OSAF, Mitch Kapor and PIM

Open Source Applications Foundation and Mitch Kapor’s Weblog. What I liked is the project Mitch and his team is working on: “A new take on the Personal Information Manager. It will handle email, appointments, contacts and tasks, as well as be used to exchange information with other people, and do it all in the spirit of Lotus Agenda. Agenda, for those who aren’t familiar with it, was a DOS product I designed (along with Jerry Kaplan) in the late 1980’s which introduced a new kind of database optimized for entering small items of information in a free-form manner, and then adding organizational categories on-the-fly. It was much beloved by a few, despite (or perhaps because) being abandoned by Lotus.”

Here’s more:

We are trying to make a PIM which is substantive enough and enticing enough to make people want to move to it from whatever they are currently using, which statistically is probably Microsoft Outlook. I’m not going to bash Outlook here. Suffice it to say that while feature-rich, it is highly very complex, which renders most of its functionality moot. Its information sharing features require use of Microsoft Exchange, a server-based product, which is both expensive and complex to administer. Exchange is overkill for small-to-medium organizations, which we think creates on opportunity we intend to pursue (as well of course as serving individual users)

Have I mentioned it’s going to run on Macintosh, Linux, and Windows and will not require a server? This is an ambitious goal, but we are convinced is possible to achieve using a cross-platform tool kit. (We are working with wxWindows/wxPython).

Also, everything is going to be fully open sourced.

A more detailed report comes from Dan Gillmor:

Kapor and his small team have been working on what they’re calling an open-source “Interpersonal Information Manager.” The software is being designed to securely handle personal e-mail, calendars, contacts and other such data in new ways, and to make it simple to collaborate and share information with others without having to run powerful, expensive server computers.

As with other open-source software, the source code (programming instructions) will be freely available along with the working program. An early version of the calendar part of the software should be posted on the Web by the end of this year, and version 1.0 of the whole thing is slated for the end of 2003 or early 2004.

If the software lives up to the developers’ plans, it will have wide appeal. It should be highly adaptable to personal tastes, with robust collaborative features. I’m especially hopeful about a feature to build in strong encryption in a way that lets users protect their privacy without having to think about it.

The Chandler architecture builds on other open-source projects. These include Python, a development language and environment that’s gaining more and more fans among programmers, and Jabber, a communications infrastructure that started life as an instant-messaging alternative but has evolved into a robust platform of its own.

We should look at the OSAF’s Technology page for a look at the technologies that they find most promising and the reasons: wxWindows / wxPython, Python, Zope Object Database (ZODB), Jabber, RDF, Mozilla.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.