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04.06.14

Document Liberation: The Time is Now

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 9:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Preservation a priority

Old chair

Summary: The Document Liberation Project makes the press and software such as LibreOffice plays a role while other players, such as Open-Xchange, are also hopping on the ODF bandwagon

IN THE MONTHS of February and March we revisited ODF because of a policy that had been promoted in the UK — one which favours disseminating government documents not just to customers of Microsoft (who purchased proprietary software like Microsoft Office).

The problems caused by OOXML are explained again by one whom we interviewed in episode 74 of TechBytes. His name is Charles-H. Schulz and he is from LibreOffice. He says that “Microsoft Office had been released and with it an undocument format called OOXML which, as far as experts were concerned, had little to do with the ISO 29500 (aka OOXML) standard. While Europe and Brazil were struggling to migrate their public sector’s documents to ODF, any company or government, let alone any individual acquiring Microsoft Office 2010 migrated to the new and shiny OOXML, officially without remorse or complaint. The ODF advocacy groups here and there were launching all sorts of events and meetings to guide and assist migrations to ODF. Results were mixed. We had victories. We had defeats. At the end of the day what was at stake was fear of failure and change from CIOs and IT services. That’s still the case today. But while these are mostly human factors, there is one thing we hadn’t tried yet, or at least hadn’t been tried enough: turning the hundreds of thousands of files that are out there and locked up in various proprietary file formats to ODF documents.”

Another advocate of ODF, Andrew Updegrove, tells the story of Microsoft’s attacks on officials who ‘dared’ to promote ODF. Updegrove recalls: “By the end of December 2005, I had been blogging on ODF developments in Massachusetts for about four months, providing interviews, legal analysis and news as it happened. In those early days, not many bloggers were covering the ODF story, and email began to come my way from people that I had never met before, from as far away as Australia, and as near as the State House in Boston. Some began with, “This seems really important – what can I do to help?” Others contained important information that someone wanted to share, and that I was happy to receive.”

We are not going to go about a decade into the past again, but the point worth making is that OOXML remains a huge issue. Microsoft’s worldwide bribery was not in vain. My wife reports that OOXML crashes LibreOffice (on GNU/Linux) for her, sometimes even freezing the entire operating system.

Making the news these days is the Document Liberation Project [1-3], which even Updegrove wrote about [4]. For those who think that ODF is old news, be aware that Open-Xchange is entering the online office suites business [5,6] and “support for the Open Document Format (ODF) is forthcoming, probably within the next three months, a company spokesman said.” (source: IDG)

Later this year we are going to see if the British government, owing to Cabinet Office, goes ahead with plans of making ODF the default format for editable document exchanges. This could set an important precedence for other nations to follow, ensuring that their documents down fall down the digital ashtray with Microsoft’s proprietary formats.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Document Liberation… And justice for all

    Ever been in a situation when no maintained software reads your old files? During Libre Graphics Meeting 2014, Document Foundation announced a new project called Document Liberation.

    This project unites developers who help users to access data in file formats that are locked to proprietary and even abandoned software.

    Essentially it’s a new face of the existing joined team from LibreOffice and re-lab that is already “responsible” for libraries to read and convert Corel DRAW, Microsoft Visio and Publisher, Apple Keynote and Pages files. Implementations in end-user software include (but are not limited to) LibreOffice, Inkscape, Scribus, and Calligra Suite.

  2. Document Liberation Project aims to break vendor lock-in

    New open source developer consortium promises to end upgrade arms race, enabling users to reclaim orphaned documents

  3. Wanted: developers to make outdated documents readable again
  4. It’s Document Freedom Day 2014: What Does that Mean for You?

    You’ll recall that I noted above Document Freedom Day awareness is limited in the U.S. So is participation in DFD activities, as you can see from the image at left, which shows where they are being held this year. That’s a shame, because document freedom is a universal, and not a regional or national concern.

  5. Open-Xchange adds spreadsheet to open source online app suite

    Open source collaboration software vendor Open-Xchange has added a spreadsheet function to its open-source, web-based productivity suite, allowing the online editing and sharing of Microsoft Excel documents.

  6. Open Source Collaboration Provider Open-Xchange Launches OX Spreadsheet Tool: WHD.global 2014

03.27.14

ASA Should Issue a Fine and Immediately Stop Deception/FUD Campaign From Microsoft, Falsely Claiming That Google Reads Mail While Microsoft (Implicitly) Does Not

Posted in Deception, Europe, FUD, Google, Microsoft at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Misinformed by Microsoft in attack ads

Couch potato

Summary: New leaks, and not just leaks from Edward Snowden, show that Microsoft is abusing people’s privacy in E-mail, so the ASA should put an end to Microsoft’s anti-Google ads

IN THE UK we have the ASA, which helps crack down on excessively deceiving advertising (almost all commercials are deceiving by design, but some are very blatantly lying). In the past we wrote about the ASA in relation to Microsoft. Microsoft is lying in a very gross way.

There is one particular type of adverts in the UK these days which can annoy me quite a lot. They are not Microsoft ads, they are anti-Google ads, sponsored by Microsoft (as Microsoft is promoting Penn, this is now their strategy). I heard those ads and complained about them before, citing the ASA as the body that needs to receive formal complaints about this. Well, what I didn’t know is that several Brits had already reported these to the ASA, noting that FUD campaigns as the business model are not acceptable, especially when the smears/FUD are untrue, or even libelous. According to a new report from the British media: “”At issue was a radio advertisement that limped onto the air as part of Microsoft’s hoary Scroogled campaign. In a voice-over, Microsoft used Pig Latin to disguise its criticism of its rival and then dwelled on that to make Outlook look like the better option.

“”A radio ad, for Microsoft Outlook, began with a character who stated, ‘may ivatepray e-mailway isway onway ofway eirthay usinessbay’,” explained the ASA.

“”The voice-over then stated ‘Pig Latin may be hard to understand, but you probably need it if you use Gmail, because Gmail scans every word of your emails to sell ads. But Outlook.com doesn’t. And you can choose to opt out of personalised ads. To stop Gmail from using your e-mails, use Outlook.com. Learn more at KeepYourEmailPrivate.com and keep your e-mails ivatepray’.”

“Catchy, snappy stuff, but it did not sit nicely with a couple of people who complained to the ASA about the ad taking liberties with the truth. It was suggested that while Microsoft did not make this clear, it scans its users’ emails too.”

Now, guess what? The ASA did nothing! Microsoft was allowed to get away with it because “the ad made no claims (whether explicit or implied) that Outlook.com did not use any other form of e-mail scanning.” (source)

This is “bizarre in light of recent revelations about Microsoft mail and chat,” said iophk, alluding to revelations that we covered earlier this month.

Perhaps it’s time to resubmit (or amend) the complaints to the ASA, citing documents leaked after Syrian crackers showed FBI-Microsoft relationships, in addition (consequently) to Microsoft’s admission that it is snooping on people and their E-mails for business reasons, not even national security reasons. This can at least lead Microsoft to dropping these false (or at best hypocritical) ads that pollute the British media and aggravate many Brits (rightly so).

03.26.14

Amended Comment Regarding ODF as Document Standard in the UK

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument at 11:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

British flag

Summary: The long battle against comment censorship and the outcome of watering down of text regarding Microsoft’s OOXML abuses

TODAY is the annual celebration of ODF, as we noted earlier this week. This means that we need to remind ourselves of the importance of ODF, or contrariwise for OOXML and other binary formats, the travesty which is corruption-backed and monopoly-enabling lock-in.

