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04.10.14

ODF News: ODF 1.2, European Support for ODF, LibreOffice and More

Posted in News Roundup, Office Suites, OpenDocument at 3:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Standard

  • ODF 1.2 Submitted to ISO

    Last Wednesday, March 26th, on Document Freedom Day, OASIS submitted Open Document Format 1.2 standard to the ISO/IEC JTC1 Secretariat for transposition to an International Standard under the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) procedure.

  • ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words Chapter 5: Open Standards

    Plug.and.socket 142One of the two articles of faith that Eric Kriss and Peter Quinn embraced in drafting their evolving Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM) was this: products built to “open standards” are more desirable than those that aren’t. Superficially, the concept made perfect sense – only buy products that you can mix and match. That way, you can take advantage of both price competition as well as a wide selection of alternative products from multiple vendors, each with its own value-adding features. And if things don’t work out, well, you’re not locked in, and can swap out the loser and shop for a winner.

Europe

  • Galicia recommends use of Open Document Format
  • Call to fix interoperability of office suites

    Last week Monday, five European public administrations published a new call for tender, to further improve interoperability between free and open source office suites and the ubiquitous proprietary alternative. This is the second time that the German cities of Munich, Leipzig and Jena, the Swiss Federal Court and the Swiss Federal IT Steering Unit have issued such a call. ICT specialists have until 30 April to submit proposals.

    The office suites’ interoperability project is again managed by the OSB Alliance, a trade group representing open source service providers from Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

    According the alliance’s press release, one of the main features to be developed concerns change tracking between open source and proprietary office suites. The public administrations issuing the call want to improve the specification of change tracking, and make this part of the Open Document Format ISO standard.

  • South Tyrol governor: ‘EC, use open formats’

    Such a policy would help the South Tyrol government in its new IT approach, increasing its use of ICT solutions based on free and open source, the governor says.

    South Tyrol’s new policy was announced on 11 March. Responding to emailed questions, Governor Kompatscher said that the region is in favour of using free and open source solutions not only for new IT solutions, but also when upgrading existing IT components. “We’ve started to review our license costs. If there are free and open source alternatives, and where the costs and risks of changing are justified, we will switch to these.”

LibreOffice

Misc.

  • New Document Liberation Project aims to free users from vendor lock-in

    The Document Foundation (TDF) has announced the Document Liberation Project, in an effort to empower individuals, organizations, and governments to recover their data from proprietary formats and offer a mechanism to transition that data into open file formats.

  • 4 Spreadsheet Alternatives to MS Excel

    There was a time when office compatibility was a bit of a problem on Linux, but with the latest office suites out there available for Linux, this is not an issue anymore. The applications here mimic MS Excel’s behavior, so switching to one of them should be pretty straightforward. Exporting and importing to and from MS Excel format works as well, and there aren’t many compatibility issues (however, the native format these programs use is the OpenDocument Spreadsheet (ODS) format.

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

03.26.14

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.

03.25.14

OpenDocument Format Celebrated Tomorrow

Posted in Microsoft, Office Suites, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 6:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

White dove

Summary: A look at some recent reports about office suites and standards, one day ahead of the annual event that celebrates document freedom

NOW that businesses and governments gradually move away from Microsoft they often find themselves assessing alternatives to Microsoft Office. There are several articles that cover it these days [1] and some have “[n]o mention of Apache OpenOffice or LibreOffice,” as iophk put it in relation to CNET/CBS coverage [2] (the article is titled “Why I’m quitting Microsoft Office forever”).

“The only way out of this mess is to embrace ODF, not to adapt to Microsoft proprietary formats.”Contrary to myth which mostly prevails among the young generation, Microsoft did not invent office suites and Microsoft Office was far from the first in its area. It was made up from software that Microsoft had acquired and crimes from Microsoft made it dominant (there are still court cases dealing with it). There was also deviation from industry standards, which is how Microsoft made it hard for people to use anything other than Microsoft or even keep using old versions. This is why we need ODF now.

