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Freiburg Should Use ODF Only, Just Like Portugal

Posted in Europe, Formats, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice, Standard at 4:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: OOXML helps Microsoft derail Free software adoption in the German public sector while Portugal’s goes ODF-only

So the news says that Freiburg will return to Office after failure to properly communicate with those who understand lock-in. IDG covered this almost exclusively and wrote: “According to the organisations, no open source experts were consulted in the process. Therefore they hoped the council would still consider a migration to a current version of LibreOffice or OpenOffice.”

Calling the Free Software Foundation Europe an “open source group” is bad, but we saw that in previous reports on the subject. The matter of fact is, a lot of issues have already been addressed:

Open source developers have already fixed three of the five major problems that are limiting support by open source office suites for Microsoft’s proprietary document format OOXML, reports Matthias Stürmer. The Swiss Ernst & Young IT consultant is one of those improving the open source office tools. He hopes better support for OOXML this will “help to successfully complete and maintain migrations towards open source office suites.”

Notice how OOXML always stands in the way, as Microsoft intended. Here is the call for Freiburg to stay with ODF:

Five civil groups advocating the use of free and open source by public administrations urge the German city of Freiburg to continue to use the Open Document Format as its default format for electronic documents. “Free office suites are making progress. LibreOffice today has over 60 million users worldwide.”

This week’s Tuesday evening, Freiburg’s city council is voting over a proposal to end its floundering migration of OpenOffice and to stop using the Open Document Format. Instead of ODF, the city board wants to default on Microsoft’s alternative, OOXML.

Some people who oversee Microsoft OOXML start following me in Twitter, so I guess Microsoft watches us ODF proponents very closely. Andy Updegrove has great news from Portugal:

According to a press release issued today by the Portuguese Open Source Business Association (reproduced in full at the end of this blog entry), the government of Portugal has decided to approve a single editable, XML-based document format for use by government, and in public procurement. And that format is not OOXML.

Here is a news report in English. After those Portugal OOXML scandals we sure expect some corruption from Microsoft. Here are some observers who should keep an eye on Microsoft's thugs. A timely reminder from Portugal:

Other Microsoft irregularities in Portugal can be found in:

ESOP says: “We must stress the importance of the whole open standards adoption process and declare our explicit support for the way the interoperability regulation was designed. On one hand, there is some pragmatism to be noticed: the list of open standards is relatively short with priority given to functions where interoperability problems are a large concern. On the other hand, pragmatism didn’t mean lost of insight: there is no more than one open standard per functional category. This is something ESOP has always defended, as a measure to prevent incompatibilities that could bring the adoption process to a failure.”

Related to this, also see:

Keep on open eye on Microsoft Portugal.


Microsoft Imitates Android, LibreOffice Imitates Microsoft

Posted in Formats, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenOffice, Vista 8, Windows at 12:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Aping game


Summary: Microsoft is the one struggling to catch up in an age of Linux expansion, but LibreOffice continues to chase Microsoft’s proprietary formats

ONE of our readers, Marti, alleges that Microsoft is copying Android. As he puts it, “[o]n Android ICS they are simply widgets, which show the latest updates of your email and social media, or whatever widget you place on one of the preferred multiple “virtual desktops”. You simply have the ability to “browse” trough the history, by tipping the widgets and scrolling down (like in a web-browser).

“Marti provides some more examples where Microsoft is copying Android, just like it copies KDE.”“Windows® 8 Live Tiles® on the other had are showing a “history” of the most recent updates in a “interactive” manner. Meaning text is scrolled continually on multiple Tiles®. At first this seems quite funny and sexy, but trust me, it gets on your nerves within 15 minutes.”

Marti provides some more examples where Microsoft is copying Android, just like it copies KDE. A Gartner analyst’s negative remarks on this copycat act of Microsoft are spreading further to say that Vista 8 is not suitable for enterprises, just as OOXML causes nothing but headaches in businesses. On the face of it, attempts are being made to bridge some gaps:

If in past, you had trouble importing Microsoft Publisher documents in LibreOffice, you may get relief soon. Bernnan Vincent, a GSoC student, has created libmspub library capable of reading Microsoft Publisher files and converting it to SVG and open document format.