Here in the UK there is some policy to be proud of. Despite a history of Microsoft lock-in, there are many moves right now which indicate that the government is changing its colours. In my daytime job I have about 5 British government clients, so I can see that they are genuinely transitioning/migrating to Free software (without announcing it), little by little, piece by piece. Liam Maxwell was quoted yesterday in the press as suggesting that the British government’s open source code is one of UK’s best exports [1]. This may as well be true. Coming out of the projects with British government clients there’s some source code and expertise. One day in the future, when the fury of proprietary software giants becomes a lesser powerful force (just see what happened in Munich), the British public will probably hear more about this.

Out of sincere concern, a month or so ago I wrote to Cabinet Office and exchanged numerous E-mails with Cabinet Office staff. The staff was polite and conversational, but it was reluctant to facilitate free speech to its fullest. Here is the story in full.

In posts that we published in some recent weeks we called for people to submit comments on a consultation which suggested ODF as the document standard in the UK. After publishing a comment we were rather appalled to see continuous attempts to censor and then, after some pressure from us, to water down the comment and finally not to even publish the watered-down comment (until further insistence from us). This should be noted because the Cabinet Office is funded by taxpayers like myself; it oughtn’t act as a gatekeeper against frank assessment from those who are funding it. People like Andy Updegrove [2] and Susan Linton [3] at OStatic [4] (who wrote about this) are US citizens, so they are not funding the Cabinet Office and it would be almost acceptable for the Cabinet Office, which is designed to serves UK interests, to discard comments from them (no offence intended to US citizens). The same goes for Microsoft’s comments and arguably for the FSFE, which is mostly Germany-based but submitted comments [5], adding to hundreds more [6]. There is some belated coverage of this from the British news sites like Computer Weekly [7,8] and PC Pro [9], which paraphrases LibreOffice as saying “ignore Microsoft’s “nonsense” on government’s open source plans” (Microsoft cares only about Microsoft, not British citizens).

I would like to outline my conversations (behind the scenes) with Cabinet Office staff, at the very least because it can serve as a warning to anyone who thinks that Cabinet Office is open to feedback from all British citizens, even those who know what they are talking about, are polite, and if I dare say professional (my connections to the Cabinet Office are indirectly professional and contractual).

Putting it a little more chronologically but also contextually, the Cabinet Office staff told me after my comment had been rejected:

Hi Roy

We’ve extended the comment period to 5pm Friday due to the server issues we encountered last night.

One of our moderator’s is currently reviewing the email draft you sent in last night – we’ll get back to you on that before you resubmit through the Hub just in case there is anything else that doesn’t meet the moderation policy.

Thank you so much for your patience and persistence.

I resubmitted earlier that day when it was made possible again. This was after some failed attempts to do so. It probably took me 5 times more time revising my comment than it took me to originally write and ghost-read it.

Submitting a comment should not be as hard and time-consuming as submitting an academic article to a top journal, but when barriers are put up it discourages participation and waters down a message. This is the kind of thing that led me to quitting Datamation, where I had done some journalism around the time of OOXML scandals. Entire sentences would be omitted by the editors and inflammatory/provocative headlines replace my own, removing my ability to give an accurate assessment of the situation, knowing that Microsoft was an advertiser but not letting this induce self-censorship. This is how the gatekeepers of business-friendly people (supposed gentleman’s style) typically work, marginalising voices of honesty and reason.

It’s worth repeating: I spent about five times more time revising the text to appease the moderators than I did actually writing my original text. I was close to just giving up at numerous points during the process, but knowing that this ordeal in itself would be useful to report on kept me going. A submission to the Standards Hub is not easy, unless one posts ‘softball’ points that challenge little or nothing, bringing nothing new to the table.

Here again is what I was told:

Thanks, Roy

Please could you also ensure that anything that might be considered defamatory that is an allegation rather than a proven (legal) point is clearly described as such.

But there was nothing defamatory. To say “defamatory” is to simply claim that any strong claim is not worthy of consideration, irrespective of evidence that supports it.

Here is my response:

Without a specific pointer this is too broad for me to address. Allegations, e.g. in a court case, are points which are yet to be affirmed by lengthy judgment, based on presented evidence. I have a lot of evidence but no judge to assert that it establishes guilt and punishment. The OOXML-related misconduct already took the BSI to court in the UK — a case which was no longer pursued because of the associated costs. The plaintiff was deterred by financial costs incurred by each motion. I am not trying to be cynical about the justice system, just to say that requirements such as “proven (legal) point” would basically disqualify almost every comment left in the consultation so far.

What I am also trying to point out is, sometimes we need to accept statements even without an expensive trial process. Without this leeway we can reject almost every view which we do not like or do not wish to take responsibility for.

I will gladly modify any item you specify, but the above paragraph is vague enough to apply to nearly 100 points that I made. Feel free to water down my comment as you see fit; I am not trying to cause trouble, just to share my findings based on thousands of hours of research/readings (mostly in 2006-2009).

And more from Cabinet Office:

As mentioned, we are trying to keep the focus on the standards and the proposal rather than on wider issues. However, we are also keen that you can express your views on anything that you consider is relevant to our consideration of the standards proposed.

I replied as follows:

My response was focused on a fallacy which was perpetuated and even manufactured by one single entity — the notion that ODF is somehow “anti-corporate” (although it is backed by many corporations) and that OOXML was on equal footing while many who were involved in standardation efforts know this to be charade of misconduct. The ISO came under enormous pressure at the time. I wanted to tackle attempts at revisionism, capitalising on people’s short memory span and loss of journalism from around that time (so-called ‘Internet rot’).

Lobbying along these lines is common and it exploits people’s trust in brands. Several years ago Wikileaks released diplomatic cables which showed that Microsoft had used state representatives to lobby governments and other officials around the world to drop ODF, based on complete fabrications. I want to ensure those who are involved in the process in the UK do not get bamboozled, or at least have access to information of relevance, refuting false claims.

I asked a friend for an opinion regarding my original text and he said:

This part hits one something really important.

The European Commission said it would investigate this, but the huge extent of Microsoft’s abuses are,*according to the Commission itself*, why it no longer pursued this, even after it said it would (too many resources would be required because of the international scale)

MS basically overwhelms with its ability to be corrupt and act illegally and unethically. The result is that most people and governments throw up their hands and give in. That’s the opposite reaction as what is needed.

Also this:

It’s not a British company and it is not an ethical company

both points need to be accepted by the government. The interests of the government should take into account only the benefits of its citizens and agencies, not hostile, foreign companies. It’s not British. (Then again, neither am I.)

Microsoft tried using other British companies as proxies, trying to make it seem as though Microsoft’s interests were Britain’s interests (maybe for a fraction who are Microsoft partners).

Well, a day later, seeing that they had not published my comment, I assumed it could have been lost by mistake, so I posted it again.

Still nothing. Stonewalled.

I then mentioned it in social networks including Twitter. I chastised Cabinet Office in public, whereupon I got a private E-mail from Cabinet Office. If I hadn’t criticised Cabinet Office’s deleltionism (and had thousands of followers in Twitter) I probably wouldn’t have heard anything from them. That’s a crucial point. Silent censorship is probably the worst type of censorship. Nobody even knows about it.

