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Massachusetts Lowers its Standards - Updated 3Xs
Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 01:55 AM EDT

Massachusetts has added Ecma-376 Office OpenXML to the list of potentially acceptable "open formats". Folks are writing headlines like Massachusetts Kowtows to Microsoft. [More reactions.]

But it is worse than that. From my reading, they've lowered the bar for choosing what standards to use, rather than requiring Microsoft to rise to the open formats/open standards level the state originally set.

They are asking for comments, because they have to, I guess, but I doubt they care what you tell them. The cutoff to comment is July 20, if you wish to. It looks to my simple eye like the fix is in. But cynicism doesn't accomplish much, so if you wish to comment, here's my suggestion.

I'd use this chart entitled "Decision Process for Recommending a Standard/Specification as an Enterprise Standard" as a good stepping off point -- scroll all the way down the page -- because I don't see how in the world OpenXML can make it through that chart. It stumbles on the very first rung. According to Massachusetts' own criteria, it has to be able to say yes to this question:

Is the standard fully documented and publicly available?

Fully documented? Open XML? Sir, you jest. If it were, Microsoft wouldn't need to make Novell and Xandros and Linspire sign NDAs and then write translators for them, now, would they?

Translators that Steve Ballmer already told us won't work perfectly. Why not? If you read Rob Weir's explanation of the difference between representation and specification, you'll find out that what Open XML is full of is representations that mean something to Microsoft but not to us outsiders:

So what is the difference between representing and specifying? When you represent, it means that you can map from the features of the legacy format to the the new format. When you specify, it means that you provide the map, and enough detail so that others can read and write that same representation. That is a big difference.

Of course, OOXML is more than 1's and 0's. But when you see attributes with names like, "useWord97LineBreakRules," with no additional specification, then you know that the fix is in.

My sentiments exactly, as far as Massachusetts is concerned, in all honesty. OpenXML doesn't belong on any list of usable standards until it is one, a real one, where the playing field is even.

Instead, I gather from Weir's description that it's like traveling to a new town and asking for a map, but the directions are written in such a way that only longtime dwellers can read and follow them. You as a newcomer have no way to understand them and hence find your way around. If the directions say, "Go right when you get to the road where Nellie used to live until she married that musician and moved to Memphis," you don't know Nelly or where she lived before. Folks who have lived there all their lives know, and they have no trouble finding where to make the right turn, but you'll never find it. To make it worse, there is no promise from the map makers that if you do find out from one of the locals where Nelly used to live that they won't suddenly change the directions such that Nelly's house isn't used as the landmark any longer. It's Ted's silo. And you don't know Ted or his silo, and no one is willing to tell you. It's considered secret, proprietary information you are not entitled to. Now what do you do? That is the future that Massachusetts faces, sadly. But there you are.

Update: Groklaw member Winter informs me that it's not quite like the way I describe. Here's his analogy: "No, it is just a street directory, no map. Maps are only available for long time inhabitants. So you will be able to find an address in the directory, but no way to find the street in the town." In either analogy, you can't get where you want to go.

Why do I say that I think Massachusetts has lowered its standards? Let me show you some wording I notice on that same Massachusetts page the chart is on. When discussing how they choose a standard, they say this:

DESIGNATION OF STANDARDS/SPECIFICATIONS AS ENTERPRISE STANDARDS

The ETRM is a living document, where open and/or de facto industry standards are continually evaluated for recommendation as Enterprise Standards. ITD’s Policy and Architecture unit keeps a “watch list” of current Enterprise Standards as well as emerging standards. The Enterprise Architecture Council (EAC) may recommend additions to the watch list.

The decision process outlined below is used to determine when standards should be recommended for adoption or deferred for review at a later date. Recommended revisions and additions to Enterprise Standards are presented to the EAC for discussion and consideration. Enterprise Standards recommended by the EAC are then put through an internal and public review process before being designated by the CIO as Enterprise Standards for Executive Department agencies.

Definitions Relevant to Decision Process

Open Standard - Specifications for systems that are publicly available and are developed by an open community and affirmed by a standards body. Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is an example of an open standard. Open standards imply that multiple vendors can compete directly based on the features and performance of their products. It also implies that the existing information technology solution is portable and that it can be removed and replaced with that of another vendor with minimal effort and without major interruption. (Enterprise Open Standards Policy)

Open Format - The Commonwealth defines open formats as specifications for data file formats that are based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, affirmed and maintained by a standards body and are fully documented and publicly available. (ETRM, Information Domain)

De Facto Industry Standard - A de facto standard is a technical or other standard that is so dominant that everybody seems to follow it like an authorized standard. (Wikipedia)

The key criteria used for recommending an Enterprise Standard include determining whether

* There is existing or growing support around the use of the standard
* The standard interoperates with other relevant Enterprise Standards
* The standard can be adopted without causing negative business impact.

