Is there an ECMA-ISO-Microsoft axis yet?
ISO is not what it used to be. It was transformed and reformed by Microsoft, which simply had to tame it to behave more ‘properly’. We covered all of this before and showed how people in ISO are likely to have been pressured out of their job. We last mentioned smear campaigns only yesterday. Ad hominem is the tactic used against anyone who opposes or legitimately questions OOXML. In this case, however, the escape was probably motivated by need to flee liability.
“Ad hominem is the tactic used against anyone who opposes or legitimately questions OOXML.”Unsurprisingly, the BRM in Geneva had received chaotic responses, which Microsoft, ECMA and ISO (all with vested interest in this case) try to extinguish. It’s means of rewriting history. A reader sent us a report with some of the badly fixed and non-fixed OOXML problems
[PDF]. These were raised during the BRM in relation to the OOXML format. We now have a local copy of this report.
Getting back to the latest failures of ISO, where does one even begin? We have 3 new complaints.
The first one speaks about the degree of manipulation.
Honestly, how on earth can the US NB, for example, have just announced their decision to vote yes to OOXML unless they have been thoroughly corrupted – as have so many other of the ISO National bodies and sub-committees involved in this whole sorry saga.
To my mind there will be two losers if OOXML becomes IS-29500:
- Us – That’s all of us as consumers and users of electronic documents
- ISO – They have already lost a great deal of respect and credibility. If OOXML passes they will have none left. They will become an irrelevance in technology standards at least.
I can see the IETF (The body responsible for much of what has made the Internet work) becoming a far more important standards setter going forward…
Groklaw covers the sudden change of rules at ISO.
New Rules for Changing Your Vote on OOXML
It’s so sad that no one knows in advance precisely how things are supposed to go. It leaves you having to try every possible thing you can think of to make sure you get it right. Did NBs get notices of this change, I wonder?
Even Bob Sutor expresses his slight frustration over this.
Personally I’ve had enough with on-the-fly rule and process changes with this whole thing, but if the increase in recipients is just to ensure that all changes get counted, I’m fine with that.
A professional body that is responsible for important formal decisions does not pull rules out of its sleeves. That’s just something you find in the bazaar, in the flea market where bargains are made and prices are named ‘on the spot’. ISO isn’t helping its reputation at the moment.
This is not the first time by the way. We wrote about this before. Brown decided to change rules, apparently. █
Related short articles:
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Eclipse conference shows a lot of Microsoft
Over the past couple of weeks we mentioned Eclipse on several occasions [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. IBM, Sun Microsystems and also Microsoft are among the big vendors who find themselves clinging onto developers by staying close to the project. Shortly, IBM will be loosening is grip somewhat.
The warnings we gave in the past are actually related to keynote speakers at this latest event, two of which can be perceived as foes of GNU/Linux. That’s 2 out of 3. Here comes an early starter:
Microsoft, Eclipse finally playing nice. What’s it mean for developers?”
Milinkovich also declined to provide details of any forthcoming announcement, noting that Eclipse will leave it up to Microsoft to disclose any agreement. Microsoft did not respond to a request for comment on its Eclipse plans.
While Microsoft is unlikely to open-source any core parts of its Visual Studio IDE, analysts said that the vendor could opt to offer its Visual Studio Team Foundation Server (TFS) to the community. Analysts also suggested that Microsoft may decide to work with Eclipse on its next-generation modeling language, which is slated to be part of Visual Studio 2010, which is code-named Oslo.
The announcement has since then been made:
Microsoft to Support Two Eclipse Projects
But how about the following newer headline?
Microsoft cozies to Eclipse, no tongues though
Or this one?
Microsoft to work with Eclipse on Java
Microsoft will begin collaborating with the Eclipse Foundation to improve native Windows application development on Java.
After all the abuses against Java, can Microsoft be trusted at all? What Microsoft brings with it (see [crer 2861 OSI example from yesterday]) is often venom against its rivals. It redefines and ‘extends’ things to suit its own business objectives. How long before FOSS licenses and ideals get diluted? What about software patents? Simon Phipps is having his cyber-powwow with the OSI nowadays and more recently he brought up some of these issues.
What would be in these two new definitions? Both would need to define what promotes software freedom and how it can be protected. Both would need to be pragmatically principled.
- An Open Source Patent Definition would do for patents what the OS(C)D does for copyrights. I’ve posted a lot on this subject before, notably in Protecting Developers from Patents and Ten Reasons The World Needs Patent Covenants, so I’d go mining there for my contributions to the discussion. But it may also be that in addition there needs to be a call for patent law reform, maybe as I outlined in Seven Patent Reforms While We Wait For Nirvana.