In a multi-part series from Andy Updegrove, titled “ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words” [3,4,5], a little bit of history is provided and there are also recent articles about standards [6,7], which Microsoft never obeyed, not even when it comes to the Web (and this causes huge headaches to many Web developers, who are even willing to pay people [8] to ditch Microsoft’s Web browser).

As we showed some years ago, Microsoft tied Office to its browser too, as part of ongoing attempts to extend the Office monopoly to the Web. These are all serious violations — the consequence of which we continue to suffer from to this date. The only way out of this mess is to embrace ODF, not to adapt to Microsoft proprietary formats.

Tomorrow, which is a special day for OpenDocument Format (Document Freedom Day [9]), we are planning to publish a long article about the long battle for ODF in the UK.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Best Free Office Suites: Microsoft Office Alternatives

    For small businesses, every red cent counts. Sometimes, that means getting creative with your tech decisions. There’s no doubt that Microsoft Office is the most widely used office productivity suite, but if you’re purchasing new computers or replacing old software, buying new copies is going to cost you. Before you pony up for new software, these free Microsoft Office alternatives might be the money-saving solutions you’re looking for.

  2. Why I’m quitting Microsoft Office forever

    It’s not just about the money. Well, okay, it’s mostly about the money, but there are other reasons I’m bidding goodbye to Microsoft’s not-so-sweet suite.

  3. ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words

    The story has other notable features as well: ODF is the first IT standard to be taken up as a popular cause, and also represents the first “cross over” standards issue that has attracted the broad support of the open source community. Then there are the societal dimensions: open formats are needed to safeguard our culture and our history from oblivion. And when implemented in open source software and deployed on Linux-based systems (not to mention One Laptop Per Child computers), the benefits and opportunities of IT become more available to those throughout the third world.

  4. ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words Chapter 2
  5. ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words Chapter 3 – What a Difference a Decade Can Make

    Moreover, in the years to come, PC-based word processing products like WordStar, and then WordPerfect, would become far more popular than Microsoft’s own first word processing (originally called Multitool Word), providing low-cost alternatives to the proprietary minicomputer based software offerings of vendors like Wang Laboratories. IBM, too, provided a word processing program for the PC called DisplayWriter. That software was based on a similar program that IBM had developed for its mainframe systems customers. More importantly, another program was launched at just the right time to dramatically accelerate the sale of IBM PCs and their clones. That product was the legendary “killer app” of the IBM PC clone market: Lotus 1-2-3, the spreadsheet software upon which Mitch Kapor built the fortunes of his Lotus Development Corporation.

  6. The Standards Wars and the Sausage Factory

    Maybe, thanks to open source, the sausage days of standard making will be behind us. I hope so.

  7. Open Standards and Open Source make a great pairing

    While open source advocates are fond of pointing out the freedom of open source –that is, the freedom to share and modify it –it’s only part of the equation for companies taking advantage of open source in their businesses.

  8. Ditch IE7 and we’ll give you a FREE COMPUTER, says incautious US firm

    Internet Explorer 7 holdouts are being offered a brand new computer by a US company sick of working to support Microsoft’s legacy browser.

  9. Document Freedom Matters

    As the Document Freedom Day is approaching I realized that we don’t push ODF and open standards as loudly as before. Certainly most of the battles for the mind and market share are past, at least when it comes to office file formats. But the recent public consultation of the UK government brought back some of the most crucial issues surrounding ODF and it’s useful, I think, to check where stand these days on these matters.

