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Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 10:22 PM EDT

David Coursey has written an odd and befuddled reaction to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts choosing OASIS OpenDocument format. I was just settling down to answer him, trying to get into kindness mode first, when I came across Sun's Simon Phipps' blog entry, which answers Coursey better than I could. And with Simon's kind permission, I present it here.

I would add this: there are a number of factual mistakes in the article, in addition to the big-picture items that Simon addresses. The one that I think matters most is this: Coursey seems to think that you can't use OpenDocument format with a Microsoft computer. You can. You can download and use OpenOffice.org or StarOffice, for example, and use it on your PC with Windows. Because he doesn't realize that, he posits that it's his gut feeling that Peter Quinn is implementing some secret plot to force a change to Linux. That's silly. Well, actually, it's mean, and totally untrue. You can run OpenOffice.org on Windows, as well as on Linux or a Mac, and it's a free download, so no one will be "locked out", as he seems to imagine, or forced to change operating systems.

Think of it like Firefox. It's Open Source software, but you don't have to run a GNU/Linux system to use it. You can use it with Windows or with a Mac or with Linux. Anyone can use it, no matter what operating system they are on. That is the goal in Massachusetts, to make sure everyone can have equal access, without dictating a particular product or a particular operating system.

As for Coursey's suggestion that, if one must choose something other than Microsoft's Office, he thinks Adobe's PDF is a better choice, I suggest he must never have tried OpenOffice.org or he'd know there are certain kinds of documents you can create in an office suite that you can't in PDF format, and for that matter, there are certain functionalities that are missing in PDF too. OpenOffice.org, as its name suggests, provides the kinds of functionality that Microsoft's Office offers. Would he say that PDFs could replace Office, that we should all use only PDFs for all our documents? I think he needs to rethink that.

He says he isn't an "ideologue", but a suggestion like that comes across like a crotchety old man determined not to try anything new at best and an ideologue at worst. If, for example, I want to create a document I know others will be editing later, is PDF a good choice? What if I want to do a presentation? Think, David. Think.

But factual errors and unfair aspersions against Mr. Quinn aside, there is a bigger picture here, which is that Massachusetts is trying to ensure that our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will still be able to open the documents we create today, even if Microsoft is no more. And that is what Simon addresses.

************************

Coursey is wrong on Massachusetts
-- Simon Phipps

I just read an article by David Coursey, Massachusetts' Move to Open Format is Close-minded, and I'm afraid he has it totally wrong - too much time spent drinking from the fountain of Redmond wisdom, I fear. He criticises the proposal by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to mandate a policy of using open formats for its business, saying

"I am not sure what the real problem is with using Microsoft file formats. No, they are not open, but they aren't completely closed, either. There are a number of non-Microsoft apps that support them. That makes Microsoft file formats "open enough" for many users."

What a short-term view. The real point is not what applications are available today; it's that allowing the use of formats that are under the control of a single party - without transparency of process or involvement from any other interested group - results in what I call "corporate Alzheimer's", where you are condemned to be unable to use your documents at some point in the future where the tools available today that access the format are no longer available and/or usable. This becomes even more of an issue once the format gets wrappered in DRM, which causes early onset of corporate Alzheimer's. That's the reason the National Archive of Australia was involved in defining OASIS OpenDocument - to ensure future historians are able to access digital source documents key to Australia's history. If we don't use open standard formats, we are doomed to forget.

Coursey goes on to say

"[Mr Quinn has] created the 2007 requirement for an open storage format to create an excuse for removing Microsoft Office from state workers' desktops."

My word, that is worthy of a Microsoft press release. Microsoft could most likely add the same level of support for OpenDocument as they have for previous versions of Word, for WordPerfect and for about 20 other file formats, and do it easily by 2007. Members of the OpenDocument committee tell me they put in a great deal of effort to ensure the format was capable of easy conceptual mapping to MS Office formats, not least because of the need to make the writing of conversion filters easy.

