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Have An Interest in Government Adoption of Open Standards?
Friday, February 20 2009 @ 11:51 PM EST

I've been contacted by a government agency that is seeking input on the question of what definition of openness it should adopt for that state. Obviously, it's in part about ODF/OOXML. They are interested in up-to-date analyses of the relative openness of the current, approved versions of the two ISO standards (26300 and 29500). They saw the Grokdocs work we did a couple of years ago and were impressed. But what about now? Both standards have been worked on since we did that granular study of OOXML. Their question is: how is each standard doing on the openness scale now?

They would like to hear from FOSS project leaders and small businesses, not just from the large vendors. I think that is very commendable, that the state is aware that FOSS isn't written the way proprietary software is and that the person at home using GPL'd software (or the business, or the non-profit, or the sister state or federal or local government agency, or increasingly the overseas country that is going full-tilt ODF and/or libre software) has every right to access public data -- their own data -- as anybody else, and their needs must be addressed.

So if you have an interest in presenting your views, could you please contact me by email? I'd rather not mention further details here, having lived through the Massachusetts saga.

It would be a conversation. They would love for people to come in person if they could, but telephone can be used instead, if you can't travel. What they liked about the Grokdocs work was the specificity. If you, for example, could do an update on what still hasn't been fixed in OOXML, that's the kind of information they would find helpful. The same goes for ODF, of course. The workgroup needs to be able to be specific and to point to evidence and supportive sources, not just opinions.

They need to hear from me fast, as there is a time frame in this picture. As you know, there is an open letter asking the President to consider Open Source, a letter you can also sign, if you wish to.


Have An Interest in Government Adoption of Open Standards? | 99 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections please
Authored by: Tufty on Friday, February 20 2009 @ 11:59 PM EST
Helps to putt it in the title


Linux powered squirrel.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT here
Authored by: Tufty on Saturday, February 21 2009 @ 12:02 AM EST
On topic posters will have to use Vista


Linux powered squirrel.

[ Reply to This | # ]

News picks here
Authored by: Tufty on Saturday, February 21 2009 @ 12:03 AM EST


Linux powered squirrel.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Whose country is it, anyway?
Authored by: Ian Al on Saturday, February 21 2009 @ 03:22 AM EST
PJ, you do not say which country is putting the question. Are we talking about
one of the united states of North America?

I take it from your allusion to Mass. that it is a state agency in the USA and
that they may have a practical use for the review. Would that be too much
information in this instance, as it was for Mass.?

Ian Al

Linux: Viri can't hear you in free space.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Experiences of SME Adoption of Open Standards
Authored by: Ollathair on Saturday, February 21 2009 @ 07:37 AM EST
The only experiences, benefits and insights that I can supply, come from our own
SME clients.

The constant problems our clients experience are vendors that cease to support
their hardware of software, for purely economical reasons, and / or force them
to either upgrade to new platforms and software formats, or to pay exorbitant
fee's for support of legacy (less than five year old) systems.

To be sure, keeping abreast of current technology is a good thing, unless it is
thrust on you, at a time when your budget can't or won't handle it.

The management (IT/Finance/Administration) of most organisations and
government's are no exception, they generally prefer an orderly, planned
migration or upgrade process, while still allowing for those occasional legacy
systems that simply won't die, nor can be replaced, this year, or next.

From a dollar point of view, a great many of our clients, who have been in
business a great many years, which means that they have grown in that time,
often have many different platforms and software file formats to contend with.

The problem they face, at the least, is being able to, at a minimum, read these
old file formats, as well as update or include historical information.

This is particularly important for our clients in the legal and research

Also, in Australia, at least, business and commercial records are required to be
available for a period of several years.

Producing a hard copy of every document, record or transaction is counter
productive and not cost effective.

To this end, nearly all of our clients have converted their legacy and
historical data to standardised, electronic formats.

The advantages are, but aren't limited too;
1. low cost of storage.
2. An easily readable historical record, which is often used by marketing, sales
and management, for a number of different purposes, including historical
3. They have a complete record at hand, as and when the need arises.
4. You can include, at a very low cost, this data into new software systems and

None of this would be possible, if the data was still in Wordstar, Wordperfect,
various MS Word, Dbase, Paradox, odd binary ISAM or other, now unreadable

Although the biggest issue with legacy software and hardware systems, is where
you can't get the meta-data, or the original business rules, methods or concepts
that manipulated the data.

So we still have a bit further to go.

However, when small and medium business organisations realise the cost saving
and benefits of open standards, then deploy them, the rest soon follow.

So the argument isn't whether or not you will deploy open standards, it's simply
a matter of when.
The next issue organisations face, is which data and systems are more important,
what is safe to ignore and what can be scheduled over time.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Have An Interest in Government Adoption of Open Standards?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 21 2009 @ 08:47 AM EST
Open Standards.

I know this is slightly off topic, but it is still an open standards issue.

I've noticed lately that there are a number of web pages that are using Flash,
and the version of Flash they are using is not compatible with my Flash Player

I am running Ubuntu 6.06. I have tried to install Flash player 10 on it. Most
commonly going through the Firefox web browser, locating the player and clicking
download and install.

In spite of this, when next I visit the web page I get the same error message.

If this is an issue unique to my mis-managing my OS, that is one thing. But if
it is simply a question of no support for an old OS that is another thing.

If I go to a government web page and find that I can not access information on
that page because I can't get the version of a proprietary player installed on
my platform, that web page is not an open web page.

