EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

10.21.18

Data Engine Technologies (DET) Just One Among Many Microsoft-Connected Patent Trolls That Pick on Microsoft’s Biggest Competitors

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, OIN, OpenOffice, Patents at 5:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Data Engine Technologies (DET) and Acacia Research Corp.

Summary: Lawyers’ articles/blog posts continue to obscure the fact that Data Engine Technologies is merely a satellite or unit (one among many) of patent trolling giant Acacia Research Corp., connected to Microsoft and sporting a long history of lawsuits against GNU/Linux

As covered in an earlier post last weekend, potential ‘satellites’ of Microsoft are still attacking Microsoft’s biggest rivals using software patents.

Michael Borella (McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP) wrote about a patent troll connected to Microsoft through Acacia, but like many others he overlooked or missed out the Acacia connection, having published his detailed analysis in a couple of places to say:

Data Engine Technologies (DET) filed an infringement suit against Google in the District of Delaware contending infringement of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,590,259, 5,784,545, 6,282,551, and 5,303,146. Google responded with a Rule 12(c) motion arguing that the patents are directed to patent-ineligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The District Court agreed and invalidated the patents. DET appealed.

In Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l, the Supreme Court set forth a two-part test to determine whether claims are directed to patent-eligible subject matter under § 101. One must first decide whether the claim at hand is directed to a judicially-excluded law of nature, a natural phenomenon, or an abstract idea. If so, then one must further decide whether any element or combination of elements in the claim is sufficient to ensure that the claim amounts to significantly more than the judicial exclusion. But generic computer implementation of an otherwise abstract process does not qualify as “significantly more,” nor will elements that are well-understood, routine, and conventional lift the claim over the § 101 hurdle.

[...]

I have to agree with PatentlyO, which viewed as “fairly questionable” the reasoning under which the notebook tab was the linchpin for patent-eligibility. And if you contrast the surviving Tab Patent claims with the claims that were held ineligible, this case certainly seems to equate claim breadth with patent-ineligibility – perhaps confirming that, as many of us suspect, an “abstract idea” is simply a really broad idea. In any event, decisions like this highlight the not-infrequent anomaly that claims can survive novelty and obviousness challenges, but fail on patent-eligibility. And as we saw here, the present court’s analysis, stripped down to what it really was, had a lot to do with obviousness.

Dozens of long paragraphs about this decision from Judges Reyna, Bryson, and Stoll (with opinion by Judge Stoll) and Acacia not mentioned even once? It already sued major GNU/Linux companies several times after it had hired from Microsoft. Now it goes after Google, specifically the biggest rival to Microsoft’s cash cow, Microsoft Office.

This same case was mentioned by Charles Bienema, who also overlooked the connection when he focused on patent scope:

Some claims directed to a computer spreadsheet are patent-eligible, while others are not, said the Federal Circuit in Data Engine Techs. LLC v. Google LLC (Fed. Cir. 2018) (precedential). The District of Delaware had granted a Rule 12 judgment on the pleadings of 35 U.S.C. § 101 invalidity of claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,590,259; 5,784,545; 6,282,551; and 5,303,146; the Federal Circuit thus reversed-in-part, affirmed-in-part, and remanded.

The three surviving patents (with the exception of one independent claim which had a patentable dependent claim), the ’259, ’545, and ’551) were dubbed the “Tab Patents.” The Tab Patents purportedly solved the problem that “complex commands” were required by “prior art three-dimensional or multipage electronic spreadsheets.” The patent-eligible solution was “a notebook-tabbed interface” to provide users with easy navigation through three-dimensional spreadsheet. Why? Because the notebook tab “allowed computers, for the first time, to provide rapid access to and processing of information in different spreadsheets, as well as easy navigation in three-dimensional spreadsheets.”

A widely-spread article [1, 2] by Joseph Saphia and Bonnie L. Gaudette (Haug Partners) said this:

On October 9, 2018, the Federal Circuit added to its growing collection of favorable Alice step one rulings1 by reversing portions of a decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware concerning an invention aimed to streamline the technology of electronic spreadsheets—a technology that has been around for twenty-five years. See Data Engine Technologies LLC v. Google LLC, No. 2017-1135, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 28412 (Fed. Cir. Oct. 10, 2018). The Federal Circuit’s decision may be viewed as a not-so-gentle reminder to patent applicants and drafters alike to continue to draft software patent claims narrowly and with specificity if they wish to survive patent eligibility challenges under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and Alice step one.