Towards the end of the correspondence with Cabinet Office there was more watering down of words, e.g.;

Hi Roy

Thank you for spending time on this. Much appreciated.

Just one remaining concern:

“Bribed officials (e.g. costs covered to stuff panels) are just the tip of the iceberg.”

As bribery is a legal term, please could you consider expressing this differently?

“Sure,” I said. “I will amend the wording and resubmit.” And so I did. I was also given this assurance:

Hi Roy

I’ve copied your text below and highlighted the statements in response to your request.

The Standards Hub is able to feature links to external sources in comments. You should not encounter any issues with a spam filter.

Regards, Linda

I spent a long time revising the text based on comments and then replied as follows:

Thank you for taking the time highlighting the bits of text which you thought would benefit from links. Many of the links I had gathered 7 years ago are no longer accessible (sites offline or change of CMS), but I spent the past hour trying to find alternative URLs, Web Archive URLs, and various reports that are still online.

I posted the amended comment.

“Many thanks for your contribution. It will appear on the site very shortly, just as soon as we have confirmed that it meets the Terms and Conditions.

Thanks for your consideration.

Best regards,

Roy

The references ought to have been enough to support my claims, addressing concerns that that they may be “defamatory or libellous.” To quote the first message that I received:

Dear Dr Schestowitz

Thank you for providing input to the Standards Hub on the document format proposal.

We are keen to publish as many views as possible so that we can make sure that the debate is transparent.

Our moderation policy includes the following statements about what users of the site should not do:

* Make any personal or professional references which might reasonably be considered inappropriate, defamatory or misleading * Break the law (this includes libel, condoning illegal activity and contempt of court)

Regarding your submission, there are a few statements that may be considered to be defamatory or libellous.

We value all contributions and would therefore be grateful if you could either:

1) Amend and resubmit your response to remove statements that could be considered to be defamatory or libellous; or

2) Edit your response to include links to support the information presented such as court cases or Commission statements which offer evidence of these events having occurred.

I appreciate this may be frustrating but we need to keep the focus on the standards being considered.

*Please remember the submissions will close by end of day today – Wednesday 26 February.*

My response was as follows:

Thank you for responding. Can you please highlight the part which you deem in need of references and those which you prefer omitted? I usually omit links from such submissions simply because excessive use of links tends to be treated — automatically — as spam. I can link to the original sources where you deem it necessary or omit sentences altogether.

I appreciate you try to cover yourselves in case a complaint is made, but if we do not allow strong statements to be made, then we are limiting free speech in such a way that can be exploited by wrongdoers (UK libel law has probably spiked many important articles we’ll never know about).

I have accepted about 50,000 comments over the years and never deleted a single one (except spam), even when I was faced with libelous and racist personal attacks. Free speech means free speech; libel is another thing. There are laws to deal with libel. There are also laws to deal with identity theft, copyright infringement, etc.

I asked an old friend for his assessment of this situation and he said the following:

Interesting – I recall they have done this before, so they’re obviously v cautious here. Also, MS might seize on it as “proof” of the process’s lack of legitimacy etc etc, so perhaps moderating it would ultimately be more effective…

My response at the time was:

I can see the point, but it goes something along the lines of “Microsoft can portray ODF proponent as “radicals” (against crime)” and sometimes it’s more important to show the crime than to hide it for the sake of “professionalism”.

I’d rather amend my comment (if they send me guidance to that effect) than let it be marginalised altogether.

If they don’t help amend it to their “standards” (they have not mailed me back yet), then I will politely point this out. Censorship is one of those things that have “repeat offenders” and unless you speak about censorship it’ll never be noticed. You’d be shocked to see the kind of comments of mine that ZDNet deleted. People contacted me later to say that they too had been censored (by CBS/ZDNet).

Eventually, after several iterations, I amended all the text as Cabinet Office suggested. I could not access the site at that moment in order to submit the comment before midnight. The site was not responding; It was totally down. Thankfully, the deadline got extended.

Here is my near-final text (which would be moderated/watered down further):

The only opposition to ODF comes from one single entity: Microsoft. It’s not a British company and it is not an ethical company, to say the very least.

Microsoft would like us to believe that “Open” XML (an Orwellian name) is a “standard” without telling how it became a “standard”, starting with ECMA, where key officials publicly gloated about the bad process (e.g. watch this video starting 4:10; that is Jan van den Beld, former Secretary General of ECMA, saying that the mentality is: “You are well paid, shut up”), and the ISO, from which key/top members resigned following what Microsoft had done (while specifically citing what Microsoft had done). To give one notable example, the very Convenor (top position) of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1 wrote about the vote-rigging: “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.”

Systematic corruption cannot be ignored and the debate cannot be framed as one where we look at stamps of approval alone.

As a researcher, a former journalist, and a webmaster of sites which receive hundreds of millions of hits annually, I already wrote almost 1,000 articles on the topic of OOXML, sacrificing a lot of my time because this classic case of a bad process was too serious to be ignored. The European Commission said it would investigate this (one of several different investigations in Europe).

Microsoft allegedly went as far as pushing senior people out of their jobs if they dared to oppose OOXML (one notable example is Peter Quinn because it was widely covered at the time). There are documented examples as such. Sadly, as much of this happened 7 years ago, many of the links are now broken/articles gone and the Web Archive (let alone search engines) does not always retain a copy.

This is not atypical for Microsoft; Microsoft had done similar things (and got caught) a decade earlier when it faced antitrust charges (c/f US DOJ vs Microsoft). Alleged ballot stuffing, alleged insiders in committees, alleged financial favours etc. are Microsoft’s way of doing business and here too we should expect to see it.

I wrote extensively about technical issues in OOXML, as well as legal issues such as patents. Some of the letters to you may have already covered at least a small subset of those. There were protests in numerous places including Poland and Norway, where members of the standardisation process marched the streets in protest. That’s how bad it was.

There was a BRM in Switzerland — a jaw-dropping case of a ludicrous process. This was part of how Microsoft got its “standard”, ignoring thousands of listed and properly enumerated issues. It would be impossible to list these exhaustively in a letter because there were literally thousands of pages detailing technical issues. These were discarded, ignored, and the attendees appalled by what they clearly considered to be a deeply rigged process.

Microsoft was flying journalists to Seattle (at Microsoft’s expense) in order to manufacture favourable articles (“Brett Winterford [the author] travelled to Redmond as a guest of Microsoft”). Microsoft offered delivered presentations and studies from so-called ‘independent’ experts who would soon thereafter be hired to work full time at Microsoft. There were attempts to equate ODF with one single company (notably IBM) and attempts to equate ODF with a particular piece of software when ODF was in fact backed by hundreds of entities, both from the private and public sector. Many programs support ODF, and they support is very well. OOXML is just a rebranding of closed Microsoft formats (legacy), propped up by companies which Microsoft paid specifically for the purpose of backing OOXML (there are publicly accessible documents that clearly support these allegations). OOXML is about protecting the common carrier, Windows, creating lock-in for a cash cow. British taxpayers cannot bear these costs anymore.

I would like to quote a leaked Microsoft document which was presented in a case against Microsoft in the United States. The internal document stated: “A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select die panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can’t expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only “independent ISVs” on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed -just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the “real world.” Sounds marvellously independent doesn’t it? In feet, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the “independent” panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands.”