- When it comes to an Open Source Trademark Definition, we would need to similarly define the signs that a developer or user needs to know whether software freedom is being promoted in a trademark policy. I’ve not written about this yet, but I do believe we need to collectively understand the bounds trademark law places on people who have responsibility for trademarks (read: all developers and open source communities as well as all vendors). We then need to construct a path that promotes software freedom without placing impossible demands on trademark owners to behave in ways that are contrary to their responsibilities.
This is not easy stuff. But I do believe that certain recent events between the open and proprietary software worlds mean that it’s time for software freedom fighters to get together and work on these things. I’m ready to work on it. What do you say, Michael?
As we saw before, Sun’s views on software patents are worrisome in their owns right. Microsoft is probably a much greater danger however. A reader wrote to share his thoughts on this subject:
[I have] just read this insightful comment on Slashdot, on the news of Perens running for the OSI board. It replies another commenter suggesting that Microsoft should be dealt with diplomacy rather than straightforward rejection to let them enter (infiltrate) the FLOSS community. Thought it might be interesting for you and even useful in the future.
So in other words, as long as open source(which includes, and requires, a cleaner “process” than Microsoft) wants to fight Microsoft on OSS’s own turf(clean process) they lose(not corporate), on Microsoft’s own turf(shady legitimacy), they lose, on neutral ground(which I haven’t seen yet, as everyone seems to have some form of bias(or can seem to, if you’re arguing against them), they also lose.
The opposition from OSS to Microsoft usually stems from people who wanted to be Microsoft friends, and who saw how Microsoft treats its friends/partners. (Long list, from Stacker to kerberos implementations gone wrong, etc…) If you are in OSS, you can see that Microsoft has a history of cheating, you can (with some justification) expect them to try to cheat you, but the business guys expect you to ignore this, or else, YOU are against the corporate ethos? Diplomacy is all well and fine, but it’s usually best employed between parties whose good faith is equal.
Let’s just agree corporate America isn’t ready for open source, I for one am ready for the next debate. Microsoft will not clean up its act without a BIG stick on the nose. So far, it’s only got a rolled up newspaper, and only when it got caught red-handed. They have not shown “good faith”, they have done damage control. They’ve never formally renounced “embrace/extend/extinguish” as a modus operandi. This is the people we have to be diplomatic with… Can we just agree we don’t want to play, and go home? There’s been a very long, bloody history of bad faith(mostly on their part, but yes there have been zealots on the other camp too, however, there’s only been casualties on one side), too big to ignore unless something changes(they could formally drop OOXML, and embrace ODF(not in a year, not after the next shareholders meeting, but now!) something LOUD, something that shows they believe in openness(not necessarily open source) that they are willing to face the anger of their shareholders over it. (I’ve kept fantasizing they’d opensource office instead, but that won’t happen that’s just a fantasy).
I already signed the [Bruce's] petition. Let’s hope he can make it to the board of the OSI , which is in a process of being infiltrated by Microsoft agents.
It’s very clear — and been clear for quite some time — that Microsoft’s plan is to be a part of everything and set the rules. That’s what the Trust was all about before antitrust laws were introduced. █
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Standard lies and de facto lies
The lies carry on, so it’s important to catch them and have them properly documented. Here is some of the latest where Microsoft is seen claiming IBM’s support for OOXML.
Over the weekend, Microsoft published another public effort to show “hey, we’re the good guys” on their efforts to take a heavily modified version of the Office 2007 document formats and get it rubber-stamped as an international standard. Oddly, the open letter from Chris Capossela asserts that IBM is on the MS bandwagon…
IBM doesn’t support ecma Open XML. But who ever expects MS to be clear communicators?
As mentioned a few days ago, silence does not mean consent, yet it does not stop Microsoft from claiming that Apache too ‘supports’ (OO)XML.
Microsoft’s oversight of IBM’s denials is clearly not accidental. It is part of a well crafted and continuous disingenuous plan to convince NBs at all cost. There is already so much evidence of Microsoft going far beyond what most would consider normal lobbying behavior it is sickening. For one, I’m not ready to forget the case of the NGOs in India. Talk about dirty practices.
But what really is at the bottom of Microsoft’s claims is that basically any software that handles XML supports OOXML.