The court commenced its opinion with a robust overview of Data Engine’s patents-at-issue: U.S. Patent Nos. 5,590,259; 5,784,545; and 6,282,551 (the “Tab Patents”) and U.S. Patent No. 5,303,146 (the “’146 Patent”). See Data Engine, at *2-12. The Tab Patents are entitled “System and Methods for Improved Spreadsheet Interface With User-Familiar Objects.” Id. at *1-2. In its detailed review of the Tab Patents, the court noted that they claim “systems and methods for making complex electronic spreadsheets more accessible by providing familiar, user-friendly interface objects—specifically, notebook tabs—to navigate through spreadsheets while circumventing the arduous process of searching for, memorizing, and entering complex commands.” Id. at *2. In essence, the Tab Patents aim to overcome some of the challenges users encountered when navigating electronic spreadsheets due to complex menu systems that “diminished the utility and ease of use of this technology.” Id. at *3. In an attempt to offer a solution to the challenges of prior art multipage electronic spreadsheets, the Tab Patents are directed to “implementing a notebook-tabbed interface, which allows users to easily navigate through three-dimensional electronic spreadsheets” and “conveniently flip through several pages of notebook to rapidly locate information of interest.” Id. at *4-5. The ’146 Patent is entitled, “System and Methods for Improved Scenario Management in an Electronic Spreadsheet” and is directed to tools that permit “electronic spreadsheet users to track their changes” automatically, as opposed to manually, when testing a multitude of modeling scenarios. Id. at *10-11.

Yes, patents on user interfaces are still being tolerated in the US, at least in the Federal Circuit. Charles Bieneman classifies these as “Software Patents” and recalls a related albeit older case on which he says: “Claims directed to an “information management and real time synchronous communications system for configuring and transmitting hospitality menus” were held patent-ineligible under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice abstract idea test in Ameranth, Inc. v. Pizza Hut, Inc., No. 3-11-cv-01810 (S.D. Cal. Sept 25, 2018). The court thus granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment that U.S. Patent No. 8,146,077 is unpatentable.”

“This is a problem. It impacts LibreOffice, OpenOffice etc. because these too have tabbing.”“The patent owner,” he later added, “tried to rely on two Federal Circuit decisions, Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. v. LG Electronics, Inc. (2018), and Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp. (2017), as well as a recent district court case. But these cases were distinguishable…”

We covered this before. The above comes from a blog that advocates software patents. Generally speaking, software patents are the joke of all jokes. Not innovation at all. But lobbying from patent law firms has made the unthinkable reality. Bieneman accepted defeat when he wrote about another more neglected case (because it’s a district court): “Agreeing that patent claims “are directed to the abstract idea of facilitating cross-marketing relationships and fail to add any inventive concept” under 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the Alice/Mayo abstract test, Delaware’s Judge Stark granted a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint alleging infringement of claims of U.S. Patent No. 8,768,760. DiStefano Patent Trust III, LLC v. LinkedIn Corp., C.A. No. 17-1798-LPS-CJB (D. Del. Sept. 28, 2018).”

“OIN cannot do anything about such a racket.”Why was such a ridiculous patent granted in the first place? The headline should be a “duh” moment: “Linking Web Pages to Each Other Not Patent-Eligible” (based on prior art too, not just obviousness and abstractness).

As the above (main) story shows, however, merely adding tabs to spreadsheets is still considered innovative. The high court considers or determines this to be patent-eligible. This is a problem. It impacts LibreOffice, OpenOffice etc. because these too have tabbing. Will the troll go after them too while Microsoft claims to have reached a “truce” and looks the other way? The only known ‘cure’ is buying Microsoft ‘protection’ in the form of “Azure IP Advantage” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21] — a racket that extends to trolls Microsoft can control. OIN cannot do anything about such a racket.

06.27.15

Microsoft Jack (Schofield) Promotes Microsoft’s Proprietary Lock-in and Calls People Who Recommend Free/Libre Software ‘Trolls’

Posted in Free/Libre Software, Marketing, Microsoft, Office Suites, OpenOffice at 3:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Well the initial impression is how much it [Windows 7] looks like Vista. Which I think is…uh…the thing I’m not supposed to say.”

Microsoft Jack

Microsoft Jack

Summary: Jack Schofield, writing for a Bill Gates-funded paper despite claiming to have retired, promotes Microsoft Office and insults all those readers who do not agree with him

Jack Schofield is no stranger to us. He rewrites the past in favour of Microsoft (facts disregarded) and has been accused of "lack of professionalism". His Microsoft boosting has become so epic that many people all around the Web refer to him as “Microsoft Jack” (we cannot claim credit for this label). He now writes in The Guardian again. He never quite retired as he had claimed ages ago. Well, unfortunately he still smokes his pipe and curses at his screen after he writes Microsoft screed.

