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08.11.14

Microsoft is Still Attacking Open Standards, So Khronos Does Not Need the Microsoft Moles

Posted in Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard at 12:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Khronos

Summary: Having attacked the industry’s document standard OpenDocument Format (ODF) while pretending to have ‘embraced’ ODF Microsoft is now pretending that it is eager to support OpenGL

MICROSOFT just won’t leave anything alone, not even its rivals (or especially its rivals). Microsoft is a maestro of “embrace and extend” strategies. In the case of ODF, Microsoft insists on openwashing so as to stop Free software and open standards. When Microsoft pretended to ‘embrace’ ODF it actually attacked it, and it continues to attack ODF to this day (2014). It tries to do it secretly, via proxies like the BSA. It is very hard to find out who is doing what because the whole affair is shrouded in secrecy. This secrecy is part of the design.

Dr. Glyn Moody tried using the law to impose transparency on Microsoft’s actions. He failed, but in the process he did manage to reveal that Microsoft was up to no good. Here's the latest:

This is really one of the most ridiculous get-out clauses, because it is so wide. The whole point of the FOI system is so that we can see precisely what is being said in these discussions, and to find out what companies are saying behind closed doors – and what ministers are replying. Although it’s laudable that the Department for Business Innovation and Skills got in touch to correct its response to me, it’s rather rich to do so and then simply refuse point-blank to release any of the information it has just found.

The only consolation is that whatever Microsoft whispered in the corridors of power to de-rail the move to ODF – since I hardly imagine it was a fervent supporter of the idea – it didn’t work. However, there are doubtless many other occasions when it did, but we will never know. That’s just unacceptable in a modern democracy.

What we have here is a clear reminder that Microsoft is attacking open standards in the UK. Microsoft bribed people to rig balloting processes all around the world and it tried hard to confuse the public by calling a proprietary format “Open XML”, using a lot of abuses to also put some stamps on it. Microsoft is basically diluting the brand of Open Source, just as with Nokia at the moment Microsoft is naming Windows “Debian”. To quote a mystifying new report: “When Linux users hear about Debian they know instantly that it’s one of the best and most popular operating systems out there. Nobody thinks that it might be a new firmware for a Windows-powered Nokia phone.”

Is that not a trademark infringement? Debbie and Ian would almost certainly not approve.

Going back to standards, what Microsoft has been trying with ODF, as we have demonstrated repeatedly, is an “embrace and extend” manoeuvre. It’s like “the ‘other’ Java” from Microsoft, to name just one example where Microsoft destroys rivals by ‘embracing’ them and then distorting them.

After Microsoft’s many attacks on OpenGL (there is no “Microsoft OpenGL”, but Microsoft did contribute to harming of OpenGL as a standard and even derailed gaming under GNU/Linux this way) we learn about this disturbing (but rather predictable) move:

Neil Trevett, the VP of the Mobile Developer Ecosystem at NVIDIA and also serves as the President of the Khronos Group, confirmed that Microsoft has joined the Khronos Group’s WebGL working group. Microsoft in past years has generally distanced itself from “GL” in favor of their own Direct3D API. Microsoft was originally a member of the OpenGL Architecture Review Board, but they’ve been out of that position for more than one decade with just pushing DirectX on Windows and leaving Windows OpenGL support as a bastard child.

Microsoft is hoping to dip its fingers in OpenGL so that it can better control it. Khronos oughtn’t allow the Microsoft moles in, assuming it remembers the history of what Microsoft did to OpenGL. There are promising new features in the latest OpenGL and OpenCL [1,2,3], so to let a dying platform like Windows show the way would be rather unwise. Microsoft wants to do to OpenGL (OGL) what it did to Open Document Format (ODF). Microsoft wants and needs lock-in in order to survive. Since it’s WebGL we are dealing with here, just recall all the damage Microsoft caused to and brought upon the Web.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. The Khronos Group Is Developing A New Graphics API From The Ground-Up

    Khronos announced a call for participation in a next-generation OpenGL initiative. The announcement reads, “Khronos announced a call for participation today in a project to define a future open standard for high-efficiency access to graphics and compute on modern GPUs. Key directions for the new ground-up design include explicit application control over GPU and CPU workloads for performance and predictability, a multithreading-friendly API with greatly reduced overhead, a common shader program intermediate language, and a strengthened ecosystem focus that includes rigorous conformance testing. Fast-paced work on detailed proposals and designs are already underway, and any company interested to participate is strongly encouraged to join Khronos for a voice and a vote in the development process.”

