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03.26.08

Applying Lessons from Web Standards to Document Standards

Posted in Antitrust, Formats, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, Standard at 11:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We’ve got to put a lot of money into changing behavior.”

Bill Gates

This type of comparison which involves Web and document standards was made in this Web site several times in the past. One of the things that we study here is Novell’s work on Moonlight, which helps Microsoft 'steal' the Web with an alternative to HTML, AJAX, among other technologies, even rivals like Google who rely on Web pages being trivial to parse.

In our past writings we summarised some of Opera’s antitrust complaints about Microsoft’s deliberate abuses against Web standards (c/f [1, 2, 3, 4]). Not much has changed other than the volume of public relations stunts.

Very timely is this announcement about another “dump Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) campaign”. This was covered by The Register.

While Hudin acknowledged that two people can have the same idea, he noted that he kicked off his campaign – End 6! – last year and registered the domain name in October 2007.

“It does this by design, in order to facilitate a monopoly based on a de facto standard…”Needless to say, the most obnoxious characteristic of IE6 is that it encourages breaking the Web. It does this by design, in order to facilitate a monopoly based on a de facto standard (a single proprietary application, which is bound to a platform). Needless to say, it’s hard to believe that documents are (or will ever be) the exception. In fact, watch this remark from Microsoft’s Brian Jones:

“It’s hard for Microsoft to commit to what comes out of Ecma [the European standards group that has already OK’d OOXML] in the coming years, because we don’t know what direction they will take the formats. We’ll of course stay active and propose changes based on where we want to go with Office 14. At the end of the day, though, the other Ecma members could decide to take the spec in a completely different direction. … Since it’s not guaranteed, it would be hard for us to make any sort of official statement.”

Brian Jones, Microsoft

Also in the news, watch how Microsoft’s Web sites apparently derail competitors.

Microsoft Web sites and Adobe’s Flash sending Safari off course?

[...]

Though many are finding the free browser touted by Apple to be both faster and more accurate at displaying Web pages, not everyone is happy.

About a month ago, loud complaints were made about Microsoft’s online services that snub GNU/Linux almost as a matter of principle (capability is certainly there, but Microsoft sniffs HTTP headers). Some spoke about violation of antitrust laws.

Also in the news, it is now reported by Opera that is passes the Acid3 test. Have a look:

We have some excellent news! Lars Erik Bolstad, the Head of Core Technology at Opera Software, sent me the following information to share…

GNOME OGGInternet Explorer remains by orders of magnitude the worst Web browser when it comes to standards complaints (w.r.t. Acid3). It was shown very recently that IE8 (beta) is not much of an exception. Just as one might worry about Microsoft’s intentions with its document format (OOXML), one should watch what Microsoft does to the World Wide Web. It won’t play nice. Remember what happened to Ogg after the involvement of a former Microsoft employee.

“It’s a Simple Matter of [Microsoft’s] Commercial Interests!”

–Microsoft’s Doug Mahugh About Microsoft’s OOXML (Fast Track)

“We’re disheartened because Microsoft helped W3C develop the very standards that they’ve failed to implement in their browser. We’re also dismayed to see Microsoft continue adding proprietary extensions to these standards when support for the essentials remains unfinished.”

George Olsen, Web Standards Project

Here Come the “Paid Microsoft [OOXML] Shills”

Posted in Asia, Deception, ECMA, Europe, Formats, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 11:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Open standards activists? A dying breed, according to Rob Weir. Yesterday we wrote about Durusau quite briefly, having raised the issue on several occasions before, e.g. in [1, 2, 3, 4]. Here is Weir’s conclusion, extracted from his latest long writeup:

I’m looking forward to the day, soon, when I can search Google for “open standards activist” and not find a paid Microsoft shill among the listings on the first page.

In yesterday’s last roundup we also mentioned Malaysia, not just that “European standards expert”, who is actually a Microsoft lobbyist (quite newly-appointed in fact). It all comes together now. Malaysia married the words of that so-called "standard expert", who does a lot of legwork nowadays.

I dont know what the attraction is, but somehow we all love the morbid fascination of Zombies in action. First, Microsoft^H^H^H^H^HCompTIA hires Mr Jan van der Beld, Ex-Ecma Secretary General, to fly all the way here in KL, for an event supposedly about “good multiple standards”. There he challenges us to find a better way to Fast Track large, immature vendor dependent specifications. The answer is of course: “Don’t do it.” Later on that same day, like a man possessed, he turns up at a PIKOM meeting only to rant and thump tables.

