Windows too old and long in the tooth
Summary: The ongoing migration of various governments to Free/libre software contributes to the demise of Microsoft’s monopoly and common carrier
“REPORTS suggest Windows phone users are jumping ship with sales in rapid decline,” said the British media earlier this week (title is “Microsoft has a very big problem”). Linux and Android are certainly still gaining. When one switches completely to GNU/Linux, embrace of OpenDocument Format (ODF) and Free/libre software is often implied. It’s virtually imperative. It’s like the ultimate and most complete switch, whereas embrace of open standards or Free software alone tends to be ‘softer’ or rather restrained, staged, and at times hesitant. There is lobbying against each at varying (depending on perceived risk or severity) levels of granularity.
“Someone inside GE recently told me that GE was quietly dumping Windows for Linux in its lucrative CT scanners business.”Microsoft is in trouble and there is no denying that.
According to British media, Vista 8 continues to be a disaster technically and in some nations, unsurprisingly, GNU/Linux has greater market share than the latest Vista (Windows 8.1). The desktop monopoly too is in jeopardy, especially where governments made it their policy to embrace Free/libre software (Uruguay and Venezuela in this case).
Here in the UK the National Health Service (NHS), longtime prisoner of Microsoft, is putting up resistance and considering Free software in a growing number of operations. Making the huge mistake of putting Microsoft Windows in medical devices or facilities is not forgivable. Someone inside GE recently told me that GE was quietly dumping Windows for Linux in its lucrative CT scanners business. According to this new report, X-ray scanners (causing cancer) are behaving badly because of Windows. To quote: “the device proved an easy target. TrapX’s team was able to use an exploit for a known weakness in the Windows 2000 operating system to establish what TrapX refers to as a “pivot” – or point of control- on their test network from which they could attack other systems. After creating a backdoor into the device, TrapX researchers added a new user to the system and decrypted the local user password. The company was then able to extract the database files that would contain medical information.”
“In due course, having removed the Office barrier/hurdle, HMRC can move to GNU/Linux because Google is purely Web-based.”This can become ground for many lawsuits from patients or families of dead patients. This is the sort of scandal that ought to push all British government departments which still use Windows XP immediately to GNU/Linux. No version of Windows is secure; the underlying encryption (proprietary) tends to have back doors. Every piece of proprietary software must be assumed insecure until proven otherwise (by becoming Free software and standards-compliant). There are moves in this direction, namely of standards, in Sweden  and in Holland [2,3], with calls growing for the NHS to embrace openness . There is an increasing push towards Free/libre software, not just open standards (which relate to one another). The governments in Europe should move to Free software like LibreOffice, where interoperability becomes trivial, to borrow Andy Updegrove’s latest arguments , but alas, as we noted the other day (alluding to the UK, Sweden, and India), HMRC is moving from one proprietary office suite to another. Here is the ‘damage control’ from Microsoft, which is trying to avoid the impression of being dumped. To quote the British press, “MICROSOFT HAS HIT BACK at claims that HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has dumped the firm in favour of Google’s cloud apps.
“The move, first reported at The Register, will see 70,000 HMRC employees switching from Microsoft’s productivity offering to Google’s cloud-based apps services.”
Google will emphasise ODF support (open standards), but it is not Free/libre software. In due course, having removed the Office barrier/hurdle, HMRC can move to GNU/Linux because Google is purely Web-based. HMRC’s footsteps are likely to be followed by other British government departments (owing to ODF as a national requirement for editable document), taking away some of Microsoft’s most lucrative contracts (British government) and showing other governments across the world that they too can dump Microsoft and proprietary software, not just Windows. Office is the cash cow, Windows is the common carrier. The demise of one leads to the demise of the other. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Sweden’s governmental procurement specialists at Statens inköpscentral are fine-tuning the list of ICT standards that public authorities may use as mandatory requirements when procuring software and ICT services. The procurement agency is working with standardisation specialists at the University of Skövde, to check which ICT standards are truly open.
Public administrations that continue to ignore the policy to implement open standards in their ICT solutions should be fined, says Dutch MP Astrid Oosenbrug. “Public administrations should come to grips with open data, open standards and open source. With all their talk about regaining the trust of their citizens and creating a participatory society, public administrations should take a cue from open source communities.”
Public administrations that switch to open source regain financial scalability, says Jan-Taeke Schuilenga, IT architect at DUO, the Dutch government agency managing the financing of the country’s educational institutions. “We had reached the limit of proprietary licence possibilities. Switching to open source gave us freedom of choice.”
