Recommended Reading for March 5

Lousy PowerPoint practices; U.K. wants open source; The case for desktop Linux; Paperless living.

PowerPoint train wrecks

Source: CIO magazine

CIO's Thomas Wailgum showcases real-life presentations that serve as case studies of how not to use PowerPoint.

The online article includes eight horrific slides, each with an explanation of the problem — which is obvious in most cases — and a snooze rating of one to five Zs.

Microsoft's Bill Gates earned ZZZZ for a slide packed with images that attempts to explain cloud computing. "Experts universally say: Keep the images to a minimum (like, one image per slide) and keep the text as brief as possible," Wailgum wrote.

A NASA presentation about the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster also earned a ZZZZ rating and a ding by design expert Edward Tufte, a legend in publishing. The offending slide fails to "display a sense of engineering intelligence or discipline" and is a "presentation mess."

The article concludes with a mock slide someone created showing how President Barack Obama might have ended his "Yes, We Can" speech had he relied on a PowerPoint presentation.

Read the article.

U.K. updates open-source plan

Source: U.K. CIO Council

The United Kingdom has updated its policy on open-source software in an effort to encourage even broader adoption by government agencies.

The U.K. government first adopted a formal policy that encourages the use of open-source software in 2004. The new policy makes it clear that solutions based on open-source software, when appropriate, will have an advantage in procurements.

"Where there is no significant overall cost difference between open and non-open-source products, open source will be selected on the basis of its additional inherent flexibility," the new policy states.

As part of that policy, the government plans to develop contract language that ensures that agencies can reuse systems developed by another agency.

The U.K.'s CIO Council is also clearing some red tape by directing agencies not to evaluate open-source solutions already approved by another agency. The council has asked all agencies to maintain and share the records of their evaluations.

The U.K. government has created a public Web site for the action plan with links to blog posts, news stories and Twitter tweets about the government, open-source technology and open standards.

Read the plan.

The case for Linux on the desktop

Source: InfoWorld

Galen Gruman, executive editor of InfoWorld, said government agencies and big businesses should consider ditching Microsoft products in favor of Linux.

Linux products have already gained a foothold in server rooms, but most agencies have shied away from using them on desktop PCs, beyond a few niche users. Linux is ready to play outside those niches, Gruman wrote. "My verdict: Desktop Linux is a great choice for many regular Joes with basic computer needs."

In fact, Linux is better suited to average desktop PC users, who are primarily interested in Microsoft Office programs, e-mail and Web access. They do not need costly, resource-intensive operating systems from Microsoft or even Apple. However, people who need specialty applications might be better off sticking with the big guys.

"I'm not suggesting every organization chuck its Windows or Mac OSes for desktop Linux," Gruman wrote. "But many companies, government agencies and educational institutions can chuck at least some of them."

Read the article.

Pros and cons of paperless living

Source: Computerworld

Blogger Mike Elgan reported on his experiment with going paperless — not just at work but at home.

He switched to paying bills online, started reading books in digital format, got rid of paper records of all types and began photographing any files he needed to preserve.

Elgan declared his "lifestyle experiment" a success. "The biggest upside to going paperless is that finding information is more like a Google search and less like a scavenger hunt," he wrote. "But I'm also a lot more productive and waste a lot less time, and my life is a lot less cluttered."

He also found he has easier access to information because he can tap into it from anywhere he has an Internet or cell phone connection.

The paperless life has its downsides, though. For example, having all postal mail delivered electronically isn't cheap, he wrote. Furthermore, some service providers will not accept digital payments, and some books are not available in digital form.

"Despite all this, going as paperless as possible is worth doing — the less paper, the better," Elgan wrote.

Read the article.

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