In a world of proprietary boats, thanks but I'll take the life raft

In a world of proprietary boats, thanks but I'll take the life raft

Summary: In response to my recent blog on how Microsoft Office program manager Brian Jones drew fire for comments in his blog, a ZDNet reader offered his (or maybe her) interpretation of what I said with a comment entitled David, you really, REALLY, are missing the boat here.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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In response to my recent blog on how Microsoft Office program manager Brian Jones drew fire for comments in his blog, a ZDNet reader offered his (or maybe her) interpretation of what I said with a comment entitled David, you really, REALLY, are missing the boat here.  In that comment, the reader says:

No David, what you are really saying is that Microsoft should throw away years of research, investment and development, become another "me too" generic provider and not raise the bar in features or functions.

I never said Microsoft should "throw away years of research."   If the reader is suggesting that by supporting OpenDoc, end-users would actually end up using it and essentially throwing away all that Microsoft has created over the years, that's a different question. Then it's not me suggesting it. That's users doing what they think is best for themselves (and I'm not necessarily predicting that this is what will or will not happen).  But never once, in my story or anywhere, did I suggest that Microsoft disable support for its own formats or throw away its research. For those who want to take advantage of it, Microsoft should absolutely leave that proprietary functionality in its products when that functionality cannot be supported by the open standards.

Also, I don't think I'm missing any boats.  I don't think the people who govern Massachusetts are missing the boat either.  On other technological fronts, many of such "organizations" have already sacrificed some functionality so that they may experience the benefits of open standards and now realize that that they've managed quite nicely while enjoying the leverage they now have over their technology providers. If their existing open standards-based solutions become too expensive, too vulnerable, too unstable, or whatever, they have the freedom to switch and all their suppliers can do is acquiesce.  Or, those suppliers can lower their prices to stay in the game, redouble their efforts on security and bugs and cajole their customers into sticking with them, but they are not in control of the relationship, those organizations' IT, or their budgets.  The customers are.  Massachusetts is.  Or will be.

But hey, if you want the cost, security, stability and whatever else of your IT to be out of your hands and in the hands of your suppliers, well, you're welcome to stay on that boat.  I like knowing I have the option of that proprietary functionality.  But I'll also take the life raft in the form of solid support of open standards, thank you very much.

I often wonder if vendors are that insecure about their implementations of open standards that they must lock us into questionable -- often failed -- implementations of proprietary functionality.  This isn't an issue that's specific to one vendor.  Everywhere you look -- take blade servers for example -- this insecurity appears to exist.  Personally, I think that in almost every open standard there exists plenty of opportunity to offer a killer implementation.   There's plenty of room to compete and plenty of customers to go around (and having the freedom to go around is not missing the boat).

Oh, and by the way, to Brian Jones, we're still waiting for your answers here on ZDNet.  We'd love to have you come join the discussion. 

Topic: Open Source

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  • i think you said it pretty clearly

    and i agree with what you said David. I wouldn't expect n-Ax to respond to it though, it was well worded and brought up valid points. As from what i've seen from our beloved axe, he boasts about his implementations and thinks his company is a model for everyone, he never looks at the broad spectrum, only what he has found tried and true, and don't get me wrong, thats fine, if it works, use it, but he has this facade that everyone should share his opinion or he taunts them into making remarks unbecoming of etiquette on the talkbacks. When offered a valid opinion or shown proof he likes to boast his "LAMP is the most hacked in the world" but has yet to offer any link to support his opinion(yes i saw one article with 4 people asking for his findings of research towards said comment, he seemed to not answer for some reason). From what i read from his comments, he is very MS-centric, and when something comes along without all the bells and whistles, yet is more secure and prone to a standards base, he seems very against it(other than firefox). I don't know, I think it has to do with fear, that someone will come along, and offer a way around his IP(he's said he's got IP to his firm that MS buys, but who knows if he's telling the truth, he also said he had a private jet), and i can understand that, but I have to say, too bad so sad, someone innovated over ya, and they are offering it away for free, guess you should have been looking to innovate yourself to make said product more worth wild. I resepect his opinion, but he bases alot of his beliefs on them as facts, and offers very little to back up his opinion as facts. Maybe we'll see a change of heart one day and one day he'll find he's not always right(i know, pigs will learn to fly and lay eggs before that may ever happen). He may stop trying to change or read too deeply into what people say to base his opinion one day as well, one never knows.