The UK government must open up and highlight the power of more basic data sets to improve patient care in the NHS and save hundreds of millions of pounds a year, Nigel Shadbolt, chairman of the Open Data Institute (ODI) has urged.
Once upon a time, standards were standards and open source software was open source software (OSS), and the only thing people worried about was whether the copyright and patent rules relating to the standards would prevent them from being implemented in OSS. Actually, that was complicated enough, but it seems simple in comparison now that OSS is being included in the standards themselves. Now what?
If this sounds unusual and exotic, it isn’t. In fact, code has been creeping into standards for years, often without the keepers of the intellectual property rights (IPR) Policies governing the standards even being aware of it.
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Digital sovereignty gradually being restored
Summary: Despite Microsoft blackmail of British politicians, HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) moves to Google’s ODF-supporting office suite, dumping Microsoft’s biggest cash cow and notorious lock-in; India and Sweden too move in a positive direction with more Free software, despite Microsoft lobbying and bullying
THE BEGINNING OF this week has been great. It had lots to offer in terms of good news. It really started with a bang and hopefully it won’t end with a just a mere whimper.
Microsoft is evidently getting desperate in convincing people to sign its horrible deals (because fewer are willing to sign these) and it is losing some very major clients right now, including governments in wealthy and/or large countries. It’s not some home users and a company or two. It’s now a growing trend, including the world’s second population (by size) and the world’s biggest empire ever, in addition to a top GDP/capita economy. There are literally billions of dollars at stake.
Microsoft is still actively trying to derail Free/Open Source software (FOSS) in voting systems in the United States and it often gets away with it because it has plenty of influence in the United States government. Controlling the voting system and bribing political candidates (as it does, even personally) ensures interference in elections and thus government decisions regarding IT procurement. We are still seeing it in this new article from IDG, stating: “Microsoft’s new system not only provides for easy transmission of election results, but it also allows party administrators to view results as they come in and will automatically identify potential problem areas. Election officials can then contact the precinct representative to clear anything up. It also means that tech experts will be lending their security know-how to the process, which is a good sign since the Iowa Democrats’ press release announcing the system included spammy advertisements Friday for discount pharmaceuticals.”
We recently showed how Microsoft interfered not only in voting but was seemingly inserting anti-FOSS provisions into the law, via ‘trade’ agreements. Now our suspicions are further defended, seeing articles like “Revealed Emails Show How Industry Lobbyists Basically Wrote The TPP”. This shows sick jokes, bribery, government capture, and how corporations (through their lobbyists) are writing the law. “One for Techrights stories,” wrote a reader to us regarding this news from TechDirt, summarising it with “How Industry Lobbyists Basically Wrote The TPP”.
“Watch has a full writeup showing how industry lobbyists influenced the TPP agreement,” he wrote, “to the point that one is even openly celebrating that the USTR version copied his own text word for word.”
Here is the direct quote: “Hi Barbara – John sent through a link to the P4 agreement. I have taken a quick look at the rules of origin. Someone owes USTR a royalty payment – these are our rules. They will need some tweaking but will likely not need major surgery. This is a very pleasant surprise. I will study more closely over the weekend.”’
TechDirt recalled: “Back in 2013, we wrote about a FOIA lawsuit that was filed by William New at IP Watch. After trying to find out more information on the TPP by filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and being told that they were classified as “national security information” (no, seriously), New teamed up with Yale’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic to sue. As part of that lawsuit, the USTR has now released a bunch of internal emails concerning TPP negotiations, and IP Watch has a full writeup showing how industry lobbyists influenced the TPP agreement, to the point that one is even openly celebrating that the USTR version copied his own text word for word.”
“We recently showed how Microsoft interfered not only in voting but was seemingly inserting anti-FOSS provisions into the law, via ‘trade’ agreements.”Here is the original article. “Leaked TPP emails talks about software patentability,” Benjamin Henrion (FFII) noted about it.
To quote IP Watch: “While a full range of stakeholders would be affected by the outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement under secret negotiation by the United States and a dozen trading partners, corporate representatives have had a special seat at the negotiating table, as shown by hundreds of pages of confidential emails from the US Trade Representative’s office obtained by Intellectual Property Watch. The emails give a rare and fascinating perspective on how policy is developed in the trade office.
