Summary: Without speaking to FOSS experts the bureaucrats in Europe consider giving up on ODF and FOSS
EARLIER THIS year we wrote about how OOXML was interfering with FOSS adoption in the German public sector. IDG has
this report which echoes a few others but places little or no emphasis on OOXML. It says:
Several open source groups such as the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Document Foundation and the Open Source Business Alliance protested the plans in an open letter to the council on Friday, saying the council compared apples with oranges.
“Numerous statements concerning LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice are incorrect or outdated,” they said in the letter, adding that the support of LibreOffice and OpenOffice is at a professional level these days. “The assessment of the evaluation that compatibility to Microsoft Office cannot be reached in the next few years, is also wrong,” they said.
According to the organizations, no open source experts were consulted in the process. Therefore they hoped the council would still consider a migration to a current version of LibreOffice or OpenOffice.
The council plans to vote on the draft bill next Tuesday.
That is just a few days from now. The cost of lock-in is very high and many managers fail to take this into account. There are 450 comments in Slashdot. The problems in Freiburg are somewhat representative of the excuses made in other places. Microsoft had hired some people whose task is to attack LibreOffice/OpenOffice.org adoption (also see [1, 2, 3]), nut almost nobody in the corporate press reported on that. █
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Summary: ODF gets the cold shoulder treatment from a prominent participant in the office suites market
THE editor of Muktware learns that Google has taken a step which legitimises and further spreads a Microsoft format that few applications support and none supports fully. According to this, “Google has announced that it is dropping support for older Microsoft Office formats. Google Docs will not export any files in older Microsoft Office formats namely .doc, .xls, .ppt. User will be able to export files in modern Microsoft Office formats such as .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx.”
The problem is, as I found out while I spent three days in Warwick this week, businesses that use Google Apps start spreading around a lot of OOXML. This is not just a technical problem.
“Spreading OOXML files is just about the worst thing Google could do.”Further down in the article it is correctly stated that “Microsoft OOXML was approved as an ISO standard after a lot of controversy and charges of bribing voters [read the full story here & here]. The ODF was already an ISO standard so there was no need for another standard, but Microsoft wanted it’s own format to become a standard so they got it though hook or crook.”
It was not just bribes. The level of corruption was systemic, too.
Given the fact that Microsoft was left without choice but to implement ODF import filters — however poorly — Google should have fallen back on or defaulted to ODF. Spreading OOXML files is just about the worst thing Google could do. So much for “do no evil” policies… █
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Summary: Microsoft makes it abundantly clear that its closed formats and Fog Computing will be used to deny people choice
In its corrupt pursuit for OOXML standardisation Microsoft ensured that real standards get suppressed. We covered many such stories about four years ago. Mr. Pogson found a new blog post where Microsoft implicitly admits failure to implement ODF support for a long time. As Pogson puts it: “The following statement was released 2012-08-13, promising finally to implement an open standard M$ foisted on the world but did not follow since 2007, five years ago. Deliberately choosing to break an open standard is reprehensible and possibly illegal restraint of trade. The means M$ used to impose that open standards was also questionable. Why bother with a company that offers future standardization when you can have it now with LibreOffice?”
In other news, Microsoft is now forcing users into an even worse lock-in, leading even Microsoft boosters into a mode of dissent. And in Germany, as in several other places, Microsoft tries to halt adoption of ODF. Advocacy groups complain and to quote one report: “The board of the German city council of Freiburg should disclose the analysis that underlies its move back to proprietary office software, say the Open Source Business Alliance, the Free Software Foundation Europe and the Bundesverbands Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologie. In an open letter published this morning, the three organisations also call on the city board to keep the Open Document Format as the default.”
Microsoft used German public institutions to promote OOXML. Wherever there is real choice there is no Microsoft. █
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Summary: How dirty dealings in Europe have been benefiting the convicted monopolist from Redmond, United States
THE always-excellent journalism from Mark Ballard helps expose injustices in Europe. His latest output says that “Europe’s ill-fated 1993 migration to Microsoft Office was rubber-stamped by a committee that failed to see how it would get locked into buying Microsoft without a competition for the next 20 years, show documents released to Computer Weekly.
