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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.

02.25.14

Response to ODF as Government Standard Proposal

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

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

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

Here is my feedback:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being Against Crime is Not Being Zealous

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

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

ODF format

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

02.24.14

Sending Letters to Stop Microsoft’s Attack on Real Standards in British Government

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Open XML at 6:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft may be doing the “add your name here and spam away” routine once again, this time in Britain

Ballot

Summary: There are two days left for British people to consider sending feedback regarding Microsoft’s crimes and fiction of a ‘standard’

THIS will be our last reminder to British readers who are able to do good service not just for the UK but for the whole world (by setting an example).

Microsoft was caught not only bribing but stuffing ballots and writing templates for sockpuppets and partners to mail officials, e.g. at ANSI. For those who cannot remember or were not paying attention at that time (about 7 years ago), Microsoft engaged in a large volume of illegal activities for which it was never punished. Now it wants to use these activities to extinguish a long-overdue policy in favour of Free software. Microsoft is trying the familar "me too" strategy.

“I guess you got these already,” iophk wrote. “It’s all a repeat of the ‘Windows, too’ or ‘equal’ time tactic” (or “choice”, where choice means Microsoft only but “no exclusion in principle” of competition of Microsoft). Choice means proprietary and spyware. Not open, not freedom.

Those who are familiar with what Microsoft did can mention the bribes, not focus only on technical arguments. The bribes were needed because of lack of technical value. For some more background and links for leaving feedback to the British government see the following reports [1, 2, 3] from the British press or even the Slashdot link to Andy Updegrove (Simon Phipps from the OSI wrote about it in his personal blog) And “while /. lasts,” iophk says, “UK FOSS people need to all send in some good comments. It’s not anything the outside community can take on.”

It’s like we are back to 2007/2008 — back when Microsoft was stuffing ballots and spamming people to get its way. One way to fight back is to expose those tactics, not just counter them in the same way. As the comments in Linux Today help show (there are hardly any comments in Linux Today since QuinStreet took over), people are very emotional about this and they are eager enough to do something substantial. Microsoft is back to using criminal activities (not just lobbying), bringing people like Updegrove back out from the woodwork.

02.21.14

In Another Attempt to Derail British ODF Policy Microsoft Calls Its Systematic Bribery “Internationally Recognised”

Posted in Europe, Fraud, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 5:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Microsoft wants us to embrace the criminal’s standard, not a real standard

ODF format

Summary: Microsoft strikes back against the British government for ‘daring’ to consider something other than proprietary software with proprietary formats

CRIMINAL organisation Microsoft, which is renowened for its illegal activities and collusion with other criminal entities, is calling its syndicates in the UK to go retaliate against British politicians who favour Free/libre software, fair competition, British companies, and real standards. This was predicable because it happened before (e.g. watering down of policies). It’s Microsoft’s way of “doing business”. Corruption is the de facto standard when it comes to Microsoft deals with the British government (various departments). We included evidence in over 100 posts over the years.

Microsoft’s latest retribution attempts are centred around the requirement of a standard. Microsoft wants us to believe that its crime-riddled proprietary formats, collectively referred to as OOXML, are in any way ‘standard’. They’re not. Not even in the UK. They’re corruption. Recall that even Britain’s BSI faced lawsuits over this corruption, as we covered in old posts such as:

Having been found to be bribing governments (probably as big as China's, not just banana republics), Microsoft should watch carefully its next move in the UK. If it attempts to bribe officials again (even ‘soft’ bribery), then it will receive a lot of blowback but no jail time, as it’s exempted from punishment for such crimes and Ballmer ran away on time.

Microsoft says that choosing ODF “sets a worrying precedent because government is, in effect, refusing to support another internationally recognised open standard,” referring to OOXML in the latter part. Well, everyone who watched this carefully knows the huge levels of corruption involved there, including bribed officials, rigged voted, etc. Nobody really considers OOXML “internationally recognised”; except Microsoft boosters and fake ‘journalists’ perhaps. Those know are informed recognise it as an internationally-recognised case of systematic crime by Microsoft. Here is a summary of just some of these crimes (counted up to an early point in time).