The Guardian is a suitable (if not ideal) home for Microsoft Jack. It is paid by Bill Gates and renowned for Microsoft propaganda since these considerable (but undisclosed) payments. It’s a sham publication which refuses to even acknowledge financial dependence on ‘Sugar Daddies’ like Bill Gates, with clear impact on editorial control (so gross that ads are disguised as articles or parts of articles).

Microsoft Jack claimed to be retiring several years ago, but it was purely nonsense. He later wrote in another Microsoft propaganda rag (ZDNet) and he even continues writing for The Guardian, where bashing Microsoft’s competitors is OK (even for the same behaviour as Microsoft’s) and criticising Microsoft or Bill Gates is very rare (they are literally funding the paper).

“Microsoft Jack claimed to be retiring several years ago, but it was purely nonsense.”Some might deem it AstroTurfing, but “reading Microsoft Jack’s responses to the commenters who dare suggest Openoffice or Libreoffice is revealing,” Alex Barker wrote to me. Looking at the article in full, it reads like a Microsoft advertisement where nothing but Microsoft is even an option. The only provided option or question is, which version/edition? It’s a pretty clever way for Microsoft to disseminate propaganda (making the competition disappear, an exclusion by design), which is does a lot of at the moment, as we pointed out some days ago (the timing is strategic), alluding to some British Web sites. Some of these sites Microsoft literally subsidised in exchange for Microsoft propaganda and advertisements (e.g. Ars Technica UK).

Looking at the comments, it is clear that many readers are not interested in Microsoft Office. Readers of the papers are using and are happy to recommend Free software, but here is how Microsoft Jack responds:

I think they’re brainless trolls.

[...]

I find idiocy gets a bit wearing after the first 15 years or so ;-)

[...]

Otherwise, I wonder if there’s anything you can take for verbal diarrhea? ;-)

[...]

Stop kidding yourself. It’s because you didn’t bother to read the answer and/or some of the many comments above, which show that LibreOffice (a) is not a practical alternative and (b) it’s not cheaper ;-)

Most trolls are by now smart enough to have figured out that Microsoft Office is already free for the vast majority of UK students. And, by the way, it also works on Macs.

Otherwise, I’m not quite sure how saving £0 on Office 365 — or, at the very worst, £15 a year on Office 365 University — fits with expecting students to shell out £1,000 or so to get totally unnecessary proprietary software on an Apple-shaped dongle. I guess logic is not one of your stronger points…..

Free as in ‘free sample’, right? Microsoft Jack can only pretend that he doesn’t know how lock-in works. What happens when one is no longer a student? Well, Microsoft Jack is smart enough to know what he’s doing here. He cannot use ignorance as an excuse.

Microsoft Jack then calls Google “biggest proprietary spyware and surveillance company”. Yeah, because Chromium, ChromeOS, Android etc. are all proprietary, right? Unlike the platforms from the NSA’s #1 (first) PRISM partner, Microsoft. It is clear, based on numerous yardsticks, that Microsoft is far worse than Google, but Microsoft started high-budget PR campaigns (e.g. “Scroogled”) to convince the public otherwise and lobby politicians to cripple Google over it. Microsoft is one of the worst. The company’s managers even have security clearances with the spies. But why not blame it all on Google? This is acceptable propaganda for the Bill Gates-funded paper, which likes to accuse Google of tax evasion but not Microsoft (especially so after Gates gave a lot of money for the newspaper to look the other way while regularly planting Gates Foundation PR and endorsements across letterheads of entire sections).

Let’s press on with more insults from Microsoft Jack (accusing others of “verbal diarrhea” while it’s mostly him who has it). Let’s start with some revisionism, as Jack surely knows better than judges that dealt with Microsoft in court for many years. Here is what he wrote:

An area I followed closely, and there was no “dirty dealing,” as far as I know. Microsoft simply produced much better products

OK, so either he has bad memory or he has gone senile. It is well-documented and it is common knowledge that Microsoft resorted to “dirty dealing”. We have plenty of original documents to prove it right here in this site.

Here is some more ‘wisdom’ of Microsoft Jack:

Using the 1997-2003 file formats is mostly stupid as the newer formats are more robust, take up less space with large files (they’re zipped), and are ratified open standards.

Bribing officials makes “open standard”, according to Microsoft Jack’s lies-by-omission world. Or blackmailing British politicians perhaps [1, 2, 3]. Microsoft Office still cannot deal properly with ODF, only proprietary OOXML (its secret, ad hoc, undocumented format). Microsoft does not adhere to its own documentation. It’s all a big lie and many people foresaw that all along.

Here are some decent comments from one who refutes Microsoft Jack’s promotional article in a very polite way:

@ JackSchofield
“Pity we don’t have an award for the most (clueless) trollING of the week.”

MS does NOT have the answer for everything.

MS is marketing smart. They provide ‘access’ so they can inculcate new users to their line of software. They hope that new entries will to the work place will provide an internal dynamic for future sales.