  2. OpenGL 4.5 Released With New Features

    Well, the next-gen OpenGL didn’t end up being OpenGL 5.0 but is being billed as OpenGL 4.5. Regardless, the OpenGL 4.5 specification is out now.

  3. SPIR 2.0 Is Out In Provisional Form For OpenCL 2.0

    Besides OpenGL 4.5, the Khronos Group announced from SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver today the release of the provisional specification for SPIR 2.0.

07.24.14

UK Government Adopts OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft Already Attacks the Government Over It, Showing Absolutely No Commitment to Open Standards

Posted in Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML at 1:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Folder

Summary: Only “Microsoft as the standard” is the ‘standard’ Microsoft is willing to accept, as its response to the Cabinet Office’s judgment reveals

AT THE BEGINNING of this week we learned that the British (UK) Cabinet Office, a highly influential department with technology imperatives, did the correct thing by no longer requiring British citizens to become clients of Microsoft (and users of expensive spyware) to merely communicate with their government. The Cabinet Office “goes open source” is how one news site put it, but ODF, the OpenDocument Format, is not necessarily about Free/Open Source software. ODF is about many applications working together, not via formats that are designed around a single application and its various versions (that’s what OOXML is).

Techrights did not break this news. It was Andy Updegrove who did, along with Cabinet Office. Quoting Updegrove:

The U.K. Cabinet Office accomplished today what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts set out (unsuccessfully) to achieve ten years ago: it formally required compliance with the Open Document Format (ODF) by software to be purchased in the future across all government bodies. Compliance with any of the existing versions of OOXML, the competing document format championed by Microsoft, is neither required nor relevant. The announcement was made today by The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.

The Cabinet Office stated:

The open standards selected for sharing and viewing government documents have been announced by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.

Not too shockingly, as one ought to expect, the following day Microsoft attacked this decision. despite claiming to have ‘embraced’ ODF. “Microsoft attacks UK government decision to adopt ODF for document formats” said one headline, stating: “Microsoft has attacked the UK government’s decision to adopt ODF as its standard document format, saying it is “unclear” how UK citizens will benefit.

“The Cabinet Office announced its new policy yesterday, whereby Open Document Format (ODF) is immediately established as the standard for sharing documents across the public sector, with PDF and HTML also acceptable when viewing documents.”

“Turning its back on Microsoft Office’s native formats, the UK government has adopted the Open Document Format for all its sharable documents,”
writes Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, but if Microsoft is really all about openness, then Microsoft should welcome this decision, not attack it. It is quite revealing that Microsoft is not really interested in fair competition, interoperability, and openness.

“UK government makes “big step forward” on open document standards,” said the headline from Opensource.com (Red Hat).

We already wrote so much about it and warmed the Cabinet Office about Microsoft’s abusive responses, which include trying to get people fired, bribing some other people, using (or exploiting) disabled people to attack people’s rational decisions, and so on.

Dr. Glyn Moody wrote about “Massachusetts ODF fiasco a decade ago” and said about this important milestone: “Let’s Not Mess it up””

While celebrating this great news, I really want to emphasise Bracken’s point about managing the switch properly. We can be absolutely certain that Microsoft will fight this decision in every way possible. It will certainly seize on any problems that arise during the implementation as “proof” that it was the wrong choice. That makes it crucial that the open source community do everything in its power to aid the Cabinet Office here.

One particular area that concerns me is cross-compatibility. I’m hearing stories about difficulty in transferring ODF files from LibreOffice to Apache OpenOffice, with formatting of things like tables being messed up in the process. This is completely unacceptable: one of the benefits of adopting an open standard is the ability to swap in and out different applications. If that theory proves impossible in reality, we have a huge problem.

I would therefore like to entreat all the open source projects and communities that work on ODF to get together and sort this out. In the wake of the fantastic – and brave – move by the Cabinet Office, providing full interoperability among open source implementations must be a priority.

