sharing

There are many ‘sharing’ plugins for WordPress to help readers submit posts to Twitter, Delicious and other similar sites. I was looking for a plugin that I could change the icons on and add larger ones for the LottyBox blog so the submit links would be nice and clear. The links below show what I found specifically the Socialable plugin and the large Social me icons.  I was also helped by some handy CSS for adding larger icons.

I am always interested in reading information and advise on business blogging and I came across this book on scribd which I thought was quite good (below).

For people wanting more in depth and technical information (and want to use WordPress) I can really recommend WordPress for Business Bloggers by Paul Thewlis.

Blogging for Business

I am currently building and ecommerce site for my wife’s business using the open source ecommerce software Magento. Magento has got  a lot of good press since its launch and has won many awards and is very well thought of. There is no doubt that Magento is very funtional and flexible, Google and Paypal integration is particulary good. Essentially Magento is a Content Magento System but as user friendly as WordPress it is not. Like most great open source projects there is normally an answer to most issues on the web (via google) and below are a few links that have helped me a long the way. As I have still not completed my site no doubt there will be more links to come.

  • DRAW – from a quick sketch to a complex plan, DRAW gives you the tools to communicate with graphics and diagrams. With a maximum page size of 300cm by 300cm, DRAW is powerful tool for technical or general posters, etc. Cross platform support Linux, Windows and Mac
  • Kivio is an easy to use diagramming and flowcharting application with tight integration to the other KOffice applications. It enables you to create network diagrams, organisation charts, flowcharts and more. Kivio is designed for Linux and the KDE desktop.

    With the release of Service Pack 2 for Microsft Office yesterday providing support for OpenDocument formats (see details here) a few links about ODF

    Ubuntu 9.04I have been meaning to write a post for the new StaffsLug (Staffordshire Linux User Group) website for sometime. I had intended. for my first post. to write a bit on the UK Governments ‘Open Source, Open Standards and re-use Action plan‘ but this will have to come later. As this week saw the release of the latest version of the ever popular Ubuntu 9.04 I thought it important that the Staffslug website had a post, so I wrote the post below which can be found on the site itself here.

    This week saw 100’s of release parties for arrival of the latest version of Ubuntu Linux. Code named Jaunty Jackalope Ubuntu 9.04 (9 for 2009 and 04 for April) has arrived on time based on Canonical’s 6 monthly release cycle. Ubuntu 9.04 is not an LTS (Long Term Support) edition so will get 18 months of free updates (LTS receive 2 years free updates and are generally thought to be more stable). As ever, work has already started on the next version 9.10 code named Karmic Koala with the next LTS version being 10.04 to be released in April 2010.

    9.04 Ubuntu does not contain any radical changes, as is often the way with a 6 monthly cycle, but does finally include OpenOffice.org 3.0 and also promises faster boot time. Other improvements come from updates to Gnome (the default Ubuntu desktop) and application updates like Evolution (Ubuntu’s  Outlook equivalent) which now comes with exchange server compatibility.

    As well as the Gnome Desktop default 9.04 there is also Kubuntu 9.04 with KDE desktop,  Xubuntu 9.04 with XFCE desktop, Ubuntu Server Edition 9.04 with no graphical user interface and the new Ubuntu Netbook remix 9.04 designed for netbooks like the Asus eee’s and the Acer Aspires.

    George Osbourne

    Some time back I wrote a short blog post on the (publicly available) open source position of the main political parties in the UK. At the time the Conservative party came out as having a very positive approach towards open source.

    As covered on the Mercian Labels blog George Osbourne the Shadow Chancellor has taken this one step further by asking Dr Mark Thompson to develop independent recommendations to provide a better deal for taxpayers. The summarised results were as follows:

    • The Government could save at least £600 million per year if it adopted a more effective open IT procurement process. The open source savings would come not just from reduced licensing costs, but importantly by freeing government bodies from long-term, monopoly supply situations.
    • New government data standards should be introduced across government, creating a level playing-field for open source software.
    • These new standards would enable large-scale IT projects to be split into small modular components, meaning that the UK government should never again need to sign an IT software contract worth over £100 million – so no more
      IT ‘white elephants’.

    link to the original article

    A possible reference there to projects like the NHS records Project with a predicted £12 billion spend, and being 4 years late, still looks like showing very little tangible benefit.

    Barack Obama

    Meanwhile across in the United States, in his first couple of weeks of Government, Barack Obama has just asked Scott McNealy the CEO of Sun Microsystems for a paper on how open source can improve security and be cost-effective for USA government.