Interoperability isn't achieved to date, so far as I know, by either ODF or Open XML, and the bottleneck is Microsoft, I'm told. So, the Linux sellouts are helping Microsoft meet this requirement, not by true openness, but by whipping up some translators to work well enough that Microsoft can still keep its proprietary information to itself, which of course means that Microsoft will be able to make those translators not work well any time they choose.

Remember when Massachusetts told us that they wouldn't accept anything but open standards, open formats? Evidently no more, judging by that "and/or". If you look closely at the chart, after that first question, there are two more that any standard or format must be able to answer yes, but after that, it gets mushy, with two branches, one labeled "Open Standard" and the other "Not an Open Standard" and Massachusetts can choose from either branch. Folks, it doesn't get any clearer than this. Did a lobbyist write this stuff? [ Update 2: Joe Wilcox at Microsoft-Watch correctly remembers that this was exactly Microsoft's original argument, that it should qualify despite not being open or a standard, because a lot of people use it. What a coincidence.] In any case, whoever it was, they've lost sight of the goal, which was to be able to access documents a hundred years from now.

And notice the last bullet point? A standard can't be chosen if it would cause "negative business impact." It's undefined as to what that phrase means, and hence it's usable in a pinch to disqualify anything that isn't the monopoly's offering. All Microsoft has to do is make it impossible to interoperate well with its software. Heaven only knows they've got that down to a science. Remember DR DOS? WordPerfect ?

In other words, the criteria are now defined in such a way that Massachusetts can choose Microsoft's offering no matter what, despite it not being open or a true standard by any definition I understand, if push comes to shove, both of which I suspect have been going on in Massachusetts.

In case you think it's just me, here's Wilcox on the subject:

Microsoft seeks to solve these problems by releasing proprietary, XML-based OOXML and establishing it as as an accepted standard—and that simply isn't the same as creating a truly open standard.

Microsoft has long been in the position of establishing standards, and very much in a one-way fashion. Rather than truly open standards, where there is no single controlling company, Microsoft standards put the company in a commanding position — and this applies to recent OOXML and VC-1 standardization efforts.

The problem with politics is, it can't solve the following problem for Massachusetts: lock-in to a proprietary standard tied to a particular vendor -- even if it's a de facto standard, which Open XML certainly is not -- can indeed keep you from being able to open up your documents in fifty or a hundred years. Wasn't that the goal? What happened to that goal? It's what the open standards/open format requirement was supposed to ensure. Allowing a de facto standard that isn't open, that is proprietary, that ties you to a particular vendor pretty much ensures the failure of that policy.

Do you really believe Microsoft will still exist in a hundred years? Can you guarantee it? A company that can only get people to use their software like this? No wonder Louis Gutierrez quit.

So, for those of you who are less cynical than I am and wish to write to them and try to save them from themselves through education, here's some information you can use. No doubt you have your own ideas as well:

A review draft of ETRM v. 4.0 is available for review and comment from July 2nd through July 20th, 2007. Comments should be submitted to standards@state.ma.us.

It probably is worth writing in one sense: Massachusetts has always made the emails and letters public. If you are polite and helpful with urls to prove all technical points you make, it could be helpful for any other states trying to escape from lock-in.

It's a sad story for Massachusetts. I have visions of those poor government workers struggling with Vista, the operating system that shuts you off from your own documents if they suspect you have a pirated edition or haven't signed in to be tracked forevermore, and sometimes just because. Here is a poor soul begging the world to help him figure out how to make Vista compatible with XP, let alone with documents from competing operating systems. "But I need to finish editing that document! It's for the governor!" "I'm sorry. We're Microsoft. We don't care. We don't have to."

How ironic. Happy trails to you, folks. Here's something you might like to read, "How Vista Lets Microsoft Lock Users In" by Cory Doctorow, which includes this timely phrase: "No company has spent more time and money on preventing its competitors from reading its documents..." And here are six questions to ask yourself about Open XML. Here are two technical papers from the ODF Alliance website, “DIS 29500/OOXML Fact Sheet” and “The Technical Case Against DIS 29500/OOXML,” both PDFs.

And here's a tip: don't let politicians make technical decisions. They'll mess it up for you every time.

Update 3: A quotation from Bethann Pepoli, acting CIO of the Massachusetts Information Technology Division (ITD):

“Someone could submit a comment and we could make a review of ETRM and make changes,” she said. Those changes could include eliminating Open XML from ETRM in the final draft.”

To which Bob Sutor responds that Massachusetts is not a done deal:

If you live in Massachusetts and you care about this issue, you can comment via standards@state.ma.us . I’ve posted a lot of links about this OOXML issue in the context of the JTC1 Fast Track proposal in another blog entry.


