When ‘standards’ are designed and built to expire
A couple of new articles are worth pointing out for their value in analysing the importance of preservation. This is the long-term effect which tends to escape many people’s consideration when assessing the quality of one standard or another.
The first articles is quite broad in terms of scope. Its key argument is that one must look far ahead into the future.
These archives have proven their value — for example, scientists are still using data archives from the Voyager missions of the 1970s. The concept of archiving is simple, but to do it right, there is much to be considered.
Preserving data for the future is a challenge for everyone. Many of us have old floppy disks containing documents we’d like to be able to use at some point, but what will happen when we try to load those documents in 2010, especially if some of files were written with programs from 1995?
The more relevant writeup to consider here comes from Rob Weir, who speaks about PDF and explains possible relationships with ODF, e.g.:
Suppose you are in an ODF editor and you have a “Save for archiving…” option that would save your ODF document as normal, but also generate a PDF version of it and store it in the zip archive along with ODF’s XML streams. Then digitally sign the archive along with a time stamp to make it tamper-proof. You would need to define some additional access conventions, but you could end up with a single document that could be loaded in an ODF editor (in read-only mode) to allow examination of the details of spreadsheet formulas, etc., as well as loaded in a PDF reader to show exactly how it was formated.
Looking back at older articles, this one from Forbes contains some very truthful bits.
So far there’s no business case for digital preservation–in fact, for software makers like Microsoft, planned obsolescence is the plan.
“The reality is that it’s in companies’ interest that software should become obsolete and that you should have to buy every upgrade,” Rose says. We could be on the cusp of a turning point, though, in the way businesses and their customers think about digital preservation. “Things will start to change when people start losing all of their personal photos,” Rose said.
Older bits with focus on data preservation and document formats:
Long-standing, long-lasting, and eternally-accessible data comes at a cost. If governments and businesses are unwilling to invest in openness of their infrastructure, then they are simply procrastinating what leads to unavoidable penalties and miserable losses. █
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GPLv3 battles misuse of ‘free labour’
The GNU GPLv3 is a topic which is close to our hearts for a reason. It enables programmers to escape imprisonment of their code and it also sabotages Microsoft’s plan to subvert and eliminate Linux as we know it.
GPLv3 is on the right track. Yesterday we provided an example in the form of one project that has already adopted the new Affero GPLv3. The 451 Group has just blogged about the adoption and the role of GPLv3.
While GPLv3 originally set out to tackle the issue of software patents, another loophole emerged with the Microsoft-Novell partnership a year ago, adding some urgency and significance to the issue. To avoid passing its promise not to pursue patent-based legal action onto all Linux users, Microsoft gave its promise directly to SUSE Linux customers. GPLv3 grandfathered the clever deal, but again, the license would prevent a similar arrangement today.
SUSE Forums on the Ubuntu ‘Cookie Cutter’
Some days ago we mentioned the impact of the Microsoft-Novell deal on OpenSUSE developers and volunteers. It wasn’t nice. There is plenty for them to lose and it’s hardly a surprise when you find signs of Ubuntu envy. I was sent the following bit last night. Let’s just call it what it is: jealousy.
Some interesting bits from the thread:
“Ubuntu is pretty, I’ll give it that, but it still strikes me as a fancy looking house with a still-framed interior. They tackled the easy parts and are ignoring the tricky parts, the ones that involve detail and low-level, uninteresting and unsexy effort”
“System configuration that is handled by a disparate collection of single purpose apps combined with necessary command line editing, for instance, versus a single unfied interface”
“And getting back to openSUSE, when you look at some of the tricky things in Yast… those are the luxury touches that define a home of distinction versus a cookie cutter home”
Interpretation of the above is not mine, but it was worth a quick mention nonetheless. The deal’s implications for OpenSUSE developers (a pledge) are worth exploring further.
Exploiting Free Software Programmers
There is a nice parallel here between programmers and artists. Consider large media companies that are explotiing writers, retaliating against artists, and unsurprisingly driving them away at the end. That’s just what Novell might have to face in the near future, especially when developers wake up and read the legal documents.
Such exploitation for profit has deep roots in Redmond, Washington. Here is a good old story:
Robert X. Cringely reveals the true reason why Paul Allen of Microsoft fame left the Redmond company, even though it was on track to become an extremely valuable stock. Considering Microsoft’s track record and behavior over the years, this should not be surprising, but if true it is beyond pall!
During one of those last long nights working to deliver DOS 2.0 in early 1983, I am told that Paul Allen heard Gates and Ballmer discussing his health and talking about how to get his Microsoft shares back if Allen were to die.
Maybe that’s just the sort of fiduciary discussion board members have to have, but it didn’t go over well with Paul Allen, who never returned to Microsoft, and over the next eight years, made huge efforts to secure his wealth from the fate of Microsoft.