‘Popular’ software is usually the lead software that gets ‘hacked’.

Some MS stuff is good (especially with languages) and other stuff is pure doggerel. Many survive but equally many pieces of software end up in the Bit Bucket of history. MS does NOT have the answer for everything.

Much university work (thesis, research) is archived for posterity and Apps/online software gets ‘modded’ and features removed. Copy, on your own PC, is advisable.

For example, I just watched Samsung download an ‘upgrade’ that changes many OS menus to a white on blue background – a combination that is near fatal for colour-blind users.

An associate company of my employer handles orphaned archive material. They have a couple of CP/M operating system – Digital Research – computers with 8 and 5.25 inch drives. They can also read/convert WANG format disks!

And if you need some work done, their systems are booked solid for the next 5 weeks. They operate on a 24/5 basis – they need the weekends for maintenance.

Remember, university students have especial needs and ‘cloud’ is not always the best solution. This also applies to businesses.

Saving documents is plain TEXT is often the best answer almost anything can read TEXT! Even from years ago.

[...]

Skype is popular feature with GCHQ and NSA.

[...]

‘Free’ doesn’t exist. MS rarely does anything ‘free’ without an ulterior motive.

And what happens when you leave your ‘free’ domain at the conclusion of your courses?

Buy a software package that resides ON YOUR HARD DRIVE – not ‘somewhere ‘.

[...]

The problem with Office is that every Version has numerous features that few use, unless you are a type setter.

My employer has licences for 2003, 2007 and, I think 2010. Employees are free to use whatever they like.

Hands down winner is 2007 with most people using Win2003/97 as the format to save in.

As for PowerPoint, it’s clunky, inhibited and a waste of disk space. There are better, free, compatible options. But essential if interacting with the US military!

Remember, using cloud based software is fine, until you are out of InterNet range. Can’t beat software mounted on your hard drive!

Those who don’t agree with Jack, according to Jack, just “post obviously pointless trolls in a topic about Microsoft Office.”

Here are insults and generalisations: “Of course, some of that hostility could be prompted by the long-winded, self-interested piffle posted by here OO fans, who are — to put it kindly — little more than trolls in a topic devoted to Microsoft Office.

“Isn’t it odd how open source supporters are generally so lacking in social skills?”

So people who care about software freedom, open standards, or like OpenOffice are “fans…so lacking in social skills” (according to Jack). He later uses the term “OpenOffice fanboy.” So they’re all just “trolls and “fanboys”. He refers to every pro-LibreOffice comment collectively as “mostly-mindless LibreOffice comments”.

Here is another response to a commenter: “Pity we don’t have an award for the most clueless troll of the week ;-)”

Just because someone adds a recommendation of freedom-respecting alternatives doesn’t make one a “troll”. Jack gamed the debate by limiting it only to Microsoft Office (or versions of it) and then he frames anyone who goes outside the boundry of his silly game a “troll”.

He later repeats the nonsense that “Microsoft’s office formats are ratified open standards.” By bribing and bullying? Like Jack himself? He too is a bully when one confronts him. We gave examples before.

What Microsoft Jack does is unethical because he helps Microsoft get young people addicted to (locked in to) Office. It’s like the drug dealer’s mentality. “They’ll get sort of addicted,” Bill Gates explained, “and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

In the comments we can see Microsoft Jack relaying Microsoft’s FUD about Munich. He writes: “Good luck to the Germans. I hope they do better than Munich, which spent a decade trying to get rid of Office and Windows (and didn’t make it), saved no money, and probably lost a huge amount of productivity. And now it’s considering switching back….”

Not true, but Jack doesn’t care about what’s true. He calls LibreOffice a “pile of crap” (how professional a language from the man who accuses others of having “verbal diarrhea”). He says it is “slow, bug-ridden, and very imperfectly compatible with Microsoft Office” (as if being compatible with Microsoft Office with its proprietary formats is the goal). There is actually a large number of comments that recommend LibreOffice and OpenOffice. No wonder Jack feels a little marginalised and threatened/intimidated. His article is revealed as biased and unpopular among readers. Now he need to cope with it.

Jack spreads a common lie, along the lines of needing Microsoft to get a job. He writes: “There are, after all, many reasons why it makes much more sense to become proficient in Microsoft Office, such as your future employability.”

Complete nonsense. The world has moved on, so the myths like “nobody gets fired for buying Microsoft” needs a boost from the likes of Jack (for Microsoft’s sake). He also wrote: “Unless you don’t have a job and really can’t afford Office, life’s too short.”

So free software is just for the unemployed, according to Jack. Nice stigma he spreads there.

