating? Really? (1)

reallyjoel (1262642) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248467)

Page styles.

Re:Stagnating? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248299)

agreed, if Office 2007 has taught us anything it's that if it ain't broke don't fix it. I've run OOo for a couple of years now on both XP and vista and never had any problems. Recently updated to 3.0 and apart from a flasher startup screen I've not noticed any difference.

I came here to say that (3, Insightful)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248417)

Seriously, as is OpenOffice.org is slick, very usable, I love it.

If those 24 developers can continue to right filters for new file formats (24 of them should be able to handle that), make bug fixes, and make the occasional improvement here and there I say great!

OpenOffice.org does not need a rewrite from the ground up every six months to two years.

Seriously, the guys from Neo Office [neooffice.org] don't have near the funding or man power of the core OpenOffice.org team, look what they've accomplished on "Macing it" (Macking it?).

Between Neo Office and Go-oo [go-oo.org] making fixes that the upstream developers don't take, I would say there's some FUD going around and there's more people interested in developing for OpenOffice.org than Sun lets on. I'm thinking this may be the first artificial rublings to justify dumping the project sometime in the near future since it's not profitable and hasn't been a big enough thorn in the MS side.

Why use OOo? (1)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248267)

Oh good god, i had a hard time reading this. No blanks before punctuation, dammit.

There is no such thing as free lunch - making a good office suite is hard and thankless job, because for a rather big part, it's not interesting work.

There are many projects where this is different and some projects also hire people that the boring stuff gets done too.

OOo doesn't fit in anywhere anymore: It doesn't fit in on Vista, and it doesn't fit in on OS X.

There's not interest for it in the Business world - smaller companies don't have the resources to support it, and IT services company have no interest in not selling Microsoft Office licenses. Larger companies don't seem to be interested, but i have no idea why, probably because of complicated deployment, lack of group policy support, and lack of support for traditional office extensions, macros, etc.

Does this mean that companies are reducing (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248281)

manpower working on Linux? That's what I always assumed kept the serious development going, companies with a stake in it, one way or other.

Re:Does this mean that companies are reducing (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248307)

manpower working on Linux? That's what I always assumed kept the serious development going, companies with a stake in it, one way or other.

Linux in this case means the kernel, not what most people seem to think of as Linux, which is the software you see (KDE, Gnome, applications, stuff like that). 160 is low, but its not easy to get in, you have to be contributing a lot of good stuff, plus have the time to spend on it. That difficulty probably means its easy for the number of developers to drop.

There are plenty of people and companies working in the Linux application space.

Re:Does this mean that companies are reducing (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248367)

Well, yes, I know that. I should have said OS (Open Source) in general. But considering it said Linux had also recently had a slump, that was specifically on my mind as I was wondering if the economic conditions affected this by way of corporate sponsorship withdrawing manpower to cut costs or because hobbyist developers are withdrawing due to their financial state. I assume, either way, it's due to the state of the economy.

On the upside, if less work is being done on open source, I also think it will be a good indicator on how well Windows 7 will be recieved initially (and Vista will continue to be recieved), no matter how good it is, if companies are unwilling to spend money. That's assuming they'll ship as soon (2010?) as promised....

Re:Does this mean that companies are reducing (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248359)

It just means that Sun is dying.

Not Interesting (4, Interesting)

countach (534280) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248301)

I think it's just not that interesting and/or rewarding to work on an office package, especially one of Oo.o's complexity, for no monetary reward, especially if you have to also deal with the politics of getting it approved by Sun. If I had an itch to tinker with something like this, I'd probably write my own from scratch.

Re:Not Interesting (4, Interesting)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248465)

Exactly.

My wife often asks me for help with Office, on the general principle that I'm the computer geek, and she isn't. But I probably know less about the features of office suites than she does ; I certainly use them less.

I sometimes use spreadsheets to make a few calculations. I use Word when I have to fill in some piece of red tape that's a Word form.

I've donated many hours of my time to tools that make my life easier - almost entirely selfishly, because if I donate my patches and features, I don't have to maintain a separate version for myself.

I don't use an office suite enough to care though, and I suspect the same is true of the majority of programmers, which means that it's likely that to get someone to write code for OOo, you have to pay them, and also that they are not in a position to pick and choose their projects, which likely means that they are probably not as good as say, kernel developers, who almost certainly enjoy the geek thrill of getting cool new hardware working smoothly.

