Yesterday Cameron Loudon and I met with a couple of Sun people at their Brisbane office; Stuart Sim and David Bunker. At a previous meeting I demoed ICE to David, and we saw some opportunities for potential collaboration. David was kind enough to organize yesterday's meeting when Stuart was in town.

(Stuart is Chief Architect, Business Solutions, Global Education & Research and David is Business Development Manager, Education & Research for Sun in Australia)

ICEis open source software, released under the GPL. ICE leverages the power of and therefore StarOffice, both of which are controlled by Sun. It is our understanding that Sun are trying to promote the use of StarOffice in universities, in order to capture the hearts, minds and keyboard fingers of a new generation of office software users, leading them away from Microsoft's domination of desktop computing.

The presentation is embedded in the document below, and you can view it as a Slideous slide presentation as well.

Some key points from our discussion:

  • Sun have lots of resources to help with outreach on projects like ICE – if and when the time comes.

  • Sun do want to drive adoption of Star & in higher-ed, but Stuart says that a lot of their contacts have been with IT departments not faculty.

  • There are some opportunities for ICE hosting / services that might be of interest to a company like Sun with links into higher education. Note that we haven't done any deals. Cameron and I were just showing ICE and chatting...

  • I said quite bluntly that Writer will not take off in academia without usable bibliography software. I'll put Stuart in contact with David Wilson and Bruce D'Arcus of the bibliography project.

Background on ICE

What is ICE?

  • ICE is a free (GPL licensed) content management system.

  • Initial development has been to support USQ's courseware publishing.

ICE is ...

  • Cross platform

  • A web application that works offline

  • Word processor driven Word / MS Word

  • Does print, web, CD and other delivery

ICE makes...

  • HTML and PDF from word processing documents.

  • Microsoft Word or

  • Books, CD-ROMS

  • IMS packages for use in Learning Management Systems

  • Presentations using Slideous

Screenshot: ICE course output


ICE runs in lots of places

Runs as a web server on the desktop on:

  • Windows

  • Mac OS X

  • Linux

  • And potentially other Unix variants (Solaris anyone?)

(A future version will run as on online service. )

ICE does distributed content management

  • Works off-line

  • Keeps version-controlled backups

  • Allows collaboration

(Using the Subversion version control system beloved of programmers with a simple web GUI)

Advantages of using

  • WYSIWYG – users working in Word have a few more 'gotchas' as Writer is used to render to PDF.

  • Master documents work.

  • Bibliography tool works well (actually it doesn't).

    Sun people: this is the single biggest thing that will hold back adoption of OpenOffice. It does not have usable bibliography software.


What could Sun do?

  • Fix the bugs in Word support.

  • Help the bibliography team to make Writer a compelling choice for academia.

  • Improve the default template that ships with Writer so that it uses an ICE-like template.

    (It's currently awful)

What's in it for Sun?

  • Drive adoption of StarOffice and/or to reduce the need for Windows.

  • Reach students on their first day at university via ICE in 'foundation computing' courses.

  • Sell grid-computing conversion services to back up ICE as an online service?

    (ICE uses for PDF rendering, which could be expensive, computationally speaking)


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