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Factual Mistakes in Byfield’s Article on Office Suites

Posted in Deception, Fork, Microsoft, Novell, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Patents at 9:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We already wrote about this subject a couple of weeks ago [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Coming a little late to the party is Bruce Byfield, who still has a vendetta against us [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7].

We haven’t the time (nor the desire) to do a full rebuttal right now, but a few points are worth making:

  • Byfield repeatedly uses the term “anti-Novell lobby” to daemonise critics, but he never bothers to name them or to link to these critics. He wants to present his own version (or rendition) of their voice without giving readers the opportunity to interpret or judge for themselves. Over at OStatic, Sam Dean went on and deleted (censored) a polite and informative comment from me, which was about 30-40 lines in length. It explained what Novell was doing with Go-OO[XML].
  • Regarding patents, Byfield writes: “And considering that OOXML is now an ISO standard — no matter what dirty tricks might have made it one — the idea that it, at least, could now be used in patent violation cases seems logically inconsistent.” Byfield may not understand patents and the OSP from Microsoft, which does not elude RAND. Being an ISO standard does not prevent patents from being an issue. As always, there is also disregard for more idealogical considerations, which passively endorses corruption.

There are many more points worth making, but we lack the time to address them.

The author has a long track record of defending Novell and that, by association, means badmouthing “Boycott Novell”. Frustration is probably not a factor here, but let’s remember that Byfield mostly writes for Linux.com, which is no longer publishing articles (for now). That can’t be good news to him because that’s how he makes a living.

“There is nothing more that can be done. Everything we do is now available to licensees as well.”

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s Imaginary Property Officer

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Pages that cross-reference this one


  1. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 8, 2009 at 10:52 am


    To be fair, he criticized Novell as well. I don’t think he took either side of the argument. Seemed pretty unbiased to me.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 10:56 am


    What is your point of balance/equilibrium? Bias is a dependent thing. It’s not like maths. It’s not a rule of nature.

  3. twitter said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:08 am


    An honest person can’t help but say bad things about the M$/Novell deal. A dishonest person can say the same things and also write hatchet pieces like “Boycott Novell, Freedom Fighter or Den of Paranoia.” Roy’s links show what kind of writer Byfield has been. Even now, I have a hard time telling if he’s just deluded or if he does these things intentionally.

  4. twitter said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:38 am


    Another factual error, “OOXML is now an ISO standard.” The non standard that M$ bribed and bullied through ISO is not the format used by M$ Office. Indeed one large problem with OOXML is that the standard is incomplete, contradictory and impossible to implement. This is a separate issue from patents and M$’s intent but just as important and many people pointed it out at the time.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:40 am


    There are four separate ‘OOXMLs’.

  6. AlexH said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:45 am


    Yeah, because no-one ships a non-ratified version of ODF :D

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:50 am


    You get the option.

  8. AlexH said,

    January 8, 2009 at 11:52 am


    Cross fingers that ODF 1.2 is compatible with OOo 3.0, then. Otherwise having to pick between two versions of ODF 1.2 is going to be really confusing :)

    (There’s a serious point in here: bitching about OOXML compatibilities between Office versions is one thing; but the truth is that no suite reliably deals with non-native file formats. Comparing Office’s ODF support with KOffice I think will dishearten some people)

  9. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm


    Don’t worry, Alex Lund Stocholm. I’ll be careful.

  10. AlexH said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm


    Calling me names doesn’t help your position.

  11. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:02 pm


    I didn’t realise his name was an insult.

  12. AlexH said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:05 pm


    I didn’t say I was insulted, I’m just noting that you’ve resorted to name calling.

  13. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 12:06 pm


    Your argument for OOXML was a slur against ODF. RMS did not like it when Miguel used the same strategy.

  14. AlexH said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:00 pm


    It’s not an argument for OOXML. It’s not a slur against ODF either; since it’s the truth.

  15. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:02 pm


    That’s not the point as you divert discussions about OOXML into ODF discussions, just as you love turning Novell discussions into Sun discussions.

  16. AlexH said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:05 pm


    Pointing out your hypocrisy isn’t “diverting discussions”.

  17. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:11 pm


    It is, for the same reason that saying “Apple is evil” to divert attention away from Microsoft crimes is counter productive.

  18. AlexH said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:26 pm


    It’s not counter productive if you’re accusing them of the exact same crime, Roy. That’s the very definition of hypocrisy.

  19. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:30 pm


    When the standard applies to *you*, not *them*. I’ve nothing to do with those companies.

  20. AlexH said,

    January 8, 2009 at 1:33 pm


    No, but you claim to not apply double standards.

    Furthermore you’re in denial about the state of ODF interop, it seems. Even as the best choice, ODF has plenty of room for improvement.

  21. twitter said,

    January 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm


    There’s no double standard here. OOXML is impossible to implement and has zero community feedback. Using it is just about as much work as trying to reverse engineer M$’s old binary formats. ODF is a complete and well documented standard that groups like KDE, Gnome and Google can implement and everyone has a chance to participate in the change process. ODF efforts are far ahead of OOXML efforts and that’s the way things will remain.

  22. AlexH said,

    January 8, 2009 at 3:00 pm


    @twitter: community feedback, etc. excellent point. Impossible to implement; less so.

    ODF isn’t technically ahead of OOXML; ODF is winning because all industry players are supporting it.

  23. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 4:32 pm


    OOXML *is* impossible to implement, unless you are Microsoft.

  24. Baby In The Bath Water said,

    January 8, 2009 at 6:05 pm


    For “impossible to implement”, it sure seems rather implementable by OOo/Go-OO to me… I think Gnumeric and AbiWord implemented OOXML support as well.