Re:Not Interesting (1)

billsf (34378) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248609)

That is the big point as far as volunteer developers are concerned. Most developers would only use an Office Suite only to look at documents others (office slaves) write. Impress may be occasionally used to show the 'suits' what you intend to do in a language they understand. Applications like *TeX, CAD packages and even Ventura have existed much longer than MSOffice. (or OOo AFAIK)

Remember we are __engineers__ not secretaries.

BillSF

PS: Panic in Redmond....
PPS: Future failure of Windows7: Terror in Redmond!

Open Office is a great shot against MS. (3, Interesting)

MongooseCN (139203) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248317)

Ever since Open Office 3.0, I've been able to completely move away from MS Office 2003. I can create word documents that look exactly the same in MS Word 2003, like they do in OO 3.0. Now I can easily exchange documents between coworkers and they have no idea I'm using OO.

I work in aweful world of end-user IT for small businesses. These people are INCREDIBLY picky about how their word, excel, etc documents look. They are also incredibly slow at learning how to use office software. Switching these people from MS Office to OO is nearly impossible. People HATE HATE HATE software with a different interface. Most Office 2003 customers won't touch office 2007 for that exact reason. If OO were improved to the point that it could simulate MS Office so people could easily switch over, OO could take over. I think replacing MS Office with OO is one of the Big Steps linux needs to take to push windows off the desktop.

Re:Open Office is a great shot against MS. (1)

Kalvos (137750) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248631)

I use Open Office, but my wife uses MS Office -- because Open Office doesn't correctly produce interchangeable PowerPoint-style presentations in the same way Open Office will import/export a good portion of MSWord documents. It won't even load most MS PowerPoints correctly, can't export them back to PowerPoint format, and those with embedded video crash Open Office when opening or previewing.

As a replacement for MS Office, it's OK (2, Insightful)

Omnifarious (11933) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248329)

But as a word processor and a spreadsheet I find them irritating and clunky to use. I vastly prefer to use Abiword [abisource.com] for anything where I don't care whether or not I can work with MS Office format files. And I prefer gnumeric [gnome.org] for a spreadsheet.

I don't like Office. I don't like how it's all one big gigantic tool. I want separate tools that I can pull out and replace if something better comes along.

OpenDocument plus things like Abiword and gnumeric are what I want.

With so many linuxers/freedom fighters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248341)

tell them the next version will run in a text-only console. Watch them beat a path to your door!

Barriers to Entry (5, Insightful)

Jekler (626699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248343)

Like so many Open Source projects, it's not easy to get involved. It's telling about the complexity of a project that only a handful of people in the world bother to tip-toe through the minefield. Open source projects don't want people who can write code, they want people who can setup build environments and navigate a complex political environment.

At a job I wouldn't need to spend so much time setting up a build environment, there would already be a dozen people who have already figured out even the most intricate details of it. The person whose project it is should have fairly detailed information on setting up a build environment for their project. Open source projects tend to go with a "figure it out yourself" philosophy bragging that it's a rite of passage, but then they wonder why nobody is contributing.

Maybe I'd contribute to OpenOffice.org, but I've already got a mental block realizing that figuring out how to get involved would be at least a week long process. As luck would have it, I also have a week's worth of sleep debt and I already know how to fix that problem.

Re:Barriers to Entry (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26248517)

For open source projects that have a Debian package, the build environment is consistent. apt-get build-dep the-project, then mess with it, then debian/rules build.

Easy!

Build Environments (1)

drx (123393) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248531)

OSS projects could distrubte a ready-made build environment in a virtual box image or something ...

The same thing but free is not enough (1)

Cannelloni (969195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248349)

What's needed is something that's better and more useful than MS Office, particularly Excel, which is Microsoft's real killer app, at least on Windows. I'm a Mac user myself, so I don't care one flying fart about Microsoft or any of their products, but if anyone wants to beat MS, they'd better come up with something *different and superior* than Office, not something similar, but free. From a business perspective, it's what the thing *does*, not what it costs or how *free* it is, that matters. I am not a programmer, but I would probably go for something that's entirely web based, but that can also be used offline. It would do everything Excel and Word does, but much better and with some unique features and great usability. That's the real challenge. Google Docs are terrible!

Re:The same thing but free is not enough (2, Informative)

Computershack (1143409) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248587)

I am not a programmer, but I would probably go for something that's entirely web based, but that can also be used offline.

Like you can in MSO2007 with the "Office Live!" add ins?

Barrier of entry to high? (1)

Kindaian (577374) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248351)

Prolly an issue more related on the convulsed build process and the barrier of entry to start typing a line of code then anything else...

How many projects are there that for instance, appeal to windows developers but that they don't touch because the only coding experience they have is from Windows/Visual Studio and the whole build process is based on Linux/GCC/Java with weird build scripts and the like?