    Basically, don't take what he says to heart, normally from what i and others have seen(and commented on), his opinion is the only thing that matters, and no one will ever sway that.
    Monkey_MCSE
    • Whoa up a bit.

      No, I do not have a jet, I have a 15 year old Bonaza. (I wish I could afford a jet. <g>)

      Concerning MS vs. Open Source I have and continue to repeat, "Use what best meets your needs." I simply do not know how to make that any plainer.

      Now if you are saying that I believe MS products meet the needs of the vast majority better than open source products, you are right, I do. But that isn't just a personal belief of mine, it's the belief of 90% of all users, it is the minority that isn't listening.

      In discussion about MS products where I point out where MS has the better product, the responce is that "no one really wants, needs, uses them". Nothing could be further from the truth. It's a shame though the zealots can't listen because if they could they might grasp what it will take to effectively compete against MS.

      Hmmm, LAMP. Ok, I'll make it simple. The vast majority of web hosting is done with LAMP (*nix runs the net right?) So if sites are being hacked and defaced, it is being done to LAMP (*nix). Sorry, you can't have it both ways.

      I say this without reservation. When I see an OS with the broad support in both hardware and software selection, when it is as easy to use, when it can provide compatibility, and is proven to be a BETTER OS, I'll install it on every machine I can. Until then, Microsoft is the clearly better choice. (The same for their Offie suite.)

      One last thing, taunting? No, the zealots need no taunting. Visit any forum and you'll see them trashing MS users everyday.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • Unreasonable request??

        [quote]Hmmm, LAMP. Ok, I'll make it simple. The vast majority of web hosting is done with LAMP (*nix runs the net right?) So if sites are being hacked and defaced, it is being done to LAMP (*nix). Sorry, you can't have it both ways.[/quote]

        I don't think they're saying there's zero security issues, just a lot less.

        For crying out loud, what is so unreasonable about the request for statistics to back up the claim?

        [quote]Concerning MS vs. Open Source I have and continue to repeat, "Use what best meets your needs." I simply do not know how to make that any plainer.[/quote]

        Completely agree. Guess what? The vast majority of web hosting is using LAMP. It must meet their needs ;).
        CobraA1
        • Once more...

          If in FACT *nix runs the net, and in fact servers get hacked/defaced, then...
          No_Ax_to_Grind
          • Are you really that stupid?

            "If in FACT *nix runs the net, and in fact servers get hacked/
            defaced, then..."

            Then WHAT???

            Did anyone say there are NO Microsoft servers on the net? No.
            They are simply the minority. How does it follow from that that
            only "*nix" servers get hacked? The two statistics have nothing
            to do with each other.

            Blacks are also a minority, yet when it comes to victims of gang
            violence, they are in the majority. It just doesn't follow that
            being in the majority in one population means you're going to
            be in the majority in another population.

            I'm curious. Are you really enough of an idiot to believe what
            you're saying, or are you deliberately (and transparently) trying
            to mislead people? And, if so, what's your motivation?
            Immanuel Tranz-Mischen
      • Non Sequitur

        "Hmmm, LAMP. Ok, I'll make it simple. The vast majority of web
        hosting is done with LAMP (*nix runs the net right?) So if sites
        are being hacked and defaced, it is being done to LAMP (*nix).
        Sorry, you can't have it both ways."

        This is a gross non sequitur, even for you. My God. I can't
        believe you even believe what you just said.

        The evidence shows that while Microsoft servers are in the
        minority (~20%) on the Web, they still account for the majority
        (~60%) of sites that are defaced or otherwise compromised. So,
        yes, we can have it both ways.
        Immanuel Tranz-Mischen
  • I Read The Post- IRM AS The Missing Feature?

    No_Ax is saying that IRM is the missing feature. Well...

    To begin with IRM is MS's Office's DRM scheme for MS Office files and Email. It requires that you run a rights server on MS Server 2003, that you have Cals to the rights server (At $30 per CAL), and that you run an outside connection server at the cost of 18,000 and some change.

