New Site Section – Billwatch is Back!

Posted in Microsoft, Site News at 9:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Case Roole was kind enough to allow us to have this copy of Billwatch, a project that was run in the late 1990s in order to keep track of Microsoft’s behaviour in the market.

New pages have been added to serve as research resources.

Happy browsing. It makes a nice addition to thousands of Iowa exhibits and various resources that can be found in Groklaw, among other sites that share similar goals.

OOXML Watch: Latest Articles Include ECMA’s New Tricks

Posted in ECMA, Microsoft, Open XML at 11:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Keeping an eye on the very latest…

Over at ZDNet, a new article covering OOXML has just been published.

“OOXML is philosophically a problem,” says StandardsNZ’s Jackson. “The world already had a standard [in ODF].”

“There has been insufficient technical rationale as to why we need another standard,” added open source advocate Jeff Waugh.

But Jelliffe insists that it is unexceptional for there to be multiple standards in document processing languages, just as there are in graphics, programming languages, schema languages, even screwdrivers.

In relation to Rob Weir’s recent essay on the ECMA-Microsoft bait-and-switch maneuver, noooxml.org has just published the following:

So what Ecma is offering SC34 is nothing close to what was promised. Ecma is really seeking to transfer to SC34 the responsibility of spending the next 3 years fixing errors in OOXML 1.0, while future versions of OOXML (“technical revisions”) are controlled by Microsoft, in Ecma, in a process without transparency, and as should now be obvious to all, without sufficient quality controls.

Here is the ECMA press release [via Andy Updegrove] which corresponds to a short article that we mentioned only a few days ago.

21 December 2007 – Ecma TC45 has been making continued progress on the comment review process, supporting the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 Project Editor’s mid-January deadline to deliver a comprehensive report of Ecma’s proposed dispositions.


b) Leap year calculation

ECMA-376, the original Open XML standard adopted by Ecma, treats 1900 as a leap year in order to maintain compatibility with earlier spreadsheet applications that included this error. This is an important compatibility consideration, but based on the comments received by many National Bodies on this issue, Ecma acknowledges that the date system should be correct. The newly defined date system described in the previous item treats 1900 correctly. The leap-year bug will be deprecated, as described in the next item.
2 Functionality extracted from the main specification

Many National Bodies identified specific functionality within the specification that reflected existing product defects or legacy application behaviors. These behaviors are important because they reflect the content in existing documents, but should not be perpetuated when creating new documents from scratch.

Deprecation as part of a newly-proposed ‘standard’ seems absurd. Of course, if a standard was to evolve, then deprecation can be expected, but herein, as you can hopefully see, it’s all broken before it was even born. Only in ECMA can such absurdity be seen as acceptable. The whole thing is sham.

The Deprecated “Smoking Screen” of OOXML Makes a Failure by Design

Posted in Deception, ECMA, Formats, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML at 11:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

BSI British Standards says:
… a standard is an agreed, repeatable way of doing something. It is a published document that contains a technical specification or other precise criteria designed to be used consistently as a rule, guideline, or definition. Standards help to make life simpler and to increase the reliability and the effectiveness of many goods and services we use. They are intended to be aspirational – a summary of good and best practice rather than general practice. Standards are created by bringing together the experience and expertise of all interested parties such as the producers, sellers, buyers, users and regulators of a particular material, product, process or service.”

Whatever the OOXML file format will eventually look like if such ever appears, doesn’t really make a difference for Microsoft. Office 2007 or the subsequent version of Microsoft Office will never produce a standard compliant format.

What is currently implemented in Office 2007 is NOT what is described in ECMA OOXML: ECMA OOXML is a format that Office 2007 can *read*, not the format that Office 2007 is *writing*, e.g. scripts, macros, passwords, Sharepoint tags, DRM and others. If you try encrypting a document in Office 2007, it is not longer even a zip file + XML at this point.

”It is not about what the global community needs but strictly the commercial interests of the omnipresent player.“It seems Microsoft will *NOT* change Office to become compliant with ECMA. Their marketing experts will simply advertise loud and clear that “OOXML is now an ISO standard”, and will blur the differences between MS OOXML, ECMA OOXML and ISO OOXML. This will do the trick for most people, who are not technical experts. But they will eventually get caught again in lies. It is not about what the global community needs but strictly the commercial interests of the omnipresent player.

