Summary: Microsoft’s lobbying apparatus is trying to hook entire nations into PRISM (i.e. NSA espionage) with proprietary Microsoft formats and proprietary software, especially now that nations have policies in place and Free software available which renders Microsoft obsolete
DESPITE Microsoft’s gross behaviour and sheer influence in the Indian government, the Government of India recently managed to pass new laws in relation to software, making Free software a necessity (to what degree depends on the article one trusts the most, as there have been at least a dozen of them in English). This makes perfect sense for a software powerhouse like India. It would benefit local industries. India can be self-sufficient in the software sense.
Meanwhile, here in the UK the government managed to pass pro-ODF policies, despite lobbying by Microsoft, its proxies, and its British partners. We covered this last year and we played a role in giving feedback to the government, at the expense of many hours and as much as one day’s work. We now have what can be cautiously labelled Free software-friendly procurement policy even in the UK, which has historically been one of the most Microsoft-friendly countries in the world.
“We now have what can be cautiously labelled Free software-friendly procurement policy even in the UK, which has historically been one of the most Microsoft-friendly countries in the world.”Microsoft is of course not accepting defeat. It is now pretending to be “Open Source”, starting with lies about the status of .NET, accompanied by concealment patent issues (as with OOXML) and openwashing of Visual Studio — an integral part of .NET — even though it’s a mischievous distortion of facts. Microsoft pretends to be “Open Source” because it wants a loophole into government contracts even where governments strictly require Free software and open standards. A new article by Liu Qihao & Ciaran O’Riordan highlights the reality behind so-called ‘Open Source’ .NET. The instruction states:
Microsoft is publishing the source code to certain parts of .NET. The terms of distribution (the licence) is the combination of the MIT licence and a separate patent promise. Given that Microsoft has a history of aggressively using software patents against free software, we decided to take a look at the legal details.
The conclusion is as follows:
If you only intend to use the software as published by Microsoft, then everything looks fine. The patent promise (if it’s even necessary) will apply. If you intend to modify the code, then the protections of the patent promise may be necessary or useful and you should take care. And if you’re looking for a project to contribute to, then it would be worth giving your preference to projects which don’t contain conditions which create or suggest patent risks if the code is used in other free software projects (outside of the set of .NET Runtime projects).
So it’s basically false marketing, as one should expect from Microsoft. The Economist has just released a horrible Microsoft puff piece (more like an advertisement in article form), misleadingly titled “Opening Windows”. Opening, really? As in “Open Source”? The article, written in Redmond, says: “At an event in San Francisco last October Mr Nadella showed a slide that read: “Microsoft loves Linux”. In contrast, Mr Ballmer once called the open-source operating system a “cancer”.”
Paul Krill, a Microsoft-friendly writer (for many years now), has meanwhile published “Windows goes open source?” (not April’s Fool). Paul Krill consciously (or not) helps Microsoft openwash Windows, pretending there are such legitimate claims as policies in governments change to require “Open Source”.
What we have here is a misinformation campaign. You love Open Source? Then you will love Microsoft. That’s the (almost) daily message from your Microsoft-affiliated and at times Microsoft-bribed friends (acting as ‘reporters’).
Here in the UK our government is apparently so dumb that even when it adopts ODF as the editable documents standard and asks for Free/Open Source software it remains stuck with the prospect of blobs from Microsoft. Regarding an article that seeks to associate Microsoft with ODF, iophk told us: “In practice it is unlikely that it will actually comply with the standard.”
This relates to statements like this one from Linda Humphries, titled “Making document formats open, it makes them better” (the same applies to software, not just data).
Francis Maude has just met (i.e. lobbying) with a Microsoft liar, Michel Van der Bel (see her mentioned in this older post). Microsoft pretends that it can deliver ODF support and that therefore the government’s requirement (ODF) and preference (Free software) should be compatible with Windows and Office. To quote the article: “Stanchak said Cabinet Officer minister Francis Maude met with Microsoft’s UK country manager, Michel Van der Bel, to discuss the company’s work on open standards to enable universal document access across government departments.
“Maude said the use of ODF will deliver significant savings to the public sector.