  


Massachusetts Lowers its Standards - Updated 3Xs | 300 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Massachusetts Lowers its Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 02:34 AM EDT
For the last decade, Microsoft has been the most counter-progressive company in
IT.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic here, please...
Authored by: jbeadle on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 02:36 AM EDT
And make the links clicky, if you will. (see red text on the Post-a-comment
page), and post in HTML instead of Plain Old Text.

Thanks,
-jb

.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Corrections here, please...
Authored by: jbeadle on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 02:38 AM EDT
...So PJ and Mathfox can find 'em quickly.

Thanks,
-jb

.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OOXML to be followed by PDF killer
Authored by: Winter on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 03:03 AM EDT

See consortiuminfo There They Go Again: It's Time to Just Say No to Microsoft and Ecma and More on PDF vs. Microsoft's "XML Paper Specification"

“If OOXML (Office Open XML), and now Microsoft XML Paper Specification, each sail through Ecma and are then adopted by ISO/IEC JTC1, then I think that we might as well declare ‘game over’ for open standards.”

Rob

---
Some say the sun rises in the east, some say it rises in the west; the truth lies probably somewhere in between.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Negative business impact
Authored by: sciamiko on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 04:13 AM EDT
One of the criteria is
The standard can be adopted without causing negative business impact.
Which business would that be - the monopoly, or the combined impact on all the citizens?

s.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What we are up against
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 05:25 AM EDT

So Microsoft wins again.

Of course, the chorus of people like Eric Raymond, (and Eben Moglen, who ought to know better): "Microsoft is dying, Microsoft is doomed, freedom will win" is not going to stop or even pause. Such people have their heads deep in the sand.

We - the free software community - are not fighting for the victory of free software. Against a colossus like Microsoft, we're fighting for the survival of free software. The sooner we recognise that the better. There is too much complacency in the free software community. The survival of free software is not guaranteed, and if so many of us keep on deluding themselves, it isn't even likely.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A kick in the teeth for blind people
Authored by: JD on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 05:45 AM EDT
When MA decided to adopt ODF there was much criticism of ODF regarding accessibility for blind/visually impaired people. It was even part of the basis for the disgusting witch-hunt against Peter Quinn. Analyses and critiques of ODF accessibility were posted. Accessibility experts joined ODF standardization committees. A new revision of the spec included additional accessibility features. And now Microsoft's format is back on the list, with no mention of accessibility whatsoever. I can find no discussion of OOXL accessibility features anywhere, not even on microsoft.com. I've followed the commentary on the progress of OOXML through Ecma and see no analysis of OOXML accessibility. It seems to me that OOXML is so bloated and underspecified (even at its current gigantic size), that such niceties as accessibility can't even be addressed.

OOXML must now be analyzed with the same rigor as ODF. Microsoft should now be called to account on the accessibility of its office productivity software whenever it gets around to being able to support its own standard.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts Lowers its Standards
Authored by: eric76 on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 06:09 AM EDT
Instead, I gather from Weir's description that it's like traveling to a new town and asking for a map, but the directions are written in such a way that only longtime dwellers can read and follow them.

Without thinking about it, I've given directions to strangers to "turn left at the old schoolhouse". And that is in the last five years.

That particular schoolhouse was a one room school (typically about 5 to 8 students for grades 1 - 6) that was closed in 1962. Once the playground equipment was removed that year, noone seeing it the first time would have been likely to even recognize it as a schoolhouse. In any event, it was demolished in about 1970.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What happened to the goal?
Authored by: billyskank on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 06:26 AM EDT
The goal wasn't compatible with Microsoft's desire, so it had to be jettisoned.
We all serve Microsoft now.

Of course, Microsoft intends that we will be able to open our documents 50 years
from now. It doesn't intend to lock us out of our data; it simply intends that
we must keep on paying them to access it. We will have to keep on updating all
our documents as we trudge round the upgrade treadmill.

What will stop Microsoft in the end? Not the DOJ, that's for sure. In the end
the only thing I can think of that will finish Microsoft is cost.

Microsoft's business used to be based on taking a slice of the savings
businesses realised through the productivity gains of computerisation. But those
days are gone; nobody will realise any significant productivity gain by moving
from XP to Vista. Microsoft's business now depends instead on stealing a slice
of everybody else's profit. They have effectively erected their own toll booth
on the highway of commerce.

This is the only thing I can see that will cause their downfall. Hopefully
eventually enough businesspeople will see that Microsoft is a burden on their
business: that they would be more profitable if Microsoft were gone. Microsoft
may be good at lobbying, but they are a small part of the economy. If their
customers - all the other businesses in the world - turned against them, this is
the only thing I can think of that will end Microsoft. Maybe it is the only
thing that should.