Then today, in our fantastic broadsheet turned tabloid “The New Straits Times” features a “Comment” by our so called “cooler head” Datuk Dr Mohd Ariffin Aton entitled “Walking the Talk on neutrality policy”. If you’ve forgotten about him, you may be forgiven, but he is or rather WAS the CEO if SIRIM Bhd.

It’s rather fascinating how far Microsoft has gone in its recruitment of voices. It’s truly like seeing a highly-polished propaganda machine. Those who are not in Microsoft’s pocket (or blinded by those who are) still hold a very consistent stance.

If the discussion on OOXML was purely technical I don’t think there would be much debate. Apart from Microsoft employees and a few lost souls, for whom we can only wonder about their real motivations, I have yet to meet any technical person arguing that OOXML is a good specification.

A classic quote that springs to mind is this one:

“If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”

Bill Gates

What Microsoft has achieved here is a textbook example of a Big Lie, a case of manufacturing consent. Microsoft is buying the perception that a naked emperor is no longer so naked.

That, along with factors like ballot-stuffing, has people truly believe that they vote in favour of something good.

For those curious enough about the situation at the moment, Peter Judge has published somewhat of an overview based on Ditesh's research.

Lobbying has intensified ahead of Saturday, 29 March, the deadline for Microsoft to convince the world that its Office Open XML specification should be accepted as a formal standard.

The specification is still short of the two-thirds majority required in a vote of national standards bodies on whether to approve Office Open XML (OOXML) as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard.

Judge says that “lobbying has intensified.” Boy, that’s one heck of an understatement.

OOXML is bad

Pro-OOXML Tactic #99: When You Lose, Start Bullying

Posted in Asia, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML at 10:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell coupons

Image from Wikimedia

It has been only one week since Microsoft's OOXML was defeated in India, but Microsoft soon proceeded to lying and spinning. It turned out that only Microsoft’s close friends (seat-warmers) actually voted "Yes", having already realised that bribery was possible too. Any way you look at it, the OOXML situation in India looked ugly and the mainstream press hardly tells the full story (no surprise there).

Here is the latest very disturbing story. Microsoft is now targeting individuals in India, not just the process, whose outcome Microsoft is unhappy with.

At the meeting held on 20th March 2008, we were informed that Microsoft has complained to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and to the apex office of the country about the constitution of the committee and also cast aspersions on the impartiality of the chairperson of LITD15, Mrs. Neeta Verma. The chairperson was furious and offered to step down from her post. She pointed out that the committee has met numerous times and Microsoft never brought this issue up in front of the committee nor did they check the facts with her or her organization before complaining to the apex office.

Yoon Kit, referring to his recent summary of Microsoft's abuse patterns, likens what we find here to at least two strategies, namely:

# If you don’t get your way at a certain level, lobby the superior above. Dont stop! Go all the way to the head of the nation if you think you can!

[...]

# Question Question Question everything (process, fairness, the system, members) when things dont go your way

As a delegate himself, Yoon Kit must be seeing India abused in the very same way that Malaysia is being abused (more on that in the next post). Here is what he wrote about it. He concludes with:

Well done to the Bureau of Indian Standards for standing firm against this raging bully. Hopefully one day the bully will learn how to play fair and contribute positively to the standards process, and not try to manipulate its way in.

Truly despicable behaviour. Shame on you, Microsoft, yet again. How will we ever trust you?

How many more smear campaigns [1, 2, 3, 4, 5] can one find?

Microsoft Gold-certified Partners in Charge of the United Kingdom? (Updated)

Posted in Deception, Europe, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 10:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Where’s that damn fox and what’s it doing inside the hen house?”

Yesterday was Document Freedom Day but not in the UK. As Glyn puts it, BSI celebrated this day totally chained to Microsoft.

The British Standards Institute (BSI), the body responsible for voting on the OOXML fast-track in the UK, is rumoured to be taking the Beijing Olympics’ official flag of five interlocked handcuffs to heart by changing from its initial “No” vote to “Yes”, thus condemning millions of innocent documents to their patent-implemented chains. If confirmed, this would be a black day for both the BSI – henceforth known as the British Anti-Standards Institute – and for British computing.

There’s a lot of missing information there. Let’s go back in time for a bit. BECTA is said to be responsible for Britain’s last vote, but as often one finds, it’s a decision which is bound to turn upside-down the second time around (playing hard to get, Rick Jelliffe style!). At the time, BECTA was under tremendous pressure (it still is) for its intimate affairs with Microsoft. Complaints were even made to the European Commission. Like the BBC, BECTA needed to fake impartiality, at least temporarily.