“”This will give people more choice about the software they use. This supports our digital by default agenda, which is helping save citizens, businesses and taxpayers £1.2bn over this Parliament as part of our long-term economic plan,” he said.
“The update comes despite Microsoft arguing last year that its own Open XML file format is more widely adopted than ODF and therefore should be on the government’s approved format list.”
So Microsoft attacked ODF and now it wants to be part of ODF. Is that how it works? The UK government should shun Microsoft. As this other new article reminds us: “In 2014, Microsoft went against the government’s request to support ODF, claiming its own XML format was more heavily adopted. The UK government refutes the claim, stating that ODF allows users to not be boxed into one ecosystem.”
Microsoft now pretends otherwise. More lies from Microsoft UK, an opportunist with NSA connections. The British government’s decision on office suites (if they’re needed at all) shouldn’t be about picking a ‘cloud’; it would be a privacy farce. If the government was ever to adopt Microsoft ‘cloud’ (i.e. NSA PRISM with that glorified ‘cloud’ buzzword which appeases non-technical people), would it be sued by any British citizens for supporting espionage by foreign spies? A lot of personal data is being encoded and stored in such documents. In the past, for NSA to acquire data/files from Office it needed to use Microsoft’s Windows back doors. With Office 360 [sic.] it’s becoming trivial. Microsoft is in PRISM.
The British government needs to adopt Free software such as LibreOffice and stop wasting time being lobbied by the company that attacked open standards and Open Source software like no other company in the history of computing. █
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“They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”
Summary: ‘Free’ drugs (a proprietary software analogy) the new strategy of Microsoft in its latest battle against Free software, especially in schools where choice is a rarity (if not an impossibility), with the premeditated intention of forming dependency/addiction among young people
The Microsoft marketer from the CBS-run ZDNet says that GNU/Linux has now successfully pushed the price of Windows down to $0. No wonder the company is laying off many employees and fighting with the IRS over its tax violations. Microsoft is a company in rapid decline and there are many ways to show this. Just because Microsoft pressures and even bribes people to pay lip service to Vista 10 doesn’t mean it’s real news or that FOSS sites should cover it too (but some do). It’s more of a distraction or a decoy amid a lot of negative publicity for Microsoft. Vista 10 is not ‘free’, neither gratis nor libre. That’s a lie perpetrated by Microsoft and propagated by Microsoft-friendly media. As Pogson put it in his rebuttal: “Freedom isn’t just about the price. An operating system isn’t a service. One needs software on a device to make it seem intelligent, nothing more. Bundling that other OS with every kind of device on the planet doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Microsoft has been trying to infiltrate the FOSS community and even infiltrate GNU/Linux (the winners at Microsoft’s expense). Here we have Microsoft’s proxy Xamarin producing yet another Microsoft entrapment for GNU/Linux users (Mono) and here we have Microsoft trying to repurpose Free software as Microsoft lock-in. When Microsoft says “open source” it means proprietary plus some exploitation of FOSS in the Trojan sense, based on its silly press releases that it pushed even into CNN, (i.e. paid for by Microsoft handsomely). For those who missed it, Microsoft is now trying to push proprietary software with OOXML lock-in, which Microsoft committed crimes for, into Moodle. Microsoft’s ally in schools, Blackboard (proprietary), also tried to accomplish that when it acquired the competition (Moodlerooms). It is capture by proxy (Microsoft uses its own proxy) and it serves to highlight an inherent vulnerability in the ‘openness’ of Free software (it leaves itself open to Trojan horses unless it is willing to put up some resistance). Microsoft did the same thing to Linux (proprietary Hyper-V through Novell as the bribed proxy) and it is becoming a serious issue. The media too plays a role in it (see the paid press releases above) and Bill Gates’ bribes to The Guardian are clearly paying off because this wicked paper is now portraying Gates as a champion of education with another mindless advertisement/puff piece. This is often about imposing Microsoft software on schools. Gates has already made it explicitly clear that he views children the same way drug dealers view them. It’s market share. It’s money. “In other news,” wrote a reader to us, “he is attacking Moodle quite heavily. I guess the goal is to make it 100% tied to MS Office, Sharepoint, Exchange and all the other crap.”
