OpenXML is Really Funny (But It’s a Joke That Can Cost Lives)

Posted in ECMA, Formats, GNU/Linux, Intellectual Monopoly, Interoperability, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard, Turbolinux, Videos at 11:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

As an addendum, yesterday we mentioned the latest OOXML slam from Rob Weir. To repeat what was said:

OOXML: The Formula for Failure


As I’ve shown, in the rush to write a 6,000 page standard in less than a year, Ecma dropped the ball. OOXML’s spreadsheet formula is worse than missing. It has incorrect formulas that, if implemented according to the standard may cause loss of life, property and capital. This standard is seriously messed up. And shame on all those who praised and continue to praise the OOXML formula specification without actually reading it.

Rob talked about some of the mind-blowing problems with the specifications. It is clear that working on a program without specifications for many years leads to non-elegant inelegant [Thanks, John] code, workarounds, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and some ‘features’ that are intended to make different versions of the same software incompatible (to force upgrades and thereby elevate revenues). Writing (or rather “deriving”) specifications from 20 years of coding is no way to write a specification. It’s just a description of a program, with its bugs and deficiencies included.

An ongoing analysis of OOXML, to be carried out by a technical committee, will lead the way to a working group meeting. They can already see deficiencies. Read their observations carefully:

“OpenXML is designed to represent the existing corpus of documents faithfully, even if that means preserving idiosyncrasies that one might not choose given the luxury of starting from a clean slate. In the ODF design, compatibility with and preservation of existing Office documents were not goals. Each set of goals is valuable; sacrificing either at the expense of the other may not be in the best interest of users.” (p.6 Ecma Response)

As usual, the smart folks from OpenMalaysiaBlog have produced a fairly comprehensive and well-studied article. It demonstrates the serious problems which Rob refers to.

[OOXML:] Mathematically Incorrect


So when it comes to comparing MSOOXML and ODF v1.0 on the basis of the inclusion of “Formula Definitions”, it becomes clear that the anti-ODF folk have not much to shout about. In fact MSOOXML’s “Formula Definition” is deficient and inaccurate.

Can Novell (and particularly de Icaza) still praise OOXML? Can they truly recommend it, invest resources in it, and imply it is the way to go (or at least suggest it’s an acceptable specification)? This whole scenario is worrisome. Is this what Novell got paid over $300,000,000 to do (at least in part)? Whose side are they committed to? The Free software community, which supplied all the software? Or is it Microsoft, which has just betrayed Novell? Perhaps the Jim Allchin comment on “slaughtering Novell” should have served as a clue. Microsoft only embraces in order to weaken and destroy (not only ODF, but also Novell).

This debate about document formats continues. Simon Phipps of Sun Microsystems has published his own bits of advocacy in his professional Web log. He distinguishes between standards that serve companies and standards that serve the customer (that’s where preservation and portability, for example, play a significant role).

There are plenty of examples of a choice of “standards” in our lives (usually validated in some way by a vendor body), but I have yet to find one that actually leads to a benefit to the customer.

Yesterday we talked about some unfortunate news. TurboLinux’s involvement in this ‘scandal’ must now be taken into consideration. I have not read the press release at the time. The press release came from Redmond (not TurboLinux). There were hints there which expose Microsoft’s trick of shoving in proprietary formats through the desktop monopoly. TurboLinux has apparently been paying Microsoft for the right to play media files encoded using proprietary code. Novell was indirectly involved in something similar. This leads to Linux ‘taxation’. OOXML achieves exactly the same thing. That’s why it must be rejected. The world has already got a single, unified document standard.

Novell Identifies Microsoft-GPLv3-FSF Workaround (Updated)

Posted in Courtroom, FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, Kernel, Microsoft, Novell, SLES/SLED at 10:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

According to InformationWeek, Novell has just found (or claims to have found) a workaround that addresses and resolves their new problem.

In an e-mail Monday, Novell’s spokesman said the company would fill the gap by distributing portions of its SUSE Linux enterprise suite that fall under the GPLv3 license directly to customers who purchased certificates that would have entitled them to receive the software from Microsoft.

If true, the situation will further complicated. Is Microsoft exempted from committing to an evolving licence? Perhaps it is a win-win situation for the FSF, but perhaps there will be more room for dispute.

A headsup from Bob is linked to own observation which talks about legal implications. Will the FSF ever face Microsoft in court? The following blogger believes it is unlikely. He provides some decent arguments to back his opinion.

Anyone waiting for Microsoft vs FSF or FSF vs Microsoft will be extremely likely to be disappointed. Besides broad campaigning against software patent, FSF offensive has mostly opted to educate, rather than legal recourse. Right now, FSF is just going to say that GPL3 settle this matter once and for all. I cannot see FSF recklessly and purposefully infringe on Microsoft’s patent to provoke Microsoft in order to test this theory. As for Microsoft, it will stick by its gun that it is not a party to GPL3 and have no obligation under GPLv3. It is not in its interest to have this theory tested either.