Later on we came to find that BSI had been stuffed. From what we wrote at the time:

Britain will be essentially represented by a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, having rejected OOXML several months ago. This apparently comes after a reappointment.

It has always seemed like an inside job. So here is the latest: UK to fly the flag for OOXML

The British Standards Institute (BSI) looks set to reverse its position on Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) file format by approving it as an international standard.

[...]

…it’s not known why the group has had an apparent change of heart after disapproving the Office 2007 format last autumn.

No reason? That alone ought to raise suspicion. Perhaps the only reason is increased attendance of Gold-certified Microsoft partners. Even ISO has admitted such a failure.

For those wishing to know more about Document Freedom Day, here is the place to look.

Today is Document Freedom Day: Roughly 200 teams from more than 60 countries worldwide are organising local activities to raise awareness for Document Freedom and Open Standards. To support the initiatives surrounding the first day to celebrate document liberation, DFD starter packs containing a DFD flag, t-shirts and leaflets have been sent to the first 100 registered teams over the past weeks.

What is truly needed now is Corruption-Free Day.

Update: You can find some more information about this in the discussion area of LinuxToday. Additionally, here are bits of interest from a skeptical summary.

My impression so far was that the BSI applied the highest standards in the review process. Even secrecy made sense in the BSI culture. Also the convenor of the BRM, Alex Brown, is from BSI who mastered the mission impossible to get the BRM through. The United Kingdom is a p-member, so one of the nations to become pivotal to the adoption of Open XML as an ISO/IEC standard in its current state.

We will only find out what the situation in the Uk is really like after the vote as the confidentiality holds. Politically an approval would probably lead to institutional damage to the standard system.

Links 26/03/2008: Fedora 9 Beta Previews, Red Hat Contracts, Microsoft Gets More Aggressive

Posted in Boycott Novell at 11:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Deception Everywhere as OOXML Deadline Approaches

Posted in America, Asia, Deception, ECMA, Europe, Formats, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 11:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Poland

A couple of days ago we covered the situation in Poland, mainly by pointing to a variety of old and new reports from local observers. According to noooxml.org, they may be trying to pull a trick by pretending to be impartial while in fact endorsing Microsoft’s broken specifications, despite objections that led to somewhat of a fiasco back in September. Watch this troublesome assessment:

Evil! “Abstain from voting” means no new vote will get submitted, so the September vote will be carried! In the case of Poland it was an approval vote for the OOOXML standard with comments attached. Yes, Poland felt it could support the approval of a standard candidate that got more than 2300 pages of dispositions of comments. And now the logic I fail to get is: if we fail to approve we do nothing and carry the previous approval vote. ISO procudures sometimes feel like a witch test.

“Abstain from voting” != submission of an “Abstain” vote.

Czech Republic

Earlier today we also mentioned what had happened in the Czech Republic. Watch what Groklaw had to say about this unpredictable outcome. It came as an update to the news from Brazil.

Here is one comment that must have slipped off the table and got overlooked, a comment the Czech Republic attached to its vote in September:

Coexistence of two very similar international standards such as ODF and OOXML is undesirable in a long term perspective. Therefore we ask JTC1 to start work on a progressive harmonization of both formats in cooperation with OASIS and ECMA organizations which are originators of these document formats.

Durusau Again

There’s too much ‘funny business’ to keep track of at a national level. But never mind that. What seems even more troublesome is the tactical timing of all these Durusau letters. We looked at this issue before [1, 2, 3, 4]. LXer rebuts that latest letter of his, which contains absurdities.

The only one who loses if DIS 29500 fails is Microsoft, who’s Office 2007 cashcow will run into trouble. Everyone else, including the OpenDocument Format, do not need an ISO stamp of approval on DIS 29500. The current Ecma 376 standard, flawed as it is, is more than enough to work with. Putting an ISO stamp of approval on that document does not suddenly make it “more interoperable” or a better spec. Unless Microsoft stops working with Ecma, but that is not ISO’s problem. It’s Microsoft’s and Ecma’s problem. Besides all that, Ecma can still resubmit Ecma 376 through the regular ISO process and gain approval in a few years when the standard has been properly reviewed and fixed. That’s too late for the Microsoft Office cashcow of course, but that is not ISO’s concern.