    He misses the boat becuase OASIS developed DPRL, XmRL, and the latest XACML which all do about the samething as MS IRM but have been around for a longer amount of time and don't require all the CALs and servers that MS IRM does.

    Not that I approve of DRM, especially in office files- Really I can't see any use in them as most contracts still need to be physically signed (In blue ink in most cases no less) and anything sent out, like an email, could be read aloud over the phone or transcribed. Not to mention if any court ordered documents the keys to IRM would be turned over lickety-split, that asumes there isn't a govt built in back door already. So realy is IRM worth the costs? I would tend to say No!! Especially since mature solutions already exist at a fraction of the price and it can't eliminate the biggest problem... The problem of not trusting who you send documents to.

    He further misses the boat as Gnome Office (Abiword and Gnumeric), OO.org, Koffice, and others already either support this standard or are working to implement the standard. These office suites are free of charge and the first two are crossplatform (Mac, Linux, Windows, Ect) with a KDE Windows port in Beta with Kexi (Koofice's database offering) already ported to Windows-KOffice will be crossplatform in time too.

    MS will need to support this format or introduce bussiness, and possibly, loose business with contractors/citizens/users that need to communicate with the state of MA. Also I don't see why one should think that MA is the only state that will implement this policy.
    Ed_Meyers
    • A couple of thoughts.

      Cost: The cost you quote is off, but it doesn't matter. Anyone can set up an account with MS or third party servers for a minimal charge. (Inside tip: Office 12 is going to change even that charge, you will like it.)

      ---"OASIS developed DPRL, XmRL, and the latest XACML which all do about the samething as MS IRM"---

      Sorry you are simply wrong here. Seriously, compare what and how things can be controled in MS Offcie (more to come in 12) and tell me you think they can be compared.

      Your point that open source orgs are using an open standard is, umm, sort of a "well duh" isn't it? Why would they use anything else?
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • I've seen what IRM can do

        And frankly am not impressed. The pricing came straight from Microsoft;
        http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/techinfo/overview/rmsoverview.mspx

        RMS Pricing
        Windows RMS Client Access License
        $37 each

        Windows RMS Client Access License Five Pack
        $185

        Windows RMS External Connector License
        $18,066


        - XmRL is what MPEG-21 DRM is based on which is ahat MS Media Players DRM is based on... Wel Okay if you insit it won't work...

        You really dhould read the 700+ page specification. Sun, Corel, Boing, IBM, and even MS themselves (Until they pulled out) contributed to this.

        Not only that but no type of DRM will fix the issue of not trusting the person who you are sending docs to.

        Likewise DRM is not desirable in documents that are being shared between govt and citizens.
        Ed_Meyers
        • Re-read my post.

          If after that you are still having problems I'll show you how to set up a hosted account.
          No_Ax_to_Grind
  • Has anyone devised the software yet...

    ... that will convert to this "standard" software? Even in Massachusetts alone, someone can probably make a fair amount of money getting documents into and out of the Massachusetts requirement.

    As mentioned in another discussion, people work with the software they know and understand best if at all possible.

    In fact, Massachusetts would probably be among the translator software company's biggest clients, if the software people have will not read the Massachusetts format. Then the State would have to give people the software to read the documents they've published.

    My own view on what Massachusetts should do? Glad you asked.
    The State should work with whatever format is on most or all versions of Windows and the largest number of other operating systems. May restrict the documents a bit, but the State would probably have an easier time than in the current situation.
    They should certainly not assume everyone has Office.

    But then, I get no particular satisfaction out of avoiding use of Microsoft products.
    Anton Philidor
    • There is already an "Unoffical Patch" For MS Office

      It is possible to make MS Office export to this format. This is not for the technically unskilled though and it certianly is not "Offically Supported" by MS. I believe you would call it a "Hack" of MS Office.

      Although if some people don't like software to change, not that I don't agree with you, then why has Microsoft changed the look and feel of Office, in paticular Outlook, in MS 2003 let alone they changed it from 2000 to XP (All for the worse.) IMO MS Office's UI has been junk since Office 97- Actually I would love to have the WP & Spreedsheet from my old Brother Desktop Publishing System -it was very effecient... Brother should either market it for $5-$15 or Open The Source.
      Ed_Meyers
    • Re: Has anyone devised the software yet...