OOXML support in LibreOffice is a case of following Microsoft rather than leading with ODF. In a future episode of TechBytes we will talk to someone from the LibreOffice team (Charles-H. Schulz and explore the rationale of the strategy, e.g. whether SUSE's relationship with Microsoft played a role in this. Before we get to that we are going to release an episode where Stallman tells me about phone surveillance. With Skype, Microsoft is now tracking people’s phonecalls too. See our Skype wiki page for more information and some background. As one new report puts it: “The question was: “Is Skype snooping on your conversations?” The answer is yes.

“According to a Microsoft Skype spokesperson, “As was true before the Microsoft acquisition, Skype co-operates with law enforcement agencies as is legally required and technically feasible.” So what the heck does that mean?” It probably just means that Microsoft continues to be an enemy of the population, and furthermore toppling Microsoft is a good thing.


Latvian Government Departments “Must Accept Documents in ODF”

Posted in Europe, Formats, OpenDocument, Standard at 11:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Coat of Arms of Latvia

Summary: Exciting news from Latvia, confirming that the country is indeed committed to decisions which were made regarding free access

MANY congratulations go to the Latvian people, some of whom regularly send us mail with valuable input and an appeal for help in the form of coverage that sheds light on what goes on there. Techrights covered Latvia in posts such as:

Now we have some more good news from Latvia:

  • Apple and Google and ODF

    I’m in Latvia today speaking at the Latvian Open Technology Association annual conference – my slides are online. The speaker before me was from the government and made an important announcement; that from now on, all government departments in Latvia must accept documents in ODF.

  • ODF Interoperability: Maidenhead ODF Plugfest

    The fifth ODF Plugfest will take place in Maidenhead (UK) in the Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, on February 24/25th 2011.

In addition to these important updates from Phipps and Galoppini, recently we mentioned that the Document Foundation had joined OpenDoc Society. The future looks bright for ODF.


Microsoft Decides to Embrace and Extend ‘Plugfest’

Posted in Deception, Formats, Marketing, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument at 8:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Microsoft describes its proprietary, binary-only formats in the context of a “plugfest” — a term implicitly reserved for ODF events

THE TERM “plugfest” — at least when it comes to document formats — has a connotation to do with ODF. Last year we showed how those plugfests got ‘infiltrated’ (Microsoft’s term [PDF]) by Microsoft employees and partners, who sought to change the agenda there [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13].

One of the vicious campaigners against ODF, Microsoft’s Mahugh, is now co-opting the term “plugfest” by using it to describe discussion about Microsoft’s proprietary document formats.

Former Open XML evangelist Doug Mahugh announces a “Binary Format Plugfest” for October 18/19

We have given many similar examples where Microsoft hijacks words to paint OOXML, for example, as something “open”, which also sounds a little like “Open Office”. These are not coincidences; these are merciless marketing tricks.


How Microsoft Belittles ODF, Using the “Choice”-Themed Lies (and Why Google Should Offer ODF as a Choice)

Posted in Formats, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 4:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“If thought can corrupt language, then language can also corrupt thought.”

George Orwell

Summary: Microsoft and its proponents/minions are still pushing an old propaganda line by claiming that Windows and OOXML will bring “choice”

THE NEWS is aflood with reports that IBM comes under scrutiny in the EU. Little is being said about the fact that IBM is being attacked SCO-style by Microsoft and its “satellite proxies” (IBM's words). We care about this because IBM’s mainframes run GNU/Linux — a fact that people like Florian Müller could not care less about (and this matters because “FlorianMueller” is the one who also pushed the news into Slashdot with his own convictions and bias). See the conversation in the previous post where Müller admits using Vista 7 (he seems like a permanent Windows user) and does not care so much if his stance is helping Microsoft. He’s apathetic to it. He also spins/subverts the word "choice" in the same way Microsoft does (same with the word “openness”*). It’s done just as Microsoft Malaysia did it to ODF and other branches of the company do under all sorts of situations. It’s a language game. Standards are about limiting choice at some level of granularity in order to ensure that different implementations work well with one another. Microsoft’s hypnosis strives to confuse people about choice; it’s about office suites, not formats.