“Microsoft has been been trying to infiltrate the FOSS community and even infiltrate GNU/Linux (the winners at Microsoft’s expense).”“Wired still sucks up to Bill,” he added, linking to this latest puff piece. Gates has spent over a billion dollars so far bribing news sites, blogs, etc. so we have grounds for suspicion that Wired too (Condé Nast) has an unstated conflict of interest. Another news site of Condé Nast has employed full-time Microsoft boosters and one of them, Peter Bright (Microsoft Peter), is now openwashing Internet Explorer despite admitting that “Internet Explorer is closed from end to end.”
Watch out as Microsoft and Bill Gates try to hijack school curriculum to impose Microsoft as part of what’s obligatory (imposed from above). The attempt to make Moodle connected to the NSA PRISM-complying (Microsoft was first in PRISM) OOXML-spreading Microsoft Office is just the first step. █
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Summary: Microsoft interference with Britain’s preference for ODF is now confirmed, thanks to a valuable news report from Computer Weekly; OOXML lock-in is being unleashed by Microsoft on Android users
NUMEROUS articles in the British press have been pointing out too slow an adoption of ODF in the UK, despite policies that demand it. Now we have a better understanding of potential causes.
As a quick recap, here is a partial chronology of this year’s developments:
- UK Government Seems to Be Serious About Moving to Free Software and OpenDocument Format This Time Around
- In Another Attempt to Derail British ODF Policy Microsoft Calls Its Systematic Bribery “Internationally Recognised”
- Response to ODF as Government Standard Proposal
- Amended Comment Regarding ODF as Document Standard in the UK
- UK Government Adopts OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Microsoft Already Attacks the Government Over It, Showing Absolutely No Commitment to Open Standards
- Groklaw Back in the Wake of ODF in the UK?
So ODF adoption in the UK is only a matter of time. But we have already known based on limited evidence (or a conspiracy of silence) that Microsoft worked silently to crush this policy. Yes, Microsoft claims that it “loves” FOSS and Linux or “supports” ODF while secretly attacking them all by corrupting the political system in the UK, striving to suppress them and ultimately kill them.
Now comes new evidence that shows how people at the highest levels at Microsoft are getting involved to block ODF, i.e. anything which merely permits Free software to compete on fair grounds. Computer Weekly has a couple of good articles, the first of which states that “Departments lack common targets for implementing open-document standards” and the second one telling us “the curious case of Microsoft and the minister”. As it turns out, the software monopolist clearly strikes back behind people’s backs. To quote the article: “Microsoft consistently opposed the policy, which the software giant saw as its last chance to overturn the UK government’s broader plans for open standards. As emails seen by Computer Weekly reveal, the decision became an issue in the supplier’s Seattle boardroom, and brought the lobbying powers of the software giant into full force in Whitehall.
“There has been speculation about the role played by senior government minister David Willetts, then minister of state for universities and science in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), but who later left the post in David Cameron’s 2014 summer reshuffle.
“An investigation by Computer Weekly has revealed that – according to well-placed sources – Microsoft turned to Willetts to help win its case, with the supplier’s global chief operating officer (COO) Kevin Turner getting involved. But neither BIS nor David Willetts himself is willing to discuss the role the minister played in Microsoft’s attempts to influence this obscure but vitally important part of government IT policy.
“Willetts was the government’s liaison point for Microsoft, as a major employer and investor in the UK economy. He also served as co-chair of the Information Economy Council, a body set up to enable dialogue between Whitehall and the IT industry over future policy.”
One should bear in mind that Britain is perhaps at the forefront of ODF adoption. There is an imminent London-based ODF event, just like those Plugfests from back in the days, and departments of government are expected to move to ODF. However, based on recent reports they are slow to conform or obey these requirements.
Last week we wrote to Linda from the Cabinet Office, hoping to get her and her colleagues’ attention amid dirty tricks from Microsoft. In a personal E-mail I stated:
Several months ago we had an amicable exchange in which I alerted Cabinet Office, through the comments, that Microsoft would likely oppose its policies in subversive and underhanded/secretive ways.
