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I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 09:44 AM EST

If you wondered where I was yesterday, I went to an intellectual property conference, so I could listen and learn. The travel was considerable, in terms of time used up, which is another reason I rarely go to such things. But I'm back on my horsie now and I see a lot has been happening.

For example, lots of shenanigans in Massachusetts, where it seems you are not allowed to want to use OpenDocument Format in government. If you try, you will be punished. It's very childish, but in a dark and ugly, Mafia kind of way. Here's Andy Updegrove's account:

I just received a call telling me about a significant event relating to the Massachusetts ODF saga. After a month of news largely dominated by pro-ODF announcements, such as the release of ODF-compliant office suites, patent non-assertion pledges and the like, the opposition has just lowered the boom. And if they are successful, it's a big one.

According to what I've just learned, an amendment to a piece of important Massachusetts legislation (an economic stimulus bill) was passed out of the Senate Ways & Means committee this afternoon. If it is adopted, it could at minimum drastically delay the effectiveness date of the ODF policy, and at worst, could roll back the Information and Technology Division's (ITD) action entirely.

I can't confirm at this time the identity of the amendment's proponents, but I am told that the amendment will be debated in the State Senate on Thursday, so those who are behind the amendment will become visible at that point. The gist of the amendment would be to create a new four-person "task force" that would have the power to approve or block a wide variety of IT policy decisions in the Commonwealth -- and many provisions of the amendment map specifically to the ODF situation. . . .

So there you have it -- an amendment that's precisely targeted at achieving all of the ends that were outlined in the October 31 hearing: take the power to set standards away from the ITD, and hand it to a new uber group, as well as giving the supervisor of public records a veto as well.

But the amendment also takes another step that is rather Machiavellian. Recall that the original sin of the ITD was, in the view of the ITD's Statehouse opponents, to have failed to consult with the other branches of the government. One of the parts that I ellipsed out solves that problem by making the only safe way that the ITD can ensure success in a standards decision is to involve the task force early in the process, by giving the CIO the right to "request" the recommendation of the task force. That section reads in part as follows (once again I've added emphasis where appropriate):

"The chief information officer of the information technology division may request the task force to provide recommendations or analysis on specific matters. The task force recommendations shall address, but not be limited to, the following matters: (1) procurement policies by commonwealth agencies, constitutional offices, and other government entities concerning computer hardware and software, (2) format and content of web pages maintained by commonwealth agencies, constitutional offices, and other government entities; and (3) software standards governing commonwealth agencies, constitutional offices, and other government entities. In offering recommendations, the task force's analysis shall include, but not be limited to, the following considerations:(3) the extent to which the proposed policy or practice results in user-friendly applications for commonwealth employees, business entities, and members of the public;"

It might not be a stretch to say that this part of the amendment is intended not only to change the IT power structure, but to humiliate the ITD at the same time, by making it ask first what it can recommend before it makes a recommendation itself.

So, now we know why no one was invited to speak at the hearing unless they were opposed. Folks, I just want to say one thing about all this. No one in the Free Software/OpenSource world will ever muscle you like this to use their software. Use it if you like it, and use something else if you prefer. It's a different world view, and if I may say so, it's why so many folks are switching to GNU/Linux systems. Freedom to choose is an American foundational ethic. And no normal person wants to do business on Mafia-like terms. So think it over. If you choose Microsoft, it seems to be like joining a gang. You aren't ever allowed to leave. So it's a lifetime commitment, even if, like the IT folks in Massachusetts, you find something that works better for your purposes and costs you less.

I have been asked by journalists for information on the Massachusetts story. I need a volunteer, because of being so backed up from the conference. Could someone please collect all the articles on Groklaw and all the links within them that talk about standards, Open Document Format, and Massachusetts on a permanent page, so journalists can find what they need? I would appreciate your help. If you have time to tackle the job, please leave a comment saying so, so we don't duplicate effort. If you want to work as a group, that is fine too, of course. But arrange it please so I don't get hurt emails from people upset that they did work for nothing. You can look at the Contracts page or the Patent News Page or any static page for general outline, but the idea is to categorize topically, and also chronologically, two lists. If you have a better idea than that, feel free to come forward. The end result should make it easy for journalists, and legislators, to find information in one place.

And then, when you send it to me, please tell me if you wish your name used for credit on the permanent page or your handle, and if someone can volunteer to be responsible for that page, to keep it up to date with new articles that come along, that would be fine. Thank you, if you can. I need someone to help similarly with updating the Microsoft Litigation page. I am really swamped, and need assistants now on those two pages.


I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help | 335 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
I guess government can be bought out? And democracy is just a myth?
Authored by: clark_kent on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 10:38 AM EST

[ Reply to This | # ]

It's a good thing really.
Authored by: bsm2003 on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 10:42 AM EST
Think about it. The people who use other os'es can actually sue under a class
action saying that by removing standards from government they are in effect
dictating what people can use by requiring MS software.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT here, please
Authored by: meshuggeneh on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 10:43 AM EST
You know the drill...