The British press says “Microsoft hits back at government’s open source plans,” noting that “Microsoft has urged its partners to pay closer attention to what it describes as the government’s “ill-considered” proposals to move to a more open IT model.”

Here again we see Microsoft acting by proxy. We saw that before. Whenever some Free software house (small business) in the UK receives some business from the government Microsoft sends out its proxies/partners as though they are some kind of “task forcex” (Microsoft terminology), commissioned to destroy any traces of non-Microsoft in the public sector. It’s an act of cleansing and it’s very well designed and occrdinated by the Redmond-based convicted monopolist.

“Last month,” the article gives context, “the government hinted it was considering moving away from technology such as Microsoft Office in favour of open-source offerings in an effort to break supplier “oligopoly”.”

Yes, indeed, and what’s wrong with that?

“According to Microsoft,” says the article, “the government is currently undergoing a consultation on plans to mandate the use of Open Document Formats (ODF) and to ditch Microsoft-developed Open XML (OOXML).”

Yes, indeed, because that’s the ethical and technical thing to do. We are going to take part in this consultation and we are going to urge our readers (especially British readers) to do the same. Microsoft is certainly going to use its proxies to bombard those in the consultation (sometimes it infiltrates those who assess the process, too, in addition to sending template letters to ‘DDOS’ the process, occasionally with sockpuppets) and the words from Microsoft are especially appalling because OOXML is a story of bribery and corruption, OOXML is not really a standard. Marketing, deception, revisionism, personal attacks etc. are going to be used by Microsoft to try to make it look like ODF is all about IBM and OOXML is ‘the’ standard. In reality, it’s not an international standard but an international case of crime (that tte European Commission was assigned to handle). Hundreds of examples can be given to show this, including bribery, entryism, retribution, bullying, etc. If OOXML was a real “open” standard, then how come when I leaked it (as if one needs to ‘leak’ standards) Microsoft and its cronies threatened litigation against me? So much for “open”… they were hiding the technical flaws and the fact that it’s just a scam (cannot be implemented by anyone but Microsoft, which also did not implement it, ever).

A Cabinet Office representative stated in response to Microsoft’s comments: “As part of our long-term economic plan, we’re committed to opening up government procurement to a wider range of suppliers. We want to see a greater range of software used and for departments to choose what is right for them and the users of their services.”

Simon Phipps, who back in the days of these Microsoft crime worked at Sun, calls for people to participate in the consultation. Any Updegrove, who was at the forefront back then as well, says “[t]he deadline is next Wednesday – make sure you’re heard!” We will be writing a letter and we urge others to do the same, possibly over the weekend. Talking about Microsoft’s crime and the rogue process should not be a taboo; justice has a lot to do with it. If the UK moves to ODF and embraces Free software, then other nations will use that as an example and follow suit.

12.26.13

Google Should Boycott ECMA, Not Pay ECMA

Posted in ECMA, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 5:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Too many hirings from Microsoft?

Protests in Norway (OOXML)

Summary: Google is paying the very same people who helped Microsoft’s OOXML crimes, having also started using OOXML by default

TECHRIGHTS spent a lot of time showing that ECMA is seriously corrupt (we still have an “ECMA” category filled with stories about this laughable organisation). It basically is the moral of equivalent of a regulator who receives a bribe to not only turn a blind eye but also to publicly go to other regulators and glorify the one who bribes. So why would Google, a former ODF promoter (not anymore), pay ECMA money?

One has to recall what ECMA did back in the OOXML days — the time when Microsoft was going around the world bribing just about everyone in the process (business and governments) in order to rig votes, shame the opposition, etc. Microsoft showed a deeply criminal nature at that time. Now we’re left with FRAND-laden ‘standards’ which are basically not compatible with FOSS, as Andy Updegrove (Linux Foundation) explained the other day [1]. It is clear why we need standards that everyone can implement [2] (it is good for manufacturers and purchasers, not for monopolists) and ODF is one such standard that still makes some headlines [3] and finds selective support from governments (even here in the Microsoft-centric UK [4]).