Yesterday’s news is truly a unique opportunity to show the power of open standards, to promote the benefits of open source, and to bring about its wider dissemination both in government, and among home users. The price of failure here would be extremely high: yet more years in the wilderness, as happened after the Massachusetts ODF fiasco a decade ago. So let’s not mess it up.

The Mukt, which covered this important development. delivered yet another call for Google to adopt ODF as the default document format, ending Google’s cowardly approach towards document formats.

We feel as though we played some role in the above (being among hundreds of people who wrote to the Cabinet Office). We not only wrote a lot about it and also wrote to the Office itself almost a dozen times, engaging in a discussion with members of staff.

07.10.14

OpenDocument Format (ODF) Still Alive and Kicking

Posted in Office Suites, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 4:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

But we may need Google’s help

Building

Summary: Caligra, WebODF and various influential nations’ departure from Microsoft Office will help famous projects such as OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice make ODF the only international standard for editable documents exchange

NOW that the latest Microsoft Office may be banned in China (China, Korea and maybe Russia are moving away from Window and thus away from Microsoft Office too) there is a real chance, boosted not only by BRICS nations, that ODF will be very widespread. The recent new release of Caligra (covered some days ago in our daily links), the advance of WebODF [1] into various frameworks [2] and applications [3], the exciting news from Korea [4] and even actions towards standards and interoperability in Europe [5,6] give us many reasons for optimism. People who state that ODF is “dead” or “nobody uses it” basically try to justify defeatism and continued (exponential) dependence on Microsoft through the network effect.

While some people prefer simpler formats [7], others continue to stick to office suites. Microsoft is trying to invade the Android empire, putting lots of OOXML in it (with Google’s help [8,9]) and now we see claims that Microsoft is ‘supporting’ Android by merely giving proprietary spyware with lock-in to it (for OOXML), not just adding spyware to it and then packaging it as ‘Nokia by Microsoft’:

We have already seen the launch of Nokia’s first Android-powered smartphones under the Nokia X brand earlier this year. And now it seems Microsoft is planning to bring a similar experience for its users under the Lumia brand.

New information from the famous tipster @evleaks suggests that Android-powered Lumia smartphones are currently being developed under the ‘Nokia by Microsoft’ brand.

We have seen a lot of OOXML openwashing as of late. We also criticised Google for its stance on document formats. What we shall end up with as the widespread standards very much depends on the actions of large corporations, not just people (whose choices will be limited by corporations). We need to push hard for ODF and it will most likely win, especially as more and more nations dump Microsoft Office. Google has control over many users’ choice of document formats (Google Apps, Android, ChromeOS), so we need to put more pressure on Google to go against the flow (Microsoft formats) and with the future, which is ODF.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. WebODF v0.5.0 released: Highlights

    Today, after a long period of hard work and preparation, having deemed the existing WebODF codebase stable enough for everyday use and for integration into other projects, we have tagged the v0.5.0 release and published an announcement on the project website.

  2. WebODF meets ownCloud to fix what’s wrong with Google Docs

    Google Docs is a great resource for collaborative editing and online document editing, however it has one of the greatest problems of all – it doesn’t support the ISO approved document standard ODF. Which leaves governments, businesses and individuals locked into Microsoft’s .docx format.

  3. WebODF Travels

    Yesterday WebODF released v 0.5.0 complete with a library, web editor and FireFox plugin.

  4. South Korea gives up on Microsoft

    South Korea is using the fact that Windows XP is no longer supported as a reason to walk away from Microsoft completely.

    According to a government statement, South Korea wants to break from its Microsoft dependency and move to open source software by 2020″

  5. Optimising Joinup’s interoperability app repository

    First, we hope to boost reuse of these solutions by improving the project descriptions. Over the past months, we selected 40 projects on Joinup that we expect to have the highest potential for reuse, taking into account such factors as the maturity of the project, its use in cross-border cooperation and licence. Together with the project developers, we improved the descriptions of these projects and enhanced their metadata. For example, we added pointers to existing implementations, details on the intended users and ways to participate.