The significant papyrus change in the format by deprecating some controversial issues in the format shows a significant failure of the format. Shuffling chapters around and putting some parts in the annex is not the answer. There are still major problems with the format as now proposed in its deprecated form, from cultural and linguistics adaptability problems, accessibility issues, to the reliance on Windows and the guidance to what is called the “DEVMODE” structure, increased patent problems, added harmonization and interoperability problems, third party implementation remains almost impossible and many others. And let us not forget the proposed format has never been implemented, tested and it not the consensus of the common.

The fact is that Office 2007 has not implemented the initially proposed ECMA format, so it is more than apparent that the new “smoke screen” proposals will never be implemented, even if they can be. It also dooms all the .docx files out there already. Is Microsoft ready for a recall or ready to develop another converter for this problem?

The TRUTH IS, every application will need to support the deprecated features in order to read files with the deprecated features, so moving stuff into deprecated status does not ease the burden of implementing DIS 29500.

If a file is one which was converted from the old format of Microsoft Office by DIS 29500 and allowed to wrap the old file in XML, it is kept unreadable for everyone else. The legacy binary formats remain closed. OOXML is still a closed format tied into to many proprietary formats.

OOXML on the trash canECMA 376 is a bomb-shaped standard. It redefines everything just to keep the legacy (and therefore a number of things that should be fixed by now, thanks to better engineering, and existing ISO standards) afloat. Why? There is a difference between preserving old files and preserving them with all internal bugs. In essence, Microsoft is shoving their own mistakes right down the throat of ECMA/ISO. Microsoft has the audacity to say the standard meets a different need, when all they mean is : we don’t want to fix our bugs, because that would force us to use non-Microsoft standards, and that is unacceptable. Unfortunately, the new proposals do not change this fact.

The SpreadsheetML part of OOXML describes a “securityDescriptor” attribute, which according to the specification: “…defines user accounts who may edit this range without providing a password to access the range. Removing this attribute shall remove all permissions granted or denied to users for this range.” This is an important security-related feature that tells the application which users are allowed to edit arrange in a spreadsheet without a password. A would-be programmer implementing this feature would need to know how these user accounts are represented in the document. Are they comma-delimited? Semi-colon delimited? Space-delimited? You can’t define a list without defining a list delimiter.

OOXML does not provide those details (although it does imply that more than one name is allowed). This function lacks sufficient definition to allow interoperability, which in the end is what repeatable, common use is all about. Finally, any vendor who wishes to have a competing spreadsheet product must be able to give the same results as Microsoft Excel. So a proposed ISO standard for Excel’s file format must precisely specify the required calculation behavior, included precise definitions of spreadsheet functions, especially the crucial financial functions. However the specification given for spreadsheet functions in OOXML appears to be merely a dump of the end user documentation for Excel. The definitions are vague, with unstated assumptions, and in some cases clear errors in their definitions.

Furthermore, the proposed deprecated changes increase the already dramatic overlap with the established ISO standard for office documents. If creates new patent problems in such that now Microsoft reserves the right to sue you if you implement any of the deprecated stuff moved to the annex of the proposed standard.

It makes harmonization and interoperability worse than ever because without the code for interpreting the deprecated stuff, any file with deprecated data will be impossible to read properly.

Given the extent to which Office 2007 will have to be changed and the extensive coding work which would need to be done, don’t you think that it is just wiser to reject OOXML as a ISO standard? It is not just one and for Microsoft to collaborate on the development of ODF and create one universal file format for everyone – the fundamental of standardization – OOXML need be rejected.

Aspirational, Consolidated are the Best Practices

An ISO Standard should not merely be the minutely detailed record of the operating characteristics of a single company’s product, no matter how dominant that company is in its field. From the definitions provided by ISO and others, which were cited earlier, an International Standard should represent the “consolidated results of science, technology and industry.” A standard should be “aspirational.” In other words, it should not just show one vendor’s way of accomplishing a task. It should attempt to provide “a summary of good and best practice” based on the consensus of expert opinion. It should teach the best practices for the repeatable, common practice of a given technology.

Industry records its best practices through standardization. The existing body of document and markup standards represents a compendium of reviewed, approved, and implemented best practices. The work of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is especially relevant to XML document formats, since they
maintain the core XML standard as well as related standards such as XHTML, CSS2, XSL, Xpath, XForms, SVG, MathML and SOAP, the standards that represent the very backbone of XML and XML-related technologies.

