12.21.07

Anti-standards Roundup: GNOvell and Microsoft OOXML

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, Mail, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, OpenDocument, Security, Standard at 5:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML Suppets

On the eighth day, in order to combat ODF, God created OOXML and then created puppets

It is curious to see different people’s reaction to the GNOME-Novell/OOXML situation. Some have concluded, based on a recent article from iTWire, that even the father of Free software has grown tired of the stance taken on OOXML. It’s just one among a bunch of picks from the news:

Richard Stallman dislikes Miguel, New York’s project World Domino calls for your participation and SCO owns us. Find out how xml helps us to be faster and better informed than Doug Mahugh.

We’ve inquired about this only to be told: “What is behind this whole thing? Why is everybody behaving in such a craven manner? There has to be something more than what we know at present. I mean, we can bid goodbye to FOSS altogether if this continues.

This was said in reference to Novell (and the GNOME Foundation). By all means, we intend to spend some time over the holiday researching this issue and looking at whatever evidence is available and hasn’t been explored thoroughly. Time permitting, more compelling facts are yet to be collected. There are things which those who are involved are not tell us, so we must find out for ourselves.

Microsoft’s stance on standards is far more obvious than Novell’s. It’s not always so openly available, but the courts have done a lot of work exposing the culture inside the company.

Six public facts about Microsoft and standards as collected by Rui Seabra and a friend.

[...]

Fact 1: Bill Gates wanted to subvert ACPI so it would only work well with Windows, as it’s documented on proof 3020 of “Comes vs Microsoft”:

[...]

Fact 2: Microsoft tried to sabotage the Java programming language, introducing in the market a product based on Java but with dependencies on its Windows platform.

[...]

Fact 3: Microsoft introduced proprietary extensions in HTML and aggressively induced its partners to use such extensions in order to monopolise internet browsing software (item 322, for instance):

[...]

Fact 4: Microsoft tries to exclude Free Softwares potential of competitiveness by making protocols proprietary (pg. 24 of PDF, 22 of the page numbering).

[...]

Fact 5: Microsoft was considered guilty of abusing its monopoly restricting interoperability information.

[...]

Fact 6: Microsoft didn’t want to participate in ODF development (just like in Internet access, they understood the importance of standards late in the game) and only because of that it didn’t oppose, at the time, its adoption as an ISO standard:

”Not even Microsoft Office 2007 complies with OOXML.“A lot is down to ISO at the moment, but its spine is lost. It’s not even clear if it’ll ever be in charge of OOXML, if accepted. In any event, and regardless of the outcome, it barely matters who controls OOXML because Microsoft has stated that it probably won’t even comply with its own broken specification. It never did. Not even Microsoft Office 2007 complies with OOXML.

At the moment, there are several things happening at once. Only one of them is Microsoft’s gaming of the ISO process. If that succeeds or even if appears to be delayed indefinitely, Microsoft will start tying OOXML into various software products, services, and Web site in which they have partial or full ownership, if not a complete monopoly. Consider for example: Live Spaces, Facebook, Windows mail clients. Speaking of mail clients, here is a quick memo for Novell and/or its clients:

Your GroupWise client has a highly critical security flaw (one among several new ones).

Critical: Highly critical
Impact: System access
Where: From remote
Solution Status: Vendor Patch

As another vector of OOXML penetration, let us quickly mention SharePoint [1, 2, 3], which is tightly related to OOXML. It’s just one among other technologies in this new proprietary stack. The same goes for Silverlight, which Microsoft will try to spread through its services. At least one film (Jackass 2.5) and one promo (Halo 3) are available in Silverlight only.

Whether or not OOXML is pounded through ISO or not, the plan is to keep it from spreading and intercepting its adoption. The actions of the GNOME Foundation have been extremely unhelpful in that regard. We need to keep increasing the use of ODF. We needn’t acknowledge any inevitability.

Microsoft Takes Stage Centre in the Year of the Patent Trolls (2007)

Posted in GNU/Linux, Linspire, Microsoft, Novell, Patents, Turbolinux, Xandros at 4:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

In one older post we appended an extensive list of poor Microsoft patents. It happens to include one which made the front page of Slashdot approximately a year ago and has just been brought back to light.

From my read of a Microsoft Patent application just published today, technology is being proposed that will make it impossible for users who download multimedia files to play these files unless advertising messages inserted within these files are viewed.

It isn’t hard to see that some consumer-hostile methods are seen as patentable, never mind how trivial they may also be.

In other news, in this stormy sea of patent lawsuits, which are clearly on the rise, Microsoft remains among the top targets.

Defendants Sued The Most, October-December 2007 (through December 18)

1. Microsoft (12)
2t. Apple (7)
2t. HP (7)

[...]

Defendants Sued The Most, 2006-2007 (through December 18)

1. Microsoft (43)
2. Verizon (29)
3t. Target (28)

[...]