“Years into the negotiation, the TPP is said to be nearing completion and is the subject of a US congressional debate over renewal of fast-track negotiating authority for the president (limiting Congress to a yes or no vote). But the TPP text has never been made available to the public of the countries negotiating it, except through periodic leaks of parts of the text, making these emails timely for the debate.
“Through a US Freedom of Information Act request, Intellectual Property Watch has obtained some 400 pages of email traffic between USTR officials and industry advisors. Most of the content of the emails is redacted (blacked out), but they still give insight into the process.”
“The emails give a rare and fascinating perspective on how policy is developed in the trade office.”
–IP WatchThis is significant because we recently found out about anti-FOSS parts in these agreements, likely to have been the result of lobbying by Microsoft or the likes of it. If so-called ‘trade’ agreements pass with the anti-FOSS sections and ISDS, then Microsoft can sue ones like the Indian government for choosing FOSS as a matter of policy. There is a lot of Microsoft lobbying in India, objecting specifically to this [1, 2, 3], but how about lobbying around trade agreements? Wouldn’t that be clever? It would demolish FOSS globally in one fell swoop, as long as corruptible politicians remain quiet enough and citizens are therefore too ignorant to prevent the signing of nasty (but secret) agreements.
India’s move to FOSS, or the increasing embrace of FOSS (with a FOSS-leaning procurement policy) was covered by Red Hat’s OpenSource.com the other day, noting: “The Government of India has implemented a remarkable new policy-level change for open source software (OSS) deployment. The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has asked that open source software-based applications be included in Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for all new procurements. Note there is not a plan at this time to replace existing proprietary systems with open source software.”
This is still going on while Microsoft fights back viciously. If the aforementioned ‘trade’ agreements pass, Microsoft might even be able to sue the government, not for discrimination but for not obeying so-called ‘trade’ laws (newly-introduced). It’s a back door trick, negotiated behind closed doors.
Here in the UK the government is now in a good position to move to GNU/Linux, despite Microsoft's blackmail of British politicians. Dependence on Windows is already being reduced because, according to this article, “HMRC ditches Microsoft in favour of Google Apps”. To quote some relevant bits:
HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) has become the first major government department to dump Microsoft in favour of Google.
The Register reported that 70,000 HMRC staff will adopt Google’s cloud-based productivity apps over Microsoft’s Office 365 offering, joining 20,000 government employees who already use Google’s Gmail service.
HMRC has since confirmed the move in a statement. A spokesperson said: “HMRC has an ambitious digital future planned. This contract will make it easier for staff to collaborate on internal documents, providing greater flexibility and efficiency while reducing costs.
HM Revenues and Customs (British tax) dumping Microsoft is huge news; blackmailing politicians didn’t work out and one wonder if there are more government offices poised to follow suit. Surely they’ll watch how HMRC gets along. It has become abundantly clear that Microsoft is so scared/worried about FOSS and ODF (also Google) in the UK that it’s willing to blackmail or bribe.
Meanwhile, as revealed by Andy Updegrove, Sweden follows the UK government’s footsteps by choosing standards, including ODF. This is why Microsoft was so scared and then became aggressive over the decision that might later spread to the rest of Europe. One might wonder about Swedish politicians who led to this; will Microsoft blackmail them too?
“While the current list of approved standards in Sweden is short,” wrote Updegrove, “it does (as in the U.K.) include the ISO standard PDF/A-1, for uneditable documents, and OASIS’s ODF 1.2, for editable text. The ODF standard (adopted in an earlier version by ISO in 2004) was the subject of perhaps the most vigorously fought standards war of the last 20 years, raging on a global basis for several years. The contest was sparked by the decision of the Commowealth of Massachusetts to approve ODF, but not Microsoft’s competing XML-based standard, referred to as OOXML. That standard was also adopted by ISO, following Microsoft’s contribution of the original text to another standards body, called ECMA.
“Massachusetts ultimately adopted OOXML as well as ODF after severe lobbying pressure. Since then, the question of whether ODF, OOXML or both meets with the approval of cities, states and nations making such determinations has continued to be a contentious and closely watched matter.
“For this reason, it will be interesting to see whether additional EU countries follow the lead of the U.K. and Sweden.”