OOXML, however, incorporates very little of the consolidated best practices of the industry. Worse, would-be implementors of OOXML are asked to use Microsoft’s proprietary, legacy formats, even when relevant and superior W3C standards are at hand. For example, Vector Markup Language (VML) was developed by Microsoft and proposed by it to the W3C, where it was evaluated by a technical committee and rejected back in 1998. The industry instead supported Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), which was developed into a standard by the W3C and then widely adopted. The standard for XML vector graphics has been SVG for almost a decade. But OOXML uses the proprietary VML and Microsoft has only stated the intent to deprecate it.

The Culture of Self Interest is not Open

Let’s be clear, an ISO standard should benefit everyone and should be developed by consensus and by open participation for all to embrace, enhance, and share. DIS 29500 as now proposed still only serves the commercial interest of one vendor and will always only serve the interest of one vendor Microsoft because that is the way it was designed.

Contributed by Russell Ossendryver / fanaticattack.com

How Microsoft ‘Bought’ Nicolas Sarkozy, France, and Parts of Europe

Posted in America, Deals, Europe, Fraud, Microsoft, Patents, Videos at 12:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Further to this previous and recent post about Microsoft using Universities for marketing, we’ve received more information that will be handy in the future.

Last week we cited a French publication that spoke about Microsoft. Much more of the same sort of stuff was seen before. We became aware that, like Le Temps, Le Monde has a very limited article retention policy. Beyond that, old articles go into the archives which are available only for those who pay for access. It makes such information hard to get hold of.

”There were rumours that Nicolas Sarkozy, who recently became President of France, received support from Microsoft, which makes sense given his liberal market policies.“There’s more where that came from (and been interpreted by) one who done this sort of thing in the past — during the Microsoft anti-trust trial of the 1990s. He contributed some articles to a Web site called “billwatch.net”, which was run by a Dutchman named Case Roole. The Web site was devoted to studied criticism of Microsoft.

There were rumours that Nicolas Sarkozy, who recently became President of France, received support from Microsoft, which makes sense given his liberal market policies. Microsoft received some payback when his government recently passed a new law on the “autonomy of the universities”. One of the items of this law, which was protested through a strike of many students and professors, is that universities can now set up foundations by which they can receive funding from private sources.

Microsoft wasted no time in taking advantage of this new law. The University of Lyon 1 opened itself to the corporations. We received a translation of the first paragraph along with some quotes from the head of Microsoft France.

In full opposition to the Pécresse law on the autonomy of the universities (the announcement seems to be a thumb of the nose), Microsoft has signed a partnership with the Claude Bernard University at Lyon. The private group will bring 180,000 euros over 3 years, of which a third will finance the funding of study.

“It’s very useful for us to see how the teachers and the students use our technologies. That also helps us to understand the graduates and the types that come from the unversity for our recruitment.”, explains Eric Le Marois, the education director of Microsoft France.

“We will bring teaching content with IT Academy but the teachers will be free to use it or not. It’s the same thing for free software, the university could use them if it wishes”, replies Eric Le Marois (no influence but “propositions”).

There is more information about this in student-partners.com (the site is down at the moment, with a Microsoft server error). Another separate source got in touch to say this about the previous post:

It’s officially not covert, but they do seem to avoid bringing attention to it. Kind of like the surveillance options in Windows, much of it is described right there in the EULA.

It’s been going on for a while. I saw the English language announcement a while back (some time in the last 2 years) and now wonder what role these fifthcolumnists have in undermining the infrastructure at some universities

It is also worth noting that the “Microsoft Research INRIA Joint Centre” opened at the beginning of 2007 (INRIA being France’s national computational research organisation.) It’s understood that this followed an infusion of Microsoft money, but the process of opening this organisation began in 2006 before Sarkozy was elected as president. I’ve personally known people from INRIA since 2004 (my research peers or colleagues in the field of machine vision).

Our anonymous contributor believes that this is very similar to how things work in the United States (which Sarkozy professes to admire though he doesn’t speak good English). Sarkozy apparently already receives some small ‘rewards’ from a Microsoft executive. A little bit of a recall brings up the following recent article.

“[French President Nicolas] Sarkozy and his family have been vacationing at a lakefront estate in Wolfeboro owned by former Microsoft Corp. executive Michael Appe. The president was previously photographed relaxing dockside in his swim trunks.”

Surprisingly perhaps, it’s MSNBC with the report. This was actually covered in some other news outlets other than MSNBC, which is, as the name implies still associated with Microsoft, no matter how many attempts are made to deny this after a breakup.

To say more on this, there is no “holy grail” incident which is a reference for direct Microsoft funding of Sarkozy. All one can trivially find are some indirect evidence such as that he took his summer vacation in New Hampshire, USA at the residence of a former Microsoft executive (see above).