The truth is exactly the opposite of what Coursey asserts. Massachusetts are not anti-Microsoft when they make this decision, as they are at pains to explain - they are pro-openness. Any company that chooses not to support the open, standard format excludes themselves, they are not being excluded by Massachusetts.

The effects of allowing public administrations to use software that flouts standards are painfully clear, as the examples of the Copyright Office and of FEMA have made clear. Sun, like IBM (well done, Bob) have written to Mr Quinn in Massachusetts to endorse the decision, which is principled, wise, brave and most importantly pro- rather than anti-competitive. It seems so obvious that in the participation age documents need to be long-term readable in any word-processor that the only way to object is by invoking FUD and XML schema.

Coursey does get one thing right, though. He says

"I encourage Microsoft to meet Massachusetts' demand by opening its own formats or, alternately, teaching Office to read and write the OpenDocument format."

That's what we've all been saying for years, and the fact they have done neither (their formats are not open because of restrictions on who can implement them and because control is not shared) will be their downfall. Failure on both counts means only the latter is open to them, and they would be well advised to stop FUD-ing and get on with it.


  


Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness | 214 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections here
Authored by: pajamian on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 10:30 PM EDT
.

---
Windows is a bonfire, Linux is the sun. Linux only looks smaller if you lack
perspective.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic here...
Authored by: pajamian on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 10:31 PM EDT
You know the drill, clickable links, etc...

---
Windows is a bonfire, Linux is the sun. Linux only looks smaller if you lack
perspective.

[ Reply to This | # ]

PDF
Authored by: qu1j0t3 on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 10:53 PM EDT
Actually PDF is much better for presentations than PowerPoint (which is
rubbish).

And I understand OpenOffice has excellent PDF support, which should count as a
positive in Coursey's view?!

The portability (Linux/Win/Mac) point is a very good one, and I'm glad you got
that in loud and clear above the fold! Open source software is usually more
portable. And everything M$ does is designed to prevent software being portable.
It's in their DNA. I could spend a page listing the dirty tricks they use to try
and make sure that once a program runs on Window$, it won't easily run anywhere
else. Lovely.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: chaz_paw on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 11:00 PM EDT
I have read enough of Mr. Coursey's opinion-pieces over the years to know he is
MS skewed. He sees the world through Redmond-tinted glasses, don't you know. I
never liked him when he wrote at ZDNet, and I don't like him now.

That being said, I think he did make one valid point- "It might be a bloody
transition, but in the end the state could potentially save a lot of money. It
seems, however, that if Microsoft adds OpenDocument support to Office then Mr.
Quinn would be satisfied." But it doesn't look like that will happen.

Open is open and we all know MS is anything but open!

---
Proud SuSE user since 07/26/04

Charles

[ Reply to This | # ]

Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: eggplant37 on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 11:18 PM EDT
Wonderful article, Mr. Simon. I've been using OpenOffice.org on Linux for a
while at work now, and the documents I create only have one problem: When I
switch to a Windows OS and Word, the fonts and page formatting don't translate
well, but that's mainly on 1.4. I've not played much with 2.0 on the Linux
laptop that I use every day (hell, every waking hour it seems) so I've not seen
it perform otherwise.

However, most of the stuff that I've created and had to pass on to others to use
has been no problem for them at all. OOo Writer does a fantastic job. Most of
the documents I've created have had to be issued in PDF at work since I'm
working on educational content for a medical fellowship, and the authors of the
documents (mostly Powerpoint presentations) are sensitive that their work
doesn't get heisted by others who don't respect copyright. I've enjoyed using
OOo, it's so much like Word in every respect, it'not funny--hell, it's even
better than Word in that there are several features that I've used that just
aren't there in Word.

I've read a lot of negative press on OOo Calc, about how it's just not up to
snuff. For my needs, just simple spreadsheets, it's been an excellent tool, and
the people that I work with have no trouble using the sheets that I create on
their copy of Excel. Same with Impress. It handles Powerpoint files with ease,
and I've had no trouble interchanging files between Powerpoint and Impress. It
just simply works.