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'd love to help
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 11:36 AM EST
But I only license my work under truly free licenses, so I'm afraid I can't contribute to Groklaw's license regime.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The 'task force' has seven members, not four
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 11:40 AM EST
I'd stick this in the corrections thread, but for some reason that still isn't
created automatically.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here please ...
Authored by: AntiFUD on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 11:41 AM EST

Thank you

IANAL - But IAAAMotFSF(not related to Daniel Wallace) - Free to Fight FUD

[ Reply to This | # ]

If you live in MA, contact your Senator
Authored by: turing_test on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 11:43 AM EST
If you live in Massachusetts, try to contact your senator before the vote today. The bill is S2256, and the offending text is Section 4. You can find your Senator via the homepage of the General Court (the official name of the MA Legislature). Please be polite and to the point.

[ Reply to This | # ]

This Stinks
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 11:51 AM EST
As in this reeks very strongly of lots and lots of MS Money being dumped into
lobbyists and "campaign contributions."

[ Reply to This | # ]

PJ's Request for Help
Authored by: Mecha on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 11:52 AM EST
PJ is a little too busy to supply all the documentation and links to journalists
asking her for it around the MA ODF decision. I don't have much time to help
her today, but in a community effort we can collect this information for her.

** This is my signature and I happen to like it **

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: mushroom on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 12:09 PM EST
The blind leading the blind in Massachusetts
by David Sugar

For the moment, I will ignore the false statement of some that specifying ODF
requires one to run OpenOffice. In fact, there are many products which already
do so, including Koffice, AbiWord. Anyone that wishes to can produce
OpenDocument compatible software, including proprietary software vendors, such
as Corel, who have chosen to do so. Microsoft alone insists not that it is
unable to do this, but rather that it is unwilling, and it alone demands the
state choose its products and its document format instead. In doing so, it is
requesting that the state join with it in an illegal business practice.


Well worth reading the whole article

[ Reply to This | # ]

Back-room dealings
Authored by: Kevin on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 12:15 PM EST
Has anyone else noticed that these things always seem to show up as amendments
to "must pass" emergency appropriations in the budget? The sort that
no legislator can vote against without being tarred and feathered?

Alas, this one is no exception.

73 de ke9tv/2, Kevin (P.S. My surname is not McBride!)

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: magicpiano88 on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 12:23 PM EST
I may be able to help, depending on how much time you expect this to take.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The part I don't understand...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 12:31 PM EST
Exactly what was they thinking?

Boston, MA, being what it is, most house pets within a 100-mile distance know
what Linux is and some were probably trained to use it. I think the guy who put
this in is about to experience some backlash.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Any good cartoonists out there.
Authored by: rao on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 12:36 PM EST

I'm picturing a political cartoon that features Pacheco hiding behind a person in a wheel chair while shooting at the IT department. Behind Pacheco of course is Bill Gates shoving money in his pockets. Unfortunately, stick figures are about the limit of my artistic abilities.

[ Reply to This | # ]

No Implementation without standardization!
Authored by: seanlynch on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 12:47 PM EST
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to
dissolve the proprietary bands which have connected them with a single vendor,
and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to
which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to
the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel
them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
these are Open, Save As and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these
rights, Standards are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the
consent of the users, --That whenever any Form of standardization becomes
destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the users to alter or to abolish
it, and to institute new standards, laying its foundation on such principles and
organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect
their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that standards long
established should not be changed for light and transient file formats; and
accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer,
while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the formats
to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations,
pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under
absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such
proprietary standards, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the
necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of standards. The
history of the self-proclaimed King of Software [Sir Bill III] is a history of
repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment
of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted
to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the
public good.

He has forbidden his proprietary standards to be revealed in cases of immediate
and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent
should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to

He has refused to produce software for the needs of large districts of people,
unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the
marketplace, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and
distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of
fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has subverted Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly
firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such subversions, to cause others to be
elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have
returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the
mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions
within (that pretty much covers worms Trojans rootkits and the blue screen of

He has endeavoured to prevent the innovation within these States; for that
purpose obstructing the Laws for copyrights and patents; refusing to pass others
to encourage their innovation hither, and raising the conditions of new
Appropriations of Ideas.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws
for of Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices,
and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Marketers
to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, The Business Software Alliance without
the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the BSA independent of and superior to the Civil

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our
constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of
pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of shills marketers and astroturfers among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any slander which they
should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of choice in the marketplace:

For transporting jobs beyond Seas to be in order to expand his profits:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province,
establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as
to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same
absolute rule software distributions:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Licenses, and
altering fundamentally the contracts:

For subverting our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with
power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated standards here, by declaring us out of his Protection and
waging War against us.