---
It's not the software that's free; it's you.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The open part of OOXML might be acceptable.
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 07:50 AM EDT
If an implementation of OOXML that excluded everything in the OOXML spec that
refers to undocumented behaviours, then that would be open. Massachusetts should
comply with that as a requirement - ie the application should have an OOXML save
filter that should only implement that subset of OOXML to be considered as open.
This would comply with the requirements for open standards. It should be noted
that the ODF open standard would be far more comprehensive as to capability than
this open subset of OOXML.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Vista has "negative business impact" -- the open source loophole?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 07:51 AM EDT

Is this the open source loophole?

How much more negative can the business impact be
when you have to replace your hardware to run a
"standard" OS?

How much more negative can the business impact be
when your archived documents can't be accessed by
the "standard" OS's previous versions?

How much more negative can the business impact be
when you have to pay thousands (for small businesses)
or millions (for large ones) for new licensing costs for
an OS that may tell you you're a crook and can't use it
even though you bought it legally?

I'm sure you can think of more.

You should use open source to avoid "negative business
impact."

[ Reply to This | # ]

Can Massachusetts be challenged in court?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 07:55 AM EDT
I wonder if Massachusetts can be challenged or sued in court either as a class
action for Massachusetts breaching their own rules and as a result being forced
by Massachusetts to buy proprietary software to access what should be provided
free. Also can vendors sue for loss for discrimination in contracts as a result
of breach of Massachusetts own regulations in a way that excludes them from
being able to compete fairly for contracts.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Monopoly Friendliness
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 08:12 AM EDT
But Microsoft have to hurry up before the current government reaches the end
of its tenure.

Do you think the DOJ will stay monopoly-friendly past that deadline ?

With such a broad understanding of justice at the DOJ, and lax sense of
accountability everywhere else, maybe Lessig is right, and there's a need to
fight corruption as much as we need to fight for freedom.

If Microsoft keep bending the law to their purposes, there's little else one can
do.
If we don't want to live slavery, anyway.


[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts Lowers its Standards
Authored by: markhb on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 09:15 AM EDT
Wasn't that the goal? What happened to that goal?
I think the actual goal was to help push Mitt Romney's image as an outside-the-box reformer. This is a state where, when the voters approved a public financing law for state elections, the Legislature repealed it rather than funding it. Politics in that state are... smashmouth ugly.

---
IANAL, but ITRYINGTOCHILLOUT... et SCO delenda est!

[ Reply to This | # ]

What is the procedure for sending comments to Massachusetts?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 09:17 AM EDT
Has anyone found a description of the how to send comments to Massachusetts on
this draft? I've spent some time looking but I haven't found it.

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS expands its presence
Authored by: skyisland on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 09:19 AM EDT
One wonders whether MS's expansion in MA is a factor in buying, er, winning over the pols...

clicky

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts Lowers its Standards
Authored by: philc on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 09:20 AM EDT
Yea, so whats new? The fix has be in for a while. Two CTOs that were not
approved by MS have been driven out. MS really needs to be stopped but it won't
hapen in Massachusetts. I expect the next CTO will have ties to MS (or at least
be MS approved).

I wonder when "we the people" will rise up about this and other MS
tactics?

I live in MA, this is nothing new.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts thwarts tea-party...
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 09:38 AM EDT
The government of Massachusetts, it seems, is doing its' leve best to make sure
everyone must drink Microsoft's tea.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What is the purpose of a Standard?
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 09:49 AM EDT
I see 2 purpouses of a standard. 1. To create an open structure that everyone
can use. 2. To create a crystal structure that will not change over time.

There are lots of mods that can be made on these to allow change over time.
ASCII does not change, but HTML does.

The Microsoft Word format is older and reliable, but the world is changing, and
I suspect it is not ready for the changes that are coming.

Changes:

Networking, more and more we are gettng data from multiple sources, Word is
monolithic.

Multiple devices need to be able to view and update info, phones etc.

Automated updates, web based updates, multiple people working from different
locations at the same time. Think Blog, or Wikipedia, think searching.

The world is not standing still, and we need a format that can be molded over
time.

If a format was using XML as a basis, it could be molded like clay and adapt,
but if a format is just masquerading as an XML format, it will not be able to
adapt.

So how long does Microsoft go between releases of Word? Will they even bother
following their own standard on their next release? I will give them 7 years at
most.

Bill

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts Lowers its Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 09:52 AM EDT
You know....sometimes I feel like going back to school as a mechanic or
something like that, leaving IT behind and just giving up...

I always say the day I am forced to go all Microsoft all the time at work.
Install Exchange, replace my servers etc etc, is the day I quit.