    Note: this comment was posted from Novell’s headquarters.

  25. towanowitsch said,

    January 8, 2009 at 6:08 pm


    Pointing out that you are wrong is unfair, right? This is like the good old times in the east: “The party (Roy) is always right (even when it is wrong)!”

    Lying for the good cause and writing shit is still lying and writing shit, Roy, and you’re not helping FOSS with that behavior.

  26. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 6:07 pm


    They haven’t. By that yardstick, ReactOS is the next Microsoft Windows.

  27. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 6:10 pm



    Are you one of the SUSE lads?

  28. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:06 pm


    AbiWord and Gnumeric do have OOXML import support fwiw. Export support for AbiWord was a GSoC 2008 item, not sure if it was implemented though. Not sure about Gnumeric export ability.

  29. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:08 pm


    It should also be noted that the Gnumeric devs stated that implementing ODF support was more difficult than implementing OOXML support. So “impossible to implement” seems like quite a bit of a stretch to me.

  30. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:09 pm


    They already had stuff for .doc.

  31. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:15 pm


    So what?

  32. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:24 pm


    Reuse of stuff.

  33. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:42 pm


    I thought you said it was impossible to implement?

    Besides, all office suites support the old binary formats.

  34. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:44 pm


    Not properly.

  35. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 8, 2009 at 7:52 pm


    Am I to trust your word on that? Or can you provide links to someone who has actually attempted to implement OOXML “properly” in OOo/GOffice?

  36. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 8:03 pm


    You can do the research and report back if that matters to you.

  37. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 8, 2009 at 8:05 pm


    So then you are admitting that you have no facts to support for your assertion?

  38. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 8, 2009 at 8:29 pm


    I’m busy catching up with stuff at the moment. Remind me later.

  39. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 9, 2009 at 8:15 am


    Consider this a reminder.

  40. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 9, 2009 at 8:29 am


    Given a parser and/or a tokeniser for .doc, it may be possible to extract analogous elements from OOXML and treat them similarly, whereas ODF does things the Right Way by reusing existing standards, which a project like AbiWord is less likely to have already implemented.

  41. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 9, 2009 at 8:51 am


    That doesn’t answer the question.

    I’m waiting to see evidence that OOXML is “impossible to implement”.

  42. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 9, 2009 at 8:54 am


    Microsoft OOXML is more than just basic support for paragraphs and pictures. Has has Windows-specific bits, legacy stuff (Word 6, 97), DRM and so on and so forth. it’s a total joke, but it does not prevent you from defending it.

  43. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 9, 2009 at 9:11 am


    Just defending it from inaccurate accusations.

    I’m all for ODF, but I’m not going to hide my head in the sand and pretend that OOXML is evil, that it’s impossible to implement, that it kills innocent babies, or any other nonsensical things.

  44. Troy said,

    January 9, 2009 at 9:12 am


    I wouldn’t worry too much about anyone taking anything Byfield has to say seriously anyway. He’s a crappy writer who’s lousy at hiding his personal agendas.

  45. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 9, 2009 at 9:31 am


    Troy: sorta like Roy? ;-)

  46. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 9, 2009 at 9:48 am


    You are a hypocrite, Dan.

    May I ask why you leave hundreds of comments in a site that you hate?

  47. Dan O'Brian said,

    January 9, 2009 at 9:51 am


    Because you play this site as if it were a legit news site, yet when you are called on your inaccuracies and outright lies, you claim “this is just a blog” as if that’s some sort of excuse.

  48. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 9, 2009 at 10:14 am


    Differences in opinion require no “correction”. You try to impose your interpretations upon others.

    As for nitpicking, you could do the same in poor media like the BBC (they have notoriously bad coverage of technology).

  49. Jose_X said,

    February 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm


    >> Over at OStatic, Sam Dean went on and deleted (censored) a polite and informative comment from me, which was about 30-40 lines in length. It explained what Novell was doing with Go-OO[XML].

    I got the feeling something similar happened to me (based on when I commented and when comments of others went up) here http://ostatic.com/blog/novell-delivers-moonlight-1-0-for-rich-media-on-linux . I recognize that I already did get a chance to speak my point earlier. It’s always possible they simply do not like rebuttaling to go on for a long time. The author of this piece was Sam Dean (it’s an ad for mono).

    The last comment I submitted that was not posted was:

    toshok, you understand that groups like Tivo and Linus (?) and many others would probably consider that LGPL gives them the rights to embed and distribute all they want.

    They might reason as such: the LGPLv2 gives full distribution rights (?) so long as certain conditions are met, and these conditions don’t specifically include the requirement to make modifications physically possible or easy.

    Maybe a court would side with Novell and not Tivo; however, Novell’s interpretation does not seem to be supported by the LGPLv2 text; it appears to be a contradiction, making it a bit unclear what the actual license of moonlight is: LGPLv2 or some bifurcation of that license with Novell’s new requirement?

    >> We’re the copyright holders, we can apply whatever license terms we *want*.

    That is correct. The allegation was in part that Novell had not licensed as LGPLv2. I haven’t seen anyone challenge their ability to pick their license. The confusion is in not knowing what license Novell actually did pick.

    Novell can remove the confusion by picking LGPLv3, I think, or by clearly writing out a new license (see http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/gpl-faq.html#ModifyGPL ), or by sticking with LGPLv2 but putting their interpretation and any other advice elsewhere from the project license file or clearly marked as “nonnormative”.

    Moonlight is meant to be distributed and used. This way patent infringement kicks in. This way Microsoft’s huge investments can be leveraged by them and are not wasted. Developers, developers, developers, developers. Let’s all be good chaps and chip in to help preserve the monopoly lock-ins.

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