He has plundered our cvs, ravaged our gui’s, flamed our blogs, and troubled the
lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign coders to compleat the
works, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and
perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the
Head of a public corporation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive in the boardroom to bear
false witness against their Country, to become the exluders of their friends and
Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring
on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless .net Savages, whose known
rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most
humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.
A CEO whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is
unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our proprietary brethren. We have
warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an
unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances
of our organization and development here. We have appealed to their native
justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common
kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our
connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice
and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which
denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies
in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the Free Software in America, in General
Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the
rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good
People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United
Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they
are Absolved from all Allegiance to the Microsoft Monopoly, and that all
political connection between them and the corporation of Microsoft, is and ought
to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full
Power to produce code, establish standards, contract Alliances, establish
Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of
right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the
protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our
Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

The signers of the Declaration represented the new states as follows:

Sean Lynch

(Heck, if Thomas Lynch could sign the first one for South Carolina, I can sign

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 01:40 PM EST
Want to throw a total wrench into this plan to usurp this MA decision, the open
source way?

It's simple... KDE, Gnome, Xorg,, etc. can work harder on
improving accessibility features in Linux.

Bring them up to par, and this entire BS attempt by MS and their paid-for
representatives in MA would fall like a house of cards.

If it's accessibility they want, why not give it to them? ;)

SHOW them just how powerful the OSS model really is, and how FAST it can work!

[ Reply to This | # ]

sales of software of any kind
Authored by: jws on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 01:48 PM EST
The sale of computers and software is less about what the software does and more
about who the sales and marketing guys can call in a given company or
organization to get a PO. Nothing else matters. In government it is graft and
corruption legalized.

They have to be more cognizant these days that anyone who speaks agrees with the
politcal purpose of any meeting, and in this case it will all be manipulated by
Microsoft and no one else.

Until some people percieve the same value in standing up for these intellecutal
issues that are being corrupted just as surely as the political process, and get
the politicians who are making such unimaginably bad law to back off, this will
go on.

[ Reply to This | # ]

They must feel realy secure......
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 02:00 PM EST
To so openly display what money can buy. These politicians must feel equaly
secure to be so willing to show their bought and payed for status.

If these parties can show their bonds so openly the US surely is beyond rescue.
Obviously being bought is so common in politics that there is no longer a reason
to hide it.....the public so powerless that there is no fear of consequences
because there will be none.

Maybe it's time for the rest of the world to seperate and distance themselves
from what makes soddom and gomora look like kindergarten.

The only problem is that in the rest of the world the situation is the same.
Buisiness is the legelative power. Buisiness decides politics, buisiness is
running our countries. Our politicians are nothing but employees on the payrole
of big buisiness.

Revolution is no option because we the people no longer care. We are sheep for
the slaughter and we willingly let them butcher us. Maybe we deserve what is

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 02:02 PM EST
What a crock - this is a government for the coporation not for the people.

Looks like Ballmer and Gates made some calls - I would give 5 dollars for those
two phone records for the past two weeks.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • Top of the list - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 09:25 PM EST
"How Microsoft Got its OS Declared an "Open System" and wound up in Government"
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 02:04 PM EST

Six years ago, one of the most incriminating articles I had read about "dirty tricks" disappeared from the Internet. I made the article the center piece of an investigative piece I wrote concerning how I thought Microsoft attempted to destroy UNIX and would go after Linux.

By a stroke of luck, I saw a link to it while doing research in the Way Back Machine.

I found a link to the article on the cover of an archived front page of "" dated March 2, 2001. But the link didn't work. I keep searching and finally found Steve Walli's article entitled "Open Systems, POSIX and NT".... LXer

Brian S.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 02:12 PM EST
This is a good way to study the dirty tactics and ends Microsoft will go to.
We should study carefully how Microsoft pays off the dumb poleticians and keeps
selling their stuff and blocking all competition.


[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 02:13 PM EST
I think there needs to be an investigation of the secretary and the ways and
means committee and what IT expertise they bring to the table.

You have hired an IT department to make decisions (In my book sound decisions)
and are now taking the power away from them.

This is so Microsoft they do the same crap in corporations too that I have seen
first hand. Go straight to higher powers and tell the experts how to run their

I might as well take my four year degree and throw it in the trash and just tell
everyone to install Microsoft and then go chose another career.

Isn't IT great.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MA Shenanigans
Authored by: mossc on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 02:19 PM EST
Three questions to ask the politicians:

1. Who attached the amendment?

2. Did Microsoft contribute to their campaign?

3. Who wrote the amendment? Betting this came directly from microsoft.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Four members, or seven?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 02:34 PM EST
English is not my native tongue. Do they mean 4 persons or 7 persons? Please

"... task force, consisting of 4 members to be appointed by the governor, 1
member to be appointed by the treasurer, 1 member to be appointed by the state
secretary, and 1 member to be appointed by the auditor."

[ Reply to This | # ]

Who will be paying the task force?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 02:39 PM EST

"[Task force] Members ... shall serve without compensation."