Scandinavia as a whole (not just Sweden it seems) is ‘plotting’/’scheming’ (to use negative terms) to embrace standards and dump proprietary blobs. North Europe seems to be eager to emancipate itself from NSA-leaning, Empire-serving blobs. There is a shift to FOSS, fostering local jobs and improving trust (no back doors from across the Atlantic). Open standards, suffice to say, tend to lead to FOSS. █
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Summary: Microsoft’s digital imperialism in the UK getting defended using blackmail, reminding a lot of Brits that Microsoft is just as evil as ever before
LARGE nations are moving away from Microsoft for technical reasons. Free software is simply better, not just more ethical. Despite Microsoft’s strong influence in the Indian government, the government of India is one of the latest to put Microsoft behind. Microsoft is already using the Indian corporate media to attack India's decision, sometimes lobbying by proxy. The same has been happening in the UK, whose government probably spends far more money than any other nation in the world on Microsoft software (per capita).
“They can incite against politicians to induce resignations or firings.”One year ago, when an ODF consultation was still ongoing, we warned Cabinet Office (UK) about what now turns out to be true. No country is immune to it, not even a large and powerful nation like India, let alone the UK (which for many years occupied India)
Microsoft already attacked the government just weeks or months after the consultation and did this again later in the year (these are the cases where we found out about it, surely there is more that was never reported on). Microsoft’s FUD attacks on ODF at the time often relied on Microsoft buddies and cooperation from some goons inside the British media. We named and shamed the culprits at the time.
The Inquirer, which is not Microsoft-friendly, says in today’s headline that “Microsoft bullied MPs over government switch to open source standards”. To quote: “As reported at Bloomberg, Steve Hilton, who was the prime minister’s director of strategy until 2012, revealed at an event that Microsoft began lobbying members of parliament after the Conservative Party proposed shifting government computer systems to open standards.”
In the original report from Bloomberg, which is usually quite Microsoft-friendly, the headline says “Microsoft Threatened to Close U.K. Plants, Ex-Cameron Aide Says”. “We just resisted,” the aide is quoted. “You have to be brave.”
Have to be brave? Who is in charge of who? Are corporations from the US now controlling the British government, too? Well, that pretty much sums up Microsoft. They will retaliate and intimidate, as per their usual behaviour. They can incite against politicians to induce resignations or firings. Watch what they did to Peter Quinn, who had been supporting ODF in his state.
The British media is gradually waking up. It is being filled with more and more news reports about Microsoft’s political blackmail over ODF (the modus operandi of Microsoft’s allies at the NSA). This is going to cost them. Here is the most widely-cited (in the UK at least) report which says: “Microsoft executives telephoned Conservative MPs threatening to shut down a facility in their local area because of planned IT reforms, David Cameron’s former strategy chief has claimed.
“Steve Hilton, who worked for Cameron in opposition and for two years in Downing Street, made the allegation as he argued the dominance of corporate lobbying in the UK was leading to bad policy-making.
“Asked how the government should deal with lobbyists, he said: “You just have to fight them off. I can give you specific examples: the thing I mentioned about IT contracts. Maybe there is someone here to confirm this from Microsoft? When we proposed this, Microsoft phoned Conservative MPs with Microsoft R&D facilities in their constituencies and said, ‘we will close them down in your constituency if this goes through’.”
“There are a lot more cases like these, but they are scarcely reported on or never reported on.”Here at Techrights we are not surprised that Microsoft blackmails. It always did. Almost exactly a year ago we foresaw this and warned Cabinet Office staff that this would happen. Microsoft is not a company but a Scientology-like cult, to quote a government delegate with Microsoft experiences. Paolo Vecchi asked rhetorically: “Is anybody shocked about the fact that MS used lobbying, blackmailing and bribing to create & maintain their monopoly?”
Remember that “Microsoft loves Linux” (its CEO says that). Under the leadership of that phony, Nadella (right-hand man of Bill Gates and the real owners of the company), Microsoft is unable to decide whether it supports FOSS (pretending to anyway) or attacks it (usually secretly, in order to support the former illusion).
Surely Microsoft hates not only Linux but also FOSS and open standards, such as ODF. Recall the following older posts:
In summary, watch out for and keep an eye on Microsoft. These are lunatic bullies who are willing to get people out of their job (or make their job deprecated) if these people ‘dare’ to stand in Microsoft’s way, i.e. not fully serve Microsoft’s interests. This was reportedly the case in Bristol (UK), not just in Massachusetts (US). There are a lot more cases like these, but they are scarcely reported on or never reported on. Microsoft does this covertly and quite often indirectly, too.