  6. What’s up with Open Standards?

    It is hard enough for people to understand what protocols such as TCP/IP do. These open standards however are invisible to most of them, even if they’re using them on a daily basis. Other open standards, such as OpenDocument Format, are probably not conceivable by some people, who think that an office document is “an extension of Microsoft Office”. I have even heard of teachers, here in France, who refused to even mention ODF because such a thing “could not possibly exist”. The conceptual distinction between a file and an application has not permeated much, even in the twenty first century.

  7. ODT to TXT, but keep the line numbering

    The title explains what this article is about. If you save an .odt file as text, or copy/paste the contents as a text file, or run odt2txt or the unoconv utility, you lose the apparent line structure of the original, and with it the line numbering. But there is a way…

  8. Google Shuts the Door on QuickOffice, as its Work is Done

    At last week’s Google I/O conference, the company announced new levels of compatibility with Microsoft Office documents in its Google Docs cloud-based applications, including the ability to edit Office documents. These capabilities are driven through QuickOffice, a toolset that Google acquired back in 2012. Quickoffice has provided close compatibility with the Microsoft Office file formats, ranging from .doc to .xlsx, for users of Google Docs.

  9. Google kills QuickOffice for iOS and Android, what does it document interoperability?

    When Google acquired QuickOffice back in, we assued it was an effort to bring Microsoft Office like capabilities to mobile devices as there was no polished Office Suite back then. Then Google started integrating QuickOffice into its own Google Docs and there were signs that the company may kill the standalone app.

07.07.14

The NSA’s Top (and First) PRISM Partner, Microsoft, Lies to Governments and Businesses as Office Gets Banned in China

Posted in Asia, Deception, Microsoft, Office Suites, Security at 6:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

No Microsoft Office in China

Office

Summary: Developments in China reveal that security and privacy threats posed by reliance on Microsoft are so great that a ban becomes inevitable and continues to expand (Microsoft put on more and more block lists and blacklists)

Let’s face it. Microsoft is in very serious trouble. Citing security, China already bans Windows (latest version), a top cash cow of Microsoft Corporation, which has only a few profitable products. Microsoft is now trying to warp the debate and deny back doors, even though Snowden provided evidence that speaks for itself. Windows has back doors that the NSA is exploiting. The other cash cow, Office (latest version), is also being banned in China, again for security reasons. Microsoft as a whole is being banned and censored, little by little (even its surveillance proxy, Yahoo, is being censored). This will be a big gain for free/libre office suites, including some Chinese versions (IBM employed people in China to work on OpenOffice with ODF). We will write more about the FOSS angle some time tomorrow as it’s a broad (and rapidly-broadening) subject.

Watch the Microsoft propaganda and vengeance in Microsoft media. For instance, says a Microsoft MVP and longtime booster (without mentioning Microsoft’s strong connection with the NSA), there is “malicious intent” here. It is actually a matter of national security because the NSA breaks into networks of companies like Huawei. Who is really malicious then? Here is a better and newer article about the ban of Microsoft Office 360 (5 days downtime). “Microsoft is working very hard to change the way that people see them,” says one article (part of this latest propaganda campaign [1, 2, 3, 4]) and the key word is “see”. No changed behaviour is part of the plan, especially when it comes to security and privacy. It is about perception. Some influential publishers who were paid by Microsoft are helping this perception management campaign right now, which proves that to Microsoft it’s all about marketing, not policy. The article “Microsoft Office Banned by China” generalises to make it seem like Office on the desktop too is banned and since it is written by a Microsoft MVP in a Microsoft sites we can expect the usual ridicule of China. Here is part of the full article from the Microsoft booster:

In April of this year, Microsoft made Office 365 available in China through a partnership with 21Vianet. Office 365, of course, is Microsoft’s online, Cloud edition of the industry leading office productivity software.

China represents a huge potential market for Microsoft. In addition to the launch of Office 365 in the country, Microsoft cut the ribbon on a new Azure datacenter in March.

But, Microsoft’s march to China dominance has been severely hampered as of late, and it seems with malicious intent by the country’s leadership.

This is great news, but a lot of the Western media has not picked this up. Interesting. Maybe there’s fear that this might inspire other governments.

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.

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