"An employee of the commonwealth shall not be a member of the task

[ Reply to This | # ]

if only it were true....
Authored by: ragewinter on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 03:05 PM EST

Disclaimer: I love PJ, I love Groklaw, and I'm an open source advocate and user. But I really disagree with an editorial comment in this article by PJ. This ended up turning into quite a thesis, but I'm posting it anyway, because I think it's worth reading. Disclaimer finished. Here's my beef:

PJ wrote: "No one in the Free Software/OpenSource world will ever muscle you like this to use their software. Use it if you like it, and use something else if you prefer."

I don't agree with that. I like the FOSS model a lot. My own business is based on using FOSS for our entire IT infrastructure. But there are entrenched power structures in the world of Open Source, too. The FOSS world is far from a meritocracy.

People in the open source community can be selfish, too, just not about software. When people are getting community "cred" instead of money for their contributions, a lot of them can get surprisingly territorial about it.

I would like to use a personal example, but to keep from starting a fight (and to avoid the appearance of trolling for traffic to my site) I am not going to use the name or URL of my project or the other project involved. Very simply, here's what happened:

  • We started using a popular FOS module—I'll call it 'A' . Unfortunately 'A' had some fundamental design issues that kept it from working the way we wanted without entirely re-writing it—and it had a large installed user base that would obstruct a transition to a new processing paradigm even if we rewrote the existing package.
  • We decided it would be easier to write our own module to fill this need— I'll call ours 'B'. It was so effective for us that we decided to share it with the community, so we added documentation, did a lot of testing, and published it both on our web site and through a major, official site for distributing this sort of thing.
  • The authors of 'A' wrote a mean e-mail to us, pointedly asking why we didn't contribute to their project instead of starting our own. To quote: "Why did you write your own solution? Your time would have been better spent on [project A]!" The implication was that since they were first, they owned the territory and we were invading it. They attacked us as being unnecessary because we were competing—competing to give away something to the community.
  • The distribution site we submitted our module to publishes a "List" every year of thousands of useful modules, which is key way that solutions like ours get publicity. We didn't make it onto the list, but "A" has been on the list for a long time. The moderators of the this list don't give reasons for not including things. I don't know why they didn't include our solution. I cannot say for sure it was because there was already an established solution similar to ours. I would guess that the moderators don't have the time to do a merit comparison of various solutions.

Software package "A" certainly has some good points, and it's entirely possible that to some people just like it better, in spite of a few shortcomings it has (in my opinion, of course). I'm not claiming that we were "Muscled Out", but i'm pretty sure that the experience I had was about territory, not merit. Someone else was already in the territory, and so they had "Dibbs" on it.

Microsoft's battle with ODF and the FOSS community is about territory, too. In my opinion, MS actually puts territory ahead of money in many cases. I think that FOSS is an amazing money-making idea that is great for a lot of people. But every community has politics. It's human nature.

That is exactly why I think it's amazing that MA decided to put politics aside and create a committee to assess the merits of various standards. It think it's a fantastic triumph, especially for a highly political institution like a state government, to try so hard to make a decision on what is fair and right. It also doesn't surprise me that the entrenched group (in this case Microsoft) doesn't want a discussion based on merit. How often does the winner of a trial want a new trial because the first one wasn't fair enough? When push comes to shove, people use whatever power they can grab to defend whatever territory they have, or feel that they are entitled to.

The thing that makes Microsoft such a thorn in everybody's side is the sheer amount of money they have accumulated through (according to the DOJ) a long strategy of many unethical and illegal business practices. Their pile of money gives them tremendous leverage to defend their territory. It's not a level playing field. So the people fighting to take that territory from them (who I support whole-heartedly, as a proponent of merit) have a major battle to fight.

Politicians are not picked for their intelligence or their morals, but rather for their ability to get votes, which is often based on their ability to raise money. If the merit argument is to win, the proponents of that argument must appeal to the desire of the politicians to get votes. They have to make a convincing argument that a based system will turn into votes or campaign funds. Microsoft can offer party campaign donations. What do we have to offer? Will "doing the right thing" get them elected?

Software is a topic that I think is little understood by the voting public. The elected representatives have to be convinced that (a) people will understand the issues at hand and (b) will care enough to vote based on it. You may have noticed how politicians love to talk about really emotional issues like Teri Schavio, steroid use among professional baseball players, or the right to same-gender marriage. I'm not saying that those aren't important issues, so please don't flame me about it. I'm just saying that politicians pick those issues because they polarize people and get a strong response— everybody has an opinion about those things. But how many people really have an opinion about ODF or software patents?

So if we want merit to win out in MA, we better get crackin' on ways to educate people about it and convince those politicians that "childish, dark, and ugly" goings on will be noticed—and punished. We have to convince them that their ability to raise campaign money will be damaged if they vote to protect the Microsoft monopoly at the expense of the taxpayer.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why have an ITD?
Authored by: mhoyes on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 04:10 PM EST

Looking at the Senate Bill 2256, they have a wonderful paragraph

An executive agency or department shall not adopt or implement a policy, practice or standard concerning information technology standards or systems or the procurement or use of hardware, software, and cellular phones and other electronic devices, without the affirmative approval of the task force by majority vote. Any executive agency or department policy, practice or standard concerning the creation, storage or archiving of documents or materials shall also be approved by the supervisor of public records and the records conservation board, and shall be certified by the state auditor as maintaining or enhancing the commonwealth’s compliance with Section 508 of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973.