You probably get the picture. Although Microsoft contended in the early 90s that software patents are just a weapon for monopolists, it is presently caught committing those same sins it spoke once about — sins from which it suffers as well. There are no winners in these situations, except for lawyers. The biggest sufferers are small businesses, assuming the large ones choose [cre 625 not to behave like gentlemen]. Yes, that’s a reference to May’s incidents. It’s about that jar of worms Microsoft decided to open. InternetNews has published an annual summary that includes a concise roundup of these events.

Patents, Patents and Microsoft

The GPL version 3 process was strongly influenced by Microsoft and its patents. While Microsoft has argued for years that Linux may infringe on Microsoft’s intellectual property, it was in 2007 that Microsoft gave the infringements a number. Microsoft alleged that Open Source software infringed on some 235 of its patents. Steve Ballmer himself beat the patent drum telling people that Red Hat and others have an obligation to pay up.

Some did pay up.

Xandros, Linspire and TurboLinux all signed up for Microsoft’s patent protection plan. The risk associated with patent infringement were all cited by IDC as a barrier to adoption for Linux.

At no time during 2007 did Microsoft actually name any of the patents. Some Microsoft executives did talk about interoperability and the need to build an IP licensing bridge with open source.

Microsoft itself crossed the bridge in 2007, the bridge to Open Source licensing. In October, Microsoft’s Public License (Ms-PL) and the Microsoft Reciprocal License (Ms-RL) were blessed by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) as bona fide Open Source licenses.

Microsoft though wasn’t the only company in 2007 to allege patent infringement in Open Source code. Patent holding firm IP Innovation alleged that Novell and Microsoft infringed on its intellectual property. IP Innovations has since stated that its legal challenge is not a challenge against Open Source itself.

As the old saying goes, “it was a very good year” — for patent trolls.

Sellout

Open XML and Its Media Coverage Are Flawed by Design

Posted in Deception, ECMA, Formats, GNOME, GNU/Linux, ISO, Microsoft, Novell, Open XML, Servers, Standard at 4:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

There appears to be no gentle way to put this, but there’s still disturbing bias in the media, which sometimes sticks its fingers in its ears and sings “La la la”. Either it does not understand the issues, or it simply does not want to understand the issues (a matter of convenience or the bliss of ignorance).

As it stands, Novell is helping Microsoft. It’s in the contract, so there needn’t be a conspiracy theory developing. Byfield's 'apoligism' continues and Sam Varghese seems to respond to this issues at hand.

…there seems to be a manufactured air of defeatism around – as Byfield puts it, “Whether or not OOXML becomes an official ISO standard, it will still become unofficial standard (sic), simply because Microsoft Office is the main office program used on computers.” Why is this so?

If this kind of defeatist attitude had been there from the time Richard Stallman decided to create free software for use by everybody, would we have even come close to the stage we are at?

Sam is right on target. We must wake up and realise the implications of our actions before it’s too late. The GNOME Foundation has been challenged many times to step up and reverse its deeds. There is truly nothing to see in OOXML and as further proof of this, here’s some news which proves that only Microsoft and Microsoft Office actually implement something that resembles OOXML.

A new beta of the Microsoft Office Open XML File Format Converter for Mac has appeared on Microsoft’s web site, but there is no indication of any functional changes.

Remember that even Microsoft itself is not using DIS29500 (its own specification). This means that even Office 2007 would not be ISO-compliant. This also means that DIS29500 has never been implmented properly. It’s vapourware.

In an answer to a question on this issue, it turned out that, apparently, Office 2007 is not even using the ECMA standard.

Does anyone know the specifics of the difference between the ECMA Standard or for that matter DIS29500 and the OOXML being used in Office?

I believe I’ve seen ‘Marbux’ mentioning the lack of Sharepoint hooks/fields/tags in DIS29500 while there is an abundance of them in MSO2007 created files.

You can look at this from a few angles:
1) First, Office 2007 writes out things that are not described in the OOXML standard,such as scripts, macros, DRM, etc. Try encrypting a document in Office 2007. It is not longer even a zip file + XML at that point.
2) Also, I’ve heard reports that Office 2007 does not implement all of the features described in the OOXML specification. I haven’t verified this myself, but I’ve seen reports that using some of the extensibility features of Part 5 of the standard will cause Word to crash.
3) Keep in mind as well that Office 14 (Office 2009) has been in progress for over a year now. The beta 1 release will be in early 2008. Presumably this has already extended OOXML as needed to handle the new features of Office 2009.