This basically sums up what Microsoft is allegedly trying to do in order to derail British standard policies at this moment. This was done before in many places and at different times. As one who works for British government clients I am very familiar with some of the ways in which Microsoft tries to interfere with standards and with competition, claiming to pursue “choice”. Do not be misled by claims of victimhood and appeals to fairness which are actually just self interest, designed to increase licensing costs and dependence of software from the United States.

Microsoft’s OOXML is so “open” that when I leaked it on my Web site (should be fine for “open” document) I received legal threats. The purpose of the leak was to highlight many technical flaws which Microsoft hid using restrictive access and prohibitive costs, leaving information to only a few insiders in the know, much like TPP and other secret “free trade” negotiations.

Be strong in the face of bullying and pressure. Microsoft would not permit open standards to be accepted. That would give people a choice of platform, a choice of an office suite, and the choice of long-term preservation of their data.

Further modification to change words (notice how it’s made more gentle):

The only opposition to ODF comes from one single entity: Microsoft. It’s not a British company and it is not an ethical company, to say the very least.

Microsoft would like us to believe that “Open” XML (an Orwellian name) is a “standard” without telling how it became a “standard”, starting with ECMA, where key officials publicly gloated about the dodgy process (e.g. watch this video starting 4:10; that is Jan van den Beld, former Secretary General of ECMA, saying that the mentality is: “You are well paid, shut up”), and the ISO, from which key/top members resigned following what Microsoft had done (while specifically citing what Microsoft had done). To give one notable example, the very Convenor (top position) of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1 wrote about the vote-rigging: “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.”

Systematic corruption cannot be ignored and the debate cannot be framed as one where we look at stamps of approval alone.

As a researcher, a former journalist, and a webmaster of sites which receive hundreds of millions of hits annually, I already wrote almost 1,000 articles on the topic of OOXML, sacrificing a lot of my time because this classic case of bad process was too serious to be ignored. The European Commission said it would investigate this (one of several different investigations in Europe), but the huge extent of Microsoft’s abuses are, according to the Commission itself (as reported at the time by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure’s (FFII)), why it no longer pursued this, even after it said it would (too many resources would be required because of the international scale).

Financially incentivised officials (e.g. costs covered to stuff panels) are just the tip of the iceberg. Spamming officials with letters (not just through partners but also lobbyists, “sockpuppets” who are operated by peripheral staff etc.) is just one of many tactics as well. Microsoft went as far as pushing senior people out of their jobs if they dared to oppose OOXML (one notable example is Peter Quinn because it was widely covered at the time). There are documented examples as such, such as Lassi Nirhamo in Finland. Sadly, as much of this happened 7 years ago, many of the links are now broken/articles gone and the Web Archive (let alone search engines) does not always retain a copy.

This is not atypical for Microsoft; Microsoft had done similar things (and got caught) a decade earlier when it faced antitrust charges. Ballot stuffing, insiders in committees, financial favours etc. are Microsoft’s way of doing business and here too we should expect to see it.

I wrote extensively about technical issues in OOXML, as well as legal issues such as patents. Some of the letters to you may have already covered at least a small subset of those. There were protests in numerous places including Poland and Norway, where members of the standardisation process marched the streets in protest. That’s how bad it was.

There was a BRM in Switzerland — a jaw-dropping case of bad process. This was part of how Microsoft got its “standard”, ignoring thousands of listed and properly enumerated issues. It would be impossible to list these exhaustively in a letter because there were literally thousands of pages detailing technical issues. These were discarded, ignored, and the attendees appalled by what they clearly considered to be a deeply rigged process.

Microsoft was flying journalists to Seattle (at Microsoft’s expense) in order to manufacture favourable articles (“Brett Winterford [the author] travelled to Redmond as a guest of Microsoft”). It seems to be doing something similar in the British press right now (e.g. The Register, which had a search and advertising deal with Microsoft some years back, collectively calls ODF proponents “zealots”). Microsoft offered delivered presentations and studies from so-called ‘independent’ experts who would soon thereafter be hired to work full time at Microsoft. There were attempts to equate ODF with one single company (notably IBM) and attempts to equate ODF with a particular piece of software when ODF was in fact backed by hundreds of entities, both from the private and public sector. Many programs support ODF, and they support is very well. OOXML is just a rebranding of closed Microsoft formats (legacy), propped up by companies which Microsoft paid specifically for the purpose of backing OOXML (there are publicly accessible documents that clearly support these allegations). OOXML is about protecting the common carrier, Windows, creating lock-in for a cash cow. British taxpayers cannot bear these costs anymore.

I would like to quote a leaked Microsoft document which was presented in a case against Microsoft in the United States. The internal document stated: “A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select die panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can’t expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only “independent ISVs” on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed -just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the “real world.” Sounds marvellously independent doesn’t it? In feet, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the “independent” panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands.”

This basically sums up what Microsoft is trying to do in order to derail British standard policies at this moment. This was done before in many places and at different times. As one who works for British government clients I am very familiar with some of the ways in which Microsoft tries to interfere with standards and with competition, claiming to pursue “choice” when what it actually means is proprietary software, privacy infringement, lock-in etc. disguised as “choice”. Do not be misled by claims of victimhood and appeals to fairness which are actually just self interest, designed to increase licensing costs and dependence of software from the United States.

Microsoft’s OOXML is so “open” that when I leaked it on my Web site (should be fine for “open” document) I received legal threats. The purpose of the leak was to highlight many technical flaws which Microsoft hid using restrictive access and prohibitive costs, leaving information to only a few insiders in the know, much like TPP and other secret “free trade” negotiations.

Be strong in the face of bullying and pressure. Microsoft would not permit open standards to be accepted. That would give people a choice of platform, a choice of an office suite, and the choice of long-term preservation of their data.

The top of the page said “View published”, but I was unable to find my submission or to even submit it again when the site was back online. This was a frustrating experience. It felt like submitting an academic paper, not a comment.

Here is Cabinet Office explaining the issues of delay:

Since sending my previous email, I’ve had another moderator take a look at your latest comment. I’m afraid that we do have remaining concerns that mean that I’m not able to publish the current version.

We are keen to include views from everyone with an interest and expertise on the topic but we cannot edit submissions on behalf of respondents.

Unfortunately time is also against us. This is frustrating for us all, especially considering the time and effort you have put in.

I’ve pasted below highlighted text which shows where the remaining concerns are – it appears that many of these are allegations. If they could be described as such, this would help to address these concerns.

I appreciate it may become too late for you to amend and resubmit your response through the comment functionality on the Hub as this automatically closes around midnight. For information we are currently experiencing some difficulties accessing the site so would be unable to moderate a new version (you may also be unable to submit).

If it’s not possible to submit through the Comment functionality, please send your comments via Contact Us on the site or directly via email to me and we will still consider your comment in our review.

If you would like to discuss this, perhaps we could speak in the morning.

Thanks for your patience so far.

Another E-mail:

There are just a couple of highlighted areas that you may have missed.

The first (below) we think may be open to interpretation – describing this as what you consider to be a bad process may be a less inflammatory statement.

On the second, we think this may be suspected abuses, rather than proven.

Apologies for asking you to submit again, but grateful if you could consider these comments.

This was actually due to so many versions being abound, after several cycles of revision. I could soon see what had happened. The moderation process led to a confusion, which caused even more frustration. I had two versions of the text in view and I edited both by mistake, so some changes were made in the wrong version. I later submitted what I believed to be a new version incorporating all the changes (lots of work going into it).