03.24.14

Oracle Releases Java 8 and VirtualBox 4.3.8

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Office Suites, Oracle at 2:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The few Sun projects that Oracle did not burn in a fire

3 matches

Summary: New releases of Free software from Oracle help show that the company did not totally neglect Free software

ORACLE really dropped the ball when it comes to Free software. It not only neglected great projects like OpenOffice.org but it also sued Google, liaised with Microsoft on numerous occasions, and generally became the bad guy on the block. Some former Sun staff took advantage of this [1], but it seems as though Oracle did not totally neglect every single Free software project that it had inherited from Sun. Java 8, for example, has just been officially released [2,3] and VirtualBox, one of people’s favourite desktop virtualisation systems (especially on GNU/Linux), continues to be maintained by Oracle [4]. Imagine what the world would be like if Oracle promoted ODF, maintained all of Sun’s Free software projects and perhaps liberated some of its own proprietary software products.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Open source venture that’s profited from Oracle’s actions

    Among the latter group is ForgeRock, an open-source identity and access management company, which was founded in 2010 with very little seed capital. The founders were all part of Sun’s extended community and they decided to focus on Sun’s identity and access management products. One of the four co-founders of Sun, Scott McNealy, is also involved in ForgeRock.

  2. Java 8 Officially Released, Modularity Still a Concern

    Oracle today officially released Java 8, ushering in a new era of development capabilities for the standard-bearer of enterprise IT software platforms. The path to Java 8 has been a long one for Oracle, dating back to at least 2010, when the Java Community Process (JCP) voted in favor of JSR-337, the specification for Java 8.

  3. Reality check: Java 8 finally catches a multi-core break

    Java 8 is important because it’s the base spec for Java Enterprise Edition, as well as feeding the free and open-source implementation of OpenJDK loved by open-sourcers like Red Hat.

  4. VirtualBox 4.3.8 Officially Released with Support for X.Org Server 1.15

    After a couple of development versions, the brand new VirtualBox 4.3.8 release reached the stable channel, replacing the old 4.3.6 version, for which it fixes numerous bugs reported by the community. In addition, it adds many new features and improvements that should have been implemented a long time ago.

Document Freedom Day 2014 Imminent and ODF is Doing Very Well

Posted in Office Suites, OpenDocument at 2:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: It is becoming hard to deny that ODF is the one and only standard for exchange of editable documents

OpenDocument Format, or ODF, has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Registration has been open for Document Freedom Day 2014 [1] (in recent years this annual event was largely neglected), European politicians are now entertaining ODF [2-4], and here in the UK ODF is becoming a standard, perhaps the de facto standard in government (more on Microsoft’s response to it will be covered later this week). New software is now supporting ODF [5,6] and LibreOffice, which makes the press still [7,8], is replacing Microsoft Office in more and more places [9]. I happen to know about places that are quietly migrating to LibreOffice, without ever announcing it. Even Apple, which had helped Microsoft with OOXML (Apple is in Microsoft’s camp for a lot things), was pressured last week to move to ODF [10]. Wait and see how ODF changes the world and takes us into an era of sharing, collaboration, exchanges etc. that are truly independent from Microsoft’s monopoly. Prepare for a world where there are no “DOC” (or “DOCX”) files exchanged inside E-mails.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Registration opens for Document Freedom Day 2014

    Today registration opens for Document Freedom Day 2014 events. This year the campaign day is March 26th, when people who believe in fair access to communications technology and Open Standards will again present, perform, and demonstrate. Event organisers can now register on the re-launched documentfreedom.org website.

  2. Advocacy: “Governments should choose ODF”

    Governments should choose the Open Document Format (ODF) as the default option for all editable government documents, says OpenForum Europe, an organisation advocating the use of open standards in ICT. “ODF has clear superiority in terms of independence from proprietary influence or dependency on proprietary technology.”

    [...]

    Writing on his weblog, the FSFE President called on the EC to “run open, competitive calls for tender based on functional specifications rather than brand names — something it has refused to do for two decades.”

  3. MEP Tarand: “EU should switch to ODF standard”

    The European institutions should switch to using the Open Document Format ODF as their internal default document format, says Member of the European Parliament Indrek Tarand. Speaking at a meeting of the European Parliament’s Free Software User Group (Epfsug), last week Wednesday, MEP Tarand said: “Moving to ODF would allow real innovation, and real procurement.”