I can also offer a fine example of what Simon referred to as corporate
Alzheimer's. A former customer of mine when I was doing field service computer
support had originally used Win 3.1 with a copy of Lotus AmiPro when he started
up his business, selling ad space in the Yellow Pages here in Detroit and in
Chicago, and in other Midwestern cities as well. He's got scads and scads of
these AmiPro documents around. Here's the kicker: He's still running that
original AmiPro software on Win98 today because I couldn't convince him that he
needed to start looking at moving to more modern, up-to-date software.

Needless to say, that's why he's an ex-customer. I'm not going to support a
fool who is afraid of the investment, in both money and time, to get with
current technology that can be easily supported. I simply told him that unless
he switches, I can no longer support him and will not be responsible if he can
no longer access those documents. The AmiPro copy he has installs off *15*
3.5" floppy discs. When one of those discs fails, and he can't install the
program on a computer that has had a hard drive failure, what in the world would
I do to fix his problem? And guess who would get the blame? Thanks, I'll pass.

[ Reply to This | # ]

David Coursey and Openness
Authored by: sacs on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 11:18 PM EDT
I think the key thing he's missing, that Massachusetts gets, is when he says:

"open enough" for many users

Massachusetts wants that to be:

"open enough" for ALL users

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Correction - Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 07:07 PM EDT
Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 11:29 PM EDT
thank you, Simon & PJ. I had read Coursey's rant & concluded that he
was not so much an MS shill as simply an uninformed fool. the line "I
encourage Microsoft to..by opening its own formats.." cinches it.. No MS
shill would be so foolish as to believe that possible. Indeed, it is exactly
what MS will, & can, not do.

His line "OpenOffice is a fine suite, but even as a free program it
hasn't caught on." is pure fantasy.. Altho it has not 'taken over', it
certainly has 'caught on'.. Caught on is enough.. Only the MS's of the world
need 'taken over'.

bobby

[ Reply to This | # ]

Doesn't go quite far enough
Authored by: jimbudler on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 11:30 PM EDT
Coursey says

"I am not sure what the real problem is with using Microsoft file formats. No, they are not open, but they aren't completely closed, either. There are a number of non-Microsoft apps that support them. That makes Microsoft file formats "open enough" for many users."

Simon Phipps says

What a short-term view. The real point is not what applications are available today;

Well beyond short term view! Microsoft Office 12 has already been announced with a Patent laden OpenXML format that is NOT going to be truely available for FOSS or anyone elses use. The open license for this patent allows anyone to use the patented technology to read and write openXML compatible file formats, but doesn't allow sublicensing or distribution. Therefore the only endusers who can do this are the ones capable of writing their own import/export filters. Can't be distributed with OpenOffice.org or KOffice.



---
Jim Budler

[ Reply to This | # ]

Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 11:41 PM EDT
We are winning. Even David Coursey, who is highly critical of Massachusetts,
things Microsoft should make its formats open or include the ability to
import/export OpenDocs. It seems like everyone in the world agrees Microsoft is
in the wrong here.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Proprietary Formats and Corporate Alzheimers
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 11:46 PM EDT
Hey, everybody!

Let me give my own experience with proprietary problems.

Long ago, before my first real computer (my first computers were a Timex
Sinclair 1000 and an IBM PCjr. I will tolerate no snickering from the Peanut
Gallery), I would work on writing short stories, a novel or two, and an
occassional play for community theater. Typewriters were a pain that I had to
learn to deal with until I got a gift--a Brother word processor. It was what we
video game geeks call "dedicated", in that it did word processing and
that's about it. It had a daisy wheel printer and saved to a 3.5 floppy (double
density or lower).

I wrote like crazy on that thing. It was such a relief. When I got my first
real computer, I looked forward to bringing all my stories and projects onto the
computer.