      [i]... that will convert to this "standard" software? [/i]

      First of all, it's not standard software. It's a standard data file format. And, yes, OO will read in a .doc file and save it in the standard XML data file format.


      [i]In fact, Massachusetts would probably be among the translator software company's biggest clients, if the software people have will not read the Massachusetts format.[/i]

      To comment on the fact that software people have won't read a standard data file format: that's the problem, isn't it? Your argument can be reduced to Microsoft has the market share and no one should do anything to upset it. You tend to argue that people who choose non-MS solutions always are doing it on a philosophical basis.

      I suppose you could say that the desire on the part of the people who govern MA that file formats should be durable, or at least documented for future reference when decades-old files need to be recovered, is a philosophical desire.

      Some would say they're being practical because durability of documents is an eminently practical concern of a state government, but I'm addressing your points, so let's stipulate that only philosophy is at play here.

      You know, when you see ads on TV for many products you can tell the advertisers are not appealing to logic or necessity. Philosophy and vanity, among other drivers of purchase decisions, are fair drivers for the advertisers to direct their appeals.

      Purchase decisions based on one's philosophy on a matter like the environment or labor conditions in the producing factory, for example, - or mode of software production <wink> - are thus legitimized.

      My own belief is that concerns about document durabilty are practical concerns. In this case, Microsoft's business imperative to resist open file formats puts it at odds with this customer's perceived need for them. It's not a philosophical dispute at all.


      [i]The State should work with whatever format is on most or all versions of Windows and the largest number of other operating systems.[/i]

      No, the state should work with whatever format fills its needs and the needs of its citizens. MA believes that documented formats fit the bill. If the format on "most or all versions of Windows" is undocumented, why are you even suggesting it? Or do you mean flat ASCII?



      :)
      none none
      • Likely to last.

        Twenty years from now, say, which is more likely to be in existence and concerned about backward compatibility after all the changes made during that time, Microsoft or the setters of this unused "standard"?

        You wrote:
        I suppose you could say that the desire on the part of the people who govern MA that file formats should be durable, or at least documented for future reference when decades-old files need to be recovered, is a philosophical desire.

        Very practical. And looking at the past 20 years, you'd have to choose Microsoft products on that basis. Too many other companies have gone out of business.
        Best to choose on the basis of the solidity of the source organization.
        Anton Philidor
        • Re: Likely to last.

          [i]Twenty years from now, say, which is more likely to be in existence and concerned about backward compatibility after all the changes made during that time, Microsoft or the setters of this unused "standard"?

          [...]

          And looking at the past 20 years, you'd have to choose Microsoft products on that basis. Too many other companies have gone out of business.
          Best to choose on the basis of the solidity of the source organization.
          Best to choose on the basis of the solidity of the source organization.[/i]


          I'm afraid you're missing the point so I'll repeat it again. A standard is not (necessarily) an implementation. It's not a product. It doesn't belong to a company that might wither. Most importantly, it's not a secret!

          MS Office file formats are undocumented secrets. They fail as standards. The point isn't whether MS will be around in 20 years. It's whether MS will will support a 20 year old file format and especially, whether MA should rely on it to do.

          Evidently they think that's not a smart bet. The open document standard will change in 20 years, but today's spec will endure as a historical document, and it never will be secret.


          :)
          none none
          • You're betting that a product implementing...

            ... the "standard" will be available. Or that an organization will be pleased to invest in obtaining backward compatibility.

            If an organization has to write code to read antique documents, that organization would feel at a disadvantge compared with one that already had software able to read the antiques.

            In other words, if one organization had Microsoft documents and the other did not. (;-))
            Anton Philidor
          • What goes around ...

            Anton

            Sure you right calm, syntactically correct, measured posts free of ad hominem or irrational outburst. And they all read as if they were written by a Microsoft salesman. Your fundamental objection appears to be that Microsoft have been cut out of the loop? But you can't have it all ways, Anton. Microsoft can't keep partnering other companies only for as long as it takes to steal their IP and market it as their own, and expect to be trusted. Microsoft can't keep pumping millions of $$$ into entities commited to undermining or destroying Open Source and Linux (like SCO), and then expect to be entrusted with public data. In short, Microsoft are starting - just starting - to reap what they have spent the last decade sowing.