When I see stories like that, it makes me feel like that day is getting closer
and closer...

I give up.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts Lowers its Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 10:18 AM EDT
Outsiders don't understand how corrupt Massachusetts is. I'm sure the evidence
is deeply hidden, but if you look deeply enough you will probably find that
money has changed hands.

The state motto: "Every thing's a deal, no deal is too small, and nothing
is on the level."

[ Reply to This | # ]

How about both standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 10:34 AM EDT
MS have publicly extolled the benefits of having both OOXML and ODF as standards. Is this then a suitable way forward. Please bear with me a moment.

Say MA insisted gov agencies to equally support both formats. If one format starts to became dominant then emphasis is shifted to the other.
To meet the requirement to support both formats, Office apps (OO+MS) would have to freely/equally export to either format and transfer between them.

The argument then becomes, is the app able to read/write both formats, if not what must the format provider do to allow others to use it. If other suppliers are not able to implement the format then the format supporter must do more to make their format available, (e.g. cheaper licenses, more help to implement that format).

Ideally it becomes a system where no single supplier would dominate (MS would give up 50% of the market & OO would gain that share) and allow people to use whatever Office app they prefer.

Personally I use OO but would much prefer others to be able to easily read either format I save my docs in.

[ Reply to This | # ]

By all means, comment - but be kind...
Authored by: MacsEntropy on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 11:06 AM EDT
I strongly recommend reading and following Andy Updegrove's advice from his blog entry ConsortiumInfo.org - Legislators Wimp Out on Open Document Format Bills, which is (roughly):

Comment is surely needed, but everything they need to hear is to reaffirm and reassure them of what they already know. Don't pressure the civil servants; they're getting enough pressure already — two very good CIOs have quit because there was no way to do their jobs effectively. Besides, they're the ones who formulated the original plan, and have had to run for cover as a result.

Instead, pressure the legislators, who make the laws that could prevent the government IT departments from being pawns in billion-dollar monopoly games. And don't let them get away with that tripe about not being able to judge such highly technical things, when they have judged themselves wise enough to determine for us how and when we can copy and make use of digital rights for which we have paid.

Andy's descriptions of the moral cowardice that plagues elected officials were sickening but familiar - they called to mind an election candidate survey years ago in which a candidate offered, as his position on a controversial proposed law, the observation that we couldn't afford enough police to make sure that no one disobeyed it, so despite his strong personal feelings on the matter he didn't see any sense in fighting for it.

I'm sure Groklaw readers would be alarmed to learn that the purpose of law enforcement was to prevent people from doing wrong by watching them at all times. I feel as strongly as anyone that the proliferation of lawyers is a trend that is almost as worrisome as an arms race, but it would have to get much farther out of hand before I was willing to countenance a world in which, by philosophies such as the above, we didn't need them at all.

I'd love to make that my sobering, dramatic ending point, but it's not my main point. Please don't take this as any kind of partisan political comment, which we have foresworn here, but as a telling illustration of the old adage on elected leaders that "constituency drives out consistency": The party of the aforementioned champion of personal freedom?

I certainly wish I could hide the answer from you while you tried to guess it... if you're a Democrat, you might suspect that such mindless law-and-order drivel could only come from a Republican; if you're a Republican, surely that had to have come from one of those neo-Bolsheviks across the aisle. If you're a Libertarian, the correct answer is exactly the one you'd never guess... yup — a party whose stance on personal freedoms is often considered radically anti-government.

Be that as it may, elected officials can't read our minds, and if they don't hear from us they won't know that the picture they're being presented is a distortion from the other side of the mirror, the Dark Side of the Force — someone whose interests are not aligned with those of the people, regardless of how many jobs and tax dollars they may command.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Massachusetts Lowers its Standards
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 11:47 AM EDT
has anybody heard about the ISO process and open xml - it makes me wonder why
they are deciding to publish this now and not wait till the ISO is done voting.


well here's to hoping the ISO has some integrity and can't be bought by
microsoft.

this is a sad sad sad day for america when a corporation like this can hire an
endless stream of lobbyists and dictate IT policy for the government - why don't
we just all quit now and let microsoft make all the IT decisions.

to me that would be a much better use of our tax paying dollars and workers time
than pretend to go through these charades like this and in the end micorosoft
gets who they want in there to dictate their policy.

I am really worried for my country.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OOXML and the inability to impliment it
Authored by: ThrPilgrim on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 12:16 PM EDT
I think we may be jumping to conclusions here.

The info we have says that OOXML as approved by the EMCA will be the standard.

What happens when MS, as is usual, extends and alters the standard?

Then their product no longer meets the OOXML standard so only ODF will have a
working implimentation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Do we have a Mass. citizen who can ask these questions?
Authored by: kawabago on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 12:37 PM EDT
1. How much did Microsoft spend on state politicians since the first version of
ETRM came out excluding Microsoft?

