Archive for the ‘microsoft’ Category

Doug Mahugh of Microsoft writes1 on Twitter:

XPS will be submitted to Ecma within three weeks, likely to be approved at the Ecma GA in June. Have decided not to submit to ISO.”

No ISO submission? Interesting. Note: XPS, Microsoft’s alternative to PDF, depends on their own “HD Photo” (see slide 14) Also known as “JPEG XR”, it is about to be processed through ISO this year.

1 Someone found this piece. As for myself, I believe I’m “too old” to use things like Twitter.

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Eric Brechner of Microsoft says in his blog: (emphasis added)

“When using existing libraries, services, tools, and methods from outside Microsoft, we must be respectful of licenses, copyrights, and patents. Generally, you want to carefully research licenses and copyrights (your contact in Legal and Corporate Affairs can help), and never search, view, or speculate about patents. I was confused by this guidance till I wrote and reviewed one of my own patents. The legal claims section—the only section that counts—was indecipherable by anyone but a patent attorney. Ignorance is bliss and strongly recommended when it comes to patents.”

I applaud the admission here of one of the core problems of today’s patent system; patents simply don’t serve their purpose if they don’t ensure the distribution of knowledge. Now, if software patents would at least be readable, the other problems with that concept would be even more visible…

Software patents is like patenting an element. Putting arbitrary limits on this beast won’t help, and it would be a start to reach this level of debate in wider circles when we talk about patent reform.

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Sometimes it’s very hard to resist making fun of Microsoft. This is such a time, as you can see in this Open Malaysia blog entry. Enjoy two new kinds of BSODs… 🙂

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Microsoft FUD?

Is Microsoft admitting to using Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt? Either their Live.com engine is a bit weird, or there’s some curious honesty here. Judge for yourself… 😉


(Source: http://www.microsoft.com/en/us/default.aspx – search for “fud”. Tip from comm2k.)

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OOXML use cases

ISO has now rendered a decision, and the fight over OOXML could be over soon. Specifically, while there have been no reported irregularities, countries have available another two months to raise concerns. Apparently e.g. Norway has already done so, but I’m sure that misunderstanding will be cleared out shortly.

In any case, there are many good things about OOXML that I don’t know where to start. (I need to double-check the exact meaning of “open” and “XML”, but at least the “Office” part seems clear to me, which suggests a high quality work here.) Indeed, one of my favourite aspects of this standard is its simplicity. For instance, one can safely focus on its two major use cases, namely when:

  • you own Microsoft, or
  • Microsoft owns you.

Actually, this is a rather strong statement, since it has yet to be proven that anyone is currently using or implementing any version of OOXML – especially Microsoft themselves, who apparently are a bit slow on that. No worries though – it’s a standard now, so surely it’s not that important.

I wish ISO and Microsoft best of luck with all the upcoming, exciting standards projects. Clearly, we can expect even better processes that provide for a modernized approach with honest and high fidelity works. We can all thank ourselves for being part of this proud and happy family. 🙂

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CNN notes that the EU is looking into the OOXML actions of Microsoft (the original article requires a subscription).

I wouldn’t count on the EU to show more backbone than last time, but I guess the company won’t be so happy about the timing, considering the BRM takes place in about two weeks from now. (By the way, isn’t all this bad press quite ridiculous? People keep confusing themselves with ideas such as “quality”, or “fair play”. It’s so annoying!)

After that, there’s another month for voting countries to present their final opinion, so I guess we’ll have to wait until the beginning of April for the actual outcome. (Would a rejection from ISO put an end to it, though? Or would an approval of OOXML be taken seriously?)

One thing is clear: both Microsoft and ISO will have to reshape – the length of the rubber stamping process demonstrates clear deficiencies on both ends. Let’s hope for the best.

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(Sorry about the headline, couldn’t resist.1)

Glyn Moody Gets It. In Linux Journal, he writes about OOXML and Microsoft’s successes with OSI and EU antitrust: Is Microsoft Hijacking Open Source?

1 (Also familiar from snail-mailing the “sorry that I forgot to use a stamp” excuse.)

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Microsoft apparently does not think all the versions of Windows Vista provide enough choice for the market. So, to ensure a better selection, they now seem to be looking at Linux systems as well: SuSE from Novell; Xandros; Linspire; and finally Turbolinux. Given these announcements of patent agreements (“protections”), I’m sure said distributors won’t “notice” any complaints… for now.