So now you can't even go out and replace your printer with a new one. Strictly speaking, light bulbs are an electronic device, so I guess you had beter plan ahead to make sure you have a stock pile of them.

Reading through the proposed amendment, it looks like the CIO of the ITD really stepped on someones toes (or maybe a couple of someones), and now they are being punished for it.

It is a shame that a state that was one of the original colonies to sign the Declaration of Independence, is now ignoring that legacy, and kowtowing to the business interests. Another section that is describing the members being appointed says this:

Of the members appointed by the governor, at least 1 shall be a representative of the business community with experience in the telecommunications industry, and at least 1 shall be a representative of the business community with experience in information technology.

So, we make sure to have the business interests in, but no regard to the best interests for the people. I also note that there is nothing that says the people appointed to the task force shall be citizens of the state of MA.

Just in case you want to read through it, it is here.


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State Motto, "By the Sword We Seek Peace, but Peace Only Under Liberty"
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 04:24 PM EST
"Peace Only Under Liberty". So who's going to liberate the state's

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Don't forget the letters
Authored by: GLJason on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 04:27 PM EST
Here is a link to a page with comments about the ETRM document. Included are letters from Adobe, Corel, Sun, IBM, Microsoft, and others. The only one critical of the document was Microsoft's of course, but this shows broad industry support for the format.

I'm really quite amazed that they stuck this amendment on. By having a four person "task force" to approve ITD's decisions, they can keep the decisions in the "back room" and out of public scrutiny.

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Anyone still think we were harsh...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 04:41 PM EST
...on Pacheco?

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Can someone convene some more balanced hearings?
Authored by: darkonc on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 04:59 PM EST
I presume that there's someone out there who can be convinced that there's a real value to the people of MA to be hand by going (or at least seriously considering) the ODF route, and who would be willing to convene hearings where both sides of the debate get a reasonable opportunity to press their ideas and advantages?

Perhaps that should be part of the message to Reps and senators in MA -- that a serious hearing be convened so that misconceptions can be broken and people can make a properly informed decision.

Powerful, committed communication. Touching the jewel within each person and bringing it to life..

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I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: philc on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 05:02 PM EST
Not really surprised. In reality who really cares about the document format
until you can't open a file? Select save and walk away. The problem only comes
up when you need to open a really old file.

On the other side, every real physical person that does word processing will
have to change from the MS office they are currently using. What?! Me change?!

Of course they don't bother to think that the new version of MS Office is also a
change. That doesn't matter. Everyone knows that you occasionally get a new
computer with a new version of Office. Changing to OO is a REAL CHANGE. NEVER!
NEVER!! Sounds irrational doesn't it.

So at the bottom of all this is the need to balance the employee's aversion to
change vs. the very real need for the government to be able to open really old
files. To date the emphasis has been in dealing with the archiving problem with
little attention to the human problem.

It boils down to my life in the here-and-now vs. some vague future need.

There is no hope for success until the management is on-board and the key users
are on board. The IT department didn't sell this change and get buy-in before
finalizing the decision.

At the very minimum, the state IT department needs to install OpenOffice on all
the systems that now have MS office. They need to train people and encourage
them to use it.

So with a botched attempt to do the right thing in protecting the documents that
are entrusted to the state comes an opportunity for the Senators and Reps. The
stage is set.

The Senators get to pad their war-chests for the next election, meddle with the
affairs of the executive branch, and support the popular desire to not have to

Really, does it get any better than this?

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Why political corruption is more bold now
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 05:49 PM EST
It's pretty simple really; the US has transitioned from a race against the
Soviets to a race against terrorists.

During the Cold War, if the US grew too fat and corrupt, we'd lose the economic
race against the USSR. It was a marathon race, and while the US had its
problems with corruption, it was in everybodies interests to keep the game
fairly honest.

Now we're worried less about an economic race, and we instead are focused on a
*power grab*. The reason: nuclear or biological terrorism is inevitable. And
when the crap hits the fan, those who have the gold are going to become all that
much more powerful. So the incentive to play an honest game is gone, and
replaced by the need to horde the gold into the castle and prepare for the dark

That's why crap like this is more out in the open. Who's going to get involved?
The federal government? Ha! Microsoft has more money and power than many
countries in the world. The current administration basically folded up the DOJ
case and gave Microsoft a pass.

Nuclear or biological terrorism is an inevitability, even the folks in the
federal government have admitted this. So ask yourself: what are politicians
going to do when they face the collapse of their society at some unknown point
in the near future? They horde power, scratch backs, throw democracy to the
wind -- because they figure it won't make a lick of difference.