Two new articles from Computer Weekly serve to prove my point now and I hope that you and your colleagues will spare some times to read them, especially the following article:
The more transparent the Cabinet Office makes this process, the more the British public will be able to protect the Cabinet Office from such self-serving foreign influence that strives to expand the reach of back doors, surveillance, predatory pricing, and format lock-in.
To quote the aforementioned (first) article from Computer Weekly:”Whitehall departments have begun to publish their plans on how to implement the government’s open-document standards policy – but so far, each appears to be working to very different timescales. One department – the Treasury – has stated it won’t see full implementation until as late as 2018.
“The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) and the Treasury have published their plans so far. The Treasury said it will not be fully implementing the mandated open-document standard until February 2018, three years after other departments.”
The ODF-friendly UK policy might not survive if the British public does not get involved and helps the politicians or public servants resist brutal lobbying from Microsoft, which knows no boundaries. Here is another new article of interest:
From this week, it has promised to publish PDFs and Word documents in PDF/A and ODS formats respectively.
However, on Excel, which are most commonly published as “live” data tables, it said: “Content producers should convert to ODS format before submitting to digital content teams.
“However the statisticians have identified problems with certain spreadsheets – where drop-down filters fail to work when converted – more work needs to be done on finding a solution to this problem and DCLG will to commit to the spreadsheets where possible will be published from 1 November 2014 being in an ODS format.”
DCLG said that it is committed to opening up government and providing a level playing field for open source systems, providing the citizen with free access to government information.
I was in Whitehall some days ago, so I passed next to many of these government offices. The place is plagued by greedy businessmen and tourists, so the voice of the British people can hardly be heard. We need to become more loud about it and contact such people without shame or shyness. Microsoft is so desperate to spread OOXML everywhere that it now goes after users of the most widely used operating system (Android/Linux), aided by spin from Microsoft partner and booster Tony Bradley among other spinners who are spreading OOXML lock-in by promoting OOXML for mobile devices (Android does not even handle ODF out of the box, which is a great shame for Google). Microsoft first sought a monopoly on the application (office suite), then it pursued a monopoly on the format (OOXML), and now it is pursuing even a monopoly on the files with its so-called ‘cloud’ (storing all files on Microsoft’s servers). █
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Berlin is already a Windows shop and it’s not window-shopping
Summary: A Softpedia report that says the City of Berlin is moving to Microsoft Office is flawed and may be based on a poor translation
Last year we wrote about Berlin's reluctance to follow the lead of Munich, which happily uses Free software and GNU/Linux, despite the FUD from Microsoft (including some of the latest, not just last year's). It has been over a year since a formal investigation was launched into Microsoft’s bribery of officials in many countries. We are not aware of any progress on it, but all we can say is that Microsoft did try ‘soft’ bribes in derailing Munich’s efforts. There is a lot of rogue stuff going on and we covered it in past years.
According to this one report in English, “City of Berlin Going from OpenOffice Back to Microsoft Office”. The problem is, we are not aware of Berlin ever moving to OpenOffice. I spoke to an old friend in Berlin (he works on LibreOffice) as this report continued to seem a little suspicious. I followed through to the source, assuming it either shows that once again Microsoft bribes have paid off or that Microsoft is spreading lies and FUD. As it turns out, a poor translation by Silviu Stahie may be the issue.
“As it turns out, a poor translation by Silviu Stahie may be the issue.”According to this report, Microsoft OOXML is again interfering with adoption of Free software in government. To quote: “It’s difficult to say what the steps that prompted the city officials to make this decision were. It might just as well be the fact that documents created with OpenOffice 3.2 can’t be opened by people with newer or proprietary software, or vice versa.
“The fact of the matter is that LibreOffice, a much newer and modern office suite open source solution, can do all these things. It’s already used in cities around the world, so others don’t seem to have the same problems as Berlin. From what we can gather from the Golem.de report, the switch to Microsoft Office is already happening and it should be finished by the end of 2015.
“A much bigger issue is the lack of intervention from the German government, which has yet to implement or regulate the use of open source formats in its own branches. Things would be much simpler if everyone used a single kind of file format that can be read by both proprietary and open source software.”