What will happen with resisting companies like Red Hat, though? And what will Microsoft do when fully recognising the success of non-commercial projects such as Ubuntu? (Nah, never mind, certainly there are no evil strategies here. I’ll sleep well tonight.)

Anyhow – if you thought that the EU ruling would stop these agreements, you may want to share the doubts of Groklaw on the Commission’s settlement with Microsoft (which brings into mind what my association predicted one month ago).

Oh, and OSI has approved two licenses (MS-PL, MS-RL) from Microsoft. After all, what is software worth if it doesn’t have a brand new license? (Bonus points for certain features, such as incompatibility with the GPL.)

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Dear Microsoft,

I’d like to present my own invitation to you, on an informal note: my association, the FFII, has just announced the winner of a 2,488 Euro award for lobbying against OOXML.

Given that several nominees did not wish for money, and considering the energy you (as the original author) have spent to discredit the proposal internationally, we thought it only fair to offer the price for your collection!

(Maybe this would pay for at least 5% of your partners’ bills in Sweden. No – my mistake – you “retracted” the promise; now, we did consider more suitable means of gratification – chairs for instance – to various parties, but unfortunately we could only do so much at a time.)

Details on the award ceremony will be available shortly; meanwhile, should you choose to accept the offer, you’re welcome to contact me or the board for some preliminary info.

Granted, it may seem like a small effort of ours in the light of your fines of 500 million Euro, or – say – your investments in the sue-happy SCO (a company which, incidentally, is about to collapse).

But: it’s the thought that counts, right?

A good friend

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The impact of OOXML

(I mentioned some of the following ideas in a presentation I held on Thursday at KTH, and thought I would share them. As a side-note, there may be another FFII-style lecture here later this year, covering a wider range of topics but also some OOXML material again.)

OOXML, to me, is not a standard; I do not recognize the value of it as an Ecma publication, or indirectly in “de facto” terms, simply because the main problem is still there: nobody but Microsoft knows how the format really works, and so not all consumers are yet able to escape the lock-in that is Microsoft Office.

When OOXML was preliminarily voted down on 2 September, not much has actually become clear about its future; most votes have a chance of being changed, especially since we do not yet know what the final proposal will look like. Microsoft’s manipulations will certainly continue until February, and thus the usual techniques for prediction may not apply. (Without the interventions of the company, I would say OOXML would be gone already – maybe not even voted upon.)

While one can expect that the standard proposal will require a significant amount of changes to be approved, such fixes could still be of trivial nature, relatively speaking. There are some rather tough suggestions around, though. One of them was submitted by France (J1N8726-03.doc) and others, suggesting that OOXML first be split into two parts; a “core” and “extensions”, where the former is something ODF-like, and the latter is an add-on to address properties of the old file formats.

So, in theory, anything could happen; some imaginable scenarios being that:

  • ISO rejects OOXML. While this in itself would not exclude a new submission, that would get much attention with a new fast-track, or require much time without it; the proposal would likely be out of the picture in these cases.
  • ISO decides to split the proposal, and approve the “core” and “extensions” parts as “technical specifications”. An “ISO standard” labeling is delayed further, awaiting e.g. merging of the “core” part with ODF.
  • ISO approves OOXML “as-is” (few, or no fundamental problems are solved). This would most likely affect the reputation of ISO itself (due to the scale of the abuse of the process), perhaps to such an extent that the approval would have little weight eventually.

In some sense, OOXML (as published by ECMA) consequently is less of a worry now – regardless of the voting results. However, an “as-is” approval could (through governmental policies etc.) raise a lot of “short-term” problems and further setback in useful development, and it would also have an impact on ISO. It’s not just about OOXML, though: XPS is also knocking on the door, and it carries lock-in threats with it as well through software patents. Maybe there is more to come, still.

So, while the harm that could come of OOXML and the end result is probably limited at this point, it is important to fix ISO’s – and its members’ – working procedures (e.g. for the fast-track, voting rules, etc.) and patent policies, in particular. Right now, ISO allows for licensing terms that are incompatible with free software / open source, and XPS could invite significant trouble in this context. Also, the discussion of ODF vs. OOXML still has important lessons for reaching a new and improved single standard. The patching continues…

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