Sort that issue and you will see more developers lurking by...

(expecting people to learn a new programming language to start to develop is ok... expecting them to, on top of that learn a new OS, install a whole machine and learn to use a ton of tools is a bit harder) ;)

"Finished" software (4, Interesting)

Cillian (1003268) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248355)

This is an interesting issue - I develop an open source program, and it has the main features, is reasonably stable, and so in my mind is finished. There are other features I could add, but how useful they would actually be is debatable. I think this is somewhat similar to the state of openoffice, at the moment. So, what does one do in this state? (Admittedly, I have plenty of bugfixing and stuff to do, so I'm not out of work yet, but you get the idea)

Novell "profoundly sick" (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248357)

OOo is quite healthy. However, Novell seems to be profoundly sick: They arent even keep their employees in line.
This isnt the first time Michael Meeks is ranting mindlessly in a misguided attempt to promote Novells private fork (which has problems so big that the official OOo inconveniences are just laughable).
Michael Meeks isnt the only one doing this negative PR for Open Source: Greg KHs bitching about Ubuntu just hits the same chord.

One has to wonder if the Microsoft-Novell Deal was just a bribe to the Novell leadership to refrain from enforcing discipline among their devs. Either that, or its just incompetence.

Make a choice (1)

bytesex (112972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248381)

I 'get' what the difference is between a text-editor and a DTP-package. I'm aware of the dichotomy between 'bubble-in' text (like in vi, or in a browser) and seeing text more as a graphical representation of curves that must fit on a page (that will look the same no matter what the medium). What I still don't 'get' is how an office text editor like Word fits in between these two extremes. To me it seems impossible to make the right choices all the time: fonts may be missing, paper-sizes change, graphics become dis-aligned. How do people cope with that ? The argument has always been that full-blown DTP is too difficult for the office grunt. But look at how complicated Word is now ?! A choice must be made IMHO, and that choice must be, like Mozilla, a scriptable DTP package that, in default modus, behaves like Word or some sort, but can easily be stripped down to quench the thirst of more advanced graphical people. No more following MicroSoft, which is useless anyway (.doc files can simply be written and read by some separate commandline filter, to be incorporated in the package), and finally making a choice.

Re:Make a choice (1)

Cannelloni (969195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248433)

I agree completely with you. The only way to beat Microsoft, or create a viable alternative to MS Office, which is the only reason to use Windows in the first place, is to break out of the mould and create something that stands on a solid and independent foundation and "does office better than Office". Microsoft Office has become this bloated fat pig of an office suite, and it is miserably complex and user-hostile. The only reason it has become the standard in business administration is that nobody else has come up with something better, leaner, easier, more reliable and consistent. But hey, someone has a great opportunity here!

I wouldn't develop for it, and heres why... (1, Interesting)

Bazar (778572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248385)

Heres what bothers me about OO.o

Its written in java, and like most LARGE java apps, it runs like a 3 legged dog.

You can say that because its java, its more compatible and runs on all platforms. But only if the platform is supported.

Linux 64 with Java 64bit. That didn't happen for a very long time. As a work around, i tried compiling 32bit OO.org for my gentoo linux, compiling failed, the package notes basically suggested that black voodoo was required to get it to compile, and to use the provided binary packages instead.

As for OS compatibility, if you used a nice framework like say QT, you would get it while avoiding the instability and performance hit caused by java in the process.

Now for all the people that are thinking that i'm just flamebaiting consider this. Every time i used koffice, as primitive and lacklustre as it was, it appealed to me. I WANTED to get involved and help make it the greatest. It was fast, sleak, and attempted to be (but failed) what i wanted.

I never once felt that way with OO.org because the thing that needed most fixing was both its cleanness of source code and its dependence on java.

Yes i'm still an OO.o user, its still the most powerful free office software... But i'm not interested in improving it, just trying to fix what can't be.

Re:I wouldn't develop for it, and heres why... (1, Flamebait)

Skinkie (815924) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248469)

Did you ever met someone that wants to code java 'for fun' (as in Linux 'just for fun'), in their free time?

I did not.

Nor would I, and heres why... (-1, Troll)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248567)

... the reason is simply that it's in Java.

What's wrong with Java?

(a) It's restrictive. The language tries to enforce "good coding practices" by the utilization of restrictions in the language itself. Everything is forced into a rigid framework, and everything must operate within that framework. Many people might find that to be desirable, in much the same way that many people are comfortable working in 1 out of 100 identical cubicles in 1 out of 100 of the corporation's identical offices scattered throughout the country: if you need the structure and discipline, you might be happy. If you don't, you will be miserable.