The original article (in German) basically says that it’s about the tax authorities, not the City of Berlin. The article also blames it squarely on OOXML, stating at the end (now translating into English) that a requirement that one should use open formats for the government of a state is possible, as shown in the United Kingdom, which established in July of this year PDF and ODF as the standards for documents. █
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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:
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.”
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.
Besides OpenGL 4.5, the Khronos Group announced from SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver today the release of the provisional specification for SPIR 2.0.
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Summary: Microsoft continues to distort the office suites market and impede interoperability using the OOXML pseudo ‘standard’, essentially by branching out into “Strict” and “Transitional”, making it exceedingly hard for developers to deal with files generated by Microsoft Office and vice versa
TRYING to work with Microsoft is misguided. Just look and see what has happened to many companies, including — to name a recent example — Nokia. Microsoft has no honour for anyone but Microsoft itself. Microsoft was bribing officials and abusing sceptics in order to get its way when it comes to document formats. Nobody should forget the crimes that Microsoft committed in order to keep the world stuck with Microsoft Office. We reminded the British government of these crimes and very recently the UK adopted ODF. This was a very smart and timely move because based on people from The Document Foundation (TDF), the bogus ‘standard’ which is basically just an ‘open’-looking gown for Microsoft Office (proprietary) formats is now being further distorted in order to cause trouble for people who are not Microsoft customers. These abuses are even worse than before and Microsoft thinks it can get away with them because it bribed people to put an ECMA and ISO stamp on OOXML (no matters what happens to it later on).
As Charles from The Document Foundation put it the other day:
Regular readers of this blog will remember these glorious days, just before the big financial crisis, where Microsoft had created the so-called OpenXML standard that was supposed to be totally not competing against the OpenDocument Format, managed to have pretty much the entire standards community swallow it in the most creative ways possible, then fell short of actually implementing it in its own products. A good summary of the whole -technical- story is available here. The irony of life has the uncanny ability to devise ways to enchant us. Well, sort of. The format called “OOXML – Strict”, by comparison to “OOXML-Transitional” was the readable open part of the ISO 29500 standard, known as OOXML. For years, it was obvious that Microsoft Office implemented OOXML-Transitional (the heap of the more or less documented parts of the format alongside undocumented blurbs) and nothing else, creating a situation where one standard, OOXML was existing, and another format, OOXML, was fully implemented and spread all around, yet was an undocumented, proprietary specification. That’s the .docx, pptx, and .xlsx you see everywhere, and the one LibreOffice was busy reverse-engineering for all these years.
This unfortunate situation, we were told, was about to change soon, with the full adoption of OOXML-Strict by Microsoft Office. Helas, if you open a purely OOXML-Strict compliant file with Microsoft Office 2013, the file will be declared corrupt. If you open the same one with LibreOffice 4.3, the file will open and you will be able to edit its contents just like with any other format supported by LibreOffice. In other words, LibreOffice can claim to have a better support of OOXML than Microsoft Office, despite years of unfulfilled promises, pledges, and never met expectations by Redmond. I guess that, just like the old saying goes, promises only commit the ones who actually believe them.
IBM’s Rob Weir has just released another piece about document formats  and a new interview with Italo Vignoli of The Document Foundation  sheds more light on what Charles spoke about. To quote Vignoli: “MS Office locks-in the user not only with proprietary formats but also with the OOXML pseudo-standard format. This is due to the way the supposedly standard format is handled by MS Office.
“In fact, each version of MS Office since 2007 has a different and non standard implementation of OOXML, which is defined as “transitional” because it contains elements which are supposed to be deprecated at standard level, but are still there for compatibility reasons.
“Although LibreOffice manages to read and write OOXML in a fairly appropriate way, it will be impossible to achieve a perfect interoperability because of these different non standard versions.
“In addition to format incompatibilities, Microsoft – with OOXML – has introduced elements which may lead the user into producing a non interoperable document, such as the C-Fonts (for instance, Calibri and Cambria).”