2. Did those politicians have direct input into redefining ETRM?

3. Is the spending an increase over pre-ETRM spending?

Answering these questions will point the finger at the corruption that is
ongoing in this Massatwosets of standards.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I've my own open standard
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 01:22 PM EDT
I've just written my own open standard.
- Since it has gone from 0 to 1 user in the past 10 minutes,
it has "growing" support.
- Since it is saved on a hard drive so that it "operates with a relevant
Entreprise Standard".
- Since you just need to pay me $1 gazillion to use it, it "can be adopted
without causing negative business impact".

Money that way please.

Loïc

[ Reply to This | # ]

"they've lost sight of the goal"
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 01:25 PM EDT
<Universal Truth>
Actually I do not think they have. Being politicians, the last thing they
really want is to have what they do and say today, as recorded in minutes etc..,
accessible in the future where it could become an embarrassment.
</Universal Truth>

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Happy trails to you, folks."
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 02:01 PM EDT
This has been a bittersweet trail. From so much hope, to near despair.

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Someone posted a link to petition the current MA governor
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 02:07 PM EDT
Link Apprently that site is something like the UK gob't petition site.

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Redefining the Personal Computer.
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 04:39 PM EDT
Microsoft, in collaboration with the MPAA and RIAA, is trying to redefine the personal computer so that any media can be completely controlled by the information provider rather than the owner of the computer.

Because Microsoft is so big, it can force the hardware makers to do anything they want.

Wake up everyone!!!

Here are Tom Yeager's comments after visting AMD:

http://www.in foworld.com/article/07/03/28/14OPcurve_1.html

Tom said in part:

"...The AMD rep spelled it out in words that would have been undiplomatic coming from me: He said that the new chips will “block unauthorized access to the frame buffer.” In short, that means an unauthorized party can’t save the contents of the display to a file on disk unless the content owner approves it.

There is a short list of parties who will be unauthorized to access your frame buffer: You."

Please read Tom's complete blog entry on this.

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Sign the petition
Authored by: TedSwart on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 07:19 PM EDT
Please everyone go to

www.noooxml.org

and sign the petition against ooxml
receiving ISO approval.

And write to your national standards body and tell them
why OOXML does not qualify as a standard.

If OOXML does receive ISO approval
it will be an absolute mockery of everything international standards are
supposed to be about. The other side of the coin is that, if ISO does not
approve it,it will be a singular victory for common sense and decency and it
will go a long way towards forcing MS to operate on a level playing field.

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Open Government
Authored by: ozbird on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 07:40 PM EDT
This reminds me of a quote from the timeless BBC political satire "Yes Minister".
In relation to a white paper titled "Open Government", which is the policy of the new minister -
but opposed by the civil service - Sir Humphrey Appleby instructs Bernard:
Always get rid of the difficult bit in the title – it does less harm there than in the text.
The parallels with "'Open' Office XML" should be obvious...

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MA Should Limit MS to What's Open and Documented
Authored by: darkonc on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 07:47 PM EDT
Given that Massachusetts is committed to formats that are open and documented, If it does accept ODF, we should ask it to only accept programs which can be made to, by default, limit themselves to only those parts of the ECMA definition that are, in fact, fully documented and open.

If it allows MS to come into the market and then start writing files that contain proprietary and/or undocumented extensions, then there will be no meaning to the standard, and MA will find itself locked into precisely the kind of proprietary closed-source formats that the Commonwealth has spent all of this time and energy to avoid being locked into.

The only way that Massachusetts is going to truly come out ahead in this exercise is if it limits itself to formats that are truly open. If they accept ECMA as an open standard then they should only allow products that limit themselves to only those portions of ECMA which are truly open and fully documented.

MS appears trying to lock itself into the market by defining an ECMA 'standard' with sections that say 'reverse-engineer the old format', and EULA's on the programs that write the old format that say that reverse-engineering is illegal.

Open Source competitors are forced to sign NDA and royalty agreements to figure out how to read MS's supposedly-open files, which immediately causes the implementations to no longer be truly open source and which also means that Microsoft gets paid even if a 'competitor' wins a contract.

Forcing Open Source competitors to pay a per-user license to Microsoft for software that would, otherwise, be available for free while Microsoft is not only allowed to use ODF formats for free, but has seen unrelated third party developers (including the ODF community) to write and contribute to ODF writers for Microsoft Office makes a complete mockery of the concepts of "Open Standards", "Competition" and "A Balanced Playing Field".

Comments?

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Massachusetts Lowers its Standards - Updated 2 Xs
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 08:43 PM EDT
PJ says: "They are asking for comments, because they have to, I guess, but
I doubt they care what you tell them."