(b) It's slow. Even compiled to bytecode, large Java applications tend to be slow. There have been improvements, but...

(c) It is not universal. One of the main ideas behind Java was that it was going to be a "universal, cross-platform" language. While it came much closer to that goal than probably any other commonly-used language, as mentioned elsewhere in this thread it did not achieve 100% success. It must be acknowledged that part of this problem is due to the packages that were included/omitted in certain Linux distros; nevertheless it is a problem. (Note to the complainer above: if my Linux distro did not include the necessary prerequisites for compiling Open Office, or at least make them easily available and documented, then I would start questioning the wisdom of those who put together that distribution. Yes, even Gentoo.)

(d) It is compiled. Some may see this as an absolute prerequisite for a desktop application. Nevertheless, dynamic languages (Ruby, for example) offer far more programming flexibility than Java could ever dream of. This is part of the reason for Java's relative inflexibility. Certain scripted languages have far surpassed it in terms of what can be accomplished at runtime.

Java is a good language. My cellphone runs Java. And I love Open Office. But I am not inclined to volunteer for the project, because I have moved on to "better", freer and more flexible languages. Going back to Java would feel like being in prison.

Very bad (4, Insightful)

Psychotria (953670) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248395)

Nearly every paragraph in the "article" begins with a disclaimer that the data (and/or the analysis) are flawed/biased/incomplete/not useful/meaningless!

Wow. Gotta do some quotes:

Firstly - the data is dirty

Nice

Thus it is possible that there is at least somewhat wider contribution than shown

More than possible

This graph is more meaningless than it might first appear

So, why are you basing are fairly hefty part of your argument on it? If it's meaningless, why is it even included?

So the data is not that useful.

No kidding

Is it more useful to look at an individual to see if they are contributing something ?

I dunno. You asked the question. Is it?

Why one hundred ? why not ?

It is clear that the number of active contributors Sun brings to the project is continuing to shrink

Crystal clear.

Novell's up-stream contribution appears small in comparison with the fifteen engineers we have working on OO.o. This has perhaps

Yeah, expand on that conjecture

So, it should be clear that OO.o is a profoundly sick project

Clear? Clear based on all those assertions they made about their data being dodgy? Yeah, umm, ok.

I'm sorry, but this is article is very hard to take seriously.

Yeah, and... (0, Offtopic)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248421)

be suspicious for other reasons. "Firstly" is not a real word. I would doubt the veracity of anyone who thinks that it is.

Re:Yeah, and... (2, Informative)

cperciva (102828) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248613)

Firstly is a real word; and according to the Oxford English Dictionary, has been in use ever since 1532. Quotations include "Walke thou fyrstly, walke thou lastly; Walke in the walke that standeth fastly" (1562), "A most delightful [ballad]... which has been laid firstly to Pope and secondly to me" (1723), and "These objects are twofold: firstly, to promote [etc.]" (1857).

Of course, in 1847 the word 'firstly' was accused of being a "ridiculous and most pedantic neologism" (falsely -- being over 300 years old, it was hardly a neologism), and I'll freely admit that it isn't a very *nice* word; but it's a word whether we like it or not.

Re:Very bad (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26248599)

Clear? Clear based on all those assertions they made about their data being dodgy? Yeah, umm, ok.

Well, Michael is a Christian. I guess he is used to believing in stuff based on scant real-world evidence and taking unprovable assertations at face value.

I'm sorry, but this is article is very hard to take seriously.

A bit like the Bible :-)

I know, I'm going to Hell.

Like they say, only idiots volunteer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248403)

Pay them money and they will come. Candystripers aren't old and gray for any other reason.

Nevermind about candystrippers.

I see the problem... (1)

Zsub (1365549) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248405)

DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS

amiright?

Seriously, though. It's quite a pity. I used to like OO.o as a OS replacement for Office. I haven't tried the newer versions, but it used to be quite good as long as you stayed with the basics.

OpenOffice? What's the point anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26248415)

Why would anyone want inferior typesetting and plotting capabilities anyway?

Replacing Writer by LaTeX gives you beautifully typset text (especially equations) with a rock-solid tried-and-tested system.

Replacing Calc by Octave and/or Gnuplot gives you much greater control of plotting, much better ease of use, and much prettier results than Calc does.

Too complex (5, Interesting)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248447)

I would bet that as projects grow, fewer new developers join -- unless the complexity is managed.

Open Office is starting to feel like X11. It hard to even build let alone modify let alone test. It is a very old code base and it shows.