“The European Commission used dubious reasoning to justify its decision in 1992 to do a backroom deal with Microsoft. Officials at the time said it was based on a survey of the wordprocessing market. But they took that as justification for buying Microsoft’s entire Office suite – with spreadsheet, presentation, email and database software – without opening the business up to any other competitor. And it threw the desktop operating systems DOS and Windows in as well.
“The European Commission used dubious reasoning to justify its decision in 1992 to do a backroom deal with Microsoft.”
–Mark Ballard“”Under the provisions of Article 58 of the Financial Regulation, [the selection procedure] was carried by direct negotiation with the company Microsoft Corporation, owner of the goods concerned (MS-WORD FOR WINDOWS, EXCEL, and operating systems DOS and Windows),” said the EC Information Directorate at the time.
“”The proposed contract with the company MICROSOFT will also extend to other office products offered by the company and are regularly requested from the Commission.”
“The EC was effectively giving Microsoft its desktop monopoly on a plate.”
Simon Phipps, who is now the OSI President, blasts “biased buying” which he blames for the slow adoption of Free software. He, like Ballard, is a Brit, so his analysis is EU-centric. He writes: “The market for public services is very large – almost 20% of Europe’s GDP in 2009 – and continues to grow. It’s consequently a valuable source of business and provides an economic stimulus to Europe that’s far more significant than any individual initiative a government might devise.
“It’s thus in Europe’s interest to ensure that market is as open as possible, so that the effects of the “stimulus package” of public procurement can benefit any qualified player. That’s especially the case in ICT, where there’s a tendency for legacy US vendors to lock in customers and thus lock out European participants.
“How do you do open procurement for ICT solutions? The answer, according to the European Commission, is to ensure that all procurement that requires tendering (and not all does) is specified in terms of the functions required rather than expressing a preference for the brands involved in the solution. That makes huge sense and is likely to create an open, competitive market, with all the cost savings you’d expect.”
“Antitrust action should be invoked.”Mr. Pogson, over in Canada, unearths some Comes vs. Microsoft exhibit to show the ill effects of the monopoly. “For decades,” he explain, Microsoft “has enslaved all of its customers, “partners” and ISVs (Independent Software Vendors). They have all been enlisted to prop up the monopoly in PC operating systems. The ISVs, while supposedly independent, were made dependent by offering “inside information”, special APIs to give advantages over competitors, lots of software-creation tools and, of course, backwards compatibility.”
This limited competition and impeded integration work, motivating bundled purchases and never-ending lock-in. In order to escape lock-in, ODF was introduced, but as we recently learned, it was not doing so well after Microsoft had embraced and ‘extended’ it too.
Speaking as one who works for a Free software integrator in the UK, this affects me personally and professionally. Microsoft has blocked competitors using backroom deals, technical sabotage, and digestion of threats. I saw it for myself; so have many who read this site. Antitrust action should be invoked. █
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Summary: Migration difficulties consistently point to problems with Microsoft’s format abuses
WE recently explained how SUSE, part of the now-defunct Novell, is promoting OOXML in government. Rather than embrace ODF, some governments find themselves reliant on Microsoft-funded SUSE programmers who were legally required to push OOXML. And here is the outcome:
Local, national and European governmental dependencies on proprietary software continue to hinder municipalities that try to get rid of vendor lock-in by switching to open source. Recent examples include the municipal governments of Freiburg in Germany, Miskolcs in Hungary and Schoten in Belgium.
ODF has no such issues; our guess is, Microsoft occupied the competition to the point where ODF advocacy got demoralised and rather scarce. The problem is not Free/open source office suites; the problem is proprietary Microsoft formats that corruption such as bribery has defended. █
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Controlling behaviour using money (bribe)
Summary: SUSE developers unite with Microsoft as LibreOffice developers with financial Microsoft ties help advance the agenda of their backers from Microsoft
THE relationship between Go-OO and LibreOffice continues to remind us to be at least somewhat vigilant. Money buys results. As part of Novell’s deal with Microsoft it was required to advance OOXML. It’s a form of bribe, but nothing compared to the other fraudulent activities that Microsoft used to advance OOXML. The elusive format was not even implemented by Microsoft and it led to many incompatibilities. Based on this news, Office continues to be a fragmented mess, which is a way of encouraging everyone to always buy the newest version. To quote: “The newly unveiled productivity suite from Microsoft, Office 2013, won’t be running on older operating systems like Windows XP and Vista it has been revealed.