The good news came days later:

Hi Roy

Many thanks, just passing it through the moderation and onto the site now. It may take up to 15 minutes to appear.

So this is how hard it has been to post a comment, one among hundreds of comments.

My very watered-down comment was published in this page (nearly the last comment). I had exchanged about a dozen emails with Cabinet Office staff in order to get this done. It’s good in a sense because my arguments penetrated their minds and they followed links. This exposed them to information they would otherwise not be aware of.

“Excellent,” said one of our readers. “I hope that they no longer feel that they have to give Microsoft any favors.” One month later (today), when things have mostly calmed down, I decided write about my ordeal trying to just leave a comment. It’s a long story. “I wonder how many other people they tried to pressure into changing their comments,” said a reader to us, alluding to silent censorship (as mentioned before). Mind the fact that they only tried to change it after I had protested in social media such as twitter, accusing them of censorship. They would not have bothered giving it a chance if I hadn’t worked hard for 5 hours, e.g. fetching old referefences from Web Archive (thankfully it still exists). Whether it was all worth it remains in doubt, even in my own mind (if I knew how much effort this would take I never would have bothered). I hope it stays a prominent comment in the page as it gives Microsoft’s behaviour more visibility. Either way, Cabinet Office staff (several people) read it numerous times and followed the links. In a sense, they had first tried to delete it, but persistence from me and bad publicity for them changed the course of events. I submitted my comment about half a dozen times and it never showed up until the very last attempts. I only received the E-mail offering feedback after I had shamed them over it in public — something that most people cannot do as they don’t have a large audience.

As a side note, our reader argues that “[i]t’s amazing how little coverage Google News gives ODF. None of the recent articles are listed.

“Interesting. Can you spot what’s excluded?”

At the time (end of February) there was very scarce coverage of ODF, irrespective of the Google News algorithm. What we need today is lots of blog posts about ODF and document freedom. This matter has been largely neglected by much of the FOSS community.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Liam Maxwell: Government open source code is one of UK’s best exports

    The open source code that the government runs is one of Britain’s “great” exports, according to government CTO Liam Maxwell.

    Maxwell told the Think Cloud for Government conference in London that the UK benefits from an exchange of knowledge by being open. Most of Gov.uk code is open source, allowing other countries to use it for their own government digital services.

  2. My Comments as Posted to the UK Cabinet Office Standards Hub (now it’s your turn)

    Last week I highlighted the fact that Microsoft was urging its business partners to comment at the British Cabinet Office’s Standards Hub on a standards-related proposal. That proposal would limit government procurement to office software that complied with the ISO ODF standard, but makes no mention of the ISO OOXML standard promoted by Microsoft. I also noted that anyone could comment on the proposal, and that the deadline for comments would close on February 26, Greenwich time. I closed by urging readers to let their opinions on the subject be heard.

  3. Ignore Microsoft, Dice on Linux, and Ubuntu Menus
  4. England’s Open Standards Plans May Not Sit Well with Microsoft

    The U.K. government is considering a broad move to Open Document Format (ODF), and possibly Libre Office instead of Microsoft Office. That’s not sitting so well with Microsoft, though.

  5. The UK attempts to break free from vendor lock-in

    The UK government is making progress towards less vendor lock-in. In January, they published a few principles for future government IT contracts. They want to break the dominance of the big software companies who provided the vast majority of software and services to the UK government.

    Now they are asking for comments on the standards they should use for “sharing or collaborating with government documents”. Among other things, the government proposes to make ODF the sole standard for office-type documents. The FSFE has submitted comments on a proposal by the UK government to use only document formats based on Open Standards in the future. Microsoft also submitted a lengthy comment, urging the government to include OOXML in its list of standards, to which we responded as well.

  6. UK Gov garners 400 comments on ODF proposal, extends deadline

    On 28 January, the UK government asked for public comments on its proposal for standards involved in sharing and working with government documents. Introducing the proposal to use ODF and HTML: “Citizens, businesses and delivery partners, such as charities and voluntary groups, need to be able to interact with government officials, sharing and editing documents. Officials within government departments also need to work efficiently, sharing and collaborating with documents. Users must not have costs imposed upon them due to the format in which editable government information is shared or requested.”

  7. Searching for the signal of open standards amid the growing noise of agile

    It’s now almost six years since I wrote a paper entitled Open Source and Open Standards: Reforming IT Procurement in Government for George Osborne, suggesting that, if elected, the Tories should place the rigorous pursuit of open standards at the heart of their approach to IT.

  8. Now comes the acid test for the government’s open standards policy

    The UK government’s consultation on the use of open document formats has closed, and we now wait for the acid test of the Cabinet Office commitment to open standards.

  9. LibreOffice: ignore Microsoft’s “nonsense” on government’s open source plans

    The makers of LibreOffice have slammed attempts by Microsoft to derail the government’s move to open source, accusing the company of protecting its own interests rather than users.

03.20.14

The NHS Stockholm Syndrome: Microsoft Receives More Public Money for Abandoning Windows XP Users

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Windows at 12:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Whitehall (UK) is giving taxpayers’ money to Microsoft, for software that is not even supported anymore; elsewhere in the world migrations to Free software (in the public sector) are happening

The British NHS is reportedly paying Microsoft for Windows XP rather than abandon it and move to GNU/Linux. This makes absolutely no sense.

“The Department of Health and Microsoft are thrashing out a one-year support deal for tens of thousands of NHS PCs running Windows XP,” says the British press. Likewise, based on some reports, banks which still use Windows XP pay Microsoft some more. As a refresher: “On April 8th 2014, Microsoft will no longer be providing those updates, leaving your and my ATM at the bank far more vulnerable than it was in the past. The software was originally installed in 2001.”

There is absolutely no excuse for this. In my daytime job we are moving people away from Windows and XP and into GNU/Linux. It is not too hard, it just takes adaptation and tolerance of change.

According to this new report [1], Vietnam has already begun a migration to Free software, but as we showed before, reasons for slowdown are more to do with malicious Microsoft intervention, not practical/technical barriers. There are similar stories from the United States this week [2,3], even from India [4] and Egypt [5]. Here in Europe it was reported this morning that “European Parliament covets restart Linux pilot” [6] and it is not an isolated report of Free software adoption in Europe [7,8]. Even here in the UK there are reports which suggest a move to Free software is inevitable [9,10,11], in collaboration with political allies. Next week we are going to give an update on Britain’s new ODF- and Free software-friendly policy, which is being ignored by Whitehall on the face of it (based on today’s news report).

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Vietnam fails to develop open source software for state agencies

    According to Vu Duy Loi, Director of the Communist Party Central Committee Office’s Informatics Center, in 2004-2005, the office joined forces with Netnam and CMC to utilize open source software for the computer network within the Party’s agencies.

    To date, this remains the largest system utilizing open source software in Vietnam.

    In 2006, the open source software on document management was developed and experimented successfully.

    However, the product has never been put into use because of many reasons, including the lack of the technical maintenance staff.

    “Five or ten years ago, utilizing open source software at state agencies was an impossible mission because there were not enough favorable conditions,” Loi said when explaining the failure of the project on cooperating with IT firms to develop open source software.

  2. US politics going open source on GitHub

    That’s only what you’d expect. The 28-year-old Cole spent years as a software developer before announcing this spring that he was running for Congress from his home district in New Jersey. When we spoke to him last week about his campaign, he downplayed his experience in the coding world, but today, that experience came shining through when Cole released his political platform on the popular software development site GitHub.