Using the same premise and contention, Microsoft dared to claim that Google supports OOXML (no, it explicitly objects to it, even vigorously). Remember that incident? This is far from the first attempt by Microsoft to ‘prove’ support for OOXML by its most major rivals. Sheer dishonesty is one thing, but as the blog above clearly confirms, suspected bribery cannot be forgotten, either. Vis-a-vis that India incident, Groklaw has just brought up this report.
Microsoft is urging Indian NGOs to support OOXML (i.e. Office Open XML) format – and persuade Indian IT Secretary and the Additional Director General of the Bureau of Indian Standards with letters supporting MS’s OOXML proposal.
“At the end of the day, Microsoft hardly cares it it lies, cheats, bribes and bullies as long as its gets its ‘standard’ approved.”Don’t ever forget what happened in India. Most reports seem to neglect the fact that Microsoft offered tens of thousands of NGOs large sums of money just days before the vote. They are missing an important piece of this puzzle, which is the incentives being offered.
At the end of the day, Microsoft hardly cares it it lies, cheats, bribes and bullies as long as its gets its standard approved. It relies on people’s short memory span. It assumes people will forget after the storm settles. It’s the same story with the vicious attacks on OLPC — a project which they now try to hijack. █
“You know what Microsoft’s problem really is? They’ve lost the ability to feel ashamed.”
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FOSS will win by the standards, to be followed by installed base
If there are clear signs that lock-ins are being broken, then this latest report from Malaysia is one of them.
The Malaysian Administrative Modernization and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) has announced that the agency will be migrating to OpenOffice.org office suite as well as adopt the OpenDocument Format (ODF). In addition, Microsoft Office is to be phased out by end of 2008.
There are many stories about migrations to GNU/Linux and FOSS in Malaysia. To give examples of stories from the past few months (several URLs have expired for unknown reasons):
The icing on the cake is this new translation from Erwin:
Germany upgrades ODF to ‘recommended
The new version 4.0 of the document “Standards and Architectures for eGovernment Applications” (SAGA) by the German Ministry of the Interior now recommends ODF for text documents.
There have been several migration stories from Germany in the past few months, including major ones to GNU/Linux or migrations only to OpenOffice.org.
Microsoft will meanwhile try to sell the illusion that ODF is used almost nowhere, but it’s a lie. It’s self promotion and it’s akin to propaganda.
OpenOffice.org 3.0 is on its way and it’s looking very good.
OpenOffice.org 3.0 is 167 days away, but who’s counting? Maybe the software developers are counting because they have a whopping 2,278 issues targeted for this release. Even though OpenOffice.org 2.4 is not yet out the door, let’s see how far they’ve come with OpenOffice.org 3.0.
Be sure to see this nice demo as well. And of course, many other products support ODF. It’s a standard, not a product, unlike Microsoft Office and its OOXML, which it will never implement properly. █
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As you ought to be aware by now, Microsoft is happily charging for the use of GNU/Linux as long as you buy it from one of the vendors that entered a protection racket-like agreement with Microsoft. However, this is not the sole strategy by which Microsoft makes a cash cows out of its rivals and makes rival products ‘more expensive’ and thus less competitive.
Even some governments around the world fall for this type of scam. It’s usually smaller establishment whose procurement process is somewhat of a comedy. Tender? Surely you just. Among the culprits: BECTA, which we wrote about before. Here is the latest from an interview:
This relates to circumstances where schools using Microsoft’s School Agreement licensing model, are required to pay Microsoft licensing fees for computers based on Linux, or using OpenOffice.org. Finding ourselves in a position whereby a school pays (say) £169 for a device only to be faced with for example a £30 per year after year payment to Microsoft, for a system that is not running any of their software would just not be acceptable to Becta. Indeed I don’t think many people would consider that fair.
Also related to this, see the following older articles:
1. Microsoft bows to complaint from Linpro
Schools will no longer be subjected to Windows licensing for Linux or Mac computers. Furthermore, Microsoft has accepted to discontinue their commercial bundling which required schools to buy several Microsoft products to obtain discounts.
2. Becta has a lot to learn
Rather than investing time and energy into helping to promote real alternatives to Redmond’s hold on school IT, Becta is simply using the OFT as a negotiating tool. Like many organisations, Becta seems incapable of thinking outside a Microsoft-defined box.
3. Lawmaker blasts U.K. government on Microsoft policy
A member of Parliament of the United Kingdom has launched a stinging attack on the U.K. government’s IT strategy, saying that it has given Microsoft too much control.