  4. European Union in talks to move to the Open Document Format

    A member of the European parliament, Indrek Tarand, openly favoured ODF at the European Parliament’s Free Software User Group (Epsfug) meeting. He is also the founder of the Free Software User Group. He said, “Our work is done the day the EU authorities switch to using the ODF standard. The European Parliament should also be able to use its own free software distribution.” It’s noteworthy to add that the adoption of ODF is normally followed by the adoption of the open source software.

  5. HoudiniEsq Adds Open Document Format Support

    Innovator and leader in Legal Practice Management Software-as-a-Service for enterprise, LogicBit Software Corp. announced today that it has added support for the Open Document Format for Office Applications (ODF), also known as OpenDocument to its core product HoudiniEsq.

  6. WebODF Making Good Progress, Aims For More

    WebODF is an AGPL-licensed JavaScript library that provides Open Document Format support on the web with collaborative editing capabilities. In the four years the project has been around, it’s been making great success but they have even more plans going forward.

  7. Freshly Stable

    With the release of our new LibreOffice 4.2 version and the new website, people have noticed a small yet quite visual change in the way we label the versions of LibreOffice. You now have the choice between downloading LibreOffice “Fresh” or “Stable”.

  8. Zorin OS Cubed, “Fresh” LibreOffice, and Year of Linux

    In today’s search was two Zorin OS reviews and a recommendation. The Document Foundation released the second update to the 4.2 branch of their popular office suite. Jamie Watson got a new Acer laptop and test drove several popular distributions on it. Computer Weekly online has published an article on Unix to Linux migrations and Simon Phipps put out a new post titled 2014 is the year of the Linux desktop.

  9. Breaking Microsoft’s Chains by Moving to LibreOffice

    Vignoli is one of the founders and a member of the Board of Directors of The Document Foundation, the organization behind LibreOffice, where his duties include marketing and communications as well as being an international spokesperson for the project. Before helping start The Document Project, he spent over six years on the marketing team for OpenOffice.org, which was the original code base for LibreOffice. In other words, this is a guy who knows his stuff and who has “been there/done that” when it comes to large enterprise level migrations from MS Office to LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

  10. Open document standards will cure Apple’s bit rot

    Reports emerged this week of a problem for Apple users opening presentation files created in Keynote. The latest update of Keynote — in fact, all of iWork ’13 — won’t open files created with versions before iWork ’09, instead prompting users to find a copy of iWork ’09 and open the file with that.

03.11.14

LibreOffice Stories: Birthday, New Release (4.2), Web Site, TDF Board

Posted in Office Suites, OpenDocument at 9:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • LibreOffice: My birthday wish list

    All in all, this list would not significantly change the userbase of LibreOffice; but it would also position LibreOffice in places and circles where it’s not really used either, and I feel it’s a welcome set of suggestions that differ from the usual Android/iOS porting and cloud based office suite. On a deeper level, I think it also means that LibreOffice as a tool and office suites in general can change and grow to adapt to new usages even today.

  • LibreOffice 4.2.1 Has 100+ Bug-Fixes

    Less than one month after the release of the major LibreOffice 4.2 update, LibreOffice 4.2.1 has been released to ship a large number of fixes for discovered problems.

  • Updated TDF Board and New LibreOffice Release

    The Document Foundation yesterday announced that the new Board of Directors is “officially in charge.” These new members were recently elected and congratulated last December and have been in a sort of training since. In other news, TDF today announced the release of LibreOffice 4.2.1 for early adopters, an update to 4.2 released January 30.

  • FLOSS Office Suites

    There are a bunch of FLOSS office suites but two of them are the big dogs: LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice. “October 29th, someone downloaded the 75,000,000th copy of Apache OpenOffice™. The 75 million downloads have occurred in the less than 18th months since the first release of Apache OpenOffice on May 8th, 2012.

  • LibreOffice Plans For C++11 / C++14 Development

    LibreOffice has been pushing forward in its development recently with supporting OpenCL in its spreadsheet, gaining an OpenGL rendering back-end, and supporting other modern features and system capabilities for the open-source office suite. LibreOffice is also planning for its adoption of the C++11 programming language and even C++14 language features.