“As part of Novell’s deal with Microsoft it was required to advance OOXML.”“Office 2013 is said to be only compatible with PCs, laptops or tablets that are running on the latest version of Windows i.e. either Windows 7 or not yet released Windows 8. According to a systems requirements page on Microsoft for Office 2013 customer preview, the Office 2010 successor is only compatible with Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012. This was confirmed by a Microsoft spokesperson.”
More interestingly, some body we have heard of before (the so-called “Open Source Business Alliance” which we wrote about before because of rogue agenda), together with SUSE connections (Microsoft-funded), is helping the promotion of OOXML:
Developers from a project hosted by the Open Source Business AllianceGerman language link are working to improve the compatibility of LibreOffice and OpenOffice with Microsoft Office. The German municipalities of Munich, Jena and Freiburg, and the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, the Swiss Federal IT Steering Unit (FITSU) and the Swiss Canton of Vaud – who together use OpenOffice on around 18,000 workstations – have jointly raised €140,000 (approximately £109,000) funding for the project.
In December, the OSB Alliance’s Office Interoperability Working Group introduced a specification which mapped out the improvements that need to be made in these areas. The extensions are being implemented by developers from SUSE and by Hamburg-based open source specialists Lanedo.
So here we have SUSE/Novell, once again helping to demote ODF, giving a lift to OOXML in government instead. As for SUSE itself, its latest build is being reviewed:
In overall, I was more comfortable with the KDE version than the Gnome version.
Let’s hope SUSE does not promote OOXML in KDE as well. KDE has probably been most outspoken in its stance against OOXML. A few hours ago in our IRC channel Ryan asked: “Does LibreOffice still keep creepy metadata in ODF files like Microsoft’s office suite does in all its file formats?” LibreOffice developers should recognise the fact that some of them, the people from SUSE, are funded indirectly by Microsoft. There are ways for LibreOffice to help the Microsoft agenda at the expense of other competitors. Microsoft’s occupation of rivals will be recalled in the next post. █
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Summary: An interview with the Open Source Relations Manager of Mandriva, one who is boasting a pivotal role in the free office suites space
MR. Charles-H. Schulz is prominent in the Free/open source world and he is no stranger to Techrights. 4 years ago we wrote about him in relation to ODF advocacy and a year later we interviewed him. Recently, Charles got an appointment at Mandriva and last week he also got married. We decided to catch up and learn more about Mandriva, Openoffice.org, and LibreOffice.
Techrights: Please explain to us your role in Mandriva.
Charles-H. Schulz: My official title is “Open Source Relations Manager”. My role is to help with the general open source strategy of Mandriva SA, and that implies several levels of involvement, either with the community or with the corporate level as well.
How does one go about transitioning from a corporate-centric model into a community-based one?
The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. Let’s define the terms here for the sake of clarity. A corporate centric model of open source governance, or better, a corporate centric model of FOSS project is a model where one corporation defines the project, is supposed to reap the benefits out of it, has a weak governance structure, and where most of the contributors are individuals who contribute to the project are individuals who are employed by the said corporation or by its affiliates.
“It’s a model that allows for a diversity of stakeholders to get involved at various levels of the project, from the contributor to the leadership.”A community-centric model is not a model where there are no corporations around. It’s a model that allows for a diversity of stakeholders to get involved at various levels of the project, from the contributor to the leadership. It is also a model where the governance structure tends to be more defined, because the project is actually much more independent and does not rest on one sponsor for most of its resources and contributors.
So how do we transition from the former to the latter is by assessing what the main sponsor can offer, and by setting up a governance structure that allows a diversity of contributors to get involved. The resources question here is crucial. What do we need? How many servers? What’s the migration process? And of course, what’s the governance, and how do we make the new project truly independent from the former sponsor (regardless of the friendly or unfriendly relationship with this sponsor)?
I think the keyword here is “contributor”. If you have enough contributors outside the main sponsor who are coming from diverse affiliations, then you have a sustainable project.