  3. Your U.S. government uses open source software, and loves it

    Writing the words “government” and “open source“ in the same sentence feels inherently wrong, almost as if lying. Recent talk of the NSA, Edward Snowden, and PRISM doesn’t make the government seem any more “open”. The government carries the stigma as being on of the least “open” things in the world. If you’re a fan of House of Cards on Netflix, you understand just how “not open” the government is perceived to be. Yet contrary to popular belief, the government is using open source as a tool to improve agencies on the back-end and save tax dollars.

  4. TN state departments asked to switch over to open source software

    With the Microsoft Corporation deciding to stop technical assistance for Windows XP operating system next month, the Tamil Nadu government has advised all its departments to install free open source software BOSS Linux.

    “Consider installing BOSS [Bharat Operating System Solutions] Linux as one of the mandatory operating system,” said an order issued by Information Technology Department. Listing various aspects in support of the software developed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), the order said BOSS Linux, by virtue of being open source software, can be modified to specific needs.

  5. Ministry of Communication adopts open source software strategy

    Developing the Open Source Software industry in Egypt will help in achieving an independent technology, providing space for new businesses and benefiting both public and private ICT consumers, Helmy said.

  6. European Parliament covets restart Linux pilot

    The European Parliament wants its IT department to rehabilitate its Linux desktop pilot. On Tuesday, the EP’s committee on budgetary control accepted a request by MEPs Bart Staes and Amelia Andersdotter to dust off the Linux desktop, which had been shelved in 2012. In their amendment, the MEPs write they regret that the Linux distribution was never promoted among those in the parliament “who would have had an interest in such a project”.

  7. Open source introduces Polish schools to ICT

    Schools across Poland are being approached to use open source to introduce students to ICT and software development, and to build on the success of a three-year pilot involving over 300 school children and 60 teachers. The Polish free software advocacy group FWIOO (Fundacja Wolnego i Otwartego Oprogramowania) is contacting new schools, to interest them in the “Ubuntu School Remix”, a tailored version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution and other tangible results of the pilot, such as teaching scenario’s and practical teaching aids.

  8. South Tyrol to increase use of free software

    The government of the South Tyrol province in Italy will increasingly turn to ICT solutions based on free and open source, Governer Arno Kompatscher announced on Tuesday. The province will use this type of software “where possible”, and expects the move to save about a million euro per year.

  9. Israel and UK deepen digital, open source relationship

    Israel and the UK recently furthered their digital relationship, with officials from the two countries last week signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on digital government.

  10. UK and Israel partner on digital government development

    The UK and Israel have signed an agreement that will see the two countries work together on development of digital services within government.

    The memorandum of understanding was signed by UK government chief technology officer, Liam Maxwell, and Harel Locker, director-general of the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, and underlines a commitment to exchange ideas on the use of open standards and open source technologies.

  11. UK, Israel sign agreement on open standards, open source

    UK and Israel have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will see greater collaboration to improve digital public services in the two countries.

03.12.14

Copyright News: EU Copyright Consultation Not Serious, Google ‘Gets’ It on Copyrights

Posted in Europe, Intellectual Monopoly at 3:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

CDR

Summary: Realisation that data can and will be copied, and the building of copyright law to accommodate this new reality

THE EU copyright consultation [1] seems to have become somewhat of a charade [2] or an act of publicity and not much more [3] as “it appears that this is exactly the approach that the Commission is intent to pursue: promoting the interests of one particular tree (content producers) even if this comes at the cost of killing or damaging the rest of the forest.” Reaching out to the public helps promote the perception of serving the public while doing exactly the opposite at the end. Real copyright reformists in Europe are meanwhile being treated worse than murderers and rapists [4]. While some entities, including Getty Images [5], try to reform in preparation for a new age of abundance, others continue to fight the reality of the Net [6,7,8,9,10], seeking to just criminalise everything rather than legalise and adequately embrace. One European activism site says that “EU Commission Must Rapidly Publish Responses to Consultation” [11], paving the way to a much-needed copyright reform [12] in the age of copyright trolling [13] and censorship using copyright law (more on that in the next post). “There is significant, credible evidence emerging that online piracy is primarily an availability and pricing problem,” Google states. [14] Well done for saying it.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Last Chance to Submit to EU Copyright Consultation
  2. Does The European Commission Really Think The Internet Is A ‘Value Tree’ That Requires A ‘Transmission Belt Of Euros’?

    Optimists might see the extra time as a sign that the Commission is genuinely interested in gathering as wide a range of public views on this subject as possible. But a post from Paul Keller raises the possibility that this is just window-dressing, and that it has already made up its mind about what it will do on copyright regardless of what the public thinks

  3. No the Internet is not a ‘value tree’

    In recent weeks officials at the European Commission’s Internal Market and Services Directorate General (which is in charge of copyright policy) have been passing around this diagram of what they call the ‘Internet Ecosystem value tree’…

    [...]

    We need a departure from the one-size-fits-all approach of traditional copyright towards a system that is more flexible and better adapted to the needs of all stakeholders. This includes professional content creators and distributors who need adequate levels of protection for their works, educators and cultural heritage institutions who need more freedoms to do their work in the digital realm, and also end users and researchers who should not have to fear that making use of the Internet will turn them into copyright infringers.

    A first step towards ensuring that copyright positively enables all of these outcomes would be to increase the scope of user rights (through updating the existing list of copyright exceptions) and to make copyright more flexible (through the introduction of a fair-use type exception). In the long run this will mean simplifying the way copyright works, and ensuring that copyright protection is only granted where it is necessary (or wanted by the creators).

    Looking after the interests of all trees in the Internet Ecosystem is also in the interest of the particular value tree that the Commission seems to care so much about. If the copyright rules continue to hinder those online activities that are not primarily motivated by a transmissions belt of €s, copyright will lose legitimacy and be detrimental primarily to those who rely on the protections offered by copyright law.

  4. Pirate Bay Founder’s Detention Extended Based on “New Evidence”

    Pirate Bay founder Gottfrid Svartholm’s custody has been extended for four more weeks after the court reviewed new evidence. The prosecution presented an encrypted container found on Svartholm’s computer which links him to the CSC hack, but according to his lawyer this doesn’t rule out that someone else carried out the hacks remotely.

  5. Getty Images opens treasure trove to bloggers, tweeters

    Looking for free, high-quality images for your blog or other noncommercial uses? Getty Images has begun using social media and personal sites as a way of drawing attention to its licensable images.

  6. NBC Crows About Thwarting 45,000 ‘Illegal’ Olympic Videos, Ignores The Fact That It Drove Users To Them
  7. Police Raid “Movie Cammer” and Family Twice – Then Drop All Charges
  8. VPN Users ‘Pirating’ Netflix Scare TV Networks

    TV networks in Australia are expressing fresh concern that local viewers are ‘pirating’ Netflix with help from VPN services. Officially unavailable Down Under, Netflix reportedly has up to 200,000 Aussie subscribers who evade geo-blocking mechanisms to happily pay for the service.

    [...]

    Naturally there are no official figures on how many people watch Netflix this way but estimates range from 20,000 up to 200,000 subscribers. Highlighting how the TV networks view these people, an article this morning in News Corp-owned The Australian went as far as labeling subscribers as “pirates”, even though they are paying for the service.