It won't read any of the disks. Not one. The formatting is something
completely alien to a Windows computer (and no doubt Linux as well). Meaning
that, if I want to dig these things up, I must print them out (1-2 minutes per
page) and scan or type them in.

I would love a program that would change the data, but no. So I have had to be
very careful to keep that thing running or lose some of that precious data
forever.

Yay! All hail open formats!

Dobre utka,
The Blue Sky Ranger

"Yay! My heart fills with hideous despair! Ooo! And behavior controlling
drugs!"
--Fillerbunny

[ Reply to This | # ]

Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: stend on Thursday, September 08 2005 @ 11:53 PM EDT
The one that I think matters most is this: Coursey seems to think that you can't use Open Document Format with a Microsoft computer.
I'm not sure what you're getting that from. What I see is that he understands that the primary reason many people use Microsoft operating systems is in order to use Microsoft Office, and that once it becomes necessary to use an alternative, the perceived need to use a Microsoft operating system is removed as a consequence.

I agree with Mr. Phipps, however - Mr. Coursey's article could well have been released by Microsoft (and, in fact, I checked the bio to see if this was a "guest editorial" from someone who had been associated with Microsoft).

---
Please see bio for disclaimer.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Prediction: Microsoft will eventually support an open format
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 01:22 AM EDT
This is old hat for MS:

It will happen shortly after they are tired of kicking and screaming nonsensibly
and requesting their friends in the media to do the same. Coincidentally, it
will happen about the time a large contract in MA is up for bid with this
requirement. (Likely, this won't happen till next year so we will have to endure
this "Why is everyone mean to MSOffice crap?" till then.)

They will seem to magically turn on a dime (like most big IT companies) and
happilly produce OpenDocument++ or some similar named addon. They will tell
everyone it is standards compliant(which they now love) and yet better than
everyone else's.

Of course, later it is discovered that it doesn't render documents saved by
other programs quite right and adds 'extensions' to every document it saves. Of
course Microsoft will spin this problem, claiming it is the other
competitor's/program's fault or for the 'good' of the user.

When it becomes a big enough public issue and there is proof it is MSOffice,
Microsoft will have altered OASIS just enough so that their version really is
'the' standard. It will be standard 2.0 or something and it will be encumbered
in some way OASIS has been changed to accept (patents) so no one else can
support it.(Leaving everyone on the 'open' side of the debate to be recommending
an old standard and appearing to be just MS bashers.)

If they manage things(users, governments, etc.) right, there won't be any legal
repurcussions at all and MS will be in better position than they are today.

Doesn't this thought make you warm and fuzzy all over?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 01:45 AM EDT
A tale of memory typewriters and converting to PC file formats.

About 15 years ago I was working in a large organisation.

PCs were being introduced, however my manager's secretary refused to have one,
and insisted on getting a typewriter (Canon I think) that had a 3-1/2"
floppy drive for saving files.

Then the secretary got a computer, and wanted the old files transferred over.

With a lot of luck, and a bit of reverse engineering, I was able to move the
files.

First I had to read the disk. I had a program designed to read (on a PC) all
sorts of funny disk formats, from a variety of CPM formats through to some odd
DOS formats. It turned out that the disks had the same track/sector structure as
single sided 160 kB IBM-PCjr disks.

I then found that there were just two files on every disk - a small file, plus a
large one taking up the rest of the disk.

Looking into the small file I found that it looked like a list of file names
with some sort of reference attached to each one.

I then looked into the large file and found that it was arranged in blocks, each
of 128 bytes. The reference in the small file attached to each file name pointed
to a block number in the large file. At the end of each block in the large file
was another number pointing to the next block in the file.

I quickly wrote a program (interpreter Basic - don't laugh - it was quick and
easy to write, and it worked first time). to read the small file one name at a
time, find the first block of the document in the large file, then read the
associated document out of the large file and write it to disk.

Unfortunately I no longer have a copy of this program, and in any case DOS
versions of Basic are now as scarce as hens teeth. These days I'd probably do
something like this in Perl.

