Thursday, August 16, 2007


A few things

I ran across an interesting new blog today, called Corner Violin Shop, which takes us behind the scenes of a strings shop in Omaha... with lots of photos and descriptions of workshop activities, Nice blog, Chris! [Thanks also to Jason Heath for the link.]

Today, I downloaded Google Pack, another free Beta project from Google. This bundles a lot of Google's features, such as Picasa, Google Earth, Google Desktop, Google Chat, etc., with PC Doctor, Adobe, Real Player, even Skype. What makes it even more interesting is the inclusion of Norton Security Scan (it's not as complete as the $39 per year commercial version, but it's free). I'd let my Norton subscription expire a long time ago.

But, the most surprising thing in this free Pack from Google is the Sun Microsystem's "StarOffice" program set. Sun has been selling this program for $70, but it's free from Google. This program includes a word processor (StarOffice Writer), a spreadsheet (StarOffice Calc), a database program (StarOffice Base), a drawing program (Star Office Draw), and a presentation program (StarOffice Impress). These programs closely mirror the Word, Excel, PowerPoint programs from Microsoft. In fact, it's not easy to see any difference in appearance and functions.

I used to be power user of Microsoft's Office programs (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), even writing my own macros, etc. In recent years, however, I've just become a casual user, although I do use them in my consulting work. I have not upgraded to Windows Vista, and I don't intend to until it becomes necessary due to evolving software constraints. That means I'll not be upgrading to the MSOffice 2007 system either. But, since most (if not all) of our clients use MSOffice, I doubt I'll get that much of a chance to work with this StarOffice suite for a while at least. We'll see.

It's interesting that Google is putting out a competing product with Google Documents, formerly Writely (which is what I've used for blogging for almost a year). Still, Google Docs is strictly an on-line program you can access from any location, while StarOffice Writer is a stand-alone program that can be used offline. Google sure has a lot of irons in the fire...

Here's hoping that this Google/Sun shot across the bows of HMS Microsoft will be successful and lead to many more Google projects.

[Disclaimer: I own some Sun Microsystems stock. I bought it at around $40 in late 1999. It fell to $5 in the tech stock crash and has stayed there ever since. Maybe Sun's teaming up with Google will do something for Sun's bottom line.]

@Guanano – Google is an interesting beast of a company. Google’s offering of those bundled products would really appeal to folks that cannot afford the Microsoft products (though Microsoft does allow businesses to allow their employees to install their Office products on their home PC; it’s a licensing thing). However, I think that the real goal of Google by offering some of these products is to push file format and extension standards that MS has not been willing to adopt. Where there is standardization, information can be more easily shared and analyzed, and the possibilities are endless.

My real intrigue with Google is their bid for the wireless 700 MHz auction. They are going up against AT&T. The FCC adopted Google’s proposal to make the 700 MHz technology platform open – meaning that whoever eventually owns it cannot have a proprietary network. Don’t you really feel bad for the AT&T, Verizon, and the other carriers that are crying foul?

I don’t.

I am glad to see my stock purchases are being used for some good.
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