    At the same time there is a petition on the Number10 government website to ask “That bodies in receipt of public money be mandated to evaluate open source alternatives before the purchase of commercial software”. From the petition details – “This could potentially save large sums of money at a time when the demands upon tax revenues are significantly increased”. Outserve is encouraging people who would like the Government to have a policy to look at open source to sign the petition online.
    Petition link http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Open-Source/

    Open Source Accounts Software White Paper If Open Source Business Software for SME’s is currently a niche market then Open Source Accounting Software must be a super-niche market. Although uptake of Open Source Accounting Software is small (especially compared to a Sage or a Quickbooks) there may be many more businesses and organisations who could take advantage of solution that are available if there was a greater awareness the software and its possible benefits.

    To try and explain the current market for accounting software and some of the possible benefits of open source I have drafted a white paper. Producing this white paper for download has also given me the opportunity to try out a few different ways to make a document available.

    The document embedded below is using edocr, flickr for documents which is a start up from a team including Manoj Ranaweera. Manoj also kindly submitted the edocr link to Digg and to Stumpleupon.

    As well as hosting and embedding the document on sites like edocr and scribd I have also made it available for download on the Outserve website where we are using the Docman an open source component for Joomla. Docman is a great Joomla component for managing downloads (and uploads) which has good functionality and even downloadable themes. If you want to require signup/login to get access to a download then docman combines with the standard Joomla site registration to give access control although may not be the slickest solution.

    If the format is useful then I intend to write other white papers on other areas that I think require further investigation and explaination

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    There was much excitement around the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0 last month. Download servers were overloaded with the initial demand and many tech blog posts were written. But now the dust has settled it is a great time to look at some of the reasons that this version of the ever popular open source office suite could offer serious competition to its proprietary equivalents.

    10 reasons to (possibly) stop using Microsoft Office and start using OpenOffice.org

    1. Its Good Enough.

    The latest release OpenOffice.org 3.0 provides enough functionality from an office suite for probably 95% of the computer users in the world. Most people’s use of Word Processors and Spreadsheets are not pushing the functionality now available. For the 5% or less of ‘power-users’ a closer look is required to understand the differences and how these can be overcome. Often if there is a specific issue someone else has also had this problem and very probably found a solution, as often is the open source way.

    2. Familiar Consistent Interface

    In the last 15 years most office suites have settled on a pretty familiar interface with consistent layout and descriptions, With the release of Office 2007 Microsoft have completely changed the interface of some but not all of its office products. OpenOffice.org uses a very familiar ‘classic’ interface which would be recognisable to most users allowing them o be up and running very quickly.

    3. You Can Redistribute

    Being able to redistribute copies of OpenOffice.org for free is incredibly useful especially if you are an organisation. For example a school could give copies to all students and parents and  a company could give all employees and partners a copy. Currently parents are feeling pressure to purchase copies of Microsoft Office as their children are using it at school or worse still are pirating it.

    4. Extensions

    Just as Firefox, the very popular open source browser, there is a full ecosystem around OpenOffice.org including extensions. These are where someone has added a particular piece of functionality that they wanted. These extensions can be downloaded from http://extensions.services.openoffice.org/ and easily installed. There are many extensions available but currently some noteable and popular extensions are ‘Writer Tools‘ adding some useful functionality for Word Processor users and Google Docs integration allowing you to automatically transfer documents to Googles on line office suite.

    5. Open Formats

    The default format for OpenOffice.org is ODF (OpenDocument Format) each program has its own ODF format Writer has .odt. Calc has .ods etc. With the release of Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 Microsoft’s own office suite will support ODF. This means that an OpenOffice.org user will be able to exchange documents, edits and updates with a Microsoft Office user all using an open standard format, this really is a great step forward. Of course there are many other products that support ODF, not just the two mentioned, from web applications such as Google Docs and Zoho to office suites including IBM Lotus Symphony and WordPerfect Office. Until Microsoft catches up OpenOffice.org can not only read and write .doc and .xls but can also read the new Microsoft 2007 format .docx and .xlsx. I have spoken about open formats before but suffice to say sharing and preserving documents in an open format has many benefits for individuals and organisations.

    6. PDF support

    OpenOffice.org has been ahead of Microsoft Office with regard to PDF’s for a long time making it easy to produce documents in a PDF format since early versions. Now there is an official extension which allows you to open and edit basic PDF documents within OpenOffice.org.