Free software usage is rapidly growing in public sector in the UK and it’s easy to see why Microsoft has gone off the rails. It must be furious over migrations to FOSS, which have become a frequent occurrence here. Good and honest journalism is key to exposing Microsoft’s real behaviour. Transparency would serve as deterrent against Microsoft’s corruption. █
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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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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: Milestones for OpenDocument Format (ODF) and the launch of FixMyDocuments
THE UK has moved to adopt ODF and the world at large is gradually embracing real standards. Andy Updegrove wrote about OpenForum Europe and Rob Weir wrote about ISO approval of ODF 1.2 last night:
OASIS ODF 1.2, the current version of the Open Document Format standard, was approved by ISO/IEC JTC1 National Bodies after a 3-month Publicly Available Specification (PAS) ballot. The final vote for DIS 26300 was: 17-0 for Parts 1 and 2, and 18-0 for Part 3.
More interestingly, now emerges a campaign called FixMyDocument, which Glyn Moody wrote about yesterday . It is a campaign in favour of ODF and it has already got some big backing, including explicit backing from Neelie Kroes [2,3,4]. Go there now and sign the declaration. Supporting FixMyDocuments only takes about 20 seconds and it sends out an important message. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Back in July, I wrote about the huge win for open standards when the UK government announced that it would be adopting ODF for sharing or collaborating on government documents. I also implored the open community to support this initiative in every way it could to ensure that it took root and maybe even spread. So I’m delighted to see that Open Forum Europe has done just that with a new site called FixMyDocument.eu. (Although I am a “fellow” of the associated Open Forum Academy, I had nothing to do with this.) Here’s how it explains the initiative:
Locking in one’s self to doing things M$’s way is not smart. It’s stupid, especially when we know it’s a trap M$ deliberately created to keep it’s cash cow pouring milk into M$’s pail.
European government agencies should adopt open document formats in their dealings with citizens, outgoing European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has urged.
European Commissioner and Vice President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes supports the FixMyDocuments campaign that is urging Europe’s public administrations to make better use of open document formats. The campaigners aim to get public administrations to publish their documents in open formats that can be read and manipulated by anyone, without imposing the use of software from any particular vendor. The campaigners are pushing the authorities to use the Open Document Format (ODF).
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Summary: Microsoft’s attacks on the digital sovereignty of countries involves lobbying, corruption, an attack on standards (e.g. ODF), an attack on FOSS policies, and even an attack on accurate reporting (truth itself)
Microsoft’s attempts to corrupt Chile seem to have brought nothing but blowback. Microsoft and its minion got shamed and the FOSS policy will soon get even stronger. Moreover, Microsoft is making Chile’s anti-lobbying laws stronger by basically trying to lobby and to write legislation by proxy. It shows that this wholly malicious strategy from Microsoft is finally not paying off, thanks in part to reporters who exposed what had happened. Well done, Chile!
We can safely assume that what Microsoft is doing in Chile right now it also tried to do in the UK e.g. pressuring the Cabinet Office regarding its pro-ODF policy. Microsoft, by all indications, is not a scapegoat; it’s not hated because of “jealousy” or because of its size. It is not hated for being incompetent or for being shoddy (which its software is). The company is corrupt. It’s a criminal enterprise with a long track record to show it. Thankfully, however, we keep seeing new stories that show us just how corrupt Microsoft really is. People who deny this are simply ignoring reality.
Today we have several updates from Chile and from Munich, Germany. Citing this article from Miguel Parada, Softpedia writes:
Fresh on the heels of the entire Munich and Linux debacle, another story involving Microsoft and free software has popped up across the world, in Chile. A prolific magazine from the South American country says that the powerful Microsoft lobby managed to turn around a law that would allow the authorities to use free software.
Towards the end it is also connected to what’s happening in Munich. To quote: “Microsoft has been in the news in the last few days because the German city of Munich that adopted Linux and dropped Windows system from its administration was considering, supposedly, returning to proprietary software.
“This new situation in Chile give us a sample of the kind of pull a company like Microsoft has and it shows us just how fragile laws really are. This is not the first time a company tries to bend the laws in a country to maximize the profits, but the advent of free software and the clear financial advantages that it offers are really making a dent.
“Five years ago, few people or governments would have considered adopting free software, but the quality of that software has risen dramatically and it has become a real competition for the likes of Microsoft.”