That’s the kind of questions we have been studying on the 19th of June in Paris together with the Mandriva Linux community representatives. I think the results are very encouraging, and that we manage to make sense of what we want to do, how we are going to do it and why we do it; now we are entering the actual phase of work, and we’ll try to keep this committee work effective while trying to involve the community at large on specific areas.
What office suite does Mandriva use by default and why?
Mandriva uses LibreOffice by default. And if you ask why, it’s simply because it’s the best free office suite ever.
You have had experience ushering a community from one project (OpenOffice.org) to another (LibreOffice) amid times of uncertainty and great risk. Are these are parallels to this case?
I think there are, although here we have the main sponsor, Mandriva SA, who is very open about the reasons why it can no longer sustain a Linux distribution project on its own, and therefore is working directly with the community to make an independent project emerge. That’s the main difference. There are parallels though that tend to be more subtle: What we’re trying to achieve, just like with the transition from Openoffice.org to LibreOffice, is a culture shift from “it will get done by someone else” to “we must do it”. In other words, there is the same demand and urge to set up a fully meritocratic system.
How is collaboration between OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice coming along?
You mean between Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice? Because Openoffice.org is dead, and it had several children. The collaboration is limited on practical terms because of the licensing differences, but we are rebasing our code on the latest Apache OpenOffice in order to be able to have a cleaner licensed base. Right now, we must still deal with the LGPL v3, and while it’s a great licence it cannot change over time; so we have embarked in a relicensing effort towards MPL v2 and GPL v3+ and we are looking forward the interesting switch at Apache OpenOffice from the Openoffice.org codebase to the Symphony codebase; there will certainly be some code we might be able to reuse. Although, when you come to think of it, it’s funny to enter the Apache Incubation Process with one software you’re inheriting, and to use a different software you’ve also inherited just after the incubation process is completed
Mandriva was once one of the most used (if not the most used) distributions of GNU/Linux. Where would you position the distribution on those terms in 2012?
“What we will end up seeing in 2012 and onwards, is a great community powered distribution that’s separate from the company itself; and the company offering a range of Linux-powered products and platforms for the enterprise and the education market.”Let’s face it, the Mandriva Linux distribution was for years the most widely used distribution around. It’s not the case anymore. Several changes happen in the GNU/Linux distribution market and Mandriva never really caught them. It’s not so much that the distribution became outdated: if anything, using Mandriva today, or its fork, Mageia, shows just as advanced, beautiful and user-friendly the distribution is. But the alignment between a sound corporate strategy and the community side of things was never really thought of until now. What we will end up seeing in 2012 and onwards, is a great community powered distribution that’s separate from the company itself; and the company offering a range of Linux-powered products and platforms for the enterprise and the education market. So if anything, you’ll see more of Mandriva as a corporate distribution, and more of the Mandriva Linux community as a community distribution; there is no fork here, but a friendly and productive relationship with no exclusive reliance on each other.
Congratulations on the wedding. Have you gotten the wife using GNU/Linux yet?
Oh, when I met Melissa she was already using the Gimp on Windows. She’s a very creative individual, and a few months after the beginning of our relationship, her old laptop broke. I introduced her to GNU/Linux; she used various distributions: Ubuntu for a long time, but also Mandriva, and now she’s a very happy Fedora user. I should also add that she created all of our wedding decorations, from the menus to the walls,
with the Gimp; she’s a poweruser of the Gimp and there are several community members, including me, who approached her asking whether she’d be interested in providing video tutorials for the project. █
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Summary: Despite Novell involvement in Go-OO (and later LibreOffice), the rolling release of OpenSUSE does not have it
OPENSUSE’S rolling release gets the latest KDE while the mainline release shows almost no signs of real progress. Greg K-H, who recently left SUSE, writes about the subject and notes that LibreOffice cannot be included:
From there the report states that Linux kernel 3.3 is in Tumbleweed and Greg K-H said it seems to be working well. Also in Tumbleweed is KDE 4.8, which was released by the KDE project on January 25. Because of the KDE 4.8 update, Greg K-H explained that LibreOffice had to be dropped because it won’t build with current packages in Tumbleweed or Factory. A bug report has been filed and hopefully will be addressed soon.
It seems as though Greg cares about SUSE even after leaving the company. Since a lot of the community jumped ship there is not much that can be done. █
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