Rob Weir has just informed his peers and supporters of ODF that Microsoft is restricting choice (abolishing and harming ODF’s status) using language games.

Microsoft’s talking points go something like this:

If you adopt ODF instead of OOXML then you “restrict choice”. Why would you want to do that? You’re in favor of openness and competition, right? So naturally, you should favor choice.

You can see a hundreds of variations on this theme, in Microsoft press releases, whitepapers, in press articles and blogged by astroturfers by searching Google for “ODF restrict choice“.

This argument is quite effective, since it is plausible at first glance, and takes more than 15 seconds to refute. But the argument in the end fails by taking a very superficial view of “choice”, relying merely on the positive allure of its name, essentially using it as a talisman. But “choice” is more than just a pretty word. It means something. And if we dig a little deeper, at what the value of choice really is, the Microsoft argument falls apart.

So let’s make an attempt to show how can one be in favor of choice, but also be in favor of eliminating choice. Let’s resolve the paradox. Personally I think this argument is too long, but maybe it will prompt someone to formulate it in a briefer form.

Glyn Moody remarks on this post by calling it a “nice debunking of a sneaky Microsoft trope about choice” and he also shares this word of warning about a new Google Docs “format”.

“I’m having trouble searching for just ODF formats, Did Google remove the ability?”
I asked Weir about it and he said that he “Can’t tell much from the screenshot. Not clear that it is a format. Maybe Punch is an app? Or internal test system?”

As a reminder, Google officially opposed OOXML when Microsoft was corrupting standards bodies all over the world, but Google never showed much active support for ODF, either. Google has been mostly passive and there are recent examples where Google exlcuded ODF support and was criticised for it (although not in a major way).

One person has just mailed us to say: “I’m having trouble searching for just ODF formats, Did Google remove the ability?”

“In general I’m losing it for Google,” said this person to us, “they support OS [open source] only when it suits them. They [are] really not our friends.”

Google Docs is of course proprietary.
* When Microsoft says “openness” it never means “Open Source”. In cases where Microsoft is excluded or chooses to be excluded it advocates “choice” as means/route to depart from standards and embrace proprietary offerings instead.


Microsoft Has Your Facebook and Twitter Data, Tightens Relationship With Those Companies

Posted in Deception, Formats, Marketing, Microsoft at 5:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Steve Ballmer as a bird

Summary: The access to data in high traffic sites such as Facebook and Twitter enables Microsoft to suppress opposition and inject its points of view, products, formats, etc.

MICROSOFT is an unpopular company. Its bad reputation is well deserved and earned. About a week ago, people complained in Twitter that Microsoft was harassing them even in their own houses. It was causing a lot of noise and there are other recent incidents we could cite (like trashing/polluting the streets with promotional “MSN” butterflies — a case in which the local authorities were also called to intervene).

Office drones around Soho’s Golden Square have complained to the council about the racket caused by Microsoft’s ongoing attempt to attract more users to Hotmail through the medium of dance.

Hotmail is dying, but that’s not today’s subject.

Back in the old days, controlling the press was easy because the number of channels/newspapers was limited and there was an editorial hierarchy for each publisher. Then came the Internet and blogs. Microsoft has realised that taking down other people's blog posts is something it can manage to do in order to guard a reputation, but keeping track of billions of short messages is nearly impossible. That would be microblogging. So Microsoft signed some deals with Twitter and Twitter’s CEO came over to Microsoft a couple of weeks ago. As part of Microsoft’s AstroTurfing efforts, its PR department had developed some tools with which to spy on people and observe trends in Twitter. That was a year ago. Microsoft uses Twitter for its AstroTurfing, as we demonstrated in some of the following posts:

Microsoft Nick says that Microsoft has gone further. It developed more tools for use in Twitter:

Microsoft announced the alpha preview of a social-networking initiative, Project Emporia, being developed through its FUSE Labs. The application gives users the ability to browse information on Twitter most relevant to their needs, and refine their experience through a “like/dislike” recommender system. Since its inception in October 2009, FUSE Labs has pursued the development of social connectivity, real-time experiences and rich media software and services.