Google should really be promoting ODF, but it doesn't. This is one of the areas where Google disappoints in a very major way and adding insult to injury, Google pays ECMA right now [5]. What has happened to the Google we knew until about 5 years ago? Except many hirings from Microsoft Google has hired many patent lawyers and done other dubious things.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. When FRAND meets FOSS: Bottom Up or Top Down?

    Fourth in a series of public-private exchanges jointly convened by the EC and EPO on the topic of ICT standardization and Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), the “main highlights” are of particular note.

  2. One charger to power nearly every laptop coming from standards group
  3. OpenDocument ODF Support Coming To The Web

    WebODF is a new open-source projet that allows ODF document files to be displayed within a web-browser. WebODF is used by the new OwnCloud release for its collaborative, web-based ODF file editing.

    WebODF is similar to PDF.js, the JavaScript library for rendering PDF files natively in the web-browser, but this project is of course all about supporting the Open Document Format.

  4. Christmas comes early for the Open Document Faithful (ODF)

    Jingle Bells. The UK government has spruced its open document policy up for Christmas.

    The Cabinet Office began a public consultation on open document formats this week, three and a half years after it came to power promising they would be one of the first things it delivered.

    The consultation might signify the government has renewed its commitment to the policy. It had struggled so much since the coalition’s first failed attempt to introduce it in 2011 that it seemed it would never deliver at all.

  5. ECMA Is Working On Standardizing Google’s Dart

    ECMA International has formed a technical committee to work on a standard specification for the Dart web programming language that’s developed by Google as an alternative to JavaScript.

12.10.13

Microsoft Shows That Corruption Pays Off

Posted in Fraud, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 7:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Al Capone mugshot and Steve Ballmer

Summary: The company which aids crimes of the state is protected from having its crimes treated as such; just like big banks that receive bailouts rather than jail sentences, Microsoft receives document formats monopoly rather than embargo

SEVERAL years ago it was rare and unusual for one to receive OOXML files, but nowadays this is becoming common. Microsoft corruption paid off. Not a single person was sent to prison, let alone put on trial or an antitrust probe. It sure seems — as Microsoft would would gladly demonstrate — that very large corporations are above the law and if they are eager to engage in fraud and corruption, then they will get away with it, provided they are close enough to government (Microsoft — like Cisco and AT&T — is somewhat an NSA Trojan horse).

A few days ago a good British journalist wrote about Open Document Format, reminding us of what many people forgot. I could never forget ODF because I wrote almost a thousand posts about this area and I saw a huge amount of Microsoft crime going on without punishment (let alone any promise of punishment). This saga helped show that no matter how much crime Microsoft commits (e.g. bribing governments) some governments will continue to protect it. US officials will even act like Microsoft marketing people, almost as if they are trying to set up spying posts in other countries. They would go as far as trying to portray ODF as "anti American" because it can reduce dependence on Microsoft’s back doors-friendly operating system.

Earlier today Glyn Moody asked,” where did ODF disappear to?”

As Moody put it: “Readers with good memories may remember various key fights over the years that were largely about ODF and OOXML. The first round culminated in the extraordinarily shoddy fast-tracking of OOXML through the ISO standards process. Then we had a big battle over open standards in general, which also involved ODF and OOXML, where the UK government performed a dizzying series of U-turns.

“That was over two years ago, and it struck me that after years of sound and fury, and all the work the open source community put into supporting ODF and open standards, we have recently heard nothing about the use of ODF by the UK government. That is, OOXML seems to have won be default. Indeed, it is striking that practically every document from the UK government is in OOXML format: for a while, there was an attempt to offer ODF formats too, but clearly people in UK government have given up even pretending to be fair here.”