Power corrupts, yes, but absolute power (US playing World Police) has corrupted


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You Yanks just crack me up
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 06:23 PM EST

I admire America and Americans but sometimes you guys just crack me up. This
week Rosa Parks was buried and all that I read or heard about was how she helped
to make America a better place - and it was not just "black folks"
saying that. Even those who were "benefitting" from segregation, i.e
Whites recognised that there was no "benefit" to be gained when a
whole section of the population had to endure indignities in their every day
lives. There was talk of justice, of standing up to injustices and of course of
"democracy" .......... and then you come up with the Massachusetts
cobbled together amendment, so blatant, so .... undemocratic.

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I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 06:27 PM EST
When it comes down to it, I am not convinced that Microsoft is pushing that hard
(or, rather, that it matters). I think they probably stirred up the trouble, but
the result is more easily explained in other ways. This description may seem
cynical, but no more so than the 'paid off' view and is actually a bit on the
optimistic side ;-).

Specifically, I think this is all about turf fighting within the government. I
have experienced very similar fights within Pentagon IT. Microsoft benefits,
but, in the end, is not really at issue. The ITD is trying to do something which
makes sense for roughly the right reasons. There is no way to go about that in
an internal government structure without stirring up very serious trouble. This
is not (purely) cynicism, but a comment from the way these structures work.

Just as Microsoft does not want competition on the merits, neither do government
employees. Public funding is not rational and very often is not even effective.
Money and effort generally has to be re-routed within the organizations in ways
that strain credulity. Things like spend-it-or-lose-it appropriations,
pet-projects, and instant course-reversals-from-above make planning operations
nightmarish. Day-to-day operation would not happen without an entrenched
informal structure. That structure depends every day on political favoritism, a
black market in internal favors, fanatic defense of organizational defense, and
misreporting/misidentifying/miscategorizing of expenses.

It is relatively rare in many government organizations for purchases, expense,
or time to be charged to the account which was actually budgetted for it.
Budgets are fought for on the ideological grounds that will win them ("We
need this or the world will end"), and then spent where actually required,
being miscategorized in whatever way needed to reconcile the expense with the
initial allotment. This is one of the things which makes any cost/tradeoff
analysis maddening at best; gov't employees are trained to pay lip-service to
one reality while working in a completely different (and rather dysfunctional)

Inefficiencies are good in that kind of system. Inefficiencies can be used to
justify all kinds of expenses. They can also be used to make budget requests to
fix them (year after year). In my experience, 3 out of 4 government employees
serve no visibly useful purpose because they are either incompetent at their job
or their job does not actually exist as such. A relatively small number of
people make things actually roll forward. People in that position, who may have
given up trying to get a job in the system with an actual purpose, do not want a
more efficient system or a change which may affect their status or might require
them to display required job skills. An efficient and correctly reported system
removes the ability to bestow the favors required for daily functioning.

Anyway, you get the idea. The ITD's policy causes change, and while the process
may have been perfectly legal, short-circuited the *actual* power structures.
*Especially with respect to public records.*

People in public records work, in my experience, are not there for the
excitement. They want a nice quiet structure to work in where they will not need
to change at all over the course of a few decades. There are often a few poeple
who are really there for the love of knowledge and information retrieval as an
art (one that is actually quite challenging). That is very rare. The public
records folks currently use Office, not because someone bribed them, but because
they use Office. Period. They will defend the status quo to the death and use
any political tactics they can. Because records actually are vital and because
they are often impossible to actually find or retrieve, the records people often
have a good stockpile of favors to call in.

There are ways to get this type of folks to change their system, but it involves
very patient hand-holding and walking on political egg-shells. The idea *always*
has to come from the inside, even if it has to be carefully planted. The ITD dd
not do this, as evidenced from the Pacheco "discussion" and now they
are paying dearly.

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I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 09:32 PM EST
Massachusetts has a long history of having the best politicians that money can

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I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 03 2005 @ 11:50 PM EST
Hasn't the Mass Supreme court ruled that the Commonwealth's constitution
prohibits one branch from dictating the technology policies of another branch?
Doesn't the ODF decision apply ONLY to the executive branch? Wasn't the ODF
decesion made by the exectutive branch? Is this law not from the legislative
branch? Am I missing somthing or is this law in breech of the Mass constiution?


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Corruption at work.
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 04 2005 @ 03:29 AM EST
Two days after a Senate oversight committee in Massachusetts (1) questioned the
authority of the state's IT department (ITD) to standardize on formats for
storing public documents and (2) demanded that state officials take more time to
study the potential impact of setting the OpenDocument Format (ODF) as a
standard, an economic stimulus bill [Update: it's S. 2256, the Commonwealth
Investment Act] that goes before the Massachusetts Senate tomorrow (Thursday,
Nov. 3, 2005) has been suddenly amended with text that, if passed, would
essentially subjugate all IT procurements and ITD decisions including standard
setting to a special task force.

Looks like ITD did follow procedure and process, and so Galvin/Pachero/Cody
decided to change the process/procedure with the sole motive to block use of
ODF irrespective of the recommendations/decisions of departments or the
arguments in favor of ODT. Why else would it be necessary to pass this
one-of-a-kind bill in such a hurry?

