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12.12.07

Some Unanswered Questions on OOXML

Posted in ECMA, GNOME, GNU/Linux, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 8:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The following questions are merely open questions and they are not necessarily a request for answers. They hopefully explain our cause for concern. We chose not to speak about the “GNOME Foundation” (i.e. community as as a whole) because the Foundation itself remains divided on this issue.

The questions are not directed at anybody in particular, but those who support GNOME’s current stance ought to take notice.

Question 1: Why do you not just come out completely against OOXML and unite the group which favours standards and software freedom? The specification is going through all types of changes and even more to come, according to the outcome of BRM. In that case, you might be wasting time now. In any case, GNOME is suffering for now reason. Some say that a “Black and White” approach is not a good stance for a community, and that it should not be Black. Please think how OOXML as an ISO is fair competition for ODF.

”Are you aware of the fact that Microsoft bloggers have used GNOME Gnumeric as an example of support for OOXML?“Question 2: Has it crossed the minds of those in position of authority to perhaps contact someone working in the community on ODF development or a standards expert before you just decided to participate in ECMA? That would have been a wise thing for authorities in an important FOSS Foundation to do.

Question 3: Are you aware of the fact that Microsoft bloggers have used GNOME Gnumeric as an example of support for OOXML?

Question 4: Jody Goldberg was working on implementing OOXML for Novell at ECMA and had already improved the specification. Then he wanted to join ECMA to just to get documents for GNOME. That does not make sense, does it?

Question 5: Knowing the ISO process, OOXML will go through many more changes before it is even approved, if ever. One does not even know what the final specification will look like or even if Microsoft will actually use it. Does that not seem like a waste of time for little or no advantage to GNOME?

I know, I know… Jeff Waugh will ask me why I posted these questions in public because they are not a comfortable thing to face, but let’s just thrive in transparency rather than intercept messages (a ‘knife the baby’ attitude).

Quick Mention: SEC Fails to See Novell Misconduct

Posted in Deception, Finance, Novell at 7:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Sell Novell

Despite what we heard from Matt Asay, who spoke to Novell, the company gets the SEC off its back and it will unleash its report later today (Thursday).

Novell, which had previously postponed its fourth-quarter results due to the review, will announce the results on Dec.13.

It rather funny to find that regulation thrives in chaos. Despite admission of ‘massging’ figures, Novell gets the clear. Prepare to sigh when Novell tells you (later today) that everything is rosy, which is far, far from the truth. It’s a case of a naked emperor.

Quick Mention: Why Microsoft Goes Litigious Against GNU/Linux

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FUD, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, UNIX at 6:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A few days ago we mentioned the UNIX ownership question and Microsoft's refusal to comment on it. The following essay goes further and explains Microsoft’s motives.

But if it’s not important, why is Microsoft folding its arms and closing its mouth? Obviously they’ve “lawyered up” – there is some reason that they don’t want anyone shooting off their mouths. And it has to be pretty serious too, because otherwise they’d prep the people they were sending out and say “Just don’t mention xyz, ok?”.

Microsoft is in trouble. Vista is a flop; Mac is chipping away at the power user base (I see more and more Windows tech folk carrying Macs) and low end Linux PC’s are starting to bite their toes. They aren’t doing as well overseas as they’d like, particularly in the more socialistic countries. Yes, yes, they are still Number One without question, but there is real danger of slipping and they know it. Our question is, what are they going to do about it?

We wrote about this before.

Signs That Your ‘Open Standard’ is Actually Proprietary

Posted in Corel, ECMA, Formats, IBM, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 6:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML is a monopoly
Coining the term “monopolistic standards”

Bob Sutor has just posted a short piece. It includes examples where the whole standardisation effort behind OOXML is more like some sort of a personal arrangement by (and for) Microsoft Corporation. Have a quick look.

We’re starting to hear about how Microsoft (under ECMA’s name) is resolving the technical comments on OOXML. What do you need to know about this?

  • Where are they? If this is a transparent process, we need to see the comments as well as all the proposed resolutions. What is there to hide? Have all members of all national standards bodies seen these? Everyone needs to have open links to see all this information, and now.

[...]

This is all too familiar. There is nothing new under the sun. Secrecy and obscurity are often a sign of misconduct. Wouldn’t companies take pride in the openness of a candidate standard if it were truly open and subjected to no scrutiny? Wouldn’t the process be open for all to see and be convinced?

Meanwhile, just a couple of days after Holland, it’s discouraging news for Microsoft in New Zealand. Watch their assessment regarding open source and standard. Here is the full document [PDF]:

Industry standards may not be open (e.g., Microsoft Word file formats) so there are reverse-engineering risks with any OSS dependent upon those standards. The MoJ preference for open standards (e.g., Open Document Format, which is now supported even by Microsoft) lessens this risk.

Mind the statement “industry standards may not be open”. Jody Goldberg has confirmed and acknowledged that him and Michael Meeks have 'cracked' OOXML's proprietary (binary) extensions. Can Google do that too? How about Corel? And IBM? Just because one group has reverse-engineered portions of what Microsoft wants to be an international standard does not make it acceptable for the industry as a whole. Not to mention future extensions that will not be documented…

Quick Mention: AGPLv3 for Census, GPLv3 for Script Start

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GPL, Windows at 6:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

FSF GNU GPLv3The Affero GPL version 3 is a new software licence which does not receive the attention it deserves. Skype, for example, could truly benefit from it (the company has just suffered major layoffs). The AGPLv3 has already seen some early adopters and a quick introduction was published last week. It introduces developers to this licence.