Here are PJ’s remarks on this:

[Re:] “1) National bodies loses an open and international forum for further work on DIS 29500.”

[PJ: This is not true. If it is disapproved, it goes off the Fast Track and can the be considered on the regular track, which obviously gives national bodies the time they need to actually discuss and resolve the issues. Like Durusau doesn't know that.

Not that they can fix it. The intellectual property issues can't be resolved without changing the Microsoft OSP. But the fact is, even that could be resolved if everyone wasn't being rushed like some old folks getting phone calls from smarmy salesmen telling them to agree to buy fast, fast, fast, without a chance to read a contract first. If OOXML is capable of being fixed, it will not be harmed by taking the time to fix it.]

The deceptions galore has a Microsoft lobbyist cited as well. He is described in the press as a “standards expert”, but his new affiliation gives too much away.

Over at Malaysia, some articles begin to show up, such as this one.

I am no supporter of Microsoft but I believe that any decision on this issue should be devoid of personal grudges, vested interests or software politics.

This case is actually quite simple but it has been complicated, wittingly or unwittingly, by the intrigues and conduct of several parties involved.

Lots of technical jargon is bandied about to confuse and scare people away from the key principles involved. The market for e-document or productivity software is gigantic and growing. It is used by consumers, businesses and governments, which explains the huge interest in this case.

They conveniently try to warp the question of standardisation to one of market share and business needs alone, never mind quality.

Needless to say, these article neglect to mention and take into accounts the full story. They seem to shy away from the controversy and play safe by wrongly assuming that Microsoft plays by the rules. All along, Microsoft’s strategy has been to dismiss critics by calling them Microsoft haters. The company even tried to put that label on Andy Updegrove, who has been exceptionally forthcoming and polite all along.

OOXML: What Happened in the Czech Republic?

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, Standard at 6:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A new report found in LinuxWorld says that the Czech Republic votes “Yes” to OOXML, but it says very little beyond it.

The Czech Standards Institute (CSI) has voted to make Microsoft’s Open Office XML format a standard, the organization said Tuesday.

Let’s look back again at stories we have gathered over the past year. The CSI is not to be confused with another CSI that goes by the same acronym. The Croatian Standards Institute (CSI) is not the Czech Standards Institute (CSI), but the story from the neighbors at Croatia was appalling. Be sure to read it.

Another report from last year adds little credibility to the whole ‘political’ side of the situation: Microsoft’s man in Europe carries communist-era baggage

That report sparked a flurry of speculation in Czech media and online chat rooms about Muehlfeit’s role under the communist regime, and it elicited a public statement at the time from Microsoft, which supported Muehlfeit’s integrity.

The story is probably a distraction at this stage, but a more descriptive item is this one which contains dead links to expired items.

Just recently, Pavel Janik from Czechoslovakia together with some friends also printed out the specification. In this case, they printed it one page per sheet which resulted in this towering stack; 6 bindings of 1000 pages each. This was for a workshop on MSOOXML at ČNI (Czech standardisation institute), the equivalent of SIRIM in Malaysia.

[...]

This is probably the reason why Microsoft continually seems to be sending non-technical people (to Malaysia and Czech ) to these workshops probably to try to convince us of the merits of the specification not on a technical level, but on a “political” level.

[...]

Judge for yourself if Czechoslovakia’s recommendation back in February 2007 still seems like a practical request:

“Open documents, generally open standards, are very important for global information exchange and therefore they need very broad discussion of all interested parties.

For this reason the Czech Republic suggests using the standard procedure for the development of ISO/IEC standard from the document ECMA-376.”

The most information you can probably find here.

Can you imagine better way to spend 4 hours of your Friday afternoon time than discussing OOXML problems with non-techies from Microsoft?

[...]

I simply can’t believe that developers and or TC45 members from Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, The British Library, Essilor, Intel, Microsoft, NextPage, Novell, Statoil, Toshiba, and the United States Library of Congress actually read the final document. I can’t believe it. If I ever write such document, I surely won’t sign it by my name. Why?

It is very simple and I wrote it several times. I do not like to look like idiot. After reading few pages of the specification, I think TC45 members simply like it OR they never read the specification OR something else ($$$$$)…

It’s a long and very memorable journal item. Be sure to read it if you are curious. Microsoft has a track record of manipulating and corrupting many countries for their “Yes” vote, so suspicion is muchly justified here.

Links 26/03/2008: Lindependence 2008 Warmup, Linux Big on the Phones

Posted in News Roundup at 5:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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