  • LibreOffice 4.1.5, Linux for Students, and the Weirdest Places

    The Document Foundation has announced the release of LibreOffice 4.1.5 today, for all those running the 4.1 branch of code. In other news, a Pennsylvania high school has provided their students with Linux laptops and Lifehacker.com has outlined the top 10 uses for Linux. Also, www.networkworld.com has a slideshow of the 16 weirdest places running Linux and KDE was featured in hit movie Gravity.

  • LibreOffice 4.2 brings new features for power and enterprise users
  • LibreOffice 4.2 Office Suite Boasts New Features, Performance Boost
  • LibreOffice 4.2 better bridges the gap with Microsoft Office
  • Why LibreOffice 4.2 matters more than you think

    On Thursday the Document Foundation released its newest stable branch, LibreOffice 4,2. Don’t let be misled by its number; if we weren’t on a strict time released scheduled alongside a clear number scheme without any nickname for each release, I would have called this one the 5,0. Yes, you read that right, the mighty Five. Why? Mostly for two big reasons.

  • LibreOffice 4.2 Released with Focus on Performance

    Italo Vignoli of The Document Foundation today announced the immediate availability of the next major stable build of the popular office suite. LibreOffice 4.2 “features a large number of performance and interoperability improvements targeted to users of all kinds, but particularly appealing for power and enterprise users.”

  • Bigger, better, faster: LibreOffice 4.2

    The Document Foundation’s newest release of LibreOffice 4.2 targets early adopters. It comes with many new performance and interoperability improvements for users of all kinds. Specifically, this update is designed to appeal to Windows power and enterprise users.

  • LibreOffice 4.2 Brings OpenCL Calc, OOXML Improvements

    A new stable, major release of the open-source LibreOffice suite is now available and with it comes several new and improved features.

  • LibreOffice Gets An OpenGL Rendering Back-End

    The initial work on an OpenGL rendering back-end has landed in LibreOffice, not too long after receiving OpenCL support for spreadsheets and OpenGL canvas support.

    Pushed into Git today was the initial OpenGL rendering support, anti-aliasing support, a new time-based charting approach, OpenGL text rendering, OpenGL area rendering support, and other OpenGL-related changes.

  • Open office choices grip multiple languages

    Open source office suite alternatives are well able to handle multiple languages. Apache OpenOffice for example, already supports 32 languages, and the upcoming new version will add several new languages, including Danish and Norwegian, according to a press statement from the Apache Software Foundation, released on International Mother Language Day, Thursday 20 February. Multilingualism is also a feature of LibreOffice, another open source office suite, localised in over a hundred languages.

  • LibreOffice HiDPI Patches

    I bought a HiDPI laptop in October to replace my 5-year old Thinkpad. Between the 5.7 million pixels, and the bright LED backlight replacing my dying and dim CFL bulb, it makes the daily computing experience much easier on the eyes. I’d put up with a lot for this screen. It turns out I have to compared to my old Lenovo, as there is an incompatible and inferior keyboard layout, the Synaptics mouse drivers are flakey, it is difficult to replace the battery or hard drive, etc.

    [...]

    Apparently, everyone is so busy delivering a new product, fostering a young community, paying down technical debt, making it run on Android, improving import and export, rewriting the Calc engine, removing Java, etc., that no one has time to make it look good on these beautiful screens. There is a lot happening without any rich benefactor anymore, and a split community. If you think LibreOffice is amazing, just imagine what it would be if IBM gave them $10M / year, and the trademark, and didn’t seduce away naïve volunteers and donations. (I believe if IBM were to ask Watson whether it should end the fork, the AI would recommend it. Watson is only being applied to customer problems instead of their own. One could spend a lot of time correcting the inaccurate FUD written on the AOO dev alias. Imagine we lived in a society that celebrated divorce instead of marriage.)