There is another new addition worth mentioning:

Intended as a pluggable architecture for organizations to provide their own fingerprint rules and identify open source packages, OSS Discovery is licensed under the new Affero GPLv3 (AGPLv3) for open source SaaS.

One addition that has been mentioned before is a Windows application that embraced the GPLv3 as well. It’s worth repeating because it reached the wires.

Script Start Community 2.0 is available today for use at no charge under a GPLv3 license and can be downloaded at www.scriptstart.com.

GPLv3 FUD continues to dissolve as more and more developers look at their peers and realise that only false perceptions have caused unjustified harm.

ODF and OOXML in Denmark

Posted in America, Europe, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 5:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

‘Funny business’ may be back already

Remember Novell's layoffs in Denmark? Well, layoffs in Denmark surely ring a bell because is something that Microsoft was caught using as a weapon in the recent past.

Microsoft boss Bill Gates threatened to kill 800 Danish jobs if Denmark opposed the European Computer Implemented Inventions Directive, reports today’s Danish financial daily Børsen, quoted by NoSoftwarePatents.com.

[…]

According to Børsen, last November Gates told Danish pm Anders Fogh and two ministers that he’d kill all 800 jobs in Navision, a Danish company acquired by Microsoft in 2002, unless the EU quickly decided to legalize software patents through the directive.

Microsoft later denied this, but the evidence we have left is too hard to ignore. How can such behavior be tolerated? Must people honour Microsoft’s ambitions and desires simply out of fear? Is that the infamous fear of “Microsoft’s wrath”? Is it indeed so strong that even Intel’s CEO had the issue articulated out loud? This appeared in a recent article from the New York Times where Intel’s Windows strategy (and GNU/Linux discrimination) was explained.

”We’ve already seen some people losing their jobs for merely ‘daring’ to support ODF.“Speaking of pressures, Dutch decision makers, who recently chose ODF and Free software, will need to be strong and maintain their insistence. We’ve already seen some people losing their jobs for merely ‘daring’ to support ODF. Microsoft’s well-documented pressures had people quit or laid off in the past. Consider Massachusetts and possibly Finland as well, to give just a couple of examples. More examples of such tricks are included in the comments here.

To say more about Denmark, fraudulent and scandalous MSOOXML activities were seen before (more here and here). Denmark was a victim like merely any other country.

It was a long time ago that Denmark discussed ODF and seriously considered it too (here is Bob Sutor's talk in Denmark). The Parliament was by no means happy when it found out about the country’s leader getting cozy with Bill Gates (visit to his house) and there was some serious loss of trust. Some of this mistrust remains.

According to Groklaw, Microsoft's assimilation tactics have paid off in Denmark where someone has been naive enough to actually consider OOXML as though it was a standard.

Denmark has announced that open standards are going to be a requirement going forward there, starting in January, which is being hailed as a great step forward for openness. However, if you look closely, you will see that it is pretending that MSOOXML has already been approved as an open standard, equivalent to ODF. ODF is already an ISO approved standard. MSOOXML is not. It was specifically disapproved, and the next meeting will be in February, which is after the January starting date in Denmark. In short, Denmark simply doesn’t care about ISO approval.

Denmark ranks the two as the same, and mandates a trial of both. I wonder what the outcome of that trial will be? Why even bother to pretend?

[...]

Ah! New procurements need to be able to handle at least one. Get it? MSOOXML is thus anointed as an “open standard” before ISO approval, and everyone can use only that. How does Microsoft do what it does? And why even bother to vote in February if ISO approval is not required before a government mandates use of an as-yet-unapproved “standard”?

The comments in this article paint a different picture, but it’s a new development that is worth exploring nonetheless.

Related articles:

In Denmark, a source reportedly said that Microsoft pressured him to send an expression of support to Dansk Standard, the Danish standards board. By Groklaw’s translation, Version2 reported: “‘If I had not sent in a positive comment, it would have had consequences for our relations with Microsoft’, he says. Our source points to e.g. leads, support and seminars as areas that might be jeopardised if ‘he did not behave’.”

The Danish MP reportedly wants assurance that only technical factors were considered by Dansk Standard and that political or economic influences were not brought to bear.

Also, a member of the Danish parliament has reportedly lodged a pointed question with a government minister as to whether the government has had any contact with Dansk Standard with regard to the ISO vote on OOXML.

In Norway, Microsoft apparently mounted an astroturfing campaign against the Norwegian standards body Standard Norge. Out of 59 comments received by Standard Norge, 37 were a Vole form letter that many of its Norwegian business partners didn’t even bother to sign before sending them in.

It appears that pressure was put on partners there as well, although Microsoft denies that was the intent.

A committee from Danish Standardisation is going to decide whether to recommend a Microsoft standard as an open standard internationally. A majority in the committee have close connections to Microsoft, however….17 out of the 31 members in the committee are so called Microsoft partners…. The European interest organisation Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure accuses Microsoft of influencing the decision process by asking partners to join the national decision committee.

It’s official. Denmark will vote no with comments on OOXML.

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