Another area where Microsoft wants and needs to control minds would be Facebook.

“Facebook Obliterates Rivals in Google List of Top Sites,” says one headline from IDG and there are other signs that there is still “mindshare” in that site. To quote Microsoft on “mindshare”:

“Mind Control: To control mental output you have to control mental input. Take control of the channels by which developers receive information, then they can only think about the things you tell them. Thus, you control mindshare!”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

Microsoft has already attempted to acquire Facebook. At the moment, Facebook and Microsoft seem to be allies and it’s possible that Microsoft will borrow more money and attempt to buy Facebook again.

Zuckerberg already helps Microsoft in many ways (giving them data, Office market share, spreading Silver Lie, etc.) and some days ago we found this new article:

Ballmer on Facebook privacy: Zuckerberg one of ‘good guys’

Google and Facebook are the ones grappling with high-profile security and privacy problems these days, but Microsoft has been there before, many times, and the issues were clearly on Steve Ballmer’s mind during a talk this past week on the company’s Redmond campus.

Of course Microsoft takes Facebook’s side. Microsoft too is in the business of profiling people [1, 2, 3]. Facebook has not really changed anything or even apologised since the controversy began. Microsoft supports Facebook’s position probably because it continues to receive copies of Facebook’s data (the more the merrier — the same data which made people furious). To quote an article from last week, with emphasis added: “CEO Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook fixing privacy tools”

The latest flap came last month, when Facebook announced new features that send user profile information in bulk to companies such as Microsoft, Yelp and Pandora. That prompted four U.S. senators – led by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. – to demand Facebook pass along data only if users agree to it.

The original article had the title “Facebook simplifies its privacy controls” (but does not actually resolve the issue).

In the case of Twitter, there is a Bing deal that gives Microsoft the company’s whole data feed. These companies share their databases. See this recently-leaked Microsoft handbook to find out how it facilitates compliance with government requests for personal data (snoops).


Even Microsoft Rejects or Neglects OOXML, ‘Opens’ What’s Already Reverse-Engineered Instead

Posted in Deception, Formats, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Open XML at 7:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Kipper or red herring

Summary: The latest publicity stunt around Microsoft Outlook and how Microsoft dodges its promises of OOXML compliance

MICROSOFT is a funny company. It’s not so good at hiding its intention and the result is quite embarrassing sometimes.

Last week Google announced that it had produced an Outlook migration tool (and more than that [1, 2]), which isn’t too surprising because Free software has been able to achieve this for a long, long time (Microsoft’s file formats were reverse-engineered).

“Adobe did the same thing with Flash after gnash had already reverse-engineered much of Flash with ActionScript.”Watch Microsoft as it emits spin in its press release about an Apache-licensed tool for Outlook data access (which was already possible anyway). Might this be Microsoft’s attempt to spin a defeat as generous gifting? Now that Microsoft’s lock-in is cracked Microsoft would love to pretend that it was all just planned and the result of Microsoft’s goodwill. That’s quite probable. The de facto PR agents of Microsoft sure make it seem that way. After it had already been reverse-engineered, Microsoft pretends to have given it away, eh?