  • A new web site for the LibreOffice Project

    When we first started the LibreOffice Project, we had a gazilion tasks to work on. Among them, we had priorities, most of them involving the code readiness of our first version, LibreOffice 3.3. Another priority was to make sure that the native-lang communities of the now defunct OpenOffice.org project would be able to find the tools needed to work on the releases, (re)create documentation, QA of their localized builds and several other important tasks. These were some of our most crucial priorities; yet among them, you would not have noted “design a nice website”.

01.29.14

UK Government Seems to Be Serious About Moving to Free Software and OpenDocument Format This Time Around

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Office Suites, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 3:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: British politicians finally decide that by throwing away Microsoft spyware (in favour of FOSS and ‘cloud’ spyware like Google Docs) savings can be passed to the British public

AS ONE who works with the British public sector, I have heard some truly disturbing stories about FOSS projects being derailed by outside intervention (Microsoft partners, lobbyists, etc.) and seen some for myself. This is not a gentlemen’s club; it’s a fierce, manipulative race for domination. Those who are enjoying overpriced contracts with the government would never let go.

Earlier today there was this report in the British press [1] about something that requires looking at the date stamp. The headline says “UK government plans switch from Microsoft Office to open source” and it seems like a blast from the past. On many occasions before the government said it would transition to FOSS and ODF (on which there were workshops), but it hardly ever happened. Is this time different from the previous times? Let’s wait and see. Microsoft sure is lobbying and probably setting up “task forces” or “response teams” (Microsoft’s terminology) with the sole goal is derailing this policy by all means necessary (ousting those involved has been a common strategy).

Meanwhile, suggests this piece of news from Belgium [2], the “Dutch city of Ede spends 92 percent less (!) than its peers on software licenses” and owing to FOSS use a “Dutch town lowers IT cost 24% vs peers” [3]. Fantastic, but it’s consistent with what Dutch researchers showed more than half a decade ago (Microsoft partners demonised them and criticised/ridiculed their reports). In other news from the same source [4,5], “Finnish schools using open source reap savings” (no surprise here either). Remember what BECTA did in the UK? As we’ve argued many times over the years, the UK is likely to be the last country in Europe to migrate to FOSS, but it would be pleasing to be proven wrong.
Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. UK government plans switch from Microsoft Office to open source

    Ministers are looking at saving tens of millions of pounds a year by abandoning expensive software produced by firms such as Microsoft.

    Some £200m has been spent by the public sector on the computer giant’s Office suite alone since 2010.

    But the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude believes a significant proportion of that outlay could be cut by switching to software which can produce open-source files in the “open document format” (ODF), such as OpenOffice and Google Docs.

  2. Dutch city of Ede spends 92 percent less (!) than its peers on software licenses

    The city of Ede, the Netherlands, currently has an annual total ICT budget of six million euros. According to the Dutch Berenschot benchmark for municipal ICT costs, that is 24 percent less than other municipalities of comparable size are spending. Drilling down shows that most of this reduction can be explained by Ede’s extremely low spend on software licenses: only 56 euros per full-time equivalent employee (FTE) instead of 731 euros. That’s a very impressive 92 percent less than average. Such a large reduction was achieved by moving from proprietary to open source software.

  3. OSS use Dutch town lowers IT cost 24% vs peers

    Public administrations that switch to free and open source software can expect a large reduction of their ICT costs, a study published on Joinup shows. The annual ICT costs for the Dutch municipality of Ede are now 24% lower than its peers. “Most of this reduction can be explained by Ede’s extremely low spend on software licenses: only 56 euros per full-time equivalent employee instead of 731 euros. Such a large reduction was achieved by moving from proprietary to open source software.”

  4. Finnish schools using open source reap savings

    Municipalities in Finland that have switched their schools to Linux and other open source solutions are saving millions of euro, says Jouni Lintu, CIO of Opinsys. “Typically, our centrally managed open source computers are at least 40 percent cheaper than the proprietary alternative. The total savings could be 10 million.”

  5. Finnish Schools Save Big With FLOSS

    I’ve seen it repeatedly. New systems cost half as much and migrating old systems costs a fraction of that. The saving in money is important but so is the saving in time. In a typical school the effort could drop from many hours per week to minutes.

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