Feeds

OpenOffice 3.0 - the only option for masochistic Linux users

And linear optimizing Mactards

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The Feasible Region in my Loins

Shinyness aside, OpenOffice 3 does have at least one useful new feature: The Solver. The Solver is a new tool for Calc that helps you solve linear programming problems. Excel has had this for years, so it's nice to see the open source world throw their nuts out on the table. Mac users should feel especially gifted: Not only do they now have a version of OpenOffice that can run without X11, but they finally have a spreadsheet that can do linear optimization. Microsoft Office 2008 doesn't provide this for Mac users.

Linear programming is a way to optimize an equation given a bunch of constraints. You have limited capital resources and want to maximize your profit - that sort of thing. Previously, Linux users have been using the GNU Linear Programming Kit (GLPK) to solve these problems. GLPK works well, but it's a command line interface and you need to learn a special programming language to use it.

Doing optimization in a spreadsheet is much easier on the sanity than doing it in a special programming language. In ten minutes, I set up and solved a basic linear programming problem:

My woodcarving company can make toy soldiers and toy trains. Each has an associated materials cost and labor cost. Each takes a certain amount of time in both finishing and carpentry. How many soldiers and trains do I make so that I earn the most profit?

Put the variables into Calc and write the constraints into the Solver:

OpenOffice Solver

OpenOffice Solver

It will figure out how many of each to make, and fill in the spreadsheet:

OpenOffice Spreadsheet

OpenOffice spreadsheet via Solver

With so many “financial engineers” entering the job market now, it's likely that many of them will find work in operations research. Perhaps OpenOffice's Solver will get more intense use than what a Reg reporter who took that class in college can do.

We're Still Waiting For Google Docs To Find Market Share

OpenOffice 3.0 has some good new functionality, but it hasn't changed substantially from version 2. And it's not worth the effort to manually upgrade on Linux: Wait until it hits your distribution's auto-update.

In any case, it's easy to download now. The open source echo chamber has moved on to other things. ®

Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Intel's Raspberry Pi rival Galileo can now run Windows
Behold the Internet of Things. Wintel Things
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
Time to move away from Windows 7 ... whoa, whoa, who said anything about Windows 8?
Start migrating now to avoid another XPocalypse – Gartner
You'll find Yoda at the back of every IT conference
The piss always taking is he. Bastard the.
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.