Jack also finds the time to trash-talk LATEX. He says: “They should be learning their course topics rather than, say, LaTeX…. ;-)” (actually, LATEX has several very good front ends that are easier to use than Microsoft Office). One can also hand-pick XML files to manipulate Word files, but in reality one uses front ends, right? So it’s another straw man argument from Jack. Nothing but Microsoft, not even Google’s offerings, is allowed any acceptance. Even the mention of alternatives is verboten.

Notice the update on Microsoft Jack’s ‘article’ (puff piece/ad). It’s like he’s working in coordination with Microsoft UK. He speaks to them and adds: “Microsoft UK says that students can get the full Office 365 free if their school or university has a site-licensing agreement, and that “most universities in the UK are part of the scheme”. Students can find out if they qualify by going to Office 365 and clicking the green “Find out if you’re eligible” button.”

Nice ad you got there, Microsoft Jack. Does the paymaster of the employer, The Guardian, endorse this kind of behaviour towards readers who comment? Since Bill Gates is one of the paymasters, surely the answer can be “yes”. To close off with Jack’s own words, “I handle a lot of documents from large professional companies, fancy PR agencies, pseufo-academic [sic] white papers etc.” Yes, Jack, we can tell…

10.25.14

City of Berlin Does Not Abandon Free Software, It’s Only Tax Authorities

Posted in Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 3:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Berlin is already a Windows shop and it’s not window-shopping

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.

08.02.14

Microsoft Continues to Further Distort OOXML in Order to Make it Less Compatible With Non-Microsoft Software

Posted in Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 3:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ooxml_demo_4.jpg

Summary: Microsoft continues to distort the office suites market and impede interoperability using the OOXML pseudo ‘standard’, essentially by branching out into “Strict” and “Transitional”, making it exceedingly hard for developers to deal with files generated by Microsoft Office and vice versa

TRYING to work with Microsoft is misguided. Just look and see what has happened to many companies, including — to name a recent example — Nokia. Microsoft has no honour for anyone but Microsoft itself. Microsoft was bribing officials and abusing sceptics in order to get its way when it comes to document formats. Nobody should forget the crimes that Microsoft committed in order to keep the world stuck with Microsoft Office. We reminded the British government of these crimes and very recently the UK adopted ODF. This was a very smart and timely move because based on people from The Document Foundation (TDF), the bogus ‘standard’ which is basically just an ‘open’-looking gown for Microsoft Office (proprietary) formats is now being further distorted in order to cause trouble for people who are not Microsoft customers. These abuses are even worse than before and Microsoft thinks it can get away with them because it bribed people to put an ECMA and ISO stamp on OOXML (no matters what happens to it later on).

As Charles from The Document Foundation put it the other day:

Regular readers of this blog will remember these glorious days, just before the big financial crisis, where Microsoft had created the so-called OpenXML standard that was supposed to be totally not competing against the OpenDocument Format, managed to have pretty much the entire standards community swallow it in the most creative ways possible, then fell short of actually implementing it in its own products. A good summary of the whole -technical- story is available here. The irony of life has the uncanny ability to devise ways to enchant us. Well, sort of. The format called “OOXML – Strict”, by comparison to “OOXML-Transitional” was the readable open part of the ISO 29500 standard, known as OOXML. For years, it was obvious that Microsoft Office implemented OOXML-Transitional (the heap of the more or less documented parts of the format alongside undocumented blurbs) and nothing else, creating a situation where one standard, OOXML was existing, and another format, OOXML, was fully implemented and spread all around, yet was an undocumented, proprietary specification. That’s the .docx, pptx, and .xlsx you see everywhere, and the one LibreOffice was busy reverse-engineering for all these years.

This unfortunate situation, we were told, was about to change soon, with the full adoption of OOXML-Strict by Microsoft Office. Helas, if you open a purely OOXML-Strict compliant file with Microsoft Office 2013, the file will be declared corrupt. If you open the same one with LibreOffice 4.3, the file will open and you will be able to edit its contents just like with any other format supported by LibreOffice. In other words, LibreOffice can claim to have a better support of OOXML than Microsoft Office, despite years of unfulfilled promises, pledges, and never met expectations by Redmond. I guess that, just like the old saying goes, promises only commit the ones who actually believe them.

IBM’s Rob Weir has just released another piece about document formats [1] and a new interview with Italo Vignoli of The Document Foundation [2] sheds more light on what Charles spoke about. To quote Vignoli: “MS Office locks-in the user not only with proprietary formats but also with the OOXML pseudo-standard format. This is due to the way the supposedly standard format is handled by MS Office.

“In fact, each version of MS Office since 2007 has a different and non standard implementation of OOXML, which is defined as “transitional” because it contains elements which are supposed to be deprecated at standard level, but are still there for compatibility reasons.