First, it's just a proposal -- something that can be strangled
in its early infancy.

Second, I wish PJ were more constructive and explain why she thinks the MA gov.
won't listen to the community's feedback this time, since they did listen in the
past.

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Massachusetts Lowers its Standards - Updated 2 Xs
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 10:39 PM EDT
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6265976.stm

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Massachusetts Lowers its Standards - Updated 2 Xs
Authored by: AceBtibucket on Tuesday, July 03 2007 @ 11:03 PM EDT
In the 'For what it's worth' department... A note to let us know what we have in store for us can be found here: Click here I had a situation at work many moons ago where we had an old Unix computer that had been used only as a word-processor. It had some proprietary software and, after we had moved into the microScruft environment, we discovered that no one could open the files for us. Rather, they could be opened but not at a price my boss was willing to pay. Fortunately, our office administrator--a saint if there ever was one--had all the relevant paper copies to coa.

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  • Oh well... - Authored by: ophis on Wednesday, July 04 2007 @ 07:32 AM EDT
  • Oh well++ - Authored by: ophis on Wednesday, July 04 2007 @ 07:34 AM EDT
Property Deal may have been a bargining chip
Authored by: clark_kent on Friday, July 06 2007 @ 09:48 AM EDT
So maybe the State of Mass. compromised a little to sweeten a deal for themselves.

Microsoft is going to build a research center in Boston. News of this was included in a news clip about building an R & D center in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Microsoft to start up Vancouver software development centre this fall

Microsoft added Vancouver to its expansion list, which already includes plans to build new sites in Boston and Bellevue, Wash.

Note: I believe politicians do this all the time. Of course, compromise should not be of principle. It should be of terms and conditions only, while maintaining principles of absolutes of will and direction. That is what laws are based on. The "Open-Document" mandate and requirements were very specific, and they excluded anything else that was not open. Of course, Microsoft has always played the Devil's advocate and pushed to compromise ANYTHING for their will, principle's, meanings of words, or otherwise.

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Defacto Standards [the false dichotomy]
Authored by: BitOBear on Saturday, July 07 2007 @ 09:59 AM EDT
One problem is, of course, that OOXML _isn't_ a "Defacto Standard",
nor is Microsoft dot-doc.

In this usage the word defacto modifies the word standard, and its alternative
is not just a "standard" but, indeed a "ratified (or official or
recognized) standard". The precursor for either of these is the
"proposed standard". Think Schoolhouse Rock, a bill becomes a law,
and a proposed standard becomes a ratified standard, but sometimes before
ratification so many people adopt the standard that the official ratification is
meaningless (and often never then occurs).

Consider a real world example. Sun wrote NFS (Network File Service [or system
or sharing, I forget]) and it was just a thing their operating systems did. It
was a "facility". AT&T wrote RFS (Remote File Sharing) for Unix
System 3 as a facility and proposed making it an official part of the System V
Interface Definition. So there was a lot of NFS users in the field and this
budding RFS with very few users in the field (because Sun was "bigger"
than AT&T in terms of directly supplied and installed base of Unix-like
systems. All of the documentation of the respective facilities were submitted
to the relevant (and competing) standards bodies.

So there were now two competing proposed standards. The UNIX wars sort of fell
apart before either one (or both) were ever ratified. People use NFS and nobody
uses RFS (despite some nice features) so the currently published (and regularly
updated and maintained) NFS standard is a defacto standard because so many
people use it "in the wild" despite its lack of ratification or
whatever. It became a _defacto_ standard not when lots of people were using
Sun's NFS, but when lots of non-Sun systems began using the standard to make
their own conformant NFS implementations. That is, it wasn't the use of the
product, but acceptance of the standard that made it "defacto".
(Ponder that distinction for a bit before continuing.)

Now a standard can be other things. It can be "rejected" or
"obsolete" etc. It can also be proprietary, but then it isn't much of
a standard outside the organization(s) that have access to it. For instance the
way Checkfree is operated by Quicken software is a licensed proprietary
standard. I can not get my hands on it officially. But still it exists as a
standard of one form or another.

If I _publish_ something as a standard, technically that specification is a
standard, ta da! It may be a piss-poor technology that nobody is going to use.
That is somewhat immaterial. I published it, I proposed it to someone, they
ratify or reject it and so on.

I cannot stress enough that calling something a "standard" is an often
used and abhorrent short hand for the more correct "recognized" or
"accepted" (etc) "standard." That is using the word
"standard" without a modifier is imprecise slang. Using the word
standard, unadorned will come around and bite you eventually if you work in
software. As we move into this area of law, it will probably bite you there as
well, but I am a software engineer so I can only attest to the functioning of
this evil in _my_ field.