John Pugh, who is a member of Parliament, or MP, for Southport and a member of the Public Accounts Committee, was speaking in an adjournment debate on Tuesday that he had called. The aim of the debate, he said, was to explore the alternatives to using Microsoft software, including open source.
The British government and its numerous sub-authorities have been a marvelous example of what Greve calls "agents of monopolisation". █
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Betting one’s life on patents
Most of the links below were assembled thanks to Digital Majority, which we acknowledge in advance.
Let’s begin with some of the most outrageous and controversial patents that exist out there because they pertain to human life. Would you believe that stem-cell patents still exist? [via Groklaw]
An effort to overturn two contested stem-cell patents was quashed last week by the US Patent and Trademark Office, in a move that strengthens the position of the patents’ holder, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).
We showed before that biomedical patents are being phased out by those who discover the benefit of change and thrive in collaboration.
Similar types of thoughts are brought up in this short essay, but the chap does not seem to agree on the subjkect of drug patents, which often lead to unnecessary deaths (video).
I have only just started the book, and I may not be sufficiently invested in the topic to go through it entirely. But the main thesis seems sound.
My intuition is that drug patents are ok, but software patents are bad. The authors’ perspective supports this intuition. It is easier for drug patents to be based on clear boundaries and to satisfy the “notice function.”
The following paper seems to even generalise and suggest that patents are — broadly speaking — a bad idea.
The current patent system in the U.S. drains entrepreneurship and small-business growth, a new study shows. Problems include high litigation costs, a decline in patent quality and differences among nations in terms of patent law.
As a new example of poor patents consider this one:
The awarded patents include U.S. Patent No. 7,331,035, which describes a “system and method for mobile software application development and deployment” and U.S. Patent No. 7,313,782, which describes a “method for distributing, integrating, and hosting a software platform.” The patent applications were filed in 2001.
And we must never forget those who are pulling the strings on behalf of wealthy corporations, building fences around existing monopolies.
Nortel Networks Spent About $560,000 in 2007 to Lobby Government on Patent Reform, Trade
The state of the patent system is extremely sad. That said, the more people become aware (and more importantly — vocal) about it, the better. Change takes time to absorb, but it has to start somewhere. Patents are an opponent of collaboration, on which science is founded. █
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Microsoft versus Free software
The OOXML/ODF debate is far from over, but sadly enough, the press has calmed down a bit and it hardly mentions the high degree of Microsoft misconduct. What will be more important in years to come is the adoption of formats and what many might consider a “formats race”. It will become a reality regardless of ISO’s decision at the end of this month.
Based on the experiences Andy Updegrove had to share in this new article, ODF is spreading more quickly than many of us realise. After all, there is no marketing machine to flog vendor-independent and rather neutral formats. Here is what Andy says:
“Even though my law firm has historically been an Office shop, we’ve now incorporated converters into our IT structure so that everyone can open ODF files as well, due to the fact that more such files are coming our way,” Updegrove explained. “So there will be a different tipping point sector by sector, where enough calls to open a file come to the internal helpdesk that it just makes sense to offer the capability at the desktop.”
Groklaw is meanwhile lashing out at Microsoft for telling the press about a mythical number of OOXML-formatted files. Executives are shamelessly trying to make it seem as though binary Office objects are in fact a form of OOXML. Only make belief for public relations purposes, surely!
Speaking of ‘openness’ (or lack thereof), watch the following news. It comes just a week or so since the Phoenix complaint. It serves as further evidence that Microsoft pisses off what it considers "third parties" (in an insulting way, a la Netscape). This complaint comes not from yet another giant, but from an hugely-successful open source project. [via Groklaw]
The developers of the TrueCrypt open source encryption tool are considering submitting a complaint against Microsoft to the EU Commission if Microsoft is not prepared to lay open the Windows hibernation API. From version 5.1 TrueCrypt supports hibernation for encrypted system partitions. Potential vulnerabilities that could allow the hibernation file to be written to the disk in unencrypted form have been reported in this version in recent weeks. This would allow attackers to read the key and thus decrypt the partition or container.
The TrueCrypt developers state that they are currently preparing an official complaint against Microsoft. Should this fail to lead to disclosure, they are planning to submit an anti-competition complaint to the EU. Microsoft offers a system partition encryption system under Windows Vista in the form of BitLocker.
Only a couple of weeks ago, Steve Ballmer said that he would attempt to escape further fines in Europe. It’s likely that this case will work just fine for him (pun intended). █
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