A quick search on the Web says more about this incident, and beyond it. Now, consider what happened in France when OOXML was discussed:

Apparently, the French discussion on OOXML broke into something resembling a bar-fight.


Matters soon got out of hand: the shouting seems to have climaxed with the Microsoft representative insulting the management of AFNOR, members of the Defense Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry, and two members from the Industrial Ministry exclaiming that they were servants of a banana republic!

We actually covered this here before. It received little or no media coverage at the time.

Don’t forget the recent DMCA law which practically forbids playing DVDs using an open source library that is necessary. It is under Sarkozy’s watch that the DAVDSI (French equivalent to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act) has been expanded further.

Open source groups asked all of the candidates of the last presidential election about their positions on software patents and free software. All candidates except Sarkozy defended free software. Instead, Sarkozy defends “intellectual property” and the “right” of businesses to control it. Overall, his response was deemed to be quite negative by free software advocates.

Additionally, there is now a regime in place which requires ISPs to report anyone who uses P2P file sharing to a governmental body and to shut them down if their P2P usage is deemed to be “abusive.” That appears to be the latest sign of digression. Another riot ensued when laws that are associated with BIOS got introduced.

To show you how these things work, consider this video from last year. It shows Greece’s blind agreement with Bill Gates. The consultation and agreement seems like a personal relationship more than a broadly-accepted decision.

Here is the video’s description:

This video presents the signing of an agreement between the Greek Government and the Microsoft Corporation in the context of the Digital Strategy 2006-2013 for Greece. It includes statements of the Greek Minister of Economy and Finance G. Alogoskoufis and the Chairman of Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates (Lisbon, February 1, 2006).

There are many more examples (just appended below to maintain brevity). When the Danish authorities get invited to Bill Gates’ house (amid movements towards open source and open standards) , that ought to mean something. Mind also the following:

Gates blackmailed Danish gv’ment

Microsoft boss Bill Gates threatened to kill 800 Danish jobs if Denmark opposed the European Computer Implemented Inventions Directive, reports today’s Danish financial daily Børsen, quoted by NoSoftwarePatents.com.

Many more examples are appended below, with plenty available upon demand. Their purpose is to demonstrate the seriousness of the issue at hand.

Recently in this Web site (reverse chronological):

Other older articles of interest:

It now appears that Lehne works as a Brussels lobbying consultant for multinational corporations who are the main clients of one of the leading lawfirms for patent litigation in Europe, which is also itself involved in patent lobbying and closely connected to lobbying organisations.

Lately, many signs exist showing how Microsoft’s monopoly power extends to government and media. We can add a new example to this list: The “Vienna conclusions”. It seems, their power even extends to distorting findings in official UN documents. The story contains all usual elements: Sponsorship, not willing to participate in public discussions, a conflict of interest of one of the members of the committee, and a Microsoft PR worker making a ridiculous statement. After that, of course, Microsoft denied most of it and ignored the rest.

A suspected manipulation of a consultation on the future patent system of the European Union led to the EU Commission being nominated for the less-than-prestigious award — which the Commission promptly went on to win in the category “Worst Privileged Access.”

leaked letter to the European Commission has revealed the extent of lobbying by proprietary software groups to prevent the widespread adoption of open-source software.

Sent in response to a recent report on the role of open-source software in the European economy, Microsoft-funded pressure group, the Initiative for Software Choice (ISC) warned of potentially dire effects if too much encouragement was given to open source software development.

The study, commissioned by the European Commission, Directorate General Enterprise and Industry, is but a small part of the larger FLOSSPOLS project that aims to keep the EU a leader in global development of open source software.


Now, the ISC is widely regarded as a shill for Microsoft, although the member list also includes companies like Intel, Autodesk, and RSA Security (now an EMC subsidiary). The 300-strong member list is mostly padded with lesser lights such as Yapi ve Kredi Bankasi (Turkey), ThreeSixtyDegreez (Pakistan), and Datoprogrammu Apgads (Latvia). The institute pushes hard for the right to patent software, alongside regular bashings of open source businesses.

A European Commission official originally chosen to lead its antitrust case against Microsoft left on Friday last week to work for a consultancy that has the software firm as a client, a spokesman said.

Before C. Boyden Gray was named as George Bush’s number one person in Europe, he was a lawyer lobbying on behalf of Microsoft.

A similar report on China and Asia is on its way as well.

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