So is dot-doc a standard? Inside Microsoft it may well be. Out here it isn't.
Evidence suggests that inside microsoft it is, in fact, _not_ a standard as
such. If it were office 2003 would not have problems opening a dot-doc file
written by Word 95.

Is OOXML a standard? Yes. Standards are made by fiat. The act of proposing it
as a standard made it one, but only a proposed one. Is it a _good_ standard?
Not really. To be fair I don't think Microsoft is technically _able_ to make it
a good standard. From what I know about MS internal techniques, they may not
_know_ what the Word 97 line break rules _are_.

"What?" you ask. [to speak on a purely presumptive basis] There is
probably a body of old code in a DLL source project that is the line-break logic
from Word 97. It was probably too byzantine to reverse engineer, and MS by
policy doesn't "rewrite" code anyway. So when the "better"
line break logic "showed up" it just mysteriously replaced the old
logic when "new" documents were made. This would, of course, make old
documents look wrong, so they included both sets of code as parallel routines.
New documents use the new code, old documents use the old. The guy who wrote
the old code probably doesn't even work there any more. So they have this flag
that says "do it the old way" and they set it when they need it. Ta
Da! That's all the information they _have_ that they _can_ share without
spending hundreds of man hours to figure out what the byzantine old code
actually does at this point. So the flag is in the standard, but they cannot
_meaningfully_ tell you how the old (nor probably the new, quite frankly) code
decides where to break the lines. Everybody laugh, since that is the way a heck
of a lot of proprietary, unanalyzed software comes into existence. Thank you,
I'll be here all night, the nine-thirty show is totally different than the
seven-thirty show. Don't forget to tip your wait staff... (get it?)

So returning. OOXML was, I am sure in my hart, made by a very practical person.
Their pure intent was to be able to write out the current document in XML
format to be fully buzzword compliant. When their boss then told them to
prepare the white paper and standardization documents they probably did the best
job they could. But the dot-doc represents a lot of "lost knowledge"
so when the OOXML format represents the dot-doc it can only mark the existence
of that lost knowledge. In literal fact MS probably knows that to properly
render this document/section you must "useWord97LineBreakRules" but
they probably couldn't tell you those rules at gunpoint. They are _trapped_
beneath the cumulative weight of their own programmer-destroying quick-to-market
accumulated secret crud. [Again, speaking presumptively as someone who as seen
this stuff from the results just like you, with no actual internal knowledge,
but with decades of experience cleaning up similar messes.]

So lets say we all end up being force-fed Office-whatever and all our documents
are stored as OOXML files. Does that make OOXML "a defacto standard"?
No, or at least "probably not". The users who are using the programs
are not "using the standard" they are using the _programs_ and the
_file_ _format_, but not the _standard_. A standard is used when someone goes
to the standard, opens it up, and writes or fixes code to implement that
standard. If Microsoft is the only one using the standard it has _not_ been
adopted unilaterally so as to make it properly _defacto_.

Defacto Standards are precious few and far between, and only exist in that
vacuum when adoption precedes ratification. They occur by common consent
between _implementers_ usually because of user demand for interoperability. If
only one program or entity implements something, even if everybody uses it, it
isn't a defacto standard.

We are used to not seeing a difference because we are used to being implementers
at this level of abstraction. For instance it is "normal" that in
countries where you keep right on the road, also keep right while walking or
pushing a shopping cart or walking through the halls of your office. Conversely
left on the road means left on the mall etc. The road bias is a law. The
extension of that bias to non-road environments is a norm, and expectation.
That means that "as we drive, so shall we walk" is essentially an
unpublished but recognized defacto standard of behavior. (You do the hall dance
when one of the parties breaks the standard and then you both repeatedly try to
accede to the others presumed norm. The person who is at fault is the guy who
went to their left instead of right in a right-side country, or conversely right
in a left-side country.)

So its completely wrong to say that dot-doc is a defacto internet standard even
though far too many people send dot-doc files to each other. The same remains
true if MS publishes the specification "for information purposes only"
(e.g. but forbids its use by others).

This is a very fine distinction, but those distinctions are what law is all
about. The difference between "a file format everyone's MS programs
use" and "an defacto standard file format" is about the same as
the difference between Murder and Justifiable Homicide. It's in the particulars
of motivation for action. There is still a body and a weapon and an act, but in
one there was malice and in the other there was necessity.

The only way for OOXML to _ever_ be a defacto standard would be for (a) no
entity to ratify it, while simultaneously (b) almost everybody who wants to
write a document handling software decides that they will follow that standard
because it is the "best" solution for interoperability.

Since Microsoft is aggressively trying to earn ratification wile preventing use,
they pretty much prevent OOXML ever qualifying as a defacto standard, at least
technically.

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