However the guts of the method is:

1) find a way to read the tracks and sectors on the floppy disk.
2) reverse engineer the file structure. It's usually ASCII with a very limited
range of control characters.
3) create a script to read out the documents block by block and write them to
hard disk.

[ Reply to This | # ]

David Coursey has never understood much of anything
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 01:52 AM EDT
Long-time ZDNet Anchordesk readers are well-acquainted with David Coursey and
his inability to grasp much of anything. I have long suspected ZDNet employs
him to create controversy (and page hits to their site) by allowing him to say
the most incredibly stupid things that cause readers to be outraged enough to
pass his links along to the people they know.

Unfortunately, Groklaw is now sending ZD lots of traffic to David Coursey's
latest fit of cluelessness.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Published comment sent to MA on why open standards are good in the long term
Authored by: chris_bloke on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 02:18 AM EDT

I don't know if it's of any interest to people but I've published the comment I wrote to the MA people supporting their latest draft and explaining why I believe open standards are important in the long term. As someone with an interest in archaeology and history I'm thinking long term in the order of centuries, for reasons that I explain in my comment.

I've put a CC non-commercial share-alike license in case it's of use to anyone.

Chris

[ Reply to This | # ]

PDF can be used for presentations
Authored by: cheros on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 02:34 AM EDT
Just to illustrate the point, the FLOSSPOLS conference on use of Open Source in Governments (18 November 2004) was edge to edge PDF.

The main advantage is IMHO that it gets rid of all the build and animation rubbish Powerpoint newbies tend to drop in..

= Ch =

[ Reply to This | # ]

Openness and Katrina
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 03:39 AM EDT
On BBC world service there was an interview today with a lady who escaped from
new Orleans and heard about the $2000 flood relief and the web-site set up for
enrolling. Luckily she had salvaged her laptop and tried to connect to the site
- only to be told that she needed Internet Explorer for the site.
Unfortunately her laptop was a Mac.

[ Reply to This | # ]

" Nations urged to embrace open technology standards"
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 04:38 AM EDT

NEW YORK In a report to be presented at the World Bank on Friday, a group that includes senior government officials from 13 countries will urge nations to adopt open information technology standards as a vital step to accelerate economic growth, efficiency and innovation.....

The group's report defines an open standard as technology that is not owned by a single company and is openly published..... International Herald Tribune


Perhaps David Coursey would like to propose the alternate viewpoint to the World Bank this morning. He must be worried that the Bank may about to be taken over by The People's Republic.

Brian S.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OO on the mac?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 04:39 AM EDT
I agree, you can use OO (or is it OOo?) on the mac. But that's not a pleasant
experience, not a mac experience. I'm not talking GUI, I'm talking fink/X11.

But if MS refuses to support open XML, that may change, no? Given the huge
success MSOffice for Mac, and the way we're spoiled GUI wise, it's been an
uphill battle, and until now not many people cared enough either way, which
must have frustrated those few FOSS mac developers.

But now you have the field all for yourself, if you want it, that is...

disclaimer: I know there's a huge culture gap between traditional mac fans
and FOSS developers and I don't want to tell you what to do. I only want you
to realize that *if* you're interested in the mac crowd, you *have* to make
your product KISS.

Cheers.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS future tactics
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 06:30 AM EDT
Maybe MS trys to make a deal here: Loosing MA, but maintainig lock-in on all
their other MS Office users.

On the other hand, MS might just tell everybody now how unsupportable ODF is in
MS Office, just do try to shy MA and many other organizations away from
migration.
In the meantime MS would be writing filters which would try to write some sort
of ODF file, making sure the kind of file they write is somehow rendered garbled
by OOo and StarOffice (CSS, standard HTML anyone?).
So they could finally come out with two arguments, first "we support
OpenDocument", second "see how bad that format is".

