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09.01.08

After Microsoft’s OOXML Corruption, ISO Risks Banishment in South America

Posted in America, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, Security, Standard at 8:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Notebook on sand

Starting a new chapter, without 7,000+ pages of OOXML

The previous post about software patents showed a company playing hardball and breaking the law — all in the name of junk patents. Microsoft too has played such games. The following article about OOXML (and its obligatory corruption brings back memories of blackmail for software patents in Denmark.

Last time we had a OOXML ballot, EFFI compared the votes against CPI. Back then we saw a big similarity. But this time the general CPI index seams to be more or less useless. Friday, Danish Standards Association (DS, representing Denmark in ISO) changed the Danish vote to yes even through the committee “voted” 8-4 against. If you look on the current CPI numbers you will see that Denmark is on a shared 1st place, with a rating of 9.4 on a scale from 1 (very corrupt) – 10 (less corrupt). According to informations presented by Leif Lodahl, the order not to vote, and let DS decide should come from the government. Has one of the least corrupt countries been bought by Microsoft? Apparently, yes. Is this the first time? Do you remember the blackmailing a few years ago?

OOXML may be the ideal back-door mechanism, which enables control to be passed to vendors and other authorities. Another deep look at OOXML seems to concur.

That is right, as Office 2007 files that contain macros use just another file extention: .docm (Word Microsoft Office Open XML Format Document with Macros Enabled), xlsm, pptm, etc.
Right or wrung theory?

What if the wringer is just a psychological tool to get users to adopt Open XML as a format? A kind of witch doctor trojan to infect your computer with the Open XML format conversion because you are afraid of viruses? Oh, they would never do that. I trust them. And trust is all about security. They know what’s best for me and work hard to make my computer more secure and benefit my user experience with Open XML.

Today’s biggest OOXML news comes from Brazil, where people from various development countries consider abolishing ISO after its affairs with Microsoft. They don’t want OOXML, no matter what ISO might put its stamp on. Here is the full text

CONSEGI 2008 DECLARATION

We, the undersigned representatives of state IT organisations from Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay, note with disappointment the press release from ISO/IEC/JTC-1 of 20 August regarding the appeals registered by the national bodies of Brazil, South Africa, India and Venezuela. Our national bodies, together with India, had independently raised a number of serious concerns about the process surrounding the fast track approval of DIS29500. That those concerns were not properly addressed in the form of a conciliation panel reflects poorly on the integrity of these international standards development institutions.

Whereas we do not intend to waste any more resources on lobbying our national bodies to pursue the appeals further, we feel it is important to make the following points clear:

1.The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast track processing of DIS29500 remains a significant concern to us. That the ISO TMB did not deem it necessary to properly explore the substance of the appeals must, of necessity, put confidence in those institutions ability to meet our national requirements into question.
2.The overlap of subject matter with the existing ISO/IEC26300 (Open Document Format) standard remains an area of concern. Many of our countries have made substantial commitments to the use of ISO/IEC26300, not least because it was published as an ISO standard in 2006.
3.The large scale adoption of a standard for office document formats is a long and expensive exercise, with multi-year projects being undertaken in each of our countries. Many of us have dedicated significant time and resources to this effort. For example, in Brazil, the process of translation of ISO/IEC26300 into Portuguese has taken over a year.

The issues which emerged over the past year have placed all of us at a difficult crossroads. Given the organisation’s inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks. Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands.

-Aslam Raffee (South Africa)
Chairman, Government IT Officer’s Council Working Group on Open Standards Open Source Software

- Marcos Vinicius Ferreira Mazoni (Brazil)
Presidente, Servico Federal de Processamento de Dados

- Carlos Eloy Figueira (Venezuela)
President, Centro Nacional de Tecnologías de Información

- Eduardo Alvear Simba (Ecuador)
Director de Software Libre, Presidencia de la República

- Tomas Ariel Duarte C. (Paraguay)
Director de Informática, Presidencia de la República

- Miriam Valdés Abreu (Cuba)
Directora de Análisis, Oficina para la Informatización.

This serious development has already been covered by some blogs, such as Open Malaysia.

Over the past month, the team at OpenMalaysiaBlog was really happy to showcase the good work Malaysians have done in government agencies and state governments in adopting OpenOffice.org in their offices. Some were driven from MAMPU’s direction, but most were self initiatives, some even starting way back in 2003.

I personally, have been deliberately avoiding OOXML news because basically, I was sick and tired of it; where the latest ridiculous situation is where the same people who voted for the standard, get to vote against the appeal of the decision. Surely it shouldn’t be an immediate voting procedure (ala BRM), but more of a consensus gathering effort? What happened to the process of working out the sustained objections as espoused by ISO procedures? As far as I know, since the Contradiction documents prepared by all the NBs back in Feb07, there has been no effort by ISO to work that out. Looking at the ISO process, its clear its broken and when there are forces determined to push it through, it will push it through.

Overall, this was somewhat predictable [1, 2]. It’s encouraging to see this actualising. ISO should be ashamed of it self, having ignored complaints from its very own senior staff.

ISO in money“This year WG1 have had another major development that has made it almost impossible to continue with our work within ISO. The influx of P members whose only interest is the fast-tracking of ECMA 376 as ISO 29500 has led to the failure of a number of key ballots. Though P members are required to vote, 50% of our current members, and some 66% of our new members, blatantly ignore this rule despite weekly email reminders and reminders on our website. As ISO require at least 50% of P members to vote before they start to count the votes we have had to reballot standards that should have been passed and completed their publication stages at Kyoto. This delay will mean that these standards will appear on the list of WG1 standards that have not been produced within the time limits set by ISO, despite our best efforts.

The disparity of rules for PAS, Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting “standardization by corporation”, something I have been fighting against for the 20 years I have served on ISO committees. I am glad to be retiring before the situation becomes impossible. I wish my colleagues every success for their future efforts, which I sincerely hope will not prove to be as wasted as I fear they could be.”

Martin Bryan, Former Convenor of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 [OOXML] WG1

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4 Comments

  1. Robert Millan said,

    September 2, 2008 at 5:57 am

    Gravatar

    The Consegi declaration is impressive. Historical even. How come we don’t see this in the local mainstream press?

    FWIW, I contacted the major Catalan newspapers with a reference to it. Maybe some of them will publish it.

    This is surprisingly easy btw. In just two minutes browsing their websites one can obtain email addresses that will be read by their journalists.

  2. Robert Millan said,

    September 2, 2008 at 6:00 am

    Gravatar

    Sample text for those who want to try:

    Historical declaration against ISO

    Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay withdraw support for the standards organization:
    http://www.convergenciadigital.com.br/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm?infoid=15653&sid=76

    They assert that from now on won’t consider ISO standards automatically valid for government use.

    Provide as reason lack of transparency in the approval of DIS29500 (Microsoft’s OOXML).

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 2, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Gravatar

    I’ve just found this in Reuters, but they were too easy on ISO (they also published a ‘placement for Bryden before).

    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/07/07/rewriting-ooxml-story/

    Stay tuned. I’ll post a follow-up.

  4. Yfrwlf said,

    September 3, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Gravatar

    Any organization, and I mean ANY organization which does not take into consideration appeals, especially appeals coming from it’s own members, is a horrible organization which clearly does not listen or care about making the best decisions it can.

    Also, any organization with a “fast track” option which receives appeals should immediately withdraw that item from any kind of “fast track” and place it onto the “normal track”, as it’s controversy clearly signals a need for deeper examination.

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