There is no editor reference application for Office Open XML

I think you’d be well advised to launch Micorosoft Office and try to save a file in the format specified by the draft standard at ISO. You can’t. There is no compatibility mode in Office that limits input to the feature set specified in the official Office Open XML draft ISO standard.
I have spent hundreds of hours poring through those 6,000-plus pages and comparing them to the undocumented APIs used by Office recently disclosed in litigation. http://www.groklaw.net/pdf/Supp_Rpt_Andrew_Schulman.pdf
It is beyond question that in the Office Open XML draft standard, Microsoft disclosed only a crippled subset of the markup and functionality of its new file formats. But Microsoft has not enabled a compatibility mode for the feature set it put in the draft standard. Office can read Office Open XML, but is only a file viewer for that draft standard.
How can you rationally suggest that there can be interoperability if everyone supports the Office Open XML specification? Particularly when Microsoft itself won’t allow its customers to write to that format?
Even when Microsoft released the feature crippled RTF format for interoperability, it supported both read and write capabilities in Office. But the new feature crippled Office Open format is a one-way format. Applications can send Office Open files to Microsoft Office, Office can open those files, but any edits are saved in a different format!
May I respectfully suggest that your company is beyond question attempting to have a vendor lock-in format adopted as an international standard? The claims of openness are absurd. Even Microsoft Office doesn’t write to that format

OOXML on the trash canThe arguments above hopefully sum up some of the problems which are typically overlooked. OOXML should be shunned (garbage can on the left) because it’s somewhat of a decoy. It’s intended to deceive governments that weigh in on ODF and it’s intended to pretend that other programs can suddenly implement better Office compatibility. Remember: XML by its own right is not open, never mind the proprietary and O/S-dependent extensions OOXML contains (or doesn’t bother to specify at all).

A Patent Reform, Acacia’s Greatest Hits, and the Risk to GNU/Linux

Posted in America, GNU/Linux, Novell, Patents, Ubuntu at 12:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Pubpat.org has just come out in favour of a reform and against the abuse that we find in the U.S. patent system. Here is a small portion from their statement.

A coalition of consumer advocacy and public interest groups today filed legal papers supporting new U.S. Patent Office (USPTO) rules that would curtail abusive behavior by patent applicants and improve patent quality.

Our old ‘friend’ Acacia [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9] has just snatched the #3 spot in Patent TrollTracker’s list of top trolls

3. Acacia. I didn’t start tracking Acacia carefully until the summer. But still, on my blog I have reported on over two dozen lawsuits brought by Acacia this year, against more than 235 defendants. That’s in addition to the over 200 lawsuits Acacia filed in previous years against hundreds and hundreds of defendants. And that’s not including the two lawsuits (at least) Acacia has filed in December against 20 more defendants (yes, Acacia, I’m watching you). Acacia’s business model, as a publicly traded company, is to accumulate patents and sue as many companies as possible in order to extract licenses. They have a market cap of over 275 million – that pays for a lot of lawsuits. Unlike other trolls, Acacia tends to not focus on one court in particular, although they have sampled the Eastern District of Texas more this year than in the past.

Matt Asay speaks about the danger software patents are posing, especially when it come to Free software. He makes some sharp statements and uses the comparison to a notorious music industry.

As Mark Shuttleworth once noted, the difference between $0.00 and $0.01 for Microsoft is huge. Microsoft is particularly susceptible to open source’s business-model innovation, given its heavy reliance on license fees.

Again, does the music industry’s strangling of its young cousins portend Microsoft’s own future with open source? It’s very possible. It could be that Microsoft is just trying to get a fair return on its patent portfolio. But it remains an oddity in threatening open source. IBM, Oracle, and others also have huge patent portfolios – some much larger than Microsoft’s – and yet they haven’t staged a patent offensive against open source.

True, they have much to gain from open source. But then, so does Microsoft.

To quote what Richard Stallman told me in the recent interview, “A patent is an artificial government-imposed monopoly on implementing a certain method or technique. If the method or technique can be implemented by software, so that the patent prohibits the distribution and use of certain programs, we call it a software patent.

OpenDocument Format vs. Microsoft Lobbyists (and Money)

Posted in America, Formats, IBM, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Standard, Videos at 12:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Consumer meets company servants

As we recently stated, New York is poised to decide on document formats (proprietary versus open). If you live in this area (like my co-editor, Shane Coyle), then you have a week left to send feedback and make a difference.

As this new article stresses, other states have been on the same boat and there appear to be no hard decisions yet.

In addition to New York, other states, including Massachusetts, Minnesota and Texas, have eyed mandating one document file format across their IT systems.

The states above were victims of Microsoft lobbying. This was once covered in ComputerWorld by Eric Lai. We have also told the horrible story from Massachusetts.

New York is said to be easier for IBM to set straight owing to the company’s location, but the outcome remains to be seen. Be aware that Microsoft was caught lobbying viciously against open source voting systems in New York. It happened just months ago. [Note: it 'magically' vanished from its old address since it had been initially published, which ought to make one even more suspicious]

Microsoft Muscles the NYS Legislature

[...]

Microsoft’s proposed change to state law would effectively render our current requirements for escrow and the ability for independent review of source code in the event of disputes completely meaningless – and with it the protections the public fought so hard for.

Just like in open source voting systems (Brazil and California spring to mind), controversies and confrontations are here to stay. Do remember that other states have already considered ODF and possibly continue to consider it (open source and open format legislation in the United States tends to lag behind the rest of the world mainly for political reasons).

You can watch this nice old video from Oregon as well, just in case you want further (and living) evidence that American states fight for change internally. Here is another newer one (embedded below) of James Love, the Director of CPTech. He talks about standards more generally (not ODF specifically).

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