For this not to happen there should be a trademark called
"OpenDocument" held by a foundation, which sets up a test procedure.
Every application which wants to call itself "OpenDocument compliant"
has to pass the tests, and has to pay some money for the usage of this name. The
fee for open source projects should be marginal (like $5).

[ Reply to This | # ]

Hopefully they can do better than that
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 08:00 AM EDT
"Microsoft could most likely add the same level of support for OpenDocument
as they have for previous versions of Word..."

If they add that level of support, opening OpenOffice docs in Word or Excel
would be like opening them with an Enigma machine...

Geek Unorthodox

[ Reply to This | # ]

Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 09:41 AM EDT
PJ, you might be interested in this:

http://www.theopencd.org/

From the site: "TheOpenCD is a collection of high quality Free and Open Source Software. The programs run in Windows and cover the most common tasks such as word processing, presentations, e-mail, web browsing, web design, and image manipulation."

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's not about software, it's about document maintenance!!
Authored by: Reven on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 10:17 AM EDT
I had to laugh at David Coursey's PDF fixation. PDF is great, but it's only half the team. Mass. gets this, really they do. This is why PDF is one of the formats they specify.

What Mr. Coursey doesn't get, and what Microsoft is trying to deflect the attention from, is that this whole issue isn't about what software is used, or even how much said software costs. I really don't think Massechussets cares about software cost.
To understand this, look at the document cycle:

Producing a document is just like making software. You have source code and the compiled executable product. Oasis/open-revisable-file-format-du-jour is like software source code. PDF is for the "compiled" finished product. No, PDF is not revisable. In many cases this is exactly what you want. Any document-producing project should have the revisable-file-format document in the hands of those that do the revising. At some point in time the document is at a stage where you want to distribute it. You create a snapshot in time of this document and release that snapshot - it's this that PDF is fantastic for. It's well documented, nearly universal, and can be used to view those snapshots long after the revisable version's file format is a forgotten footnote.

However, when it does happen (and it will for any of them) that the revisable version's file format is a long forgotten footnote, when someone comes along and wants to revise it again, you want (and MASS. wants) to have some good, full, PDF :), documentation on that file format so that it can be revived long enough to bring the document into the 22nd century.

Microsoft wants people using Microsoft products. They want people to upgrade from version 1 to version Gazillion through every version in between. They are a publicly-owned company, which means by definition they don't care about anything else except the making money part. So, how they accomplish this is to try to force their users into maintaining, through every upgrade, all of their documents in Microsoft's closed file-format-du-jour. They are banking on fear of obselessence in order to sell software.

It is this maintenance that Massachusetts is trying to avoid. They are trying to avoid having to continuously maintain all the documents they ever produce and ever have produced through every one of Microsoft's closed file formats. It has nothing to do with not wanting to pay for the software upgrades, it has to do with the fact that they don't want to have to maintain all their documents forever. At some point, they want to be able to archive the revisable version without the fear that some point down the road the document's "source code" won't be understandable by anyone any more. They want to be able to archive it and let it stay archived until and unless someone way down the road wants to dig it up again.

Microsoft understands this perfectly. They just want to deflect attention away from this. So they talk about how Oasis doesn't support this or that cool hip feature - anything to bring the focus from future document maintenence to current software features. Microsoft doesn't want anyone to look into the future, they want people focussed firmly on the hear and now and using their software, thank-you very much.

---
Ex Turbo Modestum

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Thank you - Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 07:32 PM EDT
IE-only FEMA site slowing Katrina aid
Authored by: nickieh on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 01:45 PM EDT
Along the same line, the FEMA site for Katrina victims to register for help only
works with IE6+ on Windows. How much more work would it have been to make this
browser-agnostic? How many people will be delayed getting help by having to go
through other avenues?

If public entities were *required* to work to open standards on
documents/websites/etc. this would not be the problem it is now.

Of course, it would likely put a big dent in Microsoft's bottom line having all
these competitive products, but they're all about competing on innovation,
right?