I believe this kind of action is not only blatently corrupt, but probably also
be illegal if exposed.

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Time for counterattack - MSO XML as impervious virus-wrapper
Authored by: Wesley_Parish on Friday, November 04 2005 @ 05:24 AM EST

Anyone considered it from this point of view?

I've heard that MSOffice XML is essentially an XML wrapper for binary large objects, which I suspect are the original latest MS Office binary file formats. They happen not only to be undocumented except by the hard work of countless people forced to reverse-engineer them, they are also well understood and loved (by all the wrong sort of people) as virus hosts, to the extent that MSN Hotmail scans each such MS Office file attached to a file and refuses to accept it for transmission if there is even the faintest doubt that it might be infected.. Such a touching vote of confidence in Microsoft by Microsoft's own employees and divisions!

Now Microsoft has also protected its MS Office XML file format from being independently implemented, with some patent or other. Right. That patent also prevents people from writing virus-scanners to scan MS Office XML files against the threat of attack by virus, trojans and other malware - unless they are very well heeled - in both senses; well-heeled, in which case Microsoft can't touch them, or well heeled, in which case they'll heel Microsoft, no matter what indignities are visited upon such a faithful hound.

What criminal liabilities attach to state officials who are guilty of opening constituents to such vulnerabilities? Under the pretence that one is protecting them?

Any Massachussetts citizens here? Anyone wish to take such a question up with your elected officials and the various legal bodies that exist to protect citizens from their state government? (I'd love to do some of the work myself, but my branch of the Vickery family weren't the same set that wound up on your side of the Atlantic ..., er, Pacific ... er, oh, forget it!)

finagement: The Vampire's veins and Pacific torturers stretching back through his own season. Well, cutting like a child on one of these states of view, I duck

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I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 04 2005 @ 08:01 AM EST
Why don't they just outsource the ITD to a consulting firm that does nothing but
hire MCSE's

I bet that would put an end to hearings like these.

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I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 04 2005 @ 08:20 AM EST
here is an interesting site

it tells who has contributed to the current regime that is in office.

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Bill 2256 gives veto power to 2 appointees
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 04 2005 @ 08:23 AM EST
According to the report on bill 2256 by ZDNet, the bill proposes to give full power to block or implement information technology specifications to a task force of four appointees. Not less than half of the task force must be from business interests, which strikes me as a profound conflict of interest.

Since the bill outlines the requirement for a majority for approval of a standard, that means that simply having two appointees can block a specification. Similarly, three can ram through any specification. Either way sound process or, for that matter, democratic process is circumvented. Riders like this have nothing to do with the original bill.

M$ foot soldiers are likely already working on the other states.

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Just put msft in charge of the USA
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 04 2005 @ 08:52 AM EST

Why bother with pesky government judges, and senators, and the like? All they do
is gum up the system. In the end, what msft decides, is the law of the land. Why
even even have these overpaid middle-men?

Consider all sizable "contributions" that msft must be forced to make.
Not to mention all the settlements, and legal fees. Those fees will drive up the
cost of msft product. The "windows tax" is already high enough.

If msft was in charge, msft could declare that msft owns every method and
concept, for everything ever. Why should msft have to pay so much for all of
those bogus patents? Msft will only pass the costs on to the consumer.

The USA might as well give up. Msft has won.

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It's an Evolutionary Process
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 04 2005 @ 09:59 AM EST
Some the posted comments seem a little too pessimistic. Nothing happens
overnight, especially when money and politics are involved. WWII wasn't won in
a year, and early on, the wrong side appeared to be winning. Even if MS wins
this round in Mass., it's not the end of the world. Cracks are appearing, and
they will grow. Think in terms of ten years or twenty years, not next month or
next year. For a long time, many people will be locked into proprietary MS
formats, but an increasing number of people, slowly and over a period of many
years, won't.

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Result: it looks like the amendment has been adopted
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 04 2005 @ 10:55 AM EST
The amendment to bill 2256 (as can be read here in section 4) looks like it has been adopted.

The bill status page is here, and beside "COMMONWEALTH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY TASK FORCE" (Floor 185, Clerk 128) is the name Morrissey, probably referring here to Michael Morrissey (Democrat).

Note that there seems to be a similar "INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ADVISORY BOARD" (Floor 184, Clerk 53) supported by Brian Lees (Republican).

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Microsoft's barefaced lies exposed.
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, November 05 2005 @ 11:55 AM EST
Do you remember Microsoft's barefaced lies that it is not easy to support OpenDocument format in MS Office and that they won't do so because there is no customer demand?