    7. More Software

    There is only one edition of Openoffice.org the ‘all of it’ edition. There are more programs with OpenOffice.org when compared to the Home and Student Edition of Microosft Office. OpenOffice.org includes a Word Processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation program, Vector Graphics program and a Maths calculation program.

    8. Cross Platform

    For the first time with version 3.0 OpenOffice.org now runs natively on Apple Macs (OSX) both for intel processors and the older PowerPC processors (strangely the PowerPC version is not available from the main download page but is available from other places on the web like http://ooopackages.good-day.net/pub/OpenOffice.org/MacOSX/3.0.0rc4/ where you can download RC4 which is the final released version). It has long been the office suite of choice for most Linux versions and of course has a full Windows version. Added to this support for BSD and Opensolaris it really is true cross platform application. Having a fimiliar inteface across platforms using Open Formats has many advantages but ultimately offers flexibility. For example you may have to use Microsoft Windows at work but use a Mac at home and want to share a document with a family member who runs a new netbook running Linux, all this is easily achievable if all pc’s are running OpenOffice.org.

    9. If you already run Microsoft Office (or another office suite) there is nothing stopping you installing OpenOffice as well.

    You can run more than one office suite. Using OpenOffice.org does not have to be an all or nothing situation and can be introduced gradually.

    10. Its Free

    OK, I deliberately put this point last as I believe it is not the reason to use OpenOffice.org. All of the 9 points above are more important than it being free. If OpenOffice.org is not fit for your purpose then I would not recommend using it and would say have a look around for some thing else.

    Ultimately it will come downs to an individuals or organisations circumstances as to whether they could switch to OpenOffice.org. In the case of new businesses I would like to think they would choose to use OpenOffice.org before paying for a proprietary equivalent. Hopefully what version 3.0 does show is that OpenOffice.org has a bright future. Already we are seeing support for OpenOffice.org and open formats by enterprises and exciting projects like QuasiWiki, ODF@WWW and O3Spaces which use OpenOffice.org to help collaborative working.

    The future is bright, the future is OO.o (well for me at least).

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    I am giving a short workshop at the upcoming IAAITC’s Business Continuity and Risk Management Summit where I will be talking about open source security software. As I have only got a short time and I think it is quite topical I will be basing the workshop on open source encryption software. It appears that not a week goes by without a story in the newspaper about a laptop/hard drive/CD/USB stick containing sensitive and confidential data being lost or left in a train/taxi/car park. Events like this are inevitable as data becomes more and more portable. Of course we should continually work towards minimising these situations but one of the best practical steps a practice can take to protect data is to ensure that any ‘at risk’ confidential information is encrypted. The latest saw a USB RAM stick of confidential Government information found in a car park in Cannock, Staffordshire. Link to the news story here.

    It was noted that the USB was encrypted so at least that was something but as detailed below many of the ‘proprietary’ encryption systems on USB sticks have been compromised.

    At this stage it is worth defining what encryption is:

    ‘Encryption is the process of transforming information using an algorithm called a cipher. Once data has been encrypted then it can only be read by users who have the encryption key.’

    Using software to encrypt data has been used for a long time by governments and large organisations. Today it is becoming common place, often being found on the better quality USB RAM sticks. The problem with a lot of the software supplied with such devices is that it is often ‘proprietary’ meaning that the source code of the software is in itself a secret. At first this may appear to be the best approach, after all does the code being a secret not make the solution more secure?

    What has actually been proven time and time again is that security through obscurity is no security. Good security software’s source code should be available for all to see to ensure that it is secure. The science of encryption is well documented and any software implementation should be made available for checking. Many of the proprietary systems have been compromised by attacks and often it is a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ they will be compromised.

    Truecrypt (www.truecrypt.org) is one of the best known and well trusted encryption software programs available today. Truecrypt, as recommended above, is free and open source, meaning that anybody can see the source code. Truecrypt will work on Windows, Apple Mac and Linux operating systems and can be setup to encrypt a whole drive, a single folder or a portable device like a USB Flash RAM stick.

    The one possible downside of Truecrypt is that it requires a client install to read a an external drive like a USB or portable drive. If it is required to be able to use a portable devise on a machine that would not have Truecrypt installed then for Windows users there is FreeOTFE (www.freeotfe.org) which is free and open source encryption software that can also be installed on a USB stick and does not require a client install. FreeOTFE can also be used on a Microsoft PDA.

    As well as other open source security software the latest version of Linux Ubuntu 8.10 comes with encryption built in making it even easier to keep you laptop data secure.