If I were to place a bet, I say Microsoft vs FSF is more likely than FSF vs Microsoft. Even more likely is GPLv3 is tested by Microsoft vs “someone else”. I believe the fuse for such a lawsuit is already lit. Only problem is we do not know when the bomb will explode.

Linus Torvalds is having its own problems with the FSF. As you may have read by now, Linus is again attacking those whom he calls “hypocrites”.

[Linus:] I don’t think it’s hypocritical to prefer the GPLv3. That’s a fine choice, it’s just not *mine*.

What I called hypocritical was to do so in the name of “freedom”, while you’re at the same time trying to argue that I don’t have the “freedom” to make my own choice.

See? THAT is hypocritical.

Some say this would boil up the water and lead to further tension. The consequences are yet to be seen, but some journalists seem to be blowing this out of proportion. This stance is nothing new.

Update: A source close to the FSF has just told me that the item cited here is not so reliable. The FSF might in fact take legal action after all.

Quoteworthy: the Linus Torvalds Interpretation of Cross-licensing Deals

Posted in FUD, GNU/Linux, Kernel, Quote at 9:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From a recent interview:

[Linus:] “Personally, I think it’s just posturing. And if it results in more companies doing patent cross-licencing with Microsoft, I think Microsoft will be happy – that may well be the primary motivation. But I’m not a lawyer, nor do I intend to start playing one on TV (or in the tech press). So this is just my personal interpretation. The fact that Microsoft didn’t actually name any of the patents makes me think it’s just FUD and hot air.”


This short item invites readers to ask Linus Torvalds further questions that will be answered. Speaking of which, earlier today I sent out our questions to Mark Shuttleworth. Most of the questions, which were proposed by our readers, are purely technical.

Novell Reveals Signs of Weakness as Microsoft Betrays and GPLv3 Penetrates

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, Microsoft, Novell at 9:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

An article from ITWire reaffirms our suspicion that Novell’s public statement was an expression and admission of worry and doubt. Rightfully so.

Tellingly, Novell’s statement describes Microsoft’s position as being “taken unilaterally” – presumably an indication that Novell isn’t completely happy with the situation.

And there are other signs that the partners aren’t in complete harmony.

Novell insists that GPLv3 does not touch it. So does Microsoft. However, while Microsoft vows never to distribute (let alone touch) GPLv3-licensed software, Novell insists that its tie with Microsoft does not affect its (Novell’s) ability to distribute GPLv3-licensed software. The expiration day on the coupon plays a role here. It surely complicates things.

Progress on the upgrades to GPLv3 cannot be denied. Even those who were skeptical simply have to admit that hard numbers cannot be ignored. The evolving nature of the licence can only be denied by those who bury their heads in the sand.

Still, it’s [GPLv3] a good license, and I think the adoption will continue and accelerate as people grok it better. I particularly think that it will find adherents in companies and communities that have used quasi-open source licenses. It allows for reasonable attribution, for one thing, which may serve to obviate the whole MPL+attribution debate.

TurboLinux Joins Hands with Microsoft on OOXML (Updated)

Posted in Asia, Deals, GNU/Linux, Open XML, OpenDocument, Turbolinux at 4:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From the it-could-be-worse dept.

Let’s calm down. It is not another so-called ‘intellectual property’ deal. This one is purely about document translators, but once again it involves a Linux company that turns its back on OpenDocument format, which is the ISO standard. TurboLinux is a company that was mentioned some weeks ago when discussing candidates for Microsoft deals. Now that GPLv3 is out, no company would be tactless enough to sign a patent deal (unless it hasn’t an idea what it’s doing).

From the article:

Microsoft is enlisting Linux distributor TurboLinux to help tailor work being done to translate documents between Open XML and ODF file formats for Japanese and Chinese users.

Microsoft can now brag about another company that supports its ‘monopoly enabler’. Could they sink any lower than this?

In case this ever escalates, a new tag, “Turbolinux”, has just been created. I’ll have to go wash my hands now.

Update: Rob Weir has just identified some more serious flaws in OOXML. It’s part of a series of problems. To quote the summary:

As I’ve shown, in the rush to write a 6,000 page standard in less than a year, Ecma dropped the ball. OOXML’s spreadsheet formula is worse than missing. It has incorrect formulas that, if implemented according to the standard may cause loss of life, property and capital. This standard is seriously messed up. And shame on all those who praised and continue to praise the OOXML formula specification without actually reading it.

Read that last sentence again. Read it? I might as well add here that Mr. de Icaza, who is not exactly a fan of this Web site, left a comment a couple of days ago (again). Whether you know it or not, de Icaza is a supporter of OOXML. He works at Novell.

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