Digressions & Diatribes

by Kort E Patterson, Editor

Big Changes in Port of Call

(that will hopefully be invisible to readers...)

The entire production of this issue, from editing individual articles and letters, to layout and printing, was done entirely with the new Open Office v2.0.1. (OK, since the newsletter can't be finished while I'm still writing this editorial, the above isn't technically accurate at this exact point in the space/time continuum, but I have every confidence that it will be true by the time you're reading these words.)

I've used several different kinds of word processing and desktop publishing software on different kinds of computers to put POC together over the years. (The upcoming April/May issue will be my 12th anniversary as newsletter editor.) I started out using Sprint for editing and Finesse for layout on a DrDOS/Gem computer. The next desktop publishing software was Pagemaker on a Windoze machine.

I've been using Open Office on a Linux system to publish POC for several years, but the release of the new version 2.0.1 of the Open Office Suite of business software is a major milestone for this open source project. While it still supports file formats used by the 1.x versions, the new Open Document standard (odt) is its native format. ODT is a vendor-neutral open-standard format approved by OASIS (the standards body for XML data formats in business) intended to greatly simplify compatibility issues between different types/brands of software.

Note that Open Office can read and write most Microsoft Office files, so you can still exchange files with the those who have not yet achieved enlightenment. The only microscam files that are likely to cause problems are those that contain VB macros, and a very good case can be made that no one should ever deal with such abominations in the first place. These are the macros that allow a malicious document to corrupt your computer, or even format your hard drive. Major bad idea, and Open Office has too much respect for users to expose them to such clear and present dangers!!

A recurrent source of confusion for windoze users results from file associations. The default option is to "associate" Open Office with all of the types of files it can handle. If for some reason you still want MS-Word/Excel to be the default software that is launched when you click on a .doc or .xls file, make sure you change the default setting during the installation process.

Publishing POC is a fairly major desktop publishing challenge, and I've been quite pleased with the performance of Open Office - especially since it's supposedly just a word processor. If I remember correctly, I paid over $600 for Pagemaker back in the late 90's, and I still needed an external word processor for editing. Open Office does everything - and it's free!

Installing the new Open Office was fairly painless - especially since I already had version 1.1 installed. The new version 2.0 extracted my personal preferences, fonts, printer settings, etc. from the older version during the installation, and was ready to use in a couple of minutes. The user interface has changed a bit, and I've had to look around a little to find a few things, but the transition has been pretty easy.

The only noteworthy negative difference I've come across has been when loading back issues of POC created with the previous version. A few articles have changed length due to minor differences in kerning and line spacing, resulting in additional blank lines appearing at the end. On the positive side, some of the fonts are working better. I use "Humanist512 Lt BT" as the primary font in POC, but couldn't get it to print in italic. I had to set any italics in "Swis721 BT", which had the downside of having a heaver stroke. Open Office v2.0 can print Humanist512 in both regular and italic, providing a more consistent look to the newsletter.

While I strongly prefer the Linux operating system, Open Office has been ported to Windoze, Macintosh, FreeBSD, and Solaris. It supports a wide range of languages from Arabic to Zulu. There's no longer any need to struggle with third rate junk software from Microscam. You can now move up to Open Office and finally be free of the risks of malicious macros damaging your computer, and the endless extortion of abusive intentional incompatibilities as marketing strategy!

Lou Keay, RD of Region IV, suggested the slogan "Each one bring one" for our ongoing efforts to attract new members. Word of mouth by current members who value and enjoy their membership in Intertel is probably the most effective promotion we can have - especially if they bring potential members to Intertel events.

Members in the NW Oregon/SW Washington area have been enjoying a regular schedule of well attended bimonthly parties for a several years, and a number of guests have since become Intertel members. Hoping to build on this successful model, we've launched a project to identify other areas with enough Ilians within reasonable range for a party, and encouraging them to get together and enjoy each other's company.

With luck, after a few "pump priming" long distance introductions by way of our region's current "party central", they'll select an area coordinator and work out their own regular schedule of events. What better reason could there be for a party than to celebrate the success of the previous party!

We also plan to offer a workshop at the AGA to share what has been working for the NW Oregon/SW Washington area with all of the other regions of Intertel.

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