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12.18.07

The Patent Circus in Pictures

Posted in Humour, Intellectual Monopoly, Microsoft, Patents at 7:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

TrollTracker has posted a nice and comprehensive item which contains figures that make you cringe at the sight/state of the patent system.

The New York Times Magazine published their 7th Annual Year in Ideas issue on 12/9/07. Their tradition is to feature interesting patents of the last year on the endpage of the magazine. Given that ’tis the season for top ten lists, here are my top ten silly patents of 2007, culled from the list in the NYT mag.

Watch the figures. You won’t regret it.

In other news, XM Satellite got sued for an outrageous amount of money before settling with a ‘small and shy’ inventor you might recognise as Universal Music.

The original lawsuit, filed in New York federal court, had accused XM Satellite of “massive wholesale infringement” and sought $150,000 in damages for every song copied by XM customers using the Inno, which went on sale last year.

Microsoft too has just been sued for copyright violations.

But it’s complicated because the wire reports Microsoft Philippines bought licences to print the manual back in 2004.

This seems like a case of trolling, but make of it what you will.

Related articles:

OOXML Discussions in the Australian Continent

Posted in Australia, ECMA, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Review at 6:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Writing specifications like you write your errors

To those who are here only for information about Novell — we apologise. It is important to understand, however, that Microsoft's deal with Novell has a lot to do with OOXML and the remainder of the proprietary stack which is attached to it. Those issues are inseparable and they need to be understood in context.

We turn our attention to Australia and New Zealand where a few things are being reported. In New Zealand, the readability of OOXML raises concerns. Structure is not self-explanatory. It is made cryptic and shortened for performance gains (shades of binary formats for efficiency).

“This DIS contradicts the goals of XML and best practices. The designers of XML knew what they were doing because while we can remember what “c” means in this case it becomes problematic when we get hundreds or thousands of these shorthand references. …. OOXML has hundreds of these cryptic names.”

Later on you’ll find Microsoft bragging about superior performance (in terms of efficiency) in OOXML, as it already did before to discredit ODF (in OpenOffice.org). Well, XML has little or no value if its semantics (structure) is only ‘robot-readable’. Yes, binary dumps are also fast and maybe even fastest, but it all comes at a cost. The same goes for closed-source programs whose source code is messy. Watch this short article from last month:

Seriously, how many people are there in the world who are going to go “Hmmm, error code 8024402F … ahhh yes, I know what the problem is”? I can’t, and I’ve been neck deep in the Microsoft ecosystem for what is getting to be almost two decades.

This relates quite nicely to the discussion at hand. OOXML is very ad hoc and it is not suitable to become a standard like ODF, let alone (X)HTML or LATEX.

Here is a recent report about the advisory group in New Zealand:

In September 2007, the European Computer Manufacturers’ Association (ECMA) 376 Open Office XML specification was not approved as an international standard when voted on by members of the international standards joint technical committee No 1 (JTC1). Standards New Zealand, as a member of JTC1 with the responsibility to vote on behalf of New Zealand, voted against adopting the specification as an international standard.

The situation in Austrlia sounds very reasonable, with the exception of characters like Rick Jelliffe, who gets free trips and money for Wikipedia edits that support Microsoft. It’s a strategic thing with a long history.

Monoculture Defines Bugs as Standards

Posted in Microsoft, Open XML, Windows at 6:29 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“It’s not a bug, it’s feature and a standard”

The following new writeup reminds us of just one among many absurdities that make OOXML a ridiculous candidate for standardisation.

1900 is no leapyear. But what if once a programmer did a premature implementation and some users started to rely on the bugs. In the year 2007 these bugs can become features to justify a second international standard for Office applications, Open XML.

In a quick attempt to show that prevalence makes bugs acceptable, consider the following older articles about complacency in broken software.

Crashes in Microsoft Word 2007 are designed to improve security, says Microsoft

So while every other browser on the planet can handle javascript prompts — and have done so, pretty much since javascript was first stuffed inside the browser — Microsoft didn’t have the resources to deal with it and so, effectively, disabled it.

[...]

This stops javascript from continuing until the prompt box is addressed, then and only then will the alert box appear. The modality of the prompt box prevents javascript from moving on until the user has performed some action on the box.

Other contradictions would seem to be impossible to resolve given the nature of OOXML itself, the stated purpose of which is to describe a single vendor’s product — bugs and all.

I don’t believe there’s been enough discussion of the weaknesses gradually being uncovered in Microsoft’s 6,000-page dump of Office behavior, which they are trying to call a standard.

[...]

To help Office to become a standard, one adaptation governments could make would be to retroactively declare 1900 a leap year. This would require updates to history books and other documents (for instance, V-E day would change to May 7, and the World Trade Center attacks would have taken place on September 10) but I’d like to see a cost comparison with the alternative that businesses dread: migrating to open document formats.

There is clearly some pattern here, with many more such examples available on demand.

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