Well it has been exposed to the world as exactly that - a barefaced lie. A bunch of part time programmers working in their spare time released a free OpenOffice import file filter for MS Office 2003. What is more they released the code under Microsoft's much beloved BSD license just to prove that there are no GPL or other licenseing restrictions to get in Microsoft's way. Although this document format here is probably the older OpenOffice XML file formats which are almost identical (OpenDocument format having changed to incorporate Microsoft's comments in discussions with the EU), an OpenDocument filter would be a trivial change. Another important issue exposed is why they didn't write an export filter as well. The reason is likely to be the licensing restrictions imposed by Microsoft's patents on their proprietary file formats. Unlike the old MS Office binary formats which were not encumbered by patents, and could therefore be reverse engineered, Microsoft's proprietary XML formats cannot be legally reverse engineered, and should therefore never be mandated as a standard since that is effectively a grant of monopoly control to one vendor. .php?id=40

Here we have a bunch of unpaid part-timers writing a filter within a few months in their spare time, and giving it away free, and the world's largest software company has the temerity to claim it can't achieve the same thing in 18 months. Well they now know where they can get people who will do it for them very quickly and for free.

As for lack of customer demand, doesn't Microsoft consider the state of Massachusetts and the citizens as customers? Hmmm - maybe Microsoft has gotten too used to thinking of state governments as compliant puppets who they can get to bend to their will by bribing a few well placed politicians and bureaucrats, and maybe Microsoft has gotten too used to thinking of it's end users as victims it can lock-in so as to extort money from.

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Some links
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, November 05 2005 @ 12:50 PM EST
I started at with the latest and ran out of time when I got to the "Other
comments" para of David A Wheeler's article dated Oct 30 [Answering
Microsoft: Comments on Microsoft's Letter to MA ~ by David A. Wheeler]

Someone can pick it up from there.

[[Articles quoted from the main article (but not ocmments) are included on date
of main article, so the dates for those aeicles may differ. Some repetitions
are possibly included.]]
I'm Back, More MA Shenanigans, and a Request for Help
PJ asking for help to create an index of references to help Journalists

Oct 31, 2005
How the MA ODF Meeting Went - Updated
Summary of Massachusetts ODF Hearing and Live Blogcast Text in Detail
Andy Upgrave's Notes
MA Senate hearing on the ITD Open Document decision
Dan Bricklin's notes
Massachusetts Senate Post Audit Committe ODF hearing 2005-10-31
Dan Bricklin's podcast page
OpenOffice License page
LGPL (License) FAQ
JBoss explanation (Whitepaper PDF) on why they use LGPL

Oct 30, 2005
Answering Microsoft: Comments on Microsoft's Letter to MA
David A. Wheeler's Comments (Includes Excellent Introduction/Issues List)
Links to comments from many sources to MA ITD choosing ODF (includes responses
from Adobe, Corel, IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Microsystems)
Why Open Source Software
David A. Wheeler's paper
The Open Source Definition
Free Software Definition

European Commission's Valoris report (link appears broken<??>) (summary) (link appears
European Union’s Telematics between Administrations Committee (TAC) asking
Industry to participate in OASIS Standards development process,39020682,39216101,00.htm
Microsoft must drop its Office politics (ZDNet article)
Dissecting Microsoft's "Patent License"
Marbux's article (part of The Great Massachusetts Legal Donnybrook)
Make Your Open Source Software GPL-Compatible. Or Else.
David A. Wheeler's article,1759,1829728,00.asp
Open XML Incompatible With GPL
eWeek article by Peter Galli
Use of Free and Open Source Softwre (FOSS) in the US DoD
MITRE Report, Jan 2003
US DoD Open Source policy (Also has a MA policy document)
The Meaning of Open Standards
Ken Krechmer's paper
Open Standards Principles and Practice
Bruce Parens's article
The Microsoft Halloween Documents (look for a sequence of documents on the
Massachusetts Makes Smart Move Official
eWeek article by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
Massachusetts Plans To Phase Out Microsoft Office
Top Tech New article by Elizabeth Millard
Massachussets ITD FAQ on ETM v3.5 Open Document Standard
Microsoft Blasts Massachusetts' New XML Policy
Information Week article by Paula Rooney
Informal comments on Open Formats (Jan 2005)
by Eric Kriss, Secretary, Administration & Finance Commonwealth of
Microsoft: We were railroaded in Massachusetts on ODF
By David Berlind, Special to ZDNet
Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council town meeting (Sep 16 <?>)
Article at
Microsoft vs Mass.: What ever happened to 'The customer is always right'?
Blog article by David Berlind (Sep 22, 2005)
Microsoft and public access
Blog by Marc Wagner
Comment on Intel's development of OpenDocument format documents
by Michael Braue
What has Microsoft done for Massachusetts lately?
By Sam Hiser
Applications supporting OpenDocument (also see links to them),289142,sid39_gci1011227
Desktop apps ripe turf for open source
(14% of the large enterprise office systems market are using
By Jack Loftus, Oct 2004
Open Letter to Alan Yates of Microsoft
(Corrects Microsoft's assesrion. "KOffice is in fact not related to
StarOffice or OpenOffice. It is a completely separate product.") Dated
Sept 2, 2005
Corel Corporation - letter to Massachusetts in support of ODF
The Most Important Software Innovations
David A. Wheeler's article (last revised May 25, 2005)


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  • Some links - Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, November 05 2005 @ 12:55 PM EST
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