“Although LibreOffice manages to read and write OOXML in a fairly appropriate way, it will be impossible to achieve a perfect interoperability because of these different non standard versions.

“In addition to format incompatibilities, Microsoft – with OOXML – has introduced elements which may lead the user into producing a non interoperable document, such as the C-Fonts (for instance, Calibri and Cambria).”

When Microsoft speaks about following standards what it means to say is that “Microsoft is the standard” and everyone must just follow Microsoft. Only a fool would choose OOXML over ODF, especially now. Korea and China seem to be moving away from Office quite rapidly.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Document as Activity versus Document as Record

    And then there is a document as the record of what we did. This is implied by the verb “to document”. This use of documents is still critical, since it is ingrained in various regulatory, legal and business processes. Sometimes you need “a document.” It won’t do to have your business contract on a wiki. You can’t prove conformance to a regulation via a Twitter stream. We may no longer print and file our “hard” documents, but there is a need to have a durable, persistable, portable, signable form of a document. PDF serves well for some instances, but not in others. What does PDF do with a spreadsheet, for example? All the formulas are lost.

  2. Why you should never use Microsoft’s OOXML pseudo-standard format

    The UK government recently announced that they would use ISO approved document standard ODF for viewing and sharing government documents. It’s a very important move because it breaks Microsoft’s vendor lock where single US-based company ‘owns’ and ‘controls’ all the documents created on Earth. Microsoft is infamous for using unethical means to make it harder for other players to offer any kind of interoperability with their products which can threaten Microsoft’s market share.

    So we reached out to Italo Vignoli of The Document Foundation, the organization responsible for developing LibreOffice which is a fork of OpenOffice, to understand the risks of using OOXML…

07.10.14

OpenDocument Format (ODF) Still Alive and Kicking

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

But we may need Google’s help

Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. WebODF v0.5.0 released: Highlights

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

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

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

  3. WebODF Travels

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

  4. South Korea gives up on Microsoft

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

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

  5. Optimising Joinup’s interoperability app repository

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

  6. What’s up with Open Standards?

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

  7. ODT to TXT, but keep the line numbering

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

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

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

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

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

06.28.14

‘Open’ Nastiness: Openwashing of OOXML in Order to Make Microsoft the Standard and Bury ODF

Posted in Deception, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 5:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Another step in the long struggle to cast proprietary as ‘open’, especially when it comes to Microsoft’s last remaining cash cow and Facebook’s core business of mass surveillance

Openwashing has been a key ingredient of Microsoft’s strategy as of late, pretending that its privacy violations and patent racketeering are somehow outweighted by some kind of goodwill. This is something that not only Microsoft does but also the (partly) Microsoft-owned Facebook is doing quite a lot these days. It is truly disturbing.

Angus Kidman said that “Open [sic] XML is the format which Microsoft Office has used to store Office documents since Office 2007″ even though it is untrue. Almost nobody used it at the time, so Microsoft bribed and corrupted so many people and organisations, hoping to universally impose OOXML on people, pretending it was “open” even though it was all about proprietary Office. Nobody was going to use something so unnecessary, so Microsoft bribed many people for this, including large companies, as compatibility with existing formats had improved and the goalposts needed to be moved. Here is LibreOffice’s Meeks, who was surrendering to Microsoft’s proprietary OOXML rather than adhering to standards like ODF, probably because he was paid by Novell at the time (and Novell was bribed by Microsoft specifically — as per the contractual agreement — to promote and openwash OOXML).

“When the press is trying to insinuate that Microsoft (Office) and Facebook are open there is clearly something wrong with the press.”So once again they are using “Open Source” to promote proprietary lock-in. This is not a novel concept, Microsoft did this with Novell (converter). Phoronix says: “This work may benefit some open-source document editors / office suite software, with more commentary being available from Michael Meeks’ blog.”

How is being reliant on OOXML beneficial to anyone but Microsoft shareholders? This is a trap. We need to reject this format. Google too should stop its unhelpful backing of OOXML, which is getting more detrimental by the day (more of it in the company’s latest event was disclosed, affirming Google’s lack of commitement to document standards).

As noted by some bloggers and writers for the European Commission’s Web site: “To ensure preservation of digital assets, it is essential that specific file formats are implementable in open source software, concludes Björn Lundell, associate professor at the University of Skövde in Sweden. He recommends this should be made a requirement for digital asset strategies of public administrations, thus minimising the risk of losing control over these assets.”

Well, there are patents in OOXML and complexity which shows that it’s really just designed around one implementation in a proprietary form (Office). OOXML should be rejected, especially in the public sector. There is nothing open about it. It’s a massive lie.