Remember that as long as Microsoft protects criminals who do it with impunity (state support) it will continue to be protected by the Establishment. For anyone who thinks that technical merits can be used to win an argument, well… politics is not hinged on logic. The NSA and NSA-funded GCHQ show us that politics is not even hinged on law. Outlawed practices (cracking, viruses, etc.) and digital disorder (like OOXML) is okay when those in power say they need it.

10.24.13

Procurement Corruption: Followup on “Open Bar” Contract Between Microsoft and the French Ministry of Defence

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 3:47 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The NSA-friendly back doors chosen politically, barring technical considerations and assessment

Flag of France

Summary: Forced disclosure of administrative documents in France reveals a secret Microsoft deal which is purely political and not technical

FOLLOWING our coverage of Microsoft and spooks collaborating (two months before the NSA leaks began), APRIL (software freedom advocacy group in France) sent us what it called a “[f]ollowup on “Open Bar” contract between Microsoft and French ministry of Defence,” stating:

you wrote a few months ago an article about the “Open Bar” contract
between Microsoft and French ministry of Defence

http://techrights.org/2013/04/21/nato-and-microsoft/.

FYI We published last weeks news documents. These documents show that
choosing an Open Bar contract was indeed the result of a political
decision which clearly was made before the feasibility and risks studies
were being performed.

Read on :

http://www.april.org/en/open-bar-contract-between-microsoft-and-french-ministry-defence-new-documents-support-political-game

This page says: “This framework contract, which was signed without any open call for tender or competitive procedure, granted right of use on some Microsoft products and associated services for the duration of the contract, i.e. four years. It was signed in complete secrecy, despite numerous negative opinions, and was the subject of several leaks to the press.”

“Taking advantage of this information, we made two successive requests for administrative documents. The first one obtained a partially usable response. We are now publishing the released documents resulting from the second one.”

This is very fascinating and it can give clues as to what happens in other countries. France is generally considered one of the most FOSS-friendly countries in the world when it comes to the public sector (based on Europe-wide assessment from professional assessors it was ranked first). Microsoft's assault on standards, which include ODF, was very interesting in France because then too it involved political corruption and involvement by Nicolas Sarkozy, who was close to Microsoft executives. This led to OOXML apologism and adoption [1, 2],

It is clear that Microsoft is intimidated (poor Microsoft!) if not deeply shocked to find the French police moving to GNU/Linux. Other proprietary software vendors are becoming “legacy vendors” as some call them [1] and as proprietary systems show massive failures in the British public sector, e.g. [2], we are likely to see more nations embracing Free/libre software (new example in [3,4]), with ODF leading the way in many cases (LibreOffice gets more support [5,6] and development effort [7]). Speaking of the UK, things change here for the better and just yesterday the UK Home Office became a client of the company I work for.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Does Open Source’s Rise Spell The End Of Traditional Software Vendors?

    It’s clear that open source is shaking up the technology industry. What isn’t yet clear is how this impacts legacy vendors.

  2. Abandoned NHS IT system has cost £10bn so far

    Richard Bacon, a Conservative member of the committee, said the report was further evidence of a “systemic failure” in the government’s ability to draw up and manage large IT contracts. “This saga is one of the worst and most expensive contracting fiascos in the history of the public sector.

  3. Finland Gets Free/Libre Open Source Software
  4. Open source search engine for Finnish libraries and museums

    A recently unveiled search engine for accessing the collections of Finland’s archives, libraries and museums was built on open source, announces the country’s National Library. “The advantage of open source is that it enables organisations to work together to develop a system without limits, contracts or procedures.” The engine itself is also made publicly available.

  5. Studio Storti joins The Document Foundation Advisory Board to Complement the Launch of the LibreOffice Division

    The Document Foundation (TDF) announces that Studio Storti is now a member of its Advisory Board. Studio Storti is the largest provider of open source solutions to the Italian Public Administration, and is launching a LibreOffice Division to support migrations from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice.

  6. CloudOn joins The Document Foundation Advisory Board to Accelerate LibreOffice Availability on Mobile Devices
  7. LibreOffice 4.1.2 RC2 Finally Fixes the TIFF Import

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