When Microsoft speaks about following standards what it means to say is that “Microsoft is the standard” and everyone must just follow Microsoft. Only a fool would choose OOXML over ODF, especially now. Korea and China seem to be moving away from Office quite rapidly. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
And then there is a document as the record of what we did. This is implied by the verb “to document”. This use of documents is still critical, since it is ingrained in various regulatory, legal and business processes. Sometimes you need “a document.” It won’t do to have your business contract on a wiki. You can’t prove conformance to a regulation via a Twitter stream. We may no longer print and file our “hard” documents, but there is a need to have a durable, persistable, portable, signable form of a document. PDF serves well for some instances, but not in others. What does PDF do with a spreadsheet, for example? All the formulas are lost.
The UK government recently announced that they would use ISO approved document standard ODF for viewing and sharing government documents. It’s a very important move because it breaks Microsoft’s vendor lock where single US-based company ‘owns’ and ‘controls’ all the documents created on Earth. Microsoft is infamous for using unethical means to make it harder for other players to offer any kind of interoperability with their products which can threaten Microsoft’s market share.
So we reached out to Italo Vignoli of The Document Foundation, the organization responsible for developing LibreOffice which is a fork of OpenOffice, to understand the risks of using OOXML…
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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. █
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Summary: Another step in the long struggle to cast proprietary as ‘open’, especially when it comes to Microsoft’s last remaining cash cow and Facebook’s core business of mass surveillance
Openwashing has been a key ingredient of Microsoft’s strategy as of late, pretending that its privacy violations and patent racketeering are somehow outweighted by some kind of goodwill. This is something that not only Microsoft does but also the (partly) Microsoft-owned Facebook is doing quite a lot these days. It is truly disturbing.
Angus Kidman said that “Open [sic] XML is the format which Microsoft Office has used to store Office documents since Office 2007″ even though it is untrue. Almost nobody used it at the time, so Microsoft bribed and corrupted so many people and organisations, hoping to universally impose OOXML on people, pretending it was “open” even though it was all about proprietary Office. Nobody was going to use something so unnecessary, so Microsoft bribed many people for this, including large companies, as compatibility with existing formats had improved and the goalposts needed to be moved. Here is LibreOffice’s Meeks, who was surrendering to Microsoft’s proprietary OOXML rather than adhering to standards like ODF, probably because he was paid by Novell at the time (and Novell was bribed by Microsoft specifically — as per the contractual agreement — to promote and openwash OOXML).
“When the press is trying to insinuate that Microsoft (Office) and Facebook are open there is clearly something wrong with the press.”So once again they are using “Open Source” to promote proprietary lock-in. This is not a novel concept, Microsoft did this with Novell (converter). Phoronix says: “This work may benefit some open-source document editors / office suite software, with more commentary being available from Michael Meeks’ blog.”
How is being reliant on OOXML beneficial to anyone but Microsoft shareholders? This is a trap. We need to reject this format. Google too should stop its unhelpful backing of OOXML, which is getting more detrimental by the day (more of it in the company’s latest event was disclosed, affirming Google’s lack of commitement to document standards).
As noted by some bloggers and writers for the European Commission’s Web site: “To ensure preservation of digital assets, it is essential that specific file formats are implementable in open source software, concludes Björn Lundell, associate professor at the University of Skövde in Sweden. He recommends this should be made a requirement for digital asset strategies of public administrations, thus minimising the risk of losing control over these assets.”
Well, there are patents in OOXML and complexity which shows that it’s really just designed around one implementation in a proprietary form (Office). OOXML should be rejected, especially in the public sector. There is nothing open about it. It’s a massive lie.
Nicholas Miller from VentureBeat and others play a role in a similarly-disturbing campaign that seeks to paint Facebook as “open”. With press release-oriented ‘journalists’ out there it has been quite easy. The Facebook openwashing that we recently wrote about is further promoted by pro-Facebook sites that use semantic jokes to get across this illusion.
When the press is trying to insinuate that Microsoft (Office) and Facebook are open there is clearly something wrong with the press. These are systematic and very persistent (especially this year) openwashing campaigns that everyone should push back against because these deceive and help derail real Free software. █
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