  9. ‘Domains by Proxy’ Hands Over Personal Details of “Pirate” Site Owner

    To shield their identities from the public, many site owners use domain privacy services. Domains by Proxy is one of the most used services in this niche, but the operator of a linking site found out that it’s far from secure. Responding to an inquiry from the Motion Picture Association, the company shared his personal details.

  10. International Music Organizations Claim Aereo Must Be Illegal Because Of International Trade Agreements

    For many years, we’ve highlighted how copyright maximalists have abused the international trade process to expand copyright monopolies around the globe. If you’re interested in the history there, I highly recommend the book Information Feudalism: Who Owns the Knowledge Economy?, which details much of the history. Defenders of this policy love to pretend that international trade agreements can’t bind US law, but reality is quite different. Time and time again, we’ve seen maximalists use international agreements to get their way either in ratcheting up copyright law even further, or pressuring courts into certain positions. This is one of the reasons (one of many) that we’re so concerned about new agreements like the TPP and TTIP/TAFTA. Even if the USTR claims (incorrectly) that nothing in them goes beyond US law today, they can not only limit the changes Congress can make to copyright and patent law, but these issues can show up in court cases, potentially hindering innovation.

  11. Copyright Reform: EU Commission Must Rapidly Publish Responses to Consultation

    Paris, 7 March 2014 — The European Commission’s Public Consultation on the review of EU copyright rules closed on 5 March 2014 (LQDN’s answer). It is now essential for the Commission to publish as soon as possible all responses to ensure a transparent policy-making process.

  12. Outdated copyright laws must adapt to the new digital age

    The ways that we create and consume culture has fundamentally changed with the digital revolution and the rise of the internet, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the producers of content on one side and consumers on the other – says Maël Brunet

  13. News Editor Copyright Trolls Pirating Political Party – and Gets Paid

    To draw attention to “broken” copyright law, the editor of a popular news site turned the tables on a leading German political party. Finding the government’s Social Democratic Party using a Creative Commons work without permission, he sent them a troll-style settlement demand – and got paid.

  14. Google: Piracy is An Availability and Pricing Problem

    In a recommendation to the Australian Government, Google warns that draconian anti-piracy measures could prove counterproductive. Instead, the Government should promote new business models. “There is significant, credible evidence emerging that online piracy is primarily an availability and pricing problem,” Google states.

News Roundup: Public Services in Europe Rush to Free Software

Posted in Europe at 3:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Recent reports from around Europe, providing evidence of Free software adoption by governments

Europe

  • European Parliament websites are run by Jahia, an open source content management system

    More and more, governments are adopting open source software for for their web and office needs. We recently learned that the EU Parliament (EP) has actually employed the use of the Jahia open source enterprise management system for both its intranet and internet websites. So confident is the EP in Jahia’s abilities that their most popular sites are run by it; a testament to the huge recognition that open source software is receiving from not only enthusiasts, but also from organisations as huge as the EP.

  • Open source at half EU Point of Single Contact

    Of the 31 Points of Single Contacts (PSCs) run by the member states of the European Union, at least 17 use open source solutions such as web server Apache and operating system Linux, a quick site check of the web sites shows.

  • Sweden’s Point of Single Contact runs open source

    Verksamt, the Swedish government’s information hub for new businesses (Point of Single Contact, PSC) is based on open source solutions, shows a report by the open source ICT solutions provider Red Hat. Europe’s PSCs are intended to provide businesses with centralised online administrative services. Verksamt is one of the government agencies using Red Hat Linux, Java application server Jboss and web server Apache, Red Hat writes in its study, published on 14 February.

  • Open source runs web sites European Parliament

    The European Parliament is relying on the open source enterprise content management system Jahia for the majority of websites on its Intranet and some on the Internet. The CMS is used for the EP’s most-used websites, including those for the EP Intranet, EP Committees and the EP internal news.

  • Half of EU has legislation on ICT re-use

    The study indicates that public administration’s open source projects are shifting towards shared services. This is the model chosen by the municipal co-operation project Friprogforeningen in Norway, offering several open source-based solutions for course management, helpdesk and bug-tracking. “Most of Friprogforeningen users now prefer the online version, distributed by cloud services”, reports Clémentine Valayer, management consultant and author of the study.

  • MEP: ‘EC procurement practice blocks European firms’

    The European Commission’s ICT procurement practices are blocking “a very large number of European entrepreneurs”, says MEP Amalia Andersdotter. On Sunday, she published her correspondence with EC Secretary-General Catherine Day about the EC’s procurement practice for desktop operating systems and office productivity solutions. Andersdotter: “It is disappointing that the EU has such a bad strategy for digital services and IT systems.”

  • MEP: ‘EC procurement practice blocks European firms’
  • The Canaries continue to save with open source

    By switching to free and open source, the government of the Canary Islands in Spain continues to reduce its ICT costs. The government has already lowered the costs for server and workstation operating systems and other software solutions by 25.4 per cent, reports Roberto Moreno, director of the archipelago’s Department for Telecom and New Technologies, and further cost reductions are expected. “The costs went down from 1,006,500 euro per year down to 750,000 euro per year.”

  • Munich chooses open source groupware solution

    The German city of Munich will implement Kolab, an open source mail server, calendaring and groupware solution. The consortium of IT service providers that won the city’s public tender on Tuesday announced that Munich will implement Kolab across its 15,000 desktops, including about 1000 still using a proprietary operating system.

  • Munich opts for open source groupware from Kolab
  • Linux-friendly Munich: Ja, we’ll take open source collab cloud

    The Linux-friendly burghers of Munich are rolling out their own open-source groupware cloud, bucking the trend for going public.

    The German city has selected Kolab Desktop Client and Kolab web Client for more than 14,000 Linux PCs, surviving Windows PCs and a generation of mobile devices under a four-year project called MigMak, which has the option to be extended to eight years.

Elsewhere

  • IT Acquisition Reform Bill Passes House with Open Source Provisions

    The House has passed the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act not long after the botched launch of the HealthCare.gov website, and attempting to better control how some $80 billion is spent on IT procurement each year. Sponsored by the chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Darrell Issa, R-Ca., and committee member Gerry Connolly, D-Va., the bill establishes guidance on fully considering open source software as a procurement option without bias regarding how technology is developed, licensed and distributed. The bill, HR-1232, also requires federal computer standards to include guidelines necessary to enable effective adoption of open source software, and directs OMB to issue guidance for the use and collaborative development of open source software within the federal government. The bill further calls on OMB to develop a plan for conducting a government-wide inventory of IT assets and getting agencies to eliminate or consolidate any duplicate or overlapping websites, and permits CIOs to establish cloud service working capital funds.

  • Why Linux Works for Government

    I suppose the reality is this: You and I don’t need to be convinced of the viability of Open Source and Linux in government at this point. Nobody does. The track record is proven. The question now is… how fast can the remaining government organizations of the world, that have not yet made the move to Open Source, jump on the bandwagon and start reaping the benefits?

02.25.14

Response to ODF as Government Standard Proposal

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 10:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A call for people to leave a comment/digital letter to British officials who elected ODF as the only document standard for communication with the public

TOMORROW is the last chance to leave feedback on this British consultation (must be registered to leave one’s comment) which we covered in some recent days. Today, in the latest of three previous posts, we covered the disgusting flame and biased coverage from Microsoft apologists who try to incite. They try to make ODF proponent look like a bunch of radicals.