            Some quotes from

            http://www.mass.gov/eoaf/open_formats_comments.html

            "Open Formats are specifications for data file formats based on an underlying open standard, developed by an open community, and affirmed by a standards body; or de facto format standards controlled by other entities that are fully documented and available for public use under perpetual, royalty-free, and nondiscriminatory terms. An example is TXT text and PDF document files.

            Why do we care about formats? Electronic file formats sit at the core of concern about future access to today's public records. Simply put, the question is whether, when we look back a hundred years from now, we will be able to read the records of what we did today.

            It should be reasonably obvious for a lay person who reflects on the concept of public records that the government must keep them independent and free forever. It is an overriding imperative of the American democratic system that we cannot have our public documents locked up in some kind of proprietary format, perhaps unreadable in the future, or subject to a proprietary system license that restricts access.

            We have been in a conversation with Microsoft for several months with regard to the patent that they have on, and the license surrounding their use of, XML to define the schema of DOC files in Microsoft Office 2003.

            They have made representations to us recently they are planning to modify that license, and we believe, if they do so in the way that we understand that they have spoken about (we will leave it obviously to them to describe exactly what they are going to do), it is our expectation that the next iteration of the Open Format standard will include some Microsoft proprietary formats. These formats, like DOC files, will be deemed to be Open Formats because they will no longer have restrictions on their use.

            That would potentially include (again, we need to wait for the final designation of this by Microsoft) Word Processing ML, which is the wrapper around DOC files, Spreadsheet ML, which is the wrapper around XLS files, and the form template schemas.

            We plan to talk with other entities that may have restrictions around the use of other proprietary formats to get them removed as well".
            whisperycat
          • Thank you...

            ... for the positive comments.

            My comments in these posts are intended to work at the level of principle, not specifics. When you make a statement like:

            Microsoft can't keep pumping millions of $$$ into entities commited to undermining or destroying Open Source and Linux (like SCO), and then expect to be entrusted with public data.

            you're making revenge into the basis for action.

            And a weak basis.
            Open source is a competitor. Would you forbid Microsoft from competing?
            Microsoft paid SCO for an Unix license. Their motive and timing may be as you suggest, but would you forbid them from buying licenses?
            You're saying that opposition to open source should be a reason for denying Microsoft the chance to be a vendor to States maintaining public documents. Is that designed to protect anyone, or to further open source?

            I insist that if I were posting to Boards blithely in favor of Microsoft, I would object whenever any of the principles I'm defending were violated. These Boards happen to be anti-Microsoft, so I end up in the position of having to defend them.

            Some of the posts that seem oddest are the ones opposing government intervention antagonistic to Microsoft. Means I have to defend Microsoft as the exemplar of freedom again oppression, for the ability of people and organizations to do as they will.
            Try that one sometime.

            Anyway, you're very good at invective yourself, and trolling and righteous wrath can be fun. I have assumed that behind rhetoric we've agreed on principles. Still do.
            And I enjoy our exchanges.
            Anton Philidor
          • Revenge

            [i]When you make a statement like:

            Microsoft can't keep pumping millions of $$$ into entities commited to undermining or destroying Open Source and Linux (like SCO), and then expect to be entrusted with public data.

            you're making revenge into the basis for action.[/i]

            No, it's a matter of "fool me once." If you prefer, it's a matter of playing the best known strategy in Prisoners' Dilemma: "optimistic tit for tat."

            Microsoft has demonstrated, repeatedly and with feeling over the course of many years, that they approach every relationship with the prospect of treachery in mind. Put another way, they are a narcisistic organization with sociopathic tendencies. In old-fashioned terms they have no sense of honor.

            That's not a judgment, it's an observation. Any organization that [b]trusts[/b] Microsoft is ignoring the record and, IMHO, misfeasant for lack of due diligence.
            Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Re: Revenge

            [i]In old-fashioned terms they have no sense of honor.[/i]

            That's not going to get much traction in the apologist camp.

            There was a discussion here once about how MS licensed the original IE tech from Spyglass on the terms that Spyglass would get a payment for every copy of IE sold. As we know MS didn't "sell" IE, it gave away IE for free and stiffed Spyglass.

            The apologists' take? Spyglass should have had better lawyers.


            :)
            none none