Richard Stallman is visiting Chile right now (coinciding with a Microsoft scandal over there). Here is a new article about Stallman’s reaction to what Microsoft is doing in Chile. He was there at the right time and he will hopefully raise issues like privacy, digital autonomy, and economic benefits of using FOSS (local engineers being in charge), and so on. Ernesto Manríquez told us that “MS lobby [is] in a 65 million dollar market, and how Vlado Mirosevic lost his innocence,” based on this new article in Spanish (we won’t provide automated translations as anyone is able to do so upon desire). Manríquez also told us that “Chilean Chamber of Deputies to harden anti-lobby law after Microsoft scandal,” based on this article in Spanish.
This is very relevant to the Microsoft propaganda against Munich for its successful migration to GNU/Linux. In the wake of revelations about NSA surveillance in Latin America and Germany (for espionage, not antiterrorism) this should matter a lot. Microsoft and the NSA are in bed together and this means that Chile would be worse than foolish to embrace anything at all from Microsoft (even some random application). This is why Munich did the right thing. It went to FOSS all the way. It’s not difficult for the NSA to crack.
Simon Sharwood has not yet caught up with the latest news from Chile, but he did cover (in English) what Microsoft had done there:
Microsoft successfully lobbied against a law that would have seen Chile’s government adopt open-source software, says Elmostrador, a newspaper in the South American nation.
The publication’s report tells the tale of Vlado Mirosevic, a left-leaning politician who is the leader of the Chilean Liberal Party and its only representative in the national parliament.
In April this year, Mirosevic proposed a bill that would have compelled Chile’s government agencies to at least consider open-source software. Buying proprietary software would still be possible, once an agency justified the decision.
Manríquez is meanwhile showing us articles like this one (in Spanish) about what he calls “The long arm of Microsoft lobby and political connections” (familiar issue).
Microsoft is not a company but more like a political movement or a secret society/sect that infiltrates governments. We have already given many examples of Microsoft’s use of connections in government for corruption, including massive tax evasion (worth billions of dollars). See examples from Europe, from the US, and from India. The relationships often work like bribery in terms of money rolling back to politicians’ pockets when they give public money to Microsoft through contracts. Sometimes Microsoft veterans move to politics (where they use their newly-acquired power to help Microsoft) — or conversely — politicians being promised a salary from Microsoft in the future. This is the “Revolving doors” type of bribery. Classic! We already saw how one Microsoft veteran facilitated Microsoft’s massive tax evasion in the United States after he had infiltrated government.
A follower from Argentina told us last night we would be interested in this new report about Microsoft admitting that it avoids $29 billion in US taxes (just US). If that’s not enough to show just how corrupt Microsoft is, what will be?
Going back to Munich, the Microsoft boosters who distorted the story didn’t actually stick to facts. Munich complains about misreporting. As Jim Lynch put it the other day:
I saw that story floating around many sites yesterday and decided to hold off commenting about it. There was just something about it that rubbed me the wrong way, and I’m glad I waited before including it in a roundup.
Frankly though, it doesn’t surprise me that some sites would jump the gun and use it as an opportunity to belittle or bash Linux. We’ve seen this kind of thing before where a tempest in a teacup gets blown all out of proportion and suddenly Linux is doomed or whatever.
Unfortunately, even after the current wave of stories about Munich fades away, we’ll see the same sort of journalistic shenanigans about Linux happen again at some point. It’s just too easy and too tempting for some sites to gain traffic and ad revenue by jumping on the anti-Linux bandwagon.
After systematic lying about Munich how many people out there are still misled by Microsoft MVPs and partners pretending to be journalists? This is a war on perceptions after all.
As Susan Linton put it, “Monday we reported that Munich was throwing in the Linux towel, but today we find that may not be exactly the case.”
This other report makes it clear that Microsoft OOXML — not FOSS or GNU/Linux — is the problem. To quote: “Hauf also confirms that council staff have, and do, complain about LiMux, but that the majority of issues stem from compatibility issues in OpenOffice, something a potential switch to LibreOffice could solve.”
This is a Microsoft issue, not a FOSS issue, and this is why the UK is now moving to ODF (OOXML not allowed) in the public sector. Remember what Microsoft did in Chile for OOXML.
Microsoft is a criminal company. Even after Ballmer’s departure nothing has changed. As Microsoft is inherently and deeply connected with governments (moles and former staff), don’t expect Microsoft executives to be sent to prison, not even when it’s caught bribing officials around the world (which happens). █
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