[ Reply to This | # ]

CORPORATE HUBRIS Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 02:49 PM EDT
The brilliant people who develop Microsoft Office are not incapable of
developing an Open Standards interface, but are prevented from doing so by
corporate mandate.

Imagine just how much of a powerhouse Microsoft Office would be today, if three
years ago, the splitup of Microsoft had gone through. You would have Microsoft
Office for Linux and Mac plus an additional two years of advancement instead of
a focus on DRM lock in.

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What is most surprising to me ...
Authored by: tanstaafl on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 03:56 PM EDT
... is that folks like Mr. Coursey say that Microsoft products are de facto
standards, and that we should all just get over it and use their software, but
then turn around and deny that there is even a hint of monopoly. If 'everybody
uses Microsoft' and those who use competing products need not be served by the
Government that they elected and to which they pay taxes to run, then perhaps
Microsoft should be compelled to provide tools to access their formats to any
citizen who needs it - at no cost to the citizen. Another approach might be to
require Microsoft to submit their pricing structure to Public Utility
Commissions in each State in the U.S., much as providers of electricity, natural
gas, and other utilities must; if 'everybody uses Microsoft,' then perhaps
Microsoft should be regulated.

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Why OPEN standards
Authored by: Tufty on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 04:10 PM EDT
Let us assume that it is the year 2100 and Open Office has passed. Can the
documents be read? Yes. Anyone can take the standard and write an application to
read it. Massachusetts, Microsoft even a future PJ can create an open source
project to do it. That is what is important not whether Open Office or Office
can do it. Linier A was widely used (OK, in the area, at the time) but how do we
read it now?


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There has to be a rabbit down this rabbit hole somewhere!
Now I want its hide.

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What about macros?
Authored by: Jaywalk on Friday, September 09 2005 @ 09:45 PM EDT
Word has the capability of embedding user authored macros into the text. How hard would it be to create a macro that converts the Word document into the open format? Alternately, a separate program could do the format conversion.

Just because Microsoft won't make Office support open formats doesn't mean someone else can't.

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===== Murphy's Law is recursive. =====

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Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: PeteS on Saturday, September 10 2005 @ 06:31 AM EDT
This reminds me of a long running thread (which I can't find right now) - Just who owns the data?

Let's take MA (or any government agency, really) for a start. All documentary information produced are, strictly speaking, owned by the taxpayer; i.e. the public.

The Micro$oft way of closed 'standards' changes this ownership to one requiring payments to M$ to view what are already owned by the public.

By declaring that document formats must be open, MA is restating the point that the data are owned by MA, and no fee should be required to be payable by MA or it's citizens to a single third party for the provilege of viewing their own data.

That is not to say MA will not pay for software that meets it's criteria, of course (something M$ is being very quiet about, considering it could get a contract in MA if the default output of it's office products could be set to the OpenDoc standard). Indeed, having accepted a defined, open standard, MA has opened the market to competition, which is good public policy anyway.

So, my response to David Coursey would be on the lines of "I am the owner of my data, and I will use tools that permit me to own it and the formatting in toto. That implies I must be able to read the data in any way I choose, with whatever tools I may choose to create or buy. That means, of course, the format of the document must be free to use and distribute.

This flies in the face of the M$ method, which locks users into paying an effective fee to distribute their own documents (by requiring the reader to have purchased a M$ product).

We are all aware of this, of course, but I don't think it's a bad thing to restate it on occasion.

PeteS

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Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity

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Answering David Coursey on Massachusetts and Openness
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 12 2005 @ 09:28 AM EDT
""[Mr Quinn has] created the 2007 requirement for an open storage
format to create an excuse for removing Microsoft Office from state workers'
desktops.""

and there is something wrong with this?

I would say it is the right thing to do.

Linux is ready for the desktop no matter what microsoft tries to blow up your
skirt.

I don't touch a microsoft desktop at all and I function just fine doing my work
supporting a multi-billion dollar company's web servers that face the public
(extranet) - and you know what our security department does not allow microsoft
on the extranet - I think that speaks volumes.

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