Therefore my suggestion is that government web pages that are supposed to be
open for all citizens to use avoid Flash.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Obama rode the OpenSource horse to the White House (to shoot it now would be an insult)...
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 21 2009 @ 10:01 AM EST
Obama rode the OpenSource horse to the White House (to shoot it now would be an insult)...
The Open Source Force Behind the Obama Campaign bama-campaign/


"The stack is LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP. On the back end we use lots of open source libraries and tool kits. We use YUI, and Ext, which are javascript UI libraries. One of our developers is the creator of the Horde project, which is a big open source PHP framework.

We don't like to re-invent wheels. So, for example, we don't write our own database connection library. We're using ADOdb, which is one of the more popular ones for PHP, and python as well. We use PEAR, which is PHP's library of tools and utilities. We use PEAR modules for everything from sending email to doing caching... We use things like memcached. We use open source monitoring tools.


The sad thing would be if Obama didn't even know what was the make up of the software that was the engine that kept him in the race, and pushed him to the top over both Hillary and McCain.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Have An Interest in Government Adoption of Open Standards?
Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, February 21 2009 @ 10:50 AM EST
I was recently involved with a project to transform some of
the OOXML formats.
We ran into a number of inconsistencies
with the specifications and real life
documents. In
particular, some format settings. Also difficult, some
components (like XLSX macros) are still opaque. No such
issues with ODF

[ Reply to This | # ]

MS OOXML - a standard to avoid
Authored by: Gringo on Monday, February 23 2009 @ 08:57 AM EST

Hopefully few government office have upgraded to Office Professional 2007 as yet. For many reasons it would be unconsciable for any government to consider upgrading to Office Professional 2007, which includes: Access 2007, Accounting Express 2008, Excel 2007, Outlook 2007, Business Contact Manager, PowerPoint 2007, Publisher 2007, and Word 2007.

In the first place, these Microsoft products introduce a new proprietary file format they call Open XML. In spite of being called "Open", they are not the ISO standardized format that was just published at the end of 2008. Rather, the format used represent a transition from the familiar formats of the past towards the newly published standards which will debut with Office 14, the first version to implement the ISO/IEC IS 29500 compliant version of Office Open XML. It would be a serious error to save data in the dead-end one of a kind formats of Office Professional 2007.

Office Professional 2007 also introduced a new user interface known as the "Ribbon", requiring reorientation if not outright retraining of office workers. With this in mind, it would be an excellent point to consider alternatives to Microsoft office productivity applications. Indeed, many excellent, often free and open source alternatives exist today, such as OpenOffice. I would suggest there has never been a better time to consider a switch. With the current world wide economic crises, and governments debts at record levels, there is simply no justification to remain locked in to Microsoft's agenda. Most of these alternatives have standardized on the ISO standard document format ODF.

There are many problems with MS OOXML. Quoting directly from Wikipedia...

"In November 2008, the new international standard was published as ISO/IEC 29500:2008, Information technology Office Open XML formats. In December 2008, Ecma International published ECMA-376 Office Open XML File Formats - 2nd edition, an updated version of ECMA-376 that is identical to ISO/IEC 29500:2008."

Criticism of ECMA-376 1st edition

The ODF Alliance UK Action Group has stated that with OpenDocument an ISO-standard for Office files already exists. Further, they argue that the Office Open XML file-format is heavily based on Microsoft's own Office applications and is thus not vendor- neutral, and that it has inconsistencies with existing ISO standards such as time and date formats and color codes.

Specific criticism

Use of DrawingML and the transitional-use-only VML instead of W3C recommendation SVG. VML did not become a W3C recommendation.

Use of Office Math ML instead of W3C recommendation MathML.

Office Open XML does not define a macro language, leaving this aspect to be application-defined.

The standard is long, with the version submitted to ISO comprising 6546 pages. Google alleges that this length is unnecessary, saying that the OpenDocument specification is 867 pages in length and achieves the same goals. That coupled with the fast track standardization process, Google claims, reduces the review time per page ratio.

A comparison of some specific items in the format specification documents of Office Open XML and OpenDocument formats is used to claim disharmony within the Office Open XML format. For example, OOXML implements three different methods for specifying the color and alignment of text depending on whether the document is a text, spreadsheet, or presentation whereas ODF uses the same method for all three.

The process of standardizing MS OOXML was seriously flawed. Ever since Microsoft demonstrated that the ISO standardization process can be compromised by a concerted effort of powerful international company, an ISO standard can no longer be automatically deemed desirable, and must be carefully weighed.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Have An Interest in Government Adoption of Open Standards?
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, February 23 2009 @ 09:33 AM EST
"So if you have an interest in presenting your views, could you please
contact me by email? I'd rather not mention further details here, having lived
through the Massachusetts saga."

What a sad sad statement for the country that is supposedly the most free in the

I guess we are all free as long as we follow a business model.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Open standards
Authored by: Tufty on Monday, February 23 2009 @ 11:33 PM EST
Here, in Mexico, the form you need to fill in to get the FM3 to stay here is
available, from the INM website, in PDF format. Useful, open and saves a trip to
pick up a copy, or several since they always need it in duplicate - not copies.
Seems like a good use of open standards.

Except for one problem. It is bundled up in a self extracting .exe file that
rather defeats the idea of an open standard - duh! I haven't checked if they
have changed it since last year though.


Linux powered squirrel.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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