There is another issue as well I think. It is typically an application "end-point." Projects like Apache, PostgreSQL, PHP, etc. are foundations for other projects. People use them and contribute because they are interested in their own project and they fix or add features to the open source foundations to that end. The primary self interest is their project not PHP or PostgreSQL, but the open source foundations benefit regardless.

With OpenOffice.Org, there is no individualized primary self interest. If I add something to OpenOffice.Org, I only add it because I want it. With the code base as big and complex as it is, I'd have to want it quite badly. I can't think of a feature I need that much or a reason to do all the work to add it. OpenOffice.Org is pretty good as is, what does it need?

Re:Too complex (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248515)

This is a problem for all open source projects. Once any project gets above a certain size, it becomes difficult for casual developers to make contributions. This is why open source and UNIX grew so well together - the UNIX philosophy was to have simple tools doing one thing well. Individuals can make useful additions to a simple tool, and the simple tools can be combined into powerful systems.

You make a comparison to X11, and that's probably quite apt. One of the big changes in X.org has been splitting the project into a large number of smaller ones, and this has allowed casual contributors to start making a difference once again.

Old news... (1)

VPeric (1215606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248461)

This is not a new article, I saw it way back in October on LWN: http://lwn.net/Articles/302576/ [lwn.net] Still interesting though. The real question is: what are the alternatives? KOffice, other than currently being in Beta, is missing lots of critical features, making it suitable for only basic office stuff (which is still enough for most people, though). What other office suites are there? And if a developer wanted to help, where would he do the most good? OOo (yet it has always been criticized as a puppet of it's corporate overloards)? Or KOffice? Or one of the even-less-known suites out there?

Oh no! (1)

louzer (1006689) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248475)

OK I am going to sign up to be one.. Must not let MS formats destroy future history.

OOo versus MS Office? (1)

Clarious (1177725) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248485)

I don't really an office user so I don't know how OOo compares to MS Office (even Google Doc is enough for me). But I think OOo should provide enough functionality right? Could someone please give me a quick comparison between OOo and MS Office?

Re:OOo versus MS Office? (4, Funny)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248557)

Could someone please give me a quick comparison between OOo and MS Office?

Here you go: OpenOffice.org has every feature that any practical user would ever want or need. Microsoft Office has these, too, but it also has the ability to generate charts in seventeen dimensions, which for some reason is the one feature absolutely essential to whoever you happen to be trading documents with.

Maybe office tools are just boring to develop ? (2, Insightful)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 5 years ago | (#26248487)

There are many things that would float my boat project wise in IT , working on a word processor or spreadsheet isn't one of them.

Wow - old news! (1)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248541)

Michael Meeks blogged about this almost 3 months ago. This post is right before the 2008-10-10 post. Though it's still pertinent, why is it only being dragged out on Slashdot now?

Some footnotes... (1)

Elledan (582730) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248577)

It is very hard to get started in a big (open source) project. Not just because programmers *hate* documenting things, let alone commenting their own code. Add to this that OOo is a mature product, doesn't have a lot of features which could be added, which compares to the eternal TODO list of the Linux kernel, or the ReactOS project (which I am participating in as developer).

If there is one thing OOo could use it's a severe simplification of its design to slim it down size and resource-wise, but beyond that it's pretty much feature-complete for 99% of its users.


On a completely unrelated sidenote, did anyone look at the ODF spec? To me it looks nearly as convoluted as the PDF spec (which I've used to write an editor with at one point). Does such a complex format spring forth from a convoluted and complex (crufty) codebase?

International support (3, Interesting)

charlener (837709) | more than 4 years ago | (#26248611)

For a while, I used OO mostly to assuage my guilt at using Office illicitly.

Then I found out that OO has a major advantage: internationalization for countries that just aren't within Microsoft's marketing strategy. As a (foreign) person working in Mongolia, the relatively basic addition of international spelling packs, particularly for Mongolian, has been a lifesaver - and though I haven't used it, there's a Mongolian localization for the entire suite that I think would remove a significant utilization barrier here. It's hard enough teaching someone how to click versus double-click; throw in a menu system in an incomprehensible language and you might as well give up at anything but the most basic data entry.

For this alone I'll use OO over Office.

And from a helping standpoint, I haven't done much beyond web-based DB-driven apps for a while, but with Ubuntu's relatively painless localization process, I'm trying to help out by doing Mongolian localization for the OS myself.

There are places for everyone to help - it may not be exciting but I figure you should pay it back in somehow.

23 developers out there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#26248639)

...are insulted!!!

LOL! Looks like Michael Meeks will be working solo from now on!

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