Here is my feedback:

The only opposition to ODF comes from one single entity: Microsoft. It’s not a British company and it is not an ethical company, to say the very least.

Microsoft would like us to believe that “Open” XML (an Orwellian name) is a “standard” without telling how it became a “standard”, starting with ECMA, where key officials publicly gloated about the corruptible process, and the ISO, from which key/top members resigned following what Microsoft had done (while specifically citing what Microsoft had done).

Systematic corruption cannot be ignored and the debate cannot be framed as one where we look at stamps of approval alone.

As a researcher, a former journalist, and a webmaster of sites which receive hundreds of millions of hits annually, I already wrote almost 1,000 articles on the topic of OOXML, sacrificing a lot of my time because this classic case of corruption was too serious to be ignored. The European Commission said it would investigate this, but the huge extent of Microsoft’s abuses are, according to the Commission itself, why it no longer pursued this, even after it said it would (too many resources would be required because of the international scale).

Bribed officials are just the tip of the iceberg. Spamming officials with letters (not just through partners but also lobbyists, “sockpuppets” who are operated by peripheral staff etc.) is just one of many tactics as well. Microsoft went as far as pushing senior people out of their jobs if they dared to oppose OOXML. There are documented examples as such.

This is not atypical for Microsoft; Microsoft had done similar things (and got caught) a decade earlier when it faced antitrust charges. Ballot stuffing, insiders in committees, bribes etc. are Microsoft’s way of doing business and here too we should expect to see it.

I wrote extensively about technical issues in OOXML, as well as legal issues such as patents. Some of the letters to you may have already covered at least a small subset of those. There were protests in numerous places including Poland and Norway, where members of the standardisation process marched the streets in protest. That’s how bad it was.

There was a BRM in Switzerland — a jaw-dropping case of corrupt process. This was part of how Microsoft got its “standard”, ignoring thousands of listed and properly enumerated issues. It would be impossible to list these exhaustively in a letter because there were literally thousands of pages detailing technical issues. These were discarded, ignored, and the attendees appalled by what they clearly considered to be a deeply rigged process.

Microsoft was flying journalists to Seattle (at Microsoft’s expense) in order to manufacture favourable articles. It seems to be doing something similar in the British press right now. Microsoft offered delivered presentations and studies from so-called ‘independent’ experts who would soon thereafter be hired to work full time at Microsoft. There were attempts to equate ODF with one single company (notably IBM) and attempts to equate ODF with a particular piece of software when ODF was in fact backed by hundreds of entities, both from the private and public sector. Many programs support ODF, and they support is very well. OOXML is just a rebranding of closed Microsoft formats (legacy), propped up by companies which Microsoft paid specifically for the purpose of backing OOXML (there are publicly accessible documents that clearly support these allegations). OOXML is about protecting the common carrier, Windows, creating lock-in for a cash cow. British taxpayers cannot bear these costs anymore.

I would like to quote a leaked Microsoft document which was presented in a case against Microsoft in the United States. The internal document stated: “A stacked panel, on the other hand, is like a stacked deck: it is packed with people who, on the face of things, should be neutral, but who are in fact strong supporters of our technology. The key to stacking a panel is being able to choose the moderator. Most conference organizers allow the moderator to select die panel, so if you can pick the moderator, you win. Since you can’t expect representatives of our competitors to speak on your behalf, you have to get the moderator to agree to having only “independent ISVs” on the panel. No one from Microsoft or any other formal backer of the competing technologies would be allowed -just ISVs who have to use this stuff in the “real world.” Sounds marvellously independent doesn’t it? In feet, it allows us to stack the panel with ISVs that back our cause. Thus, the “independent” panel ends up telling the audience that our technology beats the others hands down. Get the press to cover this panel, and you’ve got a major win on your hands.”

This basically sums up what Microsoft is trying to do in order to derail British standard policies at this moment. This was done before in many places and at different times. As one who works for British government clients I am very familiar with some of the ways in which Microsoft tries to interfere with standards and with competition, claiming to pursue “choice” when what it actually means is proprietary software, privacy infringement, lock-in etc. disguised as “choice”. Do not be misled by claims of victimhood and appeals to fairness which are actually just self interest, designed to increase licensing costs and dependence of software from the United States.

Microsoft’s OOXML is so “open” that when I leaked it on my Web site (should be fine for “open” document) I received legal threats. The purpose of the leak was to highlight many technical flaws which Microsoft hid using restrictive access and prohibitive costs, leaving information to only a few insiders in the know, much like TPP and other secret “free trade” negotiations.

Be strong in the face of bullying and pressure. Microsoft would not permit open standards to be accepted. That would give people a choice of platform, a choice of an office suite, and the choice of long-term preservation of their data.

Remember that the deadline is tomorrow (Wednesday), so now is a good time to leave a comment.

Being Against Crime is Not Being Zealous

Posted in Deception, Europe, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 10:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Insults and lies continue to dominate Microsoft’s arguments against OpenDocument Format (ODF)

ODF format

Summary: Some more disgusting flame and generally poor coverage from Microsoft apologists who hit the British press

THERE is a war of words between the Microsoft camp and the rest of the world or at least Britain, as we covered here before. The Register, which accepts payments from Microsoft, continues its provocative and very offensive coverage, summarised with: “Even if Microsoft bosses collectively whistled Always Look on the Bright Side of Life they’d still struggle to drown out people backing Cabinet Office proposals to adopt the Open Document Format as the official standard for UK.gov missives.”

That’s because everyone but Microsoft (and its partners) does not want or need OOXML, which is all about crime. Can’t The Register get that?

“In the war of words,” says the author, “it is 1-0 to the open source zealots.”

This is journalism?! It’s more like Microsoft lobbying and propaganda disguised as “reporting”.

The whole article is full of insults. The author is “conflating program with format… dismissing the case for open standards as zealotry,” writes iophk. “The Reg has been crap for years no end in sight” (there were Microsoft payments, whereupon the sceptical eye which The Register once laid on Microsoft pretty much went away).

“Zealous about the right thing,” said the headline of one comment response. “Not “open source zealots”, but “open data zealots”,” stresses the commenter. Notice that ODF is not about FOSS; proprietary software can benefit from it also.

“Fred Flintstone” (pseudonym) wrote: “I rather object to the repeated use of the word “zealots” in the article, which seems to suggest the author has a bias.

“IMHO, choosing proper open formats has got ZERO to do with religion or beliefs, but everything with realistic value assessment.”

There are much better comments in this consultation (British readers, please log in and leave feedback). Microsoft’s attack on ODF in this case is paradoxical for the reasons put in this statement: “This isn’t about switching to open source software, but to a format widely and well-supported by open source office formats [...] The government could continue to run Microsoft Office, but the preferred data format would be ODF. This makes Microsoft’s argument seem to be rather shrill. Why on earth would changing the default format of released documents be a big deal?”

Red Hat’s FOSS site covered this subject, but at the same time it gave this proxy of Microsoft a platform in which to equate FOSS usage with “consuming” (similar to the idea of exploitation and so-called “freeloaders”, which is how Microsoft’s Outercurve staff refers to FOSS users in Red Hat’s very own OpenSource.com).

Microsoft is rallying its British partners, urging them to bamboozle and pressure the British government to drop ODF as a requirement. Don’t let Microsoft monopolise the voice of Brits. Don’t let the company that committed crime pretend that we, the victims, as the bad people (just because we are rightly upset).

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