Nicholas Miller from VentureBeat and others play a role in a similarly-disturbing campaign that seeks to paint Facebook as “open”. With press release-oriented ‘journalists’ out there it has been quite easy. The Facebook openwashing that we recently wrote about is further promoted by pro-Facebook sites that use semantic jokes to get across this illusion.

When the press is trying to insinuate that Microsoft (Office) and Facebook are open there is clearly something wrong with the press. These are systematic and very persistent (especially this year) openwashing campaigns that everyone should push back against because these deceive and help derail real Free software.

04.06.14

Document Liberation: The Time is Now

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Office Suites, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 9:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Preservation a priority

Old chair

Summary: The Document Liberation Project makes the press and software such as LibreOffice plays a role while other players, such as Open-Xchange, are also hopping on the ODF bandwagon

IN THE MONTHS of February and March we revisited ODF because of a policy that had been promoted in the UK — one which favours disseminating government documents not just to customers of Microsoft (who purchased proprietary software like Microsoft Office).

The problems caused by OOXML are explained again by one whom we interviewed in episode 74 of TechBytes. His name is Charles-H. Schulz and he is from LibreOffice. He says that “Microsoft Office had been released and with it an undocument format called OOXML which, as far as experts were concerned, had little to do with the ISO 29500 (aka OOXML) standard. While Europe and Brazil were struggling to migrate their public sector’s documents to ODF, any company or government, let alone any individual acquiring Microsoft Office 2010 migrated to the new and shiny OOXML, officially without remorse or complaint. The ODF advocacy groups here and there were launching all sorts of events and meetings to guide and assist migrations to ODF. Results were mixed. We had victories. We had defeats. At the end of the day what was at stake was fear of failure and change from CIOs and IT services. That’s still the case today. But while these are mostly human factors, there is one thing we hadn’t tried yet, or at least hadn’t been tried enough: turning the hundreds of thousands of files that are out there and locked up in various proprietary file formats to ODF documents.”

Another advocate of ODF, Andrew Updegrove, tells the story of Microsoft’s attacks on officials who ‘dared’ to promote ODF. Updegrove recalls: “By the end of December 2005, I had been blogging on ODF developments in Massachusetts for about four months, providing interviews, legal analysis and news as it happened. In those early days, not many bloggers were covering the ODF story, and email began to come my way from people that I had never met before, from as far away as Australia, and as near as the State House in Boston. Some began with, “This seems really important – what can I do to help?” Others contained important information that someone wanted to share, and that I was happy to receive.”

We are not going to go about a decade into the past again, but the point worth making is that OOXML remains a huge issue. Microsoft’s worldwide bribery was not in vain. My wife reports that OOXML crashes LibreOffice (on GNU/Linux) for her, sometimes even freezing the entire operating system.

Making the news these days is the Document Liberation Project [1-3], which even Updegrove wrote about [4]. For those who think that ODF is old news, be aware that Open-Xchange is entering the online office suites business [5,6] and “support for the Open Document Format (ODF) is forthcoming, probably within the next three months, a company spokesman said.” (source: IDG)

Later this year we are going to see if the British government, owing to Cabinet Office, goes ahead with plans of making ODF the default format for editable document exchanges. This could set an important precedence for other nations to follow, ensuring that their documents down fall down the digital ashtray with Microsoft’s proprietary formats.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Document Liberation… And justice for all

    Ever been in a situation when no maintained software reads your old files? During Libre Graphics Meeting 2014, Document Foundation announced a new project called Document Liberation.

    This project unites developers who help users to access data in file formats that are locked to proprietary and even abandoned software.

    Essentially it’s a new face of the existing joined team from LibreOffice and re-lab that is already “responsible” for libraries to read and convert Corel DRAW, Microsoft Visio and Publisher, Apple Keynote and Pages files. Implementations in end-user software include (but are not limited to) LibreOffice, Inkscape, Scribus, and Calligra Suite.

  2. Document Liberation Project aims to break vendor lock-in

    New open source developer consortium promises to end upgrade arms race, enabling users to reclaim orphaned documents

  3. Wanted: developers to make outdated documents readable again
  4. It’s Document Freedom Day 2014: What Does that Mean for You?

    You’ll recall that I noted above Document Freedom Day awareness is limited in the U.S. So is participation in DFD activities, as you can see from the image at left, which shows where they are being held this year. That’s a shame, because document freedom is a universal, and not a regional or national concern.

  5. Open-Xchange adds spreadsheet to open source online app suite

    Open source collaboration software vendor Open-Xchange has added a spreadsheet function to its open-source, web-based productivity suite, allowing the online editing and sharing of Microsoft Excel documents.