Microsoft did exactly the same thing with .DOC and its relatives. After years of these formats being interpretable by other office suites (thanks to hard work on reverse engineering) Microsoft just dumped documentation which explained how to reproduce the results of hacking. Too late, no? Adobe did the same thing with Flash after gnash had already reverse-engineered much of Flash with ActionScript. Adobe gets the upper hand (PR) while offering nothing of value. They all pretend to be opening up for PR purposes and it’s fooling even Free-software friendly Web sites. Why not explain what Microsoft is really doing here and why? In response to some of this spin, Pamela Jones wrote in Groklaw: “Hey, I have a great idea. Why doesn’t Microsoft do this for OOXML, so ODF can be fully and seamlessly compatible, being standards and all, supposedly? Oh, and Google Docs, too? What? You say Microsoft only gives access to things that benefit their business? Oh. OK.”

If Microsoft’s weird variant of OOXML was ever replicated, Microsoft would then claim credit for it, right? But let’s not hold our breath. The goalposts have already moved; Microsoft is still not complying (in the compatibility sense) with its very own OOXML, and it’s already moving away from OOXML into a new lock-in: Fog Computing. “Microsoft prefers cloud over OpenXML,” says the headline of this new article which starts as follows:

Microsoft will base support for the final OpenXML standard on customer demand. The market leader at this point prefers to move its clients to cloud computing, said Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft’s Business Division. He considers cloud offerings a good extension of the desktop software that Microsoft currently sells.

“OpenXML can be implemented for a range of applications,” Elop told Webwereld in an interview. “Some are characterized as strict and some are more broad in scope. We do our best to expand the standard in collaboration with the standards bodies and implement it ourselves. We have taken major steps, but in some areas more work needs to be done.”

Microsoft recently faced criticism because the new Office 2010 productivity suite didn’t implement the strict ISO-approved version of OpenXML but a version that had been rejected.

Forget about implementing OOXML (which is not possible anyway). Microsoft’s implementations of it are mutually incompatible and Microsoft itself is ignoring OOXML. The plan remains to just make Microsoft Office compatible with Microsoft Office (which it isn’t, unless it’s the same version at all ends), which makes OOXML just a red herring.


Microsoft Office Incompatible With Microsoft Office

Posted in Formats, Google, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenOffice at 4:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rubbish dump - OOXML

Summary: Office Web Apps and different versions of Office are failing to work together

WE PREVIOUSLY showed that a corresponding version of Microsoft Office for Mac is not compatible with Microsoft Office for Windows [1, 2] and different versions are also mutually incompatible. Microsoft never implemented OOXML, either. In short, it is a mess and Microsoft wants everyone to buy the latest version of Office all the time, merely to be able to communicate with other people and exchange information. The following new article from the ‘Microsoft press’ says: ‘McLeish noted that the free consumer version of Office Web Apps will have some limitations. “You can’t create a table of contents, use mail merge, and many other advanced features,” she wrote. “And there would still be compatibility issues of using Office 2003 in conjunction with a newer version, such as the loss of Smart Art or other newer features only available in Office 2007 or Office 2010.”‘

“So Microsoft software isn’t compatible with itself.”
      –Pamela Jones, Groklaw
Groklaw remarks on it by saying: “So Microsoft software isn’t compatible with itself. It’s been bragging that Google Docs isn’t seamlessly compatible. But neither is its own Office 2003, I gather.”

For what it’s worth, Google wants to sell its own proprietary software [1, 2] at the expense of Microsoft Office (Google no longer provides funding to OpenOffice.org, only to its fork, Go-OO).

In response to the problems Office is having, Microsoft has resorted to more viral marketing and aggressive tactics. The Washington Post writes about the Office EULA, reminding readers of the unnecessary pains imposed by proprietary software.

Reader Jean has a problem: she installed Office 2003 on her brand new Windows 7 system, and every single time she runs it, a pop-up forces her to accept Microsoft’s End User License Agreement (EULA).

Dang it, Microsoft, she accepts already! She accepts!

This EULA may no longer hold water in the UK, not as far as liability is concerned [1, 2, 3]. So anyway, why would people actually choose Office? Because “everyone else is using it”?

“In one piece of mail people were suggesting that Office had to work equally well with all browsers and that we shouldn’t force Office users to use our browser. This Is wrong and I wanted to correct this.”

Bill Gates [PDF]

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