Last week we wrote about the infectious selfishness and vanity that thrives at Microsoft and has apparently hit Novell. The story above makes a nice addition to this.
Related and older articles:
It appears that the standard operating procedure for Microsoft will be to send open sourced partners into the GPLv3 car park.
If Novell’s Linux business continues to grow, and it does this without the crutch of Microsoft, people will forgive and forget…slowly. In the meantime, Novell can’t pretend that it’s loved by the open-source community. The Microsoft deal did far too much damage to its credibility to expect that.
My recent Novell post got some private push-back from a Novell spokesman who insisted that I was being harsh.
I suspect many marketers, public relations experts and even executives entering open source for the first time don’t understand this point. They want to be judged on what they say today, and only today.
Sorry, folks. New rule. Open source doesn’t forget.
We never forgot. █
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At this stage, ECMA and the ISO may be broken beyond the point of being repairable. Some people recognise this, some are in the state of denial, and some have vested interests in the poor (and broken) state of the system. Regardless of the consequences, someone had to say something and somebody gladly did.
…bridges such as this have proven to be imperfect, and susceptible to abuse. Currently, SC 34, an ISO/IEC JTC 1 committee, is grappling with DIS 29500 — an ECMA developed standard based upon Microsoft’s OfficeOpen XML specification. Many harried participants in the review process have expressed the view that the “Fast Track” program being used to propel the submission through the adoption process from start to six months was inappropriate for a specification that weighs in at more than 6,000 pages. Moreover, there have been widespread reports of disinformation, vendor pressure, and (in one case) even offers of financial reimbursement to business partners as incentives to join National Bodies in order to vote for approval.
No matter how much hype and disinformation overwhelms Average Joe, the two standards bodies involved ought to feel slightly ashamed. They could have revised the rules as soon as they saw how susceptible their system had become to misuse and gaming.
Whatever the outcome at the BRM and next year’s meetings, one has to pause and wonder if ISO certification and that stamp of approval means much at all.
OOXML: when standards become a question of pricing, not quality.
Posts of interest:
OpenISO is definitely something to keep an eye on, but it appears to have been dormant for month. █
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Due to a recent wave of personal attacks, mud slinging, and invocations of Godwin’s Law, comments matching particular patterns will enter the moderation queue and will be approved only if they contain no ad hominem attacks. The recent ad hominem attacks were not only directed at editors, but also at readers, which makes them unacceptable.
Never before have we deleted any comments and we don’t intend to delete past comments, either. However, recent misuse brought need for change. Criticisms are acceptable and very welcome. When they become personal, offensive, and totally off topic, they will not be made publicly visible. █
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Accessibility FUD has repeatedly been used to discredit ODF. False arguments typically came from Microsoft and their lobbyists despite the fact that ODF facilitates software such as screen readers much better than counterparts (watch this video with Mr. Korn).
Recently, accessibility was used as another PR stunt which involved “Open Source”, the context being OOXML. This led to further confusion.
In response to criticism and FUD, iBM has been releasing some accessibility tools under open source licenses. This is the latest example.
The results of the project, as with all IBM OCR projects, will be “made available as open source software code, and all additional intellectual property developed based on those results will be openly published or made available royalty-free,” according to IBM.
More about this here.
One of the problems raised with the use of ODF in Massachusetts was its lack of support for people with disabilities.
There are many older examples, e.g.:
Whatever you are told and whatever you read about ODF and accessibility, be aware that there is a lot of noise and very little truth. ODF no longer has any deficiencies that are associated with the disabled. █
Update: a new press release
[PDF from the ODF alliance (yes, the real thing, not the so-called Foundation) talks about the increased support for OpenDocument format.
“We congratulate the Netherlands, South Africa,and Korea for recognizing ODF, each in its own way, and look forward to the movement’s continued momentum in the new year. ODF enables diverse government agencies to work better with one another at lower cost and gives them access to their own information, so it is no wonder that so many governments are taking this action.”
The newly-released GPLv3 variant has some early adopters as well, including jPOS.
The Free Software Foundation has released the GNU Affero General Public License (AGPL v3.0), a license we’ve been waiting for a long time that will allow us to open source more code such as the jCard (our Card Management System) and jPTS (an ISO-8583/2003 based jPOS Transaction Switch) projects.
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In case you did not know, Microsoft plans to hijack the World Wide Web and Novell is helping. To avoid repeating old stories and arguments, consider these:
The good news is that Europe has just woken up, so to speak, and it is prepared to intervene.
…according to Vinje, most relevant to the Internet and work done at the IGF, was the problem of growing .NET-dependency for web applications. .NET is Microsoft’s platform for web applications software development. “It is a sort of an effort to ‘proprietise’ the Internet,” said Vinje..
We will be covering this in the future. The Linux deals, which include OOXML obligations, have plenty to do with Microsoft’s ambitions to lock in the user and lock out competitors. █
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