  6. Open Source Collaboration Provider Open-Xchange Launches OX Spreadsheet Tool: WHD.global 2014

03.25.14

OpenDocument Format Celebrated Tomorrow

Posted in Microsoft, Office Suites, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 6:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

White dove

Summary: A look at some recent reports about office suites and standards, one day ahead of the annual event that celebrates document freedom

NOW that businesses and governments gradually move away from Microsoft they often find themselves assessing alternatives to Microsoft Office. There are several articles that cover it these days [1] and some have “[n]o mention of Apache OpenOffice or LibreOffice,” as iophk put it in relation to CNET/CBS coverage [2] (the article is titled “Why I’m quitting Microsoft Office forever”).

“The only way out of this mess is to embrace ODF, not to adapt to Microsoft proprietary formats.”Contrary to myth which mostly prevails among the young generation, Microsoft did not invent office suites and Microsoft Office was far from the first in its area. It was made up from software that Microsoft had acquired and crimes from Microsoft made it dominant (there are still court cases dealing with it). There was also deviation from industry standards, which is how Microsoft made it hard for people to use anything other than Microsoft or even keep using old versions. This is why we need ODF now.

In a multi-part series from Andy Updegrove, titled “ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words” [3,4,5], a little bit of history is provided and there are also recent articles about standards [6,7], which Microsoft never obeyed, not even when it comes to the Web (and this causes huge headaches to many Web developers, who are even willing to pay people [8] to ditch Microsoft’s Web browser).

As we showed some years ago, Microsoft tied Office to its browser too, as part of ongoing attempts to extend the Office monopoly to the Web. These are all serious violations — the consequence of which we continue to suffer from to this date. The only way out of this mess is to embrace ODF, not to adapt to Microsoft proprietary formats.

Tomorrow, which is a special day for OpenDocument Format (Document Freedom Day [9]), we are planning to publish a long article about the long battle for ODF in the UK.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Best Free Office Suites: Microsoft Office Alternatives

    For small businesses, every red cent counts. Sometimes, that means getting creative with your tech decisions. There’s no doubt that Microsoft Office is the most widely used office productivity suite, but if you’re purchasing new computers or replacing old software, buying new copies is going to cost you. Before you pony up for new software, these free Microsoft Office alternatives might be the money-saving solutions you’re looking for.

  2. Why I’m quitting Microsoft Office forever

    It’s not just about the money. Well, okay, it’s mostly about the money, but there are other reasons I’m bidding goodbye to Microsoft’s not-so-sweet suite.

  3. ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words

    The story has other notable features as well: ODF is the first IT standard to be taken up as a popular cause, and also represents the first “cross over” standards issue that has attracted the broad support of the open source community. Then there are the societal dimensions: open formats are needed to safeguard our culture and our history from oblivion. And when implemented in open source software and deployed on Linux-based systems (not to mention One Laptop Per Child computers), the benefits and opportunities of IT become more available to those throughout the third world.

  4. ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words Chapter 2
  5. ODF vs. OOXML: War of the Words Chapter 3 – What a Difference a Decade Can Make

    Moreover, in the years to come, PC-based word processing products like WordStar, and then WordPerfect, would become far more popular than Microsoft’s own first word processing (originally called Multitool Word), providing low-cost alternatives to the proprietary minicomputer based software offerings of vendors like Wang Laboratories. IBM, too, provided a word processing program for the PC called DisplayWriter. That software was based on a similar program that IBM had developed for its mainframe systems customers. More importantly, another program was launched at just the right time to dramatically accelerate the sale of IBM PCs and their clones. That product was the legendary “killer app” of the IBM PC clone market: Lotus 1-2-3, the spreadsheet software upon which Mitch Kapor built the fortunes of his Lotus Development Corporation.

  6. The Standards Wars and the Sausage Factory

    Maybe, thanks to open source, the sausage days of standard making will be behind us. I hope so.

  7. Open Standards and Open Source make a great pairing

    While open source advocates are fond of pointing out the freedom of open source –that is, the freedom to share and modify it –it’s only part of the equation for companies taking advantage of open source in their businesses.

  8. Ditch IE7 and we’ll give you a FREE COMPUTER, says incautious US firm

    Internet Explorer 7 holdouts are being offered a brand new computer by a US company sick of working to support Microsoft’s legacy browser.

  9. Document Freedom Matters

    As the Document Freedom Day is approaching I realized that we don’t push ODF and open standards as loudly as before. Certainly most of the battles for the mind and market share are past, at least when it comes to office file formats. But the recent public consultation of the UK government brought back some of the most crucial issues surrounding ODF and it’s useful, I think, to check where stand these days on these matters.

« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channels: Come and chat with us in real time

New to This Site? Here Are Some Introductory Resources

No

Mono

ODF

Samba logo






We support

End software patents

GPLv3

GNU project

BLAG

EFF bloggers

Comcast is Blocktastic? SavetheInternet.com



Recent Posts